Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Christmas Past

It is Christmas week and although everything I do is coupled with indescribable pain, I continue to brace myself and face each day. As I searched my recipe box for Christmas baking recipes, I found an old favorite...really, an OLD favorite! Puffed Rice Candy! This recipe is one that brings memories of Christmas as a little girl. I remember being at my Grandparents house on Christmas. My Great Grammy would come downstairs to us kids and she would open her tin full of puffed rice candy. (even before dinner!) It was a treat that only came at Christmas!

The memories go far beyond my own. I love to listen to my Grandfather tell us of his Christmas day's when he was a boy. My Great Grammy would prepare a bowl full of treats for her boys. When they got up in the morning they would find their bowl waiting for them. There were no gifts besides...the gifts were found in the bowl. PopPop found an orange, a few pieces of ribbon candy, a peppermint stick, and some puffed rice candy.

I grew up in the same church as my grandfather. I fondly remember that they treasured the old tradition of oranges at Christmas. Each of the Children were given an orange on Christmas Sunday. It was hard for me to understand how oranges could have been such a treasure in the "olden days." Not many people get to remember their great grandparents. My Great Grandfather Jacob lived to be 101 years old to the day. He would tell us about the oranges back in his day. He grew up without electricity, indoor plumbing, or cars....since oranges came from the south, they only ever got them on special occasion. Oranges were an expensive gift!

As I watch people going crazy in the stores, filling their carts with gifts they can't afford, I can't help but to wonder what my Great Grandparents would think. I believe it was easy to focus on Christ at Christmas long ago. Today we have to push past the piles of presents, the chaos, the greed, the credit card bills, the wants, the wishes, the endless lists of things to find the baby in the manger, the reason for Christmas, and then enjoy the rare bowl full of sweets set before us on the table.

2c. sugar
1c. water
4T Molasses
2tsp. vinegar
2T. butter
1 small pkg. puffed rice

combine sugar, water, molasses, vinegar, and butter. Bring to a boil. Cook syrup until it forms a hard ball when dropped into water. (265 degrees) Add puffed rice and mix together. Pour into a buttered platter and cool. Cut into squares.

Thursday, October 14, 2010

Temporary Home

I have always wondered how someone could long for heaven. I would hear people pray that God would come soon, that He would deliver this world from the pain and tragedy and darkness. I knew that as a Christian I should desire that as well. I could say it. But, in my heart I knew that I didn't feel it. I loved my life here. I enjoyed it so much. Was there something wrong with me for that? I claimed this world as my home. Heaven was in another world, a different life away from now. There would never be a good time for me to desire heaven because everything was so exciting. There was always something to look forward to. I wanted to grow up, and then get married, have children, and then grandchilren. I didn't want to miss out on anything.

There was a day not too long before Ashley died that she asked me this question: "Mommy, I really want to go to heaven, but I love this life so there anything wrong with that?" My response to her echoes in my mind now..."oh Ashley, God gave us heaven to have is our reward, it is what we are living for...But, He also gave us this life on earth, and He wants us to enjoy it now, in the meantime." I said that before heaven was "real" to me. I said that when life was enjoyable and lovely. Heaven was a distant dream.

The day Ashley died, the strings to this world were severed for me. I suddenly understood the longing for heaven. I suddenly felt the darkness and pain and desperation of this world.
I was certain that God was coming soon. I assured myself I would only have to bear this pain for a few years at the most. My world caved and so surely the rest of the world was going to end too!

Every day I wake up and wonder a prayer. "Lord Jesus, please come today." Nothing feels shiny anymore. I feel like a stranger in this world. This home is temporary. It is broken and lost. Each day, the sun comes up and then the sun goes down. At the end of each day, I am thankful to put yet another day behind me. How long must I bear this life? Even my children long for heaven. There are days when they talk of heaven the way other children talk about Disney World. My children are not afraid of death. They look forward to seeing Jesus. They long for the absence of pain. They long for the true perfection of Heaven! It is hard for me to watch my children desire heaven the way I do. This home is not ours!

I wonder if my children will ask me the question I ask myself? Will they ask me "Mommy, I like to live here on earth, but I want to go to heaven so badly! How do I make it through this life when Heaven is so much better?" As I write this today, I am trying to answer my own question. The answer that I know is true, is the same one that I gave to Ashley. Heaven is my reward. God still wants me to enjoy this life here until He calls me home. It felt a lot easier to enjoy this life when life was perfect and enjoyable. How can I contiue to enjoy life when it's not? When I feel like I am not home? I feel uncomfortable here. I am still trying to figure it out. God is asking me to enjoy His gifts here while I carry a heavy cross. Must I really bear the weight of death and homesickness, feeling lost in every day...and then enjoy what God has given me?

When I think of the perfection of heaven...I remember what it felt like to live my days with my husband and ALL our children. When we could enjoy the beauty of creation and laugh and love together. We would often ask each other "How could heaven be better than this?"
As I remember those days I have to wonder if maybe we weren't so far off...maybe God had given us a taste of heaven on that we would know what we are living for.

Thursday, September 2, 2010

Facing Heaven

I haven't written in a long while. Every time I sit down to write something I get stuck. I have words and then none. I have thoughts, but can't organize them. I feel like I'm living in a cloud...or maybe a dream..a nightmare to be honest. I wish I could just wake up and it would be over. A year has passed...but has it? Yesterday passed but I can't remember it. What about tomorrow? I don't know. I can't see that far into my future. I am so confused every day. I feel myself doing normal things all the time but I don't feel like I'm actually doing them.

I haven't seen my daughter in over a year now. That is REAL! But every time I have a memory of her, I jump when I have to tell myself that she is gone. As if I just learned of this. I know her so well. It's so normal for her to be here. How can she not be? How is it possible for her to go so far away so fast? Heaven feels so far away. It is so mysterious to me. Death confuses me. I just don't get it. I always thought I understood death until I tasted it.

A year later is more frustrating than ever. Last year we were entering a "new" world. Our old world was right behind us and it gave us strength to face the future. We didn't know what was coming so we took it as it came. The pain on the inside matched the destruction of our lives on the outside. We were paralyzed. We couldn't do normal things. When I went places I felt like everyone could see my destroyed life. As if there was a huge sign on me saying "I just buried my daughter." My memories of Ashley were so fresh that it seemed temporary in a way. Our old life felt more normal than our "new" life.

Time passed. Our kids grew a year older and so did we. Life moved on. We slowly learned how to do our "work." We figured out how to function at least to get by. One thing never changed. Ashley's bed sat there the way she left it...neatly made to begin another day. Ashley's seat at the table was always empty. There was always one head missing in the car. One less arm band for rides at the fair. One less plane ticket, one less suitcase, one less, one less, one less. I began to be able to function in public. As long as I only did what I knew I could handle. I learned how to guard myself in order to protect. We made it to the end of the year.

Now...the end of the year has passed and what is next? ANOTHER year! This time I know what to expect. I don't look forward to it. This time the memories I have of my daughter are two years old. They feel foreign to me now because life with her is no longer normal. I am far away from her. Last year I would go shopping and see things that Ashley would like and I would cry because I couldn't buy them for her. Now, I shop and because the styles have changed and Ashley would be a year older...I cry because it haunts me that I no longer know what Ashley would like. When I have memories of her pop into my mind I feel like I am looking into a past life that I no longer recognize. I am facing another year without the energy I had to run on from last year. I spent it all! Just to survive one year! I enter this year exhausted at the thought that I have to do it again. and again. and again.

They say time makes it easier. In a way, yes, it does. On the outside it's easier. I can do a lot more things than I could do last year. I look more normal on the outside as well. The inside and the outside are growing farther apart. On the's deeper, wider, and darker. It is harder to open up to others. The deep, dark places inside are not as easy to take other people to. It's been over a year since I've seen, heard, touched, hugged, kissed, been kissed by, been loved my first born child. Absence makes the heart grow fonder is what they also makes the heart long deeper and harder. The concepts of life that were brand new to me last year are too familiar to me this year. I no longer shriek at the presence of a deep valley (they come like waves of the ocean), or by the presence of sorrow even at the same time as joy. The absence of Ashley has been filled by the presence of constant pain and sorrow.

This sounds depressing. It IS! It sounds hopeless, but it isn't. We are moving upward each day. Some days we slide down a little or a lot...but we get back up and keep moving up. My goal is Heaven. It seems like an unending game (like chutes and ladders) it takes forever to get anywhere. Some times you climb up high...tasting bits and pieces of heaven. Sometimes I get a glimpse of what it is like to rejoice in my sufferings, and feel comforted by being a limp, broken lump of clay resting in the potters takes me to a mountain top with a clear view of the beauty of the valley below. That fast, I take one step forward and hit a "chute" that takes me back to the beginning of the game. Once again I taste death and destruction as if it happened yesterday. I try to look up, but the underbrush is so thick I can't even see the light coming through the trees, let alone see the mountain top above me.

I believe God is teaching me to believe many things about him. I keep thinking about the 23rd Psalm. "Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death I will fear no evil for You are with me." I don't have to fear, but I still have to walk through the valley of the shadow (which is a darkness that is caused by something blocking the light) of death! I am glad to KNOW that God is present in the valley even though I can't always see or feel Him. He is there. With me. I continue to face the light, even when death stands in the way leaving me blinded by the darkness.

Friday, July 23, 2010

Haiti: the mirror on the wall

The other week I had the opportunity to visit Haiti for a few days. It was my first trip there. I always wanted to go, but never got the chance. I expected what most people expect from a visit to a third world country...My life would be changed, I'd be so thankful for what I have, I would be taken back by the devastation and poverty, I would have an "experience" to talk about. God had other things in mind for me when I stepped off the plane.

Upon our arrival in Haiti, it felt like I had been there before. I felt like I was home. (I did not expect this at all) Our bags were lost, so we began the first few days of our trip simply as we were. I didn't mind that either. My clothes didn't matter. Despite the absence of electricity, the ever present bugs and lizards in our house, I found myself at home. As Haiti began to "expose" itself to me, it made sense. Haiti, in all of it's devastation, poverty, and brokenness beyond repair, was a visual reflection of my life. I was not a stranger among the rubble. I did not have to focus on the poverty, and this was certainly not an "experience." Being present in these people's lives was an honor. I had an urge to respect their sacred stories of pain and suffering. This trip was not about me, it's was about them, their lives, their souls. The poverty is what it will always be there, the city will never be cleaned up completely. As we drove around in the aftermath 6 months after the earthquake...the mess is so massive you want to throw your arms up in the air and give cannot be repaired. This is how I feel some days at home. I look at the mess, the broken lives of my children, our home, our family, and I know that although it will get better, we will never be fully repaired. The buildings of Haiti crumbled. The rubble is everywhere, but the people get up every day and live among it. Each day they press on. It is the same for me. I can't stop living. I just get up and do it, one day at a time.

One day as we drove through the city, my eyes fell upon a woman sitting outside her "tent" caring for a small baby and a little girl. The woman was worn. She obviously gave all she had to care for her children. As I approached her, my mother's heart met hers. She beat her chest telling me she was dry. She couldn't nurse her baby. I saw an empty bottle of milk and the baby looked like it was nourished, but the mother's fear spoke to have nothing left to give her baby. I sat in the doctor's office the other day. Presenting a child with real physical pain, yet the exam was normal. I sat there and in my heart I was pounding on my chest telling the doctor I have nothing left. I need help. I don't know what to do. My heart went back to that Haitian mother as I reflected her pain.

I was amazed that although the poverty is so big in Haiti, I saw past it. Joy and sorrow collided as I played with the children. As we played , the children laughed. But, what is more the parents stood around and watched me play with their children. I saw their souls fill up with laughter as they enjoyed their children's laughter through my play with them. I love to watch my children have fun with other people too! Once again, I connected. These people aren't objects of the news! Haiti is not an experience! The morning devotions where we stayed was more than a blessing. Although the whole service was in Creole, God was ever present and the message was simple but huge. These people look to Jesus first. Their trust in God comes first. They can't supply their own needs. They are physically poor, but they are rich in spirit! They try each day to rise above their suffering to see God. The messages were so simple. It was glory behind their faces that was so powerful!

In the plane, on the way home, I looked out my window. The sky was blue, the sun was shining down. The clouds were brilliant white reflecting the sun. It was then that I looked down below the the beauty to see that the same clouds that beheld the suns reflection were dark and heavy below. If I were to stand below the clouds, all I would see was the storm. I had the privilege to physically rise above the storm and behold the beauty beyond. This kind of beauty is what I saw in the faces of Haiti. The smiles that don't fit into the picture. How can that be? Joy among sorrow. Only though Christ. It is one day at a time. I understand. This trip was not an experience, it was not about me! It was about them! "It is what it is" .... and we might not be able to fix it, but we can make a difference little by little as we focus on them and not ourselves. The side effects of coming home may be life changing, but they are simply side effects...not the main goal in entering the aftermath. Coming home, I realized that the devastation in America is huge as well...we may not be poor physically, but we are poor in spirit. Perhaps this is why we are called to rejoice in our suffering!

Tuesday, June 29, 2010

"Vacation" or NOT

It's been a while since I have written. This summer has been a familiar place and so foreign at the same time. I wanted summer to come, because it is my favorite season. I love many things about summer. I love gardens, flowers, produce, sunshine, warm summer nights, lightening bugs, the sound of locusts on a hot summer name a few. We have had many sweet trips to the beach over the years. I love the beach! My kids have always loved the beach as well.

We decided to start our summer the day after school let out. We took a last minute trip to Jacksonville Beach, Fl. I was amazed that we found such a nice place to stay so last minute. The place was well equipped for kids...which turned out to be the biggest blessing. We spent much of our time in the condo and were thankful for an open toy box. Despite the fact that we can't get away from our grief (actually sometimes going away magnifies our loss), we sometimes feel the need to get away from this environment no matter how comforting or painful it may be.

It was good to be away from home, yet feel at "home" in the condo. We had time to relax and be together. Vacation means something else to us now. Rather than a nice getaway from home, it's an attempt to escape the furnace...only to realize that the affliction just comes along. It's a learning experience..trying to get to know each other again as who we used to be and who we have become now. We have to figure out how to be a family again with people that we don't recognize. It's also alot about figuring out who "I" am now. Even the kids are trying to find themselves apart from Ashley.

Sitting and playing on the beach is something we used to spend all day doing. We couldn't get enough of it. Ashley especially loved the beach. She made friends with every child she met, swam in the ocean, played in the sand, looked for shells and sand crabs...there was never a dull moment. The last time I went to the beach with Ashley in the summer was two years ago (we hadn't made it there yet last summer.) She was old enough to enjoy jumping waves and boogie boarding. I remember swimming with her that time. It was just us two. We spent a long time together sharing a boogie board far out in the water. I think she met the kid in me that day...doing the things I used to do with my Mom when I was young...she loved it. She couldn't wait till we could do it again sometime. Me too, Ashley. I was so excited to see her grown to a point that we could do those things together. I loved the bond of friendship we had begun.

The water in Florida was gorgeous. One day I went out swimming, jumping the waves, floating. It was lovely and relaxing...but I was missing someone. My Ashley should be with me. I ached over what is now out of reach....remembering the fun we had that we should be having again. The kids tolerated the beach for small amounts of time. I was frustrated, craving what it "used" to be. Feeling angry that it wasn't the same. I realized that they were "lost" on the beach too. Ashley wasn't there to show them what to play....and teach them all the fun things to do on the beach. They don't even realize it. Needless to was one more place to feel broken. Broken is the word that best describes us now. It's hard to get anything that is broken to work right...including a family!

I am glad we went...even though it was a challenge at times. We still had moments to enjoy together and it was a breath of fresh air even to be in a different place. We all craved home more than half way through the trip. Home hurts, but is also a place of refuge and safety. We were all glad to be home again. Looking back, I am so glad we went. God provided just what we needed. I have a hard time calling it a "vacation" though, because it sure feels different from what I knew before.

Friday, June 4, 2010

Parent's Pride

Today was the last day of school. I had no idea it would be such a tough day for me. Closing out the school year that my daughter was not a part of at all was not easy, but was something I had to do for Jacob and Emma. Emma graduated from Pre-K and Jacob had classroom awards and the closing chapel for the year. I held up ok until it was time for chapel. I went to my car for a while and sat there crying. I watched families walking to their cars with ALL of their children. They were happy and excited about the fun filled summer ahead of them...the break that they have been waiting for. I remember it too. I used to have the same feelings. I sat there, knowing that I have not only a broken family. I have a daughter who should be completing elementary school, but isn't here. I also have a summer filled with agony and pain to face. I've always loved summer, I still do. Now my summer is tainted with painful memories, and a daily harsh reality.

I watched all of the proud parents as they watched their children receive awards for their excellent accomplishments in academics, math, reading and so on. I remember that pride from years past. This year there were no great "awards" to be received. I didn't expect any. I didn't care...It no longer mattered to me. I stood there with a pride that I have never known, a pride that I never imagined for my children. I was proud of my children for doing what no other child had done that year. They went to school broken and lost. They had to do their "work" despite the fact that they had been torn from their sister only one month before school began, uprooted in life, and thrown into a "new" environment that didn't feel anything like home to them. They had to walk into Ashley's school. They walked through the same halls that Ashley walked through. They looked for her in dissapointment and sorrow when she was not to be found greeting them during the school day. They had to face her teachers and her friends on a daily basis. I couldn't have done what they did this year! No award would ever be able to commend them for this job that they did so well.

School has been a hard place for me to be this year. I have managed to do my best each time, but it wasn't easy. I remember the end of the school year last year so well. I remember Ashley's classroom awards. I can still see her that day. She loved the last day of school because she couldn't wait to be home with us for the summer....but she hated saying goodbye to her friends and teachers. She loved school, but treasured her time at home playing so much more. The closing chapel last year made an impression on me as well. The principle encouraged the children to stand on the rock...on God's word. He challenged them to read the Bible every day. He gave them each a rock to carry with them, reminding them of God's word. Ashley took that message very seriously. Not a day went by that she did not read her Bible. I was amazed that even on vacation late at night she insisted on reading. I even argued with her one night that it was ok for her to skip one night since it was so late. She had planned to read through the Bible. She left off in Luke (which was her favorite.) I have begun to read the Bible to Jacob every night. We began in Luke.

Monday, May 17, 2010

Labor of Love

Love drives me to do things I feel like I can't do. The night Ashley died Emma brought me two books, wanting me to read them to her. I remember picking her up, and I read those two books with her in my lap. The one book she picked was called "Someday", it is a book about a mother's conversation with her child...talking about the things her child will do "someday" as the child grows older. My heart bled as I read these things that I would never get to do "someday" with my Ashley. My hopes and dreams shattered before me as I read to my little girl.

This picture is how I would describe the shape of my life from that day on. (Not that I didn't do things for my kids before the accident, it's just different now.) I physically and emotionally can't do most things. For some reason...actually, for the three little bodies in my life....I have been able to sacrifice even my own agony to give them what they need. I have been a wounded soldier on the battlefield limping around, bleeding and broken...attending to the needs of the other wounded soldiers.

In the days and months to follow July 24th, 2009, I have chosen to care for my children. I have pushed past the tears and the open wounds to sing them to sleep. I have read books and Bible stories. I have prayed with them when I have been too paralyzed to pray myself. I have kissed their hurts, cuddled their tears. I have bathed them, fed them, played with them....when I didn't have the strength to get off the couch. I have spent hours during the night getting up with them, sleeping with them, soothing their fears. In each moment, my heart was bleeding, my soul was broken. But this, for my children.

My children need more than that. They needed to build snow they did with Ashley. They wanted to go to the beach, like we used to. They wanted a Christmas tree...when we wanted to skip over the month of December. They don't understand the kind of pain we feel when with each thing we do without Ashley. They can't understand why we wouldn't do those things, if we did them with Ashley. My children wanted to celebrate their birthdays...just the way we always did. Spring is here and the kids had been dreaming up the garden and what we'd plant in it. (How can I say "no"?) "When are we going to go strawberry picking, Mom?" These things are what they need...and despite my open, bleeding wounds, we do these things...because I love them.

How can I do these things? How can I pick up and continue life without Ashley? God gives me the strength each day...even when I don't ask Him for it. I know it is not my own strength. God loved me so much, He willingly took my shame, my guilt, my sin...upon his perfect self. He was condemned, beaten, forced to carry the cross (my cross)that He was hung upon to die. He bled...FOR ME...out of love. God suffered great pain, because He LOVED ME! This the kind of love that lays down all the desires of one's heart for another. This is the love that drives me each day. This is one way in which I am taking part in the sufferings of Jesus Christ.

Friday, May 14, 2010

An age old picture

As I was driving down the road today I passed a mennonite woman working in her vegetable garden. Close by was a little girl playing with her toy wheelbarrow. I love this's one that i've seen before, it's one that mirrors my life growing up and the one I live now. Last year I went to my Amish friends home to watch the tobacco harvest. It was such a neat thing to see. I watched the tobacco grow all summer, and then I watched my friends put it away for drying in the barn. The part of this picture that I love so much is seeing them working away, and their two littlest girls sat on the barn floor digging into a whole watermelon...their diapers were drooping and the watermelon ran down their faces. Anna (my amish friend) and I often talk about how our kids like to try to do what we are doing in their own little ways. We need to invest in little brooms, buckets, and garden tools. They want to help! This is a picture from across time. I can imagine the pioneer women working the land with their children playing around them. As the children get older, they want to do what their Mommies are doing. They do it in their own way first, then, as they are more skilled, they help, eventually they are trained to do it on their own.

I am not the kind of person to sit still. I am always moving. It is hard for me to sit down through the day, when there is work to be done. However, my house is usually a mess. I clean it, but the kids work faster than I do. Someday my house will be clean. The things I busy myself with, especially in the summer, are vegetable gardening, canning and freezing, baking, and whatever else I might decide to take on. Sometimes I hear.."how do you get that done when you have kids to care for?" I've come to realize that what comes natural to me, is actually the picture I described earlier. I love to work....with my kids close by. I love to be with my kids, but I usually expect them to be playing close by, while I work. Sometimes, in order for me to accomplish something I have to set my kids up with their own little work...identical to what I am doing. Every one of my kids followed this routine. I can remember Ashley being one year old, wanting to scrub the kitchen floor with me. She had to have her own brush to dip into the water. Jacob always had to have a broom. When I bake, I like to let them "help" me. Sometimes I have to tell them that "watching is helping." That is frustrating to hear when you're a kid, but watching pays off! I remember baking cinnamon buns for the first time on my own after I got married. Since I had only "watched" growing up, I was amazed at how well I remembered what to do!

It's funny how you can go into a toy store and see toys of every kind....recreating big people things...but in kid sizes. Kids want to do what they see mommy and daddy doing. Children who watch their parents work hard, will know how to work hard when they are big. As I planted my garden this week, I watched Emma (5) dig her hole to plant a tomato plant. I remembered how Ashley started out like Emma, and then, by last year...she began to "take over" my work. She had learned how to do it the way I did. I could trust her to take the laundry off the line and fold it. She cleaned the house, washed dishes, gave baths to her sister, planted my flower beds...and so much more. I remember feeling akward when I realized that she could do it as good as I could...and that she was taking my jobs!

I have a little way to go with Emma and Grace. This week we made bread. They needed their own dough to work with. I let them have it, and left them work. Later, I found bread dough everywhere, and flour too! I didn't mind the mess kept them entertained, we spent time together, and I got to do my baking! Emma told her teacher today that her mommy lets her make a mess..."she says we can always clean up a mess!" Thank-you, Emma! So, bring on the messes! And let the learning continue!

Sunday, May 9, 2010

Momma's New Ride

So, my husband decided to give me something new to write about. I guess I should tell the story behind my new (old) Triumph Spitfire.

I've always loved cars..especially old ones. My dad and I would occasionally stop by antique car shows when I was growing up. Since Dad had an interest in cars, I guess I learned to like them too. I also loved motorcycles. Dad and I spent many Sunday afternoons going for leisurely rides on his old Honda motorcyle. My first ride (that I remember) in an old car was one of Dad's friend's cars. I can't remember what the car was, but it had a trundle seat for the trunk. It was great to ride in the back! When I was really little, Dad had an old Dune Buggy that he rebuilt. I don't remember riding in it, but I loved to hear the stories about it and look at pictures. Dad and I often wished he hadn't sold it.

The car I always wanted was a convertible VW Bug. I don't know why, I just thought they were so cool. It was a few years ago and I was driving down route 1 towards Middletown. I was riding behind the coolest car I had ever seen! It was so little and cute. I loved how the woman driving it sat above the windshield. I had to find out what kind of car it was so I could look it up! "This car has my name all over it! Someday, this is the car I want to drive!"

Well....A few months ago I was looking them up online (something I would do on occasion, just for fun!) I found this red one...WOW! Would you look at that car! I jokingly showed it to Jake and told him he could get it for me some day for Mother's Day. He just laughed.

This morning, I woke up early. Jake and Jacob told me there was a surprise in the driveway. "You didn't really get me a car, did you?" Why, yes he did! I couldn't believe it! I took it for a freezing cold ride in my pajamas! It is a sweet ride indeed! I am looking forward to the much needed down time away from life! Part of my gift is the fact that only two can ride...which means time out for mommy, and maybe a fun date night for mommy and daddy!!! Yeah!

My heart is still heavy today, but the distraction sure is nice!

Saturday, May 8, 2010

Mother's Day

I am angry today. It is the day before Mother's Day and I have so many conflicting emotions going on inside of me. I could explode! I don't like being in my skin or in my life. I feel like I am trapped inside a vice that continues to tighten it's grip on me. I am living a nightmare that won't end. Somedays are good. Many moments are good, actually, but each moment is haunted with reality. If only there was a way out of this.

I really didn't think much about Mother's Day coming up. I rarely look more than a day in advance. I am surviving one day at a time. That's all I can do. This week has been really hard though. I have had a rollercoaster of emotions tossing me this way and that, jerking me around, and leaving me feel confused and disoriented. I'll think I can handle something, and then realize it is way more than I can bear. I have felt so far away from Ashley this week. Wishing badly that I could talk to her on the phone or something...but there are no phone lines to heaven, there is no skype, or email. I have the hope of seeing her again, but I don't know when that will be. I know that Heaven is the finish line, but I can't see it...I don't know how much longer this race is. I found myself missing specific things about her. Things that made her unique...that no one else could be. As I enjoy each one of my kids, it also provides sorrow knowing that they are not like her...they are who God made's that part of creation where God makes each one of us special and unique..there is no one like us. I see things in my children that remind me of Ashley. I love that so much! I am so thankful for my three...that God has given me to enjoy...but, I never feel complete...there is always a piece of the pie missing. I am always uncomfortable.

So, I know it's not just Mother's Day. It's spring...heading into summer. The weather has been nothing short of beautiful. I love to be outside, and to keep the windows open and feel the breeze through the house. Everything is green outside, and the sun is warm. I have often regreted the fact that Ashley didn't have her own room. Not because it wasn't "fair" to share a room with her sister, but because I feel like I don't have a place that was "all Ashley's" to leave the same way she left it...and be able to "be" in her space. When spring came I realized that her room was never that important to her anyway. The outside was her "space." She lived for any moment that she could be outside playing. She loved to be barefoot and in a sundress. She loved to imagine things and then she would play it. Usually, she played her "indian game." I even had to make her a deer skin dress. She was die-hard! She worked hard in her play...doing the things that indians did to live life. She wove baskets from reeds, and pounded field corn into fine corn meal. She gathered herbs and dried them....I just have to laugh at all the work she accomplished while she played! So, the change of seasons is comforting in a way, because it brings me closer to her. Every inch of this place was touch by her angel feet.

Coupled with the comfort of summer...comes the setting of the stage. With each leaf that arrived on the trees, and each day that the sun gets warmer, the flowers, the grass, the motivation towards summer activities....the stage is being set for us to relive the nightmare of our lives. Each moment is one day closer to THAT day. (Even though we are a year farther away from it, it is as real and fresh as the day itself.) I love summer and hate summer at the same time.

I was so thankful today for an email from not only a friend, but a mom who KNOWS this life I now live. She affirmed my pain, my anger, my sorrow. There was no sugar coating. For her it is 17 mother's days without her son, for me it is one. The pain of the day is still sharp even for her. I am encouraged to know that life will get better. There is joy to be had. The God of all comforts will always be my comfort. But, I realize that I am also strangely comforted in knowing that the searing pain of separation from my child will never go away. I don't want it to. I HATE this pain, I despise it! But, I don't want it to ever leave is all I is my daughter's presence in my life.

I remember my first Mother's Day. Ashley was "here", but not born yet...I wanted to hold her. She was a part of my life and I looked forward to seeing her. Well, Ashley is a part of my life now...except I can't hold her, hear her, or see her. I can only wait for heaven.

Sunday, April 25, 2010


"Who will be our next survivor?" The famous question asked at the begining of the reality tv show "Survivor." To win the game of Survivor contestants must often be and say and do things that would not normally describe who they are in real life. They are put onto an island with other people and are told to survive the game. Many will do whatever it takes to win the million dollars at the end of the game. Deprived of food, family, and the comforts of daily life...and placed on unfamiliar territory with a bunch of strangers, they must push through each day just to make it as far as they can.

I have many "labels" in this life. I am a wife, a mother, a cooker, a cleaner, a gardener, a daughter, a friend, a nurse, a sister...and much more. Now I am simply a survivor, along with my husband, children, and our extended family. The game of "survivor" lasts only a short while...But this life...will last a lifetime. We too have been placed in a foreign land. We are separated from our child, our sister. We are depraved of the joy we once knew. We have become strangers to each other and strangers to ourselves. The working family unit we once knew has been destroyed...and finding a daily routine that works seems impossible since we are all changing from one day to the next.

As a nurse, I was taught that there was a grieving process. It was a linear progression in which a person would move through the "stages of grief." There was shock, denial, anger, acceptance and so on. I always thought that these phases could be marked and that as one phase was "passed" and another phase had begun, there would be no "turning back" to the old phases of grief. As if there was a start and a finish line. As if grief was a fog that you could "get through." In reality, grief is not a linear progression at all. Each of the "stages" of grief are never accomplished and not visited again. Grief travels around. It likes to go in circles or bounce back and forth visiting one stage after another...staying at length or for only a minute...and then going on to the next one. My friend tells me it's like an upward spiral..we begin at the bottom and work our way up as we continually visit each component of grief. Someitmes we stay for a while, then we move on upward. Something might trigger a painful emotion only to cause us to fall lower on the spiral. Like the game of chutes and ladders (the unending childhood board game) you advance a few spaces...then you climb a ladder moving far ahead. But on any given turn you hit a chute...sliding you down to the begining again. I've always hated that game. I secretely sent ours to goodwill the other year. Now I am a permanent player in that game. Heaven is the end and only God knows when we will get there.

This real life game of Survivor or chutes and ladders gets real messy when you add more than one player and then expect them to live together and figure out how to survive together. Because everyone "plays" this game of grief differently, and everyone responds to each stage of grief soon realize that you don't know the people you love anymore, and you don't know how to "read" their survival tactics. Every once in a while you might find that you might be visiting the same stage at the same time...and if your lucky, you might even be responding to it in the same way. Those are times when it is a relief to connect after being so lost from each other most of the time. Even though we all live in the same place, often times we feel like strangers to each other.

I've heard people say to me "it seems like your having a hard time making it through"...or "it will be a while before you will get through this"...or "how are you getting through this pain?" I don't like the word "through." That word fits into most of life's challenges, but it doesn't fit with grief. I am not getting through it, I AM LIVING IT! and I will continue to live it until I die. It will get better, I know that. But getting through something is living to see the end of it. I/We are SURVIVING it. I am doing whatever it takes to make it. Sometimes I don't recognize myself, or my husband, or my kids....but that is because we are all different people just trying to do what we can to survive.

All of this sounds depressing, messy, and chaotic. Frankly, that is how I feel about it most of the time. It is exhausting trying to read each other, trying how to help each other, trying to find some sort of energy somewhere to be there for each other. And this is just the grief side of life now...not to mention all of the events and demands of daily life in general. I won't say that there is no joy in our life now. We still have laughter, the kids still play, we still have fun times along this journey. I know that as we "advance" in the game, there will be more good times, and less tough times. I also know that 11 years of beautiful life with our sweet little girl, is not going to be "gotten through" in a few years...we are talking a lifetime of healing.

Yes, I still claim all of the labels describing who I am. But the heading in bold print is SURVIVOR by the GRACE OF GOD!

Thursday, April 15, 2010


Today sorrow is heavy upon my heart. The weight of loss is a fog that surrounds me and presses in from all angles. Once I became a "member" of this club....I gained a few very precious friends. Most of them I have never met, but I feel like I've known them forever. The pain we share is at the deepest level of our souls. In much pain today, I realized that some of my new friends were suffering greatly right now. It is "anniversary" time for them. Not a good kind of anniversary though...the worst nightmare of every parent kind of anniversary. The kind that you desperately want to erase from the face of this earth, but can't because they are branded in our lives forever. The kind that only brings earthly pain and saddness. I haven't reached my one year yet, but it is coming...I can feel it.

It makes me deeply sad and quite angry that rather than celebrating the anniversaries of my friends children's birthdays, accomplishments, marriages, graduations...I am agonizing in pain with them over the death anniversaries of our children. This makes me sick.

The truth that we all share is that each anniversary takes us one more year farther away from the memories of our children. In the very begining the memories are so clear, it's like they aren't even gone. We could still hear their voices, smell their hair, feel their hugs in our minds. We could see their sweet little faces and almost hear them run through the house. Then the moment comes when we realize those memories are fading. We have to look at pictures to get the detail of their faces. We have to watch a movie to remember their voices and experience their character and personality. We try to smell their pillows to remember through our senses. They continue to slip away from us. We continue to burry them every day.

It has become so scary to me that I can't remember what life was like with Ashley here...daily life. As much as I didn't want to allow life to go does...and eventually a new normal sets in...a normal without Ashley. Suddenly it is strange to imagine what life would be like if she were here. (Well, we all KNOW it would be filled with joy!)

One thing that has helped me through the past 8 months has been the ability to look back at last year this time with Ashley. Everything I do, I remember doing it with her. I always will remember. The thing that I am not looking forward to is July 24. That day I will not only have to add the pain and suffering to my memories of Ashley, but I will then have to go back 2 years to remember August, September, October...with Ashley. This will continue every year. The memories are the same, they just become more and more distant.

Spring has been sweet and utterly bitter at the same time. Spring is when we celebrate new life. We venture outside and soak in the beauty of creation. We take a deep, cleansing breath relieved to come out of the winter hibernation in our homes. Life feels new and refreshed. It has been wonderful to be outside, to plant my garden, and to watch my kids run and play and climb the trees. But right next to each refreshing comfort is the hole that grows bigger as the memories grow farther away. Spring is a reminder that summer is coming and I am running out of last year's sweet memories.

I have learned to know that although the memories grow distant, our lives will slowly be restored. They will never be the same. The memories will always be there...and they will become sweeter. However, the memory of THAT dreadful day will always be painful. We can't live in that day forever...we have no choice but to press on. I am forever thankful that I can live with hope for the this world and for eternity. There is joy to come on earth and in Heaven...even if right now the dark shadows of agony and pain cover my sight of what is to come. In my pain, I will press on.

Thursday, April 1, 2010

Glimpses of Reality

As I walked in the greenhouse today I watched my two little girls run ahead of me...weaving between the rows of flowers. I see them, but my vision is blurred as I realize that my Ashley used to be there among the flowers. The greenhouse was her playground too. What is happening here? Is this for real? How can my entire life with Ashley be wrapped up into a box of memories? Why do I have to talk about my little girl in past tense? Who she was...what she used to do...what she looked like? It is so unnatural to hear my children say "after Ashley died.." in a this really my life now?? Do I have to take my young family to the cemetary to feel even the least bit whole as a family? Does my little girl's name really have two dates below it? Could it really be true that I am slowly packing my daughter's life away into boxes to be set on a shelf? The land I am in is so foreign and unreal it's as if It's NOT for real! But, I know it is real...I just don't get it. I can't understand's far too big to wrap my mind around it.

In the first few days and weeks after Ashley died, I can remember shuttering at the thought of 2,3,8 months down the road...I could barely imagine making it to the next day. I remember dreading the change of seasons, holidays, birthdays, school, church....everything without Ashley. None of it has been be honest, I think that spring has been the worst of all. Here I am 8 months later still not being able to imagine the next year. All my life I have spent looking forward to the next season of life....for me and for my children. I loved to imagine what they would be like, where they would go, what they would do or become. Now, I pray with my children that God would come quickly...because we are longing to be home, to be whole. There are days when I plead with God for this life to be over.

It seems in the past few weeks glimpses of reality have hit me and take me back for a moment. I have to sit back in disbelief that this is my life. I just can't believe it. It's as if I am going about life each day being "immune" or maybe "numbed" to reality. Sometimes when we are the ones in the "box", it's hard to see the big picture. Every once in a while I have a second where I slip outside my box and peek in through a window. I see a small glimpse of this life I am living and it's more than I can bear. This happens to me often. There are times when I will be talking about Ashley or looking at a picture of her...she seems so close to familiar...I know her so it is so normal to have her be a part of my life..AND THEN IT HITS...she's gone. She's not here. She's been gone for 8 months. She's not coming back. All of the sudden I don't understand death. How can it be that someone I know so well, who was just here...can be gone forever?

One thing I hear often is "I don't know how you are doing this." Well...I don't know how I am doing this either. Humanly speaking, I don't think it's possible for a parent to survive the loss of a child on their own. In my time of despair and deep sorrow, when I feel the bitterness of this pain...I sometimes hear others urging me toward the Lord. I agree, but often feel too paralyzed to move. I hear people remark about my faith being strong. How is this possible when I feel so far away from God. I feel so weak. I know that I am "doing" very little of prayer time and devotions. This is not of me! How am I walking? I'm NOT! I am convinced that although I feel so far from God, and although some may think I am dwelling in sorrow and bitterness...I am actually closer to God than I've ever been. God has actually picked me up and is carrying me. God is near to the brokenhearted. So the faith and strength that others see in not mine. God has revealed his strength through me. I am just a broken body.

As I write this I feel so frustrated. I feel comforted to know that God has his hands on me...that He is molding me into a work of art that He wants to use for His glory. It sounds good to me, but at the same time I hate it. I don't want to be used in this way. I want my Ashley back. I understand the depths of despair and the bitterness in the hearts of the psalmists. I also feel too weak to go "kicking and screaming" my way through this. I feel like I have no other way than to let Jesus pick up my broken body and spirit and carry me. I don't have anything to give.

Saturday, March 20, 2010

A Wave Tossed in the Ocean

"I am a flower quickly fading, here today and gone tomorrow, a wave tossed in the ocean, a vapor in the wind...still YOU hear me when I'm calling, Lord you catch me when I'm falling, and you ask me who I am....I am Yours."

Compelled to leave my world behind, I went to visit the ocean last weekend. All by my lonesome. To most people being alone is not desireable, to me, I knew it is what I needed most. Yes, it was akward at first, but I quickly learned to appreciate the new experience. The weekend was very short. I really only got one whole day there...and although I left wishing I had one more day, I decided to trust that the things I learned from my trip was what God wanted me to go home with. I am satisfied with that, but plan to return alone next year.

I had every intention of reading books, writing, returning messages and such...the ocean had other things in mind for me. Friday was rainy and cold. I met up with some friends for dinner. It was nice to visit with them and catch up on things. Seeing that sleep was not on the itinerary for me, I chose to wake up before the sun and begin my only day alone. I walked the beach for over 3 hours that morning. I picked up shells, felt the sand and water on my feet, watched the sun rise, and watched the people come and go. Being alone gave me the opportunity to think, to pray, to lose track of time, to notice things that I wouldn't pay attention to if I was with someone else. I met another woman walking the beach. We talked about our shells..which ones we hoped to find...we shared where we came from and found that we were both there alone. I shared some of my story. We parted, and I didn't see her again. I went for a drive and explored the area. When I finally decided to eat I wondered what I would do, being alone. There were no fast food places, so I chose a little diner. The tables were full of people enjoying each other's I chose a seat at the counter..the place for single customers. An elderly woman sat beside me. She comes to Sanibel every year for a few months. I enjoyed her company. What a sweet woman she was...someone I would have never met had I not been alone. I spent the rest of the day sitting on the beach alone...watching the ocean, and the people around me. Before dinner, I watched the sun set over the ocean. I noticed the elderly couples who walked hand in hand into the sunset. I was reminded how much I desire to grow old with my husband.

Sunday brought some new treasures. I walked for miles down the shoreline. It was lovely to walk into the sunrise. I found more shells....and had more time to reflect. After my return to the hotel, it was time to check out. I was feeling like nothing really amazing happened, I found some beautiful sea shells, I learned things from watching others, I prayed, I cried, I didn't do what I thought I'd do, but I guessed whatever I did was what I needed to do. Upon checking out, there was an envelope for me. Inside the envelope was a broken piece of a shell and a short letter...this is what it read... "Hi, Just realized I don't know your name. I found this shell, and wanted you to have it. Like your heart, it is broken now, but if we had all the pieces, we could fix it. You do have the pieces of your heart, and as days go by and good memories sustain you, the pieces will fall into place again - forever cracked in honor of you daughter, but functional and able to love and go forward with courage and faith. May God bless you." The tears began to flow as I realized that God used the woman I met on the beach to give me this message of love. So, God did have a reason for bringing me here.

I also learned that being alone is a good thing to be sometimes. It's not always desireable, but it is a good place to be to hear things that God wants you to hear, and learn things about yourself and others. Sitting before the ocean felt like I was sitting before the Lord himself. The ocean has always meant more to me than just the sand and water. It is a symbol of God's unfailing love for deep and how wide and how vast is His love for never fails to give forth it's waves upon the is teeming with life, it is powerful, majestic, peaceful, fearful, calming....Prayer became a live conversation between me and my maker. Pain was real, sorrow was real, grief was brutal, and my arms were so empty! Yet, I was before a God who decided to remind me of who I am and who He is. He is the ocean, and I am a mere grain of sand on the beach....even so..He loves me as a father loves his little girl. I am His. I am not alone. He shares my pain and my sorrow.

I am thankful for the trip alone. I was blessed by the people that touched my heart. Although the pain is as real and heavy as ever, I am reminded of my Saviour's love. I had the chance to be alone before Him. Coming home, I was reminded of why I needed to leave, but I am also reminded of the many blessings in the midst of sorrow, and I feel like my soul has found some rest.

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

In the midst of Ashes

Once again tonight I find myself standing in the pile of ashes in my life. I had other things I wanted to write about, but I realized that the pain is too great. Today is my birthday. "Birthday Wishes" so they say. I never "wished" to stand before the grave of my oldest child on my 33rd birthday. Today was hard. It was a day quite without Ashley. You see, Ashley loved to celebrate other people's birthday's even more than her own. She worked so hard to make each person have the BEST day the best way she could. She made big birthday signs, decorated birthday chairs, made presents, cards, dances, songs, planned "together" time, hugs, and kisses, and then some more hugs and kisses. She LOVED birthdays.

I picked myself up today...rolled up my sleeves and began my day. Mom and her sister, Mary came down to spend the day with me. We had lunch, then ice cream with the kids. It was a nice time together despite the fact that I have a bad cold and can't talk. When they left I turned around and reality hit like a ton of bricks. Is this really real? How can she be gone? She was just here, we were just together. Even though my home is filled with the noise of three children, it is painfully quiet. It is a lonely, broken, and strange place to be. Death makes you feel so uncomfortable you want want out like crazy. But when you step on the gas, the wheels just spin in the mud. There is no out. You realize you're stuck in this place that doesn't feel like home anymore.

When a house burns to the ground, it's not just the structure of the house that's gone. The insides are burnt. Sure, maybe some things are left. Some furniture may be only half burnt or you might find a few things that are only blackened by smoke. But it's all touched by the fire. I've never had my house burnt down. I do not know that loss. But I do know what it's like to stand in the ashes. Unfortunately, grief likes to put me in the ash pile often. The loss for words when you stand there and look around at everything that has been scorched by the fire. Some days I see my children who don't know how to play creatively anymore, who can't figure out how to love each other, who don't know what to do with these "feelings" that grief gives they act out in ways that make me frustrated and feel powerless. The man I love...who is by nature strong and confident, walks around crushed and confused. I am lost as well. I go places and don't know why I am there. I get frustrated running my home...only to realize that I am missing my biggest helper. She and I ran this house together. And then valentine's Day and Birthday's come around and I realize that our biggest motivation for these days is no longer here. We try to do our best. We do everything we can to re-make those days...but in the end, Ashley is not here, it's not the same.

People will tell me that I am not alone. They will tell me that Joy will be restored, that it will get better. I will be told to cling to Jesus, because He will help me. I know. And I do believe. These words are words of encouragement, words to urge me onward, to lift my broken spirit. I am thankful for them. But, I also know that the things that have been scorched by the fire will always bear proof of the flame. Hope for the future, helps to heal the past, but won't take the pain away. This also makes me think about what happens when you prune a tree. The new growth comes in the spring, but if you look closely, you can still see the callous where it had been pruned. I was reading about Lazarus tonight. (Jesus' friend who died.) Jesus knew that He would raise Lazareth from the dead, but still..."Jesus Wept."

I have to stand in the ashes and look around at the devastation. I have to stand in this moment and weep. My pain is real. Beauty will rise from the ashes, but the ashes will still be there. No matter how much healing, or new growth takes's Ok for me to visit the ash pile and be sad.

Thursday, February 25, 2010

My Grandma's Arms

I never had the chance to know my Grandma Arlene. She passed away when my Dad was 19 years old. My Grandfather remarried my Grandma Lois before I was born. Grandma has given us grandkids a wonderful album of photos and written history of our family. Through the pages of this book, I have enjoyed learning about my Dad's life. Dad has always told me that I resembled his mother in some ways. Although I never knew her, I believe we have a lot in common. Grandma loved to care for babies. When my dad was growing up, his mother would often care for foster babies. The last baby that Grandma took under her wing was Kathy. Most of the babies only stayed for a few months, but due to an eye condition, Kathy was not a candidate for adoption. Grandma Arlene cared for Kathy for five years. It looked like Kathy would be a permanent part of the family until one tragic day. A new case worker was assigned to Kathy. One day, she showed up, unnanounced, and took Kathy from Grandma's arms. She was never seen again. My Dad remembers his mothers pain and saddness.
Less than one year later, my Grandma became very sick. A few weeks later, Grandma Arlene passed away. The Doctors believed she died of a blood disease, but others wondered if she died of a broken heart.

I used to remember this story and think "how awful! I can't imagine what it'd be like to have my child suddenly taken from me...without notice, without a chance to say goodbye, or 'prepare her for the road'." Although Kathy was alive, she became like dead to Grandma, being the only mother Kathy had ever known. Yesterday I realized that I fully understand Grandma's heart and I know what her arms felt like. I know what it feels like to have my child torn from my arms without warning. I am no stranger to watching my hopes and dreams shatter before my eyes. I believe Grandma probably stood there confused and helpless. I am sure that the days, weeks, and months to follow were filled with memories. Her home, like mine, was filled with Kathy's fingerprints, laughter, singing, and play. Everything was the way Kathy left it. Nothing was missing...except Kathy, except Ashley. As a mother...our days are spent fixing things...kissing the hurt away, nursing the sick back to health, feeding hungry tummies, resolving conflict, bathing dirty bodies, praying away the nightmares, comforting the broken hearts, fixing the boo-boos with bandaids, putting the tower that fell over back together...Each day as I stand in the empty shadow of my life trying to hold up the weight of my broken heart...I hurt so badly because I realize that there is nothing I can do to fix this hurt. As a friend of mine says "this is a wound that only Heaven can heal." It makes me feel trapped and helpless. I can imagine that Grandma felt very much like I do, even though Kathy was still alive somewhere. Although I never met my Grandma, I have a deep connection with her...There are days when I feel like I too could die from a broken heart.

For years I have dreamed of someday caring for foster babies like Grandma did. I hope that someday I will be able to do that. Thinking of Grandma Arlene in heaven makes me wonder if maybe she is mothering my Ashley for me until I get there. I hope she is....

Thursday, February 18, 2010

A Mother's tour of Heaven

Whenever my kids want to go to a friends house I like to know a few things first. Do I know and trust the parents? How many siblings do they have and how old are they? Will they be staying with a grown up the whole time? Where are they going to sleep? When will they be home again? Are they planning to go anywhere? Not to be nosey, just to be sure that where you are leaving them is a safe place to be.

One of the hardest parts of having a child in heaven is not being able to "see" it first. How can my child, my little girl, be ok on her own in a new place? She's a child, she needs to be cared for. And what about the babies that go to heaven? Are they still babies when they get there? Who cares for them? If we have "mansions" in glory, does Ashley live in one alone? Does she know my family who has gone before her even though she never met them on earth?

Knowing who Ashley was here on earth makes it hard to imagine her in heaven without us. Ashley had a hard time going to friends houses because she really wanted to go, but didn't want to leave home and was afraid of what she'd miss out on by going. She would choose to stay home from birthday parties just to meet a great uncle that she never met before, even if it was only for a few minutes. Ashley shared a room with her little sister, Emma. Ashley was organized and neat. Emma is far from it. Ashley would patiently clean up Emma's mess. She was getting tired of it, but when I offered for her to have the guest room (which is down stairs, and all the other rooms are up stairs) she turned down the offer. Even though having her own room that she could decorate the way she wanted, that would be untouchable to little hands sounded really good, she would rather share a room with a little sister and deal with the mess than be "separated" from the rest of us at night.

Ashley treasured family time. She would describe her best times as times spent together as a family. No matter what we would be doing, if we were all doing it together...she'd say "I just love being all together like this...this is the best." Words could never describe how much Ashley loved us all. She would tell us over and over how much. I miss hearing "your the best mommy I could have ever wanted...Of all the mommies in the world, I'd choose you." If I could just hear it again, and again. "I love you more than ever." Words that I crave. The hugs that lasted forever. Sometimes I'd have to peel her off. She wanted to just hug me forever she'd say. She didn't want to grow up any more, she wanted to be my little girl forever. She loved summertime...being all together, playing outside, not having to leave us to go to school. Now, she is "locked in time" as my 11 year old little girl in a sundress and bare feet.

I have asked God..."could I just have a peek at heaven?" If I could just have a momma's tour of heaven. Just to see that heaven is so wonderful, that she loves being there, that it's a good place for her to be until I can be there with her. This is where faith comes into play. Faith is being sure of the things that are unseen. Faith is not easy. Especially now. I need to trust that all of the things about heaven that I know and have been told and that I can read in the Bible are real and true and are enough. I know Heaven is good enough. It's more than good enough. As an earthly mother, separated from my little girl by this ugly thing called in the things that are unseen is all I have. Trusting in the promises of my salvation in Christ Jesus is what I have to lean on. Up until now it has always been easy for me to say that I have faith. Even to have faith in little things. Now, fatih is more real than ever. God is asking me "how much faith do you have?" "Do you have faith that can move mountains?" It seems like there should be a lot of things required of me to have such faith. Faith is really quite simple. It's one action. It is letting go and letting God. It is like looking at a chair, being told that it is strong enough to hold you, but the only way you can find out is by sitting in it thus allowing it to bear your weight instead of you.

Yes, I'd like a momma's tour of heaven. I'd like to see it to believe it. I can't see it yet. I have to believe it. I can't forget the song I used to sing as a little girl... "God said it, and I believe it, and that settles it for me. God said it, and I believe it, and that settles it for me. Though some may say that His word is untrue, God said it and I believe it, now how about you? God said it, and I believe it and that settles it for me!"

Friday, February 12, 2010


Waiting. This is what we spend most of our lives doing. We wait in lines, wait for the phone call, wait for a better job, wait for our kids, wait for food, wait for summer to come, wait for school to be over, for our favorite tv show to come on.....just waiting...and waiting. It's easy to understand what it feels like to wait for something because we all do it everyday.

The last 6 months has been filled with days of waiting for us. It's different now. We get up and wait for something...just don't know what it is we are waiting for. I hear myself saying if I can just get past "this." Then I realize that once I get there, I'm really not there yet because there will be something else to wait for once I get there. What am I waiting for?

The first few nights after Ashley died, I remember standing by the window staring outside at the rain storms just waiting for her to come home. As if she would just come walking down the driveway at 3 oclock in the morning. We were waiting for her to be found. We wanted a child to burry. (who would ever think that would be something to wait for!) Then, we waited till the funeral day came. After all the crowds of people were gone...the reality of our empty lives set in. We got up every day and waited for the end of the day to come. I would wait for the sleep meds to kick in. I would wait until the morning came. Nothing in life had any value at all. It was torn from us. We sat there, empty and lost.

Days of waiting turned into months of waiting. We began to wait for school to start, seasons to change, sickness to go away, sunday to come, guests to visit. Soon the things we wait for turn into the same things that we used to wait for...things that actually do happen. The real hurt comes when in addition to the usual waiting, we continue to wait....empty armed....for what? What we want is to get back to life the way it was. We want to see Ashley come running to us. We want to tuck four children into bed at night. We want to have all of the seats at the table full. We want to feel like life has a purpose again. The hard part of all of this waiting is that the things we are waiting for can't and won't happen in this earthly life. This is more than we can swallow.

I feel like I can't say any of this without clarifying that I have Eternal Hope in Christ Jesus. I know that what I am waiting for every day is the restoration of perfection in Heaven. This is what we are all waiting for...It's just that now Heaven has become so real to me. It's not just a place to talk about and wonder about. I have one foot in heaven now. The things of earth....the things that always seem so important to be waiting for are no longer important...they have lost meaning. Yes, even things like family and spending time with my children are blury...because in an instant death causes you to realize that you do not have a grip on any of it! The comfort in the fact that we have no grip, is that someone does have a grip. God has a firm hold on us. He is in control of our lives. I do not have to despair, I just have to believe. It is easy to say that we believe (especially when we feel like life is in our hands.) but when your grip is torn away leaving you helpless...believing takes on a whole new meaning. Believing is Living.

My faith has been put to the test. Knowing that I will see Jesus and that I will be together with my daughter again one day is worth waiting for. This is much easier said than done. It means I have to walk every day with a limp (like Jacob did after wrestling with God), it means that I have to make a choice to trust in God even though I can't see the end result. In my pain I have to choose to live each day the best I can...knowing that no matter what joy I feel in this life, the pain and suffering, the sorrow, and the longing to be with my child will not go will come with me. It will never leave until I am made perfect in heaven. Could it be that the pain I feel in being separated from Ashley is the kind of pain and longing that God has to be with me, HIS DAUGHTER?!

I do not live without hope. I do not have to fear. But, those whose hope is not in Christ....the things they are waiting for will never satisfy them. They are earthly things that will all pass away. When the waiting for one thing is over....they will be waiting for something else. It is meaningless. It has no purpose. It will end in the grave. There is nothing left. I never thought I'd ever survive the loss of my child. At times I feel like I'm not surviving, but I am. The truth is that it's not me...My heavenly Father who knows this road I am traveling on, because He traveled it before me....He is carrying me each day. I do not need to imagine how I'd make it...I just can't imagine how I'd make it without Christ.

Tuesday, February 2, 2010

A Rose in Heaven

July 16, 1998 - The day that I became a mommy. Ashley Sue VanWingerden....the pride and joy of my heart. The first little flower in my garden. The crown of my motherhood. Eleven years with a little girl that filled my heart till overflowing every day. Showing me Jesus in her every move. The days were filled with laughter, love, hugs, kisses, cards, crafts, imagination, lots and lots of playing, dancing, dreaming, dressups, tea parties, shows, singing....and so much more.

July 24, 2009 - The day my life was uprooted, torn apart, burnt to ashes. We were getting ready for a weekend at my parents house. As I packed, my husband and our two oldest children went for a quick ride on the boat. They wanted to check on the new crab traps they set a few days before. A quick boat ride soon turned into the nightmare of all parents lives. There was an accident, Ashley fell off the boat and was lost. Three days of search and rescue until she was found on Sunday morning. We never got to see our girl. Friday came again and we burried our daughter.

It is February now. Six months later. I stand in the rubble. July is as real as yesterday and feels like forever ago at the same time. I am broken and lost. Life flows on because it has to. Each day I wake up and know that the day must go on. There are three little ones that need a mommy, they need to eat, they need to play, they need clothes to wear, diapers changed. They need to go to school. The homework is still there, we still need doctor and dentist appointments. None of these things change. Only now it takes all i've got to do just what we need to get by. All of these things within the cloud of grief...that is at times so dense you can't remember where you've been and can't see where you are going. Sometimes it is so heavy you feel like you are pinned to the floor with a dagger through your soul. But...the end of the day comes, I sit down with my children to pray and I thank God for giving us our portion for that day. Sometimes it feels like it's not going to be enough, but the sun always sets...and then it rises again the next day.

I don't understand God's plan for my life. There are what if's and if only's every day. There are questions and unanswered prayers. I painfully wonder why God would have blessed us with an angel like Ashley and then taken her away. I DON'T know why! I do know that JESUS LOVES me. I Do know that Ashley loved Jesus and she is with him and like him. I DO know that my Redeemer Lives and He WILL stand on this earth again. I Do know that there will be a day when I will see her again....and we will be together with each other in glory.

There are so many things I could write many things I want to share. But for now...I started with the outline of our story. The begining of my new life. One that I did not choose. One that I can only walk by faith in Christ Jesus. I am so thankful for all of our friends and family who have stood by us, walked with us, held us up both physically and prayerfully. We are forever greatful for your love!

If you do not know my Ashley Sue...her service and memory video can be viewed at