Thursday, November 27, 2014

Gratitude: through a child's eyes

On this first holiday without my mother, God continues to be so good to our family. No doubt her absence was very much felt, but the traditions that we continue to embrace make these difficult days a little sweeter: making her favorite dishes, spending time with my grandfather (her father), etc...I realize now why traditions are so important.

I won't lie. Suddenly, the holiday season does seem less merry. However, I am thankful for all that God has taught me through the ache. In many ways, I feel like I am walking with my eyes a little more open: grasping for beauty when the days are hard.

Today, I am writing over at my favorite online boutique store called Sweet Praises and sharing a small bit of beauty that God has opened my eyes to recently. I hope you enjoy this season of thanksgiving and continue to focus on what is most important as we enter into the season of advent.

Click here to read the full article. I hope it will bless you on this day of Thanksgiving!


Monday, November 3, 2014

Friends are like Puzzle Pieces

I've sat here tapping on my computer for more hours than I care to admit. I was awake until 2am last night (for the third night in a row) recapping this past weeks events as well as marveling at the amount of Godly people God has put in my path the past 16 or so years.

I am in yet another season of change. Although no one can replace true friends who have supported you through the good, bad, and ugly, moving to the other side of town has sort of forced me to find new friends who live day to day life with me. I am overwhelmed by the friendships the Lord immediately put in my life immediately after moving...it was something Andrew and I both prayed for daily for ourselves and especially for me. I once read that friends are like puzzle pieces. I think that quote originally was meant to be interpreted as each friend in your life plays an important part of who you are and each part plays a part in making you whole. After reflecting on friends from childhood, to college and now through adulthood, I would agree that each person is a piece of a puzzle in my life. 

Friendships that have value transcend time. This past week was proof of that as many of us gathered stricken with heartache and anguish as we sang and prayed at a vigil...what would be a sweet and dear young lady's last worship service here on Earth. Our hearts were full of sorrow as we watched her sweet young boys watch from the windows of their bedrooms and our lips trembled with sadness while thinking of her beloved husband whose pain we cannot even fathom.


Both the vigil and the funeral were a glimpse of Heaven (minus the tears). The gathering of dear friends, many of whom we have not seen in 14 years, made me forget for a moment that I was grieving and instead made me feel as if I had arrived home. Still recovering from the recent death of my mother, this gathering of believers was such a gift for me. Our college campus minister spoke of our sweet friend and how she must be loving meeting all the great warriors for Christ: Moses, Noah, David. I had never really thought about that before. Sometimes we are so caught up in our own hurt, we forget that Heaven is so amazing. I felt so much comfort thinking of how both my mother and now sweet Ashley must be standing in awe worshiping alongside those we have read about in the Bible. Both Ashley and my mother loved the lake, so I like to imagine the Lord made them neighbors in Heaven. Both super chatty, I'm sure they won't run out of things to talk about until we see them again.

But now what? What do you do when a piece of your puzzle is gone? This is something I'm still working through. I don't know the answer, but I do know one thing...you keep living.

After our friends funeral, many of us gathered for drinks and food and reminisced about the good ole days...those days of college where your responsibilities are few, but laughter is in abundance. Sharing old stories and laughing was the hugest release of grief that has been weighing me down these past few months. I sat next to the loveliest of young ladies who also lost a parent recently and we laughed. And it felt good. It felt good because I realized that although pieces of my puzzle are missing and my life here on Earth will never be the same, it is OK to keep on living.

The closer Thanksgiving and Christmas approach, I admit my heart has been full of dread. What was once my favorite time of the year (and by love..I mean we start watching Christmas movies and decorating right after Halloween) has become a season I just wanted to pretend isn't happening. I think C. S. Lewis said it best when he said:

"Part of every misery is, so to speak, the misery's shadow or reflection: the fact that you don't merely suffer but have to keep on thinking about the fact that you suffer. I not only live each endless day in grief, but live each day thinking about living each day in grief."

It is true. I feel overwhelmed thinking that grief never ends, but I know it changes and becomes more bearable. And admittedly, I have shaken my fist at God saying "it is one thing for you to take my mother. By why would you take a mother (Ashley) away from her children who are not even grown?" 

Yesterday, Andrew and I went to my parents dad's house to return his truck. Walking in that house full of old memories is always bittersweet. I found myself once again sitting on her side of the bed and thinking about how my father said the hardest part of his day is waking up each morning and not seeing her laying right there. I open her nightstand. I don't even know why...I just needed to see her things...to not forget her and her five thousand tubes of chapstick she kept in that drawer. I pull out a notebook and find this scribbled note in her cursive writing. It read:

Then one day she slipped away. As he stood by her grave with much sorrow in his heart and tears in his eyes, the Lord reminded him she was by His side right now. He reminded him that one day, he would slip away and be with his beloved.

I have searched the Internet backwards and forwards trying to find where my mom heard this. Was it something she wrote? When, where, why did she write it? (I'd love to know if anyone has heard this quote and where it is from). My mother was many things, but a writer she was not. But seeing her written words were still so beautiful nevertheless.

That afternoon after searching my dad's basement high and low, I came home with an old and broken nativity scene from my childhood. I put it on my kitchen windowsill to remind myself that, although a piece of my puzzle is missing much like that nativity scene, it is OK to keep on living. The next morning Andrew and I listened to Christmas music as we folded laundry together and we watched "The Holiday" later that night. 

I think our friend Lori said it best the day of the funeral when she said "There is strength in numbers- today a group of old friends held each other up in a time of sorrow. And then we smiled and shared precious memories... Until we meet again..."

More than ever I have realized the importance of relationships. The strength that comes from friends who both grieve, laugh, and live life with you all form the puzzle of your life. They are perhaps the most important parts of your puzzle. And not just this life here on Earth, but they are part of your life in eternity. I can only imagine what that reunion will look like. But the glimpse I saw and felt this past week makes me yearn for Heaven even more.

But until then...We keep living. We keep lifting each other up, laughing and crying through this crazy world...until we all meet again...




Tuesday, August 19, 2014

And then she sighed

My baby girl started first grade last week. I gave birth to her just a few weeks ago (right?) and already she is school aged. She was in a rush to make her debut in the world, so I suppose I shouldn't be surprised she has been in a rush to grow up. Everyone talks about growing pains, but no one said the only one who would feel the hurt of it would be the parents. This growing up stuff is no joke. You feel so proud and so sad all at the same time. You know how some people are jumping up and down when that school bus comes down their street??...I am not one of them. No judgement, no judgement. I'm pretty sure when the twins turn comes to go to school, I will be singing the Hallelujah chorus. (I kid...sort of...ahem.) But that firstborn girl of mine...I just want to bottle up her innocence and keep her 6 years old for forever.

We are so fortunate to be able to send Ella to a very sweet and wonderful Christ loving school that we feel like will be both a good fit for her as a student and us as the parents. She still only goes half days (8-12), which is such a sweet blessing to this hurting heart of mine. She can be such a ray of sunshine on those days when I'm missing my mama so very, very much...which is pretty much every hour of the day. The friends we have already made through the school...the outpouring of love from people who don't even know of my mom's recent passing...it's just been such a gift from the Lord.



I had a dream about my mama the other night. It was the second night in a row I have dreamed about her. Sadly, it wasn't this Hollywood version where you wake up and feel happy. They were sad dreams. Each dream she walked around in this fuchsia dress that she wore in my sisters wedding. She didn't say anything, she was just walking around and then she died. Both nights I had these weird dreams about seeing her body in a casket, but it was not the funeral she had in real life. It was just...weird. Not comforting at all. So, the past two days I've woken up just feeling really awful. Where are these sweet dreams that people have where their loved one comes back and say "you are going to be OK. Or I love you. Or anything happy"...but not reliving her funeral?

This morning I was so frustrated trying to put together a chandelier in this never ending construction zone we live in and just sobbed. And sobbed and sobbed. I dropped a crystal and it shattered into a million pieces. So there I sat on the top of a ladder with two toddlers staring at me from outside the room wondering what all the commotion was about. I look at my little boy who looks down at the box and starts handing me one crystal at a time and says "mommy, I help you. Don't cry. I help you."

And he and Audrey both did. They each took turns handing me crystals and I hung them where they needed to go. My focus changed from my mom to thinking about how these two little miracles will be 4 years old in just 11 more days. I thought about those those 3 months in the NICU, about watching 3 nurses do CPR on my little girl, about how the doctor told me she didn't know if I was going to be able to carry them long enough for them to survive. I thought about those months where we worried Audrey might have cerebral palsy and "would she ever walk"? And those years of worrying if Jacob would learn to talk well?

"Mommy, do you want a little crystal or a big crystal next?"

He talks. She walks. They are alive and well. And I have a first grader too!!...the baby who we prayed for for a really long time. My womb that God did not leave barren.

And I sighed.

That sigh that you release when your body is so built up with sorrow and pain. That sigh that says "I'm broken, but I'm going to be OK." That sigh that says "man, this life can be so very hard. But God has done miraculous things in my life. And He is good."


Sometimes in the midst of this grief, I have to look at old photos and remind myself of how much He has done for me. It will be difficult to celebrate these two miracle's birthday in a few days without her there. Normally she would call me at least 14 times to double check that she got exactly the right present. And then she would tell me some dramatic story about going to 4 different stores to find the best deal on it. My mom never quite embraced the beauty of amazon prime! And then she'd tell me "while I was there, you'll never believe what I found on the sales rack."I have a closet full of her dollar store finds!

On Thursday, it will be 3 months since we said goodbye to my mother. I often wonder what her new body looks like. She was so beautiful before, how could God have made anything more beautiful?

I read something the other day that said "Grief never ends, but it changes. It's a passage, not a place to stay. Grief is not a sign of weakness, nor a lack of faith. It is the price of love."

No person can ever replace the love of my mother. But, I am so thankful for these 3 little ones that God has loaned me that help me take a deep breath and sigh when the pain is too much. Never have I been more thankful for my three babies. Looking at that picture above is such a sweet reminder that He is good and He is faithful.

Thursday, August 7, 2014

Grief: The torrential downpour, the grey clouds, & the patch of blue skies

Blessed are those who mourn,  for they will be comforted.
Matthew 5:4 (NIV)

 The two months of living without my mother has come and gone. I keep waiting for that phone call as my mind is still in a state of disbelief, but the more that time passes the more I feel the permanency of her absence. I spent the July 4th weekend at my parents lake house and watched my kids enjoy themselves thoroughly. It was wonderful and it hurt all in the same breath. It hurt because the thing my mother enjoyed most was the lake. In recent years, she had finally convinced my dad to add on to the house so that there was space for all the grandchildren. I had not yet taken the twins out there until this past weekend and I felt both mad at myself and mad at the world that my mom never got to see all 5 grandchildren up there together at the same time. Yet, I also felt like we were honoring her by fulfilling her wish. Grief...it's such a bizarre emotion.


It's always hard to know what to say when someone asks "how are you doing?" Before I go off on a tangent, let me say that I'd rather someone at least ask than to say nothing at all to me. Don't be afraid to ask the bereaved how they are doing...don't be afraid of saying something "dumb". Asking how the bereaved are doing is a totally fine question to ask...the only thing is that that question is multifaceted; it is an ever changing emotion from one second to the next. It's not "one day at a time" for me...it's still "one hour at a time". So my response totally varies throughout the day. Overall how am I doing? I'm just going to be honest...I feel broken. I feel sad all day every day. Some days are worse than others, but every day is still hard.

I am sure grief looks different for everyone depending on the circumstances. Although my mother had been sick, her death was very unexpected and very quick. It was not tragic in the sense of an instant car crash death, but it was tragic in that it caught us off guard those last few days. We didn't know that was how it would end until 48 hours before she passed away. Every day between 2 and 3pm, I really struggle because those were the moments of her last breaths and the images are still so vivid in my mind. After seeing my grandfather this weekend (this is my mother's father), who is 94 years old and just lost his wife 2 months prior to my mom's death, I almost felt like my grief intensified a little. Hearing him say that he "begged God not to take his daughter, but to take him instead."...y'all...it just shattered the little bit of heart I had left into a million pieces. Parents shouldn't have to bury their children no matter how old that child is.

It's all still really, really raw.



As we were traveling the month of July, we at one point were driving in some really terrible weather. It was an absolute torrential downpour...the kind of rain where you cannot see at all, but you can't pull over either...you just have to very, very slowly and prayerfully move ahead. And I got to thinking that that is very much what these early stages of grief are like. I can't speak for all, but my couple of friends who have lost a parent at a young(ish) age I'm sure would agree. You can't pull over...you have to keep moving. But it is so hard and you can't see ahead, but you are trusting that God will get you through. You are scared and anxious, but you can feel every once in awhile this overwhelming peace from the Lord reminding you that His hands are on the steering wheel with you...that He is going to help you.

And eventually as you are driving, the rain slows. You can see again, but there are still these sudden bursts of rain that slow you down. These are the months after some of the shock has worn off. You know eventually you'll see blue skies again and you are keeping your eyes peeled for those patches of blue skies, but you're still driving in the rain. This is where I am folks.



I've survived the torrential downpour, but I'm still driving in grey skies that are trickling rain...and some days there are those quick bursts of heavy rain that come out of nowhere. It's those moments where you feel like you regressed in your grief, but you haven't. It's just that something special has happened that my mother didn't get to be a part of and that pain is really sharp. But the rain is still there...I still cry everyday...it still hurts way more than I can ever really even begin to explain.



I have faith that with my grief that I will eventually see the blue skies again. I know that there will always be rainy days for the rest of my life. That will never stop. But, I am on my knees daily asking for God to help me see the blue skies. I know I will. I know because I know that God is still good. I'm just not there yet. I still get up and shower and do my best to care for my little ones. I still get out of the house some...I don't enjoy it much...but, I do it. I still laugh and smile. Those times that you laugh and forget your pain for a moment...they are so precious.

But the physical ache is still there. The grey skies. The dark cloud that you just can't seem to quite get through. I feel like I am failing my kids miserably. I lost my biggest cheerleader. My mom, no matter how rotten my children might be behaving, she ALWAYS told me I was an awesome mom. She was such an encourager. She told me many times over the past few years that there was no way she could parent children so close in age the way I have and that she was so proud of the mother I had become. She NEVER criticized my parenting.

But my cheerleader is gone and I feel a little...lost. And I know my grief affects my kids and I hate that. I just pray every day that they will one day understand and that they will forgive me for my short temper.

I know that there are blue skies ahead. I sat and watched the ocean waves roll back in and out this summer and my heart did very much the same. I sat and watched Ella and Jacob play in the waves, while Audrey stood behind me singing and playing with my hair. Her song:

"And I will call upon Your name
And keep my eyes above the waves
When oceans rise
My soul will rest in Your embrace
For I am Yours and You are mine"

I'm sure in her mind, she was just singing a song about the ocean that she has heard many times. But for me, it was a reminder of the day I played that song for my mother while she was dying.  And I know God was using that little girl to sing truth back into my heart. That He is right here. And that my mother is right there with Him.

Grief is like the weather. It's very unpredictable and it is always changing. You are never done grieving from what I've heard from the few who have walked this road ahead of me. But I know I serve a God who is near to the brokenhearted. A friend reminded me that death was never part of God's plan. I had not really thought about that until she said that and it brought me great comfort. Death grieved our Father...that is why He sent his son...to overcome it.

And that my friend's isn't the blue skies...that's the rainbow.

"He heals the brokenhearted and binds up their wounds". Psalm 147:3

I pray too that you will forgive me for not being a good friend. God has a million shattered pieces to sew back together and it's going to take a long time. I miss her so very, very much. Thank you for loving me despite my messy life. 

He is still so good...even in the rain.










Tuesday, June 17, 2014

Motherless Mother: a season of deep grief

There has been a lot of silence on this blog, my creative outlet.  I had many posts started and saved the past few months about selling our house, building our new house (which still isn't finished), etc. but those will take a back seat for now.

Just as things seemed to finally be falling into place in my little family's life (things we have been waiting and praying over for several years), my life took a very unexpected, tragic turn.

On May 21st at 2:18pm, my life was forever altered when I (and my siblings and father) held my mother's hand as she took her final breath. On that day, just three weeks ago, I became a motherless mother.

To say that the grief my heart and soul feels is exceedingly painful is an understatement, but I could not think of another adjective to convey otherwise. The pain can almost be paralyzing at times, but every morning I know I have to choose to get out of bed, take care of my three little ones who are so very innocent and naive to it all, and continue to live my life to its absolute fullest.

I will keep the details very vague, but I know people are naturally curious and concerned. My mother had been sick for some time now, however, we thought she was getting better. She had been undergoing a process for the past almost year to actually get her ready for an organ transplant. Being a transplant recipient does not immediately put you at the top of the list. They basically get you ready so that when your score is high enough...meaning you are sick enough...that is when you get the pager and officially wait on your turn. She was only in her early 60's, so it all seemed very hopeful.

We knew in February after her last hospital stay that she was getting closer to hopefully getting the pager and getting the call. It seemed like things were progressing as she was getting sicker...the irony, right? You don't want the person to get sicker, but you know they have to in order to get the transplant. It really is such an awful and agonizing thing.

In early May, she found herself back in the hospital again, this being her worst yet. After two weeks, she was stable and able to come home. I saw her on Mother's Day and this would be the last time I saw her at home. The following weekend, my dad called to tell me that they would not be able to go to Ella's dance recital because mom had become very lethargic and confused. That was May 17th and she passed away 4 days later.

In short, all her organs suddenly began to fail and all her clotting factors were out of control. Her lungs were filling with fluid, but they could not drain the fluid because she would have bled to death if they tried. We spent the next few days all at her bedside while they filled her body with as many blood products as they could, but it was not really bringing her levels up at all. She wouldn't survive a transplant. She fought hard and we fought hard, but ultimately that was not God's plan for her. My mom was terrified to have the transplant and really never wanted it to begin with. As painful as it all is, I know that God was merciful and loving by not having her go through something she never wanted. It's very hard to write those words, but after reading her journal about her fears in regards to the transplant, I have to believe that God lovingly took her in a way that she would have wanted.

We know that God was present and showed us His mercy by allowing our whole family (my dad, my brother, my sister, and myself and my mother) to be together during her final days. She was with us children as we all took our first breaths and we were all there to hold her hands as she took her last. We listened as our father, who had been married to our mother for almost 44 years, whisper a thousand I love you's in her ear. From the day they entered the hospital until the day she went to be with Jesus, my father never stopped holding her hand. Together, as a family, we were able to pray over her and hold hands together as she left her earthly body. We were able to rub her feet, brush her hair, and kiss her cheeks as she got ready to leave us. It was painful and beautiful all in the same breath...and how those two emotions can coexist, I do not know. But The Lord, in His perfect orchestration, made that possible.

There was one moment the day before she passed away when my mom was agitated, yet no longer verbal. My sister began to quietly sing mother's favorite hymns to her. She instantly settled down. When my sister stopped, my dad asked my mother "do you want to hear more music?" and Mom said "Mmm Hmm!!!" It was so calming to her. Seeing that she was comforted by music about her Savior was really beautiful.

There is so much I'd love to share about God's presence those days before and immediately after, but I will write them when I feel like I can relive them for a moment.

As positive and eloquent as you may find my words, my life is anything but that now. The truth is that my mother died too young and in a very sensitive time of my life. My remaining grandmother having just passed away two months prior, I am now left with no grandmothers and no mother. I am a mother with no mother...a motherless mother...and my heart physically just aches for her. I have always been a very happy and pollyanna-ish girl and I am now just muddling through life. I know there is no quick way to bypass my grief; I know that the only way to find that joy again is allow myself to grieve fully and experience the intense emotion. And in the same breath, I know that I am forever changed...that life will always look different to me now.

My heart aches for heaven. I think about my mom every moment, every second of my day. It is all consuming. And although I know this is normal, there is no way one can understand unless they have walked this road. The myth you have heard about "getting through the first year" is just that: a myth. There is no magical number that will make the pain stop. The pain and ache never goes away, you just learn how to live with it from what I've been told by a few friends who are also part of "this club": the club you never wanted to join. My brother's sweet girlfriend, who lost her own mother a few years ago, said "the pain is still there, but it gets less sharp." I cling to that hope...the day that I think of mom and just smile and not feel like my heart is completely broken.

God has been merciful to allow me to live with my dad while our new house is being finished. We literally had to move out of our old house just days after my mother's death. It has been so comforting to be with him as we navigate this together. I am nervous about moving and Ella starting a new school, me having to make new friends in a new part of town, and just all the transition that is going on. Those things are good things, but nevertheless, change is always hard even when it is good. (Could you please pray for God to bring good friends for both Ella and myself when we move? We are not moving that far, but far enough that people in my day to day life will change.)

I am so thankful that this is not our home...that we are merely passing through. I am thankful for the gift of my children who comfort me without even knowing it. I am thankful for the friends and people who aren't afraid to reach out in the midst of this hard season for me; they aren't afraid of the tears and they don't diminish my pain. Thank you for loving me and for being sensitive to my heart right now and in the many months that follow. I know that God is near the brokenhearted. Our God is still so very, very good. Like my dad said the other night:

"Sarah, I could sit and feel lost as to how am I supposed to live my life without your mother for the remainder of my days. You see, I'm the man...I should have gone first. But then I think how lucky I was to have someone like your mama who loved me for almost 44 years and I just feel so blessed. I know I'm going to be very lonely, but I also know I was so lucky to have her all these years. God has been good to me."

Good indeed. He is still so very, very good.






Saturday, January 4, 2014

The Magical World of Disney

This past November, we took our 3 little loves to the happiest place on Earth: Walt Disney World. Before this trip, I honestly rolled my eyes at those who took yearly trips here. Being a bit of a vacation snob, I just couldn't understand why people would blow so much money on Disney.

However, all biases aside,  we had been wanting to take our little ones to this magical place during a time when they are obsessed with everything Princess, Mickey Mouse, and Peter Pan related. We had enough free hotel points to stay close by for 3 nights/2 days, so this Fall it was!

And from the moment we stepped in front of the infamous Cinderella's castle, I immediately understood the obsession with Disney...it truly was completely magical. Incredibly hard work with 3 small children? YES! Worth it? Yes...a million times yes. We only spent 2 days at the Magic Kingdom and didn't venture into other parks, which was honestly about all we could handle with just us two adults. I am so glad we were able to take the kids during this age of make believe and innocence. For them, this truly was the place the Princesses live and Tinkerbell flies in the sky.

This was out first real family vacation. We've tagged along during the summer for Andrew's conferences at the beach, yes, but this was our first vacation we had to actually pay for.

Here is just a very small look into our magical vacation:











I hope you all have a very magical 2014! And if you are wondering if Disney is worth all the hype, I highly recommend a 2 day trip like ours. you won't regret it!

Tuesday, November 5, 2013

Thanking God that His mercies are new every morning: 30 days of a Thankful Heart


So I was all ready to write my post dedicated to my one and only little boy who I lovingly refer to as my boyfriend.

But y'all...this sweet boy has temporarily been taken over by some demonic force. He has just been all out of sorts the past couple days. Now, all my kids have their moments. But, this boy has been extra all sorts of crazy foolish behavior. I thought yesterday was bad when he refused to get up off the library floor (meanwhile the girls are already halfway out the door). I bend up to pull him up and drag him out the door and he pulls that whole "go limp" thing toddlers just love to do when you are in public, causing me to drop all 15 books in my hands causing a really nice production for the onlookers. I temporarily leave my screaming son and 15 scattered books to chase the girls down before they start walking in the parking lot. I sit the girls by the door while I deal with this ridiculous scene we have now started. Finally some old man took pity on my pathetic self and carried my 15 books for me out to the car while I carried a kicking and screaming boy out to the van.

It was not pretty. Did I mention he pooped in his underwear FOUR times yesterday? Yeah, that was fun too.

I had high hopes for today. I prayed extra hard for a semi-normal day. I prayed for God to show me what it was I was missing and how to help my son through whatever is going on with him.

But, it was pretty much Groundhog's Day over here...wash, rinse, repeat if you will. This time refusing to go with his speech therapist to her classroom. He has NEVER done that! He caused such a scene. I had to go back with him and Audrey and sit in the back in a corner for the entire hour. He was fine at therapy, but he would occassionaly turn his head around and make sure I was still there. They really frown upon that by the way...parents aren't so supposed to be in the room. Ask me if I care though.

And then the whining that I won't let him listen to "It's a Holly Jolly Christmas" more than 3 times in a row. I just can't...after the third time, I'm not feeling jolly anymore...it's time to move onto some Jingle Bells or Santa Clause is Coming to Town...I mean anything.

Today he pooped in his underwear Three times and in the toilet once. So, I guess from that perspective you could say today was a little better. Not really though...

Bless Him! ...actually, bless ME!!

Tomorrow is a new day. I have hope that we will wake up with a new perspective. I know underneath this nonsense is my sweetheart boy.

Thank you Lord that your mercies are new every morning!