Sunday, November 30, 2008

The Daily Battle

Thank you for all your kind cards/thoughts/prayers for me during Thanksgiving and leading up to Christmas. Yes, it was and will be hard without Alaina but I think I've realized it can't be any HARDER than just our daily life. The empty seat at the table and in the car, the missing laughter and chatter of another little girl, the missing name on a card that says Dear Billy, Hope, Holden, Elley and Mary Helen, the little girl that's not in the pictures....all the daily things.

Thanksgiving was really good. We had a great time in Indiana with my brother and sister-in-law. The biggest thing I expected to be hard was the memory of Alaina in their house. The day we got there, when I had a minute alone upstairs I just tried to take a deep breath and look around and remember her in certain spots she loved. I smiled when I pictured her on the horse and playing with the barbie house. The lump in my throat was there but I was fighting to see her laughing and full of life in my memory. I'm always fighting. Fighting to keep going and not withdraw, fighting to keep my joy, fighting with the enemy with what he seeks to "steal, kill and destroy."

How is this battle fought? Daily, by confessing by utter and complete dependence on Jesus...saying His name out loud and praying for grace in the moment. That's the simple answer.

Remembering is great at times and awful at times. I love the house I grew up in. I can vividly remember riding through the yard in the golf cart and playing fast food "drive through" at my bedroom window and bank drive through with my Dad's big calculator, pulling friends around on a piece of carpet tied to the back of the golf cart, going far back into the woods to where I couldn't see the house anymore, putting on shows in my closet and busting the glitter baton in my bedroom as I pretended to spank a student in my "class." And now I get to watch my children play the same things I did and it's so special. They LOVE going there. I haven't been back since Alaina died. I just haven't been ready to face it, but I want to. I WILL go there.... but now I have some memories there that will cause me to "fight" when I go. Fight to remember all the great days Alaina had of her favorite places to be. This is one of my biggest daily battles. The flashbacks, the morning I found her and the events that followed that day. I remember watching my Dad carry Mary Helen around while the paramedics were with Alaina, where I was when my Dad came out and said she was gone, where I sat when I called Billy and had to tell him over the phone that Alaina had died, the policeman's faces, the day my world was changed. But the day that God was holding me and never leaving and the day I knew he was now the holder of my oldest daughter. So, by God's grace I will not lose this battle. I know the ending already and it gives me hope to press on.

I'm missing Chicago these past few days. When we were coming home from Indiana I wanted to turn towards Illinois on the interstate. It's snowing there and I so miss that! I miss our church and friends but I think the biggest thing is I miss what we had there. That's where I "hear" Alaina's voice. I want to go back to that place of no pain like this present pain. I think back on our hardest days there and would take them anyday over losing her. If I have hard days with one of the kids now and we're in the middle of a meltdown I think "I wish I was doing this with Alaina." I wish she was the one being disciplined. I wish she was HERE! I think about our last year with her and how precious it was. She was so strong-willed at times. I remember one night when our small group was together in Illinois we were sharing prayer requests and I asked for prayer as I was parenting her. "Sometimes I wonder what she's thinking as she's laying in bed each night. Does she even feel loved by us or does she just feel like we're "on her" all the time....just always correcting and disciplining." We remained consistent with her and I(we) just tried my best to balance discipline and grace and assure her every night how much I loved her. If you've been reading this blog from the beginning you probably remember reading about my hard day with her at the children's museum in Indiana....I think it was one of my first few posts. The day I cried in the bathroom stall because I was so frustrated with her. Well, it was so neat to see her grow and mature from there. She really turned some corners the last year. Instead of her response being "no!" it started to be "ok, Mama! or ok Daddy!" Instead of doing the opposite of what we said she began to obey quickly and I was SO thankful. Looking back I remember her becoming extremely affectionate even the last few weeks of her life. She would initiate the hug or the kiss or the "Mama...I love you." I get mad when I can't clearly "hear" that sweet voice in my head. I get it mixed up with Elley's voice now.

So we got a Christmas tree today and I picked up her stocking and held it. I was dreading that. Her ornaments are on the tree...she is part of this family and so deeply loved.

Romans 8:32 "He who did not spare His own Son, but gave Him up for us all- how will He not also, along with Him, graciously give us all things?

This post is picture overload. There's the slide show and then our family pictures that we had done a few days ago.

Here's the link to the family pictures...we made it through and even smiled in the process! :) That's what you do when you're trying to fight the battle.


jess said...

Hi Hope & Billy,

Keith and I miss you both. You and your family are never far form our thoughts and prayers. We enjoy seeing the photos of the past and present in your blog, it is nice to "keep up" and see the kids. I look forward to this years' Christmas card. It will surely bring tears and sadness with out Alaina as well as the joy of seeing Mary Helen, Elly and Holden. Lots of love.

JJMERKEL said...

Your pictures are beautiful! The kids are getting so big. Megan couldn't believe that was Holden. Thank you for sharing them.

It snowed last night, enough to cover the ground. I thought of you all.


Aimee said...

Oh Hope,

Thank you for opening your heart to the world. I am hurting right along with you... Thanksgiving just wasnt the same here. You know..someone is missing. Our family is not whole. Somehow I managed to keep it together.

I miss you.... I really enjoyed our time together.

I love you! Thank you for being a testament of God's glory, even though you would much rather have things back the way they were. You show incredible grace as you walk this path.

The Hannahs said...

I am sending you big hugs and many prayers. You are in my thoughts. Love and God's blessings to you and your family.
Rachel Hannah

Shea said...

The pictures are beautiful. I'm so glad you shared those with all of us. It's so good to see you all smiling. I know it must be the hardest thing in the world at times, forcing a smile and trying to act like you are okay but keep smiling, keep living and as He has in the past, God will continue holding you up.

On a lighter note. I remember riding your dads golfcart up to your window, playing bank! And I rememeber once we cause Javie Allen to have a motorcyle wreck because we dashed across the HWY from your house going to the country club! Those were the good ole' days!

Connie said...

I haven't pulled up the slide show yet. I'm anticipating Erin's perpection. She has done 2 sessions with us and several of my friends and not one person has been disappointed. She truly has a gift to catch the most personal moments. I pray for you and your family, especially during this season. If you need anything, please let me know. We are right here in Cullman.

The McNeill Family said...

The pictures were beautiful. It was so nice to see your family smiling. We're still praying for you, especially as this year ends and another one begins. If you're in Indiana again anytime soon, give us a call. We'd love to see you. Take care guys.
The McNeills

Anonymous said...

You are such an inspiration to everyone! Keep posting and keep having faith. The pictures are priceless. Miss seeing you guys!
Rob and Karen

Anonymous said...

Hope, I know you wouldn't have chosen this path for yourself. Who would? But you have chosen to glorify God in these circumstances. You have shown your love for our Lord and for your beautiful daughter by allowing her life to be a testament of your faith in our God and His promises. He doesn't promise us a painfree earthly life. But He does promise a wonderful eternal life absent of all this pain. Thank you for reminding me of this. You have touched so many people. Many of us you don't even know. Thank you for allowing God to use you for His purpose. I am praying for you and your family as you continue this journey. Your faith will see you through, no doubt. May God bless you and your family this Christmas and in the coming year.

Jaime said...

Hope, I love the Halloween costumes and the pictures. I hope I will be at least half of the mother you are one day.

Brandi Barnes Parten said...

The pictures were amazing! It makes me want to come up there and have my family's pictures made by the same people! Is the house the one you guys are renting?

Jill Williamson said...

such a sweet post Hope. My heart hurts for you and your battle. You are such a great writer...really the words come to life and I am challenged.

The Veenstra Family said...

I think I miss you all more looking at those wonderful pictures. Hope, thank you! The pictures are wonderful "images" of God's awesome grace. I give Praise to our Father for hands of care and love that have been there for you. Praise to Him for all the answered prayers.

When ever you are in Indy again let us know, we were just down this past Saturday. Would love to see everyone soon.

Laura said...

Hope and Billy,
You have been on my heart and mind today. I just wanted you to know that my heart is breaking for you guys today...still praying. Love you guys.

Danny and Jennifer White said...

Love you Hope.thanks for sharing your heart.It really makes me want to cherish every moment of life!

Michael and Jennifer Werneth said...

i'll be praying for your daily battle. ive been reminded of how fortunate i am to be able to discipline my kids this week. you have caused me to be thankful in ways that i never was before because what seemed overwhelming to me just doesn't compare to losing alaina. even at their worst, our kids are such a gift! thanks for teaching me that! i love your pictures and can't help but think of how much you must want her in them. i felt such a strong sadness at MB's party --it was so, so sad that alaina wasn't there. her party was wonderful and sweet, of course, but alaina is so missed. i don't claim to know how you feel because i don't and for you the ache is always there. i just wanted you to know that i grieve for you too. you encourage me as you fight the daily battle of life without her, grieving but not hopeless, still loving your children and husband, still being silly and dressing up, still opening your life up to others. your joyful spirit is still so evident! may God's grace abound towards you as you grieve! may there be many bright spots of joy for you too! thanks for being vunerable and for inspiring me yet again. love you!

Michael and Jennifer Werneth said...

okay, i'm officially an "over-commenter", but i just went to the website to see your family pics and had to say "wow!. they are awesome and i can't imagine having to choose one for the card.

Nick, Annie, Aiden, Sophie and Clip said...

Dear Hope (and family)
I have read and followed your blog ever since Becky Kicklighter asked for prayer for you all on the day Alaina went to be with Jesus. I have thought and thought about whether I should comment…..or when or how or what I should say. And of course I never felt like I had the perfect words to say. So I have read and prayed. And I know that there really are never "perfect" words. Only God can speak perfect peace to you and so I have been praying for you that God would speak those perfect words of peace to you that I (and others) are unable to give.
Your very well-written and heart-filled posts are something that would touch ANY one, but I think they especially touch me for a couple reasons. First, because we lost my (only) brother a few years ago (age 23 when he died in his sleep) and so I am recently familiar with losing a sibling in a similar way and although grieving as a sibling is much different than a mother's loss of a child, I experience my mother's grief with her every day. Secondly, I have a four year old (and two others) which makes your grieving all the more real to me, as I imagine what life would be like without him.
So why write today? After reading months and months of your incredibly God-glorifying, uplifting, tear-filled, heart-wrenching, soul-filled posts?!
I don't know. As I read through your experience over Thanksgiving and your articulate and powerful description of your daily battle, I just couldn’t leave your blog without telling you how thankful I am for your faith, your testimony, your honesty, your openness, and your ministry to more people than you even know. I’m sure you think you don’t have the strength to be actively ministering to people right now, but I want you to know that you are!!! --Even in just sharing exactly what you share, and as always, glorifying God as the One who gives you strength and is faithfully bringing you through!
Reading your journey through grief has also helped me walk through my grief a little more. (I know it is a continual process.)
And perhaps today it impacted me even more as you talked about discipline and your struggles in that. As I have struggled much in this area with my four year old and felt DAILY like I am a failure as a mother and a failure as a Godly parent in disciplining him, I read your post and cried and cried as I reconsidered discipline (soul-wrenching as it can be) to be a privilege. I mourn with you for your (earthly) loss of this sweet girl. As I read your sadness and every little thing that makes you miss her, I wonder why you were asked to go through this. Why was my mother? It is so hard.
Here I find myself not really having said anything “perfect” or even close to perfect. But I have shared a bit of my story and have let you know of two more families in the world (mine and my parents) who are being affected by your story in a very big way.
God is doing great things in and through you. I know that heaven probably seems a long way away right now, but I look forward to being in glory with you one day and being reunited with my brother and meeting your Alaina.
~annie hathaway

Kristin said...

God uses your words to change me, Hope. We love you all so, so much.

Kristin said...

p.s. the pictures are GORGEOUS. How in the world will you choose one for your card?!

christine dawkins said...

You and Billy are amazing-and I know it is because of Jesus-you make me love Jesus more. your family pictures are so beautiful! I have been praying for you about the holidays. much much love and prayers, christine,davis, natalie, cate and chloe

christine dawkins said...

You and Billy are amazing-and I know it is because of Jesus-you make me love Jesus more. your family pictures are so beautiful! I have been praying for you about the holidays. much much love and prayers, christine,davis, natalie, cate and chloe

Anonymous said...

hope, just wanted you to know that you are in my thoughts today. i've had a little surgery and been out of touch lately, but i was so blessed by the pictures you shared with all of us. your children are so beautiful (the hubby's not bad either). I still want you to consider writing the book. i know you could help grieving mothers all over the world. God has gifted you with an amazing ability to find the hope in a situation that many of us would find hopeless. i love you. keep the faith and remember that God is there even in your darkest hours.

Anonymous said...

hope, the last anon. comment was from me, mrs. cowan. i'm pretty computer illiterate. just humor me.

Kayla (Liechty) Paulk said...

Dear Billy and Hope,

Greg (Liechty) shared your blog address with me. Hope, I am blessed by your writings. I cannot imagine what your family is going through (mine and my husband, Jason's, prayers have and continue to be with you). You say that writing is good for you - I would imagine so. It is also the hugest blessing and encouragement and testimony of faith and grace to so many people - some who you know, others who you may never know. Thank you for being so open and daringly honest with everyone about this journey. I am very moved by it and, I should add, have shared it with a good friend at the University of Oklahoma, who knows a graduate student who has experienced a similar loss (of her four-year old child). My friend will share your blog with her, and I know it will be of great comfort and significance to her.

Much, much love to you from me and Jason,

Kayla (Liechty) Paulk