Tuesday, January 27, 2009

A weekend of Hope

Why do our kids injure themselves and need stitches when their parents are trying to leave town? This time it was Elley. It took Billy, me, my Dad and the nurse to hold Elley down while she screamed for 2o minutes and the Dr. gave three stitches. You would've thought it was 23 from the way she was screaming. I was sweating when we left the Urgent Care....Let me back up and set the scene for you.....I wasn't feeling good Friday so I was trying to rest as long as I could before we needed to catch our flight. So I'm in the shower and I hear Elley walking through the house crying (loud) and I hear Billy say "Babe, we might need some stitches." I quickly try to get ready and pack and I meet my Dad and Billy at Urgent care. Thankfully, when I got there, they already had Elley in a room and I was shocked to see how calm she was. She was laying on the table "practicing" what the nurse was telling her to do when the Dr. got there. As soon as the Dr. came in, she freaked. And thus the twenty or so minutes of torture. Do you see why I was stressed and sweating? As soon as we were done her Paw was taking her to get a milkshake and Billy and I were headed to the airport in kind of a stressball. :) We were fine by the time we got on the plane....well sort of. I was still pretty achy and not feeling 100% so I just kept taking Tylenol and Advil all weekend.

Friday night we had dinner with friends and about the time dessert was being served some of them looked at me and said "maybe you should go lay down." I slept in my clothes that night.....but felt better the next morning. This next part was the highlight of my trip. My friends encouraged me with a lunch on Saturday...truly they gave me courage to keep going. Guess what the theme was.....Hope. But it wasn't about me. It pointed me to Him, my true source of Hope. The tables were beautifully decorated, the food was great, but the best thing was feeling so loved by these women. We gathered in the family room and they read aloud verses that are about hope....Some of my favorites were

"We have this hope as an anchor for the soul, firm and secure...." Hebrews 6:19

"I eagerly expect and hope that I will in no way be ashamed, but will have sufficient courage so that now as always Christ will be exalted in my body, whether by life or by death." Philippians 1:20

They filled a "hope" chest full of CDs, cards, goodies to help me when I need to be reminded of who God is, that He is my God of Hope and He can carry me this year and the years to come as I trust in Him. We ended with them all surrounding me in prayer. I felt so small. God was big. He was faithful enough to bring just the right friends into my life who loved me just the way I needed to be loved. Friends who point me to Jesus. Thank you just doesn't begin to express my heart about the whole thing. It was so special and I'll never forget the day. They sent me away with God's word. It's living and active. I have CD's , note cards, stationary...all with the promises of God to remind me daily of what this life is about.

So it came down to going to Yorkville to see our old house OR going to see my friend Alysia who had a baby on Friday(the day we got there) I told Billy I'd rather see her in the hospital, so he went to Yorkville with our dear friend Mr. Albaugh :) It was a hard trip for Billy, as I expected it would be. He has said to me several times that he has a hard time remembering things about Alaina....sometimes the grief just "takes over" and all you can think about is the loss, you can't remember the great things. He said when he got to our old Culdesac, many of those memories came flooding back. Great memories. He remembered her riding around and around the circle with her pink helmet. He saw where they flew kites together. He cried...deeply, because even though the memories are wonderful they bring the ache deep within the soul...you just want to go back to that time so bad but you can't and you have no control. You just miss her so much all over again.
Worship on Sunday was as always, awesome. Keith(if you're reading) thank you so much for all the thought and planning that you put into a Sunday morning. I know it's not about us but you always lead so beautifully and point me to Jesus in the way you worship. I didn't make it through many of the songs without crying...missing Lew but proclaiming in my heart what is true. "How marvelous, how wonderful, and my song shall ever be, how marvelous, how wonderful is my Saviours love for me."

When we got on the plane, I sat down behind Billy and thought..."I'm so proud of him.....I'm so thankful to be married to this man." He spoke to around 100 men on Saturday morning and shared our story. I know they were blessed and encouraged. He has come so far. I've seen him in the worst moments of his life and I've been privileged to watch God begin to heal and work in his heart. How can God take something so horrible and use it for good in our lives and in the lives of others. I don't know.... but by His grace He chooses to use even the ugly and the painful.

This verse keeps popping up over and over...my friend Caroline used it in a comment she left and I love how she inserted the (how?)

"May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in him, so that you may overflow with hope (HOW?) by the power of the Holy Spirit which we hope." Romans 15:13

That's how he chooses to "work all things together for the good of those who love him".... by His Spirit that is at work in our lives, to produce joy, peace, HOPE for the hard days ahead.
Thank you, precious friends, for walking this road with me.....Thank you for giving me hope.

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Will you pray?

ANOTHER REQUEST ***** I'm really not feeling well. Billy and Holden had the stomach bug 2 days ago and I don't really have those symptoms I'm just feeling really achy and run down. Maybe my body is just trying to fight it off. My parents are here and our flight doesn't leave until 2:00 today so I can rest this morning. I REALLY don't want to feel like this on our trip on top of everything else, so again, will you please pray?

First of all, I love this picture.(click on it to enlarge) When you take young children out for a sledding day it can be a great day or it can be, well, not so great. After you spend at least an hour getting everyone dressed and layered it only takes one fall or one time of the gloves falling off and the meltdowns begin. Clearly in this picture it was not a great outing. Holden has given up and both girls are sobbing. Billy said Holden was mad because the girls didn't want to go down the "big" hill and he's pouting because now they're stuck on the "easy" hill since it isn't steep enough. They should've listened to their brother this time. This is what it's like in Chicago right now. See (Alabama friends) don't you wish we could have at least a few days when there is snow covering the ground. I do.

ok, about praying. Please pray for us this weekend. We're headed to Chicago on Friday and Billy will be speaking at a Men's Prayer Breakfast at our old church. He's nervous and he doesn't really get nervous. I'm just tagging along. I will get good time with friends and just enjoy catching up. I would love it if you would commit to pray. It's hard going back to a place you loved so much...good but hard. And obviously the weight of going back after losing Alaina adds another layer. We've talked about going to our old house and I know that will be painful.... even as I type the words I can feel the tears coming. She left her mark. Her mark is there. Her life was there. But her mark is here too. It makes me sad that my Cullman friends never knew her. They didn't get to see how much fun she was and how she could light up a room. But I've realized the past few weeks that Elley is so much like Alaina. She's spunky and determined but fun and lovable. She will sing as loud as she can and make up the words as she goes. She learned that from Alaina. So my friends can watch Elley and get to see much of Alaina's personality. Do you know it's so good for me to type her name? It may seem weird to you but even things like writing out my Target lists are sometimes hard. Because I don't write Alaina's name on the list. There's nothing I need to get for her anymore. Does that make sense? Emotions are such hard things to "deal" with. We watched a little video yesterday of when Alaina turned three and it was so HARD to watch. But at the same time I loved it because I could hear her voice and watch her laugh. That's why I have such mixed emotions about going to our old house. The memories are all great but that's why it's so painful. That was our life WITH her and now we must learn to live without. And learning, I guess is a life long journey and struggle.

I'm going to bed. We've joined a gym and I've been going EARLY (6:30am) to exercise. I'm tired...this body is screaming "What are you doing to me?" I haven't consistently exercised in forever so it's about time! That's another thing you can pray for me :)

Thursday, January 8, 2009

Wednesday, January 7, 2009

Closing that door

ok people...that was a lot of pictures. Honestly, I just couldn't leave any out because in every single one of them I see Hope. Smiling, delight, joy, laughter...and it helps me with perspective for the long haul. This is a long, hard road... I need all the help I can get and it seems that God shows me His grace through our pictures and I can see for myself that we are going to be ok. It really was a good Christmas. Of course, we had our moments but overall I was overwhelmed with God's goodness and how once again he carried us through a holiday without Alaina. I was continually reminded that because of what we celebrate at Christmas is the very reason I can keep going....This Savior that came into the world and because of His sacrifice I will one day hold my oldest daughter again...truly, I can think of no greater joy other than seeing Jesus face to face.

The gospel has never been more real to me. One of the things I wrestle with is the fact that Alaina was alone when she died. Did she call out for me? Was she suffering? Did she wonder where we were? Why couldn't I be there to hold her? Why did it have to be like that? It's just horrible all the places your mind goes. Then I stop and think about God WILLINGLY watching his Son suffer on the cross for the sin of the world and I am AMAZED at this kind of sacrificial love. And to think that he died for all the yuck that's in my heart...really amazing.

My trip to Butler wasn't as hard as I thought it would be. The first day was the hardest, obviously. The day we got there we stopped at the cemetery before going to my parents. We didn't stay long...I find little comfort from being there...just deep sadness. A friend here in Cullman shared something at our bible study that helped me during these days in Butler. She said she heard a retreat speaker explain once that when we're distracted in our quiet time with the Lord (like the phone ringing or we can't seem to focus because our mind is wandering) to just say out loud "I'm closing that door." And every time a distraction comes just continue to say "No, I'm closing that door." This was huge for me. All throughout the week, I had the hard memories in front of me and I kept praying over and over..."Lord, help me to close that door!" I saw the place where I stood when my Dad told me Alaina was gone and I said "I'm closing that door." The room where she died "I'm closing that door." The place I was sitting when I had to tell Billy his daughter died "I'm closing that door." And I know those doors will open again but just help me in the moment to close it and not DWELL on the horrible. It was such a good word picture for me. God did help me to close those doors and I really was able to enjoy my time there. I know many were praying and I could sense God's peace and presence. We rested and the kids loved being outside. Holden got to try out his BB gun and he has decided he likes to hunt...see slide show :(

I'm thinking my theme for 2009 will be Hope. Not anything to do with my name, that would be cheesy. But because that's what I feel like God is continuing to give our family. I'm not completely consumed when I think of this new year but have hope in what God can do. I look at Alaina's pictures and stare and think "I miss you so much little girl!" But I have hope that I'll see her again and God will continue to give grace until that time. Many of you saw this on our Christmas card and it's the verse I'm claiming for this year...

"Yet this I call to mind and therefore I have hope: Because of the Lord's great love, we are not consumed, for His compassions never fail. They are new every morning; great is your faithfulness...The Lord is my portion therefore I will wait for Him.

Lamentations 3:21-25

I leave you with this...it's the little things like this that mean so much to me. The fire chief of Cullman (you know Billy sales fire trucks) brought this to me and said he reads my blog and is always praying. Guess what it says? Stay tuned, I'll post a picture next time.

Mary Helen's First Birthday

Billy made me post it

The children were nestled all snug in their beds....but not for long

Leading up to Christmas

Girls night

Meet some of my Cullman friends (slideshow above)....they're super fun! I had a little Christmas dinner for them and afterwards we went to local coffee shop and painted these fun pictures. These are some of the friends who have been willing to step into my pain and truly be a friend to me...to ask me how I'm doing (Really) and stop by my house to check on me....yet another reminder of God's grace in my life at each moment that I need it.