Author Archives: Angie

About Angie

My greatest desire in life was always to be a wife and mother. As I try to do these things to the best of my ability some days I pull my hair out, some days I cry, sometimes I laugh until my stomach hurts and EVERYDAY I thank God for giving me the desires of my heart in His timing and His will and ask Him to give me the strength to do it His way.


The Giant Leap of Faith

Four weeks from today Jack and I will be on an airplane to Idaho for an interview and evaluation…… to become cross-cultural mission workers.

We have been taking classes and doing extensive paperwork for six months with an organization called Mission Aviation Fellowship or MAF.  We have been praying so much about this and asking God to open doors wide open or slam them shut and so far He has been swinging them open.

If we work with MAF we would pick up our life here and possibly move to their headquarters in Idaho but more likely we will be moving overseas.  Where?  We have no idea.  The Congo, Indonesia, or Haiti are three places that we have researched and know are possibilities.  Jack would be working on small aircraft that would be able to provide food, bibles, medical care and other things to remote places that can’t be reached easily by other forms of transportation.  He has been to Haiti twice and seen how poor their infrastructure is and how much quicker things can be done by airplane.   They also use the planes to help with other projects in their regions to help build a bridge between the mission community and the local governments which opens more doors to help people in the name of Christ.

What about the kids?  The kids are my first priority, and yes they are all three coming with us if this happens.  MAF provides actual schools or at least small school groups with a paid teacher for their workers in every country or I can choose to homeschool them.  No matter what they will live with us, I have made this very clear to everyone involved.  I will definitely school RJ myself though.  That has been going SO WELL!!

What about me?  Again, my first priority is the kids and MAF knows that and encourages that but then I could possibly lead bible studies (maybe Celebrate Recovery overseas!!) and/or use my accounting skills to help the airport.

This is something Jack and I have been talking about our whole marriage but God never opened the doors.  When I met Jack I was enrolled to go to Johnson Bible college in the fall but then fell in love and followed the gift that God gave me in my husband.  We thought fostering and adopting were fulfilling that call to missions on our heart.  And it did.  I thought running the Celebrate Recovery ministry was fulfilling my call to missions and it is.  This was a surprise and we are excited and terrified to see if God is actually going to ask us to take this giant leap of faith.

All of the kids are excited but also hesitant.  Emma is the most hesitant.  Being a teenager and thinking about uprooting her entire life is hard.  We’ve had LOTS and LOTS of conversations and God has even provided a woman for Emma to talk to who has gone through this exact experience as a teenager.  We make all of our decisions as a family and this has been no exception.

So we will find out on May 15 if we are invited to start our training (in July) and if our whole life will be turned upside down….again.

Please, please pray for us.  Feel free to share and ask everyone you know to pray for us.  We need prayer!  Can you tell we’re a little freaked out??

To find out more about MAF click here

 

 

*If we are invited to training this July, we would be back home in DeMotte in August for 12-14 months while we raise support.  You’re not getting rid of us just yet ;)

 


Leap of Faith #1

There are some big things going on over here.  major changes and God asking of us big things and it’s exciting and scary.  Sometimes I wonder what He sees when He looks at us because He definitely sees more potential than I do!

I’m ready to share the first leap with you after getting a few details ironed out….. this is going to be RJ’s last week of traditional school.  Eeeeekkkk!!

A year ago I felt called to really pray about my relationship with him.  Adopting an older child comes with a lot of challenges and one of them is attachment.  Kids who have had so much loss and so little stability in their lives for so many years before joining a family find it hard to bond.  Think about all the time people spend with their babies looking into their eyes, their skin touching yours and building emotional bonds and connections.  We never got that.  This has brought a struggle to our whole family for the past five years.  We all want to bond but it just isn’t happening.

As I prayed I asked God to show me if I’m doing everything I can.  Is there anything left that I can do to try to bond with him?  Can I say I’ve tried everything and just accept that this is all I get?  I thought about homeschooling because that would give us more time together but I had tried that when he first came home from India and he begged me to be able to go to school like the other kids.  So I let him.

Recently RJ and I started reading back through my blog from when we first met him in India and into the months that followed.  I could see the fade.  He used to hug and kiss us and be his happy go lucky self here at home and then something changed.  It could have been that the honeymoon was over or it could have been that he was spending more time away from us than with us, or both.  Either way I saw a tremendous shift and for the first time I realized it.

So, after a lot of prayer and guidance and prompting from the Holy Spirit we are taking the plunge.  I know the timing seems weird but leap of faith #2 will make that make a little more sense when I share about that.  I want to know I did everything I could to bond with my son.  I wanted to get the joyful little bubbly guy that the teachers all talk about.  Ask anyone who lives in this house, we don’t get that kid.  We see glimpses every now and then but not often.

And how does RJ feel…. ready.  He is excited that I want to spend more time with him and excited to have school not be as challenging.  He will miss his friends but most of all his teachers.  Leaving his teachers is the hardest of all for him, and rightly so… they’re fantastic.  But, next year he would be at a whole new school and miss them anyway.  Having a new teacher has always been hard for him every year as well.  He has a lot of anxiety and grief over the bonds he forms with his teachers and then has to leave every year and even sometimes every semester.   Making and breaking bonds continually is not good for him I have finally figured out.  It’s OK for typical kids every year because they feel stable but for him it is not.

Now I want to be clear, I think sending him to school was the best thing for all of us at the time even though the consequences of it are showing.  He has loved both schools he has been at and has been loved on beyond my expectations.  It was what was needed at the time.  I was honestly not mentally in a place to have him home with me and all the challenges that go along with that, nor did I have the time and mental capacity while trying to care for Laila.  But times have changed.  I committed my whole last step study of Celebrate Recovery (12 months) to studying myself and my behaviors and trying to find room for more patience and love for RJ.  I’m really throwing myself out there today….  phew, be kind.  It’s just the honest truth that sometimes these kids are really tough.  And it’s hard for others to understand it when they get all of his kind energy during the day at school or at a play date but then his family who loves him unconditionally gets the left overs which are either unkind or not engaged at all.  It is very hard to want to engage and be loving towards someone who doesn’t feel that way towards you, for close to five years….

So, I ask that you would pray for us as we start this new adventure.  Pray that God would help me to see when I need to let things go.  That I would just love on my son and then let everything else fall into place.  That I would be careful with my time and making the most of it and not fill up my days that are not priority right now.  That I will balance work, ministry and homeschooling well and let RJ learn through all of those things alongside me instead of saying things like “I’m busy, it’ll have to wait a minute.”

I’m selfishly loving my son, and I’m OK with that :)

Stay tuned for leap #2….


Birthdays

The birthday season has begun here at the Hamstra household.  Jack’s was Tuesday, mine is today and soon it will be RJ, Laila and Jackson’s.  We have SO much to be thankful for.  God is leading our family in ways I never thought possible.  We are SO blessed by these three amazing kids that grow us and teach us every day.  Our whole family is thriving and I’m very, very thankful.

But, dang it.  I miss one little girl so badly today that I just can’t help but sit here and cry.  I want the squealing giggle telling me happy birthday.  And the funny thing is that our birthdays have been, by human standards, kinda yucky the past several years.  We were usually sitting in the hospital with Laila.  This was always a rough time of year for her.  I found myself being so resentful over that these past few years as Jack and I would tell each other happy birthday while eating take-out Qdoba sitting around a hospital bed.

What I wouldn’t give to be sitting in a hospital today.

Even if your circumstances seem so hard for you today can I just challenge you to look at them differently.  The adoption retreat I went to had a theme of perspective.  “When you change the way you look at things, the things you look at change.”  I wish I could’ve got something like that through my head back then.  Being thankful that even though we were sitting in a hospital with our daughter on our birthdays, at least we still had that daughter.

I could use your prayers today.  And I hope you hug your babies tight and find joy today.

This picture was two years ago today.  #1 my hubby is so handsome!  #2 He is my rock, smiling even through sitting in isolation in the ICU to surprise me for my birthday that day.


He Was There

Bit by bit I’m learning and changing and giving myself grace and understanding when I think about Laila’s death.  Every now and again the enemy tries to come in and plant doubt or guilt and I battle that with God’s word and the Truth.  I’d like to share a recent experience that helped….

I was sitting in church a few weeks ago and happened to sit next to a friend who also recently lost her daughter.  She noticed my struggle through worship and uncontrollable crying, even though I try to hide it.  A few days later I received a message with information regarding a therapy called EMDR (eye movement desensitization and reprocessing).  I had a few other friends who had done this kind of therapy but I didn’t really understand what it was or how it helped.  I’d like to explain my experience to you.

I arrived at Rose Wierzba counseling and was met with a smile from a familiar friend who knows the pain that I have been through.  She knows the pain all too well.  She knows what it is like to care for a child with an illness and then to eventually lose that precious child.  I’m not thankful for our circumstances but I’m so thankful for someone I felt comfortable to share this hurt with.

Rose and I talked for a few minutes about the trauma that I have been through and a few scenarios in particular that still cause me anxiety and pain.  I decided I was ready to process the night Laila died and let her help me with the intense memories that were still haunting me.  She explained to me that I would be holding these little buzzing handles in each hand and that would help to stimulate my left and right brain to work better together and create new connections.  Though that might seem weird to someone else, this made perfect sense to me.  I have learned so much about the brain through fostering and adopting and having two special needs children.  It is truly incredible the way God made our bodies and all their parts work so closely together.  When stimulating the nerves in the hands with the vibration, it stimulates the brain.  So very cool.

The point I couldn’t get past when thinking about the night Laila died was when I panicked when I realized she was actually gone.  Even just thinking or talking about it I would feel my chest tighten and a small amount of the panic returning.  I also struggle with the guilt of how I scared Jackson and made him go through watching me like that.  I did write about it here if you would like to know more about that night…

Rose had me hold the buzzers and go back in my memory to the part that I was struggling the most with and step by step let the Holy Spirit remind me of each thing…..

I’m laying in bed with Laila and watching the oximeter rapidly decline as her heart and lungs were stopping

I stare at Laila in the longest instant of unbelief that she was not going to take another breath

I hyperventilate and scream and beg her to breathe again

I see Jackson’s panicked face, he is also begging me to take a breath

I rip out all of the tubes that are connected to Laila and scoop her up into my arms

I won’t let anyone take her from me

………..Rose has me take a pause, take a breath and tell her where I am in my memory because all of this is being done in silence as I process my memories privately.  But then after a break we begin again…….. (this happens several times throughout our session)

I realize that I am literally sweating from holding Laila and the high fever she had right before she died.  I find the strength to scoot off the bed and hand her body to Jack.  He is sitting in the recliner.  I cover them with a bright white sheet and watch Jack hold his baby girl.

Jack holds her awhile and then the funeral director arrives.  I take her from Jack and lay her back in her bed

……We stop again.  I tell Rose “I did that.  I actually got up and handed her to Jack and then I laid her back in her bed.  I did that.  I had the strength to do that.”  I was beginning to see more than just my panic from that night……

We left Laila in her bed and came to the table to talk funeral arrangements for awhile

When it was time for them to take her, Andy offered to carry her to the stretcher but I said “no, I can do it.”

I carried her to the stretcher and laid her down one last time

I stood behind each kid as they leaned over and said goodbye to their sister

…….We stop.  “I was able to to that.  I was able to be the one to carry her and lay her down.  I was able to be strong for my big kids as they said goodbye…..”

As she was being wheeled away, I couldn’t watch.  I couldn’t handle it so I went to my room for a moment alone.

When I came out Tammy and the hospice nurse were disposing of all of the medicines and cleaning things up in Laila’s room.  I didn’t help them.

…….We stop “I did what I need to do to take care of myself that night and that is good.  I finally found the balance of mother/therapist/nurse/doctor and was able to just be me…”

That night when I laid down in bed I sobbed and worried that I might never sleep

Jack put his arm around me and we slept the whole night.

……. this was the end of my memory of that night.  I was able to see so much strength I had that night that I had forgotten about and not just what I had done wrong and what had scared me for so long….. but now is where the good part comes in……

Rose then asked me where I thought Jesus was through all of it.  She asked me to go back through all those memories of that night again slowly and picture Jesus in them.  Everyone always says things like “Jesus is with you” or “He was giving you strength” but I had never physically pictured Him there.  So she gave me some time and when I was ready, I went back through the whole thing again and I would like to share it over again with you.  I know that this is getting long but believe me, it’s worth it.

 

I’m laying in bed with Laila and watching the oximeter rapidly decline as her heart and lungs were stoppingJesus was standing next to Laila on the opposite side as me.  He touched her chest as she took her last breath as if to stop her heart and put her at peace.

I stare at Laila in the longest instant of unbelief that she was not going to take another breath

I hyperventilate and scream and beg her to breathe again Jesus is standing next to Jackson looking at me with him, His arm around Jackson

I see Jackson’s panicked face, he is also begging me to take a breath

I rip out all of the tubes that are connected to Laila and scoop her up into my arms Jesus is still standing next to the edge of the bed looking at me and waiting.

I won’t let anyone take her from me

I realize that I am literally sweating from holding Laila and the high fever she had right before she died.  I find the strength to scoot off the bed and hand her body to Jack.  He is sitting in the recliner.  I cover them with a bright white sheet and watch Jack hold his baby. Jesus places His hands under Laila and cradles her with me as I scoot off the bed and hand her to Jack.  Carrying her weight with me

After Jack holds her awhile and then the funeral director arrives.  I take her from Jack and lay her back in her bed As Jack holds her, Jesus has His arm around the back of the recliner, leaning in and staring at them both.  Then He holds her weight with me again as transfer her from Jack to the bed again.

We left Laila in her bed and came to the table to talk funeral arrangements for awhile As I sit at the table talking, I have my hands folded in front of me and Jesus has His hands cupped around mine like a friend sitting and quietly supporting me.

When it was time for them to take her, Andy offered to carry her to the stretcher but I said “no, I can do it.”

I carried her to the stretcher and laid her down one last time Again He carried her with me

I stood behind each kid as they leaned over and said goodbye to their sister As each child leaned over and kissed their sister goodbye, Jesus gently stroked their hair back in comfort

As she was being wheeled away, I couldn’t watch.  I couldn’t handle it so I went to my room for a moment alone. Jesus stood there with me, watching me gather strength

When I came out Tammy and the hospice nurse were disposing of all of the medicines and cleaning things up in Laila’s room.  I didn’t help them.

That night when I laid down in bed I sobbed and worried that I might never sleep

Jack put his arm around me and we slept the whole night. As I laid crying I watched Jesus pick up Jack’s arm and wrap it around me.

 

My memory has changed.  I can never again picture the night Laila died without picturing where Jesus was in those very difficult moments.  It’s simply beautiful to me that in my mind He touched us each in different ways.  Why don’t we do that?  Why do we just talk about Him but not picture him?  And the EMDR was stimulating my brain connections that whole time so that this is the memory that my mind will hold onto and overpower the old memory.  Was it still a traumatic event, yes.  Does it haunt me anymore, no.  I’m in awe of the fact that in a one hour session, God was able to change so much in me.  I’m so beyond grateful.

Thank you Rose.

 

Thanks for letting me share.


Wait for the Alcohol to Work

How’s that for a title!?!  But it’s not what you would think ;)

I’ve been reading in the old testament through the kings.  I don’t know about you but that is a tough read for me.  “This king took over, he reigned blah blah years, he did evil and he died……that king took over, he reigned blah blah years…..and so on.”  Most of the kings were evil, worshiping idols and following in the footsteps of the king before them.  But every once in a while there would be a king who would want to do good and the bible would even say that he did “what was right in the eyes of the Lord.”  Most of those kings however had that statement follow by something to the effect that they tried but they did not remove all the idols or they followed God but not fully.   They did not follow through and do ALL of the work, just most.

This got me thinking about another boring passage in the bible (in my opinion) where there are a bunch of rules concern cleanliness and such and they tell you how to get mold out of your house.  Yep it’s in there, people!  The bible has EVERYTHING!  Anyway, they talk about cleaning but then shutting the house up for something like seven days and then opening it back up and checking and if it wasn’t gone then try again and if it still isn’t gone then tear the house down because it will never be clean.  Doing the work until the end and then possibly having to start fresh.


And then that got me thinking about alcohol swabs.  You’re welcome for taking you on this crazy journey of how my mind works!  Haha!  We used many, many alcohol swabs in caring for Laila and they definitely did at the hospital as well.  During one of Laila’s last hospital stays I was talking with one of our nurses about her protocol.  She was one of the only ones that would wipe the line clean with an alcohol swab and then stare at the clock to wait at least 15 seconds before reattaching it.  I always remembered her staring at the clock, and the other nurses would clean it quickly and then just immediately reattach the line.  She told me that they did a training one time where they cleaned something with the alcohol swab and then immediately looked at it under the microscope and there was still a ton of bacteria but then they looked again 15-30 seconds later and most of it was gone.

Waiting for the alcohol to dry and do it’s job was what killed the bacteria, not just the simple act of wiping it…….

And that rabbit trail comes around to me relating that to my grief and my life in general.  I want this grief process to be over.  I want to do the things I need to do and I want to do them quickly and I want to feel better.  I don’t want to wait for the process.

I want to figure out there is a sin in my life and I want to deal with it and I want to feel better and never be tempted again and move on.  Could life just be perfect and could that come quickly and not involve a lot of work, please?!?!?  Yeah…. that’s not really how it works, huh.

I need to realize things take time.  People grieve, people mess up, people sin and I need to do the work on my part but then I have to be patient and wait for God to work His.  And that is not always quick.  Sometimes it’s a lifetime.

I think about how dangerous not waiting on that alcohol on Laila’s line to dry could be to her system and I’m thankful that reveals in my mind that being too quick to process something in my life could be harmful as well.  I may think it’s all well and good but there may be something waiting under the surface that I haven’t let process and heal.  I want true, lasting, healing from whatever it may be that I’m struggling with in this life.  I want a quick fix….. but then again I don’t.

This world is tough, Amen?!?!  I’m thankful we have a loving Father in heaven who sympathizes with us because He was here.  He knows.  He lived it and died so that we could live with Him one day, away from all this mess and heart ache.

Is there something you want a quick fix on, to just feel better?  I’m praying with you on that today.  Praying we can all be patient for God’s timing and healing and that we see Him clearly in the process.

 


Pray With Me

Yesterday I went on a hike with a friend and spent some time in prayer out in God’s beauty.  As I sat in solitude and poured my heart out to God over the weight of this world and all the sorrow and sadness, I thought maybe we should all pray together.  I absolutely believe in the power of prayer and I know God cares.  I’m hurting, we have many friends who are hurting, our World is hurting.

I don’t know what you are going through today but would you stop and join together with me in prayer?  There are more people that read this than I know about but I know there are many.  Will you share this so as many as possible can storm heavens gates today?  Let’s raise our voices together to God today claiming His word and His promise for us and this broken world.

Gracious, amazing Father – We love you.

We praise you for who you are in each of our lives.

We thank you that you never leave us or forsake us. We claim that promise today from the truth of your word.

We thank you that you work all things for the good of those who love you.  Please show us that good, even just a glimpse.

Jesus we need you.  Come and save us from the sorrow and hurt.

Help us see your joy and gladness in the midst of darkness.

Make us a new creation in You this morning.

Make us to see each other through your eyes and with Your heart.

Help us know how best to clothe ourselves with you today so that others will see you through us and have hope.

Thank you Jesus that we can never, ever say that you don’t know how we feel.

Thank you for loving us so well.

Thank you for giving your life for us.

May we do the same for you today by Your strength.

In Jesus name, Amen.

Please comment Amen if you prayed along with us this morning.  Let’s show that we are all in this together.


Spend Time With Me

I just got back from running.  Yep, running.  I know I mentioned in an earlier post that we are training for a half marathon but I don’t know if I ever mentioned that I was the person who would NEVER run.  I tried a few 5K races when Laila was going to CLC and we did it to raise money for the school.  Just run they said.  You’ll end up liking it they said.  I did not.

On our first time back at church after Laila’s death I walked in and saw that we had a guest speaker and I rolled my eyes.  Yep, just being honest.  We had a speaker from World Vision and I just knew he was going to try to get everyone to sign up for the marathon again this year.  I didn’t want to sit and listen to someone tell me to do something that I had no heart for and no interest in.  Well, he was an amazing speaker who did speak about running but also had deep, meaningful lessons through his message and amazing miraculous stories about things God had done during his run.  I apologized to God for rolling my eyes and thinking that I had nothing to learn from this man that day.  And then it happened.  The whisper.  The Holy Spirit. “This is a way we could spend time alone together to heal.”  I said, “no thanks.”  He said it again  I said, “no thanks.”

Well he roped Emma in hook, line and sinker! You tell her she can help kids, you’ve pretty much got her no matter what it is.   Jack and Emma signed up that day and looked at me and I said “no way!”  And I kept that still small voice to myself for several days.  I bargained with God many, many things for Him not to call me to do this.  I first tried to tell Him I would have a netflix marathon instead.  Hey, I thought maybe it was just some kind of marathon he wanted.  This didn’t work.  I promised to set a timer and sit in my living room for an hour every morning in prayer time.  This didn’t work either.  I promised to dedicate every car ride to him with no radio or phone calls or anything.  No go.  So I finally gave up and said I would sign up for the half marathon but that I wouldn’t run, I would speed walk.  Am I not just like a bratty child who wants it my own way?!?!

We started training and I finally realized why He called me to this.  Running is the only way I can think that I am completely alone with God without distraction.  There’s no laundry to switch or toilets to clean or counters to wipe real quick.  There’s no traffic or other things to focus in the car.  There is a phone but I can’t answer it because I can’t breathe and no one would be able to understand me anyway.  This time training was just what I needed.  I speed walked for a month or so and then just started running one night trying to keep up with Emma because it was getting dark and I realized I could do it!

I decided to share with our running team the reason why I was running, to heal after Laila’s death.  Some of them I knew and some I didn’t, but I wanted them to understand that when they see the crazy lady hyperventilating on the side of the road in tears they would know why.

I went to my first Saturday morning group run and then a huge reminder was brought to me.  Our team captain reminded me of why she brought the idea of running for World Vision to our church.  When Laila was in the hospital for her long stay in 2016 she had contacted me to ask if there was a way she could raise money for us by using the skill of running that God had gifted her with.  She wanted to run a marathon and felt like God was calling her to something more than just run it for herself and Laila’s life and situation had inspired her.  I pointed her in the direction of another family who I felt needed the money more than we did and she dedicated her run to them that year.  Well during that experience she found out about World Vision and was challenged by one of her daughters to become an advocate for them and put together a team to run for them the following year.  I had TOTALLY forgotten about that.  It was so amazing that morning to realize that I was actually running and part of something that Laila was a part of.  God had brought that full circle.

I’ve spent hours and hours and a couple hundred miles in prayer over the last few months.  It has been amazing.  I have had strength and endurance and peace that could not come from me but only from my amazing Lord.  I have cried many, many tears on the side of the road but you know what, God met me there each and every time.  He has reignited my passion for missions that has always been there but was all focused on the mission of keeping Laila alive for so many years.  Tonight as I got five miles done in the rain I just couldn’t help but think of all those kids we are running for and the fact that they would give anything to be drinking even out of the puddles on the road that I am avoiding.  So crazy to think how blessed we are.  I’m grateful for each stage of life God has put me in.  Even this sorrow because as I stated before, I’ve never been more broken but never been closer to Him.

If you see this sight of a broken, crying woman on the side of the road just smile and wave and pray for me :) Or snap a picture then hug me like this friend did ;)

God is continually calling me out of my comfort zone.  I don’t know why I fight Him so much because when I finally give in I am always blessed and wonder why I didn’t listen to Him sooner.  Is there anything God is calling you to today?  Are you acting like a child like I usually do and bargaining or just flat saying no to Him?  Please don’t.  Blessings are waiting for each of us if we can just trust Him.  If there is a way I can pray for you specifically in something He is calling you to, please shoot me a private message and I would love to pray for you during my run time.

If you would like to help Emma reach her goal and would like to donate to the her World Vision page, you can do so by clicking here.

Thanks for listening, friends.  I so appreciate you and each comment of encouragement.  I’m blessed.


Controlling Grief

That title is a complete oxymoron.  I’m learning.

I am a control freak.  I even had someone ask me once which branch of the military I was in as they saw the tight ship I run around this household.  No military, all self imposed, self taught ridiculousness…. that is me ;)

So, this new grief thing… I’m not loving the lack of control I have in this area.  I keep trying to figure it out and it keeps laughing at me and sneaking up like an annoying little kid jumping out at me with a nerf gun (mommas can relate!).

I thought all summer that the first week of school would be hard but it turned out that the week before school started was hard and I found myself crying in the school supply aisle at Walmart.  I HATE crying in public.  And then the first week of school was OK.

One day last week I was in line to pay for something really quick in Walgreens and I saw a particular kind of cookie that brought back memories of her time in Michigan at CLC which made me think of old friends and how I hadn’t even told them she passed away and then there I was crying in front of the poor cashier as I paid for my soda.  Ugh!

And pictures!  Oh, pictures are THE WORST.  If I could never take another group or family picture that would be just great (but also not fair to the people who are still here with me.)  She is missing.  I see the hole where she should be in every. single. one.  I have no idea if I will even do Christmas cards this year….. and yep here come the tears again as I even type and think about Christmas.  And I love Christmas but how will I even survive the annual picture of the kids in their Christmas PJ’s in front of the tree on Christmas Eve.  Emma and Jackson always fought over who would get to hold her.  Oh God… this is SO hard.  Ok, I’ve gotta move on at this moment and let that tomorrow worry about itself.

This post has been rolling around in my head but there was something today that pushed me to write it.  Today it was as simple as picking up the thermometer and accidentally hitting the button which shows you the last temp taken…..

This was another one of those little sneak attacks.  I was going along just fine until this today.  Laila’s temp when she passed away popped up right in front of my eyes unexpectedly.  That temperature is completely unbelievable.  But there it was staring at me, pulling me back into that moment of panic and sorrow and suffocation.

I keep trying to figure this grief monster out and get ahead of it but it’s unattainable.  I cry at the weirdest times and can talk about her just fine in other moments when others (and myself) would expect tears.

I’m going to try to embrace it.  What else is there to do.

Thanks for letting me share :)


The gift of vision

I’ve been meaning to write this down for a few months and I have a few quiet minutes so apparently now is the time.


In the week and a half or so before Laila passed away she talked about things that had to be from God. One of the biggest things she talked about was food! Man, was I excited to hear that we would be feasting in heaven! I love food!

In the middle of the night was when she would talk about it the most. She’d wake crying and I would comfort her and lay with her and administer meds. While I would lay with her in the dark hours of the night she would get really chatty. She talked mostly about food and what she liked and what she didn’t like. Apparently she only likes broccoli if they put cheese on it (this is something I never do) and she likes brownies. Now Laila never really ate. We did feeding therapies and clinics and pushed and gagged and tried but she never got past baby food and even only did that for a short while. I have to believe that maybe she was getting glimpses of heaven. I don’t know how else to explain her obsession with talking about it.

She also told me she was going to walk. Now if you had ever talked to me about this prior to that week before her death I would’ve smiled and then thought to myself…. maybe not. You see I couldn’t ever picture her whole and well and walking. I guess my eyes just saw her perfect as she was and I, maybe selfishly, didn’t want to think about something I couldn’t see right now. I always wanted her to know that she was perfect to me just as she was here on earth. But the more she talked about it the more I wondered. She hadn’t talked about walking on her own in years. She was excited about the walker at school but that was pretty much it. Well…. early one morning toward the end I was half asleep and half awake in her bed with her and I had this…. vision I guess. I watched her slide off the end of the bed, plop down on her floor on both feet, and turn around and smile at me. From that day on I knew she would walk in heaven.

Later that morning same morning, just before we got up for the day I laid with her and had a vision of her abdomen with no scars. I could see her belly button again and her skin was peachy silky smooth. I had never seen her without something on her belly. She had the g-tube when we met her and then the ostomy and scars and central line. Her abdomen was honestly a mess when she passed away. Sometimes we could barely find a new angle for her bandage so it wouldn’t be touching some other mechanism.

This post was another one I hesitated to post as I thought people might think I was weird in saying “visions.” Before I might of as well. These experiences were more than just “I could picture this,” or “I thought about that.” I truly believe that these were things God did to prepare each of us that a time was coming where we would have to say goodbye. Jack had even had a vision of her funeral a few months beforehand as we stood in worship one Sunday.

I believe through this experience that God has grown my relationship with Him and has given me more and more of His Holy Spirit which is amazing and terrifying. I’m closer to him than I have ever been and I am more broken than I have ever been. He is my only saving grace and the only one sustaining me.

One last thing. I can’t remember if I’ve written about this or not so I’m gonna add it here. During one of her final days, Tammy and I were giving Laila a shower and Laila was really crabby. To lighten the mood I started talking to Tammy and Laila about the food visions and I asked Laila if she was going to have a feast in heaven one day and if she did, what would she eat. She crabbed at me a little more and told me to be quiet so she could think. Then, with no emotion at all in her voice she said “I’ll probably eat Chinese food.” OH my goodness! Tammy and I laughed and laughed! It was one of the funniest moments ever.

The day after she passed away, we went out for Chinese food :)


New Day

How am I?  Well….. I just don’t know, really.  There have been a few days where I haven’t cried.  I wasn’t sure that would ever happen.  The days where I sob are less although when the floodgate opens it feels like I’m going under for a bit but God always brings me back up again.

This weekend had a lot of triggers for me.  Things that are joyous but also bring sorrow.  One time I did a study on the book of James and remember vividly learning how joy and sorrow are very closely related and sometimes you can’t tell the difference.  That didn’t make as much sense back then like it does now.

This weekend a new park opened in our town that is handicap accessible.  Three amazing women in our community had a dream for it and they saw it through and made it happen.  Amazing.  A donation was made in Laila’s name to help them reach a matching grant that helped make this happen.  At the ribbon cutting ceremony they recognized Laila and all that she meant to so many people and it truly was beautiful to be a part of.  But also, it was so heartbreaking to look at that playground and never be able to see her there…..

Then there was church.  Church rips me to shreds every. single. Sunday.  I’m a music gal through and through.  Every Sunday in worship I bawl like a baby, thankful for lighting and sound that let me have my moments without drawing too much attention to myself.  (thank you worship team for always being so amazing!)  Just singing praise to an awesome God and knowing that He cares and weeps alongside me.  Singing words that I absolutely know are true but man do I wish He would just come back and make all things right in this broken, hurting world.

Last night we had a special service where Dr. Jeff Huxford came back to town to tell about all that God has been doing in his life after his near fatal accident several years ago.  Watching him on stage has always been a miracle since his accident but also seeing him give God praise and seeking Him in what is next and how God can use his tragedy to draw people near was definitely inspiring.  You can check out his blog by clicking here.  He brought a new artist named Becca Bradley with him to perform some of her songs and again God used song and worship to keep reminding me that He is working all things out for the good of His purpose.  You can also check out her info by clicking here.  One thing after another, with eyes open to see, God is encouraging me and holding me close.

So, how am I?  Well… I’m normal I guess.  Whatever that means.  I lost a beautiful, joyous part of my life who will never be replaced.  The days roll by and people move on and yet the hole remains and always will.  I will never be the same.  A sorrow will remain in my heart and my life forever.  Although there are a few things in my life that are bringing me new joy.  I have rediscovered my love for nature and outdoors.  I’m loving hiking and kayaking the most right now but since I can’t do those things every day, I settle for sitting in my backyard laughing at our new baby goat and all the crazy stuff she does.  We named her Ann :) .  I’m also spending time outside while I train for a half marathon that Jack, Emma and I are doing in November to raise money for World Vision.  Some of my time is also spent working for a friend of ours who owns a resale shop here in town and I’m enjoying that, too.  And of course my bible reading and my work in Celebrate Recovery are my main focus.  I’m so so thankful for that ministry and what has done in my life and the lives of so many others who walk through the doors.

 

One last thing I wanted to leave you with today.  I’ve stated this before but each of my kiddos have a song that I feel for them.  Again with the music thing!  While I was out training the other day, Laila’s song came on.  Hers has always been New Day by the Robbie Seay Band.  It’s lyrics talk about seeing something and not realizing how incredibly beautiful it is until later on.  I always thought of this because of Laila’s difficulties physically and also her rough beginning of life but how all of those things led her to me and how all of that from the human eye might not look beautiful but when you look past it all, it truly truly is.  Well anyway, while I was walking and praying and listening  I felt God tell me that this song still applies to me today.  This situation is not beautiful but God is bringing beauty from it…… a scholarship, a park, hundreds of changed hearts….. I have to choose to see it.  I’ve listed the lyrics below but for best effect you wanna take a listen on youtube, I used it for Laila’s adoption video.

Is there anything in your life that you need to adjust your focus on today?  Anything God might be trying to make beautiful.  Dear friends I hope and pray we can find beauty together today.  Thanks for sharing this journey with me.  If nothing else I hope the picture of #annthegoat made you smile :)

Lyrics

I’m gonna sing this song to let you know that you’re not alone
And if you’re like me, you need hope, coffee and melody
So sit back down and let the world keep spinning ’round
For yesterday’s gone and today is waiting on you to show your face

And it might not be the prettiest thing that you’ll ever see
But it’s a new day, ah baby, it’s a new day

And it might not look like a beautiful sunrise
But it’s a new day, ah baby, it’s a new day

I’m a pilgrim soul, I’ve traveled far and come back home
And this land is hard and cold for those who long to love
And I know it might seem that the world is crumbling
But it’s me and you dancing in the kitchen at 2 A.M. and we’re still alive

And it might not be the prettiest thing that you’ll ever see
But it’s a new day, ah baby, it’s a new day
And it might not look like a beautiful sunrise
But it’s a new day, ah baby, it’s a new day

It’s the calm of the storm that comes blowing in
It’s the springtime saying I’m back again
The clouds that roll by crossing moonlight
Me and you, love, everything’s alright

Standing in the rain with nowhere to go
Laughing and we’re spinning and I hope that you
Remember this day for the rest of your life
Me and you, love, everything’s gonna be alright

And it just might be the prettiest thing that you’ll ever see
Well it’s a new day, ah baby, it’s a new day
If you look outside to see a beautiful sunrise
Well it’s a new day, ah new day, it’s a new day

And it just might be the prettiest thing that you’ll ever see
Well it’s a new day, ah baby, it’s a new day
If you look outside to see a beautiful sunrise
Oh it’s a new day, it’s a new day, it’s a new day

It’s the calm of the storm that comes blowing in
It’s the springtime saying I’m back again
The clouds that roll by crossing moonlight
Me and you, love, everything’s alright

Standing in the rain with nowhere to go
Laughing and we’re spinning and I hope that you
Remember this day for the rest of your life
Me and you, love, everything’s gonna be alright

I’m gonna sing this song to let you know that you’re not alone
And if you’re like me, you need hope, coffee and melody

 

Hebrews 12:1-2

Do you see what this means—all these pioneers who blazed the way, all these veterans cheering us on? It means we’d better get on with it. Strip down, start running—and never quit! No extra spiritual fat, no parasitic sins. Keep your eyes on Jesus, who both began and finished this race we’re in. Study how he did it. Because he never lost sight of where he was headed—that exhilarating finish in and with God—he could put up with anything along the way: Cross, shame, whatever. And now he’s there, in the place of honor, right alongside God. When you find yourselves flagging in your faith, go over that story again, item by item, that long litany of hostility he plowed through. That will shoot adrenaline into your souls!