Monday, December 1, 2014

The Journey

Today is yet another Monday.  Some days I actually think I may not dread them quite as much as at the beginning of this, our journey of grief.  I have been getting sleep now. Most nights. We are laughing again more amidst random surges of tears. We are on a journey of establishing our new normal.
I still can not walk the path to the barn with out reliving the emotions.  That is one journey that will never leave my mind I am afraid. I walk it the least amount of times possible.  Several times though in the last few weeks, Lowell has worked late, making it a necessity for me to take the journey, a most dreaded moment.  I literally have to gather my courage, square my shoulders and allow my body to absorb the trek that follows.  Mostly I have to do it at dusk, so the inevitable picture in my mind is starting to take a different shade.  Grief is a very dark journey.

"Abby, Abby" I scream not even realizing it. My children recently told
me that is one of their most hated memories of the day...mama's screams     

"Stay with me baby girl, please stay with me...I love you so much"
The run back to the house with my limp baby girl in my arms seems endless
The porch ever so far away.

"Get the phone Kali, PLEASE get the phone..."
I run effortlessly, faster then I realize possible.  The small hill is a mountain.
Grief is just like that.

The area, stark and cold where her little white picnic table stood, 
the one I laid her on as I cried and did CPR and waited the endless moments
for help.  The place where after many long moments her heart ever so faintly began
beating again signaling the start of the longest 21 hours of my life.

As I stand in this spot I realize I have once again come full circle. I walked the journey from start to finish and just like it is happening with our journey of grief, I survived.  Is it painful? YES! YES!  A million times YES!  Is it do-able? Yes, but not on my strength.  So thankful for the everlasting arms that carry me during the times when I don't think I can take one more step on my own.  
                                                          He is the strength in the journey.


We wanted to use some of the memorial fund to purchase a piece of furniture that we would have always.  Something that when we see it or use it, we remember our journey.
We chose a table and chairs for our dining room.  It came tonite (ironically - it's Monday) and is beautiful beyond my imagination, just like her.   

I love the intricate yet simple details. And we got 5 chairs.
This and more like it are amish made and available at Midwest Woodworks in Kalona, Iowa


Monday, November 10, 2014

The Blessing of Cousins

In collaboration with Patience Brewster, a small town, family oriented brand, I decided to share a special family photo memory in honor of the upcoming holidays, my 2 favorite ~ Thanksgiving & Christmas.  Patience is an artist, and illustrator of children's books, greeting cards and a designer of delightful Christmas ornaments & gifts.
Since I am such a person of sentimental nature, I had fun with this one. My mind flew to several incidents that always fly to the top of the memories list, the aforementioned dollhouse (best Christmas gift ever) and the Christmas that accompanied it...the Christmas trip to visit my parents in South Carolina where during the holiday fireworks, my Lowell asked me to be his wife...The Thanksgiving we spent at the beach right after a tragic breakup.  My uncles Nate and Ira were at that one.....Sadly there are not many if any photos of those events.  As I browsed through the photos on my computer I thought surely something would strike me, but not till the middle of the night several weeks later,  as I helped one of my children did something hit me like a bolt of lightening and I knew right where the favorite photo was.
I was blessed to grow up in a family where my parents both came from large families, Dad from 19 (yes you read that twins, same mom and dad) and Mom came from 11.  Both were of the Amish faith but since more of mom's family stayed Amish, I ended up with more cousins on that side (close to 70) though the grand total of both sides is well over 100 first cousins.  Because of the fact that my parents chose to leave the Amish faith we did not grow up knowing many of the cousins whose families stayed.  We would see them every couple of years if we were lucky. A few years back that began to change.  As they grew up many of the cousins also left the Amish faith, making our ability to interact on a more regular level possible.  We live all over, spread from Kansas to Canada, Missouri to Pennsylvania, Iowa to South Carolina.  All except for a handful of us showed up at my Grandmother's funeral in May of this year.  Reconnecting was a blast.
Anyhow, back to my photo....  A few years back my cousin John opened his home to us all and thus began the tradition of the yearly gathering of the Wagler cousins.  So far there have never been even half of us show up, but the ones that do have a lot of fun.  Quite a few of us have children so there are lots of happy squeals of the rambunctious 3rd generation Waglers chasing each other around the house.  We sit, talk loudly and quickly in typical Wagler fashion, eat sentimental foods like Mommy's stuffing and Pumkin Custard, and argue politics, play games, and sing lots as there are quite a few guitar and banjo players as well as singers in the group. Last year was my first time being a part of the fun and I pestered everyone to no end, gathering all sorts of groupings of people for family photos that we can treasure for years to come.  I am so glad I did.  My album is full of various poses and groups many including my precious Abby who had a blast with her little look alike 2nd cousin, Vidalia.  We are a rowdy tribe, these cousins of mine. And while live miles apart and don't see eye to eye on everything, most of us buy up every book we see, enjoy antiques and browsing auctions, and enjoy arguing around with our peculiar, just like us cousins.
 Truly in my list of blessings, my cousins definitely make the cut!
This photo from last year was taken inside John's beautiful home after we came in from taking our photo outside in front of an old rusty wall we all fell in love with (sadly I can't see everyone's faces on that set)

2 of my mother's siblings were also present and they along with the 
fine folks in this photo represent 5 of the 11 children of David & Ida Mae Wagler.
Aren't we a handsome bunch?  
Counting down the days to this years gathering....

Tuesday, October 28, 2014

My Favorite Things

In many ways we are entering one of my favorite seasons of the year.  Now let me clarify.  I like a few days with the pretty white fluffy stuff but then I am tooooo cold and long to fly south like the birds. Overall I do enjoy the changing of seasons.  With Abby's death this summer I think I am more ready to move along into the next season and place in time and find balance in making new memories along with cherishing the old.
To me the heralding of a new season is never complete with out appropriate decoration inside my home while paying attention to God's decoration outside my window.  Somehow my decorating box has more fall and Christmas stuff in it then most of the other seasons though I do have a pretty wreath or two that I like to display for those.
Before you get all in a tizzy about me bringing up Christmas, let me remind you that we have less then 2 months till the actual day and since we always travel during the season, I feel I have the perfect reason to get started a bit earlier so I have sufficient time to enjoy all my efforts.  Plus shouldn't the birth of our amazing Savior be celebrated all year?
To get my thoughts back to the "task at hand" ~ showcasing a few of my favorite things.
I never cease to be amazed at the color in God's world.  He is such an artist.

The take-your-breath-away colors of the October sky

I am blessed to have a few treasured Milk Glass pieces
Love including them in my decor.

I like to start with my December to do list as soon as I can so that I have time to make memories with out feeling rushed. As I think back to memories of Christmas past, my mind is always drawn to my 6th Christmas which would have been in the early 80's.  I remember Dad working a lot and how even though we as children didn't realize it, my parents were probably struggling to make ends meet for their young growing family.  I don't know how in the world they got it done, but that year our Christmas was totally hand made.  Mama made matching night gowns for my sister and I.  They were white with small pink rosebuds on them.  I sure wish I had a photo of them.  They were darling and one of my most favorite gowns ever.  Dad in the meantime build us a darling 2 story doll house.  It granted us many happy hours of endless play and imagination.  As the years went on and my baby sister came along, we actually redid the inside of the house for her as a Christmas present one year.  This year during our last vacation with Abby my mama presented it to my girls and they have had many happy hours as well. 

Nana is now busy buying furniture and toys and small doll sets
and the house is once again filled with joy and sits in a prominent place in my 
girlies bedroom.

Some more scenes from around our farm....

The old barn is beautiful in all seasons!

As we enter this time, my mind goes back to the things we did as a family prior to losing one of us... things I will never regret taking the time to do. They will forever grace my "favorite things" list.

Yes letting the little hands help with baking can dramatically lengthen 
the process not to mention the whole making it messier part but the joy it brings 
it so worth it!

When I took this photo last year, I had no idea it would be our last Christmas 
together. That is now my daily challenge to myself....
Grab & Cherish every moment you can ~ You never know when it will be the last.

Even in my grief I continue to fail in my relationships with my precious children, but I am reminded over and over of the importance of starting over right away,  of saying "I'm sorry" and giving lots of hugs and kisses and searching for ways to make new memories along the way.

The season culminates with a trip to my parent's home in the sunny south where my siblings and their families all show up as well.  While this year will be different, we have already decided to do things just for fun.  Things like playing legos and lincoln logs together, going to the zoo and coloring pictures as a family are already in the plans.  Of course we will be eating too.  Nana's long standing tradition of making her famous pecan tarts and yummy pie will be greatly appreciated and enjoyed.

Mama's famous Squash mouth is watering!

These are always rationed out.  Some family members (we won't mention any names)
have been known to hide whole containers of this yummyness under HER bed.

November marks the time of year for gratitude.  In compiling lists for myself in ways such as this, I am reminded of how many blessing I really do have and even though my life is not all rosy, especially in this season of grief I do have so very much to Thank God for. Plus it prompts me to be intentional in spending precious moments with those I love!
Like the title of my blog says...."It's the Little Things"

Monday, October 27, 2014

A New Page

Since some of you don't have face book, I wanted to share our latest update here. We have been busy trying to establish new family normals and happy times and accept what our new family structure looks like.  Soon after Abby died, a beautiful young photographer, Kayla Gingerich,  ( wrote me the sweetest email offering to document our new family structure in photos.  She is acquainted with grief and all that goes with it as she lost her dad in a tragic hunting accident several years back.  A local photographer did the same thing for her family, offering to shoot a some photos of their new normal.  She shared with me how special that was for her and how she would like give us that gift if we wanted and when we were ready.  At first I was too sad and didn't know if I wanted to face the reality of having photos with no Abby in them, but as time has gone on, I find a restlessness in my spirit prompting me to feel ok and almost relieved at being "up to date" and being able to showcase that on our mantle.  Saturday was the day and as the day went on it almost took my breath away at the sheer beauty.  The trees are vibrant, almost on fire and the sky was a beautiful clear blue. We all wore red in honor of Abby, an idea concocted by the children.  We also all wore our donate life pins, honoring the fact that we had hoped to gift families with hope (even tho it didn't happen).  We went to a neighboring town and got some amazing shots of the 5 of us. I am so excited to see them all. It wasn't as difficult as I had imagined and flowed with an almost normal feel.  The children cooperated nicely and actually smiled.

When we got home, it did hit me briefly and I sat and scrolled through photos and shed quite a few tears, especially when I came to the photo our dear Evonda had taken during the magical beach trip this spring.  I had been so excited at how well it turned out and was eagerly anticipating using it on our annual Christmas photo which we had not gotten done last year as Alexia had been in the hospital over the holidays.

  I am seeing more and more "life" coming through in day to day things.  We are laughing more and doing things we enjoy again even if they seem small and insignificant. We continue to grieve and we do wonder what God will do next with us and what he will write on the next page of our story.  As each day dawns, regardless of the darkness that sometimes haunts us,  I remain confident that HE who started this painful work in us will bring it to completion and it will be beautiful.

Monday, October 13, 2014

New Life

This week marks 3 months since the tragedy that took our Abby home to Jesus.
So much has happened since.
We are moving on in our "new life" as best as we can. I finally feel some days when I leave the house that we are becoming more "normal" and I don't feel as much like I am half dressed or that I am leaving something very important at home when I drive out the lane.  The children all continue in their different ways of grieving as do Lowell and I.
An up and coming photographer offered us a session to "document" in sorts our new family structure of 5.  I am piecing together outfits and trying to figure out how to make it the most meaningful.

Life goes on...
We continue going through waves or phases where we question then come around again to quiet calm and peace in our souls. God continues to show himself faithful.

Of all things exciting since our pain began, the biggest WOW has been the salvation of my darling husband, Lowell.  He grew up in a Christian home and had 43 years of knowledge of God and his word tucked into his head. Somehow it never quite made it to his heart.  Since we have been together I have had several major times of questioning if he was truly in a relationship with Jesus.  I would lay awake at night and worry that I may not see him in Heaven. I would pray, often praying that God would bring him to the end of himself so he might fully recognize his need for Savior Jesus and his love and peace.  I had no idea when I prayed that prayer that it may require something of me such as the loss of my baby daughter. Even when Abby died, I had no idea how her death fit into the bigger picture, a picture that like a puzzle is slowly becoming more complete and more clear as God continues to reveal pieces for us to see.
I think it really hit him after I shared with him what Kali had told her therapist. It was in "bucket" week where Kali was shown how each of our lives are like buckets.  Some of us have very little joy (represented by water) in our lives (buckets).  Some are 1/2 full, some are laying on their sides with a few drops of water left, some are 3/4 full, some are bubbling over, some are empty-completely void of joy.  The therapist showed Kali a page full of buckets in varying positions and asked her to point out each of her family.  She tagged each one of us with buckets with some water in them in varying degrees.  Lowell's bucket however was upside down and completely dry. She voiced her concern about her daddy not having any joy in his life and how that worried her.  I knew it would not go over well so I waited for the perfect timing to share this discussion with Lowell and when it came a few days later, the effect was shocking to me.  He was consumed with it and so very sad.  Over the next few days I sensed he was struggling but did not know why.  Then one morning he called and asked me if we had plans for the evening and said he was going to go meet with our pastor Perry and talk some things over.  My thought was that it was probably grief related as Perry and his wife have experienced loss as well and have walked this journey so well with us.  I will never forget when he got home that night.  The door opened and before I saw him I heard his light hearted whistle and could hardly believe my ears.  Joy radiated from him and I marveled as we ate supper.  After wards he asked if he could talk to me.  As we sat, he pulled out his Bible and showed me the verse in Nehemiah where it talks about the joy of the Lord being our strength.  He pointed out how Abby had been his joy and how when she died, every last ounce of joy evaporated. (I am witness to that fact!) He began seeking and realized that he didn't have the joy of the Lord and wandered where it went.  It was then that it became clear to him that you can't loose something you never had and as he became totally immersed in this new realization he came to an honest answer that he had never actually asked Jesus to forgive his sins and move into his heart.  He knew about it.  It was all around him,  But he had never taken the step to move head knowledge to heart acceptance.  When he went to visit Pastor Perry, they actually prayed THE prayer together and his life changed at that very second!
His life has indeed been transformed.  He is so excited to share what God is doing and the joy he is experiencing even in the midst of pain.  He is praying and leading our family in worship of the God who is carrying us. He radiates peace.  He is joyful, a characteristic I would not have been able to peg on him before.  The children notice the difference in their daddy and have asked lots of questions like "mama why is daddy smiling all the time?"  Through this experience, some of our questions of the why in Abby's death are being answered.  Lowell's peace and joy bubble out because he knows now that there is no question if he can see her again.  He will!
And though we grieve at the tremendous loss, Abby's death has been instrumental in so many lost souls, including her own daddy, finding God. Does that lessen our pain?  Not really.  But it sure does provide splashes of joy and beauty along the path.

 I don't know what all God will do with our family or where HE will take us with our journey.  The one thing that I do know is that HE doesn't want us to be quiet about HIM and his love and the peace HE grants on a daily basis.  His plan is simple.  We must realize our need of HIM and his forgiveness for the sins we commit on a daily basis.  Then we ask HIM to forgive us and ask him to live in our hearts and then allow his guiding presence to overtake every part of our lives.  He extends his forgiveness and grace to all who seek HIM.
Some of our friends and family have gone through periods of doubt since Lowell's radical change.  They wander if they really are saved and if God is really in them.  I have watched Lowell's response to their questions and found his answer to make sense.  "If you have doubts, go deal with them.  You have to face them. Either make peace with God or confirm your relationship with HIM. Then you have the right to tell Satan where to get off."
  God has not given us a spirit of fear or condemnation but in the same breath, he calls us to lives of purity and holiness.  His love for us is beyond any human comprehension.

Here is a favorite song of Lowell's .  I surprised him and had it played at his baptism.

Our "new life" continues with this strength.  I know He sent each one of you along to walk this journey with us.  For this I am so very thankful.

Thursday, September 18, 2014

Kansas Family - Grief trip part 2

We are having an amazing week traveling about in Bessie (our trusty motorhome) making memories with our new family structure of 5.  We had always wanted to visit 2 of my mama's sisters and their families in Kansas and decided now was the perfect time. Time flew but I managed to snap a few photos along the way.  This will be mostly for my family but you are welcome to tag along.
Before I start let me tell you about how vast my extended family is so you will understand how special time with any of them are.  My daddy comes from a family of 19 children - 12 boys and 7 girls.  I haven't recently counted but I think I have 50 or 60 cousins from that side alone.  My mom is number 2 of 11 -5 girls and 6 boys and a multitude of cousins numbering more then my Marner side, close to 70 I think.
If there is one thing that has been really close to my heart in the last 8 weeks it is the importance of spending time with those you love.  Hence the decision to spend time with family and friends as we work through the pain we are processing.
We decided to spend one night with each aunt and they spoiled us royally. One morning they took me to visit a friend of theirs, Rebecca who lost her 18 year old daughter in a car crash one year ago this week.  It was strangely comforting to sit and visit with her and watch how she is walking through her process.

Aunt Rachel organized a balloon release party in honor of Abby's birthday the evening we arrived.  My cousin Emily's car was piled full of bright colors, some of which bore the message Happy Birthday.

We counted down like we did at her funeral...11, 10, 9....
We watched till they were nothing but small black dots.

Lester and Rachel made a giant bowl of popcorn over the fire in their very own Henry D "schisel"

Lots of games for the children.  My little cousins all somehow grew up and are adults now but how they played with and entertained my children and the rest of the next generation...

Kali took to my cousin Titus' little sweetie who not only happens to be 3 but has so many Abby "traits".  

Aunt Rachel took us on a tour of the country side on our way to lunch in Hutchinson.  I found the fields of Milo and the old cement grain bins/storage intriguing and beautiful. 

We all went for lunch at Freddy's Frozen Custard (similar to our Iowa Culvers) 
The girls all wanted to sit with Nathan.

Sweet miss Olivia 

You'd think after a few days I could tell which one of the twins are which 

Nana Rhoda (my kidos name for her) had one excited boy waiting for an ice cream party on the beautiful back deck area.

Dawdy and his twin Grandsons

My cousin Gideon and his family were able to join us as well.  He is from another branch of the Yutzy tree.  His mama, Naomi is my mama's sister also.

Marvin and Rhoda's house has so many unique and very beautiful features.  Alexia and I loved the different porches.

Aunt Rhoda took me on a 4 wheeler tour of their beautiful spread.

We got up this morning and had a scrumptious breakfast that included my very favorite tomato gravy made in typical Wagler fashion and fresh donuts.  Both mornings we woke to smells of baking. The children wished we could stay longer but we needed to make the trek to Nebraska today. We left with lots of hugs and promises of getting to see each other at the Wagler Thanksgiving in a few short months. I am so thankful for my heritage and for the extra special blessing of family who loves me!

Saturday, September 13, 2014

Happy Birthday in Heaven

Dear precious Abby
 4 years ago tonite I went in to labor on my due date with you which was a first for me.  Beings you were baby number 4 I figured I could just head in and pop you out.  How wrong I was.  You were my longest birthing process, almost 12 hours.  You were different from the very start and soon after you were born and I sat holding you I had this strange emotion come over me, just a fleeting thought but very real and scary. It was simply this, that I may not get to hold you for very many years. I wrote it off to hormones and didn't think much more about it till that fateful night in the hospital on July 14 of this year (2 months before your birthday) when daddy told me he had the same premonition also.
You came into our lives at a spunky 7 lbs 11 oz (also Hunter's birth weight) and took over the rule of the roost almost instantly.

You brought so much joy and like we have all talked about how God gave you to us for a brief time because He had a job for you to do.  Part of that job was bringing joy into our home that was scarred from daddy and my's separation that had just ended right before I got pregnant with you.
You were strong and opinionated and a spitfire. You loved living and did everything you did with fervor and such joy.

Then all of a sudden your life was ended and you were gone.  We know Heaven is more beautiful with you there but we sure miss you here.  
We are on a special trip this week in honor of your birthday.  We are enjoying so many wonderful things and moments together as a family of 5 now.  

As we drove today, daddy and I cried as we listened to one of our new favorite songs that talks about how we feel and how homesick we are to come up to live with you and Jesus.

We are doing our best to go on living and sharing Jesus and his love with those we meet.
Just like our grieving the last 2 months is a place we have never been, we are literally in a place we have never been before - Kansas City. There are so many wonderful things here and I can only imagine your face and hear your oooing and ahhhing.

We are just taking our time and taking lots of pictures and making lots of memories as we never know how many more we will have the chance to make...

Kali, your never wear a dress sister found Elsa and Anna dresses while we were shopping and insisted we get them for her and Alexia.  They have worn them with pride all day and we talked of you.  At one of the places we stopped there was a huge Frozen display and we stopped and gazed and pointed and talked of which one you would have begged for.

We stopped in Kalona at the Amish bakery and got some fresh donuts to eat with our yummy Farmer's Creamery chocolate milk.

When we actually got on the road Daddy convinced me to take the wheel so he could see what it was like to walk around.  I was terrified but managed to stay on the road.

It has been raining all week, and we were getting so tired of cloudy skies.  Today God gave us a special gift...Sunshine.

This is the life for me...

Kali taking her first selfie

I captured a rainbow in the background.  We so enjoyed this fountain at Crowne Center.

We ate at a delish little cafe called Crayola Cafe where everything featured was to do with crayons.
I was expecting artificially flavored and colored things and was pleasantly surprised to find hormone free beef, ground turkey and yummy sides like hummus and pita chips plus whole wheat buns that were specially yummy!
We sat a table for 6 and colored pictures of course.

We took a walk over to Union Station via a long walk way called the Link.

Daddy called this the waffle ceiling

Alexia saw this view and said "mama the city is sooo beautiful, we must take a picture"

The inside of Union Station is breathtaking.
We were bummed that there were events taking place  in both Crown Center and Union Station blocking off some of the things we wanted to see.

Waterfalls everywhere...

We got back to the campground just in time to get some more play in.

Hunter was very taken with the roller coasters in the distance.

Kali's Sunday school class got her that Ripstic you all wanted and she is quite agile on it and does lots of tricks even in a skirt.

While everything is beautiful and we are enjoying our time together just relaxing, I catch myself dissolving into tears at just the slightest thought of you. 
I never imagined that we wouldn't have you here with us to celebrate your birthday.
Nana and Aunt Rhoda planned a small party tonite in your honor.  They are going to release balloons and reminisce.  Nana Rhoda and Great Aunt Rachel are planning something similar for when we get to their house on Monday night. 
Your life taught me so much.  And now I am learning more about God and life and the reality of Heaven since your death.  Hardly a day passes that we don't talk about coming there.
I love you Abby Marie and I know you will have the best birthday ever up there with Jesus.  I can just imagine how it would be to have the angels singing Happy Birthday to you...
Until we get there have fun dancing and twirling and know that we will come as soon as Jesus is ready for us.
I love you Abby Marie!