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 custard...my 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,  (http://kaylagingerich.blogspot.com/) 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.