Wednesday, September 4, 2013

Unexpected Devastation

After three months of mourning and trying to get past the loss of my mother-in-law, we were unexpectedly struck by another devastating tragedy. On Labor Day, Monday 2 September 2013, Wes' cousin Joel was killed in a work related accident. Joel was a fellow cowboy on Palomar Mountain, and was running a successful cattle company. Joel was only 30-years-old, and leaves behind his wife, and three young children. It's been two days, and we are still struggling to wrap our minds around this tragedy; it is still so surreal and unbelievable. Joel was a huge part of the mountain community, and had made many friends over time. His loss has hit us all hard, but worst of all, for his wife, children and parents. Joel truly was an amazing person. I hadn't known him for very long before I loved him. It was difficult not to love Joel.

It is so hard to find the right words that might offer some small sense of comfort to the suffering loved ones that he has left behind. It is a different situation to overcome because I am not as directly affected by this loss as I was with Sharon. How can I find the right words and verses to share, to offer comfort and preach about trust in God, to the upset loved ones who cannot understand why this has happened? I've heard many times over the past couple of days, from multiple people, that this is not fair. I understand, and I agree, that this is not fair. But life is not fair; it never has been, and it never will be. God never promised to make all circumstances in our lives fair. I shared a quote after Sharon passed away, that I will share again.

"God didn't promise days without pain, laughter without sorrow, or sun without rain, but He did promise strength for the day, comfort for the tears, and light for the way. If God brings you to it, He will bring you through it..."

We were not promised perfect days in this life here on earth. God will allow us to suffer through trial and tribulation because He has a purpose behind it. During the most difficult times, we cannot see God's plan beyond our pain, and sometimes we never can fully understand why He allows certain tragedies to befall us. But we can always count on His strength, presence and comfort to help us through our challenges.

Don't be afraid, for I am with you. Don't be discouraged, for I am your God. I will strengthen you and help you. I will hold you up with my victorious right hand. (Isaiah 41:10)

God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble. (Psalm 46:1)

"Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light." (Matthew 11:28-30)

I can do all things through Christ who gives me strength. (Philippians 4:13)

There are many loved ones suffering from this tragedy, and I don't know which of them can find comfort in their faith, or which of them turn bitterly away from Him. I don't know how anyone can survive this type of pain without having trust in the Lord; I've only managed to survive the many tragic losses in my life because I held on to my God with both hands and have never let go. I worry for many of those who are suffering right now, because devastation like this a life-challenging experience to overcome. In some circumstances, it is a make-it or break-it situation when faith is concerned. Some will turn into the arms of God and seek solace from Him, where others will turn away bitterly and curse Him. It comes back to the comment of how unfair this is. The unfairness of this situation will take hold of some, embitter them to the point of questioning God: "How can a God, who is supposed to love us, allow this kind of tragedy to befall us?" God allows this kind of tragedy to befall us because He has a plan for our lives. Sometimes that plan will take us in directions that we don't wish to go. But God's plan for our lives is better than anything we could possibly plan for our lives. In circumstances such as these, that statement seems unbelievable. God has a plan for this, and we can not fathom it; and in all honesty, in this moment and this pain, we do not like it. But He has a plan, and we have to trust in Him.

For I know the plans I have for you declares the Lord, plans to prosper you and not to harm you. Plans to give you hope and a future. (Jeremiah 29:11)

I'm afraid that many of those who are suffering will not be able to understand that God has a plan for this, and that again, the unfairness of this situation will continue to overwhelm them. Again, they might question Him: "How can I believe in a God who allows us to suffer like this? If He loves us, He wouldn't let us suffer like this." Even though I do not like the plans that God has had for my life this year, involving the deaths of two of my loved ones, I will still put my faith and trust in Him because He loves me, and wants the best for me. That does not mean the best that this earthly life has to offer; that does not mean a perfect, blessing-filled, tragic-less life. This life on earth is not the best of what He wants to offer me. He wants to give me the best by forgiving my sins, and giving me a glorious, eternal life in heaven with Him. By any and all standards of this life, that is the ultimate and best gift that God could give me. A happy, peaceful, painless eternity with God, my heavenly father, and with all of my loved ones who have and will go before me. I don't like some of the trials that I've faced in this life; I've lost way too many loved ones, and I'm only 26-years-old. How much more pain and loss will I have to face before it's my time to go to heaven? How many more trials and struggles will I have to endure? How many more tears will I shed, and how much more heartache will I have to bear? I don't know, and honestly, I'm terrified. The pain of losing so many loved ones has broken my heart time and time again. I'm afraid to go through it again, yet I know that it is inevitable, because everyone eventually dies. But . . . I will find the strength to endure any and all loss that my life has to offer, because I know that it is a temporary pain. And with my trust and faith in God, I know that I have a place in heaven. I have a heavenly reward that is awaiting me; and many family and friends that I look forward to spending eternity with. I believe in my God, who allows me to suffer unimaginable pain, because He does love me, and He suffered so that I might have a place with Him in heaven. God suffered greatly, because He gave His Son, Jesus Christ, as a sacrifice for us, to forgive us of our sins. God loves us so much, that He allowed His Son to suffer and die, so that we may be granted a place in eternity with Him. How many people in this world would be willing, or able, to sacrifice their precious child, for sinful people? Some of whom don't want the love or sacrifice that is offered? I'm not a parent yet, but I can guarantee that I couldn't do that. Yet God did, for each and every one of us. Because we are His children. He created us, and loves each and every one of us, as undeserving as we may be. And He wants nothing but the best for us; an eternity of peace, and love, in heaven with Him.

In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth...Then God said, "Let us make man in our image, in our likeness, and let them rule over the fish of the sea and birds of the air, over the livestock, over all the earth, and over all the creatures that move along the ground." So God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them. (Genesis 1:1, 26-27)

The true light that gives light to every man was coming into the world...Yet to all who received him, to those who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God - children born not of natural descent, nor of human descent or a husband's will, but born of God. (John 1:9,12-13)

In this the love of God was made manifest among us, that God sent his only Son into the world, so that we might live through him. In this is love, not that we have loved God but that he loved us and sent his Son to be the propitiation for our sins. (1 John 4:9-11)

"For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life. For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him." (John 3:16-17)

With the loss of Joel, we feel as if we have been propelled backward in our mourning, now forced to suffer through the grieving process all over again. This will not be an easy obstacle to overcome. But I hope that many of those who are suffering will find faith, and comfort in the Lord. With our trust firmly planted in the Lord, we can make it through anything. He is our rock during this storm, He is our light in this darkness. We need to seek him, place our whole-hearted trust in Him, and He will lead us through it. As I said before, this will not be easy to overcome. Putting our trust in the Lord and seeking comfort from Him does not mean that we will be instantly, or even quickly healed. But God's presence will be felt in our lives, and He will help to make this pain bearable. I pray for the strength, wisdom and ability to offer comfort and love to Joel's family and friends. Help me to know the words to speak, and what prayers to pray that will help them all to overcome this. This family needs abundant love, prayers and support in order to be able to survive this. I pray that they will feel God's presence in their lives, that they will embrace the comfort that He offers, and that they will find the strength that they need. Help them to know God's love, and the love offered by family and friends. In this life we will face unimaginable tragedies, but we can overcome anything when God is on our side, by trusting in Him and by taking it step by step, each moment of each day.

Faith it does not make things easy, it makes them possible. (Luke 1:37)

When my heart is overwhelmed, lead me to the rock that is higher than I. (Psalm 61:2)

Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways acknowledge Him and He will make your paths straight. (Proverbs 3:5-6)

Evening, morning and noon I cry out in distress, and he hears my voice. (Psalm 55:17)

They should always pray and not give up. (Luke 18:1)

I will trust and not be afraid. (Isaiah 12:2)

In his Word I put my hope. (Psalm 130:5)

May our Lord Jesus Christ himself and God our Father . . . encourage your hearts and strengthen you. ( 2 Thessalonians 2:16-17)

Thursday, August 1, 2013

Prayer for my Family

I pray for my family every day during this tough time, but for some reason I wanted to write this prayer into a post. I hope that it will ease some pain, heal some hearts, rekindle some hope and offer a measure of the desperately needed strength and comfort. I love my family through marriage as if they've been a part of my life for years. I have always felt very welcomed, and very loved. It breaks my heart to know how they each suffer in their different ways. If I could take away all their pain, I would . . . but I can't. All I can offer is comfort and love, and possibly some hope for the future. Here is my prayer.

Dear Lord,

Thank you for this new day that you have given us. I know that for some of my family, each new day may not seem like a blessing, but more like a curse, because it is one more day that they've had to live without Sharon. I pray that you can ease that pain in their hearts, and that they can find blessing, and joy in each new day that you give us. Please help them to remember that while we have lost a very precious and beloved person, there are still other precious and beloved people in each of our lives. I know how difficult it is to continuously dwell on the loss of that loved one, and to forget about all the other love and blessings that we have in our lives. I know what it's like when one person feels like the sun of your life, and how difficult it is to overcome the darkness of life after that light is gone. Please help my family to find a small measure of happiness in each day, to see the blessings offered in each day, and to remember the other precious and beloved people in their lives who still need their love. Help them to be able to dwell on the positive, to find what they are grateful for in each and every day, and to dwell on the sadness less and less. Thank you for those of us that you have brought closer together, and for the personal relationships that you've strengthened, and that offer us an unimaginable sense of comfort and strength during this time. Please help all of my family to develop closer relationships to one another, and to find the comfort and strength in family that they need to overcome this tragedy. Thank you for the spiritual and personal relationships with you that we have developed, and thank you for strengthening those relationships, and allowing us to draw closer to you during our times of need. For those of us who may have lost sight of you, help them to be able to open their hearts to you, and to be able to find the strength and comfort that you so generously offer, and that they desperately need. Help us to find the strength to move forward with each and every day, and help us to find happiness in each day. Help us to remember how to smile, and how to laugh. Help to fill our hearts with hope. Hope . . . that in each day this pain will ease a little bit more. Hope . . . that with each day we get closer and closer to our eternity in heaven with you, and with Sharon. Hope . . . that our futures still hold many blessings, and much joy. Hope . . . that someday we will feel almost normal, and revel in the blessings of our lives again. You know what's in our hearts, and I pray that you help each of us to deal with and overcome the pain we suffer. Help me to be what they need me to be; a pillar of strength, a shoulder to cry on, a welcoming hug, a source of comfort, a well of love. Help me to heal these broken hearts, to know the right words to say, the right prayers to pray. Thank you for all that you have done for us, and for all that you continue to do. Thank you for the blessing of a baby, amidst the pain of this tragedy. Thank you for the hope that this baby offers, and for the joy and love that we have to look forward to. Even though you allow sorrow into our lives, you still provide us with great blessings. Help us to move forward in each day, with joy and strength in our hearts, and as great examples of your glory. Help us to be the kind of people that Sharon thought us to be, and help us to make choices and actions that would honor and glorify her. Help us to live our lives in a way that will honor you, and make Sharon proud. This family is her legacy. Help us to be an honor to her memory, and a great example of the mother, wife and friend that she is, by living our lives in the way she taught us. Thank you for our memories, and thank you for the blessing of one another. Thank you for the gift of Sharon in our lives, and thank you for her love that resides in our hearts. Help us to look forward to each day with a new hope, a renewed spirit, abiding love, and unhindered joy.
                                                                  in your name I pray,

Tuesday, July 30, 2013

Sharon's Poem

I wrote this poem for Sharon's memorial service, and had intended to add it to the post "Missing Sharon", but forgot. It's short and simple, but I tried to find words that were an expression of her, and I think I got them pretty close.

Sweet, loving, thoughtful . . .
beautiful inside and out.
A loving heart,
a generous soul,
a kind disposition.
Mother, wife, friend . . .
beautiful inside and out.
A familiar smile,
a fond laugh,
a dreamer’s expression.
Faith, devotion, grace . . .
beautiful inside and out.
A heart for giving,
a discount queen,
an inspiring woman.
One of a kind.
Memories, laughter, heart . . .
beautiful inside and out.
A treasure zealously cherished.
A blessing thoroughly enjoyed.
A gift greatly missed.
A new life joyously celebrated.
A love to last a lifetime. 

Wednesday, July 24, 2013

A Blessing Amidst the Tragedy

I have wanted to be a mother ever since I was a little girl. All I dreamed of while growing up was falling in love, getting married and having a family. It was a dream-come-true when I met my prince charming, a real life cowboy. We fell in love and were married young. Our life over the past five years has been about spending quality time together, growing in our marriage, growing in our relationship with Christ, and making financial decisions that would later allow us to be parents.

Finally, at the beginning of this year we were ready to start trying for a baby. We made plans to start trying in May, knowing that there was a good chance that it could take a few months. Then the worst tragedy of our marriage hit us; Wes' mom passed away the week before we were going to start trying. I knew how hard this would be on him, and I didn't want him to feel pressured into trying to start a family if he just wanted time to grieve for his loss. Instead, Wes surprised me by saying that he didn't want to give up on starting a family. He felt that now would be the best time, because we could use some hope and joy to look forward to through the darkness.

So, with heavy hearts and a desperate hope, we decided that we would still try for a baby. Before Sharon's death, I had worried that I would have trouble conceiving. We'd been married for five years with no "accidents", and since I loved children so much I was unreasonably fearful that I wouldn't be able to get pregnant. So after Sharon's death, I prayed constantly to God for the blessing of a baby. I didn't know how I'd be able to survive difficulty conceiving after dealing with the tragedy of losing Sharon, but I was faithful and confident that I would be able to survive it, no matter how difficult. Wes and I had also discussed the possibility of adopting if we were unable to conceive. So I took comfort in knowing that someday, somehow, I would be a mother.

Wait on the Lord; be of good courage, and He shall strengthen thine heart. (Psalm 27:14)

All things are possible to him that believeth. (Mark 9:23)

I had spent month after month researching conception, and had taken every possible precaution. I scheduled doctor appointments to make sure I was in good health, started on prenatal vitamins, and even altered my diet to a pregnancy-friendly diet. I was confident that we had a good chance of making this work quickly, but after the emotional roller coaster we had gone through with losing Sharon, my emotions and hormones had been thrown out of sync, and I worried that it would delay things.

So I continued to pray for God's blessing in our lives. Even though He had allowed Sharon to die, we were not angry with Him. We did not blame Him, nor rage against Him. We continued to put our trust in Him, and sought our comfort from Him. I knew, that while God allows bad things to happen in our lives, He also provides us with unimaginable blessings. So I prayed constantly, my faith in Him as unwavering as ever.

Pray without ceasing. (1 Thessalonians 5:17)

I prayed for this child, and the Lord has granted what I asked of Him. (1 Samuel 1:27)

What did God do? He blessed us, with most most amazing gift of all; He blessed us with a baby.

Give thanks to the Lord, for He is good; His love endures forever. (Psalm 118:1)

For the Mighty One has done great things for me - holy is His name. (Luke 1:49)

These past weeks have felt so surreal. Even after our first prenatal appointment where we got to see the ultrasound and hear the heartbeat, I find it hard to believe that this really is happening. I've been waiting for this moment for what seems like forever. And while it's still early, the blessing of this gift has already helped our family. It has given us hope, and for some it's renewed their faith in the Lord. It provides us with a measure of joy that we've lost since Sharon's death. I know that this baby will not replace the heartache, nor will it replace the loved one that we've lost. But it provides us with hope, and happiness, and something to look forward to beyond this pain.

Thou has put gladness in my heart. (Psalm 4:7)

There shall be showers of blessing. (Ezekiel 34:26)

While we are overjoyed with this blessing, it is still bittersweet. Because there is one person with whom we wish to share this happy occasion, but we can't. It's difficult not to feel sorry for ourselves, or our future children who will never get to know their amazing grandmother, Sharon. But I do know that she is up in heaven, watching and rejoicing with us in this blessing. While we cannot see her, I know that she is with us, because she will always reside in our hearts and our memories. This baby is a piece of her, and through this baby, we will always have a piece of her with us.

Rejoice in the Lord always; and again I say, rejoice. (Philippians 4:4)

A time to weep, and a time to laugh; a time to mourn, and a time to dance. (Ecclesiastes 3:4)

We have a long way to go before we can hold this beautiful baby, this amazing blessing, in our arms. But I am so unbelievably grateful for God's gift to us. For the gift of a new life, for the gift of a little piece of Sharon, and for the gift of hope. God is showing us that even though we may face tribulations in our lives, we can still receive joy and blessings. For His mercy, and His love, I am utterly grateful.

Give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God's will for you in Christ Jesus. (1 Thessalonians 5:18)

While I live I will praise the Lord; I will sing praises unto my God while I have any being. (Psalm 146:2)

The earth is full of the goodness of the Lord. (Psalm 33:5)

"For I know the plans I have for you," declared the Lord, "plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future." (Jeremiah 29:11)

Finding the Silver Lining

I don't understand why God has allowed this to happen in our lives, and I never will. We can never fully understand God's purpose or plan for our life. But we can put our trust in Him, and accept it. When my uncle died, I had been very angry with God, and often demanded a reason for my uncle's death. I was angry for so long that I lost sight of my relationship with Him for a while. I had lost my trust, and my faith in Him. I so badly wanted an answer for why He had allowed my uncle to die. Wanting an answer to that question truly hindered my healing process. We can never understand why God allows tragedies to happen in our lives. What I had to learn the hard way, is to trust in God's decision, even if I didn't like it, and to look for the silver lining in the storm cloud of the tragedy. It took me a long time to stop questioning God about my uncle's death, but when I finally did, I felt refreshed. When I finally put my trust back in Him, my entire life changed. While I still don't know why God allowed my uncle to die, one thing I discovered was the silver lining, and God's mercy. The silver lining in my uncle's death was that he should have died four years before, but through God's mercy, He allowed us an extra four years with my uncle. When we first discovered Bryan's brain tumor, he should have died. But through what we came to see as God's divine intervention, Bryan survived and lived for another four years. During those four years, his life changed. He became a family man, and a man of God. During those four years, he and I developed a very strong and special relationship. Although I lost  him in the end, the silver lining I discovered was that through God's mercy I had gained four extra years with him. Four years in which we grew very close, and I grew close to God, and developed a relationship with both Bryan and the Lord that I will forever cherish. If it weren't for God's mercy, I never would have had those four years with Bryan that transformed my life. As I said in a school essay about Bryan: those four years I had with him was worth more than a lifetime of never truly knowing him. After months of searching, I had finally found the silver lining in my uncle's death that allowed me to let go of my anger with God, and to fully put my trust and faith in Him.

I cry out to the Lord; I pray to the Lord for mercy. (Psalm 142:1)

God will always give what is right to His people who cry to Him night and day, and He will not be slow to answer them. (Luke 18:7)

The Lord is close to everyone who prays to Him, to all who truly pray to Him. (Psalm 145:18)

Ever since then, my faith in the Lord has never wavered. Even when if felt like deja vu in the hospital with Sharon: an injury to the brain, life-support, facing the possibility of losing her. Memories of my uncle's injury and death in the hospital plagued me the entire time we were in the hospital with Sharon. I couldn't believe that this was happening, again. I couldn't believe that I was in the ICU, wondering if the person I loved would live or not, again. But through the entire arduous ordeal, one thing remained completely different - my utter faith and trust in the Lord. Because of my past experience with my uncle, I had known that things could end badly. I knew that even if I prayed and believed in a miracle, the worst could still happen. With Bryan, I never once thought that he would die . . . but he did. I didn't know what God had planned for us with Sharon, but I knew the all too real possibility of what could happen, and I prayed constantly for God's strength and comfort for me, and the entire family for whatever outcome we were to face. In the end, we lost Sharon. But one thing we did not lose was our faith. I had been so worried that someone would be angry with God and would turn away from him, just as I did after my uncle's death. But this family of mine is so awe-inspiring, and I have been filled with such deep pride for them, because not only did they not become angry and turn away from God, they instead turned to Him and sought comfort from Him.

Nothing . . . in the whole world will ever be able to separate us from the love of God. (Romans 8:39)

Come near to God, and God will come near to you. (James 4:8)

The Lord is close to the brokenhearted, and He saves those whose spirits have been crushed. (Psalm 34:18)

Looking back on my uncle's death, I've wondered if maybe another part of the silver lining was that God was preparing me for this moment, and this tragedy with Sharon. I've wondered if my experience with Bryan's death helped to strengthen me for this battle that we would face, so that I could be strong and offer a sense of comfort for my family. While I'm still sad over my uncle's death, I'm grateful for that experience because it has made me into who I am today, and it strengthened my relationship and trust in the Lord to help me bear this current tragedy. If not for my uncle's death, I don't know if I would have had the strength to shoulder the burden of Sharon's death. I am utterly grateful to the Lord, for even in the death of my loved one, something good came from it, and that was my faith. After Bryan's death, I had felt like the strength of my relationship with God and my trust in Him would allow me to face any challenge or tragedy that lay before me. I thought that I would face a personal illness, or perhaps difficulty conceiving. Never, not once, had I ever thought that I would face the death of my beloved mother-in-law. But I did have to face it, and endure the battle, and I have survived. My God has allowed me to survive another tragedy.

We are like clay, and You are the potter; Your hands made us all. (Isaiah 64:8)

Daughter, your faith has made you well. Go in peace and be healed of your affliction. (Mark 5:34)

When I search for the silver lining in Sharon's death, I've found it in more than one way. First, Sharon might have lived, but she may have had to live with a terrible handicap or as a vegetable. After the death of Sharon's oldest brother, we learned how terrified Sharon was of having that happen to her. So for me, one thing that I am grateful for, and one way that I see the silver lining is that Sharon didn't have to suffer. Instead she was blessed with paradise, where there is no pain, and no handicap. She is healthy and whole. The other silver lining I see is God's divine intervention in our lives over the past year. When looking back on the past, I can see His hand in many aspects of our lives, guiding and preparing us for what was to come. He allowed us so many opportunities to spend time together with Sharon, and for Dutch and Sharon to spend quality time together. The last bit of silver lining that I've been able to find, is that through Sharon's death we've grown closer in our relationships with God. And I truly believe that Sharon would be ecstatic to know that she helped strengthen our relationships with our Lord.

This body that dies must clothe itself with something that can never die. (1 Corinthians 15:35)

While this has been one difficult tragedy to endure, the strength of our faith in God has helped us to overcome it. We will still suffer for longer than any of us will wish, but beyond it all is our God. And through Him, we can do all things. The healing path ahead of us may look longer and more daunting than we'd like, but our God will be there to help us through.

I will be with you always. (Matthew 28:20)

Pray and ask God for everything you need, always giving thanks. (Philippians 4:6)

May our Lord Jesus Christ himself and God our Father encourage you and strengthen you in every good thing you do and say. (2 Thessalonians 2:16)

Missing Sharon

It's been nearly 10 weeks since Sharon's passing. In some ways, the pain from her death is easier to bear, because it is such a familiar part of me now. There is a permanent hole in my heart that I've learned to live with over these past weeks. And I know that no matter how much time passes, this hole will never completely heal. It is an ever-present part of me, just like the hole in my heart from the death of my uncle. Certain wounds never heal completely; they shrink down to a smaller, more manageable size, but they are never truly gone. Although we've faced a terrible tragedy this year, I know that the future holds hope and blessings for us. While I look forward to the joy that awaits us in our future, I know that nothing will ever be able to repair the wound in our hearts, but some things will make it easier to bear, and some things will add joy and love to our lives.

All of which, we desperately need.

I wanted to dedicate this post to my relationship with Sharon. Not many people can understand that the pain that I suffer is real, and soul-deep. Not many people may understand that the relationship I had with Sharon was more than that between a mother and daughter-in-law. My pain is true, and tangible, and fills me with terrible heartache. It is not the same pain that Dutch, Wes, nor Lori suffer, and I know that it is not as potent because the love and memories they share are stronger than what Sharon and I had. They lost a wife, and a mother. Their pain is unimaginable. While my heart aches, I understand that I do not suffer as they suffer. But I do suffer just the same, and more than typical over the loss of an in-law. By title, Sharon was my mother-in-law. But over the years she has become so much more to me. Over the years she became my friend, my inspiration, my teacher, and my second mother. I loved her as I loved any member of my family. She was my family, not just my husband's family.

I still remember the first time that I met her. I was nervous because since Wes was my first boyfriend, I would be meeting someone's parents for the very first time, and I really wanted them to like me. Sharon was at her mother's house, and we decided to stop by so that we could meet. She walked out onto the porch, and I remember climbing up the porch steps, nervous as can be. She smiled at me, and was so kind and welcoming. I told her that I was a hugger and hoped that she didn't mind; and I hugged her for the very first time. I was later told by Dutch that Sharon had shared that memory with him, and told him that she had loved that about me from the very start.

It was about six months later, around Thanksgiving, where I felt a turning point in our relationship. I had seen them multiple times since Wes and I started dating, and while Sharon was always nice and friendly, I wasn't sure what she thought of me, or if she even liked me for her son. So when Dutch and Sharon were camping in the desert for Thanksgiving, we drove down to spend the day with them. I don't remember too many details, but I do remember that we had a great day. We ate delicious food and played games together. Again, I don't remember the specific details, but for whatever reason, I felt as if that time we spent together was the start of a wonderful relationship together as a family. For whatever reason, by the way they both spoke to me, and smiled at me, and hugged me, I knew that they liked me. Dutch was obvious in his affection for me because he would playfully pull on my ponytail; Sharon, however, was more subtle. But something about that weekend reached out to me, and I just knew, that they liked me and I liked them. From then on, we've been a family. Over the years our relationships grew, and love developed and grew. Before I knew it, Dutch and Sharon had become my second parents. Again, more than just my in-laws, they were my family, not just my husband's family.

As the years passed, Sharon and I found reasons to spend quality time together. Dutch and Wes would be off doing "guy stuff" and Sharon and I would spend "girl time" together. One occasion I remember was a girls night we had at their house. We both brought dishes and had a yummy meal, then sat down with some dessert to watch "The Phantom of the Opera". The movie started out well, and then frustration ensued because the DVD kept freezing at the same spot, and although we tried different remedies, we couldn't get it to work. We both kept complaining because we had been having such a wonderful night, and just wanted to watch the end of the movie! After a while, we called it quits and said goodnight. She called me the next day to tell me that she found the movie online (discounted of course) and purchased it because she just had to see the ending! We laughed about our partially failed girls night, but both looked forward to the next one. Unfortunately, that was the last girls night that we shared. I will forever remember that night, and will forever remember Sharon when I watch that movie.

It's difficult to know that I will never have that opportunity again. We will never have another girls night together, ever. I will never again get to sit on a stool at her kitchen island and talk with her while she cooks. I think that is one of the things I will miss the most. It seemed like nearly every time I was at her house, she was cooking something or cleaning up her kitchen. And while Dutch and Wes would be in the living room or music room, I always sat at the kitchen island while we shared girl talk. It was never materialistic conversation; it was always personal, and meaningful. Sharon would always ask about my family, and genuinely wanted to know how they were doing. I found her so easy to talk to, and felt as if I could share anything with her. She even shared things with me. I never felt judged, or condemned. I looked forward to our conversations, and her opinions and advice. She was someone that I had grown to greatly admire and trust. It hurts to know that I will never have another opportunity to share a conversation with her again. I miss her voice, and her unique accent. I miss the sound of her laugh, and seeing her smile.

This pain is difficult to bear. There were so many things that I looked forward to in our lives together. So much that I had planned, and wanted to share together. Now all those opportunities and plans are gone. Since her passing, I've had to face some of those opportunities as I'd always imagined, but they were bittersweet because she wasn't there. I had always wanted to help provide food for a branding, and when my opportunity finally arose, there was no Sharon. I had always wanted to take over her job responsibilities for the ranch in order to allow her to retire, and that opportunity finally arose, but there was no Sharon.

Over the years, Dutch and Sharon, and Wes and I had become a small family all our own. We spent a lot of time together, and shared a lot of memories. For the longest time, it was always the four of us. Now ... it's just three of us. That is so unbearable to write. For me, that has been one of the hardest adjustments. We spent a lot of time together, the four of us, as a family. Now, while we find tremendous comfort in one another's presence, that fourth absence is very prominent. For me, as the girl, I find it difficult because while Dutch and Wes can still go about doing their "guy stuff", there is no Sharon to do "girl stuff" with me. That has left a very poignant emptiness in me. Now, when I take a picture of the boys, who do I get to take a picture with? Now, while they are in the living room watching tv, who do I get to talk to in the kitchen? I feel her absence so clearly, and so deeply at times that it is very overwhelming. Losing her has been one of the worst tragedies in my life. Losing a loved one is among the hardest obstacles to overcome.

This is the hardest post that I've written so far, because it is so very personal, and I can't seem to stop crying.

Sharon is the second person that I've lost in this life who I loved very much. She was also the second person that I've lost in this life who loved me for reasons that I didn't understand. I know that she loved me, and as more than just her daughter-in-law, but I don't necessarily understand what she saw in me, or why she loved me as she did. But I'm so unbelieveably blessed and lucky to have had her love. Losing someone that you shared such a strong relationship with, and a great love, is very difficult.

My heart literally aches.

I miss my second mother. I miss everything about her. On a daily basis, I try so hard to distance myself from the emotion, to look at our lives strictly from a non-emotional point. I try to look at it from the factual point that this is what our lives are like now, and try not to remember what it was like before, and how different it would be if she were still with us. I try to leave out the emotion, but I often fail. I can go about day-to-day business with a focused, one-track mind thinking only of what needs to be done, but there are many times when I'm overwhelmed by the emotion, and the devastation of loss. It's gotten easier over the past few weeks; I can go longer periods of timing without allowing the emotion to overwhelm me, but occasionally I lose that battle.

Luckily for me, I have God on my side. This has not been an easy ordeal. I desperately miss Sharon. But I find comfort in my amazing family, my God, and in knowing that I will someday see my second mother again. And we will have eternity to spend together.

He remembered us when we were in trouble. His love continues forever. (Psalm 136:23)

God's peace, which is so great we cannot understand it, will keep your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus. (Philippians 4:7)

Those people who know they have great spiritual needs are happy, because the kingdom of heaven belongs to them. (Matthew 5:3)

Thursday, June 27, 2013

Moving on with our "New Normal"

It's been a couple of weeks since my last update, and for that I apologize. It's not because there has been nothing to share, but because I've been particularly busy trying to move on with our new normal. It's amazing to look back and think about how much our lives have changed, and in such a short amount of time. Sometimes I still find it difficult to grasp the concept of what has truly happened to us. Has it really only been 6 weeks? It seems like so much longer; almost a lifetime ago. Yet, at the same time, it feels like the blink of an eye. I feel as if I continuously bounce back and forth between two lives: our life with Sharon, and our life without her. Just when I start to get in to a type of groove, and feel some-what used to my new normal, something happens that throws me back to the ground and assails me with all the reminders of what I've lost. That happens more times than I'd like to admit, and at the most unexpected of times. Such as searching through Sharon's kitchen to borrow cooking supplies, or shopping for office supplies at Staples. Such small, meaningless acts that remind me of the woman that I've lost, and that I'm now forced to do these things without her.

There have also been a few major events in our lives over these past couple of weeks where her absence was prominently felt. The first event was Sharon's birthday. It's unbelievable to think about how the date June 12th will never be the same. We will never be able to celebrate it with the same sense of joy and heartfelt abandon as we have in the past. Now, and forever, it will be a bittersweet day. A day that holds many cheerful memories, but also sorrow. For Sharon's birthday, we decided that we wanted to have dinner at one of her favorite restaurants. I was very happy that most of our family made it to that dinner. I even found a coupon that we were able to use on the dinner, which made me smile because I felt as if it was an honor to Sharon, the discount queen. We felt happy moments, yet sad moments at that dinner. It was also difficult because memories of past events celebrated at that restaurant kept running through our minds. While we strive to celebrate these holidays and events with a measure of joy, there is still sorrow that clings to the day, keeping the moment from being truly happy. I feel as if it will be a while before we can celebrate life with true joy in our hearts again.

The other event we celebrated recently was Father's Day. We made a point of spending the day with Dutch, and he was very pleased to have all of his children there to celebrate the day with him. It was a day filled with happiness, and that ever-present sorrow.

Overall, we are still doing as well as can be expected. I am still utterly impressed by Dutch and Wes, and the remarkable way they have both been dealing with this tragedy. It truly is inspiring. I've been so blessed to be a part of this family, and feel as if I've grown as a person, a Christian, and a family member over these past several weeks. I've been very awed by God amidst this storm we've been facing. Even with this horrendous tragedy, we've seen amazing blessings and comforts in our lives that can only be offered by Him. Our faith has been tested in ways that we never could have imagined, and we've discovered a lot about ourselves, and our relationships with God.

The Lord is my shepherd, I lack nothing. He makes me lie down in green pastures, He leads me beside quiet waters, He refreshes my soul. He guides me along the right paths for His name's sake. Even though I walk through the darkest valley, I will fear no evil, for You are with me; Your rod and Your staff, they comfort me. (Psalm 23:1-4)

And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love Him, who have been called according to His purpose. (Romans 8:28)

We still have a long way to go with our healing process, but God's presence in our lives makes it so much easier to bear. Without the Lord, we could never manage to get through this. I'm so grateful for His presence, His comfort and His guidance. When I feel overwhelmed with my new tasks and emotions, I know that I can give my burdens to Him, and that everything will be okay because He is here for me. He provides me with such a deep sense of comfort, that I could not survive without it. I am utterly blessed.

Surely Your goodness and love will follow me all the days of my life, and I will dwell in the house of the Lord forever. (Psalm 23:6)

Now devote your heart and soul to seeking the Lord your God. (1 Chronicles 22:19a)

Wednesday, June 5, 2013

Closer to God

We had a memorial for Sharon this past Saturday, to celebrate her life and her job well done. It's taken a lot out of us to prepare for the memorial; we had to dwell on a lot of unpleasant details, emotions and planning. It took a lot to set up and take down, yet we were so fortunate for the many helping hands that were offered. Though it involved much work and tears, the service turned out beautiful. For me personally, the entire service just seemed like us. Everything that went into it, from location to decor, potluck to music, sunflowers to messages of faith; it all came from the heart. When it was all said and done, it was very "us".

While I had expected a large turn-out, I was still amazed by the colossal amount of people that attended. We had well around four-hundred people. It was an amazing tribute to Sharon's ability to easily befriend anyone, to the love and generosity she so freely offered, and to the kind and thoughtful person that she is. It was an amazing tribute to how many lives she touched.

Before I move on, I thought I would address my use of the present-tense "is" when I sometimes refer to Sharon. It has been a bit confusing for us over these past few weeks when we speak of her because we often use past-tense, but there are some instances when we are describing her personal characteristics and use present-tense. Our reasoning for this is that even though Sharon is no longer here with us physically on earth, her spirit is still alive in heaven. Since we fully believe with our whole hearts that she has moved on to our eternal life with the Lord, those characteristics are still a part of her because she still is, in a sense, alive. She may not be alive here with us, but her soul is alive in heaven. She was a kind, amazing, thoughtful, loving woman here on earth, and she still is now that she is in heaven.

And the God of all grace, who called you to His eternal glory in Christ, after you have suffered a little while, will Himself restore you and make you strong, firm and steadfast. (1 Peter 5:10)

Jesus said to her, "I am the resurrection and the life. He who believes in me will live, even though he dies; and whoever lives and believes in me will never die..." (John 11:25)

So is it with the resurrection of the dead. What is sown is perishable; what is raised is imperishable. It is sown in dishonor; it is raised in glory. It is sown in weakness; it is raised in power. It is sown a natural body; it is raised a spiritual body. If there is a natural body, there is also a spiritual body. (1 Corinthians 15:42-44)

After the memorial service was over, I felt a sense of relief, a weight lifted off of my shoulders. Ever since our days in the hospital three weeks ago I haven't truly felt able to breathe. But after the memorial, I finally felt as if I could take a breath, albeit a small one. Planning the memorial service was a monumental task, and I am glad that it is behind us. It was wonderful to see so many family and friends, to share in the love that we all have for Sharon. Yet it is nice to have that day behind us. Pastor Steve made a comment on Saturday that while everyone else would leave the service and head back to their normal lives, we would leave and try to move on with our "new normal". I thought that was a perfect description. Even though I feel relieved that the memorial is over, there is no relief from this pain. It is not magically gone, over and done with. It is still there, a burning, aching hole in our hearts that we fight to keep from consuming us. Now that the memorial is over, we are struggling to move on with our "new normal", to live our lives with this giant hole in our hearts. That is a daunting task.

It is a great challenge, indeed, to try to move forward with our lives when such a huge part of us is missing. Yet we always fall back on the same source of strength and comfort that we can only find in our Lord. The peace He fills us with is unbelievable. I shudder to think about how we would have managed this without Him, and the truth is that we wouldn't. While we may still fall apart, and have our fair share of despair, we never truly lose ourselves in this pain. It is not an all-consuming, endless pain because we have God on our side. He is our rock during this storm, and we are clinging to Him with abandon.

The Lord is good, a refuge in times of trouble. He cares for those who trust in Him. (Nahum 1:7)

And our hope for you is firm, because we know that just as you share in our sufferings, so also you share in our comfort. (2 Corinthians 1:7)

"For I am the Lord, your God, who takes hold of your right hand and says to you, Do not fear; I will help you." Isaiah 41:13

I've always thought my faith was strong, particularly after losing my uncle, and this tragedy has been a true test of my faith and enduring trust in the Lord. Through this tragedy I feel as if I've been steadfast in my faith, and have only grown closer to Him. I will admit, I have not read the bible enough, or prayed enough, or truly devoted myself to Him enough over the years. Yet this has been one giant wake-up call. I've had multiple people tell me how strong I've been for my family, that I am their rock, and that they admire me and strive to be more like me in my walk with the Lord. When I heard that, I felt honored, and shocked. Why would anyone want to be more like me? I'd like to think that I've been strong for my family, but I am weak. My strength comes from Him. I don't feel like an awe-inspiring person whose walk with the Lord is something great to be admired. But I am humbled by their words, and that they would see that in me. It gives me an even greater desire to draw closer to the Lord, to pray to Him constantly, and to study His Word so that I may strengthen my relationship with Him.

It is God who arms me with strength and keeps my way secure. (2 Samuel 22:33)

While my knowledge of the bible may not be extensive, my hope and trust in Him is unwavering. He was my handhold during my depression and grief over losing my uncle eight years ago, and I only managed to survive that because I had hope for the future He had planned for me, and faith that He would always be with me, during the good times and the bad. We were not promised a perfect life here on earth. We all will suffer and face tribulations in this life. But I am among the lucky ones, and utterly blessed beyond belief, to have an open-heart that willingly welcomes the Lord. He provides me with the strength, peace and comfort that I so desperately need. My walk with Him is not as great as it could be, I have not followed in His footsteps as well as I could have, nor studied His Word like I should. But I feel a fire in my heart to do better. I feel on fire for the Lord. We are struggling with one of the worst tragedies we will ever have to face, and I feel God's constant presence in my life. He rejoices for Sharon's presence with Him in heaven, yet suffers for our sorrows. I want to be more like Him. I want to walk more closely with Him. I want to be the person that others see in me, the person that Sharon saw in me. I want to honor all of the people that I love.

Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, Rejoice. Let your reasonableness be known to everyone. The Lord is at hand; do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. (Philippians 4:4-7)

This is a terrible time in our lives, but I know that God is using this opportunity to reach out to me, and to us. He is using this opportunity to draw us closer to Him. He is using this opportunity to reach out to others, through us, and our pain and suffering. We are the hands and feet of the Lord. As my husband said to me, we can do nothing about what has happened. It is how we react to it that will define us, and how we need to react in a way that will honor his mother, and glorify the Lord. One thing I know, is that even though the Lord has allowed this pain into our lives, we are not angry with Him. We do not cry bitterly about the unfairness of it. We will not allow this to separate us from Him. Instead, we seek our comfort and our solace from Him, and put our continued hope in Him. He is our Lord God, our Savior; in Him we trust.

Don't let anyone look down on you because you are young, but set an example for the believers in speech, in conduct, in love, in faith and in purity. (1 Timothy 4:12)

Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or danger, or sword? As it is written, "For your sake we are being killed all the day long; we are regarded as sheep to be slaughtered." No, in all these things we are more than conquerers through Him who loved us. For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor powers, nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord. (Romans 8:35-39)

Tuesday, May 28, 2013

Surviving the tragedy

It's been a week since my last update, and there's honestly not much of a difference in our healing process at this point. I'm proud to say that Wes and Dutch haven been handling this tragedy remarkably well; better than most would expect at this point so close on the heels of Sharon's passing. I, myself, did not handle the loss of my uncle this well. In fact, I had fallen into a depression that took me eight months to overcome. While the overall mood we have each day is somber, there are many moments and occasions where sadness or tears are the dominant emotion. However, there have been so many occasions where I've seen them smile or laugh, and instead of being just a shell of their former selves, I see their true selves often. It fills me with such joy, pride and hope to know that this tragedy has not swallowed them whole, and that they are not hiding away from the world, but that they are fighting to live each day, to find the silver lining on this storm cloud, and are finding joy in small things.

Consider it pure joy, my brothers, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith develops perseverance. Perseverance must finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything. (James 1:2-4)

We struggle daily with our sadness and grief, and occasionally fall apart at random moments. But the strength and comfort we have to fight through this comes from each other, our shared pain, the blessings of our family and friends, but most of all from our Lord. We feel His presence more strongly in our lives now than we have before, and our relationship with Him is more real than ever. There are many times where we shout our prayers up to the Lord, asking for His strength, guidance and comfort. Without our God, there would be no way for us to overcome this tragedy.

The Lord is close to the brokenhearted and saves those who are crushed in spirit. (Psalm 34:18)

The Lord is a refuge for the oppressed, a stronghold in times of trouble. Those who know your name trust in you, for you, Lord, have never forsaken those who seek you. (Psalm 9:9-10)

Truly my soul finds rest in God; my salvation comes from Him. Truly He is my rock and my salvation; He is my fortress, I will never be shaken. (Psalm 62:1-2)

The past two weeks have been challenging in ways other than emotional. We've been busy planning the memorial service, and it has been difficult to think so often about certain unpleasant details. I'm trying very hard not to get overwhelmed or stressed out from my seemingly endless list of tasks. It will be a relief when the memorial service is over, partly because of all the extra work it's caused, but also because of the emotional stress. We've been blessed by so many family and friends who have offered us endless amounts of help and support in preparing for the memorial.

Since Sharon's passing, I have stepped in to take over her position in the ranch. It has been a monumental task because no one knows the process or responsibilities that need to get done. There is so much to do and figure out that I have to try very hard not to allow myself to be overwhelmed. Dutch gave me a perfect analogy: It's like trying to eat an elephant. You have to do it one small bite at a time. That is absolutely the case here! We've been so fortunate to have two family friends come up to the ranch to help us sort through the office and teach me what needs to be done. Luckily, the tasks and responsibilities themselves have been easy to manage, and I should be able to master them quickly. It's all about sorting and organizing everything into a manageable state. I'm so proud to be an active member of the Bergman family and business, I just wish it were under different circumstances.

We camped in our French Valley pasture over Memorial Day weekend with some good friends. It was a last minute decision on whether we would continue with our annual campout this year, and I'm so glad that we kept our plans. It was a nice opportunity to spend time with friends and to try to relax and have fun. There were many times where I felt sad and cried, but overall, the weekend was wonderful. It's so hard to go about normal life and events without deeply feeling the loss of Sharon's presence. When we first drove into the valley on Friday night, I started crying because I was immediately assailed by so many memories of Sharon. I even thought I saw her more than once because different women at the campout had their hair done as she would have, or had worn a shirt that she would have worn.

It's a battle not to dwell in the sadness, nor to mope over the opportunities that we've lost. Especially because there were so many plans and ideas that I had for our future together, and it's so hard to think about how that is all lost now. I have to force myself to think instead of the happy memories we shared instead of dwelling on the lost future. One of the hardest things from last week was when we looked through family pictures to choose some for the memorial service. I had always wanted to look through Wes' baby book with Sharon, and I cried last Thursday because I finally had the opportunity to look through the pictures, but she wasn't with me. I also have to remember that God's plan for my life is greater than any of my plans. I may feel pain over this loss and the loss of a future with Sharon, but I have to trust in God that He knows what's best and His plan for my life is perfect.

For I know the plans I have for you, plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future. (Jeremiah 29:11)

So many things remind me of her; her presence was everywhere on the mountain, and in so many aspects of our life. Even though I know she's gone, there are numerous times where I stop in shock and think about how unbelievable this is. I still expect to receive an email from her, to see her name on my caller ID, to hear her voice, her familiar laugh, to see her smile, or feel her hug. Even though I know that she's gone, my heart and mind haven't fully seemed to grasp that fact. How do you let go of someone you loved so deeply, someone who was such an important part of your life? How do you move on without them? I've shed so many tears, so often and so randomly, that they seem like a permanent part of me. These tears are endless. This pain is endless.

But God's arms and love for me is all-encompassing. He provides me with a peace and a strength that is unimaginable. Without God, this pain would consume me. This healing process is a long and arduous journey; it is in no way easy. It is among the hardest things we will ever have to overcome. Yet God is on our side, and through Him we can do all things. I give my burden unto Him daily, and He holds me up in His arms and makes me able to bear this pain. We will survive this, one day at a time.

"Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light." (Matthew 11:28-30)

I can do all things through Christ who gives me strength. (Philippians 4:13)

Tuesday, May 21, 2013


One week ago today, was the start of a tumultuous and emotional journey that would ultimately end with the devastating pain of loss. One week ago today, I received a phone call that changed my life forever. A phone call from my panicked husband, telling me that his mom was being taken to the hospital from a stroke. If only we knew how bad it would truly be. After that phone call, I still had hope. But two days later all that hope was gone, and all that remained was painful acceptance. Friday night, four days after my wonderful mother-in-law was rushed to the hospital, we had to say goodbye as she peacefully left this earth, and moved on to a glorious eternity in heaven.

Since Sharon's passing, I've decided to write of our healing process and my personal feelings as we try to deal with our grief and overcome this tragedy. As my niece quoted in a post about her grandmother Sharon, "God didn't promise days without pain, laughter without sorrow, or sun without rain, but He did promise strength for the day, comfort for the tears, and light for the way. If God brings you to it, He will bring you through it..."

Just because we've devoted our lives to following Christ does not mean that we will not endure trials and devastation in our lives. We will still suffer as others suffer, still be challenged as others are challenged. What we as Christians are called to do is to relentlessly trust in the Lord, to seek His comfort and His guidance. Even though we've been dealt this unbelievable tragedy, we will keep our eyes upon the Lord, and continue to follow in His footsteps, seeking His path for us, and basking in the wondrous light of His grace.

Eight years ago, I faced a similar tragedy when I lost my beloved uncle to a brain tumor. He was only twenty-eight-years-old, with so much life left to live. Losing him was the hardest thing that I've ever had to deal with. After his death, I put on a mask to hide my pain, to try to be strong for my family. I had lost all emotion, and was nothing but a hollow shell of my former self. I would pretend to be fine during the day, but I would fall apart every night, sobbing alone in my room and wishing desperately for the pain to go away. I had been angry at God at first, demanding a purpose for my uncle's death, but completely unable to understand God's plan. It took a few months for my anger to fade, and for me to realize that unless I embraced the Lord again, I would completely lose myself and not be able to survive the pain of Bryan's death. When I finally turned back to God, my entire world changed. He gave me a strength, hope and comfort that I had never known before. It was only through Christ, who kept His arms tightly wrapped around me, that I was able to crawl from the bottomless pit of despair and find joy in life again. I was healed only because of Him.

Everything we've dealt with over the past week has been a brutal reminder of the pain and loss that I faced with my uncle eight years ago. Except that there was one significant difference; this time I kept my complete and utter trust in the Lord, and even though He did not answer our prayers for healing Sharon in the way that we wanted, He has never left me, and His presence offers unimaginable comfort to me and my family during this difficult time of loss. Here is a poem that offers me great comfort:

"Footprints in the Sand" by Mary Stevenson

One night I dreamed I was walking along the beach with the Lord.
Many scenes from my life flashed across the sky.
In each scene I noticed footprints in the sand.
Sometimes there were two sets of footprints,
other times there were one set of footprints.

This bothered me because I noticed
that during the low periods of my life,
when I was suffering from
anguish, sorrow or defeat,
I could see only one set of footprints.

So I said to the Lord,
"You promised me Lord,
that if I followed you,
you would walk with me always.
But I have noticed that during
the most trying periods of my life
there have only been one
set of footprints in the sand. 
Why, when I needed you most,
you have not been there for me?"

The Lord replied,
"The times when you have
seen only one set of footprints,
is when I carried you."

To say that the past several days have been difficult is a complete understatement. There are not words to express what we have been suffering through. We alternate between periodically feeling numb, and then randomly breaking down in tears. We decided to face everything head on this weekend after Sharon's passing. We went to our Palomar Mountain home and it's many memories, then went to our Borrego Springs home and it's newer recent memories, then finally to church where we felt refreshed by God and fellowship. There were many times where we just stopped and cried, but we had each other and God's continuous presence upon us. We all went back to work this past Monday, and have sought to find some small semblance of normalcy in our lives. We are grieving, yet we are moving forward one small step at a time. 

There is no way for us to understand God's purpose or His perfect plan for our lives, so instead of driving ourselves crazy by questioning Sharon's death we are reaching our arms out to our Lord. We have put our trust and faith in Him, and we seek shelter and comfort in His arms during this time of loss. We take comfort in knowing that Sharon is at peace, rejoicing in our eternal paradise, no longer in pain or suffering. While our hearts ache for our loss, and we miss her terribly, we know that she is with us always, watching over us and loving us from above. We are thankful for all the time we had with her, all of the memories that we've made, and were so unbelievably blessed by her presence in our lives. 

Here are some verses that are helping to strengthen and comfort us during our grieving:

Faith it does not make things easy, it makes them possible. (Luke 1:37)

For I know the plans I have for you declares the Lord,
plans to prosper you and not to harm you.
Plans to give you hope and a future. 
(Jeremiah 29:11)

When my heart is overwhelmed, lead me to the rock that is higher than I. (Psalm 61:2)

He will cover you with his feathers,
and under his wings you will find refuge.
(Psalm 91:4)

Don't be afraid, for I am with you.
Don't be discouraged, for I am your God.
I will strengthen you and help you.
I will hold you up with my victorious right hand.
(Isaiah 41:10)

Trust in the Lord with all your heart
and lean not on your own understanding;
in all your ways acknowledge Him
and He will make your paths straight.
(Proverbs 3:5-6)

Monday, May 6, 2013

April Art

Our themes for this month were Easter, Nursery Rhymes, My Body, Health and Nutrition and Pets. Missing art includes a handprint easter basket craft, itsy bitsy thumbprint spider craft and self portraits.

humpty dumpty craft

hey diddle diddle craft (before they were colored and glued onto popsicle sticks)

handprint x-rays

Q-tip skeletons

magazine cut out food graph

handprint food graph

handprint bunnies

paper plate bunny craft

March Art Board

This is one of my favorite art boards so far! It's fairly simple, but I absolutely LOVE the rainbow. The only thing I would change next time would be adding gold glitter to the yellow layer of the letters in order to make them stand out more. Here's how I made this board:

To start, I bunched up pieces of white tissue paper to look like clouds. Next I folded each color of the rainbow in the desired arch, then glued them to the background paper. The pot of gold is made with small circles cut from yellow construction paper, covered with gold glitter, then glued onto a large cutout of yellow constructions paper shaped like a pile of gold and taped to the back of the black cauldron. One set of shamrocks was created by marble painting with white, yellow and green paint. The second set of shamrocks was created by modge podging yellow, green and white pieces of tissue paper onto green shamrocks and sprinkled with glitter. The letters were created by layering torn letters in the order of white, yellow and green.

March Art

Our themes for this month were Books, St Patrick's Day, Spring and Medieval. Missing art includes make-your-own storybooks and thumbprint clovers.

Cat in the Hat hats

handprint hungry caterpillars

handprint rainbows and pots of gold

paper plate leprechaun

thumbprint lupin flowers

handprint flower pots

marble paint shamrocks

glitter tissue paper shamrock

royalty crowns

sunflower craft
tin foil knight craft

February Art Board

This is our Valentines art board. Here's how I made it:

Both bears are hand-drawn from images I found online. For the strawberry footprints we created a basket weave effect by alternating two shades of brown construction paper. We made footprints with red paint; once dry, I colored on the stems and seeds with markers. For the balloons we started with whole sheets of white tissue paper. It took four layers to complete. We chose one color and painted eight different pieces of tissue paper. Once dry, we chose a new color and painted stripes over each paper. Once dry, we chose a new color and painted spots all over each paper. Once dry, we chose a new color and splattered the paint over each paper. Over all, every piece of tissue paper looked different because the girls chose different color patterns when creating each layer. Once dry, we gently brushed a mixture of watered down glue over the papers to serve as a type of sealer. Then I traced a heart shape onto the back of each paper, cut them out, and taped white yarn to the back for a balloon string. The letters are simple die cuts.

February Art

The themes for this month were Manners, Valentines Day, Dental Hygiene, and Senses. Some of the missing art includes food chart, dental floss painting, kool-aid painting and 5 senses craft.

handprint heart craft

candy heart color graphs

love bugs

brushing teeth craft

Vday card

tissue paper mardi gras masks
strawberry footprints
painted tissue paper heart balloons

dental hygiene snack

Mr Potato Head 5 Senses
tissue paper manners craft

paper plate ground hog