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

Unexpected

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

January Art Board


This is our Winter/New Years art board. Here's how I made it:

For the snowy hill I used a piece of white butcher paper, then painted on a mixture of epsom salt and water which creates a snowy effect. We made winter handprint lilies by tracing hands on white paper and cutting out the hands. I then rolled the handprints together to create a flower base, then rolled the fingers down with a pencil to serve as petals. Then I painted on epsom salt to create a frosty flower appearance. The snowflakes were made with white painted popsicle sticks. We glued on a mixture of dry pasta noodles, carefully painted them white paint and sparkle glitter. I made the New Years sign by gluing black letters onto each piece of construction paper, then outlined the letters with blue, silver and gold glitter.

January Art

This month's themes were New Years, Winter, Weather, Forest, and Safari. Some of the art that I didn't take pictures of include New Years sparklers, epsom salt winter landscape, and a paper plate giraffe.

New Years Celebration Crowns

tissue paper polar bear

winter handprint lilies 

snowman craft

noodle snowflakes

winter landscape using watercolor resist technique

storm cloud


weather chart 

black bear craft

handprint owl craft

handprint pine tree

handprint lion craft

handprint elephant