This weekend was a toughy! We sang at a dear friend's funeral. Have I mentioned that I sing in a southern gospel quartet? I have since I was 16! It's really all I know. My Dad has sung ever since I can remember and my mom has played the piano at church and for other gospel groups since she was 12. We've had several name changes and personnel changes, but right now we are known as Mercy's Bridge. (I'll place a link to the group website on the side - it's Stewart's project :)) The group consists of me, my Dad, Stewart, our friend Dallas, and some awesome musicians led by Dustin Kelly on keyboards. We sing 2-3 weekends out of the month all around North Alabama, Southern Tennessee, Georgia - anywhere we can drive and get back home in a few hours :)
Anyway - we and another group sang at the funeral of a friend. He was only 32 and his death was very unexpected. He had a beautiful wife and a loving family. His parents are dear friends of my family. His father is a minister who has literally held my hand and given me ammunition to fight the Devil during the struggles of the past couple of years. He helped me stand strong and know the Lord had not forsaken me and would help me realize HIS plan in our lives even when it seemed impossible to me. The funeral, as you can imagine, could have been a tragic event consumed with grief. But Grace stepped in! I have never been so encouraged or uplifted! As we sang and as the ministers talked, you could see the family allowing the Lord to comfort them, and then the Lord let the sweetest peace settle over that church. It was like He was sending that rushing mighty wind to comfort not only the family, but their entire church congregation as well. It was still tragic and sad, and he will be missed, but how precious that the Lord took something that could have ended with such dismay and instead left us all with immense hope and the comforting faith that only He can provide.
That's how He works. Who else could take the unthinkable tragedy and turn it into something that you look back on as a symbol of your faith and HIS love for us? Who else could take death and turn it into hope for a life to come? Who else could take the sadness and loss that grief brings and use it to inspire us to help others through it? Only God.
Here is a video clip of one of the songs we sang at the service. It's not us singing :), but just listen to the words. It has some powerful lyrics if you listen closely. It is entitled "The Promise", and was recorded by The Martins. I'm so thankful for the promises we have to depend on!
I've posted several times about this unfortunate tribe of sisters that some of us are now a part of. It's not one you ever want an invitation to and you'll never actually know it exists unless you suddenly, without warning become a member. Membership is not chosen, but, eventually, is accepted. The greatest thing about this club of sisters is the Earthly support your "sisters" can bring - messengers of the angels I like to say.
Here is another one of our sisters. Her story is not unlike many that we know, but they way she has chosen to share it has touched thousands. I hope and pray it gives strength to some soul out there that doesn't know that her new "sisterhood" has unlimited support from all the many members around the world, and most importantly from the Lord above.
Why happy? Because it is over! I'm telling you, Hallmark certainly increases the stress levels of all ( most) Americans a few times a year and Mother's Day is one of them. This man made holiday can be the cause of such joy and such distress. Joy for those who have their mothers and their children by their sides to love and cherish. Distress for those who don't.
I truly had the best of both worlds this year. Last year was such a blur to me. We had just found out I was expecting again, and it was the first Mother's Day since we lost Olivia. My parents had this special canvas painted for me last year. It came from a quote Mom and I saw at a craft show, and ever since, has had special meaning to us. A friend of mine who has painted a lot in my house painted it, and even painted our family on the hill looking up at the stars.
This year, I had the memory of my angel, but two beautiful little girls to brighten my day! Stewart did an OUTSTANDING job on the presents this year!! Not too much expense, but lots of thought behind it. It meant SO much to me!! Abby also made some precious crafts at school. One of my favorites was a question and answer sheet where Abby drew a picture of me and answered questions about me like how old am I (15!) where did I like to shop (Target), what did I like to eat (spaghetti and sweet tea - Abby's favorites!) and my favorite - My Mommy is smart because she knows how to.....tell Daddy what to do!!!! HA! Out of the mouths of babes!!
Here are a few pictures from yesterday. I know it was such a hard day for so many. I spent the entire weekend being thankful for my blessings and the grace that is always sufficient! Somehow I forgot to get a picture of ME and my two babies - I was too busy with the camera myself!
Me and my mom (Mimi)
Mimi and her girls
My grandmother (Nana) and all her great-grandkids - Abby, Ellie Kate, Holden, Dacy & Cooper
May you always be overwhelmed by the Grace of God rather than by the cares of life. This quote came to me via email today. Ironically, it describes my state of life right now in one word - overwhelmed. I wish I could say it was the grace of God, but mostly the cares of life. How is it that the very things we cherish, longed for, dared to hope for can absolutely suck the life right out of you (grin :)) I must admit that some of "life" is self-created, and Stewart and I have had several heart to hearts lately about cutting out the non-necessary commitments. The problem is - they ALL seem necessary!! I've got to learn the difference and put myself on the list somewhere. I'm starting to believe that maybe I can't live on 4 hours of sleep indefinitely!! I just feel like right now, our family needs time to just sit around, play in the backyard and take a minute to realize how blessed we are and enjoy the moment! For so long, I HAD to stay busy to keep myself from focusing on reality too much. Now, I just want to see my girls smiles, squeeze them up tight, and take a big deep breath in. Have you ever noticed in times of stress your breathing becomes very shallow? My new relaxation technique is to pick up Ellie Kate, bury my nose in the side of her neck and just BREATHE! If your kids will sit still long enough, try it - it's amazing!
Stewart and I travelled to Pelham tonight to the visitation of the Staffords (see earlier post). How bittersweet. Of course I couldn't help but travel back to the night we lost Olivia. In my mind, visions of that night flashed by quicker than I could process. As I stood there holding Stewart's arm, I knew he was feeling the same thing. As we waited to speak to the family, we watched the most tasteful and beautiful slideshow of pictures taken after Lizzie Ann's birth. How beautiful, yet how heartbreaking. As we waited, I really wanted the Lord to provide some earth-shattering, ultra comforting thing to tell Johnna. When we got to them, all we could do was hug. I looked her in the eyes and was able to tell her, in all honesty, that they WOULD make it through. It wouldn't be easy, many times along the way she would question why God thought she was strong enough to handle this, and even more times she would have to control her emotions to not just want to hurt unknowing, "unwisdomous" people who simply say the stupidest things!!
As we laughed a little about that, I looked in her eyes and saw the missing piece. For some, you might not be able to see it. For those "sisters" in this unfortunate club of those who have lost a child, you know what I speak of. No matter how much time passes, nor how much healing occurs, deep in the eyes of that mother is a missing piece that will never return. It is the piece that holds the heart of the child she lost. The child that is hers, but not with her. There's something about mothers - fathers will always grieve and miss that child, but for a mother it is truley a missing void that will never be filled. God's comfort is unmeasurable, but even Jesus had scars from the nails on the cross. That missing piece is our scar. I'm starting to grow enough to be proud of my scars and not resent my scars. That scar represents what God has brought us through. That scar is what, I hope, will help me help others whose scars are unbearable at the time.
To those with scars - we are stronger and wiser children of God for the journeys that brought us those scars. Thank God for your blessings and your scars today.
I know I haven't posted in a few days. Stewart was out of town for a few days which left me as a single mom. WHEW - I have a whole new respect for you women out there who do it by yourselves day in and day out. During all of this the whole swine flu craziness broke out. I never thought being a school administrator would mean arming myself in masks and gloves and cleaning a school! Oh well, we do what we must!! I will post more with pictures soon!
Tonight my heart is breaking for friends of ours. Please pray for Jeremy and Johnna Stafford. Stewart and Johnna were very close friends in college. They lost their sweet baby Elizabeth Ann on Friday. They have known for several weeks of their pregnancy that, without a miracle, the baby would not live more than a few moments outside of the womb. They have trusted in God throughout this tragic journey and are now facing the unimaginable - burying your own child. I can't even begin to describe, but for those of you who have experienced a loss, I know your heart is twisting into the thousands of pieces mine is now. Please pray that God will comfort them in a way that only HE can over the next few days. Here is a link to their blog where you can catch up on their story. I know they would appreciate knowing you are praying!
I am married to a wonderful man, Stewart. I work for Alfa Insurance, and he is a local high school principal. We have two daughters living. Abby is 6 1/2 and Ellie Kate is 2. We also have another daughter, Olivia, waiting for us in Heaven.