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August 26, 2011

God gives grace...

This morning while driving Noah to school I was thinking about so many things. But mostly, I was thinking about Maddie Grace.

Walking to my car, I saw a yard full of birds and I couldn't help but think of her and wonder what she's doing up in Heaven.

Down here, she would be 7 1/2 months old now. She would be eating baby food. Crawling everywhere. And most likely be saying "Mama." When I think about these things, I get so sad... But then I look around at all the blessings I do have, and I have to smile. I really am blessed, even though she isn't here.

It doesn't make me stop missing her any, but I do find joy in the moments we shared together throughout my pregnancy and her 2 precious days of life.

The boys seem to be doing better and are starting to look so forward to Baby Jonah, but there are still some reservations in Elijah's heart.

Just yesterday, He asked me "When will Baby Jonah Asher go to Heaven?" It broke my heart but I had to realize, he doesn't know any better. The last thing he remembers was my big belly and then his little sister coming. And then, like that, she was gone. Poor thing.

Everyday this week, when we dropped Noah off to school, he told me he wished  she could come back. I know why. He wants a  playmate. He wants someone here with him the way we planned for months. I wish so much it could be this way.

But it's in those moments God speaks to me. He reaches his loving arms down and holds me. He fills my heart with peace and grace. And in those moments, I'm thankful.

I recently posted some pictures of our vacation on Facebook. I put a picture up of Maddie's little shoes on the beach. Remember these?

I posted under this picture these words. "I pictured such a different family vacation. Her little feet did not take her where I thought they would. But I feel so blessed to have had her for as long as I did. ♥"

My sweet friend Jodie posted a comment with these words "Her little feet are walking on streets of gold....her little hand in our fathers, and she is watching over you guys and her precious brothers everyday! God did bless you so very much :)"

Oh what a thought of my sweet Maddie Grace walking (or maybe crawling :) over those streets of gold holding the hand of our Lord.

What a blessing to think that.

I got to enjoy this with her...
And this with her...

And now she is enjoying Our Father and Heaven. That is a blessing.

God gives grace. Everyday. He gives grace to get through.

After dropping Noah off, I turned up my music and this song was playing on one of my cd's. The words are perfect and comforted me so much.

Please listen to the words of this song. I know it will bless your heart like it did mine.

August 22, 2011

Stronger by 100...

As I sat down to write today I realized that this is my 100th post.

100 posts since I started this blog on January the 25th. Just 3 short weeks after my sweet Madeline Grace went to be with Jesus.

I can remember so vividly writing that very first entry. My hands were shaking. My body was week. My heart was broken.

I wasn't sure where to start, so I started at the beginning.

I spoke of how I used to write but then when I got saved, I felt like the Lord became my outlet. I went to Him with my thoughts and fears. I went to Him with my wants and desires. I lost my passion for writing as He had become my passion.

Then, when Maddie Grace went to be with Jesus, I quickly realized that I needed another place to take my thoughts and feelings. God laid it on my heart to start writing again.

Boy am I glad that I did.

I look back over the entries of the last 7 months and I see something that reoccurs in every single post.

I see strength and grace.

God supplied me over and over and over again everyday, with the strength and grace to get through.

In the moments when I felt I couldn't possibly take another step forward. He held my hand and helped me.

In the moments when I truly couldn't take that step. He carried me.

He gave me a voice here in these entries. He gave me a story to tell.

And you... You have listened. You have cried. You have hurt. You have poured your heart out to me and for me.

What a blessing.

I can't believe how far I've come in these last 100 entries.

I like to go back and see and feel exactly where I was, and  I know that I am here now, because of the Lord and because of all of you.

You have helped carry me. You have helped bear the load.

Never did I think that God would give me a ministry through my words here. But he has.

And He has also given me a place to be ministered to.

So many of you have walked in my shoes. So many of you know just how heavy the load is, yet you help to bear mine. Day in and day out.

And those of you who haven't experienced the loss of a child, but just have such a heart for others. Your prayers have held me up. Your words have given me hope.

I don't know where I would be today without my Loving God, Husband and all of you.

But I know for sure, that I wouldn't be as strong as I am now.

I love to write. I will keep writing. I will always tell Maddie's story, and what she is doing in our lives.

Even as the years go by, I will still talk of her. She has made me who I am today. She has given me a story to tell. She has given me a job to do.

Years down the road, she will still be a part of my family. Your family. Her little life has touched so many hearts and for that I am grateful.

But I am also grateful that I have this place to come to. To pour out my heart. To speak of my families burdens and heartache.

100 posts.

Wow. And over 100,000 pageviews. God has worked in an amazing way here.

I'm grateful God sent me here to write our story. And I'm grateful for those of you who follow along.

I am stronger because of my words here. And because of you.

And like I said at the end of my very first post on that cold dark January day...

I will keep writing... For my daughter... And for my Lord.

2 Corinthians 12:9   And he said unto me, My grace is sufficient for thee: for my strength is made perfect in weakness. Most gladly therefore will I rather glory in my infirmities, that the power of Christ may rest upon me.

Philippians 4:13   I can do all things through Christ which strengtheneth me.

August 16, 2011

Moments and Memories to last a lifetime...

Rick and I have learned recently just how precious our family time really is and we have really made the most of it. So, when we decided to plan our summer family vacation, we decided to make it all about the boys and truly enjoy every second we had with them.

We decided about 2 weeks ago (totally last minute :) to take a trip to Florida and go on a Cruise. Then we were off!

We flew into Florida very early on the 5th of August and settled into our hotel in Fort Lauderdale right on the beach. We spent 3 days playing in the sand and swimming in the ocean.

I enjoyed watching my boys run along the shoreline. I loved watching them throw their heads back in laughter and the sun beam down on their sun kissed cheeks. There is no greater joy for me to sit in the quiet and just watch them. Watch who they are and what they are becoming. I love to watch my Husband with them and think out lucky we are to have him in our lives. Protecting us. Providing for us. Loving us.

He works so hard so I can stay home with these precious boys. So I won't miss a moment. And I haven't, not one single moment. I feel like the luckiest girl in the world sometimes and God has blessed us and made all that possible.

So, as I sat there and watched and got involved with the excitement of their lives, I couldn't help but smile. Even with a scarred heart, I found complete joy and happiness there on the shoreline of Ft. Lauderdale basking in the sunshine with my precious husband and children.

It is in those quiet moments, the stresses of life are a distant memory. Where nothing around you even matters, but you and those by your side. Not a care in the world. Just laughter and love and joy.

I had so many moments like that on this vacation. Just us. Just love.

I have learned that these vacations, just us, are my favorite. I don't have to be on any one else's schedules. I don't have to entertain and make sure others around me are content. I just go with the flow with my boys and we are full of joy. I have found such happiness here.

After three wonderful days in Ft. Lauderdale, we headed to Miami to catch our ship.
We were going to take a 5 day cruise on the beautiful Carnival Imagination. This ship was the perfect one we chose to take the boys on. Everything from the children's activities to the water park on the back of the boat were just "perfect" for our active little boys. Rick and I were able to slip away for a few hours that week while the boys attended Camp Carnival, but mostly we just spent family time together. So many precious moments of family time.

From the wonderful fancy breakfasts and dinners, to the days spent ashore our ports of call, every minute was precious. Rick and I found ourselves in awe while watching our sweet boys explore and enjoy the environments around them. So many times I found myself just standing still and watching them.

And in those quiet moments I couldn't help but think how blessed I truly am. How lucky I am to be a mother. How sweet moments of childhood really are...

I thought a lot of Maddie Grace this week too. I tried not to think of how she wasn't there, but the ways that she was. In our hearts. In our memories. We talked of her often and even decided to honor her in a precious way. I'll share more about that in the below photos.

There were so many baby girls on the cruise and while I missed so much that Maddie wasn't there with us in her little bikini splashing around with her brothers. I tried to stay focused on them. At one point the boys in their excitement were shouting "Mommy, look at this." and "Mommy, look over there." "Mommy, Mommy, Mommy."

It hit me that I would never hear her say those words to me and it broke my heart. I miss her. My heart continues to ache for her. I wanted her there with us. But... In those moments I realized just how precious those moments were. We were making memories to last a lifetime. All 6 of us. And though Maddie wasn't there physically, she surely was in our hearts.

We spent a day in Key West driving around an eclectic car (hehe) and exploring the Island. I watched my boys point and giggle and run down the pier. I enjoyed walking through the shops and eating snow cones. Just us.

We made our way to Cozumel and I watched Rick and the boys swim with the Dolphins. I watched these magical animals move through the water with my boys. We watched a sea lion show and laughed as they asked Rick to throw the sea lion it's ring. We played along the gorgeous shoreline and made sand castles with the boys. We ate a wonderful Mexican lunch over looking the beautiful ocean. Just us.

I saw the light in my children's eyes and the joy on their faces. No words needed to be said. Everything we needed to see was proved by their little faces, but yet we heard "thank you" over and over and over. "Thank you Mommy and Daddy for this trip." What a blessing.

And in those precious days riding through Key west and upon the shoreline in Cozumel, I got it. I really truly got it. I am so blessed. So lucky. So happy.

Everything we've been through has made us stronger. More in love. More aware. More in tune with the blessings in our lives.

Maddie did that. Maddie made that happen.

And every night as we tucked our boys into bed after reading devotions and saying our prayers, I went to bed rejoicing. My heart felt lighter. God was and is healing me in so many ways.

Yes, for now. My dreams and hopes of raising a little girl have fell from my sight, but what is very clear is what is in front of me right now.

I think I like living in the here and now much better. Something Rick has taught me to do. I used to plan and over plan way in advance. I had already "planned" our summer vacation with the Boys and Maddie. And we see that never came to be.

So where am I now?

I'm in the moment. I'm making memories with my children that will last a lifetime. I am blessed.

And I can't think of any better place to be. =)

Here are some of the precious moments and memories we captured on our trip...

Checking out the hotel in Ft. Lauderdale!

The boys LOVED these fish tanks!

Eli thought the fish were real. lol.
Ready to go to the beach!!!

Rick's sand man. lol.

Surfer boy =)

Having fun!

On the ship! Checking everything out!

The boys thought it was cool they had their own rooms and beds!

Eli's happy dance =)

Rick and Noah in the Atrium

Elijah and the towel elephant =)

The boys loved the glass elevators!

Setting sail!

Top performers this week! =)

My love and I...

Eli and Mommy at dinner!

Daddy and Noah at dinner

The loves of my life <3

Eli getting a medal for best dancer at the Camp Carnival party!
He LOVED funship freddie!

Exploring the ship!

Eli LOVED the towel animals!

We explored Key West in an Electric car. So fun!

Southernmost point of the US!

Chillin in Key West!

Smiles from my loves.

Enjoying the water park!

Having fun!

Coming down the slide!

Splashing in the waterpark

Elijah was not so happy. lol.

Back from a fun time at Camp Carnival!

Elijah with his towel elephant.

Don't worry. It's a dolphin. =)

This is the only picture I have of the boys swimming with a dolphin. On top of the pricey excursion, the photos cost a fortune! So we only bought one...

Enjoying a day on the beach in Cozumel...

I brought Maddie's shoes to photograph in special places.
I asked Rick to make a heart with her initials and Noah wanted to make a hear too. =)

You are always with us Maddie Grace. We carry you in our hearts.

The boys with Maddie's heart. These shoes were the ones I used in my maternity shoot.

Mexico babies

Running through the fountains

Chankaanab park! We had fun here!

What a fun day in Mexico!

Lol. Where is Elijah?

My three amigos... soon to be four!

They looked so tiny compared to the ships!

My matching boys

They played all day here on the days at Sea...

More water slide fun!

The boys

Rick and I the last night of our cruise

Me and Jonah 6 months along =)

What a wonderful vacation...