There were times when I didn't think I would even make it through a day after January the 8th, but here I am, almost an entire year later.
I'm still standing, still breathing, still going. And for that, I give ALL the credit to the Lord.
I remember vividly sitting down to write my very first blog on January the 25th, just a short two weeks after Madeline went to be with the Lord. I didn't know what to title that first post. I sat and thought and thought and finally, I thought to use "A new beginning." And it was.
Life as I knew it was changed forever. My carefree, nonchalant way of living was altered in a moment of time. A moment when a worst fear came to reality. The moment that my "perfect" life was no more. Gone in a breath.
I'll never forget approaching the day of January the 6th in 2011. I was over the moon excited to meet my little girl, the completion of our perfect little family. I remember walking into the hospital and crying. I told Rick I was sad that the pregnancy was coming to an end (I love being pregnant :) but that I was so excited to meet her. It made me sad to think that I wouldn't have any more babies. Little did I know, I would be doing it all over again the same year. =) Isn't it neat how God works?
This year, as I approach January the 6th, I am a completely different person. I'm a different mother, a different wife, and a different Christian. I do not remember that girl I was before Maddie Grace. She changed me. Forever.
I do not miss who I was at all. I do not miss where I was in life either. I took everything for granted. I was selfish. I was consumed with what seemed "perfect" for me. I was carefree and naive to what life really had to offer. I didn't understand what real "living" was. Living in the moment and not taking a second for granted.
Today, that is how I live. I'm cherishing my family and each breath they take. For I do not know when one could be our last.
I love to remember a quote I once heard, "Life is not measured my the number of breaths we take, but my the moments that take our breath away..."
Maddie took my breath away on that sweet snowy day of January the 6th. She still does, every time I look at one of her beautiful pictures. Oh she was so precious.
So as I approach this Friday, her one year birthday; my heart aches.
I miss her. I want her. I need her.
I always will.
But when God called her home, he gave me a new beginning. He gave me a new life.
All last year, Rick and I prayed our way through each and every day. The week following her death was such a blur. The nightmares started and continued for months on end. The tears flowed endless hours of the day. Everywhere we looked, we saw her. Everything reminded us of our sweet girl.
We had to start over. We had to let go of "what wasn't" and learn how to live with "what was."
Day by day, we cried out to God for help, for comfort. Night by night, we held each other and cried together and to the Lord. We clung to the Lord and His word. We searched for answers. We searched for peace.
With each soul that was saved, He showed us. With every single person who was touched by her life, we knew. Her purpose was fulfilled in those two little days. She lived her entire life's purpose in just two little days. She completed her "race" early. Her quilt was finished quickly. =)
As months went by, it got a little easier. The pain and the heaviness on our hearts stayed the same, but we were able breathe just a little easier as time went on. Lives continued to be touched by her story and Rick and I were getting the opportunity to tell ours.
As I look back through my 122 blog posts, I'm astonished and amazed at just how far the Lord has brought us. Every day he provided the grace and strength we needed. Everyday he filled us up so we could carry on.
We never got angry at the Lord. We never one time charged Him foolishly. Never once. But there were times we just wanted to know "why?" Through His word, through our Church, through those lives that were changed, through you... We understand a little more.
Why us? We truly believe that God knew He could trust us to go through this and continue to trust and serve Him. He knew how we would react before He ever called our daughter back home. He knew all along. I do not doubt that.
Now as I'm another year stronger and wiser, I understand a little more.
Where I was and where I am now are complete polar opposites, and the best part of it is, God carried me the WHOLE way. He held my hand, He lead my feet and in the moments when I truly couldn't take another step; He carried me.
Maddie's ministry is a year in the running now. Lives are continuing to be touched by her precious little life. I am so grateful that God has given us a story to tell. I'm so honored that you all have followed our story and read my words. I'm thankful that God gave me these words to write. I'm honored to do so.
This blog will continue to be "Maddie's story." I will always talk about her. Now we have more wonderful things going on in our life and I believe that Maddie definitely made a way for them.
She made a way for sweet Jonah Asher.
I'll never forget the moment I found out I was expecting after Maddie passed. Rick and I have called this baby our "hope" baby from the beginning. He he has been just that. He has provided a renewed hope when we felt like all hope was lost. He has given us a reason to smile again. He has filled our aching arms, something we've dreamed about for so long. Jonah did all those things.
As the year was coming to an end and Jonah was about to be born, I didn't know what to expect. Fear and grief were part of my thoughts, yet I knew God had a plan. I trusted in him and He did provide exactly what he promised me... Hope.
So as Jonah came to join our family on the 8th of December of 2011, he restored that hope and has continued to do so for the last 3 weeks. God kept his promise to us. He came through completely.
We had a wonderful precious Christmas. It wasn't the Christmas I had pictured a year prior with a little girl in pigtails toddling around. There were no baby dolls under our tree and her name was not on our Christmas card. Yet, she was there...
She was in the pink sunset on Christmas Eve. She was in the smile on my boys faces. She was there with the boys stockings hanging together and in all the ornaments on her tree. We could feel her. She was in our hearts.
As I hold Jonah and cry for her, and I have cried a lot the last few weeks, I can feel her. When Jonah snuggles his soft hair on my cheek, I can feel her. I miss her.
Through our Christmas, all the way until the clock struck midnight, I ached. The year of my Maddie had ended. A year of grace. The year anniversary of her birth and death are upon me.... almost here.
Can I make it? Sure.
God will help me. His grace along with hers will continue to carry me.
I am starting another new beginning... Another new year.
I have another new little life in my arms and I'm eager to see what God has in store... And I have a feeling... It's going to be great. =)
May God bless you in the New Year upon us. May we trust Him fully in all aspects of our lives, remembering, His will (is) perfect.
My prayer is that our story of grace and hope will touch your life in some way. Thank you for standing by us through the hardest year of our lives.
Please pray for us as Friday and Sunday approaches. We know God will carry us but we truly appreciate your prayers!
And now... some more pictures of our hope renewed... Jonah Asher.
Ist day home...
Introduced to his nursery... 2 days old
Checking out his tree. lol
3 days old...
4 days old =)
So thankful for this bundle of hope!
First bath... not a fan =)
Christmas caroling... =)
Jonah Bear, one week old.
First Sunday at Church.
Dedicating Jonah to the Lord...
Papa Ross praying for Jonah.
Our sweet family
Our little gift
Reindeer Baby =)
Mommy and Jonah- 2 weeks old =)
My sweet boys
My first Christmas! We were so glad he was here to spend it with us.
Under Grandma's tree
Jonah's "look" he's a little birdie too. =)
My view most of the day... <3
Trying out his new Christmas present.
Tummy time =)
3 weeks old =)
Hoot Hoot, I'm cute =)
We know you are watching over us sweet Maddie Grace. We love you so very much. You will always be a part of this family. We miss you... <3
Stay tuned for friday, I will be uploading a video set to music of some of our favorite moments with Maddie.