Thursday, March 31, 2011

The Purple Flower

Background: I am not an outdoorsy person. I am an indoor girl. I am working on becoming more of an outdoors girl since I have two boys and being outside is "home" for boys. That being said, I am really not great at landscaping and growing things. Well after Alexis passed away, our church friends brought a tree and planted it up the hill in our yard, my mom and mother-in-law put together a beautiful garden (Alexis' Garden), and they filled different pots with flowers (a blue pot for Luke, a red pot for Lee, a purple pot for me, and a cute pot my sister gave me on our front porch). Well needless to say, everything sort of went "dead" because I did not water it for the winter.

I am doing a Bible study at church with some amazing ladies. It's called The Ministry of Motherhood by Sally Clarkson. In the book it talks about inspiration and being inspired by God's creation. Since it is Spring, things are starting to bud and come back to life. Well I looked in my flower pot on the front porch the other day and everything in it was dead but there was one beautiful perfect purple flower that had bloomed. Purple is my favorite color by the way. I thought of it as a great symbol of life. Life can seem pretty dead and yucky and mucky at times. Face it, we go through some crap living in this fallen world. But there are always purple flowers in the midst of all the weeds. God provided that flower to me on that day for a specific reason. I believe He gave that flower to me to say, "Hey Ashley, I know your life has a lot of yucky at times, but I want you to know that I am always here."

I am thankful for purple flowers, yellow butterflies, and a whole other host of things that God uses to reveal Himself to me through His creation. He is so good.

A Scripture to think about:
The heavens declare the glory of God, the skies proclaim the work of His hands. – Psalm 19:1

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Freedom from Worry, Fear, and Anxiety

I will admit that I have always been a worrier. I have been afraid of many things in my life, from the normal to the insane things that would most likely never even happen. I have been known to have anxiety and panic attacks. I even went through a season of complete worry, fear, and anxiety. I had daily (actually multiple times a day) panic and anxiety attacks. It was completely debilitating. I remember sitting in church listening to the pastor and just starting to have this cloud of worry and anxiety come over me. I would feel like I couldn't breathe. It was crazy. The only thing that stopped it was verbally (almost yelling) prayers to God and quoting Scriptures (2 Tim 1:7 was a big one).

Well when I was pregnant with Nathan and Alexis, I had some worries, but not as many as I thought I would have. I prayed a lot to have peace and God gave it to me. As we passed milestones (8 weeks, 12 weeks, 24 weeks, and each week past 24) and I was doing so great, the worry went completely away. I had no dream that when I went in for my 35 week ultrasound that we would find out what we found out. I figured worst case scenario we would deliver early due to growth issues or fluid issues, but I was not expecting, "Baby B doesn't have a heartbeat."

Like I've said in previous posts, God gave me a complete peace about Nathan from the second I knew something wasn't right with Alexis. I can't even completely explain it, I just remember bowing my head right there on that table and saying, "God, whatever it is, please help us get through this." He told me, "Alexis is gone, Nathan is going to be fine." It was surreal. When the doctor came in, my worst fears and what I believed I heard from God was realized. As we got prepared to deliver Nathan I may have still been in shock but I truly believe God's peace was enveloping me as I had not a single worry about Nathan. I knew he was going to be fine.

In the almost 6 months since we welcomed Nathan into this world and said goodbye to Alexis, I have thought countless times about having more children. Lee and I have always hoped that God-willing, we would have 3-4 children. I still want those children if it is in God's plan for our lives. I have 3 now and would love to have 1 or 2 more (or more if God sees fit). Some people wonder, "Will you be afraid? Will you worry every day?" Well I am not completely sure how I will be when and if I am pregnant again, but I can honestly say that right now I have got this almost surreal freedom from worry, fear, and anxiety.

I don't worry much anymore. I rely heavily upon prayer and Scripture and God's peace which surpasses understanding. The minute something comes up to possibly worry about, I take it directly to God, and say, "Lord I give this to You. Please give me freedom from worry, fear, and anxiety. If I start to worry or be fearful or anxious, please bring to mind a Scripture to give me peace about that exact issue." And you know what, He does. God is so faithful even when we are not. God is just amazing! I've always known that, but now I believe it with all my heart. He will bring us through anything and everything we go through in this life if we just rely upon Him at all times.

Friday, March 25, 2011

1 Year Since We Found Out There Were 2

Well it's been one year, 365 days, since we found out there were two. Here is what I wrote that day:

March 25th, 2010

So today I went to my first official doctor's appointment. I had blood drawn a couple of times to check the HCG levels right after I found out. Today was my 8 week appointment where you get the full physical (won't go into that), they check your blood again, and give you an ultrasound (at least that is how they do it at my doctor's office).

Well after I had had all the less-fun stuff done, we did the ultrasound. After what happened last time I prayed that I would see a healthy baby. We did!!! She measured the baby and (s)he measured right at the due date. We saw the heartbeat and listened to it (one of the most amazing things in the world). The heartbeat was strong. Tears had already filled my eyes and my heart was full.

Then the technician said, "Here's something you probably didn't expect." I said, "Twins?!?!" She said, "YES!" I said, "Are you serious?!" She said, "YES!" Then we checked to make sure it wasn't just an empty sac. It's crazy how quickly Lee and I both thought, "Please let it be another healthy baby." Sure enough we saw another blob. She measured it and it measured around the same as the first. Then we saw another strong heartbeat. This time laughter filled the room.

Everything looked great. We got the whole run-down on twins (more check-ups, more ultrasounds, what else to expect). The due date is the same (November 5th) but they said we hope to go 37 weeks (October 15th). We are thrilled to add two blessings to our family this Autumn.

If you could keep me and the babies in your prayers that would be great.

I can still remember the entire appointment like it was yesterday, from the anxiety going in hoping to just see a healthy baby (since I had some spotting and a previous miscarriage), to the sense of just thankfulness and gratitude when we saw Nathan, to the surprise and laughter when we saw Alexis. Obviously we didn't know the genders yet, but that day I knew that Nathan was a boy and Alexis was a girl. As time went on I started thinking differently. I should have gone with my first instinct. J I remember asking lots of questions, "So how long will I carry them?" "What special things do I need to do?" I could not imagine how big my belly was going to get (I got huge with Luke).

I remember going to our van. I was in the driver's seat, Lee was in the passenger's seat, and Luke was sitting in his seat in the back. We made the best phone calls we've ever made. We called down the list of people. I would get on the phone and say, "Well the baby looked good. But they saw something that we didn't expect. We are having two babies!!!!!!" Everyone said the same thing, "You are joking." I had to get Lee on the phone every time and have Luke say it from the backseat. Everyone was just so surprised and excited.

I met my sister and friends at the park that day and I remember just being so in awe of this double miracle God had done. I even met a mom with twins that same day. I thought that was definitely a God thing.

That night the reality started hitting more. Lee and I went through a million thoughts and questions, laughing and being a little nervous to be honest. But we knew that God gave us these babies for a reason and that He would provide for our needs. And sure enough He did. My prayer the entire pregnancy was that He would get us through whatever was to come. Of course I prayed for my health, the babies' health, full term gestation, and all of that, but what I really prayed for was that God would be there no matter what. And you know what? He was and is.

From the very minute I knew something wasn't right with Alexis, I prayed to God and He put a peace in my heart that is still unexplainable. I think a lot about Philippians 4:6-7. God's peace surpasses all earthly understanding. I honestly never truly knew what that meant until the worst day of my life (so far) happened. But God was there. He was right there in that ultrasound room as I didn't see a heartbeat, He was right there in the exam room when we heard, "Baby B doesn't have a heartbeat", He was right there with us as we made the worst phone calls we've ever made to our family telling them about Alexis' passing, He was right there as we put ourselves together to go out into a waiting room full of pregnant women (we didn't want to upset anyone else), He was right there as we drove home and took care of a few things and packed our stuff, He was right there as we drove to the hospital, He was right there in that hospital room as I waited to meet Nathan and say goodbye to Alexis, He was right there in the delivery room as I heard the glorious sound of one baby crying and the heart wrenching silence of another not crying 2 minutes later, He was right there as I met my son and was filled with joy, He was right there when I met my daughter for that split second, He was right there as we dealt with the overwhelming awesomeness of a new life in our presence and the even more overwhelming sadness of a loss greater than any I've ever experienced, He was right there as we made funeral plans for our precious daughter, He was right there as we went home with only one baby and faced a van with an empty pink car seat, He was right there as we drove home without our baby girl, He was right there as we got home to an empty crib and pink and purple baby stuff we were not going to get to use, He was right there as we buried our baby girl on a beautiful Autumn day, He was right there as we packed all of her things away in boxes and bins, He was right there every time I lost it, every time I got angry and yelled "WHY?!?!?!?!", He was right there and is right here every second of every day. He is here.

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

It Is Well (With My Soul)

Ever since we lost Alexis, I have always had the song, "It Is Well (With My Soul)," in my mind and my heart. I sing it every day and when I rock Nathan at night I sing it and "I Will Carry You" and whatever else hits me that night. My church has sung it a few times since then. For the first few months, I could barely start singing it without bursting into tears. I remember singing it at church and holding Nathan (he was a few weeks old) and tears just streaming down my face. I wasn't crying because "It was well," I was crying because to me it wasn't. I so desperately wanted it to be, but it just wasn't. I wanted to be one of those super Christians who could just give it all to God and say, "Whatever my lot, it is well, Lord!" I couldn't and it broke my heart. I felt like such a hypocrite singing a song in church that I honestly didn't feel like was the truth. I began praying everyday, "Lord help me one day to be able to sing this song and mean it." I've also prayed for "the peace that surpasses understanding." I am thrilled to be able to share that I can finally sing that song and mean it. I know that the peace that I am feeling has to come from God alone. I am amazed at how great the peace is. To be honest, I look at it as a miracle because I know only God could do this. I couldn't do it on my own. Trust me, I've tried at times to no avail. It really only made it worse because when I was having a weak moment, the peace would go away. Once I really trusted God to bring me the peace, He hasn't ceased to let me down. I am so thankful!

When peace, like a river, attendeth my way,
When sorrows like sea billows roll;
Whatever my lot, thou hast taught me to say,
It is well, it is well with my soul.

It is well with my soul,
It is well, it is well with my soul.

Though Satan should buffet, though trials should come,
Let this blest assurance control,
That Christ has regarded my helpless estate,
And hath shed his own blood for my soul.


My sin, oh, the bliss of this glorious thought!
My sin, not in part but the whole,
Is nailed to the cross, and I bear it no more,
Praise the Lord, praise the Lord, O my soul!


And, Lord, haste the day when my faith shall be sight,

The clouds be rolled back as a scroll;
The trump shall resound, and the Lord shall descend,
Even so, it is well with my soul.



Since we lost Alexis at 35 weeks, we had everything completely ready including her 1/2 of the nursery to be shared with Nathan. I would say that taking all of her stuff out of their room the day after the funeral was the 3rd hardest day of my life. It was so painful to pack up that precious baby bedding, stuffed animals, clothes, burp cloths, and all the other things we had for her. I think the hardest part was pulling down the letters of her name on the wall. Lee meticulously put each letter up so that they were just perfect. I hand painted each letter and the butterflies that surrounded them. It was awful taking them down. One butterfly even broke in two when we were taking it off the wall. I was losing it the entire time. There are holes all over her wall from her letters. We've been so busy that they are still there. I look at them often and think of them as symbolism of my heart. My heart had so many holes in it after I lost her. The broken butterfly is a symbol of my broken heart. Someday soon Lee will fill the holes with spackle. The broken butterfly went into my Alexis Box. Over the past 172 days, I can honestly say that I have felt God spackling the holes in my heart and putting the pieces back together. My prayer and hope is that He spackles yours and puts it back together as well.