Monday, May 28, 2012

Wonky Weekend

Three whole days off.  A long weekend.  The unofficial start to summer.  Sounds great, huh?  But this holiday weekend hasn't been the relaxing, fun-filled retreat I'd imagined.  In fact, I almost believe I'm ready to get back to work, if it means we get to hit reset on the random bad luck the past three days have brought!

It isn't that anything major has happened and when you look at the big picture, it's probably very petty to have let any of it bother me.  When you're in the middle of the raincloud though it's difficult to find the silver lining.  Yet, if you know me, I try very hard too.  ...even if it's not until after I have a little cry.

After Noah's ballgame Friday night, the kiddos went home with Mamaw, giving Tim and me an impromptu date night.  It was already late but we spontaneously decided to drive to Bowling Green for a pre-midnight snack.  Little did I know this would be the most relaxing part of my weekend!

Saturday we awoke still kidless and decided to go fishing.  Actually, I'll admit it was all Tim.  If I'd had my way, it would've been a Lifetime movie marathon day, as the heat was beyond my liking point.  But, there are often times in a marriage you do things that wouldn't necessarily be your preference.  I stocked up on water, slathered on the sunscreen, and reminded myself it was quality time with my sweetie.

The river was beautiful when we arrived.  Calm and smooth, reminiscent of Willy Wonka's chocolate river.  Occasionally a welcome breeze would drift through, cooling my heated skin.  My sweet hubby did think about me and packed a fan, rigged to a mini power source, which was redneck but appreciated.  He found us a knobby shade tree stretched over the water we could duck under for comfort.  And the first part of our outing was rather nice.

The sun was pretty unforgiving though and managed to sneak in between tree lines wherever we tried to hide.  The mixture of the heat and the fact that the most I could catch was a snagged line (and deformed fish) was starting to rub me the wrong way.  By the time the flies started biting me, I was done.  Perhaps I'm pretty tasty because those little suckers would take multiple bites before I could swat them away.  My whining moved Tim out of the water sooner than he was ready, but at that point I figured I'd paid my dues, sacrificing nearly six hours in scorching sun for him!

On the ride home, all I could envision was a nice cool house and even colder shower, followed by a huge glass of peach tea.  When I walked in the door though, the heat about knocked me over.  It was cooler outside than in my house.  Something was terribly wrong!  A glance at the thermostat showed 90 degrees and rising and after some investigation, Tim asked me to start finding AC repair numbers.  I was crossing my fingers, wondering if we'd find anyone to come out on a holiday weekend; and if we did, praying the price would be something we could afford.

In the midst of all this, for whatever reason, my husband also decides it is a good time to tackle the lawnmower, which had been giving us trouble the past few days.  (Let's just say short story is, we've spent about $100, including stupid tax, on a simple back tire)  Trying to replace said tire, he misplaced his glasses and hours later when we found them, they were crumpled and missing a lens.  Thankfully he has a spare.

Luckily a nice man finally answered and deemed a broken AC in this heat wave an emergency.  A few hours later, cool air was filtering through the house again.  It was still a somewhat sticky night but we had two toddlers over to keep us distracted.  My baby niece and nephew wanted to stay with "Aunt Heather and Unca Timmy" and although it was a bit of a chaotic start, they were the welcome relief I needed that night.

The next day, after church, Tim reflected on how my fly bites might have saved our AC.  If I hadn't been complaining, we wouldn't have left when we did and probably wouldn't have caught anyone still working.  Not having air in a home with only ceiling fans and no other alternative on a record high heat wave, would not have made for a pleasant weekend.  Our poor puppies would've also been in bad shape, being stuck in their kennels in that heat.  So, thank you fly family for sending us home when you did!

The rest of the weekend was rather uneventful, compared to Saturday, but it did still have it's kinks.  The heat has remained horrendous, and cancelled a few outdoor plans, but I'm so very glad we can cool off in the house.  Our wallet is a lot lighter, but I'm just reminded to save more for the rainy day fund, as it often pours around here.  My floors are stickier, spilling not one but two pitchers of tea, but it just gives me a reason to mop.  My yard is still not mowed, as now that one very expensive tire is finally on, the lawnmower decides to stop working.  Guess the grass can match the overdue bushes and I'll claim we are going green or something.  Despite the storms, I'll remember the sunshine this weekend.  And not the one that heated up the sky....

I'll remember finger licking sticky ribs in a booth with my hubby, seeing him smile every time he got to reel in a fish, a boat picnic under a tall tree while softly rocking on the water, spotting two majestic eagles floating above us in the clear blue sky, the sound of the water spilling onto the bank and watching tiny bugs escape for drier ground, squeals from littles as they ran to the truck, hugs and sweet baby kisses, sleeping with Noah because his room was the coolest and lil Allen took up all the space in our bed, taking those babies to church...even if we did have to drive to vehicles, smoky tasty chicken on the grill along with fresh garden veggies, the first drive-in outing of the season, sitting under the stars with the family, unexpected hugs from Noah under those stars, the goosebump feeling every time I see an American flag blowing in the breeze, a standing ovation for veterans at a small town parade, getting out the camera and playing, capturing memories, seeing the kids laughing on the carnival rides, an ice cold lemon shake up, holding hands while strolling down the sidewalk, making the most of life's moments...whether it's a valley or a mountain,
or somewhere in between.

Friday, May 25, 2012

Faithful Friday: Transforming Trials

We shared our testimony Wednesday night. Verbally.

For someone who has shared both the trials and joys of her life, pretty much as an open book, you wouldn't think this difficult. The difference this time though is that it was aloud.  And being recorded.

It's so much easier for me to communicate in written form, especially if it's personal. Emotions don't get in the way when you're writing. Tears can fall across my keyboard without interrupting the story.
Now, I can certainly talk about many aspects of our life, and how God has worked through us, with ease. Our story is easy to share...up until 2008.

For the longest time I believed our testimony was the motorcycle wreck Tim and I survived in 2005. It was clear to see how God used that time to show us many things. That virtual stop sign was our wake up call for how short life is, how it changes in an instant. The wreck made us appreciate every moment. It strengthened our marriage and unified our family.

And I was content sharing the gratitude. I was grateful to God for the second chance. I was thankful for every moment - big or small. I treasured my family and every memory made with them. I took nothing for granted.  In fact, the time after the wreck was probably our most blessed years. Some of our favorite and beautiful family memories are from this period.  We watched more sunrises and sunsets in that time than our whole lives before. My prayer life forever changed. No longer did I only pray in need but also in thanksgiving. And I was in constant conversation with God. Life was good.

Looking back now I can see His hand in that wreck in so many more ways than I'd first realized. Though the wreck made me physically weaker it made me stronger on so many other levels. My relationships with God and my family were improved and solidified.

Little did I know this strength would be needed just three years later.

Sharing the story of losing Austin is still so very emotional for me. It's a struggle between wanting so very much to tell the world about how wonderful he was to the painful awareness of saying the nightmare of November 29, 2008, out loud. Speaking it is real. It's raw. And it's impossible to share without crying.

But I know that sharing it can be a help to others.  I just struggled in the days leading up to this with how best to get my words out without crying.  In the end, I just gave it God.  Tears did fall but he put a peace upon me, as he has done so many, many times through this journey, which enabled me to continue. 

I was also hesitant in how I could share the grace and the good that has come since losing Austin.  While I see it, some parts of me still hold on to the concept that we lost him for this to happen.  It's selfish, I know.  And in complete honesty, while I miss him with every fiber of my being, I know he is in the best place he can be.  He's where we all want to be someday.  He didn't stay here as long as this momma would've liked, but I'm grateful for the 14 years we had. 

Yet from the first few days of Austin leaving to now, I can pinpoint "God moments" of positive change.  Lives saved.  I can remember some of his lost friends and family at the funeral home and seeing the impact his death made on their life.  A few of them, while hugging me, shared new relationships with God.  One very dear boy said, "I want to make Austin proud."  And I've since seen the significant change in their lives.  Even in our own family, I see members who have a closeness with God that wasn't there before.  What better legacy could Austin have left behind? 

If this tragedy in some way brings even one person closer to God, what a joyous thing!  As I've shared before, Austin loved nothing more than a party.  Whenever we had friends and family over, he was our door greeter, with that giant smile that warmed you instantly, followed by an enormous "Blair Bear" hug.  I know.....I can imagine it in my how my boy is going to be standing at Heaven's gate, so very excited and joy-filled, ready to welcome us in.  And that knowledge is what brings me joy, even through the pain of missing him.

 "I am the resurrection and the life. He who believes in me will live, even though he dies; and whoever lives and believes in me will never die. Do you believe this?"  - John 11:25-26

Thursday, May 24, 2012

Joyful Tidbits

Just a few things that've brought me joy this week.....

Sleeping in (some days), even if only for 30 extra minutes
because school is out! And not only that, but actually having the time
to dress, beautify (ha ha) and feed myself because I'm not frantically
trying to get everyone else ready and out the door!

Do you remember pinwheels?
You know, those brightly colored plastic fans on a stick....
that twirl in the wind or when you gently blow them.
I saw some in the store and took a
stroll down my childhood memory lane. 
I stood there in the middle of the aisle,
watching it twirl in my hand, smiling.
Tim thought I lost my mind.

Random texts from my hubby that simply say,
"I love you."

An email from Panera Bread.
Strange, one might think?
But they were letting me know my favorite,
absolutely favorite salad was back.
And now I shall count the days until
Strawberry Poppyseed Salad is in my belly!

Training volunteers for a new program that will help
ACS reach patients facing cancer to let them know "We are Here" to help.

Writing thank you notes to sweet, sweet friends
who donated generously to Austin's Legacy.

Having the kids waiting impatiently
at the door last night to go to church.
"Can we go yet?!"

And every simple, blessed and joyful moment in between. 

Sunday, May 20, 2012

Unexpected Blessings

Part of me wanted to shut down this weekend.  Close myself off and ignore the events taking place.  To be alone in my sadness. 

I'm so grateful I didn't.

I've learned through this grief journey that some things are meant to be shared.  Certainly there is a time to be alone.  Tears need to have a place to fall in comfort.  Solitude in grief, for me, has brought me closer to God.  It is in those moments that I draw close to Him.  But being with others, especially for milestone moments, brings much needed support too.  And support is something that was given us to us tenfold this weekend.

Friday night would have been Austin's high school graduation.  Until this week, we had no plans to attend.  It just seemed to painful to face.  And now, looking back at the night, I don't know how we would have survived it any other place.  I'm not saying it wasn't difficult and didn't require extensive leaning on God and constant prayer, but the blessings received from the night - and the obvious presence of Austin - was worth every tear.

My biggest concern was Noah.  I didn't want him to experience anymore pain than his little heart already had.  But Shain and Austin's other classmates took him right under their wings, like the true Eagles and friends they were, and made him feel a part of their group.

When we first arrived, I lingered for a moment in the classroom, but quickly saw he was comfortable and would be ok.  I left him to find seats enough to accommodate our group.  He texted me a few times prior to the ceremony beginning and, despite the reason he was there, seemed to be having a good time.  I will forever be grateful to those boys, and know Austin would've been beyond touched to see them honoring him in this way.  We were very proud of Noah for wanting to do this for Austin, the way he carried himself throughout the night, and for the special person he is.

When the sea of graduates filed in front of us, I braced myself.  Knowing Noah was in the front row, part of me wondered if I could and would remain for the entire procession.  And then I noticed sweet surprises sprinkled among the caps, and grown but familiar faces of the Austin's friends, many of whom shared moments and memories with us through his childhood.

Tab - Austin's initials
I saw Austin's Legacy logo actually before graduation even began.  It was atop the head of a beautiful classmate, who had been in school with Austin all the way from the beginning.  An elementary pal, but not even a friend that I knew well.  Knowing that she remembered Austin and wanted him recognized in this way absolutely touched my heart. 

Looking for her in the crowd to show Tim, my eyes fell upon a butterfly. It was directly in front of me, though rows away.  I don't know who's cap it was but the fact that she sat within my view was enough.  My Austin was sending me one of many signs that night, letting me know he was there.  Hugging me from above.

My "Faithful Friday" scripture was focused on Joshua 1:9, and beginning Wednesday, it was prayerfully repeated and on my heart.  As the valedictorian began her speech, she quoted this same scripture.  Yet another hug.  The co-valedictorian mentioned Austin by name, as well as another classmate lost too soon.  I realized that night - this class of 2012 was bookended by student deaths.  My Austin their freshman year and Jake Baize their senior. 

Though my eyes were cloudy with tears and distracted from attempting to record Noah's walk across, I caught glimpses of students - Austin's best friends - standing in ovation for him.  All of this, in addition to the many texts, calls, hugs and outpouring of support from friends and family made this night more of a blessing than the painful milestone I expected.

And what is even more touching is that it didn't end on Friday. 

Saturday afternoon we received a call from our pastor's family, inviting us to their son's graduation party.  Not wanting Austin to be left out, they asked us to be a part of their celebration.  And they offered to release balloons in memory of him.  Though it was - and is - a gesture we will forever treasure, we declined.  Their son David, much like Austin in his kindness and selflessness, deserved this night to be for him. 

Instead we opted for some therapy on the water.  I'm always at peace when surrounded by nature.  It seemed the perfect afternoon to take the boat out to fish.  Perhaps, in a way, we were trying to escape, but we were again given so many signs of Austin.   Stopping for ice and snacks, I picked up a paper to read in the boat.  I was surprised to find that Austin's story was the focus of the newspaper coverage for our county.

Messenger-Inquirer, Saturday May 20, front pg Region
Sunday our plans were again shifted, with yet another tribute for Austin.  Our church was holding a graduation service and wanted Austin to be a part of it.  I had originialy considered skipping the service, fearful it would be too difficult.  But God showed us, as he had all weekend, that we didn't need to retreat, but to be surrounded by friends and family.  And our new family, EHBC, touched our hearts again by making a donation to our scholarship fund in Austin's memory.

It was a weekend for and about Austin. 

Three and half years later, he is still remembered, loved and treasured by those who knew him, and even by those who did not.  Such a tribute to the legacy Austin left. 

His precious life, though here only a brief 14 years, made an impact that will forever live on.  And we are so honored to be given the gift that was and will always be....Austin.

Friday, May 18, 2012

Faithful Friday: Never Alone

"Be strong and courageous. Do not be terrified; do not be discouraged,

for the LORD your God will be with you wherever you go." - Joshua 1:9

I'm praying this scripture for my youngest today. 

Noah's been through so much.  At only twelve, he's suffered too many trials and losses for his young life.  The most difficult has been the past three and half years in coping with the death of his big brother, Austin.

Through it all he's been amazingly strong, more than anything I think to protect Mom & Dad.  He puts on such a brave face but Momma sees the pain in his eyes.  Tonight though he will need tremendous strength and courage. 

Tonight, my baby will walk the graduation line to accept the diploma for his brother.

Our family has faced (and survived) so many moments through this journey that we didn't fathom being able to.  As I shared with him this week, while he was making the decision, it is only because of God we've had the strength needed for each point along the way. 

Worried whether he'de be strong enough to sit through the ceremony and walk across the stage, I reminded him that God is always with him.  And that He sends a peace we can't understand at just the right moments.  I shared that we'd be praying without ceasing in the stands - and I know many of you, my faithful readers - and friends - will join us in prayer.

I'm so proud of the young man he has become, taking every little bit of good of that was Austin and mixing it with his sweet, funny personality. 

Noah tried on the cap and gown on Thursday and sent me this picture.  I can tell from his loving smile that he's honored to be doing this for his "Bubba" - and I know without a doubt that Austin is beyond proud of  who he is and what he's doing tonight in memory of him.

Never would we have imagined this is how we'd spend Austin's high graduation.  Celebrating his memory instead of this milestone...

We're hugged though by the knowledge so many of his friends wanted Austin remembered and present in some way at graduation.  So many of them have reached out to me this week - with memories of Austin, showing airbrushed caps with his initials, offering to walk with Noah in the line.

And we're grateful Noah is able to share this moment with the classmates Austin so dearly loved.  Fitting that he himself graduated on Tuesday.  A 6th grade graduate, he'll move on to middle school next year.   No more a little beaver, he is now an Eagle. 

"Those who hope in the Lord will renew their strength.
They will soar on wings like eagles;
they will run and not grow weary, they will walk and not be faint."
Isaiah 40:31

I'm the proud mom of two eagles now. 
One, just earning his wings and learning to fly.
And one....soaring with the angels.

Monday, May 14, 2012


I feel the need to write, yet I'm not sure I have the words...  These past few days have been so emotionally saturated.  And even though tears have fallen, they haven't the way I'd expected.  In some ways I think I'm numb, but there's so much more.

Sunday was Mother's Day.  It isn't a day I look forward to anymore.  Mother's Day is overwhelmingly hard when you've lost a child.  With Austin, he was my first born, and so it was because of him I celebrated my first holiday.  It's impossible to face the day without being flooded with memories of him.

This was my fourth Mother's Day without him.  With all the emotions from the season, I expected it be a difficult day.  I began my morning in prayer, but during it - and throughout my day - I could feel the prayers from others.  I was held.

There is no explanation for what it feels like to be held in prayer.  It's happened so many times during this journey and each time I'm humbled, grateful and spiritually changed by it's power.  I know that it is because of those prayers, and most importantly, the strength and peace from God, that I've survived.

It's the only explanation I have for yesterday.  Given the circumstances, it was still a good day.  Part of me even felt guilty for the goodness that came.  Was it wrong for me to smile, laugh, and enjoy my day - without Austin here?  Though it hurt to reflect on it, I know that he would say yes.

We'd asked for prayer the night before in our Lifegroup meeting.  In our close circle of friends from church, Tim shared what we'd be facing this coming week.  Austin's graduation would've been this Friday night.  During the prayer, I felt lifted and I believe it is what helped to hold me into the next day.  We went to church at least, and that's a tremendous change from prior years.

I'd avoided Mother's Day in church since losing Austin because it was too much.  Too many painful memories.  Too hard to explain or apologize for falling tears on a day so many others were celebrating.  Too many reminders of moments and memories lost.  But we went yesterday and were blessed from it. 

The night before and morning of, we prayed for my niece, Tina.  This would be yet another Mother's Day without her Mom.  I worried for her, concerned for the pain she might feel.  I even secretly hoped Tim & Noah didn't make a big deal of the holiday in front of her, for fear she'd feel left out.  She surprised me with the sweetest note yesterday, thanking us for what we've done for her.  I was choked up reading it aloud to Tim, especially the ending of, "our love for each other will never end. nothing and no one can replace you, how I feel about you, and everything you have done! Thank you soo much I love you!! :)"  My worries were eased in that instant for her.

It's again just another example of the amazing power of prayer and how, just when we need it most, Providence arrives.  I find myself hoping this peace - and the sense of being held - continues for the week.  We'll need it in the days leading up to Austin's graduation and now, more than ever, Friday night.

I was caught a bit off guard this morning when receiving a call from the high school.  They wanted to recognize Austin in some way at graduation and wanted our family to be a part of it.  I'm still not sure how to process it all.  Regardless of how we choose to remember Austin, it is going to be a night of needed prayers.  And I'm clinging to the faith that through it all we'll remain held.

"Asking for prayer, isn't meant to burden others.

It's about letting others share the path you were never meant to walk alone."

Saturday, May 12, 2012

Simply Blessed

Today, I'm thankful for....
simple JOYS.

Alone time with my hubby

The calm peaceful rocking from my spot in the boat

Singing loudly to the radio
...because the fish, nor my hubby will complain

Perfect spring weather
...even in the midst of sprinkling rain

Shaved ham & cheese loaf sandwiches
...with stick the roof of your mouth soft bread

Catching the biggest fish
.....and the smallest, baby fish
of the day

Spending time with our new-to-us second family
....Lifegroup with EHBC

Potluck & Prayers

more laughter than tears
....and for laughing until there were tears

And pausing in every, single little moment of this day
...and realizing how precious and great it was.


Friday, May 11, 2012

Faithful Friday: Blind Faith

I've been scared twice this week.  Both have been by things I couldn't see.

I was pulling into the house the other night and a strange beeping comes across my phone.  On it was a message, "I see you." Unlike typical texts, it showed no number.  I'll admit I was a tad weirded out.

Sitting there - and glancing over my shoulders for a hidden stalker - I tried to figure out who and what this was.  And then he came bouncing out of the house, bowled over in laughter.

Mr. "App Man," I should've guessed it came from Noah.  He'd found a tracker app that, because he knows my user ID and password, he can spy on my location.  Even though he's my son (and I totally plan to use it for him), it still felt a little odd.  To think someone is watching and can "see" me at any point is a feeling I'm not quite comfortable with.

It's eerily correct, as if he's a member of a special CIA unit involved in a surveillance on me.  He'll randomly call or text me now and say, "Are you on 18th street?" or "You're almost home!"  This also totally takes away my plan to surprise them this summer and see if they're doing the flight-of-the-bumble-bee cleaning sweep right before I get home.

However, it makes Noah happy.  For one, he likes to pick on me.  More than anything, he probably enjoys seeing where I am, and most importantly, knowing when I'm close to home.

Last night on the way back from youth, Noah is rambling on about church and the fun they had.  In the midst of his scattered sentences he says, "Oh yeah, and I think I broke my finger!"  Like his mom, he can sway a bit on the dramatic side so I really thought nothing of it. 

He's a boy.  He plays basketball usually before and after any service at church.  He mentioned it again and it's purple shading so I glanced over.  It looked jammed to me.

Once home, Tim investigated.  He agreed.  We basically patted him on the head, told him to "man up," and sent him to bed. 

This morning, we sent him off to school, both still fairly certain it was just a jam.  When a call from the nurse came in a few hours later, I answered with a worry in my gut.  She agreed it was probably also a jam, but the swelling had increased and the purple color was intensifying. 

Now, my momma worry meter was full.

I stared at the finger as he walked into the office, looked at it on the way to the doctor and prayed over it while waiting for them to call us back.  It couldn't be broken.  It didn't look broken.

After inspection, much to everyone's surprise (including doc), the news was in.  It was broken!  Not a serious, make a trip to an orthopedic specialist, but a break just the same.  A small, hairline fracture that only can be seen through the magic of x-ray.

The outcome was probably the best though, especially for my sports loving, double athlete.  He can keep playing baseball and it shouldn't hinder the start of football season.  He was happy.  And in good enough spirits to remind me, "And said to 'man up' it's just a jam!"

As I reflected on the week, though a humorous spin, this scripture seemed fitting for Faithful Friday.

"Now faith is being sure of what we hope for and certain of what we do not see." Hebrews 11:1

So often in this life, we are afraid or uncertain of what we cannot see.  If we cannot control it, we are unsure of the outcome.  I couldn't see Noah, but he could see me.  I couldn't see the break in his finger, but it was there. 

It is only through faith that we can rest assured of our future. Just because we can't see something, doesn't mean it isn't there.  I can face today because of my hope for tomorrow's Home.  And while I can't see God, I know he's always, always there.

Wednesday, May 9, 2012

A Push From Above...

May is hard. 

This next week will be the most difficult.

In the course of five days, I'll be dealing with the emotions of Mother's Day and graduation.
Giving thanks to God for blessing me with two beautiful boys.  And grieving the loss of my first born.  Celebrating the milestone of my youngest leaving elementary school.  Heartbroken because my oldest is no longer with us; he cannot walk the line to receive his high diploma.  So many emotions...

Yesterday I was in a store and was overwhelmed with the signs of the season.  Happy cards and gifts of celebration for those two special days. 

But Mother's Day just isn't the same when you've lost a child.  I'll spend the day holding my baby, who's taller than me, and soaking up every moment I can with him.  But I'll also spend it holding my oldest, now gone from this world, in my heart. 

Talk of graduation is all around me.  I can't escape it.  It's in my office.  It's on the shelves of stores.  It's on Facebook and email, on the radio, and everywhere I seem to be.  I should be part of that celebration.  We should be sending invitations and planning a party for Austin's big day.  And the knowledge that we can't is sometimes more than I can bear.

Yesterday, I wanted to leave the store angry,or at least in tears.  But something whispered...Someone tugged at my heart, much like he used to tug on my sleeve.  He pushed me gently.

I left the store with a smile - and a mission.

Probably due mostly to the emotions of the season, I've waivered on continuining the scholarship fund we formed in Austin's memory.  For some reason, I linked the success of the program to the number of applicants we'd received each year.  I don't know why that mattered.

I was reminded of a favorite story....

The Starfish Story

Original Story by: Loren Eisley

 One day a man was walking along the beach when he noticed
a boy picking something up

 and gently throwing it into the ocean.

Approaching the boy, he asked, What are you doing?

The youth replied, Throwing starfish back into the ocean. The surf is up and the tide is going out. 
If I don't throw them back, they'll die.

Son, the man said, don't you realize there are miles and miles of beach and hundreds of starfish? You can't make a difference!

After listening politely, the boy bent down,
picked up another starfish,
and threw it back into the surf. 

Then, smiling at the man, he said,
"I made a difference for that one."

Austin's Legacy certainly has made a difference in the lives of four amazing young women.  And he will continue to shine down on us and through us to keep changing lives.

I can't send out invitations to his graduation this week, but I can raise money for this legacy in his memory.  As is the practice when receiving an invitation, money is sent.  A gift to congratulate the graduate.  Instead, I'm asking that gifts be made in Austin's memory to the legacy he left behind.

Will you consider sending a gift today?

Sunday, May 6, 2012

Surprise in the Crowd

My baby is nearly full grown.  (sniff, sniff)
In exactly eight days he'll be "graduated" least from elementary school.
Friday was the school's annual Yearend-Let's get ready for testing-Parade. 
I surprised Noah by being one of the many parents in the crowd that day.

I love catching him in the moment, when he's not aware I'm there.
He was obviously very excited to be there.  And pumping up his class.

Always with a smile on his face.
...One that lights up my heart.

And the best moment...
when he realizes Mom is there!

And after much prompting, I eventually got a wave. 
I'm telling myself it was the shock and not the
"I can't pretend to be excited cuz you're my mom and I'm a cool 6th grader" syndrome.

At any rate, it was about the best lunch hour I've spent in months!

"You will find as you look back upon your life that the moments when you have really lived are the moments when you have done things in the spirit of love."

Friday, May 4, 2012

Faithful Friday: Choosing Joy

"....Do not sorrow, for the joy of the Lord is your strength.” - Nehemiah 8:10

Having written a few guest posts lately, I've reflected more on how I came to choose joy.  I think in the beginning of this blog journey, I was just on auto pilot.  It was as if something deep inside me just put me through the motions.  Unexplainable. 

I can still recall that night in the bed when I was literally brought awake with this message.  Something stirred inside my soul and it whispered, "choose JOY!"  It was so persistent, I was led to the computer in the wee hours of the night and thus, this blog began. 

We were a year and a half into our loss.  Infants in grief really.  While the initial shock had faded and the replay of that nightmare not so frequent, the pain was still ever raw.  Though the stages of grief never arrive in order or in a neat little timeline, for that moment I was on an upward turn.  I know now that, though I didn't realize it at the time, I was making a choice.  Grief was apparent.  Pain from child loss would never cease.  I could choose to drown in my sorrow, or cling tight to my Lord and find joy.

I'm so very grateful - beyond words - that I chose the latter. 

Looking back from the very beginning, where I am today seems almost impossible.  I was shattered.  Broken.  Beyond repair.  Crumbled, literally, in a sobbing mess on my living room floor.  Days became night, nights became day.  Though I pleaded with the world, life wouldn't pause.  I screamed for time to just stop.  I was hurt.  I was angry with God.  Strapped into a roller coaster I didn't want to ride, I was headed for the deepest, darkest and loneliest journey of my life.

How I ended up where I am today is beyond me.  There is only one explanation and that is through the strength of my God.  He's pushed me on days when I needed it, given me peace when there were no other options for survival, and held me through it all.  And most of all, he's given me the eyes to seek and find joy, which is an unimaginable and beautiful gift I never thought possible.

Whatever sadness you are facing today, however deep in despair you may feel, grab hold of God. 
He can strengthen you and show you the joy of each day again...

I had a goosebump, Austin hug moment just now selecting this photo.
A simple Google search of today's scripture found more photos of JOY and little butterflies than anything else.
Just another unexpected dose of JOY for my day!

Thursday, May 3, 2012

Guest Post: Hopeful Leigh

Happy Thursday, Joyful Friends!

Something I haven't truly shared on my blog is our faith journey, especially since losing Austin.

I'm so honored today to be Guest Posting at a beautiful blog, HopefulLeigh
Please click the link above to visit and learn my story.  And while you're there, browse around and give her some Joyful love.  Leigh is a talented writer I know you will enjoy reading.

Tuesday, May 1, 2012


Today was a hard yet special day.  While I fought back tears, I was filled with a sense of peace and of Austin's presence.

This afternoon was Awards day at the high school.  Our family was there, not in the stands proudly cheering on our sweet Austin as we'd hoped to, but instead presenting in his memory.

Through the Austin's Legacy Scholarship Fund, we awarded three very deserving girls today.  Totaling nearly $2000, Austin's spirit and legacy lives on through the paths of each of these young and amazing women.

If you read earlier this month, in Special Signs & Scholarships, you'll know the goosebump moment we had when selecting our top winner.  But every one of the our recipients had touching stories and connections to Austin in some way. 

With our $300 winner, though we didn't know her or her family personally, we felt like kindred spirits reading the losses they've suffered.  A sixty second hug by her mom today solidified that bond, only mother's of loss can understand.  It certainly wasn't the deciding factor for her to receive this award, as she won it on her own merit, but we will always hold a place in our hearts for this young girl and wish her the best.

With our second, I've known her for many years.  She and Austin were friends.  As I found her in the crowd prior to presenting, I could nearly feel Austin smiling down.  And when we hugged after the ceremony, I knew without a doubt our committee had made the right decision in awarding her a $500 scholarship.

And of course of our top level winner, who received $1000, has a long history with our family.  It's shared in the story above but again was not the deciding factor in her receiving.  The judging was almost done blindly, as nobody but me knew the background.  It was an honor to recognize Rachel because she symbolized what Austin was all about - helping others and volunteering.  And we wish her all the best in what I'm sure will be a bright future.

Going in today, I asked for prayers from friends and family and with the sense of peace which washed over me it was apparent they did.  I struggled at the start, part of my mom heart hurting that we Austin wasn't with us.  I thought that seeing all these other kids would be too difficult but it wasn't. 

We were able to see many of Austin's friends, all grown up and doing well.  I could feel an Austin hug with each familiar name that came down from the stands.  And I saw many of my little girls, who'd I'd taught for so many years in GAs at church, now young women who I'm so proud to see have excelled.  In the end, though tears did fall, it was a good day.  I'm stocked up on my hug tank and am grateful I got to spend time with Austin's classmates and friends.  Walking out I realized, though not in the way we'd expected, I did get to proudly cheer on my boy.  He was very much a part of today and, just like always, making a huge difference in others lives.

This morning, a surprise came in my email, letting me know another of my posts had been featured on BlogHer.  This particular post has never been shared on my blog, as it was my first exclusive writing for BlogHer.  I'm attaching it below to share with you now.  Very fitting and timely that it was all about Austin, and just an extra hug I needed for this day.

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