It’s Never Too Late For Goodness

I’m afraid that today’s blog is coming from a point of aggravation.  On top of the emotional rollercoaster I’ve been on, I still have all the little every day frustrations to deal with, and I’m just going to go ahead and admit, up front, that I have not been doing a good job.  The recent turn of events has left us shattered, and now that all the smoke has cleared and the ashes have settled, I find myself struggling to pull the all the pieces of our lives back together.  Difficult could not even begin to describe the task that I am now facing.  Needless to say, whatever can go wrong will, and just when I feel like the pieces are falling back into place, it all falls apart again.

Right now we should be doing our school lesson, but instead, Judah sits on his bed – feeling sorry, no doubt, along with a bunch of other emotions – and me, I’m desperately trying to find my composure and the strength to hold it together.  I know my little boy better than anyone, and this just isn’t him today, but I haven’t been myself either. My children now know, too personally, the sting of death, and a little bit more of their innocence has been taken away. I just don’t know how to handle their fragile little emotions and still do what we need to do. I’m not sure how to handle my emotions and still do what we need to do.  I really have not been doing a good job.  God please help me, because now it’s time to pull it together, and feed my family lunch, and try to carry on with our day.  Jesus, You who makes all things new, help me to salvage this day.  It’s never too late for goodness.  It’s never too late for goodness.  It’s never too late for goodness.

Arianna Joy

It’s been one month today since we lost our baby. Already a month…just a month…time is funny that way. It’s goes by so quickly, and yet it seems so long. My friend Camille is right – I do have the need to talk about Arianna, to tell her story and have people know what I know – that her’s was a valid life in God, and though not on this earth, she is living in eternity. She is a life, and a life worth mentioning. So here is her story…

Arianna had been wanted, and longed for, for well over a year. If I had to say, the closest to an accurate number that I could give would be for 29 years.  For as long as there was a me, there was always a desire for her. Long before I was ever married and had kids, she existed as a dream in my heart. And after getting married and starting my life with Jason, I couldn’t wait to start our family.  And even after having all 3 of my beauties that I have now, she was still wanted - a much-needed piece of the puzzle I call family.

And of course I was not alone in my desires for her. Judah and Bella, and even Justice, had asked for a baby sister for a year. We heard their pleas and request for a baby sister every day. Judah would tell me that he wanted God to give me 4 kids, 2 boys and 2 girls, and Bella would ask Jesus for a baby sister almost every night. And even Justice, at age 2, saw his newborn baby cousin and exclaimed, “I want that! I want one!” It got to the point of him answering what he wanted for Christmas was a baby sister. Likewise, what Bella wanted for her birthday was a baby sister.

So it was like being in our own little fairy tale when we discovered that I was expecting again on Bella’s birthday, only our Happily Ever After had been delayed.  On December 17 I had a doctor’s appointment. It was just supposed to be a normal check-up, but all of a sudden I was having to listen to the doctor say, “Amanda, there’s no heartbeat, ” and I was having to let go of who I never got to hold.

It was just 12 weeks, but she was a part of me in way that only she and 3 others have ever been, and that’s long enough. She is my daughter, and I am a mother of 4, and I do have the need to share her life with others. But all I really know about her is that we wanted her so much, and that we were already so in love with her, and that she had already brought us so much joy.  So I just had to say to God, “I would like to tell people about her, but what do I say?  What is her purpose?  What is her destiny?”   And this is what He said…

Tell them she was formed by My hand, made in My image, and she is beautiful.  Her purpose is joy, and her destiny is holiness, and that is why she is here – to bring Me joy, in holiness.

This is her story -  that she was fearfully and wonderfully made, and known by God even before she was formed in her mother’s womb.  And she was loved by Him, and by us.

We have named her Arianna Joy - Arianna meaning most holy, and Joy meaning joy.  She has brought us much joy.  I love saying her name, and I love seeing it in writing.

Arieanna Joy Collage

I’m Holding On To The Love That Has Laid Hold Of Me

Happy Wednesday morning!  I had another special time at Morning Watch, even though there were a couple of glitches getting started.  It’s such a special time for me, in the secret place with God.  I know I’ve said it before, but I must say it again; it’s not’s a duty, it’s not a chore, it’s my pleasure to spend the early Wednesday morning hour in fellowship with the Lover of my soul, and those who are lovesick for Him.  This morning was particularly healing for me, singing songs that have been lifting my soul and bringing me through everything.

I had a dream last week…not a bad dream, but waking up to the devastating truth that it was not real brought back all my first feelings of sorrow and grief of having lost my baby.  I dreamed that I was having a baby and woke up just as I was about to deliver.  And even though there were silly, nonsensical happenings in the dream, it felt utterly real – so real that I was completely dazed when I woke up.  But then the weight of reality hit me like a hammer:  It’s not real.  I no longer have a baby I lost her.  And I heard again the words that the doctor had spoken to me, “Amanda, there’s no heartbeat.”  I immediately got an aching tightness in my chest and it was hard to breathe, and I thought that I was going to burst with sobbing so I quickly got out of bed and went downstairs.  All I could think was, “Why, God, would you let me dream that?”  And as I sat there with my cries trapped in deep in my chest, and feeling like letting go and giving up, I heard the words of a Jon Thurlow song:

I look into Your eyes of mercy, I look into Your eyes of love

I remember that Your heart is for me

I’m holding on to Your divine love

I’m holding on and I’m not letting go

It’s not my zeal; it’s that Your love is strong

It’s not my strength; it’s that You’re faithful

It’s not so much that I’m holding on, but that I’m being held on to.  And just when my heart would faint, He is here with His rod and His staff and comforts me.  He is with me in the night, in the valley of weeping, turning it all to joy.  He doesn’t just give me mercy; He is Mercy.  He is Joy, and He is Love, and alive in me.  When I can’t find strength, strength finds me.  And “I’m holding on to the love that has laid hold of me.”

As in the words of Laura Hackett’s song, You Satisfy My Soul:

You make my heart sing

You lift me on eagles wings

Just when I thought that my heart would faint

You take the darkest night

And turn it to shining light

Just when I thought that the night had won


Oops, I almost forgot that today was Wednesday and time for me to jot a little something down in my blog again.  I’ll blame it on the fact that I was out of my normal routine for today.  I didn’t get to go to Morning Watch because Jason had to work in Louisville and leave the house before I would get back home.  And so began the Wednesday where I felt mostly out of sorts, if I can use that phrase for what I mean.  I didn’t do things the way I normally would like to.  I was so sleepy and was not ready to get out bed.  But Judah and Bella were up, and Jason was leaving, so I easily gave in to Judah’s persistent request to watch something on tv.  My plan was to lay down on the couch, under the warmth of my new electric blanket Jason got me, and rest until the movie they picked out was over.  But by the time I atually got to make it to the couch, I was awake and decided to do some journaling instead of resting.

Last night Jason bought me a special journal to use for writing through the loss of Arianna and to record the story of her life.  I have come across several instances of people writing, or encouraging to write, to help through the process of grieving, so I decided to give it a try.  So last night we went to Barnes & Noble to shop for one…and we also thought it would do us some good to just get out of the house and let the kids play at the Lego and train table.  I quickly ended up with a whole stack of journals that seemed worthy enough for the purpose, but ended up not getting any of those.  I had searched around for any and all journals that had a picture of a butterfly because I discovered it is a common symbol used for a pregnancy loss.  A butterfly represents a short life – the butterfly transforming from caterpillar (life) through chrysalis (death) to butterfly (resurrection) in only a short space of time.  I didn’t find any, but while I was going through several others, Jason came to me with one he had found.  It was spiral bound, like what I was wanting so I wouldn’t have to deal with a rigid binding that makes it difficult the write, and it had a single butterfly on the cover — simple and beautiful in the color of the flowers we have chosen to plant in honor of our daughter, forget-me-nots.  He didn’t know anything about the symbol of the butterfly, he just saw it and thought it might mean something special to me, and it did.

So this morning I started writing my way through all my emotions, and I think it really is helping.  To be able to express, in complete freedom, the way I feel is, in fact, very healing.  It is bringing me face to face with my true feelings so that I can recognize them, deal with them, and heal from them.


Writing Again

On this first Wednesday morning of the year, I’d like to renew my committment to my blog.  Life has thrown us a couple of curve balls, in recent months, that distracted me from my desire to write.  Lots of up and downs, some really big ups, and even some really big downs, have made their way into our lives.  But through them all, the Lord has been near to us.  He has been right here close, never far away.

Jesus is so good at making things new and good, and just when I didn’t think I could feel anything else but pain, He came and gave me joy.  There is a deeper knowing that can come out of the place of sorrow and loss, and through it comes an intimate understanding of how blessed those are who mourn, for they are comforted.

Jesus is still healing my heart.  It takes time to mend such deep hurts, but it’s just a matter of time.  And in the meantime, He is near to me, closer than a brother.  I am being loved by Love Himself, and  I am being comforted by The Comforter.

So once again, I have the desire to write again, and this is my committment…to spend some time (some time) every Wednesday morning doing a little writing.  And maybe I will find some time in other places of my week to devote to my blog too, at least that is my hope.  I once read that “The desire to write grows with writing.”  I hope to find that true.  And perhaps it will lead to more healing, and to something that will glorify the Lord.

2012 Brought Me Joy

The thing about experiencing tragedy at the end of the year is that you can easily forget all the wonderfulness of the previous months.  2012 was a great year for us…getting settled in our new home, starting homeschool, introducing Judah to baseball and discovering his talent for it, letting Bella have at try at soccer and me at coaching, a summer full of fun, getting Bella into dance and watching her do something she loves, joining a homeschool group, having tons of birthday party fun, the homegoing of my grandmother, and so much more.

One of our greatest joys was discovering that we were expecting our 4th child.  It was a very special time for us.  Bella was getting ready to turn 4, and as the time grew closer, I asked her what she wanted for her birthday.  Her response was always the same, “A baby sister.”  It had started early that year when I was grocery shopping with the kids.  We were in Sam’s and passed by a mother that had a tiny little baby girl in a stroller.  Judah looked at me and said, “Look at that baby girl Mommy…I want a baby sister.”  I reminded him that he had one, that Bella was his baby sister, but he responded with, “No, I mean a little one like that,” pointing at the newborn.  From that moment, both Judah’s and Bella’s desire for a new baby sister only grew, and spread to Justice, and eventually to me and Jason.

So it was very special to us when we discovered that I was pregnant the week of Bella’s birthday.  We shared our happy news at her party, and from then, our excitement and joy only grew.  The kids talked about our new baby every day, especially Bella, who would often cry at bedtime that she missed her baby sister.  (From day one, it was a baby sister. It didn’t matter how many times we explained to them that we didn’t know yet if it was a boy or a girl; they were certain it was a girl. And so were Jason and I.)  She couldn’t wait to have her and made sure that every night when we prayed we thanked God for our new baby.  And by the time Christmas was here, even Justice was saying that what he wanted for Christmas was his baby sister.  She was already very much wanted and loved.

There are no words for the grief we felt when we got the news that are baby no longer had a heartbeat, so I won’t even try to convey it.  Instead, what I’d like to share is the joy she brought us in the 12 weeks she was in our lives.  Although we didn’t see her, or hold her in our arms, her life touched ours.  She is forever a part of our family for she was created for eternity.  I don’t understand why things happen the way they do, but what I do know is that my baby’s life will glorify the Lord.  In this I have comfort, and I have joy.

So 2012 was a good year for us, a very good year indeed.  It brought laughter and tears, and joy and sorrow.  It brought me my second daughter, and her name is Arianna Joy, and I am forever grateful for her life.

What does my future hold?

So I have let myself lose track of time again.  And once again, I have let too much time pass without writing anything.  Even though I haven’t met it in a long time, I set a little personal goal for myself of writing at least once a week.  Writing is important to me.  I love to do it for many reasons, and I actually use to be fairly good at it.  It started out as my first career choice with print journalism being my first major.  But I quickly learned that it would suit me better to leave writing as something I could just do for enjoyment on the side.  So I changed my major to early childhood education, then more specifically to special education.  Which, in a way, is what I am doing now…I am educating my 3 children (all 5 and under) in a very specialized, one-0n-one style through home school.  But I often wonder, now that life has brought me this far (married, 3 young kids, and possibly more in the future) without having actually completed my formal degree, “Will I ever go back and finish school?”  “And if so, what will I do?”  “Continue with education, or perhaps go back to my first choice of writing?”  “Maybe I could teach writing?”  “What does my future hold?”

These are the thoughts I am thinking as I have a just a few moments of quiet while the kids are napping, and before I must continue with my long list of chores today.


It’s Friday, the end of a crazy week, but that doesn’t really make me feel better because I know next week is scheduled to be even crazier.  But for now, the kids are playing quite nicely upstairs, and I have a few moments of quiet, which in itself is something to be thankful for.

But I would also like to spend these few moments practicing thankfulness for something else, Jason’s job.  6 years ago we moved to Louisville for Jason to take a full-time youth pastor position.  It was actually a pay cut for him, but I had just recently started working full-time (with benefits) at  J C Penney (I had just completed my Associate’s degree and was planning on finishing school at U of L after we got settled into the new house), and our housing and utilities were completely covered by the church, so all would be fine.  But…2 weeks after we moved we found out that I was pregnant.  We hadn’t exactly been trying, and had actually just decided that we needed to wait a little longer before we did have a baby, but that didn’t change how incredibly happy and thrilled we were.

But it did come at a price, for I became so sick (I’d like to emphasize that sick is really an understatement here — I was so much more than just sick, but for lack of a better word, sick will suffice.) that I was no longer able to work.  So we lost our health insurance and had even less money to live on every month, and with a baby on the way.  As hard as it was though, we were always taken care of.  (I could write a whole other blog on the miraculous provision of God during that time, but it will have to wait for another time.)

So Judah was born, and although we were living a modest life, we couldn’t have been happier.  Judah was 6 months old when we discovered that I was pregnant with Arabella — another surprise, but such a good one.  We were tickled pink (literally pink) that we were gonna have another bundle of joy, but it was right about the same time that the church had decided to make Jason’s position part-time and not pay him a salary anymore.  Our housing would still be provided, but Jason now had to find another job.  This led to him going back to school to get an IT degree, which I have to admit, I fought him about this.  With a 6 month old baby, and another one on the way, I did not want the kind of life where he would work 40 hours a week and then spend even more time on school, and have very little time and energy left for his family.  We had many serious conversations about it, but ultimately I gave in and stopped trying to convince him not to do it.  I honestly didn’t believe it was the best decision, but I saw how determined he was so I tried my best to support him.  I just want to state, for the record, I couldn’t have been more wrong.  Jason was right, and I was wrong.

I don’t know where we would be, if he hadn’t made the decision to go back to school, for over the course of 6 weeks, he put in his application and submitted his resume to so many places, tirelessly, and never heard anything.  Weeks went by, and we began to wonder what on earth we were gonna do.  One night Jason was talking with one of his new classmates in the course he had just signed up for, and his instructor heard how he was needing a job and spoke up, “You need a job?  I’ll give you a job.”  And just like that, Jason had the exact job in the career field he was wanting.  It was what he was going back to school for.  Jason’s two instructors, that were co-teaching his classes, had started their own software development company, and they hired him to come and work with them, before he had completed his first month of school!  So while he was going to school for software development, he was getting to work, with pay, and get on the job training as well.  Oh, and he got to, and still does, work from home.  So our family life didn’t suffer at all.  It really seemed too good to be true, but we know God really is that good.

So Jason has been with his company for 4 years now, and I have no question that he is where God has placed him.  It is the greatest company to work for.  His 2 bosses, that started out as his instructors, have not only been so good to him career-wise, they have been good friends to our family as well.  They are truly great people with great families.  And over the past 4 years, God has really blessed the company expanded it with even more great people.

Just one more thing I’m thankful for in regards to Jason’s work…God has also opened the door at Sullivan University so that he is now the instructor for the same courses he had taken just a few short year before — another HUGE blessing.  All of this has provided the way for me to be able to stay at home and raise our kids, and to do home school (2 very important dreams of mine), and to do it all in the house of our dreams.  Last thanksgiving, we got to move into our very first home, and it’s exactly what we wanted in every way.  Now, you won’t see our house on HGTV as a million dollar home, but it really is our dream home.  It met everything on our wish list, even the things that we really weren’t expecting to get, and then some extras that we weren’t even considering.  And just for some fun facts…our gray-siding house was built in 2004, the year Jason and I were married.  Also, Graham means “from the gray home.”

So, I am thankful for the amazing provision of God, I’m thankful for his incredible plans for our lives and the desire He gives us to follow them, and I’m thankful for the amazing man that Jason is and how hard he works.  And I’m incredibly thankful that he did not give in and listen to me…that one time.

A Lesson in Parenting from Psalm 19

There is a passage in Psalms that I have been thinking a great deal on.  Psalm 19:7-11 says

The instruction of the Lord is perfect, reviving the soul; the testimony of the Lord is trustworthy, making the inexperienced wise.  The precepts of the Lord are right, making the heart glad; the commandment of the Lord is radiant, making the eyes light up.  The fear of the Lord is pure, enduring forever; the ordinances of the Lord are reliable and altogether righteous.  They are more desirable than gold — than an abundance of pure gold; and sweeter than honey — than honey dripping from the comb.  In addition, Your servant is warned by them; there is great reward in keeping them.

I have recently felt the Lord leading me to spend some time in Psalms to have my joy and passion stirred.  When I came to this passage I couldn’t get away from it; I just kept reading it over and over, knowing that there was something more that I was supposed to get than what I was already understanding.  After spending a couple of days meditating on these words, my thoughts shifted from dwelling on myself and moved onto my children…

Are my instructions for our children perfect to the point of reviving their souls?  Is the testimony that I share with them trustworthy enough to give them wisdom?  Are my rules right?  Do they make my children’s hearts glad and give them joy?  Do my commands lead them to light?  Are they reliable and altogether righteous?  Is what I’m teaching my children more desirable than gold and sweeter than honey?  Will it lead them to a sweet, rich life?  Will it lead them to righteousness and keep them from evil?  Will they find great reward in what they learn from me?

So now, I find myself with the need to reevaluate my parenting – my goals, motivations, and priorities — and gratefully so.  I am thankful that I have The Good Father to guide me and teach me how to be the mother he desires me to be.

A Walk Down Memory Lane Part

Although, I can’t recall the exact moment when I actually met Jason for the first time, I also can’t remember when I didn’t know him.  We grew up going to the same summer church camp, so as far back as I can remember I’ve always known who he and his family were.  But I do remember when and where our story begins.

I was 15 when we had our meet-cute.  13 years ago at Camp Nikao, we started “hanging out” together…or at least within the same circle of friends.  To be a little more specific, my best friend Julia, with whom I went to camp with every year, met a boy–enough said.  But to further elaborate, Julia met Danny, who is now her husband, which is how most love stories that happen at camp end–happily ever after in marriage.

But back to my original thought, I, being 15, younger than most everyone else at camp that year, was kinda left lonely and wondering what to do when Julia started spending most of her time with Danny.  I was happy for her, but at the same time was feeling very much left out.  I wasn’t outgoing enough to make new friends on my own, and had it not been for Grace and Julie, I probably would have spent the entire week in solitude.  But Grace and Julie, who were older, felt sorry for me and started pulling me in with them their friends.  That was when I first met Jason for myself, I guess you could say.  Jason was a long-time friend of Grace.

I remember one morning in particular, we were hanging around one of the picnic tables in the shade just talking and laughing.  And for some reason I decided to share the experience I had in the shower that morning — I was washing my face and had somehow managed to get the facial cleanser up my nose.  This of course made me sneeze, and when I sneezed, I sneezed out bubbles.  It’s a rather silly story, but it made everyone laugh, and it made Jason laugh.  And it was just one of those moments that I can never forget.  At that point, I hadn’t been the outgoing, fun, funny type person.  I had pretty much been a quiet, quite shy girl, only socializing with my few closest friends.  But there I was in a circle of older people, and I actually said something that made everyone laugh.  It was a small joy, but a joy nonetheless that I experienced, and Jason played a significant role in it. And now that I think about it, this is a HUGE part of our story because laughing together, and making each laugh has become a very important staple of our marriage.

So at that time I was 15 and Jason was either 20 0r 21, depending on what week of June it was.  Obviously, nothing came out of that week of camp except for getting acquainted with one another, and perhaps a little harmless flirting…He told me, and I quote, “I wish I was 15 [...] So I could ask you to the Banquet.”  The Banquet was a big fancy dinner on the last night of camp that was notoriously known as the date night.  I’m not even sure how it all began, but every year they would do a nice dinner for the last night of camp, and somewhere along the way boys and girls starting asking each other to go to the Banquet.  Much like a school dance I guess, except this was church camp.  And when Jason made that statement to me, I do believe he was asking me if I would go to the Banquet with a guy in his cabin who was to shy to ask for himself.  I, not knowing this guy beyond seeing him across a crowded room, asked Jason’s advice, “Do you think I should?”  And he assured me that he was a really nice guy, so I agreed.  Of course, the whole thing is just ridiculous to me now, the epitome of teenage silliness.  But I sat next to and ate the Banquet dinner with this guy, whom I didn’t know and didn’t even speak to I think.  Luckily, Grace and Julie and Jason were sitting with us too, so it wasn’t too awkward.  True Story.

So I walked away from that week of camp thinking that Grace and Julie and Jason were all very nice and so sweet for letting me hang out with them.  To me, it was an act of sympathy on their part to boost the self-esteem of a 15-year-old girl.  Which, for the most part, I think it was…but, there was definitely an impression made.

To be continued…