Category: Our Journey Through Grief(Personal)

Hope Rises

Just the other day I went out to wait for my kids to get off the bus. I slipped on my muck boots and rain gear as the clouds opened up to unleash a downpour on my departure to the bus stop. I fought the rain trying to remain dry and enclosed in my rain get up as I first set out to fetch eggs, pick strawberries and some tomatoes for dinner.

I headed toward the drive way to await the girls arrival home and noticed a clearing in the clouds. It was raining but admits the downpour was light brightly shining through as the clouds began to open up.

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Our Souls go through periods of drought and God’s living water has the ability to bring revival to our weary Souls.

I took off my hood amazed at the sheer beauty of the moment and no longer hid but allowed the water to engulf my face. It felt refreshing and delightful as I let the droplets trickle down my face.

It reminded me of an earlier event that happened this summer. I had set out to head somewhere and looked toward my garden. It had rained the previous day and prior everything had look dried up, brittle and barely hanging on. After the rain it looked like my garden had a major revival. It was like a magic growing potion had been poured in the soil. We all know that’s really not the case (my little homestead is organic, Yo), but I was amazed at the beauty, vibrance of color and growth that happened with just one rainfall.

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Plant Seeds Of Hope

Our Souls go through periods of drought and God’s living water has the ability to bring revival to our weary Souls.

The last three and a half years I feel like I have been dying of thirst. Digging through a pit  that often hasn’t made sense. Asking God to quench my thirst and to heal my broken heart. What I had to realize is that healing takes time. Healing begins with simply sitting with God and receiving his love.

“If anyone thirsts, let him come to me and drink. He who believes in me, as the scripture has said, out of his heart will flow rivers of living water.” John 7: 37-38

I climbed into my car that day in early June and thought! Is this it, God did you bring me through the pit, muck and mire? I must of arrived on the other side of grief. Did you revive me?

You see, I got pretty comfortable in the pit. Grief is all my body has known now for sometime and to be quite honest I didn’t want to let go. Letting go of my daughters death simply would bring about much more change and our life’s dreams have already been drastically altered, shattered and I simply couldn’t deal with any more change. The last year has been a power struggle of handing over my daughter completely to God and then taking her back.

“I waited patiently for the Lord; he inclined to me and heard my cry. He drew me up from the pit of destruction, out of the miry bog, and set my feet upon a rock, making my steps secure. He put a new song in my mouth, a song of praise to our God. Many will see and fear, and put their trust in the Lord. Blessed is the man who makes the Lord his trust, who does not turn to the proud, to those who go astray after a lie! You have multiplied, O Lord my God, your wondrous deeds and your thoughts toward us; non can compare with you! I will proclaim and tell them, yet they are more than can be told. ” Psalm 40:1-5

I was holding myself in the bondage of grief. Held hostage unable to grow and my roots stunted and the plant stagnant. I needed rain, lots of rain and only the fertilizer that God can provide. His promises endure forever and only he could water me from the fountain of life to bring back life.

The water came and it seemed like for awhile I was in a mud pit. Slipping back and forth and trying to let go and conquer. Barely hanging on God threw me a rope one afternoon during my prayer time and led me to:

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Isaiah 54:2

Isaiah 54:2 “Enlarge the place of your tent; stretch out the curtains of your dwellings spare not; lengthen your cords and strengthen your pegs.” 

It had been time for awhile. To let go. To move to the next chapter. I had to sit in grief, feel it all, and process through.

What God has shown me is that he can rise anything from the dead. Just like he bore on all the pain, sin and suffering of every single soul. He see’s us in our pain and if we allow him in those places and sit with him he turns our mourning into joy.

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Our tradition of letting off balloons each year on Angelina’s Birthday. This year she would have been four.

Jesus rose up off the cross and it’s a beautiful representation of how he rises us up out of the toughest situations.  Out of the pit, he waters our souls, and he puts a new song into our mouths.

As I’ve waited patiently I’ve witness the beauty that comes from ashes as my weary soul marvels at Gods Work.

It is time to be bold and give away what God has blessed me with through the purpose and remebrance of Angelina’s life. While we still miss her and the void will never leave until we are reunited. God has strengthen our cords and secured our steps as we move into this next season.

I am so thankful as hard as these years have been for the rock of my salvation. Our family is excited for this next season! A season of redemption, revival and a season in which adoption has been written into our story.

God has planted the seed and began writing our next chapter. Im so excited to share with you how Angelina’s life continues to be etched on our lives and how her mighty purpose gets revealed more and more each day.

We are praying for the baby God blesses us with!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Making our Moment’s Count

One night a week we pack in the car and head to gymnastics. The smell of feet looms as we enter the gymnastics center, we usually scramble to get our kids to class and find a seat. Dennis, Amelia and I settled into a seat and couldn’t help to watch a little 18 month old baby play in the corner with her parents. She had blonde hair and blue eyes. As I glanced over at Dennis we both knew what the other was thinking without saying a word, he was watching her too. Amelia was coloring her picture and looked up.

“Mommy.” Amelia called for me. I answered yes, “I really miss my sister Angelina.”  I replied, “ I really miss her too Amelia.”

I stopped hugged her and moved onto getting her ready to head to her class.

This whole post circled in my mind……

(I feel like I have a lot to share today and please let me tell you I am no grief expert. That what I have found is that everyone processes and is affected by grief differently. That you should never compare one loss to another because all are considered such huge losses no matter what the circumstances. Dennis and I keep our family life very private. What I share with you here in this space is how I have seen God actively move in my family’s life. God has called me to share, it’s uncomfortable and most importantly my hope is that our story can bring you some comfort and offer you a ray of light if you are feeling that you are in the dark).

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Today Angelina would be three. Three years old. It’s such a fun age. Reflecting back to my two older girls….. It’s an age where you can laugh and giggle for no reason, the kids don’t just waddle around like they do when they first start walking they run, they get into everything, and I MEAN EVERYTHING! They learn how to pick out clothes and dress themselves. Dinner is fun because they finally can hold little silly conversations. Oh how I loved tea parties, letting my girls help me bake, and they started to show interest in digging around in the garden. I would take the girls to the track at three and they would run with me while I did intervals. Daddy time was always the best moment of the day. The pitter patter on the hard wood floors as Dennis arrived home. Squeals of excitement as the girls would hear his truck and come running directly at him as he came through the door.

I wish she was here. I miss her just like Amelia. I wish I had a cake and three tiny candles to blow out with Angelina today.

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When I look back over these last three years and the past two and a half years since Angelina has been gone. I come to this place of knowing during year one, I was completely numb. Year two, I started to bring myself to a place where I knew I needed healing and during the last six months I have really just wanted to find joy again.

Grief sucks. Loss sucks. I prayed this prayer this morning. “God I really miss my daughter, help me have a joyful heart. Help me in spite of the everyday sorrow I feel to find joy amidst the pain of her absence in our family.

Grief changes you. I really can’t explain it but it does. The things that once were really important are no longer that important. Grief teaches you to come alongside of other people without any judgement, to show compassion in ways you never might think you could, and it has just taught us to love the way Jesus loves.

Last year, I typed this post and I felt like God was saying for me to bloom where I had been planted. It seemed really silly to me. How in the world could I live life among grief when I just wanted to curl up in a ball and never leave my bedroom.

You see we allow grief to be this uncomfortable thing. We run from others experiencing loss because we might not have the perfect words or never experienced what they have. Grief has taught us while we might have not experienced tough situations others may have experienced we still can listen and be a source of support.

To our family this is a part of our reality. It’s not uncomfortable because we live a life that involves a tragic loss and absence in our family every single day. Not only do we have to process grief in order to heal. We have to be present for our children while they try to process and make sense of the loss of their sister.

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The thought of the future over the last three years has been foggy. To dream and hope after the loss of our child has seemed like the last thought on our mind. Trying to pick up the pieces and try to put them back together is at times very painful.

When you move through healing you are trying to figure out a new reality. Things will never be what they once were and we have accepted that. 

If you ask us what we might be doing three or six months from now. Maybe we will tell you something different each time you ask. We are simply still processing. We are waiting on God’s perfect timing. For the first time ever we have learned how to be in a season of simply receiving God’s love.

Romans 5:2-5: “through whom also we have access by faith into this grace in which we stand, and rejoice in hope of the glory of God. 3 And not only that, but we also glory in tribulations, knowing that tribulation produces perseverance; 4 and perseverance, character; and character, hope. 5 Now hope does not disappoint, because the love of God has been poured out in our hearts by the Holy Spirit who was given to us”. (Translation: NKJV)

You see every part of our lives has been turned upside down and as we learn how to live right side up again it gives our lives an eternal perspective. The eternal is what we are preparing for and while we learn to live more for the hope of heaven and being reunited with our daughter we begin to worry less about the carnal here on earth.

As we try to have joy again I keep seeing this phrase: “Look-Up.”

“My voice shalt thou hear in the morning, O Lord; in the morning I will direct my prayer unto thee, and will look up.” Psalm 5:3

A little gift from Angelina from the heavens. She’s telling us to look up for our help and strength.  It’s certain when we look down we are missing out on life and that she would want us to keep our head up. When you have hit the bottom, been through tragedy and the toughest parts of life what is there left to do but, look up.

I have taken this two word term to the heart. My friends this life is but a vapor. So, stop wasting it on the things that simply don’t matter. I’m going to say this again. Let’s stop wasting our life on moment’s that don’t matter.

“ Whereas you do not know what will happen tomorrow. For what is your Life? It is even a vapor that appears for a little time and then vanishes away.” -James 4:14 (Translation NKJV)

Angelina has taught us how to cling to Jesus and to make our moments count. This is still hard to do on those rocky days grief throws our way but we are trying with all our might.

On Angelina’s Third birthday we are going to make our moments count. Even the ones that involve tears because tears are the truest sign of the love we hold for our loved ones that have gone to soon.

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Over this last year I finally realized that when a flower comes to bloom it looks up toward the sun. God is the light that shines ever so bright in the darkness and it’s his light that helps us bloom. When we try with all our might to love the way he loves us we give off a sweet smelling aroma wherever we go.

“In the Messiah, in Christ, God leads us from place to place in one perpetual victory parade. Through us, he brings knowledge of Christ. Everywhere we go, people breathe in the exquisite fragrance. Because of Christ, we give off a sweet scent rising to God, which is recognized by those on the way of salvation—an aroma redolent with life. But those on the way to destruction treat us more like the stench from a rotting corpse”. -2 Corinthians 2:14 (Translation: The Message)

As we learn to receive his love and we are able to love like him it enables us to be Jesus to those who desperately need him.

We are going to live with an eternal perspective, Angelina, and in honor of you try our best to make our moment’s count.

I recently came across this quote. So don’t be discouraged. Never Give up. Bloom where your planted. What you do has eternal significance in God’s eyes. -DHR

 

 

 

 

My Arsenal to Combat Grief

Winter time in Ohio has never really been my favorite season. Darkness. It almost at times feels like it chokes out the light. The earth around us fallen dormant. Animals retreat to their dens, the earth lacks color, and we are left to power through a  cold dark season.

As I tread the treacherous waters of grief I have found myself finding ways to combat depression and grief. To meet the storms head on. To allow it to bring me to my weakest moments on this earth.

It seems like the more I understand grief, depression, and the  darkness that closes in the more I want to climb my way out. The more I cling to the strong truths in my life.

I oftentimes feel like a buoy out at sea. Getting tossed around by low and high tides. I use this arsenal to combat the tides and sometimes my friends the storms can be straight wicked.

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Why does society tell us to get over it, move on, power through?

In being in the midst of it right now myself. The high tides, the low tides, the moments that I have out on my raft in the sun, moments when the storm hits without any warning and all the moments in between.

I have realized it’s not about powering through. It’s about feeling every part.

How about lean into the waves, allow yourself to be saturated by the waters, embracing the root of sadness, depression and utter brokenness.

It’s in my most weakest moments, clinging to brokenness, seeing my soul straight shattered on the floor, that I see a healing salve being placed on the hole in my heart.

The  salve slowly heals one broken area. Then I feel as if I’m in high tide once more. yet again to return to low tide as the next part starts to slowly heal.

Below are a few ways I have learned how to combat the tides and waves of grief

  1. God.  I start each day with a daily devotional and journal afterwards. ” For with God nothing shall be impossible.” -Luke 1:37
  2. Family and friends. I don’t quite know where to begin. They have always been there and continue to be a support on this voyage. I truly feel closer to them than I ever have. They help in ways in which they may not even know. I have a few close friends that I disclose the tough stuff with, they love me no matter where I am at in any moment, place no judgment of where I should be, and we laugh together. Yes, to be silly and escape the sadness has been so life giving in the midst of all of this.
  3. Community. I have my church community, my workout community, and my grief community. Each community aids in whatever I may need on a given day or moment. I have been blessed to be able to connect with my grief community through a blog called:http://www.scribblesandcrumbs.com 
  4. My workout. If you know me I love a good sweat pumping workout. It’s my release, it’s where I process and talk to God, and it fuels my day. There is something to be said about the sweet cadence of my shoes hitting the pavement, my lungs burning on a cold winters day that resonates a sense of if I can make it putting one foot forward on this run, then I can make it through grief.
  5. I want to learn, I want to learn about other people who have walked the lonely road of grief (although my tender heart constantly breaks for them that they to had too experience it). I want to read all I can about it. The more I understand it the more I see hope as others who have gone before me and who have had victory. When they write it’s like they are taking emotions and thoughts right out of my brain. A couple of my favorites to date are: Through the Eyes Of A Lion, By: Levi Lusko, Choosing to See, By: Mary Beth Chapman, Restless, By: Jennie Allen, Battlefield of the mind, By: Joyce Meyer and A Grace Disguised, By Gary Sittser.
  6. My Counselor.  She is one of the most Godly women I have ever met. She has taught me so much about where I am currently at, about how to cope and given me insight of how to move forward.

This is my personal arsenal to combat grief it helps as the tides, waves, ebb and flow. I am just so thankful that I have these things to aid in the healing process. 

Today as you are walking through life, I hope wherever you are that this has helped provide you insight if you are experiencing hardship of ways to cope, battle and conquer life’s high and rough waters.

Soon the darkness will give way to much brighter days as the heart becomes more mended.

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“My Peace is like a shaft of golden light shining on you continuously. During days of bright sunshine, it may blend in with your surroundings. On darker days, my peace stands out in sharp contrast to your circumstances. See times of darkness as opportunities for my light to shine in transcendent splendor. I am training you to practice peace that overpowers darkness. Collaborate with me in this training. Do no grow weary and lose heart. -Jesus Calling, By: Sarah Young

   

Whole Heart Healing

As I slip off my fuzzy slippers and crawl into bed the moment my head hits the pillow the quietness of the night starts to surround me as my eyes remain wide open.

It’s then that my mind starts to spin like the wheels on a car. With what could have been and what is now.

I think of life while I was pregnant with Angelina, her birth, her beautiful 6 months here with us, her passing and life now.

None of this is what I planned. In my mind I had this plan for our life. I am such a routine person and all these things I had planned. This simple perfect life. This doesn’t seem to line up with my expectation of what was supposed to be my family’s life.

Then in the quietness I lay in bed as the crickets sound like a symphony outside my bedroom window and I think to myself.

This isn’t what I planned, but I wouldn’t change it for a second. It’s not what could have been but so much more. I wouldn’t trade this life God has mapped out for me for our life.

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“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

The hard and messy is when we learn to cling and turn to God the most in life.

As I rise because I just have to get these words down on paper because I can’t stop thinking and also because I made homemade double chocolate brownies and didn’t workout today (I never can sleep if I don’t workout). I quietly walk up the stairs to Angelina’s room.

The door it always had a creak and still does. I try to open it just right not to wake the girls who are sleeping. I grab a blanket etched in blue and yellow given to me by a dear friend and slip into my desk chair in my new office.

It’s been about six weeks since we unbolted the baby crib and took the mattress out. It was such a sad day. The place where I rocked all my baby girls. The place where I snuggled them and gave them the nurturing love that a mother gives her child.

Now I sit here clicking away on keyboard in that very same place. With Angelina’s and my other daughters memories sitting all around my desk.

It was hard to make this move in my grieving process but there is truly and never would be the right time to take these tiny steps. You just muster up the strength and do it.

It felt right and I feel so safe and comforted in this tiny nursery, forever Angelina’s room as the girls still call it.

As I sit here in the darkness and stillness of the night I keep having this recurring memory to a visit from my Aunt and Uncle back to when we had been home close to three weeks with Angelina and they stopped to visit. It was after Christmas and a few days before Angelina went into Acute respiratory failure and I rushed her to the hospital.

We were visiting and my Uncle looked at me and said: “ what is normal anyway.” We laughed because he is just a fun-loving guy and he brought a lot of truth to a situation in which we were trying to figure out how to care and do life with Angelina at home.

It’s seems like just when we found a new normal, how to care for Angelina and helped her thrive and accepted we would be faced with the challenge that she could be chronically ill that things again changed and we would be finding ourselves facing a new challenge of life without Angelina.

It seemed like so many people said I would find this new normal and that life will never be the same without her and I think of a brief memory from Angelina’s calling hours, I don’t recall much except my back hurt from hugging people and one women a distant relative told me I’ll never get over this.

I have been waiting for my new normal over the last year. It hasn’t made it’s grand entrance, I’m still trying to make sense of this and yes you are probably right lady, I’ll never get over this.

However in the last passing few months. I have come to this conclusion that normal is a word that I would like to toss out of the dictionary at this point and that healing and redemption could take it’s place.

I am ready to heal and yes I will never get over this because how does any mother who looses a baby she carried in her womb, birthed, nurtured, loved and gave her all to really get over moving through life with empty restless arms.

My arms ache, they ache for my sweet baby, every single day.

Healing not normal is what I am ready for. This last year has been an up and down cycle of highs and lows. As year two begins there is no new normal, it’s truly about meeting grief where I’m at on any given day at any given time.

It’s about embracing this season instead of searching for this normal. It’s about finally unleashing bottled up grief and after a year and a half crying with close friends and family. It’s not about making sense of this situation because I will never understand Why, God took my child away but realizing that through proper healing and restoration that he will continue to use Angelina’s life and story to impact lives every single day.

This summer as corny as this sounds and you can make fun of me for all that matter. I feel like as I wager with God and ask him Why, What, Where do you want me. WHAT DO YOU WANT ME TO DO WITH THIS.

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“We’re not necessarily doubting that God will do the best for us, we are wondering how painful the best will turn out to be”. – C.S. Lewis

He says, Michelle bloom. Trust me, be still, heal, and bloom right where I have planted you.

If you know me I love flowers, you can find me barefoot in the garden on most afternoons in the summer and I haven’t gardened much in the last two years. I have no energy to can this year which breaks my heart.

But the girls and I planted tiny little flowers and they have flourished and bloomed with little attention and hardly any rain.

When I look at them, I keep hearing God Say : Bloom. Just like these flowers you barely watered there were brittle, weak, and I grew them. Let me water your soul and bring strength to your brittle bones and joy to your heart again.

When I look at my girls I see Angelina, as I tie Ava’s hair in a pony tail the back of her neck looks exactly the same as Angelina’s and Amelia’s abnormally long tongue hangs out while she concentrates as she colors and I chuckle inside. Angelina is here, she is all around us and this is always going to be hard and it’s ok if I never get over this but I can learn how to live with the pain. I am ready to experience joy and the simple things God blesses us with each day to bring beauty to this tough life again.

I am ready to begin to heal. With that still comes the grieving, depression, extremely hard days and I think Mary Beth Chapman says it best in her book: Choosing to See:

“Even in this free fall of pain, I’ve landed on a solid foundation and my faith has held…..on most days. I have learned That God is good….always. Hope is real. I have found even in the awful pain of tears and grief so intense you think it will kill you that my family and I can do hard. We’ll never get over our loss, but wer’re getting through it. And so I have prayed that our journey through the shadows of loss might be of some help to those who have experienced similar pain.”

Today I decided I am ready to bloom right here in the mist of my grief, and my prayer is for those who are struggling with life’s hardships that you to can bloom right where God has planted you.

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“Great is our Lord and mighty in power. His understanding has no limit.” -Psalm 147:5

God he keeps reminding me of his almighty power. He has the ability to heal me if I allow him to and to completely surrender the unbearable to him. A mothers love has kept me from that surrender, it has kept me from wanting to let go. My stubborn heart has shown how deep that love flows for our children and over the last month God has shown me that in surrender I will find healing and peace. That I can turn the pain into sweet memories. That God’s purpose is greater than my pain. That my continual hope is in heaven when I will see God and be reunited with Angelina again.

For those who walk the road of miscarriage, infant and child-loss October 15 is a day to bring awareness, for the 1 in 4 women affected by pregnancy and infant loss, this post is dedicated to all of the sweet babies and children who left this earth entirely to soon. Sweet friends as my knee’s hit the floor often and I cry out to God to take this my heart is breaking with you. Continue to look up. When your strength fails you God will carry you.

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In Memory of Angelina Hope 5/25/14  This little life was so little yet so mighty and continues to impact our lives each day. We Love You So Incredibly Much

Grief and Remembrance

That sound. If I’m driving, trying to sleep, outside or at my sink washing a load full of dishes. What is it about that sound. That sound its debilitating. If you are on the phone and it’s nearby you have to scream a little louder.

There is something about the sound of a helicopter that gets me every time. If I hear it at night or in the early morning. I get instant flashbacks from my time at Akron Children’s Hospital.

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Every time I hear a medical helicopter I pray. For the patient, wisdom for the doctors and strength for the family.

Angelina’s room was right under the helicopter pad in the PICU. I remember countless times Dennis and I would be sitting on the patio eating at the Ronald McDonald house trying to eat a meal and talking about Angelina’s progress and we would watch them land and take off.

It was pretty awesome to watch at first…

Until we realized that those helicopters are coming and going a lot. That we weren’t the only ones with a sick child. It started to break my heart. I started praying each time as I  would watch the doctors and nurses run to get the patient off the helicopter.

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Hanging out at the Ronald house.

The Thursday before Angelina passed away Ava came to stay with me. She thought that staying at the Ronald McDonald house was the absolute coolest thing in the world. Ava and I gave Angelina a bath that day, bought a bunch of toys and fake nail stickers in the gift shop and watched helicopters land and take off. If you know my daughter Ava she is strong-willed, determined, extremely protective of Amelia and Angelina and has such a nurturing soul. She insisted on laying in bed with Angelina (which Angelina went from extremely fussy to happy the moment she heard Ava), was present at rounds, and was very happy to be with us at the hospital that day. Ten months later she tells me often: ” Mom remember the helicopters and all the sick babies they bring to the hospital, I want to be a nurse and help those babies, just like Nikki (my brothers girlfriend, remember Angelina’s nurse they met at her bedside:0).” We are very thankful for  the Ronald McDonald house and how they helped us tremendously during our extended stays at the hospital you can read more about this organization here:http://www.rmhc.org/about-us

This memory it’s hard, I want to go back to that time in the hospital. It was the last day Ava spent with her baby sister. That night I remember Ava didn’t want to leave. She wanted to stay another night. She screamed as we buckled her in her car seat. Amelia started screaming also. I cried on my way back into the hospital. I longed for my family to be together. I prayed for total healing for Angelina.

Grief it chokes out all the noise in your life.  It’s always present in your life,  you never know when it’s going to strike, one moment you are fine, the next pretty angry, one moment you can’t even drop a tear while someone may be spilling their heart to you and the next you literally are on a break down of uncontrollable crying and you can’t stop. You are almost hyperventilating gasping for air.

You have let it out. I often tell my husband, that grief it debilitates me. I can’t think, remember, get anxiety, stay organized or on task. Once I let it out, I feel a little bit of relief. I release the bad, the ugly,the extremely dark, and then I am able to focus on the intricate beautiful, purpose driven details of Angelina’s short life. I have seen baby steps in my healing process although some days seem like two steps forward and while other days two steps back.

Over the last ten months we have done a lot of things to remember Angelina. When you lose a child you want to continually celebrate their memory. Talk about them often and especially how they changed you.

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This photo is one of my all time favorites of Angelina. She had a way about her, looking right into your soul. You could connect with her. She captivated us. Her eyes were out of this world beautiful. We all could gaze into her eyes forever. Ava and Angelina had the most sisterly bond. This photo speaks volumes.

I have documented a series of pictures on our journey of celebrating Angelina’s life each day. We look for Angelina through out each moment. Dennis and I constantly talk a lot with Ava and Amelia about her everyday. Last year on this day we were celebrating our first world down syndrome day. We will continue to celebrate this day every year for you our sweet Angelina. We will speak about how amazing that extra chromosome is, educate and spread awareness to the world about down syndrome. You can find out more here about World Down Syndrome day: https://www.worlddownsyndromeday.org

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This was one of those moments God gives you that is life-giving. To help you press on amongst the pain.

This first picture was a month to the hour and exact minute Angelina passed into our fathers heavenly hands. We were on vacation with my aunt, uncle, and cousins. Walking back from the pool I looked down at my watch and it was like a dagger smashed through my heart. Four weeks since she had been gone I thought. They seemed like an eternity. The girls screamed mom look: I looked up and saw the most beautiful butterfly land on a flower. It spread its wings and Ava and Amelia were able to touch its wings. I felt such a supernatural peace that butterflies would be a symbol of Angelina. It feels like an eternity since I’ve seen her but I get to spend eternity with her. It was yellow and National Down Syndrome colors are blue and yellow. Last summer we saw butterflies every time we were outside. We saw them at dark, on the beach (so windy) and at times when I would be so emotionally low one would fly right in front of me. Angelina truly reminding me she is free and flying amongst heaven, our Angel.

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So Living water flowing through God, we Thirst for more of you Fill our hearts and flood our souls with one desire Thrive, Casting Crowns

Right before we left for the beach I felt the urge to grab a small amount Angelina’s ashes. We had hoped we would be able to take her to the beach last summer. Before we left we were able to leave a very tiny amount of her ashes at sea. About a month later Ava asked me randomly: “mom when we were at the ocean what did you put into the water.” I told her remember that and some day sweetheart I will explain. On the way to the beach this song came on the radio and it has stuck with me over the last ten months: Thrive: Casting Crowns

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Running for hope, to support down syndrome awareness and in memory of all those lost by hypertrophic cardiomyopathy.

My sister-in-law and I decided to run and train for the July 4th race. God bless her heart she made these amazing shirts for our family and friends to wear the day of the race. She surprised me a few days before and it brought tears to my tired eyes. I’ve always been a runner and loved racing but now I truly have a cause to run for. I run for the remembrance of those taken to soon by hypertrophic cardiomyopathy and to spread awareness about down syndrome.

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Tough Mudder 2014

Then there was the tough mudder. Ya, I always said no to into those crazy mud races because I was worried someone would get hurt. I mean don’t get me wrong. I am a farm girl at heart. I love the mud and I’m not for a second afraid to get dirty and push myself to the limit when it comes to working out and  competing. We decided to do it and it was such an incredible bonding experience to do together with family. We had a blast and I think I picked mud out of my hair for weeks. We felt that we could accomplish things even through the pain and sorrow.

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My husband loves this ridiculous shirt, Grill King

Dennis and I decided to get tattoos together. Angelina is forever etched on our lives, our hearts and truly been a catalyst for change in our lives. Getting a tattoo was really never anything I really felt the urge to do until Angelina passed away. Good thing for good friends who help you from chickening out. The thought of something on my body forever kinda freaked me. The fact that some random person was tattooing me was even stranger. Until Dennis walked in and the tattoo artist realized he tattooed Dennis Italian flag eleven  years ago! IMG_0096It was for Angelina and each day when I am feeling discouraged its my outward symbol of  clinging to hope that God will help me navigate through a very tough time in my life. Telling my dad was a different story. After eating Sunday family dinner and him not noticing my tattoo at all Dennis informed him of my new tat (if you know my father he is pretty old-fashioned). He took it like a champ and everyone really valued why we felt the need to do this together.

Angelina spoke from the heaven on Dennis 30th birthday as we sat in the drive way talking about how incredible she was. She gave Dennis this amazing present from the heavens.

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A birthday greeting from the heavens

The gym that I work and workout at often, bought a tile and an apple tree for us to honor Angelina with.

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Angelina’s Tree

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Angelina’s tile

Angelina’s birthday and Christmas came and passed. It seemed very slow and painful. Over the months I have done a lot of processing. I am going to be honest I am angry. I scream out to God a lot.  I have mentioned something along these line before. I can allow the passing of my daughter to paralyze me. To choke out the noise, life, the good, God, and my family.When I think of how fast a helicopters propeller spins as it flies, I sometimes feel like my head, heart and life are spinning in a hundred different directions at once. I have allowed grief  to spin my life totally out of control at points throughout this process. God picks up my brokeness up off the floor along with my husband, family and close friends.

When I get up off the floor tiny parts of my heart have mended and the scar tissue, it’s still there and will always be but it’s a matter of learning how to navigate amidst the extreme pain. This last week I felt that God was saying: ” Michelle she is at peace and she was a small glimpse of heaven in your life”.

My life for a second stops spinning, and I see that the pain is a catalyst for growth. I can take this experience and use it for good. It doesn’t mask the pain but it allows me to live life fuller than I ever have. It allows me to be reminded of how Angelina changed my heart and how I perceive situations that arise each day throughout my life much differently.

Angelina taught me how to be bold, to love like I have never loved, to not only share my faith but to be more intentional about living it out, to look for the good in every single person I meet, to live out my passions, to not only dream but to go after my dreams even if I fail, to embrace my husband, children, and family here on earth, to be content in life, to  be thankful,to be myself-the unique person Christ created me to be, and not to worry about what people think. Because Christ is the only person I have to impress,to trust, to worry about today and not the next five years, and tell people about Angelina always and the depth of her short little life lived on earth. My friends, I get asked often how many children I have. I have three. One just happens to get raised by Jesus. The author and finisher of our faith.

This is what we can do to heal, to live the way she taught us. Just as Christ lives in our hearts so does, Angelina.

I read a book on grief titled: A Grace Disguised, by Jerry Sittser. Jerry talks about his journey through grief (he lost his wife, wifes mother, and his daughter in a car accident. They were hit by a drunk driver).

I can relate with him on every level in this short few paragraphs from his book: ” Yet the grief I feel is sweet as well as bitter. I still have a sorrowful soul; yet I wake up every morning joyful, eager for what the new day will bring. Never have I felt as much pain as I have in the last three years; yet never have I experienced as much pleasure in simply being alive and living an ordinary life. Never have I felt so broken, yet never have I been so whole. Never have I been so aware of my weakness and vulnerability; yet never have I been so content and felt so strong. Never has my soul been more dead, yet never has my soul been more alive. What I once considered mutually exclusive sorrow, and joy, pain and pleasure, death and life-have become parts of a greater whole. My soul has been stretched.

Above all, I have become aware of the power of God’s grace and my need for it. My soul has grown because it has been awakened to the goodness and love of God. God has been present in my life these past three years, even mysteriously in the accident. God will continue to be present to the end of my life and through eternity. God is growing my soul, making it bigger, and filling it with himself. My life is being transformed. Though I have endured pain, I believe that the outcome is going to be wonderful.  

The supreme challenge to anyone facing catastrophic loss  involves facing the darkness of loss on one hand, and learning to live with renewed vitality and gratitude on the other. This challenge is met when we learn to take the loss into ourselves and to be enlarged by it, so that our capacity to live well and to know God intimately increases. To escape the loss is far less healthy(and far less realistic, considering how devastating loss can be)than to grow from it.

Loss can diminish us, but it can also expand us. It depends, once again, on the choices we make and the grace we receive. Loss can function as a catalyst to transform us. It can lead us to God, the only one who has the desire and power to give us life.” 

As We celebrate World Down Syndrome day, We celebrate Angelina. To the Ma Ma’s I have met on this journey you and your children are amazing! I will stand up and spread awareness for your children and continue to always support and pray for your children, you and your families. The Down Syndrome Community is such an incredible place and I have been blessed to know you all.

As time moves on the painful reminders have turned into gorgeous ways we can allow Angelina’s memory to live in and through us each day. From helicopters, to butterflies, tattoos, road races and mud runs she may not be here in flesh but she is always with us in spirit.

Blessings, Michelle

 

 

 

 

Beauty in the Ashes

 

To all of those who have supported us and followed our journey on my fitness website and social media with our sweet and precious daughter Angelina Hope, I am saddened to share that she has passed into the loving arms of Jesus on May 25th, 2014.(Due to heart complications with her hypertrophic cardiomyopathy ) I was hesitant about sharing this journey, God has boldly placed this on my heart over the last year, and am overjoyed as I have finally opened up my computer to find a small story on Angelina’s life.  A story that we can continue to share, to bring hope, to have for Ava and Amelia as they get older to read and to reflect on during the healing process. The texts, e-mails, and messages have helped carry us through these past 5 months and are appreciated beyond words. To the nurses who cared for Angelina, thank you isn’t enough. We have received countless messages about how Angelina’s story has impacted lives, mended relationships, and brought people closer to our Lord Jesus Christ.Here is what’s been on my heart this month.I can’t believe it’s November.With every falling leaf, deep blue October sky and for some reason those extremely strong scented pine cones that giant eagle and Marc’s put out two months before Christmas I am reminded constantly of our dear sweet Angelina. It was this time last year that I was heading to the Doctor every 2-3 days. We knew of Angelina’s congenital heart defects and possible down syndrome diagnosis. I remember last fall as if it was just yesterday. The memories bring a flood of constant emotion that I can’t explain. I remember canning 20 jars of salsa, tomato soup, yellow peppers and pizza sauce saying to myself. “We can do this, God wouldn’t give us anything we can’t handle.” It’s how I got through, constant prayer and faith. I asked God to protect Angelina in the womb and after she was born. I asked him to give us all strength, for our path was uncertain with our sweet baby.

We were beyond thrilled to meet our little bundle of joy. I remember the first time Angelina locked eyes with me. Angelina had the most incredible deep blue eyes with tiny white spots around the outer part of her iris ( called brushfield spots which can be seen in children with down syndrome). It was as if she looked deep into my soul and just knew me (something my mom would also often say as well as a special friend of mine). Angelina had a way about her, she could speak without even saying a word.

NICU November 2013

NICU November 2013

The first night in the hospital as we laid on our hospital beds learning of Angelina’s diagnosis. I remember Dennis looking at me and saying: ” I know we prayed for Angelina to be healed, but I truly believe she came to heal us.”

I remember really struggling that first night. I wanted Angelina to be in our hospital room and not in the NICU. I wanted to be able to snuggle her and nurse her. I was unable to. It was in that moment that I went and stayed with her and fed her through a little syringe while she was in an incubator. It was those first moments with her in the middle of the night, after a 12 hour labor and walking the halls of the hospital during my induction (refusing an epidural because I wanted to be there for her after labor) and the most tired and emotional state of my life that Angelina taught me how to love. A love that runs so deep, a love that is unconditional, and a love that is everlasting. This type of love exhibits how Christ loves us.

“So that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith; that you being rooted and grounded in love, may be able to comprehend with all the saints what is the width and length and depth and height. To know the love of Christ which passes knowledge; that you may be filled with all the fullness of God.” -Ephesians 3:17-19

NICU November 2013

NICU November 2013

We loved on Angelina as we began to get to know her. We never allowed her extra chromosome to define her and will continue to take a stance to share her story and spread awareness. She was our daughter that happened to have one amazing extra chromosome.  She had the cutest chubbiest neck, a crazy toe (two conjoined toes), a sweet little tongue that always was sticking out at us(which we LOVED and miss so much) and was the most incredible snuggler. She was the most pleasant little baby to be around. Amidst the storms during her life, her countless doctors appointments, an urgent hospital stay, a rare and complex diagnosis that was unexpected and an open heart surgery reflecting back Dennis and I constantly say to each other that this was Angelina’s journey “ You formed me in my inward parts; you covered me in my mother’s womb. I will praise you, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made; marvelous are your works and that my soul knows very well. My frame was not hidden from you, when I was made in secret, and skillfully wrought in the lowest parts of the earth. Your eyes saw my substance, being yet unformed. And in your book they all were written, the days fashioned for me, when as yet there were none of them.” -Psalm 139:13-16, how God intricately formed her and she brought so much joy to our lives and continues to do so. This is part of our family’s story. Which is part of God’s plans for our life which is a part of something so much bigger.

“But the plans of the lord stand firm forever. The purposes of his heart through all generations.” -Psalm 33:11

When I think about our family and how close Angelina has brought all of us, it truly brings me to my knees in a utter state of emotion. Helping us, being there for us, and supporting our every step. They loved on Angelina in such a remarkable way. That little girl is so loved and will continued to always be loved. I chuckle as I recall a time that my sister-in-law came to the hospital and stayed with me in the NICU. I was going on 20 days of not a lot of sleep, never recovering from childbirth and we both slept in Angelina’s room” well tried at least”. Monitors buzzing, pumping, the squeaky chairs, a crazy floor, constant commotion, and Angelina topped it off with pulling out her feeding tube at 2am. We laughed together most of the night as we come to a point of over tiredness. She was such a feisty little thing that night. I chuckle when I remember Dennis famous last words. “She’s a VOLPE, SHE DOESN’T NEED A FEEDING TUBE.” She indeed learned to eat a bottle on her own with lots of patience and help from amazing therapists.

NICU November 2013

NICU November 2013

Which brings me to my next thought. Ava and Amelia shared a bond with Angelina that I can’t describe. The last week of Angelina’s life she was extremely fussy and uncomfortable. My mom was able to see Angelina completely change her mood the moment Ava and Amelia entered the room at the hospital. She stopped crying the moment she heard their voices and completely turned her body around reaching for Ava. Ava was able to get in bed with Angelina and bring her so much comfort that day. These are the moments that we cherish. These and countless other memories are how we remember our sweet baby girl.

Ava and Angelina in the PICU 2014

Ava and Angelina in the PICU 2014

In Angelina’s final days I came to a realization that hope isn’t how we want  situation and circumstances to turn out. Hope is placing your total trust in Jesus. Hope is trusting that his hand is upon any trial, suffering or situation in our lives. Life in this world is tough and by hoping in Christ and being in constant relation with him, we are able to find the strength no matter what hardship comes our way to venture the  path he has laid before us and our final stop is heaven.

“Our soul waits for the Lord. He is our help and our shield. For our heart shall rejoice in him. Because we have trusted in his holy name. Let your mercy, O Lord, be upon us, just as we hope in you”. Psalm 33:20-22

For the rest of my days I will never ever forget what Dennis brother said to us the night Angelina gained her wings and entered the gates of heaven. “She did in 6 months what it takes most people to accomplish in a lifetime.” “Honor her memory by how she changed you.” We will spend our days honoring Angelina’s life by how she indeed radically changed our lens of thinking. Seeing life with such a different perspective.

Appreciating the beauty and hardship in life. I have come to a conclusion that we all will suffer. At some point we all will endure difficulties in life. We can either allow them to slowly kill our soul and become bitter or we can allow them to transform us. To grow us and to find joy in life’s hardest circumstances. I found this scribbled on a piece of paper and I have no idea where I found it: “take your deepest sorrow and weave it into a pattern for good.” Through our healing we will become refined and  help others heal and overcome obstacles. God reminded me weeks after Angelina passed to continue to press forward: “I press toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus.”-Philippians 3:14

I recently have been on a reading kick during this season and am reading a book called: Restless By: Jennie Allen.

Jennie writes this: ” Sure our stories lead us toward our purposes, but they also make us into people strong enough to fulfill our purposes. To build a picture of your story-the events that have shaped you-is a powerful and beautiful thing”.

This is Angelina Hope’s story.

Our Angel April 2014

Our Angel April 2014

“This hope we have as an anchor of the soul, both sure and steadfast….” -Hebrews 6:19

When we reflect and look back on Angelina’s life there was so much purpose, strength and beauty in her life. Each day we think about you every moment little girl, and will continue to, until we join you and hold you again in heaven. Little girl your life was filled with so much beauty. You left such beauty in your ashes. We miss you more than words can describe. We are trying to figure out what our new normal looks like without you. We love you so much.

Words can’t describe how thankful I am for my beautiful friend Nicole who captured this image and many more with our sweet baby girl