David Jeremiah wrote, "journalizing, memorializes the blessings of God" in his book, "When Your World Falls Apart, Seeing Past the Pain of the Present." My dear family and myself have recently experienced a terrible tragedy, resulting in the death of my precious daughter, Samantha. This is an unwanted journey, one of the most difficult walks that any parent can experience. It is riddled with extreme grief, profound disorientation, and beautiful graces from God. He holds me close. He has not forsaken me. Even though, my heart is shredded with sadness, I shed buckets of tears, I question my purpose now and I wander astray at times, I know I love God. He is real and present. I know what I know!!! And, I feel privileged to have the opportunity to share with you. I have learned that I am at my best when I walk with God, not against Him.

Thursday, April 26, 2012

A Holiday with Hope

Movie night at the beach
We knew this year would be different, so we decided to do it different.  For our family,  the past several years, Easter was spent at the beach. Brooke has been the guest of a wonderful family for several years, vacationing with them, each Easter.  Stories of the fun and family atmosphere she enjoyed, led our family there as well.  After her first visit, Samantha was hooked.  She loved this bicycle riding, beachside community.  Sam would plead with David to return each Easter, always wanting to be accompanied by Hannah, her cousin or a school friend.  As usual, David entertained Samantha's requests! We loaded up our bikes, Sam packed her bike riding backpack and we went. I loved having a house full of kids; relaxed, suntanned, tired and content.  All enjoying some of God's greatest gifts, the sun, the sand and the surf.  I have fond memories of movie nights, game nights, Easter baskets and spring toys.  Easter morning church service trumped all of this.  I dearly loved walking to the white chapel on this special morning. Extended families and long-time friends vacationing together, worshiping together and receiving communion together.  My children and David knew, I adored this special time, at this special place!   Over the years Samantha grew in age and independence.  Remembering, I smile.  Her first year; no bike riding without an adult or her older sister was the mandate. The next year, checkpoints and walkie/talkies were instituted. Her last year there, she had graduated to bike riding freedom and a cell phone.  The parade ground, the ice cream stand, the snowball stand and the hamburger joint with fried pickles were her favorites!  She had so many fond
Samantha and Morgan 2011
memories herself, she even wrote a school poem about her visits there.  David could visualize Samantha at every corner of this community. We talked about this. Knowing if he chose to vacation at the same spot, David would continually be flooded with memories that included Sam.  David would be very alone in this experience ( I still don't/can't think about Sam nor, can I picture her in my head.)  After some thought and discussion we chose to vacation elsewhere.  Same beach but, a different spot.  I'm learning that at certain times, for now,  it is easier to be in a spot where, Sam shouldn't be.      

Why didn't I realize there would be 12 year old little girls in Rosemary Beach for Easter? There were plenty!!  Dave and I sat on the beach and we were surrounded.  Polka dot bikinis, pigtails and cellphones.  This tween age group was well represented.  So, we sat, we stayed and we watched, sometimes I bet we both tried to ignore our surroundings. We didn't even need to talk about it! We were together but, we were so alone!! Families together, enjoying each other. Dad's playing Kadema, mom's snapping pictures, siblings teasing and snacking.  At times, my mind wondered with dangerous thoughts, "Look what they have and I don't!", "I will never vacation with both of my daughters, again!" My agitation grew when I would see a parent becoming impatient with their child. That scene would illicit a treacherous thought such as, "If they only knew what it would be like to lose one, they better start being thankful and to cherish each moment." So there you have it!! I am human and far from perfect.  I am a sinner and constantly need forgiveness!!  These are truthful realizations but, dangerous, destructive and debilitating thoughts.  I noticed the acid they produced inside of my heart.   I had to snatch these thoughts and stuff them; not allowing them to take hold and take root inside of me.  I quickly changed the image inside of my head.  More peaceful, grateful emotions flowed through me when I concentrated on the beauty I was witnessing;  families and friends; relaxing and creating lasting memories together. Siblings sharing and playing together, drip sandcastles and buckets and shovels; the necessary discipline from a parent.  Aaahhh, and the infamous family beach picture; khaki and white clothing and a brilliant sunset as the backdrop.  Each of these pictures borrowing just a bit of God's creation. With my focus where it should be, as Philippians 4:8 instructs me, "Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable - if anything is excellent or praiseworthy - think about such things." No longer was my soul  poised for a fight, ready for battle.  Instead, with precious new eyes, I rested and relaxed, as I witnessed love expressed in so many different ways.

Easter Morning 2012
As in the past, Easter morning trumped all!!  What a privilege and an outright blessing to walk hand-in-hand with David, to the Western Green, to celebrate the Resurrection of our Lord and Savior.  Unfamiliar with our surroundings, we followed the crowd (what a wonderful way to find a worship service); as we approached I heard the singing of one of my most loved hymns, "How Great Thou Art." (Carrie Underwood does it best!) We quickly joined in. David looked at me, he smiled! It was special. We were different than the day before. This new day, we were alone but, we were so together! We found a spot amongst the gathering; once again the families were there, the 12 year old tween girls, in their sundresses; young children barefoot with new bunnies. All of this contributing to, memories in the making.  We listened to the redeeming message of eternal hope and gracious, everlasting love.  Jesus was crucified, died and on the third day arose from the dead. Through his death, burial and resurrection, Jesus paid the penalty of sin, thus purchasing for all who believe in him, eternal life in Christ Jesus.  Eternal life, whoop, whoop, as my friend says!!!  I quickly texted another friend after receiving communion with this family of believers (I didn't know a single soul there, yet I think I know one thing they all believe in)  expressing how grateful I was for Easter Sunday and what we celebrate!  This is a holiday filled with Hope!!

"He is not here, for He is risen, just as He said..."
Matthew 28:6

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