Thursday, July 8, 2010

Top 10 Reasons to Celebrate Claire

Today is Claire's 10th Birthday! Today Claire would have been 10 years old! Today Claire and I would have been working on our plans to celebrate her 10th Birthday, her first double digit Birthday because most people don't make it to triple digit Birthdays (I never imagined that one of my daughters would not even make it to their double digit birthday)! We had already talked about what she wanted to do! Maybe a trip to NYC but probably a Disney Cruise! It's hard not to muddle in the misery of wanting Claire back, it's hard not to think of all the dreams we had for her, it's hard not to imagine the "what ifs" and the "what should have beens"!

Claire loved a party, she was always the first to get out our "Family Party Box" and decorate for any occasion, just because! So today, we celebrate Claire!

Top Ten Reasons to Celebrate Claire!
10. Claire was always the life of the party!
9. Claire always wanted to celebrate others!
8. It was so much fun to watch Claire having fun!
7. Claire's laughter was infectious and filled you with instant joy and happiness!
6. Claire's sparkle in her eye made you immediately wonder what she was up to!
5. Claire partied hard but would crash when she stopped (and that's when we could finally snuggle with her)!
4. Claire was a constant moving target enjoying everyone around her and bringing a smile to everyone's face! "Where's Claire?"
3. Claire was always up for an adventure and kept us all guessing about what was coming next!
2. Claire Loved Jesus with all of her heart and wasn't afraid to tell anyone!!

and the #1 Reason to Celebrate Claire's Birthday is because of:
Psalms 139:13-16 "Oh yes, you shaped me first inside, then out; you formed me in my mother's womb. I thank you, High God—you're breathtaking! Body and soul, I am marvelously made! I worship in adoration—what a creation! You know me inside and out, you know every bone in my body; You know exactly how I was made, bit by bit, how I was sculpted from nothing into something. Like an open book, you watched me grow from conception to birth; all the stages of my life were spread out before you, The days of my life all prepared before I'd even lived one day."

On this your 10th Birthday Claire, you will forever be 8 years old, frozen in time for as long as I dwell on this earth! Tonight, my arms are empty, my heart is aching, my eyes are filled with tears and my soul is warm with Joy for all of the Sheltering Trees that God has surrounded me with to help Celebrate You today!

Happy Birthday, My Precious Claire! Love, Mommy

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

Just One More Day

WOW!! It has been a long time, since I blogged! Thought I would take a few minutes and share some thoughts on my first entire calendar year without my precious daughter to share it with!

365 Days! I have NEVER done anything for a consecutive 365 days! Although I have had great intentions! I start out with a bang, you know committing to something for a few days, maybe even a few weeks, but after a while something else comes along and takes my attention away from my original goal and then I either set a new goal, re-adjust the goal or worse give up!

But, for the entire calendar year of 2009~ 365 days, 24 hours a day, 60 minutes an hour I grieved and mourned my daughter! I have cried out to God in my conscience and subconscious for comfort, for understanding, for hope, for reassurance that He will continue to carry me through this valley. And you know what, not one single solitary day, has He left me to travel this journey alone. My Heavenly Father has been right beside be holding me up this entire year! Amen!

It has actually been 593 days: that's 1 year, 7 months and 13 days, since Claire's soul left my arms and went to rest in Jesus' arms. This has been the most agonizing 593 days I could have ever imagined. I have begged and begged God for Just One More Day with Claire, just one more minute to feel her little body, to smell her breath, to watch her do a cartwheel, to see that precious smile that lit up the air surrounding her, to just have another day.

I have thought, many times, about what I would do if I had one more day with Claire. I would take her to the Rock and Gem store downtown that she asked to go into every single time we drove by and I was always too busy trying to get from one place to another to just stop. I would take her to McDonald's for chicken nuggets, french fries and milk, just because! I would take her to the park and watch her climb every thing there and laugh in amazement at the way she would wrap her arms and legs around the steel. I would insist on washing her hair, body and in between her toes, in the tub, even though she believed she could do a better job than me! I would curl up in bed with her and read every storybook she wanted me to until she fell asleep (instead of me being the one who was tired). I would rub her back, while she slept, until my fingers were too sore to move.

But, you know the reality is, I won't have another day to do all those things and if I did, then I would want Just One More Day!

"Your eyes saw my unformed body. All the days ordained for me were written in your book before one of them came to be." Psalm 139:16

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Now I Lay Me Down To Sleep

"Now I Lay Me Down To Sleep; I pray the Lord my soul to keep.
If I should die before I wake; I pray the Lord my soul to take!"

One of the first prayers I remember learning as a child! Since Claire's death I have thought about this prayer numerous times. As a child I remember trying to understand what that prayer really meant. I would get the "sleep-keep" and "wake-take" confused and would talk myself through the correction. At some point, I got it!! If I died before I awoke in the morning I wanted God to take my soul to heaven!

Exactly one year ago today, Jeff and I laid our precious Claire to rest forever!

We had a beautiful graveside service and then we left her lying in a small white casket. Saying goodbye to her earthly body for the very last time.

Claire's body was lowered into the ground.

We will never again touch her precious hands or play with her sparkling hair. We will never again hold her close as she sleeps or wonder which direction she ran off in. We will never again wash the dirt from her feet or paint her fingernails. We will never again hear that infectious giggle or watch her flip effortlessly across the yard.

I think I can say that as of today, we have officially made it through the first year without Claire in our presence. But now we must begin the forevers without Claire in our presence. Forever, there will be an empty chair at our table. Forever, there will one less bookbag to fill. Forever, there will one empty Christmas stocking. Forever, there will be one less Easter dress to make or buy. Forever, there will be one less Birthday party to plan. Forever, there will be one of our daughters continually in the presence of Jesus! Forever, there will be the promise of an eternal life beyond what our earthly minds can comprehend! Forever, there will be meaning for our family to continue to Praise God in the storms of life.

Children hold a special place of honor in heaven. "See that you do not look down on one of these little ones. For I tell you that their angels in heaven always see the face of my Father in heaven." Matthew 18:10

"Now I Lay Me Down To Sleep; I pray the Lord my soul to keep.
If I should die before I wake; I pray the Lord my soul to take!"

Thursday, July 9, 2009

Happy "9th" Birthday to my Precious Claire!!

"Hey mommy, this is Claire! I just wanted to say how much fun I had today! Bye" Wednesday, July 9th 2008 (3:52pm) My last recording of Clarie's voice after she and Jeff went horseback riding to celebrate her 8th birthday!

How do you "celebrate" your deceased child's birthday? I googled it, not much there. I don't really have a good answer, but I thought I would share how we chose to celebrate Clarie's 9th Birthday. Although, I'm sure her celebration with Jesus was so remarkable that ours certainly looked pathetic!

For several days leading up to Claire's birthday my heart has ached in such a way that I thought my soul would rip out of me. My heart continues to yearn for her touch just one more time to hear her sweet voice say one more time "Mommy, you are the best mommy in the whole world!" "Mommy this was the best birthday ever!!"

Last year, Claire had a fabulous birthday! She had a sleepover with her best friends. We had a house full of giggly little girls (and puppies), what a memory I will cherish forever!!

This year, Claire had a celebration to beat all celebrations, because she got to celebrate with Jesus!!

It was really difficult to face yesterday; however, once the day came we were once again showered with God's grace! Abbie and Caroline spent Tuesday night with friends in Asheville, so Jeff, Sarah and I picked them up about lunchtime and decided to have Chick-fil-a nuggets and french fries in Claire's honor! We ran a few errands in A'ville (Claire would have protested) and then came back to Spruce Pine. We picked up fried chicken for dinner(again in Claire's honor), grabbed some balloons and cupcakes and went to the cemetary! We all wrote messages on the balloons and placed some beautiful flowers on Claire's grave! We held hands in a circle around the flowers, prayed and then released our balloons! Wouldn't you know that Sarah wanted two balloons and one of hers left her hands early headed in the complete opposite direction from the rest of ours! Our balloons eventually followed Clarie's, but it took them a while. Does that sound familiar or what? The times we have been somewhere and Claire was way ahead in another direction and we were left asking "Where's Claire?"

Later in the evening we each wrote down special memories of Claire. We wanted to watch some video of Claire but were unable to (long story) due to technical difficulties!

I don't know if we "celebrated" the right way or not, but I do know it felt right to us! Thanks to everyone who has reached out to us and poured out blessings and mercies on us this week. Please continue to pray for us as next week is the 1 year anniversary of Claire's home-going!

May God bless each of you today!!

Enjoy some pictures from some of Claire's Birthdays!

Thursday, June 11, 2009

School's Out!!

I can't believe we have completed another school year already!! Where has the time gone?

Abbie finished 7th grade and Caroline is now a 2nd grader! I am so proud of both of them, you know statistics show that is takes students about 2 years to get back on track at school after the death of someone close and both of my girls have done very well, despite the inner pain they are sure to be experiencing! They are GREAT!!

On the last day of school last year, Abbie went home with a friend and Claire and Caroline asked me to pick them up from school. After saying goodbye to their teachers and friends we came home with their lunchboxes still packed and Claire, Caroline and Sarah sat in the front yard having a picnic and relishing in the moment. Excited about summer plans!! What a pleasant memory for me.

As we walked out of their elementary school last May little did I know that the next time I would walk those halls it would be for a Celebration Service of my precious daughter's life! Never for one moment would I have expected last summer to turn so horrifically sad.

This year, as I picked up Caroline, we said our goodbyes, and I fought back with every ounce in my being, tears. Tears that I knew would not stop for a long time once they started! We walked through the quiet hallways and I kept wondering, "what will this summer bring?" "Will I even have a child at this school next year?" "Will all of my children make it through the summer alive?" Those are some of the thoughts that now crowd my grieving mind!

That was a very tough day for me! But once again, (surprise surprise) our Heavenly Father took me in His arms and assured me that he will take care of me! We do have a future, we do have hope!! No, I don't have a crystal ball and I can't see into the future, but I know that God has a plan for me, my children and our family. Jeff has said to me several time recently "If God is asking the question, then our answer must be Yes!"

I don't know what this summer will hold for us, I do know that I am working hard this month so that next month I can just be. I can be still and know that God is holding me in his lap and wiping my tears away!

Jeremiah 29:13 says "You will seek Me and find Me when you search for Me with all of your heart."

I am seeking God like I have never sought Him before. He is my only true comfort in this storm of grief! He is the only one who can truly celebrate with me in those moments of joy! He is the only one who is truly with me in those quiet moments when I wonder what the next moment will bring. He is the only one who hears my heart of a mother that yearns and aches for my baby.

Let God be your "only one." Seek Him with all your heart! He is right there waiting to be found! ALWAYS He is there!!


Thursday, May 7, 2009

"You Don't Bring Me (Paper) Flowers Anymore"

OK, remember the Neil Diamond (love him!) and Barbara Streisand song! Well, I was thinking about all of my past Mother's Days and how lucky and blessed I have been! Jeff and I were married in December of 1994 and we became pregnant with Abbigayle in April of 1995, so my entire married adult life I have been happy on Mother's Day! I have had a reason to celebrate as an expectant mom or as a mommy!

I have seen many of my family and dear friends sit in church Mother's Day Sunday after Mother's Day Sunday and have an undescribable longing in their heart and soul to hold a child of their own in their arms.

Again, I know that I have been very blessed to never have had that yearning or aching inside! However, this Mother's Day, well this Mother's Day I have such a mix of emotions running through my soul! God has blessed me with 4 very precious, loving, caring and beautiful daughters and for that I thank Him everyday!! But for me this year there is a saddness and an aching that can't be explained!

Since Claire has gone home, I'm not sure where I fit in the mother role! It's really kinda strange! Aren't mother's suppose to protect and care for their children? Aren't they suppose to kiss their "boo boos" and make it all better? I feel like somehow I failed, I feel like I didn't protect Claire! As you all know Claire was a very adventurous little girl, Jeff and I had said many times, she's the one we will end up in the ER with.

Little did we know that we would only take her to the ER once; little did I know that I wouldn't be able to put a funky band-aid on this injury and make it all better; little did I know that I would be blessed enough to hold Claire in my arms as she took her last breath here on earth; little did I know that as Clarie's mother I would yearn for her touch like I have never yearned for anything else in this world!

Last year was a great Mother's Day for me and my family! My parents, sisters and their families all came to our house for Mother's Day! We enjoyed a nice cookout on Saturday and were all able to go to church together on Sunday! It was a great weekend and one I will cherish forever!

This year, well this year, I am honestly dreading Mother's Day! Where does a grieving Mother fit in? I'm not sure! At churches all around the world mother's of all shapes, sizes, races and ages will stand in pride and joy as they are recognized. But I bet not one church will recognize those mother's who have sent a child home to Heaven. Flowers will be given to the newest mom, oldest mom, mother with the most children, etc. And even if a grieving mother is recognized, she wouldn't stand with pride and joy in her heart, she would stand with saddness and longing in her soul!

For almost 13 years now, I have received some type of handmade gift from my chidren and many of those years have included a paper flower - tissue paper, construction paper, you name the paper and I have the flower! Shortly after Claire died I found the last Mother's Day flower she made for me, it is a pink cut out of her handprint taped to a green chenille stick and I pinned it on my corkboard in my office! Now, probably one of my most precious gifts from Claire. When she gave it to me, did I beam with joy and excitement? I sure hope so! I will never receive another paper flower from Claire, but I am so thankful I have saved all of the ones I did receive. I believe I could have one beautiful bouquet of flowers that my children have made for me and they will all be very unique and priceless!

This Mother's Day let me encourage each of you to pray for all of the mother's out there. Mother's come in many shapes and sizes and they all need our prayers:
* Pray for the women who want so desperatly to be mommy's
* Pray for the mother who never got to hold her baby or kiss their little cheek
* Pray for the mother's who have made the agonizining choice to give their babies up for adoption
* Pray for the mother's who chose abortion and would change that desicion in a heartbeat if they could
* Pray for the mother's who are pregnant and will hold a new baby in their arms very soon
* Pray for the mother's who are exhausted because they have a house full of toddlers and their only refuge is when they go to the bathroom by themselves
* Pray for the mother's who leave their children in the care of someone else everyday so they can make a difference in the workplace
* Pray for those mother's whose teenager has made decisions that have caused pain in their hearts
* Pray for those mother's who will send their child off to college soon
* Pray for those mother's who will or have sent their child off to war
* Pray for those mother's who haven't spoken to their child in years
* Pray for the mother whose husband has left and now she is alone to care for her children while trying to raise them in a Godly home
* Pray for the woman who has married a widower with children of his own
* Pray for the mother who fears for her safety and the safety of her children
* Pray for the mother who is grieving the death of their spouse and trying to hold it together for the children
* Pray for the mother has lived a lifetime and now sees the fruits of her labor
in her children, grandchildren and maybe even great-grandchildren
* Pray for the mother who mourns the death of her mother
* Pray for the mother who was told that her child has a very serious illness and now spends every waking moment caring for that child in fear of what the next moment may bring
* Pray for the mother who has a received a terminal diagnosis, probably won't be here for next Mother's Day, and is spending every ounce of energy she has to enjoy every moment left with her children
* Pray for the grieving mother who has watched one her chidren be called home to Jesus!
* Pray for the mother of your spouse

I can insert names into each of the scenerios and I am certain you could to! Pray for those women God has placed in your lives this Mother's Day!

"Her children arise and call her blessed;
her husband also, and he praises her"
Proverbs 31:28

Blessings to You!! Angela

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

"Who Stole the Cookie from the Cookie Jar?"

Oh, I meant "Who Stole the Cross and Flowers from Claire's Grave?"

Yes, I typed that correctly!!

Here's the story:
Friday, March 6th was Sarah's 4th Birthday! Happy Birthday Sarah!! We had a great day together, daddy took us to breakfast at DT's then she and I went shopping in Burnsville at this great children's boutique, she bought a necklace with a gift card she had been given after Claire died. After another shopping spree at Wal-Mart, we met Sarah's best friend at McDonalds for lunch and play-time. It was the perfect birthday!

We had decided, earlier in the day, to pick Caroline up from school and on our way home we wanted to go visit Claire. As we drove up to the grave site we realized that something wasn't right. The cross that we had placed at Claire's grave was missing!?!? Caroline and I got out of the car and walked over to the grave, everything else seemed OK, just the cross was gone! In it's place were two old Christmas baskets (not ours). We walked around but did not see the cross anywhere.

Jeff called one of our friends who is a Spruce Pine police officer and he had someone come and take a police report from us. I went back to the cemetary Saturday morning and walked the entire area and did not see any signs of the cross taken from Clarie's grave. Needless to say we were extremely upset! Who would do such a thing?

Four days later, I decided to go back up to the cemetary for a few minutes. As I drove up, I instantly knew something wasn't right!?!? I parked the car and walked over to Claire's grave, and this time the flowers that we had placed on her grave were gone!?!? Crazy!!

The detective that is working on our case is a really great guy and has assured us he will do everyhting he can to find out who has taken everything from our daughter's grave!

In the meantime, our friends, the Suttons, were able to replace Claire's cross, what a blessing to us!

You know, it really is almost unbelieveable that we have a daughter who no longer walks the earth with us, but it is even more unbelieveable that there are people in this world that would be so cruel and heartless as to steal a cross and flowers off of her grave!!

Throughout every event in my life, I try to look at what my heavenly father may be trying to teach me. I believe life is full of lessons and it's up to us to use what we learn to glorify God. In Sunday School, we have been going through Chip Ingram's R12 Bible Study, based on becoming a Romans 12 Christian.

So here's what I want you to do, God helping you: Take your everyday, ordinary life—your sleeping, eating, going-to-work, and walking-around life—and place it before God as an offering. Embracing what God does for you is the best thing you can do for him. Don't become so well-adjusted to your culture that you fit into it without even thinking. Instead, fix your attention on God. You'll be changed from the inside out. Readily recognize what he wants from you, and quickly respond to it. Unlike the culture around you, always dragging you down to its level of immaturity, God brings the best out of you, develops well-formed maturity in you.
I'm speaking to you out of deep gratitude for all that God has given me, and especially as I have responsibilities in relation to you. Living then, as every one of you does, in pure grace, it's important that you not misinterpret yourselves as people who are bringing this goodness to God. No, God brings it all to you. The only accurate way to understand ourselves is by what God is and by what he does for us, not by what we are and what we do for him.

In this way we are like the various parts of a human body. Each part gets its meaning from the body as a whole, not the other way around. The body we're talking about is Christ's body of chosen people. Each of us finds our meaning and function as a part of his body. But as a chopped-off finger or cut-off toe we wouldn't amount to much, would we? So since we find ourselves fashioned into all these excellently formed and marvelously functioning parts in Christ's body, let's just go ahead and be what we were made to be, without enviously or pridefully comparing ourselves with each other, or trying to be something we aren't.

If you preach, just preach God's Message, nothing else; if you help, just help, don't take over; if you teach, stick to your teaching; if you give encouraging guidance, be careful that you don't get bossy; if you're put in charge, don't manipulate; if you're called to give aid to people in distress, keep your eyes open and be quick to respond; if you work with the disadvantaged, don't let yourself get irritated with them or depressed by them. Keep a smile on your face.

Love from the center of who you are; don't fake it. Run for dear life from evil; hold on for dear life to good. Be good friends who love deeply; practice playing second fiddle.

Don't burn out; keep yourselves fueled and aflame. Be alert servants of the Master, cheerfully expectant. Don't quit in hard times; pray all the harder. Help needy Christians; be inventive in hospitality.

Bless your enemies; no cursing under your breath. Laugh with your happy friends when they're happy; share tears when they're down. Get along with each other; don't be stuck-up. Make friends with nobodies; don't be the great somebody.

Don't hit back; discover beauty in everyone. If you've got it in you, get along with everybody. Don't insist on getting even; that's not for you to do. "I'll do the judging," says God. "I'll take care of it."

Our Scriptures tell us that if you see your enemy hungry, go buy that person lunch, or if he's thirsty, get him a drink. Your generosity will surprise him with goodness. Don't let evil get the best of you; get the best of evil by doing good.
Romans 12 (The Message)

My prayer is to apply Romans 12 to EVERY area of my life. I want to totally surrender my life to God, I want to be transformed from what the world says I should be and look to what God says I should become, I want to pray for others, I want my children to know that I truly believe Psalm 139 and know how wonerfully made by God they are, I want to cultivate relationships that are safe and authentic, I want to be generous with what God has given me, I want to forgive those who have hurt me. This is how I want to be a Romans 12 Christian.

I am praying for the person(s) who stole the cross and flowers from Claire's grave, please join me in praying that they will be convicted of their wrong doing and the pain it has caused me and my family; but more importantly pray that I will forgive them in a way that is only possible through Chirst!