Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Take It From The Top!

Well, I thought it was about time I began to share our story and how God placed us on this new path that He has chosen for Our Lives!

We moved to Spruce Pine three years ago and in our yard is a Red Bud tree. Claire climbed that tree almost every single day since we moved here!! Her personal goal was to make it to the top of that tree! She was a very good tree climber!!

About 6:45pm on Wednesday, July 16th she made it to the top of that tree!!! She told me so several times the evening of July 16th! As she was coming back down a limb broke causing her to fall to the ground (probably between 6~8 feet)!

WOW!! This is harder than I thought, the words are just not coming to me!?

Abbigayle was in Atlanta and Jeff had just returned home from a business trip. Jeff went to CVS and Pizza Hut and then we were going to church to help "clean-up"! I went downstairs to change out laundry, Claire and Caroline went outside. As I was changing out clothes, Caroline came running to the basement yelling "It's an emergency, Claire has fallen out of the tree!" I think I made it from the basement to Claire's side in about 5 steps! Caroline was so brave to run and get me, I am so proud of how calm she stayed and how fast she ran!! Way to go Caroline!!!

When I got to Claire's side she was sitting up holding her right elbow with her left hand. I asked her if she could wiggle her fingers, she did. I picked her up and ran her to the car (we live less than a mile from the hospital)! I called our dear friends and neighbors, the Stricklands, and told Michelle I was taking Claire to the hospital and she sent her oldest son Eli to get Caroline and Sarah. While I drove Claire to the hospital, I called and left Jeff a message to meet us there.

Claire was our one child that we always felt we would end up in the ER with!! Not because she was careless, she was always very careful but very adventurous! If it could be swung on, climbed up~down~on~over, jumped up~down~on or over she would try it!!

I carried Claire through the ER doors within minutes of her fall!! I was asked the necessary questions and signed the necessary paperwork and then they called Claire's name to go back into the patient care area.

Claire's arm was broken just above her elbow and even though the bone did not break through the skin, I knew from the moment I saw her arm that it was broken, however, as soon as the nurse began to assess Claire I grasped the seriousness of her injury. Even though the nurse was not alarming, I have been in way too many patient assessments to not have noticed that she was concerned about something. She attempted several times to feel a pulse in the lower part of Claire's arm. She explained that she could not feel a pulse and that she would have another nurse check; however, sometimes in breaks like Claire's the arteries can get pinched causing the blood not to flow to the lower part of the arm. I knew in that moment that we may be looking at a surgery for Claire. Even before we left our driveway I began praying to God for His mercies upon my child, but I know my pleas were elevated to a new level in those moments.

I carried Claire as the nurse walked us down the hallway into another room where a second nurse attempted to locate a pulse on Claire's arm, to no avail. About this time Jeff came walking through the door and Claire and I both sensed his calming presence. The ER doctor was in Claire's room moments later to meet us and assess Claire's condition, again, no pulse was detected in Claire's arm. An X-Ray Technician walked into the room with a portable X-Ray machine, he was so wonderful and gentle with Claire. He successfully had pictures of Claire's fracture in moments. The orthapedic surgeon walked into our room shortly thereafter, and stated they were very concerned about Claire's arm and felt they needed to send her to Baptist Hospital in Winston-Salem "and I don't mean tomorrow!" He and the ER staff immediately began making arrangements for Claire to be transferred to Baptist, because she needed a Pediatric Vascular Surgeon to operate on her and they had the closest one. Dr. Flint felt Claire was medically stable enough to be transferred by ground transportation and would arrive at Baptist as fast or faster than air ambulance.

By 8:45pm Claire was placed in the back of an ambulance and I was allowed to ride in the back with her. Jeff got in our car and we took off on the ride of our life!

Let me just stop here and share with you the mercies that we see throughout this story thus far:
#1 Jeff had been home about an hour!
#2 Caroline remained calm and ran immediately to get me!
#3 Claire was sitting up, alert and conscience when I got to her!
#4 Michelle was home!
#5 We live less than a mile from the hospital!
#6 The Emergency Room was not busy!!
#7 Dr. Flint (orthopedist) was in the hospital at 7pm!
#8 The ambulance was in Spruce Pine, not out of town transporting another patient!
#9 I was allowed to ride in the back of the ambulance with Claire!
#10 Claire made it to the top of the tree and she knew she had!!!! :)

Sunday, August 24, 2008

The Dressmaker's Daughter

Jeff and I have been able to reflect about the ways God prepared us for the events of July, 16th~18th. We truly serve an Awesome, Mighty and Powerful Saviour and I would like to share one of these reflections with you!

I love to sew!! Having four daughters there is always an occasion to sew for!! My mother sewed for my two sisters and me, she spent countless hours with needle and thread in hand. Easter Dresses, Halloween Costumes, Prom Dresses, Bridesmaid Dresses and many other requests were filled by her loving hands!! So naturally when Abbigayle was born, I decided I needed to learn to sew. I took several sewing classes and learned to smock and do other French hand sewing techniques. Through the years I have made Christmas Dresses, Easter Dresses, Halloween Costumes and many other desired items!!

However, there is one dress that I will never be more pleased that I made!! This past May, Greenlee Primary had there annual Heritage Day! Prizes were being awarded for Costumes and Claire asked me if I would make her a dress like "Laura Ingles". In the midst of all of those end of the school year activities, I agreed. Claire and I went and picked out a pattern and material. The dress seemed simple but it was a little more involved than I thought (isn't that always the way it works)! The night before Heritage Day I stayed up all night long finishing this dress just for Claire! I was tired by midnight and exhausted by daybreak, but the dress was complete and Claire trotted off to school proud of my accomplishment (labor of love :)!)

Thank you, Mom for placing the desire and importance to sew for my daughters within me!

Thank you, Jesus, for giving me the strength to stay up all night and sew for my precious Claire, that is one Labor of Love I will never regret seeing to completion!

Thursday, August 21, 2008

Table for Four, Please?

Dinner at the Atkins household can be in many different forms; however, we do try very hard to eat together. Although with a budding teenager and all of the activities we get involved with, it does not always happen.

Tonight, well let me share about tonight's meal. Middle School football began tonight, so Abbigayle attended the Middle School Social Event of the evening (GO BLUE DEVILS!!!!) That left Jeff, Caroline, Sarah and myself to dine together. It was difficult setting the table for four instead of five or six. I honestly do not remember the last time there were just four of us eating, together! Usually, Sarah sits beside me and the other girls bicker about who gets to sit next to Daddy. Jeff would try to rotate seating, but they would still fuss about whose turn it was. Well tonight there was no fussing, there was no negotiating, there was no need to assign seats.

We enjoyed our dinner (thanks again, Trish~ the casserole really was delicious) and as Jeff and I cleared the table we held each other and cried about the quietness before dinner!

Tuesday, August 19, 2008


Now we only have two girls in the tub! As difficult and time consuming bathing 4 daughters has been over the past few years, I sure did miss that this evening!! Claire, Caroline and Sarah almost always took their baths together. Tonight, it was just Caroline and Sarah, they had so much fun and they laughed and played, but wow!! for me, it was quiet!!

In those moments of hectic family life, Jeff and I have looked at each other, totally exhausted and said "One day we will wish we were this exhausted from the daily routines of 4 daughters!" and then with refreshed joy in our hearts we would finish the task at hand! But tonight, for me, as I bathed two girls, in my exhaustion, I thought "I didn't realize I would wish for that utter exhaustion from 4 girls to bath and get ready for bed so soon in my life!"

Monday, August 18, 2008

Would You Like Mustard On That?

OK!! As you can tell I was feeling pretty down last night!! The days seem to be getting harder and the nights are especially hard!! I laid down in bed last night with Abbigayle and we talked for a little bit about how we are feeling. She said she feels so lonely, WOW! That's exactly how I feel, here we are surrounded by each other, friends, family and so many loving on us and praying for us and we still feel lonely!! We pinky promised each other to continue to be real with each other!!
It was great to spend that time connecting with Abbigayle and sharing our thoughts~ she is amazing!!!!!

Today, well today has been a really good day!! Some moments I feel like I have the faith of a speck of dust on a coffee table in Whoville (those of you without preschoolers read the great philospher Dr. Seuss and you will get it)compared to a mustard seed. "Because you have so little faith. I tell you the truth, if you have faith as small as a mustard seed, you can say to this mountain, 'Move from here to there' and it will move. Nothing will be impossible for you." Matthew 17:20 Jesus said this to his disciples after healing a young boy from seizures (those who know our entire story with Claire will understand the significance of seizures). His disciples were not able to heal this child, they lacked faith.

According to Mark 4:30-32 Jesus said, "What can we say God's kingdom is like? What story can we use to explain it? It is like a mustard seed, which is the smallest seed planted in the ground. But when you plant the seed, it grows. It becomes the largest of all garden plants. Its branches are so big that birds can rest in its shade."

HOW INCREDIBLE!!!!! All we need is the faith of a mustard seed and we can move mountains!? This morning I had the faith of that speck of dust in Whoville. What a shame, all that the Lord has done for me in the past 4 weeks and I have so little faith! Once again, today, God poured out new mercies on me! So today, yes for today I can say it has been a good day!!

What seed will you plant today? Plant a mustard seed in someone else's life and watch it grow into a Sheltering Tree that will allow someone else rest in the shade of your seed!

God's Blessings to You!!

Sunday, August 17, 2008

"Mother May I"

Do you remember the game "Mother May I"? I sure would like to play that game, today. My game would be called "Father May I" and I would say "Father, May I take 5 steps forward while everyone else stays on their square?" Maybe that way when I slide back 3 steps I will be even with somebody, because right now I feel so far behind there is no way to catch up! I feel like the rest of the world is spinning on it's axis and I am standing still somewhere in the middle in s l o w m o t i o n!! I would love to be caught up on something (I did take a bath this morning, so I guess I am caught up there :)

When Jesus was preparing for his crucifixion, he went up into the Mount of Olives to pray: “Father, if you are willing, please take this cup of suffering away from me. Yet I want your will to be done, not mine.” Then an angel from heaven appeared and strengthened him. He prayed more fervently, and he was in such agony of spirit that his sweat fell to the ground like great drops of blood. At last he stood up again and returned to the disciples, only to find them asleep, exhausted from grief." Luke 22:42-45

I think I am exhausted from grief, I know that is OK and where I need to be right now, but it's also hard to "just be" when I am normally such a "doer"! Doing even the mundane things in life right now are just so overwhelming for me! Actually the mundane doesn't seem so mundane. The important things, or at least the one's that seemed important have somehow taken a back seat to survival.

Continue to pray as we try to get our home back in order and find a routine within our chaos!

Thanks for reading!!

Saturday, August 16, 2008

Here's the Church, Here's the Steeple

Open it up where's all the people? Let me just tell you where all the people are... they are caring for us!!!!!

I can not even begin to tell you how very thankful and full of gratitude we are for all of our friends and family who have wrapped themselves around us, loved on us and carried us through the past 4 weeks!!!!! Many times through this valley I have actually felt loving arms wrapped around my back and knees and carrying me through to the next moment. A dear friend said to me, "It's times like these that we realize how large the body of Christ really is!" We continue to receive cards, phone calls, e-mails, meals and visits, these are all truly sustaining us through the next moment!! Others are sharing with us resources about dealing with grief, one thing I read this morning said grief is not normal it is necessary. WOW is that a truth.

Some moments I feel like what else can we deal with. This has been a very difficult week for us. The reality that Claire is no longer with us, here on earth, is setting in and we are caught in the undertow of that grief and reality. Abbigayle and Caroline are in full swing at school. I went to have a root canal on Wednesday and after 1 1/2 hours, being very numb and $400 later was told the procedure could not be completed and I would have to come back for surgery :). And this morning I sat down on a wasp!! I know the Lord does not give us more than we can handle, however, I certainly wonder some moments!

And then I am reminded of a sermon Jim shared with our congregation the week after Claire's service. God placed us around each other to comfort and care for one another.
3-5"All praise to the God and Father of our Master, Jesus the Messiah! Father of all mercy! God of all healing counsel! He comes alongside us when we go through hard times, and before you know it, he brings us alongside someone else who is going through hard times so that we can be there for that person just as God was there for us. We have plenty of hard times that come from following the Messiah, but no more so than the good times of his healing comfort—we get a full measure of that, too.
6-7When we suffer for Jesus, it works out for your healing and salvation. If we are treated well, given a helping hand and encouraging word, that also works to your benefit, spurring you on, face forward, unflinching. Your hard times are also our hard times. When we see that you're just as willing to endure the hard times as to enjoy the good times, we know you're going to make it, no doubt about it."
2 Corinthians 1:3-7 (The Message)

Jeff, Abbigayle, Caroline, Sarah and I are continuing to pray God's blessing upon each of you, as you continue to minister (and comfort) to us!

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

May THE Force Be With You

"May THE Force Be With You!" OK, I'm not a Star Wars fan (give me a good chick flick, popcorn and chocolate and I'm happy) but I sure have heard this phrase many times. Well, it gave a whole new meaning to my life last night!

I truly believe there are two forces in our world and they are constantly struggling for power over our hearts. We recently completed a Bible Study series that addressed the evil forces that are present in our daily lives. There are so many undertones within our culture that try to deceive us into thinking (or enticing us) that something may be good for us when in fact it is very harmful! Satan has a way of packaging events, words, culture, etc. that make us desire the undesireable. Jesus was even tempted by Satan. (So once again, our Savior has been in our shoes.) However, Jesus was very clear >"It is also written: do not put the Lord your God to the test." Matthew 5:12"

Last night, Jeff and I were tempted by Satan. We have given God the glory for all that has happened in our live these past 4 weeks, and we truly believe that Claire's death was His Will for Claire's life and our life. Claire's death has brought us so very close to our Lord and to each other. Last night Satan tried to put doubt in our relationship with our Lord. Thankfully, Jeff and I have adopted Proverbs 27:12 "The prudent see danger and take refuge, but the simple keep going and suffer for it", so went to the altar at our church we cried, held each other, read God's word and prayed together. (I have such a Godly husband)

We will take away the good things from last night:
* pray for God's discernment about all of the decisions we are making
* not everything is as it seems
* remain faithful in God's word
* we are doing really good!!

Please pray for us that we will seek God's direction in all the counsel we seek!!
Abbigayle and Sarah are both home sick this evening! Please pray for God's healing touch on them!

So "May THE (God's) Force Be With!"

Sunday, August 10, 2008

It's Sunday and Monday's A Comin'

Well, I must say that the response to our blog has been fantastic!!

Abbigayle decided she wanted to start blogging also, so please check out her link!! Abbie is such a special girl and my heart breaks that she, Caroline and Sarah must live their lives without Claire in the middle of it.

Claire will be in their hearts and they all have a special piece of her with them. Abbigayle and Claire shared a bedroom and with that they shared their love for each other and our Heavenly Father, as each night Jeff would tuck them in with a devotion, reflection on their day and prayer. Caroline has worn almost every item of clothing these past few weeks that belonged to Claire. Claire and Caroline were practically the same size, but they each have a few clothing items that they did not have to share. I totally get how Caroline must feel right now. One night last week, I slept in Claire's bed. I must say that was the best night's sleep I have had in 3 weeks!! I sure do miss Claire!! Sarah has all of Claire's adventure and spirit!! Claire had taken on the role of Director for all of our evening living room performances. (Abbigayle outgrew that role a couple of years ago) I remember thinking, the day or two after Claire's death, "who will direct and organize our evening plays?" Well, Sarah has worn every costume she can get on and has said more than one time "watch this!" God really is so merciful!!! So many things Sarah has done the past few days reminds me of Claire. We have large tile floors in our kitchen and Sarah was standing on one color, counting to 3 and jumping to the next tile, very accurately (definitely a Claire thing)!

Please pray for us as we begin another week! My parents have been with us this weekend and we have been surrounded with our church family most of the weekend! Nighttime is very hard for me and we must begin to get back into some type of routine. Pray for guidance and direction!

Until next time! Blessings to you and your family!!
PS Hug your babies a little longer this evening!!

Saturday, August 9, 2008

God's Mercies

WOW!!!! How a few weeks can certainly change our lives!!

As many of you know, our daughter Claire, went to play with Jesus on Thursday, July 17th. I will share more of this story in the days to come! Our Lord has been with us every step of the way and shown incredible mercies through this journey. We have recieved so many prayers and concerns for our family and we have certainly been held up by those prayers.

I want to begin this "blog" journey by sharing with you the mercies God gave us two days ago when Abbigayle and Caroline started back to school. Jeff and I pray every morning that God will give us new mercies because the mercies He gave us the day before will not sustain us through another day. I was not sure what God had in store for us Thursday morning. (Why do we expect so little out of Him?) We went to McDonald's for breakfast (a family tradition we began on Abbigayle's first day of Kindergarten 8 years ago). Then we took Abbigayle to the Middle School, she wanted me to walk her inside to her classroom!!!! (mercy #1 for the day) We then drove Caroline to her school and she wanted all of us to walk her to her classroom. She said "This is so 1st grade!" We walked into Caroline's class and her seat was assigned next to Hannah Ruth, her best friend from Kindergarten!! (mercy #2 for the day) Jeff, Sarah and I began walking down the hall to the front of the school, we were met at the front door by the principal, music teacher and many other faculty/staff who embraced us with love. Mrs. Spurling, the librarian, asked me to come to her office and began to tell me that she went through the list of books that Claire checked out over the past three years. One week it was a joke book, the next week a chapter book and so on. Claire loved to read and would enjoy any book she chose. Mrs. Spurling wanted to give me the last book Claire checked out! It was "Small Gifts in God's Hands" by Max Lucado!!!!! (mercies #3, #4 and #5) What a blessing that Mrs. Spurling took the time and thought to look at the books Claire enjoyed reading and wanted to give me a book; but this particular book was in my child's school library to choose and my precious Claire chose this book!! Again, God is so merciful!!

Dawn, Mackenzie and Mallorie Keel were all at my house when we got back with a wonderful breakfast!! We enjoyed time together and were able to talk about Claire and what she meant to all of us!! (plus breakfast was delicious~mercy #6)

When the mail arrived so did mercy #7!!! We received a packet of information from Carolina Donor Services about the people whom Claire's organs went to!! Her right kidney went to a 46 year old man, her left kidney went to a 40 year old man and her liver went to a 10 year old boy! We do not yet have information about her heart valves! We will be sending these families letters and sharing Claire's story with them!! Please pray for us as we write these letters!!

Mercy #8~ Abbigayle and Caroline came bouncing off of the school bus exclaiming their first day of school was GREAT!!!

I look forward to sharing more of our story in the days to come!! But for now it's time to say "good night!"

"For I know the plans I have for you, declares the Lord, plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future. Then you will call upon me and come and pray to me, and I will listen to you. You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart." Jeremiah 29:11~13