11) 100 Days
"Knowing that every day I will get just a touch better, lets me know that that by making it through a day, I was successful."
Day 92 - March 5th at 6:13pm
I think grief feels a little like a tunnel..... dark, cold, lonely, scary even. I wish I could just skip over this part and move straight to the mountaintop again..... Hey! I know... maybe I could skip the tunnel all together and start climbing the mountain..... then I would feel better. Right?Once I made it to the top I could see for miles and I would see how far I've come. I could be proud of myself. I could look back and say "Yeah!!!!! I made it! The worst is behind me!" When you enter the tunnel, it's discouraging because you can't automatically see through to the other side. You have to trust that there is actually an "other side" and that although everything is dark and dreary, if you'll just start walking you will begin to see that light shining through and then you'll know for sure that you're almost to the other side. When you enter the tunnel, you don't know how long it'll take you to get through, you just know you don't want to stay there forever... I don't at least. There's really no easy way to do it. The tunnel is made to help us get to the other side, but sometimes that is difficult to see. We would rather just avoid it all together. I agree. That sounds like the best solution. But I wonder what God would have us to learn as we work our way through the tunnel? Maybe we would learn that we were truly depending more on ourselves than on God. A "tunnel experience" requires complete dependence on God if you want out. Maybe we would see that blind faith feels different than just regular faith. Maybe, just maybe, we will learn more about ourselves than we ever knew before entering the tunnel. And as much as we desire with every breath to get through it, what if we ask God to teach us and show us what He would have us to learn as we make our way through that awful tunnel, and how much better we will be for making it through to the other side.
Day 93 - March 6th at 7:24pm
Today is the 3 month mark. I'm 25% of the way through the first year. We had a wonderful weekend full of much laughter and fun. There were several "pangs" that hit at various times.... like when I saw the places Mike loved. (Knifeworks, Oakley Vault, etc) I also felt the grief pangs hit when I was doing the final clean sweep as we were about to leave and I went to the top bedroom, where they had relocated the comforter to, that used to be on our bed. Seeing that one little thing made me thankful for the "room mash-up" that I didn't think was necessary (but was) and made me aware of the value of doing something new. I love tradition (like.... love love love tradition) so even trying new things, although necessary, makes me sad for the old traditions. It's like I have to find this perfect mix of 80% of the old and 20% of something new. It's odd, I know..... but true. Today is the first court appearance for the defendant. Nothing is supposed to happen today, except a continuance, but I will be there nonetheless. I have to psych myself up for possibly seeing him in real life, whether it be on video camera or in person. I was prepared for seeing him last time but he didn't have to come into the courtroom... so he didn't. I'm feeling pretty strong this morning..... we will see what the day holds. My poor stomach has taken a beating over these last 3 months. Pray that I don't feel like I need to throw up..... because that's what I felt like last time, and I didn't even get to see him! My mother and father in law will be with me. So, here goes another "first"..... and hopefully a good day.
Day 94 - March 7th at 3:48pm
13 weeks ---- yesterday was quite an eye opener for me. That courtroom was packed with people who had violated the law and I saw everything including a woman, who was my mom's age, whom authorities had found a crack rock in her purse. "No worries" her defense attorney told the judge as "she is just a recreational crack user that has learned her lesson." Then we saw people who were charged with homicide, breaking and entering, larceny and probation violations. I felt very much like a fish out of water. I was amazed at the lack of respect for authority as I watched a grown man get his cell phone taken away, like he was in middle school, all because he didn't obey the rules. I was also amazed at the limited education these individuals had. It made me even more grateful for those who are called into law enforcement because I definitely don't think I could do it. The judge didn't do anything with our case until after lunch and that part lasted a whole 30 seconds. It was continued until May (which is what we thought), but they didn't even bring the defendant up from holding. I psych myself up to see him face and face and then I don't get to! So that leaves me to dread it another day. I wonder if he will even know who I am when I do get to see him one day. The benches in the courtroom are hard, wooden benches, like those in old timey churches. People buzz in and out as their cases are called. There were many who didn't bother to show up at all and I'm sure their name was added to a list that I don't ever want to be on. I've learned so much about the way this process works..... more than I ever wanted to know, but I am glad to advocate for Mike.... a life taken much too soon at the hands of a drunk driver.
Day 95 - March 8th at 8:29am
I know so many of you have heard me reference "my friend Matt from Lincolnton who lost his wife in a motor vehicle accident...." Today marks one year for him and I find myself wishing I too was at the one year mark. Instead I have 75% still to go, which honestly feels like a lifetime. I don't know why the one year mark feels like you should be receiving a trophy, but it does. Like.... a HUGE trophy. One that you display in your living room and everyone who passes it will see it as the badge of honor it is, because you've worked so hard to make it the first year. Matt says he has learned so much about himself and I feel that way too. Some things I've learned about myself make me proud and other things bring to light that God isn't finished working on me quite yet. I cannot tell you how many times I've messaged Matt and said "Will you please pray for me?" Or lately, "I can't quit crying and I'm sitting in the parking lot at work.... will you pray for me?" If there has ever been anyone who knows what if feels like to walk in my shoes, it's him. Our stories are so similar. Tragedy seems to knit together those who are willing to share the burden with others, who are experiencing the same loss and pain. That's what Matt has done for me. I told him a few weeks ago that I'm surprised he hasn't unfriended me because I always have an abundance of questions that he always takes time to answer. From court stuff to insurance stuff to single parent stuff.... his friendship to me has been unbelievably helpful. I'm proud of him and I admire him for simply making it... day by day, as a single parent to 2 boys. Some days I can see God's hand in everything and other days I have to look really hard to find it. But if I know anything, it's that God divinely spoke to Matt that day when he sent me a simple message to say "I know how you feel." The value of a true, honest to goodness friend is like gold. It's long-suffering, it endures the test of time and space and it is so important. I'm thankful for good friends and I'm especially thankful for those whom God places in your life for such a time as this. Please pray for Matt and his sons, his family and his in-laws today.....
Sometimes the Presence of God is so thick that while I sit at my desk at work, the tears pour down my face. Everyone is gone, and I'm here alone, save the men working on the roof. I have some time before I have to go and get the kids from school, so I decided to see if any of my classmates responded to a post that I made over the weekend in my Church of God Polity class. The question we were to answer was "Who's contribution to modern Pentecostalism was greater" between these 2 men, Parham or Seymour? I answered the question as I saw it but concluded with the thoughts that these 2 men, unbeknownst to them that in time their contribution would be substantial, were likely just 2 regular 'ol people, doing the very best they could to grow the Kingdom of God through teaching Pentecostalism. I posed the question, "Would our influence ever be so great?" I briefly shared a few sentences about Mike's death, so they would be aware of my story and a classmate responded in the most precious way. He said, "You, obviously, have experienced the divine. I often wonder, is Christ enough? Would I still follow him if I lost a job, a spouse, a child, finances, home, vehicle, friends, reputation, intellect, or health? Could I be like Job, and still praise him? Could I be like Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego, facing the fiery furnace, and exclaim that God will save--but if He does not...we will still not bow the knee to any other? Could I be like Paul, and accept that God is not going to remove some deep thorns in my life--and God's grace is sufficient? Could I be like Stephen, knowing that sharing the glory and love of Christ would mean my death, yet exclaim, "Lord Jesus, please welcome me!"? Could I forgive those who have greatly wounded me in life, like Jesus has forgiven me? And now I can ask myself, can I be like Ashley? Because, Christ is enough. Because I have tasted that He is good. He may not get me out of every tragic and trying circumstance, but he will get me through--for his glory. So the core of Pentecostalism--what all the Parhams, Seymours, and Spurlings only wanted--what they only needed, was to experience God. And as we are touched by the divine--transformed by his fearless love--we are able to pass that hope on to those who desperately need it. God is certainly not done with you, or any of us, yet." When I read his words, I could not help but let the tears fall. If you are questioning "Is God really enough?" Know that He is. Beyond a shadow of a doubt. He's enough. He's more than enough. I cannot tell you the ways daily that He divinely shows me that He loves me. The ways He protects me. When I'm confused, or frightened and I don't understand... He loves me. When I'm tempted to become someone I'm not. He's enough. When I've got it all together and I'm feeling accomplished... He's enough then too. And trust me, when I say, that He will always be more than enough for you too.
Day 96 - March 9th at 8:43am
Today is a day I have needed for a long time and now that it's here I feel so emotional. I guess I should have expected it. Losing Mike was a catalyst that propelled massive change for our family. New church. New home. New vehicles. New life..... I've struggled with the massive amounts of change that we've had to endure..... my friends know I am not great with change. I like the normal same 'ol same 'ol. I'm a thinker, a planner, a doer --- and with so much change, I cannot wrap my head around getting back into a routine. I forget stuff, I'm tired, I'm unmotivated. The Lord knew I needed help, so He divinely introduced me to Decluttered Living. Today is the first day that they will come and we will begin cleaning out my home in order to prepare it for listing. I have loved this home since the first day we peeked through its windows, but it's big. As us ladies know, the bigger your purse, the more you cram into it, and the same process applies to a house. Today, we will begin going through the basement, which includes Mike's office. Mike kept everything .... that's no exaggeration. I will find about 753,298 little pieces of paper that he has written notes on, in his left-handed scribble, as God spoke to him. I will touch every book in his library, when I always tried to get him to love eBooks. (I wasn't successful haha) I will find cards and notes from Pastor Appreciation Days over the last 12 years and I will wish with everything in me that he was here for me to be mad at for how awful his office looks. I'll have to figure out what things I need to keep, what things need to be tossed, and what things could serve a future purpose. We haven't even started and I'm feeling overwhelmed with great sadness. I almost get mad at myself for being like this! I just say, "Ashley, you know this has to happen. Get over it and get it done so you can move forward!!!" I wish it were that easy. I don't feel peace here anyways..... my heart doesn't skip a beat anymore when I pull into the driveway and see his truck, expecting to see him, but tucked in every corner is a memory of a happier time. Don't get me wrong, my kids laugh now, they fuss and yell at each other --- just like old times, but one thing we've agreed upon is the needed change of scenery with selling our home and buying a new one. We've been here 8 years. We've been snowed in, locked out, extremely happy and extremely sad here. We've had New Year's parties and birthday parties. We've welcomed couples and families into our home for dinner and had lots of friends over for sleepovers. Our house has been a home, a refuge for us. I hated living in the parsonage so when we moved here, I felt a liberty of having my own space. I will never forget walking into this house for the first time after Mike died. Seeing his clothes in the bedroom floor. My happy home had suddenly become so sad. A place I wanted to run from. So, to say I'm dreading this is an understatement, but I know it has to be done. Pray that the Lord will give me peace and clarity of mind today. Pray that He will help me be decisive about what to do with so many things. Pray that this day will be productive so that when I go to bed tonight, I will feel like a weight has been lifted from my shoulders. I know we won't make it through everything today, but I know we will go as far as we can. Pray for the girls that will be helping me. But most of all, pray for my heart. It will be a bitter sweet day.
Day 97 - March 10th at 7:28am
Yesterday was so productive. I did feel overwhelmed at times but that's just going to happen no matter what. My girls from Decluttered Living, Jessie and Jamie, make it seem like we're old time friends who are just having fun and working together. They switched up our goals after determining that they felt it would be best to work on our living spaces first. I agreed, so we saved Mike's office for another day. I basically said, "You just decide and I'll be good with it." I know beyond a shadow of a doubt that I absolutely couldn't do this without them. Even simple things like, "Do you want to keep these vases?" I said, "I have no clue." Jessie walked me through the questions I need to ask myself and we determined that I do NOT need those vases and it would be best not to keep them, so we didn't. They worked with Eli and Anna in their rooms and determined what they would keep and what they needed to toss. We worked outside picking up wood and various things that needed to be cleared away. By the end of the day we had 3 complete loads that had been taken to the dump, that was an entire truck bed and trailer full. They will return tomorrow and we will continue the endeavors. Of all the things I've done in the last 3 months, this has been the biggest. In the past, I could have powered through it but now it feels that I am staring at a blank wall and have no idea what to do about it. These girls know that and help me by figuring it out with me. If you've ever had a task like this, and you feel overwhelmed beyond belief, let me encourage you to seek someone like Decluttered Living, whom God has gifted with the ability to organize, purge and who are willing work like crazy! I really needed someone who could take the lead and tell me what to do, and not the other way around, because I genuinely don't know what to do! Thanks for all of your prayers.... I could feel everyone of them. Have a great Friday.....
Day 98 - March 11th at 11:33am
You ever had one of those days when you're just in a "funk" and you can't pinpoint why you feel that way but you try to think about a million other things that might make you feel better but none of them are an option? Yeah.... me too.
Day 99 - March 12th at 8:57am
There is something powerful in the word "again." Pastor Troy spoke at Mike's funeral and he speaks to me again today about the power in the word "again." I have to believe that in my future, I will again be loved, married, happy.... you could really insert a lot of words here that would apply..... but I look forward to celebrating in the word AGAIN as it comes to pass in my life. ❤️
Yesterday was round 2 of "Operation Declutter" at the Vanderburg estate. This is a synopsis of what it's like working with me: Q: What would you like to do about this? Me: toss it, toss it, keep it, toss it, I don't know, keep it, toss it, toss it, toss it..... The most intriguing things I found yesterday were a few cards that I gave Mike during the first 3 months of our dating relationship. He kept them in a box and I found them when I was going through it. My mother in law was here and I said, "Were you not freaked out that we had only been dating 3 months when he proposed?" She lovingly said, "No. We had been praying for you for 7 years!" Even though we haven't touched his office yet, the little pile of hand-written notes is growing. And the sermon pile is growing too! I found business cards from the various places he had worked. I even found cards from the shower that New Hope COG gave him when he moved into 818 Grove street, and I chuckled at the one that said "P.S. Praying for God to send you a good cook." (When he moved there, we hadn't met yet.) Do you know how many meals I have cooked since Mike died? Zero. Now, we haven't missed any meals either, but I have not prepared them. I don't know why the arduous task of preparing a meal sounds so difficult, but it does to me. I still have frozen food in my freezer from meals people brought to us, and up until this past week, the kids school has taken care of dinner every single Tuesday/Thursday evening. Someone asked me what the one thing was that I truly enjoyed about all the food people have brought. My sister's school sent tons of groceries and in that batch of goodies were 2 breakfast quiches that we could pop in the oven for breakfast. For some reason, those things were just so nice. They tasted good, and I don't ever remember trying one before that day. People don't really think about breakfast, and my kids were still attending school so it was necessary for them to eat! It was just an unexpected blessing. Another thing that was so nice has been the restaurant gift cards. I still have about 25 (at least) that we have not used up yet. The kindness that people have shown to us has blown me out of the water. I looked out the window this morning and saw all these little fat birds hopping around, looking for food in the snow. I've never had to look like they have. It's just been provided. I know this is likely the last snow I will wake up to in this house. It makes me sad, but I just have to refocus and allow myself to be ok experiencing new things somewhere else. I've told the teens at our church many times, "I do not envy you, trying to find your spouse in today's society." The rules have changed so much since I was in their shoes 20 years ago. We didn't even text back then! We certainly didn't have to worry about someone sending inappropriate pictures of themselves to us. But although the rules are different now, the basics are the same. "Trust in the Lord with ALL thine heart, and lean not unto thine own understanding. In all thy ways acknowledge Him and He shall direct thy paths." That has always been my favorite verse. I know, beyond a shadow of a doubt, that He will absolutely direct my steps, and yours, if we will just trust Him.
If there's ever been a time that I wish I could record and replay a conversation every day, for the rest of the defendant's life, it would be the one I just had with my 11 year old son. He's feeling a little emotional tonight and he began to confide in me that he has been feeling sad at school and has had difficulty concentrating. He says he tries not to cry because he doesn't want attention drawn to him but when he thinks about never seeing his dad again, it makes him cry. I reassured him that he has continued making good grades and that I understand how hard it is to concentrate..... trust me....... I understand! But that we have to try hard, but yet give ourselves some grace. I explained to him how grief works, by dulling our once sharp minds, so that we might not feel such pain. Eli is my brightest child and although I know I'm experiencing this in myself, I hadn't recognized it in him as of yet. He says he wishes all this was over and that we were in our new house that has less memories. He says that it hurts to remember his dad and makes him so sad that he doesn't want to remember. He told me that he hates dreaming about him because when he wakes up, he realizes it's only a dream and it makes him sad again. I told him I felt the exact same way. He said if he is sad at school then kids say, "Are you ok?" And he wants to snap at them and say, "Do you think I'm ok?" I told him that people, especially children, do not know what to say and they likely are concerned about him, so we must also give them grace. I don't know why, but Mike's death seems like something everyone should know. For example, I felt like the guy working at the dump should know that I'm hauling all this trash up there because my husband died and I'm trying to clear out my house so I can move closer to my family. Today at Academy Sports, Abi was trying on softball pants and I was talking to a man about fishing stuff, so I told him about Mike and asked his opinion of Mike's old John boat with no steering wheel. (Come to find out he was a Conover police officer who was on duty the night of the accident!) I just can't help but think about how many people we come into contact daily who have tragic stories, where we might show grace, if we just knew. Eli poured his heart out to me and I reassured him that I was so proud of him and that we would definitely have some hard days, but eventually they won't be as frequent as they are now. I told him to go to sleep because tomorrow he would wake up refreshed and I scratched his back while he fell asleep. (He's loved that since he was a baby.) You know what? I'm a big girl. I can take pain. I can cry and go to bed and feel better and then do it again tomorrow. But when I think of the pain my 3 children have experienced, it makes me so mad. They did nothing to deserve this. No amount of money will ever be enough for taking Mike away from us. That's the honest truth. I can so easily see why people turn away from the Lord during tragically trying times. I don't want that for me or my 3 children. God is all we have.... alienating ourselves from Him only creates a bigger problem. Will you pray a special prayer for Eli tonight as he goes to sleep? That God will give him supernatural rest and comfort? That he will wake refreshed and renewed as he begins the school week? Thank you......
Day 100 - March 13th at 8:07am
I went to my first grief share class last night. My friend is leading the 13 week class and honestly, I wasn't sure what I would think about it. I was definitely the youngest one there, but I was amazed at how different grief looked on each of them, versus how it looks on me. When some would say, "I haven't touched anything in my home" I would think, "All of Mike's clothes are gone from my house already." When some would say, "I put up every picture I had of him in my house," I would think "I about lost it the day Annabelle played a video in the backseat of the van." When some would say, "I don't want to move from my house," I think "I can't get out of here fast enough!" There's no right or wrong way that people experience grief. I don't know if it's my age that makes my experience different than these other precious people? I did wonder if this was the right timing to begin the course. Then I thought to myself, "Why not? I want to be better, not bitter. I want to move forward not backward. I want the Lord to speak to me through this process. And it's nice to know I'm not alone." So, here we go. At the end of the class, a lady came up to me and told me that her first husband passed away when she was 28, and that she handled her grief in similar ways to me. That was comforting. It was also comforting to see that she has remarried and was happy. There were some valuable pieces that I took away from there last night..... the things that stuck out to me most was allowing people to know where you're at in your grief (I made a mental check - knowing that you guys read my writings lol). Another was being honest with God because He values when we are real with Him. (I find I've had to be more honest/real with Him than I've ever been, and prayed prayers I've never even considered praying before.) But the thing that stood out to me most was that it gets better everyday. Sometimes, if I look back on my posts from the beginning of my grief journey, I will be overwhelmed by the extreme sadness I was feeling at that time. Sadness actually feels like a mild word compared to what I was really experiencing. Knowing that every day I will get just a touch better, lets me know that that by making it through a day, I was successful. Even if I forget something at work, or respond to a text only in my mind, I know that I'm still making progress. And that was a blessing for me..... love you all. Day 3 of "Operation Declutter" is happening in a few hours! Pray for supernatural strength and abilities!!!!!