15) GRADUATION

Psalms 61:2 "From the ends of the earth I call to you, I call as my heart grows faint; lead me to the rock that is higher than I."



Day 144 - April 25th at 10:56pm

"When you pass through the waters, I will be with you; and when you pass through the rivers, they will not sweep over you. When you walk through the fire, you will not be burned; the flames will not set you ablaze." Isaiah 43:2


There's that word "through" again! I spoke about that powerful word this weekend. #imgoingthrough

Day 145 - April 26th at 8:30am

Sooo.... it's possible I accepted a job offer yesterday (beginning in the Fall) and it's also possible that I paid for a "lot hold" on a house that is scheduled to be completed in September...... 😬 Eeeek! stay tuned for more of Ashley's Adventures in Widowhood!

Day 146 - April 27th at 8:35am


People are always more important than things.... You know how many trips I regretting taking with Mike? None. You know how many days I wish we hadn't made time to picnic on the parkway or ride our bikes on the Virginia creeper trail? Not one. You know how often I wish I had stayed home to fold laundry and clean toilets? Never. When it's all said and done, memories are all I have left. People will always be more important to me than things. ❤️

1:37pm

I’m sitting here at my favorite Mexican restuarant, eating lunch alone, missing Mike and the California burrito he always ordered. One of my favorite things we used to do was meet for lunch. It wasn't everyday, but enough to look forward to it, whenever our schedules would align and we could meet. Sometimes he would have some guys from the church with him and he would order my food for me so I could swing by, eat and then be on my way to pick up the kids from school. Some days the desire to talk to him is greater than others and today happens to be one of those days when I'm feeling extra clingy and I don't have a husband to cling to. This morning, while Anna was getting ready for school she said, "Mama, why do people want to drink?" I had to say, "Honestly, baby, I don't know." A few seconds later she said, "Why didn't daddy just speed up? He could tell that car was coming. But I don't know how he could see it." So I explained about how peripheral vision works and how Daddy could see the car out of the corner of his eye, but he couldn't move fast enough to get out of the way, plus if he had floored the gas, the impact would have hit Annabelle and she could have died. That's so heavy for a child to have to understand. She was ok with that answer and then ran out the door to school. I looked at another house today, just to be sure I was making the right choice about the one I have a lot-hold on. Mom said before we walked in, "I just wish we could have a sign." As we walked room to room I saw a Bible on the nightstand and Christian books filled every room. I saw Christian artwork and apart from this being the absolute most gorgeous house I have seen to date, the one thing that stood out to me was a vase of white calla lilies. These were the flowers in my bouquet when I married Mike. They were silk, just like the ones in my bouquet, and they brought back such sweet memories seeing them on display. I think my wedding was the most beautiful wedding I've ever seen, but I'm sure every blushing bride feels that way, right? I knew beyond a shadow of a doubt that I wasn't making a mistake that day. When times were challenging, I could always look back and know that I had followed God's will in marrying Mike. I don't want to make a mistake this time either. I want to do the right thing. I want to buy the right house. I want to follow God in everything I do.... jobs, houses, churches, ministry, relationships, parenting. So, just like all the other days, I'm flying blind and trusting God to lead me and guide me and direct me to keep me in the very center of His will. Sometimes Adventures in Widowhood is scary! Stay tuned. I'm going to make an offer and see where this goes! 😬

Day 148 - April 29th at 1:11am

We are at talent this weekend... This is the same place I competed in music for years from age 8 - 18 for my church. We are staying in the bunk houses and as I walked up to the cabin, I was flooded with memories of the last time we were here. For a few years, the Church of God rented this conference center for us to do summer camp and the last time we were here, Mike led a boys group and he was in the cabin adjoining the one we are staying in this weekend. As I walked up on the porch, I remembered walking in the cabin on the first day, helping Eli get his bunk bed made.... making sure Mike had his green teas and snacks for the week.... making sure he had prizes for his boys during nightly devotions.... making sure someone came to spray for ants. So here we are with another first I hadn't even thought of. Today I found a handkerchief that was tucked beneath the ironing board in my bedroom, folded in a perfect square. I have no clue how I hadn't seen it before today. As I was flipping through the clothes in Eli's closet to get him packed, I found a sweater of Mike's that accidentally got put in Eli's things. Seeing those items didn't make me sad as they normally would have, but instead, made me miss him. I don't want to write him off, as if he never existed, but sometimes I think it would make it easier if I could just forget, just to dull the pain a bit. I know that sounds terrible, but it's true. However, today I found myself being thankful that I was ok seeing his sweater and handkerchief, and that those things made me smile and not cry. I miss him not being here to talk to. I miss his help in making decisions. It kinda makes me a little mad that I'm even here to begin with. I mean, we should have been competing in Church of God talent and Mike should have been proudly wearing his "Abundant Life Church of God Pastor" polo. Instead, I'm sitting on a bunkbed, pushing 1am, listening to some super loud girls next door take showers. Oh well. Guess I needed some time to think. I brought the handkerchief for Abi..... she will sing tomorrow and I will play the piano for her. I wondered if having something of her daddy's would make her happy or sad. I'm not sure. I brought it just in case. He would have been so proud of her. He's missing out on so much not being here. I know it's not his fault, but sometimes it's hard not to be angry at him for leaving me. Things would be so much better if he were here. I wouldn't be freaking out over taking the right job or spending too much on a house. He would assure me that the Lord would lead us and guide us & I would get aggravated at his answer, but I would know that he was right. Mike was the dreamer and I was the realist. I'm sure I squished his dreams one too many times, because they were sometimes unrealistic, but he always heard from God. Most days I don't feel strong enough to do this on my own. I tell myself that I'm not alone, but it's easier to believe on some days rather than others. So when you read this, would you ask God to give me wisdom and peace about the decisions on my mind tonight? I want to do the right thing but I'm conflicted and I truly have no idea what to do.

8:28pm

Dear Grass Cutting Fairy, I love you. 😍 Love, Ashley

Day 150 - May 1st at 10:09am

I’m getting better at sensing when life is becoming overwhelming, so I can take steps to avoid it. I knew this would be a busy week with finishing up my classwork, orchestrating teacher appreciation week at the kids school, traveling to TN for graduation, celebrating Tracy's birthday, submitting the yearbook on Thursday, and we have tickets to a concert this week too..... so I thought, "I'm going to write down everything I have to do so I can be on top of it." Not. I forgot that I was supposed to take the kids to school today. Thankfully I got up at 6 and made the lasagnas for the teacher luncheon, but now I'm looking for a yearbook paper that I can't seem to find. I'm having to go through the dreaded stack of sentimental items in order to locate it and somehow, I found a card I hadn't remembered seeing. It's in a pink envelope with the words "Happy Mother's Day" on the outside. When I saw it, my first thought was, "Oh no! I found the Mothers Day card Mike bought me early!" Then I realized this must have been from last year. It's cruel how your mind does that. The lovely teal card with 2 birds on it has "So blessed" written on the outside and the inside says, "There are moments when I find myself thinking, "WOW, THAT'S MY WIFE..." what a beautiful woman... what an amazing mom!" Then the right side said "And I feel so blessed in these moments because I truly see what A PRICELESS TREASURE you are to me and our family. With all my love on Mother's Day." He signed it, "I love you! Mike." He added two little exclamation points and made a smiley face out of it. I began to cry. I'm glad I didn't know this would be the last Mothers Day card he would give me. When I find stuff like this, I can't believe I didn't throw it away, because I usually do. But now it's a priceless treasure. On days like today, he would have dropped everything to help me. He would have browned the hamburger meat or taken the kids to school for me. He was THE BEST at finding lost stuff. It was like his super power. Annabelle forgot her book bag this morning. Fortunately for her, I'm taking it back when I go to serve lunch to the teachers. He would have driven it back up there for her because that's just what he would do. I talked to another widow friend last night who is almost through all her "firsts." I want to be through them all so bad. I'm dreading Father's Day and his birthday the most. Another widow friend warned me that the second year can be the hardest and I rebuked that in the name of Jesus. Yesterday I led worship and did the preliminaries at church. It feels so good to be used in ministry again. Practicing songs, laughing, singing, playing the piano, feeling God's presence.... I love all of that. Those things are good for me. I deleted some of those widow sites from my Facebook and it was a good decision and I can tell it has helped improve my mind. I'm trying hard to focus on whatsoever things are "good, lovely, pure and of good report." But on days like today when the elephant is just too big to eat, I will just take a bite at a time and trust that God has His hand on me and the ark I'm in. I've got a race to finish, but I really just want to crawl back in bed and listen to the rain fall on my metal roof. I can do this..... I can do this...

10:32pm

Guess what happens when you hit "submit" on your last assignments for your degree? Nothing. Absolutely nothing. I think I expected some confetti to fall from the sky, or maybe some bells to go off. Maybe I thought I would get a congratulatory email or someone would knock of my door with cokes in glass bottles and Reese cups, but none of that happened. Instead, I have the quiet peace of knowing that through the hardest months of my life, I was able to finish 5 classes to obtain my Bachelors Degree. Of all the wonderful things I've accomplished in life, this is one that I feel very proud of. There was a time in January that I was struggling, wondering if I could really finish this thing or not, and some of my widow friends who have been in my shoes before, encouraged me to take the bull by the horns and finish. I set my sights on C's, knowing that I could surely make a C, even though A's are more my style, but it made the challenge feel like something I could accomplish. I almost feel as though I should be giving an acceptance speech, thanking everyone who helped take care of my kids so I could focus on my school work. :) I'm glad it's over, but I'm also thankful that the Lord could use this time to help me gain focus and complete a task that will benefit my family in future years! Thanks for your prayers guys! I did it! 😍🎉👩🏻‍🎓

Day 152 - May 3rd at 7:13am

Happy Birthday to my forever best friend! 🎉 I love how she can make decisions when I can't.... I love that she makes me laugh harder than anyone else.... I love that she's strong and smart and beautiful! I love that she's my sister and she always will be. I'll never forget the peace I felt just by having her and her family in my home after Mike died. I remember laying in my bed, being comforted that they were all here, scattered across many rooms, on couches and blow up beds and whatever else they could find, because I needed them here. I will forever be grateful and thankful for my sister! I love you Tracy!!!!!! Happy 🎈 Birthday! I hope it's the best one you've ever had. 🎂

8:22pm

I noticed last night that my throat was sore and the glands on the side of my neck were swollen, but I wasn't feeling bad. Since I have graduation this weekend, I didn't want to be sick, so I started some medicine today that will hopefully work quick. I have dreaded many times the thought of being sick without Mike. In the past, if one parent was sick, the other parent jumped in and did all the parenting while the sick parent mended. When you're the only one, well.... you're the only one. I was sitting at my desk this afternoon when I thought, "Hmm. I feel bad." And then that gut feeling hits you.... you think about all the stuff you have to do whether you feel like it or not. The kids still have to be picked up from school. You still have to go pick up the medicine. Gas still has to be pumped in the van. And I managed to do all those things, even though I'm feeling bad. I think we all like to be petted a little when we're feeling bad. When I was little, mom would always put a wet washcloth on my head and make me a pallet on the couch with sheets. Dad would bring orange sherbet on his way home from work. KFC's mashed potatoes and gravy were a staple food during times of sickness. I'll never forget one Sunday morning a few years ago when I woke up and somehow pulled a muscle in my neck. It was the most awful pain I can remember experiencing next to labor and delivery. It hurt. Bad. We had a guest speaker for church that day and Mike was really pushing for me to get ready and come to church to lead music but I couldn't get my arms over my head to even put a dress on. I finally busted out crying and he realized the pain I was in and made the call to Jake that he would have to play the piano that day for service. Mike and the kids left for church and a little while later, I was laying in the bed, much like I am now, and I heard the door open and here came Mike. I said "What are you doing? Why are you not at church?" He said "They've got it covered and I've come home to take care of you." Of all the times I've been sick over the last 15 years, this one sticks out the most because he chose me. He chose me over the church and over the guest speaker and over everyone else. He chose to come home and take care of me. I wish I had that option now. I wish that door would open and he would come home to fix me my favorite food, fried potatoes. I went through my phone today to find the last picture of took of him. It was the Saturday before he died and we were at the Concord Motor Speedway looking at the Christmas lights and he was eating a bowl of homemade ice cream, in December. He always loved the ice cream that's made from those old-Timey popping machines, but this was just regular old ice cream. He loved all ice cream. I couldn't help but smile when I saw it. I went through the drive through at the bank today in Hudson and a teller told me how much she missed Mike coming in there and how special he was. I had to agree. She said she reads my posts and that I've been an inspiration to her. I'm not too inspiring right now I'm afraid. I'm just a sad girl, who's laying in her bed, feeling like a big baby, crying over losing her husband. This day has been a mixed bag of emotions..... I got home and found that my water was cut off because I forgot to pay the bill. (It's back on now TYJ!) I found out I made an A and a B in my classes. (Another TYJ) and although I should be at a concert right now, I'm laying here resting, hoping to feel better real fast. Just another roller coaster day... Im hanging on with everything I've got!


Day 155 - May 6th at 9:22am

It's 9am on Saturday morning and I'm lined up with 550 of my closest friends about to graduate from Lee University. As I look around, I see all these pretty young girls taking selfies with their friends and many students with accolades around their necks. The cords range in color from gray to pink to yellow to turquoise and last night Anna wanted to know why I didn't have on any cords. When I graduated high school, I graduated with honors and I had all those fancy decorations of cords and stoles to adorn my gown. This time around, I started thinking about what it would be like if we gave cords based on our life experiences. My life is so different than it was 20 years ago when I graduated high school. I think my most treasured cords now would be a pastor's wife cord, a mom cord, a widow cord, a preschool director cord, a friend cord, a family cord, a God chord. I think that my philosophy of success is different than what I would have defined it as 20 years ago. When I think about my kids report cards, I would much rather them have an O-utstanding on Christian Character than an A in math. I would much rather them get an "O" in respectfulness of their teachers than an A in science. And today, I would rather know that even though I'm graduating without any cords around my neck, I did it. I really did it. The Lord knew last Fall that this degree would allow more doors to open for me to provide for my family than my Associates Degree would. He also allowed the seed to be planted last Summer during Financial Peace University, so when I found out I was only a few classes away, I would know that this is an attainable goal. I've always worked best under pressure but all that changed on December 6th and pressure became a grain of sand on the seashore of life. I am reminded of a pastor who rocked my world 2 years ago when he said "What would you do if you knew you couldn't fail?" Well.... this is what I would do. I would walk across a stage, collect my Bachelors Degree, knowing that when some people might not have been able to do it, I was. So I think I would have also valued a cord of perseverance. As I look around, I can't help but wonder what other people in these black gowns have overcame to walk across that stage. To me, it's so much more than a piece of paper. It's a symbol that nothing is impossible with God! In a few minutes, I'll walk through a hallway with professors I've never met. I'll be congratulated by people I don't know and most of all, I'll be encouraged by your love and support. You guys are the best. Thank you for your role in this journey. 😍🎓❤️

Day 157 - May 8th at 8:50am

Wow! What a big weekend. Since Thursday, I've been feeling excited and accomplished. The sadness of grief stayed away as happiness took her place. It was so wonderful to spend time with so many of my favorite people. There was much applause and congratulations. Then today comes. It's Monday. We're home. Laundry needs to be done. There's a long list in my head of what accomplishments need to take place today. And Grief says, "I've been waiting for you! Welcome home!" Mike's been gone for 5 months, which I found ironic since I graduated on the 6th, but I'm glad I didn't think about it on Saturday. In another month, I will be halfway through the first year. Tomorrow's my birthday and birthdays have always been a big deal around my house. Growing up, we were always made to feel special and loved. One of my fondest memories is my mom putting candles on a Dominos pizza and me blowing them out. If Mike were here, he would make me a special birthday breakfast, and he and the kids would give me cards and presents before they left for school and I left for work. Then he would meet me for lunch and let me pick the restaurant. He would even offer to go get the kids from school for me so I could take a nap. He would have me a special gift, usually from Sherrill's Jewelry, and I would be excited at the sight of that green bag with gold writing. This year will be much different. I haven't celebrated a birthday without him in 16 years. My heart is a little sad today. The emotional ebb and flow of grief's waters make it easier at times and harder at others. I find that it's not necessarily the actual date of the events that get me, but the days surrounding it. I do think moving will be a good step towards our healing. I think it will give us a fresh outlook and will allow us to create new memories. It's amazing how some grieving people will say, "I can't imagine leaving my house and all these memories" and I say "I can't wait to leave this house and all it's memories." People really do process grief in their own unique way. I wish there was a manual that I could have read like "Grief 101" or "Grief for Dummies." Turns out there is no such thing. Some days when people ask me how I'm doing, it feels weird saying "Good!" Because I feel like it gives people a false assessment of how I am coping. Like, "Yay! She's coming out of this thing! She's doing so good!" On the other hand, "I'm hanging in there" feels a little untrue too, because some days I'm doing really well. I wish I knew how long it would take, but evidently nobody knows how long it will take. There's no answer. No right or wrong. No expectations. Just the continued assumptions that drive me insane. So, I'll give myself the daily pep-talk, turn on some Christian music, shower and tell myself it's ok to be sad, because joy comes in the morning. Psalms 61:2 "From the ends of the earth I call to you, I call as my heart grows faint; lead me to the rock that is higher than I." Is it morning yet?

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