16) MORE FIRSTS...

Over the last 5 months, God has given me hope. I've tied a knot in that "Hope Rope" and I'm hanging on as tight as my grip will allow. I have a hope that I'm not permanently damaged. Hope that I can do a good job raising my children. Hope that I can find love and be a wife again someday. Hope that the future will be brighter than the past....


Day 158 - May 9th at 7:11am

My birthday is already off to a great start! My grief share friends surprised me with a cookie cake last night and this morning, my kids woke me up with bacon, eggs and Mickey waffles. They each gave me a special present that they picked out themselves and precious cards. 😍❤😘.

Day 160 - May 11th at 11:45am

I got off I-40 to get on 321 around 11pm last night and saw police car lights. I soon realized that they were doing a license check. I felt a tinge of panic because my license expired on my birthday, but I didn't realize it until the day after my birthday, so I went online and renewed, but I don't have my new ones yet. I pulled up the "temporary drivers license" they emailed me on my phone in case the officer had any questions and I awaited my turn. The first officer passed me onto the second one and as I pulled up and handed him my license, I'm sure I stared at him longer than would have been polite. He looked so familiar to me but I couldn't put my finger on how I would know him. There were no problems and the whole exchange was only seconds long, but I could never figure out how I would know him. This morning it hit me. He was one of the two officers who visited me at the hospital the night of the accident. I wonder if he recognized me? I wonder if he knew that I would recall his visit hundreds of time over the last 5 months? I wonder if he knows how much I appreciated his sensitivity towards me at the loss of Mike? I wonder if he knows how much I value him and the job that he does, even when he has to do the tough stuff, like tell a young widow that the man who killed her husband was intoxicated? I wonder if he knew how much his hug would mean to me? My memories are so fuzzy about that night. To be honest, I'm kinda glad. But I'll never forget the compassion I felt of two complete strangers who swore to uphold the law, even on difficult days like December 6, 2016. So, if by some chance you read this, please allow me to give you the most sincere, heart-felt "Thank You" I can muster. Please know that what you're doing makes a difference. ❤ Ashley

Day 161 - May 12th at 7:40am

I got in the car last night after speaking at a church, anticipating the 2 hour drive home. I couldn't help but think about Mike, as he would have traditionally been the one traveling 2 hours one way to preach at a church. I would have stayed behind with the kids to do homework and such, but as soon as he got in the car, he would have called me and I would have said, "How'd it go?" He would have given me a run down of the service and how the Lord moved. We would have played a game where I tried to guess the amount of the love offering they gave him. I would have been worried about him falling asleep on the way home and I would tell him, "If you get sleepy, call me and we will talk the rest of the way home." Instead, I got in the car and called my mom to tell her how it went. I sent her the "I'm home" text so she wouldn't worry and I crawled into bed, alone. Mike wasn't here to tell the details of the night... how I really knew more people there than I thought I would. How I didn't know the mic was off when I started singing and I had to turn it on half way through the first verse and how each person who came up to me after I was finished would tell me a different way they identified with the message. I couldn't tell him that they gave me a gorgeous piece of red pottery that will look lovely in our new home. It would have reminded him of the time we made our own red pottery at the Old Mill in Pigeon Forge years ago. He wasn't here to tell any of those things.... sometimes I walk away from events like last night, feeling like I am so unworthy to say anything to anyone about who God is. During this process, I am learning new things about Him that you would have expected a "Pastor's wife" to already know. But there was one verse that has stood out to me since Grief Share on Monday night and I shared it with the ladies last night, 1 Thes 4:13 tells me that I can grieve as someone who has a HOPE. I've said it many times that I don't know how people go through grief and tragedy without the Lord. Over the last 5 months, God has given me hope. I've tied a knot in that "Hope Rope" and I'm hanging on as tight as my grip will allow. I have a hope that I'm not permanently damaged. Hope that I can do a good job raising my children. Hope that I can find love and be a wife again someday. Hope that the future will be brighter than the past.... I got in the van to drive home last night and what was the first song on the radio? 🎶 I have this hope, from the depths of my soul, through the flood or the fire, You're with me and You won't let go. 🎶 And this morning, I hope that you have that hope as well.

Day 162 - May 13th at 9:38am

Typically on the Saturday before Mothers Day, I would be getting everything ready for our church Mother's Day service. I would have made sure all the ladies in our church were blessed with a small gift and I would have purchased all the door prizes for giveaways. I would have perfected my funny Mother's Day song that the church always looked forward to and myself, or Allison, would have spoken in the morning service. I would have secured the letters to read aloud to the congregation to announce who won the "Abundant Life Church of God Mother/Daughter of the Year." You know what? I've never celebrated a Mother's Day without a husband. You would think it wouldn't really matter, but it does. I mean it's not like it's Father's Day, and yet I find myself being a little sad today. I am so very thankful for my kids, because I know how blessed I am that they are still here after the accident, or tomorrow would have been a much more difficult day to celebrate. I know Mother's Day feels different for women who don't have their mother, or aren't mothers themselves, but I would also argue that it feels different for widows as well. I've never really thought much about it, being I'm new to the widow club, but I am thankful for the ability to think about it and process it today, so I can fully enjoy tomorrow, but Mike made me a mother. He gave me the greatest gift anyone has ever given me by making me a mother. My kids are awesome. People ask me all the time, "How are the kids?" And my reply is always, "I am soooo proud of them." They have handled tragedy and change even better than I have. They laugh, joke, kid, fuss, and yell just like other kids, but I am so glad that they are figuring out this new way of life for us and that they can be themselves. Abi has a huge smile that can light up any room. She loves to cut up and have inside jokes like her mama. Eli looks just like his daddy and here lately I just sense him needing to be near me, to have his hand on my shoulder, or coming in for a hug. He processes things by talking and sometimes he will just talk and talk and talk. 😳. Annabelle is the one who misses the family unit the most. She misses having a daddy. I know they all do, but Annabelle expresses it the most. She's talked about us not having 5 people in our family anymore. She's talked about the future and what that might look like for our family. I know that through the years to come, there will be days that are more difficult than others when milestones come and go, but we will all do our very best to work together to get through those difficult times. So as I look towards tomorrow, I will choose to be thankful for my children and for the man who gave them to me. Happy Mothers Day.

Day 164 - May 15th at 9:07am

ae are back to court today. I fully expect it to be continued again because the accident report is still not completed by the highway patrol... I'll psych myself up to see him, but chances are I won't get to. My stomach will be in knots all morning and then we will do this all over again, several more times actually, before it's all said and done. Ugh. They weren't kidding when they said this would be a slow process.....

Day 165 - May 16th at 8:54pm

I am truly a proud mama tonight. We went to the school sports banquet and came home with many awards. Annabelle received the "Most Improved" award for soccer, Abi received "Most Improved" awards for Volleyball and Basketball and the "Dirty" award for Softball, for her willingness to get dirty in the name of softball. Eli received the "Team Before Self" award for Soccer and the "Inspiration" award for Basketball, in which he received a standing ovation for finishing the basketball season, even after Mike's death mid-season. I am thankful for a school that not only recognizes gifted athletes, but also the character traits that we desire to instill in our students which are far more valuable than athleticism. I feel like I could just "pop" I'm so proud of my children! 😍

Day 167 - May 18th at 4:47pm

Of all the people I've spoken to about Mike since his death, do you know how many of them said, "Man, he had a nice iWatch?" None. Do you know how many said, "I can't believe he had an iPhone 7" or a "degree or nice car or a boat or a house?" Zero. People don't care about your stuff. They care about your time. Do you know how many people have told me, "Mike was a mentor to me?" Plenty. Do you know how many people said, "He made time for me?" A lot. Do you know how many people have told me, "My life was changed because of the man that he was?" More than I can count. We should all desire to live our lives to make an impact on those around us. Even when it's a sacrifice. Even when we're tired. Even when we don't feel like it. Even when it hurts. And as much I desire to hear people say, "You played the piano pretty" or "You sang good," I desire more that they would say I did something that impacted their life for the Lord.

Day 169 - May 20th at 7:50am

I covet your prayers this morning..... I don't take lightly the role that I will play in this mornings women's conference. Pray that I will be His mouthpiece that will instill courage into the heart of every woman present. Pray for clarity of thought and understanding. Ask God to take what is done today and multiply it like He did the loaves and fishes because we all know He's awesome at taking nothing and making something BIG out of it. Pray for peace and enCOURAGEment.


Day 170 - May 21st at 9:00am

I know I'm not the only widow who has ever lived, so I have an honest question..... How do you survive the loneliness? I am surrounded by people all the time.... and I love that, yet, I still battle this lonely, empty feeling inside. I want to know the nuts and bolts of what others have done when faced with loneliness? I feel like now, even more than when I was 22, I realize what the Bible meant when in Genesis 2:18 it says, "And the Lord God said, It is not good that the man should be alone; I will make him an help meet for him." I know the Lord wired us to desire companionship, intimacy, a mate, but what do you do to cope when you don't have that anymore? I miss ironing his shirts for church. I miss hearing the jingle of the door knob as he would open the basement door, fresh from studying his message on Sunday morning. I miss having a husband. It's ironic the things that I'd give anything to have back when it was the very things that drove me insane when he was here. I remember thinking "I spoiled him too much in the beginning and now we've got all the kids and I work myself too death to get everyone out the door on time on Sunday mornings. He's gonna have to iron his own shirt." Haha. Of all the things that come with losing a spouse, I think the loneliness is something I underestimated. I considered myself to be pretty independent so it blindsided me how quickly loneliness would hide in the shadows and jump out when it has the chance. I'm glad this piece of grief is something the kids don't really have to experience. They miss their daddy, and we all feel the gaping hole his absence leaves, but they don't miss him in the same ways that I do. I think there's a hidden piece of marriage that I didn't know existed until it was gone. I don't even know what to call it.... I guess it's to be expected that I would feel this way with all the changes going on in my life this week. I'm wrapping up my job at the preschool and honestly, I am so sad about it. I know it's the right thing, but still, my heart just wants things to be the way they were. And they can't. I stink at change. I'm trying to embrace it. Trying to be courageous, but I would love a few pointers to know what you do when you battle personal loneliness? ❤

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