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I'd rather be on an interstate where I can see what's coming, but the scenery is definitely better in the mountains. So I just continue down the road, praying that better days are just ahead......

Day 213 - July 2nd at 11:49am

This was my grief devotional this morning..... it's so accurate and true. ***************************** Not only are your emotions unpredictable, but they may also seem uncontrollable. This changing nature combined with the intensity of the emotions can cause you to feel disoriented, forgetful, and overpowered. “There was this overwhelming feeling of being out of control … overwhelmed and watching life pass by,” says Cindy following her daughter’s death. Your response to these uncontrollable emotions can be confusing to you as well as to others; for instance, sometimes you may want people with you, and sometimes you do not. You may also act in ways you later regret. Job expressed this sentiment: “If only my anguish could be weighed and all my misery be placed on the scales! It would surely outweigh the sand of the seas-no wonder my words have been impetuous” (Job 6:2-3). Precious Lord, You know the desires of my heart. In my confusion give me peace to know that You are in control of all life and You do not make mistakes. Amen.

Day 216 - July 5th at 12:21am

Tonight, we drove home from our few days in West Jefferson following the 4th of July fireworks. The rain started as soon as we got in the van and although I was thankful we got to see the fireworks without rain, I dreaded the drive home. The rain was coming down hard and there was a lot of road construction. I was having trouble seeing the road and all I could hear around me was slow, constant, breathing by my 3 kids who trusted me enough to get them home safely... even in the rain. I couldn't help but think about how I need to trust God in the same way. The kids didn't ask me for a picture of what home would look like when we got there. They didn't ask me for any assurances that I knew the way. They didn't correct my driving as I traveled. They just closed their eyes and slept until in a few minutes, I'll wake them up to go inside our home. What a profound thought. He knows the way..... I just need to close my eyes and rest while He does the driving! ❤️

Day 217 - July 6 at 9:30pm

How nostalgic..... I'm packing up a bookshelf that is in my bedroom and I ran across a picture of me in my wedding dress. It's been 7 months today since the accident. I almost didn't even think about today being the 6th.... I guess the day will come when I won't measure time in increments of "before the accident" and "after the accident." I often think about how I wish life was different and how I wish Mike hadn't died. And some days I think, "If I had known I would only have him for 14 years and 9 months and 4 days, would I have done anything differently?" And the answer is a resounding "No." I wouldn't have changed a thing. I would have loved him just as much. I would have laughed just as hard. I would have still married him. I would have still chosen him to be the father of our children. Yes, I know that the path is different now for me and kids, and the challenges that we will face in the future will be of circumstances we never thought we would face, but face them we will. With everything in us, we will do it. I'm not excited about it necessarily, because I see so much room for error, and I want to get it right. But life stops for no one. It just keeps going and it's up to us to go with it. I was talking to a friend today about how our life experiences shape us. It's true. We make the choice to be better or bitter. Some days, I just want to be sour and bitter. I want to yell and scream and cry..... and blame God for taking Mike too soon. But I know that's not the real me talking. The real me says, "Even when I don't understand, I'll choose to trust you." It's hard for people to understand how you could say that if they don't truly know the Lord. But it's all I've got. I love Him. I know He has plans for me and the kids. Not just regular plans, but BIG plans! On the day this bridal portrait was made, I knew God had big plans, but in my mind, big plans equaled a big church and a big family...... it didn't include 2 miscarriages and a fatal accident. But who knows what big things will be in our future now? I wish I did. But the one thing I do know is that the same God who brought Mike into my life is the same God who loves me through the darkest hours. He is my shield and my strength and my song..... ❤

Day 221 - July 10th at 6:41am

I'll never forget the time when I, as a teenager, was taught at church that loving someone was a choice. It felt wrong and unromantic, but through the years I've found it to be true. As happy as I was in my marriage to Mike, there were days when I had to intentionally choose to love him. I'm sure he felt that way about me too at times. If you've been married for any length of time, chances are you've had to make that choice too. Our self-centered society likes to make us think that marriage is all about me, when it reality if you make that your objective, your own personal happiness and fulfillment, you will be sorely disappointed. True happiness is found when you intentionally choose to love your spouse, even when it's hard and you don't feel like it. The Bible tells us that we have to die to ourselves daily in our walk with the Lord, and our marriage can thrive if we will do the same thing within our marriage. ❤️

Day 226 - July 15th at 11:41pm

It's been quite a busy week for the Vanderburg family. Monday marked a milestone for us as we closed on our new home in Lincolnton. The Lord guided us every step of the way.... from the movers, to my miracle working clutter girls, to those who helped us move and set up the new house, to the realtors and loan officers... It was amazing to see it all come together. I have felt such a peace here in our new home that I didn't realize I was missing at our old house. I have slept well. The kids love their new rooms. We are organized, and I'm going to do everything within my power to stay that way. Thank you guys so much for praying for us during this transition. So many of you have reached out to me privately to say, "Isn't this moving week?!?" :) Continue praying that our old house sells quickly. But for now I look forward to our new future and new adventures in my old hometown. ❤️ 🏡 #homesweethome

Day 233 - July 22nd at 12:01am

I haven't "grief posted" in a while, mainly because we've been so busy with packing and moving into our new home. Moving was the right call for us. I cried a lot and questioned a lot, if this would help us or hurt us, and without a doubt, this move was a step in the right direction. I actually enjoy being "home" now and I have an easier time figuring out what needs to be done in the new house..... laundry, dishes, sweeping, cleaning etc. My mind continues to rebound day by day and piece by piece. I didn't realize the physical weight being at the old house placed on me until I experienced how freeing living in a new home could be. Whether we stay here forever or not, I do know that for now, we made the right call. Abi is competing in a national teen talent competition this week and although she didn't compete today, another teen from our church did. As I watched the competition, I couldn't help but notice the dads with their phones out, videoing their sons' performances.... Smiling proud smiles as they finished a job well done. A sight like that would have made me smile a year ago, but today it stabbed me in the gut like a knife. I wonder how long it takes before the emotions associated with thoughts like that don't hurt anymore? One of the young men sang a song, "Tell your heart to beat again," which I typically avoid listening to because it makes me feel vulnerable, but today there was no avoiding it. And every word of that song rang true to me. Tonight, at the worship service, I listened to the musicians sing their praise and worship songs and I wondered if in their young lives they've ever been faced with faith shaking cruel realities that rock you to the core...... these same questions of God's sovereignty that run through my mind day after day. The minister's message made me think about what God has called me to do, as she challenged the teens to not give up on the call God has placed on their lives. I felt like I was doing what God called me to do before, by being a pastor's wife and music minister and a preschool director, but now all of that has changed. It's weird to me to think that He's wanting me to do something different now. Did He just change His mind? How wonderful and easy it would be if He would write it all out for me. "Work here. Go there. Speak here. Sing there. Call this person to figure out about writing your book. Talk to Abi about this. Encourage Eli to do that. Remind Anna.....". Oh if only it were that easy. But then it wouldn't be Faith. I kinda have this love/hate relationship with faith here lately. Hope feels a little easier to hang onto than faith. It's easier to hope than to trust in faith. My faith lets me down on occasion. Fear tries to come in and replace faith by telling me my kids won't be happy in life..... that I won't do a good job raising them, that I will make mistakes that will scar them forever. I miss having control..... control over my emotions, my life, my circumstances. You don't realize how much control you have over your life until you have a new life, with minimal control. This boat continues to toss me about as it goes wherever it wants and takes me with it. I will continue to cling to the rope of hope in anticipation that Gods got this and He's not letting go anytime soon. I hope.....

Day 235 - July 24th at 9:54am

I began a book last week called Option B. In the book, the author writes about her experience of losing her husband, unexpectedly, 11 years into their marriage, with 2 small children. Everything she writes is so true when compared to the emotions and feelings I have experienced in my own life story. The one thing that has stuck out to me so far is how she details going from a sharp, strong willed and determined mind, to one that needed reassurances. She talks about going into a meeting at work and saying to a guy, "You remember when we did this at google?" when he really worked for Microsoft. She talked about how she desired to contribute in the same ways that she did before, when her mind was sharp, but through the tragedy and loss of her husband, she wasn't the same person anymore so how could she respond in the same way? Every. Single. Day. I want to go back to being myself again. My old self. I want to be confident in myself, in my abilities. I don't want to dream crazy dreams that wake me up and make me doubt. I don't want to crave people telling me that I can do this, that I'm valuable, important and smart. I don't want to pick out an outfit and think, "Does this make me look pretty?" Or, "Does this make me look like an old lady?" Or, "Will people think I'm trying to look 20 again so I can catch a new husband?" Things I never thought about before..... Anytime we go places with another family and there's only one man present, I wonder, "What if the waitress thinks this guy has 2 wives and a boatload of kids?" My mind goes constantly. I have a hard time making it stop. But the decisions never stop.... they just keep coming one after the other. And now every decision has to be considered more precisely because I'm making them alone. Last night, in the church service, I heard a new baby cry and thought, "Would I ever want to be a new mom again?" I love being a mom so much, but the truth is that at 38, remarrying and having another child is likely out of the question for me, but this is another decision point that comes up, even though Mike and I were not planning on having any other children. (I did try to talk him into one more a few years ago though...) My counselor says that I should avoid making decisions about things before it's time to actually make the decision. The internal planner in me has a hard time with this. I'm such a creature of habit. I like to have it all laid out. I like to have all the answers. And now I have none. Not one single answer. Sometimes I just want to retreat and be alone.... and not talk to anyone. Sometimes I crave attention and affection. All the time I feel like a crazy person who's unstable and unsure. I've read that a lot of people feel that way when they experience a grave loss. I just never knew this was part of the process. I hate it. It helps me to write out my thoughts because once I write about it, my mind can rest and not churn the thoughts around like a vortex. Each day presents its own challenges and although I may process through today, something I struggled with 2 weeks ago may rise back to the surface and I'll have to battle it again. When does it stop? Does it ever stop? I do know that difficult days do seem further apart than they were during the first 6 months, where I lived in this constant state of deep and painful hurt. But on days like today, I just want to feel better. I want to be fun-loving Ashley. I want to laugh and joke and jump out and scare people for for fun. I want to be happy..... I hate being sad. But it's like this new state I live in is "functioning sadness." That's the best term I can think of. It's not every day that I'm super sad..... but even the best day isn't like it was before. Lately it's been painful for people to even say Mike's name around me. Annabelle told her friend this morning, "My daddy would have tried that food. He would try anything!" And I cringed. How long does it take for the memories to turn pleasant again? How long does it take until it's easier to remember than to purposefully NOT remember? I wish I knew... there's just no good answer. Even people that have gone through this will say "Well, for me it was X, but it's different for everyone." This journey has more twists and turns, ups and downs than a curvy, mountain backroad. I want off. I'd rather be on an interstate where I can see what's coming, but the scenery is definitely better in the mountains. So I just continue down the road, praying that better days are just ahead......


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