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If They Charged by the Memories // Virginia Weekend

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“Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again; rejoice!” // Philippians 4:4

This past weekend, several of my aunts and uncles came together on the Virginia coast to celebrate my Aunt Deborah’s 60th birthday. Anytime we all get together, there is no shortage of laughter and craziness and although this trip had that, there was something different. We all felt it, I think, whether we shared it aloud or not.

Weekend in Virginia

Other than Christmas, this was the first time that we had come together since losing my grandmother and Aunt Shelia in September.

I almost didn’t even expect for it to affect me the way that it did. The last time I had been to Virginia was for my cousin’s wedding and my Aunt Shelia had driven us there. Nearly every road trip up there from my childhood was spent with either her or my Grandmother. The route from Durham to Hampton is paved with memories, laughter, and an unlimited supply of treasured moments.

Weekend in Virginia

From the moment I got into the car on Friday afternoon, their absences were felt. The majority of the drive up was spent with smiles on, laughing at all of the memories made with these two special women. I never even opened my book that I had brought to pass the time.

Throughout the weekend, we reminisced and celebrated, and it was truly what the doctor had ordered for me. There’s something about spending time with this sweet family of mine that can just restore me and fill my heart, in a way that has God written all over it. I am so grateful that he chose these people to be mine.

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On Sunday, tired but full, Aunt Kay, my mom, and I stopped by my Grandmother’s old house to run an errand and see my Uncle who had been unable to make it to Virginia. As I walked through the now empty home, I found myself overcome with all of the stories and memories that those walls held. Just in my first 24 years of life, that house had held numerous Thanksgiving dinners, countless pots of Grandmommy’s soup (also known as Brunswick Stew), and who knows how many tree climbing adventures with my cousins. The house was also where my Grandmother had her stroke and where my Aunt Shelia took her last breath and entered the kingdom of Heaven, on a September morning at 2am.

We were discussing the house being on the market and what it may be end up selling for when I found these words spilling from my lips before I even registered it, God using that moment to speak this precious reminder. I said, “It’s too bad they don’t charge by the memories.”

To which my Uncle replied, “Well, if they did, no one would be able to afford this place.”

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Oh, is that ever the truth! 

All Is It, All Is It // A Grateful Heart

If you had told me two years ago that I would know what it would be like to lose five close family members in a two year time frame, I probably would have said that you were crazy. To have that be my family’s reality is heartbreaking. In two years, my Dad’s family went from a family of five to what will soon be a family of two and my mom lost her mother and her baby sister.

The past few days have been spent in a sense of limbo as my Grandmother’s time of Earth draws to a close. It’s not easy to be anticipating a phone call at any moment from your Dad to let you know if your Grandmother is still here. One of the things that I learned from losing my maternal grandmother and aunt is that the only way to get through something like this is learn how to praise God through the storm. Two years ago, I didn’t know how to do that. I’m still learning how to do it, to be honest,

But on Friday evening, after my Dad called to ask if I had anything I wanted to say to my Grandmother while I still had the chance, I rejoiced in our God and praised him as I mourned the loss that would be coming soon. I am not particularly eloquent when it comes to these types of conversations (although I don’t know that anyone really is), the one thing I knew I needed to say to my Grandmother was “I love you, all as it, all as it.” It’s something that my Grandmother always said to all of us throughout the years. She said that my uncle used to say that to her, but I always remember the sweet words coming from her. As I was writing in my journal later, something that I had felt compelled to do after hanging up the phone, I had my Christian playlist on Spotify on in the background and I worshiped God and rejoiced in his hope and truth. We might not see her, or my four other family members, again on this side of Heaven, but I am so grateful for a God that gives us hope in an everlasting life.

On Saturday, I rediscovered a passage from 1 Peter that so perfectly puts into words everything that I have been feeling and rejoicing during this season; particularly since losing my maternal grandmother and aunt in September. I am so grateful for the complete and total truth in these words and what they mean for us.

“In all this you greatly rejoice, though now for a little while you may have had to suffer grief in all kinds of trials. These have come so that the proven genuineness of your faith- of greater worth than gold, which perishes even though refined by fire- may result in praise, glory and honor when Jesus Christ is revealed. Though you have not seen him, you love him; and even though you do not see him now, you believe in him and are filled with an inexpressible and glorious joy, for you are receiving the end result of your faith, the salvation of your souls.” // 1 Peter 1:6-9
How great is our God that we can rejoice in our sorrow! What are you grateful for this week?

Update: My beautiful grandmother passed away peacefully late on 1/20. We’re so thankful that she is no longer suffering and experiencing true paradise with our Lord!

This post is part of Ember Grey’s Grateful Heart linkup! Click here or on the image below to head over to the blog and read all of the posts in the linkup.

A Grateful Heart with Ember Grey

I Will Sing of Your Love // Psalms 59:16

“But I will sing of your strength, in the morning I will sing of your love; for you are my fortress, my refuge in times of trouble” // Psalms 59:16

November seems to be the unofficial month of gratitude, all due to Thanksgiving. Personally, I think our society needs to get better about expressing our gratitude the other 11 months of the year as well…but that’s just me.

Sometimes it feels like so much of this blog is me looking back. I guess it’s only natural when there are so many things over the course of the past 2 years that have truly shaped the person that is sitting here today typing this.

Instead of hopping on the bandwagon and sharing one grateful thing every day in November, I wanted to wait and share my greatest gratitude on one day. One particular day, in fact. November 19. If you have followed this blog for any length of time (and if you do…hi there!), then you will know some of what I have experienced since 2013. The loss of two of my dad’s siblings ten days apart, followed by a stressful school year at work with an aggressive, emotionally-draining, but very special little boy, and more recently, the loss of my beloved Grandmother and Aunt two days apart this past September. But there’s been something that I haven’t really talked about here.

One year ago, on November 19th, my Dad was admitted to the hospital.

His hospital stay lasted six days and he was discharged two days before Thanksgiving. When your dad comes from a family of six and his father, brother, and sister all died of cancer…your anxiety flares and worry begins to creep in. Thankfully, what was ailing my Dad was not cancer, rather, an auto-immune disorder that had been attacking his kidneys, but you can imagine that worry that was felt and the prayers that were prayed.

Those were probably the longest six days that we had ever experienced. There is something very strange about seeing your father in a hospital bed and your mother looking so scared yet still staying strong for everyone. My one consolation was the fact that, despite his ailments, my Dad was probably the healthiest looking one on the whole floor. From the outside, you would have never guessed he was sick.

The fact that I have my Dad still with me today and sitting in the other room, fills me with a gratitude that is indescribable. For days and weeks we prayed for answers to what was ailing him and that it would be treatable. Our prayers were answered and then some.

If I have learned anything in the past two years, it is that in those moments when we feel broken down to nothing, those are the moments in which the Lord is doing some of His greatest work in us. As much as I wish the pain of the past two years didn’t happen, it has molded and shaped me in ways I never imagined. I recently discovered Clayton King and his amazing book, Stronger, and it is there that he phrases it perfectly.

“The thing that is hurting you is the thing that is humbling you, and the thing that is humbling you is actually helping you to get a clearer view of God’s holiness, beauty, and strength.”


This post is part of Ember Grey‘s weekly Grateful Heart linkup! Hop on over there and rejoice in the gratitude shared by her and many other fantastic bloggers!

This Profound Hope // Psalms 119:50

“My comfort in my suffering is this: Your promise preserves my life” // Psalms 119:50

The thing about suffering is that we are all guaranteed to experience it. To be human is to be susceptible to pain, no matter how much we may try to avoid it. God never promises us a life free of suffering, but He does promise us an eternal life if we believe in Him and trust Him enough to lead us through the hard times.
I wish I could put into words how the losses from the past two months have impacted my family. My grandmother was the light of all of our lives. I’ve never met anyone stronger, more quick-witted, or more giving. My aunt was the baby of the family, the youngest girl. She was quick to tell anyone that she was the baby. She was also one of the funniest people that I’ve ever met. You could not be around her and not be laughing. To know that these two amazing women are gone from this Earth is absolutely heart-wrenching. My mom’s family is very close knit and the pain of these losses will be felt for a very long time. 

When horrible things happen in your life, I think the tendency is to retreat inward and shut yourself off from everything that is causing you this pain. We want to go home, throw on the sweatpants, grab the ice cream and wallow and dwell on what is happening to us. I don’t know about you, but all wallowing seems to do is prolong the journey that we all must go through in order to come out of these seasons. While it may seem like these seasons of hurting are never-ending, particularly when the hits keep coming, if we trust in the Lord as we say we do then we automatically have a light shining at the end of the tunnel. The hope that can only be found in Jesus Christ is powerful enough to restore and renew even the most broken souls.

The hope that we are promised through Christ eases my aching heart in ways that are inexplicable. Our God loves us so much that we need only say a “see you later” to our loved ones and even in great loss, we the incredible gift of profound hope in Jesus Christ.

Hidden Treasures // Ecclesiastes 3:11

It’s been about two and a half weeks since my world changed forever. Sometimes I wonder if grief is easier when loss comes when you are an adult, rather than when you are young. The consensus seems to be that no matter when a loss occurs, grief comes in waves. On September 17, 2015 at 10:35am, I said my “see you later” to my dear Grandmother. Less than 48 hours later, at 1:45am on September 19, 2015, I unexpectedly had to say my “see you later” to my sweet Aunt Shelia, my Grandmother’s youngest daughter.

In the days and weeks since those span of days in which I swore the world had stopped moving, my family and I have grieved with one another, supported one another, and  most of all, loved one another. My mom has had to endure the loss of her mother and her baby sister, both of whom she was close with, just two days apart. And here we thought my dad losing his older brother and younger sister ten days apart in 2013 was as hard as it could be.

But despite the immense sorrow and grief that has been felt every day, by all of us, I can only speak for myself when I say that I have truly discovered comfort in the arms of our Savior. I don’t have much shame when I tell you that up until about a year ago, my faith was not resting on the firmest of foundations. I don’t because as I sit here and type this, I can’t help but be absolutely awestruck by the divine timing that our Lord has and how often times this can only be seen in hindsight.

One year ago this week, I received a new student in my classroom that challenged me in more ways than I ever thought a four year old could challenge a person. Although it didn’t feel like it at the time, God had used that student to bring me back closer to Him and in this past year, I have learned so much about what it means to completely trust and follow Christ. While I may still have more learning to do (don’t we all?), I know without a shadow of a doubt that the highs and lows that I have endured this year have absolutely prepared me for this season of sadness. Do I miss them both terribly? Oh, do I ever. But do I have any doubts as to where these two special women that were so instrumental in my upbringing are today? None.

One of the verses that came to mind in the past two weeks that brought me comfort was Ecclesiastes 3:11. The verse came to me via the She Reads Truth “Bible in a Year” reading plan and I had bookmarked it on the same day that it was published; August 22. The verse reads:

“He has made everything beautiful in its time. He has also set eternity in the human heart; yet no one can fathom what God has done from beginning to end.”

At the time, I had no idea when I bookmarked this verse that I was going to come back to this just a few weeks later. I remember coming back to it because of how it talks about we, as humans, simply cannot fathom every thing that God has done. I came back to this verse after hearing my Uncle Bobby, husband of my Aunt Shelia, say something like this, “I trust in the Lord, but I’ll never understand it. Maybe when I get to heaven He’ll explain it to me but we’re also not meant to have that kind of understanding.” Now, I’m paraphrasing slightly but what he said really stuck with me. If we possessed the kind of understanding that allowed us to know why He planned for certain things to happen when, where, and why they do…then we’d be like God ourselves and that is an impossible feat. We just have to trust Him and trust in His plan for our lives.

This past Sunday, I found Ecclesiastes 3:11 coming back to me in a way that I never anticipated. My parents had driven back up to my Grandmother’s house and while there, my mom had discovered some notes that my Grandmother had written. One of them was on the back of a card that my sister had sent her and the other was on a type of prayer card that had Ecclesiastes 3:11 on it. On these pieces of paper, my Grandmother had written prayers on them and the words on the Ecclesiastes card began with my name and my sister’s names specifically. In my 24 years, I never knew that my Grandmother would write like that. When I verbalized as much to my mom, feeling the goosebumps popping up, she looked at me and just said, “I know, Ashley. But I think someone’s trying to speak to you.”

Her words read: “Sarah – Ashley, all my children, grandchildren, great-grandchildren are all beautiful. Thank God He made you that way. All of you love God and he loves you. That’s what I’m so proud of. When I was in so much pain, you all called me, told me you were praying for me. All of you- that’s what helped me so much.”

I have not been able to stop reading the words that my Grandmother wrote, who knows how many years ago. To know that I was one of the people on her mind as she read over these precious words from the Bible is beyond words. This hidden treasure is one that I will keep with me forever. And what sweet truth this is to be reminded of.

“He has made everything beautiful in its time”

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