Sunday, December 29, 2013

Drawing Nearer

2013.  What a year it's been.  It's been a year of laughing, learning, loving, nurturing, mourning, growing, changing.  I've learned more about life this year than any other year.  Not all of it good, not all of it bad. It's been a mixture.  Am I satisfied?  No.  In fact, I'm kinda ashamed of how little I've accomplished this year.  I have a lot more learning to do.  I'm ready for 2014, ready for a new start.  I'm ready to be more, to do more, to love more, to accept more, to pray shine more. 
I want to be able to say at the end of the day that it is well with my soul.  I want to be able to know that I surrendered all. I want to walk with Him and talk with Him.  It's so hard to do these things, though.  So hard.  And I continually fail. Over and over again.
One of my favorite hymns is "Come, Thou Fount of Every Blessing," particularly this verse:
 O to grace how great a debtor
Daily I’m constrained to be!
Let Thy goodness, like a fetter,
Bind my wandering heart to Thee.
Prone to wander, Lord, I feel it,
Prone to leave the God I love;
Here’s my heart, O take and seal it,
Seal it for Thy courts above.
How easy, how beautiful to sing those words- here's my heart, Lord, take and seal it.  It's melodic; it warms my soul.  But I can't just sing it, and I can't just play it- I must actually do it.  I must give my all to Him. It's the key to happiness.  It's the key to life.  It's the key. 
"Whom have I in heaven but thee? and there is none upon earth that I desire beside thee.
My flesh and my heart faileth: but God is the strength of my heart, and my portion for ever." Psalm 73:25-26

Thank goodness for a God who gives second chances. And third and fourth and 3, 201 chances.  And however many I need.  And if He can so easily give us chances to redeem ourselves, surely we can give each other chances, too?  Chances to be better to one another.  To love deeper, to forgive easier, to live better.  Surely. 
"But it is good for me to draw near to God:  I have put my trust in the Lord God, that I may declare all they works." Psalm 73:28
In 2014, I want to just draw nearer. Nearer to Thee. 

Monday, December 23, 2013

Take Off the Grave Clothes!

"Am I worthy to stand in the presence of God? By no means!  I am a sinner saved by Grace."
Teresa gave me one of my dad's study Bibles about a month ago, but my heart hasn't been ready to open it and look through it until tonight. When I opened it tonight, the sentence above was written on one of the pages- my dad's handwriting on the page of Luke 18.  I was looking for a sign from God tonight, something to comfort me, something to fill me with peace. And He delivered.  How comforting, how amazing, how affirming, to read my father's words on the pages of my Father's words...proclaiming his salvation- right in front of me. I know without a doubt that my dad is in Heaven, always have.  That's never been an issue.  But it was a sweet, sweet reminder from my Heavenly Father of my dad's strong faith.  Of his relentless hope of salvation.  It was a gift this girl needed on the eve of Christmas eve.  
My heart aches in the death of my dad.  It literally aches.  It's rare that I speak of his death out loud.  Very rare.  I can't. I literally start crying every time I speak of him, and it's too much for me.  But a few nights ago, I told Michael that his death is just unbelievable to me.  It doesn't seem real. 
 Looking through his Bible tonight helps me.  Seeing how he placed little dots under each individual word of John 4:41 ("And because of his words many more became believers.")  makes me proud that he was my dad.  A God-fearing, God-believing, God-seeking Dad.   
Flipping the pages, I see some more notes he's written on the pages of John 11.  The passage is about Jesus raising Lazarus from the dead.  My dad wrote on the side of the page, "Has your life turned upside down?  4 days dead!  Jesus can still work it out!"  So yes, Dad, my life has turned upside down.  And you're right- Jesus is going to work it out.  After all, he performed the miracle of raising a dead man back to life.  No matter what we go through, whatever trials come our way, Jesus will still be there.  He's still in the business of loving us, protecting us, and guiding us.  He can still heal our broken hearts. My hope is in Him.  I'm so blessed that I know that he's at peace. 
I'm thankful for my Savior, for giving me the parents that He did. This Christmas, I've experienced the birth of Jesus in a new way because now all the people I equate with the nativity and the birth of Jesus, I imagine my dad meeting in Heaven, talking with them, getting first-hand reports of how it all went down that night in Bethlehem so many years ago.  My dad is with these people now.  That's amazing.   
Last Christmas was a really hard Christmas. Cohen had the flu, so we couldn't leave the house.  We were stuck at home.  I remember texting my dad telling him we wouldn't make it over to his house, and I was sad to miss out on all the festivities.  But later on, he and Teresa came over to see us.  It made our day to visit with them, and had I known that would've been my last Christmas with my daddy, I would've relished in it even more, taken more pictures- this time making sure I got some really great ones of my dad with Cohen.  I had no idea that he would be gone from my life just a month and a half away.  No idea. 
 I pray for healing for our family this year.  But when I think of us, I also think of so many other families that are hurting, that are experiencing loss and sickness, and I pray that we can all help each other through these times.  We need to show God's love and be His light to one another. 
The last sentence my dad wrote on the page of John 11 says, "Take off your grave clothes!"  I think it's his way of saying to me to not be consumed with grief. Rejoice in his life.  But also rejoice in his everlasting life.  It's okay.  It's going to be okay.
O, come let us adore Him, O come let us adore Him, O come let us adore Him, Christ the Lord.
We'll give Him all the glory, we'll give Him all the glory, we'll give Him all the glory, Christ the Lord.

Tuesday, December 17, 2013

Goodnight, Sam.

Christmas.  Almost a week away.  With all the decorating, shopping, and to-do lists to make it a magical Christmas, my heart isn't in it all the way this year.  I'm just so sad to have Christmas without my daddy.  The first one in 32 years.  Without him.  But I feel him everywhere.  I think of him always.  Oh, how I miss him. 
Sunday was the first time in a several weeks that I really felt that overwhelming sensation as I played the piano of a connection between me, Dad, and God.  Sometimes, in the stress of everything going on, I lose my focus, but this week, God grabbed my heart as I played.  Grabbed it.  And it was one of those powerful moments that we had that just made me be still.  I need those moments more.  I was playing "What Child Is This?" and I could see so clearly a vision of my dad visiting with sweet Mary and sitting quietly with her as I played, them reflecting on that miracle that happened, that changed the world. The miracle of Jesus' birth.  My dad is up there with them right now.  I wonder what their celebration is like, their celebration of the birthday of our King.  I bet it's amazing.  And Dad is getting to experience it for the first time with the key players.  The stars of the show.  How amazing! 
And tonight he's getting to experience it with his best furry friend.  Our dear sweet Sam.  It broke my heart to get the phone call from Teresa that Sam died today.  Truly a man's best friend.  A loyal, loving companion that's walked by Dad's side for many years.  A dog that brought him comfort, joy, and lots of love. Unconditional love, through good times and not so good times. It's just heartbreaking to say goodbye to something that meant so much to my dad.  Who knows if pets go to Heaven, but I'm going to believe that they do. Why not?  What's the harm in it?  I did look up some scriptures about animals, and found some promising ones, like this one-
"And every creature which is in heaven, and on earth, and under the earth, and such as are in the sea, and all that are in them, heard I saying. Blessing, and honour, and glory, and power, be unto him that sitteth upon the throne, and unto the Lamb for ever and ever." Revelation 5:13 
It feels as if another piece of my dad has died today.  To some, that may be silly, but I'm sure the number of people that understand what I'm writing far outweighs the ones that don't.  We love you, Sam.  You were a dear, fun dog.  A beauty.  May you rest in peace and walk the streets of gold with Daddy for the rest of your life. 

Thursday, November 28, 2013

Thanksgiving 2013 (Just pictures from our day!)

Psalm 95:1-6
"O come, let us sing unto the LORD: let us make a joyful noise to the rock of our salvation. Let us come before his presence with thanksgiving, and make a joyful noise unto him with psalms. For the LORD is a great God, and a great King above all gods. In his hand are the deep places of the earth: the strength of the hills is his also. The sea is his, and he made it: and his hands formed the dry land. O come, let us worship and bow down: let us kneel before the LORD our maker.
I have to go light on the blogging today.  Nothing deep.  Just pictures from our day.  I wish I had gotten more.  There's always tomorrow! 


Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Evermore and Evermore (A Thanksgiving Tribute to My Dad)

16 Rejoice evermore.
17 Pray without ceasing.
18 In every thing give thanks: for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus concerning you. 1 Thessalonians 5:16-18
Rejoice evermore.  Rejoice now until the end of time.  Forever.  Not just when I feel like it. Not just when times are good.  Yes, rejoice in the great times.  Rejoice in the amazing times. That's easy, Ash. But rejoice in the sad times.  Rejoice in the troubling times.  Always rejoice.  Evermore and evermore.  The word evermore in this verse makes the old hymn pop in my mind, "Of the Father's Love Begotten."  And that, of course, is why we can always find something to rejoice about.  No matter what, we've got Jesus to rejoice in.
 "Of the Father’s love begotten, ere the worlds began to be,
He is Alpha and Omega, He the source, the ending He,
Of the things that are, that have been,
And that future years shall see, evermore and evermore!"
This season of Thanksgiving is different than other seasons because this year it's minus Dad.  It's hard for me to rejoice in that. I rejoice that he's with Jesus.  But there's an ache in my heart that he's not here getting ready to fry the ole turkey.  He was so good at it.   Worked so hard to get everything cooked just so and make us all happy.  And he could cook, boy, could he cook!  I had no idea that last year would be my last Thanksgiving to see him.  No idea.  I try to be strong, I try to pray, I try not to cry. But I'm no good at it.  
I rejoice that in the midst of my bizarre dreams, God gave me the gift of a visit from Dad in one of them this week.  He was just driving by, rolled down his window, and yelled out, "You're doing a great job!" He had a big ole grin on his face.  Thank you, God, for sending him to me.  Thank you. It woke me up crying, missing him, made me so sad, but it also made me feel like I'd just gotten a big huge hug from my daddy.  Oh, I wish I could have one more hug.  Just one more. 

I pulled the shadowboxes off the wall today to just read his cards.  I needed to feel close to him. 


This life is full of problems and worries.  Many of which you are beginning to experience.  If I had my way, you would never have any worries or problems.  I am writing this to share with you how very special you are to me.  When I see all the problems and worries that come my way, sometimes I get very discouraged.  But when I see you, I see something very beautiful, something that makes me very proud to be your father.  In you, my little girl, I see hope.  I see in you a life that brings joy to everyone you touch.  I see a deep, deep love for people in your life.  I see God using you to bring peace and love to the lives of those whom you meet.  You are very special!

If my life were to end today, I want you to know that you are a very special blessing to me.  If I live for fifty more years, then every day I will praise God that He gave me such a very special little girl.  My one wish is that you will always know that I am available to you.  I pray that I will always be a father that you will be proud of.  That is my dream.  My hope is that you will continue to let your light shine before this very dark world. 

I love you. This love will never fade away.  You are in your daddy's heart forever.
To my special girl,
Your Dad

In this season of Thanksgiving, I give thanks for so very, very much.  I'm more than abundantly blessed.  And so loved.  But today, I'm beyond thankful for the gift of his words.  For the gift of his love.  For the gift of being so treasured by him. Today, I thank You, God, for my dad.  Thank you.  I rejoice that I had him for 31 years, and that You have him for all eternity.  Evermore and evermore.

Wednesday, November 6, 2013

He Makes All Things Beautiful in His Time

A Time for Everything

Ecclesiastes 3:1- 14

There is a time for everything,
    and a season for every activity under the heavens:
    a time to be born and a time to die,
    a time to plant and a time to uproot,
    a time to kill and a time to heal,
    a time to tear down and a time to build,
    a time to weep and a time to laugh,
    a time to mourn and a time to dance,
    a time to scatter stones and a time to gather them,
    a time to embrace and a time to refrain from embracing,
    a time to search and a time to give up,
    a time to keep and a time to throw away,
    a time to tear and a time to mend,
    a time to be silent and a time to speak,
    a time to love and a time to hate,
    a time for war and a time for peace.
What do workers gain from their toil? 10 I have seen the burden God has laid on the human race. 11 He has made everything beautiful in its time. He has also set eternity in the human heart; yet[a] no one can fathom what God has done from beginning to end. 12 I know that there is nothing better for people than to be happy and to do good while they live. 13 That each of them may eat and drink, and find satisfaction in all their toil—this is the gift of God. 14 I know that everything God does will endure forever; nothing can be added to it and nothing taken from it. God does it so that people will fear him.
Beautiful words.  There's no competing with them, so I shouldn't even attempt it, but it's been a while since I've blogged.  So here goes.
I'm just picking a few to talk about from the verses above.  A time to mourn.  A time to weep. Well, obviously, with the holidays quickly approaching, I'm feeling the absence of my dad all around me.  I'm hoping that God will wrap us all up just a little bit tighter in His arms through the next few months because it's going to be a doozy.  I miss him.  I miss talking to him.   This was Pawpaw last year with his boys at the pumpkin patch.  It was sad going back without him.  But as we were singing this invitation in church on Sunday, I knew that this was what my dad had experienced, literally.  "Turn your eyes upon Jesus,
Look full in His wonderful face,
And the things of earth will grow strangely dim,
In the light of His glory and grace."
 I wonder what he's doing up there today.  Who he's talking to.  Listening to.  I love my sweet daddy.
A time to laugh...This is my favorite.  I love laughing.  There's nothing like a good laugh.  I'm so glad I'm surrounded by people that make me laugh. 
When we were little, my BFF forever and ever, Lindsay, her little sis Laurie, and I would literally record  ourselves laughing on the cassette player over and over again, just so we could laugh some more while we listened to it.  We had so much fun.  
 Growing up, (this is so crazy), I had the biggest complex about my laugh. I'm a natural giggler.  It's just part of me.  Today, I'm perfectly fine with it, but back in the day, oh man.  My mom would print all these articles about the benefits of laughing and even sent me to counseling, haha...she did everything she could to make me feel better about it.  I think that's what missing a lot in life today- there's just not enough to laugh about.  But trust me, it's my daily goal to make sure I get a couple of really good laughs in. 
Michael and I had like the most bizarre laugh the other night. It was so funny.  The story I'm about to tell you really happened.  I can't make this up.  It was 10:45- at night.  He was fast asleep since he has to wake up at 4:30.  I was flossing my teeth.  Too fast.  I went to yank the floss out between my very back teeth, and it broke.  It tore off between my teeth.  I was freaking out, I tell you, freaking out.  I woke Michael up, panicked, with the floss hanging out of my teeth and was like, "You've got to do something about this!" I was really considering the ER.  That's how panicked (dramatic) I was.  He immediately turned into super dentist mode.  He was shining the flashlight down my throat with one hand and had the tweezers in another, pulling that floss, people.  I mean, how could I not laugh at this?  It was hilarious!  Picture it.  But he wasn't having any laughter, no sir.  He was all business.  We even Googled YouTube videos about it.  I love Google.  We stayed up until 12:30 working on this floss.  Finally, it was over, and he laughed.  And we laughed.  It was good stuff. He was my knight in shining armor, no doubt. 

A time to love.  What the world needs now is love, sweet love.  I pray that God will fill me up with love.  Being a wife, I need to love.  Being a mommy, I need to love.  Being a daughter, being a sister, being a granddaughter, being a friend...I need to love. But being a teacher- oh boy, do I need to be filled with love.  Those kids need love.  I love those kids so much.  It's the kind of love that worries about them when I'm with them and long after, when they go home.  I pray that I will be a light for them. And  I can't always be, obviously, but at the end of the day, I want them to know they were loved. That they can be somebody and that they are awesome.
 Thank goodness for God's mercy and grace and for His forgiveness.  Cause I sure mess up a lot.  But God has made everything beautiful- in His time. 

Sunday, September 29, 2013


I love Sundays.  I love going to church and being with my church family.  I love praising God.  Today, Bro. Billy kept saying over and over again, "Shine for Jesus."  I love those words.  I always have.   I always try to stress that with my kids at church because it sounds so simple.  Seems doable. That's the name of my blog- Just Shine. Such simplicity, but this world makes it full of complexity. I want to just shine.  I want people to see Jesus when they see me.  I've got a lot of work to do, that's for sure.  Sounds so simple, yet Satan is always lurking in the shadows trying to dim the light.  
If I had to narrow it down to my favorite things about Sunday, it would be listening to the words of the hymns as I play them and playing the offertory.  I love hymns.  The words are amazing.  Uplifting.  So true.  They always make worship real to me. The one that I really loved today was "This Is My Father's World."  The last stanza was perfect.  It was our offertory hymn, so the congregation was standing while singing, and during this time, I try to tune the piano out and just listen to the people sing and lift their voices to God.  It's truly beautiful, and it sets my heart right to play the offertory.  Their voices echoed in the church today,
 "This is my Father’s world. O let me ne’er forget
That though the wrong seems oft so strong, God is the ruler yet.
This is my Father’s world: the battle is not done:
Jesus Who died shall be satisfied,
And earth and Heav’n be one."
When I listen to them sing, it gives me chills.  I feel God in our presence.  And that's what it is all about. 
When I started playing the piano in the fourth grade, I never dreamed I'd be the church pianist one day.  I always loved playing church music best, and I'm so grateful to my mom and dad for making sure I kept my lessons up and stuck with it.  I'm even grateful to my  brother for those rides he used to give me to lessons.  He hated taking me, and some of those rides are quite unforgettable. 
I've said it before in other posts- when I play, I pray.  I pray for my sweet childhood best friend Lindsay.  As I play, I think back on all of our old times together, and I just pour out my heart to God that He will bless her.  She's the best friend a girl could ever ask for.  I pray for my brother.  I pray that God will give him the strength to be the man He wants him to be.  I pray for my mom and I thank God for her.  I pray for whomever is on my mind that day- these are just a few. 
 But since my dad died, I mostly pray for peace.  Almost everything I play is a big vision in my mind of when my dad died- how he was feeling as his heart began to hurt, when he was leaving this earth, how he was feeling upon entering Heaven, how he is feeling there now.  And I honestly have no idea- I'm just envisioning.  As the visions play in my head, they unravel as my fingers hit the keys. I never knew as a 9 year old girl starting to play the piano that one day as a 32 year old woman, God would use that to give me the greatest peace imaginable.  It's been the greatest comfort to me.  Sometimes when I play, I feel like my heart is going to stop because it's that real to me- the visions I have in my head.  I thank God for giving me this way to grieve and for giving me this way to heal. 
No one else knows or cares what is going on with me while I play; to the people, I'm just playing another song during the offertory.  But it's our time, mine and God's.  And I cherish it.  And if in the process it can help someone else out, then that's even better. 
To be who God wants me to be is challenging to say the least.  Like I said earlier, there's a lot of work to be done, that's for sure.  But He's still working on me.
"He's still working on me to make me what I ought to be.
It took Him just a week to make the moon and stars,
The sun and the earth and Jupiter and Mars.
How loving and patient He must be, He's still working on me.
       There really ought to be a sign upon the heart,
Don't judge her yet, there's an unfinished part.
But I'll be perfect just according to His plan
Fashioned by the Master's loving hands."

Sunday, September 8, 2013

Happy Birthday, Dad (A Few Days Late)

I wrote the post below last Tuesday night, the night before my dad's birthday.  I cried until 2 in the morning.  The grief I feel over my dad's death hasn't diminished.  I've not dealt with death very much at all.  So this death, the death of one who was so vital in my life, is hitting me hard.  I just didn't see it coming.  I know it will get better with time, but my sensitive, emotional soul has a hard time with it.  After I wrote it,  I couldn't post it right away.  To most, these are just words on a page, but to me, it's what's in my heart.  I decided to post it now because his birthday became a day of God revealing His promises to me. Wednesday, my dad's birthday, was a day of peace.  I did all my crying Tuesday, and I could just feel prayers on Wednesday.  I could feel the love of God, with His peace that surpasses all understanding.

The words that kept popping in my head all day long were, "He's sustaining me."  And He was.  Through the funny things my students kept saying, through the good conversations with my coworkers, through my friends at church, through my sweet little kids at church, through my family- through it all, He sustained me. Psalm 54:4 Surely God is my help; the Lord is the one who sustains me.

I thank God for His infinite love.  His boundless love.  His unconditional love.  How blessed I am to have Him.  May I be a blessing to Him.  That's the real challenge.  Let my life be a blessing to you, Lord Jesus. 

Well, Dad, it's your day.  And I'm just going to go ahead and put it all out there.  So hang on.  I just don't know where else to start but with the truth.

Truth #1:  I'm so mad you aren't here.  So stinking mad.  I just don't understand how you could go so fast from our lives.  I miss you, Dad.  I miss you so very very much.  I'm still in absolute shock that you died.  I mean it- absolute, unbelievable shock.  I just can't believe it.  It hurts me physically to think that I can never talk to you again.  It. hurts. my. soul.

Truth #2:  I'm so sad you aren't here.  So stinking sad.  It's been almost 7 months, and I still cry about you all the time.  I can't even talk about you without crying, so I usually just don't go there.  I'm so upset about all of this.  That's why I blog.  It's a ton of bricks lifted off of me every time I blog.  I think you would like that I write about all of this.  You were a writer, and I can see you and hear you telling me to just go write about it. 

Truth 3:  You were the best dad this girl could ever ask for.  I swell up with pride when I think of you.  There could never be another that loves me the way you did.  And what a great dad you were to my brother.  What a rock you were to us.  A listener.  A protector.  A leader.  You did a good job, Dad.  We are so proud to call you ours. 

Of course, the greatest truth I'm saving for last. 

Truth #4:  You're having the best birthday of your life right now.  1 Corinthians 2:9 says, "However, as it is written:  What no eye has seen, what no ear has heard, and what no human mind has conceived- the things God prepared for those who love Him."  You are seeing it all now, Dad. You're living it. And while my hurt hearts, yours no longer does.  Thank God for that- you're free.  You're hanging out with all the saints and angels, walking the streets of gold.  I wonder if you've made it to Noah yet.  Cohen seems to think you have.  He told me on the way home the other day that you and Noah were together in Heaven. 

I love you, Dad.  I was reading your old texts to me, and I came across one from you that says, "You know you will always own my heart."  Thank you for always sharing your words with me.  I cherish those words.

Happy birthday, Dad.  I love you.  You'll always be in my heart.

 "Peace I leave with you, my peace I give unto you:  not as the world giveth, give I unto you.  Let not your heart be troubled, neither let it be afraid."  John 14:27

Monday, August 26, 2013

"I will give you rest." Matthew 11:28

"Come unto me, all ye that labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest." Matthew 11:28
This crazy world.  If I'm not careful, it'll drag the life out of me.  It attacks at every opportunity, ready to snatch the shine right out of me.  I have good intentions, truly I do.  Every single day.  I start my day praying on the way to school, earnestly wanting to be what God wants me to be.   But I keep feeling like I'm missing the mark.  I'm falling short.  I'm letting the world get the best of me instead of Jesus getting the best of me.  Ouch.  But it's true.  I'm so caught up trying to do my job right- all of my jobs- that I forget to just give it to Jesus.  I forget to be still.  I forget to rest in Him.  And what does that lead to?  A scattered, nervous, stressful, dark Ashley.  Lights out. 
But I need the light on.  I have a little boy that needs me to be a light for him.  I have a husband that needs me to be a light.  I have a group of precious children at church that need me to be a light.  I have family that needs me to be a light.  And I have students at school that need me to be a light.  All these people- I need to be shining with the love of Jesus. With all the demands, all the pressure, all the protocol, all the expectations, all the what ifs, all the what nows, all of the unknowns, I'm still supposed to shine.  I'm at my mission field every day.  But where's my heart?  It's so caught up in trying to get things right, that I forget to just be me.  Just rest in Him, Ashley.  He's calling.  He's whispering, "Rest in Me."  I forget to give it to Him.  To trust Him. 
I'm going to just keep on trying.  That's the thing about Jesus.  He's always there, arms wide open, ready to forgive and comfort.  He's always faithful.  He always provides. 
I played an offertory yesterday based on the hymn "Be Still My Soul."  My heart literally hurt as I sang the words in my head as I played.  He has a plan.  The future is His.  I will rest in Him.
Be still, my soul: the Lord is on thy side.
Bear patiently the cross of grief or pain.
Leave to thy God to order and provide;
In every change, He faithful will remain.
Be still, my soul: thy best, thy heavenly Friend
Through thorny ways leads to a joyful end.
Be still, my soul: thy God doth undertake
To guide the future, as He has the past.
Thy hope, thy confidence let nothing shake;
All now mysterious shall be bright at last.
Be still, my soul: the waves and winds still know
His voice Who ruled them while He dwelt below.
Be still, my soul: when dearest friends depart,
And all is darkened in the vale of tears,
Then shalt thou better know His love, His heart,
Who comes to soothe thy sorrow and thy fears.
Be still, my soul: thy Jesus can repay
From His own fullness all He takes away.
Be still, my soul: the hour is hastening on
When we shall be forever with the Lord.
When disappointment, grief and fear are gone,
Sorrow forgot, love’s purest joys restored.
Be still, my soul: when change and tears are past
All safe and bless├Ęd we shall meet at last.
Be still, my soul: begin the song of praise
On earth, believing, to Thy Lord on high;
Acknowledge Him in all thy words and ways,
So shall He view thee with a well pleased eye.
Be still, my soul: the Sun of life divine
Through passing clouds shall but more brightly shine.

Wednesday, August 7, 2013

It's my birthday. And exactly 6 months since my dad died. Don't think that didn't get past me.

It's my birthday.  And exactly 6 months since my dad died.  Don't think that didn't get past me.  Oh, how I miss him.  How I miss his phone calls, his text messages, his sweet smile, his concern for me, his love for me.  It's my first birthday in my whole entire life without talking to my daddy.  I never even thought it was a possibility he would be gone so stinking soon.  But gone he is, gone to something far grander than this life had to offer. 

I've been reading his letters tonight, absorbing the words and relishing in his thoughts for me.  I grasp onto them for comfort, to find the love that I'm missing, the love that can only come from my daddy.  I look for solace amongst his eloquent handwriting, the slope of his penmanship, the love that poured on the paper through the overflowing words of his heart.  How special those words are to me.  How I will always treasure them. I will pour over them for years to come, longing to feel just a piece of him with me.  And as I do, I will feel a peace that I was loved.  Unconditionally.  Abundantly. 

To have an earthly father like I did was a special blessing.  And to have a Heavenly Father like I have is so promising.  As I read the letters from my dad, I also pour my soul into his Bible, looking for comforting scriptures, for hope, for joy, for peace, for renewal of my heart.  As I read my Heavenly Father's letters to me,  I'm overwhelmed with comfort, I find the love that I'm missing, the love that can only come from my Father.  My Jesus.  How special those words are to me. How I will always treasure them.  I will memorize the words so that I can pour over them in times of sadness, in times of distress, in times of needed hope.  And as I do, I know I will feel a peace that I was loved.  Unconditionally, abundantly, and eternally. 

2 fathers.  One earthly.  One Heavenly.    Blessed.   

Dear Jesus,
I long to be perfectly whole.  I want Thee forever to live in my soul.  Thank you for washing me, washing me whiter than snow. Please instill in me the eagerness to dive into your Word, to study it, to know it.  To study myself approved unto You, to hide Your word in my heart, to live unabashedly for You.  To shine.  Just shine.  And tell my daddy I love him.  Tell him how proud I am of him.  I love you, Lord. 

A birthday card from my dad.  I've shared it before, but it's a great one to read again.

I hope this day will be a happy day for you.  You bring such joy and happiness to my life.  The Lord truly blessed me when he sent you to me.
I am so very proud of you.  You have a loving spirit that is very refreshing in the day in which we live. 
I love you so very much that words cannot express the depth of my love for you.  Always remember no matter how old you get that you are Daddy's little girl.  Daddy will always be here for you!
Birthdays come and go and the presents you get, they sometimes lose their luster, so I want to give you a gift that will last forever.  What is it?  It is some advice.  Are you ready?  Ok.
If you want to be truly happy in this life, stay very close to God.  Read your Bible and pray.  Share some of God's love with another person on a daily basis.  Don't look for what you can get but rather look for what you can give. 
And remember,
Daddy loves you!
Dad, you were really challenging me with that.  But I'm going to try.   It seems like every day something tries to get in the way, and that I fall short, but I'm going to figure it out.  One day at a time.  I miss you, Dad. I miss you so, so much.  I know when I sing or play this last stanza of "How Great Thou Art" that this is exactly what you did upon entering Heaven's gates. 
When Christ shall come,
With shouts of acclamation,
And take me home,
What joy shall fill my heart!
Then I shall bow
In humble adoration
And there proclaim,
"My God, how great Thou art!"

Tuesday, July 23, 2013

I Bid Farewell to the Way of the World

It seems like every Sunday as I'm playing the hymns during church that I'm reminded of my dad.  There is always some stanza that just touches me and brings me comfort in the fact that although I miss my dad terribly, he's home.  I'm so glad that I'm exactly where I'm at every Sunday on that piano bench because it brings me peace.  I'm so grateful for hymns.  The song that tugged at my heart Sunday totally took me by surprise because it's more upbeat and joyful sounding than the usual ones that get to me. It was "The Way of the Cross Leads Home."
"Then I bid farewell to the way of the world,
To walk in it never more;
For the Lord says, “Come,” and I seek my home,
Where He  waits at the open door.
The way of the cross leads home,
The way of the cross leads home,
It is sweet to know as I onward go,
The way of the cross leads home."
This was the last stanza, and I could just see my dad humming this as he goes about his day in heaven.  I could see a happy, peaceful smile on his face. I remember thinking when I was younger that my dad looked "jolly" when he smiled.  That's seriously the word that popped in my mind, too. And it was what popped in my mind Sunday morning.  I haven't thought about that in a long time.  It brought me comfort and reminded me again that while my heart aches, his is whole and perfect. 
I've been missing him an awful lot lately.  There's nothing to say or do to make it better; it is what it is.  I found this Bible of his on my bookshelf.  I'm not sure how I ended up with it, except that I think I probably liked  the size of it and decided to keep it for myself years ago, but regardless, he had marked a few scriptures in it.  It's neat to look for the ones with markings on it, highlighters through it, and notes beside it.  He hadn't used this Bible very much (I guess I swiped it before he could put too many marks on it), so it's not a lot, but it's like a scavenger hunt to find them and try to get a glimpse of what he was feeling at the time.  One verse marked is Isaiah 26:3, "Thou wilt keep him in perfect peace, whose mind is stayed on thee: because he trusteth in thee. Trust ye in the Lord forever; for in the Lord Jehovah is everlasting strength."  I love this.  I felt like I found a gold mine the first time I saw it.  God provides comfort, and that's a fact.  Below is a beautiful psalm I came across while looking for my dad's marked scriptures. 
Psalm 42
As the deer pants for streams of water,
    so my soul pants for you, my God.
My soul thirsts for God, for the living God.
    When can I go and meet with God?
My tears have been my food
    day and night,
while people say to me all day long,
    “Where is your God?”
These things I remember
    as I pour out my soul:
how I used to go to the house of God
    under the protection of the Mighty One[d]
with shouts of joy and praise
    among the festive throng.
Why, my soul, are you downcast?
    Why so disturbed within me?
Put your hope in God,
    for I will yet praise him,
    my Savior and my God.
My soul is downcast within me;
    therefore I will remember you
from the land of the Jordan,
    the heights of Hermon—from Mount Mizar.
Deep calls to deep
    in the roar of your waterfalls;
all your waves and breakers
    have swept over me.
By day the Lord directs his love,
    at night his song is with me—
    a prayer to the God of my life.
I say to God my Rock,
    “Why have you forgotten me?
Why must I go about mourning,
    oppressed by the enemy?”
10 My bones suffer mortal agony
    as my foes taunt me,
saying to me all day long,
    “Where is your God?”
11 Why, my soul, are you downcast?
    Why so disturbed within me?
Put your hope in God,
    for I will yet praise him,
    my Savior and my God.
Thank you God, for your comforting words.  Thank you for being my Savior and my God.  Thank you for loving me.  Thank you for everlasting strength.  Thank you for the assurance that my dad is happy and just downright jolly.  How could he not be?  He's with You. 

Saturday, July 20, 2013

Miss Him

It's been three years.  Three years at this time I was in labor.  31 hours to be exact.  I'm not soon forgetting it, either.  My grandma Bryant and Michael's grandma Coomes stayed the whole time.  Bless their hearts.  My grandma wanted so bad for that baby to be born on her birthday- July 21, and trust me, so did I.  But it just wasn't meant to be.  I can't believe it's been three years now that I've gotten to be a momma.  I absolutely love it.  It's the most fun thing I've ever done.  It's the most exhausting, but the most exhilarating time of my life.  It's the most challenging, yet most rewarding.  I love my little Cohen.

Newborn sweet baby!

Cohen's 1st birthday!

                                                                       Cohen's 2!

                                                                     This year- silly boy

I've been getting ready for Cohen's birthday party tomorrow.  But my heart aches because my dad won't be here.  I miss him so much.  I. Miss. Him.  I just miss him.  I missed him last week on vacation- I would always call him and check in and tell him how it was going.  I missed that. I wanted to tell him how much fun we were having, how pretty the water was, just hear his voice.  A part of me is missing.  Not having him there tomorrow will make my heart ache .  Cohen not knowing his pawpaw makes my heart break.  I just can't believe he's still gone.  Gone forever.  It stinks.  I missed him yesterday, I miss him today, and I'm going to miss him still tomorrow.  I wish he were still here.  I wish we had known his heart hurt.  I wish we could've helped him. 

It's been one year since I took these picture.  Last year, on July 21, we had a birthday celebration for my Grandma Bryant.  A big fish fry. I'm glad I took these sweet pictures.  Dad was so tired the next day at Cohen's birthday party.  I still have the text he sent me telling me he was sorry he left early.  I wish I could get another text from him. 

I know without a doubt that Dad's in a better place.  The best place.  I know he's loving it.  But it's going to take me a while to get used to him not being here.  I can't even talk about him without crying.  That's why I blog.  I can talk about it here.  I can say what I need to say and feel better. 


Wednesday, July 3, 2013

Sweet Dreams

All my life I've been a dreamer.  Not just figuratively, either, :-).  Very much literally.  I have wild, crazy dreams, and it amazes me the details that I can remember from these dreams.   Dreams can totally mess with one's head, you know.  Some of them can feel so real- emotions can run so high; it's just truly exhausting to sleep some nights.  Haha, that's a bit of an exaggeration, but sometimes I do feel a little worn out after all of my night escapades.  
I have mixed feelings about my dreams.  Some of them leave me feeling content, happy, excited- but others suck the life right out of me.  I don't have those very often, thank goodness.  I just wanted to write about my dream last night.  I wish more than anything it was a video, so I could play it again and again because, as with any dream, it will fade with time.  I've been hanging on to it all day.
I was with some friends at a strange house, and I was going on and on about my life, describing all of the things that were happening and telling them about how happy I was.  These people knew all of this about me, so I couldn't figure out why I kept on telling them, until I noticed someone in the corner.  It was my dad sitting in his old recliner from years ago.  I was going on and on because I wanted him to hear me, wanted him to be proud of me.  And then he did pull me to the side, gave me a hug, and told me he was so proud of me and the life I had. 
The dream went on; of course I can't remember all of the details, but I remember the last part vividly.  I asked him if he was coming to Cohen's birthday party, and he said he wouldn't miss it for the world.  He was standing at the counter reading the newspaper.  I broke down and just started crying, telling him how sorry I was for not spending more time with him.  It was one of those really awful dream cries, where you're heaving and can barely breathe.  He put the paper down, looked at me, and said, "Now you know, Ashley Nicole, that no matter what ever happens in this life, nothing could ever change how much I love you.  Nothing. You mean the world to me."  It was just so real.  I literally woke up crying.  I miss him so much.
I'm writing about this dream because I don't ever want to forget it.  It was like he was really here.  I need to remember it.  It was like he came to see me last night.  I know that he didn't really, but it was just so comforting.  Even though it has made me feel so sad today, at the same time, to have a conversation with him, even if it was in my dream, was just so wonderful.  And I've had other dreams about him, but they were much sadder, and I'd rather let them go.  This one was a gentle reminder of who he was.  My daddy.  Oh, I wish he were here to hug me.  To tell me he loves me one more time. 
Blessed are those who mourn, 
For they shall be comforted.
Matthew 5:4



                                                  These from last year's fourth of July. 




Tuesday, June 25, 2013

Just some family photos

Nothing deep tonight.  Just pictures! I was looking through the pictures on my old computer, and I forgot I had some of these. 

Miss him so much!

At the pumpkin patch in October

Corey and Dad frying fish for Grandma's surprise birthday party


Wearing one of Papa's hats


Dad, Teresa, and Cohen...if only Cohen was cooperating...

Lucky to have these two awesome grandma's!!!

This would be a great photo if my sunglasses weren't right in the way. What a photographer.


So lucky to have all of this great family!

Love this picture of my mom and Jimmy and Batman

Shopping and riding the carousel in Monroe