Wednesday, April 26, 2017

The Military Child

April is the month of the military child.  A month to celebrate sacrifice.  A month to celebrate strength.  A month to celebrate dedication.  A month to celebrate love.  A month to celebrate commitment.  A month to celebrate determination.  A month to recognize these sweet souls, both young and  old.  A month to celebrate what it truly means to be a military child.

I was not a military child.  I lived in the same house my entire life.  In fact, my parents still reside in that very same house.  I always wanted kids, but I never in a million years dreamed they would be military kids.  When I met my husband I was not too keen on the idea of a military man.  But...I loved him and we do crazy things when we fall in love.  I had no idea what the military life would be like, but I jumped right in and was ready to embrace the adventure ahead.  I knew it would be hard and boy it has been tough.  It has stretched us and pulled us and pushed us in so many ways.  Now all that to say, I had a choice when it came to the military life.  My sweet children, they didn't get a choice, they were just born into this wild and crazy adventure we are on.  And my how they have embraced it!

My little boy turns five this year.  In his short life, he has lived in Maryland, Hawaii, and now Japan.  That's two states and two totally different continents in barely five years!  He has been on an airplane too many times to count, if I had to guess I would say at least twenty times!  He has road tripped from Maryland to California visiting all the sites in between.  He's seen so much from volcanoes to the Grand Canyon to the Napali Coast to Mt. Fuji.  This kid has seen more in his little life than most will in an entire lifetime.  

Now you might think that I am bragging about all my child has done.  Not one bit, although I do think it is pretty awesome how well traveled our child is, there is a whole lot more to this post.  Military kids are just plain awesome.  Most do not realize all the sacrifices these kiddos make.  They give up time, so much time with their mommy or daddy.  So much of their life is spent without one of their parents around.  Micah's daddy has only been home for one of his birthdays, that means that he has spent a total of three birthdays without daddy home!  My daughter was born without her daddy being there to say hello to her when she entered the world.  I could give a million other examples of things missed, but I trust you get the idea.  These kids say goodbye to people they love on a regular basis.  They cry for mommy or daddy to be home.  They know what is coming when daddy is packing up his bags.  They don't mind being woken up in the middle of the night because it is time to go pick up daddy.  They live for FaceTime calls with family.  They have to say goodbye to their best friends.  They know that their daddy or mommy is a hero because they serve in the military.  They know how special our time together as a family is.  They live for that moment when daddy walks in the door after a long day at work.  And they savor that feeling of daddy being home again.

On the average, us military folks move every two to three years.  And with a move comes so much change.  

You change schools.

You change friends.

You change houses.

You change bases.

You change churches.

You change weather.

You change routines.

You change schedules.

You change communities.

You change neighborhoods.

You change sceneries.

You change extracurricular activities.

You are basically starting a completely new life every couple of years.  And that is a whole lot of change for a child to endure!  That in itself speaks volumes of these precious military children.  They are resilient and keep on keeping on.  I am blessed to have two pretty amazing military kids!

A lot of people think the military lifestyle is not good for kids.  People believe it's bad because there is no consistency.  You settle in and then you move away.  You settle in and then you move away.  You settle in and then you move away.  It is ever changing, kids need structure.  Mommy or daddy is always coming and going.  You are constantly on the go and having to leave and make new friends.  They believe that it is tough on the kids.  Please do not get me wrong, it is tough on the kids, but it has so many wonderful benefits.  

My kids crave adventure and exploring and trying new things.  They wake up and often ask, "what adventure are we going on today?"  I love that!  I love their zest for life.  I love that they see our life as one big adventure.  My children are world travelers.  They get to meet so many new people along the way.  My children are able to pull stuff from every place we have lived.  They are well rounded and well experienced.  They have seen the world.  Every new place brings new lessons and new experiences and a whole new culture to learn.  They understand language and know that we don't all speak the same language.  But despite that, we can still all play together at the park and have a blast.  They understand how big this world is and how much there is to see and do.  They understand that moving means saying goodbye, but with that comes a new place to explore!  They understand how to live life to the fullest.  They thrive.  And they have these amazing real life, real world experiences  to carry with them forever.

My life is surrounded by the faces of military kids.  And each one of them is special and deserves to be celebrated this month, and every month of the year.  




Sunday, March 5, 2017

For He is Good

Hawaii was our place.  It felt like home.  We found our people there.  We raised the wildest little boy there on those white sandy beaches.  We walked through the dark and scary unknown there.  We got to witness a real taste of heaven there.  We said hello and goodbye to the sweetest red haired little boy there.  We found redemption and hope there.  We found peace and joy in the midst of pain there.  We learned to live after such immense loss there.  We spread our sweet boy's ashes on those beautiful white sandy beaches.  We found a new perspective on life there.  We learned how faithful our God is there.  We added the sweetest little rainbow baby to our family there.  We learned that this life is messy, but oh so meaningful.  We learned that we are better together.

Hawaii truly has my heart.  It was so easy to see and feel the presence of God there.  The mountains, the water, the beaches, the flowers, the palm trees swaying, everything, it is all beautiful.  And you can clearly see that it was all made in the image of God, absolutely breathtaking.

For me, leaving Hawaii felt like I was leaving Asher.  I carried him in my belly there and I feared that leaving the island meant I was leaving him.  Everyone there knew Asher and knew our story.  If we moved to Japan, would everyone forget him?  Would his story live on?  Would he still be with us when we moved to Japan?  I truly didn't know.

Just before we went to the airport I was pretty emotional about this.  It was hard to fathom that we were actually leaving with a one way ticket to Japan.  Then I peeked at my phone and had this text message from a dear friend.  It was her telling me that she missed Asher and she will never forget him.  It was her telling me that Asher touched her life in a mighty way.  She promised me that that little boy lived on in so many people's hearts on this tiny island and that he would never be forgotten.  This was just what this mama's heart needed.

So here we are, 4 months after leaving Hawaii.  This week, every single day, I shared Asher's story.  For one reason or another, he popped up in conversation and I was able to share how he changed our life.  I was able to share how God worked in us and continues to use Asher, even years later.  When people see us and they know our story, I feel like they know our true family.  Not the family of, oh they have a boy and a girl, how perfect.  They know our hearts and they know our pain.  They know that Jesus has carried us and without a doubt got us to where we are today.  I am so thankful for these opportunities to share Asher and his life with new people.  His story will always be my favorite.

I will sing the Lord's praise, for he has been good to me.  Psalm 13:6

Anyways, all that to say, I have found that Asher will always be with us.  Everywhere that we go, he comes with us.  Hawaii will always remind me of him, but I think of him just as much over here in Japan.  God is faithful, my fear of moving away, He totally answered it and is using Asher in a pretty amazing way out here in Japan.

Behold, I am with you and will keep you wherever you go, and will bring you back to this land.  For I will not leave you until I have done what I have promised you.  Genesis 28:15

Wednesday, January 4, 2017


2016 has officially come to a close.  It was a year of growth.  A year of redemption.  A year filled with a lot of restoration.  A year of adventures.  A year of togetherness.  A year of hope.  A year that warmed my heart.  A year of some pretty awesome travel.  A year of the best memories.  A year that had its ups and downs.  A year that we spent with two kids with us and one in heaven.  A year of goodness.  A year of failing, but getting back up to try again.  A year of doing this parenting gig, somedays we failed miserably and others we are on top of the world!  A year spent in beautiful Hawaii nei.  A year of change because military life.  A year of gratefulness and thankfulness.  A year filled with love.  A year spent with friends who I consider my family.  A year that ended with a big move and the start of another new adventure.  A year of so many celebrations.  A year that I can look back on and say, look how far we have come.   2 years ago our world came crashing down on us, and here we are, 2 years later, thriving, and learning to find joy in all the things.  Learning to live this life here now because we are not promised tomorrow.  Learning to walk with Asher in our heart, always.

And just like that, the year is over.  2017 has come in and it is barreling like a freight train, at least for me it is!  I am still trying to fathom that idea that it is 2017 and 2017 has me like a deer in the headlights so far.  I just can't get my feet on the ground.  Last night after the kids were sound asleep, I was sitting on the couch and had a pour it all out moment with my husband.  I feel like life is just zooming by day after day and I can't keep up with it.  I feel like I am always 100 steps behind and it feels so exhausting.  My to do list is piled to the ceiling and then my house is filled with toys, toys everywhere except in that cute little playroom we created for the kids.  And the laundry needs done and Micah needs new toothpaste for school because the one I sent was too spicy.  And the laundry, oh the laundry.  And butts need wiped.  And food needs to be shopped for and dinner needs to be made.  And besides all of that boring stuff, I have these super awesome dreams and goals and things I would like to achieve for myself.  But I just feel like I am swimming and can't get a grip on any of it lately.

So, after that little pity party, I decided my word for the year needs to be grace.  Already today, I have said that word over and over in my head many times (it's only 10am!).  It seems like the absolute perfect word for my heart and for this crazy stage of life I am currently in.

Grace in all aspects of my life, grace that I am not the perfect mom.  Grace that I most certainly do not have it all together.  Grace that somedays my house is just going to be a toy ridden battlefield.  Grace that it is okay to ask for help.  Grace that I can rest in the midst of this chaos.  Grace that I forgot to send thank you notes.  Grace that I still haven't printed those pictures or created that baby album for Micah (he just turned 4).  Grace that I am going to overreact at something my child does.  Grace that the laundry is piling up and the sink is filled with dishes.  Grace that there is spilled milk all over the floor.  Grace that life is moving too fast and I want it to slow down.  Grace that my patience is lacking.  Grace that this overseas move has been really hard on my heart.  Grace in those moments where I feel like I am failing and I am just not good enough.  Grace that my to do list is taller than I am.  Grace that I don't remember the last time I washed the sheets.  Grace that sometimes it all just feels like such a heavy weight. Grace that this life thing is tough stuff.  Grace upon grace upon grace upon grace.  And repeat, grace upon grace upon grace upon grace.

When something tough happens, it is so easy to need God.  It is so easy to get on your knees and pour out your heart to him.  But in the day to day struggles of life and parenting, I tend to forget that I need God just as much in these moments too.  This day to day stuff is tough business.  Raising children and doing life is harder than I ever imagined.  God cares about that and He wants and He needs to be at the heart of it.

I am committed to resting in His grace daily.  These burdens are too heavy to carry on my own.  I am going to cast my burdens on Him, the one who knows my heart.  The one who knows my struggles right now.  The one who I can rest in and the one who will fulfill me.  The one who will fill my cup so that I can be the best mom, wife, daughter, sister, friend that I can be.  The one who freely gives us grace, so much grace that we most certainly do not deserve.

This grace is for all of us, so my friends, give yourself some grace today.  Rest in the fact that we serve a God who has got it all covered.  A God that knows your heart and knows just how you are feeling.  A God who knows and will freely give you grace at all times.  So take a little grace today and be okay with not having it all together.

Photo Credit:  Annie Groves Photography
Grace upon grace upon grace upon grace.

Thursday, September 11, 2014

Putting on a Front

We live in a world that is consumed with appearance.  We have to put on this front that we have it all together.  We have to wear the right clothes, do the right things, and say the right things.  We base our lives on how other people are or are not living their lives.  We can easily force ourself to fit into this perfect little mold, whether it is really us or not.  It is sad, to say the least.

I will be the first to tell you that this girl does not have it all together.  But because of all the images out there as to what we should be doing and what our houses should look like, I have really been struggling.  My husband tells me on a daily basis that we do not need to have it all together.  And day by day I am concentrating on that and trying to come to terms that I do not need to have it all together.

I am a mom, I have a crazy toddler, who is extremely active.  I don't get much done during the day because I focus most of my time on Micah.  I love being a mom, but I beat myself up that I can't always keep up with the house work.  It is daunting and never ending.  Then throw the grief issues into the mix, phew, yeah I am far from having anything together over here.  Anyone out there with me?

Grief is this thing that fits in no mold.  There is no right way or wrong way.  You just do what you do.  It's scary and I can honestly say that it is lonely.  I feel like no one gets me and no one knows what to say to me.  It's exhausting and painful.  It comes and goes in a matter of minutes or seconds or days.  It hits like a ton of bricks when you least expect it.  It is like nothing I have ever felt or experienced.

I remember reading something a while back about throwing your to do lists out when you are dealing with grief.  You should not put a time on getting stuff done because some days you need to just do nothing.  And you aren't going to be able to get stuff done, so looking at this never ending list is just going to make you feel worse.  I am the queen of making lists.  I LOVE making lists, sick I know, but it is totally the truth.  Nothing like getting something done and being able to cross it off, feels good right?  So imagine me when I read that you should avoid making to do lists.  I thought it was crazy and I of course have still been making lists.  Hmmmm maybe that's why I have been feeling so overwhelmed lately?

So I am opting out of my silly little never ending lists.  I am going to let go of the reins a little bit and see where that takes me.  If that means my house gets a little messy, then so be it.  My hope is that instead of focusing so much on having it all together, I can spend some more time getting myself together.  I spend so much of my time caring for my family, making sure laundry is done, dinner is made, dishes are clean, clothes put away, and the list goes on.  I tend to forget that it is just as important to take care of myself and my needs.  And part of that is feeling the pain of losing my sweet Asher.

So please, if you look at my Facebook page and my blog posts and my pictures and think I have it all together, you are so totally wrong.  I am far from having it together, I am just taking life one day at a time, trying to sort through all my thoughts and feelings, trying to make sense of this confusing world I live in, trying to find peace in the midst of my pain.

Tuesday, September 2, 2014

Life After Loss

Life after loss is hard, obviously, that's a given.  But it is so much more than just that; it is beautiful and sad and confusing and heartbreaking and emotional and lonely and joyful all mixed into one.

For most of you that have shared this journey with us, your lives have returned back to normal.  I cannot blame you for that and I cannot hold that against you.  But please understand that my life will never be normal again.  There will always be this sweet little boy missing from our family pictures.  There will always be a part of my heart missing.

Not only am I grieving the loss of sweet baby Asher.  I am grieving an entire lifetime of precious memories that I will never get to have with my sweet boy.  I am also grieving the mom that I used to be, the friend that I used to be, the wife that I used to, and the daughter that I used to be.  My life is different now, my outlook is different;  I am far from the same girl I used to be, no matter how much you think I may be.  Losing a child changes you.

Life must go on, believe me, I get that.  But this new life is quite different from what it used to be.  It's hard for me to be around new people.  I try to avoid engaging in conversation because I know the words are coming, "how many kids do you have?"  I tell them the truth and they get that look in their eyes like they are scared silly and terrified and just want to run away.  I lie to them because I want to avoid that reaction and I feel guilty like I am disowning my own child.  Tough stuff, let's just say that.  Please friends, keep this in mind when someone answers this question in a way you did not expect.  Talk with them, love them, support them, encourage them.  We want to share our child with you, we want the world to know we have a baby in heaven.  I long for people to talk about my sweet Asher, to say his name, it is music to my ears, it warms my heart.  

So you ask how can there be days filled with joy?  The love I have for Asher is like nothing I can explain.  I love Micah and I love my husband and I love my family with all of my heart.  But nothing will ever compare to the love and the connection I have with Asher.  The love I have for Asher runs so deep.  That boy is special, that about sums it up.  And that is how there is joy.  When I think of Asher, my heart is filled with joy because of the relationship I share with him.  The lessons he has taught me, the wisdom he has given me, the strength he has left me.

Joy because Asher has changed me; I am a better mom now than I ever was before.  Joy because my hurting and my story can bring someone else hope.  Joy because I have a God who loves me.  Joy because I get to see my baby boy again one day.  Joy because I have experienced a love like no other. Joy because I can wake up every day with a smile on my face.  Joy because I am loved and taken care of.  Joy because I have two handsome little boys, one here on earth and one watching over me in heaven.  Joy because there is hope after the storm.

So much has been taken from me.  So much pain, sorrow, and grief surrounds me.  So much it can be overwhelming at times.  But I cannot help but focus on the good and what has already and what will continue to happen because of Asher's story.  He may be physically gone, but I can tell you one thing, his story will continue to live on.

Very truly I tell you, you will weep and mourn while the world rejoices.  You will grieve, but your grief will turn to joy.  John 16:20

Tuesday, August 26, 2014

You Are My Sunshine

In true typical Erin fashion, when I plan something outdoors, mother nature decides it should rain.  Take my wedding for example, I had always dreamed of having an outside wedding.  Well, the week prior to our wedding, it rained and rained and rained.  There was a hurricane on the coast and it was sending lots and lots of rain.  All week my dad kept saying those dreaded words, "Erin, what if it rains?  We need a back up plan."  There was a tent covering the back deck, so if need be the ceremony could be held there.  Time for the rehearsal, what was it doing?  Raining buckets, I mean it was so loud on that deck that we could not even hear each other talk.  Time for the wedding, what was it doing?  It was absolutely beautiful out!

The weather forecasts often predicts rain when I plan things, please take note of that if you ever want me to plan something for you.  With that said, the weather channel is normally wrong, and it usually turns out to be a beautiful day!  And oh what a beautiful day it was on August 2, the day of Asher's memorial service.

One of the main reasons that we went back Maryland was to have a memorial service for our sweet Asher, a service that all our family would be able to attend.  Asher was and always will be special to all of us and it was important for me that we were all able to celebrate him together.

I remember the night prior to the service, looking at my mom with tear filled eyes and saying how in the world am I going to be able to get through tomorrow?  There has been several times over the past months that I said those same words and each time I came out a tad bit stronger.  I have been carried, there is no way I have been able to endure all that has happened on my own; it is truly amazing to see God meet you right where you are, take your hand, and walk, drag, or carry you along.

The service started and I remember sitting there in the front row, looking at the pictures of my sweet boy on the table wondering if this was real life.  I was feeling extremely numb and kind of like I was watching all of this unfold before my eyes.

With a box of tissues, my husband beside me, and all my family behind me, we celebrated and memorialized our sweet Asher.  The service was beautiful beyond words, more perfect than I could have ever imagined.  The sun was shining, the breeze was blowing, I felt such a peace during that service.

We sang songs, shared stories, and my wonderful Uncle Rich talked about how God uses trials for our good.  He calls us to be faithful servants and to follow where He leads us.  Asher has taken us all to a place we never imagined we would be.  He has caused us to ask God why.  He has forced us to come together as one.  He has strengthened us.  He has caused our faith to grow deeper.  He has brought us to our knees.  He has made us love more.  And all that was part of God's perfect plan.

Asher was given his first lacrosse stick at the service and now it is hanging in Poppy's office on the wall of fame.  This was a total surprise to me and I couldn't think of a better gift to give our little boy.  We are a lacrosse loving family, in case you didn't know.  We all played lacrosse, I don't think we had much of a choice, did we dad?

Since we knew we would not be in Hawaii forever, we opted to have Asher cremated.  To us, cremation just made sense.  Asher was created from the dust.  There seemed something so pure about having him in his original "state of being."  Just like the song, You make beautiful things, you make beautiful things out of the dust.  We took his dust and planted a tree in my parent's yard in remembrance of him.  The tree is a Crepe Myrtle, which means it will bloom every July for Asher's birthday!  We all took turns placing a shovel full of dirt around the tree and finished with a beautiful prayer around that tree as we were all holding hands.

And ended it all with fellowship, laughter, and good ol' Maryland crabs!

I look back on that day and just smile, it was beautiful and touching and sad and happy all wrapped into one!

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

The Promise

While we were on the mainland, we spent some time in Virginia visiting my in laws.  My father-in-law is a pastor, so on Sunday morning we all piled in the church pew for church, kids and all!  The people at this church were familiar with our story and have been faithfully praying for us over the past few months.  After church, several people came up to us and gave us hugs and said they were continuing to think and pray for us.  One gentleman in particular will always stick out in my mind.  He pulled Sam aside after church and said that he had lost twin girls years ago.  They were born premature and due to the lack of medical knowledge at that time, they only survived 8 hours.  Sam shared all of this with me in the car on our way home and come to find out this gentlemen had lost his dear wife 3 months ago.  The only thing I could think about was the smile that must be on that lady's face because she has been reunited with her sweet baby girls in heaven.  The thought that she is hugging and kissing her babies again brought tears to my eyes.  I anxiously look forward to the day where I get to do the same with our sweet Asher.  Oh the promise of heaven and eternity! 

I have always known heaven was up there and that it is our forever home.  A home free of pain and suffering, a home filled with joy, a home filled with peace, a home spent worshiping our Lord and Savior.  Now that is a place I want to call home!  I find myself thinking of heaven quite often these days because I know Asher is whole and complete up there loving life.  So often when I am driving in the car, I find myself looking up at the sky wondering what is going on up there and what my little boy is up to.  I want him to be here with us more than anything, but if he has to be somewhere away from us, there is no better place than to be playing trucks in heaven with our Father.

Sam and I created Asher, he is our child.  I carried him in my belly for 9 beautiful months.  Part of me and part of Sam and even part of Micah is up there in heaven.  I feel like I have a personal connection with heaven and maybe that's why I think of it so often.  I'm not sure what it is, but regardless I am thankful for the change of mindset that Asher has brought on.  Instead of worrying about petty stuff, it seems more fitting to smile and say it's all going to be okay.  None of that stuff matters, money is just money and we can't take it with us.  Worrying is not going to make anything better.  Planning is silly because we all know what happens when we plan things.  I have so much more of an eternal mindset than I ever did before.  This place is not my home, we are just passing through.

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 has prepared for those who love him-  1 Corinthians 2:9