Saturday, October 29, 2011

How Great Is Our God (World Edition)

Today I heard this version of this song on the radio for the first time. I had heard the English version many times throughout the last several years. In fact, the E-TEAM group I was apart of going to St. Croix used the song for a sign language presentation in 2007. With the memory of the song, and the words within it, this song has a special meaning in my life. Then, today, I heard this specific newer version.

When the song came on the radio my mom and I were in my car. Throughout the car ride we chatted throughout the whole drive. However, when this song came on...I stopped talking and instead I listened. Goosebumps traveled up my arms as a smile curved on my face and tears filled in my eyes. I told my mom, "Can you imagine? This is what it's going to be like in Heaven. All nations together worshiping God in our own languages. Except, regardless of language, we'll be understand one another."

Revelations 7:9
"After this I looked and there before me was a great multitude that no one could count, from every nation, tribe, people and language, standing before the throne and in front of the Lamb. They were wearing white robes and were holding palm branches in their hands."

Can you imagine? Can you imagine standing in the streets of Heaven with believers from China, Uruguay, Bulgaria, Japan, Spain, (and so many more countries that I can't even begin to name)? What an amazing sight and sound this will be. I've been to worship services in Mexico, Japan, and Spain where English is not the primary language. It's hard for me to describe the feeling I get when I worship with others who speak a different language. It's on of the most amazing feelings and experiences I have ever had in my lifetime, and one I always look forward to while traveling.

This song puts me in awe and makes me excited. It's one reminder (of many) of why I do what I do. Why I travel and go abroad...Why God has given me the passion for missions that He has given me. It helps me imagine the bigger picture in a way my human mind can grasp, although I can't even begin to really fathom what it will be like in Heaven one day. This song inspires me.

The Travelin' Chick,

Thursday, October 27, 2011

A Total God Thing

For the last two weeks I have been enjoying house sitting for a couple from our church. I can't even tell you how odd it was to have a house to myself for the first time in months...(Detail: Since June my sister, brother-in-law, and their pets, have living with my parents and I due to moving across the country from Nashville. With 5 adults under the same roof and some pets, it's a little busy in the household.)...not to mention sitting in complete silence without a TV or radio on, dogs barking, or people talking. Silence had become the unfamiliar stranger in my life.

As I was sitting in silence this morning working on a few things for (OM) Germany and London, the dog I have been spending time with at the house started barking at the door. Three people were walking up the pathway to the house (two women, one man).

When I stepped outside the three people greeted me with a smile. They introduced themselves and stated that they go to a local church here in town called "People's Church". (People's Church is the church our youth group went with to go to Mexico, and two family members of ours also attends the church.) They automatically assumed I was the lady they came to visit or their daughter, both of which were incorrect. I told them that they weren't home right now but they could come back another time next week when they would be available.

Before they left they asked, "Since we're here anyway, is there anything we can pray with you about?" I obviously knew that they were from a church out visiting people today, but this caught me off guard. I assumed they would of just said, "Ok, we'll try again another day."

I'm thinking that this was a total God thing. This morning when I awoke I was instantly stressed. I was stressed about fundraising for London, trying to get the last $5,700 in before December, and how to raise so much money so quickly. When asked, "Is there anything we can pray with you about?" London and my funds instantly came to mind.

Standing on the porch at someone else's house with three strangers I was able to share with them about my upcoming trip to London and what I'll be doing while I am there. I was also able to share with them the weight on my shoulders about trying to fundraise the big about of money in a short amount of time. Talking to them I was able to share that there many family emergencies and the main focus needed to be on my family throughout the last several months.

Then we prayed. Standing on the porch at someone else's house, with three other strangers, we held hands and prayed.

It was also a refreshing reminder when one lady said, "Nothing is too big for God."

As they were leaving I was able to give them my prayer card and a bio we wrote out for letters and churches. One person said that they might send me an email to be in touch soon.

Lately my life theme quote has been, "Where God guides, God provides!"...And today it hit me. This isn't just talking about the financial needs of God's guidance, but encouragement and prayer as well!! When I awoke today I was really stressing about the financial provision that I am in need of to be able to go to London. Within an hour of awaking God provided. He provided for the encouragement and need for prayer. I still have all of the $5,700 to raise, but God is providing and will continue to do so in all aspects that are needed with finances, prayer, and encouragement.

A total God thing? I think so!

The Travelin' Chick,

Monday, October 24, 2011

My Cardboard Testimony (Blog Style)

Before you read the rest of this entry, please watch this video first:

Last month we had our California FWB Women's Retreat at the ECCO center in Oakhurst. Now, if you're a FWB California lady and you've never been to one of the annual retreats, you are missing out. It's a wonderful time to relax, laugh, meet others, bond with your church group, and become refreshed as you grow in God. This year's speaker was Amberly Neese. She is a wonderful lady full of humor and encouragement. (At the end of this blog I'll provide some links to her website and a youtube video.) It was a really good weekend.

During one of the services we watched a Cardboard Testimonies video. (There are many on Youtube and I couldn't remember which exact one we watched.) After we watched the video we were all handed an index card by the worship team. On one side we were suppose to write our testimony in a summary. On the other side we were suppose to write what God has done for us through our testimony...Just like what was done in this video. Once we finished writing we were suppose to hang our cards up along the room.

When handed this card I honestly had no idea what to write. Honestly, I still don't know what to write. I currently feel like there isn't just one or two sentences to describe what I had to write. I didn't need a piece of cardboard. I needed the whole cardboard box!!

While mine wasn't as "short and sweet" as other's that wrote their own, I think that's okay. The exercise was therapeutic for me. In my mind I've thought about life's ups and downs a lot. However, other then the occasional Facebook status update, I hadn't really written about what was occurring, my thoughts, feelings, and struggles.

I meant to pick up my card once the retreat was over. Instead I became busy and distracted with other things around me before leaving. This isn't exactly what my Cardboard (AKA: Index Card) had written on it as I can't remember exactly what I wrote, and I've also made some adjustments with some updates, but this is the basic summary of my testimony for the first side:

  • My dad almost died in March from an infection, while being hospitalized for two weeks.
  • Dad almost died again, was hospitalized again in May.
  • We moved my sister and her husband across the country in June, to temporarily live with my parents and I, in expecting of their first child.
  • My grandmother was diagnosed with her second battle of breast cancer in June.
  • About one week later, while in Japan doing disaster relief work, my baby niece died and was born as a stillborn at 14 ounces. After coming home early for the visitation and burial service, I was able to hold her.
  • A week later my sister (yes, the same one) had an emergency appendectomy.
  • My youngest aunt found a lump and had to be tested for breast cancer. Found out she had a rare non-cancerous tumor that would need to be removed and have further testing for 100% confirmation. (There wasn't any cancer!)
  • Found out a family member needs surgery for a physical issue.
  • I, myself, became injured. Now needing surgery two months before going overseas. (Surgery has a one month healing time...But I just view this as a small speed-bump in comparison to this year.)
  • Dad's health is still struggling.
  • Been dealing with a lot of anger, some depression, and much fear. (While these three major things were a big personal battle for a few months, and a really big part of my life, I can now say they are less frequent. It has taken me a long time to admit to these feelings and battles, but do not want to deny that they have been in my life this year.)
  • In the middle of the craziness I've been trying to raise $7,000 to serve overseas for 4 1/2 months in Germany and London. (I still have $5,700 to go...with less than a month and a half to raise the rest of this money.)

On the flip-side of my card, for the first time, I focused on what God had been doing. On what blessings God had given. This is what it said (again, updated to keep it current):

  • God hasn't left my side once. He's stuck by me, never leaving.
  • He's given me the gift of humor and laughter to find the funny moments in life.
  • God has also given me an amazing family that is uniquely close and tight-knit to get through this storm together.
  • Where God guides, He provides. He's showing me this in many ways.
  • Friends from around the USA and world have been praying and encouraging my family.
  • I've been replacing my anger, fears, and depression with happiness, trust, and joy!

What's on both sides of your card? Maybe you're like me. Maybe right now you're going through that storm and you just can't summarize the experience in a way that makes sense yet. Or, maybe you've just finished going through a storm that you can now summarize into one or two sentances that express your testimony.

The view I've always had in life is that life is like a puzzle. God is the only one who can see the preview on the cover of the box, and He is putting together a beautiful picture that only He can currently see or even fathom. Once in place, all the pieces come together with beautiful picture. (And we all know that a picture can easily say 1,000 words.) I truly do believe that through our pain and we will have a strong and beautiful story to tell. It's just in the writing phase.

Going through a storm is an interesting thing. Being in the storm we can sometimes only see the rain, pain, and heart ache that it brings our way. Yesterday my eyes were opened to a new perspective for my own personal storm.

While being in this storm I've only looked through my own eyes. As I visited with some local friends yesterday at a church I saw my life and current family situations through their eyes. What I've been seeing as painful, heart breaking, hard, and being full of fear, they saw as bravery and inspiring. To me this was at first a shock, but also a huge eye opener and encouragement. Never before had I thought, "What my family's continuing faith and story saying to other people?" (I've always said, "I wonder how God can one day use this?", never, "What is it saying to others right now?") Before this rough time in my family's lives I also never realized how truly blessed I am to have such an amazing family that is so tight-knit. I never realized the rarity in this. Within the last two months I've been told by at least five people what a unique family I have, which is another refreshing outside perspective.

What are you seeing in your current storms and struggles?? What positive things does your story say to those around you? Try looking at your situation from a new angle. I never realized how refreshing it could be to do so.

What is your story?

The Travelin' Chick,
Romans 8:28

Amberly Neese's information:

A Funny Youtube Video:

Saturday, October 22, 2011

Fight, Flight, or Freeze

Last week my sister and I were talking about Halloween. I don't remember what brought up the topic. What I do remember is her saying, "We have to go to a haunted house!!" Without pause I started laughing. Not just a chuckle, but a real laugh followed by a, "No!" Amanda, my sister, instantly asked me, "What is so funny? And why not??"

Then I began to reminiscence...

Thinking back, I think I was about 12 or 13 when this took place. My cousin, Brett, and good friend at the time, Jonathan, and I decided to go to a haunted house. (We were sometimes like the 3 Musketeers for a few years. We did a lot together.) This would be the first time for me to ever step foot into one of these fear inducing places.

Being the nervous girl I was, I made a guy stand on both sides of me. I refused to be the first foolish person of our group to enter first, and I definitely refused to be the last one to go through! In the middle I felt protected and less likely to be followed or to be bothered by the humans that were dressed up and paid to scare us. (As I just wrote the word "scare", I almost left off the "e" by accident. Then I realized, "Scar" or "Scare" - they both work with equal affect!)

I'm not a very jumpy person. At least, I don't think I am. It's been a while since I've been in this haunted house...but let me tell you...I remember being very jumpy that night. Not only was I jumpy but I bet I even let out a few squeals too...Which is not like me. Even on a roller coaster making the big drop, I am good just smiling as I enjoy the fall.

Turns out my theory was wrong as well. It doesn't matter where you stand in the middle of your friends. If you're in the fear inducing building, you're fresh bait. They go after everyone.

As I am telling this story to my sister I came to the point of why I refuse to go into a haunted house ever again. Why won't I go to one ever again? My answer to her was simply, "For the safety of others."

They say that in certain situations people either do one of three things: fight, flight, or freeze. That night I found out that I seem to be a bit of a fighter when the proper situation arises.

When those hired to scare us got close enough, without thinking, my reflexes reacted. Before I could stop myself, I stuck my hand out and slapped them as hard as I could as I continued on my "merry" little scared way. Let me tell you...This didn't happen just once. This happened TWICE. To top it off, I think I even slapped one person twice because they wouldn't back off soon enough. (Maybe that should count as three times?)

Oh, and a minor little detail? This was a homemade haunted house. (Although for the record: This home did this every year for many years in a row. It was very legit! least for a 12 year old.)

Now my sister is stating, "Oh, we're SO going now!!" Is it just me, or am I crazy to think that she is just wanting a good laugh at my expense (and the poor people I would end up slapping)??

A note to my sister: I'm still not going! No way!

The Travelin' Chick,

(Too bad most fears in real life aren't that simple to slap away.)

Saturday, October 15, 2011

Candle Light

Today is October 15th. Today, the 15th of October, is National pregnancy and infant loss remembrance and awareness day. It's saddening to me that there has to be such a tragic loss that creates a remembrance day like today. It truly is heart breaking.

Tonight Angel Babies had a candle light service in memory of all the children that have already gone to heaven. Until tonight I hadn't ever been to a candle light service. There's never been any reason to go to one. One year ago I never thought I'd be attending such an event.

When arriving to the park where it was being held there was a $5 entry fee. Knowing what we were going for, it broke my heart. Instead of spending $5 on onesies, pacifiers, or cute little toys (...or if you're an amazing bargain hunter like my grandma - two or three baby outfits!), for a baby shower or random gifts from excitement, we were spending the $5 to go to an event to remember my niece that never even took her first breath. For me, this was the roughest moment of the evening.

There were a lot of people at the park for the event. I honestly wasn't expecting to see so many people there. If I could guess at an amount of people, there may have been up to 200...Maybe more, maybe a little less.

The sight was surprising. People "go all out" for this event. Many took balloons. Even more than that, people had t-shirts made with names of their babies and pictures of them as well. Some even created pins to wear on the shirts in memory of their child.

There were people there who have lost one child. Some who have lost two, three, or even four. Some of the children were lost as miscarriages, stillborns, or even after 8 full months filled with life, personality, and growth.

During the ceremony there were prayers prayed, poems read, and songs performed. In memory of each child their names were read off during a ceremony. As the child's name was read off, their parents turned their candle on (yes, they turned them on...They were electric candles.). Those who took balloons released them at the same time.

Hearing her named said out loud by a strangers lips was an odd thing. We often talk about her in our own home and family, but I don't recall ever hearing someone with different blood say her name out loud.

Looking around tonight I saw many people with candles in their hands representing their children who are now in Heaven...The children who we will all one day meet and see again. While this is a discouraging sight, there was also encouragement. While in one hand held a candle...In many people's other hand, they held a stroller, car seat, or infant. They held the hand of their toddlers, or their pregnant swollen bellies.

It's an encouragement for me personally because while my family is going through the loss, it's a reminder that while things are hard now, there will be a light at the end of the tunnel. While we will always miss Ashley while always aching and longing to hold her, the pain will one day get more bearable. (Although I do realize some days will hurt more then that's how it is now.) It's also a reminder that while our family has experienced so much sorrow, pain, heartache, tears, and burdens, there are more joyous days to come filled with good surprises, smiles, tears of joy, and big blessings. (Not to say that there aren't any blessings, surprises, or smiles now...There are many blessings in everyday of life. Sometimes it just feels smothering when it rains and pours trial after trial, and we as humans sometimes forget to look at what is going right in life.)

If you find my blog to be repetitive of the issue of my niece's death, I am sorry. Just bear with me for a while for this is a process for me as well as a huge part of my life. It's a process to mourn more days then others, to think of her, to experience the milestones. While I absolutely love (which truly is an understatement!) that you are reading my blog, it's kind of like what a good friend told me when I started to write on this online journal. "Your blog isn't really for other people. It's for you." My blog is for me to post about life as it is. ("Life as it is"....Maybe that should have been the blog name instead??) It's meant for me to reflect on the day, week, or month that I have had. To be able to look back at old entries and say, "I remember when God brought me out of that situation." Or, "I can see how God has been working through this experience now that some time has passed." Or, simply just to remember how I felt. And like I've mentioned before, I can only pray that out of my experiences - the good and the bad - that others will find certain entries relatable and help them realize that they aren't alone in feelings and emotions.

Tonight if you were to drive by my house, you would see a candle light coming from the kitchen window. It's the light representing our love for my niece, forever burning inside our hearts. It's the light that says, "We will never forget her."

Thank you for reading.

The Travelin' Chick,

My "Bucket List"

Lately I've been working on my "bucket list". While most people consider it the list of things you want to do before you die, I like to define it as the things I want to do in life in general. I have no plans on dying soon, so why put that negative sounding definition to it? I have many years ahead of me to complete my list. However, new things are added to it all the time. My list will probably be never ending. (Currently my count of things I want to do is at 122...going on 123...124...125...You get the idea!)

Some of the things on my list are the average everyday kind of thing. Some are about falling in love, getting married, having children, and buying a house. Some are things such as finishing college first with my AA going on with my BA degree. Many are "small" things to accomplish while others are bigger and more complex. (Maybe some aren't even possible yet.)

Here are some of the more "unusual" things on my list:
  • Write a book
  • Ride in a hot-air balloon
  • Bowl a turkey
  • Walk on the moon
  • Work on a cruise ship for a year (Seriously, what could be a better opportunity for missions? Maybe I should blog about that later...)
  • Walk on a glacier
  • Snorkel in Alaska
  • Visit all 7 Continents
  • Make Candles
  • Try Fencing
  • Build a Snowman
  • Go sledding
  • Visit all 50 states
  • Have a "White Christmas"
  • Run - and be good at it!
  • Parasail
  • Hold a baby lion cub
  • Open a photography studio
  • Learn to play the piano
  • Swim with sharks
  • Work at a youth camp for the summer
  • Visit Anne Franks hiding place
  • Visit the Titanic wreckage in a submarine
  • Milk a cow
  • Become a wonderful photographer
  • Be published in the National Geographic
  • Finish a scrapbook
  • Have over 5,000 views on my blog (Yes, that means I am relying on you as readers to accomplish this one! ;-) )
  • Buy a pair of TOMS
  • Walk on the Grand Canyon's skywalk
  • Live Overseas
  • Make a difference in someone's life

There are many things on my list. (The ones I posted don't even count where I want to travel to!) There are also things that I have written down that I knew I always wanted to do, and have already done them! (Basically, my mental "Bucket List" I had before writing it all down.)

A few that I have completed are:

  • Gone on E-TEAM (A high school mission trip...Went in 2007, 2008, and 2009, thanks to the support of others!)
  • Visited Japan
  • Gone through the Panama Canal
  • Attended FWBBC
  • Finished High School a semester early
  • Swam with dolphins
  • Made Chocolate Souffle
  • Met Natalie Grant

What's on your list? What things do you want to do in your life? What are some unique things, or things you always wanted to do and have already accomplished?? (Please feel free to leave comments on my blog! I am truly interested in what you all have to say when I ask questions and for input!)

The Travelin' Chick,

Monday, October 10, 2011

Beauty in Alaska

These are some of my favorite photos I took in Alaska. Actually, they are some of my all time favorite pictures that I have ever taken. While they are far from being perfect - I absolutely love them. Often I get stuck in a routine and enjoy the safety of my comfort zone. To take these specific photos I stepped out of my comfort zone in my photography life and tried something new. I'm so glad I did. Had I not, I would have missed a wonderful opportunity to challenge myself and grow. I also wouldn't have these pictures to look back at and enjoy.

What new thing have you tried lately?

The Travelin' Chick,

Friday, October 7, 2011

Be Unique

Growing up with a birthmark is often a common thing. Many people are born with one on their leg, arm, stomach, or back. They can have one anywhere. Usually they are in well hidden places only noticed when wearing shorts or a bathing suit, depending on the location. As I am sure you have noticed, mine, by all means, is not well hidden. Mine is a bit more unique. In fact, it's available for the whole world to see. Even with make up it is impossible to completely cover the discoloration to my face.

This morning I read a statistic online that states that 3 out of 1,000 kids are born with a Port-Wine Stain birthmark. This is the type that I have. Out of those 3 kids, locations can vary. Many have their birthmark on their neck, arm, and sometimes the face. (The most occurring placement for this specific kind is on the neck and face.)

Today I am having a laser treatment to see how much lighter we can get the birthmark. For you to understand the complete story behind where I am going with this blog, let me explain a general and very basic summary of medical technicalities.

A Port-Wine Stain occurs with extra blood vessels. When someone has a laser treatment, the treatment causes the birthmark to darken for about two weeks. The laser basically "burns" the blood vessals creating them to shrink. Once they shrink the birthmark should start to lighten in color. (Although depending on the machine and the person - it does not always work.) As children go in for the procedure they are put to sleep. Once older (for me it was age 11) they are kept awake after an hour of numbing cream on the location of their birthmark.

As I previously said, I am having one of the laser surgeries today. My appointment will be at 3:30 and I will be kept awake. The prep time will take longer than the procedure. Depending on how much I can physically take, depends on how much of the face they will laser.

One of the most awkward parts about the surgery is the after affect of the slight swelling and darkening to the skin tone. Then as my mother left for work this morning, we had a conversation where some common sense hit me.

Mom: You guys can go eat at the restaurant afterwards today if you want since you'll be so close.
Me: Okay, thanks.
Mom: Just remember - your face will be darker and slightly swollen. You may get a lot of weird stares from people.
Me: Mom, I always get a lot weird stares even without the surgery. They're strangers. They don't know any better. For all they know - this is how I normally look.
Mom: Good point.

All this being said: What in life has a tendency to make you feel awkward? Standing up for what you believe in? Being different then all of your friends at work, or at school? Being the one who says, "I'm sorry, but I don't drink"?

In a first meeting, people can often only see the outside of another person. They don't always get to see the inside of a person's heart and being. By first glance and first impression strangers don't always get to learn what you're truly about. They don't learn your passions, your story, what you believe in, and why you are who you are today.

What are you living for? Don't be afraid to be who you truly are and to live for what you know is right. It might be awkward but be unique. Let people stare and give you weird looks for choosing not to party or drink. Let them give you weird looks when you say, "this offends me", if they're telling a bad joke, spreading rumors, or doing or saying something that offends you and your belief system. Live a life that makes them wonder, "What makes this person seem so different then everyone else?" Let them ask, "Why??"

Growing up is a common thing, just like growing up with a birthmark. However, like growing up with a birthmark like mine, living a life where a person truly follows their passion and a living a life without regret - that's what's unique. How many people out of 1,000 can say they have lived the life they knew they should, awkward moments and all?

People don't know the story behind your "birthmark". Not knowing leads to comments and questions - and that can be a good thing. It gives you a chance to share and educate other people about their new curiosity.

There is a song called, "Carry your Candle" by Chris Rice. (If you have never heard it, please give it a listen one day soon!) Part of the lyrics are as following:

"Frustrated brother, see how he's tried to
Light his own candle some other way
See now your sister, she's been robbed and lied to
Still holds a candle without a flame

Carry your candle, run to the darkness
Seek out the lonely, the tired and worn
Hold out your candle for all to see it
Take your candle, and go light your world

Take your candle, and go light your world"

Unlike my birthmark, what people (strangers, friends, family) truly need to see isn't stamped on our foreheads or faces. It's not that easy. Live a life that you won't regret. Live life so other's can see God's light shining in your life. Carry your candle and light your world. Help others keep their candles lit bright through the winds of life that try to blow their light out by encouraging them and praying for them.

Be unique.

Being unique has it's up and down moments. Sometimes it's easier and other times it's harder. However, being unique in anyway always gives a stories to share...People might stare. They might give you weird looks at times. That's okay.

What story do you want to be able to tell??

the Travelin' Chick,

Monday, October 3, 2011


Here is an honest blog. Throughout the last few months, with everything that has been occurring in my family, I've had my up and down moments. I've been angry, jealous, mad, and I have been happy and at peace. I've been bubbly and I've been cranky. There are days with hope and excitement, and days that seem to have no end as they are filled with depression and tears.

One month from Wednesday I am suppose to be an aunt. The due date of my niece has swiftly come upon me. I don't know what the thoughts are of my family members. However, for me personally, November 5th is a day that I do not look forward to. It's a day I dread.

Instead of buying cute mini frilly little pink dresses and cute little rattles for my niece, about three months ago we pulled out our grown-up black dresses and ironed black suits. Instead of celebrating new life we mourned the premature death of Ashley, my niece. Instead of watching her sleep in her crib, we watched her being lowered into the ground in a tiny pink casket. (The smallest I have ever seen.)

We mourned the lose of a beautiful child and the lose of excitement and future dreams. As we mourned (and still do mourn), we mourn never being able to make eye contact, hear her laugh, or hold a verbal conversation with her. We mourned never getting to watch her grow up and bloom into a beautiful woman. I have personally mourned not being able to be that "cool aunt" that spoils her niece rotten...just to return her to her parents hyped up on sugar from the fresh batch of unbaked cookie dough.

Often I wonder if my feeling are normal. I'm not sure if it's normal to feel the way I do as an aunt of a precious child that now spends her time with God in Heaven. While knowing she's with our creator brings me a certain kind of peace in life, I still go through a lot of pain and heart ache. I'm not sure if it's normal to still have urges to go buy her toys and adorable clothes. I wasn't her mother, I am just her aunt. While I'm not her mother, my arms often long to hold her. Instead they feel empty. Some days are good for me emotionally and mentally, but some days are worse due to a random trigger of hearing her name in a crowd, seeing a dress I want to buy her, or even hearing about others with excitement of becoming an aunt or uncle.

There are have been many times that I have been sadden by the lack of being able to see Ashley grow up. I'll never get to teach her how to make an origami flower. My camera will never capture her moments of laughter, or moments of first steps or as she rides a bike for the first time. (For me it's extremely odd to have a niece and to have never snapped a photo of her and I often regret not doing so.) We won't get to talk about boys or about her first date. I won't be able to one day take her on a trip, or share my passion of traveling and missions.

When I feel like this I then try and remind myself, while we on earth have had the chance to live and experience many things...She is in Heaven experiencing something so much better that we still haven't had the chance to experience ourselves. She is able to sit at the throne of God praising Him with her every being in a way that we strive for here on earth. While her feet will never touch earth's soil, her heart will also never feel the pain that living on earth brings. She forever will have the complete peace and joy that only God can give her...The joy and peace that we often miss out on due to the complex design of life that sin has brought our way. And while she cannot travel to Japan or go on an Alaskan cruise, she sees true beauty. She sees what beauty was intended to be before the fall.

When my arms feel empty and the desire to hold her, I remind myself, "She's with God now." Ashley can literally walk and talk with God face to face. God can literally and physically hold her hand as they walk down the beautiful roads of Heaven. Whenever I feel the desire to give her a hug, I imagine God bending down to give her the sweetest of embraces - and this comforts me. One of the best feelings I have ever had in my life time is when my grandpa and I hold hands. His hands are so big and strong, yet soft and loving. I can't even imagine what physically holding God's hand or being hugged by him is like once in the pearly gates of Heaven.

While I remind myself that Ashley is in God's hands, I still struggle. Sometimes a lot, sometimes a little. Each day is different - as it's different for my sister, my mom, brother-in-law, and dad.

As we go through this experience we're all still trying to figure out the kinks and details of what it's like to be aunts, parents, and grandparents. What do I say when I'm asked if we have any nieces or nephews? What is the best response when asked if my mother and father have any grandchildren? While we are parents, aunts, and grandparents, it's still an awkward question that we often dread having to answer due to the complicated answer and pain it brings to our hearts. In my mind I often do wonder, "What is it like to be an aunt? What is like to hold the precious child and to watch them grow up?"

As I end this blog, let me leave you by saying that when I write what I write at times, I do not write in hopes to gain your sympathy. In fact...Sympathy is not what my family and I need. When I write what I write it is meant to let you know what's going on in my life. It's meant to help others going through similar situations. It is my prayer to be able to use my story to help others so they realize that they are not alone in what they go through. It's my hopes that it might help others realize that what they're going through is a normal process.

When you finish reading what I write and leave my blog all I ask that if God lays me or my family on your hearts, pray for my family. Pray for me...pray for my parents, my sister and brother-in-law, my grandparents, aunts, uncles, and cousins. (Or whomever the blog is about.) Pray for those who are unknown and going through similar situations.

The Travelin' Chick,