I know what you are thinking....clearly, I've lost my mind!!! What divorcee posts a picture of herself in her wedding gown? I'm not crazy....just hang with me for a quick minute. I promise this will come full circle.
I love fashion. Accessorizing. Shopping. It's not 'my life' but it's definitely something I enjoy in life. So naturally, wedding dress shopping was an awesome experience for me. It was my favorite part of the wedding. (And just to clarify, it was my favorite part of the wedding, not the marriage. There's a big difference between a wedding and a marriage...but that's a soapbox to stand on some other day!).
What a girl does with her wedding dress is definitely interesting post-wedding day! Some girls participate in a ritual called "Trash the Dress", others preserve it, while still others sell it. It's just a used dress, right? But for me....it wasn't a used dress. It was something I loved...loved shopping for....loved wearing...loved looking at. Until the divorce, I really loved my dress. I thought for certain I would use it to make things for my future children...sentimental mementos for their birth and/or wedding days. Well...obviously that plan went out the window with one swift court date. But somehow discarding the dress still didn't feel right. So I tucked it away for a couple years.
Until a few weeks ago when I realized why getting rid of my dress didn't feel quite right and why I saved it all this time. And I tell you....God is so freakin' amazing I can't stand it (Side bar....I wonder if God approves of "freakin" as an adjective to describe Him?!? He's probably cool with it!). I stumbled upon the perfect charity to donate my wedding gown. There is a group in Texas that takes previously worn wedding gowns....cuts them apart and makes outfits for babies. But not just any babies. Babies that will never make it home from the hospital. Little gowns (and onesies for boys!) for parents to dress their babies in as they prepare to take their last breath in the NICU. Now I understand this may sound absolutely horrific and mortifying to some....but for me this is what my dress was made for. For me, this experience is something I am involved on a regular basis as a nurse. For me, this is the absolute perfect full circle. The day I stepped into this gown and fell in love....God knew this love would spread to families in need of a little something to lift their spirits during a horrific time in their lives! God knew enough to keep my heart at peace with my gown so I didn't destroy it. God knew what it would be used for.
"For I know the plans I have for you," says the LORD. "They are plans for good and not for disaster, to give you a future and a hope."
And I know how much every little detail means to families during this experience. The thought of this beautiful gown being cut up into little packages of love...overwhelms my soul. It reminds me God always has a plan. I could not pick a more special, more meaningful, better way to share love through one wedding gown. And I am so incredibly thankful to this charity, the women that take the time to sew each little, tiny gown and the love that is threaded in this circle.
A wedding gown, a divorcee, and a onesie,
If you would like to donate your wedding gown:
NICU Helping Hands
C/O Ideal Partners
6913 Camp Bowie Blvd Suite 181
Fort Worth, TX 76116
Yesterday morning I sat on my front porch with a cup of Italian roast and decided to read the Easter story (the Jesus version not the bunny version…just in case you were wondering!).
I have read the Easter story so very many times…and from each of the Gospels: Matthew, Mark, Luke and John. (Just a bible side note- each Gospel tells a slightly different account of Jesus’s life and death…and His ministry. As you read each account, you start to pick up on each writer’s ‘style’. It’s very interesting for the nerd in me!) Anyway, most people focus on Jesus’s death and the day the tomb was found empty when reading this story. But for some reason, I was struck by the days after He was risen. The days He started to reunite with His friends and followers.
I have never appreciated the frustration Jesus must have felt after He arose from the dead. Jesus although a man was really The Savior and He told his buddies (aka the disciples) that He would die and be risen from the dead. He even gave them the 3-day timeline.
Luke 24:6b – 7 (to the women that went to the tomb)
"Remember what he told you back in Galilee, that the Son of Man must be betrayed into the hands of sinful men and be crucified and that he would rise again on the third day”
And yet when all of these things actually happened, His followers (and friends!) still didn’t believe Him. The women that went to His tomb, shared with the disciples what they saw (or rather didn't see!) and this was the disciple's response:
But the story sounded like nonsense to the men, so they didn’t believe it.
After He arose, He appeared to several different people and yet His own disciples still demanded “proof”. He was walking along the road with two of His followers on the road to Emmaus (Luke 24:13-21) and they were discussing His death. Jesus (disguised to them) asked them what they were talking about and they basically went through the events that He had just endured. Can you imagine the patience it took for Jesus to listen to them go on and on about things he just experienced? Have you ever had to listen to someone tell a story that you experienced...and then have to listen to them tell it wrong? Did you keep your mouth shut or did you offer your two cents? I don't know about you, but odds are that I wouldn't remain silent. I would have to tell my version. But Jesus didn't. He just listened and I imagine He was a bit disheartened by it.
The theme of disbelief post-empty tomb is threaded throughout each account of the event. And for the first time in my life, I am overwhelmed by this part of the story. How incredibly frustrating it must have been for Jesus to keep telling his friends the same thing over and over and over again and yet still have them be in disbelief and doubt. And yet Jesus never demonstrated frustration. (I would LOVE to learn how to conceal frustration...this is something I am particularly challenged by!)
When His disciplines demanded to see the scars in His hands from the nails, Jesus didn’t say, “What idiots! Haven’t you heard the things I have been telling you?!? (insert eye rolling!) I have told you over and over and over again. (more eye rolling)”…Nope, that wasn’t His response at all (although He did quote Scriptures that basically implied this same concept...minus the eye rolling!) His response was to gently lift His hands and just show them.
John 20: 27
Then He said to Thomas, “Put your finger here, and look at my hands. Put your hand into the wound in my side. Don’t be faithless any longer. Believe!”
His patience far exceeds my understanding. And yet this makes me wonder how many times Jesus looks down at me and thinks the same thing…”Ashley why aren’t you listening to what I have been trying to tell you? How can you not understand?” And it scares me to think how many times I have disappointed Him or how many times I have broken His heart, as the disciples did after He sacrificed so much.
It's a powerful, passionate part of the Easter story that is often not a focus. The focus is on bunnies, Peeps, colorful eggs and occasionally a cross and an empty tomb. I'm so thankful for His patience...and His sacrifice.
Sacrifice, patience and a whole lot of disbelief,
One life’s lessons I continue to struggle with is learning I really cannot do everything on my own. And as I continue in my stubborn ways, I think God has been pouring more and more down on me to help me come to this realization. I often wonder if He is looking down on me saying, “Come on Ashley…when you gonna give in to me. Not yet? Okay, here you go.” And BAM…my grandpa gets scheduled for open heart surgery the same day my dad undergoes a total knee replacement…in the same city, at two different hospitals, just a few days after I missed work after being ill, just a few days before I had to fly to Boston for school and oh just a few days before my 38-page DNP protocol was due. (And this is really just one example!) There was a day last week when I was overwhelmed to the point of tears (a rarity in my life!) until I just let go and leaned on those around me. I really, really do not leaning. I like standing tall. On my own.
I have had to rely on so very many people over the last year of my life and it is just an uncomfortable place for me. Although I have learned to let go of my plan and embrace God’s plan….I still want to do “His” plan on my own. I don’t want to need other people. Well, clearly I am going to have to get over this.
Time and time again I find myself in situations where I feel as though I am drowning and I am basically forced to reach out for help. I really hate this. In the past two weeks alone, I have had to reach out and rely on other people to let me borrow a couch to sleep on, watch my brown baby (my dog), cover for me at work…the list could go on and on. I think of all the moments I was relatively helpless over the last couple years and how every single time, God popped someone perfectly in my life to lean on. And although I absolutely hate leaning on others, I need to learn God puts people in our lives because we really can’t do it on our own:
There are countless other examples in my life when I needed a crutch (or really needed a stretcher!) and God provided. He always provides. We just need to learn to accept His plan and more importantly His support.
Because we really can’t do it on our own…and the great thing is we don’t have to.
So don't worry about these things, saying "What will we eat? What will we drink? What will we wear?" These things dominate the thoughts of unbelievers, but your heavenly Father already knows all your needs. Seek the Kingdom of God above all else, and live righteously, and he will give you everything you need.
A friend, a couch and a whole lot of leaning,
It’s conversations like this one…that overwhelm me with thankfulness that my grandpa survived his open-heart surgery this past week and I get to continue spending time with him.
We were sitting in the ICU the day after he had surgery and he told me a story about a dog. It was a long story but the down and dirty was...there was a mean dog and despite the fact the dog was mean, the owner was very loving toward the dog. Eventually the dog came around and licked his face (don't ask me why 'licking his face' equates to being kind...in my grandpa's defense he was post-op and on pain medication!). Anyway, the moral of the story is...sometimes you need to show loving kindness to people that aren't deserving of it, so they can learn how to love.
In life, often the people least deserving of love and kindness are the people who need it most. People are going to hurt, disappointment and upset you. And more often than not, those ‘people’ will be people you should be really close to…parents, children, siblings, best friends, boyfriends/girlfriends, spouses, etc. And for some, the hurt and disappointment runs deep. The pain is palpable. And very, very real. And it’s really hard to treat those people with love and kindness. But we need to remember how we treat others has little to do with that particular person or how they treat us. It has everything to do with God. God commands we honor, respect and love one another. And in these commandments, there are rarely exceptions:
“Honor your father and your mother so that you may live long in the land the LORD your God is giving you.”
You don’t have love your mother and father. You don’t even have to like them. And there are probably times when they certainly do not deserve your respect, love and honor. But honor them anyway. Because by honoring their position as your parents, you honor God. Your actions are in obedience to Him and are completely separate from who your mother and father are as people. And honestly, who your mother and father are as people is irrelevant in the equation.
Ephesians 5:22, 25
“Wives, submit yourselves to your own husbands as you do to the Lord…Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her”
When I was married, there were several times when my friends questioned why I continued to respect and show respect to my ex-husband after some of things he did and/or said. What my friends failed to understand was it really wasn’t about my ex-husband as a person. It was the fact he was my husband. And I made a promise to God to honor my husband as I honored God. Even when he really, really didn’t deserve it.
I can think of no better example of this commandment in action than of my grandparents. The night before my wedding, my grandma was helping me make flower arrangements while my grandpa was suffering with some intense knee pain. Repeatedly, he would call out “Dot, can you come help me for a second?” And she would put down everything and go adjust his knee until he was comfortable. Then resume making the flower arrangements. Just about the time she got back into the groove of making the arrangements, he would call out her name again. She would drop what she was doing and tend to his needs. Never once complaining, rolling her eyes or ‘huffing’ out loud. After about the 5th time of him calling her name, I asked her how she maintained such patience when she was in the middle of a project. I will never forget her reply; “I serve my God by serving my husband.” It was such a simple expression but was a true example of honor and marriage and love. I can only hope to be able to demonstrate such love again someday. It really isn’t about who your husband or wife is or isn’t, it is about who your God is and how you honor Him.
Mark 12:30, 31
Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength. The second is this: “Love your neighbor as yourself.” There is no commandment greater than these.
God commands us to love each other. And I think this general statement covers all people and all situations. At the end of the day, you are to act out of love. Regardless of how others act toward you; your actions and response should always be out of love. Not because you are a rock star…not because the other person deserves it. Because it is how God instructs us to live. God’s commandments are about allowing His love to shine through us. We honor Him by allowing Him to use us for the people in our lives struggling to demonstrate love and kindness.
And at the end of the day, it isn’t about us. Our feelings. Our pain. Our disappointment. It is about allowing God to use us for the people in our lives that need love, kindness, respect, etc. By obeying God, we bring Him glory by allowing Him to use us for a greater purpose.
1 Corinthians 13:13
And now these three remain: faith, hope and love. But the greatest of these is love.
Love, kindness and a hospital room,
Yesterday at church we sang "How Great Thou Art" (technically we sang it twice...we seem to sing songs twice pretty frequently!) which just so happens to be one of my favorite songs, partly due to the fact my family sang it with the music therapist at my grandma's bedside when she was dying. It was one of the more beautiful moments of that experience.
A few months ago I was in the hospital (where I work not the hospital where my grandma died) and I passed by our music therapist. I thought to myself, 'I wonder if she has any idea how big of impact her work has on patients and families?' Unfortunately, nurses and doctors get all the credit but it takes a HUGE team of people to care for patients. It really, really takes a village. Anyway, I felt the Lord urging me to say something to this music therapist...and I am actually learning to step out when God nudges me (okay, sometimes the nudge is more of a push) but the point is I'm learning to go with it. So I walked up to her and said something to the affect of, "I just wanted to let you know how much what you do means to patients. I know you don't know me but we had a music therapist come and sing with my family when my grandma was dying last summer and it was such a beautiful moment. It is my favorite memory of when she died. And I will forever cherish the song, moment and memory." To which she responded..."I'm the only music therapist in the area. What song did you guys sing?" And I responded with "How Great Thou Art". And she replied, "That was actually me. I cover St. Anthony's and All Children's." I knew God was all over that moment. And really...How Great Thou Art. I was able to thank her personally for something I will never forget. It was such an incredible moment and it felt amazing to be able to express my gratitude to someone that probably goes unnoticed in the care she provides every day.
This music therapist popped into my head as I sang this beautiful song yesterday. And it made me think about how people effect our lives and never realize it. It made me think of how something as simple as a musician singing a song can be seriously significant to someone else. I will forever hold onto that memory. So as we go about life doing our business...whatever our business might be: cleaning bathrooms, serving food, sewing clothes, pouring concrete, programming computers, healing wounds, raising kids, or making sweet music, remember you may be touching someone's life in a way you will never appreciate or recognize. A simple gesture, smile or sharing of kind words may have a lasting impact beyond your knowledge. Embrace your moment and your place in this world.
Because I bet that music therapist never knew her 3 minute, acoustic version of "How Great Thou Art" would forever live in my heart.
Great is the LORD and most worthy of praise; his greatness no one can fathom.
Music, a hospital, and a purpose,
PS - If by chance you have never heard this song or never heard this song performed by Carrie Underwood. Download it. AMAZING.
The toughest part of my job as a pediatric ICU nurse is the moments you have to place a child in a parent’s arms to die. I remember every single baby or kid I have helped die in the last 10 years…and I especially remember the families that had to make the selfless decision to let their child go and give up the fight.
I sat in a meeting yesterday discussing all the behind-the-scenes logistics around the terms “do not resuscitate” and/or "withdrawal of life support". It is amazing to me how much “legal stuff” goes into this process on the medical side. And as I tried my hardest to focus and offer input at this meeting, I couldn’t help but think how absolutely devastating this decision is for the family. And how none of what we were discussing really mattered at all.
July 8th was hands-down the toughest day of my life. It was the day I got to be one of those families making the decision to withdrawal support on my grandma. I knew her wishes. I knew she was at peace with dying. I knew she was going home to Jesus. I knew she would finally be free from disease. But none of that made the decision any easier. The moment we turned off machines, pumps and monitors was even worse than when she actually died. It was the moment you lost hope, put up the white flag and surrendered. All I felt was defeat and sorrow. And in all of the emotion, I was shocked at how tough the day was for me. Call me crazy, but I thought since I had been around dying patients my entire career …and I had been present for this decision with parents more times than I’d like to remember…I thought I would be somewhat 'prepared'. Ready. Strong. Well, I was an idiot. There is nothing to prepare you for that day. That experience. That sorrow. Absolutely nothing. And that day forever changed my perspective on just how difficult that decision is for a family. I cannot even begin to imagine how difficult it would be to make as a parent. I will never be able to look at a parent the same way again….because I know a small taste of that feeling. And it is horrific.
And having this perspective actually helps remind me how we all need a better appreciation for each other and a better appreciation for what each of us goes through in life. It is really difficult to understand what a person is going through unless you have gone through the same thing…and even then there are differences that are challenging to appreciate. I think this is why God cautions us to not judge.
Do not judge, and you will not be judged. Do not condemn, and you will not be condemned. Forgive and you will be forgiven.”
Romans 12:16, 18
“Live in harmony with one another. Do not be proud, but be willing to associate with people of low position. Do not be conceited….if it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone”
I think this is part of the reason there are so many examples of how Jesus interacted with people that others wouldn’t even associate with. He was always with the tax collector, the prostitute, the poor leper, etc. He understood perspective. He understood what others went through. He recognized everyone needs someone to love them and to support them through the really tough times.
Sometimes I feel so incredibly blessed to have the honor to be with families through these tough times. Although I do not understand what it is like to kiss my child goodbye and watch him or her they take their last breath…I do understand the horror that comes with making tough decisions that ultimately signify the end. And in some really odd way, I am thankful for this perspective. I hope it reminds me to be a little more patience, a little more caring, a little less judgmental, a little more loving…I hope it helps me bring peace to a parent someday.
Thoughts, decisions and horror,
Just a few reflections about everything God is teaching me in this life...a journey deeper into His purpose for my life.