Happy Heavenly 5th Birthday Hayes William!

Hayes 2018Hayes:  The first week of January, 2013 marks your birthday.  Your exact birthdate is not known because your Mommy was 5 months pregnant at the time you all went to heaven.  And so, this first week of January brings in the new year with a birthday wreath to honor you.

The only picture I have of you is from your Mommy’s first sonogram photo.   IMG_2182

And even though I never got to meet you in person, to see your face or hold you this side of heaven, you were always in the arms of Christ.  You see, I don’t know if we age in heaven, but I do know beyond any doubt that God will make it all complete, whole and amazing when I join you one day.

Hayes, you turn 5 this year if you were with us…….and you would be starting school this fall with your brothers!  You would now be an age where you would be holding your own with your two older brothers Fischer and Ben.

And so, today, I honor you and your Mommy, my daughter that was carrying you.  I will say your name today as I lay your wreath at the cemetery.

I’m sure your Mommy has an amazing party planned and there are more family members that have gone to heaven this past year that will join in the celebrations and meet you!  Please hug Jesus for me….tell him I love him, give your Mommy and brothers hugs and my love and know that when the time is right…..in God’s perfect time…….I will be there too because our God is faithful.

Until then, I hold you in my heart.

I love you,

Nana

Christmas 2017 Part A

Well, I completed my Christmas wreath orders and started to focus on the season personally, on my family and the Diem house décor.  As I write this post, I have no wreath on the door!  The irony that I am a wreath designer, have a wreath business and I have no Christmas wreath  of my own yet…..but that is on my agenda to complete tomorrow!  I decided to do something very different and “untraditional” with the Christmas décor this year but we absolutely love it.  I think it reflects the season, honors Jesus and my family.

First is the birch tree mini forest with ornaments that honor Jesus’ royal names and his birth names:

And the family stockings have grown which is an incredible blessing  so I decided to make a “stocking tree” with them.  The latest addition this year is Ms. Camryn!  This will be her first Christmas and we are excited to celebrate that with her and all our six grandchildren.  In this photo, you can also see part of our new scrabble tile collage with our names.  (Stockings by Lands End and LL Bean)

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And then I finished our mantle.  It also carries the birch tree theme with smaller trees, birch garland, angel candle holders and birch tree candles.  The amazing artwork displayed is from DeAnn Designs.  On her website she shares this quote from author Lysa TerKeurst (Proverbs31 ministry)

“Angels are not mystical or mythological, nor are they supposed to be the object of our worship. They are Biblical realities on assignment from God. They point me to recognize God’s presence and see God’s power. I need to remember this truth. That’s why I asked my artist friend Deann to paint some angels for me to hang in my home where I see them every day.”

I have admired her artwork for awhile and these angel canvasses spoke to me and decided 2017 was the year to get them and display them.  The large angel canvas is titled Remembering Her and from the title I KNEW that was the one.  The smaller canvas on the mantle itself is titled That which fills her heart.  Again, it made me think of Elizabeth, Fischer and Ben and how those boys filled her heart and mine.  Even though she didn’t, it was if she painted them specifically for me!  You can follow DeAnn  on Instagram and Facebook.  I also have two of her barn series canvasses.

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“Remembering Her”

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“That which fills her heart”

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Diem Mantle Christmas 2017

And then I received this thoughtful and precious ornament for 2017 from my daughter-in-law that has all my grandchildren!  Ten children call me Nana.  So blessed!  It will also be placed on our stocking tree!  #saytheirnames

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And the part of my décor that focuses my attention for the Reason of the Season is our Willow Tree Nativity set.  I always add a new piece to our set every year and I love that it now covers the entire entry table!    The new additions for 2017 are the cypress trees (which have sunflowers carved into them!) next to the crèche and a couple of new smaller pieces.  One is titled “spirit of giving” and she is on the right hand of the nativity located at back behind the camel and the angel and holding a small gold package.    On the left hand side of the nativity towards the back, in front of the stars is another small  girl holding a magnolia wreath.  Lastly, hanging over our nativity set this year is a O come let us adore Him scroll that I got from CottonWood Shanty.

I swap the angels that are on top of the creche every year.  This year I selected the angel of hope.  She is holding a lighted candle.  I have also added small lights to highlight them at night.

 

Last is our tablescape (which also has the birch tree theme), additional pictures of the forest/dining area, and my kitchen window always reminding me to have JOY!

My focus next week is to create the memorial wreaths for Elizabeth, Fischer, Benjamin and Hayes, wrap gifts and get a wreath on my door!  I’ll provide an update with the  wreath pictures!

May this time of year bring you peace, blessings and good tidings of comfort and JOY!

Lastly, I was reminded again by God these last few days that God is good….all the time.  Even when we can’t see it or feel it.

Emmanuel, God with us!

Julie

 

 

Thanksgiving 2017

Well, Thanksgiving 2017 is in the books and this wife, momma and nana didn’t have to cook one thing!  (1st of many things I am grateful for!)  Thanksgiving this year meant heading to San Antonio early to visit and have our first Thanksgiving with John’s mom.  At around 2 p.m. we headed to Lauren’s house where my daughters and family were gathering.  I spent the rest of the day loving on my family, and playing with my grandchildren.  What did that look like?  Well, that meant wrestling with Eli which I think amazed Jennifer as he would head toward me to “body slam” me and we would count “One, Two Three!”  Who wins?  And Eli would yell:  NANA!  and we would do it again and again and again.    Sometimes Eli would yell his name.  Wrestling is how Eli shows affection and so I always try to do that with him.  I love it when he grabs my hand and looks at me and says “Wrestle, Nana”.  And that boy also drug me out on the trampoline!  OH MY!  Thank goodness Ava came to my rescue!  Then there was Camryn, who is content to play with her toys in the middle of the floor and Marshall who between Eli and Camryn was enjoying the mayhem.  At the end of the day, I got to give Eli and Marshall their baths.  Haven’t done that in a long time and enjoyed it immensely.

Then there was helping Ava with her Christmas piano music.  Ms. Crider (my band director would be proud!).    I made Ava count the beats out loud and told her it was like cheering.  Everything had a beat and she needed to stay with the beat whether cheering or playing the piano.  It was great to experience that with her.  Music was something that I loved, and was such a big part of my life and I still remember today!  Learning to sight read and count out music before playing it.    It went something like this while clapping like a metronome:  Rest, two, three, four and one, two, three, four, REST, two three, four……

Lauren did a great job of hosting.  I was so proud of her for taking this on.  She decorated the table and Jenn and Keith brought scrumptious side dishes, and I brought one of our family faves “Sister Schubert dinner rolls” and a Pumpkin Spice bundt cake from “Nothing bundt cakes” (remember, I didn’t cook!).

I stayed to help Lauren clean up and put food away and we made the trek home and as I laid my head down at 1 a.m. tired, full and fulfilled……it was the best Thanksgiving in a long time…..and I know Elizabeth, Fischer, Ben and Hayes were smiling that through it all we understood the importance of family, thankfulness and gratitude.  It’s been so incredibly hard.  But my family is such a testament to grace.  God’s grace.  And for that I am so thankful.

It truly is all about gratitude.  As I was reminded earlier this week, the 10th commandment from God is about covetousness.    It is a commandment for the heart.  It is more than not wanting your neighbor’s things as we were taught as children.  It is God’s commandment for us, our hearts, the essence of who he created us to be…..to be grateful in all things, all situations and for all things that he has provided for us.  The most important, the sacrifice of his Son Jesus.  So when gratefulness is hard.  I would recommend starting with that truth.  It truly is about our hearts.  And I continue to learn at the feet of the Master about what that means.  Today was affirmation and I am so very grateful.  Thank you Lord.

Here are some pics at the end of the day.  We didn’t get a picture of us all together, but here are a few of me and the three littles as they were leaving and going to bed……

Let me close with I understand holidays are difficult for so many of us, that even though you are in a hard and difficult place this year, my hope is that you are able to find gratitude in the little things…..because those little things collectively are what makes the big things so amazing.  It is from a grateful heart that God does his best work and life becomes so very special.  As I have said before, there is beauty in the mess even when we don’t see or understand.

Blessings,

Julie

To my sweet Ava…..

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To my sweet Ava:

This brown make-up case belonged to your Zizzy. It was her first case that she purchased at Sephora.  I remember how excited she was when she got it.  I have been saving it for you for the moment when you would start to wear make-up.  And now that your Mom is letting you wear mascara, it seems now is the right time to pass this on. She would want you to have it, especially now, to have something that represented a significant part of her life.  I wanted you to know some things about your Zizzy, my Elizabeth and her passion for make-up and why this make up case is so very special.   You see, she was very gifted in her make-up artist business.

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Zizzy was the youngest employee (worldwide) that worked for Louis Vuitton who owns  Sephora at the young age of 16.  She applied at Sephora at the Arboretum (it was the only Sephora at the time) around this time of year, hoping to get hired over the Christmas holiday season.  The hiring manager was reluctant.  They told her that hiring high school employees had not worked out in the past, but the manager was impressed with her passion and her portfolio.  Yes, Elizabeth walked in with a portfolio of photographs of her “clients”.  Her “clients” at the time were her high school friends, but she convinced Sephora to hire her none the less.  The work in retail is grueling during the holidays and she would come home exhausted with tired legs and feet and tell me stories about rude customers but also how she loved interacting and helping her clients.  Her stories have had a lasting impact on me to always remember to be kind to those that are serving you in retail.  I also remember she had one sale that was $500!  She hung a copy of the receipt on the fridge.  She was proud of that accomplishment.

She fell in love with the Stila cosmetic line while working at Sephora.  She did “make overs” for customers in the store and I remember her telling me how much she enjoyed having clients that felt unattractive when they sat in her chair and how much better they felt about their appearance after she was done with them!

She made many friends there.  Friends who have blessed me since she has been gone.  She later left Sephora after Fischer and Ben were born to become a trainer for the Stila cosmetic line.  She even got to travel to New York City for an event! With her committment to her family, she decided it was time to leave retail and the hours away from her family and start her own business.  She would do what God had given her talent and passion to do and would do make up for weddings, bridal portraits and prom. She named her company “Twentycoats”. She told me that she named it that because she always got asked how many coats of mascara you should put on! Not that you should put on TWENTY, but her point was one coat was not enough.   Her business was very successful.  She won an award from “The Knot” wedding website for best newcomer her first year.  I remember that day she called to tell me.  She was so excited.  She was also interviewed for the Killeen Daily Herald regarding her line of work in the wedding industry.  She also decided to be a vendor at the Austin Convention Center for the Bridal Extravaganza!    Some of her Sephora peeps came to help.  They were giving free air brushing.  The line was OUT THE DOOR!  She was surrounded by brides all day who wanted to talk to her.  She ended up booking 6 months of weddings from that event.  It was great to watch her that day and I was blessed to be a part of it all.

She loved serving brides and their families for their big day.  She was best at calming their nerves with her easy going personality, her laugh, her smile and her talent.  She preferred to do the brides make-up in very natural shadows and lip color.   She wanted their inner beauty to shine through on their big day.  I think if Zizzy were here with us today (besides showing you how to properly apply make-up, what brands, etc) she would tell you as you begin to explore this world of make-up…..that less is more and how beautiful you are and therefore you just want to highlight that.

Your Zizzy had beautiful skin and was often asked what was her secret.  Zizzy never went anywhere without sunscreen.  I have no doubt, she would tell you to never leave the house without it!  She would also tell you a good skin care regimen is essential.  Zizzy always let her natural beauty shine in how she wore her makeup even though Zizzy looked great without any or when she wore her red lipstick!

Her dream was to open a spa in downtown Salado.  She obtained her massage license in high school, established her make-up business and wanted to go to the Aveda Institute in Austin to obtain a cosmetology and skin care license once the boys were in school.  I have no doubt that Jesus completes our deepest desires in heaven, and so I am sure that she has her spa on streets of gold and we will get to see it one day.

Also in her make up case is her curling iron that she used when she would do her own hair and when she would do her clients hair.   My hope is that every time you open her case or purchase make-up to place inside it, you are reminded of your Zizzy. She loves you very much and is cheering you on with God and the angels above. She,  like me and your family are very proud of you and the amazing young girl that you are and we look forward to the woman you will become.

Here are some pictures of your Zizzy sharing herself and her talent with brides and wedding parties……..

You were five when she went to heaven, and so I want to write down stories about her.  Stories that you probably didn’t know, but stories we will store in our hearts until we are all together one day.

I love you,

Nana

Happy 9th Birthday Fischer!

Fischer 3 candles1Fischer, today you turn 9.  It seems like the past 6 birthdays since you, your brothers and your mommy left us are forever ago and yet at the same time it is if your 3rd Captain America birthday party was yesterday.

As I reflect on this day, and the 6 birthdays since you went to be with the ultimate Super Hero Jesus, I have so many precious memories in those three short years.  The first time I held you in the hospital.  How you took a helicopter ride to a hospital that had a NICU due to your breathing problems.    Your mom named you after a boy character in a movie and loved the name Fischer and how it was spelled.   And now it is not lost on me that you now live with the Fisher of Men!  AMEN!  AMEN!

You had a strong mind of your own.  I remember how long you were in time out before you could apologize for your infraction.  But I also remember your playfulness, your crush on your cousin Ava, your love of animals, your brother, and your special connection with Lauren (your Lolly), your partner in crime!

You would be in 3rd grade this year….reading books on your own and playing some sort of sport I am sure.  These are the small things that I miss without you here.  But I am confident that when we are together again, God will fill in those gaps for me and it will be like we were never apart.  In fact, we aren’t apart today…..for in my heart is a very special place where you reside.  All my love, my memories, and that day when we will be together again.  If we have to be physically apart, there is no better place for you to be than with my Jesus.

I know your momma has a party planned as she always did and more of your family members will join your party in heaven this year.  To honor you and celebrate your life today I will  lay your birthday wreath.  22089070_10214490162954599_4391107166444048163_n

I will also have lunch with your Lolly (Lauren) and Ninny (Jennifer) and your 1st cousins (Ava, Eli, Marshall and Camryn), Papa John, Uncle Dan and Uncle Keith as we celebrate Jennifer’s belated birthday and remember you on this day that you came into our life that changed us forever.

I love you Fischman.  Please thank Jesus for all the lizards that have crossed my path and the frogs that sing outside our window these last few days.  They are reminders of you, and they make me smile and my heart well up with love.

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Until we are together again, please hug your mom, tell her Nana loves her and wrestle those brothers Ben and Hayes for me.

I love you Fischer Phillip…..to God and back……

Nana

5 years….

1, 825 days.  The day that has compartmentalized my life into a before and an after.  What has these 5 years taught me?

  1. That grief changes over time.  Praise God for that!  We could not survive the intense pain forever in those early days of loss.
  2. You don’t ever get over it……and I don’t believe we are suppose to.  Because if we were to go back to “normal” and nothing changed in us or through us, what kind of love is that?    When we embrace the love of Christ, it changes us.  In a way, that is what happens when we lose a child.  Their love and their loss transforms us.  For me, my Jesus and my grief intersect and I let God do what God does.  I will grieve the absence of them in my life until I am with them.  Now, that also doesn’t mean that there isn’t joy and happiness again.  Because there is and I am so thankful for that.
  3. There is healing.    It’s really hard work.  I think the hardest work I’ve ever done.  I have always told God through this, he is the potter and I am the clay….make me and mold me, transform me into who I was suppose to be in his kingdom.  I have also learned that healing is not a destination but how we handle the journey.  Healing in loss is not like you have a disease and are healed.  It is a continual process and how we use that catastrophic event to change us.  I always prayed that God use it for his glory and claim his promises that he will bring beauty from the ashes.  I just prayed he would let me somehow be involved in his work to use their loss for his glory.
  4. Lots of folks are uncomfortable with death.  Especially with the loss of children.  I was told early on that “your address book will change.”  And that is the truth.  I have been blessed to know other bereaved parents and I admired how they handled their grief.  I have friends that are further down the journey that gives me hope and admiration in how they have handled the death of their child.  My hope is that I do the same.  Through my wreath business, through this blog, through the people that God sends my way.  I am also thankful for those in my life that are comfortable and are vulnerable to share this phase of life with me.
  5. There are a lot of physical impacts with grief.  I’ve had teeth issues, bad gums, a tooth abscess, weight gain, low energy level and even toe fungus!  All of that grief you carry does have an impact on your well being.  So, TAKE CARE OF YOURSELF!  I have learned that lesson the hard way.
  6. As I told my mom who died on June 10 of this year and now is with Lizz and the boys in heaven……there is not a day I don’t think about them.  All 1, 825 of them.  I don’t expect that to change.  And I don’t want it to.

So, I will do what I have done for the past 5 years.  I will go to the earthly place that honors their life and clean their headstones, place sunflowers in the vases and lay their wreaths.  I always use sunflowers for this date.  Because I will never forget their beautiful flowers that hot Texas day in 2012.  Fischer with his hulk hands and Ben with his Spider-Man.  Here are their 2017 memorial wreaths:

Elizabeth 5 year memorialFischer 5 year MemorialBen 5 year memorial

I will spend time today thanking Jesus for his act of love that gives us eternal life and his promise of eternal life.    I will ask him to hug them for me today and tell them how much I love them.  And to save a place for me because I will join them one day and oh what a wonderful reunion that will be!

Thank you for following my ramblings over these past 5 years and following Elizabeth’s memorial page, sharing your memories of her and the boys.  There is great joy when other’s talk about them and the difference they have made in your lives and for that my heart is full.  To those that have supported my wreath business to help me provide scholarships at MCH and Salado High School there are no words other than to say “Thank you” for being an important part of this story and their legacy.

Lastly, I also can not leave this post without saying something about the great joy and blessings in my life (yes there is great joy!).  Elizabeth’s nieces and nephews.  Ava continues to grow into a smart and caring young girl.  She has a tender heart and I love seeing God at work in her.  Eli keeps all of us on our toes…he is always moving, but I love his spirit.  Lauren has her hands full channeling that spirit at times but he always makes me laugh.  And what can I say about Marshall?  Our Marshie, our Marshmallow.  Such a joyful child and reminds me of Elizabeth in her personality and oh how they resemble each other so much as babies.  And we are all head over heals in love with this little girl Camryn Elizabeth!  Camryn looks so much like Jennifer as a baby.

 

Ava and Nana 2017

Ava Michelle (age 10) and Nana in Disneyworld 2017

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Eli Fischer (age 2)and my daughter Lauren

Lauren and Marshall

Marshall Benjamin (7 months) and my daughter Lauren

Jennifer and Camryn 2017

My oldest daughter Jennifer and precious Camryn Elizabeth

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Camryn Elizabeth (5 months)

What does the next year bring?  I have a strong feeling more change and transformation.  Weight Loss, retirement and travel.  That probably means this blog will change it’s focus somewhat just as my grief journey has changed and evolved.

If you still have random acts of kindness cards from last year (and even if you don’t), please join me and use one today to share some kindness to honor them.  I would love for you to be a part of their story…..to share the love of Christ with others that God puts in your path today.

Lastly, I thank you for all your thoughts and prayers on this day and the wonderful notes and messages.

 

Bless the Lord, Oh my soul…….

Julie

Physical cost to grief…….

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Nana (me) and Marshall Benjamin July, 18, 2017

I’ve been wanting to write about the price grief pays on our health for quite some time.  I also realize the impact that grief has on you is as individual as your grief journey.    Some folks turn to exercise (oh how I wish that had been me!), but in my case, it meant the first two years immersed in physical pain.  I describe those years as if I was being beat with a baseball bat everyday.  My best effort in those early days after July 30, 2012, was to get out of bed, tell my beating heart to keep on beating and put one foot in front of the other.  At the two year mark, I made a commitment to my grief counselor I would get caught up on my medical appointments.  You see I hadn’t had a dental appointment, annual check-up, mammogram etc.  since before the accident.  I followed through with that commitment only to turn around and 3 years have passed and more weight has piled on and I haven’t maintained my health appointments.  Time is an odd thing after loss.  It seems it passes so slowly……and yet you lose track of time in a larger sense.  So, during these last 5 years I have learned what it means to give grace to yourself, because as I was working on my “heart”, I had to give grace to the outward image that was looking back at me in the mirror.  I was hoping the hard work on the inside I was doing would begin to pay off on the outside.  Because like anything else…….I believe the hard stuff we need to work through is always an “inside job”.  Our outside is a manifestation of our hearts.

That realization of where to start, was overwhelming so I just didn’t.  And so it would be a gum abscess that wouldn’t go away that “made” me start this process.    Due to the overwhelming nature of everything that I needed to do…..my plan would be to start at the top (my eyes) of my head and work my way down to my toes.  So, off I go for an eye exam an updated prescription and new glasses.  Then came the dreaded dentist appointment.  I have never enjoyed going to the dentist.   I know, there are some of you that look forward to the 6 month cleanings.  Not me, but especially not now.  The one I had two years ago was painful.  And I have come to realize I have heightened anxiety now.  The drills, the shots……UGH!  But I went.  My teeth were in such bad shape they could not even clean them.  My abscess was a cracked crown that needed to be extracted which meant a trip to an oral surgeon!!!  Even more anxiety.  After the extraction, I return to the dentist to have a deep cleaning which means it is TWO appointments and they have to numb half of my mouth to  tolerate the procedure.  So, that meant two cleaning visits and MULTIPLE shots.  Thank goodness for my dentist and the hygienist who were understanding and patient.  I have a follow up visit tomorrow and a follow up with the oral surgeon in September to put the post in for my implant.  My lesson….your lesson:  DO NOT wait 3 years to take care of your teeth!  I won’t let that happen again!

With my eyes and my teeth checked off, it’s time for the mammogram.  I am blessed in my medical history that breast cancer has never been an issue, and I got a clean report.  Next was my annual check up with my PCP.  This appointment I was not looking forward to.  I had made progress on my weight loss, but no where I wanted to be.    Again, I have a wonderful understanding caring doctor, but I had a huge wake up call when she asks me medical history questions, and some of the things were last done BEFORE Lizz and the boys left us.  Wow.  Some of the things I couldn’t even remember a date….Heck, I couldn’t even pick a YEAR when some things were last done.  That’s when it happened.  I knew I had to change.  It was time.  I was NOT being a good steward of this temple that God had given me.  I made a vow and I am doing it publicly that I will turn 60 next year and with God’s grace and blessing my goal is to be in the best health of my life.

I left the doctors office that day and joined weight watchers.  I have a co-worker that I hadn’t seen in a while and I barely recognized her!  She had lost 75 lbs on WW and with that living testimony I gave it a try!  I have lost 13 lbs on WW……it’s not falling off….I am part of the “turtle” club.  But just like the children’s story, the steady turtle wins the race.  I have decided……I will not quit, I will not go back.  I am convinced if you stick with it and don’t quit, you will reach your goal weight.  So, here I am at 43 lbs of weight loss, 2 sizes smaller and still have 70 more pounds to lose to reach my goal.  I would love to be there on my 60th birthday, but again, I’ve learned to embrace that this is about the journey and not the destination.  I’m going to be EXTREMELY vulnerable here and post some of my weight loss pictures because I want to be accountable of where I started but also to acknowledge my success.  I am not proud of how I looked.  You don’t wake up one day and are 100 lbs over your doctor recommended weight nor do you lose it quickly.  I was overweight when Lizz and the boys died and their death accelerated my weight gain.  It’s interesting that many of the things I have learned about grief I am now applying to my weight loss journey.  The most important:  It takes time and this is going to be a life long process and I’m OK with that.

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I wanted to share this because I have learned there is a connection to heart healing and physical healing (weight loss).  The more I learn about myself and grief the more it drives my health outcomes.  I don’t see marathons in my future but I can take care of and embrace this almost 60 year old body that even though I have not taken care of this amazing gift very well over most of my adult life……God is a God of second chances.  Our bodies and our hearts are amazing things.  They too reset and heal.  One of the best things I have learned on WW, is that we need to give our best every day.  However, since life is always changing and has it’s ups and downs that “best” is also going to be different and that is ok too.  I am learning to do my best every day and be open to see what God wants to teach me about loss….whether that is my “heart loss” or my “weight loss”.  I do believe my heart healing coincides with my health healing.

Looking forward to celebrating a 50 lb weight loss soon!

Till next time,

Julie

PS:  I also have completed my well woman exam and will spare you the details….LOL!  But to say I got a good report!  Last but not least is a colonoscopy that is scheduled for September (it was the earliest they could get me on the schedule)!  And then it will be time to start again.

 

 

2017 Scholarship Recipients…..

I wanted to provide my annual update on the 2017 recipients of the Fischer, Benjamin and Hayes Dowdy Scholarship and the Elizabeth Herro Dowdy Memorial Scholarship.

Fischer, Benjamin and Hayes Dowdy Scholarship

On May 16, 2017, I had the honor and privilege of presenting the Fischer, Benjamin and Hayes Dowdy Scholarship for the 4th year.    As I shared with the group that gathered on awards night,  how very much my daughter loved the Salado community and how the boys looked forward to being Salado Eagles.  This spring, Fischer would be finishing 2nd grade and Ben would be completing 1st grade.  I love this event, Salado does an amazing job for a 2A, small community.  This years Seniors have received to date $857,568.00 in scholarships!  I also have the opportunity to award a $1,000 scholarship to a Salado HS Senior that in a some small way carries their memory and legacy forward through the lives of deserving students.  Previous recipients are Chase Manning (Lamar University), Shelby Tepera (Texas A&M), and Hayden Ebeling (Texas A&M).  This years recipient will also attend Texas A&M in the fall.  She is an honor student (look at those cords!) and very involved in FFA.  Please let me introduce you to this years recipient of the 2017 Fischer, Benjamin and Hayes Dowdy Memorial Scholarship Ms. Kylar Combs!

 

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Julie Diem (L) and Kylar Combs (R), 2017 Recipient of the 2017 Fischer, Benjamin and Hayes Dowdy Scholarship

 

FBH Scholarship RecipientsThere were also several memorial scholarships given this year.  Some by families who had recently lost loved ones and as the principal said, the presentations for these scholarships are always very emotional.  I am honored to stand with parents who have chosen to honor their children through these lasting legacies as we pay it forward.

Elizabeth Herro Dowdy Memorial Scholarship

Elizabeth’s scholarship is endowed with the Methodist Children’s Home (MCH) in Waco Texas.  MCH was my daughter’s chosen charity that she honored John and I through Christmas gifts prior to her death.    So, it seemed appropriate that we would honor her at MCH by endowing a scholarship.    So, I am thrilled when the MCH board informed me that they are re-awarding Elizabeth’s scholarship to the 2016 recipient, Maegan Wells!   Mae was the Salutatorian of the MCH graduating class of 2016.  I was excited to hear from the MCH board that she is progressing well.  John and I are so blessed to have a “fingerprint” of my daughter on her journey.  Here is Mae from her MCH graduation as she delivered her Salutatorian address.

 

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Mae Wells, Recipient of the Elizabeth Herro Dowdy Scholarship for 2016 and 2017

 

My thanks and gratitude to everyone that has supported these scholarships by purchasing wreaths through Twentycoats Wreath Creations.  My wreath sales are the way these scholarships are funded.  You are grafted to the tree and are part of this journey.  I am honored to have you be a part of this mission as together we make an impact to others while also honoring my blue eyed daughter and three grandsons.

Blessings,

Julie

Mother’s Day 2017……

“Maybe our stories aren’t simply about suffering.  And maybe life isn’t separated neatly into chapters.  Maybe joy and heartache bleed together, spilling out into the binding of each page.

Because even when heartache doesn’t have a clear beginning and end, we can be certain that neither does love, goodness, and joy.

And maybe that is life and the truth of our stories; they aren’t one thing or another.  They are a glorious mess of it all.” – Lexi Behrndt

This quote describes my life everyday……but more especially on holidays like Mother’s Day when joy and heartache bleed together.  Part of this day is a stark reminder of what you have lost and the joy that remains.  There is the grief of Lizz and the boys, and yet, there is the joy of Jennifer, Lauren, Ava, Eli, Marshall and Camryn.  It truly is a messy life, with these two truths coexisting simultaneously in my heart….in this messy life of mine.  That being said, it is that messiness and sharp edges of grief and tenderness of joy that keeps me anchored to the One who redeems….to His love and His amazing grace.

So, I started this Mother’s Day at the cemetery.  I want to spend time at the place that marks their life and their death.  It screams to the world through the words on their headstones, that they existed, they were loved and they are still important.  I lay a wreath to honor Lizz and the amazing boymom that she was here on earth and remains in heaven today.

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I then attended church to watch Elizabeth’s namesake be dedicated and blessed by the church.  Camryn Elizabeth….you carry an amazing name with you.  Your family will make sure that you know her through pictures and stories….that amazing aunt whose name you carry.    You already are the center of attention as evidenced by your dedication.  As Jennifer said, we are confident that Camryn got to meet Elizabeth before God entrusted her to us.

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After church, I met Lauren for lunch and we shopped and shopped and had the best time.  Just us.  Something we hadn’t done in a long time.  It’s hard to carve out these moments with the demands of life, three children, work, etc., etc.  So this is why this was so very special.  You chose to spend those precious hours with me.

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I will store both of these events in my heart forever.

So what has God taught me thus far?  There is beauty in the mess….and that my mess allows me to have a heart for other’s that are experiencing child loss.  And I am a work in progress…..even now at 59.  And He is restoring me piece by piece, like a broken pot, or an old painting.  The restoration is hard, painstaking work.  But this I know.  I wouldn’t trade a thing.   For the two daughters I still have here and the amazing grandchildren, or for the 25 years I had Lizz and the few short years we had with Fischer and Ben, I am blessed beyond measure.  I am grateful.   Some would say grateful?  Yes.  I am grateful.    I am who I am because of my children and grandchildren.  I can’t imagine my life without every single one of them in mine.  No matter how long I was blessed to have them.  Even though this is surely not the path I would have chosen for us, it is one I have been asked to travel.    And so, I carry them with me…..always.

As Lauren and I were reflecting that Ben would be 7 this year and finishing up 1st grade if he were still here with us and Fischer would be turning 9 this October and completing 2nd grade, she said:  “We have lived several lifetimes in the last 5 years Mom”……yes, Lar oh my we sure have.  And even through the bumps in the road when things were so washed in the early overwhelming pain of grief, we can now see much clearer.  Our eyes see what’s important.  What’s not.  To love hard.  To be intentional with those in our lives that are most important.  And you know what?  It’s okay to have “messy” bleed over into everything else.

To other Mom’s that this day is emotional and difficult, I hope my words and ramblings help it become a “hopeful” day.  Here’s to embracing our glorious and messy lives!

Julie

Ben you turn 7…..

Easter 177 (2)Benjamin, Benji, Ben…..today is your birthday.  You turn 7.  You were 2 when you went to heaven.  Your eyes so blue, just like your beautiful momma’s.  It’s hard to imagine that you would be finishing up 2nd grade if you were here.  I always wonder, what do you enjoy?  Fishing like your Dad and Mom?  Playing baseball?  Or golf like your mom hoped?  So many things I would love to know about you today, but I know one day, I will have all those questions answered and more.

Your birthday falls on Easter weekend this year.    My favorite holiday…….because it is this holiday and the sacrifice of Jesus and his resurrection is why I am full of hope.  Because my precious Jesus rose on the 3rd day and overcame the grave.  And He promised us that those that believe in him and are his, he has gone before us to prepare a place.  And because I believe in Him, and His words, I know with certainty who you are celebrating with today.

So, Jesus, please hug (or wrestle) Ben for me today.  Tell him, his brothers and his beautiful mamma, that I will honor him today.  The special day that God brought him to us.  So, light the birthday candles and sing Happy Birthday to a little boy that changed my life……

Ben….I made your birthday wreath.  Almost 900 balloons……I will place it at the earthly place that honors you…..

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And lastly, I love you Ben.  To God and back……

Thank you Jesus for all the lizards, frogs, and birds you have placed in my presence this week.  It has warmed my heart with love and memories of a blue eyed sweet boy that one day we will be together forever.

Amen!

Nana