A desire, A pledge, A dream come true

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The setting could not be more perfect… The sun on my face, Pacific Ocean in front of me, the smell of a distant camp fire and my husband an two boys are searching for sea creatures in tide pools screaming with delight that they found yet another crab. The sound of joy never gets old. As I sit here, 15 years sober, I am reminded that I never wanted a life like this. Honestly, the only reason I didn’t is because I never believed it would come true. Dream safely is what I always thought, don’t get your hopes up because you could be let down, dream small, dream manageable, dream attainable and if it doesn’t come true, no one will notice the failure because they were not big enough to matter.

The moment came when the whispering started. It was 6 and a half years ago in the middle of the night a baby was born and so was a dream. A dream that felt so out of range that I couldn’t even talk about it. But I sat there in the quiet looking at this tiny human and a dream of walking the trails with my family, getting lost in the back country for days at a time…surviving with only what we can carry on our backs…witnessing the beauty of Gods creation…a dream was born in the dark of night. As with most dreams they need confirmation. Mine came in Glacier National Park, the son was only about two years old or so when I sat on the side of the trail, while feeding the boy a family walked by. Backpacks for all of them and smiles, cheerfully remembering when they used to be us and it was confirmed, I wanted to be them.

As with most dreams I had preparation to do. The husband and I had to convert all our back country gear to ultra light weight gear. The husband and I had some immanence lessons in patience and tolerance to learn through many…and I mean MANY opportunities of correcting our poor behavior. Which is a whole other blog post. And I would probably argue that the most important preparation would be to listen to still quiet whispers from the dream creator Him self.

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Listening to the whisper of God is challenging for me because often the voice of the critic is louder. It takes practice and I am not even close to perfect at it, however I must of done something correct because I’m sitting here 3 miles away from civilization with nothing but the stuff the husband and I carried on our backs. I sit here and think about the intimate process with God and I have walked through to get here. Waves of pain and set back rise away like the tide of the Pacific and suddenly I become a little more free along the way. I have a little bit more willingness to go further. I become a little more vulnerable. And suddenly my dream gets a little bigger. And now it has a title. To backpack with my family in the woods for days. To raise men on the rugged trails. To live a life out loud that demonstrates the power and healing of God. And the dream gets fanned and fed. And the rush of accomplishment floods in.

As a Christ centered wife and mother the image of my self used to look very small and insignificant. Today my call looks bigger. It looks riskier. A bit more daring and scandalous. Going out and having an adventure to live. One with real risk like being mauled by a bear (a scenario I play through all the time) or getting lost in the woods. When we are out in the back country we rely on each other to survive. To give shelter and food. To give first aid if something is broken. I have a part deep inside my heart that craves connection and there is no deeper connection then knowing if we don’t work together we don’t eat or stay warm at night or stay safe from giant MOM eating bears.

My call today is saying to my boys

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“You have an adventure to live and by my example of living mine you will know how to live yours. By my choice to silence the critics you will learn how to silence yours. I will show you how to push through fear. I will show you what not giving up looks like. I will live out a life that listens to a call and the dreams given by God. I will show you what pushing through set back looks like. I will show up after I fail over and over because you can’t know how to succeed unless you fail, you can’t have one with out the other. We as a family, a true connected family, knit together by the Creator, we will show others how to do the same. We will pass people on the trail, in the woods and in life, and inspire them to believe that the impossible is possible. That if we can do it, so can they. By our living as a godly family will teach you that surrendering to the call of God, that following the lead of God will take us through the valleys and over the mountains. We are playing the background and the dream of God flows through our family like a river through the forest”

In each of us is a spirit that connects us to the Higher power. In our hearts, I believe that we have a place deep inside that God speaks.  A place that is filled with the pleasure of God and the dreams He gives us. When I am on the trail with my family, I feel the pleasure of God. This is what I believe God wants for me. I feel the ever connection of a true sense of Joy, of Happiness and of Freedom. Trusting the process. Knowing that every painful experience is for my ultimate good.

I’m answering my call and adventure awaits…

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Connection unites us all

The mighty Redwoods stand tall and powerful. What most people don’t know is that they have a very small root system. The branch canopy of the tree is drastically smaller in  relation to the height of the tree. Some would go so far to say its roots are not big enough to hold its self up. Standing alone, yes it would probably topple over at the first big wind storm it encounters because the tree is incredibly top heavy. So then how can these trees be old enough to live since Christ walked the earth? A saying I have heard a 1000 times seem fitting, “we can do together what we can not do alone.” See the trees work together to hold each other up.  These trees are able to live the length of 2000+ years because they rely on each other to survive. The root system of these massive trees is shallow and not very big and the tree roots over lap each other to form a mat of interwoven support for one another. Holding each other up. Instinctually relying on the tree next to it to stay standing. They don’t ask for permission. They lean into each other because they know that is what they were created to do. 
This is how humanity was intended to survive. We were created to lay roots next to each other for our own bond and survival.
As I walk through a forest of these amazing Giants I am reminded that sometimes in nature I see the reminders of what creation could look like based on God instinct with out the influence of the human fear. I looked up and I see a canopy of 5 or 6 trees over lapping each other. What struck me was that what i was looking up at was also under my feet. A system of support and a bond for survival. 
Through the highs and lows of this journey of mine I have over lapped my self with others in order to stay standing. Years of practice to stay connected and in touch has enabled me to build a system of support in order to survive the storms of a harsh times in life. I find connection to God in the woods the most. I have since I was little. Always left in awe at the incredible vastness of my Creator. My heart races to think of all the things I have yet to learn from this amazing school yard of mine.
Today as I reflect on the moment standing underneath such power, strength, protection, solid ground… I thank God for the people who are in my circle of support, the people who are praying and the people who have no idea what is happening… they treat me as just another face in the crowd. 

I see a forest of beating hearts and over lapping connections. So now more then ever I look to my God who shows up through people and say ” Thank you for places like this in my life even though its not my plan, for the people in my life and to think I could have missed it all. Thanks for not letting me.” I rest today in the presence of a mighty God whom i do not understand and yet He is my Refuge….. my Rock… my Strong Tower….. my Deliverer.

Great events have come to pass….

A gap in the human go where the divine slips in. That moment. When I know beyond a shadow of a doubt that things are being set in motion are not by my doing. More times then I can count in the last 2 months I have heard “this never happens.” To many things are happening for it to not be the everlasting grace of God. Please don’t think that for one second I am saying that because I get this, that or the other and you don’t that some how God isn’t extending grace to you. We don’t know the end of your story yet and this isn’t the end of mine either.

Many times in the last 7 years I have been bracing, hiding, begging for the pain and turmoil to stop. Thinking that some how I knew better then God that I knew what was good for me and what wasn’t. Not to sound like I’m blaming God. He was the one that carried much of the way. Life happens. Loving God and being sober does not mean life stops happening and it’s always happy and good. What it does mean is that I have been given the tools to praise God when the storms come and praise God when the storms clear. My husband and I sign papers tomorrow for our home. The home our boys will remember. The home they will bring there sweet hearts to. A fire place to take prom pictures in front of. A home my husband and I can watch our boys grow into men. My heart is filled with gratitude because this wasn’t supposed to happen for us now. We are supposed to carry a scar of a lost home. A scar of the pain of loosening our daughter and never seeing any blessings from that loss. She blesses us still today.

Today these scars have faded. I have a much deeper depth in my soul today because of the pain I have walked through and survived. I owe a debt to the friends of bill w. that I will never be able to repay. I have a life beyond my wildest dreams.

“Take away my difficulties. That victory over them may bear witness to those I may help of your power, your love and your way of life,” step 3 prayer BB pg 63.

God graced me with the ability to walk through my difficulties not to benefit me. But to benefit you. To demonstrate his glory and love for his children. Not my ego. Although I take credit from time to time and end up falling on my face, usually in front of a lot of people.

Today I am believing that Gods can open doors that no man can shut and he shuts door that no man can open. Some where in revelations

If he has brought us this far then he’s not going to leave my family and I now.

  

I royally suck at having faith,  apparently. 

Over the years I have discovered that my prayers have changed. Maybe because I’m more trusting of God or maybe because I have seen enough loss in every way that I get that I have no idea what is going to happen. At the end of most prayers lately it ends with “I’ll praise You if we win and I’ll praise You if we loose”. I know full well that I want to win, it’s in my DNA to win. Haha however I know that loss is just as important. The drive to be sure that everything is going to happen the way I want is exhausting. 

I was reminded last night of the simplest of prayers. Get up in the morning and say “whatever” and when I go to bed at night I say “enough” basically taking all of my input out and getting out of Gods way. Because any input I give is going to be based on my immature idea of God. 

When I closed my eyes to meditate this morning (which I have not done in some time and I pretty much sucked at it, but it’s in the effort right?) I felt completely out of control. I chuckled a little because somehow I believe that if my eyes are open I will know what’s coming so I can be tense with anticipation. How does that even makes sense? What if I made efforts to stay relaxed if the hits come? Rubber flexes more then concrete. That is my goal. And I suck at it. I suppose that means that I have a lot of room to improve. 

Basicly I am learning that yes, God I trust you when my eyes are open and I can see what is coming, but not when my eyes are closed. I suppose trust is when my eyes are open and faith is when my eyes are closed. 

A new day dawns and I have a chance to trust and have faith that God simply is and He cares enough about me that if he had a fridge in heaven my picture would be on it. 

 

This amateur runner needed a village to find my way.

Being a mom of two little rascals having an inspirational thought is challenging and down right impossible. Every now and then God speaks louder then the short ones in my home are yelling. As I’m reading about the importance of slogans in the program from the Grapevine (AA’s meeting in print) I hear loud and clear that I have no idea what I’m doing when it comes to running. I know how to hike. Took a lot of patience and explaining from my husband mostly but I got it and now love it.

So when I am thinking about running I realize the first place to start is shoes. Humbled to have to ask someone who appears to know more about it then me I tapped in to a friend. Got clear direction, go to the experts. So I went to the shoe store and talked to a young lady who im sure was at least 10 years younger then me. Her head was shaved and I’m 100% positive she has never had a baby. However I have been taught to “look for similarities and not the differences.”

Thus was the begining of our short friendship. She knew WAY! more then me about running. I was glad to listen to her feed back and input. She did have some questions for me though.

What kind of runner am I? she asked, I’m the kind that goes faster then when I’m walking.

Do you have a heavy healed stride? If you mean does my feet touch the ground and then leave it? Then yes.

Are you a distance runner? If by distance you mean when my coaching app says run and I run and then says stop then yeah I’m a distance runner.

As it came time to make a choice for shoes I picked the ones that make me feel like an 80 year old man. But they are so comfortable. My husband has reassured me they do not look like old man shoes.

So what do i take from all this? Ask the question, tap in to the resource of people who appear to know more then you do and look for the similarities and not the differences. My new friend at the shoe store was helpful and had a lot of guidance. Because I was raised in the program to listen I did. I wish I would have taken her picture so I can show you just how different we are from each other and yet how many similarities we have.

I feel like a kid on Christmas morning. I wore my new shoes around the house. I took a picture of them. I feel proud. This my friends is what they call an estimable act. If I want something different I need to do something different.

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Goodbye says it all.

I have seen first hand and experienced it in my own life. People in recovery have an incredible attachment to there pets. Maybe its because we spend most of our lives only having the ability to care for an animal because people are to complicated. Animals teach us about unconditional love. Unconditional forgiveness. Living in the moment is something they do best. They have a relentless ability to be joyful. I have sat in meetings and cried listening to stories. Today I have one of my own.

I was 16 and the people’s dog down the road had puppies. My brother and I took one. We named her Roxy. I was at the end of my drinking. I spent a lot of time angry and alone. I would come home at night to find her on the back porch. I can not tell you how many nights I spent being kept warm from her, more then I care to imagine.

In February of 2001 I went to treatment. Not really having a relationship with anyone but her naturally she was the only one I cared about. I was very alone. She was the first emotional connection I had that I was truly invested in. In therapy they talk about the importance of closure. Goodbye letters are popular and helpful. Here is mine:

Dear Roxy,

You are the best and sweetest soul I know. I know that because to put up with someone like me at the beginning of your life, you had to be. You were faithful and made it easy to be your owner. You were the first dog I had that I got to make right all my mistakes with animals growing up.

There was never a doubt in my mind that at night when I would stumble in the door you were not going to be there. You slept on my pillow like a person and was a pain in the ass because there was never enough room for me. You kept me company at the end of my drinking. A risky thing to do being how belligerent I was at the time. At a time when I was alone not knowing whether I would wake up or not or could carry on any more and I believe you were the angel sent to add some kind of hope for me at the end.

I went to treatment and all I cared about was how my dog was. Not my parents who just put there only daughter in treatment 30 miles away. Or my friends who didn’t really know what to do with me either. But you were the only thing that I knew what to do with.

After getting sober you were the one that showed me how to give grace. How to push into someone when all they want to do is curled up in a ball and hide from the world you would come to my side, lay on my feet, flip your head backwards and just look at me. And you did that over and over day after day until I finally would start to live in the world again. Patience, tolerance, forgiveness. The things I never knew I wanted you gave with out speaking a word.

At the end of your life I’m not surprised that you made it abundantly clear it was time. You job on earth was done. I choose to believe that you are in heaven today with you pal Nike (a miniature Docksin we used to have) chasing balls, fighting over who gets the bigger bed but finally peaceful and at rest.

Goodbye old friend. Thank you for the time we did share. you helped this drunk find her way back to humanity again in only the way a dog could.

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I thought I knew how this would all play out, I was so wrong!

I never knew that the loss of my baby daughter would give me the strength to endure the loss of my relationship with my brother. I realized the other day that God sent me through that unbelievably hard situation to gain tools for this current painful loss. I have come to believe that each painful experience breeds strength stored in the cells of my very existence to be able to walk through the next thing.

I had no idea that I would ever imagine that the kid I grew up with would be someone I would not be able to drop inside jokes to any more or run random movie quotes by and have an entire conversation based on that movie. However that’s what future predictions and expectations will do for me though. I get completely blindsided by a sudden change in my well laid plans. I realized that today as I was praying in my car.

A frequent occurrence for me is I get met with reality vs fantasy, I get confronted with this idea that I made-up in my head as a kid about what things are going to look like. Usually based on tv shows or movies where everything comes together in the end and everyone loves each other again. Happened for me about having babies, husbands and all kinds of other things. This time it happened with my sibling relationships.

My life was supposed to look like the Norman Rockwell pictures. big family meals. Everyone is there. All smiling.

Never in my mind did I ever think that I would not be in relationship with my siblings. People change over time. Even siblings. They change and move away from what they grew up knowing and so did I. I know today that there is a reason for everything and even though something happens near me it dosen’t mean it has to be my lesson to learn directly.

Do I trust God? This is the question that made me think of something different then my anger. Yes I do. Do I want him to makes sense of my current situation? Hell ya I do! Will he? Maybe not. Sometimes situations happen that cause my boat to rock but its not my storm causing the unsettling waters. There are days when I think about the things I would say to my brother if I saw him. They usually are not nice. That’s OK. The first thought is free everything after that is my responsibility to keep in check. That is grief though. It is messy and unpredictable. I have enough wherewithal to know I would have to make amends for my behavior and if nothing else that has saved me a lot of heart ache.

Life is what ever its going to look like. If I would stay off the results committee I think my brain would be much more relaxed. Unfortunately I have no way of knowing what new concept I need to adjust my thinking on until I’m in the middle of trying to understand why I’m unable to let go of something. That is why they say “everything I have ever let go of has claw marks all over it.”

I’m a work in progress and so are my relationships. God knows what He is doing. If there is nothing else I can take from this experience is that God is the one on the throne, in good times and bad, not me.

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Today is the day we lost our little girl

in honor of infant loss awareness month

life between the turns

Today I woke up with an ache in my gut. I wasn’t sure why.  Until I looked at the date. Then I knew.

Today was the day Danica Grace Bell “went to be with God” as the Doctor said. I remember laying in bed. It was hot and Abe was in the woods with his brother Jonah. I woke up in the night, which isn’t abnormal because when Abe is away I don’t sleep well. But on this night I woke up an felt different and I remember thinking I wonder if she was gone. Can’t explain it. I just felt, different.

At the time and having been walking through this experience in what felt like a worst nightmare in slow motion for the last 34 weeks I think of few times in my life that felt so heavy and intentional.

When I pull the pregnancy test from the bathroom…

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Dreams do come true.

Some days I can not believe my life is mine. My family and I just got back from a trip to Southern California that was paired with my oldest sons 5 year birthday. There was a lot about that trip that was pretty surreal.

The last time my husband and I were down there we were celebrating our honeymoon. Fast forward 10 years and here we are sitting in the stands waiting for Shamu show to start and I look at my kids and my husband and I start crying because I can not believe I’m sitting here after everything he and I have been through.

The last 10 years has been full of shoot to the stars joy and also the darkest part of my soul sadness.

There has been life and death.

Financial hardship and broken hearts.

Dreams have come true and goals achieved.

When I got sober and I sat in my first meeting I had no idea what my future held. All I knew is I wanted the pain to stop. I wanted the ache in my soul to ease up a bit and if I would have settled for that I would have sold my self short. So much more was awaiting me. I had to do the work to get there though. I had to love hard, push through, trust the process and stay still long enough to have a feeling or two.

When I was out there drinking and partying I was always chasing this feeling, that “someday” feeling. Well it happened for me. That “someday” feeling was sitting in the moment, watching the excitement wash over my boys faces. I had no idea that this, this pause in the human go where the divine slips in, that feeling that cant be given in words but only experienced to know fully what I mean. I had no idea that that buzz is what I chased in booze, guys, other peoples approval, romantic novels anything that I could throw in to that deep hole inside. I had no idea that it was being in that next indicated step.

There is a part in a book that talks about surrender. It talks about that only until we fully surrender that we would be able to build a foundation that a happy and purposeful life can be built on.

I know i have a happy life today despite that real that happens. I’m not trying to give an image here that this trip was all happy and fun because lets face it I was in 100 degree weather, at a theme park with 2 kids and a husband who hates crowds. We fought, we cried, we connected, we yelled, had tantrums and we lost a kid twice. The spiritual part of it all is no matter how hard it got I didn’t want anybody’s life but my own. I mean sure i compared my self to others but at the end of the day I didn’t want to sleep next to any one else.

I didn’t want to have breakfast or switch with anyone else.

It was hard and I didn’t want anybody else hard.

I wanted mine.

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Today is the day we lost our little girl

Today I woke up with an ache in my gut. I wasn’t sure why.  Until I looked at the date. Then I knew.

Today was the day Danica Grace Bell “went to be with God” as the Doctor said. I remember laying in bed. It was hot and Abe was in the woods with his brother Jonah. I woke up in the night, which isn’t abnormal because when Abe is away I don’t sleep well. But on this night I woke up an felt different and I remember thinking I wonder if she was gone. Can’t explain it. I just felt, different.

At the time and having been walking through this experience in what felt like a worst nightmare in slow motion for the last 34 weeks I think of few times in my life that felt so heavy and intentional.

When I pull the pregnancy test from the bathroom I think the first words out of my mouth were “holy shit!” and then Abe and I hugged and he went to work. Being pregnancy was always very hard on my body. I was not really a happy pregnant person. I was in pain a lot. I was sick a lot. I was hormonal.

The day we were to find out the sex of the baby was the day everything changed. I was in the ultrasound chair and I remember the tech being very cautious about what was happening. She got up eventually after 45 mins of measuring and noting different things. And the Dr coming in doing some of the same things. Finally the Doctor said “im sorry im sure you are wondering what it happening and we needed to be sure. There are some problems with the baby.”

SLAM! the wind gone from my lungs. The walls closed in on my brain. I wasn’t all that sure what was happening. There was something wrong with the baby and there was nothing I could do. Through a series of tests we found out that she had a very rare chromosome disorder call Tryplodi. It is where the baby has 3 full sets of chromosomes.

There was so much that happened emotionally, spiritually, physically and mentally for me in the loosing and lose of a baby. It deepen me in a way I wasnt all that sure I needed deepening.  I was sitting in a meeting the next day and shared about what was happening. A lady spoke after me and said “Ashley everyone of Gods kids needs a parent. and this one choose you” And in that moment sitting in the small room surrounded by people that loved me I knew. Right then, I knew this is one of those “… great events will come to pass for you and countless others. This is the great fact for us” Alcoholics Anonymous Pg 164. I had always thought of the word great as happy. I had no idea that it was also meant in other ways.

For me today I realize I lived. I lived through that kind of full body ache that comes from deep with in the soul where me and God meet. Everything I had walked through up to that moment equip me with the ability to walk through that. It took everything I had to not run screaming from the room. My husband Abram was the same. I think we both had things that left by our selves would not have walked through as well or connected. We both had things the other needed. My son Nathan I think was one thing that kept us both grounded. He was 2 at the time and needed lots of love and he got it.

I’m grateful I get to be a sober parent that has a God and depth about my soul today that I can not imagine living without. Im blessed beyond belief to have two beautiful boys and a daughter in heaven. Her life task was to fight for us down here and she needed us to get her there. And we did. I don’t feel cheated. I trust that no matter what happened then that Gods on the job. I think I’m quicker to thinking my kids are going to die unusually early because of that situation. Dear GOD i hope not. But that is every parents nightmare. So i know I’m not alone.

My name is Ashley, I have lost a baby and I stayed sober and present through the whole entire thing. I regret nothing from that time in my life. I’m blessed to have gotten to be an excellent momma to three babies. And I give my self permission that not everyone deserves to have such tender information. “do not cast your pearls before swine” the bible says some where and I don’t unless the moment has felt right.

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This was the last trip we took with us as a whole family. Redwoods National Park. God Bless her and I look to see her in heaven some day.