Friday, November 30, 2012

Angel Mail # 19 This entry wouldn't be the same without a musical link!  You will have to pause the music player to hear this song. I hope you can see us in a family sing along!

Dear Jeremy,

Happy 5th Birthday! We send our love and birthday wishes from the depths of our hearts here on earth and hope they reach you there in heaven.  I spent much of the day wondering about your days there in heaven and imagining that each moment is far more wonderful than the very best and most fun birthday party here on earth.  I just hope and pray that you feel our love, know without doubt that we miss you, and somehow feel that you are never forgotten from any part of our day to day experiences here on earth.

I awoke to a morning that weather wise was very much like the day that you were born.  As we left to begin our daily routines, gentle tears flowed as I reflected upon those moments in 2007 when your Daddy and I prepared for your impending birth.  I am rejoicing that the first thoughts of you this morning were filled with love and sunshine and not despair. I am grateful to remember the warmth of the happy times with you, however short they might have been, and deeply cherish them all.  I am still unsure of how to manage to experience that warmth of happier and "normal" times without the pain of realizing that time with you in earthly presence has come to an end. To this moment, I still shake my head with disbelief that the events that transpired really happened and that you are really waiting for us in heaven. 

I "see" you in the faces of the other children your age.  Sometimes they take my breath away when I see them running with glee in the midst of even the most ordinary of moments.  Pregnant women, babies, and young toddlers have a particular way of tugging at my heartstrings. Some days I simply avoid them.  I can still feel the barriers that I must still keep up to function and the fuzziness that comes over me when I am in their presence.  Those moments in their presence still often cause time to stand still and I have difficulty escaping the thinking that centers on all of the why's...Those experiences never end well. I can say that I am coping a little better than I had in years past where these experiences are concerned but they are still hard. 

In the weeks leading up to this day, I have often found myself thinking about how cool five year olds are!  This creates the perpetual thought of thinking about all the milestones that you would have been making at this time in your life.  This makes your absence very real and very sad for me.  I wonder what your giggle would sound like?  What kinds of things would even make you giggle? Hmmm
I wonder who your buddies would have been?  I wonder what would have been your favorite color?  What book would you have requested to be read to you over and over until I could recite the words in my sleep? What show would have been the one to be "your special show"? I wonder what your voice would sound like?  I am left here wanting something so very different than what I have ended up with to accept without choice.  I am however, gifted with trust.  I trust that all is well now and was meant to be just this way even though on this side of heaven it makes no sense of any kind to me to this day.

As we have in years before, we collected books in your memory and honor and donated them to the library at the hospital.  We also chose books that were in donated in honor of the very gifted and special medical team that worked alongside of us to care for you while you were sick.  Additionally books were donated in honor of some of your friends that dance with you in heaven that we have come to know through their loving families. This year there was a common theme of laughter to some of the books. These were books that made us laugh a little or a lot when we read them.  We knew these books were especially needed in this special library.  While we would never trivialize any part of being a patient in the hospital, laughter can be very healing.  We wanted to spread love, compassion, sunshine,  and smiles this year on your birthday.  It feels good to find a way to honor you, to remember you, to help someone else, and to see your memory live on in the hearts and minds of others.  Additionally we were also able to donate some tissues and band aids specifically to the PICU, which will forever hold a special place in our hearts.

I received an amazing letter by e-mail from a young lady that arrived out of the blue. It was of great comfort to read her words and to be reminded and know that your life was a part of the hearts of many from all over.  These people are woven together by our Lord, with you, with us, and many others, for a purpose that we cannot always see and understand, but that was intentionally created with great purpose. I am continually amazed when I reflect upon this thought and it takes my breath away to see the many times when our Lord shows His sovereign presence over all of us on this earth.

Your Mimi is with you now in heaven. Her presence is greatly missed from our everyday world here on earth too.  I imagined the reunions when she arrived and the time that you have together now in heaven.  I imagine that she loves holding you as long as you aren't crying! Ha! Do babies even cry in heaven?  We were especially comforted to find a book that spoke of that time that you now share in heaven and were able to donate that book to the library as well.  We give thanks that were able to donate this book and the others last week while everyone was home from school on Thanksgiving break.  I am thankful for the opportunity for your brothers and sister to have the completion of that experience, to see the library, and to know that our love for you lives on through these book donations that hopefully bring sunshine to others in dark and stormy times.

We continue to watch time here on earth sift through our hands like sand without any control.
I have learned to cherish the moments beyond imagine and hold close to my heart the true gifts of this life. These very gifts often are the simplest of things that cannot be bought or are tangible items.  There has been considerable trauma, loss, and trials in our lives. I continue to struggle watching it unfold before my eyes, to make it stop, or to feel as though I have any real power to make a difference in making it better.  My heart prays daily for the ability to leave these concerns at the foot of the cross and to trust that the Lord has them all in the palm of His almighty hands.  Each morning as I awake, I long for peace, true and constant joy, and steadfastness in trials, but admittedly still lack the ability to fully access those treasures. I can only hope that through prayer and a willingness to be open to the Holy Spirit to enter my heart, that I can get out of my own way, and fulfill those very hopes.

I spent the rest of the today wandering around feeling like I was lost.  I could not do what I truly wanted, which was to honor your special day in the ways that I do with the rest of your earthly family.  I simply could not follow through with the typical everyday trivial routines of a Friday either.
For me, I have grown to accept that this day in the calendar year, will be painful, no matter what.
Not much, feels just right. All in all, there is a little more strength to my soul as time moves forward.

As we visited your grave to take time and pause, it was nice to see that others had been there before us and had left symbols of their love and remembrance of you on your birthday. Their thoughtfulness also brought comfort to our broken hearts as well. We give thanks for the support of family and friends along each step of the way.

Jeremy, you are a true gift in my life.  Your presence, while short, taught me more than I could have ever imagined  a young child could have ever done.  In this case, it was YOU who was sent to teach me, rather than the traditional parent/child relationship.  I love you and always will.  You are a part of me forever and ever. I am who I am, for better or for worse, because of you and all the other experiences that have been divinely appointed in my life.  Please know that I feel your presence with me daily and "see" all of the ways that you show your love for us, your family.  Thank you from the bottom of my heart. Today, I write and ask that you never stop finding ways to be present in our lives.

Happy 5th Birthday, my sweet son! It was you that was and continues to be my gift...


Sunday, October 28, 2012

Here I am...

I have been wanting to write for some time now. There have been many reasons why I have not written, as my heart has deeply desired.  Most of all, there have been events in my life that just honestly haven't been my story to write.  There are folks close to my heart that have chosen a much more private approach to sharing their life story. There will not be judgement of right or wrong, it is JUST a personal preference, if you will. I just have not felt comfortable writing about these events or my personal feelings and reflections as a result.  I have, after all, felt compelled to honor the wishes of those near and dear to my heart. For me there was no ability to honor those wishes and let out my feelings all at once.  Significant time has passed, much has happened, and as a result, here I am.

If you are loading this page still after all this time, thank you. I have missed being here too.

We are bracing for the "Frankenstorm" here in our corner of the world.  We pray for the safety of all in Sandy's path. 

Speaking of storms, I very much feel as if I live in a "STORM" of some sort or other. Seriously, it has been that kind of FOUR years.  (No, I am not counting !!!) Therefore, I would expect to be somewhat prepared as one storm doesn't seem to end before the next one has sadly become my new normal.  I am worn down, but none the less, STILL, solidly anchored in my faith of our Lord.

I am being tossed amongst the tumultuous waves, all the while, hoping that by anchoring myself to my Lord, that I will eventually come out, in His loving embrace, no matter what comes to be on this earth. In turn, I hope to resemble the likings of sea glass, softened and polished through the storms of life. HA! That is NOT exactly what I think at first glance upon seeing my own reflection in the mirror!   I would not be amiss to mention that I would also like very much to experience smooth seas for a change.

To those that have wondered "What is up with her???"  To those that have loved on me without response...the cards, emails, phone calls, absentee friendships, lack of response, not being there in the thousands of ways that I have wanted, etc...know that your presence and words have indeed reached my heart, and that your love and friendship matter.  I have deeply appreciated each and every gesture. You have sustained me when I have lacked the energy to go on to face another day of challenge.  The Mother's Day Project 2012 is particularly dwelling in a significant place of guilt for me. I regret the ability to send proper thank you responses to everyone who had a part in making the past year so very successful.  I petition your grace to understand when there is only so much that one soul can accomplish in a 24 hr. cycle.  I feel so very overwhelmed most days of my life.

Reading this entry, you may ask? Oh My...Is she depressed? To answer you, I probably am to some degree. Please be reassured that I try hard not to be.  It is a daily struggle. Just maybe...., just maybe, it is that very desire to hold on, against all odds stacked against me, and the ability to KNOW that I am anchored in the love of my Lord, that is what is keeping me out of deep trouble. No matter what storms continue to rage and those that may come to be, I do have ultimate peace in my heart, that I am ransomed by my Lord.  There will be a day one day where all suffering will end and peace will be evermore. Until then, I will walk steadily in His grace for each day on this earth. 

You may encounter me in your day to day life.  If you do,please know that you get what you get, and you can expect me to be authentic. 

Otherwise, if I exist here for you only in this virtual world, know that I am still here.  I will hope to be present in this place more often than I have in the recent past.

Sunday, May 13, 2012

Happy Mother's Day

Wishing all Moms a very special Mother's Day today!  I am filled with joy to report back to you that we accomplished our goal this year and were able to fill over 290 bags this year.  These beautiful, stuffed to rim bags were delivered to the hospital and also to the respite facility nearby the hospital.  The nurses and staff will be surprising each mom with a special delivery today.  It is my prayer that these bags will offer a Ray of Sunshine, a smile, a bit of encouragement, and love to these moms. Thank you to each person that participated, without you, this project would simply not be possible!

I will be back to share more pictures and more heartwarming stories from this year's project but at least wanted to get the word out to everyone about the total number of bags and that they were delivered!

This project makes my heart sing and makes my Mother's Day extra special.  If you were a part of this year's project, I pray that it also reached the depths of your heart and blessed you too!  I know without doubt that together, we helped many moms at the hospital feel that love from all of us to them today! These bags, this simple gesture of compassion for someone experiencing a tough time, this love that was intertwined throughout the whole thing, well, it matters, it makes a difference, it changes the world one little heart at a time!  Thank you.

Tuesday, May 8, 2012

Almost Done

A quick update before bed. I am wiped. Big Project. Family responsibilities. Everyday life. Thank you for your patience. I have great intentions but sincerely lack the time to execute them at all or in a timely fashion. Thank you for the kind offers to help me in every way possible. I am doing the best that I can to manage all the offers to help, respond to e-mails, accept, tally, sort, unwrap the donations, and also stuff bags. I appreciate your patience. I will surely need an assistant next year!!! If I have not responded to your offers to help, please know I am most grateful but also just a wee bit challenged right now to get it ALL done. Most moms can relate right? I tend to live in the moment and trust that somehow it will all come together, but that doesn't always lend itself to planning well with others. (insert deep breath) So... I wanted to update last night but ran out of time. The donations have continued to steadily come in ALL week!! YEAH I must say that the bags are looking rather amazing thus far. I know of a few donations that are due to arrive within the next day or so and with that said, we are hoping to put the finishing touches on each bag, say a prayer over them all, and send them on their way to the Moms who will receive them this year! I continue to encounter the questions "What else do you need?" If there are any folks out there that are willing to help at this hour of the project, we are still in need of some additional chocolate and also chapstick, lip gloss, or other lip care items. I will hope to update more tomorrow with some more stories of this year's project! I continue to be in awe...thank you!

Monday, April 30, 2012

Welcome to OUR Workshop

Sometimes one little spark of kindness is all it takes to reignite the light of hope in a heart that's blinded by pain. -Barbara Johnson

You are cordially invited to our workshop.  Take a look at what has been happening here in recent days.  Thank you to each and every person that has been a part of this project to date and to those that are busy praying, shopping, baking, and preparing for a successful response in other creative ways. 

The donations are steadily streaming in and my hope is still to have enough bags for all of the Moms Children's Center in time for Mother's Day.  That being said there is still time for you to help!  I am still accepting donations of all kinds.  There is a lovely plum bin on my porch.  I am waiting a few more days to begin the mega stuffing process.  I am hoping to receive a few more of several items and I'm hoping that you can help me reach that goal.

I am appreciative of every single item that is generously donated.  I am often asked what do you need? I have listed the toiletries and comfort items before, but there are also some really creative ideas that come in each year.  Take a look...

I love these photo holders! :)

How cute are these cards?  There is a tea bag in the little basket on the front of the card and really sweet messages on the inside of the card!

These handwritten cards brought me and the team of ladies that were working with me today to tears.  They are so tender and will surely bless the hearts of those moms who receive them on Mother's Day.

I have been inspired by the stories that have been shared with me again this year. Stories of friends getting together to create bags and to bake homemade cookies.  Stories of kids wanting to be a part of this time with their mothers. Kids are making  things for the moms.  There have been offices that have pulled money and donations together to make a difference. There have been the small world -BIG GOD kind of stories. It has all been so very amazing and such a blessing. I have also been inspired by the outpouring of my faithful supporters who have helped me now all four years in a row, those that have come back for multiple years, and also for the new faces that have joined along this year!  I am so grateful.

If you are interested and wishing to help stuff bags this year, please be sure to email or comment here on this blog of your availability this week and in the earlier part of next week.  Please indicate your availability of  both dates and times.  I'll do my best to have multiple days where folks can help out and be a part of making a difference in the hearts of so many moms this year.

One more thing...I am also in need of a few more boxes...Can anyone help me get perhaps about five to six more?

Are you inspired?  What will you do with that inspiration?  Now is the time to act...
I'll be back with more updates later.

With a Grateful Heart,

Sunday, April 22, 2012

Mother's Day Project 2012 - An Update

The Mother's Day Project is well under way and from where I stand, things are coming together nicely.  I am eager to see the amazing things that will come together to make this project a success again this year.

Here are a few updates that you might be interested to know...

1. In my day to day travels, I have noticed that Target and Michael's both have a nice selection of appropriate bag items in their dollar bin areas.  Michaels has sadly raised their prices to $1.50 for most items but that is still a reasonable price.

2.  Target is carrying the Mother's Day bags this year in their dollar bin area. 
I grab every one that I can find when I happen by our local Targets.  If you see any more, would you grab them? Please leave a comment if you need reimbursement for these bags.

3.  I am looking for someone who might be able to contact Chick-Fil- A on behalf of our foundation.  It has come to my attention that they are giving away a book that a Mom and child can create together in their kid meals.  Klutz is the publisher of the book.  I need someone who might take on the task of seeing about getting some of these donated and/or purchased by Chick-Fil-A or Klutz.  They are really sweet.  Again, leave a comment if this task is of interest to you.

4.  I am also pursuing the possibility of having a volunteer staged here at my house for the BIG Stuffing Week.  I was hoping to have a person in charge of opening the door, greeting volunteers, and getting them started on the tasks that are needed to be done. 
If you have availability the week of April 30- May 4th during the day and are willing to camp out here at my house for a few hours at a time, please leave a comment or email me and let me know.

5.  Are you available that week to stuff bags?  Please leave a comment or email me the days and times that you are available to stuff.  I am putting together a schedule now.  I need to make good use of our time and I am hoping to get a few people together at the same dates/times. 

6.  Just a few tips if you are new to this project...

You really can donate just one item.  All items collectively work together for a greater purpose and accomplish amazing things.  Imagine the possibility of making a difference to just one human heart, it matters.  Yes, one roll of lifesavers will be appreciated and bless a mom in need.

You can make a bag in memory or in honor of a special person in your life.  You can fill the bag with items that remind you of that person.  This bag can be different from other bags because these are not conference bags. The moms will not take opportunities to compare the contents of their bags. 

You can donate a variety of objects or several of the same item.  For example, maybe you have a ten dollar budget. You can send along ten notebook/journals or you can send ten different items, maybe a journal, a pen, a word search book, etc. 
Trust me...this is one of the most amazing things to witness come together.  In the past three years, there has never been an overabundance of one item and a complete deficit of others.

The economy has been hard on a lot of families...we are in need of time, talent, and treasures.  I need help with stuffing, writing letters of encouragement, prayers, and also shopping, etc. In years past, I have received monetary donations and need shoppers to purchase items for the bags. There are plenty of ways to be involved.  Don't let a lack of funds stop you from being part of this project. 

The number one question that I am often asked is "What do you need? What should I donate?"  There are endless possibilities of contents to be placed in the bags.  Listen to your heart, follow your nudges, suggest items that are comforting to your own heart on a bad day, etc.

Do you turn to Starbucks on a bad day?  Maybe a small gift card to Starbucks would bless a fellow coffee lover.

Do you turn to a hot bath and the latest issue of a favorite magazine?  Bath salts, bubble bath, scented soaps, books, magazines, and lotions might bless someone.

Do you love to get lost in a good story?  Maybe pass along a copy of your favorite book. In general, books with small short encouraging stories, like the Chicken Soup series, are always useful.

How about a good movie?  Walmart often has good movies in the $5 bin

Are you like me and find comfort  and inspiration in music?  Cds and Itunes gift cards might be the answer that you land upon.

There is a subway restaurant within the hospital.  Gift cards for the mom to grab a sandwich would also be a blessing.

There were days that I did not have the opportunity to shower.  I felt disgusting...How did I cope?
I was gifted travel sized toiletries like deodorant, toothbrushes, toothpaste, and smelly lotion.  An added bonus was mascara, lip gloss, gum, and breath mints.  There were so many people in the hospital  to talk with on a daily basis but who wants to have an intelligent conversation while sporting fuzzy teeth and stinky breath?  I think overall, the doctors understood my place in the world but I did feel better about myself when these items were available for me to use.  I was blessed to be in my own community where my family and friends could be an amazing support to me.  Others come from all over our country and the world to receive medical treatment.  These moms have NO ONE to love on them while they are here with their child.

I have long hair.  On the second or third day of no shower or without the time to dry and style my hair, I often turned to clips and hair bands for a stylish updo or ponytail.

If you know me, you know I cry.  Soft tissues were an absolute essential.

I spent hours on word searches.  They were mindless and could be done even with the many interruptions throughout my time at Jeremy's bedside. Did I mention, that I could never find a pen?  Those are always welcomed additions to the bags.

How about notepaper or journals for the moms to record important information or to even journal through their thoughts.

Prayer shawls, other homemade items, and handwritten notes of love and encouragement meant the world to me.  I saved every one and they covered the walls of Jeremy's inpatient room. Don't ever underestimate the power that our human hearts have to love on one another, even strangers.  Are you crafty? What might you be able to make that would be a blessing to someone else?  Some of my favorites were scarves, blankets, bookmarks, note cards, cd's of inspirational music for me and for Jeremy to listen to...

I thank you for the interest in this year's project-together we will make a difference in the hearts of many moms who are in need of our love.  Please feel to leave comments or contact me if you have any further questions.

Thursday, April 5, 2012

Ready, Set, Go!

For weeks now there have been Mother's Day bag items delivered to our doorstep or to me personally while out and about! I can't even begin to describe how elated I am to see that there are those, like me, that hold this project close at heart and are already preparing for this year's project, even without my formal announcement.

To cut to the chase...Ready, Set, Go! The Mother's Day Bag Project 2012 is here!
I am thinking we need a catchier name? Any ideas???

This year is unique. A new Children's Center has been built and will open this month. How does this change our project? There are more patient beds in the new Children's Center. As in previous year's, I will leave the final number of bags delivered up to God. He has a plan and I will serve merely as His vessel to accomplish this mission for Him, that is of course alongside of all of you! That's because this has become a HUGE effort, ONLY made possible by the collective effort of so many folks out there!

So, let's rise up together and make this project happen again this year! Here are a few details to get us started...

1. 205 is the new total number of patient beds in the new Children's Center. Yes, you read that correctly, there could potentially be 205 mothers in just one of the hospitals in our very own community spending Mother's Day in the hospital with their child. Sadly, there are more...

2. A girl can dream... I am aiming to donate bags to the respite homes within our area that feed into that hospital as well. That number is an additional 58.

3. NEW GOAL = 268 bags!!!! Can we do it? Yes, WE CAN!!! LET'S DO IT!!!

4. This is not a conference gift bag. What does that mean? The bags do not need to be alike and their contents will not be compared to one another. This is an individual and personal gesture to a Mom who is spending Mother's Day in the hospital with her child. Donate whatever and anything that speaks to your heart. Any donation however small or large will work and collectively be a part of something so AMAZING! Monetary donations are also always appreciated in any amount as well. We have shoppers who are ready and willing to serve. Checks can be made payable to The Rays of Sunshine Foundation, LLC.
and can be mailed to this address:
Rays of Sunshine Foundation
9 Newburg Avenue
Suite 201
Catonsville, MD. 21228

What does serving in a project like this look like?
Serving here means giving of your time, talents, and treasures. Just like every recipient of the bag is unique and is in the midst of their own journey, that means every giver is unique too. It will mean something different to each and every person that chooses to particpate this year! I am hopeful to get the support of those faithful supporters that I have had in the past as well as some new help too! I can't help but to wonder of the nudgings of your heart that are whispered from above...where those nudges will lead us, who they will impact, and in what ways? My golly, I get goosebumps of these wonderings tonight. Any doubt that this is real? Ask me and I'll tell you some amazing stories of the many ways that so many others became the hands and feet of our Lord, angels on earth, that loved us through the most horrific time in our lives...
Need more details?
Are you gifted with prayer? Could you please keep this project in your prayers that we might fulfill the desires of our Lord and meet the needs of those individual Moms that receive these bags this year?
Are you interested in serving as my assistant to this project this year? I could really use some help in this leadership role this year...Contact me with questions or your interest in serving in this role.
Do you work at an office or have access to paper boxes?
We need lots of those! You can leave them on my porch or contact me for further information.
Would you be willing to purchase or donate funds to purchase the actual gift bags used for this year's project?
Do you have hours of your day that you could serve as a shopper or to help stuff the bags?
We will need both jobs filled by multiple individuals the week of April 30th -May 4th. Yes, I am a bit ahead of the game but there is glory in planning ahead of the game!
Are you gifted at writing notes of encouragement? Have you considered writing a note of encouragement to one of the moms or more? Do you make cards that could be used by others to write these notes of encouragement?
Can you donate an item? Any item? Could you donate two or more of that same item? Ideas to follow in subsequent post...
I have seen with years of doing this project that the items placed within the bags, seem to round themselves out all on their own. For example, there are NEVER a overabundance of granola bars and an absence of something else. What does that mean? Follow the whisperings to your soul. What would bless you in a time of need? What are your favorite go to items on a hard day? Chances are that very same thing that came to your mind would bless someone else. Trust me, just go with it...Now act on that nudging!
Are there folks out there that you could share this project with? Do you know of any areas of business that might donate something to help with this project? Any creative ideas would be most appreciated.
A box will be on my porch to receive any gifts that you generously offer at this time.
Gifts of any kind can also be mailed to the above mentioned address. Any other questions? Please contact me or leave a comment.
I thank you and am grateful from the very bottom of my heart...
From one broken hearted Mom, on behalf of so many this year... let me assure you of this, it will matter, it will make a difference, no matter how you choose to participate this year, it will bring comfort to someone in need, and you will be a part of changing a human heart. Just do it!
Wanna know something else? You will be blessed in return...I promise!