Friday, February 16, 2018

Policy Changes and Heart Changes Needed

Map of School Shooting in the US
Last night I found a blogger journal that never made it into the digital system. The title made me stop in my tracks...Parenting in a Scary World. As I scanned the journal writing I realized that I had written it on my way home from a work conference after hearing about yet another school shooting in Oregon. Just this past Wednesday our nation's hearts' were broken over hearing the news of the largest school shooting happening in Florida since 2012. When will this end? What are we doing to make a difference? My friend posted an amazing article this morning that I would have posted if the language would have been different. Basically it called BS on all the people that said you have to either be pro NRA or anti-gun. I am a fence sitter. I do not agree with the NRA, but I also don't believe it taking away all legally purchased guns. Do I think we have a mental health crisis in the USA? Yes! Do I think we have a gun problem in the USA? Yes! Do I think we have a parenting problem in the USA? Yes! (You can leave now if you don't want me placing blame on parents of school shooters; that is not my intention, but yes, I believe we play a role in our children's actions.)

This is my journal from nearly 3 years ago:

Nearly two weeks ago Oregon was once again a topic of national news because of a mass school shooting. The last tragedy of this magnitude in Oregon was during my senior year. I remember sitting in my business class and having Mr. Kinman turn on the TV while all of us just stared at the situation. Yes, we were scared, but the thought never crossed my mind that it would happen again and again. I also don't ever remember my parents questioning whether or not to send us to school the next day.

A couple of years ago I had a friend reach out to me for my opinion about whether or not to send her daughter to school the next day after a social media threat. My respond was the same as it remains today:

"These children are not ours to keep. We are called to love them, pray for them, and protect them. I don't feel living in fear of what might happen to them is serving God's purpose. Live by faith, not by fear."

I posted something very similar today in response to a threat made to a local HS. Teach your children how to respond in the event of an emergency...give them the tools and then let go, let God. We can't change or prevent the time when our lives end. It may sound harsh, but the fact remains that our days are already accounted for. I think we all wish we had the ability to change this, but we don't. I will choose to live each day with purpose, love, and hope. I will also continue to pray for my child. I will pray that God gives me the tools to parent well, to teach my child to be kind, compassionate, and to stick up for the little guy, reach out to the lonely, and most importantly love Jesus. My main purpose in life is to make sure that my son knows Jesus as his personal savior.

I know media often blows things out of context, but if even a fraction of the story about UCC is true in regards to students standing up for their faith, I feel strongly that these parents did exactly what they set out to do; teach your child that only Jesus is the way to eternal life. As a parent our nature is to protect our child from death, but in reality we only have the ability to point them in the direction of eternal life.

I think if given the chance many parents (mine included) would give anything to save their child from an "early death," but at the end of the day we are unable to add numbers to any of our lives. (Journal entry ends here as the plane landed)

Have my thoughts or hopes changed? Slightly! Do I still believe in my parenting purpose? Yes! In the last 3 years LOTS of shooting events have made the national headlines. It seems that for every story we hear about, there are 3-4 that went without national coverage. Yes, I am scared. I want change. I want my kids to go to school in the morning without worrying about their safety, but that is not reality. I see things on social media that prayer doesn't work. Prayer takes action! We need to be utilizing the skills that we have been given! If we are going to be adamant about keeping our guns than we need to be responsible about keeping them out of the hands of our children. We need stricter gun laws. We need to keep reporting suspicious behavior even if we hear it doesn't make a difference. We need to find alternative things to do with our mentally ill kids than feed their obsession with guns. We need to be the snoopy parent that knows what kind of crap lives in our kids room. My kid doesn't stand a chance of hiding stuff in our house...I randomly do room inspections. I also do heart inspections. Every night we sit down as a family and have dinner. We don't expect our kid to be happy all the time, but we expect him to share his heart. Sometimes are dinner conversations are hard and serious, most of the time they are light and funny, but they happen. Parent with purpose!

Tuesday, February 6, 2018


I realized while fixing up my blog today that it kind of just ends when Ashley passed away. For some of my loyal followers they may want to know what happened. Some day in honor of Ashley and all that she wished I really hope to write a small story about finding beauty in the final days, but for now I will just share this. I wrote this two days before Ashley left this Earth. We planned her funeral together and just like she planned, it was BEAUTIFUL and perfect and provided Glory to God.

 Aug. 5, 1983 - April 16, 2015

Ashley Zilphia Sult courageously went into the arms of her savior on April 16, 2015 after a four year battle with leiomyosarcoma (LMS). Wife of SSG. Joe Sult and mother of Oaklen McCrae Sult, Ashley loved these men more than anything in the world. Born to George Evans and Shellene Foster, Ashley grew up being the second sister of four girls. 

She spent her high school days as a cheerleader for Philomath High School and it was there  in the fifth grade when she met her lifetime best friend, Tiffany Davis. After finishing high school Ashley did a brief nanny position in New York before starting school to become a licensed hairstylist. Ashley had many clients throughout the years that would travel state wide to have the chance to have her work her magic. Her most recent position was held at Cougar Cuts, in Prineville, OR.  

Ashley had an adventurous heart and followed the love of her life to Georgia, where she met many great friends. Joe and Ashley became parents to Oaklen on April 25, 2011, on the first most beautiful day of their lives. On July 6, 2011, Ashley and Joe made a few phone calls to family and friends and had a beautiful wedding ceremony in the backyard of a family friend. 

Since the day Ashley discovered she was fighting this rare form of cancer she has been proactive in finding a cure for LMS and being an expert in her own journey. Ashley was known on many occasions to reach out to fellow fighters to give them encouragement in the form of prayer and time.
Ashley's biggest mission since 2012, has been spreading the love of Jesus. An active member of Redmond Assembly of God, Ashley loved her church family and was happiest when sharing her love of Jesus with family and friends.  

Ashley is survived by her husband, And son, parents, sisters, Amber (Kyle) Deets, Alexis (Jacob) Page, Austin (James) Routon, in-laws, and nieces and nephews who lovingly called her "She-She" along with a huge family of loving and supportive friends.

Looking for Lovely

In the past several years I have had the opportunity to be part of many women's groups and/or bible studies. I have made many great friends in these groups and shared a multitude of life experiences with others. After my sister passed I continued to lead a single mother's group for a few months, but after much prayer stepped away from that position. Since then I have struggled to find my way back into a group whether it be a small group or bible study that fits my current life situation. When a precious member of my tribe shared that she also was looking to dig deeper we decided to search for a quick (7 week study) that we could complete over the next couple of months. After much research I found, Looking for Lovely by Annie Downs. Funny side note is that I accidentally bought the book vs. the bible study and didn't discover that I had the wrong book until I was 6 chapters in and my friend wondered why I said there was nothing really to answer. After fixing my mistake and getting the bible study version I am happy to report that I have finished week one. I am also enjoying the book as it provides more depth. (We aren't doing the video series)

This study has made so many feelings rise to the surface for me. The study is based on Romans 5:3-5. Suffering->Perserverance->Character->HOPE. For once in my life I can say that I am not currently in a state of suffering. There are things I am working through, but I am in a phase of reflection. As I was looking for stats for Bronson today to compare them to Ashlin's growth, I discovered a blog that I had written about a conversation that Bronson and I had directly following the news of my sister's cancer:

Bronson (3.5): Mommy, why are you sad?
Me: She She is sick
Bronson: Did she die? (I literally shuttered when he asked this)
Me: No baby, she is just very sick. We need to pray for her
Bronson: Mommy, I already prayed for her last night and she will be fine, but you want to know what? I have a brother that lives in heaven and I am fine with that too.

WOW is all I can say! At the time I would have never imagined that my sister's battle would end with her being faithfully taken into the arms of Jesus. But you know what? My son was right! God has provided me with such hope in knowing that His story is not over and my sister's story lives on. I have hope that one day when I pass from this Earth that I will see her again. In her final moments she left with me with such hope and peace. No, it doesn't hurt any less, but there really were lovely moments in the depth of my suffering. I am looking forward to finding more lovely.

Ashlin Grace: 19 Months Old

17 lbs, 11 ounces
29 inches tall
Working on her 13th and 14th teeth

Ashlin is the funniest little girl in the world. She has a mix of her Dad’s sense of humor and mine. It makes for some pretty fun times in our household. Her favorite person in the entire world is her Brother whom she has nicknamed, “Booman.” This is also the same word she uses the majority of time to say balloon. She doesn’t say very many words by themselves, but has mastered the following sentences:

·         You get it.
·         Here/There You go.
·         I’m not tired.
·         I want bottle and nigh night.
·         Eat, please

Her favorite activities include anything outdoors, playing ball, playing with her dolls, destroying the Tupperware drawer, ransacking her Brother’s room, playing hide n’ seek, and pretending to do laundry. She has hit the jackpot when it comes to her weekly care. She spends two days a week with her Grammy Tracey and two other days with her Grandpa George. Tuesdays we have a rotating schedule of close friends that come over to play and spoil her. Anyone that takes care of her will spend the day sniffing her blankets, toys, and anything else she deems appropriate. She "sniffs" EVERYTHING. She has such an independent personality that she adapts well to change and loves having new people to play with. Our goal has been to get her to 2 years old before we put her into formal daycare. We might have to do this a bit earlier than anticipated, but our recent tour calmed my fears as she LOVED seeing and interacting with other kiddos.

Ashlin is extremely tiny. Her brother was super small, but she is about 2-3 pounds less than he was at this age. She loves her bottles and isn’t the most ferocious eater, but has recently learned that saying, “Eat, please” will get her just about anything. Last night was her first try of blueberries and she refused to eat them because she thought that they were balls. (Yes, I know that this sounds so wrong…get your mind out of the gutter.) She is very determined and unless it is her idea she doesn’t often conform to what others think or say. This comes full force when I try to get her to keep anything in her hair. I try as hard as I can to keep her hair fixed nice, but she refuses anything. It might just be a Mommy thing. She recently had her babysitter fix her hair and kept it in the whole day. We are over the moon with our baby girl and watching her grow.

Tuesday, January 16, 2018

2018: Being Intentional

Each year our family chooses a word and/or motto to use as our theme for the remaining twelve months. This year I adopted the phrase, Be Intentional. I am the type of person that normally goes a hundred miles an hour in several different directions and then wonders why I am tired all the time. The first step that I took in being intentional this year is to make myself go to bed much earlier. This is easier to do because I am also forcing myself to wake up early to go to the gym for at least 30 minutes a day. So far I have only missed 2 days. I find myself less tired, yet more ready for bed at night.

My free time has also been more intentional. I have actually said no to two pretty big requests. In previous years I would have been reluctant to say no out of fear of hurting someone’s feelings or seeming too inclusive. I discovered in my self-reflection that I don’t have a lot of free time and when I do have that time I want to be with my circle. My circle needs to be small for me to process all the things that still need processing. I am at nearly 3 years in my most recent cycle of loss. Loss isn’t new to me, but it still is new in the sense that I have had huge and wonderful buffers shielding me from truly dealing with my loss. I happen to think that my sister had a role in developing some of these buffers. Up until 2 hours before her passing she was making sure that Kyle understood her request for us to have another baby. God is so good to provide me with Ashlin Grace; she has been such an anchor to showing me how beautiful life can be. Both of my kids bring me such joy.

Back in 2008 our family looked around for something to do in honor of our son Jackson. Our original intention was to create an annual fundraiser where we could raise money to give to a NICU family in need. When our fundraiser exceeded all expectations we started our annual NICU Christmas bags. We followed this Christmas tradition with participating in March for Babies the following year. We have participated in nine March for Babies events and two larger scale fundraising events since then. Not counting the most recent Signature Chef Auction that raised over 100k, our family team has raised nearly 50k during our nine years of involvement. Kyle and I have always said that we would walk until we had to be “wheeled to the finish line.” Imagine my heart’s reluctance when we started to approach the 10th year and it was being nudged to take the year off.

We haven’t made this decision lightly. We have prayed, counseled, and created lists, but keeping with our 2018 motto it came down to being intentional. We will NOT be participating in March for Babies this year. There are a number of reasons we have come to this decision, but the biggest is that we have been given a local opportunity to raise funds for something that needs to be done as quickly as possible. The RiverBend Hospital in Springfield is currently raising funds to build a MUCH needed Guest House with completion set for December 2018. During our stay in 2016 we were told that this project was years away; we spoke to staff and promised each other that when the opportunity arrived we wanted to help in any way possible.

This year the March for Babies event has moved again and changed leadership. Instead of feeling overly frustrated at the changes we saw it as an opportunity for us to take a year off and regroup. We are praying that they find new leadership to revamp and restructure the walk in our area, but until then we will put our money and fundraising efforts towards local charities that need our help. We are asking that in lieu of your annual donation to March of Dimes on our families’ behalf that you consider making a donation directly to the RiverBend Guest House fund. I will be providing the address and online donation link as soon as I receive it. They may have a scheduled walk at a later time with Ronald McDonald Charities, but at this time we ask that you just make a donation in memory and/or honor of someone you know that has spent time in the NICU.

Kyle and I were fortunate to be able to stay nearly 60 days in the original Guest House located at the old hospital when Bronson was born in 2007. Although this structure remains (being donated for other use) it is several miles away and depending on the time of day can require a very long car ride for parents to get to and from the new NICU. While Ashlin was in the NICU we moved our 1980s 5th wheel up to the hospital where were provided with an electrical hookup. We had to be very careful about our water/sewage usage during those 2 weeks, but again felt humbled to have a place to stay that was close to our baby. This was not an ideal place to stay as there were several abandoned trailers in the area and some illegal activity that went on at night. The couple of nights that Kyle had to go home I requested either my mom or a friend to stay with me because I didn’t feel safe. We casually suggested to the nurses that it would be amazing if the hospital could get some of the land nearby to build a Guest House or a certified full hook up for NICU families. All of us joked as if it was a pipe dream. Well, those dreams are becoming a reality. I have been told that the RV hook up will be a next phase, but this phase is a fully functioning Ronald McDonald House for NICU families and long-term hospital families. Pediatric families will be able to stay free of charge with the remaining rooms being rented for $40 night to those in long term care for the rest of the hospital.

A few details about the project: Peace Health donated the land for the house. Sacred Heart Foundation needs to raise a total of $6 million to build the house. They have raised $3 million so far. Let’s see how much of a dent our family fundraising can do. Please let me know if you are interested in being a Sacred Heart Foundation sponsor and I will send you more information. Consider making the same donation you would normally make to March of Dimes. These funds will be used to build a house to help NICU families during their stay; what better way to support families in the NICU. Thank you for helping us create an intentional fundraiser for 2018.

Friday, November 13, 2015

Scheduling Time to Cry

The night of October 16, 2015, I sat on the closet floor of my master bedroom held in the arms of my husband. On earth, he is my rock! As he began to speak truth over my life and explain that I needed to allow myself to fully feel each and every emotion; I knew that he also wanted a reprieve from the constant waves of anger that seem to slip so easily from my mouth.

Crying becomes the hardest thing to do sometimes. I know that I have written about this before in my Major Meltdown or when I blogged about my tears in heaven. I am guilty of giving myself headaches from holding back the tears. Why is it so hard to admit that I am sad and that I miss my sister? I miss the fact that I can’t just pick up the phone and call her about “stupid” stuff anymore. I shared at her funeral that the verse that played repeatedly in my head after her death is that, Jesus wept. The shortest, but one of the strongest verses in the bible. He knew pure sadness and did not hold back. 

As my husband held me through my melt down on the six-month anniversary of losing my sister he said the following statement that has allowed me so much freedom lately, “Even if we are sitting in this exact same place and you are feeling this exact same way, it is okay. It is okay to feel, it is okay to be sad, it is okay to cry. Stop scheduling your time to grief, stop allowing yourself only Thursdays, the 16ths of each month, or special occasions. Feel this fully.”

Yesterday after a fitful night of sleep and feeling as if even the slightest comment could break the dam of tears I climbed into the bath at 5pm and later fell into bed in a full fledge fit of tears. As my massage therapist suggested I laid face down and let myself completely feel the loss. Kyle came in and spoke words of love and encouragement to me, but also realized that I needed to just feel the heartache. You cannot truly feel the loss of someone unless you allow yourself to have some quiet moments. I also realized that my anger isn’t directed at God, but at the fact that the world is full of sin and that Jesus has so much more work for us to finish before He returns.

As I continue my break from Facebook and focus on the things that I need; more time in the word, more time with my family, more coffee with friends, and time to reflect I might find myself with more puffy eyes, but I won’t apologize for unscheduled times for tears.

Facebook Fast

Facebook is something that I do many times a day. It is part of my job, my social connections, and a total time waster; let’s just be real. I love the ability to connect with old friends from across the world, but I also have begun to resent the fact that the majority of my friends and family feel that utilizing Facebook as the only form of communication is completely acceptable. I am of the group that does not think it is acceptable for a close friend or family member to only send you a Facebook Happy Birthday. Come on…sending them a text to their phone is better than a “wall message.” 

I am currently completing a You Version (iPhone Bible App) bible reading plan titled, #Struggles. As I was scrolling through the many options for a daily devotion I landed on this one and it spoke directly to me. I don’t find myself envious of other’s on Facebook, but I find myself struggling not be to be stressed. Did I remember to pray for the 15th person that has asked me to pray? Was I kind enough to so and so when they told me about their struggles? Did I miss an event that someone really wanted me to go to? Oops, another birthday of an acquaintance realized a day later! Yes, these are just a few of the #Struggles I have been experiencing during my time on social media. It overwhelms me. 

As I have completed some personal reflection recently I realized that I am a person of deep affection and commitment. I long for deep and meaningful relationships. I am not very interested in surface level or the amount of friends that I have in my back pocket. I enjoy spending quality time with people whether it be a monthly phone call, coffee date, or weekend excursion. I don’t like to involve myself in relationships that I don’t have time for. If you are in my circle, I want to be available to help you if you need me. As I focus on the biblical aspect of this feeling I keep coming back to Jesus and His disciples. Jesus of course reached many throughout His three year mission, but he wasn’t close with all. He loved His people deeply, but I feel strongly that there was a reason that he had 12 disciples vs. hundreds. As I focus on His example I realize that my desire to have deep connections with fewer people is my desire to be able to share life, Jesus, and grace with those in my circle. 

This does not give me an excuse to be mean or not engage in activities with others, but it allows me breathing room to not have to be close friends with hundreds. The current bible plan that I am gives some valuable lessons, while sharing scripture that have inspired me to continue on this journey. 

“Social media should be a place to see what’s happening in the lives of those you love-not the place to make you envy. Let’s rejoice with those who rejoice.” I would not call my response envy, but I would often call it judgmental or irritated. If I am constantly having to hide someone’s updates or when I read them I am led to be angry or upset, why am I still reading or Facebook friends with this person?

“We have to make sure technology is enhancing our relationships, not replacing them. We need to ensure our ability communicate doesn’t prevent us from talking more while actually saying less.” –YouVersion Bible Application #Struggle

2 John 1: “I have a lot to write to you. But I don’t want to use paper and ink. Instead, I hope I can visit you. Then I can talk with you face to face. That will make our joy complete.”