Nine years ago… he broke his neck

Nine years ago on January 18, my husband dove into a wave in the Gulf of Mexico and was rescued from the water a quadriplegic. Having lost our precious daughter in an accident only 17 months earlier, I could not comprehend how we were going to have the strength to endure another life-altering event in our lives.

We put our present grief aside and became immersed in what a life of quadriplegia was going to entail. We spent the following four months living in hospitals, learning absurd amounts of medical information. We spent little to no time invested in loving each other how the other needed. We were both incredibly tied up in our own hurt, pain and even selfishness. 

It changed both of us for the worse. Ava’s death had seemed to drive us closer together and closer to God. But this? Neither of us had a clue how to love each other through yet another emotionally monumental experience.

I could not comprehend how a loving God thought we could weather another storm. I could not see how this was love from God. I continued to go back to the Old Testament, reading in Job about a man who endured far more heartache than I could ever imagine, and in his sorrow did not sin.

This did not mean Job wasn’t angry. I was pissed. 

This did not mean that Job did not feel like his heart was physically breaking and the struggle to take another breath near impossible.  I felt the same.

It made me feel that Job was human, not superhuman. Yet he endured his loss and maintained his integrity.

This is where I did not know where to turn.

In a marriage covenant, two people pledge their lives to each other. They become one in the eyes of God. I was one with my husband, despite all our loss, despite not knowing how to love him in the middle of our mess. 

So I watched as his integrity slipped. I prayed. I pleaded with God. I thought Josh turned from Him because of anger at a God who would allow us to go through such tragedy. I thought Josh was confused about who he was now that so many of his abilities had been taken from him. With all the grief, heartache and deep pain that was part of a life that we did not choose, Satan began to slowly creep in. We didn’t welcome him; we know better than that. But neither did we send him away. Rather than maintaining our integrity, as Job did, we began to live a lie.

We were one. So I covered up for Josh. Rather than reaching out and finding the help we needed, we lived a life that was completely different once the front door closed and our lives were no longer under a microscope.

So many people saw God in our story, a story where we had nowhere else to turn but God. We were stuck in a place we could not find our way out of. People placed us on a pedestal, one where God was glorified, but we knew our personal lives did not. I knew my own spiritual life could not fix Josh. But I believed that God could heal his heart. I just questioned if God was going to do it. 

How could we admit to sin and find help for ourselves when people called us the modern-day Job?


We were bogus.

And if we hadn’t been found out, where repentance was the only way to free ourselves from the bondage of sin, we would probably be living the same life today.

But God knew our weakness. He knew we needed HIM. 

And sin came to light. Did it ever. 

Now this man whom I had married, that I had promised to stay with come sickness or health, I was no longer expected to stay with. Biblically, I had a right to leave him, to rebuild my life without him. But I chose to stay with Josh because the Holy Spirit screamed it into my heart: Stay. Not because you have to, not because you want to right now, but because that is what I am asking you to do. Trust me.

So I stayed. And I watched this man, with his broken body and broken heart, turn back to the Lord. I swear I could hear the angels rejoicing that a lost one had come home.  I watched as Josh began making phone calls to apologize for the life he had been leading. I recall a conversation where he told me that Jim Samra (the senior pastor at Calvary Church, aka the church that headed up the building of our house) was coming over to visit him. (I’m still thankful that I wasn’t there for that convo…). I watched my husband set up lunches and dinners so that he could be forthright and honest about what had happened. I watched my husband figure out what it meant to be the husband. I watched him pore over scripture. I watched as he wheeled his chair into his little prayer sanctuary. All these actions proved to me the reality of the changes he was trying to make. He began to do all these things—not because I asked or made them a condition of my decision to stay—but because the Holy Spirit was working in his heart. He could not fake this depth of his passion for God.  

This man, the one so many saw as too much “work” because of the paralysis, the heart-breaker, was slowly becoming my husband again. God worked a miracle of forgiveness in both of our hearts. He gave us new eyes to see each other. He reignited passion, enabling us to trust each other as we entered back into intimacy. He gave us incredibly forgiving families and friends. He surrounded us with a new community where we were no longer living a lie, but were encouraged to be open about our own sinful, fallen selves, because that is what each and every one of us are. 


With a God who loves us so much He will do whatever it takes to get us back to a heart of repentance, a life of truth and forgiveness, a life, after so much destruction and pain, turned into praise. 

Now, don’t get me wrong. We continue to work on our marriage on a daily basis. We dig into the Bible and remember where it was we went terribly wrong. And we still screw it up, but we are assured because our feet are standing on a firm foundation with Christ at the center. Both Josh and I feel with strong conviction and faith that this is what it took for us to be able to eventually help others in distress and become spiritual mentors to those in crisis situations. 

He prepared us for this ministry in ways I would never have chosen, but for the good of others around us. God’s prep course was the hardest class I hopefully will ever have to take.

So, watching my husband figure out what it meant to be a biblical husband, seeing him pore over scripture and books for parents raising a children with disabilities was much more convincing to the changes he was trying to make. He began to take on responsibility even when it wasn’t asked. Our children will grow to be healthier adults because of it.

So this ministry, run by a husband and wife team, is leaning on Him, knowing he will bring the people that need what we have to offer. 

I sit here and shake my head at how far we have come.

But God…

Posted on February 1, 2016 .

Loving a Friend Through Tragedy


In light of so many tragedies going on that our ministry has heard of or been involved with, I thought it would be appropriate to repost this blog. Praying that it helps those in a supportive role when someone's world is turned upside down.

Losing Ava was the hardest experience I’ve ever had to endure. It continues to be something I deal with on a daily basis. If I could somehow describe someone physically ripping my heart from my chest, burying it with my baby girl, and then asking me to continue on living for nine plus years, that may be similar to my physical and emotional experience.

The overwhelming grief, physical pain in my chest, the knot I could never swallow down, the darkness of knowing how permanent death was, would often make me feel like I would never, could never, survive. There were mornings where I would wake up with such a heaviness in my chest and a desperation in my heart that it physically made me want to pull my hair out.

And yet this post is not about Ava. It's about you, the reader.

I am going to write about how friends and acquaintances helped (and hurt) us after the loss of Ava and also after Josh’s injury. This list is not exhaustive, nor is it going to be exactly what every person needs after a loss, but I thought it may be a help to some who have friends going through tragedy.

Please know, loss is ugly. The grief stricken do not mince words or easily see other people’s points of view. Grief is a very selfish experience. Please allow for this. It will not last forever. If you are one who takes offense very easily, remember, this is not about you. This is about a momma or a daddy, a grandma or a grandpa, who is hurting deeply, who does not know where to go with all the pain they are experiencing. If they are taking their pain out on you, be understanding; they are comfortable enough and feel safe enough in your relationship to be real with you. Please don't go running home and call a mutual friend and talk about how awful the person was to you. Be an understanding, grace giving friend. I recall screaming without reason, with tears streaming down my face, taking my anger out on a few select people; these were the people I ended up crumpled up in their arms, sobbing, wailing, missing my baby so deeply I had difficulty expressing it. It was so deep and so ugly I remember it scaring my two older kids.

After Ava died these are some specific things that were helpful:

 1.     Friends who came and sat with me- they didn’t talk, didn’t give advice, they just listenedJob 2:13 says that after Job had lost everything his three friends came to him and sat with him for seven days and seven nights. No one said a word to him, because they saw how great his suffering was. I spent a lot of those first few days processing out loud. I said the same things over and over again. I recalled the horror of finding Ava in her crib and the realization that she was not alive again and again. I’m sure it was extremely difficult for my friends and family to hear this story time and again but my emotional health was dependant on processing all of these ugly memories.

2.     Please don’t say you’re willing to help unless you really mean it. Many people offered to help in the first few days after Ava’s death, but were unable to help in the few weeks to months after her death when real life set in. There was even a quote that Josh and I began to make fun of... 

" Please let us know if there is anything we can do."

One couple said this, and then the following weekend when Josh and I desperately needed to get away on Friday night said, "Ooh, sorry. We have plans with friends at the Coast Guard Festival tonight."

That was when Josh and I were really in need of help. We needed the help to go on a date to reconnect after I had spent all day with the kids, trying to keep my grief bottled up, Josh had been at work all day, and I just needed to be with my husband. The divorce rates of couples who have lost children is high, and we needed to make time for each other. We did not want to become another statistic. Helping weeks and months down the road is extremely meaningful.

3.     Those who didn’t immediately try to find meaning in Ava’s death or Josh’s accident were the people we were drawn to. Yes, we find meaning now, but days and weeks after the accidents, I didn’t want to hear why people believed this had happened or why God had allowed this to happened. It was hurtful and made me angry.

4.     Meals were extremely helpful after both accidents. My brain was swirling with so many decisions that had to be made, there was no way I could make dinner, much less go grocery shopping. The meals made in disposable containers were extremely helpful because I didn’t need to keep track of who to get the containers back to. Also, after Ava died, I was extremely nervous around people I didn’t know well. I loved that people were willing to bring meals, but it brought me anxiety to have to meet people to return dishes. Just being honest. (Also don’t hang around to talk when you drop it off). Every bit of my life was out of my comfort zone and having to have surface conversations with people that I knew very little if at all was extremely difficult for me. My emotions were like a roller coaster and I never knew when something was going to cause me to break down unexpectedly. Eventually, a friend of mine acted as the liason between the meal drop off and she would drop them off to us. It was very helpful to our family and also to our kids to know who to expect and not have strangers coming and going all the time.

5.     There were many days that I didn’t want to talk to anyone, but seeing their name on my caller I.D. was a reminder that they had called, even if I had not answered. It was a reminder to me that there were people there for me if I needed them. Be the friend who calls. Call a lot. A dear friend of mine had a short conversation with me shortly after Ava died and told me that she was going to be calling me a lot, it was up to me if I answered the phone. She wanted me to know that she was there for me and available if I needed her. That’s a true friend. I look at this as the best advice I received after losing Ava and often pass it along to other’s who have friends going through tragedy.

6.     If you’ve gone a long time without contacting your hurting friend and you end up seeing her or talking with her, address the lapse in communication immediately. She knows. It hurts her. An apology goes a long ways. Your friend knows how awkward it is, just don’t make it more awkward by ignoring the fact that you haven’t been in touch. These are the types of things that ruin friendships and it’s just not worth it.

7.     Guys (and girls too): give your friend a chance to be destructive. Grief creates a ton of pent up energy that needs to be expended. Our family took Josh and I into my parents woods and let us break all kinds of porcelain things. It. Was. Wonderful. There was a ton of clean up to do (an old toilet, lots of old dishes, etc.) but it was extremely cathartic.

8.     Oh, and last thing. Please don’t judge. Grief can cause even the most devotedChristians, refined men and women to swear like sailors. Just giving you fair warning.  There are so few words that seem to express the deep grief, anger, shock, helplessness, the longevity of life you have before you without your loved one, curse words just seem to describe the depth of your pain a bit more adequately. Please don’t judge.

If you have suggestions that were helpful to you after a death or a tragedy, I would love it if you posted it in the comments. Anything we can do to help others walk down this path of tragedy without being hurtful is a step in the right direction.

Posted on August 24, 2015 .


So, where have I been? Why no blogging?

I hate it when people aren't honest or are not open to talking about their feelings.

So I will be, but it ain't pretty.

Every year between May 5, Ava's birthday, and August 1st, the anniversary of her death, I go quiet. I stop returning phone calls, make excuses on why I can't get together with friends, essentially, turn into a hermit.

I try and shield my kids from my inner quiet. I don't want them growing up thinking they had a depressed mama, but truly, it is something I struggle with. I hate it.

I was born into a family that has significant depression coming from both sides of the family tree. It is something I was probably genetically predisposed to have. But it is dark. It is lonely. It makes my heart race when I realize how overwhelming the darkness can get.

This time, it grew pretty bad. I have pulled away from many friends, family, church, because being social and depression do not go hand-in-hand for me. They are opposites. 

I could sleep the days away, keep the curtains closed, turn off my phone. I wake up wondering how long it will be until the day is over. It is not really living, just surviving. It is all consuming.

But as long as I don't talk about it, it won't be real. I can continue to live in this fake land where I numb myself with unhealthy solitude. Where I don't deal with the fact that I am depressed. This is a less than healthy way of handling my depression but it doesn't mean that my spiritual life is failing, that I am failing, or that my marriage is failing. But I am always afraid that is what people will think.

Oh well. Think what they may. My hubs has been an incredible support to our family during these past few months. He has been an amazing spiritual leader during these days. I am so thankful for that.

Praise God that the cloud is starting to lift. Instead of being deliberate EVERY TIME I feel joyful,  I am beginning to respond naturally with joy. I am aware that my smiles at strangers are not forced but genuine. Dinner with a girlfriend a few nights ago fed my soul, the wind in my hair, the beautiful gardens around us, a glass of wine, I left feeling renewed. 

Once again, I experience that He is faithful, that He is filling my soul with happiness not just gray existing. I choose to be joyful, to enjoy watching my kids doing everyday things, to just live. 

Posted on August 5, 2015 .

Craziness Ensues

We, as a ministry, are finding that God has hurting people everywhere, and we are privileged enough to have some of these people trust us with their hurts and secrets. We take this incredibly seriously. Please know that if you write to us, especially a long, heart-felt message, that we want to take the appropriate amount of time to pray and heart to put into our return message.  As a newer ministry and few hands, we are not always the fastest, but know that the moment you put a need out there, we are prayerfully entering into your need and do not want to give you a flippant reply.

In the midst of the normal craziness of life, we are throwing our ministry "launch" party on Wednesday. The house is a mess with things to be brought over to the party, beds being made so guests have a place to go, and a to-do list much longer than I am comfortable with. God has put this launch party together, the people in place helping, and the prayer warriors on it praying for strength and God to be the center of it all. We are beyond thrilled!!! 

Wednesday night at 6:30, if you can't be there, PRAY!!! We are excited to see what God has in store...

Posted on June 8, 2015 .