Thursday, April 19, 2018

Eighteen.

Eighteen. Just a number, right? In my world right now, that number speaks--actually, it screams--volumes. April 24th marks eighteen months since I last held my daughter's hand in mine. Since I last kissed her cheek and stroked her hair. April 24th marks eighteen months since my sweet Paige went to be with Jesus. 18 months. 78 weeks. 547 days. It doesn't seem real, yet it truly is all too real. I have missed and thought about and grieved for that girl every single day since she left this earth. How could I not? Eighteen months ago I lost a piece of my heart that I won't get back until I join her in Heaven.

Once upon a time, I didn't cringe at the number eighteen. Paige was supposed to graduate this year as part of the Class of 2018. This was supposed to be a season of senior pictures, college plans, prom, graduation--the list goes on and on. This was supposed to be a time I hesitated to let her go, knowing all the while it was a necessary part of growing up. But my girl didn't get the chance to grow up. That chance was taken away by a form of aggressive leukemia that relentlessly attacked her over and over and over again. 

Paige would have turned 18 in August this year. She would have been an 'official' adult. She would have been starting school in pursuit of that nursing degree she wanted so very badly. She would have been checking off her 'To Do' list of plans as she met her future husband and sought a job at TCH to follow in the footsteps of nurses she absolutely adored. She would have done so many things. So many good things. She would have. Those words hurt me to my core. How do I manage to trudge through days that seem like they will never end? How do I keep going on days when I miss Paige so much I can barely breathe? 

One word: God.

When I struggle to make it through the day, He is here. When the waves of grief knock me to my knees, He is here.  When I am unsure of my next steps, God is here. He guides me and constantly shows me evidence of His goodness and mercy and grace. He gives me reminders I am not alone on this road that can sometimes seem incredibly lonely. He loves me on the good days and seems to pull me in even closer on the messy days. Without a doubt, He is my strength--always.

I find another source of strength in my incredible daughter.

Paige found joy in every single day. That smile--oh, that smile--could brighten any day and led to Paige being known as the "sunshine in the room" to so many who cared for her. After her second relapse, Paige displayed unmatched courage when she helped make decisions difficult for adults to fathom, much less a teenager.  Her brave, fighting spirit served as inspiration for people in and out of the hospital setting. From the very beginning, Paige was a determined young lady. She didn't know the word "quit" and faced every trial head-on. My girl fought hard every moment of every day--even in her last days. Paige was smart, strong, and oh-so-sassy. She is my heart. She is my hero.

I will work to follow Paige's lead the rest of my days. Like her, I will continue to lean on my faith. Like her, I will look for the joy in every day. There is joy to be found in the sweet memories of her. There is joy to be found in the days to come. Like my amazing daughter, I will hold on to hope. Hope for the future. Hope the sting of her absence lessens a little with time. Like Paige, I will remain determined. Determined to keep going--no matter what. 

Paige had a purpose in this world; she wanted to make a difference, and she did. She still is. Runners honoring her fight. Students organizing ways to help other childhood cancer families in Paige's memory. A community coming together to raise money for much-needed research for her type of leukemia. A mom who will not stop sharing her heartbreakingly beautiful story. 

Eighteen, you may knock me down--but you will not knock me out. I'll take my cues from the bravest girl I ever knew. I will be joyful. I will be patient. I will remain faithful. Thank you for the lesson, sweet girl. See you in a little bit.

Thursday, December 21, 2017

The Teacher Becomes the Student

Teacher. It's a role I've played for about twenty years (on and then mostly off after Paige got sick). It's a role I wanted ever since I was a little girl playing school with my friends. It's a role I worked to improve each year--for myself and for my students. Teaching was my calling. I was totally, completely in my element. One day in January 2014 changed all that. It was the day I became the student. Over the course of the next 3 years I would learn from Paige--her fight, her faith, and her refusal to let cancer define her. I would learn from Paige even after she made her journey to Heaven. My girl has been with Jesus almost 14 months now, and I'm still learning new things each and every day.

I must admit--sometimes it feels like I am a living, breathing version of the "Groundhog Day" movie. No matter my thoughts as I doze off and on throughout the night, I find myself hoping I will wake to a different outcome. To our old life. To our family of four all under one roof.  Of course, that doesn't happen, and it's a tough lesson to learn. Every morning is a jolting reminder of this new way of doing life. Yes, over a year later it is still a new way of doing life. It is all too easy to get bogged down in the reminder that Paige is not away at camp or off to college or some other adventure. That she is really absent from this earth and present with Jesus. It is all too easy to get so overwhelmed by this fact that I sometimes struggle just to make it through the day. I say it's easy because that's exactly where I've found myself the last few months. Devastated. Overwhelmed. Struggling.

This week marked the two-year anniversary of Paige's bone marrow transplant. That transplant was supposed to save her life. It was supposed to mark a new beginning, and I guess this year it did--just not in a way I would ever have imagined. On that day, believe it or not, I somehow managed to start trying to break out of the fog that has had me trapped since mid-August. I reminded myself that Paige is okay. In fact, she's more than okay. She's wonderfully, perfectly healed. It's what I prayed for--it just came in a manner different than I'd hoped. I stopped and thought about the things I pray with people every week. About God's goodness and love. His amazing grace and mercies that are new every single morning. I stopped and reminded myself about the joy to be found every day, and the fog began to lift. It's not totally gone, but it's starting to lift. This journey is filled with challenges, but I am learning to face them. Again, the teacher becomes the student.

Because I've been so scattered the last few months, it only seems fitting to let a few of the things I've learned--and in some cases, simply just remembered--land here. No particular topic in no particular order, except I really did save the best for last.

Well-meaning people say hurtful things. If you haven't walked this road, it's hard to know what to say. I get it. You want to say something without causing more pain. Unfortunately, sometimes what sounds good in your head doesn't translate so well once it's spoken. Before I go any further, here are a few suggestions of things to avoid:
  • "It's been a whole year. Aren't you better now? She's fine. You're fine."
  • "At least you have Jeremy."
  • "You know where she is--you should be happy. You should be rejoicing. You should be thankful."
The statements above, while not a comprehensive list, have been spoken to us time and again by friends, acquaintances, and others who followed our family's story. I'll be honest. They come across as judgmental--even though I'm certain this is rarely the intention. It takes everything in me, along with a giant helping of grace, not to reply the way I'd like to. These words hurt. They minimize my daughter's existence, and I am not okay with that.

Of course I know where Paige is. I know Whose she is, and that alone serves as hope to keep me going. And I am thankful. Thankful God chose me to be her mom. Thankful for the sixteen years I had with her. Thankful for our relationship that got closer and closer through her treatment. Thankful for the inspiration she was and continues to be. The grief journey is a work in progress, and each day presents its own challenges--much like life in general. We can't be expected to justify why we are feeling a certain way on a particular day. We are simply doing the best we can and trusting God to keep nudging us forward and heal our hearts. And He will.

I will always miss my daughter, and that's okay. As of this writing, time has not yet wiped the grief away. Quite honestly, I don't expect it to. I carried the child in my body, for goodness' sake. I spent just about every waking moment with her for almost three years. Paige had--and will forever have--a huge piece of my heart. I talk about her. I think about how she would react to various experiences. Paige may no longer be able to move forward in this lifetime, but her sweet memories can. I am working on getting to that seemingly distant place where I can carry her with me while moving forward without breaking down. I am trusting God to get me there. And He will.

I am not the person I used to be, and that's okayWhen life does a 180-degree turn and the bottom drops out from under you, it's very difficult--if not nearly impossible--to be who you once were. Maybe that's how it is supposed to be, though. Things happen in life that change us--not always in as drastic a fashion as we've experienced, but things happen nonetheless. Those changes can break us, or they can actually be part of the healing process.

I used to feel like I pretty much had it together. The wife thing. The mom thing. The teacher thing. I was a multi-tasking maniac with a slight touch of Type A perfectionist personality (my husband will argue it was more than slight). I had very specific goals, many of which flew out the window with Paige's diagnosis. She was my priority. My purpose. Since she left us, I've struggled with just who I am. I struggle with who God wants me to be now.

Every day I pray He will guide my steps in this next season of life. And He will. He already is. I'm working and serving alongside some amazing people at church. I've still got a foot in the education door teaching two undergrad classes. I've even been blessed with a few opportunities to share Paige's story and hope to make a difference however I can. When I step back and take a look at how different things have come together over the last year, I know for a fact it is God at work. The changes in my life do not define who I am. I'm a bit of a mess right now, but I am also the daughter of Almighty God. I'm trusting Him to get me through. And He will.

God really is always here with me, and that's more than okay. Not only do I acknowledge His constant presence, I truly feel it. God's grace got me through the year of firsts without my sweet girl. Now into the 'seconds,' I will continue to rely on His strength to get us through each and every day. He is here through the storms, when waves of grief try to pull me under. He is here on the sunny days, when memories of Paige leave me with a smile. I seek Him. I trust Him. He is always faithful. Always.

Sunday, October 22, 2017

Journey to Her Heavenly Home

I shared in my last post that October is a rough month for our family. Now that I think about it, rough is actually putting it mildly. October is difficult. It is heartbreaking. It is absolutely gut-wrenching. As I write this, we are just days away from the one-year mark of Paige going to be with Jesus. One year. 12 months. 365 days. 8,760 hours. Over 500,000 minutes. Over 31 million seconds. And I have missed, mourned, and longed for that girl with everything I have every single one of those seconds.

Boyce and I have heard on more than one occasion that it doesn't seem like it's been that long. Trust me--it's been that long. To our hurting family, it feels like it's been a whole lot longer. I get it. People around us have moved on. Life must go on, yet we find ourselves struggling as we try to move forward without feeling like we are leaving a precious piece of ourselves behind. Figuring out this still-new way of doing life without Paige is a very slow, painful process.

As much as I've tried to avoid it--by staying busy and go-go-going nonstop--October just won't let us be. Memories of our last month with Paige overwhelm me day and night. Just last week I awoke from a dream sobbing--full-on sobbing--because in that dream I relived every second of Paige leaving us. Every second.

Over the last few years, I've shared how our family's faith and trust in God has carried us through good times and bad. That has not changed. He is always good. He is always faithful. We prayed for Paige's healing over and over and over again. She received it--not in the way we were hoping, but she received it nonetheless. A while back our pastor talked about three kinds of healing: immediate, gradual, and ultimate. While my head and my prayers always steered toward gradual, my baby girl received her ultimate healing when she went to be with Jesus. She is free from the shackles of cancer. She is whole. She is rejoicing.

I've talked a few times about those last days with Paige--but I've never put them in writing. Until now. It's time. It's time to share how I know that I know that I know Jesus came for my beautiful girl in the wee hours of October 24, 2016.

Our last hospital stay was a true roller coaster ride. There were at least 3 times from admission in late September until the day our girl journeyed home that we were told to 'be ready.' That the leukemia was starting to gallop out of control. And it showed. Paige slept more than she was awake, wanting nothing more than her mom and dad right where she could see them when she did open her eyes. The pain--oh, the pain. It hit every part of her body with such force that her usual regimen for pain management wouldn't touch it. There would be a few rough, scary days--and then my girl would perk up, ready for pancakes and maybe a visit or two from family. Then down she would go again. The back and forth was so hard on her. Hard on her parents. Hard on everyone who loved her.

There were tears. So many tears. Tears in the eyes of doctors and nurses as they delivered more and more bad news while doing everything in their power to keep Paige comfortable. Tears in the eyes of a grandmother whose heart was breaking seeing her granddaughter suffer. Tears in the eyes of a brother who said over and over that if Paige left us on his birthday, he would never celebrate it again. Tears in the eyes of a father who realized the only thing he could do--the most important thing he could do--was to be there. And then there was Paige. The most heartbreaking of all the tears shed were those in the eyes of my 16-year-old daughter telling me she didn't want to die. That she wasn't ready. That she knew where she would go, but there were still so many things she wanted to do.

One particularly rough day, Paige awoke so confused she didn't know me. She didn't recognize me--the person who had been by her every minute for more than two years. She didn't recognize her mom. There was fear and panic in eyes that were usually filled with joy and some kind of mischief. Her brain was able to 'defog' after a few minutes, but the damage was done. Paige knew things were getting worse. The confusion became more frequent. Nurse schedules were adjusted to provide consistency with the hope of making things a bit easier on our girl. I cannot say enough about Amber and Emily, our nurses the last few days. Those ladies were patient, loving, and took incredible care of Paige (and her parents) as our girl was becoming less and less connected to her earthly home.

Just a day before she left us, Paige woke up particularly agitated. It took many gentle assurances to get her settled down. Convinced someone was trying to take her away, she kept pointing up and saying, "No. No. No! I'm not going yet. I'm not going with that man!" Paige was adamant in her protests as she drifted back to sleep while the rest of us looked at each other in amazement at what she had said. My girl slept a lot that Saturday. A whole lot. That night she awoke crying out in pain and with still more confusion. As I held her with likely the tightest hug ever, she said, "Mom, I can't do this anymore. It's too hard."

God surely spoke through me that night as I told my daughter that she didn't have to do this anymore. That we knew how hard she had fought. How very much she was loved. That I was sure that the man who came for her was Jesus--and that when He came back, it was okay for her to go with Him. He would take away her pain. He would take away her disease. She would be whole in Heaven. I held her tightly and told her I loved her. Paige's reply: "I love you too, Mom." Those were the last words I would hear my daughter speak to me.

The next 24 hours or so felt like an eternity as medications were administered to keep Paige comfortable. That was our only goal at that point--to keep her free from pain and suffering as she made the journey to her Heavenly home. Our TCH family members were in and out of her room that day, many of them simply looking at Paige with tears in their eyes, unable to say much of anything. They loved her too. Boyce and I held her hands, stroked her beautiful, curly hair, and told that girl over and over and over again that we loved her. That we would always love her. That even though our time together on Earth was coming to an end, we would all be together again one day.

We didn't leave her side.  We couldn't. We had to soak up every single second we had left with our precious Paige. I kept my eyes on her the whole time, watching her chest slowly rise and fall. Paige's oncologist came to visit late that night, and in her typical fashion managed to make us laugh about something I can't even recall now. Yes, we were actually able to laugh at something in the midst of the most heartbreaking time of our lives. She stood up to leave, assuring us she would check in the next morning (which was just hours away at that point). Boyce and I went to hug her, and for the first time in about 24 hours nobody was holding on to Paige's hands. I turned around, and my girl had quietly left. So completely at peace-- and so very much just like her to wait until I wasn't watching. In the blink of an eye, Paige left behind her broken body and stepped into Heaven, forever healed.

-----------------

Paige, my love...it's been a year for us, but probably more like a second or two for you. Thank you for the privilege of being your mom. Thank you for putting up with my fierce love for you. Thank you for helping me find joy on the hardest of days. Thank you for living out your faith in a way that just made you shine Jesus' love all over the place--even in your sassiest moments. I love you, sweet girl. Always. See you in a little bit.


Be joyful in hope, patient in affliction, faithful in prayer.   Romans 12:12

Friday, October 6, 2017

Pancakes, Beads, and Precious Time

October is a rough, rough month for our family. Once upon a time, it simply meant Jeremy would spend the better part of the month telling us what he wanted for his birthday, which is on the 30th. These days it's a little different--make that a lot different. October is the last month we had our sweet girl on this earth. October 2016 changed us forever. It has now been almost one year since Paige left us, yet sometimes it feels like yesterday. Today I find myself thinking about those last days we had with her. Today I find myself thinking about pancakes, beads, and precious, precious time.

Pancakes. As Paige's health was rapidly declining, so was her appetite. There were really no foods that sounded good to her--except pancakes. Chocolate chocolate chip pancakes, to be exact. Chocolate pancakes loaded with chocolate chips. And whipped cream. So much whipped cream--and I'm not talking about the little dollop they put on the stack at the restaurant. I'm talking a can of Reddi-Wip. Paige was very particular about it--it had to be the "real stuff," not the "low fat junk Mom likes." Each pancake had to be cut into bites that would then be 'decorated' with their own helpings of whipped cream. I'm not sure how many cans we went through, but I do know it became a 'thing' for us to make trips back and forth to the family room refrigerator for Paige's Reddi-Wip.  Even on those yucky days, that sass was still front and center--but that was fine with me. I loved seeing her spunk re-emerge, even though the times were getting fewer and farther between. I loved seeing her cover those pancake bites with whipped cream and thoroughly enjoy food she actually felt like eating. I loved doing what we could to make her happy. Whatever that girl wanted, we would find a way to make it happen. It just so happened that those pancakes hit the spot every single time--24 of those last 28 days we were there. That's a lot of pancakes.

Beads. Beads of Courage is a national arts-in-medicine program that helps children who are coping with a serious illness tell their stories and have an amazing visual representation of those journeys.  TCH was just beginning the Beads of Courage program last year after Paige's last relapse. In fact, they were in the process of training staff and hadn't yet received all of the different types of beads they planned on giving out. Every bead is part of a child's story. Every. Single. One. There's one for every dose of chemotherapy, whether by pill or infusion. One for every poke, including IVs, blood draws, and accessing the port. One for every overnight hospital stay, every biopsy, every transfusion, every scan--everything. There are even special "EnCOURAGEment" beads for bigger milestones as well as special accomplishments related to the journey. It's truly an amazing program.

We were surprised and honored when some very special people approached us about awarding Paige with all the beads she had earned up to that point. The problem was, I hadn't kept up with all of that--not in one specific place, anyway. There was so much the girl had experienced through 2 1/2 years of diagnosis, treatment, relapse, transplant, and yet another relapse. Just trying to estimate the number of times she'd had some form of chemo was in itself a daunting task (almost 600), and we wanted to make sure Paige got every single bead she'd earned. Boyce and I spent the better part of a weekend going through all of the treatment 'road maps' and calendars and clinic paperwork we had in our possession. We knew there were things we'd overlooked and were beyond grateful when one of our incredible inpatient doctors spent a Sunday afternoon combing through anything and everything she could to help complete our counts of Paige's many, many courageous moments over the last few years. The result: over 70 feet of beads--beads representing hope, perseverance, and bravery in the face of unfathomable adversity. Close to (if not slightly more than) 2,000 beads telling the story of one amazing young lady. 2,000 beads. That's a lot of beads--and a lot of courage.

Precious Time. From that final hospital admission on September 26th, we knew time with Paige was getting short. Much too short. Some days were good. There was laughter and sass and endless episodes of Tim Allen shows. Some days were really bad. On those days all we could do was hold that girl close and tell her how very much we loved her. I would have done that for the rest of my days if it meant Paige would one day regain her health. This was my baby girl, after all. A giant piece of my heart and my world.  Every day we were given with that girl was precious. Every day. Every hour. Every moment. Paige Madison Lejeune blessed my life for 16 years, 2 months, and 13 days. I will always be grateful for every precious second I had with the bravest person I have ever known. 

************************

Paige taught me more through her cancer battles than she ever fully realized. I think she did the same for a whole lot of people. What a special, special young lady. I am forever proud to be her mom.

Be joyful in hope, patient in affliction, faithful in prayer.   Romans 12:12

Friday, September 29, 2017

Weathering the Storms

*Foreword: This post is just a bit different, as I go back and forth between the recent storm that hit our area and the storm of childhood cancer that hit our family. Both call for strength. Both call for help from others. Both call for continued hope. 

Just over a month ago, the Texas Gulf Coast was pounded by Hurricane Harvey. While our area was spared some of the strong winds, we received rain. And more rain. And still more rain. What began as a 'typical' storm threat quickly became a major flooding event as we found ourselves on the 'dirty' side of Harvey.

As longtime residents of Southeast Texas, we've seen our share of storms. We know to prepare. We know to 'hunker down' or evacuate if needed. We pay attention to forecasts and usually make it through unscathed.

Harvey was different. It rained. And it rained. And it rained some more. We watched as water covered the street and then the sidewalk before making its way up the yard. In the 16 years we've lived in this house, I don't know that water has ever made it past the sidewalk. For several hours it looked as though we might even end up with some in the house. A panic came across me like nothing I've felt in a long time.

You see, once upon a time, I wasn't super concerned with our 'stuff' when storms came our way. I always felt like though it would be hard, things could be replaced. It's people that are irreplaceable. As long as our family was together, that's what mattered. We evacuated (along with just about everyone else in our area) when Hurricane Rita was a threat. We 'hunkered down' at my mom's through Hurricane Ike, again leaving our house. I had my husband. I had my kids. We were good.

Then Paige left us, and I discovered there really was stuff that could never be replaced. Things she made. Things of hers. As the water got closer to the house and we realized it really could end up coming in, I frantically begin putting as many things in bins as I could. I'd already packed a couple of small storage bins when we cleaned out her room in November--but there were many things I hadn't yet had the energy to go through. Things that needed more time before revisiting. Thanks to Harvey, I had to deal with those things right then and there. Jewelry. T-shirt quilts and pillows. A plaster mold of her hand they made for us the night she passed away. And I was a mess. I don't know if it was PTSD or what--but that added to grief plus the stress of the unknowns with the storm--and it was a full-blown meltdown for this momma. I think realizing there were some things I really can't replace just served as another reminder my baby isn't here.

I spent a lot of time crying over the course of the days we were stranded inside. A whole lot. We are in the middle of a very tough couple of months--and knowing I might lose all I physically had left of Paige broke me. It simply broke me. When I thought I couldn't break any more--that my heart had already shattered as much as it could--I broke. Now, I'm just praying that God will start putting some of those pieces back together. I know He will. He's amazing like that. How else can I explain the fact that I can get up every day and be a (mostly) functioning member of society? But God. He is with us through the calm and through the storm. Every kind of storm.

Our first cancer storm--known as T-Cell Acute Lymphoblastic Leukemia--came ashore January 2014. We saw it as a challenge--but one we could get through as long as we were together. The second one hit in September 2015, and it was stronger than the first one. It would take much more to weather it, but again--we had faith we would make it to the other side. Together. Then came that third and final storm in July 2016. The one that hit with such a vengeance that recovery efforts for this one would be for three of us, not four. And it was devastating.

Harvey did his best to cause widespread devastation--and it was heartbreaking. We stayed safe and dry. For that we are so very thankful. We very well could have found ourselves losing everything we had. My heart truly goes out to everyone who was affected by this unprecedented storm. To those who suffered great losses, I am so very sorry. I will continue to pray for God to give you strength and to equip you with everything you need as you take this detour you never saw coming. It will be difficult, but He will provide. He will sustain you.

I can only guess that sounds cliché coming from someone whose home was spared. The thing is--our family has also been traveling a road we never saw coming. A path very different from anything we ever imagined. We didn't lose our home, but we lost a giant part of our home and a huge piece of our hearts when Paige went to be with Jesus. The days can be long and difficult. They can test us in ways we never thought possible. But no matter how tough those days can be, we always make it through. God has been with us the entire journey. He provides calm in the storms. He guides our steps. He gives us hope. He helps us weather the storms.

Friday, August 11, 2017

Missing the Birthday Girl

My Sweet, Sweet Paige...

Seventeen years ago today you made me a mom for the first time. You brought more joy, love, and spunk into our family than we ever thought possible. Your independent nature challenged us. Your courage and determination strengthened us. Your unabiding faith inspired us.

Today marks the first birthday you'll spend in Heaven. The first birthday I won't kiss your forehead. The first birthday I won't hear your laughter. The first birthday I won't marvel at that incredible, infectious smile in person. I miss you, girlie. So. Very. Much.

As we navigate this first birthday without you here, I will remind myself (all day if need be) that you are now healed and whole. You are in Paradise--in the presence of Jesus. Enjoy that Heavenly celebration, my love. I'll see you in a little bit.


Sunday, July 30, 2017

A Rough (and As of Yet Unnamed) Season

We are smack-dab in the middle of a southeast Texas summer. That means heat and humidity so oppressive it's difficult to be outside for long periods of time. It's also hurricane season, which is basically half a year of keeping our eyes on the Gulf of Mexico. We are encouraged to stock up on necessities and to have plans in place when strong storms head our way. Here's the kicker: We know they are coming, and we can do something about it. We can escape sweltering heat by seeking out air-conditioned bliss. Hurricanes are either 'ridden out' in our homes or a reason to hit the road for safer territory. We know these things are coming and can have plans for the minor (and sometimes not-so-minor) inconveniences they cause. This is not the case for the season our family is entering. The next few months have the makings of a very rough time ahead as we muddle our way through memories of the last few months we spent with our sweet Paige.

July. The month of her last relapse. Boyce and I have different triggers, but we fight these incredibly bad moments where we relive the devastating news we never dreamed we would hear. August. We reached Paige's 16th birthday. It's a milestone for all teens, but for our girl--it was so much more. It would be the last birthday she would celebrate here on Earth. September and October. Paige put on such a brave front, but the disease was progressing and zapping her energy. Quality time became more important than ever before. We played games and watched movies--and even got her out of the house on occasion. It was about making the most of every minute we had together. It was about finding joy and hope in the midst of the storm that was raging all around us.

She's been gone nine months. Nine months. Since Paige left, it feels like I'm living in a very strange time warp. I'm here in the day-to-day 'busy-ness' of life, taking care of Jeremy and Boyce and everything else I need to do. However, when I'm in my 'Paige Zone' (which happens quite often), it's like time has slowed to a crawl--or has stopped altogether. What's crazy to me is how those versions of myself--the busy, present one and the always-in-a-fog one--overlap and somehow occur simultaneously. What I do know is that my heart still seems to break a little more every day without that girl here.

It's been a difficult, heart-wrenching nine months reaching the firsts without Paige here. The first Thanksgiving. The first Christmas. Mother's Day. Father's Day. As each one neared, our hearts seemed to get heavier and heavier.  Paige always made special days even more special--it might have been through a unique or silly gift, a handmade card, or even a day of baking her favorite treats. Had it not been for Jeremy, I may have spent many of the firsts simply summoning the strength to get out of bed. Of course, that wouldn't have been fair to him--and it certainly would not have allowed God to keep doing the work He is doing in our lives. Each and every time we hit one of those terrible patches of the road, God gives us the strength we need to keep going. Every. Single. Time.

If you've followed our journey for any length of time, you know we are firm believers in the power of prayer and the sovereignty of Almighty God. If you are so led, please pray for our family as we continue to move forward one step at a time. Not a day goes by that one of us isn't experiencing some kind of struggle with losing Paige. As we head into this rough season, I cling to the hope of God's promises. I know He has a purpose for my time here, just as there was a purpose for the time He gave my sweet girl. Through the struggles and challenges of life, He is always good. He is always faithful. Always.

Because of the Lord's great love we are not consumed, for His compassions never fail. They are new every morning; great is Your faithfulness.   Lamentations 3:22-23