Happy 4th Birthday, Ayden Brooks

Ayden's 4th birthday was on Saturday.  The weekend was a whirwind of events as my 30th birthday was on Friday, so we were between celebrating (which we mostly reserved for Sunday because I never really want to celebrate my birthday on my birthday.  A lot of emotions....I'm just left feeling drained and just wanting to spend the evening in a quiet place not doing a whole lot.)  So, I'm just now getting around to the birthday post.

Friday night, Jeremy's cousin honored Ayden at his girls' soccer game.  He is a coach at a private school, and each year he honors Ayden on/around his birthday by gathering his players together and sending off balloons.  This year, he made it a bigger event by having t-shirts made for SIDS awareness.  Ayden's initials were painted on the field (you will notice the "J" is backwards in honor of all of those who have lost a child to SIDS).  Then, they ended with the big balloon release.  It was such an honor to be there, and I wouldn't have spent my birthday any other way.

 They sure do make the tough days a lot easier to face
 She loves her brother to pieces

 Jeremy spoke to the team afterwards about hope and continuing to live with hope even when you face an uncertain future
 You can see the t-shirts here

 I love seeing these balloons every year.

On Saturday  morning, I woke early and posted the following to facebook as I remembered the morning of April 27, 2009.  Still in labor...but so excited to meet my first baby.

Happy 4th birthday, Ayden Brooks. I see you daily... In a passing Collen glance or a little Charlotte smirk. There are traces of you in every breath I take. You are never more than a heartbeat away and soon enough, I will have you back in my arms. I love you, sweet boy. You continue to touch lives; we are so very proud to call you our son.

Ayden made me the mother I am today.  I don't take one single second for granted.  I didn't take any for granted when he was with us either.  I now know why I had such an urgency about me over Ayden.  Every single day he woke up, I thanked God that he was breathing...alive.  Each night, I prayed over him and told God that if He should need to take Ayden to let me accept that as His will and purpose.  I have to admit, I can't bring myself to pray so unselfishly now.....but I still know that my children are not my own.  But they are my precious treasures.  I have an abundance of treasure in Heaven and in this world.  But this world is fleeting, and I'm doing everything within my power to be sure ALL of our treasure is stored up in heaven whenever the time comes for all of us to get there.

On the morning of Ayden's birthday, we took Collen and Charlotte to a local event called "Touch-a-Truck."  It was nice to get out as a family and enjoy being outside looking at all the big trucks!  Collen loved the front loader - even got to make the bucket go up and down.  He also loved the classic car.  He ran around in the back of a food pantry truck and honked the big horn in the DOT truck.  Poor thing wanted to get in the bouncy castle, but all the big kids were in there and I knew where that would lead.  He would have gotten out quickly because there were just too many kids in there.  All in all, it was fun...fun to just be together.

Later in the afternoon, we all got together as a family...cooked some burgers and hot dogs...spent time together and let the cousins play together.  Then, as the sun started going down, we ventured out to Ayden's spot.  This was our 4th year gathering together.  The mood is always somber....yet uplifting as we are all together remembering our sweet Ayden.  We decided to things differently this year and release lanterns instead of balloons.  The lanterns were absolutely beautiful!  Watching them lift into the sky....I got choked up...just watching them float up and away.  There was a peace in that place...in that moment.  Then, they floated out of sight.  All week, I've just been in disbelief that it has been 4 years since I heard those first cries and held my first son for the very first time. 4 years since I experienced the most amazing event in my entire lifetime - becoming a mother for the first time.  I remember the fear, anxiety, questions, stress, and overall feeling that I wasn't doing anything right....yet, our baby grew, and he smiled, and he loved, and he developed into the sweet, happy, silly little baby we will never, ever forget.  4 years doesn't seem like that long ago, but at the same time it seems like it has been so much longer.  I feel so much older than 30.  I guess that's what grief and loss will do to a person.  But I keep reminding myself that as each day passes, we're one day closer to being together again.

Several friends remembered Ayden with us by sending up balloons with their families or singing Happy Birthday to Ayden and sending those videos and pictures to us.  They will never know how much we appreciate that.  To know that Ayden continues to be remembered. <3 all="" much="" so="" thank="" you="">

 I still find myself in disbelief that this is our reality.  But God has been good; He has seen us through and has allowed us to find hope in the darkest of times.  I'm so thankful for the hope we have in Him and the patience He has with us as we walk through these tough times....when we question and doubt...and point a finger at him while we ask "why" over and over again.  But when the light starts to come back in, He's still there welcoming us back and assuring us He never went away.  He is beside us through it all and will see us through to the end.

I will know Ayden. And he will know me.


 Saturday, April 27th, we should be celebrating a 4th birthday with a sweet, happy, special little boy.  We will still gather to celebrate his birth - because boy is that a happy day in our history - but that little 4 year-old will be absent (in body).  

This is the 4th birthday we have spent without him.  I thought it might get easier, but this year has been even harder.  I find myself near tears at any given point in the day because my thoughts are flooded with memories of my first born.  The week leading up to his birth, the anticipation of meeting our first child - our first baby, the excitement and fear all wrapped up together, and finally the elation and joy of finally meeting him...seeing his face...seeing this little person who made me a mom.  The first baby I snuggled, held close, and just breathed in while time stood still.  

Nancy and David Guthrie hosted a Respite Retreat reunion this past weekend.  I was so, so sad that we couldn't go.  With work, 2 kids, and a tight budget, we just couldn't pull everything together to go. I saw updates throughout the weekend, though, of the reunion.  The Respite Retreat was so healing for us and brought us into a healthy perspective in our grief.

This morning, Nancy posted a link to this letter written by John Piper to a woman who had recently given birth to a stillborn baby.  His words resonated with me so deeply.  And the words I bolded made my heart sink and leap at the same time.  I will know Ayden.  God will see to that.  And Ayden will know me.  And Ayden will thank me for giving him life.  Ayden will thank me for enduring the loss that he might have the reward sooner.  I can't bring words to how deeply that affected me upon reading it and comprehending the goodness, but also the ache (in this life), in those words.  

I have pasted the letter below, but here is a direct link as well: click here

Please think of us and pray for us this week as we remember Ayden's birth and the absolute joy we experienced the months, days leading up to it and especially the day of his birthday.


Earlier this year, a grieving mother, who recently had given birth to a stillborn son, wrote to me asking for counsel and comfort. The team at Desiring God thought this letter might be helpful to some others, whether other mothers who have lost infants, parents who have lost young children, or perhaps even more broadly.
Dear _____,
This loss and sorrow is all so fresh. I hesitate to tread into the tender place and speak. But since you ask, I pray that God would help me say something helpful.

First, please know that I know I don’t know what it is like to give birth to a lifeless body. Only a small, sad band of mothers know that. I say “lifeless body” because, as you made clear, your son is not lifeless. He simply skipped earth. For now. But in the new heavens and the new earth, he will know the best of earth and all the joys earth can give without any of its sorrows.

I do not know what age — what level of maturity and development — he will have in that day. I don’t know what level of maturity and development I will have. Will the 25-year-old or the 35- or the 45- or the 55-year-old John Piper be the risen one? God knows what is optimal for the spiritual, glorified body. And so it will be for your son. But you will know him. God will see to that. And he you. And he will thank you for giving him life. He will thank you for enduring the loss that he might have the reward sooner.

God’s crucial word on grieving well is 1 Thessalonians 4:13: “We do not want you to be uninformed, brothers, about those who are asleep, that you may not grieve as others do who have no hope.” Yours is a grieving with hope. Theirs is a grieving without hope. That is the key difference. There is no talk of not grieving. That would be like suggesting to a woman who just lost her arm that she not cry, because it would be put back on in the resurrection. It hurts! That's why we cry. It hurts.

And amputation is a good analogy. Because unlike a bullet wound, when the amputation heals, the arm is still gone. So the hurt of grief is different from the hurt of other wounds. There is the pain of the severing, and then the relentless pain of the gone-ness. The countless might-have-beens. Those too hurt. Each new remembered one is a new blow on the tender place where the arm was. So grieving is like and unlike other pain.

There is a paradox in the way God is honored through hope-filled grief. One might think that the only way he could be honored would be to cry less or get over the ache more quickly. That might show that your confidence is in the good that God is and the good that he does. Yes. It might. And some people are wired emotionally to experience God that way. I would not join those who say, “O they are just in denial.”

But there is another way God is honored in our grieving. When we taste the loss so deeply because we loved so deeply and treasured God’s gift — and God in his gift — so passionately that the loss cuts the deeper and the longer, and yet in and through the depths and the lengths of sorrow we never let go of God, and feel him never letting go of us — in that longer sorrow he is also greatly honored, because the length of it reveals the magnitude of our sense of loss for which we do not forsake God. At every moment of the lengthening grief, we turn to him not away from him. And therefore the length of it is a way of showing him to be ever-present, enduringly sufficient.

So trust him deeply and let your heart be your guide whether you honor him one way or the other. Everyone is different. Beware of blaming your husband, or he you, for moving into or out of grief at different paces. It is so personal. And what you may find is that the one who seemed to recover more quickly will weep the more deeply in ten years. You just don’t know now, and it is good not to judge.
May God make your grieving a bittersweet experience of communion with Jesus. Matthew tells us that when Jesus heard that John the Baptist had been beheaded, “he withdrew from there in a boat to a desolate place by himself” (Matthew 14:13). So he knows what it is to go with you there.

We do not have a High Priest who is unable to sympathize. He was tested in every way as we are — including loss.

Grace to you and peace.


Pastor John

Potty Training

Last week - Wednesdayish? I dropped Collen and Charlotte off at the babysitter's house just like I do every morning.  The babysitter had gotten a potty for Collen to use because he has been showing some interest at home and would use it sporadically.  However, he would never go on his own or follow cues.  He had gotten to the point, though, where he was conscious of when he needed to go and would tell us, but would go in his diaper before getting to the potty.  The babysitter introduced the new potty to him, but he didn't seem too interested.  I think because it was a different potty.  So, he showed it to me and I made a huge deal about it - such a cool potty!  The morning I dropped him off I left him with, "You can use the froggy potty whenever you want to, buddy!  Use the potty and you get to put stickers on your chart!"  Apparently, all he needed was my permission.  The boy went to the potty and stayed dry all day.  This followed us home where he stayed dry all night!  We were amazed and so very, very proud.  We had made it a point not to push him.  Collen does not do well with pushing.  It has to be his idea and in his time.  Since that day, he has continued to use the potty...sometimes even all by himself.  On Saturday, we had a little set back.  Not sure why....he just didn't want to go.  But on Sunday, he was back to using the potty like a champ - even used a foreign potty - the kiddy one in his Sunday School classroom.

Collen loves Daniel Tiger, and we have made a point of singing the potty song from DT around the house - even before he started showing an interest.  It has become engrained in his memory.  Such a cute song with great reminder of the pottying process!

So proud of Collen!!

New Look

As you can see, I'm giving my blog a bit of a makeover.  Sit tight.  I'm still working on it, so if everything doesn't work perfectly right now....hold your horses....I'm getting there. ;)

Collen's Day and Easter


 A couple of weekends ago, Jeremy and I organized a "Collen's Day."  We had noticed that Collen had been acting out a lot lately.  Much of it seemed to be his need for attention, and he was going to get it any way possible.  So, we decided it was time to devote a day/afternoon to Collen.  We took him to a local park where there are walking trails and little ponds and lots of nature to explore.  He had a blast, and it was fun to spend time together....just the three of us.  I sure missed my girl while we were gone, but I know it is important to spend that one-on-one time with your kids and show them just how special they are. :)

These are a little out of order, but you'll get the idea.

 This was after our outing - had to go to Collen's favorite place. "Chic-fa-wee" (It's going to be a sad day when he pronounces it correctly.  I love the "kid talk"  I'll miss "yittle" and "weawwy (really)" 

 Us :)

 Feeding the geese

 He had to sit on all the animals.  There was a dolphin, a whale, an alligator, and a dinosaur as well.

 We had fun exploring.  We saw a lizard - I tried to catch it, but the thing was just too fast!

Jeremy, myself, and my mom had Good Friday off, so we decided to trek to my grandparents house for a quick overnight visit.  It was a rare treat because we got to see ALL of my mom's siblings!  She is one of six, so we normally don't get to see everyone all together unless it's Christmas.  Family is so very important to us, and I'm so glad Collen and Charlotte are able to make memories with their great aunts and uncles.  These men and women are important parts of my life - it's awesome to be able to see them interact with my children.  I can imagine it's surreal for them as well.  Along with my aunts and uncles, of course we spent time with my grandparents as well.  They are both 85/86 (? I can never remember) and still doing very, very well.  I cherish each visit with them, and I'm so glad we were able to make this trip.  I had been itching to see them!!

 Collen swinging at Uncle Nelson's house

 Charlotte getting quality time with Great Grandaddy

 Uncle Nelson joined in on the fun
(My Uncle Nelson used to be a Civil War reenact-or (can you tell?) He was also in the film Gettysburg. His claim to fame - he walked into cannon fire. :)

 Collen with Great Grandaddy
 And with Great Grandmother

 On the way home, we stopped at Aunt Tricia's house where Collen was just in time to dye Easter eggs.  He loved it!
 Collen petting Uncle Nelson's chickens

The whirlwind continued in our hometown for Easter Sunday.  Regrettably, I don't have that many pictures from that day.  It's always busy when all the kids get together.  But we managed to get these at church Sunday morning:

We don't really do the "Easter bunny."  It's not something I want to push very much.  I'd rather just leave it as an Easter morning surprise and focus more on Jesus and the reason we celebrate Easter.  Growing up, though, my mom always left an egg trail (and for some reason, I thought everyone got an egg trail. I'm now learning that not many people do this....haha....so many have said "what a good idea!" and I'm thinking "Doesn't everyone do this??")  I decided Collen and Charlotte would also get an egg trail, so here is Collen following the egg trail on Easter morning at Grandma's house.

The goodies at the end of the trail:

We managed to get a good family photo while at my grandparents' house!  Collen will actually "smile" for pictures now.

And this little lady is LOVING eating these days.  She skipped over the "first foods" portion and moved right into the "second foods" portion.  When I get time, I make her baby food, but working full time doesn't allow that all the time.  Thanks to Gerber she's getting a good mix of babyfood.  Her favorites right now are any of the fruits, green beans, sweet potatoes, and squash.  She doesn't care for peas.  She's growing and developing so much and changing weekly!
That's all that has been going on with the Joneses.  We've been staying super busy!  Jeremy is on spring break this week.  I took Monday and Tuesday off to help him out with the kids and just be home.  He's solo today through Friday, and I'm sure he's going to do a great job. :)  They love their Daddy, so I know they will have a fun time together. <3 p="">