The Other Side of the Mountain

Wednesday, May 20, 2015

Shortly after Everly left our arms, Jimmy and I decided to make our annual trip (sans children) to the mountains to hike a section of the Appalachian Trail.  We celebrated our 10 wedding anniversary back in March and it's been a challenging year to say the least.  So, it made sense to seek out a little peace, comfort and relaxation that we've come to find on the trail in the past.

A pilgrimage of sorts this year, though, in fact.  

So off we went.

Time to hit the trail!  Nothing like a straight up climb to get you started!

Our first vista of the trip and our first encounter with a human (lol)!

Stopping for lunch

Nothing but green surrounding us.

One of our campsites

Rainy day hike...turned out to be our favorite.

Dinner time cooking!

Pretty awesome trail crew from Virginia making the hike a better experience!
The were working SO hard out there and hiked up, then down Tray Mountain two days in a
row to get the work completed. 

Love him!  Beautiful pop of color hiding beneath the green!

Found tons of snails this trip and loved each one.

Ahhh...a flat trail for all of 3 minutes

We realized quite quickly, however, once on the trail that the timing wasn't right for this trip.  The tears began to flow.  Our hearts began to ache.  The sadness seeped in.  We were just lost. 

Maybe it was too soon for this. Three months isn't anything considering the devastation we faced each day.  The pain is too raw, the emotions too deep.

Thanks to advice from my mom when I squeezed a call in to her on our first evening out on the trail, Jimmy and I decided that the best thing for us to do would be to leave the "work" of the trail.  You see, backcountry hiking and camping is not easy.  It's constant work...trekking to find the water source, setting up and taking down tent, pad, sleeping bag daily, and the hiking up and down of elevations.  This physical output coupled with our already exhausted bodies from our grief,  which negatively affects your body, and the year we had before was just too much.  We hadn't had a chance to rest, really rest our bodies and our minds from all that we've gone through since her birth.  It goes without saying of course, we would go our WHOLE lives without rest if we could have her back, though. 

As circumstances would have it, we were already so deep into the trail, it took us two more days of hiking to reach a point where we could be picked up.  During that period of time, we reflected on Everly, all the memories, the funny moments and, yes, the sadness, too.  We allowed ourselves time to grieve, to cry, to be free to let the emotions flow. 

And flow they did.

Many moments like this

And this, though you can't see,  I'm likewise full of emotion.

In the "real world," we display a false bravado many times.  Some moments it really isn't false and we feel "okay" for that time.  Some moments, it's because we know that our grief can be uncomfortable.  We are aware that sometimes when we speak about her and our feelings at particular times, on particularly challenging days, it can change the mood so we avoid that at almost all costs when in conversation, putting a positive spin on the situation somehow. But it's exhausting trying to do this much of the time. 

But, while we were hiking, it was just us for hours and hours each day, trekking miles up mountains and down mountains.  Gives one a lot of time to talk...and to cry. We didn't have to hide, stifle or curtail what we were feeling.  I lost count of how many times, I just burst into silence, nothing around for miles and miles...then bam, the tears just came.  Then Jimmy would hear behind me and he would follow suit.  Repeat, repeat, repeat. 

The days we spent on the trail were the right amount for us to get out much sadness we had been holding back.  We were ready to take a break...a real break...when we left it. Though we didn't stay the length of time we planned and though our trip before was beyond phenomenal, we knew it was time to call it.

Through what can ONLY be described as divine intervention, we found the perfect cabin in about 5 minutes of me trying to find somewhere on a whim.  There are so many reasons for me to know this to be the case to list but trust me when I tell you that God orchestrated this place for us at this time. 

Yes, that is the name.  How fitting is that?  God just sees to ALL the details...big and small!
**If you would like to know more about this fabulous cabin rental, send me an email and I'd be happy to give you the details.  The owners are a class act and their property breathtaking!**

A wonderful selection of Christian books.  The owner, Joy, shared with me when I contacted her about the cabin
that she was a Christian and asked if she could pray with me.  I'm not usually emotional with strangers but something about her and trying to explain why we wanted the cabin that very day without any planning caused me to lose my composure.  She even took the time to come learn more about our sweet girl and her story when we hung up the phone, too.

This got me.  Only one pillow in the entire place with a quote and this is what it says:  Rest for your soul. 
Matthew 11:29   Likely coincidence?  I think not.  God knows what we need and when we need it.

As I sit here now typing, I look out over the mountain range that just days before we were traversing and today feel rested.  My body and my soul are unwinding in a way that I wasn't able to get on the AT this time.  I know we will be back at it when the timing is right...we love it and we crave that time out there hiking.  However, God knew (and my mom, I might add) that this wasn't this week

This is what this broken hearted mama needed.  I found my comfort reflecting in God's providence.
He is the ONE who can shelter, comfort and protect.  He knows our every need, desire and He holds
our tears in His hands.  He provided for us in more ways than one just like He always does. 

I think I might have been looking for something more than peace and relaxation with our hike trip.  I think it's possible in some kind of irrational way I was searching for Everly.  Of course, intellectually I know she wasn't there but my broken-mama-heart thought I could "find" her again...if only for a minute.  When the realization sunk in that she was gone, really gone from this earth, it just became too much. 

Though we were in the mountains and I was seeking her out, it became clear to me after the first day that I need to seek Him out and by doing that, in time, I will find peace. 

1 I lift up my eyes to the mountains—
where does my help come from?
2 My help comes from the Lord,

the Maker of heaven and earth. 

Psalm 121:1-2

You see, sometimes I get so wrapped up in what I've lost with my sweet baby, that I forget to lay my eyes and my heart upon all that I have in Him.  I love, love my mountains, but the help I need can't be found there.  As I'm finding, my surroundings are allowing me time to decompress, get still and be quiet so that I CAN find Him and He can comfort and walk with me through this

When you pass through the waters, I will be with you;
And through the rivers, they shall not overflow you.
When you walk through the fire, you shall not be burned,
Nor shall the flames scorch you.

Isaiah 43:2

He has carried me, us, for all these many months.  He has never forsaken me, even on those so very dark days that the abyss seems so dark and so deep that there is no way out, I know that He carries me even, especially, then.  Faith in His  promises will continue to remind me of this. 

Friends, take heart.  No matter what pain you have now or in your past, God wants to be there with you.  He does care and He doesn't want you to do this life alone.  He desires a relationship with us.  You know the statement:  "God doesn't give you more than you can handle."  Well, it's only partially correct because we were never intended to "do" this life alone.  Just like in the famous Footprints poem, He is carrying you when you don't see that second set of footprints.  Remember that. 

And, though, I tried to seek out my sweet Everly in the mountains, I realized that on this side of the mountain, I need to continue to seek Him out.   

I'll see them both on the other side of the mountain


The Adventures of EverlyCat

Friday, May 1, 2015

Flat Stanley, the traveling gnome, Where in the World is Matt Lauer?  You know...those traveling characters and people who pop up in various places.  These are all fun to follow and illicit a sense of adventure!

So begins our own journey with our EverlyCat!


Formerly known as Jellycat, EverlyCat came to our family in December, a gift for Everly from Go Shout Love's 25 Days of Christmas.  Well, actually all three of our children received one.  Everly's sweet gray rabbit, though its title on the tag is Jellycat, stayed with her at St. Joe's Children's Hospital in December and January and also traveled with her to the Children's Hospital of Atlanta.  It rested snuggled up to her neck, her hands and under her IV-stuck arm. 

In her final days, it lay tucked next to her cheek providing touch and offering protection in the way only an innocent child's stuffed animal can. 

Opening the box with Jellycat at Christmas

Everly receiving her Jellycat at Christmas

Sweet pea with her little Jellycat
When she left this earth, it was that little rabbit that accompanied her to the funeral home when mommy couldn't stay with her.  When she returned home to us, it was that little rabbit that followed her then, too.  When it was time for our final goodbye, again it was JellyCat that stayed by Everly's side.  When our precious baby's belongings were ready for pick up, it was that tear-stained rabbit we laid our tired and worn out eyes on first. 

This stone gray soft bunny now offers our family the same comfort and company it did for Everly.

Shortly after Sweet Pea's return to Heaven, it was suggested that JellyCat be a part of our family's activities...traveling with us, participating in family photos, experiencing life with us. 

And in that moment, EverlyCat was reborn with a new purpose:  a tangible way for us as a family to celebrate and experience life with our Everly...close to our heart and fresh in our mind. 

Now please don't get me wrong here.  There is not one person in our family who actually believes this rabbit is the reincarnation of our daughter.  Honestly.  But, rather, it is a way for us to process the changes our family must experience with such a loss, to keep the boys' sister a relevant member of our family and a healthy way for us to remember that she is gone but not forgotten.

And, to top it all off, we are having fun doing it!

The boys try to top each other with where sissy's stuffed animal should be photographed...hanging off the ledge at the top of the lighthouse or riding waves on the boat.  Daddy's specialty is remembering to bring her before we leave for somewhere special.  She doesn't go with us most places...usually only if it's something significant...though she was forgotten when we attended the St. Joe's Memorial last week.  Yikes!  I personally like to include her in pictures of significance to Everly's Angels or in how we are remembering office, t-shirts. 

We have a hearty stack of EverlyCat photos to share now as I had intended to write about her many weeks ago and start posting her pics then.  Since it didn't happen, I'll blast you here with all of EverlyCat's Adventures thus far! 

Just chillin' with my peeps at the store.  lol

It's Easter!

Checking my girl Everly's mailbox

Yay!  Sissy got some mail!

On our weekend getaway...see me on the wall

Sending out Team Everly shirts! 

All these pretty colors...wish they had one in my size!

More pretty packages with Team Everly shirts...I should get an EverlyCat shirt!

As most of you know, Everly and our family had a beautiful year completing so many things off of her bucket list...from riding a ferris wheel to meeting Santa to climbing a mountain.  However, there are so many more things we would have wanted her to experience. 

So, in the the spirit of adventure and moving forward, we invite you to take EverlyCat on your own adventures!  Thanks to my friend Michelle for the idea and Jennifer for the printable!  Each family can have their own EverlyCat.  Just print out the picture, laminate for durability if you'd like and off you go!  Hashtag #everlycatsadventures so we can follow her journey on IG and on Love for Everly's Facebook page.  



EverlyCat heading to the library
EverlyCat rescuing a turtle from the road



DOWNLOAD your own EverlyCat  HERE

How exciting will it be to see all of the places she'll experience in spirit as everyone heads off in different directions and in everyday life!  Don't forget that some of Everly's bucket list items were normal family things like having her brothers carry her and participating in a Nerf war, so be sure to include those as well! 

Hope you all enjoy the ride as much as we are now!  What adventure will YOUR family take EverlyCat on now?

With love and appreciation,

Crystal (Everly's Proud Mama)