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I've had a lot of people tell me how impressed they are with my strength. "If it were me," they say as their eyes dart quickly to the ground, scared for a split second that maybe the words might make it true, "I don't think I'd be as strong as you."
I'd hardly consider myself strong. I spent the 45 minutes of registration for our Avery Step You Take 5K holed up in an office praying and bawling my eyes out. Instead of preparing what I was going to say as a welcome, I sat and cried. I spent the whole next day in bed.
Monday was the all-school Olympics. Brody's first. I cried. Because his sister was supposed to be doing the Olympics, too. She should've been representing the 6th Graders. But she wasn't there.
Tonight was the 8th Grade Graduation. I cried. Because I won't ever get to see my daughter graduate.
I spend way too much time awake because I hate the thought of going to sleep. I eat tons of sugar and I don't even like sugar. I look in the mirror and I hate what I see: someone who looks far too old for her 40 years; someone slouched and out of shape; someone weak and weary and too tired to try to face the coming of a new day.
But those are not every days. Those are just some days.
The other days I feel well rested. I drink a lot of water. I take a shower and do my hair. I find a cute sweater to go with the cute shoes at the back of my closet I had forgotten about.
I stand in awe at the amazing legacy my daughter is growing even in her death. I am overflowing with pride at her strength of faith that I never understood until I so desperately depended on it. I readily go to the store, smiling and laughing. I talk easy with those who stop to tell me that a recent post resonated with them. I even thank them for telling me I'm strong.
Because I am strong.
I am strong in my faith. I am strong in my beliefs. I am strong in my Lord and Savior. I am not strong alone. Not by myself. But I am strong in hope.
In fact, I am filled with hope.
I am full of hope.
God gives me exactly what I need, exactly when I need it. And that fills me with hope.
May the God of hope
fill you with all joy
and peace in believing,
so that by the power of the Holy Spirit
you may abound in hope.
Romans 15:13

Photo Credit: Jayne Cho

I was having a good day. Or so I thought. But then I stepped in the shower. It was an odd time of the day for me to shower. Late afternoon. I don't remember why it was so late in the day or why I didn't just wait until the next day. But there I was. Hot water streaming down, soap in my hands, when all of a sudden - it was like a cry had been held hostage, suddenly escaping. I don't remember thinking anything at all; just suddenly sobbing, holding my stomach, hand over my face, tears racing like they couldn't get out fast enough. I couldn't breathe. I couldn't stand. I wondered, briefly, if someone could actually die from crying too hard.

It's a strange thing, sobbing in the shower. You walk out as if everyone should be able to see what you have just done but nobody does. I made dinner. We ate. I washed the dishes. And, feeling like my invisible scarlet letter would suddenly appear - and not wanting to discuss it - I made the impromptu decision to mow the lawn (even though it didn't need to be mowed).

The truth? I just wanted to be alone. And there is nothing better than the sound of a loud lawn mower engine to lull a person into being alone with their thoughts.

Time ticked by and I eventually found myself in front of the computer screen. A friend had posted to my page a picture of a green metal gate along with a link. "Just click on it." She had typed. "You'll see."

It was a link to a photography blog that posted its Top Ten best photo submissions under the theme "hopeful."

I scrolled down to a photo of a new plant growing, thinking about how we're like that: pushing through the layers of dirt dumped on us just to reach the light of day, just to feel the warmth of the sun. How fighting against that dark is so worth it.

I scrolled further and looked at a photo of an expected mother leaning against a wall, full belly protruding, with a look on this mama's face that didn't show a care in the world. No worries about whether or not their child will make friends easily at t-ball or whether or not spelling and math will come easy or be a struggle. Just the contentment that comes from growing a life full of nothing but hope!

And then I saw it:

Photo Credit: Kari Lockett
I had to blink a couple times to check if what I was seeing was real. I started crying, laughing, crying some more. I looked up to God and said, "of course!" because only He would orchestrate this photo being seen by me at this exact moment. He knew I had needed something to hang on to - and there it was. A glimmer of hope in the form of a beaded bracelet on a little girl's arm.
But in this hope there was also something else... something more. Because you usually only hope when there is something going wrong. When everything is amazing you don't pause to hope, you simply enjoy to the fullest what is happening. I needed to know. I needed to know why these bracelets on this arm symbolized hope for this photographer.
I contacted Lucy at The Inner Lens via a rambling Facebook message trying not to sound like someone with a dresser full of restraining orders filed against them. She took my information and contacted the photographer, Kari Lockett, who, in turn, contacted me back.
We exchanged stories. I told her about how these very bracelets adorn the wrists of loved ones, classmates and teachers, each in their own way paying homage to a little girl whose life was lost in a most unexpected way on one of the most beautiful days in all of October, 2012.
And then she told me her Avery story.
And, while it's her story to tell, let me assure you it is one filled with hurt and heartbreak but also lots and lots of hope! These beautiful bracelets strapped to the wrist of her precious Avery signify a fight that breaks this mama's heart but won't break her spirit. And that looking at these charms, all sparkling and bright, makes for a single second everything look like it's going to be okay after all.
My Avery is safe in heaven tonight. I know that she does not hurt. Does not fear. Does not worry. But this Avery, this beautiful bracelet wearing Avery, well, she needs our prayers. And if there's something I know my readers do it's give 100% of their hearts. So, tonight, I'm asking you to pray for this mama's heart and this mama's baby. She's a fighter - and she needs to keep on fighting.
And pray that when they need hope to hold on to, it comes at exactly the right moment.
Fighter by Jamie Grace



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