Expectations vs. Reality

“I was supposed to be having the time of my life.”

– Sylvia Plath, The Bell Jar


What I would tell elementary school Ashley:

Kick every boy who makes you feel ugly. Hard. Don’t feel like you have to be girly. You are a tomboy for a reason. Embrace it.


What I would tell middle school Ashley:

Read as many books as you can get your hands on. (I know you do this already, but branch outside of the RL Stine category). Don’t let the other kids make you feel like you run funny. You’re athletic, even if you don’t know it. Enjoy games, regardless of whether you win or not. Stop obsessing about boys. You won’t marry a single one of them. Take this time to develop your own hobbies, interests, and passions, without having a boy in the equation. You are not a spoiled brat. You’re just sensitive. It’s often misunderstood. That’s okay.

What I would tell high school Ashley:

I wouldn’t change a thing about your goth phase. You’re beautiful. Realize that nice guys are good to date, if you’re going to date. I would prefer that you didn’t, but I know you won’t listen. Just because a guy teases you to show affection doesn’t mean that’s a good match. You’re too sensitive to have someone critiquing while claiming it is for comedic purposes. The first guy that tells you he loves you? Hold on to him longer. He will probably love you the hardest you’ve ever been loved. YOU ARE NOT FAT. Even though you don’t believe anything your mom says, she’s right: you have a woman’s body. Embrace it. Start working on your daddy issues. Now. Yes, you have them. Don’t put all your value in a single person. You will always feel mediocre if you place your worth in others. Above all, realize that your heavenly Father loves you more than a man ever will.

What I would tell college Ashley:

You are enough. You’ve gotten this far. Branch out; be fearless! Don’t spend your freshman year holed up in your dorm room. You are worthy of company, and you add to the lives of others with your presence. Take relationships slow. Snail’s pace. I know you have an issue with this, but trust me, it will be for the best. Decide on relationships with your head first, then your heart. Go ahead and break off your relationship with A.J. Long distance relationships never last long-term. Take a daily vitamin. Exercise as much as you can. Switch your major if you feel led to. There’s nothing wrong with changing your mind. Stop being so judgemental! Create a new relationship with God out of love, not obligation. You may be cut from a different cloth (after all, you’re no Southern Belle) but God made you just that way: fiesty and passionate. Do not bend on your stance concerning premartial sex. Do not put yourself in a situation where you have the ability to compromise. Learn that saying “no” is perfectly acceptable, and required, to not be hurt very badly.

What I would tell married Ashley:

To date, I have not found a man that exists who has eyes for only you. Get over it, somehow (and if you figure out how, let me know). It is not a reflection on you or your sexy meter. You are desirable. You are worthy. Do not let your partner manipulate you into thinking you’re crazy because you have intense emotions. Do not isolate. Run to a friend’s house, if you need to. Your identity is not in being a wife. If you’re not a natural at cooking, this does not make you less of a woman. Exercise, exercise, exercise. Make spontaneous decisions, but make sure you have the financial backbone to successfully execute them. Listen to me: I have to believe that one day you will be a mother. It’s the absolute frame of your existence. Take better care of yourself when you get pregnant. This includes both spiritually and emotionally. No matter what, you will think it was your fault. I still don’t know the answer to this, but I know that if you have a closer relationship with God, you will have no choice but to accept it as being His will. Don’t isolate. Breathe. Do not feel embarassed for continuing to grieve. You take all the time you need, because in reality, you will need every day of your life until you die. It never goes away. I won’t even say it gets better. But you learn to deal with the grief, somehow.

What I would tell future Ashley:

  I’m so happy you’re actually here. I know some days there for awhile, you weren’t sure if you would make it to today. You are stronger than you thought. You are doing wonderful things. You’re living the dream. I’m so proud of you.

What I tell Ashley:

I don’t really know. Take it one day at a time. You know what you need to do to be happy again. Don’t question it. It’s your intuition talking. It will get easier.

Be the hippy you’ve always wanted to be. 


The Proverbial New Year Resolutions

I’ll admit it; I’m a bandwagon chaser. My personality makes me very passionate about things at warp speed, but then I either get distracted or move on to another form of inspiration.

I’ve always meant well when it came to these things. I would be chasing after several goals, aspirations, hobbies, with short-term vigor. The problem is, maintaining any of these things leaves me feeling overwhelmed and mourning the fact that I cannot do enough, be enough, learn enough to “really make a difference.” I’m a pessimist with optimistic tendencies.

However, I have decided that if I am going to view myself as a respectable human being, I need to improve on the follow-through. For this reason, I have decided to list my resolutions to keep myself both accountable and for the fact that typing these sort of things out is the first step toward making these official goals.


1) I want to start my own line of jewelry called Gypsy Genes Jewelry. The name may be debatable. To do this, I have to learn how to make jewelry. So the sub-category of this goal is

         a) I will learn how to use all the necessary jewelry tools to create pieces. I will scour the internet for cute beads and charms in bulk. I will create a Facebook page for my work. I will hopefully be successful.

2) I want to learn how to do watercolor sketches.

3) I want to get into at least one activity that will have me active daily

4) If something or someone is sucking the life out of me, I will be brave enough to let it go


Here’s to a well-intentioned New Year.

Chemical Dependence

ZOLOFT® (sertraline HCl) is approved by the FDA to treat the following conditions in adults:

  • –Major Depressive Disorder (MDD)
  • –Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder (OCD)
  • –Panic Disorder
  • –Posttraumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD)
  • –Social Anxiety Disorder
  • –Premenstrual Dysphoric Disorder (PMDD)

-taken from official Zoloft website

I’ve always been prone to Depression. I don’t know if it’s the fact that I feel so deeply, in full-blown colors and chaotic senses, but I remember first struggling with suicidal thoughts at age 13. Self-mutilation was my only therapy. I began a relationship with Christ at age 16. I remember the moment I truly gave my heart to the Lord, years of pain and anguish seemed to release from my pores and tear ducts. From then on, it got better. Though my immediate family members were on antidepressants and it was considered an inherited mental illness, I thought I had conquered it by putting my faith in Christ. Ashamedly, I carried a certain pride inside of me that I was simply relying on the Lord, and didn’t need modern medicine to cure my blues. I could pray, and everything was better, right?

Then came college, Freshman year. I felt inadequate and misplaced. The depression returned. I didn’t tell anyone, really. I vented thoughts on Xanga (the most popular blogosphere at the time) but outside of that, I felt admitting my sadness would only condemn me further. I was at a Christian college, where everyone was supposed to possess the joy of the Lord. I did, for the most part.

But I’m realizing more and more the only thing that prevented me from previous crippling depression were my life circumstances.

College included some of best years of my life. Stressful, yes. Terrifying? Sometimes. But epic memories replaced the negative. First came a degree, then came a professional job, then came marriage to the love of my life, then came a baby in a baby carriage…. or not. Struggling with infertility for five years wasn’t fun. It did a huge number on my self-esteem and identity as a woman. My body couldn’t do the one thing it was created to do. I had always felt my one true calling was to be a mother, and I couldn’t even manage to do that!  I threw myself into work, and then we spent five months overseas doing missions. We came back, intertwined ourselves into church, and I was happy. Then came the slow decay of the naive world I had built around me. The shatter of trust in a marriage, the resuming of self-mutilation, the deafening thoughts that told me I was better off dead. I was diagnosed with Depressive Disorder soon after. I took one pill of my antidepressant prescribed to me before I found out I was pregnant. I never took another, until after she was gone.

I’ve been on Zoloft, Xanax, and Ambien for a year and a half. The craziness of this month had me forgetting to get a refill on my Zoloft, then looking at the bottle and realizing I didn’t have a refill. Then remembering I missed my appointment with my psychiatrist last month. I spent a week without my medicine, and I cannot tell you how crazy I went. Crying all through the night, irritable beyond belief, panic attacks, paranoia… and I loathe that I am now dependent upon this artificial serotonin to make me semi-sane. I never wanted to be. I’m wondering if my lack of warm and fuzzies and my flat affect is partly to do with this as well. I don’t feel joy much anymore. It’s like a flicker of emotion, then it’s gone. Without taking my medication regularly, it’s an explosion of a million different emotions, as if I’m Bipolar. There is no in between. Numbness, or despair. These are what I teeter between.

I would love to one day wean myself from taking medication. I’m terrified that day may never come.

Now I Lay Me Down to Sleep

“I’m sorry.”

The look on the face of the doctor as she responded to the lifeless chamber of my daughter’s heart will forever be etched in my memory.

The rest of the events would be a chaotic blur – tainted by cruel decisions… “Would you like to birth your dead child tonight, or tomorrow morning? Would you like pain reliever? What are your burial plans?” Amongst the swirl of devastating questions, a name of an organization mixed into them. I had never heard of Now I Lay Me Down To Sleep, and at the time, the idea of inviting a stranger into the sacred time I’d have with my daughter’s motionless body seemed invasive and assaulting. Luckily, divine intervention placed a nurse in my path that had been through the same thing not two months before. She talked about how she regretted being unable to obtain professional photos of her son after his birth. She softened the sting of shock by showing me some photos of her beautiful Benjamin that she’d taken on her cell phone. I needed to provide an answer soon. The on-call photographer had to be notified as soon as I was expected to deliver. With a reply that didn’t yet feel firm, I agreed to allow a NILMDTS photographer to come into my hospital room and document all the tiny features of my precious Carlie Wren.

Brandy entered my room with sensitivity and utmost respect. I remember not even sensing she was there. She moved around the room as if she were an extension of it; like she’d been there through the whole labor as a silent support.  I can’t explain to you the comradery I felt immediately. She was careful and intentional as she gently took my Carlie Wren’s body and looked her over. Carlie was my child, perfect in my sight. However, I knew to others, she might be a shock to look at. My stomach twisted as I wondered what she was thinking, her gaze whispering across my baby girl.  I’ll never forget the words that came out of Brandy’s mouth, like a breath of fresh air over this solemn occasion.

“She’s has such pretty features!”

Those words were a salve to my wounded Mother heart. I felt my heart swell with pride that should’ve come months later; the pride I expected to flood over me as I gave a squirming baby to relatives, wrapped in a hospital blanket. Still, Brandy validated my daughter as beautiful, and for a moment, I forgot my pain.

Brandy gave me a preview of her photos mere days later. I remember my heart catching in my throat, gasping at both the beauty and raw grief captured in a single photo. I cannot tell you if I’d ever forget Carlie Wren’s face or every aspect of her tiny body. But I do know that the photos Brandy captured were a time capsule I desperately needed. Photos are meant to freeze-frame moments in time. Though many aspects of her birth were traumatic and gut-wrenching, I never wanted to forget how she looked. As Mary Poppins says, she was “Practically perfect in every way.” Brandy preserved vulnerable, precious moments with dignity and respect. For that I will be forever grateful.

– Guest post I wrote for Brandy Smith Kemp documenting my experience with Now I Lay Me Down to Sleep.

This is how a heart breaks over and over again.


The cold calculation in which he did this has torn me apart.

In every aspect.

The day we first signed the papers, he inquired as to whether I wanted to keep the name Calvert, or switch back to my maiden name. It was so nonchalant, like two strangers talking about the weather. It made me sick.

He claimed he tried to call me twice to meet with me and give me those papers. Yet he only gave me two minutes to call him back before he was gone, with this charming little note left on top of the paperwork in my car.

I’m not making him out to be the villain. Maybe I’m the bad guy, though I tried to reconcile. Until I had nothing left of myself to give.  I just don’t understand how someone can harden their heart so deeply toward a person they once wanted to spend the rest of their life with. Even in the midst of me agreeing to the separation, I would tell him time and time again how much it tore me apart that he didn’t regularly contact me. I let him know that he mattered. I tried my hardest, despite the situation, to communicate that I still wanted things to work out. Most of the time he stood there with a blank look on his face. Was I just a fill in? A rebound from his first marriage? I don’t know that I’ll ever truly understand. How someone can switch feelings on and off like that.


Image-Blue Valentine


I try to convince myself that I’m not one of these “keeping up with the Joneses” people, but sometimes I wonder who I’m kidding.

My life at 27 looks nothing like I thought it would. I’m barely scraping by financially, and I’m tired. I have no family of my own anymore. Sure, I have blood family, but as of December 15th, I’m husband less. With a child in heaven. My arms have never felt so empty. I really tried to put back together what was broken, but when you’re trying to give 100% to making a relationship work, on top of grieving for your baby girl, on top of financial ruin, on top of dealing with what my therapist calls the “hardest and most stressful work place environment in the social work field,” eventually something has to break. Not give… break. I’ve been shattered in more ways than I can count. And I wonder… What is it all for? So I can have a great testimony about how God “kept” me through the storms of life?

Personally, I think that’s a shit deal. So many people’s lives tell the story of God’s blessings. I’m not trying to be the kid that throws a tantrum because what they want isn’t under the Christmas tree, but seriously… Why wasn’t I cut for that cloth of life? The easy life? Why did I have to grow up without a father and have daddy issues? Why do I feel like I have to be perfect (or at least, appear to be) in order to feel like I’m blessed? After all, the people I see who are prospering in life are, for the most part, better Christians than me. I’m messy. I’m Peter, but worse. I’m doubting Thomas. I’m Moses with a stutter. I’m Judas. I’m Bathsheba. I’m all the villainous nature of the Bible, rolled into one. Do my circumstances even matter? Am I being punished for not having the faith I should, despite everything that’s happened to me? And why would I want to follow a God who punishes me because I have an issue dealing with His plan that has ripped apart everything I know and find comfort in?

And yet, my mind tells me that from what I’ve gathered from the Bible, your works aren’t what blesses you, right? And even at a time in my life when I considered myself to be the strongest faith-wise, trying to do everything right, trusting God with every beat of my unborn baby’s heart…and what did it get me? No miracle. No beams of light from heaven, shining down on me and reviving my baby.

Carlie was taken as part of God’s plan. I get that. The moment she was created, He knew how long she would have inside of me. What I can’t figure out is why the hits just seem to keep coming? Haven’t I had enough? I’m just trying to survive, and the last thing I find motivational to do is live as a cookie-cutter Christian. My mental state is my biggest focus at this point. I don’t know how to not make it that way. And yet… I feel like it’s a cycle of punishment because I’m not reading my Bible, or going to church regularly, or anything else that deems you to be a “good” christian. Because honestly, I’m just trying to stay focused enough on living that I don’t want to blow my brains out at the end of all of this. Yet God is going to punish me because I’m not doing things “His” way? Whatever way that even is?

I’ve been hurt by God. I don’t trust Him. I don’t know how to open my heart to Him again. I did so, and look where it got me? I’m a divorcee, struggling to pay bills, up to my ears in debt, and battling between craving life and cursing it. The God I used to believe in was like my celestial daddy, taking care of me and putting a protective bubble around me. Now I feel exposed and raw. I’m at my most vulnerable, and where is His spirit? I don’t feel it. I can’t feel it. Has he rejected me because I’m not doing everything right? I know what the Bible says. But I also know what I feel right now.

I feel abandoned because I’m not being good enough. This has a lot to do with my mommy issues spilling over into my relationship with God, but it’s how I feel. Do good, then you will be loved. Not the other way around.

I don’t think I truly understand unconditional love.

Free Bird

I had to sit with a foster child at the hospital yesterday. She’d had a seizure in class, and her regular casework couldn’t get to Jackson, so I waited with her for a couple of hours until someone could get there.

She was groggy, but it made me smile when her blue eyes lit up and noticed my hair was purple. “It’s purple!” she said with a lazy grin.

After leaving her in the emergency room, I decided to take a walk to the Serenity Garden, where my sweet Carlie Wren’s name is engraved in the wall.

I developed hiccups right after leaving the room, and they were the painful, loud kind. I covered my mouth as I strolled by some passerbys, silently growling inside my head at the inconvenience.

I arrived to the garden, and I sat on a concrete bench. I remember feeling numb this day, for whatever reason, and the hiccups were breaking my concentration. Out of nowhere, I heard a sweet, playful little girl voice in my head.

I wanted to make you silly, mommy!

I smiled, realizing it was my daughter’s voice from heaven. She’s spoken to me a few times like this. Carlie had given me hiccups to make me silly. I laughed quietly to myself, and my hiccups immediately ceased.

ImageI got into the car, listening to the radio since my cell phone data has ended until the 15th. I usually listen to Spotify, but the radio was my only noise. I usually switch between stations when there’s a commercial, but lost in Carlie thoughts, I left it on.

102.3. The rocket. Where the last time we said ‘Free Bird’ was when we drove off from KFC without paying.

I laughed loudly to myself. Here was Carlie, trying to make me laugh again! My nickname for her is Free Bird, and I consider it her song. We even played it at the conclusion of her memorial service.

Then I got home, posted the picture above, and my sister smartly noticed that above Carlie’s name are mine, and hers.

Donna Jean Strayhorn

Ashley La’ Star Fly

That’s the day I realized I will never lose my baby bird.

I just have to listen a little harder, in between the hustle and bustle of everyday life.

Little things

So, I finally got the purple highlights I’ve wanted for years…














…and I freaking LOVE it. I feel like it brings out my expressive side, one that most days is silenced and cannot be heard due to my requirement to conform to society.

I just feel so sassy. I love it.


Biography unknown (but attempted)

Who am I?

I wish I could say it in concise sentences. Sometimes, I trick myself into thinking that I can.

The truth is, my whole life, I’ve always been a shape-shifter.

I gravitate toward the tendencies of people around me. Unless it is something I have no interest in (which is rare), I will often passionately join in whatever the group is partaking in. Does this make me a follower? Some would say it does. I tend to lean toward the explanation that I’m simply sensitive to my surroundings, and to people. I’ve been intuitive for as long as I can remember. I sometimes think I could be a medium or psychic if I’d ever really developed the intuition. But that scares me, so I refrain.

I feel the pain of others. I hate funerals, because it feels like an iron coat of pain has been placed on my shoulders. My breath becomes shallow, I cry, and I feel trapped by all of the emotions.

I’m sensitive. I refuse to watch The Green Mile ever again in my life, as it devastated me for several days. I switch the channel whenever ASPCA commercials come on. To this day, the sound of the music during the scene when Bambi’s mother dies makes me shudder. This quality of sensitivity makes me a great friend, but the lack of organization and aloofness I possess makes me a terrible one.

When I despair, I despair long, deep, and devastatingly. The things I’ve had to handle in this life make me realize that I am strong, because I shouldn’t have survived them. One event alone should’ve killed me. I do thank God for the majority of my strength. He truly is strong when I am weak. Other times I’ve gotten out just by the frantic scraping of my nails against the last bit of pulse I have left, deciding last minute to live.

I battle between whether I deserved the last two years of my life, or not. I experienced isolation in my marriage, along with finding out my partner had been lying to me about something I deemed essential to a marriage: trust and faithfulness. I was diagnosed with Depressive Disorder after relapsing in cutting for the first time since I was 15.  His confession, which I should have received with understanding and forgiveness, completely broke me. I strayed and I shut off.  I think back, wondering if I should’ve offered him more mercy than I did. I regret the way I handled things.

We quietly separated, and I moved back to Tennessee, into my previous job. A week later I found out I was pregnant. Being a woman who struggled with infertility for nearly four years, I was ecstatic. I wanted to work things out, because this miracle made me realize that I wanted my life back. I had complications very early on. I remember bleeding all over the bathroom floor, then going to the emergency room thinking I’d lost her… and my partner failed to check on me daily for the next few weeks. I felt alone and forgotten, with my precious child. That experience was traumatic, but I wasn’t even aware of what was to come. An event that would shatter any trust I had in God, or prayer, or belief that everything always works out.

July 10th, I went in to my ob-gyn for light pink spotting. I found out that I was 3 centimeters dilated. I was immediately rushed to the hospital, admitted into the labor and delivery floor, given a catheter, and told that if she didn’t come in the night, that I had a chance at saving her through an emergency cerclage. This was my first time being hospitalized. It was also when I found out I was diagnosed with Incompetent Cervix. We prayed through the night. I didn’t sleep a wink, battling between crying, fear, and feeling betrayed. I had just seen her tiny body bouncing around on a 4d ultrasound a month prior. That week was the first time I’d felt her kick. How could it all end so soon, after I’d struggled and tried my best to live for God and put this dream of motherhood on the backburner? Why would He tease me with such a gift; a gift spun from the circumstances of my active participation in putting my despairs of infertility behind me and focusing on God’s work? That’s when I decided that this wasn’t the intention at all. She must live. She is simply a miracle after a miracle. I will have the emergency cerclage, go on bed rest for the remainder of the pregnancy, and it will be a testimony to God’s grace!

So we prayed. I went in the next morning after I’d dilated no further. I was hopeful, though I was scared of being given an anesthetic for the first time. The plan was to stitch up my cervix, so I could hold Carlie in my womb for at least viability (23 weeks). My body was numbed from the waist down, and I remember clear as day the look on my doctor’s face as he emerged from behind the sheet below my waist, looked at me, and said “I’m sorry.”

After that came successions of doctors, all encouraging me to induce. I had a risk for infection, and since all of the amniotic fluid had drained out, there was no hope for her survival. Her lungs couldn’t properly develop. Now the medical concern had shifted from Carlie to me. But I refused it all. With each discouraging word received, we prayed. I cannot tell you the emotional turmoil I experience as each day my hopes were dashed further and further. Each ultrasound was a little more grim, until day eight or nine (the days ran together) of being in the hospital, we saw that her feet had been raised up out of my cervix and the ultrasound technician pointed out my sweet baby practicing her breathing, even without fluid in the womb. I viewed that as a sign. My daughter had always been a fighter; defying the odds when I was, early on, diagnosed with threatened miscarriage. I just knew we would beat this and win. People joined in with our hope, sending me articles about babies who survived being born at 22 weeks. Carlie was two weeks shy of this when I entered the hospital. If I could hold out for two weeks, maybe she would have a chance.

The mental, physical, and emotional strain of this experience was the hardest thing I’ve ever experienced. Battling between the thought of not wanting her to suffer, questioning if she really would make it, and whether or not to induce and forsake her fighting chance is something that no mother should ever have to endure. God had mercy on me, in a sick, twisted way. I didn’t have to make that decision. Carlie passed quietly in the early morning on my 11th day in the hospital (July 21st, 2012). I remember even praying after we saw the lifeless chambers of her heart on the ultrasound that afternoon, praying to the God who raised Lazarus, begging Him for a miracle. It didn’t come.

I was put into labor, and I asked for all the pain killers I could have. The once hippy-minded mother who wanted to try a natural birth, now wanted to do all she could to feel nothing. I had been through so much physically already at that point — the lack of fluid in my womb made Carlie’s tap dancing antics at night, though adorable, also extremely painful. I was given an epidural, and I remember how I trembled with the fear of it. The red-headed nurse held me close to her, put her forehead against mine, and explained everything that was going on while soothing me to slow comfort. I experienced the side effects that only a small percentage of people experience — a sensation crawling up my right side that felt like a charlie horse from Hell. But then, it went away. I laid back, was covered in warm blankets, and for the first time since my hospital stay, I felt peace. It wasn’t God. I’m sorry, but I don’t believe it was. It was the medications running through my veins, alternating my reality. His peace came later.

I only felt a pinch of pain once, and I quickly pushed my medicine button and it dissipated. I got the best sleep I’d had since my stay. I began labor at midnight, and Carlie came at 9:30 a.m.

I remember being terrified to look down. After all, I had always expected to see a squirmy baby in my arms when I gave birth; not a lifeless, blood-coated corpse that wasn’t fully developed. I looked forward to that ethereal moment in movies and birthing videos; where momma and baby look at each other, and momma soothes the baby to stop crying, the baby swaddled in a hospital blanket. This reality was grim and dark. But when she was placed in my arms, all I could see was her perfection. That same perfection would infuriate me later (she was perfect! My God, why did she have to die?!) but in that moment, it was beautiful. Fuck, I don’t know how to explain to you what agony and pride flooded through me simultaneously. Admiring her features, while also knowing this is the biggest I would ever see her get (on earth, anyway). Dreading the moment when I knew I would have to give her back. When the absence of her bird-like weight in my arms would no longer be there. I understood now, very well, why some countries allow people to physically mourn over a dead body long after departure, and why we in the states sometimes have wakes. It was so traumatic, giving her to the nurse to be stowed away in some meat locker until she could be picked up by the funeral home employees.

The day after labor, we had her graveside funeral. I remember I couldn’t leave. I wanted to pitch a tent, or at least a blanket, right there beside her grave. My partner, who had been amazing through all of this, told me to look around at the surroundings. It was breath-taking. He said she had a great view, and she could see the stars that night and listen to the birds during the day. At that moment, birds chirped. As fictional as it was, to think my baby was still alive in the box and could see through it up to the view… it was such a comfort to me. I will forever be grateful to him for that. After rubbing the soil of her grave into my hands, I rose up and walked into the hardest year of my life.

Abandonment, fear, consuming depression, suicidal thoughts, insecurity, betrayal, and doubt all became close companions of mine. I had sheltered myself in God during my hospital stay, but afterward — the way Christians acted so flippant about her death — infuriated me. “She’s with Jesus now.” “God has a plan.” “The rain falls on the righteous and the wicked.” “At least she didn’t have to grow up in this world.” “You will have more children.” “God needed another angel.” “It will help if you go back to work.” I can’t tell you how the unintentional stupidity of people made me feel personally guilty for my own mourning. I felt like a horrible Christian, and I still do. I’m sorry, but no amount of scripture and good thoughts will replace the brokenness and missing piece of my heart. The one comfort I have eventually come to terms with is that she never experienced pain or suffering, and, as my wise friend Heather said, “She entered the presence of God the moment he called her name.” I’ve also received comfort from knowing in my heart that Carlie understood what her purpose was. She gave us a hilarious show at her 4d ultrasound because I believe her spirit knew she would not be with us long. All she knew on earth was the love of her mother and father. All she knew was love. How can a mother selfishly wish earthly suffering on her child in place of  pure, unblemished love? This earth is guaranteed to make you suffer.

But I’m very selfish at times.

The months afterward were a blur. To the outside world, my relationship with my partner was stronger. I believed it was as well. But just as quickly as it was built up, it was shattered again. By my downward spiral of Anxiety Disorder, Major Depressive Disorder, and PTSD; and by his isolation, selfishness, and inability to deal with the aftermath. I was hospitalized for several days after I felt no reason to live anymore. I was given hope. Separation occurred again, but the intention was reconciliation. That didn’t happen. He gave up, and I suppose some where along the line, I did too.

I’m 27. My divorce will be finalized December 15th. I have a daughter in heaven, who would’ve been one this November. I’m still working out my relationship with God. I believe He understands my absence, and I understand His. He may never leave me or forsake me, but there are also periods of Him hiding. And that’s okay. To some, I am currently living in sin. Sometimes I feel this way, while other times I feel I’ve been given a second chance. My second chance is what I lean toward. I live more recklessly, but it’s also because I wanted to die for so long. Now I understand that as pissed off as it makes me sometimes, this life is a gift.

I just have to figure out what kind of gift.