|Ashley's FB Profile Pic|
The second funeral this year I never in a million years would have imagined I'd be going to.
My friend Ashley died unexpectedly, Sunday morning, while she was teaching youth at church.
I couldn't believe it when I first heard. She was just 31.
We had been meaning to get together.
Ashley and I weren't close friends, but we shared lots of fun high school memories, like cheerleading and Alpha. The stuff that binds you together as sisters, forever.
Recently, we stayed in touch via social media. Liking and sharing each other's pictures on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram. She followed my tweets during the election, and was a frequent commenter on the blog here.
She wanted Michael and I to come and share our story to her youth group. We talked most often about the Jesus Calling devotional, and blogs that we both loved - like the work of Lisa Jo Baker and Ann Voskamp, and youth ministry ideas for young girls.
Ashley loved Jesus. She followed him with her whole heart. I saw her life change and go down that path. Her handsome husband, her adorable kids - her son who looks just like her, and her daughter who looks just like Jamie.
I can't believe she is gone.
When we moved back to Virginia Beach, I was overwhelmed with wanting to get together with so many people. Ashley was one.
We'll get together one of these days, we'd say.
Now, we have to wait until Heaven.
I hate that.
But I know that Ashley's faith was strong. I know she is happy and she with Jesus, and that that kind of love and peace is even greater than young, beautiful, fulfilling life on this Earth.
I admit that my own faith is weak. I want life here to last as long as it can. I don't want pain. I don't want struggle. I don't want grief. I constantly beg God for mercy. I'm learning through this experience of her death, that we can lean into the faith of others, when our faith isn't mature enough. I've leaned into Ashley's faith so much this week.
When I first heard of her death on Sunday, I was so angry. Why did this happen? How could God let this happen?
There was a tiny seed of faith inside me that told me that even if her death brought one person to Jesus, Ashley would agree to it.
Now, here we are - days later - people from all parts of her life, connecting like we haven't ever done before, and what are we talking about?
I went to bed Sunday night, holding on to my husband extra tight. So thankful to have air in my lungs. The first few days were all about that.
Profound gratitude for this life.
Now, I feel a shift.
To center my life around what matters for eternity.
In her life - and in her death - everything pointed to the Lord.
That's what He calls us to do.
That's the kind of life I want to lead.
Thank you, my dear sister, for pointing us in the way we should go.
Thank you for sharing what inspired you, with us.
I'll never forget your smile.
Your beauty. I tried to hate you for being so beautiful, but I couldn't. You were too sweet. And funny.
I'll really never forget your laugh.
I am sorry we didn't get together to catch up.
But I thank you for living your life in such a way that your funeral will be a beautiful celebration, and a reunion for all of us who were blessed enough to get a piece of you while you were here.
Just wait until you see that Baptist Church full of former Indian River High School Cheerleaders/Alpha Angels together like one giant pack. The stock on waterproof mascara will soar tomorrow morning.
Rest easy, Ashley.
To everyone that reads this -- Please join me in praying for Ashley's husband Jamie, her 7 year old son Mason, and her 4 year old daughter, Marley.
And all of her close friends. Friends way closer than me.
I just can't imagine what it would be like to go from normal happy life to a funeral, in less than a week.
I'd appreciate if you pass this page along to raise prayer awareness and money for this family, during this difficult time.