by Lori Droste
I press toward the mark for the prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus.
Growing up in a Christian home, I had a great childhood. It was full of memories and no worries of how my life would end up. As a young teenage girl, like many, all I wanted to do was get married and start a family - the fairytale dream. Life was good, and all my plans were sure to be accomplished. How couldn’t they?
I was the daughter of a deacon and never was tempted to stray far; and for the most part, depended on my parents and followed their paths, as well. You would often find us at camp meetings and youth camps during the summers. We had a lot of fun. So, at age 16, we were at the Jersey Camp Meeting, and I met Chad - tall, handsome, athletic, and this was certainly the best place to find a spouse, right? We hit it off right away, and I was crazy about him. Everyone around me knew that to be true! Just ask my family! As young love usually goes, we dated for a couple years and then went our separate ways. We were young and still had a lot to learn; but somehow, we knew that our paths would cross again.
A couple of years later, they did. We started dating again and, after prayer, we decided to get married! I was living my dream life - getting married at 21, and a year or so later, becoming a mom. We were so happy to be parents, and it changed our lives for the better! We wanted to give our son a sibling a couple of years after, but it did not come easy.
Guilt was my constant companion. After years of suffering, a miscarriage, fertility drugs, tears and prayers we finally found out that we were pregnant with our daughter! My sister-in-law was pregnant at the same time with a boy. We were over the moon that we would go through pregnancy together, and our kids would grow up right beside each other like me and my twin brother had.
After the first couple of ultrasounds, we knew that Paige might have a heart defect, but we were not sure how severe it would be. My pregnancy was full of worry, questions, and fears of what her future, or our future, would look like? As much as I was filled with joy of having a girl, I was filled with anxiety of the unknown, as well. The day she was born, we found out that she would have to have an open-heart surgery. We ended up staying in Atlanta for a couple of weeks, and it was touch and go for a while.
God’s people were so great to us during this hard time. They sent mail, gift baskets, came on visits, and gave support to us. I cannot even express what their support meant to us. Many times, we felt the prayers of the saints holding us up. I remember going back to our room at the Ronald McDonald House and sobbing, begging God to take me instead. The pain of watching your child suffer is the worst pain you will feel. It isn’t fair.
Through it all, I felt God's comfort and peace. Despite everything that was going on, I could still see God’s hand in it all; and to be honest, we won’t know the why until we make it to heaven.
While we were in Atlanta, we met a couple whose daughter was going through the same surgery as ours. We bonded instantly and we were able to witness to them. Sometimes talking to them was the only way we got through the day. Thankfully, their story ended well, and they got to take their beautiful daughter home! They now are going to church with my parents. It’s crazy how God puts people in your path, right?
Despite her prognosis, we were not prepared for the day that our daughter passed away. God sent the right people to us that day to help us though. I will forever be grateful! It was as if God had planned it all out, and He knew what we needed. As a parent, the worst fear is that you would have to bury your child before you die. No parents want to outlive their child. My family had just gone through the loss of my grandma, as well, and it seemed like each of us processed her loss in our own way. Paige was our miracle! How could this be God’s plan? Why was this our story? Confusion was my companion.
God’s comfort is the only way I made it through those days. We had amazing people that knew how to help us prepare to return home without her - friends that I will be grateful for always! You know who you are!
Returning home and seeing my friends with their babies was very hard, and it will always be hard. I often wonder what she would be doing right now, how would she look, what would her personality be?
I am sure she would be full of sass just like her mom!
Less than a year after losing our daughter, and before I turned 30 years old, I became a widow. Losing Chad, my husband, my provider, my rock, was probably the hardest shock of all. He passed away suddenly of a heart attack at work, no warning at all. I will always remember that day and what transpired during that time. I relive those memories every day. It is something that will always stay with me.
We had just had our new baby boy less than 3 weeks before he passed away. We were so excited to have a new baby after losing our daughter; and the future was full of hope for our family. Now it seemed like all of it was just taken away in an instant. There are no words to describe how it felt to have to tell my oldest son that his dad was dead. It was so hard for me, and I hurt for him, knowing his childhood would never be the same. Every boy needs a Dad! And, my youngest son would never really have a memory of his father.
To me that was unfathomable of how I would even begin to make it through life as a single mom raising two boys. To this day, it is an everyday struggle. I look to God to be the Father to my boys, and to provide the comfort that they will need. There are days when I wonder if I will be able to handle the load. I was very dependent on my husband as a young wife and mother. He was an awesome provider, husband, and father. The daily struggles that he used to take care of are now my responsibility: the bills, leading a family, taking care of the house, and fixing things that break, (which seems to be all the time!) I cannot tell you how many times that Google and YouTube have saved me for fixing things. Thankfully, I have awesome family and friends that have loaned their hands to help me in anyway they can. I know God surrounded me with these people on purpose.
James 1:27 states; “Pure religion and undefiled before God and the father is this, To visit the fatherless and widows in their affliction, and to keep himself unspotted from the world.” Can you help a young widow, a single parent, or just a person who is having a hard time? Let me reassure you that I would not have made it to where I am today without the people that have surrounded me with support. God’s people are the best there is and have supported me in any way that they can! I am forever grateful to them, and I believe that God will bless them for all they do. So, when you see that person struggling, looking harried, running to and fro (which I know I look that way all the time!), try to be understanding, and realize that they are carrying a heavy load. You don’t know what they have gone through just to get out of bed and face the day to get where they need to be. Be kind. Lend a helping hand, give them encouragement, and, most importantly, pray for them. How would you feel if you were in their shoes? Its hard to know until you have been there.
I can’t even count the times that I have heard, “You are so strong!”. While I take this as a compliment, I do not feel strong! Do I feel like I have it all together? Absolutely not! Some days I feel like the load of it all is so hard to carry. That is when I feel God’s hand guiding me, giving me the strength that I need. I do not know how people go through life without the Lord! He has been my best friend, my comforter, my peace, and my provider.
When I take a moment to look at the big picture, I realize that I am blessed. I have a great life and two beautiful boys that I am so thankful for. God has always provided when I needed Him to, and He knows all of me and what is best for me!
I do not know the future or the plan that he has for me. But right now, I look to the future with hope and joy in following God’s plan for my life, each day. This is a day to day choice! Today, I choose the hope and peace that only He gives.
I have returned to school to get my degree to help people that have been through trauma and hard times in life. I want others to know that they can make it, and that they can use their pain for good.
If you are going through a hard time, a tragedy, a trauma, or something you did not see coming, I encourage you to look to God. He will be your comfort. He sees where you are in the mess that life sometimes throws at us. He is waiting for you to look to Him and let Him bring beauty to your pain, and a purpose! It is hard to know the "why”, and the reasons that we go through the things we do. I believe that God is preparing each us for eternity, where we will live forever! And we have our hope in Heaven! Heaven is my goal, and that is why I keep pressing on no matter, what comes my way - knowing that I can trust in a God that never fails on His promises. Keep pressing on, no matter the pain, or the struggle. Eternity is in view!