If you’ve received one of Sydney’s cards I hope you feel the love of an angel surrounding you and I hope you know that you are beautiful ❤ Your card is our way of keeping Sydney’s memory and love alive..we hope that you consider sending the card with a pay it forward or sharing it with someone you know who may need to be reminded that no matter how they feel they are beautiful not only to others but to God who has made us in his own image. If you would like to share your story of why you shared your card or how it felt to receive the card feel free to leave a comment for others to read.
On the 2 yr anniversary of Sydney accident I was blessed with an amazing gift. Jill Presnal and I had become friends over the last two years and on many occasions she’d listened to me talk about Sydney and the way she “loved” not just me but everyone around her.
I asked Jill to share the story of why she made the cards:
I always loved seeing Sydney’s sweet notes on your Facebook and twitter feed- a bright spot in my day. The handwritten one on the post it was my favorite and I saved it to my phone. Maybe because I am a boy mom and don’t get little love notes hidden away is why it really touched me. The sweetness and simpleness of a little love note to make someone smile and feel loved. I would come across it when looking for a picture and it would always make me smile. I love the simpleness of it- her own handwriting on a little yellow post it note, tucked away in your bible for you to find. The simpleness of it but with a HUGE impact.
She thought ahead and wanted to make you smile, feel loved, know that you are beautiful. And she did this not just for her mom, but for so many. Bible verses, Instragram posts, kind notes giving others support and love and comfort.
In our world it is rare to come across someone so giving and kind that lifts others up. I thought- wouldn’t it be nice to get a sweet love note like that from someone? A surprise, tucked away in your purse, or book, or even for a stranger- on their windshield. So that is where the idea started- spread Sydney’s love and kindness all around. In a world where there is so much sadness, anger, pain- we all need love and kindness. What a perfect way to brighten someone’s day or surprise a friend or stranger. I have one on my visor by a very special picture and whenever I flip it down and see the photo with Sydney’s sweet words I smile. And I hope that is what everyone does when they get a Sydney love note, smile and feel loved.
The I think you’re beautiful card originated from a post it note Sydney left in my bible. She was always leaving what I would call “love” notes or encouraging notes for people to find. I believe God knew I would need some encouraging words from her so he had her leave it for me to find..after the accident I began using Sydney’s bible when I attended church or bible study because it made me feel close to her. So I didn’t end up finding this extremely cherished “love” note until several months after the accident.
It has been (by far) one of the greatest gifts I’ve ever received because she has given me a way to continue “loving” people the way Sydney would have loved them if she were here.
Two more of Sydney’s “love” notes The first one was left for one of her soccer team mates and the last one she wrote on her Daddy’s grocery list. She was at the end of her Sophomore year of high school when she left these so those around her would know how much they meant to her. I challenge you..I challenge you to stop for a minute and let someone know how much you love them or that you think they rock your socks, or that they are beautiful
Well the season is about to be here when Santa’s Wonderland will be open. I dread this every year. I know people can’t understand why anyone would not like Santa’s Wonderland, but let me tell you PTSD is real and due to where I live I have to pass this every night going home. It isn’t even here yet but my heart starts to beat a little bit faster just thinking about what it will due to me every night all through the holidays which are hard in general. For those that don’t know the details of “my story” a detective never made it to our house before I woke up and realized Sydney wasn’t home. I had gotten in the car to go look for her and when I got to the end of the road that faces Santa’s Wonderland all I saw were flashing red blue and white lights. We live out of the city, so there are not a lot of street lights and the darkness is extra dark which magnified the flashing lights. They were not actually flashing at Santa’s Wonderland because Sydney’s accident was on the feeder between William D Fitch and Nantucket but I could see them from that stop sign at the end of that road. I knew at that moment, after seeing those lights flashing..that was the reason she hadn’t come home..I also knew (without really knowing) at that moment that it was bad, that if she had been okay she would have already called me. Turns out I did know..without knowing..but it was so much more than bad..I share all of this to allow other people to understand that the trauma a parent goes through that surrounds their child’s death is something completely different than the grief from loosing them. For those whose child made it to the hospital, they most likely feel the triggers and flashbacks when they walk into a hospital especially if they walk into “the” hospital. These things can happen with more than just the moment you lost them. The other night when I walked into Central Baptist Church (the church we had Sydney’s service in) for the Crowder concert I immediately pictured the funeral and felt a horrible emptiness come over me. I’m 100 percent positive that is normal for a grieving momma but I still felt it and still had to process those moments when PTSD makes it way into the night and I must somehow figure out how to process and handle it. The triggers that envoke PTSD are different and unique to each story..to each parent. They can be a smell, a place, something visual..etc. So here is what I know..the best way to process traumatic experiences is to talk about or write about them. It in some way allows them to enter a place that is outside of you. Talking and writing aren’t easy and is not the end to the process..Most likely you will be faced with it again but I believe the more you speak about or write about it the easier it is to handle and face it the next time it rears its ugly head. I’m 5 years out and I know without a shadow of a doubt when I see those flashing lights from the sheriffs car directing traffic at Santa’s Wonderland I’m going to feel sick, I’m going to have flashbacks of seeing the lights that night and feel the panic I felt driving up to the roadblock where I waited watching those flashing lights while they got the detective and chaplain to come and tell me my daughter was in the vehicle involved in the accident, and that she didn’t make it. I will need to process all the emotions that flood me, so when people bring up any part of their story be kind and listen. If you feel comfortable you can even engage them and ask questions. If they have brought it up they’re probably comfortable enough to converse about it. You have no idea, it’s a mean of therapy for them. They aren’t trying to be morbid or upset you they are most likely trying to process the trauma they’ve been through which may have been triggered by some event that day. It isn’t just important to talk in the 1st or 2nd year, It’s needed as long as they are still experiencing and processing the trauma they went through and for us parents, I’m pretty sure that will be as long as we are living with facing a reality that’s impossible. If you are a parent who needs support and feel like you just haven’t found it. Please find a Compassionate Friends Chapter or another pier grief support group and join a meeting. It truly is one of the safest places you can share and the people in your group become like family. They will always be there to listen because they don’t have to read this post to understand the need to share your child’s life, the need to process the pain and trauma, or the need to be heard and have your feelings validated without judgement. For those who haven’t lost a child you are just as important and can make just as big of a difference, all you have to do is listen, and love them. If they post about their child, if you can’t think of anything to say..just say Love and hugs or continued prayers for you, or say what you would say if it were a momma or daddy posting a picture of their child that wasn’t gone..for example beautiful girl or she is gorgeous. If the picture is a memory you can relate to comment from the heart, for example I sure miss watching her on the field or she made me laugh so hard that day. Now take all these tips and knowledge out into the world and help those who may need help. Never forget God uses people to answer prayers. Be the answer to someone’s prayers..Christianity is about action not just thoughts and words.
I’m not sure if anyone else has done this but I think a lot about the moment Sydney met Jesus which in a few short hours will be exactly 5 yrs ago. I can only imagine the peace he brought to her after being thrashed around. It’s a blessing for me to know that she didn’t have long before the accident began and she was standing present before The Lord perfectly new with not one single injury. Healed in a way we think and try to understand but can not. Her life upon earth may have ended at that moment but her real life was just beginning. As much as I’d like to think she stayed around the accident watching us, worried about us and how we would make it, like the movies would show..I know she didn’t. Instead she was standing with The Prince of Peace, she was not holding on to Bible versus..she was experiencing him personally. Can you imagine the amount of love she felt at that moment. Anyone who knew Sydney knew all she ever wanted in this life was to be loved. She loved others so deeply because that’s how she wanted to be loved and at this moment she would no longer have to try and get that from broken people who were incapable of providing it. No more heartbreak or heartache because God’s love is perfect. Her hearts desire truly standing right before her offering his hand however I’m sure she probably talked him into giving her a piggyback ride💞I find peace in knowing she is free from the pain and heartache of this world and at the same time ache to the depths of my soul because I want so badly to share in these moments as I know her smile and laughter would be far greater than what she experienced here. So thankful for God’s promises and the sacrifice of Jesus. I can’t wait to join her and sit as she tells me the real story of when she met Jesus because I’m positive my imagination and thoughts can not come close to the truth of her actual experience but I find peace knowing it wouldn’t be less than my imagination but instead abundantly more!
1..2..3..4..and now we have arrived at the 5th year. It’s seems unreal I don’t know where the last 5 yrs went. That of course doesn’t mean that I didn’t feel the emptiness and heartache every single day of those 5 yrs. it just means my mind and heart haven’t, can’t, won’t allow me to grasp the reality of 5 yrs because I know it’s impossible for me to have survived it. I wish I could share what I’ve learned the last 5 years but it is impossible to know without going through it and one of the many things that hasn’t changed since that day is that I still wouldn’t wish this suffering on anyone..literally no one. The sad part is that I’m positive without knowing this kind of pain and suffering I would not know God’s grace, and mercy the way that I do. I would not appreciate the sacrifice of Jesus and the gift of life after death without it being my only hope to see her again and the one thing I could not do for my child. It can only come through him. It’s easy to read the scriptures and say you believe it but when it’s your life and you face everyday with your child not here, no longer breathing, smiling, or laughing it is no longer something you read and say yes I believe it, instead it becomes a part of your heart beat and a part of your breathing. It’s the only hope of righting the wrong you feel. A gift of mercy and grace we don’t deserve and couldn’t earn. Even though it’s not really that we have been wronged because we are entitled to and deserve nothing more than death and permanent separation but we were made in the image of God and so we will never be okay being separated from those we love just as God was not okay being separated from us. Without facing the weakness I’ve experienced through loosing Sydney I would never have experienced the strength and power of the Holy Spirit carrying me through what I was incapable of surviving. When Sydney was here and I told her I wouldn’t make it if anything ever happened to her. I meant it, Just like those who haven’t lost a child look at me and say I couldn’t do that..they mean it but I’m not stronger than you or who I was when I said I couldn’t make it, but my God is. Being weak and broken allowed me to not only see that God could use me regardless but that he desired and continues to invited me to join him. The love I feel knowing God still choose me and wanted me in the shape I am in..again something I would have never experienced without being on this journey. I have heard many say that they would not take their child out of heaven or they wouldn’t want to have to give up the relationship they have with God now. Here is the moment many who think my walk is so strong will no doubt see my flesh because I’m one selfish person..I would without hesitation snatch Sydney back from heaven without even thinking and if she complained I would probably get my feelings hurt that she would rather be there then with me and I’m positive I would tell her she needed to quit complaining. I would be completely okay with going back to just knowing God through reading the Bible. I would NOT choose to endure this suffering to know God the way I do..but I am in awe and thankful that God’s mercy covers me and every bit of my flesh and despite me wanting him to have allowed something different or me not wanting to learn all this the hard way..He still allowed me to experience him in ways I never could have, regardless of my flesh. He didn’t hold back blessings or my experiences because of my unwillingness to agree with him because even though my heart wouldn’t choose ANY of this I still trust him and believe in his Sovereignty and have surrendered to and follow him and his word. I am the child to an amazing father whose love is beyond this world’s comprehension16 yrs 9 months and 24 days was not near enough but I’ll cherish the memories while I’m waiting for the day I’m reunited!
I love this day! I wait for it every year because I know this day I will be flooded with some of the best memories with Sydney. She started the day working with her Daddy, went fishing as a family in the middle and then she and I were off to a concert. When I see the pictures they come to life for me and I can literally feel the joy and happiness we had that day. So thankful God allowed me so many amazing memories in this one day.
Sometimes I hear a voice saying give up, you can’t continue your walk because your testimony died with Sydney. People will never see the goodness of God through your story because your ending wasn’t happy. It makes me furious somedays because I still catch myself believing this even though I know it’s not true. I’m tired, the spiritual battles in my life never ends. I still worry so deeply about the salvation of others that I love who are lost and making so many mistakes. The weight of burden I feel for them is as heavy as the burden of grief I carry from loosing Sydney. He is right about one thing, I can not continue my walk the way it was, but my testimony didn’t die that night..It shattered..and with every piece of brokenness there is testimony, a story to be told that may encourage or help give wisdom and discernment to others so they may avoid the mistakes I made. I have a testimony that can be told to Mothers of daughter’s, I have a testimony for teenagers, for youth leaders who have chosen to mentor teens, I have a testimony for parents who feel overwhelmed and don’t know where to turn, I have a testimony for those who walk beside a grieving parent, and I have a testimony for the grieving community, and most of all I have a testimony of my own and how God has transformed me and the way I think. In my weakness I found his strength. In my brokenness I found his faithfulness. In my darkness I found his light. In my inability he breathes into me. No matter what I’ve been through God continues to be everything I need. I have learned that he is enough but not enough meaning that because I know him I will never need him but enough because in every moment he provides what I need to survive. I’ve learned that while my cup runneth over in so many ways, there is a forever emptiness I am unable to carry on my own so he steps in and takes just enough of the burden to allow me to continue but not enough for me to take my eyes off of him and walk with ease. My need for him has allowed my relationship with him to grow deeper than it could have without it. I’m thankful that the lies Satan whispers about having plenty of time fall deaf on my ears..I live every single moment with the thought that I could in a matter of a second be standing before Jesus. I live every single moment trying to help others understand you may never get that last opportunity to confess your sin and repent. I don’t passively watch people turn away from or deny God..I speak up because it may be my last opportunity. I still believe with all that I am if Sydney could tell her friends and family anything it would be to stop living for the world, stop making excuses to live in sin, and choose now to live for Jesus because Heaven is worth it. Jesus doesn’t care where you’ve been as long as you are willing to leave there and obediently follow him. My testimony is continually growing and moving as long as he continues to breathe life into me, and I’m forever grateful to serve a God who loves me more than I can even imagine.
A little bit of our story and the things I’ve learned from my journey
Last week I had to drive pass Sydney’s first accident site a few times. I don’t do it often but every time I do the memories flood my mind. Looking back obviously gives such a different perspective. I remember feeling so very thankful and blessed but it was impossible for me to understand what I was really spared. I remember that day and how I professed God’s faithfulness for watching over my daughter. I shouted out to the world how blessed we were that after a horrible car accident Sydney walked away without a scratch. My exact comment “I’m so blessed she is ok! Thank you God” The pictures still sit on my Facebook and Instagram and even on Sydney’s Instagram where she posted and said God was watching over her. To this day every time someone I know has an accident I see them thank God for protecting them or they will say they had a guardian angel protecting them. I’m not saying that those things aren’t blessings from God because they definitely are but unfortunately I learned from experience, how confusing it is to attach God’s faithfulness to circumstances in our lives. You see just 48 hours after I posted a picture of my daughter’s totaled car with my comment. She was in another accident (a passenger this time) and instead of shouting how blessed I was..I was sitting on the side of the road in complete shock and incapable of believing what the detective was saying to me. The next day I was faced with writing an obituary for my beautiful 16 year old daughter. I can’t explain how polar opposite those two moments felt but I can say that God truly open my eyes to the confusion our witness gives to others. We live in a broken world. A world set apart from the garden of eden where God’s protection surrounded us at all times. For those who only know of The Lord and haven’t studied his word. When they are faced with tragedy or suffering it is so easy to become confused and believe somehow God caused their tragedy or they tend to question their faith or possibly his faithfulness. I can completely understand now why this happens. I listen to Christian radio and hear over and over again how someone was in a trying time in their life and when they requested prayer God provided their needs and “faithfully” answered their prayers. I’m happy their circumstances changed but I can’t help but think of those who also prayed and did not receive the outcome they needed or desired. It breaks my heart that the message those people hear is that God wasn’t faithful to them. That is NOT who God is. You see even Jesus prayed to his father and cried out asking for the cup to pass but we have victory and a savior because God was FAITHFUL and Jesus was obedient to follow his father’s will even when it wasn’t the answer he desired. Jesus set the perfect example of prayer when he said not my will but yours be done. If we put that one sentence on every prayer we prayed we would see that God’s faithfulness isn’t about answering prayers to make our lives upon earth easier or better and that prayer should be about voicing our hearts to God but should also be a willingness to accept his will over our desires and trusting that he will then carry us through. His faithfulness is about giving us mercy for disobeying his commands and sending his son to provide a sacrifice of grace and if we accept his gift he has promised and eternity of peace alongside him and all the other believers in heaven. Do not judge God’s faithfulness on circumstances in this life, his faithfulness reaches far beyond this world and into the lives of every believer regardless of how our prayers are answered here on earth. His faithfulness isn’t judged by whether Sydney survived that 2nd accident his faithfulness made it possible for her to live beyond this life. His faithfulness provides the only hope a grieving parent has..that this world is not the end, but rather the journey to it. His faithfulness provides the path back to the garden where we may rest for eternity in perfect peace and love. As I wake to face each day living a life I am not strong enough to live. I survive it because I know this is temporary and when I’ve made it to the end of my journey I will not only see my sweet girl again but he has promised that we will never be separated again. Now that should be what we think of when we think about, ponder, or desire answers to explain God’s faithfulness just as with every prayer we should end it with not my will but yours be done!