More memories

6 Feb

Here is one last remembrance. This one comes from a friend made in Colorado who lives in Iowa. Fun story, it was at her house where Allie and I found out she was pregnant with Paige.

I have written this post in my head a hundred times since Adam asked me if I would be willing to do this. I have talked to Tana several times regarding it too. I am not good at putting my words on paper. I could talk about Allie all day, but adequately describing her on paper is not easy for me to do. And the big thing is, where do I even begin?? There are so many things I could share about the person she was. I feel as though everything that everyone has said would be my story too. Allie was an amazing women and no blog post could even do her justice. But I am compelled to do it, so here is my story about how I met Allie.
Allie and I had the privilege of meeting at Focus on the Family Institute in January of 2002. Within the first few days of being there, we went on a retreat up in the mountains. I had met Allie prior to our roadtrip to the retreat, our apartments were just kiddy-corner from each other, but it was at the retreat that her and I ‘clicked’. She was from Ohio and I was from Iowa. We both had come from such great families and had a good solid group of friends back home, that we weren’t really ‘looking’ to make any best friends at the Institute. We both knew that our time would soon come and go and let’s face it, keeping up with a long distance friendship can be hard. But we both connected on so many levels, there was no denying a lasting friendship was taking place. I remember sitting on a log with her in the mountains listening to her tell me all about her life thus far and her relationship with her Savior. She was genuine and authentic from the git-go. Right away her passion for Jesus and working out was at the forefront. She was up each morning going for a jog and talking with Jesus. When we got back from the retreat, she came over and asked if I wanted to go running. I thought ‘sure, why not.’ I would tend to consider myself fairly athletic and in shape, what would it hurt. Oh yeah, I forgot to think about the altitude, we were in Colorado Springs – the roads were extremely hilly, I was going running with Allie and did I mention the altitude?! Let’s just say, she was very gracious with me that day!! She knew it would be something we would have to work up to if that was ever to happen again. J Thankfully, there was a workout room at our apartment complex. We were there daily working out together reading all the books that we needed to for the Institute. We always had so much fun together – no matter what we were doing. Over the next five months, we spent day and night together. We were inseparable. We were so much alike in many ways and everything just felt so natural when I was with her. Some people that you meet, it is ‘work’ to keep up or build the friendship, but not with Allie. Everything came so easy.
I made a couple road trips back home to Iowa during that time and Allie came with me. It was a blast! I already knew she loved to sing and loved to have the radio on or listen to CD’s constantly. There was never a quiet moment during the trip. We were either singing, laughing or talking which helped to pass the 11 hour trip. One story that stands out the most to me on our trip back to Iowa was when she met my Grandma. My Grandma means so much to me and I wanted Allie to meet her. We weren’t at my Grandma’s 20 minutes and Allie is on the floor getting her 1,000 crunches in for the day. My Grandma looked at me and looked at Allie and we just laughed and laughed. I don’t recall them exchanging addresses, but it wasn’t until a few years later that I realized they would write letters back and forth to each other! Allie would send a Christmas card to my Grandma each year and it meant so much to her. It was the little things that Allie did day in and day out that made the difference and made her stand out from everyone else. She truly knew what the Bible meant when it said to ‘love God and love people’. She lived it out daily.
She also introduced me to coffee drinks from Starbucks. We made multiple trips there during our time in Colorado. We both LOVED to be outside in anyway possible. We made numerous trips to Garden of the Gods and hiking in the mountains and we were continually in awe of our Creator’s handiwork. We were the only two who would lay out by the pool in Colorado in the spring! As mentioned, she loved music. We loved to drive through the mountains with the windows down, her leg was usually up on the dash and we were singing – not a care in the world back then. When I hear some of the songs today that we listened to a lot, I can’t help to think of her and remember all the good times we had had together. Two of the songs that were ‘big hits’ then were Mercy Me’s song “I Can Only Imagine” and another CD she had that had the song “Better is One Day” on it. Little did each of us know that she would be living those songs out just a few short years later.
Everywhere we went, Allie made ‘friends’ with someone. She was such a smiley, happy and friendly person. I would consider myself ‘friendly’ to people I meet whether it is the cashier, a waitress, etc. But with Allie, by the time we left wherever we were, she knew what was going on in their life and what she could do to pray for them. She just had a way about her that made people feel so comfortable that they would just share anything with her. And if we saw that person again, she would remember their name and ask them specifically about whatever it was that was going on in their life. I was always amazed at how she remembered the things that she did about each person. People matter to God and people mattered to Allie. She looked at people the way God looks at them. She had such an indescribable love for people – a love that only comes from Jesus. She challenged me in so many different areas of my life, but this was one of the biggest things that stands out to me. She let God use her and she had a way of drawing people to Him because of who she was and how she was. Her life was a living testimony for Him and she was always ready and willing to talk about Jesus and share the love of Jesus with anyone she encountered. She took advantage of any opportunity she could to love on someone and love them to Jesus. Everywhere we went, her life exuded Christ and people could see she loved her Savior. A song that I feel really describes her in this area is by Sidewalk Prophets called ‘Live Like That’. I would encourage you to watch this video… http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GfosSggwQS0
I got married that following September and had the privilege of having Allie in our wedding. It was a wonderful day and I am so thankful she was a part of it. Her and Adam got married in June of 2004, just a week before I was due with our first baby. It was unknown whether or not we would be able to make the 12 hour road trip to Ohio. Our son was born 3.5 weeks early, so we were able to go. I was so excited to be there and finally be in her ‘home’ where she grew up. I had already met her parents when they came out to Colorado. After meeting them, I see where Allie gets it. Her parents are amazing people who make you feel like you are one of the family. They also love people with a kind of love that only comes from Jesus. I could go on and on about Mike and Tana too. After their honeymoon, Adam and Allie were going to move out to Colorado. They were going to stay with us as a half-way point for them. I remember her telling me then that she thought she was pregnant – sure enough she was! She has already shared how God orchestrated all of that so beautifully. Just as His Word promises that He makes all things beautiful in His time. It was a shock to be pregnant and having their first baby so far away from family, but God knew what He was doing. We have been able to see each other a few times over the years, but definitely not as often as we would have liked. It was hard to be so far away and both of us having such young families that made long road trips difficult. When we would talk, we would laugh about how she ended up with three girls and I ended up with four boys and the differences in each of our families with having all boys or all girls! It was always such a joy and encouragement to talk to her. She always wanted to know how I was really doing. Not a lot of people want to get in ‘deep’ to know how someone really is. Most conversations stay pretty surface level, but with Allie, it was always an in depth and real conversation. I always felt so challenged in my roles as a wife, mother, friend and child of God. She would encourage me on so many levels and especially in my walk with Jesus. She would always want to know how she could pray for me and she would follow up with me on whatever it was that I shared. I always knew I could count on her. She was such a genuine person who lived life to the fullest. Through all of this, it has challenged me to enjoy each moment that I have. To not get so caught up in things, but to really enjoy and be in the moment and savor the stage of life that I am in.
I will never forget the day she called to ask me to pray about her blood test coming up. I was beyond words shocked to even think that she could have leukemia – there was just no way it could be. I will never forget where I was when she did confirm with me that yes, it was leukemia and it was going to be one hard fight. If anyone had it in them, it was her. But I still couldn’t believe it. The next 18 months, she was never far from my heart. I was praying for her and her family like I have never prayed for them before. I was so thankful we were able to make a trip to Ohio to see her Mother’s Day weekend in 2012. Our time was too short, but it was such a blessing to be with her and her family. Our little families were finally able to play together and they had so much fun. We were able to go to church together. I love hearing her sing and it was wonderful to be together with her in His House worshipping Him. I saw her for the final time in July 2013. Again, it was too short, but it is more precious to me than words. I cherish that time so much. I am so thankful to have seen her and to have been with her, even though it was incredibly hard to see her in so much pain.
Since September 2, not a day goes by that I don’t think of her. She is continually on my mind. My heart still hurts daily…just the mention of her name and the tears flow. I still cannot believe she is gone. I keep thinking it isn’t true and it is still all a dream, but it isn’t. I have listened to her voicemails over and over, just to hear her voice again….’Hey em, it’s me.’ I have missed the little notes she would send me for no reason, but they would be so encouraging and just what I needed to hear at the time. I will miss not getting a birthday card from her this year. So many things that I miss and so many things I miss about her. She has made a lasting impact on my life and I will never be the same again because of knowing her. I often wonder what she is doing – no doubt worshipping her Savior whom she so faithfully served here on earth. I am so thankful that I will see her again and that day can’t come soon enough. I am so ready for the Lord to come and take us Home. Allie was such a unique person and there is no one else like her. She was a beautiful reflection of Christ and I know when she finally saw her Jesus face to face, she was greeted with ‘well done my good and faithful servant’.

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Aunt Sue

21 Nov

Back in the day, say around 1981, new parents didn’t know if they were going to have a boy or a girl. My big brother Mike and his wife Tana were expecting their 3rd child and I was expecting my first. Mike had already gotten his boys – Jon and Dave were a vibrant part of the Kura clan. However, Tana really wanted her girl. And on January 3, 1981, she got her wish. Allison Page Kura was born and Tana was so excited! And Grandpa and Grandma Kura finally had a granddaughter to dote on. Two months later, my firstborn entered the world – Tara Kristine. Allie and Tara were dedicated at The Chapel together, they sang in church programs together, they became each other’s first best friends J Even as a little one, Allie was determined, feisty, chatty and loving. Allie and Tara would bake cookies and feed the ducks with Grandma Kura, they would each excel in athletics which allowed Grandpa Kura to boast. And as they grew into young women, they celebrated their own marriages with the other serving as bridesmaid. Allie was the first of the two girls to have a child and Allie was so proud of her precious first born, Paige. When Hayleigh and Mollie arrived, Allie and Adam were complete. Tara and James had their 3 children too – all boys. Family birthday parties were always interesting with doll babies and super heroes trying to mix. Yet Allie and Tara continued to develop their familial bond and even more important, their friendship and love for each other.

When Allie was diagnosed, I remember thinking that this just wasn’t possible. The health conscious exercise fanatic couldn’t have a life threatening disease. Yet, we all watched as leukemia took from Allie on a merciless pursuit. In the midst of it all, Allie didn’t lose her determination, her feistiness and especially her ability to love. We have all seen the word ‘intentional’ used to describe Allison. She was intentional in her clinging to life. She didn’t like feeling helpless, she hated being an observer of life rather than an active participant. But even in the midst of the battle, Allie fought on with such determination. She sought treatments, she continued to try various health supplements and she sought her Lord.

On one of the last times my Tara would see Allison, we were sitting in her living room and some of us were talking while sorting through Allie’s medications. I looked over at the two cousins, one lying on the couch, the other sitting on the floor beside her. I was touched by the intimate conversation taking place between two ‘first best friends’. They were talking of hopes and dreams, lost chances and praying together. There were promises made and kisses exchanged. My heart broke knowing the sorrow that was to come yet encouraged by the final moments of this friendship.

As I watch my brother and sister in law struggle through a loss no parent should ever experience, I am touched by how deeply they loved Allie and how deeply she loved her parents. I have memories of watching my nephew David literally carrying Allie wherever she needed to be. I saw her Aunt Tara lovingly stroke Allie’s feet when that was the only place on her body that didn’t hurt. I saw her friends serving her with such love and compassion that goes beyond superficial friendships. I have seen her husband and precious girls finding strength in knowing just how deeply loved Allison felt in her final months.

Thank you for continuing to pray for our family as we walk the path of grief. Unfortunately, it’s a path no one can walk for us. But it’s a journey that needs companions. Walk along side this young family with your prayers, support, time and love. Lift up her parents and extended family when God brings them to your heart and mind. There is deep pain and sorrow yet we all know that Allie wouldn’t want us to grieve forever. She would want us to get up, get moving on with life and to look at every relationship with eyes looking to eternity.

Aunt Sue

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Toots

1 Nov

Missing Toots

As Allie’s dad I need to say this up front and early I/we miss Allie so much and the pain of her loss is real and takes our breath away. Yes, we believe and understand that Allie is home and in good hands, but we are left with a large hole in our hearts with her gone. We have come to better understand Psalm 46:1( “God is our refuge and strength, A very present help in trouble.”) in a way as never before. We sensed His presence in and during the memorial service big time and know that none of us would have been able to do that in our own strength. We are now calling on Him as we look to the days ahead without our Toots. We are asked to live by faith, and we do that, but with broken hearts.

Recent blog entries have recounted memories of Allie which has triggered a flood of our own memories which we will share with our three girly- girls (Paige, Hayleigh, and Mollie) along the path of life. We think of our family ski trips and Allie learning to ski from Uda (the instructor from hell), our 28 yrs. (began when Allie was 4) enjoying the Owls Nest on the shores of Lake MI. with extended family and friends. The many travel basketball and soft ball games along with cheap and not so good motels. Apple picking in the fall was something she just loved and a tradition she and Adam carried on with the girls. Christmas was Allie’s favorite time of year, she loved all the family traditions including serving the homeless at the Haven of Rest on Christmas day. We started that when she was 5 and she always made every effort to be home on Christmas so she could serve. Mom and Allie loved to work in the kitchen on Sundays after church fixing a brunch trying all kinds of new recipes. We will always treasure our memories of Allie and the joy and encouragement she brought to us and those she came in contact with.

I can hear her voice often “how are you doing today dad, I love you, did you have a good day.” “How are you doing in your walk with the Lord today dad?” Maybe as you go about your day you might hear her voice from time to time asking “how are you doing in you walk with the Lord”, if you do be sure and give her an answer.

We would like to take this opportunity to thank each of you who surrounded Allie and our family during this difficult journey. As parents we were amazed as we watched the various ways many of you reached out to the Armstrong’s and us with practical help, encouraging visits and words, housing in Houston at no cost, plane tickets, cars to us and so many other ways. The medical staff at Akron General, The Cleveland Clinic, and MD Anderson provided Allie with all the tender loving care one could ask for. From our hearts to yours thank you so much.

To our three sweet peas, your mother loved you so much and loved being your mommy. Know that she fought with every fiber of her being to live so she could watch you grow into your own special person. We all asked the Lord many times to allow time with you and in His wisdom He chose to take her home with Him. We do not pretend to understand, but we do know for sure the love she had for you, may you never forget that.

Although much of what is written is from both of our hearts, Tana wants to also complete her own entry, it has been difficult for her to do that but I know you will be blessed once she is able to put her thoughts on the blog. Once again to the many who walked this journey with us thank you for your thoughts, prayers, and support it meant a great deal to the Kura/Armstrong family. May the Lord continue to help us all walk the trail of life in a way that brings honor to Him.

PaPa K

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Memorial Service Video

27 Oct

This is the full video of Allie’s memorial service for those who weren’t able to attend.
The service starts at the 07:00 minute mark and the photo slideshow portion starts at the 19:35 mark.

Page

19 Oct

When I asked many of Allie’s friends to write I had two ideas. First, since it was impossible to have everyone speak at the funeral who Allie was close to I thought this would be a good way to share memories of Allie. The second was as a testament to my wife. My wife had many friends, that alone is perhaps that not extraordinary. But, my wife and her friends were extraordinary. The women who have and continue to share about Allie are all incredible women with strong faith. Tonight’s guest blogger, Lori Rodeman, is no different. It was my pleasure to know Lori from high school and to see that despite time and distance her and Allie were easy and quick friends. She has watched my girls a lot and I always feel comfortable dropping them off, knowing they will be loved. Her remarks are below.

Page (Allison Page Kura)
As long as I can remember knowing Allison, I called her Page. She loved her middle name. She loved it so much that she named her first daughter Paige. She decided to spell it different for her baby girl! My friendship with Allison began in 5th grade at the Chapel. Then in middle school Stacia Hamshoo (our favorite youth leader) encouraged us to become closer friends. It was always easy to talk to Allison. I knew how much she cared about me and my family, even as a child.
Through High school our friendship deepened. We were able to experience many amazing missions’ trips together and we sang together with the Chapel youth choir. We became committed to the Lord together, always asking each other the hard questions in life. “How is your relationship with the Lord?” That was a regular question we would ask each other. I can’t even count the times we had late night conversations that were so real during our sleepovers.
Allison was that super supportive friend. We came to so many of each other high school events, just to show love and support to one another. I was amazed that she would come to support so many of the things that I was involved in. I can remember going to her HS volley ball games, basketball games… that 3 point shot was so impressive. I also remember going to see Allison perform in her school musicals. She was so talented and so disciplined. Even now, as I think back to nearly all of the “big moments” in my life…Allison was there.
One funny thing about Allie was her ability to belch and pass gas like no other lady I have ever met. This was a little crazy to me when I first met her, but it just became a part of her that I came to love. She was so open about everything, she would find no shame in just letting it out! This drove her dad crazy and she would just say, “I said excuse me!” A few other random things about her are: she loved to have her shoulders rubbed, her hair played with, she loved to sit in the sun and she wanted to be outside whenever possible.
When Allison left for college it was hard not seeing her all the time. This was before cell phones and Skype. We didn’t talk all the time, but it felt like no time had passed whenever she was home and we would catch up on life. We would often meet at Rockne’s and share the firestone chicken salad and the fries. Even though Allison was crazy healthy, she LOVED French fries. Anyways, we saw each other as much as we could through college, but it was never enough. I remember Allie and me going for one of our forever long speed walks, and she was struggling to decide whether or not to commit to dating Adam. I was already married, and she asked me, “How did you know Ryan was the one?” I don’t even remember what I said exactly, but I just remember reassuring her that if this guy was serious about walking with the Lord and he liked her as much as she said he did, it would be just fine. Her love and passion for her marriage became so vibrant.
When Allie found out so shortly after her wedding she was pregnant with Paige, she called me with such sensitivity and gentleness. She knew that I had been struggling for a few years with infertility and her concern for how I would feel finding out she was pregnant (not planned) was beyond amazing. Allie had this way about her. This way of supernaturally thinking of others and making them feel loved. I don’t know how she always managed to make everyone feel this way. But, her heart for my pain was so evident in that time, I will always remember her going out of her way to be an amazing friend when I was hurting.
I had the joy of journeying alongside her in motherhood and in life after she and Adam moved back to Ohio. We were pregnant at the same time when she had Hayleigh and Mollie. Even though it was hard to have quality time together during our kids early years, we still were committed to our friendship. She faithfully called me or we saw each other as much as we could and I am beyond thankful for that time together. We would often take long walks together with our double strollers, talking about the challenges of life and how to find time to juggle all of our responsibilities. How I would love another one of those long walks and deep conversations.
When Allie was first diagnosed, I have to admit I was shocked. How was this possible? Countless times I asked God, Why her? She was the healthiest person I knew. The entire time she was sick, I was challenged by Allison’s Faith. Her faith was astounding. It was constant and steadfast. I will forever be challenged to be faithful to Jesus because of her example. It was amazing to watch her still strive to be others focused even when she was sick. She had this way about her. This way to draw people out and get them to open up. Complete strangers would be hugging her and telling her their life’s stories. Every time I saw her in the hospital it was as if she was the life of the party. Everyone on the floor knew who she was. She knew their stories and would ask them about their kids or what they had for lunch. She cared about them and where they were spending eternity. She asked the question, “Do you have a faith?” It was her way of sharing her story and the hope she had because of her salvation in Jesus.
My three year old is convinced that Heaven is at Aunt Allie’s house because I told her that Aunt Allie is in heaven now. As much as I miss my friend, I am thankful for the hope I have in sharing eternity with her. Every day, I wonder how her family is doing. How are they doing life without her? You see, I have a special love for Allie’s family. For her mom and dad who have always welcomed me into their home and loved me so sweetly. For Adam and his girls for sharing their wife mom with me. Allie was blessed in her life with an amazing family. I could go on and on about them. Her grandma Clark and her Aunt Tara and her brother David always treated me like part of their family too. I just can’t emphasize enough how import her family was to her. She was always showing intentional love to them. She loved to spend her days making meals in the kitchen with her family. This is one image in my mind of Allison that will always remain the same. Allie was a superb wife and mother. She focused her best energy into loving Adam and her girls. She would talk so highly of them and was always striving to love them with excellence. They were the focus of her heart.
As I look back and remember, Allison was a constant friend in my life. She was there as long as I can remember. She is a cherished part of my life and I long to see her again, to have another one of her hugs and to hear her sing to Jesus. She loved to sing. She was always singing and asking me to sing. I could go on and on about her and the way she impacted my life. I am deeply thankful for the time I was able to spend with her this past summer. When she was really sick, I was blessed to be a friend to her. I will forever be changed because of my friend Allison (Page).

Allison Page

5 Oct

When I first met Allie her two roommates were her best friends. Heather you have heard from, and now you get to hear from Renee, or as my kids call her Ne-Ne. When Allie and I were dating we drove out to Taylor to visit with all her friends. From then on I have had the privilege of calling Renee and Tony friends. We would see them several times a year and each time was a joy. Her is what she wrote.

Like so many have expressed, Allie is never far from my mind. I miss her…I miss her a lot. Admittedly, I was a little overwhelmed with the task of writing something for her blog. Each time I’ve started to write something, I’ve been overwhelmed with so many vivid memories, so many things that made our Allie so special, so many memories I don’t want to forget and things I wanted to share that I didn’t know where to start. My words seem inadequate at capturing the magnificent woman God made Allie. There are little things throughout each day that bring her to mind, things that speak volumes to who she was, things I don’t want to forget and that I love about her.

-Each morning when I wake up and head into the kitchen and pour my first cup of coffee I think of Allie. I think of her shuffling down her wood stairs early in the morning, turning on the Armstrong Bunn coffee maker (with plain, not flavored, coffee of course) and then pouring her first cup of coffee of the day. I can see her getting some cereal for whichever girl might be up with her (usually Paige) in a little bowl and then settling into the big green chair with the ottoman, pulling out her bible and journal and beginning the day reading and spending time with the Lord. I treasured this part of the day whenever we got the chance to visit after college. We’d make a point of getting up whenever the first one was up and we’d be mad if someone was up and didn’t wake the other(s). We’d all sit in the family room, have our first cup of coffee together (I’d always be excited when I got to use the “Big Hug Mug” ) and get to spend time in the quiet of the morning, sharing and learning more about Him and just being with one another.

-As I drive around town singing with a song on the radio I think of Allie. Allie loved music. Whether it was a short trip around campus or a long road trip, there was always music playing and singing coming from the car. I have vivid memories of driving around on warm days, windows down, Allie’s left leg bent with her foot on the seat and her just singing along with her sweet, pure voice. Many times certain songs would bring someone in her life to mind and she’d take a quick moment to call them and say that she was thinking about them and loved them. Sometimes the music she listened to might be considered “cheesy”, however, it was a reflection of her pure heart and desire to know and love God and others more each day.

-When I check-out at cash registers, complete a transaction at the bank or order a meal at a restaurant I’ve found myself asking “What would Allie have said to this person? How would she have made them feel known and loved today?” Allie loved people, she had a gift of being able to connect with them and, above all else, she wanted them to know that God loves and cares for them. She didn’t just say the common “hello, please, or thank you” to the people she’d cross paths with throughout the day. She’d learn their names, ask how their day was and then she’d figure out a way to speak truth and encouraging words into their life. Yes, sometimes we’d give her a hard time or giggle about this with her but, at the end of the day, watching her interact with a perfect stranger was really something special to see.

-When I make a list, see a list and, especially, when I get to cross something off of a “to-do” list I think of Allie. Allie packed a lot into each day…sometimes I thought she accomplished more in one day than a lot of people do in 1 week. She was a master at prioritizing and, as we got older, multi-tasking. In college, I have vivid memories of her lying in bed with her little five star pocket notebook writing down the schedule for the next day. Three things that would always be on the list were 1) reading—spending time in the word and with the Lord, 2) exercise, and 3) spending quality/intentional time with a friend or mentor. After college she graduated from her little pocket notebook to a calendar planner. She’d have the family schedule entered in, the bills, paperwork and often times note cards for any special event for that month stuffed in. She never missed the special days in our lives…no matter what was going on. In fact, I have vivid memories of visiting when she’d be at the kitchen sink putting away the dishes that had dried over night in the left side of the sink, cleaning the pile that had accumulated from the morning activities, putting laundry in, folding laundry and, somehow, at the same time sending a quick note card to someone she cared about.

-I loved to laugh with Allie and I loved to make Allie laugh. Allie laughed much like she lived her life – there was no polite giggle or semi-laugh, she was all-in…once she started she couldn’t stop and there was no going back. One of the best things about Allie’s laughter is you didn’t always know when it was going to erupt and, many times, something totally unexpected and random would set her off. Many times dramatic (hilarious) movements would accompany her laughter…there’d be legs and arms flailing, perhaps exaggerated running, funny faces and, sometimes, a snort or two. If she was laughing about something someone else said or did (probably me or my husband if we were with her) I can hear her saying in between laughs “you’re ridiculous”. I loved being carefree with Allie, loved her wit and loved laughing with her.

-When I walk outside to the amazing fall weather we’ve had lately, Allie instantly comes to mind. She loved the sunshine and she loved being outside. Whenever we’d be heading outside and it was a nice day she’d exclaim loudly “It’s beautiful” or “What a glorious day” or “It’s soooooo nice out”!!!!!! As long as it wasn’t raining I could always count on a nice long walk (or run, if Allie could talk me into it) together. In fact, if we were going to be spending time with Allie the first thing I’d pack would be appropriate outdoor workout clothes . I treasured this time together…conversation always flowed so easily, she’d know just what to ask and would always encourage and challenge me to continue to grow and follow Jesus in my daily life.

-Each day when I face a new adventure with my two-year old son, I am reminded of what an incredible mother Allie was. She loved being a mom and, like most things in her life, she did it with so much confidence and grace and joy that she made it look easy. Paige, Hayleigh and Mollie you were the joys of her life…she was so proud to be your mom. She wanted nothing else than to devote her life to raising and loving you. It was so special to watch her pour her love into your lives. When each of you were tiny babies and she’d be up late at night with you she’d tell me about how she’d spend that time to talk to God about you. She loved you and covered your life with prayer from the moment she knew about you.

-My heart and mind are flooded with thoughts of Allie when I get to worship in, as Allie called it, “The Lord’s house” each week. When the music is playing and my church family around me is singing songs proclaiming the powerful truths and love of our Lord, Allie seems so close. I close my eyes and can hear her sweet confident voice singing along side us and I think about how, at that moment, she is worshipping our Lord with me…she just gets to do it in His full presence. Everything that made Allie unique and beautiful and remarkable was a result of the love and unwavering devotion she had in our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. She loved him, pursued a relationship with Him daily, talked to Him, listened to Him and followed Him no matter what. No matter how challenging, or disappointing or painful the scenario, she always put one foot in front of the other following Him and doing what He told her to do. She was remarkable.

I think I could write pages and pages filled with memories about Allie. I loved living life alongside her for over 13 years. Even though we were separated by hundreds of miles after college, she remained a constant presence in my life. Between all the phone calls, e-mails, texts and visits throughout the year, it really felt like she was just around the corner. She was more than just a friend…she was family. She lived life fully and she lived it well. She was authentic, loving, intense, devoted, disciplined, funny, honest, sweet, sincere and, above all else, a daily example of what it is to live a life fully focused on and dependent on God’s love. She’d be the first to tell you that everything she did, everything she endured, the grace with which she lived her life and extended to others was all because of Jesus Christ. She knew what it was to live in the freedom of Christ and to be led by Him completely. As I’ve reflected on her life and attempted to summarize some of the beautiful and unique aspects of Allie, 1 Corinthians 11:1 kept coming to mind as I think it captures the person she was and the role she had in so many people’s lives. It says, “Follow my example, as I follow the example of Christ.” Allie followed Christ wholeheartedly and set an example for all who knew her.

I miss my friend… I miss her a lot. I am forever grateful for the blessing of her life, for her friendship and for the way she loved me. She was everything that’s been said and written about her and more. She loved fully and she did it well. She was by no means perfect but she sure was special and did so much in this life with such ease and grace and true maturity in the Lord. I’ve felt myself being drawn to being still more often…to read more, to talk to the Lord more and to just sit and allow Him into my life more each day. She’s with the Lord now, we know that for sure, and so I feel a little bit like I’m closer to her when I get to be close to Him. I’m sure this statement is flawed in many ways philosophically and I know, ultimately, that I want to be near God because He is the one who comforts and provides a peace amidst the sorrow of her not being here physically with us. I love her and, as a mutual friend so beautifully put it, I am finding comfort in the reality of heaven each day.

Taking the time these last few weeks to focus on my memories of Allie and reflect on the extraordinary woman God blessed my life with was really special and a true privilege…thank you Adam for allowing us do this. You are a blessing and a remarkable man…what a dynamic duo you and Allie were together. Thank you for loving her so deeply and leading her and your girls with such grace and unwavering faith in Him alone.

We love you all so much.

Renee (Nay-Nay) (and Tony and Sam too)

Mile high memorial

29 Sep

The next remembrance comes courtesy of Aubren Hummell. Allie and I became friends with her during our time in Denver. When I thought of trying to describe Allie for her obituary and her service I was struck by how Allie seemed to make a life long friend from every place she had ever stayed. She spent a semester in Colorado Springs and came out with a lifer, she spent several years at Taylor and has multiple lifers, she spent a few weeks at Cleveland Clinic and came out with some lifers. Aubren was one of Allie’s Colorado lifers. She has been a regular visitor to Ohio and my kids always enjoy a visit from Aubbie. Here is what she had to say about Allie.

I have dwelled on memories of Allie in the last few weeks and feel honored to record such stories in writing. Sitting in remembrance has brought smiles, laughs, tears and encouragement. As God gave us the Bible with stories of His unparalleled Love, we know that narratives serve a purpose and can help us change, grow, remember and enjoy… over and over again. My desire it to paint a picture for Paige, Hayleigh and Mollie to know what their mother was like, as I’d imagine their memory will be faint one day. I want them to see how their mama lives in each of them through different characteristics, mannerisms, personalities, and love for: people, working out, sunshine, family but most importantly, her love for the Lord. She will live on in our hearts and minds but even more through her precious little girls that inherited top-notch qualities from the most fearless woman of God to have walked here on earth!

When I met your mother… it was at a church called Aspen Grove in Littleton, CO. Your mother approached me to introduce herself & ask me only about a million questions. Your mother loved to ASK QUESTIONS! But I didn’t mind… I was excited a connection was finally made as I had noticed her several times from across the room. She had such an outgoing demeanor, charisma, and friendly smile accompanied by the cutest little girl (Paige) at her feet. This precious family was surrounded by many as everyone felt loved, encouraged and challenged within moments of being in their presence. Your mom and I immediately connected with common interests & she wasn’t shy to ask me if I wanted to meet up and go for a run!! Your mother would NEVER hold back at the opportunity to get to know someone and was gifted at making people feel comfortable in any and every situation.

Shortly after we became friends, my family experienced a tragedy that left a challenging road ahead of us. Your mom didn’t skip a beat in finding ways to encourage not only me, but also my entire family. She joined my mother and I on walks, went to lunch/dinner with my brother and I, and joined in on a few volleyball games at the park. But what set your mother apart from everyone else is that she genuinely wanted to walk alongside us and know who we were, how we were doing, and what were our exact needs. She never missed out on an opportunity to be INTENTIONAL and love on anyone. She was bold in asking the hard questions about what God was doing in our lives and in what ways specifically were we struggling… a personal COUNSELOR for our whole family. When Allie and I got to have one on one time (mostly on the jogging trails), I always left our time together encouraged, energized and filled with Truth and biblical guidance to conquer the challenge at hand… it always ending with prayer requests.

When your mother left Colorado, I was thankful for my job as a flight attendant so I could stay connected with the Armstrong family. My trips to Ohio were always greatly anticipated as I missed my mentor, motivational coach, dietician, pastor, personal trainer, sister, and friend! She never wasted time to ask the hard questions and challenge my faith by pointing out areas that needed refinement! I knew I would get Godly, honest, genuine, and loving Truth whenever I talked to your Mom… even when the truth wasn’t pretty… she never shied away from disclosing what God had placed on her heart to share with me. She chose to put time, energy, and prayer into every moment of her relationships… she allowed herself to be used as a tool for God to show His love. She wanted to DO LIFE with everyone God placed in her life WHOLE HEARTEDLY, which has changed the lives of many, many people.

When Allie called to inform me of her diagnosis, she wasn’t scared, she was steadfast, trusting in Him. She knew God would take care of her and give her the strength she needed for whatever it was to come. She was willing to SUFFER for His glory, she was willing to FORGIVE and overcome disappointment when life wasn’t fair, she showed the world how to PERSEVERE when all odds were against her and she did it all with an unwavering joy! Joy didn’t always come in a smile form… there were tears at times! TEARS when she showed me hours worth of videos of her kids… Tears when she saw her loved ones hurting… but her tears never swayed her hope, trust and faith in The Lord.
As I came home from an unforgettable visit in Houston, I recorded this is my journal:

​A weekend with Allie:
How blessed am I that God brought Allie into my life seven ago. Her presence itself has always challenged me to live for His glory. She seeks conversation that pursues the depths of my heart and encourages me in the areas holding me back from His closeness! She’s never hesitant to speak boldly of His love and gently reminds me of our call to surrender ALL of ourselves. This has always been the story of our friendship… as I’m thankful and cherish the role she has played in my life as an older sister, mentor, and friend!
This weekend was special as we spent three whole days together… fully present with no distractions. Just like a child, I watched her intently as I long to be just like her some day! I believe she said, “hi” to 164 people, inquiring all she could with a 30 second elevator ride, or 10 second signing in process, or with the waitress as she took out order. She found out where people grew up, what plans they had for the day, and if they were still tired like they mentioned last week… and what they were looking forward to this week! She never forgot a face… not a detail of their life and she makes the most out of EVERY moment she has! Whether it’s a quick FaceTime to say hi to her girls… meet up with a fellow cancer patient to encourage them while waiting for the buzzer of her next appointment… Reading blogs or watching videos or returning emails, she would never skip over ANYTHING of the millions of things people send.
She loves to do life with those that God surrounds her with and she gets excited to spend time in the Word together! She starts by reading aloud her devotional for the day… and takes joy in praying over ME… when she is the one facing trials… I don’t know why I have been given the gift of having Allie Armstrong in my life but God… I am SO GRATEFUL!

I could probably write a book about your mother but you probably already have three volumes worth if you read through her infamous blog… and all the comments… Facebook posts… letters and cards! Your mama was one incredible lady that made it to heaven with grass stains on her knees, as she left all she had, giving 110% here on earth and will be forever cherished by many until we all meet again! Above all else… know YOUR MOTHER LOVED YOU SOOOOO MUCH!!!

Forever Changed,
Aunt Aubbie

“Deliver my soul!”

27 Sep

Psalm 116 is a beautiful Psalm of God’s deliverance. It speaks of how He hears our cries and responds to save, and then moves to how we should respond to that. Off to the left in my margin I wrote these words some time ago in response to vs. 5, which says “gracious is The Lord, and righteous, our God is merciful.” I wrote, “That is what I pray for, mercy. That God would prevent us from suffering Allie’s death.” It is somewhat hard to see your pray so blatantly go unanswered next to a Psalm which starts by proclaiming love for God because He hears our pleas for mercy and responds. But, as I re-read the Psalm I saw something new. In verse three you see the approach of death with all its pain and anguish. Verse 4 reads this way,”Then I called on the name of The Lord: “O Lord, I pray, deliver my soul!” Then vs. 5 praises the character of God who is gracious, righteous, and merciful. That is when I realized The Lord had been and continues to be merciful. He was merciful to Allie and to me in profound ways. God did not preserve Allie physically, her body gave out, but her soul never did. Her soul, the real her, departed her body healthy and in love with Jesus. It was not hardened by bitterness or anger or doubt. God preserved Allie’s faith, He delivered her soul. As for me The Lord has been doing the same, guarding and keeping my faith intact. How can I can I respond to that with anger or bitterness? Both Allie and I can affirm, though in different circumstances the truth of vs. 7.”Return, O my soul, to your rest; for the LORD has dealt bountifully with you.” Allie has reached her final rest, she is at home with The Lord. I will still walk amongst the land of the living, as in vs. 9. But my faith is at rest even now in the person of Jesus Christ, my Lord. For He is gracious and righteous, and merciful and He has dealt bountifully with me.

Your mommy!

25 Sep

This post comes courtesy of Hannah Springer. She wrote it to the girls which is perfectly suited, because from the first mention of the word cancer Hannah has helped where Allie most wanted it, with the kids. Hannah’s house has been a second home to our girls during this whole journey and her kids are loved by our kids. She helped plan and orchestrate birthday parties for our girls and has loaded them up in her minivan and taken them all over the place. Allie and I were blessed by having Hannah and Matt as friends during this ordeal and they have put a ton of energy into loving our girls, for which I am eternally thankful.

Paige, Hayleigh, & Mollie,

I just wanted to tell you a few things about your mommy! I know you have heard many things lately but here are a few more!

Your mommy was one of the strongest and most disciplined ladies I know. Even in high school, she worked hard at every sport she did and never gave up. Your mommy was super talented. She was quite the athlete and I always loved watching her play softball and basketball. She has a good voice too and loved to sing especially if she was singing to Jesus. Once mommy became an adult she ran more and started training lots of people how to be healthy. She was a wonderful teacher and showed me how to make great tasting and healthy smoothies! Your mom was also really fast. I could hardly keep up with her because she was in such good shape! Do you know she ran with each of you in her belly? I tried to run with her occasionally (when she felt like running with a turtle) so that I could be around her but as you know she was always faster.

Your mommy had one of the biggest hearts! She loved people and everyone always loved her. It was hard to go into a public place with her sometimes because she would always be talking to someone. I know this was annoying at times even to you girls but just remember how much love she had to share! Your mommy was always thinking of other people before herself. She made countless meals for people who needed it and was always finding a way to help others. Whether that was an encouraging text or phone call or a random stop by to help out. Your mommy was so special in this way and so loved by lots and lots of people!

Your mommy loved Jesus with all of her heart! This was one of her favorite things to share with people. She knew that the best story in the world was Jesus’ story and she was never afraid to share it. Even when mommy got sick she kept praying and worshiping God. Your mommy took every opportunity to share her faith with others and made a difference in the spiritual life of so many around her.

But, the thing I loved best about your mommy was that she loved being your mommy! She prayed for each of you often and always wanted more time to spend with you! Her favorite times of the day were when she got to spend time with you girls and your daddy. I loved being a mom alongside your mommy and have lots of great memories if you ever want to hear them. I still remember each of you in her belly and when you were born just how blessed your mommy felt to be your mommy! Girls, you were always the most special to your mom and please remember that!

I’m sad that we cannot see your mommy right now but someday when we go to Heaven we will give her a big hug! I love that you girls and daddy are still here and that I can see pieces of your mommy in each of you! Paigey: I love watching you sing and dance around. I can’t wait to continue to watch you in future musicals and plays. The way you are so terrified at the sight of any bug or spider always makes me smile and say to myself that you are your mommy’s girl! Hayleigh: We tease you and call you sporty spice but it is so true. You are so athletic and your determination to try almost anything so reminds me of your mommy. I look forward to watching you play sports or do gymnastics.

Mollie girl: You have soooo many funny faces that remind me of your mommy. I love that you know what you want and are not afraid to tell us. Your honesty always reminds me of your mommy. Life would be so boring without you Mollie!

Girls, I don’t want you to forget that you have one amazing daddy! He is always there for you and takes such good care of you. I know that it is hard right now and I wish mommy was still here too. But, I am so thankful for your daddy! It makes me smile to see him playing dress up with you, watching a princess movie, or doing your hair bow and all. He loves you girls and will always point you in the right direction. So go easy on him if he can’t get things exactly like you want them.

I love you girls and am so thankful you get to come over and do life with us. It would be so different over here without you girls! Please keep asking the hard questions and just being you!

Love you all lots,

Hannah (or Aunt Hannie)

Sowing and reaping

22 Sep

Those who sow in tears shall reap with shouts of joy! He who goes out weeping, bearing the seed for sowing, shall come home with shouts of joy, bringing his sheaves with him. (Psalm 126:5, 6 ESV)

I read this Psalm this morning and it reminded me of the beatitudes in Matthew 5 where it says blessed are those who mourn and those who hunger and thirst for righteousness because they will comforted and they shall be satisfied. Those suffering under hardship in Israel were grieving all that they had lost, their nation, and their freedom all due to their sinfulness. They were sowing tears of loss, tears of repentance, and tears of desperation. And God takes those tears and grows them into joy! Now that takes some time, you don’t plant things and grow them fully overnight. For some it may take all the way to death, when the fruit of our faithfulness in the midst of pain blossoms into the joy of being in the presence of The Lord. The Psalmist uses the phrase come home, and when we quite literally come home from our time on earth we come home into joy! No matter how we leave, when we get home we are greeted by joy. Anyone who goes through the pain of this life with a Godward focus is not wasting their tears. They are planting them, giving them to the only being who can take such hard ground and make it beautiful again. If He can make something as shameful and disgusting as a cross beautiful then certainly He can make our tears sprout into joy. The disciples felt this change over 3 days. The tears of Friday blossomed into joy on resurrection Sunday. And because of THAT day no godly tears will ever prove unfruitful. They can and they will blossom into joy!

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