Remembrance

21 Sep

Recently a task took me to looking at old pictures from our family. And right around the birth of each of our kids the same faces pop up, Renee and Heather. They were two of Allie’s closest friends from college on. Heather (May) Von Tobel was a bridesmaid for Allie, as Allie was for her. Our Paige at 2.5 was her flower girl. They made a point of seeing each other whenever possible. We visited Heather in Colorado when we were looking to move out there, we visited her in Indiana at her parents house, Allie visited her in Arizona, and Heather came to Ohio several times. Such was the strength of their bond and of Allie’s ability to make lifelong friends and work to make sure they were never lost. Her is what Heather wrote of Allie.

Allie
When Adam approached me to write something about Allie’s friendship to me for the blog, I knew I was going to have a tough time. Like those who spoke at the memorial service, there is SO much to say about my friend and our friendship, I don’t know how to put it into words that would do her justice. Not to mention that I can’t believe I’m writing this…I can’t believe she’s gone. I miss my friend. The last 19 months with Allie getting sick have been surreal. I absolutely hated living so far away and being pregnant/just having a baby at probably the most crucial time in her sickness…I felt so out of the loop sometimes and desperately wished I had more intimate time with our friend. I was envious of all her friends and family that lived down the street that could help out in so many tangible ways and be there for her, the way they lovingly did. My heart is just so sad.

I met Allie my sophomore year at Taylor. We had some education classes together and the more I got to know her, the more I wanted to get to know her more. I felt an instant connection with her (like so many others have said…) after seeing the warmth and sincereness in her personality. Thinking back to the first time I went for a run with Allie makes me chuckle. Her reputation preceded her and I knew (as did everyone else) how intense she was about working out. I famously said, “Oh, here she comes…” as she was walking down the hall towards my dorm room. She would never let me live that comment down and felt upset that I would feel intimidated by her running skills. :)

Time went by and our friendship deepened. So much so, that I had the privilege and opportunity to live with Allie my junior and senior year at Taylor. Our other roommate (Renee), Allie, and I shared so many special memories during those couple of years. Late night talks and giggles, trips to Arizona, Colorado, and visits to each other’s homes, Friday nights down to Indy, study sessions in the Union (with a frozen blended mocha in hand), runs around campus…my mind floods with memories and I can’t help but smile when I think about all the fun times we had. I’ll hear a song that will immediately take me back to those days. We loved to sing. The memory that has been coming back to my mind these last few weeks is of Allie hysterically laughing. Gosh, we laughed until our stomachs hurt and tears were running down our faces. Those were two of the best years of my life. But most of all, I was able to form a friendship with those girls that I haven’t really been able to find since graduating Taylor. They got to see me for ME…and knew me inside and out. We pushed each other to be a better person, to grow in our faith, and to love more. That was such a tender period of time in our lives…time when we were “finding” ourselves and trying to figure things out. I know I wouldn’t be who I am today without Allie and my time with her during those crucial years

It’s been 10 years since we’ve graduated and we’ve all moved to different parts of the country, stood beside each other in each of our weddings, had babies, and became more sure about ourselves. We still tried to talk and check in at least once a week…and after a few years, we began sending out a weekly Monday email to fill in the little details about how our previous week went and how we can be praying for each other in the week ahead. Allie spear-headed this ritual and would be the one to get on us if we missed a week.

Despite the time and distance, Allie never stopped investing time in my life. Hardly a conversation went by when Allie failed to mention, “How are you doing?” But she didn’t just want the “I’m fine” answer. She genuinely wanted to know how things were going in my life. She was always intentional about asking me how I was doing in my walk with Jesus…and I have dozens of letters to prove it. Whether it be a phone call or a card in the mail, she’d have some words of wisdom and encouragement to stay true to my faith and continue to follow Jesus.

She was truly one of a kind…She loved me, knew me, and was so incredibly intentional. I don’t know how you all have felt, but I’ve really felt more drawn to the Lord and His presence the last couple of weeks, since sitting through the service, and being reminded of how much Allie loved Jesus and wanted to be like Him. And how much she wanted others to know Him too. How could you not be more drawn to Jesus after that service? Jesus was so alive and present in her life…we saw it every time we were with her. My sister-in- law recently pointed out that she literally “took up her cross,” as Jesus calls us to do in Matthew 16:24-26
24 Then Jesus told his disciples, “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me. 25 For whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will find it. 26 For what will it profit a man if he gains the whole world and forfeits his soul? Or what shall a man give in return for his soul?”

She took up her cross and kept following Him to the end. Eventually she knew her death was around the corner and she marched toward it bravely. Many of us won’t have to literally lose our lives and “carry our cross” in that fashion, as Allie had to do…but we can use Allie’s life, along with Jesus,’ as an example of how we should be living our lives…looking for ways to “take up our cross” for Christ’s sake.

Despite the void I feel…such a loss…I’m motivated to be a better person and love Him more. I get the chance to live more of my life. I’ve been asking the Lord, “Why Allie? Why do I get to be so lucky to live more life with Pete and the boys?” But to look at it with the Heavenly perspective, maybe she is the lucky one after all…she’s with Jesus. She’s where we are all striving to be and we’ll eventually realize how much more incredible Heaven is compared to here. I’m still trying to sort out my conflicting emotions. But regardless, how can I live status quo and not take more advantage of my time here on Earth? That’s what she would have wanted right? If she doesn’t get to, she would have wanted us to…to make a difference in those around us and for us to love Jesus more.

Obviously with my rambling, I’m trying to wrap my mind and heart around all of this, but at the same time, I’m missing my friend. I miss my exercise motivator, who would kick my butt into gear. I miss my food expert who would help me make better choices. :) I miss her hugs. I miss her voice and being able to pick up the phone to talk for a quick minute. We all lost an amazing person and she’ll never be replaced.

Keep loving Jesus. That’s what she would have wanted. If you don’t know Him, please find someone who does. Keep striving to be more like Him.

This world is not our home. We’ll see her soon. And I can’t wait.

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The art of remembering

19 Sep

In my years I have learned that I have incredible memory for some things and a rather poor memory for some others. When it comes to movie quotes from my childhood and facts I memorized then I do quite well. But, sometimes with people I am like that owl in the geico commercial who can’t remember someone he has met numerous times. Lately I have been remembering a lot. Little things of Allie which bring a smile to my face. The way she did things, the things she liked and cared about, her mannerisms and smile, the sound of her voice and better yet the sound of her laugh. The kids and I will pause and remember something about mommy as it comes up in conversation, such as her favorite foods, colors, and clothes. Then we get back to the moment and its needs. Yesterday, I read Psalm 143 and it spoke to the spiritual significance of the art of remembering.
For the enemy has pursued my soul; he has crushed my life to the ground; he has made me sit in darkness like those long dead. Therefore my spirit faints within me; my heart within me is appalled. I remember the days of old; I meditate on all that you have done; I ponder the work of your hands. I stretch out my hands to you; my soul thirsts for you like a parched land. Answer me quickly, O Lord! My spirit fails! Hide not your face from me, lest I be like those who go down to the pit. Let me hear in the morning of your steadfast love, for in you I trust. Make me know the way I should go, for to you I lift up my soul. (Psalm 143:3-8 ESV)

I can sympathize with the authors position from verses 3-4 where he feels crushed and his spirit falters under the weight of hardship. But, the thing which saves him from giving up is remembering. He remembers what God has done, he focuses on reminding himself of the reality of God and the goodness of God displayed in his life and his community. This remembering changes his demeanor from depressed to desirous. His soul is no longer faint but instead the art of remembering awakens his desire for God. The presence of God in memory and reality are what get him through. When he is reminded of God’s steadfast love then he can stand strong in the face of his pain. And he finishes with a plea that we can all grasp, “make me know the way I should go.”

Since Allie is gone I find memories to be a source of comfort. Remembering her and how she was feels like home to me, safe and familiar. Remembering how powerfully the Lord used her fills me with gratitude. How she was used by God to shape me, how she raised our kids, how so many were touched by her amazing capacity to love and how so many were encouraged to know Jesus better by how she reflected Him. Like the psalmist I want to know the way to go. As I look ahead I am unsure of so much. But, when I look back and remember, I know I have the resources to walk that road. I have the memory of the steadfast love of my Savior and the memory of how good God has been to me by the gift of Allie. It is when I forget that I struggle. So I will keep practicing the art of remembering.

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Memories

13 Sep

I recently asked some of Allie’s closest friends to write down some of what they remember most vividly about Allie. I did it for two reasons, the first is that someday, God willing, my daughters will read all of this blog and I wanted them to hear the voices of Allie’s friends telling them what she was like. The second is that I have found the act of trying to remember and describe Allie to be a joy and a means of honoring her. There was simply not time at the service to let all of Allie’s friends speak, if we had tried we’d still be at it even now, but I knew that there were many who would have loved to honor Allie by speaking. So over the next few weeks I will post these writings as they come in. The first is from Beth (Kemp) Chafin. Allie and her grew up together and grew into their faith together.

Proverbs 31:29-31
Many women do noble things, but you surpass them all. Charm is deceptive, and beauty is fleeting; but a woman who fears the Lord is to be praised. Honor her for all that her hands have done, and let her works bring her praise at the city gate.

She was a rare treasure. A beautiful creation of our God refined and purified by Him. Here are some lessons I learned from her life that I will carry with me forever.

How to persevere: As amazing and talented as she was, not everything came easily. I can remember watching her study and focus in our dorm room. Sometimes she would make flashcards, and I would quiz her. She wanted to review long after I was done wanting to help. If she had a goal in mind, she would give 100% to reach that goal. She worked on her basketball skills in practice and out. She drilled and drilled and drilled until she had mastered a shot, play or skill. She practiced, labored, sweated, focused, and kept going. She did this physically, mentally, and spiritually. She was determined to persevere, even when she was sick and was at her weakest with leukemia. She would persevere in all things until her beloved Savior called her home.

How to forgive: She taught me that forgiveness matters. She taught me that hurt feelings don’t trump love, and that forgiveness can make a friendship stronger and more secure. She modeled Christ to me and others by extending forgiveness that wasn’t deserved. She forgave before it was even sought, and even when it wasn’t sought, I saw her do that with the deepest of wounds. She showed me that real love requires forgiveness and that when it really happens, that no matter how deep the hurt that love can be restored and grow stronger. She showed me that healing begins with forgiveness. She knew how to forgive, because she experienced the gift of forgiveness herself extended to her at the cross.

How to handle disappointment: She experienced many disappointments in life, as we all do, but one of the greatest disappointments I have ever witnessed someone go through was hers. She knew rejection and frustration. She managed disappointment by letting go of anger. That’s not to say there were not tears. That’s not to say that her heart was not broken by the rejection, it was –completely. Despite this, she let go of the anger and turned to love. She knew her Savior experienced disappointment each time she sinned, but that he loved her despite that. She embraced that, and did her best to demonstrate that to others.

How to love: She loved unconditionally. She loved with a natural love that flowed freely and abundantly from her heart. She also loved with a supernatural love, the source of which was her God. She loved when it was not easy. She reminded me and so many others of that love with her words and deeds. I can’t think of a conversation ever that didn’t end with I love you.

How to be intentional: She taught me that even if you only have a minute, if a loved one is on your mind take that minute to let them know. She taught me that a quick 5 min phone call during dinner dishes or between clients can mean the world. She taught me that a quick note in the mail is enough to change an entire day. She taught me that a meal shared between friends was good for the soul even when it consisted of interruptions from the demands of life, burnt broccoli, and “healthy desserts”.

She taught me how to put faith into practice: She taught me that a daily walk requires work. She demonstrated devotion. She taught me to be better at prayer. She encouraged me to read something she had enjoyed, or learned from, or been stretched by. She prayed for me, and I for her, and that brought us closer to each other and our Savior. She showed me that sharing my faith doesn’t have to be hard and should not consist of awkward conversations. She showed me that a life in devotion and demonstration of faith was the best way to share. She showed me that a life devoted to the Gospel is the only life worth living.
The void left behind is huge and it hurts, but the things she taught me fill my heart.

Growing up

10 Sep

Thank you to all those who made Saturday a beautiful worship service. It was touching to see so many people and faces there to remember Allie. It is a bit bizarre to see so many people whom you love and haven’t seen in awhile, which normally would be a source of joy, yet the circumstances are anything but joyful. In many ways I am glad Saturday is done. But, in other ways I miss it. the details gave me focus, the friends and family were comforting distractions, and the events kept me busy. Now things are quieter and the girls and I are trying to figure out how this will look. A new week has begun, and with it gymnastics, homework, packed lunches and a daily schedule. Since they are girls there is always the chance for emotional volatility (no offense). Now I must try and distinguish the normal from the abnormal. Hayleigh scared me with a meltdown about going to school, but today at pick-up she was stopped and hugged by several friends while giggling, always a good sign. Today was a big day for Mollie as it was her first day of school. She showed no fear and by the end of the day she knew her friends names and walked out waving saying “bye teacher.”

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Whether it is good or bad, we will obey the voice of the Lord our God to whom we are sending you, that it may be well with us when we obey the voice of the Lord our God.” (Jeremiah 42:6 ESV)

Obituary

6 Sep

Here is the obituary which ran today in the Akron Beacon Journal and will run in the next editions of the Falls Press and Stow Sentry.

CUYAHOGA FALLS – Allison Page (Kura) Armstrong, 32, went home to be with the Lord on Sept. 2, 2013.

Born in Akron, she was a lifetime area resident, a graduate of Woodridge High School and Taylor University and a member of The Chapel. Allison was a licensed personal trainer, having worked at the Cuyahoga Falls Natatorium. She loved to exercise and to help people work hard to achieve their goals. She was devoted to her Lord and to her family. She served in many official capacities which spoke to this devotion. She went on several missions trips, served as a worship leader at her church in Colorado, and helped to lead a small group at The Chapel. But, more impressive were the myriad of ways she showed her devotion unofficially. Allie was the type of person who never really lost a friend and made lifelong friends from every place she went. She had a weekly tradition of calling her college roommates to keep their relationship growing. It seemed that in every place around town Allie knew someone, and if she didn’t she would after about 15 minutes. And when she spoke with you she had a way of making you feel that you mattered, that you were important to her. She loved people well and she found people to love wherever she was. She had a relentless drive to get things done. She was almost always late because she was always trying to do more than time would reasonably allow.

The family would like to send a special thanks to the many people who took care of us during Allie’s treatments. Allie held her Dr. and the staff at Akron General, many of whom became personal friends, in high regard. It was your friendship and care that made her regular visits not only tolerable but enjoyable for her. The same can be said of how she grew to know and care for so many of the staff and patients and their families on G110 and G111 at the Cleveland Clinic. Finally, a thank you is due for all those who made her stay in Houston more comfortable. Thank you for all the ways you loved Allie. She was so fond of people and this journey brought her into contact with so many kind people. She counted you as friends.

For those interested you can go to the blog Allie kept and retrace her journey at www.livestrongarmstrong.com

She is survived by her husband of 9 years, Adam; daughters Paige (8), Hayleigh (5) and Mollie (3); parents Mike and Tana Kura; brothers David (Jessica) Kura, Jon (Gina) Kura and their 4 children; father-in-law and mother-in-law Warren and Claudia Armstrong and brother-in-law Chris (Ellie) Armstrong and their 3 children.

Pastor Kevin Delaney will conduct funeral services Saturday 11 A.M. in the main sanctuary at The Chapel, 135 Fir Hill, Akron 44304. In lieu of flowers donations may be made to the Allie Armstrong Scholarship fund at Cuyahoga Valley Christian Academy. Donations may be mailed to Cuyahoga Valley Christian Academy at 4687 Wyoga Lake Road Cuyahoga Falls, OH 44224.

A nice sign

5 Sep

This is Adam.

I have been reading Jeremiah in the mornings for a few week now. It is a book which is horribly convicting. I told my classes if you ever want to feel bad about yourself, read Jeremiah. It exposes the grossness of our sin, especially the sort of self-justifying religious sin that Israel was so adept at. It is convicting because as I read it I seem to have this thought repeatedly when reading God’s chastisement of Israel, “I do that too.” God is warning Israel about His judgment which is coming in the form of an invasion by the Babylonian Empire. And God warns using this sequence several times.

And I will silence in the cities of Judah and in the streets of Jerusalem the voice of mirth and the voice of gladness, the voice of the bridegroom and the voice of the bride, for the land shall become a waste. (Jeremiah 7:34 ESV)

So God will bring an end to their joy because when you are surrounded and being overthrown there isn’t much mirth. Well I read it and didn’t think too much of it until I got to this in chapter 33 today.

“Thus says the Lord : In this place of which you say, ‘It is a waste without man or beast,’ in the cities of Judah and the streets of Jerusalem that are desolate, without man or inhabitant or beast, there shall be heard again the voice of mirth and the voice of gladness, the voice of the bridegroom and the voice of the bride, the voices of those who sing, as they bring thank offerings to the house of the Lord (Jeremiah 33:10, 11 ESV)

I was encouraged today to find out my kids are still ticklish, they still ride bikes with big toothy smiles, they still think bath time is play time, they still love their friends and laugh with them. Even us adults have found some moments of mirth, especially as we looked through some old family photos. God didn’t just promise to return Israel from exile He promised to return to them joy. And even in the midst of funeral plans and eulogies I have found moments to laugh. I thank God for mirth and gladness and laughter, especially the laughter of three specific little girls.

For his anger is but for a moment, and his favor is for a lifetime. Weeping may tarry for the night, but joy comes with the morning. (Psalm 30:5 ESV)

Service Announcement

3 Sep

This Saturday, Sept. 7th we will hold a memorial service for Allison Page Armstrong at 11:00 am at the Chapel in Akron. The service will be in the main sanctuary. The church’s address is 135 Fir Hill Akron, Ohio 44304.

We hope to remember Allie and celebrate, with gratitude, her life and the God who gave her life.

In memory

2 Sep

This is Adam posting.
At 3:25 pm today, September 2nd Allie finished her race here with us. She came to the hospice care center late last night in need of platelets to help with some mouth bleeding. Soon she was complaining of trouble breathing and was largely sedated since then. The bleeding persisted and the breathing slowly gave out. She was surrounded by family and I got to walk my bride down the aisle to meet her Savior. To say I loved her seems a woeful understatement. She was incredible, beautiful, and godly. Once we knew it was happening I told Paige and she bravely came for a visit. To watch my little 8 year old tackle the emotions and fear of seeing mommy that way reminded me of my wife’s strength. She was sad when I told her and then began asking all about the logistics of heaven, my answers seemed to comfort her. Perhaps this is something of what Jesus meant about having faith like a child.

I will post the memorial service details here soon.

Precious in the sight of the Lord is the death of his saints. (Psalm 116:15 ESV)

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Daddy dressed for fake out first day pics

28 Aug

Paige was disappointed that adam wasn’t dressed up on her official first day of school pics. But today daddy did dress up so these are our fake out first day of school pics with handsome dad!

School seems to be a hit!

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1st Day of school

28 Aug

We officially have a third grader and a kindergartener! Excitement abound in the AM, exhaustion in the PM.

Good day had by all!

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