The Bathroom Floor. [A Broken Hallelujah.]

JCP_3471 bwI am thankful for a husband who loves me even when I’m breaking. Who knows when I’m crying on the bathroom floor, and instead of going on a run or telling me to get up, comes to sit down beside me and pulls me, shaking, into his lap. How did you know I was crying? He smiles softly. I’m your husband. I always know. And I’m not going anywhere.

God tells husbands to love their wives the way that he loves the church. Honestly, I think he knew that sometimes, we would have a hard time seeing him another way. Kellan is to incarnate God’s love towards me. And right now, Kellan is how I see him. Quietly. Softly. I’m your God. I always know. And I’m not going anywhere.

Sometimes, you can’t get off the bathroom floor. And what you need is not a God who tells you you’re fine and pulls you to your feet—what you need is a God who holds your hemorrhaging heart. A God who understands what it is to watch someone in your family struggle to breathe and die.You will scream if you hear “light and momentary” when your heart knows that in sixty years tears will still burn at the back of your eyes when Ian isn’t there on Christmas morning. That the soundtrack that has played in the background of your life will now forever be marred by curious dissonance of a key misplaced. No matter how happy I am, something will always be missing. Broken.

Tragedy is an interesting thing. Without warning, you join the massive ranks of bloodied, red-eyed, broken people. People suffocating under the weight of an impossible ache that feels like it will never, never go away as they struggle to get out of bed and answer phone and drive to the grocery store in a world that they no longer understand.

It makes me think about Mary.

Her brother died too, after all. I imagine the raw panic that welled up inside her as Lazarus lay white-faced, laboring to breathe, and she stood by helplessly. Maybe it was the first time she’d called his name, and he’d simply stared blankly through her. Maybe it was the wheezing as though he was drowning and everything in her felt like she was drowning with him. Maybe he could no longer move to motion for a glass of water or squeeze a hand. Her big, strong brother looked so frail laying there in that bed—nothing like the kid she’d grown up with. Mary did the one thing that she could do to help, and sent word to Jesus to come quickly—because she just KNEW that He could save her brother.

She waited for him to come-and every agonizing minute felt like a thousand. I imagine her sitting by Lazarus’ bed, holding his hand, fighting back the tears that threatened to consume her as she thought about how they’d playedJCP_1584 bw house together when they were little. Sure, he’d pretended to hate it-but secretly, he’d loved every second of hanging out with his sister. [Even when she made him be the dog.] She thought about the first time he’d fessed up to having a crush on the neighbor’s daughter. She’d pretended to be surprised when actually, she had known for months because that’s how sisters are. She thought about the walks they used to go on, conversations around the dinner table, and the incessant teasing that she’d always made a grand, indignant show over.

Mary waited for the only one who could heal her brother. She watched panic fill his deadened eyes as his dry mouth searched for air it could not find. The wheezing grew louder, and slipping in and out of consciousness he would sometimes moan, and sometimes a tear would roll down his cheek. As she wiped each one away, she would have done anything in the whole world to save her brother.

Mary held his hand the whole time. And with tears streaming down her face, she crumpled over her brother’s body as he shuddered one last painful time, and then silenced.

When Jesus arrived days later, she hadn’t slept. Her eyes were red and swollen, her head was pounding, and she walked towards him unsure whether legs could carry a heart that heavy. Her lower lip trembled as she quietly whispered, “If you’d been here, my brother would not have died.”

My question has been different. You see, Jesus was there as Ian died.

JCP_3555 bwLord, you were there. You saw every labored breath, every weak move of his hand, every teary, fearful glance towards the monitor beside his bed. You heard. You never left. And my brother died.

I find no answer as I ask God why he said no. Instead, I find a God that cries with me. That hates it even more than I do, and that longs for the world to be restored to what he created. I find a God that is redeeming all of the ugly, sad things in the world, and in the meantime sits with us on the bathroom floor.

If we claim to follow God, we must join Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego and decide that He is good and worthy—PERIOD. That He is better than life itself. And while I would rather He’d taken mine than Ian’s, I with them cry that my love will not waver “even if He doesn’t save”. For the believer, this must be our defiant “nevertheless” in the face of broken, hellish ugly. This is not what you intended, it’s not what you created, and you’re redeeming the world from sin and death. You’re coming back, and you’re going to make all of the sad things become untrue. And until then, you ache with us.

I can offer nothing but a broken hallelujah.


  1. grateful for you singing a broken hallelujah. thank you for your TRUTH and HONESTY. i’ve been there, too. you are not alone in aching over the utter brokenness this side of heaven.

  2. Beautiful post, gal. Still praying for you guys every day.

  3. LaVonda Hill says:

    Lyrics from a song…He’s the God of the good times. He’s the God of the bad times. When things go wrong, He’ll make them right. The “right” is that He will reunite all who believe. Thank you for sharing your broken heart! I am an only child so I don’t know what your pain is like. But my 28 yr. old daughter was killed almost 21 yrs. ago.He will take care of you!

  4. Denise Martinez says:

    Just amazing, your writing capabilities a gift from God to share with the world. To open our eyes, ears and hearts to not only your pain and anguish, but to just how special your brother was and how he is still very much alive in your lives. Thank you once again for sharing your beautiful words and helping us understand.

  5. Write

  6. Marge Farmer says:

    Yes, at the appropriate time, do write a book. You will know the right time. You have the rare ability to touch other’s souls because you speak from your heart. Praise God for giving you and Kellon to each other. We all need someone to hold us and cry with us but there are precious few who find love like that. So many times when I am at the end of myself I read a sentence beginning with …..BUT GOD……He cries with you and Kellon is your “Jesus with skin on”. My prayers continue to be with y’all.

  7. Joan Uram says:

    I feel your pain and love you even though I have never met you but our spirits have met. God always has a purpose for His “No” in our lives, and it is through our loss, pain, tears and faith that we will see that purpose. Ian’s faith and love for the Lord will continue to live through you and both of you will touch so many lives in ways you will never know until we are all in the presence of our Savior and Lord. Your tears will be turned into tears of joy at the moment your spirit enters that of someone who is lost and now is saved through Ian’s and your faith and non-waivering love of our Lord. We are all here for a purpose and God’s plan is “His Perfect Plan”. I love you, you are precious and I will continue to pray for you. Thank you for touching my life in so many ways. Please continue to share your pain and your beautiful spirit in your letters. I truly know that their are so many prayer warriors out there praying for you and lifting you up to the Lord through every breath that you take, every tear that you cry and even your deepest despair over the loss of your beautiful brother. I love you and please know that I will be praying with you along with so many others for that peace that surpasses all understanding except to those who truly love the Lord …

    Joan Uram

  8. Missy Newman says:

    I never met your Ian, or you for that matter. I grew up with your mother. I envied her purple shag carpet you grandmother allowed her to cover her bedroom floor with. My mother would NEVER have let me do anything that wild and outrageous. Cindy was always good but bad things happen even to good people. She has lost and lost and lost close family, and she grew up in a great family! We ask why but we may never know the answer in our lifetime. The plan is bigger than we are. Take comfort in knowing you WILL see Ian again.

  9. Joann selby says:

    So beautifully written! I was one of your Uncle Anthony classmates. You came from a beautiful family! I have great pleasure in calling your grandmother Maria Aunt Maria because of two of your family members Suzy & Stacey Overman they are like family to me! You know GOD does not make mistakes and you all will see Ian again with the life that you are living. Be blessed in knowing that GOD still lives!

  10. Robin Smith says:

    Oh my ! So beautiful . I lost my own son 8 years ago at 15 years old. He was a friend of Justin and Ben,Julie ,his second mother . Eight years ,but yet just a moment ago and this has helped me . In your new grief ,you helped mine.Thank you.

  11. Marla Peterson says:

    Thank you for sharing the reality of your pain and your faith in the midst of such a devastating grief. I am Lindsay Stortz’s aunt, Marla, whose precious son Timothy went to heaven on April 19, 2011. My heart weeps with you. But I am so comforted that my Timmy, who is such an awesome young man, has now met your brother, and they are definitely having the time of their lives right now. A book that helped me was by Randy Alcorn, entitled simply “Heaven.” The chapter regarding what the present heaven is for those who have already left this earth; what they do there, brings me great solace.
    God bless you as He holds you in the palm of His hand….

  12. samantha says:

    beautiful. thanks for your raw honesty, ashley. he is good, period. learning that myself and so thankful to find that he does sit in the silence with me. praying for you- it was a pleasure to see you last weekend!

  13. Jen Thompson says:

    Thanks for sharing your life and your grief with your “readers.” Your words are ministering to people all over!

  14. Lisa Best says:

    I can’t even speak. I’ve been where you are aound there was nobody there to understand. I’m so thankful you have this wonderful man to stand by your side and lift you up. I’ve only recently had the joy of knowing love like that….you are blessed and are blessing others with your soul-bearing blog. Thank you…

  15. Beautifully written. You gave me a whole new perspective on Lazarus. My husband was diagnosed with a different form of leukemia two years ago. He is not symptomatic yet, but will be and I dread the day. My dad passed away last year from complications with Parkinson’s. I understand the breathing thing. I still hear that rattling sometimes. I pray God will bring you great comfort from those around you. Keep writing!

  16. Great post, great blog :-)


  1. […] wall. He has chosen to love me when I dissolved over closet space [read: missing Ian] and when I couldn’t get off of the bathroom floor. He has chosen to love me on the days that I have been very, very angry about everything that I […]

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