God’s Eye ~ Lauren’s Window

“Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God”

Matthew 5:8

In January a dear friend and a former Sunday School teacher of ours, Sarah W, contacted us about a beautiful watercolor she had painted.

Here is her note: “I prayed for you, Bryan and Lauren last night.  Well today I painted a picture of part of one of the stained glass windows in the church for a church raffle.  I couldn’t get Lauren off of my mind and I kept having memories of her in the Confirmation Class.  I know you have millions of memories and mine really are insignificant.  Anyway the subject was “God’s Eye” and I kept thinking that Lauren is looking at you through that eye and keeping watch over you and Bryan.  I wondered if she was watching me too.  The plate that is written in the corner of the big stained glass window states: “For they shall see God.”  Give Bryan my love.  I’ll try to send a picture of the painting.  Your friend in Christ. Sarah xo”

At that time we were in Fredericksburg in our RV but Bryan happened to be back in Lufkin to take care of some things at home.  He texted me after reading the message and seeing the picture.   I was sitting on top of Cross Mountain, a beautiful mountain top where you can see for miles and there is a constant wind blowing.  I walk to the top often to pray and talk to Lauren… I feel close to her there.  Quickly I got online on my phone and read the message and saw the painting.  Right then I messaged Sarah and told her how moved I was by the painting, how beautiful it was and that I wanted to purchase it at the church raffle….even if I had to do it by proxy if we weren’t in town.  I told her it was a God Link because we both still struggle with her loss and Bryan was back in an “angry phase”, not happy with God and mad at a certain person.  I had been thinking that Lauren would be sad about his anger and hoped it would be a sign to him… from her.

Sarah quickly let me know that the painting was ours and she would paint something else for the church raffle.  She said that Lauren’s basket was full and that she was a blessing to all she touched.  We then talked by phone and she told me how she had dreamed of Lauren that night, after praying for us, and that she was with God.  We talked and shared more with each other and I thanked her for her continued prayers, love and friendship.

Sarah is a lovely person inside and out, a Godly woman and has such a kind, gentle, sweet spirit.  Not to mention she is a very talented artist…with our permission she entered “Lauren’s Window” in an art show and won second place….course we think it should have gotten first.  We are so moved and honored to have her special and beautiful painting hanging in our home….Thank you Sarah.

“Lauren’s Window”  in our home

Hopes and Dreams

We are in Destin Florida…a beautiful paradise our family enjoyed visiting…beautiful white sand beaches, sparkling clear blue water.  This year it is just Bryan and I…as it was last year…with Taylor working, busy with activities and not able to come with us.   Granted at 22 yr’s old, vacationing alone “with the parents” is not on the top of his list, like most youngsters his age.

 Last night we sat in our beach chairs, close to the water, to watch the sunset….Lauren loved sunsets.   There were few people on the beach as it was supper time for most people.  We had been sitting for a while and watching the waves come crashing in….there was a low front moving in so the waves were higher than usual.  I had been reflecting on Lauren and her life…the many thing she had done, different countries she had been to, experiences she had, her love of people and life.  She especially loved children and although she wanted children she was scared of having them and always said she was gonna adopt instead.  I told her I suspected when she found the right person she would want to “birth” their children and she could still adopt as well.  I had hopes and dreams of her wedding day…us shopping to find the perfect dress, helping her plan the wedding, attending showers and of course seeing Bryan walk her down the aisle and “give her away” to her groom.  Lauren was his girl….so the “giving” would certainly only be symbolic…she was too tightly wrapped around his finger and our hearts.  I also had hopes and dreams of being a grandmother and her having children of her own…birthed and adopted…to be loved equally by them and all of our families.

As I got up to stretch, after sitting for a while watching the waves crash in, I noticed a young couple about 100 ft away…Mom, Dad and a little baby girl maybe 8-9 months old.  They were dressed in color coordinated clothes, blue and white, to take pictures on the beach….I’m sure her first time in the sand.  The Mom looked my way and started walking toward me…I started shouting “Yes, yes, yes” before she could even get the words out.  I knew what she wanted…someone to take pictures and her be in them too, for a change….I was chuckling as I walked toward her.   I told her I was happy to take their family picture and I loved to do that for people…as I know what it is like to never be in the picture…it’s a standing joke in our family…if I can “get to them” before they ask me.  I directed and posed them…Sean, a photographer friend, would be proud of me…”Dad…take the sunglasses off the top of your head…Mom…move forward so Ellie’s head doesn’t create a shadow on your face….Ellie…sweetpea….look at this silly woman so I can see your beautiful blue eyes and sweet smile.”  I took 3 or 4 pictures before I liked one of them….they liked all of them.  Cute little Ellie, I only asked her name, in her white headband with a blue bow that matched her stunning eyes….smiling, laughing…full of her Mom’s hopes and dreams for her future…their future as a family.

They “thanked” me profusely and I walked back to my chair….tears started rolling down my face as I sat down.  The sweet young couple with a precious little baby girl…like Bryan and I…over 24 years ago…full of possibilities, hopes, dreams and love.  I hoped and prayed they never had to know our pain of losing a beloved daughter…or son.  I couldn’t sit…I had to get up and walk the beach…I didn’t want anyone to see me crying.  I was looking down as I walked and came across “love” in the sand…Lauren and God…telling me they still love me.  The water had washed up and over the tiny sand dunes on the beach and created a heart…wobbly, jagged edges…but still intact.

Our dreams and plans are not always His plans and we have to try to trust His plan…even when it doesn’t match ours or make sense…that is what I am struggling to do.  He knows the number of our days and our life here on earth is just but a blink of an eye compared to eternity.

Isaiah 55:8 and Psalms 139:16

Memorial Plaque

This is a picture of the Lauren Alston Memorial Scholarship plaque that hangs in the round room of honor in the SFA Alumni Association’s office on campus.  It is a beautiful bronze plaque, it looks so much better in person and you are welcome to view it at your leisure.

After Lauren’s sudden, unexpected death we had asked in lieu of flowers to please make a donation that would be used to fund scholarships to SFA and LHS.  Family, friends and Lauren’s co-workers, she worked part-time, were so generous in their giving that we were able to quickly endow a memorial scholarship at SFA.  An endowed scholarship works by giving a certain amount of money and it draws interest each year.  The interest is what is given away and the principle is never touched therefore it is an ever lasting tribute to an individual.  Lauren died on March 7th, 2010 and less than two months later enough money was raised to endow her scholarship.  Her Dad, brother Taylor and I went to SFA on what would have been her 22nd birthday, May 18th, and officially gave the money to the SFA Alumni Association.  We could not have thought of a better way to celebrate her birthday.  We have been so moved and humbled by people’s generosity and love for our daughter.  Thank you for continuing her legacy of helping others.

Lauren Alston Foundation

SFA Recipients

Lauren Alston Foundation

Suzanne Alston, Laura Resendez and Bryan Alston at the SFA Scholarship Reception on March 23, 2012

Last Friday night we had the privilege of meeting one of the SFA recipients of the Lauren Alston Memorial Scholarship.  Her name is Laura and she is a warm, open, delightful young woman.  Now had it been me I would have been extremely intimidated because you see there was seven of us at the reception to meet her.  It was both sets of Lauren’s grandparents, Sharron & Roy Dean Alston and Sue & John Jasper, a friend of Lauren’s,  Adam O. and us, her parents.  Granted she didn’t know there would be seven of us until she walked up to the table but she handled it very well.  We talked with her for an hour, learned about her life and found some unexpected connections.  She wants to work in the travel industry and will graduate in May 2013.  She was friendly, active in the conversation and asked us questions about our life.  She has a younger brother, who has visited her at SFA, which has inspired him to work hard in school because he now wants to attend SFA when he graduates high school.  We found out she lives in the same house that Bryan’s brother, Todd, lived in while attending SFA.  She has some of the same qualities as Lauren and when we saw her finger it sealed the deal for us…she had on a James Avery ring.  Anyone that knew Lauren knows how much she loved James Avery jewelry and had many pieces.  Laura’s ring was the Mother’s Love ring that her Mom had given her.  My Mother had just told me she was wanted to buy me the Mother’s Love charm for my new charm bracelet.  Now that is a Godwink…a sign to us we had picked the right recipient…the ring and the wonderful meeting we had with Laura.

Bryan and I are now reviewing the new applicants for this coming year.  Please pray that we pick worthy young adults that will after graduation carry on the LAF mission of helping others.

“Loving for her was as easy as breathing”

Two years ago today our world turned upside down and it has never righted itself since.  There are days it is hard to smile…feel joy…put one foot in front of the other.  Our hearts ache and we still cry over our loss and always will.  Yes…the pain is still there…it is less raw….but it will never go away.  It would be so easy to crawl in a hole or the bed and never get out of it.  But Lauren would not want any of us to do that.  She would want us to remember her and “Smile, Open our eyes, Love and Go on.”  She was full of love and life and so we try to be for her.  There is not a day that goes by that we don’t think of Lauren… her smile, her laughter, her reaching out to others, her love of life.  “Loving for her was as easy as breathing” a special friend of her’s told us after her passing.

Today we intend to “smile, love and go on” and perform random acts of kindness in her memory.  We hope you will too and if you do please tell us in a comment on this post…it would warm our hearts.

 

“You have inspired me”

“You have lightened my financial burden” and “you have inspired me to recognize the value of helping others”…words from one of our recipients.  For all of the wonderful people who donated to LAF in the past and for the two donors last week, your heart should be uplifted and filled with joy from those words, you have impacted and changed a life.  Thank you from the depths of my heart for doing this in memory of Lauren.

A second thank you note from Rondrelle Sterling

February 8, 2012

Dear members of the Lauren Alston Foundation,

I am writing to express my sincere gratitude to you for making the Lauren Alston Memorial Scholarship possible.  I was overwhelmingly elated to learn of my selection for this honor and I am deeply appreciative of your support.

I am currently a junior majoring in Hospitality Administration, and I hope to graduate in December of 2012 with a Bachelor’s Degree.  While attending Stephen F. Austin State University as a full-time student, I also have a part-time job to help pay for my expenses.  Luckily, my job gives me experience in my field, and I have recently been promoted to student manager.  It is not easy juggling school and work: therefore, I am truly grateful for the assistance I am receiving because of your foundation.

By awarding me the Lauren Alston Memorial Scholarship, you have lighten my financial burden which allows me to focus on the most important aspect of school, learning.  Your generosity has inspired me to recognize the value in helping others.  I hope one day I will be able to help students achieve their goals just as you have helped me.

Sincerely,

Rondrelle Sterling