September 28, 2016

Of Colds, Grief, Being a Baby, and Finding the JOY in the Hard

Are you all tired of my late-night, grief-filled ramblings, yet? If so, sorry. You may have to find a different blog to follow. If you aren't, good, because I have no idea when these kinds of ramblings will stop. Mainly because I feel like the grief won't stop. Change, yes. Stop, I am not so sure. Some days I want it gone completely, some days I know I need the reminder it brings that life is short and eternity matters.

I have not been feeling well today. Just the early signs of a light cold, but annoying nonetheless. Sore throat. Sneezing. Stuffy nose. Nothing major, but I am a huge baby when I don't feel well. Even when I just barely don't feel well. That's where Kevin always balanced me out. When I didn't feel well he jumped right in and got everything done so I could be a baby and have the day off. Even when he wasn't feeling well. Even on days when he struggled to function. If I wasn't at 100% he sucked it up and filled in for me. I missed that today. I missed his helping hands. I missed his sweet, tender voice. I missed him making me lunch. I missed him getting the kids started on school so I could sleep a little longer. I just missed him.

I lost it this morning while trying to straighten my hair (in an attempt to make myself look better than I felt and trick my mind into thinking I felt better than I really did). Randomly I started thinking about one of the improv games we played at this year's Valentine's Banquet. Then it dawned on me that our last Valentine's Day we celebrated 15 years together. 15. And that's it. There won't be another one. We started dating on Valentine's Day 2001. He was a freshman and I was a senior. I knew from that day forward only death would separate us. I just thought it would take longer. That we'd have more time. That we would grow old together. That he'd be here to help me celebrate turning 40. That I'd get to see him turn 50. I never dreamed 15 Valentine's Days would be all we would get.

I almost lost it again on the way home from getting my car looked at this morning. I passed some random street sign (I can't even remember what it was) and was just hit with the thought, "He's gone. He's really gone. We won't be seeing him again here." It's not like that was new information, but sometimes it still just seems like he's off on business or will be back later in the day. Every now and then that thought hits and brings me to my knees almost every time. Will that ever stop?

So many times I want to wallow. I want to whine and complain about how hard life has become. I have to take out my own trash. I have to get things fixed. I have to check things and install things. I can't just go do what I want because there's no one here to watch the kids. And then I remember how completely stupid that whining and complaining is. There are so many awesome single parents out there who have to do all those same things. Who have to miss so many things for the same reason. There are a lot of married moms and dads out there that have to do these things on their own because their spouse works odd hours, just isn't present, or has health issues that keep them from helping. Many loving, wise people have reminded me to give myself grace. I know they are right, but I just don't want to need grace. I want to be that super mom that I think everyone else is all the time. I want to be fine. I want to be adjusted and amazing and full-force all the time. I don't want to be tired and weepy and whiny. I don't want to burst into tears at weird times for no reason. I don't want to be THAT girl.

Thanks to awesome friends who speak truth in love and pour tons of grace on me, I am slowly learning to breathe and look for the JOY in the hard. The grace in the grey. The inch of daylight underneath the door. I came home tonight from a beautiful night of serving precious children, doing a service project with my kids, fun with our church drama team, and beautiful worship with our praise team, yet all I wanted to do was sit and cry because I am tired, don't feel well, and life just isn't fair. I immediately heard precious Megan's* voice telling me to look for the JOY. So here it is, the JOY that I am finding in the midst of this hard night:

*I love acting and get to do it each week with some wonderful, fun people who love Jesus.
*My little boy still loves to have me curl up beside him and watch a movie or pray at bedtime.
*My little girl is always there to share a funny story or give me a hug when she sees I am upset.
*My church family is awesome and is loving me by taking turns taking my kiddos once a week. If having time alone is a love language, it ranks right at the top for me.
*Homeschooling allows us so much flexibility in our days. We got a ton done today, yet we were still able to take it easy, get the car in for an estimate, and grab Chinese food after studying China in history. (I think fried rice and egg drop soup are also two of my top love languages.)
*I get to worship with some of the most talented instrumentalists and singers every week. I am by far the weakest link and they let me come back each Wednesday. Can you say blessed?
*I ran four miles this week. All on my own.
*I have some of the best examples of prayer warriors, servants, wise counselors, and parents surrounding me, both here in town and around the world.
*I have an amazing family. They love my quirks. They are patient with my crazy. They are here at the drop of a hat.
*God has provided a job, even if it's temporary, that is perfect for me in every way for this season of life.
*God has graciously allowed me to begin thinking of empty nest life with some excitement and fun as I think of all the things I'll be able to do once the kids are out of the house. Tiny house on wheels, anyone? (Is it bad that I am praying the Lord brings be a full-time job I can do from anywhere so I can spend my time traveling to all my missionary friends and serving them for weeks or months at a time?)
*The Lord has given me beautiful examples of those who are in deep grief, yet continue to trust in and serve God despite their circumstance. Their lives are beautiful examples of what I want my life to look like, sooner rather than later.
*God keeps giving Ethan one more day to accept His free gift of salvation.
*I have friends who love me like family and let me vent and scream and cry and never make me think twice before I say anything to them. Everyone needs friends like them. One day I might be willing to share.
*God's beautiful gift of music.

Father, keep opening my eyes to see the light. Keep opening my eyes to see the JOY in even the hard days. Lord, remind me that You alone are my strength. When I think I can't go on, grab my face and turn my eyes toward You.

September 26, 2016

Daylight

I love the song Daylight by JJ Heller (I'll have a link at the end of the post) and listen to it on repeat pretty much every day. The words are beautiful and heartfelt. It was written from the heart of one who struggles with depression, but fits this roller coaster of grief well.

Lord, I've been afraid for so long.
Oh, how this is me! From the moment I realized what was really going on with Kevin (addiction and depression) I was afraid. Afraid of so many things. Afraid of speaking truth and letting people know what was really going on. Afraid of letting people in. Afraid of making things worse for Kevin. Afraid of making Kevin angry for talking to others when I knew how much it would shame him. Afraid. Afraid. Afraid. Every decision was made from a place of fear. And it was a terrible place to be. Few good decisions are made when they are based on fear.

I have prayed so many times to be strong.
Amen! I can't say "yes" loud enough. That was in my prayers almost daily. I am almost embarrassed to admit, however, is that I was praying to be strong in the wrong areas for the wrong things. I should have been praying for strength to speak truth, to be strong when it came to truly helping Kevin, for strength to let others in to the real, hard, messy of our life. Instead, I was praying for strength to be quiet and calm, to be submissive to requests made by my husband who was not in a healthy frame of mind and was unable to think clearly and make logical decisions. I regret not begging God for those first things instead, but I pray that I have learned from those mistakes and can be stronger in my trust and faith, and more open and honest, even with the hard and ugly.

I sit here in the desert making circles in the sand, but You're telling me that Your the promised land.
When I heard the last part of that sentence I caught my breath. There it was, in JJ Heller's beautiful voice, and it felt like God was telling me exactly what the purpose of all my pain and grief truly was: HE IS THE PROMISED LAND! Not marriage. Not a family. Not all the things I've had on my list. HIM. GOD. He is the gift, the reward, the JOY, the everything. I can't really put it into words, but I know that believing that makes all the difference. All.the.difference. The pain, the grief, the sorrow, even the journey isn't the point. Those things aren't the end. He is the end. HE IS THE END!

There is an inch of daylight underneath the door. It's enough to for me to fill up my canteen.
Some days feel so dark. So many days there seems to be no joy, no peace, no light. But, when we train our eyes to find the light (yeah, that's another JJ Heller line in another song I love! Saving that post for my birthday!) As a precious friend recently said in a meeting (I am looking at you, LD), it's so easy to see our circumstances, see our grief, and only pull out the tragic pictures. But when we look closer, we see so much light, so many pictures of grace. And you know what? All we need is an inch of daylight underneath the door to give us the hope to go on. And it's there. I promise. You may have to look hard. Squint. Lean in close. But the light is there.

Food and water are only buying time. If I want to live, Your love is what I need.
Yes, we need food and water to survive, but to sustain life and hope and love and grace here in this broken world, it's His love that we must have to keep going. Even when, especially when, the days are hard and you don't want to get out of bed, read His word. Trust His promises. Cry out to Him. Let His love overwhelm you. That's what will keep you going.

I'm scared to death of taking the wrong turn. Peace is something nobody can earn.
Oh man, so much of the last two years has been lived in fear of doing the wrong thing; in Kevin's eyes, in the eyes of my friends, in the eyes of my family, in the eyes of my church family. There was absolutely no peace. And there is never anything you can do to earn peace, no matter how "good" you are. Peace comes from Christ alone. It is a gift. Christ is peace. He fills us with a peace that is beyond all understanding. Beyond our simple language. Just beyond.

There's no chance now of losing, when You've given me Your love. You healed the disease I was dying of.
Amen! Amen! Amen! No matter what ails you, physically or mentally or spiritually, God is the cure. And God is the victory. Hear me, that healing may not look like you think, but the healing is there. For some, healing is physical healing. For others, healing is knowing that God is in control, no matter what. It might just be that healing is His peace in the midst of your pain, even though nothing has changed. Still for others, healing is leaving this earth to join their Heavenly Father for eternity.

The bridge of the song is the cry I probably utter most. It's uttered in those times when I have no words. In times when I feel desperate and doubtful. It's the prayer I need to utter every moment of the day. And it's the perfect ending to this post:
Be near me. Be near me, now. Be near me. Be near me, now.

Take a few moments and listen to this beautiful song:
Daylight by JJ Heller

September 22, 2016

Some Days I Feel Like I Am Going Crazy

Today is one of those days. I know I've said it before, more than once, but grief is hard. And long. And unpredictable. Most days are good. I keep it together. There are smiles and laughter and fun. Sweet memories are talked about and new ones are made.

But then, there are other days. Days like today. More memories than my brain or emotions can handle come flooding back. Tears seem to fall for no reason. I am undone over the smallest, silliest things. I seriously feel like a crazy person some days. So often big things don't bother me at all and the little things are just too much to handle. I feel silly, selfish, and guilty about everything. I am tired and weary. I feel like I've been grieving since April of last year and I just want to be done. So many days I see a light at the end of the tunnel. Some days are so dark the grief seems endless. It's back and forth and back and forth.

I must confess, I've only seen Kevin's grave once. The day we buried him. I didn't go before and I haven't been back since. I feel guilty because I don't feel guilty. I have no idea why, but I feel absolutely no attachment to it. It was really hard to choose his headstone, but I loved the proof and can't wait to see it in person when it is finished, yet I just don't want to go see it actually on the grave. I have no idea why. Maybe I am worried about how I will react. I was watching a movie the other day that showed a widow just sitting at her husband's grave, unable to leave. I don't feel that way at all. And I feel guilty that I don't feel that way. Do people think I don't miss Kevin? That I didn't love him because I don't grieve him that way?

Yet, I cannot give up the need to go to a corn maze every weekend. That was our tradition the last few years. Those corn mazes were the few times during addiction that he enjoyed time with us. Smiled. Laughed. Was the Kevin that we knew and loved. Especially last year. Finding a way to get to at least one corn maze every weekend has become an obsession. To the exclusion of pretty much everything else. About this, I feel silly and guilty. Selfish. Self-absorbed. I cleaned out the closet with little struggle. I rearranged his dresser drawers with few tears. The amount of things I cleared out of storage was huge. There was very little attachment to those things. For most of them, I snapped a picture and was able to toss it or donate it. But these corn mazes. I can't let them go. Am I a crazy person?

I feel no need to visit his grave, yet I cannot bring myself to have our church directory picture taken without him in it. I don't want there to be people who ever know our family without him. I don't want a family picture that Megan didn't take. I feel heartless and too full of emotions at the same time. I didn't even know that was possible! I feel completely unstable at times, while at other times I feel so in control and good to go.

BUT GOD has been steady. He is the same yesterday, today, and forever. No matter how crazy I feel, how up and down my emotions are, how happy or sad I feel, He is my rock. He goes before me, follows behind me, and hems me in on all sides. He saw every one of my days before one of them were lived. Every.one.of.them. Nothing has taken Him by surprise. He knows my every need before I give voice to any of them. He knows I feel crazy. He knows I am high maintenance. He knows I am tired and weary. He loves me anyway. He doesn't sleep or slumber. He hears every prayer. He will redeem every tear. To these truths I cling, even when I feel emotional and crazy. When I feel overwhelmed, I force myself to turn to His word to remember that He loves me and knows me and takes care of me. I make lists of His provisions. I list the JOYS He's given. I remember that all is grace; life, death, salvation, waiting. All.is.grace.

Oh, Father, train my heart and eyes to look to You at all times. Give me a steadfast faith that will withstand the ups and downs of my emotions and grief. Give me clarity of mind to trust You and not my emotions when I feel overwhelmed. Make me more like You each day.

September 13, 2016

Good Grief


That's what my bed looks like right now. And no joke, that's what it will look like when I do to bed soon. Pretty sure that's what it will look like when I go to bed tomorrow, too. I'd like to say that it just looks this way because it's CBC Yard Sale for Missions week. I've been at church all day the last two days and am exhausted when I come home. Thus, my bed looks like this.

That would not be the truth. My bed looks like this every night. It has looked like this every night for the last six months and three days. It keeps me from having to sleep in an empty bed. And keeps me from having to get up to get much. And somehow, makes me feel a little less lonely most nights. It also keeps God's precious word close for those times I wake up early and can't get back to sleep. Or those nights I just can't seem to get to sleep in the first place. Honestly, there's really no explanation for it, but it never looked like this before Kevin passed away. (Which is probably good because he would have been irritated at having no place to sleep!)

I know that this is a product of grief. One of many products of grief. I am so tired of grieving. In all practicality, I've been grieving since Kevin's first trip to the ER last April. I am so ready to be done with it and move on. I feel like I can't fully serve God or others because doing so causes so many emotions and near panic attacks. It's tiring and annoying and I am ready to be done with it! Unfortunately, it doesn't really work that way. In the last year and a half I've lived through many stages and faces of grief, each one just enough different from the last to keep me from knowing what to expect. Yet, each phase is similar enough to the last to know it's not my life ending, just changing. I suppose that's good!

But, I am starting to see that grief, while it does often keep me focused on myself and, at times, makes so many things in life hard or nearly impossible, does so much good. It helps me to be thankful that I even have something or someone to grieve over in the first place. It makes me grateful to have experienced a sweet, wonderful love here on this earth. So many don't ever get that. This grief, that I never expected, has drawn me closer to my Savior and given me a much deeper love of His Word. This grief has taught me to trust God more than I ever thought possible. My prayer life has blossomed like I never dreamed. I would have none of this if it weren't for grief.

Our worship ministry has been discussing hope and grace a lot lately and I am coming to love, even if I don't fully grasp, those two words. HOPE. GRACE. Those are two words that have really begun to stick out in our story. Neither one really has anything to do with me. It's all my Savior. My God. My HOPE. My GRACE. There's no way I can look at my story, any stage of pain or joy, and not see God's grace all over it. Which gives me hope for the moment and the days to come. Even the pain that has come my way is grace. Grace upon grace. The darkness led me to closer to Him. That's grace. The darkness brought His people to my table. That's grace. Friendships have been deepened. That's grace. Truth has been revealed in a new and deep way. That's grace. My heart is at peace and my husband is with his Savior. That's grace. And hope. Hope that a brighter day is coming. Hope that what was broken will one day be restored. Hope that the God who created my children loves them and desires relationship with them and will bring salvation to their souls the moment they accept His grace gift of salvation. Hope that one day, sin and death and tears and sorrow and pain will be no more. Hope that JOY will conquer doubt. Good will conquer evil. GOD WINS! Hope that one day the enemy who today steals, kills, and destroys will be seen no more.

So, no matter how up and down my emotions are or what a hot crazy mess of grief I may be on any given day, God's grace pours over me. Hope can flood my soul on my darkest of days. Not because I deserve it, but because God freely gives it. Oh, Father, open my eyes each day to see the GRACE in the grey. To see the light in the dark. To choose Your hope and joy over grief. Each day. Father, use this pain for Your glory. Use this grief for Your glory. Move the cloud and the fog that fight daily to steal my joy so I can see Your hand, follow Your path, and show You to all I meet. Teach me how to to lean into the grief while still holding on to grace. Oh, Father, help me resist the urge to let my life be all about the grief when it should be all about the grace. When others see my life, don't let the grief be what sticks out, let it be pictures of grace upon grace that they see. Grace upon grace! Hallelujah!

September 11, 2016

Searching For Words

Like many of you, earlier this week I was shocked to open up my Facebook app and see a picture of a little four year old boy sitting in a car with his parents, who were passed out in the front seat from a drug overdose. Honestly, I almost threw up. That's exactly what Kevin looked like when I found him the day he died, except Kevin was draped over his desk rather than in a car.

Since seeing that image I have struggled with a response. I've been through pretty much every emotion; anger, bitterness, fear, rage, sadness, deep sorrow, and everything in between. I haven't said much about it because words seem so small. And they wouldn't come anyway. Driving home from my parent's house tonight I finally know what it is I feel--heartbroken. I am heartbroken for that little boy who needs parents who don't just love him, but have the ability to truly take care of him. Right now, he doesn't have that. As much as they probably love him, they just can't care for him right now. I am heartbroken for these parents, held hostage by addiction. They may not even realize it has a hold of them. They may know and feel helpless because they've attempted to get help before and those helping either really didn't know what they were doing or really didn't care about their well-being and they feel hopeless and helpless to change. Heartbroken the many families across the world who are kidnapped by this disease and have had their lives completely turned upside down by it. I am heartbroken for all the police officers and first responders who have, all too often, had to rush to save someone from the grips of an overdose, but there's just nothing they can do. They have seen these deaths far too often. They have had to remove children from these homes far too often.

This issue is so explosive and divisive because it's so personal, complicated, and misunderstood. Very few people remain untouched by this disease. It really feels overwhelming and without a cure. I have been sick to my stomach watching people be hateful and mean to each other because of this picture. As if merely talking about it or posting it will solve any problem.

Can I just ask us all to do one thing? Just one, tiny, little thing? Let's be real and admit what is the truth for most of us: We don't get it. We don't understand it. We don't know why two people can be on the same prescription medicine and one gets addicted and one doesn't. We don't understand why someone would choose to start using a drug that they know will become an addiction before they even start. We don't understand what drugs do to our brain and how everything in our bodies are affected by them. WE JUST DON'T KNOW! And it's OK to admit we don't know. That doesn't mean we don't fight. That doesn't mean we don't work to see every addict freed from the chains and families restored.

Every addict's story is different, which makes addiction all the more difficult to understand. Believe me, in the last year or two I've spent a lot of time researching, reading, and living with addiction and I still don't get it. Many times I have wanted to call it a lack of self-control and walk away. But that's not what it is at all and we must keep fighting. It's all so complicated, yet, to some extent, so simple. After this last year here is all I can conclude; we have an enemy who is here to steal, kill, and destroy all that is good and lovely and that God has created. He is the father of lies and deceit and addiction is a disease of lies and deceit. It's a disease where your body lies to your brain and your brain lies to your body and you and everyone around you is held hostage. I have no doubt this disease was created by Satan to keep unbelievers from ever seeing God and to keep believers from experiencing the full life God has for them. And the only answer is Christ.

But how do we make Christ real to the addict? The addict's family? The believer who is trapped in addiction? I don't know. I honestly don't know. But, as I was driving this one answer kept coming to me over and over: pray and obey. Pray and obey. Pray and obey.

The first step is to pray. Storm the gates of Heaven on behalf of those stuck in this horrible, hellish bondage. Be fervent and consistent. Our God is the God of redemption and resurrection. He is the God of making all things new. He is the God of making blind eyes see and deaf ears hear. Plead with God to open the eyes of addicts to the truth of their addiction, to make them desperate to seek help, and to connect them with those who truly want to help and have the knowledge and skill to do so. Ask God to provide more people with the skill and knowledge needed to help those trapped in addiction to recover. Ask God to provide support and encouragement to those in recovery. Ask God to bind Satan from destroying more lives through the use of this disease.

Next, ask God to show you where He would have you serve Him to help in this area. For some, He may call you to be foster parents to the children of addicts. Or even to be the adoptive parent of a baby born addicted to whatever drug their mother was using. It will be hard. It will stretch you in every way. Some days, it will suck the life clean out of you. It will also show you the hand of God everyday. You'll see His grace in the big and little. If you feel called to either of these, please, let me know. I know at least three ladies who would love to help you start the journey of fostering. The need is so great!

For some of you, He may call you  to reach out to a recovering addict and start a discipling/accountability relationship. He may want you to dig in deep and live life with someone trying desperately to get out of this horrid lifestyle. It will hurt. It will cost lots of time and energy. You will want to quit because they will want to quit. KEEP FIGHTING! Dig into the word and walk beside them, getting them into the word, too. One of the hardest things for addicts is that, if they truly want to change, many of them have to completely change friends and sometimes even stop spending time with family. They need someone who will love them, pour God's word all over them, and help them start a whole new life. I know several people who can help you start this process if this is what God asks of you.

One other way God might ask you to obey is to suck it up, get honest, and admit you, too, are a recovering addict. Share your story of grace and redemption. Teach those of us who have no experience with what it really feels like what addicts are thinking. What they need. Show us how to love them well. Show us how to walk beside them. Fight beside them. Most of us aren't trying to be stupid, we just don't get it. When we don't get it, then we just don't know how to help. Experience is the best teacher, so you are invaluable to the rest of us.

I'll close with precious words from my Kevin. He wrote these words to me after a few weeks in rehab last year. I wish I could say that he never again struggled with wanting that drug. I wish I could say he was now sharing his story of redemption and victory with all he meets. Sadly, the struggle didn't end the day he went to rehab. Though he knew it was possible to live without that drug, the fear of never really being able to do it was just too much. I hope these words give you just a little glimpse into the mind of the addict:

My Love,
So many things I have learned this week have opened my eyes in new ways. Deeper understanding of how my addiction has affected you and hurt you, the frustration you have felt with me, how my body and mind have changed, and more. I want to say again-I am so sorry for what this has put you through. I know that this whole time has felt like my poor decision, but the brutal truth is that after a short while the decision was made for me. I COULD NOT STOP ON MY OWN. Like air or water, this wicked drug became a physical necessity in my life. Living without it was more painful than holding your hand on a hot stove burner. Besides ever starting this drug, my biggest mistake was not listening to you when you said I needed to ask for help. I should have turned first to the men in our church to surround me and help me with this heavy ball and chain. But as I've learned this week, ISOLATION is a huge result of this. I have pushed everyone else out when you told me to let them in. I didn't think anyone-no doctor, no church member-had the answers. There was so much physical pain from stopping, I didn't think it could ever be over. I'm sorry I didn't listen to you sooner.

Oh, Heavenly Father, I want to see the end of addiction here on earth! I know that won't happen until Christ returns, so while we wait for that, please show Your children how to love and help those struggling with addiction. Show us how to love and help their family members and friends. Lord, fill us with grace, love, compassion, and courage as we stand up against this killer. Lord, move!

September 09, 2016

Six Months

6 months. Half a year. 184 days. 132 weekdays. 52 weekend days. 26 weeks (plus 2 days.) 4,416 hours. 264, 960 minutes. 15,897,600 seconds.

That's how long my Kevin has been gone. Some days it's still hard to imagine. Some days it seems like it's been much longer. Some days I feel like we've come so far, yet some days it feels like it's still Day 1. The simplest, silliest things still make me cry, yet there are times I can talk about him for hours and never even tear up once. Ethan is just now, within the last two weeks, opening up and talking about Kevin frequently. I love it. We've had several beautiful moments reminiscing, laughing, and even, sometimes, crying together. Sophie seems to always have a Daddy story for every situation and I love that she loves to share them. I see more and more of Kevin in each of them as the days go by. I love that most of all.

Like the grief, the anger and bitterness come in waves. I am thankful that, for the most part, the Lord has allowed me to still be able to rejoice with married friends when they get to have date nights, they celebrate the birth of a child, and there's actually a little less awkwardness when I'm the only one in the room without a husband.

We've survived half a year of firsts, which feels somehow comforting, but we also have half a year of firsts to still survive. Some of those being the hardest we will face. I am nervous about them, if I am being honest. Christmas without Kevin? It seems impossible. BUT GOD has gotten us this far and I know without a doubt He'll keep pulling us through every hard first. And second. And third. And however many are left.

It occurred to me the other day that it is entirely possible that I will have more after-Kevin days than with-Kevin days. Yeah. That made me sit and cry. There is nothing in me that wants that to happen. I never wanted even one after-Kevin day, let alone 184. Or 365. Or 700. When I think of all those days, it's overwhelming and I can't breathe. I am pretty sure that is why God gave us the Scripture that tells us not to worry about tomorrow!

It also occurred to me the other day that, if the Lord does bring along another husband for me (again, if I am being honest, that idea makes me want to puke right now), we could celebrate more anniversaries than I celebrated with Kevin. We only had eleven (no, I did not intend to rhyme, Bob Wathen.) That thought also made me want to puke. I wanted 60 years as Kevin's wife. Even more, if my old body could live that long. My time with my Kevin just seemed too short in every way.

My kids will almost definitely live more years of their life after-Daddy than with-Daddy and that is just almost too much to bear. E was three when Kevin's addiction started and I don't think he has a single memory of the Kevin that I knew and loved from before addiction. That breaks my heart. He missed the joy and love and excitement and activity and the amazing man so many loved.

My life has been forever changed because Kevin lived. It's also been forever changed because he died. Just a few changes in this after-Kevin life:

My vocabulary: I do my best to never casually toss out the word "addiction". I may enjoy shoes and clothes and chocolate and The West Wing, but I've never truly thought that if I had to go one more minute without any of those that I would die. That's what addiction does. You truly feel that you cannot live or breathe one more moment without that drug. Your brain has convinced you that you have to choose the drug in order to save your life. It's not drugs or life, it's drugs in order to have life. Chocolate has never done that to me.

I also have a whole new outlook on the word "forever." It means never ending. Ever. There's a reason marriage vows don't include that word, but instead include "til death do us part" or "as long as you both shall live." That's all you get, married couples. This short life here on this old, broken earth. As soon as one of you takes your last breath, it's over. Marriage is done. Finished. Never to be regained. You don't get to just pick up again in Heaven. This time here on earth, that's it. I don't say this to be bleak or morose, but to encourage you to make the most of the time you do have with your spouse. Write that note. Plan that getaway. Fight for every moment. Make it work. FIX IT! This is all the time you get as husband and wife, so don't waste it.

My outlook: While I am not where I want to be with this yet, I am definitely learning that there are more important things in life than finishing the school schedule each day, marking things off the to-do list, and being involved in all.the.things. More is learned by cuddling together and discussing our day, reading a book together, cooking a meal together, than we usually learn in a lesson I force us to do so I can check a box. More time with family, more time seeing this beautiful planet and people God created is what I want to do for and with my children. Less stressing over small things and more getting out there and enjoying all the gifts God's given.

It takes a village just to survive: I mean this with my whole heart. I've lived somewhat in the village, as far outside the village as we could get, and with the village gathered at my dining room table for a solid week. I would take the village gathered any day. We were not meant to be alone. And yes, parents, you are still responsible for your children and how they are trained in God's word and doing life according to His word, but open your eyes to see the gift He has given you in the people around you. They can hold up your arms when you're too tired to do it yourself. They hold the rope when you are weary of the battle. They watch your kids so you can have five minutes of sanity (or go running with your girls!) They live life honestly and with a passion for others and for Christ that will encourage you and your children. You do all the same things for them. Find your tribe and jump in. And don't think they need to live right next door. Mine are in IL, MO, AR, TX, Romania, and South Africa. Some are literally down the street while others are what feels like a million miles away. Praise the Lord for technology (can I get an AMEN!?!?!?) Be real. Be open. Be honest.with.all.the.things. All the feels. All the fears. All the hurt. All the joys. All the needs. Friends, I am telling you, it's the only way. It's raw. It's ugly. It's chaos. It's beauty. It's joy. It's rest. It's a gift straight from the hand of God. But let me caution you, you can't have this deep friendship with everyone you meet, and THAT'S OK. Choose wisely who you let into that inner circle, but when you let them in, go all the way. You'll still have dear friends in several outer circles and THAT'S OK. Don't envy what others have, rather dig in deep with the Lord, pray fervently, then start the village the Lord leads you to start. It.has.saved.my.life. If Kevin would have given up the pride and shame, it would have saved his life. I believe that 100%.

I've come a long way. I have a long way to go. I have a dear friend who is a counter of all things; joys, sorrows, anniversaries, all.the.things. I told her just the other day that I so long to be like her. Counting all the things makes all the things count. And that's what we have to do with this life. MAKE.ALL.THE.THINGS.COUNT. Start a JOY list. A eucharisteo list. Start a list of things you want to celebrate. Or ways you want the celebrate the lives around you. Count the smiles. Count the days. Count all things and make all things count.

Heavenly Father, this life is hard. It hurts. It's not anything like You meant it to be. Thank You for the healing I've seen in my life and the lives of my children. Continue to heal. Bring salvation to Ethan and Your purpose to all of our lives. How do we know You and make You known? Give us boldness to take every step of obedience You put in our paths that You may receive glory and draw many to You. Lord, use our short lives to increase Heaven's population by even one. Teach us to number our days, to grasp that this life is short, that we might have a heart of wisdom and choose to use our lives, our every breath, wisely.

September 08, 2016

Living Arrows Christian Academy

That's the name I chose for our homeschool a few years ago. I never intended to have a name, but my record keeping software asked for one, so I decided I needed one. This will probably surprise many of you, but when it comes to naming things or being clever with names, I have zero creativity. But, as I prayed and read scripture, this is the name that came to me. Because I want to raise my children to be living arrows, shot out into the broken world to wound the enemy and bring hope and life and joy through the Gospel to the world. Oh, how I pray each of us play some small role in drawing even one soul to Christ. May our lives declare His truth, even if we never speak a word. Father, let us see how every lesson, every hard school day, is worth it because it points us to You and gives us the skills and abilities to declare Your truth to others in any way You ask.

Thank you all for praying so diligently for our school room. The Lord is answering those prayers! God is truly redeeming this room. In the past, we've done school wherever we felt like for the day. For two months after Kevin's death school was on my bed. Every.day. We've never really had a set place. Honestly, I wasn't really sure we'd be able to adjust to having a set place. I was afraid we'd have this beautiful new room and still end up on my bed or the couch or the dining room table for school. BUT GOD has done a marvelous thing; my kids can hardly do school anywhere other than our school room. I set them down somewhere else to work on school and they can't focus or remember anything. They walk into that room and head to their desk and it's almost magical the way they come alive and hit their books hard. I still pray every day for a passion for learning, reading, and sharing Christ through all they learn and each day I am seeing little glimpses of that. Which is so good and much needed because this grieving momma still has a bit of a foggy brain, very little energy, and has actually fallen asleep reading to them once or twice. I need every little bright spot I can get!

Just in case you haven't seen on Facebook, I wanted to be sure all you prayer warriors who have been lifting up our room:





















September 06, 2016

Today's Undoing

Grief is an unwelcome, awkward, unpredictable. It comes and goes when you least expect it. The smallest, most insignificant thing can bring you to your knees, make you catch your breath, and have you in tears for hours. Most days are fine. Most days have laughter and fun and hard work. But every now and then, a song or a picture or some other small thing catches you off guard and grief takes over again.

Today, for me, it was this 13 year old hand mixer:

Kevin and I got this mixer as a wedding present in June of 2003. It's the only mixer we've ever owned. Every cake we've ever baked, every batch of pancakes we've ever made, was made with this mixer. Even on its lowest setting it was much to fast for mixing pretty much everything. It drove Kevin crazy! But, it was our mixer. And today, it died. While I was making chocolate cake. (Have no fear, I was able to limp along and make it work long enough to finish mixing the cake!) I had to stop and just cry for a few moments. As odd and silly as it sounds, it felt like another ending, another death. And it was just a mixer. That's what grief does.

But, today, I read THIS BLOG and was reminded that, even in the hard, in the hurt, in the confusion, I must praise Him. List the JOYS. List the good things He's given. So today, I turn my heart from the sadness of a broken mixer to the JOYS of His gifts:

-After a horrible experience at the Glo Run a few weeks ago, the kids and I did Day 1 of Courch to 5K last night and they did an excellent job! It was a simple run--20 minutes of one minute of running and 90 seconds of walking done over and over, but they didn't complain and just went with it. I learned from my mistakes and explained why I wanted to do this together. When we finished Sophie even said she had fun!

-A sweet friend is keeping my kids right now so I can have time to myself. This will happen once a week for the next several weeks. I can't even express how much I need this and how much of a help this is to me.

-The beautiful family the Lord has given me. I can't really even put it into words. They love me and my children so well. I couldn't have asked for a better family.

-The beautiful ladies the Lord has put in my life astound and amaze me. I can only hope to love others as well as they have loved me. They listen, pour out wisdom, let me cry, let me vent, and always point me to Christ.

-The Lord has given me two beautiful, precious children to love and care for in this life. Their smiles are contagious, their laughter fills the room, and their imaginations are wonderful. They love others so sweetly and keep me going every day.

-I have the most amazing and precious church family. They have loved me well through this grief and pain. They walk beside me and encourage me.

Father, help me to always see the JOYS in my day. Open my eyes to see Your hand, in the hard or the happy. Fill my mouth with Your praise at all times. Let my mouth declare Your mighty deeds to all around me. Lord, on the days I feel undone and the small things leave me breathless and full of tears, turn my eyes to You. Draw my heart to Your truth.