May 26, 2017

I Would Treasure Your Prayers

First of all, I just have to say a HUGE THANK YOU to so many of you who have made my trip to South Africa possible! I have received and turned in all the money I needed for the trip. Without Kevin's estate being settled, I wasn't quite sure how it would all work, but God provided through lots of people and He has funded the whole trip! I stand amazed!

I come to you today with some ways you can pray for me leading up to and during the trip:

-Pray that my emotions and grief would not rule me in the weeks before I leave. There will be a lot of activity and little sleep, a sure-fire recipe for being a hot, crazy mess! I have one week of VBS set building and prep, a week of VBS, a week to pack the three of us, then I am off! YIKES! Specifically, pray for that last week. Not only do I have a lot of packing to do in that time, it's another big anniversary and, as I have learned, it's the days leading up to and following these big days that prove to be the hardest and most draining! June 14 would have been our 14th wedding anniversary. June 16 I finally get to see Kevin's mom for the first time since the funeral (and I know there will be tears because I won't be able to hold them back.) June 17 I say goodbye to my kiddos as they board the plane to go spend some sweet time with Kevin's family. June 19 we drive to Chicago and board the plane and start this special trip. That's a lot of emotion and grief and who knows what else all in a few short days. I know that it would normally mean that I would be useless for a few days, struggling to get out of bed and finding it hard to see God's hand. I do not want to start this trip that way. Would you join me in praying for Divine healing and intervention in my grief in those days?

-I will be away from my kids from June 17-July 1. That's a long time! And there won't be very much opportunity for communication in that time. Would you pray for my momma heart to not be distracted so much by the missing them that I miss the precious ones in front of me who have no hope of ever seeing their momma's again on this earth? Ask the Lord to help me pour my momma heart on those who will be right in front of me. Pray for the hearts of my children while we are apart. They are nervous. I get asked a lot if I am sure I will be back. The truth is, I can't promise that. They will be extra emotional because of their nerves and won't have mom or daddy there to comfort them (which God is using to soften my heart even more for the precious kiddos we'll get to meet on the trip.) It's just a reality that, if I don't return from this trip, my kids will be orphans. They will be well-loved and cared for, but they will be orphans. Do I trust God enough to face that reality head on and still choose obedience? Do I live that faith out enough in front of my children that they, too, find comfort in God's sovereignty and can trust Him while I am gone? I don't know. But pray that God will do a mighty work in all of our hearts while we are apart. Of course, also pray for Ethan's salvation. Oh, that salvation would come to our house!

-Pray for our travel. Lots can go wrong and so many things can affect our flights, etc. Pray that we will remain calm and a good witness of our amazing Father, regardless of what may happen.

-Pray for our ministry among the locals, both at Bethesda and in the surrounding community. We truly want to love and serve these beautiful people. We want to do that however the Lord asks. It could be peeling potatoes, playing on the playground, crying over hard losses, learning to pronounce their names correctly, taking an interest in their culture, or a million other things. Pray that our hearts would be sensitive to the Spirit moving and our words and actions would be led by the Spirit at all times.

-Pray for the Lord's hand of salvation to sweep over Bethesda that many would know Him and accept His free gift of salvation in their lives.

Thank you again for loving me well and helping take this trip I have been looking forward to for years. I can't wait to see the Lord move and work and blow my mind!!

May 07, 2017

So I Had a Crazy Idea...

OK, maybe two crazy ideas!

The first is that I am running a half marathon in two weeks (May 20). That's right, I am willingly running 13.1 miles. I have no idea what possessed me to do such a thing, other than it strangely makes me feel like there's some extra connection with Kevin because he enjoyed running. Not that I ever ran with him while he was alive, but now that I am running, I so wish that was one yes I would have said. If he was here, once he got over the shock that I am actually doing it, he would be so proud and be my biggest fan!

The second crazy idea was that there must be some way to use this to raise support to get our church's mission team to South Africa this summer. We'll be working at Bethesda ( with my dear friends Ben and Megan Craig (The Craig Family Tour) and several surrounding churches near Bethesda. I cannot wait to go on this trip and see the amazing work the Lord is doing there!

So here's my crazy plan: get some people to pledge money per mile that I run during the half-marathon that will be used to either purchase plane tickets or purchase supplies and gifts for the children and missionaries at Bethesda. I know it's only two weeks away, so this might not be the most amazing idea I've ever had, but I am hoping it will be one that will open the door to allow more people to be part of this trip, without ever leaving their homes. Plus, the checks can be made out to Calvary Baptist Church and what you donate will be tax deductible.

So, if you would like to donate, you can let me know by contacting me here on the blog or on Facebook. Even if you just donate $1/mile, that would be great. (Barring some unforeseen, crazy events, I'll be running 13.1 miles, but we'll just call it good at 13! It makes the math easier!) If even 10 people would donate $5/mile, that would be $650 dollars toward the trip! That would be such a huge blessing for me and our team!

I know, this isn't super official or very organized, but I'd love to have you journey with us on this trip, whether through prayer, financial support, or both. (And you know there will be at least one post when I get back!!!)

May 04, 2017

Because I Needed These Reminders Today

I went back through one of my old journals this morning (thank you, Larinee Dennis for the idea). I started writing in it in January 2016, not knowing how little time I had left with my precious husband. This journal included desperate pleas for salvation and healing, precious scriptures that were reminding me God is in control, and the broken-hearted ramblings of a woman who suddenly found herself as a widow and mother.

Just thought I'd share of a  few of the entries that gave me comfort this morning:

April 28, 2017

To My Love On What Would Have Been Your 35th Birthday

You are the one I thought would get away. You are the one I wanted to stay forever. Your hands are the ones I wanted to never let go. Your voice was the only one I wanted to always hear saying, "I love you. I'm glad you're mine."

You were always late (which was your version of on time.) You would play your guitar for two hours and insist it had only been 30 minutes. You could take lots of random pieces and make something spectacular in no time. You could fix anything. You were terrible at golf. You were a fabulous daddy. You fought so hard, but never truly believed you were worth forgiveness or better health.

You were a giver; of your time, your talents, your love, and just the one thing someone needed.

You hated having your picture taken. You hated people noticing you at all. You were the best one to watch all the Aaron Sorkin TV shows with; Sports Night, The West Wing, Studio 60, and The Newsroom. Your sense of humor was totally dorky. You had that special Texas sense of fashion. You loved how easily a show or movie could move me to laughter or tears. You were a lover of good music, regardless of style.

You are living on through your children; they look like you, act like you, live like you. Your giving spirit and loving heart is your legacy to them. Your desire to see them saved and living their lives to make Him known is being realized, little by little, day by day.

Your name, whether in reference to you or not, will always bring a smile to my face and a tear to my eye as your face alone comes to mind. Your guitar in your hands will be what I picture every time I hear a song with a beautiful finger-picking guitar part. Your laugh is what I will hear every time one of the kids tells another corny joke. Your life will push me on to more compassion and love toward others. Your pain and your fight will increase the fight in me as I see the Lord redeeming and bringing purpose to that pain day by day. Your story will draw praise from my lips every time I tell it. Your life will not be forgotten. Your life is not summed up or defined by addiction or the way you died, but by the truth that you were a child of God who was loved and welcomed home by a Father who gave His Son in your place before you ever took one breath on this planet.

You were a good man. You were a loving man. You were my man. And I miss you. And I can't wait to take the kids out to celebrate you today by surprising others with sweet little gifts.

April 26, 2017

Seeing Life Through the Eyes of Grief, Year 1

It's been almost 14 months since my sweet Kevin breathed his last here on this little planet and was welcomed into the loving arms of his Savior. We've survived day by day, most of the time. Many mornings it's hard to get up and get going. Most days include tears somewhere in the day, mine or my kid's. We keep moving. Keep putting one foot in front of the other. But Kevin is missed. The lack of his presence is always felt. We have joy and laughter and sweet memories. We have fear and confusion and lists of things we'll have to experience without him. Ethan won't know a graduation with his father present. Sophie won't get to have a daddy with her for a daddy/daughter dance. They won't have the joy of Kevin teaching them guitar. The list could go on and on.

And while grief is always there, lingering at the edge of every memory, every experience, every first and second, there really has been much more to our lives in this last year. Admittedly, I often have a hard time seeing the good moments. The new memories. The victories. If I don't remain intentional about naming the gifts and the #graceinthegray, the harder it is to spot them when the Lord sends them my way. I know without a doubt that if I hadn't already been naming all the grace before our world fell apart, there's no way I'd be able to to name it now, when life feels hard and numb. So tonight (because it's after 10 pm as I write this), I am just going to list some of the things I've seen and lived in this first year. And choose to thank God for each one of them. Even if they were hard. Or sad. Or awkward. Or joyous. Regardless of whether they brought tears or laughter.

God always provides just what we need when we need it. Whether it's money or food or a Route 44 Cherry Limeade, the Lord will provide! He has provided clothes for us, people to watch my kids once a week, friends who let me be real and vulnerable at all times, and people to work on my house. He has provided money to pay bills, a part-time job I can do from anywhere with an internet connection, a career for Kevin that is now providing funds for us to live each month, and a family that doesn't care about the physical distance between us when we need them to be here. There have been people step up to help pay bills, who send gift cards for our favorite places, who speak such loving, hope-filled words o the days I need them most. You would not believe how well people have stepped up to love on my children and ensure that every one of their hard days have at least a glimmer of sunshine. God is so good!

It is imperative to spend time in God's word, even when nothing in you wants to pick it up off the nightstand. His word is living and active. Really. It is. No matter your circumstance, He's got a precious truth (probably many of them) for You in those pages. But you'll never know if you don't read it. Don't know where to start? Read through the Psalms or pick one of the Gospels. Just start. Somewhere. Anywhere. Even on the days when all I could muster the energy to do was read one small chapter, I was always amazed to find the hope and comfort and beauty He has waiting for me, even in those few little words my brain can focus on and read. While you're reading it, write down what sticks out to you. Note the date, write the words, and keep it so you can look back and see the work the Lord has done in your heart as you grow and learn and become more like Him. Write the scriptures that really speak to you on index cards and post them all over your house. Put them on your mirror and your dresser and on your door and in your car. Carry them in your pocket and in your purse.

It is only the Spirit's self-control in me that keeps me from being totally bankrupt. Until grief landed on my doorstep, I didn't realize that my way of dealing with stress and anxiety and grief, etc is to buy something. Most of the time it's inexpensive books from Amazon. I can't tell you how many times I've thought that I just want a new van or new furniture or just new everything. A new, fresh start to go with this new life of grief. But, then the Spirit whispers the truth to me that things and stuff do not make a life. They don't fill a hole. They don't close a gap. They don't bring hope or healing. Only God can do that. There's nothing wrong with having stuff, unless you have stuff just for the sake of having stuff. And that's what my impulse is. None of the new that I want to have is needed or really even helpful. It would just be new and something I could control. Because grief feels a lot like constantly being out of control. And I don't like feeling out of control. I am thankful for the truthful whispers of the Holy Spirit and his fruit of self-control when I need it most.

It is really hard not to look ahead and see all the things that will be different without Kevin here with us. Especially when it involves my kids. When grief hits hardest, satan uses those moments to make the list in my head of all the things my kids will have to do without a dad. The years of watching others have those moments that they just don't get. When I give in to that list, fear and anger and hurt and jealousy take over and satan wins the battle. BUT GOD is bigger than the fear. Bigger than the anger. Bigger than the hurt. Bigger than the jealousy. It's moments like these that make time in the Word so important. It's in these moments the Lord fills my mind with the scriptures I've memorized so the truth can drown out the lies. It's in these moments that the precious family and friends He's given me prove their love; they let me pour out the hurt and pain and they pour in the truth and promises of a God far greater than the enemy trying to steal, kill, and destroy.

He can pull you through the day, even when you don't want to get out of bed. When you cry to Him, He answers. Most mornings I have to spend a good 30-60 minutes asking God for the strength to get up and get moving. And He's given me that strength every time. And you know what else, we've survived the hardest year of school, yet. Most days I am convinced that it was a waste of a year and they would have been better off doing anything else. That is just another lie from the enemy. While we may not have covered as much as I was hoping or we may not remember everything we studied, the Lord gives me sweet glimpses each day of how smart and sweet and wonderful these kids are and I am so blessed to get to be here with them for every one of their moments. And you now what else, Sophie and I both learned fractions this year. I'd love to say we conquered them, but that would most certainly be an overstatement, but we only have a few lessons left and we can get all the problems done correctly on each worksheet. Sometimes it's with tears and weeping and gnashing of teeth, but we've done it. I did not think that would be possible. Though Ethan complains and rolls his eyes every day when it comes to school, he can use any food to show simple fractions and simple multiplication. With little instruction from me he adds with carrying and writes in cursive and reads above grade level. Don't get me wrong, I am still ready for summer and little to no school for awhile, but I am also looking forward to next year with new curriculum, new books, and what I hope will be a renewed spirit after a summer break. In January, I didn't think this would be possible. This semester has been a struggle in pretty much every way every day, BUT GOD. He has worked a miracle for sure!

God redeems even our worst and hardest moments. I'll be honest, I don't have a scripture verse to back this up; that doesn't mean there isn't one, just that I don't know where it is. But, as I look back over the last year, I can say with 100% honesty, God is redeeming every hard moment. Every hard year. He is restoring the years the locusts have stolen. And he's doing it in ways I never would have dreamed or imagined. He is opening doors to speak openly and honestly about our pain with people I never would have thought would care. He has placed individuals in my path that have been strengthened and encouraged by Kevin's fight and struggle, even though it didn't end the way I had hoped. When I look at this story and see the abrupt end at the hand of a life-stealing drug straight from the hand of the father of lies, I struggle to see how it could encourage anyone. Speak life to anyone. Help anyone. BUT GOD. BUT GOD. That's really all there is to say there!

He truly is the God who sees. He sees your pain. Your tears. Your fear. Your confusion. Your desire to keep following Him when nothing in you can even keep going. We first see God called by the title "the God who sees" when He sees poor Hagar, unwanted and unloved other wife of Abraham, crying all alone when she realizes she's unloved. He saw her tears. He saw her desire for acceptance. He saw her every need. And he loved her and met her right there in the midst of her ugly crying and screaming and hurt. The Lord didn't berate her or yell at her, but spoke sweetly to her in the midst of her pain. I think of Leah, too, who so desperately wanted to be loved and accepted by Isaac, but it just would never be. The Lord saw her pain as she was pushed aside and treated as less than. But God saw her. Saw her hurt and pain. And He loved her. I hope you know, regardless of your circumstance or pain or hurt or loss, GOD SEES. I know this because scripture promises He is the same yesterday, today, and forever. So the God who saw Hagar, sees you. The God who saw Leah, sees you. Throw your hurt and your pain at Him. He can take it. He's a big God. Dig into the book of Psalms and see how beautifully David and others poured out their hearts and God somehow still brought praise and joy from their lips. He'll do it for you, too!

Oh, Lord, train my eyes to stay fixed on You, regardless of what's happening in my life. Fill my heart and mouth with Your praise at all times. Remind me of each of these truths each time the enemy attempts to fill my mind with his lies. Lord, thank You for being in control of all things at all times. Thank You for seeing my pain and knowing and providing everything the kids and I need. Thank You for the grace and mercy you pour over me each day. Give me the eyes to see the grace and the words to name it. Replace the list of things we're missing with the list of graces You've given. Guard my heart and mind as satan throws his fiery darts of grief and doubt and fear my way. Oh, Father, move. Mold me to be more like You each day. Give me an obedient heart that overflows with love for You and others.

April 24, 2017

I Should Have Seen This Coming...

It's an emotional week for me. Friday would have been Kevin's 35th birthday. One thing I have learned in this last, long, hard, cold winter of a year, is that the big days are never as emotional or tiring or stretching as the days leading up to and following the big day.

So I should have seen it coming. I should have known the enemy would be working overtime on me this week; sending his fiery darts of fear, comparison, insecurity, loss, and extreme emotions. It's been building for awhile. There's a bit of an ebb and flow with it, which I think is how satan likes it. If it was constant we would be more aware of what he is doing, but since some days seem so much better than others, we don't pay as much attention.

Insecurity is killing me slowly right now. OK, that might be dramatic, but it feels that way. I don't feel confident about anything (you probably noticed that in the last blog post or two.) I don't feel like I have that "one thing" that I am good at or passionate about that God is calling me to do. It feels like everyone around me does have that. Deep down, I know that isn't true. But I just can't seem to escape that feeling. It has come out most in making me feel like I have no place to belong. No group where I fit. No place that feels like home. I'll just make the confession now: This past Sunday was the first time, probably in all of 2017, that I've been to Sunday School. I haven't been back to the class we attended together since Kevin died. I just haven't been able to make myself go there for Sunday School without him. There are so many people in there and I feel so far behind them all in my knowledge and grasp of scripture. It's just too overwhelming. I started attending another class and it's a great class with great people. Married people. And I just feel dumb and useless there. They dig in and live truth and love well and I just don't fit. But I don't really fit in with the single ladies, either, because so many of them either don't have kids or have kids way younger than mine and it feels weird. And like there's just no place for me. This is not truth. This is a lie straight from the enemy. And it's hard to convince my heart and mind of this.

As my South Africa trip gets closer and closer, the reality of leaving my children behind with little or no contact with them has me reeling. I worry about whether they'll be worried about me. I worry about how much they overreact to things now, thanks to grief and seeing that I react the same way. There is just no peace. Yet, I know I am supposed to be on this trip. I was excited to be able to help the team by organizing the VBS we were going to do while there. Only, now we aren't doing the VBS and instead of working with elementary aged kids (which is the age group I work best with), we're working with teenagers (this age group makes me want to vomit from fear and intimidation.) I now feel lost and useless and question whether I made the right choice. Yet, I know I did. But satan wants me to feel unneeded, unskilled, and without peace so I'll truly be useless for the Kingdom. God can take this old woman, way out of her comfort zone, and teach her new things and give her a heart for things and people she's never known before. He can move and work in my kids while we're apart, even if they panic or are too loud or worry about me or miss me like crazy the whole time. If we will let Him, he will stretch and grow all three of us. I know this, but I don't always believe it.

Father, remind me of who You are this week. Remind me of Your truths this week. Remind me that You are bigger than a change in plans. Bigger than my fear of a classroom. Bigger than the lie that I am useless or dumb. Speak truth to me every day. Each time fear or doubt or insecurity comes to mind, push those thoughts out with Your Word. Your Truth. You can use even the smallest amount of faith. My children and I are always in the palm of Your hands. You love us. You made us in Your image. You protect us. You use us. You mold us and stretch us. Oh, Father, do mighty things in my heart, Sophie's heart, and Ethan's heart between now and when I get back from Africa. Increase our faith. Increase our hope. Increase our trust. Bring salvation to Ethan's soul. Make each of us passionate about Your word and those around us. Teach us that, though it's true we are weak and incapable on our own, we are powerful and useful because Your Holy Spirit is in us. Work through us, Lord. Make each of us more like You each day. Oh, Father, move. Do more than we could ever think, ask, or imagine. Open my eyes to see where You would have me fit. Where You would have me serve. Where You would have me learn. Lord, give me the eyes to see the emotional roller coaster coming, to see the enemy riding that roller coaster, and help me to put on my armor and be ready to dodge those fiery darts so I can focus on You and not let the emotions rule and reign. Lord, I want You to rule and reign. Everyday. In my heart. In my home.

April 22, 2017

Because Gut-Wrenching Honesty Seems To Be My New Thing...

Are you tired of hearing me bare my soul, yet? OK, there are a few things that don't get shared to the world at large through social media and my blog, but, for the most part, I've tried really hard be as honest as possible in order to bring show Christ's hand of grace to as many people as possible. (That was a really long sentence!) The Kevin of the last few years would be truly mortified!

Can I have one of those honest moments with you right now? I feel stalled. Stagnant. Useless. Overwhelmed with the need and desire to serve and love and train up my children and open eyes to the need for change and rescue and just doing more than I am right now. But the need and urgency and the cost of failure paralyzes me. Raises my blood pressure. Makes me want to curl up and cry.

Oh, how I want the hard of our lives to turn my children's hearts to the Lord. How I want their lack of an earthly Father to cause them to cling to their Heavenly Father. I want the pain of this world to cause them to be compassionate and loving to all they meet. I want their struggle to open their eyes to the truth that everyone around them is struggling, too, and they must be treated with care and love. I want this tragedy to draw the three of us closer to each other and closer to Christ. I want to build beautiful relationships with them that lead to the most beautiful of friendships when they are grown. I want them to live their lives looking for the grace in each hard moment. I want them to be in the middle of the hard, in the middle of the sad and lonely, and be able to name grace after grace, as it happens, because they have trained their eyes to see His hand and remember His promises. Yet, I have no idea how to do this. I admit that I am not nearly as good at naming the joy and grace in the moment with my children as I am doing that with other people. I am so thankful that the Lord picks up all the slack in my parenting. I am thankful that there's nothing I can do that could mess up my children so badly, that the Lord couldn't step in with His mighty right arm and rescue and redeem. Father, enable to me to place my children in Your more than capable hands and trust them to You each moment of each day.

I also desperately desire to help others see the pain and reality of this disease of addiction. I want to help those who have no idea what it is, those who are losing their families and lives to it, and those stuck and suffering in the prison of it. But I just don't know how. And I am afraid to ask lest God tell what to do. Because I am scared of the answer. Because, the truth is, I know that this isn't a short answer. It's not an easy fix. It's a dig in, get personal, long, hard, bloody fight. One I don't know that I am up for or capable of. And let's be honest, to really help an addict, you have to dig in and be part of their lives. There's no other way to speak truth to them, hold them accountable, and get them the help that they need. And I just don't know if I'll ever be ready for that. Or if I want that any where near my children. Or if I can survive this fight again. And again. And again. Yet, I know this fight is worth it. That every life affected by addiction is worth the fight. But I just don't know how to fight. How to serve. How to love. Will I feel this way forever? Is this just a season? What in the world am I supposed to do? Writing and talking about it doesn't feel like enough and, honestly, feels like the easy way out. I know this will require digging in and building hard relationships and getting hurt and going to funerals and many more hard things. But I don't know how or if I can do that. But I can rest in this, even in my confusion, the Lord has a plan. A purpose for my life.

Father, show me the path You would have me walk in this fight for life in the midst the death and destruction of addiction. Show me how to show You to those who so desperately need Your light to break through and bring healing and release from bondage. Thank You for the opportunities You have given me so far to speak truth and Your grace. Open my eyes to the opportunities You will give me going forward and give me the courage I need to take them. Fill my mouth with Your words. Fill my every action with Your love and care and mercy and compassion to others. Lord, teach me how to truly love You and love others above all else.

All The Feels

In case you didn't know, it's been quite the emotional week for me!

Back in February I filmed part of our story for the Hannibal Police Department's HEET program (a program that is fighting back against heroin). A small portion of that story was used in the video, which was released this week. I was not quite prepared for it to hit the ground running quite so quickly, but I am praying the Lord is moving and working in each viewing.  (CLICK HERE to watch the video. My story is the first one.)

I'll admit, it feels weird to watch this video, not because it contains the 911 call I made that horrible night, but because the story shown in it isn't really complete. The story in that video is one of fear, terror, and hopelessness. While our story has moments of each of these, I truly hope that those are the portions of the story people barely remember because the hope and peace and light of Christ far outshine it. It has been hard to overcome the feeling that this video will only hurt people or worse, if they are already in the prison of addiction, make them feel that there is no hope for them, only death. That is the last thing I want because, friends, there is hope. His name is Christ. I am thankful that I have a God who is big enough to overcome the fact that His name isn't mentioned, His Word isn't read, and hope and joy are nowhere to be found in this video, and still save lives by drawing many to Him. I am praying every day that that is the redemption we see from this heartache; the salvation of many lives as they see His hand of grace and hope from the beginning to now in our story.

It's also been emotional because I've been working on getting the flights for my kiddos to go visit with Kevin's family while I am on a mission trip in South Africa this June. It has made this long-awaited trip all the more real. This has brought up all the feels for two reasons. First, I have been dreaming of heading to Bethesda to serve alongside the Craig family pretty much since they announced they would be moving there. But, I had always dreamed of it as a family trip, one where we could all serve together. I am making this trip alone. And even when I do get to take my kids, it still won't be the whole family. It's a grieving all over again over the loss of dreams his death brought. Second, I keep picturing that moment at the airport saying good bye to my kiddos as they get ready to board their plane and I just can't picture it without lots of tears from all three of us. It's the farthest I will have been away from them and the least amount of contact I will have had with them since Kevin passed away. I have no idea what affect that will have on each of them and how those affects will manifest themselves in their behavior. I somewhat fear that I am dropping two ticking time bombs into my in-laws hands and I'll be no help in dealing with them. Yet, I know that God is so much bigger than my fear. Bigger than our grief. Bigger than our reactions to grief. Bigger than the distance between South Africa and Virginia. Bigger than a lack of technology. I must repeat these things to myself multiple times a day. I'll keep repeating them and soon my heart and head will believe it and trust will come and joy will be ours when we place it all in God's hands. His hands are bigger and more capable for handling things, anyway. Always have been. Always will be.

And one more piece of this emotional puzzle is that next week is Kevin's birthday. He would have been 35. Honestly, I am actually looking forward to his birthday. It was, hands-down, my favorite day of 2016 and of the whole first year without Kevin. The sun was shining. The day was absolutely beautiful. It was the first day in over a month that contained more laughter and smiles than tears. From all three of us. The three of us had so much fun together delivering surprise gift cards at HLGU and around town. We've all been looking forward to his birthday this year since his birthday last year. And I am not exaggerating about that. E liked it so much he begged me to do it again on Father's Day last year, which we did. This is my absolute favorite tradition we've begun. Yet, even with that joy, the tears still come. The loss is still felt. His presence is still missed. This will never change.

Oh, Father, teach me to rejoice, even in the midst of my grief. Fill my mouth with Your praise at all times. Father, use our pain, our story, to bring You glory and draw many to You. Somehow, even with the hopeless feeling the HEET video has, open eyes to see Your hand of grace in the midst of the agony of addiction. Open doors for me to be able to share the rest of the story. The best of the story. When those doors open give me the courage to step up and speak and fill my mouth with only your words. Fill me with your courage as the day for my mission trip draws closer. Teach me to trust my children to You at all times. Lord, give all three of us peace as we are apart. Make Yourself felt and known to all three of us each day that we are separated. Use that time to bond my kids closer to each other and to make me more of a light for You in my own home. Use this trip to teach my kids that obedience is always best, even when it's hard. Even when it means distance between your loved ones. Even when it means not always knowing the outcome. Obedience is best. Teach us that You are our protector. Give us eyes to see the mighty angel army that You have surrounding us. Remind us that you hem us in, behind and before, at all times. Lord, remind me that You love my children even more than I do. Lord, bring salvation to my household. Let today be the day of salvation for my precious Ethan. Let this time apart increase Sophie's face and show Ethan how much he needs You. Remind me that You are watching out for my children every moment, whether we are together or apart. Oh, Father, I believe. Help my unbelief.

April 16, 2017

The Struggle is Real

I know I have said it before, but grief sucks. And I am convinced that all of us are going through some kind of grief, at various stages and levels. Some are in the grief of transition to a new job or new town or new season of life. Some are in the grief of a lost job and the uncertainty it brings. Some are on the grief of lost relationships, whether trough death or divorce or some other means. Some are in the grief of losing a child. Some are in the grief of life not turning out the way they expected. Some are in a grief so deep it feels impossible to take another breath. Some are moving out of those days of deep grief into a more stable emotional state, but things are always a bit rocky. Some are finally moving into having more bright days than dark days. But grief always seems to hang around the edges, ready to strike at the first possible moment.

I sort of have this love/hate relationship with grief. Often times I am convinced it's another one of satan's biggest weapons. It comes out of nowhere, most of the time. It feels so overwhelming and all-encompassing. It forces you to be selfish and focus on nothing but earthly things that you realize in the end don't matter. Little things become massive things in a matter of seconds. It hijacks your day, even sometimes hijacks your week.  Or month. Or year. For me, this manifests itself in things like laying in bed for up to an hour just begging God to give me the strength to get out of bed and face the day, having to take a nap to even make it to dinner, being grumpy and short-tempered with my kids, insecurity flooding every area of my thoughts, barely having the energy to think about school, let alone do school (yet knowing homeschooling is still what we are supposed to be doing), feeling awkward around everyone and not having any idea how to have a normal conversation with someone, my blood pressure rising at the thought of being in groups, and having others depend on me for anything (which works great for being a single mom whose children will be orphans if anything happens to me.)

Yet, at the same time, though I know grief is not something the Lord ever desired for us, it's also a tangible proof that our Lord does indeed give good gifts. If the Lord didn't give us the gift of love through others (spouses, children, friends, mentors) or other good things here on this earth (jobs, churches, ministries, etc) we would never feel the sting of grief when there was a loss or a change. I want to hate grief with all I have, but at the same time, I know that having Kevin in our lives was a gift right from the hand of my loving, gracious Creator, and having him in our lives was worth every moment of grief we've lived or will face in the future.

The last few months have been such a struggle between this love and hate. So many of the affects of grief in my life are negative and I know that I can't live there. I can't live in selfishness. Fear. Doubt. Confusion. I must choose to live in peace. Hope. Joy. Trust in my Creator. It's so hard not to give in to the negative. Not to dwell on what's missing. Not to dwell on all that my kids are missing out on in their father's absence. Hard not to let comparison and jealousy take root and grow where the fruit of the Spirit should be growing instead. While grief does prove that God has sent good things my way, it also tries to steal any other joy that God is sending.

I cannot let the grief win. I cannot give in to the dark. This makes me so grateful for the truth that my God can handle my questions. My doubt. My fear. My confusion. My hurt. My pain. He can handle my screams and my tears and anything else my grieving heart decides to throw at Him. He's that big. He's that loving. He's that gracious and merciful. So on the days when the darkness is winning, I force myself to run to God. Those are the days I pray out loud, sometimes through tears so thick I can't see anything around me, sometimes so upset I can hardly keep from screaming. It's on those days that I force myself to pull out my Bible (the hard copy one where I can actually make noise turning pages) and read His word and see all the marks and notes I've made reminding me that His word is living and active and speaks to me each time I read it. Then I get out some pens or markers, some paper, and I write His word out. I read it out loud. I remind myself of the cross and the empty grave and that grief and death and fear and all.the.things. don't win. God wins. Hell and death are defeated. Christ is victorious.

He's received a lot of my tears these last few months. I've shared my story several times, which always brings raw emotions to the surface, draining me of all energy, mental ability, and compassion for others. It makes it hard to not dwell on "Why me?" and "It's not fair." and "What was he thinking?" and "Why couldn't You heal him here so we could spend the rest of our lives sharing with others how our awesome God brought wholeness and healing in spite of addiction, and He can do it for you, too?" I honestly don't think those answers are coming here on this earth. When I get to Heaven, quiet frankly, I just won't care. (But I am thankful He lets me shout them at Him anyway!)

I still get near panic attacks anytime I think of closing my eyes here and opening them on the shores of Heaven. I don't know why. That will be the most joyous moment in my life. I will be more alive in that moment than I was in a million moments here. I will be free and whole and just as God created me to be, in that moment. Yet, it scares me almost more than the thought of leaving my children here as orphans. It's ridiculous and I hate having to go to God over and over again and admit this fear. Is it a lack of faith? Is that God's way of telling me I am not truly saved? Is it just satan messing with my mind? I have no idea, but I am thankful the Lord never laughs at me or turns me away when I come to Him to confess this fear. Again.

I know there are some lifestyle changes I need to make in order to help with the anxiety and lack of energy that creeps in at times, but, I just don't have the energy to do it! I know that cutting out a lot of carbs and sugar and processed foods would benefit all three of us greatly, but even the thought of trying to plan a menu and do a shopping trip for meals that fit that makes me want to curl into a ball and cry. I just need to be able to sign up for a service that delivers Whole 30 meals right to my door. I don't mind cooking them at all, I just need someone else to do all the planning and the shopping and provide just the amounts of each ingredient that I need.

I also know that I need to be much more consistent in my exercise. Right now I am a little all over the place (though the last two weeks have been better.) I need a routine and I need accountability to get my rear out of bed and do it. I mean, I am already up and have finished my quiet time most days before the kids get up, surely I can fit in just a short 20 minute workout of some kind in each morning, right? I am so thankful for the the ladies who have been running with me. They are keeping me accountable to doing something at least three days a week. I just need to step it up on those days in between.

More than anything, I need to get back to praying scripture. It's so easy to give that up when I let grief convince me to focus on the hard instead of the grace. It causes me to spend most, if not all, of my prayer time focusing on me, my questions, and what I want. While the Lord does love to hear from His children, He also loves to speak to them. Also, if I want to be praying His will, there's no better place to start than with His word. I have slipped from this practice in the last two months or so. Admittedly, it takes work and intentionality to do this and I just haven't put in the effort. But the times that I do it are so sweet. The Lord speaks sweetly to my heart and gives me just what I need to get through that particular day. I must get back to that.

I hope that, though this post is a little random and probably hard to follow, it helps someone to see that, no matter what phase of grief they may be in, there is a Helper to get you through it. There are words of comfort and peace and hope in the Bible. Open it. Read it. Write it out and display it around your house. Are you confused? Hurt? Have questions? Talk to God. Ask Him every question you have. Shout and scream if you need to. He can take it. And He'll answer. He never leaves and forsakes. Not sure you can trust Him? Let's be honest, when you're in the midst of the throes of grief, what do you have to lose in order to give Him the chance to prove He's faithful?

Lord, thank You for getting me out of bed each day. Thank You for being patient with my questions and my childish temper tantrums. Thank You for going to the cross when I was a sinner spitting in Your face. Thank You for the many women You have placed in my life, all over the world, who send texts and emails and messages and just pray for me far more consistently than I pray for them. Thank You for their encouraging words, gifts of love, texts full of laughter on days when the tears won't stop. You know just what we need and You send it, even if we don't see it because we think we need something else. You are a good, loving Father. Give me eyes to see the gifts you give and the words to voice those gifts, especially to my children. Teach me to wear my "grace goggles" (thank you Larinee!) so I can see each grace gift in the moment, as you give it, and name it so the next time I doubt I have a tangible example of Your love and faithfulness to cling to and to tell my children about as they wrestle and struggle, too.

April 06, 2017

To My Gift Girl On Your 11th Birthday

You are the one we didn't plan on. You came two weeks early and were too small for all of the clothes we had. You came early, but you took all day to get here. You had no name when you were born because we didn't even know if we were having a boy or a girl. You had your daddy wrapped around your little finger from the moment he first laid eyes on you.

You are loving and generous. You are creative and funny. You are good at math but never want to admit it. You are a wonderful writer, but hate being told what to write about at any time. You can't help but dance. You could listen to music all day. You could try on clothes for hours and never find anything you like. You have a style all your own. You've grown more in the last year than I ever thought possible. You wear my clothes and my shoes (much sooner than I thought you would.)

You are so much like your Daddy. Your musical talent amazes me. Your quick grasp of anything new you try reminds me of him every time. You refuse to give up until you master (or at least learn well) something you might not be that good at the first time. You love ice cream. You tell the corniest jokes. You work hard. You are a problem solver. You know good music when you hear it. You love to keep stuff and you have a reason for every.little.thing. you keep. You hate being interrupted; it's the most offensive thing someone can do to you.

You are a bit like me, too. You are emotional. You are a bit of a people pleaser. You like to control things. You enjoy theatre, both watching it and being in it. You know what other movies actors and actresses have been in when you see someone familiar in a show. You make up and sing your own silly songs. You get an idea in your head and you just don't let it go. You have to speak every thought that enters your head. You are a planner.

Your name will always remind me of two things I need to always pray for (for me and you): wisdom and grace. Your face will always remind me that God's plans are better than mine, every time. Your voice reminds me that I must always speak truth so others will know that God loves and provides and speaks truth to us, even when life is hard. Your comforting arms will always remind me of the loving Father that God is, especially in our darkest moments when we think there's no way we can go on. Your beautiful music will always remind me that God is writing a beautiful symphony that declares His love for each of us and we all have a part to play for that symphony to be complete.

Oh, precious girl, how I pray the Lord makes you more like Him each day. I pray that He gives you a love for His word that will never go away. I pray that He uses your music and your voice to share His truth with many. I pray He teaches you how to love Him with all you have and to love others as He loves you.

Happy birthday, precious girl. This world is a better place with you in it.

April 05, 2017

To My Blessing Boy On Your 8th Birthday

You are the one who wouldn't wait. You came two weeks early. The day before your sister's birthday. Even though I did everything I could to make you wait at least until her party was over. You would have none of it. You couldn't wait. From the time we pulled into the hospital parking lot until you were put on the scale only an hour and twelve minutes had passed.

You are the one we planned, and yet you still surprised us. You are sweet and kind and loving. You laugh about the silliest things. You hate reading, but love when someone reads to you. You'd rather watch TV first thing in the morning than eat breakfast. You are a cuddler and a great hug giver. Your smile lights up a room. You are silly and witty and creative.  You run on your own time and your own schedule. Your shoes never stay tied. You always go to the wrong door to get into the van. You love the color red. You can make almost anything out of Legos. You are very focused, when you want to be.

You are so much like your father. You easily lose track of time when you are doing something you love. You enjoy reading the instructions. You are easily sidetracked by things that are more fun than the task you are working on at the moment. You have a sweet tooth. You have his smile. You have his creativity. You look so much like him. You are a gift giver. You love having your back scratched. You love having your head scratched. You love building and inventing things.

You are even a little like me. You have a sensitive heart (but don't quite know how to show it.) You love TV. You'd rather eat snacks throughout the day than sit down and eat an actual meal. You ask random questions about seemingly random things. You find a word you like and you use it in every sentence for weeks. You struggle to sit still.

Your name will always remind me that, no matter what the storm around me looks like, it is God who controls the winds and the waves. Your face coming close to mine reminds me that God is good and gives good gifts, even when we mistakenly think our plan is better. Your gentle heart reminds me that you are created in God's image, He loves you fiercely, and that His heart desires for you to accept His free gift of salvation so you can be in relationship with Him as we were all intended to be. Your laugh reminds me that there is always joy to be found. Your quiet thoughtfulness when you are sad or worried reminds me that sometimes, we don't have to share everything with those around us, but we can take everything to the One who created us.

Oh, sweet boy, how I pray that today is the day of salvation for you. I pray that this next year of your life outshines the last one. Not because there is no sadness or grief or hard times, but because it's lived completely in submission to your Heavenly Father, with a new heart and as a new creation. I pray He fills you with a love for His word and a passion for sharing Him with all you meet. I pray that He begins, even today, teaching you how to love Him and love others.

Happy birthday, sweet boy. My life is sweeter because you are in it.

March 22, 2017

The Difference 24 Hours Can Make

Time heals all wounds. Just give it time. Testimonies take time. Time. Time. Time. It's the one thing we all need, but the one thing we all seem to be short on these days. Well, that and patience.

I've learned today just how much can change in a short time span of 24 hours. And I honestly think it was mostly me that changed. Or, at least I hope I changed.

Yesterday was one of those days that started well and ended, well, just about as ugly as it could be. I was able to get a run in yesterday morning and also let the kids sleep in a little bit. I had our backpack all ready to go so we could spend the morning doing school with friends at Java Jive. I should have known we were in for a long day when my two started fighting after we'd barely walked in the door. E sat in the chair S wanted. He refused to get up and she refused to stop fussing at him. I offered a compromise and they both looked at me like I had two heads. After some negotiating and threatening spankings, they worked it out, for the most part. But E just wasn't happy. All I heard about all day (or at least that's what it felt like to me) was how much he hates school. He hates math. He hates spelling. He hates handwriting. He hates writing anything. And oh, did he mention in the last 2 minutes that he hates math?!?!

We got our friends dropped off and I decided that we'd just have lunch out today, which is pretty unusual for us. They did pretty well during lunch. They even did well as we did our history and science once we got home. Then we went to the movies. You'd think this would make both kids pretty excited, right? Well, E was mad because it wasn't the movie he wanted, even though his two friends were joining us. He wasn't happy that he couldn't sit by his friends and be able to reach the bottomless bag of popcorn we'd gotten. He was a grump through almost the whole movie.

When we got home, it all just fell apart. I asked them to work on their chores while I fixed dinner. He went into a diatribe about how he doesn't like what's for dinner, actually doesn't really like much of what I make. So, I sent him off to do chores. I think he got one chore done, then disappeared for about 30 minutes. Turns out that, rather than working on his chores, he was playing with Legos. And lost a few pieces. And was very angry with me when I told him we weren't looking for missing pieces until he was finished with his chores. And that's when we both lost it. He went into another fit about hating chores and school and the food I make and math (not sure why he always lists that separately from school. He must really hate math.) That was the last straw for me.

Here's where it gets bad. Here's where I become a horrible person. You know what I really wanted to do at that point? Send my seven year-old son out to the porch for the night. To charge him rent for living in the house. To make him pay me for doing all his chores. To make him cook all of his own food. Then we'll see if he's still complaining about his chores. I should make him make the budget and pay the bills and buy the food. Pretty sure he'll see quickly how important math is. Take a deep breath, I didn't do any of those things. But, I didn't take a deep breath either. I sent him to bed without dinner. Then I threw his school/chores binder across the room purely from anger. And shame. And fear. And feeling not enough. Then I walked back into the kitchen, finished making dinner, and ate dinner and finished school with S. By the time I was calmed down enough to go back and talk to E, he was asleep.

So, I got Sophie to bed and I went to my room and just sat there and cried. I felt like such a failure. Such an idiot. I felt like such a terrible mom. And then the fear came because I am all they've got. There's no dad to even out my emotions or temper. No dad to talk me off the ledge and make me see reason and logic. No husband there to look me in the eyes and speak all the joy and good and grace of our day and this sweet boy. So I cried some more. Then I sent off a crazy text to a friend a world away because I knew she would understand the grief and the hurt and the not wanting to be this person I feel grief has turned me into these days. And she talked me down from the ledge. She spoke truth to me. And she told me to go ahead and eat those Thin Mints without guilt! 😀

I had a lot of apologizing to do with that little man today. I didn't even come close to getting it right, but he gave me sweet hugs and kisses anyway. His attitude toward school was 120% better today. Who knows what tomorrow will bring. BUT GOD has spoken to my heart and reminded me that when I forget to start my day by handing the whole day over to Him, I've left room for the enemy to squeeze in, speak lies, and take over the day. This week I've been out of that habit; that beautiful habit of taking time to give each little part of the day over to Him. I've felt like our school year has been a waste, that I'm too tired to love my kids or anyone else well, that anxiety creeps in too easily and too often to make me of any use. But I can look back and see the days that those things have taken over my thoughts are the days I haven't started out by handing the day over to the Lord from the very beginning.

Oh, Father, enable me to rest well so I can rise and start the day by handing it over to You. Give me the eyes to see You moving and working in our home. In our hearts. In our school. Oh, Father, renew my energy each morning so I can lead my children well, in all things. Give all three of us a love for learning; learning Your word and learning each subject. Enable each of us to see how each subject teaches us more about You and equips us to share You in a better and more loving and accurate way. Oh, Father, help me to control my temper, especially on days when I am tired or depression and grief are grabbing a foothold. Remind me that, though it's true I cannot do this parenting thing alone, that I don't have to because You are right beside me. You and Your angel army. Give me the eyes to see those You have fighting for us, especially on the hard and lonely days. Father, steal E's heart. Make him a new creation in You. Lord, draw all three of us ever closer to You, day by day. Give me the spiritual eyes to see the changes You are making and the fruit You are producing in each one of us. Thank You for being patient and kind and loving and good and our provider and hope and peace. You are the only reason the three of us are still standing. The only reason I can ever get myself up and moving each day. Oh, Father, thank You that You are God and I am not.

March 19, 2017

In Case You Haven't Heard...

...I am going to South Africa this summer! I am very excited to travel with 8 others to serve alongside our good friends, Ben and Megan Craig, at Bethesda Outreach. (You can see Ben and Megan's time there by CLICKING HERE.

Our trip will be June 19-30 and I cannot wait! I've been looking forward to going there to serve since Ben and Megan first started sharing they would be moving there as missionaries. I hope one day all three of us will be able to go serve there together, as we love and support dear friends, and share the love of Christ with those precious children.

Can I be so bold to come to you and ask for your prayers over this trip? Here are some ways you can pray:

-Obviously, if I am going and my kids are not, then I am having to leave them behind. This will be the longest I've left them and the farthest I've been from them since Kevin died. It will also be the first time I've left them and not been able to contact them the majority of the time I am gone. My momma heart is a little nervous about this aspect of the trip. My sweet Sophie is also pretty nervous about this portion of the trip. E is mostly excited that he gets time with grandparents and cousins! I want to use this opportunity to teach my children (and myself) that obedience is bigger than fear; that we cannot allow our fears to keep us from choosing obedience to Christ's call on our lives. Please join me in praying for peace to settle over all of our hearts, God's hand to direct a hassle-free, tear-free, anxiety-free time for all three of us while we're apart.

-Going to South Africa for two weeks costs money. I was actually supposed to be on this trip last year and Kevin had worked some extra jobs and one larger job before he passed away last March in order to have the money I would need for the trip. He was able to save what I need for this year's trip, but, sadly, he never transferred that money from his business account to our personal account. Because his estate is still not settled, I have no access to that account or the money in it. I have no idea when all of that will be settled. Would you join me in asking God to move along paperwork and to stir the hearts of those in the court system who make decisions to get this finished up and released to me before the funds for the trip are due? We've also already had issues with the bank, so could you join me in praying that, once settled, the bank would not cause any more issues? Would you join me in praying that my trust in God will not waiver as I know that He alone is provider of all things, even finances for this trip? (Also, if you are friends with me on Facebook, you can check out my "Lent Sale for Missions" and all the money from that goes toward this South Africa trip.)

-Pray for our team as we prepare to go. We'll be leading some music, a time of VBS-style learning with some of the children, teaching Bible stories using drama, and doing a work project while we're there. We need to have the time needed to plan out lessons and crafts, as well as rehearse some music and drama. Anyone who has been on a mission trip knows there is a lot of spiritual warfare that happens in team member's lives as the trip approaches and we are praying against that as a team. Pray that busyness won't keep us from spending time in the Word, that all fears and worries we have will be eliminated as our minds are filled with God's promises, and that we will bond together as a team before we even go.

Thank you so much for your prayers, for me and the team. I cannot wait to see what the Lord does in us and through us while we're on our trip. Keep checking here for updates and pictures once the trip is over.

March 14, 2017

You Can Hear a Bit of Our Story

Just in case you haven't already...or you aren't already tired of me saying the same thing over and over for the last year, I am posting a link where you can hear an interview I did with a pastor in CO about addiction, our experience with it, and Kevin's death. I pray that this encourages someone in some way and that Christ is glorified in what you hear!

March 13, 2017

We've Passed the One Year Mark

This past Friday was the one year anniversary of Kevin's perfect healing. Tomorrow (March 14) is the one year anniversary of laying his earthly shell to rest at his Resurrection Spot. I've probably mentioned it before, 14 is sort of "our number", so the fact that his funeral/burial was on the 14th was special to me. We started dating on Feb. 14 (2001) and we were married on June 14 (2003) and the Lord knew that I'd never remember the date for the funeral if it wasn't a 14, too! Even in the smallest details, He's sweetly orchestrating each tiny thing.

I remember shortly after Kevin died I realized there would be people in my life who would come along and never know me as a wife. Never know our family with a father. Never know our family with Kevin as part of it. I realized it, but I am not sure I really thought that would ever be a reality. But now it's come true and it's been my undoing several times in the last 5 or 6 months. We have some amazing college students who lead worship with us on Sundays (one of whom, if I believed in reincarnation, I would swear was Kevin dropped right back into Praise Team. But, since I know that's not how this life works, I'm just doing my best to praise God for that sweet little reminder of my sweet husband each week as that student can't help but play the guitar if it is in his hands, can play any song anyone mentions, and finger picks beautifully. All just like my Kevin. Only once did I absolutely lose it and cry like a baby, but a sweet friend swept right in and prayed truth and peace and joy over me.) Not one of them knew Kevin. Not one of them knows what Praise Team was like with him in it. They don't know the amazing guitar player that he was (though I do enjoy that they use his pedal board every now and then.) That still feels strange to me. Even after a year.

We had another meeting with our South Africa mission team tonight and there is one member that I don't know. She's knew to most of the team so we went around the table and told a little about ourselves so we could get to know each other better. I had a moment of panic as I couldn't decide if I introduce myself as a widow or just tell about my kids and what I do. I'll be honest, I don't want to be defined by the fact that I am a widow, but it's been such a huge "becoming" in my life this last year, yet I still don't know what to do with it. Telling people makes them feel weird. Because I am young (relatively, compared to most widows), then there are the questions of what happened. Not that I am not willing to share, but I can't share without tears, and that only adds to the awkwardness. And 15 years from now do I still introduce myself as a widow? I know, that's a lot to go through my mind in about 2 minutes, but it did. I decided to leave that part out and just tell about my kids, our homeschooling, and doing social media for Bibleman. After a year, I didn't really think I'd still be sensitive about this title of "widow."

I still haven't been able to bring myself to get any family pictures taken. I know they would feel empty. There would be a hole. I would cry the entire time. One day, I hope, I'll be able to do that. I can't even bring myself to have a new church directory picture taken because I just want Kevin in that picture with us. So, even though I don't even know how old our photo in the directory is, I am going to leave it there. Perhaps soon I'll be able to at least bring myself to get pictures of the kids taken. But family of three photos just feels too hard. (There are still times I pull four plates out for dinner instead of three.)

I found out today my 20 year class reunion is this summer. 20 years?!?!?! How is it possible that 20 years have passed since I graduated from high school? I mean, I'm still 25, right? Not sure I can bring myself to go. I am in tears just thinking of it. All the people. All the conversations. All the couples. All the questions. I just don't think I am strong enough to walk in there, alone, and smile and laugh and enjoy the evening. I don't think I can handle questions without tears and making a fool of myself. My life has certainly not turned out at all like I thought it would all those years ago. I am not ashamed, but I still don't think I can face it. Yet, I also realize that none of those in my class knew my Kevin or even knew me as a wife or as part of that couple. So it shouldn't be a big deal. Most of them are friends with me on Facebook and already know our story, so I am fairly certain not one of them would ask rude or mean questions, and may not even ask questions at all, but I still just don't think I could face it. 

Sorry that this has pretty much just been rambling. I feel like all I do when I post a blog is repeat all the same things over and over. Hopefully as we get farther along the Lord will give me other things to say. I am learning that grief just doesn't go away. It's a new state of life. It can be managed. It can be lived with. But it won't go away. I hope my sharp memory returns, but it's been so long that I am pretty sure that's just a new state of life, too. The Lord has been gracious to help me see this truth, little by little, and to help me learn to adjust to this new way of life, little by little. 

Father, so many things seem to pop up and surprise me, but nothing surprises You. Thank You for that! You are always prepared to comfort, heal, forgive, and help us up when it feels we've been knocked down. Lord, filly my mouth always with Your praise. Give me eyes to see Your hand working and moving in each moment. Oh, Father, let today be the day of salvation for my precious Ethan. Make each one of us more like You each day. 

March 04, 2017

A Note To My Love As I Near One Year Without You

*Just to be clear, I know that Kevin is not reading this note. Thankfully, Scripture promises us that heaven includes no tears, sorrow, pain, or grief, so if Kevin can see anything happening here on this broken planet, I feel confident he sees it only through God's lens. He sees what God sees; the whole picture, the beautiful picture that He has weaved from the beginning of time and the beautiful artwork of our lives that brings only joy and peace. Or, there's no big picture window and he's got better things to do than keep tabs on what's happening here (you know, like spend his days worshiping his Savior.) But, today, this is the easiest way to express my heart as we near this big first anniversary--the first anniversary of Kevin's Perfect Healing Day.

My love,
I am sitting here, one day shy of just being a week away from living without you for one full year. Oh, the emotions. You'd laugh at my tears, say how much you love how sensitive I am, and then hug me and watch some West Wing with me. I am so glad you always put up with my drama!

Oh, how I miss you. How all three of us miss you! The kids miss you most at bedtime. You were the King of Bedtime. It was their favorite time of day. The way you'd take time to read to them and create fun stories each night. Most of the time you even played some fun little game with them. Then you'd get them each tucked into their own beds, do another fun story just for each one of them, tell them how much you love and and how proud you were of them, and then you prayed with each of them. It seriously took 45 minutes each night. I loved getting to hear their giggles and your sweet conversations with them. Bedtime isn't my thing, but we've created our little tradition for bedtime and I've learned to go to each of their rooms to say good night, even when I am tired and that's the last thing I want to do. It isn't perfect, but we're slowly all coming to look forward to that portion of the day.

Sophie had her first "I don't have a daddy to do that with" moment just a week or so ago. It was hard. We shed lots of tears. But, we survived, God gave me words, we had a few laughs, and we'll do our best to prepare our hearts for when the next one of those moments comes up. E and I had a fun first this week when we worked on his first Pinewood Derby car. (I am using the term "we" loosely. Thankfully a great guy from church stepped in and did the real work!) In typical E fashion he didn't mention your absence or go on about how much he wished you had been here to help instead of me, but we still felt your absence all the same.

I've done two interviews to share your story in the last two weeks. It feels a but surreal, if I am honest. Surreal that you aren't here. Surreal that you won't be walking through the door any time soon. Surreal that there's even a story to tell or that anyone would want to hear it. Surreal that almost a year later the memories of that hard day are still fresh, grief still seems to rule my mind, and that it still takes hard, intentional work to see and remember all the grace and gifts of God in the midst of this story. This story I never wanted to be living, yet now is just everyday life.

I've only started one new TV series since you left. This Is Us is wonderful and I love it. You would have said it was too dramatic. You would have felt the same way about this as you did about Parenthood, which you never really got into, despite how much I enjoyed it! There's only one show I watch The one we both loved from the first episode and that we watched almost every day together from the moment we were introduced to it: The West Wing. I throw in some The Office every now and then, too. I can hear your laugh at every joke Michael makes and every dumb thing Dwight does. I can hear you laughing at me as I get weepy over Josh and Donna and the series finale for each show.

You were the Josh to my Donna and the Jim to my Pam. Every day. The perfect complement to my crazy, drama-filled life. You were logic, love, and just what I needed. You didn't like writing and you always felt you could never create words to the melodies that you would sit and pick out on your guitar, but your notes were so perfect and so full of love to me every time, just like Josh's note to Donna in that old book he gave her for Christmas and Jim's note to Pam in the tea pot (even though we have no idea what was really in those notes.) You always made me laugh, regardless of how cheesy your jokes might be. I am not sure my heart will ever recover. I can't imagine my heart ever knitting with another like it did with yours. And I am OK with that. Even after almost a year, I still sleep only on my side of the bed, never straying over to your side. There are no pillows there. It remains untouched until one of the kids sits there while we read or lays down there as we watch a movie. That's your spot and I can't even imagine it feeling comfortable to lay there. And that's OK, too.

Grief has been hard. And long. And it drives me crazy. Most days I lay in bed for up to an hour just begging God for the motivation and energy to actually get out of bed and start the day. School has not gone as smoothly or as well as I wanted, but we're making it. The strangest things take my breath away and make me just want to sit down and cry. Some days it's really hard not to focus on those things. But the truth is, life is sweet. God is moving. We are making it. There is far more good going on in our little lives than there is sad. I just have to keep seeking God and asking Him to give me the eyes see that truth. I've seen growth in the kids. They are both more compassionate. More loving. More kind. More quick comfort others. More quick to find the funny moment, even in a sad one. I've grown and changed so much I am not sure you'd even recognize me. Just because we love the show, I'd say it's somewhat like watching Donna or CJ grow into the confident, capable characters they become by the end of the show. This has nothing to do with me and everything to do with God never leaving, always showing up, and doing miraculous things I could never actually explain. I don't know that I could even tell you the ways I am different, I just know I am. And that makes me somewhat sad because I know that I am a better person today than I was the day you passed away. Which means I'd be a better wife, friend, and fighter for you today than I was then. BUT GOD knows best and I must choose to trust that, though this is hard, it really is best for us, best for you, and brings Him the most glory. I don't understand it, but I must trust it.

So, in just 6 days we'll be facing the reality that life without you is the new normal. That grief is our new reality, in varying degrees, for as long we have breath here on this earth. I choose to look on that day with joy and hope and to do my best to push the sadness aside. We won't be looking at that day as the day you died, but rather as your Perfect Healing Day. It will be a day to celebrate the truth that once a life is turned over to Christ there is nothing that can steal that life from His hands. It's a day to celebrate that truth that ONE DAY all things will be made new, death and destruction will be no more, and illness will vanish for eternity. This will be a day of celebration for your healing and wholeness, not a mourning of your loss. I pray that this will be how we view every March 10 from now until we join you or Christ returns. I know there will be tears, there will be missing you, but more than that, I want it to be a day of praise and acknowledgment of God's goodness and love, even in the hard. Even when things don't go the way we want. Even when our prayers are answered in the most opposite way possible.

Father, hold us. Comfort us. Give us eyes to see Your goodness. Remind us of Your goodness in the hard moments. Give us energy in the tired moments. Give us the courage to fight the grief that the enemy wants to use to keep us from living for You. Continue to heal us and hold us. Fill my mouth with Your words each time the tears and fears and hard moments of not having an earthly father when everyone else does threaten to overcome my children. Use their lack of an earthly Father to draw them to You even more as the good Father You are to them. Oh, Father, let today be the day of salvation for Ethan! Move and work in Sophie through Your Holy Spirit as You make her more like You each day. Fill my mouth with your words and give me the courage to step out in obedience to share our story when You ask me to do so.

February 14, 2017

Of Days of Love, Days of Hard, Days of New, and Life That Never Seems to Stop

I am tired. Like, almost fell asleep reading a book to the kids tonight tired. Like, it was a long, hard, beautiful, emotion-filled, "You make me brave" kind of day that leads to exhaustion. It feels like all of the big moments and big anniversaries; this past Friday was 11 months since Kevin passed away, today was Valentine's day (the 16th anniversary of our first date), Saturday I'll be doing my first interview sharing about life with an addict and what that really means, and next Monday I'll be doing an interview for a church talking about addiction and the church and just being real with the pain and the grace. Then just about two weeks after that we'll be celebrating the one year anniversary of Kevin's Perfect Healing Day. I am tired and emotional just thinking about it!

But, I am also grateful. Grateful to be seeing redemption from Kevin's pain and our hard story. Grateful to see God's hand leading and guiding in ways I never would have imagined. Grateful that the Lord showed me Kevin's own words to describe what life is like when you're the one trapped in addiction to share with the rest of us who just don't get it. Grateful to watch my kids step up and be comforters to those they see around them in pain or sadness. Grateful for the eyes to see the many ways the Lord was preparing me and the kids for this hard life long before we ever knew this hard path would come our way and become our life. Grateful for a heart that is more compassionate, more concerned, and more focused. Grateful for a prayer life that has been deepened and how much more alive His word is to me. Grateful for the ways I've seen He's made me more dependent on Him while at the same time making me more brave and strong through Him than I ever thought possible.

I am thankful for these two doors the Lord has opened and is allowing me to walk through, yet nervous at the same time. I don't know that I have the words to say when they actually have to come out of my mouth instead of just words on the page. I have so few answers for anything or anyone. Addiction sucks and makes no sense. Those dealing with it need Jesus and help for the rest of their lives. I have no answers for how my husband, so rooted in the Word and loving and trusting God, could end up an addict. I've questioned it many times. The only answer I have is that we have an enemy out to steal, kill, and destroy all that belongs to God and he's very good at what he does. Christians are not immune to satan's attacks, which is why we must always be in our armor and on our guard. That's all I really have. It still doesn't make sense. But the struggle I saw and heard and read from my husband of trusting God while his brain was still craving that drug was the hardest thing to watch. He was in the word every day the last year of his life. We prayed together every day, pouring out our hearts in tears and desperate cries, begging the Lord to take away this horrible disease. He admitted his wrong choices and begged the Lord's forgiveness for choosing so poorly. Once the Lord removed the scales of addiction from his eyes, he had no desire to continue living in that horrible state, but felt so little control to stop the cravings. It was so hard for him to imagine life without that drug that he was scared to enter rehab. Once he did, and got the medical help he needed, he was petrified the moment they told him they were taking that help away. And he allowed fear to talk him into one more poor choice. I miss him so terribly, but I am so thankful he is no longer struggling like this. Watching that spiritual battle was harder than watching him go through withdrawal. I am so thankful for his salvation and that it's God who upholds His covenant with us and it's not reliant on us and being perfect. I am so thankful that as Kevin took his last breath here he looked into the eyes of His Savior welcoming him home, regardless of the way he died and the poor choices he made. And God answered our prayers, our desperate cries for healing, that day.

Father, fill my mouth with your words over these next few days and in these two interviews. Give me a clear mind as I speak. Give me your Truth and help me to share it clearly. Lord, speak. Lord, move. Lord, begin even now to soften the hearts of those who will see and hear these interviews. Use them to draw many to You and to encourage those who need to seek help to do so. Father, make me brave through Your Spirit and in Your name. Protect my children in this so they can continue to process things in their time.

February 12, 2017

Where are the Words?

We just passed a big milestone: eleven months since Kevin's healing and leaving this earth. We've been here for eleven months without our husband, father, brother, son, and friend. The moment I said goodbye to him in that hospital room I had no idea how in the world we would make it even one day, and here we are, 339 days later, still making it one day at a time.

GOD IS GOOD. I don't think I can say that enough. He is the only reason we are still here. Still moving. Still laughing. Still loving. And yes, even still crying.

I've had a real lack of words lately, for pretty much everything in my life. The last 2 months or so have had a lot of highs and lows and lots of emotions. Doubt about my ability as a mom and teacher have been running rampant. Fears about all kinds of things are threatening to take over my mind. Getting out of bed seems to be getting harder instead of easier. Pretty much every day I lay in bed for a minimum of 30 minutes praying, begging God to give me the motivation to get moving. To get some exercise. To do school well. To love my children as He loves them. And every day, He gets me out of bed. I haven't exercised like I should, but He gives me that motivation on the days I need it most. Honestly, school hasn't been stellar. I am not rocking the homeschool mom thing. I have spent much time questioning the wisdom of continuing, but fearing that even if the Lord told me to send them to school, they'd be so far behind because I've totally sucked it up this year that they'd both have to go back a year. But, each day He gives me just enough energy to get through that day's work. He's been so gracious to show me the days when we all just need to push school aside, sit together and read books, and laugh and cry as we share memories of this man all three of us loved so much. I've lost my temper more times than I should with my kids. They have watched TV/Netflix/Amazon more in the last 11 months than they have in their entire lives before this. I know I have had more failures than successes in the area of loving my children well, but God has even given grace for that, as they continue to lavish their love on me and come running to me in their pain and sadness and joy and laughter.

I have found it hard to express this stage of grief. I know I've said before how uncomfortable I make others. They feel as though they can't share their hurts and pains and worries and hard times because they seem small in comparison to mine. I sort of have the opposite feeling. I see the daily hard and hurt and stress and life that others are living and this pain in our lives seems so small in comparison. Kevin is gone and the memories are fresh and the tears fall, but the hope that we have because we know that, regardless of the poor choices he made at the end of his life, he was a child of God and was welcomed home by his Savior. This is grace. And joy. And hope. And peace. There is pain, but we do not grieve without hope. So many around us do. We've sacrificed nothing to love Christ or make our new life without Kevin. So many around me have sold all of their belongings, left family behind, all to share Christ with those around them. I feel silly in comparison, grieving over a loss that really wasn't a loss, at least to Kevin. My kids are such encouragement to me. They remember Kevin with such fondness. They love to share the funny, silly stories of Daddy. They shed tears, to be sure, but more often than not it's laughter they are bringing to his memories. When I am sad, they rush right in with a hug and a laugh. This pain has truly increased their compassion toward others.

And it's just like God, in the midst of a time when words seem so hard to come by, that the Lord sends two opportunities my way to do just that: share words. My words. Kevin's words. God's words. For the first time I've been asked to share Kevin's story to speak the truth about addiction and the pain that it brings, to the addicted one and to their families, but not from the lens of how God moves anyway. Not from the point of view of searching out the grace and declaring that above all else. It feels weird. It feels hard. I don't even know if the words for sharing the story this way are in me. Except that I know God opened this door and I am supposed to walk through it, so I have to trust that He'll also give me the words.

God also opened the door for me to share with another church the journey we lived so that we can have an open, honest, gut-wrenching talk about addiction within the walls of the church. Again, I am not sure that I have the words. I don't have a bunch of theology to go with it. Is it sin or is it falling for the enemy's lies or some odd, overwhelming mixture of the two? I really don't know. There is definitely sin in parts of the story, but there's definitely an uncontrolled change, lies that convince the addict they must have the drug to live, and a true disease that needs help in order to overcome it. Where does that conversation leave the church and addicts? I have no idea, but I know the Lord opened this door and I know the gentleman that will be doing the interview genuinely and lovingly desires help and healing for addicts, desires for those in the church suffering from addiction to feel the freedom to overcome the shame associated with it in order to step up and get the help they need, and to see many come to Christ, regardless of their past. The Lord opened the door and asked me to walk through it, so I must trust that He'll give me the words.

Lord, I need You. Oh, Father, how I need You! Every day. Every hour. Give me energy. Give me creativity. Give all three of us a love for Your Word. Give us a love for learning. Give us eyes to see how each lesson we do in school points us to You and equips us to better share You with those around us. Lord, bless each of these opportunities You've given me to share this story You've given us. Fill my mouth with Your words and draw many to You through this hard journey we've been on the last year. Redeem our tears. Redeem the pain. Bring glory to Yourself in each interview, each re-telling of this pain, each memory of our beloved daddy and husband.

January 29, 2017

So....It's Been Awhile...

I haven't written in awhile. I don't plan out blog posts and don't often think them through beforehand. Most times, the Lord just moves and gives me words and I type them and share them.

The last month or so has been long, hard, full, joyous, and every emotion in between. We were blessed with lots of time with family and precious friends. I had the joy of taking a cruise and being blown away by the beauty that God created in this amazing world and in each person He fashioned with love and care. It was time that was restful, sweet, anticipated, and much needed.

But I was not prepared for such a rough re-entry back into our routine when I got home. I had to take the whole week off school when I got back because (to steal a popular Christian phrase right now) I just had no can evens left. I can't even explain it. I didn't actually feel overwhelmed with grief or any more overwhelmed with missing Kevin than I did before I left, I just couldn't get myself functioning much more than doing what was minimally needed to keep us alive. And read aloud. I could keep reading aloud. Which we all love. That's my strength. I am great at reading aloud and we've done a lot of that in the last three weeks.

I read the book Teaching From Rest: A Homeschooler's Guide to Unshakable Peace over Christmas break and it's one of the main things the Lord has used to keep me from losing my mind and feeling like a #homeschoolmomfail these last three weeks. It reminded me that I can have no rest at all if I am not resting in the One who is perfect peace. I must be intentional about time in the Word and time in prayer. (It turns out living a restful life, or school life, looks like a lot of work on paper because it's so against my human nature!) It's also knowing that doing every lesson in every book is not a formula for successful school or children. There is, in fact, no formula. If you know me, you know that just the thought of not finishing a book in a year sends me over the edge. But y'all, we have several books we most likely won't finish this year and it's hard for me to believe the truth that the world won't end, my kids won't be more dumb than when we started, and that it will all be OK. All three of us needed a grace year this year, my heart knew it, but my mind just wouldn't let us do it. So, this week we started doing things a little differently. We do our best to get as much done as possible each day (putting priority on Bible, math, science, history, and writing) and what doesn't get done, we can work on tomorrow. And who says learning has to stop because summer came? We can work all year by doing a few weeks of school, then take a week off, then a few more weeks of school, then take a week off, and it will all be good. One of the joys of homeschooling is not having to move at a set pace and doing what our family needs when we need it. This does not come naturally built in to my DNA, but we've tried it for one week and we all had a much better week of school as a result. Here's hoping week two is just as good!!

I have to get back to regular running and exercise. My brain needs it. My heart needs it. My attitude needs it. And my pants need it! I am so thankful for my cousin, Hillary Jarvis and her awesome HillaryJ YouTube Workout Channel. She has workouts for anyone and everyone. I even do them at the foot of my bed in my room most of the time because...well...that's as far as my feet will carry me at the beginning of the day. She is tough and will work you hard, but you'll feel so much better when you're done. And she's so funny! You'll burn calories from laughing and working out!

I am super excited to be going to South Africa to serve alongside a dear, sweet friend and her new precious family. I've been excited to go for years and can't believe the time has come. I'm sure I'll be sharing more about that in the months to come, so, stay tuned!

In just over a month we will be at the one year mark of living without Kevin. I wasn't sure what to call this day. Saying it's the one year anniversary of Kevin's death just didn't feel right. It was a death, but more than that, it was life for him. True life. Whole life. Healed life. Perfect life. That's what I want to remember. That's what I want my kids to remember. That's what I want us to celebrate, in some small way, each year. I want it to be a day of joy and hope and peace, not the day of shock and pain and heartache that March 10, 2016 was. I have two names for this coming day: #perfecthealingday #ebenezerday. I have no idea what we'll do to celebrate, but, oh how I pray it is a day of rejoicing, not mourning!