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.