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.