25) WRAPPING UP A YEAR OF FIRSTS
It’s 4:36am on December 6th.... a date I’ve anxiously anticipated and silently dreaded for the last 365 days. When Mike died, I honestly didn’t see how I could make it 2 weeks much less 52. And yet life has continued on at the same pace as if nothing ever changed, and still everything changed. I have learned so much over the last year... Lessons I never wanted to learn. Yet these lessons have shaped me and influenced me.
Day 364 - Dec 5th at 9:27am
The Lord has opened so many doors for me over the last year... last night I spoke at a ladies Christmas dinner at a local Lutheran Church. It was so beautifully decorated and the food was amazing. I could feel the sweet presence of the Lord as we walked in and found our seats. I spoke on the Presence of God and how His presence has been made known to me over the past year. I couldn’t help but recall time after time that people’s presence in my life are what helped me make it through, not their words. Just their presence. Let us intentionally seek after the Presence of God this Christmas season. Let us purposefully spend time with those we love. May we desire to be present in the lives of those who need a little extra love this season. 🌲❤️🎵
1 year - Dec 6th at 5:52am
It’s 4:36am on December 6th.... a date I’ve anxiously anticipated and silently dreaded for the last 365 days. When Mike died, I honestly didn’t see how I could make it 2 weeks much less 52. And yet life has continued on at the same pace as if nothing ever changed, and still everything changed. I have learned so much over the last year... Lessons I never wanted to learn. Yet these lessons have shaped me and influenced me. I hope they will speak to your heart today: 1) People are much kinder than I ever thought possible. As much evil as there is in the world, there is much more good. 2) Solo parenthood is tough... but possible. 3) Even the strongest of Christians can fall prey to the enemy when a traumatic event happens in their life and their foundational beliefs of who God is becomes questioned. 4) Kids who go through grief are amazingly resilient. 5) Losing someone you love makes you much more sensitive to the world around you. 6) I should be experiencing a tear shortage by now... 7) Moving was the best decision I’ve made for my family this year. 8.) Grief is grief - it feels the same no matter if you lost a parent or a spouse or a child or get the diagnosis of a fatal illness... There’s not a grief-o-meter to measure who’s grief hurts more. So many people have said to me, “Well I know it’s not the same, but when I lost my mom I felt this and that,” but the feeling of grief is the same. Some people’s grief may last longer than others, but that overwhelming, heartbreaking feeling of loss is felt in the same way by each person who has experienced a loss. 9) I could have been a better wife. I know that now. I could have loved him better. I could have loved him with more passion. I could have fussed less and hugged more. I could have been more spontaneous and more affectionate. I guess, looking back, there will always be those things we wish we could go back in time and do differently. 10) You never know how you will handle “it” until “it” happens to you. I had it mapped out in my mind what I would do and how I would be if the unthinkable ever happened and the reality was that I handled “it” in a much different way than what I thought. 11) You can never say “I love you” too much. 12) Change sucks. Some people thrive on change, but not me. And although I hate it, I’ve come to appreciate the newness she brings to my life and I’m thankful for the positive changes that have made life bearable over the past year through her presence. 13) God is enough. I am enough, and my kids are enough. When you feel so broken inside, you question your abilities and your own self worth. I now know that even through our brokenness, God is enough to sustain us and give us courage and confidence as we figure out who we are again. 14) He is not afraid of the tough questions. Although I often feel like a loser for asking Him to explain Himself and the poor choices I feel like He’s made, the truth is that He loves me enough to guide me with tender hands of mercy into an understanding of how He can still be sovereign when life doesn’t go my way. 15) His grace covers me on the good days and the tough days. He protects me with grace when the fogginess of grief makes it impossible to know which way to go. I’m looking at a picture on my dresser right now that says, “Just enough grace for today.” I’ve never ran out. I’m so thankful for that.... 16) There is freedom in forgiveness. 17) There is healing in hope. 18) There is a sacred bond amongst those in widowhood that cannot be broken. It’s like a secret club that you never wanted to join, but now that you are a member, you begin to rely on their experience to navigate the choppy waters of grief. The encouragement of those who have walked this road before me is something I’ve clung to like a broken board in the middle of a vast ocean. When they told me, “You can do it,” I believed them because they were living proof of that possibility. 19) God will put the right people in your path at just the right time to get you to the right place. I think this one makes me feel the most humbled. I’ve described it as though God has given me these beautiful little flowers that have sprung up out of the ashes of my pain. And every time one pops up, I pick it and smell it, and look at how pretty it is. Then I add it to the bouquet and I marvel at how something so wonderful can come from something so painful. And I become thankful of the role you have played in my life over the last year. I feel so unworthy of these treasured relationships that will forever be a part of my life. 20) I will live again. I’m not sure how. I’m not sure when, but I will. Someday. Somehow. I will live again. I’m not foolish enough to think that I’ll be the old me again because I’m afraid she’s gone, but I will be a new and improved version of my old self who allows these lessons I’ve learned to shape and mold me into the woman of faith that He desires me to be. So if you’ve read this far, chances are you’re one of those flowers that are a part of my bouquet and for that, I say “Thank you.” I could never possibly put into words how much you, my family, Mikes family and my close friends from church/school have meant to me throughout this last year. Your texts, phone calls, monetary support, hugs and presence have shown me the genuine love of God. So from the bottom of my heart, I say thank you. Wow. We’ve made it a year. Now, I suppose it’s time to begin writing chapter 2... ❤️
1 Year and 4 days - Dec 10th at 7:57am
Mike’s funeral was a year ago today. I remember waking up that morning dreading what I knew I would walk through on that day. Wishing.... Hoping.... Praying we could just skip over it, but knowing there would be no other way but to walk through it. I laid in my bed and cried, and posted about what was in my heart, unaware of the thousands of people who would read it and feel my pain and offer their condolences. Although we’ve come so far in a year, when I read it this morning, I can’t help but go right back to where I was when I wrote it along with all the feelings I was experiencing at the time. Mike’s funeral was so special and gut wrenchingly painful at the same time. Sometimes I still just want to scream when I count the cost of what was so unfairly stolen from us. But each step of this journey, God has truly proven Himself as Emmanuel - “God with us.” On the good days and bad days, happy days and sad days... He’s with us. Always. Gently guiding with hands crafted especially to catch us when life becomes more than we can bear. I don’t know what I would do without Him. ❤️
1 Year and 9 days - Dec 15th at 6:43pm
I drove by a pretty bad accident last night that had only happened moments before and the man driving the impacted car was slumped over in the drivers seat and a medic was bent down assessing the injured man. It made me immediately sick to my stomach. I began to think about Mike and the pain he must have endured in the final moments of his life. Sometimes the smallest details can create a huge flood of emotion. Today I’ve just been missing my friend.... not my husband, or my pastor, or the father of my children.... but my friend. I miss talking and laughing. I miss him getting aggregated at me for all the ways I used to drive him insane. I miss laying in bed, watching our favorite shows and I miss falling asleep knowing that my family was safe, whole and healthy. My mind went back to the very beginning, when Mike and I were just newly dating and I heard a minister speak over Mike the words, “God is teaching you how to love two things.” I knew Mike struggled because he hadn’t dated in 7 years and all of his time was spent drawing closer to the Lord, so when I came along, he felt like maybe he wasn’t giving God the time he had before. Thankfully, God spoke to him that night and gave him the peace he needed to know that our relationship was God ordained. The Lord would often give Mike these sayings that still come to my mind and this week the phrase, “Your life will suffer your hearts desire,” has been on the forefront of my mind. What is your heart’s desire tonight.... as you read these words? Is there anything that takes a place higher than your relationship with God? Sometimes it’s difficult to balance the demands of life and home and work and church, but remember “your life will always suffer your hearts desire.” May we all desire Jesus most of all... ❤️
1 Year and 13 days - Dec 19th at 12:44am
Widowhood has got to be the biggest mixed bag of emotions ever. It makes you think about things that you would otherwise never even dream about. I was talking to a widower friend today and while I was on his Facebook page, I saw these posts from years ago where his wife had gushed on what a wonderful husband he was and how he was one of her greatest blessings in life... how she appreciated how he loved her and treated her and cherished her, and what a blessing it was to her to have a man love her in sickness and in health. If Mike had known he was leaving, I wonder what he would have said to me? What parting words would he have left me with? If it had been me, and I knew I was leaving for heaven, I would have went ahead and picked out his new wife. 🙂 I’m serious. He would have needed some help with the house and kids and ministry... and plus I just loved him too much to want him to be alone for the rest of his life. I would have wanted him to try to love again. He wouldn’t have wanted to at first, but I would have helped him. He would have been an easy man to sell too, let me tell you. He was a good man. He was the same man at home as he was at church. I would have warned his new potential wife about his “hoarding” tendencies lol and how he liked his coffee first thing in the morning. I would have told her that she should probably pick out his clothes because sometimes he would pick out some wonky stuff until I came in and said, “Uhhh, no.” What was funny was that he could tell just by my face if it looked good or not. 🙂 I would have told her that he was a great gift giver... and if you pressed real hard he would let you open your gifts early and that he would never ever ever forget a birthday or anniversary. I could assure her that he would never hang up the phone without saying “Love you,” and he would keep every card she ever gave him. I would tell her that it would take him a while to get used to the idea of remarriage because it took 3 dates before he even ever kissed me and he’s been through a lot so be patient.... but it would pay off in the end. I would show her picture after picture of what a good Daddy he was... and tell her story after story of how he showed me he loved me every single day. I would tell her she could look the whole world over and never find someone like him. I would insist she scare him real good (by hiding in the shower and under the covers) ever once in a while just to keep him on his toes, and I would encourage her to keep him grounded on days when he just needed a break from the pressures of pastoring by “accidentally” turning his phone off. I could help her by leaving his favorite recipes out for her to find and that a bonus was how, over the years, he had become quite handy at fixing things around the house.... much, much better than our early years of marriage. Yes, any woman would have been lucky to have had his name. But what would he have said to me? I will never know. So if you’re one of the lucky ones who has truly found their “The One,” count yourself blessed. Don’t take them for granted. Sometimes it seems impossible to think of finding 2 “The Ones” in a lifetime.... like it feels beyond the scope of possibilities that I’m even worthy enough to find two wonderful men to love throughout my lifetime. But when I look at other widows/widowers, I can see with certainty that God didn’t discard their life when their spouse died and they have so much living to do! Now, comes the continued part of walking in his footprints to see what he has planned for me... ❤️
1 Year and 15 Days - Dec 21st at 12:19pm
Do you have any idea how good it feels to see someone across the parking lot that you haven’t seen in a long time who says the customary, “Hey! How are you?” and you reply with, “Good!” Except this time... you mean it. It wasn’t the customary reply... it was a genuine, heartfelt, Good. In the past I would have felt guilty because answering with a “Good,” felt like a lie. And answering with “Terrible” wasn’t entirely true either. But today, I meant it. I’m good. ❤️ I’m so thankful to be good.
1 Year and 18 Days - Dec 24th at 12:01pm
My fb memory for exactly one year ago today was “And it’s why I sing, your praise will ever be on my lips, ever be on my lips, your praise will ever be on my lips, ever be on my lips.” When I read it, I remembered riding home from Mike's parents house, celebrating Christmas amongst the sadness of an empty chair, listening to this song. I was thankful the kids were asleep as I drove to our next stop because I was crying, acutely aware of how blindly I was trusting God that I was going to be ok... that my kids were going to be ok. I made it a point to praise God then and I made it a point to praise God this morning as we worshiped in a beautiful Christmas Eve service. This morning’s service centered around waiting.... waiting for the Messiah to be born, waiting for Christmas as a child, and now waiting for His soon return. I don’t like waiting. I’m not very good at it, but I intend to passionately wait for His return. Yes, this Christmas is different but I will be waiting... waiting on His timing, waiting on His guidance and waiting on His soon return. ❤️
1 Year and 20 Days - Dec 26th at 9:19am
The term “replace” has been on my mind this morning. In widow world, it is typically used with negative connotations used in such ways as, “She’s trying to ‘replace’ what she has lost,” which is usually tied to comments about a new relationship. I remembered back to my first miscarriage when I was in that hospital, devastated about losing my baby and someone gave me the best advice a few days later when they told me, “The best medicine is to get pregnant again.” It was the truth. It gave me permission to move forward. Did it mean that I wouldn’t think about that baby anymore? Did it mean I wouldn’t grieve what I had lost? Not at all. 15 years later and I still think about that baby. But moving on with another pregnancy gave me closure and hope and a reason to live... sometimes I wonder if people will think that I am trying to replace Mike by deciding to move forward. But liberty came the day that I realized that it was ok to find someone who was similar to Mike. Mike was one of a kind, but to find someone who was the opposite of him would be to find someone who would not be God’s will for my life. At first, I felt like I wanted to shun people who reminded me of Mike because I didn’t want to be reminded of him, if I’m being totally transparent. But then the day came when I realized that even if I wanted a “twin” of Mike, that would not even be possible. But to find someone who loves the Lord, who is a good Daddy, who is compassionate, who goes with the flow of life and is fun to joke and kid with.... to find someone who shares the same characteristics that I loved about Mike wouldn’t be a bad thing. It would actually be a good thing. Does it mean I’m trying to replace him? No. It just means that through Mike's example, I know how to recognize a good, Godly man. So maybe “replace” isn’t such a bad word after all...
1 Year and 24 Days - Dec 30th at 6:02am
2017 has, by far, been THE most difficult year of my life. When I think of the various disappointments I’ve had throughout my 38 years, there isn’t another that even comes close to this year. But as with all things, we can choose to either focus on the negatives or the positives. As much hardship as this year has brought, I can’t help but see the goodness of God as He has walked with me through each minute of each day of each month of the whole year. I’ve described it as “blind faith” because that’s what this year has been like for me... blindly trusting, blindly believing that through it all God has a plan, even when I couldn’t see it. He has opened doors for me to share Christ with more people than I ever have before. He has taken care of me and the kids financially. He allowed the court cases to be handled favorably for our family, which was a miracle in itself knowing how long this could possibly take in the Court system. He allowed us to move closer to my family which has been a tremendous blessing for me and the kids. He has given me the blessing of being used in music ministry part-time because I would have been overwhelmed otherwise while I was healing. He has placed countless friends in my life who have grabbed a fork and helped me “eat this elephant” through all the ups and downs of grief. But most of all He has taught me of His unending, unwavering love for me... the kind of love which makes me cry just thinking of how undeserving I am. I’m humbled by His goodness this morning and I am truly grateful that He has continued to help me through each milestone, through each “first,” and through each tear (and trust me.... there have been wayyyy too many for me to count). As I reflect on what 2018 will look like, I can only say that I will continue to trust, I will continue to have hope and I will continue to believe... through the good, through the bad, through the sad, through the spontaneous (I’m planning to work on this next year because I’m not good at it), through the messy, through the painful and through the exciting stomach butterflies, I know He’s working all things for my good, intentionally. Never by accident.... intentionally. So I will serve Him intentionally. Without reservation and without fear of tomorrow. He’s got this... no, WE’VE got this. ❤️ Here we come 2018!
1 Year and 25 Days - Dec 31st, 2017 at 8:32am
It’s New Years Eve.... a time when many will celebrate with alcohol and champagne to ring in the New Year. Our family has suffered the consequences of a man who chose to drink and drive when my husband was killed on December 6, 2016 in a motor vehicle accident. I would never wish the pain our family has endured on anyone ... ever. Someone told me after the accident that, “Zac is not a bad guy. He would have never done this had he not been intoxicated.” People who are drunk make poor choices because they don’t know that they are drunk and should not be behind the wheel of a vehicle. Drinking alcohol impairs your judgement so you must purpose in your heart that even if you take one sip of alcohol tonight, you will not drive. We will all have family and friends on the road tonight that we don’t want hurt..... even if you have seen someone drinking, take the initiative to drive them home or call a cab. Remember - the actions you take tonight can affect someone else’s life forever. Please don’t drink and drive.