Posted in Joy

Give Me the Happy Ending…

Anyone who knows me knows I love a happy ending.  I watch television and movies to escape from reality.  I love the chance to see how problems are solved and people’s lives are improved over the course of an hour or two.

I remember the first time I watched Mrs Doubtfire. I laughed, I cried, I envisioned the happy ending, and then I ended the viewing feeling utterly beat down. How could the producers end a movie that way? Where was the happy ending they had been building up to for the whole film? I remember feeling heart broken for this made up family because things didn’t go the way I expected that they would… the way that I thought was “right.”

It was a harsh realization the day that I realized that our stories don’t always have a happy ending:

  • Sometimes marriages end in divorce when one partner doesn’t want it to
  • Sometimes the longed for pregnancy ends before it really has time to start
  • Sometimes cancer kills the ones we love
  • Sometimes jobs are lost and we face financial struggles we didn’t see coming
  • Sometimes the love we have been seeking our whole life never comes
  • Sometimes children don’t get to grow up with a mom and a dad
  • Sometimes children end up torn between two homes
  • And sometimes our every hope can be shattered in an instant.

The summer Ben died I did a study on the book of Job.  After I lost him, I kept studying and found myself angry at moments.  Job lost everything, but still trusted God.  I understood how he could keep trusting God, but what I didn’t understand was the end of the story.  In the end it says, “The Lord blessed the latter part of Job’s life more than the former part.  He had fourteen thousand sheep, six thousand camels, a thousand yoke of oxen and a thousand donkeys.  And he also had seven sons and three daughters.  The first daughter he named Jemimah, the second Keziah and the third Keren-Happuch.  Nowhere in all the land were there found women as beautiful as Job’s daughters, and their father granted them an inheritance along with their brothers.  After this, Job lived a hundred and forty years; he saw his children and their children to the fourth generation.  And so Job died, an old man and full of years.” (Job 42:12-17)

_THe Lord Blessed the Latter part of Job's Life More than the Former Part._

I remember asking another widow at the time, how is it possible for God to bless the latter half of his life more than the beginning?  He LOST his family and no matter what he got back it couldn’t replace what was lost.  I didn’t understand.  No amount of new children, cattle and money could replace those who he lost.

I may never know the answer as to why we lost Ben.  But friend, life is full of unexpected twists, turns, roadblocks, and heartaches. We have the choice to either let those heartaches beat us down and destroy us or to beat down the gates of heaven praying that God will allow us to push through to find a greater blessing on the other side.

Things don’t always go the way we anticipate or expect that they will, but God is still good and God is still on the throne. I believe that His way is sovereign and that all things work together for good even when we can’t see the good.

The last chapter in Job begins with this: “Then Job replied to the Lord: I know that you can do all things, no purpose of yours can be thwarted.  You asked, ‘Who is this that obscures my plans without knowledge?’ Surely I spoke of things I did not understand, things too wonderful for me to know.” (Job 42:1-3).

It’s still hard for me to understand how God can bless the latter part of my life more than the first.  How can He give me more than I can even imagine after all that has been lost?  But I trust that God has things in store that I can’t even understand… things that are too wonderful for me to even know.  And I intend to hope and believe that the day will come when I can look back and say that I am grateful for all that we have been through and all that God has given me as I keep moving forward!

In the meantime, I’m just going to keep choosing joy!

Posted in Grief, Joy

Remembering to hope…

I remember a few months after Ben died meeting another lady who had recently lost her spouse.  I was so thankful to have someone who understood my pain and could relate to this uncertain new world I was entering.  When she invited me to a young widows support group I jumped at the opportunity.  I knew early on that surrounding myself with people who not only understood my pain, but who had been there, would make all the difference in how I navigated loss.

I remember sitting in tears and listening to this group of ladies sharing about losing their spouses, how long they had been married, and how long it had been since their loss.  These ladies had been attending this group for weeks, months, years, and some even decades.

I remember leaving so confused about how they could still be grieving such a loss so heavily after so much time had passed.  I remember telling my friend, I loved Ben so much, but I don’t want this to be what defines me for the rest of time.  Twenty years from now, I don’t want to still be introducing myself to people by my pain and loss…  I will ALWAYS be Ben’s widow, but I don’t want that to be the only thing that is left of me.

As time has gone on, I have realized that you don’t magically wake up one day and have the grief disappear.  Ben will always be there, and while the pain from losing him will lessen, it will never go away.  But I have also realized something critical to surviving loss, and that is that I have to grieve with hope.

Have you ever faced something and felt helpless to overcome it?  A death, a divorce, infertility, a lost job or an uncontrollable relationship?

I have met so many people who grieve without hope.  They believe their loss will define them until the end of time, and are determined that it is impossible to ever be happy again.  Charles Spurgeon said, “without Christ there is no hope.”

As difficult as it was to lose Ben (and I would NEVER have chosen it), I have prayed and believed since the day he died that God had a plan that would help to redeem some of that loss.  I believed that He would help us to come out braver, stronger, and while not without scar, with purpose.  There have been moments here and there where I lose sight of that, but when I reflect back on the past few years, I have never doubted that God has a plan even when I didn’t understand it.

I actually learned that from Ben.  After years of infertility and a devastating miscarriage; he taught me that life is not without pain, but we can’t let that pain define us.  God always sees us through and if we allow it, He will rewrite our stories in ways that we can’t even imagine.

I will always be a widow; just like I will always be a mom, a daughter, a teacher, and a lover of Christ.  And I will always need the support of other widows who understand what it is like to walk this road.  But when people introduce me twenty years from now, I want them to also remember me as someone who made the most of every day that she was given, not living in the land of “what ifs” and days gone by, but instead basking in the goodness of all that the Lord has given her in the present.

If you find yourself without hope; I pray that you will find a reason to dream again.  That God would allow you to hope for a better tomorrow… that you would be able to wake up and face the day with hope for all that He can be doing in and through you in this new season…

“Fear not, for I am with you; be not dismayed, for I am your God; I will strengthen you, I will help you, I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.” Isaiah 41:10

_Isaiah 41_10

“Why are you cast down, O my soul, and why are you in turmoil within me?  Hope in God; for I shall again praise Him, my salvation and my God.” Psalm 43:5

“I wait for the Lord, my soul waits, and in his word I hope.” Psalm 130:5

“But as for me, I will look to the Lord; I will wait for the God of my salvation; my God will hear me.” Micah 7:7”

*** Please understand that I don’t want Ben forgotten, and my past will always help to define me.  Every bit of what I have been through in life is what makes me who I am today… but first and foremost, I am a child of God, who longs for my relationship with him to be the first thing people see when they meet me.

Posted in Grief, Joy

All My Broken Pieces…

A few weeks ago, a friend referenced broken pottery when describing what happened to our family when we lost Ben.  Her analogy of our family shattering into a million pieces so accurately depicted how I have felt the last few years about the pain from this loss.  She validated how hard it has been to pick up all those pieces and try to put them back together.  No matter how much we try; we will never be able to put all those pieces back together and restore them perfectly to what we had before.

Sometimes I still wonder if I will ever truly feel whole again.  If the broken pieces of me will ever fit back together well enough that I no longer feel the wind blowing through all of the cracks.  If my longing for perfection, will ever allow me to be satisfied with the reality of life after loss.  I long for the innocence that came from that “perfect” relationship, and the us against the world mentality; but am now faced with the reality that us against the world, could once again easily become, just ME.

Change has always been hard for me.  Growing up I wanted to marry, set down roots, and live in the same place close to my family for the rest of my life.  But God forced me of my comfort zone time and time again as he led me to marry someone in the military, follow him around the country and set down roots in new places over and over again.

Deep down, I know this is no different.  God is still leading me out of my comfort zone, into the unknown, and directing me to put my eyes on Him and Him alone.  I know that the piece that Ben filled will always be left empty, but this weekend I changed my perspective.  I saw a cracked jug in a store… it had a beautiful plant growing out of the broken places.  At first glance it may have seemed like trash, completely broken and wasted, something no one could use; but someone was able to make something beautiful grow out of the brokenness.

I want that to be me.  I want to trust God to create something new and beautiful in my broken places.  What about the broken places in your life?  Do you ever feel they are beyond repair? I pray that you would be able to make something beautiful out of that brokenness in a way that only Jesus can.

“May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, so that by the power of the Holy Spirit you may abound in hope.” Romans 15:13

I didn’t buy that cracked jug.  At the time I didn’t want a reminder of the brokenness that I feel on a daily basis… but I have been thinking about it all week… and I may go back to that store and bring it home.  I need that daily reminder that God can create beautiful things out of our brokenness if we let Him.

God can create something beautiful out of all your broken places.

Posted in Joy

You are not a statistic… and neither am I!

Have you ever been asked a question and after answering thought about all the things you should have said differently? I have. I’m notorious for sleepless nights spent overthinking every comment I have made and wondering if I said the right thing.

Last summer a sweet boy questioned me about my roots. He was curious where he had come from and whether he would grow up a certain way based on his heritage. I remember answering that we each have a choice about the type of person we are going to grow up to be, and regardless of where we come from, we have the choice to be and do something different.

The other day someone posed a question about relationships to me. They asked if I know the divorce statistics for second marriages. My immediate response was that I’ve never had a failed marriage (my apologies in advance if this offends you; but the loss of a relationship by death is different than divorce and I do not believe the two should be automatically grouped together).

I didn’t get a chance to explain myself at the time; but if I had, I’d like to believe the response would have been something like this…

You are not a statistic and neither am I. Regardless of what the world tells us the outcome will be, we have a choice in the outcome of our destiny. And we serve a God who can redeem any situation! If we refuse to give in to defeat, we will not be defeated.

If you go into anything knowing that it may not turn out the way you are wanting, you are opening yourself up to the possibility of a different outcome than the one you desire. Refuse to accept the possibility of defeat. Refuse to allow yourself to see it as an option.

Some of the best marriages I have seen have been second marriages. Marriages between two people who due to death or divorce have learned that life and relationships are much harder than they originally believed. They have gone into a second marriage with eyes wide open and knowing all the odds against them. They have been successful because despite the odds, they refuse to see failure as an option.

Friend, if you have lost someone you loved through death or divorce, you are not a statistic. You don’t have to fear opening yourself up to that again because the odds of repeating the past are higher than the odds of success. You are the author of your own destiny. Embrace life and keep loving… know that God can and will redeem this if you will let Him lead and guide you!

“May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in Him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit,” Romans 15:13 (NIV)

Posted in cancer, Grief, Joy

A Defining Moment…

Ask anyone who has experienced a life changing event, a death or a loss and they will likely tell you that there is a defining moment in time that divides their present life from the way that it used to be.  The memories, the thoughts, even the feelings are split in half by that one event.

Looking back for me that first moment was not losing Ben, but his original diagnosis.  When I look back over the short 14 years we had together, my memories are split in time… those before cancer rocked our world and those after.  Our innocence and bliss were gone, and while we regained that somewhat after each of his surgeries, I think deep down we never let go of the fear that our world would come crashing down when we least expected it.

Many of our friends would have said that Ben let cancer control his life after he was diagnosed… he changed his diet, he changed his routine, and he broadened his reading material.  But I don’t believe that he let it control him nearly as much as it appeared to others.  He continued to live life to the fullest every single day.  He didn’t let his new diet or knowledge keep him from enjoying life.

For me though, I lived in fear of the new knowledge.  We avoided toxic cleaners, electronic devices, sugar, processed foods, and unhealthy habits.  I was afraid of the mold in our house and would lay awake for hours stressing about every ache or pain that I faced (or piece of candy that I ate).  Then for a short while after Ben’s death I rebelled and ate as much ice cream as I could, stocked my freezer full of Reese’s, and stopped worrying about turning off the wifi while I slept.

I refused to allow my fear of those things to define the rest of my life.  I didn’t want my children to see me living in fear of the unknown either.  I still keep most of those healthy habits, but I no longer worry all the time that we will get cancer if we eat a piece of candy… or stop for fast food.

If I have learned anything over the past few months, it is that we don’t have to let those defining moments define us.  We get to choose how much control we let those moments have.  You can embrace the place that you are and allow God to meet you right there and help you through it, or you can choose to continue to let it leave you frozen in fear.

Maybe for you the defining moment was a marriage, divorce, death, lost job or even when you gave your life to Christ.  No matter the circumstance, you find that you too can look back on your life and see the before and after.  Friend, I pray that whatever that defining moment in your life is, that you will allow God to use it to open up a new world of opportunity and that you will see the blessing in being able to trust Him to get you successfully to the “after.”

Friend, the after is in His hands. “He will never leave you nor forsake you.  Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged” (Deuteronomy 31:8).  Trust Him and He will help you through!_Do Not Be afraid; Do Not Be discouraged._

Posted in Joy

Faith without fear… (& A BOOK GIVEAWAY)

A few weeks ago, my daughter was unable to sleep.  She kept coming in my room repeatedly concerned about the possibility of a snake swallowing her whole while she slept.  We talked about her fear and the unlikely possibility of a snake that large getting into her room at night.  And then I reminded her that when we are afraid we only have to pray that God will take our fears away and trust that He will take care of us.

The following morning as we drove to school she told me that she wasn’t afraid anymore because she knew that God would protect her.  It was a gut-wrenching moment for me as I had laid awake for hours the night before harboring my own fears.  How often do I give my kids advice that I don’t follow myself?  If only I could have faith like a child and just believe that once I have turned something over to the Lord that I no longer need to lay awake worrying about the snakes in my own life.

Over the past few weeks I have had the privilege of reading the book, Into the Deep, by Lauren Gaskill.  Lauren addresses the pain, suffering, frustrations that we all face in life and shows us how we can dive headfirst into a life of courageous faith.  She says early in her book, “There was a time in my life when I let my struggles define me, but I’m not going back there—to the darkness, to the night, to the overwhelming pit of despair.  And neither are you.  Because we have been called into the light—into a life of courageous faith.”

As I have studied chapter by chapter of her book, I have been both encouraged and challenged to dive deeper into my faith, and to remind my children how to let their faith have power over their fears.  She reminds the reader that a fearless faith is not a fairy tale, and it is obtainable if we only put our trust in God.  So often, I let my fears and insecurities get the best of me, and I allow them power over parts of my life that they should have never been allowed to reach—all because I don’t put my trust in the ONLY one who can calm all my fears.

It’s not enough to have faith, we have to be able to live out that faith daily.  We have to be able to look at every situation that we face with a trust in Him and a belief that that faith will move the mountains in our lives.  When we surrender to His will and to his guidance, those mountains in our life, don’t seem so hard to face.

“In the good times and the bad times, I’ve learned that trusting God and surrendering my all to Him is the best way to live, because it takes the burden off my shoulders.”- Lauren Gaskill, Into the Deep

I encourage everyone to grab a copy of this book.  Read it alone, study it with a friend, message me if you want to chat about the wisdom in it’s pages!  And if this is a book you think would challenge you and encourage you in your faith, leave a comment below!  I have a copy I will be giving away to a reader who comments before Friday, November 9th!

Posted in Joy

Is it possible to love again?

Growing up I never wanted anything more than the ability to be a wife and a mom one day.  It seemed like I waited forever for the love of my life to come along and for the two of us to become a family.  I knew how lucky I was to find someone to love and who loved me in return.  And Ben and I tried not to waste a moment of our life together.  Building our family was something that didn’t happen as quickly as we wanted (or at all in the manner that we wanted it to), but we never gave up hope in believing that God had a plan that was bigger than us.

If you had asked me last summer if something happened to Ben would I ever want to find love again, I would have answered with an emphatic “NO,” just like I told him numerous times when we talked about it throughout our married life.  A love like that only comes along once in a lifetime, right?  Most people don’t have the opportunity for one great love, much less two.  And I knew I would never settle for anything less.

And for a few months after Ben died, I couldn’t imagine ever getting over my grief enough to care about anyone else, much less love them.  There were days I longed for the love and happiness we shared, and days too when I felt guilty for wanting to be happy again.  I would read books about grieving widows and toss them aside when it got to the part where they had remarried or started dating.  I judged the women in my support group for dating after losing their spouses.  How could they understand my grief when they have already moved on?  Did they ever even care about their spouse?

Then after a few months, it truly hit me that I was alone.  The reality of the fact that Ben was gone and he was never coming back really began to set in.  People weren’t around as much, and visitors weren’t a constant in our house.  I realized I missed the companionship that came from marriage, and the comfort from knowing that there is always someone there for you at the end of the day.  I especially missed having the ability to submit to someone else’s leadership and decision making.  I started clinging to the hope found in those chapters of second love.  The fact that they had found happiness didn’t mean they grieved their first love any less, but that they understood what a wonderful blessing that they had and wanted to reclaim the beauty of that relationship again moving forward.

I judged myself for even considering dating again, much less marrying someone that wasn’t Ben.  And I spent a lot of time reading God’s word and asking for him to comfort me in those quiet, lonely moments.  And I felt peace.  I knew my grief wasn’t gone, and that I would always grieve Ben, but I began praying for someone that would be able to walk that journey with me, to comfort me and provide encouragement.

And because I am a researcher, I not only read stories of people who dated after losing their spouse, but I also messaged people who had been in my shoes and asked them questions about whether it was too soon for me to feel this way, and whether it was possible to grieve and love someone else at the same time.  I read the journals Ben kept for years, knowing deep down that he didn’t want me to be alone, but longing to read the words where he set me free to try to find love again.  And every time I saw the story of a widow remarrying, I searched for the length of time that they waited before they felt they were ready for that commitment again.

Some of the widows I knew talked about online dating, but I didn’t want to go through that kind of drama.  And despite several people trying to get me interested in some of the men that I already knew (or friends of friends), I had no interested in seeking out a relationship myself.  I began praying that if God wanted me to date or develop a relationship with someone else that he would drop them into my lap.

People told me that I was just lonely and that I shouldn’t want to date to fill the void that I was left with after losing Ben.  I worked hard to prove to myself (and others) that I was perfectly happy single and raising my children on my own.  But truth be told, I believe that all single people are lonely every now and then, and if I waited til I was perfectly happy being single before dating Ben, I would probably have never gotten married.  The difference is that fifteen years later, I am reminded every single day of what life was like before Ben, and of the loneliness that he amazingly took away when he was here.

Friends, no one has judged me more critically then I have judged myself over the past months.  I have heard repeatedly that I can’t be ready to date again, it’s too soon.  And people have remarked that I “got over” Ben really fast.  I still grieve the loss of Ben every single day, but I also know that it is possible to love like that again.  A few months ago, a friend shared with me the words of her own mentor… she told me that the fact that I am willing to open my heart to find love again so quickly after losing Ben is a testament to the amazing marriage and husband that I had.  Ben loved me, he loved our kids, and he would want nothing more than for us to find happiness, fulfillment, and contentment again.

I will never stop loving Ben, grieving Ben, and missing Ben; but I know that it is possible to find another great love.  Someone who will walk the journey of life with me and my kids, accept that we will always love and miss Ben, and provide the comfort and spiritual leadership that we long for.  And friends, there is no time limit on love.  It doesn’t matter what kind of pain, tragedy, sickness or loss that is suffered, God has given us the infinite ability to love deep, and to love big.

I know from experience that life is short, and we should live every day to the fullest.  We only get one life to live and if God sees fit to give me that chance again, why would I waste a single minute?  I know that when I share of that great love, I will face judgment and people won’t understand, but friends, I know from the decade I spent with Ben, that that love is worth every heartache, every pain, every judgment and every sorrow for the sheer possibility of loving BIG and having the chance to serve God with someone who loves me and God that much back!

***I don’t share my heart on this easily, but I know I am not alone in this struggle.  I have spoken to widow after widow, who not only shares my heart on this, but who also worries about the judgment they will face.  Please know that we don’t do anything lightly.  We pray, we seek God, and we struggle with how much of our pain to share with others.  At the end of the day, I pray that you will give us more grace than we give ourselves.  We didn’t choose to walk this path, but we are trying to make the most of every day that the Lord has given us as we do!

Loss

Posted in Grief, Joy

You Are Not Alone…

You know that time when you shared your heart with that friend because the struggle you were facing seemed to be too big to handle on your own?  You needed a sounding board and someone to hear all the anxieties and worries and tell you that you were not alone?

Maybe you didn’t need advice or even someone to respond, but just to know that someone else knew your struggles and was there if you needed them.  I have been in that place more times than I can possibly count.  Sitting in my not so quiet house longing for someone to talk to and hear my struggles.  Someone who could tell me that while they may not be able to relate, they understand the place I am and I am not alone.

I am thankful that God has sent those people into my life this past year to fill the void left by losing Ben.  While it will never be the same as having him here, I appreciate their willingness to listen, their attempts to relate, and their loving me through whatever the struggle was.  And most importantly, their praying for me to find peace in the midst of whatever that struggle was.

Somehow, when we are able to voice those struggles and concerns with someone else, it seems to lessen the burden that those struggles have on us.  Even when they can’t relate, having someone to listen keeps me from feeling alone.

But more importantly, I have also learned to rely on my heavenly father this year in those quiet times when there is no one around who can relate or understand.  He also reminds me that I am not alone in that place.  All throughout scripture I see people who thought they were alone in their struggles and pains and needed to be reminded that God was with them no matter what they were facing.

The book of Joshua is one of those places that I keep going back to these days.  Repeatedly throughout the first chapter of Joshua as we see God outlining his plan for Joshua and reminding him to not be afraid because He would be with him.

Joshua 1_9

“Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged, for the Lord your God will be with you wherever you go.” Joshua 1:9.

I am not alone.  Even on the days when it feels like no one understands, no one can relate, and no one feels my pain.  There is a heavenly Father who is right there, understanding, relating and who lifts me back up so that I know I can continue to make it through.  And I am grateful for those friends who have surrounded me this year and have pushed me to remember that even when they are not with me, HE is.  And He will never leave me alone.

Posted in Joy

The Road Less Traveled…

Have you ever found yourself at a crossroads trying to determine which way to turn?  Have you wondered what outcome a certain decision could make and stood anticipating the possible difficulty of the way ahead?  If you could see a road filled with potholes and struggles, would you keep going, or would you choose a different route?

I make no secret of the fact that I have always had a difficult time making decisions.  I have shared my struggle with trying to determine whether a difficult road is worth the time and effort.  And if I am completely honest, I can admit to you that some days I find myself frozen in the road trying to determine whether it is even worth it to keep on going.

I have never once doubted the value of life itself, but there have been days in the past (and even the present) when I have wondered whether life would be easier if I could just avoid any possible difficulty on the road ahead of me.

Someone asked me the other day whether I thought I could ever truly love again.  And if I could would it be worth it?  Knowing you have had a perfect love and lost it, is daunting.  Knowing that life is fleeting, is even more haunting.  They asked whether I could open myself up again after all the pain and suffering I lived in losing Ben.  Without hesitation I answered yes.  If you told me fifteen years ago that the road Ben and I travelled would be riddled with infertility, loss, cancer, and death, I might have run away scared.  I am not sure if I could have handled knowing what was ahead when I was 23 years old.  But in hindsight, I know I would not give up a minute of the time that we had together for an easier road.

The road ahead is always uncertain.  And sometimes we can look down two paths and see difficulty ahead.  It may appear that one path is straight and narrow, no pain in sight.  We may long to run down that path as fast as we can towards the beautiful, picturesque horizon.  But even the path that is beautifully well laid out may have potholes and struggles around the first scenic curve. (1)

The choice of which path to take some days reminds me so much of my Christian walk.  Deciding which road to take may seem so clear, but that doesn’t always mean it will be easy.  Regardless of the path we choose, we will likely face some kind of difficulty.  But if we are heading down the path that the Lord has for us, we will never regret it.

I am trying not to avoid the scary unknown these days.  I am trusting and believing that whatever path God leads me down will be full of happiness and joy… but if not, I know He is still good and I will look back with no regrets, thankful for the beautiful scenery that I was able to see while navigating the broken way.

When I was in high school, I loved the poem, “The Road Not Taken,” by Robert Frost.  I had it memorized and can still recite it when something or someone brings it to mind…

“Two roads diverged in a yellow wood,

And sorry I could not travel both

And be one traveler, long I stood

And looked down one as far as I could

To where it bent in the undergrowth;

Then took the other, as just as fair,

And having perhaps the better claim,

Because it was grassy and wanted wear;

Though as for that the passing there

Had worn them really about the same,

And both that morning equally lay

In leaves no step had trodden black.

Oh, I kept the first for another day!

Yet knowing how way leads on to way,

I doubted if I should ever come back.

I shall be telling this with a sigh

Somewhere ages and ages hence:

Two roads diverged in a wood, and I—

I took the one less traveled by,

And that has made all the difference.”

                     Some days I truly do believe that taking the easy, predictable road would save me so much pain and heartache.  Yet, I am thankful that God allowed me to experience 15 years of happiness with a few struggles mixed in to know that even a painful, less traveled road is worth every obstruction that we have to navigate along the way.  I don’t shy away from the broken, twisted road anymore.  I know that on that broken path, so much beauty and love can be found.  We only have to open ourselves up to receive it.