Posted in Joy

Change Brings Unexpected Blessings

               Ask any widow and they will tell you that there is a sometimes subtle change that starts happening after they lose their spouse.  They grow and adapt and learn new skills, and while it doesn’t change the heart of who they are, there is definitely a transition that takes place.  And those changes can be for the better.

               This week in my Bible study I was asked to reflect back on who I was a year or two ago and how I have changed since then… and what is so significant about that change.  I sat down with a pen and paper to start thinking about the me of today compared to the me of two years ago.  And this is what I came up with:

  1. I’m more independent then I have ever been before.  I have learned that I can do many things on my own, and whenever possible, I choose to do them alone, even when I don’t have to.
  2. I’m more of an overachiever than I have ever been before. I set high goals and I strive to achieve them.  I want to be successful at whatever I undertake and I want to do it all, and do it well.
  3. I’m less focused then I have ever been before.  It takes me twice as long to complete anything these days.  Call it mom brain, widow brain, or whatever you want, but I have the hardest time sitting down to complete any task on time and without distractions. 
  4. I’m more outspoken then I have ever been in my life.  While you won’t get me on a soapbox about politics and my other strongly held beliefs in the public realm, you will definitely see them if we are friends.  If I’m not happy about the way you are treating someone or handling something, I am way more likely to tell you then I have ever been before… but I will try to tell you kindly.
  5. I’m less of a people pleaser than I ever was before.  I still want to please people, but I am not going to sacrifice what I think or believe in order to make you like me.  Instead, I have learned to stand up for myself and refuse to be treated badly.  I have learned that being a Christian doesn’t mean you have to repeatedly let others hurt you just so you can be friends!
  6. I have learned to say no. If there is something that I don’t want to do, I am more likely then ever to just say no.  I have turned down opportunities for higher paying jobs and better benefits, because it wasn’t something that I thought was best for my family in the long run.  If it isn’t going to bring me joy and peace, chances are I am going to walk away from it!
  7. I have learned to do a lot of hard things.  Burying my husband and raising my kids alone is just the start.  Navigating being a mom and making all the hard choices for my family and myself in the midst of grief is still a struggle.
  8. I have learned that the only person who can measure my success is ME.  And if I am happy and living the life that God has called me to live, then I don’t have to answer to the masses of people who surround me.  All I have to know is that He holds me in the palm of His hand and He guides me.

As an educator, I have always argued that we never stop learning.  That once we become satisfied with where we are in life, we should keep looking for new ways to grow.  I am excited to see what the me of two years from now looks like, and how the Lord will continue to grow and change me in light of all life sends our way.   What about you?  Have you gone thought something that has changed you over the last few years? Are there ways that you are praying you will keep growing and changing?     

Posted in Travel

Travel: A Weekend in Colorado Springs and Great Sand Dunes, CO

               As much as I would prefer well planned and well thought out vacations, I have enjoyed the ability to go on several last minute trips this summer!  The first was to Colorado.  The weekend we returned from North Carolina we found out that B’s mom was taking a last minute trip there.  We were expecting a last minute trip to somewhere, we just weren’t sure where it would be to!  Since it was within driving distance, we jumped at the opportunity to tag along. 

               We knew we would be picking B up in Breckenridge to meet E and I started messaging friends in Colorado to ask the must dos!  We settled on meeting up in Colorado Springs for the weekend so that we could catch up with friends if they were free and could do some fun things that they recommended!

It had been a long time since I had taken my three kiddos on a road trip on my own and I started looking for fun things to do along the way! We knew we needed to be in Breckenridge on Friday so we left first thing Thursday so we would have time to stop. We stopped to picnic lunch in New Mexico and at a hotel for the night near the Great Sand Dunes once we hit Colorado! Friday morning we got up and headed for the Sand Dunes. The kids had a great time playing in the sand and as much as I wanted to take the Suburban 4wheeling through the Medano Pass, I decided to save that for a trip when I wasn’t the only adult! It was a warm day, so we spent a couple hours playing in the sand and then had a picnic lunch before getting back on the road to Breckenridge!

Starting our hike at the Great Sand Dunes!

               We made it into Breckenridge mid-afternoon and explored the town by walking through the closed streets.  We took votes on where to eat dinner, and ended up eating outdoors at Downstairs at Eric’s.  The kids enjoyed watching all the tourists walking through the streets with their dogs and riding bikes while we ate.  The food was fantastic and we decided it was worth a trip back to on Sunday if there was time!  We even wrapped up some food to go because we didn’t want to leave anything behind!

               After we met up with B and E we headed for our hotel in Colorado Springs.  We had decided on a hotel near the Air Force base since it was close to friends and the activities that we were planning to do!  We knew that B had been to Colorado Springs before, but he couldn’t remember anything he had done there so we figured whatever we chose would still be fun!  Our splurge activity for this trip was a jeep tour of Colorado Springs on Saturday morning.  We wanted to fit as many activities as we could into our 48 hours with B, so we got started first thing Saturday!    

               We did a jeep tour with Adventures Out West and our tour guide was fantastic.  We started out with a trip to Helen Hunt Falls, seeing the Broadmoor, and then driving through Cheyenne Canyon and Manitou Springs.  The highlight for the kids was off-roading through the old railroad tunnels that were a part of the original Shortline Railroad.  We ended our tour at the Garden of the Gods where they got to see the Visitors Center and pick out souvenirs from the largest trading post in Colorado.  We did a couple of short hikes to see the Balanced Rock and views of the Colorado Mountains where we were able to take some gorgeous pictures and videos.

Helen Hunt Falls
Short line Railroad Tunnels
Garden of the Gods
View from Garden of the Gods

After an outdoor lunch at the European Café we headed for Pike’s Peak. We weren’t sure if we would have to shuttle to the top, but because we had kids in boosters in the car, we were able to drive all the way to the top. There was some construction being done, but we were able to go up to the edge anyways to see the surrounding views. We stopped for the kids to play in the snow and climb rocks on our way back down the mountain! Dinner was sushi at an outdoor café before we ended our day back at the hotel!

Pikes Peak view
Some of the winding roads on the drive up to the Peak

               Sunday was a little more lowkey.  The girls and I took our time getting up in the morning while the boys played on ipads in the living room of our suite.  We grabbed breakfast to go from the hotel and headed to the Dinosaur Resource Center in Colorado Springs.  We spent an hour there (mostly in the gift shop) and then made our way to Edelweiss for another outdoor lunch.  E and I recalled childhood German learned when we lived there and the kids practiced the German words that were on the back of their menus.  Everything we tried was amazing, if you are ever in Colorado it would be worth making a trip here just for the food! 

Edelweiss Restaurant

                 After lunch we started making our way back to Breckenridge so that B would be able to make the drive back to Texas with his mom Monday morning.  We dropped him off, went to do a little sightseeing on our own and then started the drive back to TX with E helping drive this time.  We made it home on Monday and everyone determined that it was a last minute trip success!  This was the shortest weekend that B had with us this summer, and how good was God that we got to spend 48 hours in a new state without having to worry about the travel time!?  It marked the 32nd state I have taken the kids to, and the 24th that we have been to with E & B.  Another travel success and we have determined that once facemask laws are lifted we will definitely make a trip back! 😊

Posted in Travel

Travel: Franklin, NC (roadtripping through LA, AL, MS, GA, TN, & AR)

After we returned from Palo Duro, I had the itch to get out of Texas and knew we needed to find somewhere a little further away to travel to. I knew I wanted to be on the road Father’s Day weekend just like the last several years for the change of scenery and I went back and forth with a friend about meeting in the mountains or at the beach. We finally decided on a trip to the mountains of NC. We found an awesome AirBnb that we could share and loaded up to make the 14 hour drive there! Cooler loaded down and car filled up with snacks, we made the trek across the lower southeast USA.

               Since my three kiddos had not been to Louisiana, Mississippi, or Alabama; we planned some strategic stopping points along the way in order to mark them off of our family United States map (this trip marked states 28-30 for the kids and I, and states 19-23 that we have visited with E & B)!  We stopped to picnic in Louisiana and visited the battle grounds in Mississippi.  Our Alabama stop consisted of a short mountain hike and drive as we made our way to Rock City on the border of Alabama, Tennessee and Georgia.  There we wound our way through some twisty roads in order to see views of 7 different states at once (however, I couldn’t tell you where one begins and one ends).  The views were beautiful.

Battle grounds in Mississippi

Chickamauga National Military Park

We also made a stop at McKays Used Books in Chattanooga. If you ever find yourself passing through Tennessee, you don’t want to miss out on stopping at one of these warehouse sized bookstores. They are worth putting a mask on for and my kiddos enjoyed browsing and picking out a few new books for the road trip! It was our first trip into a store in 3 months and was worth the wait!

Since we shared an Airbnb in NC, it was by far the nicest place we have stayed to date, and happened to be located right on a small waterfall. Limited phone and internet service for the week made for some excitement, but once again we came prepared to cook our own meals and enjoy our time with friends.

We made a couple of day trips to see local waterfalls that were only a few miles from our house. Cullasaja Falls can be viewed from the road as it’s a bit of a dangerous hike. Bridal Veil is a waterfall that you used to be able to drive under, but is now blocked so you can only walk through. Dry Falls is a fantastic waterfall that you can hike down to and walk under, ducking into caves to stay out of the spray of water! Dry Falls was by far the kids favorite to visit as they loved the caves!

Bridal Veil Falls
Dry Falls

We even took the kids gem mining at a local shop just down the road from where we were staying. And one day we drove into Bryson City to do the train museum scavenger hunt and have lunch outdoors in the little town. The middle of the week we took all the kids on their first white water rafting trip and they got to experience one Class 3 rapid which made for a lot of excitement!

On our last day we drove to Black Rock Mountain State Park in Georgia to do some hiking and see the waterfall there! This waterfall was down about 20 flights in elevation and was not nearly as exciting to see as the others we had visited, but the exercise was good for everyone!

The view from Black Rock Mountain State Park

The rest of the time we spent playing games in the house and enjoying the waterfall.  The kids enjoyed skipping stones and jumping rocks around the fire pit almost every day of our trip!

Our trip home consisted of a stop in Nashville to have another picnic with friends who are stationed at Fort Campbell and then a stop in Arkansas for dinner! I love getting the opportunity to travel with friends and family and having friends living all around the country who we can stop and see along the way is a huge bonus to traveling! With family in NC this is definitely a trip we will making again in the future with new stopping places along the way!

Posted in Travel

Travel: A Weekend at Palo Duro Canyon

               I love taking the time to plan out a trip, and research the best things to do with kids to both make it memorable, and affordable.  Because of the pandemic, our plans have changed so much this summer, that I have just been learning to go with the flow.  And in many ways that has turned out to our benefit.  During the Texas lockdown, I had lots of time to research and make lists of all the places I wanted to visit!  We have a goal to hit all 50 states before the kids are in high school and we are well on our way.  But Texas is a BIG state and there are so many places I have wanted to explore that are good weekend destinations… so I started making plans and booking refundable trips and praying that at least some of them would work out!

The first trip of this summer was to Palo Duro Canyon. Now, I have been to the Grand Canyon and it is for sure a sight to behold, but in light of the pandemic and this being our first trip away, I decided to stick closer to home this time around! Palo Duro is only about 4.5 hours from Fort Worth, and perfect for a short trip when you don’t want to do any stopping with kids!

Because the canyon was still closed (with no published reopening date) when I started planning, I was able to get an awesome deal on an AirBnb that was located right on the canyon! We knew we wanted a kitchen for this trip and since we had friends traveling with us, an AirBnb was more cost effective than staying at a hotel. Since we already have state park passes for Texas, all we had to do was reserve a spot in the park when reservations reopened (added bonus, when the park opened up they were only letting in a limited number of people, so less people on a holiday weekend at the end of May was a huge bonus).

We drove down on a Friday and stayed thru Monday evening. We spent the first night at the AirBnb on the deck watching the wildlife climbing through the canyon. The good thing about staying at an AirBnb with a kitchen is that we could load a cooler down with food and snacks for the whole trip and cook our meals just like we are at home. So once we checked in, we could stay put for the afternoon/evening.

Sunset views from our AirBnb

Whenever we make plans to travel, the first thing I do is make a list of all the things we would like to do while we are there that would cost extra money and determine what our budget for the trip can handle. Whenever possible, I like to find free activities and plug in one “bonus” thing to do that we think is reasonable to spend the money on! Because we had several out of the country trips for the spring/summer rescheduled ☹, our travel budget for the summer allowed for us to do two splurge things on this trip! The first, which was my favorite, was horseback riding in the canyon on Saturday morning. I love horseback riding and other than riding a pony at the state fair, my kids had never ridden and I thought it would be a fantastic way to get a glimpse of the canyon for the first time! We got there early and met our guides and the kids got to meet their horses for the morning. We loaded up and went on our first adventure through the canyon.

Riding through the canyon

When we finished riding we went back to the AirBnb for lunch and then loaded back up for our second adventure which was ziplining over the canyon! Not going to lie, I was a little nervous about this one, but luckily we had enough adults to outnumber the kids who would need to zip tandem and most of them were braver than I was! 😉 Ziplining required us to climb a steep ramp while tethered to each other and the railing and then after ziplining, crossing a swinging bridge back across the canyon!

The climb up to the zip line

This was the kids favorite part of the trip, and while it was quite exhilarating, I was not as ready as they were to jump back on again. It was definitely worth the money we spent on it and everyone agreed the views were amazing!

Coming off the zip line

We grilled out Saturday evening and Sunday morning we hiked several miles through the canyon. Being the end of May in Texas, we didn’t go as far as we would have liked to, but fun was still had by everyone. We celebrated with snowcones and did some souvenir shopping before heading back to the AirBnb for dinner and smores over the firepit!

This is definitely a recommended trip, even if you only do free activities and camp out in the canyon! We would definitely go back, as there are quite a few things we didn’t get to do because of the pandemic! And while it isn’t the Grand Canyon, there is so much more accessible to you here, and the smaller crowds can’t be beat!

If you have ever been and have recommendations for future visits, we would love if you would share them in the comments!

Posted in Travel

Tips for Flying with Kids

I still remember the first time we flew with three kids.  We had just moved back to New York and were heading back to Tennessee for the twins to be in their babysitter’s wedding.  We agonized over whether we should drive or fly because three kids under three require a LOT of stuff.  We were lucky to have friends in TN who were willing to meet us at the airport with carseats and pack n plays so that we wouldn’t have to fly with nearly as much as we thought we would.  Our biggest navigation that trip was two 2-year olds who needed regularly bathroom breaks on the airplane!

The twins may have been two before they took to the skies the first time, but before the pandemic hit, my kids were getting to be quite seasoned in the flying department.  The kids have clocked in over 24 flying trips apiece and have been the proud recipients of a first class trip home from Ohio last winter. They consider themselves to be pros and absolutely love that they are seasoned travelers.  However, we have come a long way from those first tentative flights with car seats and luggage over the last few years!

Flying might not be on your radar for awhile (it’s not our first choice right now with a pandemic and so many regulations), but here are a few things we have learned in our travels!  I’ve broken it down by age as I have learned that their needs have changed somewhat over the last few years, and this is what I have come up with! 

Toddler Travelers:

  • If you can get a trusted carseat/booster on the other end of your travels, do it.  It makes travel so much easier to not have to drag it through the airport (especially if it ends up being thrown under the plane).
  • BRING SNACKS!!!  This is a good one for any age.  Make sure you have something for them to chew on when you are going up in the air, and plenty to keep them for begging for food during the entire flight.  I will usually bring one special treat along to give them part way through the flight.
  • At this age they didn’t have their own electronic devices, so I would bring plenty of games, books, and LeapFrog readers to keep them entertained.  They also loved the reusable sticker books and would enjoy sticking them to the windows and anything else they would attach to while telling stories all around us!
  • I also would download a kid friendly movie to my ipad and would bring along headphones and a headphone splitter so they could all watch something together on the second half of a longer flight or in the airport if we had a flight change.  It helped to give them something to look forward to and made the minutes fly by a little faster for all of us!

Elementary School Travelers:

  • Now that my kids are a little older, and have their own tablets, our travel looks a little different.  We still download some movies to the tablets, but they carry their own backpacks with tablets, headphones, games and books.  They have to earn electronic time just like on roadtrips, but they all love reading so this usually isn’t a problem! 
  • I’m still in charge of rationing out the snacks and always make sure I have a backpack full to keep us well fed!  This makes flight attendants happy especially since my children will tell everyone they are hungry every five seconds if they can 😉

Two things I always try to warn people of is:

  • Kids sound really loud on an airplane!  We try to practice whispering before we get on and I try to remind them that they are much louder on the plane then on the ground.  Maybe it is because their ears are doing crazy things in the air, but be prepared for them to shout a lot to get your attention especially if you are sitting across the aisle from them!
  • Some kids have anxiety about flying.  Luckily even my motion sick child does well on airplanes and none of them get nervous now that we have flown so many times.  But we always talk about the plan and where we are going and how many flights and what we are going to do when we land so they are well prepared for every step of the journey!

The most important thing is to have fun!  Enjoy the time and don’t let all the delays and inconveniences stress you out!  We have missed a lot of flights; had a lot of delays and reroutings.  It’s never pleasant, but you can make the most of those extra moments too!  Just try to make an adventure out of it!  And don’t forget the snacks!!!

Posted in Travel

Why we travel…

               I can’t think of a better way to embrace every moment of life then to spend it enjoying travel with family and friends.  During the first five years of our marriage (when we were just waiting for our family to begin 😉), Ben and I spent every holiday and graduate school break traveling the world.  We knocked off 46 states together and countless countries in Europe, North America, & South America.  We encouraged our families to join us on cruises rather than buy presents, and tried to travel to see family and friends as much as our schedules (and finances) allowed. 

               When God finally blessed us with children, we determined that we would spend as much time showing them the world as we could.  We didn’t let brain cancer and treatment schedules get in the way of that travel, and were able to knock off every state on the East Coast with our kids before he passed away.  The summer he separated from the military, we spent two months on the road, exposing our children to as many new and exciting places as we could in an effort to making lasting memories.

               I took a break from travel outside of visiting family and friends for about a year.  Making the nine hour trek from home to visit family in North Carolina with three kids five and under was enough for me for a little while, but road trips to Texas and Maine the summer after losing Ben put the travel itch back in me and we haven’t stopped since!  My kids love to travel.  We embrace long trips (even though they still ask why I won’t drive through the night) and we love getting to travel with our best friends! 

               Travel brings us so much joy and whether it be Disney, or staying with friends and family, we embrace every moment of these adventures that bring us closer together and allow for us to truly enjoy every moment!  Before our national pandemic I had friends request that I share some travel tips, and about how I plan and pay for our trips, and I am finally getting around to posting some of what I put together!  I hope you will enjoy hearing about some of the adventures we have been on the past few years and the adventures to come!

Posted in Grief, Joy

Are You Really Living?

               If you have followed my blog for any amount of time, you know that I write a lot about fear and refusing to live in fear of the unknown.  I try to embrace each and every day the way that Ben would have wanted us to, without being afraid of what may lie ahead. 

               The other day my daughter asked if the coronavirus was done spreading yet and when we were going to be able to leave our house and see our friends.  I sat reflecting on the last time we had spent so many days in a row at home.  I could immediately recall when it was.  It was at the end of the summer of 2017 after we lost Ben.  In those days we stayed home because it was my safe place to hide.  My heart had been torn out and shattered.  I never knew when I might implode, so I needed to be in a place I could trust to protect me from the outside world.

               In those days, I wasn’t forced to stay locked away from the world, but I chose to.  I needed to be locked inside myself to heal so that I could return whole again (or as close to whole as I could get). 

               Being able to pick myself up after a loss like that was a challenge.  It was a challenge that I was not ready to face right away.  But, one day I woke up and decided I wanted to embrace living head-on.  I have prided myself the last two years on learning to live again, truly living!  I wake up every day looking for the next great adventure that will allow me to truly live life!

               I don’t know about you, but I have not really felt like I have been living the last few weeks.  Being locked away, told who I can and can’t see, being unable to plan for the future; makes me question my definition of living fully.  It’s made me wonder whether people, things, and places are what I really long for and whether I truly know how to be happy for myself. 

               And this is what I have learned.  We get to determine how happy we are in our circumstances.  No matter what put us in this place, we have a choice every day to make the best of it.  Just like everyone else, I want to see my family, and I want to see my friends.  I am disappointed in all the plans that have been cancelled and all the plans that won’t come to fruition because of this pandemic. 

And this is what I have decided to do:

  1. Keep Living.  Keep waking up every day and making the most of it wherever you are. 
  2. Keep embracing the ones you love.  Whether that is those you live with or your close circle of people that you are riding the storm out with, find a way to be close to them as much as you can.
  3. Keep making memories.  Try something new.  Learn some new games and watch new movies. 
  4. Keep sharing joy.  No matter how hard your current storm is, there are others who are struggling just as much or more.  Find them and figure out how to share a little joy with them.

               1 Thessalonians 5:16-18 says, “Rejoice at all times. Pray without ceasing.  Give thanks in every circumstance, for this is the will of God.”  I encourage you to keep on living life in spite of all uncertainty and doubt. Make plans and put them on the calendar.  Find a way to look forward to waking up every single day.  You won’t regret a moment spent looking for the good! 

Posted in Grief, Joy

A Widow’s Reflection on the Nation’s Crisis…

I have reflected a lot the past two years on all I learned from Ben and about the ways that God prepared me for losing him before he was gone. And in the last few days I have read countless posts by people who are overwhelmed by the current situation in our country and all that they have lost. I am no different.

The current crisis in our country makes me increasingly aware of the sanctity of life and my place in this world… but I do not face this situation overly fearful and without hope. Because this is what I know:

  • I know what it is like to lose control.

When Ben got sick, I quickly learned what it was like to lose control.  I lived by routines and dietary restrictions because they were something that I could manage.  When he died, we learned quickly that no matter how hard we try, there are some things that are just plain out of our control.  This is no different.  We still have choices, but many things are going to be out of our control in the coming weeks.  Embrace flexibility.  Take control of what you can (routines, schedules, and keeping your family safe).  Let go of the things you can’t control.  Holding onto those things too tightly will only stress you out more.   

  • I know what loss feels like.

You may not have lost a spouse or a child, but we are living in a time when most everyone is going to suffer a loss.  If I have repeated any sentiment over the last three years it is this.  Your loss may not be the same as my loss, but it still matters.  It is okay to be sad about graduations, trips, and plans that won’t happen.  Do what you can to make the best of those situations.  Choose a way to make those moments still happen for you and your family, and try to find a way to smile through them.  But there is no loss “too small” that you can’t shed a few tears over it if you need to.  Don’t belittle anyone else’s pain.  Sit with them, tell them it is okay and try to share some joy with them.  Psalm 94:19 says, “When anxiety was great within me, your consolation brought me joy.”

  • I know what it is like to homeschool my children (and to give myself a whole lot of grace).

This is my kids first year in public school.  It was a very conscious decision on my part to NOT homeschool this year.  And while I love homeschooling and the freedom it allows us, I felt that God gave me peace to let them go this year.  Like many of you, I did not plan on homeschooling this spring, nor did I want to.  Yet here we are.  We are only on day 2, and one of my children embraces this process wholeheartedly, while the others are already struggling.  I’m an experienced teacher and homeschool mom, and I am acknowledging this will be hard.  Find your tribe, share the joys and trials, and lift each other up.  Some of us will enjoy this time, and others will not.  Find a way to give yourself grace.  It doesn’t make you less of a parent to be honest and say you are struggling with this!  Remind others to give themselves grace too! 

  • I know what being lonely is like.

I have never felt more alone in my life then when I lost Ben.  Even in the moments when I was surrounded by others, I was so lost in myself that I felt like I was in the world alone.  There are going to be times the next few weeks that even if you are surrounded by your family (24 hours a day 😊) that you are going to feel alone.  It’s okay.  We were made for fellowship with others.  God intended us to have others to hold us up and share life with.  No matter how alone you feel, I encourage you to reach out to someone else who you realize might be more alone (a single parent, a widow, someone without children, or elderly).  Knowing there are others out there going through the same thing can make you feel less alone.  Hebrews 13:1 says, “Keep on loving one another as brothers and sisters.”    

  • I know who holds the future.

I believe I have been through a LOT of suffering and hard times in my short 39 years on earth, and I can tell you this: I know who holds the future.  Even in the darkest and most trying times of my life, I know I was not alone.  And in those darkest moments when I had no one else on earth to depend on, I found my relationship with the Lord growing the deepest.  Embrace your church, embrace your online Bible studies, and lean into the truth of the scripture.  Because while we don’t know the future, I know who does.  John 14:27: “Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you.  I do not give to you as the world gives.  Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid.”

I do not know what tomorrow holds for any of us.  But I do know these few things.  And I know that others, who have grieved and lost, know more than you can imagine about the pain that the world is in right now.  We know it, we have lived it, and we are still here to say you can get through this too!

I am praying much health and happiness over each of you.  Keep on loving and encouraging others.  We will get through this together!

Posted in Joy

The world doesn’t have to be scary… unless we let it…

My kids and I aren’t sick, but with an extended break from regular school attendance looming in front of us we have been doing a lot of talking about what that means for us.

I’ve always been super cautious when it comes to parenting. I limited my kids exposure to toxins and sugar and chemicals for much of their toddler years (and to some extent now). There are still times now when I wonder who this person is that lets her kids have sugar at parties and celebratory moments.

But if you ask anyone who has suffered trauma and loss they will tell you that you always come out of that loss overly aware of the sanctity of life and how fast it can change. It’s what people do with that knowledge that is different for each person. Some choose to throw caution to the wind and enjoy every moment because God is sovereign and all of our days are numbered; while others live cautiously in fear of making one misstep that will cause the world they have left to come crashing down.

I have spent a lot of time reflecting over the past two weeks. My kids and I had travel planned and bags packed and were heading to spend a couple of days with family at one of the happiest places on earth. 😉

I debated and prayed about whether to go and reviewed medical statements and recommendations regarding travel.

If we had been leaving the country I would have cancelled and stayed home as so many of my friends did. But there were less than a handful of cases of sickness in the entire state where we were heading and none in the city or county we would be visiting. I heard Ben’s voice in the back of my head saying not to live in fear. And so off we went.

It was not an easy decision. Because of the trauma my children have faced, they live with an often unvoiced fear of losing me. They worry that everything the world faces will come down on our house and they are used to keeping those feelings inside. I am acutely aware of this, so I try to make sure that I explain things in the world that they might hear about in ways that they will understand and be able to relate to.

The world seemed to suddenly be blanketed in fear just a few days into our trip. I talked to the kids and we discussed the virus that everyone was afraid of. I explained it in terms they would understand and we discussed our options.

The reality is, I’m not worried about us contracting the virus and not recovering, and Lord willing, I won’t have to eat my words. However, I explained to them the reasons that schools are closing and people are being asked to limit exposure to others. And I explained to them the importance of everyone doing the same thing if we want to be able to go back to school/work anytime soon.

They agreed to head home earlier than we planned. We got excited about the idea of homeschooling again for a couple of weeks and of having pajama days and cooking and doing other things with just us. We talked about how we wouldn’t be spending time with others who are not able to do the same thing. We talked about what it means to protect others.

These are kids who understand sacrifice. They have been making sacrifices their entire lives. They knew that while this would be fun for a little while, it could still be really hard.

I do not regret taking them to Florida for a few days. I’m glad they got a couple days with family like we planned. I’m trying to embrace the promise I made to myself after Ben died that I would not live in fear, but live every moment to the fullest. And I think because we talked about it together as choices were being made, that they learned a valuable lesson in sacrifice and how we each have choices to make in order to help make the world a better place for other people.

2 Timothy 1:7 says, “For God hath not given us the spirit of fear; but of power, and of love, and of a sound mind.”

***All of us have a choice in how we handle this with our children and the lessons that they will learn. Whether you agree with the decisions being made or not, you can still use this to teach them the value in making sacrifices for other people.***

Posted in Joy

Waiting for my life to begin…

Earlier this week I listened to my kids in the back of the car conversing about things to come in the months ahead… “I can’t wait until…”; “I’m not going to enjoy anything until…” and my mind started rolling backwards to moments that I had wished away from my life.

Have you ever anticipated and looked forward to something so much that you just couldn’t enjoy a single thing while waiting for it to happen?  When I got married in 2006, I remember I was ready for my life to finally begin.  I had finished graduate school, met the man of my dreams and was ready for the fairy tale part of my life to really start. 

Now, I know my life didn’t really begin when I was 25 years old, walking down the aisle to marry Mr. Right.  But every journey begins somewhere.  Mine really began a long time ago as a big baby born in Maine.  I was the daughter to military parents who had the privilege of living in Germany, Italy, and multiple states on the east coast during the first decade of my life.  My journey continued through high school and college in North Carolina, on into graduate school.

But if I’m being completely honest, I lived all those years just waiting for my real life to start; the life you find in fairy tales and daydreams.  I have always been a storyteller.  I imagined being swept off my feet by the handsome stranger and riding off into the sunset where I would live in blissful happiness in a gorgeous well-kept mansion with all the children I could hope for (at the time it was 12, who magically appeared without doctors and fertility treatments assisting, cause who dreams that into their story?). 

Of course for me, I learned at a young age that I didn’t get to write that part of the story as easily as I had dreamed that I would.  I spent several years “searching” for Mr. Right before he found me (not surprisingly when I wasn’t looking or chasing after him).  The next few years we tried to enjoy that blissful idea of life together while waiting for the “family” part of our journey to begin.  That beautiful journey into parenthood finally began after several years of disappointment and loss.

And just when we thought things were looking up for us and all our dreams were coming true, we found deployment and brain cancer looming over the next horizon. Another baby was added and our dreams for a family that would keep growing were once again shattered amidst another devastating loss. And then cancer was back, and we were back to waiting for life after cancer to find us…

Never in my wildest dreams did I imagine that life after cancer to begin alone, a few years later, as a single mom of three. I longed to know when the new beginnings were to come and what journey would begin next. And once again, I find myself longing to write that story… because I want to control the timing and the outcome of where I go from here.

But if you hear anything from me in all of this writing… HEAR THIS… my writing will never be able to do that story justice.  You see, every moment that I have spent longing for the days ahead and for the next right thing to roll into my life, is a moment that I have not spent appreciating the here and now.  Matthew 6:31-34 says, “So do not worry, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ … do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself.  Each day has enough trouble of its own” (NIV). 

“But now, Lord, what do I look for?  My hope is in you.” (Psalm 39:7, NIV).

I won’t ever be able to write my own story as beautifully as He can… and neither can you.  No matter how hard we try.  But I am bound and determined to appreciate every moment of the here and now while I’m waiting for the next unbelievable thing he sends my way. 

I am going to stop waiting for the life I’m longing for to truly begin.  And I’m going to start living in the moments I’m in right now.  And I’m going to make them count.  And more importantly, I want my children to grow up thanking God for every moment… not just the ones to come.