Friday, December 25, 2015

Christmas 2015

It's almost like I have been holding my breath for weeks now, in anticipation of Christmas. The holidays inevitably stir up emotions surrounding family. Whether it's relational conflict, joy over reuniting with those you love, traditions, expectations, or reminiscing of childhood memories. Holidays are a heavy "family trigger"...for better or worse.

When someone who has been an integral part of your world is gone (whether through death or disconnect), holidays somehow shine a spotlight on that loss. I have felt that loss over the years, whether it was grandparents, my aunt, a friend, or my mom. Now, that loss includes my spouse and father of my children. I never like to compare grief or loss, because every situation is so unique...but I know for me, as one who has experienced some pretty significant loss, Christmas without my spouse has, by far, been the most difficult.

So, today was hard. I won't sugar-coat it. But, it also held some true glimmers of joy. I found myself able to smile a little more, cry a little less, and just be in the moment with my boys. I am thankful for that gift. I know part of it is time, which heals. I also know that it is because I have an army of people praying, reaching out, and simply caring for us. My phone blew up with texts and I don't know if I even responded to them all...but people were thinking of us and praying...and I FELT IT!

My neighbor bought gifts from each of my boys and had them come over to wrap them and put them under the tree for me. My dearest ladies group that has been together for years got together and gave a bag full of gift cards, lotion, candles, candy, socks, and more to my oldest to put in a stocking for me. I texted with a couple of fellow sisters who were spending this day, feeling the weight of their loss, as well. There is something in knowing you are not the only one on this journey and being able to connect with those people during hard times. All of these things were continuing to remind me...I am one blessed girl. is my "practical application" part if you know a friend walking these shoes:

I can just say that if you know someone who is parenting children after losing a spouse, one of the most thoughtful things you can do for them is help their children get them a small gift or just do a little something for them yourself. I'm not really a "gifts" person. I would take a hand-written note or card that someone took the time to think about any day....but, at Christmas, when you have done all the thinking, planning, wrapping and giving of gifts for your kids and everyone else, it is truly comforting to know someone thought to do something (even just small) for you. Without your spouse, younger children are not likely to even think about it, and not having a single gift or something in the stocking (that you didn't purchase for yourself), is just another reminder of the loss that is so real, as your spouse is the one that would have made that happen for you.
Christmas Eve Service

We enjoyed having about 50 neighbors over for a Birthday Party for Jesus (right in the middle of tornado warnings, I might add). We worshipped at our Christmas Eve service at church. Then, we were able to spend Christmas Eve with dear friends, enjoying a wonderful dinner and lots of laughs. The boys had a sleepover in my room and we stayed in pjs all day today! The rainy day was actually perfect and I was glad to not feel guilty over staying inside. The boys' Papa got to come over for a little while and visit and our neighbors came over tonight to see the boys gifts and have a glass of wine. So, even though I was ever so aware of who was not with us, I clung to the beauty in the moments happening around me. I also clung to the PEACE that permeated my heart throughout the day, and I really do treasure that it overshadowed the sadness and loneliness this year.
Birthday Party for Jesus
Boys with their Papa
On a side note...

This was a big year for us. I took the plunge after 2 years of constant begging, and decided to get the boys a puppy. We pick him up next week and their reaction was so priceless. They were really in shock and it was SO much fun. It was truly the highlight of my day. Bama, the Cockapoo (Cocker spaniel/ poodle mix) will be loved, and probably therapeutic in some ways!

And, yes...I know I am crazy...but is he not the CUTEST?!

Merry Christmas!

Tuesday, December 1, 2015

Our Thanksgiving 2015

Thankful for these guys right here! Even if Colby and Cooper don't look too happy to be in the picture
This year we went to Arkansas for Thanksgiving. I had a new baby niece to see and I felt like it would just be good to get away this year. Whenever we go see parents, grandparents, brothers and sisters, cousins, aunts, uncles, nieces, and nephews, it lifts our spirits. It is always busy and non-stop with activity, so it's also a good distraction from the fact that we are missing a part of our family. 
The sunset was truly just gorgeous as we crossed the Mississippi river on our way into Arkansas

We went to Playtime Pizza, which is a lot of fun for everyone...go carts, laser tag, bumper cars, games, bowling, and a huge food buffet, that is all you can eat (I know...that is just what we needed right before a Thanksgiving feast)!

I think Go-carts are our favorite. I don't know what comes over me, but I get super competitive driving those and don't mind knocking someone off course! I's probably something I need therapy for. Colby thinks it's a blast riding with his crazy momma, even though I'm not the best example of driving!
The boys had a sleepover at their Aunt Heather's and at Uncle Craig's house. When they go to Aunt Heather's they stay up LATE watching movies and love playing with Paxton. They also usually get Shipley Donuts for breakfast, which are amazing. Craig absolutely loves his "guy" time with them, playing video games on all the tv's he sets up for them, until early morning hours! Needless to say, they are exhausted after all the late night shenanigans with their cousins and aunt and uncle.
I need to make a note to self to NOT pack many clothes for them. I think they stayed in the same clothes for 2 1/2 days...somehow the pjs and change of clothes I send with them, just stay in the bag. I guess they are having too much fun to change!

I got some good snuggle time in with Lily Kate, my new niece. She looks just like her daddy and is so sweet. She even went black Friday shopping like a champ with everyone!
Me and my sister, Lauren, and niece Lily Kate

We didn't get all the cousins together for a picture at the same time, but we did manage to get a picture of ALL 5 of us siblings. That doesn't happen too often.

Love these sweet nieces, that now live in Arkansas!
The sibs....Craig, Lauren, Heather, me, and Jeff
Ethan, Paxton, Carson, Lily Kate, Colby, and Cooper
Cousins and 2nd Cousins
Connor, Cooper, Cayley, Emma, Anthony, Colby, Paxton, Kiley, Carson, Alea, Caitlin, and Paisley

Thankful for family!

Wednesday, November 18, 2015


I don't know if it's possible to be in a really hard place, while also in a good place?

I haven't written in a while for this reason. I am not quite sure what to say, how to say it, or even if I really want to. In the midst of feeling pressed from all sides, I have moments of so much hope, joy, and a longing to move forward, taking steps of faith. To the next chapter in the story.

It's almost as if I'm like a weed that gets pulled, yet continues to somehow find it's roots planted deep beneath the surface once again. Holding on hard and not willing to be pulled loose. At least not completely loose. I imagine Christ is the gardner. Lovingly tending my soil, grasping at the roots to pull me free. Some days it takes more force than others to pull the roots above the surface. Some days there's a piece of my root that just refuses to break free. And some days there is a piece of the root that completely breaks off under the pressure and a piece of me is left deep beneath the ground...only to rear it's head again. I'm pretty certain that I am pesky, persistent, strong, and stubborn...just like a weed and it's extensive root system.
Image result for free photos of weeds
All I can say is that I am in a rough spot of knowing there are parts of me (of who I once was) that are in conflict with who I need to be now. Likewise, there are parts of who I once was that will forever be a part of who I am now and who I will be in the future. Even some of the deepest pain has yielded a beautiful piece of my story that I don't ever want to forget. A part I feel certain God intends for me to carry forward. There is just a tension between once being a wife and now being a widow, that I still struggle to reconcile. 

I am lonely in a way that words cannot describe. I find myself still longing to talk and share things with Bunky...only to realize, like a hard slap in the face...he is NOT here! I am weary. Weary with life. Weary with parenting. Worn down, but not always able to articulate how or why. I miss my other half. After the shock wore off (months after his death), I realized the finality of this all. Somehow though, it is only lately that the true concreteness of an end point of what has happened and what will NOT ever be, is more real than ever. It carries a sharp and sometimes very unexpected pain with it.

Nighttime is hard with the boys. They miss their dad. Pictures are drawn. Tears fall. Fears of me dying are real to them and are brought up often. We pray. We talk honestly. I hug them, but never assure them of the future. Because their harsh reality at a young age, reminds us that there is no assurance of anything. Anything, except our HOPE in Christ and Eternity, because of the sacrifice He made for us. The picture below was taken just before I left to go away for a few days on a girl's beach trip. Cooper told me all week that he thought I would have a heart attack and die before I got back from Florida. He cried about it every night for a week before I left. This is the stuff that tears my mama's heart out! It was really hard to leave them, but I know it is healthy and good for them and for me when I take care of myself.

I'm just struggling to navigate through my journey with grief right now. Just when I felt JOY on the horizon, memories that caused PTSD after Bunky's death, have rushed in to try and paralyze me. My sleep is being impacted again. My memory and ability to focus is fuzzy at best. I am still functional. I just want to be MORE than functional. I want to truly taste what God is calling me to. I want that new flower, so to speak, to grow without being hindered by the weeds.

I have no doubt the pumpkin patch and holidays stir a lot of this up. I just pray that peace transcends fear. I pray that whatever pieces of me that need to stay deeply rooted in the ground will stay and the rest of me can yield to the gentle pulling and pruning to produce something beautiful. Something that is part of God's greater plan for my life. I pray for clear direction and that I will have faith to take those steps God guides me to in the coming chapters of my story.  I know He is working on me and in me and that is good. Really good! Even in the midst of the hard.

I'm thankful for those who haven't forgotten and take the time to let us know they remember. I'm humbled by those who continue to walk with us and pray for us. I recognize that almost 2 1/2 years has passed since Bunky's death, and most probably assume we have moved on. In ways we have moved forward, as we should. In so many other ways, we are still trying to figure out how to do that. So, if you are reading this...thank you. And if God lays our family on your heart, we would be grateful for your continued prayers, especially during the holidays.

Friday, October 9, 2015

The Missing Piece of Pumpkin Patch

It's Pumpkin patch time again. That statement is wrapped in so many different emotions for me that it almost makes my head spin to think about it. Excitement, anticipation, satisfaction, pride, honor, exhaustion, joy, frustration, gratefulness, encouragement, accomplishment, and even sadness. A single event stirs up so much, that it is hard to capture the magnitude of what the pumpkin patch represents.
1st Unloading Day at the Patch 2010
1st Unloading Day of 2015
I think for me, there will always be a shadow equated with what the Cooper Trooper pumpkin patch is. A shadow that looms heavy and seems to show itself around every corner and turn. I'm really aware of what it triggers in me, but somehow I manage to feel surprised by a darkness that is cast by it's shadow each year. While there are so many positive and happy emotions surrounding it, there is an ever present heaviness that I can't shake. I wonder why it feels so hard, yet completely understand it all the same.

The Pumpkin Patch is such a part of the fabric of who we are. It is a foundational piece of the story our family represents. It acknowledges where we have been and where we are going. It is seeing a vision that was once just that... a vision, now fully in existence. It continues moving forward, gaining momentum with each family touched. For those who have been in the thick of it with us from day 1, it is also felt. There is a gaping, missing, piece to the puzzle. Without Rod Cook, it feels incomplete in so many ways. It's something sacred, yet mostly unspoken. Probably because it is hard for those of us who feel it, to acknowledge it fully, for fear that the raw emotion will take over.

So, I try to remind myself that I shouldn't feel surprised at how "off" I feel right now. I conjure up empathy for my boys, when I have nothing left inside, because I know they are feeling "off" too...even if they don't fully understand why. I am thankful for those in my life who push me to give in to things I don't want to acknowledge that I might need...because reality is...I probably do need it.
I just want him here to see how amazing it is. I want him here to take a family picture in the pumpkins. I want to see him in his element, telling people about why they need to support Cooper Trooper. I want to hear him motivating the hundreds of people on unloading day. I wouldn't even mind hearing him complain about how he needed to wrap up, so he didn't miss an Alabama football game. I just want him here. And he is not. And it sucks!

Thursday, August 20, 2015

When Christians Go Through Really Hard Stuff

This started as a note to a friend that was going through a really hard time, but I decided to post it on my blog as a reminder. Sometimes I forget for myself, what is so easy for me to remind someone else of.

When Christians go through the REALLY HARD STUFF

Sometimes God allows YOU to go through the really hard stuff...
Not because He “knows you can handle it”
Not because “it’s His will”
Not because “you must be really special to carry your load” 

But because you are so loved by Him that He desires for you to come to a place of complete dependence and utter helplessness to experience HIM in a way that only you can in that dark situation. (If He allowed it because you could "handle it" then there would be NO need for Him. So when people say, "God doesn't give you anything you can't handle", it seriously makes me want to slap them. Please don't say that to me.)

Once you are there and know Him in this intimate way, you will look back and consider it JOY (James 1:2) and you will forever remember the personal way His tender grace held you in some of your darkest moments ...


PAIN is a necessary component of HOPE, because in my pain, my HOPE is REAL!
(Romans 5:1-5)

Does this mean you won’t give up, look away, get depressed, feel lonely, become hard, turn away, get frustrated, scream, yell, cry, become full of fear, lose it, doubt, feel like there is nothing but the pain and difficulty that lies in front of you with no end in sight?

NO....These things are sure to happen. EVEN to the one who walks closely with God. Even to the one who can so-called "handle it"...(did I mention this drives me crazy?)

The beauty lies in LOVE, COMFORT, HOPE, PROTECTION, PEACE and THE GENTLY CARING WAY that HE holds our broken hearts...when we finally seek HIM with all that we have, throw it down at HIS feet and surrender to the UNFATHOMABLE LOVE He has to pour out on us. And it's not just hearing about those things happening to this person or that. It is your own personal account. You and God. One on One. You needing him more than you ever have before, and Him saying, "I have never left you and let me show you how I care for you in your deepest pain."

AND....I don’t think doing that is a one-time practice. It is a deliberate choice we have to make over and over again in our circumstances.

I love Jeremiah 29: 11- such a popular verse about God’s purpose and plan

BUT, when you keep reading in verses 12 and 13....

“THEN, you will call upon me and come and pray to me and I will listen to you. You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart. 

It doesn’t say, you will seek me and “I will take away all the pain, yuck, hard,"

It does say He will hear you.

And, we can know that we are HIS and belong to Him who called us out of darkness (I Peter 2:8) and His promise is to help us in our weakness, even when we are so messed up we don’t know how to even pray! (Romans 8:26:27) And, HIS peace will consume our hearts and permeate every fiber of our being, so that we are no longer troubled or afraid (John 14:27, Phillipians 4:7).  
I love you my beautiful, amazing, starbucks-loving, slow-eating, friend, and one of the BEST mommas I know! You know who you are! :)

Monday, August 17, 2015

Yet I Will

I have been struggling with self-pity. Seems like whether it's a little thing or a big thing, especially related to parenting, I have just simply felt sorry for myself. It's not something I am proud of, nor is it something that most people see on the surface. It is more of a heart issue. A struggle within. A dialogue I have with God, where I just want to say, "I can't do this anymore" or "this isn't fair....why does it have to be this way?"

Yes! Parenting alone is one of the hardest responsibilities, especially when the other parent is gone. There is no sounding board, no reprieve, no one else who shares the same amount of heartbreak, joy, and concern for your child...making it one of the loneliest places I have ever experienced. It is okay for me to feel the weight of that. Just not okay for me to waller in self-pity over it.

It bothers me because by nature, I can't stand when people whine, complain, and feel sorry for themselves. I want to yell into a megaphone...."SNAP OUT OF IT....YOU ARE BEYOND BLESSED...just ask the child in Africa who is starving, or the homeless man who doesn't know where he will lay his head next, or the mother who lost her child to cancer and her husband to divorce in the same year, or, or, or......" But somehow, lately, I have felt like I have "earned" the right to be that way. And I don't like seeing it in myself.

So, I come before God, again, just asking Him to change my heart. And, this is what I felt like God was telling me the other day. I had absolutely no intention of "blogging" about it, but for the last 3 days, I have repeatedly felt nudged to share, so I will. When I'm waking up out of a dead sleep and He's putting this on my mind to share, I figure I better do it, right? If for no other reason, I want my boys to know my heart and my struggles one day, and hopefully see that I was choosing to follow God's direction.

It started when I was reading a devotion the other day about the scripture in Habakkuk 3:17-18.

"Though the fig tree does not bud and there are no grapes on the vines, though the olive crop fails and the fields produce no food, though there are no sheep in the pen and no cattle in the stalls, YET I WILL rejoice in the Lord, I will be joyful in God my Savior. 

This was a pretty disastrous and devastating event in these times. Habakkuk the prophet had been dialoguing with God and asking a lot of hard questions about the "WHY's" of what was going on around them in those times (the imminent fall of Judah, evil and sinfulness going on and God's justice).

What really hit me was that in spite of it all. In spite of the extreme conditions and dark circumstances of what was occurring and what was to occur, Habakkuk chose to rejoice in cheerful expectation of who God is and His provision, even when he couldn't see it actively taking place around him.

YET I WILL....those 3 words moved me to a different place. They challenged me to say "YET" in the midst of where I am. What does YET means "EVEN SO and EVEN THOUGH."

I then started making a list of my "YET's" in my journal. Here are a few:

In MY time of great distress (Bunky is gone), YET I WILL...
Yet I will choose joy and thankfulness.
Yet I will remember to fix my eyes on the things unseen.
Yet I will let God write His story through me.
Yet I will let myself laugh more.
Yet I will give myself more grace.
Yet I will let others help me and will ask for it when I need to.
Yet I will be the mom my boys need.
Yet I will put one foot in front of the other.

For me, part of having HOPE is going beyond my momentary mess and finding Joy in the midst of it. It is declaring my "YET's." It is hard for me to stay in a place of self-pity when I am reminding myself,

"Yet I will..."

We all have our messes and our hard stuff. Maybe it's as simple as running out of gas, or it could be a relationship that is broken, taking your first child to college, caring for a sick parent, losing a job, struggling to pay the bills, a tough parenting issue, a marriage that no longer has love, a diagnosis, or you can fill in the blank on any given day. It doesn't really matter if your hard and my hard are different. It's not a comparison of who has it harder in life...that is where self-pity rears it's ugly head. When you and I start looking around and comparing life's hard, we lose sight of focusing on our own joy our own "YET's" in the midst of the story God has for us. This is not and should not be relative to anyone else's circumstances (Boy do I have to remind myself of that). It is a direct response to God from your own individual heart....not comparative to anyone else.

I would challenge you to write down your hard, your difficult, your messy circumstance and then in all caps....write, "YET I WILL" followed by your intentions to choose joyfulness in that situation. It has really been helping me.

Friday, July 31, 2015

17 years...still celebrating our anniversary

Today marks one of those days that I imagine will always hold both a sting and a wealth of joyful memories. Seventeen years ago I said "I do" to the man I believed would grow old with me.

I am known for having a terrible memory. I truly forget details of even the important events that most people will never forget. In fact, I have been told for most of my life that I am a great person to tell your deepest, darkest secrets to, because I will probably forget what you told me within a few days!

However, the details of the days surrounding my marriage to Bunky, are crystal clear. I will never forget some of the precious moments shared between us. We decided to write each other letters and exchange them when we parted ways on the night before the wedding day. We also wrote another note to each other to read right before we took our vows on the day of. This "letter-writing" tradition continued on each of our anniversaries. They are truly treasures. I have them in a box, labeled with each year. They have only been read on the anniversary, then marked with the year and put away.

Many people who were close to Bunky know that he would fairly often talk about how he just knew he would die earlier in life. He even talked with me on many occasions about how he felt like he was probably going to die before me. I would always tell him to stop talking like that or that he was being crazy to say such things. Once he said to me, "You know, when I die, these letters will be really special to you...that is why I will always write them." I is mind boggling to think about the reality of words which seemed so far-fetched in the moment, yet now are the truth.

So, it feels overwhelming to acknowledge that he was right about that...and I just can't bring myself to read them yet. He was right though. They will be more special to me than he could ever have imagined, when I finally am able to read them.

I'm not able to fully capture what it means to grasp with your heart, the finality of "till death do us part." Everyone who marries says those words, but I don't think anyone wants to imagine that they WILL happen. I didn't. At least not until way down the line when you have lived a lot of life and the end is somehow more expected. I envisioned that day would come, but not so soon. Not when there was so much more life to live together.

Death didn't just part us.

Death took away so many hopes and dreams still left to be. It crushed every plan I could've ever imagined to come. It not only stopped me in my tracks, but completely derailed me. Death took what I found comfort in knowing and threw it out the window. Death not only did this to my marriage, but to the children who were born out of it.

I will be honest. And I don't say this for any will be bitter. A day that was once celebrated with my other half, will be a memory instead of another milestone to embrace as a married couple.

And with that being said, I will do my best today to be grateful for the marriage we had. One that was definitely not perfect. One that could certainly have used more grace and forgiveness. But, one that was solid...for better or worse. One that was built on a foundation of Christ, where trust and loyalty were never questioned.

I hope that those who read this and are married will squeeze their spouse a little tighter, kiss them a little longer, tell them how much you love them (even when you don't think they deserve to hear it), serve them in a special way, pray for them, encourage them, write them a love note, take a picture together, laugh a little longer, and STOP what you are doing that seems so make them a priority, when you have that opportunity. You very well may not get that opportunity again.

If you want to take it a step further, I would love to hear about it. It encourages me to know that people are loving their spouses well and living like today could be their last. So, if you are reading this and it touches you in some way to be moved into action, please don't hesitate to share it with me. It really does mean the world.

Happy 17th Anniversary, Babe!
Forever loved and always missed.

Tuesday, July 14, 2015

July 3, 2015

I'm very aware that I have not posted anything since before the 2 year anniversary of Bunky's death on July 3rd. Honestly, I have tried several times to sit and share my heart, but I couldn't. My spirit has felt crushed and there have not been words to truly capture the loneliness that I still feel. At the same time, God is near, and I want to give him glory for how He has carried us.
I spent the evening of July 3rd sitting on the beach. I watched the waves come in and out. I could see the sun setting for a while before it went down behind a building. Unfortunately, this time of year at the beach is not great for watching the beautiful sunsets over the ocean that I used to watch with Bunky at other times of the year. Nonetheless, I enjoyed the remnants of what the sunset brought to the place I was.
Then, I cried. I cried hard. I had a beer, as that was exactly what Bunky would have done watching the sun disappear. I listened to music. I prayed. I wrestled with God and praised him at the same time. I told myself over and over, "You need to pull yourself out of this. People around you must surely tire of your sadness by now." While at the same time, knowing I will never be the same person again and so to those people I it or leave it! 

I watched couples walking up and down the beach. Some were holding hands, and it made me smile. I wanted to stop them and say, "Good for you...enjoying this sunset together. You are making it count." 

Some walked beside each other, but looked a million miles apart. I wanted to jump up and tell them to seize this moment. It made me sad and angry that they walked together, yet seemed so far apart and wouldn't even look up to enjoy the beauty around them or appreciate that they had this moment to experience together. 

Then, some were hurrying up to get inside and were probably worried about where they were going to dinner. To those, I wanted to say what I know Bunky would say, "But, are missing the best part."
My sister and brother-in-law took the boys out, so I could have this time. I waited until the sun was completely down and the moon was making himself known. Then, I walked a 1/2 mile to where we were staying and almost couldn't find it in the dark. In fact, I started walking up 2 different sets of stairs, only to discover I was on the wrong boardwalk. Everything looks different in the dark and honestly, every house looked the same to me, along the area we were staying in.

This reminded me of a verse that my mentor mom at church, Debbie, had continuously told me she prayed for me throughout the year. I love it.

Isaiah 42:16

"I will lead the blind by ways they have not known, along unfamiliar paths I will guide them; I will turn darkness into light before them. and make the rough places smooth. These are the things I will do. I will not forsake them."

He really has done just that. Grief is something no one would choose. A path that one minute included my spouse and the next minute he was gone, has certainly been unfamiliar, dark, and rough. I have experienced my own "blindness" during a season of unknowns. And, even though I stumble in the darkness, I will not fall, because Psalm 37:23-24 reminds me that when I do, "the Lord upholds me with His hand."

I have often had conversations with people who say things like, "I can't understand why 'good' people like you, have to go through such difficult things in life." Or, I have come in contact with others in a similar journey who question God's goodness and why He would allow these things to happen to believers, causing them to doubt or even turn away from God. 

I too, have to remind myself that God is still good sometimes. His goodness and grace are not correlated with our life's circumstances as we see them, but reach far beyond to the beauty He is making out of those circumstances. To the redemption that awaits. If only we could see it...we would fall to our knees and thank Him for the work He is doing. If only we could see it. 

We live in a fallen, sinful world. He never promised he would shield those who believed or those "good" people, that he would protect them from the hard. No, quite the contrary... He even went so far as to say, "WHEN" you experience trials....NOT "IF" you experience them. He knew good and well they were coming and gave us strength to draw from His word and promises. He gave us HOPE that there would be a better tomorrow. He told us there would be new mercy EVERY morning. 


He clearly declared in Isaiah 43:1-3

"Fear not, for I have redeemed you; I have summoned you by name; you are mine. 
(He is clearly talking to those of us who believe and follow Him...not just those who screw up, do bad, or who we think should have it rough)
WHEN you pass through the waters, I will be with you. 
(When I lay in bed at night and Bunky is no longer next to me. When my boys cry because they miss their dad, when parenting alone overwhelms me and I feel insufficient to give my boys what they need)
and WHEN you pass through the rivers, they will not sweep over you.
(When the pain of loss takes my breath away, when I can't bear the thought of my children not having their dad here to see them drive, graduate, marry, or have their own kids, when I remember a joke that was just between us and he is no longer here to laugh with me about it)
WHEN you walk through fire, you will not be burned; the flames will not set you ablaze. 
(When the quietness I experience at night after my children are asleep brings both reprieve and pain, When I still want to say we have a 'party of 5' at a restaurant, when big parenting decisions are made without his input, when you find a note from your 6 year old telling his dad, 'I miss you more every day and will see you in Heaven.'

For I am the Lord your God..."

Finally, I continue to be humbled and amazed by those who loved Bunky and those he impacted during his life on this earth. The simple act of remembering him and many who reached out and even intentionally did things for us and others to honor and remember him, fill a precious place in my heart that I don't think I can accurately describe. I read posts to the Remembering Rod Facebook page, emails, texts, and cards to the boys and they touched all of us in ways you cannot begin to understand. I am beyond grateful! 

So, here we are, entering the 3rd year. It is surreal. It is still painful. It is also filled with peace and hope that I know surround us as we will continue to stumble sometimes...BUT, I know He's not going to let us fall!
Thank you for continuing to lift us in prayer as you remember. Thank you for those who continue to walk alongside us, helping to pick up the broken pieces along the way. Thank you for those who don't assume everything is okay now, but encourage us gently to move forward. Thank you for those who continue to reach out...God uses you mightily and shows Himself to me at desperate times through you. So, do not underestimate what a simple text or card on your part, does for me. Thank you for those who have tirelessly helped me with 3 energetic boys who are longing for their dad. Thank you for loving us and continuing to be the hands and feet of Jesus.

Monday, June 29, 2015

Peace at the Beach

Spending time at the beach with family this week. The first thing I thought of this morning was that on this date exactly 2 years ago, I went to sleep with my husband, after a long day of baseball tournament games. I never imagined that would be the last time I would say "goodnight." The last time I would lay next to him or hear the words "I love you, Missy" come out of his mouth. I still can't believe I am here at his favorite place almost 2 years after he left this earth... without him.

In just over 2 hours from right now, I would be frantically trying to save his life in those early morning hours of June 30, 2013, after he went into cardiac arrest. It still feels unbelievable and I still remember everything I did and what happened, almost as if I am floating above and watching it all take place. It takes my breath away and is almost too much to allow myself to sit in. PTSD is a funny thing. It creeps up and catches me off guard, even when I should expect or anticipate the arrival of it's symptoms. I always like to think I have "outgrown" that diagnosis with time. The triggers and symptoms that they bring, are inescapable though, during certain moments surrounding these dates.

I hate looking around and seeing so many of the things we used to do together when we came to the beach. Places we stayed. Restaurants we ate at. Things we did here. At the same time, those are the very things that feel comforting and make me smile. I can't help but feel closer to God and to Bunky when I am at the beach. It's just one of those special places for me. And I know he would want me to just enjoy our boys here, too!

This morning I read, John 14:27

"Peace I leave with you, My peace I give to you. I do not give as the world gives. Let not your heart be troubled and do not be afraid."

This is the verse that is on Bunky's marker at the cemetery. The verse that I opened up my Bible to on the first day we were at the hospital, before I knew that he would not survive this. I believe part of me knew when I read these words, that God's plan wasn't going to be what I wanted.

This morning the words "MY peace" really stuck out to me. I am realizing with each passing day, week, month, and truly is Christ's peace that causes my soul to rest in Him. By the world's standards, there should be no such thing as "peace" in this situation. So, tonight I am thankful that His promise to give peace, not as the world gives, but as HE gives so freely, has given my soul an unshakeable hold to the anchor,  even in the fiercest of storms. And, yes...I still feel like I can't breathe sometimes, but this peace quickly rushes in and reminds me that He has got this!

I will trust that. I must trust it!

Saturday, June 20, 2015

Father's we will be celebrating!

Honestly, I am not quite sure how to express in words what I feel about Father's Day this year. I have experienced such heaviness in my heart, as the day approaches. It has triggered my own childhood feelings of sadness experienced on Mother's Day, after losing my mom at a young age. It has caused me to feel bitter and angry that my own children, now face a holiday, much like I have for years...blemished by great loss. I have found myself wanting to shield and protect them from the sting this holiday will carry for them, most likely for the rest of their lives.
The last picture of the boys with their dad. This was taken about 2 hours before he went to bed that night and then suffered cardiac arrest in the early hours of that next morning.
I don't know if it's my heightened awareness, but the "marketing" of Father's Day is persistent. It's on TV, the radio, pop up ads on the computer...and it seems to be so constant. Everything dad. Everything about "remembering and doing something special for dad, who does so much for you". None of this is wrong, it just feels like wave after wave of it crashing our shore, with no end in sight. I know this will get easier to handle over the years. But, every time it's mentioned feels much like a dagger in my heart all over again, for my boys. I am thankful for my own father and for Bunky's dad, who are very much a part of our lives and we celebrate these men and love them dearly. I just wish my children's daddy were here too.
The boys and I with both of their "Papa's"
I find myself wanting to get to the other side of Father's Day, and wanting to do so quickly! It's almost like the long car trip, when every child asks "are we there yet?" a million times, and you know you still have hours to go. I feel like we will never get there. The anticipation of it this year, seems to be in slow motion.

However, this morning I found it interesting to read that Father's Day first began in July 1908. The day was founded by Grace Golden Clayton who lost her father in a town mining disaster. The disaster known as the Monongah Mining Disaster killed 250 fathers, leaving 1,000 children fatherless.

So, Father's Day began out of loss and remembrance of a father. I never knew!

Tomorrow will, no doubt, be difficult in a lot of ways. We will not go to church. I don't know what we will do, but that will not be on our agenda. I love to be in church, but Mother's Day or Father's Day, as a child who is without one, can be agonizing. Believe me, I know. We will do something to honor and celebrate and remember their dad and just try to have some fun together as a family.
The boys with their dad on his last Father's day with us.

I will remind my boys of the amazing father they had and the amazing Father that they still have in our God (Psalm 68:5), who promises to be a Father to the fatherless. I will remind them that because God has chosen special trials for them to endure, then they can be assured He has kept a very special place in His heart just for them. We will no doubt, tell some stories and watch some old videos of their dad who had an immeasurable impact on their 10, 7, and almost 5 years of life. A legacy, that I would guarantee had more impact than some father's have in a lifetime on their children.

I will remind them of (some of mine and their dad's favorite quotes)...

"A badly bruised soul is one who is chosen."

"Difficulties challenge our energy and our perseverance, but bring the strongest qualities of the soul to life."

"To burn brightly, our lives must first experience the flame."

"Many of the things that are most precious to us today, have come through tears and pain."

"God often chooses brokenness and difficulties as a catalyst to our faith and ability to bless others."

"Combat comes before victory."

"Fly the plane." (those who worked with Rod understand this quote and the story he used behind it)
Finally, not only am I thankful for the boys' father, for mine and Bunky's fathers, and my grandfather, but also a whole LOT of fathers and men (friends and family), who have generously given of their time and invested in my boys' lives for almost 2 years now. I know their dad must be humbled and honored to witness the amazing men who have never tried to step in, but who have lovingly walked alongside these boys. Men who have poured into their lives and have helped to put salve on a wound, in a way that only a man could for them. All without ever trying to step into their dad's shoes. There are no words to show my unimaginable appreciation for that blessing! 

Wednesday, June 3, 2015

1 month

1 month

In one month from today, it will be 2 years since Bunky died. To type that out just feels surreal. I have been thinking a lot about what was going on in our world 1 month before that day. It has caused me to stop and realize how many days just came and went before July 3, 2013. Days that held a seemingly insignificant value in the moment. There were too many of them. I wish that were different.

I say to myself,

"But if I had known then, what I know now."

"If only, I could have seen what was to come."

I couldn't have known. If I had, I WOULD NOT have cared so much about the stupid little garbage overflowing or dirty clothes in the floor.

I couldn't have seen what was coming. If I had, I WOULD have spent that last month with him treasuring EVERY. SINGLE. SECOND.

I would have encouraged him more and criticized less. I would have kissed him longer and spent less time nagging. I would have appreciated how hard he worked and the time he poured into others lives. I would have demanded less and forgiven more. I would have spent more time praying together. I would have been less resentful, less selfish, and less concerned about how he filled my needs and more concerned about how I could fill his. I would have been more kind, more understanding, and more loving. I would have overlooked the toothpaste on the sink or the "not so great" aim for the toilet. I would have picked up every last sock off the floor and been thankful for every damn one of them...because it meant that he was here to wear them. Oh, there is so much I would have done different in that one month...if I had known. I'm sure there were things he would have done different too.

I have no doubt that Bunky knew how much I loved him. I also never questioned his love or commitment for me. I do know that over time, I didn't go out of my way to show him that love as I should have on a consistent basis. I didn't always cherish and respect him the way that I should have. Usually it was out of my own frustration for something I felt I deserved and wasn't getting from him. My vision of all that was amazing about him was clouded by my own bitterness over completely stupid and selfish things at times. That was wrong and not what God calls us to in marriage. However, marriage is made up of two imperfect people. Two people who come together with their own sin. Their own bags packed full of everything from shame, hurts, habits, and insecurities. Open them up and throw those bags in a room together and you have a laundry disaster. Only by the grace of God, can two messed up suitcases join together to pack a perfectly seamless and simple carry-on. And even the carry on, may not always fit into the overhead compartment. It may sometimes have to be "checked," but it's better than traveling alone with one big, bulky, messed up suitcase.

I guess I say all of this because I want to challenge those who know me, or even those who don't,  to take a minute and ask yourself this question,

"If I knew that this was my last month on this earth with my spouse, what would I do differently?"

That's all. Just truly try to imagine that he or she would really be gone and your reality as you know it would no longer include that person. Then, LIVE IT. Live it like it was your last month to live. Love like it was your last month to love. Give like it was your last month to give. Don't waste another minute, because I assure you...those minutes are numbered.

Today I have had several people send me the link to the Sheryl Sandberg's Facebook post, regarding the loss of her husband. I love her ability to put her feelings after only 1 month, into words. You can read her post HERE. It is really beautiful and heartbreaking at the same time.

My favorite part of her post was this:

I was talking to one of these friends about a father-child activity that Dave is not here to do. We came up with a plan to fill in for Dave. I cried to him, “But I want Dave. I want option A.” He put his arm around me and said, “Option A is not available. So let’s just kick the shit out of option B.”

I am thankful for a whole lot of people who have helped me "kick the shit" out of Option B for almost 2 years now. 

If you are still living your "Option A," even if it's not always like you want it to be, please do not take one more single minute for granted. I assure you that I would give anything to have my imperfect "Option A" here again. 

Saturday, May 23, 2015

May Madness

April came crashing to a sudden end. I felt as though I hardly came up for air, as baseball was in FULL motion. The boys' grandma came to town and stayed a week with us. She got to go to lots of baseball, which was a treat for her to see them playing the sport their daddy (and her son) loved.

We then seemed to rush full force into the month of May. Baseball continued on a crazy schedule with literally 2 "nights off" during the season, due to weather or a rescheduled game. Those were welcome nights! 

Cooper got the game ball after playing his game on field 5...Carson was warming up on Field 6 , right next to it, so he took his "game ball picture" with Carson in the background, about to start his game!
There were also lots of school activities going on like Field Day, Kindergarten program, 5th grade program, parent/student kick-ball game plus lunch, Mother's Day, Carson's birthday, my parents and sister and nephew came to town, Cub Scouts awards, IEP meetings, Cooper Trooper event and taxes due, and end of the year room-mom responsibilities and teacher gifts. All of this while our back yard is being gutted to do a new outdoor patio area. I'm pretty sure I am leaving out other things. I did get to squeeze in one night with girlfriends to do a "favorite things" dinner. We each brought 10 of our favorite things to give out to each other. So much fun. These ladies keep me sane....really! May is truly madness!  

Carson with Aunt Lauren

The boys on Mother's Day. We ate lunch at one of our favorite places...Garcia's, after church. I should have asked someone to take my picture with the boys, since it was Mother's day. Oh well.  
Cooper was one of the 3 Musketeers in his school program. He did great! He is with his teacher, Mrs. Norris after the play. Lots of memories and emotions stirred up on this day, because Colby had the same part when he was in K and Mrs. Norris and I couldn't help but remember how Rod worked so hard with Colby on his part. 
And the project begins! We are doing the design that Rod had dreamed about and discussed with a contractor before he died. Thankful to see his vision come to life, but I sure wish he were here to enjoy it with me and the boys.

Field Day at Trinity

Nonny and Papa with the boys at Chuy's
Colby getting his cub scout award
Me with some of my girls exchanging our favorite things!
So proud of my soon-to-be middle schooler

I'm exhausted and emotionally drained. I'm grateful for a whole lot of people who have invested in my boys' lives. I haven't slowed down quite enough for many of my feelings to really sink in. If that even makes any sense. I know I hate doing all of this alone, but the pride that comes with being these boys' mom, helps balance the loneliness with joy. Looking forward to a little more laid back June!