Old and New

I was home alone with my son yesterday. We both were feeling under the weather so while my husband took the kids out with their grandparents, he and I rested at home. I was sitting in my sewing room starting another project as he knelt beside me. The door behind us was open, letting the Texas spring sweep into our home. I looked up to see him staring out the door.

“Mommy, one of the trees looks like summer is coming.”

And then he got up and disappeared outside. A few moments later, he came running back inside, his hands gently clasping something. He stood in front of me and opened his hands.

“See? Old and new. Brown and green.”

He placed them in my open palms.

Giving and receiving.

I gently laid the brown and green leaves on the white fabric spread in front of me and we stared in silence. It is true. Summer is coming. Winter is leaving.

I think children can teach us so much in these seemingly insignificant moments. And for a deep thinker like me, these moments are ripe with lessons. There is a constant dying away and new growth in life. There is a letting go and a taking in. An end and a beginning always happening.

But, as I sat staring at the leaves in front of me, I was simply grateful. Grateful for the reminder from my son that beginnings are never done, and ends aren’t always bad. I’m grateful for the sharing of this thoughts at any given moment in my busy day. They serve as a constant reminder to slow down and truly listen. I’m grateful for the leaves and flowers still being offered from small hands. The love that comes with the life extended towards me.

The leaves are still sitting in my sewing room, the door is still wide open. The breeze is still moving through the house, the green still visible from the front door. Between the beginnings and ends is constancy. And I really love that part too.

Words and Branches

Maybe it’s because I am a writer. Maybe it’s because my love language is words of affirmation. But words are powerful to me. I choose my words carefully when I speak and write, sometimes going back and changing out words that feel better, more accurate. I follow my occasionally clumsy or hurtful words with apologies and promises to do better.

Words hold great power.

Words are foundations, built piece by piece into a greater work. Words can be a salve, placed on a bleeding, pained heart to start or continue healing. Words can connect, building a bridge to a person who felt like an island–suddenly they are not alone. Words can plant hope, birth new life, redeem the lost, find the forsaken. Words can reach out. Words can love.

Words can also cut. They can destroy a foundation in a few short seconds, tearing things down that will take far longer to rebuild. Words can stab into a heart, edging their way into the tenderest and softest tissue. Words can destroy connection, collapse bridges. Words can breed isolation and shame. Words can shear and separate. Words can hurt. And words can kill.

Yesterday, I heard cruel words relayed to me that were said by someone who should have been one of the most unlikely people in my life to say them. I knew this was how the person felt. Yet, hearing those words tore into the deepest, most tender part of my heart. What little hope I had for healing was destroyed in a matter of seconds and I’ve been left with deep pain and confusion. I wept as my husband held me.

Tonight as I wept again, my children heard me crying. They came into my bedroom and smothered me in their hugs. They begged me to tell them what was wrong, asked why I was crying so hard. I did not tell them. But as I looked away from the part of the tree from which I fell and into the verdant, young limbs of my own tree that has since sprung root, I felt confusion and gratitude.

How people can so flippantly say such cruel things is something that will perplex me for the rest of my time on earth. I know I could never say such things about the people I love, no matter what they did. Tonight, I held my son as he lay in bed. I stared down into his little face.

“Do you know,” I said, “that there is nothing you could ever do to make me not love you. No matter what, I will always love you.”


Propagation. When a piece of a tree is cut from another, placed for a time in water to grow its own roots, then replanted as it’s own tree.

Free to start its own limbs and stretch its branches outwards towards the sun. Separate. Independent. A new beginning. Fresh, healthy limbs with new chance to grow upwards towards the warm sun, verdant and vibrant. Hope. Health. Promise.

The little limb leaves behind a great deal. The process of cutting, healing, and starting anew is terribly painful.

But there is hope and new growth.

I will choose my words so carefully, sweet children of mine, and apologize when I don’t get it right. I will never allow hurt to grow here. I will tend our limbs gently, carefully, with great reverence and care. I will pull out the weeds. I will fertilize with grace, forgiveness, and love. We will stretch our new growth upwards towards the Son, letting His warmth touch us and grow us. What I start growing here will continue through limbs and shoots and sprouts for generations to come.

Remember, my lovely children, to sow carefully, plant lovingly, speak very very carefully. Our words can cut away branches or be the seeds of our future.

After the Comma

It was always my dream to become a wife and mother. I felt so sure and so called to these vocations. My children are a privilege, one I often feel I don’t deserve. How God saw me fit to direct and form these four souls and create a family with my husband is beyond me. But He did. So I threw myself in hard and thoroughly. So thoroughly, actually, that I slowly lost myself along the way.

The last four and a half years have been transformational in my life. I made a decision to seek help for some trauma I had been carrying around for years. I had no idea it would be a such a marathon. I had no idea how utterly intense it would be, that it would involve a death of self in order to have resurrection. I had no idea how much I would change. Anyone who’s known me before, through, and after can probably attest to that.

Between these two aspects, I feel like I’ve really lost who I am outside of wife and mother and lots of pain. I have truly forgotten what I like and don’t like, what makes me excited and what makes me deflate, beyond the scope of motherhood and wifehood. Yes, I run. And I sew. Running saves my sanity and the sewing is mostly done for my children (though I have gotten better about occasionally sewing something for myself). Both fill me, stretch me, excite me. But what else does?

I don’t know.

Where do I like to go by myself? When I have a few hours to get out of the house alone (which I very rarely do), where do I like to go–without kids? What are my dreams? What goals do I have? What activities anchor me, calm me? What gives me peace? I don’t know. I have grown, changed from being a wife and mother. But, healing and trauma work have radically transformed me too. I paused so much of myself in family life and then paused still more through healing.

I was talking to my sister earlier and she put it so succinctly. Who am I as a writer, creator, woman after the pause? What happens after the comma? My story was threading itself, weaving itself into an odyssey. And then there was a comma. Commas occur in sentences as a cue to pause, to take a breath. It’s an invitation to rest, to recuperate momentarily before finishing the story. While taking my big breath during my own comma, there was a grand metanoia that occurred. Maybe rather than thinking I’m having a sort of identity crisis and feeling like my story is over, perhaps I’m arriving at the climax.

Maybe now things are really about to get interesting. Maybe after fighting off the demons and pouring myself out for others, the twist is that I let it consume me. Maybe after all that action for others, I’m steering my ship into my home harbor and about to come into myself.

That’s what 2023 will be for me. I have taken the pause, gathered the breath into my lungs. It’s time to continue the story. Time to explore myself. What do I like? Is it still what I liked before family life, before my transformation? What has motherhood, marriage, and a radical amount of healing changed about me? Who am I now? And what do I love? What do I want to do? It’s scary, to be honest, to start answering these questions, to start dipping my toe into the waters. But I plan on jumping in, falling beneath the water, letting it christen this new self.

I have decided to try at least one new thing each month. That might look like water colors, or might be more dramatic. I don’t know. But I’m excited. I know my family well. It’s time to get to know me.

Summer Lament

Summer is my favorite season. I love the freedom, I love the long, light-filled days. The sun is shining before I wake and continues to spread light long after the children are in bed. I love how the heat prickles my skin when I’m outside. I treasure digging my hands into fresh dirt, cultivating our garden, pulling fruits and herbs off of ripe green plants. I love the water play and barbecues that come with the season. School is out, I’m not teaching my children. There’s no morning rush to the school table. Mornings are filled with snuggles and conversations in my bed and evenings with occasional ice cream or snow cone runs. It’s slow, free, and easy.

Last summer, when we were forced from our home, I grieved our summer. Instead of spending the days watching my children run across our Narnian backyard, we were saddened at the loss of fundamental stability from a home. At the time, I comforted myself with how this summer would look, in our new home. I truly thought we’d be in our new home, new town. I pictured us putting down roots, tilling a garden in the ground. But that was not to be.

We still haven’t found home. We still have no idea where we will plant our roots. We wait, listening for Him who guides in His own timing. Instead of planting new roots in our home and a freshly tilled garden, we are still living temporarily and planting roots in window boxes. We are tired. The last year has been incredibly difficult, and are are finally giving ourselves permission to process all of it. It’s been over a year since we’ve been settled in a home and had a community of close friends. Most have moved away, many are busy with life. So this year, we are spending our summer lamenting.

Lament is a beautiful if painful thing. Lament is scary and vulnerable. But, in our family, we have learned that as we give space to joy, so too must we give space for lament. Instead of running and shying from our pain, we sit. We hold sacred space for it, and we find the holy wrapped in the sadness. Last night, I held my children and we wept together. We cried for lack of friends. We grieved the absence of family. We wept over the death of loved ones. We named our feelings and pain. We held each other and held space for every emotion. And we grew closer.

There may not be growth in fresh dirt in our own backyard. There isn’t our own backyard yet where we can permanently plant our hearts and gardens. But I’m still growing this beautiful community of people in my home. Life has been a bit brutal for us the last few years. So much change, loss, and struggle. But inside this family, there has been growth and connection.

As we lament, I see pockets of peace throughout the day. Despite days of tough feelings and deep sadness, there are moments that I am intentionally rooting in my heart. Moments for which I dig up the dirt in my heart and sow, knowing they will take fruit later. I take notice of those moments, relish the joy and peace I feel. I let those feelings flower and fill my soul with the aromas of tenderness, peace, and connection.

This morning, we sat around the table and the kids tried grapefruit for the first time in their memory. Before that, we sat in my bed for an hour…just talking. Yesterday, I held my oldest as she wept out of loneliness and grief. I let her weep and name for as long as she needed. The quiet moments of joy, comfort, and connection–those are my garden for now. I am planting for my children and their children. I am planting seeds that will hopefully fruit for generations.

Lament, plant, fruit, connect.

Listen, gather, digest, relish.

Sometimes I find myself assailed with waves of grief that I am unable to have more children. The premature absence of babies in my home is a cross I will bear until the good Lord calls me home. Sometimes, it’s a whisper of a grief that I can ignore and smile through. Other times, like earlier this week, it feels like being caught in a rip tide and that I will surely drown before it lets me go.

I remember when my children, spaced pretty close together, were much smaller. When my husband was deployed during that time, I yearned for conversation and wondered if it would be easier to navigate the isolation if I had older children to talk to. It wasn’t that I lamented having babies in the house. I adored it. But those years can be very isolating.

And now. My children are older. The fear of their inevitable flight from my home sometimes weighs heavily on my heart. More so this time of year when I see the graduation pictures and friends’ children flying their proverbial nest. They tell me it’s a both/and. Bitter and sweet. Grief and joy. From where I stand, I fail to see the sweet and joy. Maybe as I get closer it’ll come into focus.

This weekend, I have my two oldest home with me while my husband packs out his mom’s home and locks the door one last time. The younger (crazier) two are with him in Houston (I assure you he’s probably attaining eternal life sooner than me). It’s been quiet, intentional time with them. These two precious girls who are teetering on the edge between so much. The time has been so precious.

This morning, we made a breakfast spread fit for queens. Coffee, foamy milk, bacon, eggs, homemade hashbrowns. We pulled out the china and we sat at the table for an hour and just talked. It was so good. It was sweet, and deep, and beautiful. The conversation twisted and turned, detoured and jumped. I loved every second of it.

And I thought to myself, it’s a both/and. I desperately miss their chubby cheeks and tiny curls. I miss their baby voices and tiny cuddles. But wow, getting to this phase where I have the privilege of getting to know them on this level is incredible. Hearing their differences in personality, their fears and joys, heartaches, worries, and dreams fills me with joy. I feel deeply honored and undeserving of this.

So maybe it’s starting to come into focus. Maybe, on a really basic level, I get it. It’s hard as they grow and start to spread their wings. But I get to have these incredibly deep relationships with some amazing people that are mine. And I get to watch them live their dreams and fly.

One day. They can fly one day. Today, we sit in the nest and peer out cautiously. And then turn back to each other and talk about the beautiful things we glimpsed. And we nestle in to one another.


For the last year, life has felt like a constant trial by fire.

A year ago today, we were packing out of our home after it was sold unexpectedly out from under us. As a military family, there are few houses that had the time and magic to feel truly like home. But that house was one of them. It felt stable and settled, rooted and comfortable. And then we were forced out.

We lived in seven homes between June and December of last year. We packed out of one home in the dark with no power. We quite literally ran out of another home that was infested with bed bugs and then were not allowed back in; we had no place to go. We spent two weeks in another place and packed out in the pouring rain. We spent a month in the country over half an hour from necessary appointments. We grew weary and finally signed a lease until we could catch our breath.

Just as we were catching our breath, my husband and son came down with Covid. While my son was hardly sick, it knocked my husband flat for days. The timing forced us to cancel a much anticipated visit from my husband’s family, including his mother. Food, drink, and games had been bought and then were shelved in hopes of hosting after my surgery.

At the end of January, I had surgeries on both my arms. The recovery was hard physically, but also emotionally. I had not been expecting the emotional toll to be quite that intense. As the pain woke me from sleep and ratcheted quickly, my mental health took quite the toll. It was weeks of really tough recovery.

Just as I was coming out of that, my mother-in-law passed away unexpectedly. She was not ill. We have all said to others, “It was simply her time to go.” But it was not my time to be ready to let her go. She loved her grandchildren immensely. And, after losing my father who similarly loved his grandchildren a couple years ago, this loss struck a deep nerve. I am still clinging to memories, old texts and voicemails, and little notes from her I keep finding around my house from the fifteen years I knew her. I feel anger that last year sucked time away from being with her and that Covid robbed what would have been our last visit with her.

I wish I could say we were free to grieve her and take the time to honor her memory, but other sources of deep suffering surfaced during that time that sucked the peace out of my home. Between that and the grief, we are still firmly entrenched in survival mode.

I know this is a depressing post, after such a long hiatus. I think, sometimes, when life is gutting us, we lack the words to speak. The pain is too sacred, the grief too profound to be constrained by earthly words. Instead, we go silent, letting our hearts and souls wrap themselves in the loss and suffering. The groanings of our spirit are more of an honor to the loss than mere words ever could be.

I don’t believe, anymore, in tying up the dark or painful side of life in a pretty bow or with a trite moral lesson. I think grief is sacred and there is honor in acknowledging our pain and giving it a place at the proverbial table. I know the pain of death, severed relationships, lost homes, and constant survival mode. No group of words strung together will ease the pain.

But prayer and friendship can sustain us.

In this time of complex loss and suffering, I have seen some deeply loving people step up and simply listen. Listening has such power. As I reached out vulnerably for a hand to hold, I was given so much more. I’m grateful for the friends that have held space for me the last year as I grieved, processed (sometimes without much grace but always with honesty), and attempted to make sense of the pain.

And prayer. Back when my father was terminally ill and died from septic shock, I truly learned what prayer is. It is not begging God to change His mind and grant your requests. It is not God listening to your well-articulated argument on why He should do what you want. Believe me, I’ve tried that. Prayer is conversation. Simply that. Telling Him what you want without the expectation to change His holy and irrefutable mind. Prayer is telling him how you feel, the good and the bad, and knowing that in all His merciful love, He is holding space right there with you. It is simply that. And that can be profoundly beautiful and incredibly frustrating. Last year taught me that.

I have a dear friend who recently said something deeply profound to me. Life is very rarely (if ever) an Either/Or; it is always a Both/And. You can be grateful and grieving. You can be thankful and frustrated. You can be joyful and angry. With one blessing in this imperfect and broken world, there is always a loss or change. It is good, holy, beautiful, and necessary to acknowledge both.

So, dear reader, if you are still here, still checking on this corner of my world–thank you. And if you are still reading this manifesto of learned deep thoughts from the last year of pain, loss, and hurt, thank you. I am grateful you are still here and saddened I did not write here for so long. I am joyful to be back, and frustrated to have had to be gone so long.


Welcome and Welcome back.

I’ll never forget that conversation. We were sitting in my living room that abnormally cold January night. The fire was blazing and the four of us were enjoying coffee on the couches. The warmth of the fire and the joy of being with my parents radiated through the room.

“Well, we are planning on retiring to Dallas. This time next year, we hope to be settling back into Texas. I’m retiring!”

The joy I felt at finally having my parents so close by again swept through me. I was so happy. None of us could have known he’d be gone that time next year instead. That conversation has played through my head repeatedly since his awful, unexpected death.

In October, when I got the call, I was alone. My husband was gone with Army. I packed my suitcase and flew home in the middle of the night.

The woman that morning who suppressed unsuccessfully running through University of Alabama Birmingham Medical Center’s Cardiac ICU to her daddy was so sheltered. I’d never truly experienced physical human suffering. I had never seen someone struggle through something worse than the flu.

Through seven weeks, I’d see the worst sort of human suffering. I saw the sepsis wrack his body those first few days. I saw it cause devastating complications throughout his body. My tall, stalwart father wasted away physically and mentally. There was not a place in his sweet, precious body that was spared.

At Thanksgiving, after he suffered and survived a brain bleed and a ten minute coding, the father I knew was forever changed. It was the first time I was able to speak with him since he fell and it was devastating and yet conversations I’ll treasure forever.

During that time, Richard and I had many frank, raw conversations about the future. At that point, for once during the entire hellish two months, I got my hopes up. I thought he just might make it. We talked about helping Mom, asking for a compassionate reassignment from the Army to Huntsville. About weekends and weeks spent down in Birmingham to helping him adjust to a different life at home.

Because that’s pro-life. Early on, doctors were saying terrible things about shutting his life down to donate his organs, long before it was time. No. Not yet. Because my father was still living out redemptive suffering. Because he was still moving souls closer to Him. He was still sowing good in His holy name. He was mouthing rosaries in comas, praying through panic attacks because of the hell he was suffering.

“Keep fighting. Keep up the strength.”

His sweet good-bye. He knew. I wanted to scream for him to stop. He cried. I cried. Mom slept sweet needed sleep behind me as I understood what he meant. He looked in my eyes.

“I love you, Sprite.”

We stood with him as his body suffered through complication after complication. He defied every odd. Because it wasn’t time yet. He still had good to spread.

We cleaned her house between hospital shifts, held her as she wept, and told Dad we were taking care of her. To focus on healing. He squeezed our hands in response. Winked at us over that dumb breathing tube. Because that’s pro-life.

Then it came. That call.

Organ failure. It’s time.

I flew home again. We all gathered. His beautiful bride. His six children that his openness to life bore. We stood at his bed as they pulled the tube that last time. Nothing else was stopped. He was fed, given fluids. We stood and prayed. Thanked him. And stood in awe of our mother who made the bravest, most selfless, most awful decision of her life. We held hands. Relived memories. And we watched in utter terror as he bravely breathed his last breath.

Because that’s pro life.

Respect for life from conception to natural death.

It’s fighting against abortion, yes. But it’s also helping the needy, the woman who’s husband is slowly dying in the hospital, the woman who just gave birth, visiting the home bound. It’s helping the homeless, loving the orphans. It’s saying no when his life isn’t over yet, knowing you’re saying yes to incredibly painful but beautiful redemptive suffering. It’s hearing his good-bye, knowing your first love, that pillar of faith is preparing for his Great Departure. It’s pulling that breathing tube one last time so he can surrender to the arms of Christ in the silent sweep of death.

It’s burying the dead, hearing your children’s wails as their Grampy is gently laid to rest. It’s hours of organizing the funeral Mass, hoping you make your dad proud one last time. It’s weeping and acknowledging how terribly you miss him, letting the tears fall and sobs come even when it’s been over a year.

Being pro-life is painful and complicated. It’s hard and awkward. It’s messy and terrifying. It makes you uncomfortable because the physical and mental suffering that accompanies it causes you to be unsure of what to say, what to do. But it’s redemptive and beautiful.

Even amidst the pain and swelling, the screaming and tears, despite the darkness and pain, the broken hope, it’s beautiful. Even with his awful suffering, his grossly life-altering illness, the gaping loss, it was an honor. It was an honor standing by him, praying over him, performing what most would consider humiliating tasks for him. It was an honor to watch him pray through his comas, fight the great fight. But more than that, it was an honor I don’t deserve to have stood by him as he died. He glued his eyes Heavenward and surrendered. My father has never looked more Christ-like.

Being pro-life is not easy. But it’s redemptive. And it’s so beautiful.

Thank you, Dad, for teaching me that.

Sweet girl, Broken woman:

A year ago, you were running down a hallway to see your daddy who was fighting for his life in a hospital bed.  Today, those visceral memories of those seven weeks and the hell that followed are playing back in your head.  Today you see the last year and how it has nearly destroyed you.  You see the grief you were mired in and the terrible battles that you’ve fought when almost no one was looking.  You see the tears, the desperate prayers, the less than graceful moments.  Today, you are seeing just how badly and terribly the last year has broken and weakened you.

But you don’t see how far you’ve come.

You forget that before the worst started, you saw wounds and you reached out for help.  You made the call and scheduled the appointment.  You crawled into his office.  And you kept going.  Even as your dad got sick and your world spiraled further out of your control.  Even as you watched him suffer and slip off to heaven–you still sought the help.  Even through the darkest and deepest grief, though the private struggles and battles, you kept going back.  You kept seeking healing.

How far you’ve come!

You kept going to church, even when the thought of sitting through Mass made you want to run away.  When the priest would get to the parts where they prayed for those who had died…and you would fall apart.  You kept approaching Him, even though He said no to your most desperate prayers on those dark days in the hospital.  You continued to pray; though the words were clumsy and the prayers short and numb.  You pleaded with him to raise you up, sustain you.  You asked for healing, for redemption.  Even in the fear of another no, you kept asking.  You rooted out your weeds, separated the wheat from the chaff.  You kept fighting.  Just like he told you to.

Oh, how far you’ve come!

You hit bottom, and you stood back up.  You retreated and leaned into the darkness.  You learned who your friends were.  Those who stood with you in the gap, those who prayed for you and with you even in the darkest hours of night.  Those who comforted you, but also challenged you keep growing.  They let you weep into the phone, crumble onto their couches.  They helped you try to laugh and find the broken joy again.  Even if felt wrong.  They watched your children so you could go into the other room and give way to the broken sobs when you realized that tower of a man was not going to make it.  They showed up to the funeral and held you up, held your children.  When you felt like you lost everything, they showed up and showed you how wrong you were.

Indeed!  How far you’ve come!

Last year, you stood next to his bed fearing the death that would eventually come.  Last year, you felt like you were going to crumble in the face of deep and horrific suffering.  In the last year, you thought surely that life was going to break you.  But the last year didn’t break you.  It broke you open.  Today, you got up.  You laced up your shoes.  You went for a run.  Today, you acted on the growth you have cultivated in your family, in your marriage, in your soul.  Today, you feel so much less anxious.  Today you weep tears of joy at the wounds that have healed–because you reached out for help.  Today, even though you lost the man who was the anchor of your first family, you have greater faith in the true Anchor of your soul.  Today, your soul is purer, your heart still grieving but hopeful, and your whole self just a little stronger than yesterday.  So much stronger than a year ago.

Oh, sweet woman.  Oh sweet soul, broken open.

Yes, your heart still aches.  Yes, the tears still fall so easily.  Yes, the gaping hole he left still throbs so profoundly.  Yes, you feel the pain from the battle wounds of the last year. But you kept fighting and keep fighting.  You kept praying and keep praying.  You kept healing and keep healing.  You kept weeding out and you keep weeding out.  Today, you still have growing and healing to do.  Today, you still have grief to endure and dark moments to survive.  You still have much to endure.  You still have wheat to pull from the chaff.

But, sweet soul, don’t get mired down in what you’ve lost and the darkness that has covered the last year.  Remember, too, how far He has brought you.  See, too, the redemption He has wrought.  Don’t forget the resurrection and the healing and the victories.  What glory!  What blessings!  You still have to walk this road of grief and healing.  But, oh sweet daughter of God, look how far you’ve come.

Sweet woman of Christ, see how far you’ve come!

It’s been a little over six months since the unthinkable happened to you.  I had no idea when you were here last January sitting on my couch, praying on the guest bed, that that would be the year I would lose you.  I had no idea that, when we made grand plans to come see you in October, we’d be there anyway praying around your hospital bed.  I had no idea death would come and take you.  And so slowly yet unexpectedly too.  This weekend is your birthday and I’m dreading it more than Father’s Day.  I miss buying you a gift, waiting for the call to hear you open it.  I miss you.  But, in your classic Dad way, you’re still teaching me lessons even through your absence here.

Here’s some things I’ve learned since my dad left us for Paradise.

One.  I have always deeply feared my parents’ death.  I always dreaded it–that phone call.  Fear of that moment has haunted me my entire adult life.  I have played it in my head occasionally, attempting some semblance of control over it.  It didn’t matter.  I wasn’t prepared for it.  Even more, I wasn’t prepared for the grief that would follow their deaths.  Nearly seven months later, and I still feel like I’m trying to walk through water.  Moving through each day is slow and hard.  Going from talking about him in present tense to past tense has thrown me into hard sobbing many times.  I struggle to stay focused.  Reading, writing, crafting have all been hard to start.  And finish.  I’m surviving.  Grief comes on suddenly and in the guise of anxiety.  Or anger.  Grief destroys your immune system for a long time and toys with your mental health.   The grief feels like nausea, coming on suddenly, growing unstoppably.  You know you’re going to lose it.  You think you can deep breathe or distract yourself and it will subside.  But it doesn’t.  And then it smothers you–like huge waves crashing over you.  You’re drowning.  You can’t catch your breath for the pain washing over you.  And then, slowly, it subsides.  And you’re left exhausted.  Empty.  It feels pointless. You will be tired and overwhelmed at the simplest things.

Two. People will leave you.  They will.  Life moves on; time keeps trekking.  And people forget.  They forget to ask about him, about you, about your mom.  They forget to check in.  Because it’s been awhile.  Because he wasn’t their dad.  But, for you, it still feels like it was yesterday afternoon.  The time that has passed will surprise you–how can it have been so many months?  But it has.  One or two or more of those you considered your dearest friends will walk away.  They won’t call, they won’t check in.  They will fall away…or choose to walk away.  And you will feel so betrayed and abandoned.  But, then there will be people who surprise you.  You grow closer to them because they haven’t left you alone.  They haven’t forgotten; they know what it is to walk in the valley of the shadow.  And they keep calling.  They keep praying.  They keep keeping. And it feels good to be cared for.  People you hardly know will reach out, asking how you are and how your family is coping.  And it’s so comforting that someone finally remembers how badly you still hurt.

Three. Your faith will be challenged.  Sorely and intensely challenged.  Even if you have a deep, well-rooted faith; even if you’ve walked through great suffering before, even if God has always been your rock, you will question.  You will wonder how such a man of faith could be allowed to suffer so horribly and for so long.  You will wonder, even for a moment, what kind of a loving God could allow such a prolonged death.  You will feel empty of words to pray, and barely be able to sustain a rosary or rote prayer.  Scripture will feel arid and empty.  Church will feel hours long, instead of an hour, and will break you every week.  Your previous go-to faith quotes will all feel like a bad joke.  You will call out for His comfort, His presence…and will be met with silence.  You will feel like you are spiritually crawling through a desert, searching desperately for a few drops of water.  But there will be moments where small miracles happen.  You will be standing next to a picture of you two and a miracle two years’ waiting will occur…and you’ll feel a great wind move through you and will feel his presence.  And you will know, for certain finally, that he is with Jesus interceding for you.  You will have dreams of him peeking at you, standing by you, smiling at you, and he will disappear just as you reach to touch him; you will wake up and know he was checking on you, but your heart will hurt for how close you came to feeling his face again.

Four. It won’t get better.  People will tell you it gets better.  But I don’t think it does.  I have lost three babies, two later in pregnancy.  I have lost grandparents.  I have lost time and milestones with my husband because of repeated deployments and innumerable Army trips.  I have lost the ability to ever have children again.  And in my experience of death of babies and people and seasons, it doesn’t get better.  Having lost him so soon and after weeks of traumatic suffering will never get easier.  The abstract urges to call him will not get easier.  The urgent need for his always spot-on advice that will go unfilled will not get easier.  Living without a dad and watching others take their father for granted will never get easier.  Having just the stuff he left behind–crossword puzzle books, empty and partially filled notebooks, a red 2012 Ford F-150, voice recorders, dreams, goals…and a slab of marble but not having him?  No.  That will never get easier.  I hope breathing gets easier.  I hope the ability to pray gets easier.  I hope sleeping and staying healthy and each day get easier. But his sudden departure?  His holy but hard death?  His void?  No.  That will never get easier.

Death is messy.  Death is awkward and hideous.  Death separates and ends.  There is nothing beautiful about death.  There was nothing beautiful or comforting when our Lord suffered through His passion and spent three hours hanging from the cross.  But, because of His holy death, greater good comes out of all suffering.  Even from death.  Death, perhaps, is the greatest teacher.  Because the greatest Teacher was not exempt from death.

I never accounted for how painful, how suffocating, and how unending the grief would be.  I have no neat words, no beautiful lesson to tie this up.  Because I am still learning.  Still journeying through the hardest part of this.  Each day lived is a victory, each milestone survived a win.  Oh, he left behind a void.  Oh, he left behind great pain.  But my faith is such a comfort.  Because even despite all of this, he has reached his eternal reward, he has made it to the place where he belongs. And someday, Lord willing, I will get there too. And, oh the reunion…


Scout: Our New Adventure

I’m not really sure what I was thinking.  The past year, I’ve been stressing we slow down and leave extra time for rest in our lives for awhile.  That we needed more family time, less travel.  Less stress.

I was lying in bed last week, resting.  We were on week two of a nasty, take-no-prisoners upper respiratory virus that had knocked several of the children and me out.  The children had also fallen with a stomach virus, resulting in comical races to various bathrooms in the house.  To say I was (and am) exhausted was huge understatement.  As I lay in bed my phone pealed through the blessed silence, shattering through the obscene sinus headache I’d been enduring for several hours.  I picked up the phone and gingerly put it to my ear.  Pain shot through my cheekbone.

“Do you want a camper?”

“Huh?” I asked.

My husband: “Do you want a camper? Someone at work told me about this website where you can bid on stuff the government is trying to get rid of.  There’s a bunch of campers on there!”

We had a good laugh.  But I know you see where this is going.

I would like to caveat this.  I am not a gambler.  I’ve never been to Vegas–and have no desire to go.  I hate taking risks unless it costs me nothing and is guaranteed to come out in my favor.  Which means no risk-taking.  Prior to meeting my husband, I was the proverbial little old lady who hid her money under a mattress; I did not invest my money, instead I safely invested it in a savings account which hardly made me anything.  But, it wasn’t going anywhere.  I have never gambled, except when we were on a cruise a few months after getting married when my husband handed me $20 dollars and sat me in front of a slot machine.  In a matter of seconds, I lost $20 and also lost several nights’ sleep over that money.  I don’t bid, I don’t gamble, and I don’t take risks.  I play it safe, very safe.

That night, once the kids were in bed, we sat in front of the computer, perusing the campers.  They had been purchased by the government for Hurricane Harvey victims and were now being auctioned off.  Most were bottom of the line with lots of damage.  Many had large holes in the walls, walls shredded, blinds torn to pieces.  Some had cabinet doors missing.

Then there was one that sounded in pretty decent shape.  It had two pictures, both very dark and grainy.  But the description didn’t mention anything beyond a missing mattress and a hole in the screen.  At the bottom of the paragraph it stipulated that there could be more extensive damage than what was listed above.  I barely noticed.  I did notice that the bids were low and the brand was nice.  I felt gutsy.

“Make a bid.”

We were very quickly squashed.  Fair.  It was low.  Forty-five minutes later, we logged back on.  There was three minutes left to bid.

“Bid again.” I said.

Again, not really sure what I was thinking.

My husband entered the bid and, to my utter shock, the minutes counted down to seconds and still no one had outbid us.


I was screaming.

“Oh my gosh!  Richard!  We are going to have a camper!  Shoot!  Shoot!  What did we just do?!




The screen refreshed and added ten minutes onto the bid.  The same guy had outbid us.  We were in a bidding war.  My pride hurt, my feathers ruffled but adrenaline running high,  I urged my husband again.  (This was fun!)

“Bid one more time.”

“What?!”  I’m pretty sure he thought I was crazy.  Which is fair.

“This is the highest we will go.  One more bid.  For fun.  He’s going to outbid us anyway.”

Yes, I said that.  And, yes, you still know where this is going.

He punched it in.  I hit submit. Cue the countdown.  Cue the thrilled screaming.






The screen refreshed.  Only, this time it said that bidding was closed and the camper was no longer available.  We stared at the screen in utter terror.  On the bottom of the screen, a notification popped up that we had gotten an email.  A confirmation of purchase.

We started laughing maniacally.

“What have we done?!”  My poor husband asked.

“We are grieving.” I responded. “We just bought ourselves a large tattoo.”

We swapped nights that we were up stressing about this camper we bought sight unseen.  This camper that meant we were going to have to replace a vehicle so that we could actually tow it (I very quickly squashed the idea of buying the tank of a conversion van for which my husband was ready to trade in our Kia minivan.)  This camper that was going to be ours, even though we had both acknowledged we needed desperately to slow down.  Nightmarish thoughts grew in our heads.

“What if it smells like a urine bomb?”  (That was my husband.)

“What if it smells like cigarettes?”  (I hate that smell!)

“What if it’s torn to pieces but they forgot to say so?”

Here’s the thing, though.  I stopped caring.  We can live our lives penned in by What If’s.  My husband and I kept saying we would do things, like buy a camper, once the kids were older, once he retired, once this happens, once things slowed down, once we are more stable, once he retires.  Because what if he deployed?  What if we had to move again.  What if, what if, what if.  We kept putting off buying one, putting off other stuff.  And, not long ago, I saw a great man put off his dreams and goals…and the once this happens never came.  The What Ifs got him.  And I won’t live like that anymore.  God gave me today, and darn it, I’m going to live it for all it’s worth. 

So, Richard made the long trek south yesterday to pick up Scout.  With many prayers, huge faith, and a borrowed tow vehicle, he went to obtain our camper.  Once he was on the lot, I gave him about twenty minutes and called.  He had just walked inside.

“It’s gorgeous.”  I exhaled.

Today, I finally got to see it.  We pulled up to our new adventure and I walked inside.  All will be well.  It’s pretty dirty and the last people jacked the mattresses, but it’s in such good condition.  Praise God.  Our new little adventures await…once we deep clean.

Because little getaways can be restful.  Sneaking away for a night or two can be calming.  We don’t have to go every weekend.  But this camper, this Scout, is memories waiting to be made.  Memories with my children who seem to wake up taller every morning.  Memories with my husband, who has been wanting a camper since before we married.  Memories for me, since I no longer have to sleep on a sleeping bag on the ground.  Pulling back and calming down doesn’t mean no travel, no trips.  It means being intentional about the times we choose to go.

So, for once, I think my crazy risk-taking paid off.  No, it wasn’t safe.  Yes, we risked a lot.  Yes, we lost sleep (precious sleep).  But, God is good.  We got a camper in really good shape for well below what that model is going for right now.  And we can stop saying once life slows down.  Because it won’t.  I’ve given up hope on that (but, you’re free to surprise me, God).  And I don’t want the What If’s to get us before I have a chance to make good on the dreams and goals.

So, if you need me, I’ll be deep cleaning our new ship of dreams.  And I’ll keep you posted on our latest adventures.  Because our once this happens has turned into once upon a time by taking a little (big?) risk.