Happy Birthday

Tonight I asked Daddy what his plans were for tomorrow. He said “Nothing. For the first time in my life I don’t have any plans for tomorrow.”

Tomorrow, March 23, is Momma’s birthday. If you know us then you know that birthdays are big deals. They come with 6 a.m. phone calls complete with a tone-deaf, off-key rendition of “Happy Birthday” being sung. Some voices are louder than others, and some are more chipper. But it’s all done with a half-awake, full of love heart and joy! Of course no birthday is complete without the favorite dinner followed by Daddy’s homemade strawberry shortcake and ice cream. And because no one can agree on one single flavor of ice cream in our house there’s always a smorgasbord to choose from, kinda like stepping into Baskin Robbins.

Hales and I loved the shopping for her cards. It was a challenge to find a good, spunky, sassy card that will top the belly laughs from years past. But let me tell you, Hales is a GOOD finder of cards that are “spoken like a true smart-ass!” (Claree Blecher, Steel Magnolia’s) Honestly, it’s a trait in our family. Or a squishy one that’ll make her cry more than the year before. I miss that and hadn’t realized till now how much I do. Or watching the kids help her blow out her candles. Oy vey. There should be a guide-book for all of this – at least one with suggestions!

I hope you enjoy your first birthday in heaven, Momma. And I hope you like the flowers we’ve placed at the cemetery. Daddy takes such great pride in having everything look nice for you. He’s itching to get out there and check on them for you, but the rain. It. Just. Keeps. Coming. Please tell God we’ve had enough. And while you’ve got his ear, please tell him that this family is full of soooo much character, it’s oozing out of our eyeballs. He can relax on us for a little bit. I think the lottery would be a nice compromise.

I love you Momma, we all love you…bunches and bunches and more than this world!

And Happy Birthday!

xoxoxo

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“Blessed is the man who remains steadfast under trial, for when he has stood the test he will receive the crown of life, which God has promised to those who love him.” ~James 1:12

….and she did.

I got nuthin’, not even a title

Monday morning, standing at the open car door, Jackson stares at me across the seat and says “I haven’t been in this car in a long time.”

I know baby, but it’s okay. Come on. We’re gonna be late for school.

He gets in slowly and as he sinks into the front seat I can see his entire face shift as if another face has taken over. One that I don’t like because it makes my heart hurt and I want to fix it but I know that I can’t. And he says in the smallest voice “It smells just like Nina.”

Hales on the other hand, jumped in and then you could see her catch her breath and breathe it all in deeply –  the familiarity of it all, the feel and smells, like a huge tight hug.

How easy I forget that my kids still have moments like Daddy and I do. I’m driving Mommy’s car while mine is in the hospital and the thought never crossed my mind how it would affect my kids. And so differently. How is it that a smell can take you back in time to memory? Or a sight – a sound can turn on the movie reel in your mind and everything comes flooding back.

I walk by our dinning room window and see the Jeep in the driveway and expect to see Mommy coming up the walk, but she doesn’t walk through the door. I get in the car and see her lipstick tubes and  can vividly see her applying it. On Sunday mornings while sitting on the front pew I watch people walking up to the doors and I wait to see her too, but she doesn’t come. And sometimes at communion, I look over to tell her to get up that it’s our turn to go, yet she’s not there. When I need advice or just an ear to listen to me, my first instinct is to call her but I can’t. The other day I was talking to Daddy and he said “I wish your Momma was here ’cause she would know exactly what to tell you. She always knew what to do.” Me too Daddy. Me too.

I was going through my texts cleaning them up when I came across this one from Mommy…

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She sent this to me after she had walked into church on morning in July and looked very confused. She sat for a few minutes and caught her breath and then decided to go home. We thought the confusion and unsteadiness was because of her blood sugar levels. Little did we know that it was so much more. As you see in the text she made it home then and I know that she’s home now too.

Tuesday marked the fourth month since Mommy went home with God. It feels like forever ago and yesterday all at the same time. There is so much changing in our lives right now, so much that I want to talk to her about and this has just been one of those hard, hard weeks when you feel like you’re scraping to get by emotionally. My tank is empty. I have nothing left to give today. God, I think I’m gonna need a piggy back ride….

Greater is He who is in me, than he who is in the world

This is what we’ve become. Day counters. When I walked into the kitchen this morning and glanced at the calendar, this is what was staring back at me. A reminder of time lost. Three long months.

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Subconsciously I was keeping score of what has been ripped from me but I had know idea that the kids were too. Funny how I thought on some level that it was just me in my crazy thinking. Not so at all. And if it is crazy, then my whole family is in the boat with me. And that’s comforting….in a weird way? They’ll jump ship on me.

It’s horrific that we all know someone whose life has been affected by cancer, if not our own. An online GBM support group that I’m apart of has over 3,000 members with new members being added daily. Think of all the time that’s been robbed from them. GBM is classified as an “orphan” disease meaning that it affects fewer than 200,000 people in the US. It has a median survival rate of 14 months. It doesn’t get all of the attention that breast cancer, colon cancer, skin cancer or any other cancer does. Wanna know why? Because there’s no cure for it. And there’s no federal money being put into research for it. Just within the last month I know of three people diagnosed with GBM and another two families who have battled GBM to the end. I think the numbers need to be re-looked at.

Considering the trauma we’ve experienced, I’d say we’ve all done ok. Some days are better or easier than others. They all hurt. But in those moments when it’s the darkest, it’s easy to let the enemy get a foot hold. To allow him to plant those seeds of doubt in my mind. To relive the not so nice moments over and over like a projector has been installed inside my brain, running continuously. And I go back to the many Bible studies that I’ve done – that Momma and I did together, and I remember to capture those thoughts and images. Taking every thought and making it obedient to Christ is sometimes not easy – but it’s the only way. “We demolish arguments and every pretension that sets itself up against the knowledge of God, and we take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ.” ~ 2 Corinthians 10:5

I remember when I was little and would have a bad dream and call out to Momma in the middle of the night. She would come sit beside me and rub my back and in the softest, sweetest voice she’d redirect my thoughts to a happy place – my favorite place to be….on the beach. And I could imagine us building sand castles, playing in the crashing waves, listening to the ocean and birds above squawking at us for a just a drop of boiled peanut, a chip or a crumb of fried chicken, walking our dog. And those bad thoughts would be captured and good ones would replace them and calmness would return.

Over the last few weeks in Kids Church we’ve walked through Jesus’ baptism, his temptation in the desert and his healing of Peter’s mother-in-law. I don’t believe for an instant that the lessons I’ve been teaching the children are coincidental with where I am. I think they were for me. I always tell the kids that you may hear a Bible story 20 times BUT if you really listen with your heart and your mind, you’ll hear something new. Always. After Jesus was baptized and the Holy Spirit came down on him and he heard God speak, he goes right out into the desert to be tempted by Satan – for forty days with angels attending him. For forty long days Satan tried every temptation to break Jesus. Mind games. And Jesus used God’s word against Satan.

And. He. Won.

God always wins. Hebrews 4:15-16 tells us that Jesus absolutely can sympathize with what we are going through because he has been through it all himself and we can approach the throne, with confidence that we will receive grace and mercy and help in our time of need. He is FOR us!

So when those mind games start, I have to remember who I am in Christ. I have to remind myself of all of His promises for me. I have to search for Him in all of it. I do know that He has great plans for me. I don’t believe for a minute that my great God makes bad things happen. But he does allow us to walk through the muck and mire, learning to navigate it. To experience it. To learn from it. Sometimes we get stuck in it but He can rescue us and use it all to help us grow. As I tell my kids, it’s called character building.

And that’s about the time they give me the eye roll. And yes, I sometimes roll my eyes too.

And when I capture those bad thoughts or images and replace them with God’s truth, it’s then that I can recall all the good times and great memories that I have and be joyful and thankful for them. It’s in those moments that I can hear her voice, hear her laughter and feel her next to me….like right now.

Thank you Jesus for all that you’ve done for me. All that you will do for me.

So long 2014, be good to us 2015…

Well. Here we are. It’s New Year’s Eve and somehow, someway we’ve survived. We made it through a lot of firsts without Momma in the last two months. A 47th wedding anniversary, my birthday, Jackson’s birthday, Thanksgiving, Christmas, and I think we’ll make it through to the new year. It’s bitter-sweet for us to say good-bye to 2014, BUT let me tell you something 2015, you better have a much better plan for us!

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Please Lord, I beg of you, let 2015 be a great year for our family.

So how did we do it? To be honest, I’m really not sure. Some days we just ran on autopilot. But this is what I’m learning along the way….

To take care of myself and listen to me and follow what I’m feeling. I give myself permission to say NO to people, invitations, whatever and it’s ok if I need to back out at the last-minute. It’s ok for me to want to be alone and it’s ok for me to want to surround myself with friends. And you will find out who you friends are.  It’s ok to cry. Even in front of people. In front of strangers. In front of my kids. They’re struggling too and it does them no good for you to make them believe that all is well with you. They will understand and through this you are giving them the permission they need to express their own feelings and open up more to you. It’s ok that some days all I can manage is to get out of the bed and make it to the couch. It’s ok to laugh and smile and not beat myself up over it and feel guilty (I have to remind myself of that constantly). I have a new normal and I’m trying it on to see just how it fits and feels.

Sometimes traditions need to be put on hold or changed all together. So what that we didn’t do a Christmas Eve dinner after church service this year and instead we ate backstage with the worship team. We didn’t make a birthday cake for Jesus and I’m sure He understood. But I do secretly admit in not doing the birthday cake I was hoping that it would’ve catapulted the second coming. As you see, no such luck. We didn’t ride around town looking at everyone’s decorations and yet the world continued to go on.

It’s ok that it’s all not ok.

We keep Momma’s memory alive. We talk about Momma openly. Whatever comes to mind we say. And often it’s all the things that she would’ve said to us. I love remembering her out loud. I love that my kids talk about her all the time. That Daddy and my Aunt Jo (her sister) and I can share stories of her over the phone and over lunch. And laugh. And cry. And then laugh some more.

The other day Daddy and I were at the cemetery and I did something completely in character of me and graceful and Daddy laughed so hard and we both said exactly what Momma would’ve said to me. And it was lovely to hear him laugh that deep laugh from the heart and gut.

I’ve also learned that I can’t do this on my own. If I try I’ll get stuck in the muck and mire of all the horribleness of this tragedy. So I’ve reached out to a counselor – I’ll let you know how it goes. You know there’s gonna be some good stories. But in the meantime, I’ll keep putting one foot in front of the other. Taking one step at a time and with each night I’ll continue to ask in my prayers that Daddy will feel Momma’s arms wrapped around him and she’ll visit us in our dreams.

Happy New Year’s, Momma. We love and miss you hard!

“He has made everything beautiful in its time. He has also set eternity in the hearts of men; yet they cannot fathom what God has done from beginning to end.” Ecclesiastes 3:11

I think I got this lesson….next!

This little index card is priceless to me and is hanging up in the kitchen. I love this because it sums up our family perfectly. Nothing that comes out of my kids mouth about our family has ever really surprised me (we’re a little kooky I admit) except for Jackson in kindergarten when he told everyone, teachers included, that we grow weed in our front yard. He left the “s” off of weed. I had a lot of explaining to do to a lot of people.

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You have no idea how much truth Haley spoke – or wrote for her 5th grade assignment four years ago. Our family is not for the weak and if you dish it out, then by golly, you’ve got to be able to handle it coming back at you full throttle. Every year we’ve gathered at Momma and Daddy’s for Turkey Day, complete with oyster dressing, and a 40 lb turkey (I exaggerate a tad but not much) and all of the trimmings that are family recipes handed down for generations. The dinning room table would barely hold all of the food strategically placed around a beautiful center piece and all of us circling the outer perimeter. And no meal was complete without the hilarity of telling stories and laughing at each other. Momma was ALWAYS  at the center. She gave us such good material! We could sit at that table for hours laughing and talking.

I miss those days of all us together, madly. I’d give anything to turn back time.

To say that I was glad to see Thanksgiving come and go this year was an understatement, of a lifetime. This year Daddy and I did all the cooking. Instead of eating at the dinning room table, we sat in front of the tv with the kids and watched the rerun of the Macy’s Parade. It was a quiet, different day that will never be the same as it once was. It was a relief to put my pj’s on, have a cup of hot tea and turn in for the night, turning off the lights on a hard day.

Without fail, every November 1st my news feed on Facebook is full of everyone sharing something they’re thankful for. I’m sure you’ve seen it. And for the last few years I’ve participated…but not this year. This I decided to withhold all of my thankful fors. 

I know that I do have much to be thankful for. MUCH. And I know that I am to give thanks in ALL circumstances. To know it and to do it, consciously, is a different game. I’ve gone through much of this thankful season withholding my thanks for no other reason than being stubborn and disobedient. Like a child having a temper tantrum with my arms folded across my chest and my eyes closed tightly refusing to cooperate. I didn’t get my way so I’m not going to do what you have asked God. I know a portion of this is the grieving process but I also have the ability in me to not let it consume me. And consuming me it has. Everyone’s journey through grief looks different. What works for me may not work for someone else. How I grieve isn’t the same way my dad grieves or my children for that matter. But what I have been shown these last few weeks that finally hit me is when I’m spiritually disobedient and stubborn it’s not only just between me and God. It trickles down into every area of my life. Remember me telling you in an earlier post that God has to talk to me in a loud voice. This time he spoke loudly and clearly through my kids. He not only allowed me to hear but to also see it. With my own two eyes. Last night I had a moment and was getting on to Jackson about an incident that happened earlier, all the while he’s throwing his arms in the air at me and crossing them over his chest and finally stomping off. AND THIS, this is how I’ve been behaving towards God. Oh yeah, and just like my son, I’ve also had to have the last word. (It’s the curse that keeps on giving – two kids just like me.)

I absolutely have every right to be mad. But not at God. He didn’t cause any of this. But He’s my safe place. My safe place to be ugly, to show my behind. To have my hissy fits and act like a brat. To act on whatever emotion I’m feeling. My safe place because I know that He won’t love me any less and he won’t leave me. But just like a loving parent who only wants the best for their child, He will show me and He will direct me. So that is what I’m thankful for….accountability – from my Heavenly Father, my Dad, my kids, and my close friends and my Mom – who would always point me back to the cross.

So I will not dwell in my sufferings, but I will focus on what God will do through them, yielding perseverance, character and hope. And I know that I will not be disappointed because of the love that my Heavenly Father has poured into me and who has given my the Holy Spirit to guide and direct me.  Romans 5:3-5 – my version.

~ts

This is not a guide through grief, just what we’re experiencing. But if you have something that has helped in your own journey, please share!

Do you fold your underwear?

Well? I would love to answer that with a yes. And I would love to open my drawer to see it all neat and tidy looking. Heck, I’d like to just open the drawer and actually have underwear in there instead of having to dig through the pile of laundry that has been on my couch for weeks hoping to find a pair. I long to have everything put in its place where it belongs. I once heard that you can tell a lot about a person by how the inside of their car looks. Oh heavens, bless the poor soul who peeks in the window of my Suburban. And what might people think when they do see my mess? Really the question is “What will they think of me?”

Let’s be honest – I’ve got PuhLENTY of mess! My car. My house. Me. Me. Me.

For months I’ve been pulling it all together to get from one moment to the next without falling apart. Survival. There were very few people who I felt safe to have a “moment” in front of – or on the phone with. Truth is I really didn’t want to have a “moment” because I was scared to death that I wouldn’t be able to pull it all back in. I really had no idea what a mess I was on the inside until October 31, standing in JoAnn’s Fabric and I dialed Momma’s cell to tell her about Jackson’s costume that Daddy and I had pulled together at the last moment. My world fell into a million shattered pieces right there in the check out line (that was a mile long, btw). I scared the hell out of a bunch of people too. And then it happened again an hour later as I was trying to load teenage girls in the car for a football game but this time I was on the phone with my Daddy – the last person in the world that I’d want to have a melt down in front of, oh but I did. And my mess was out.

What if I told you that I’m still hashing it out with God. That I’m still angry that He didn’t fix this. And why not? Why does someone else get healed but she doesn’t? What if I told you that I have days when I don’t want to talk to God? That some days, I don’t want to get out of bed, and I don’t.  That while I feel stuck and like my world has come to a screeching halt all the while watching everyone go on like nothing’s happened just makes me want to scream? That I sometimes feel completely horrible and totally guilty for laughing or smiling? That I lie in bed at night and cry myself to sleep. Do you think of me for the worse knowing this?

Our family has been thrown on a journey that we wanted no part of. We didn’t ask for it and there was no getting off it. It has devastated us and it has rocked us to the core. There is a hole in our hearts that will never ever be mended or filled. Grief sucks just as much as the cancer did. But know what’s helped to ease the pain? You sharing your stories and thoughts of Momma. Please keep talking about her. I know it’s hard but it’s so good at the same time.

This morning I got a FB message from a friend who also worked with Momma and she asked if I had Momma’s recipe for blueberry salad, if I didn’t she’d send it to me. Oh my gosh the memories that flooded back from the recesses of my mind of all the Christmas gone by of Momma and that salad. Truth be told, Momma and I were the only ones that liked it and I don’t think we liked it as much as the other thought we did. Everyone else just played along while Daddy flat-out refused it. And every stinkin’ year she would make a 5 gallon bucket of it. And at the end of the day I’d have to take all the leftovers home with me. But she probably knew all of that already so the jokes on me!

Or the card I got in the mail this week that said “My memories of your mom are of ‘smiley eyes’, a sweet voice and always there with you and for you and your children. A blessing for sure!”

I love the stories, your recollections. Please keep them coming! I, we really need you to.

“Keep me as the apple of your eye…hide me in the shadow of your wings…” ~ Psalm 17:8

Her Victory…

Momma finished her journey late yesterday afternoon. She was surrounded by all her loves. But do know this….she isn’t lost. We know exactly where she is – with her Heavenly Father.

And I’m oh-so jealous.

And remember me telling you that God was gonna have to speak to me loudly? Well He did. And oh my goodness it was so loud and flamboyant that it got the attention of everyone in the house but not in a crazy way. It was peaceful and calm and soft all at the same time.  He’s a good God and he’s kept all of his promises.

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Momma, we miss you so much already. I’m not sure how we’ll do this without you beside us telling us what to do and giving us advice but I imagine we’ll just grab each other’s hand and take one step at a time, right? I love you Momma, bunches and bunches and more than this world….

 “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest.” ~Matthew 11:28