A few pictures I had to share…

I grew up next to the best neighbors. I have so many wonderful memories of walking up the small hill that was in-between my house, and my grandparent’s on our family farm. My Grandma always had a home baked treat and time for us, and my Grandpa would let us tag along with him as he worked on the farm, or would give into our begging to pull our sleds behind his four-wheeler when it was snowy out–and there is no shortage of snow in Canada!

Over the years, my Grandparents have become some of my dearest friends. I talk to my Grandma almost every week, sometimes, several times a week. She is always willing to lend a listening ear, and makes me feel loved in a way that only a Grandmother can.

While we were visiting Canada last month, we went on a ride through the fields to one of our favorite spots. I snapped a few pictures that I adore of two of the people I love the most. My kids are so lucky to have so many Grandparents that love them, and so am I. ❤

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Mom

Being a mom.

It is a labor of love. It is all consuming, often thankless, and oh so monotonous.

I have always known that I wanted to be a mother, but before I had children, I really didn’t understand. I didn’t realize the immense amount of immediate love that I would feel for each of my children. It was and is so overwhelming. I didn’t realize the pressure I would feel, or just how it intimidating it would be to know that it is my responsibility to not only keep my tiny humans alive and healthy, but to teach them to be self sufficient and to make good choices. I didn’t understand the way that my heart would break when I would see their pain–especially when I was powerless to take it away. I also didn’t realize that an accomplishment on the part of my child would feel like a triumph for me too.

I didn’t understand what it would be like to live with my heart being carried outside of my body.

But I do now.

My three little people are my world. They are the source of my greatest joy and my greatest frustration, often at the same time. I truly want nothing more than to see them succeed in this life, and to see each of my children be happy and healthy.

I have a mother too.

Her name is Shelly. She is beautiful, and she is an example of everything I hope to be to my children.

She raised the three of us (my two younger brothers and myself) on a little farm by the mountains in Southern Alberta, Canada. Although I now understand just how much patience and effort it took to raise such a strong willed daughter (as I now have two of my own), she truly made it look easy. She was the type of mom who was just always there. She still is. Although my brothers and I occasionally tease her for “putting the mother in smother,” (in the best way) the fact is, I have never doubted for a second that my Mom would always be there for me.

I can’t count the number of times that she waited up for me and made sure that I was safely in bed before she let herself rest at night. I can’t count the times that she told me that I was beautiful and smart, and I believed her. I can’t count the times that I called her when I was a new mom, just so that I could keep my sanity. I can’t count the times that she has dropped everything in her life to come to help me through a transition in mine. I can’t count the times that she has cried tears for me, or has prayed for me with faith and the love that only a mother has to offer a struggling child. I can’t count the number of times she has fought through her own pain and struggles with her health to provide an act of service for one of her children.

Often, I am sure, she assumes that these acts of service and love seem to go unnoticed. But they aren’t. More than anything, I know that my beautiful mother loves me unconditionally.

And that is all I could ever hope for my children to know.

That I will always be there for them, and that I will always love them. No matter what.

I love you mom. ❤

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Numb

Sometimes grief makes me a better Mom.

I see my beautiful children, so full of life, and so much like their Daddy. I cherish every moment that I am blessed to be their Mom. I adore every freckle and I kiss their soft warm cheeks. I know exactly just how fragile life truly is, and I cling to every moment that we have been given together.

Sometimes grief makes me an impatient mama.

I get so wrapped up in my own feelings of anxiety, overwhelm, exhaustion, and sadness that I need space. I crave moments alone in my bedroom where I can just be–either to process the thoughts and feelings that plague me, or to spend all of my energy avoiding the pain. Sometimes, I feel burnt out before I even get out of bed, and I want more than anything for my children to just play quietly and to allow me to have alone time. I feel more numb, and less warm than I want to be with the three little people who love me most.

Unfortunately, yesterday was one of those days. I felt myself shutting down and I really didn’t make much of an effort to stop. Instead, I allowed myself to emotionally retreat from life.  Like always, my kids needed me for a million different reasons, but I gave them only the bare minimum. Of course physically they were completely cared for. They were fed, supervised during play, and disciplined when they fought with one another, but I didn’t connect with them emotionally the way I should have.

And though my mind was consumed with thoughts of RJ, I really didn’t feel connected to my grief either. The numbness took over, and I found myself feeling exhausted, apathetic, and lacking motivation. (Classic signs of depression–I know. Thankfully these days are fewer than they used to be, and I can recognize them for what they are.)

Ryan came home early from work. It helps when he is home. I let myself be less guarded with my energy. It helps to know that I am not the only adult available to care for such needy little humans. But as I watched my children climb into his lap and kiss his cheeks, and watched as he played and gave all of his attention to their made up little stories, I felt such overwhelming guilt.

They should have had that from me. I had wasted an entire day so selfishly. I had spent my time with my kids so emotionally unavailable, that I had missed precious moments with them– moments that I can never get back. Moments that if I were to lose any one of them tomorrow, would be regretted. I can’t afford to live my life with any regret.

So today, I am forcing myself to be present. My phone will be turned off while my children are awake. We will do chores together this morning, and then I am going to make an effort to connect with each of them this afternoon. I refuse to waste the time I have feeling absent from my own life. I will live today with intention, and hopefully, if I practice doing it enough, it will become easier over time.

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I don’t believe in coincidences.

“Some may count this experience as simply a nice coincidence, but I testify that the tender mercies of the Lord are real and that they do not occur randomly or merely by coincidence.” -David A. Bednar

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Nothing about meeting this man was coincidential. Though I didn’t know it when we first crossed paths, Ryan was placed in my life at the exact moment I would need him most. We became fast friends, a friend that I so needed during the darkest days of my life.

He was the shoulder that I cried on regularly. He was the understanding and sympatetic ear that allowed my broken heart to say it all. He was patient when I would feel guilt or shame because I had let another man into my heart–a heart that still in many ways still belonged to another. He was there through the pain, but he was also the one who could make me smile and feel alive again. He was my constant.

I remember reading the quote above on a particularly hard day, and sending it to him in a text message. I cried as I wrote the words, “Thank you for being my tender mercy.”

Tender mercy.

Such eloquant lovely words, with an even more beautiful meaning.

The Lord’s tender mercies are the very personal and individualized blessings, strength, protection, assurances, guidance, loving-kindnesses, consolation, support, and spiritual gifts which we receive from and because of and through the Lord Jesus Christ.” -David A. Bednar 

Blessings like him don’t happen mearly by coincindence. I have never felt as guided or as taken care of by my Father in Heaven as I have in the past two years.

If I have ever felt forgotten, if I have ever felt abandoned, or if I have ever wondered if God truly cares about my broken heart, all I have to do is look over at my best friend.

He is living proof that my Father is aware of me and truly does want me to be happy.

I will be forever, inexpressibly grateful for the tender mercy that he is in my life. ❤

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A letter to my children on Father’s Day

Hearts are funny things.

A heart is capable of many emotions.

It can love fiercely, it can hurt intensely, it can break into a thousand pieces, and it can feel so much joy that you might wonder if it might burst.

The best part about a heart though, in my opinion, is the way it has the ability to grow and change.

There isn’t a limit to the amount of people you can hold in your heart. Your heart has the ability to love as many people as you choose to let in, without ever being too full.

Your Daddy has such a special part of my heart. The part of my heart that he fills is large and it is eternal. He holds such an important place, that I could never forget him or replace him.

I miss him every day.

Sometimes my heart feels like a piece is missing. Taken with him, when he left this side of the veil. I can’t wait to get that part back one day.

I know that you hold your Daddy in your heart too. Protected and sacred. He is part of you and you are part of him.

I see how your hearts break when you think of how much you miss him. I know he misses you too, although I truly feel that he is near.

I see how you wear his t-shirts to bed and how you treasure his belongings.

I see the pain that you try to hide when I ask you how you are doing. “Doing good mostly, just missing Dad a little.”

I see the way your eyes light up when someone tells a story or recounts a memory of your sweet Dad. You soak up every little ounce of him that you can get. I wish we could do more than just talk about him, I wish you could be making new memories as well.

However, I see the way you love your new Dad too. He hasn’t been in our family long, but he has taken on his role beautifully. He loves you, and I see how much you love him. I love watching you read, swim, play, cuddle, and spend time together. He cares so much about you. We are lucky to have him.

Your second Dad has filled a beautiful place in my heart too. He filled a hole in my heart that I didn’t even know I had. He makes me feel alive and happy.

I know that feelings are confusing sometimes. I see you struggle to make sense of the way that your heart loves your Dad. I know that sometimes worry that you are forgetting your Daddy or betraying him by allowing another man to take care of you and be your parent.

Each time I had a baby, I thought I could never love any more than I already did. I was always surprised at just how much more love I felt with each addition of our family. And just like the way my heart grew each time I had one of you, I know that your hearts have grown to fit Ryan. He doesn’t replace the Dad you love so much, but he can take an important place in your aching heart, and he can give us another reason to feel joy. There is enough room for your Daddy in heaven, and for Ryan, so you don’t have to worry about picking which Dad you want to give a spot.

I was proud of you today.

I was proud of the way you bravely sang, “Families can be together forever.” It made me cry.

I was proud of the way you made Father’s Day cards and pictures, and how you were so excited to give Ryan his first Father’s Day gifts ever.

I was also proud of the way you listened to “Daddy songs” and wore your Daddy in Heaven’s baseball hat. I was proud of the way you remembered your Daddy in Heaven, but still celebrated your Dad on Earth.

You love so purely, and so fiercely.

I know that it is strange to feel sad and happy at the same time. Two conflicting emotions that don’t make sense in the same space, can both be felt so intensely at the same time. You have handled a complicated situation with strength that I struggle to find at times.

I am so blessed to have children who love so much.

And we are also blessed to have not just one, but two Dads who love us. One walking beside us, unseen on the other side of the veil, and one helping us to grow here on Earth.

That is definitely something that makes MY heart grateful. 💙

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Lost

Two years ago, RJ lost his tape measure.

We were in the middle of a project, and after hunting through the whole house and garage several times, he finally was forced to purchase a new one.

A couple of months after he passed away, I found it. It had been tucked away in an unlikely spot, probably by little fingers.

I tenderly held it in my hands and touched every scratch and dent on its surface. It had been well used, and his name has been written in black marker in the grooves on the side. The familiar handwriting brought a smile to my face and tears to my eyes.

It was just a silly little thing, but one that made my heart hurt because I missed him so much. I so wanted to text him, and to let him know, and I missed being able to tell him even the smallest most insignificant things– like the finding of a lost item.

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Today I came across it again while I was cleaning.

Once again, I held it in my hands and looked fondly at its imperfections.

Then, the thought came firmly to my mind, “Even though I couldn’t see it, it was there all along.”

I have no doubt that there was a reason we couldn’t find it years ago, and that it was instead planted where I would come across it at a difficult time in my life.

I’m so very thankful for little reminders and for tender mercies.

This tape measure is one for me.

I know that though I can’t see my RJ, he isn’t lost forever. 💙

Bracing

I’m mentally bracing myself for the upcoming week. Of all of the milestones and holidays that we went through last year, Father’s Day was the hardest. Honestly, if it were just me that was grieving, my anniversary or the anniversary of the day that RJ passed away would have been the worst.

But when my kids grieve, it takes my pain to a whole new level.

Last year, we skipped church completely. I couldn’t bring myself to put my children through singing in church with the primary, or the inevitable making of Father’s Day cards.

Instead we had a picnic at the cemetery. We wore his things, sprayed ourselves with his cologne, looked at pictures, and had a little graveside Father’s Day program. I was so proud of my kids for singing the sweet songs they had been practicing, and for sitting under trees while they wrote cards for their Daddy. We prayed together, cried together, and laughed together,  and it was really a beautiful way to spend such a hard day.

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But was just heart wrenching to watch them grieve. I tear up instantly when I think of just how much my kids have gone through in the past 19 months. It all has been difficult, but that day was just indescribably hard. I wanted so badly to fix everything. To mend their broken little hearts.

The only thing I could do, was to hold them and to cry too.

This year will be different. We can’t visit the cemetery, but we will remember their Daddy all the same. The kids are excited to celebrate their second dad as well. To have a special day being thankful for the father who chooses love and each one of them everyday. It will be Ryan’s first Father’s Day.

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In some ways, I think that this year will be even harder than last. We will be attending church, singing with the primary, and making all of the Father’s Day gifts. It will be a day of many emotions I am sure.

But I am thankful that my children have not only one, but two amazing men to look up to.

We can do hard things. 💙

Ode to the Dark

Such exquisite torture.

I don’t know why I do it to myself.

But give me some quiet time to think, and it is bound to happen.

My two youngest are tucked away asleep in their beds, my oldest is at an activity for the girls in our church, and my husband is out doing neighborhood visits with members of our congregation.

I should be enjoying some rare and precious moments of quiet and solitude.

And yet somehow, like every other time I am left alone for any given period of time, I find myself pulling an oversized men’s large cotton t-shirt over my head, listening to songs of nostalgia, flipping through pictures of my past life, while draped in the fuzzy blanket that kept my husband warm on his final day.

It hurts so much. And yet it feels so good. Bittersweet memories flow down my cheeks in the form of rolling tears.

I took it to another level tonight when I searched my old Idaho address on Google Earth. There, on the screen, was a clear view of my life five years ago. The flowers I planted, the kiddie pool on the back patio, our old pop up camper in the driveway… I felt sure that if I could jump into the picture, I would find myself inside rocking a chubby baby girl, and chasing after a tutu obsessed toddler. I was probably sleep deprived and worn out, and I absolutely was counting down the minutes until the garage would squeak open, and my RJ would walk in the door with a healthy dose of back up.

I was happy. And blissfully unaware.

How I miss being unaware.

I would be lying if I said that seeing my old house didn’t add a bit of salt to my already festering heart wounds. I really am happy with where I am at now, with the way that God has led me to where I am supposed to be. But as much as I am thankful for my new path, I also find myself grieving what used to be my reality, and what never got to be. I long for the picture I have in my mind of today, for the plan that never happened and the life we didn’t get to share.

The tired mom in that pretty little house could never have guessed how different life would soon be. How much harder it was going to get.

Now, the dark days are especially bleak, but the the bright ones are vibrant and more beautiful than before. Walking through the dark really has taught me to appreciate every drop of light.

So here is to the light.

Here

Let in the good, keep out the bad.

It is the way that I function most days.

But for me, the bad isn’t something that I “let in.” The pain already exists within me.

My battle is internal. I know that I have to allow myself to feel all of the good and the bad to experience true healing, but more often than not, what I feel really hurts. It takes such an emotional and physical toll on me that I have become an expert at trying to ignore anything that isn’t conducive to my emotional stability. 😉

I was explaining my avoidance techniques to a friend on the phone today. I do everything I can to feel “normal” (or at least the new normal I have created) until a huge wave of grief is triggered, and then I find myself thrown back into the darkness and the pain. It is, after all just waiting beneath the surface. And each time I feel the true extent of my grief, I have to claw my way back out of that difficult place. It is exhausting and overwhelming to feel such a significant amount of heaviness and grief again and again. I told her that I sometimes I have to take a day only minutes at a time, and that when I am in “the dark place” it is impossible to function or to see beyond all of the grief.

Her advice was to repeat a phrase to myself, a mantra if you will. Something that would help me remember how far I have come.

“I am a survivor, and I’m still here.”

She had no idea how her words would transport me back in time.

Suddenly in my mind’s eye, I was holding my sweet husband’s hand in the emergency room as countless doctors and nurses scurried around us. I saw him emphatically tapping his chest with his hand. With a look of pleading in his eyes, and with a great amount of effort he vocalized, “I’m still here.” He must have repeated himself at least ten times as the scans were taken, and while the many tubes and wires were attached to his body. Over and over again.

He was desperate to let me know that he was still inside of his broken body. That he was more than what the doctors were seeing. More than a stroke victim or the symptoms that were so horrifying and humiliating for him. More than the broken man that he knew he must seem to be.

He wanted me to know.

HE was still there. My best friend. The father of my children. He was still himself on the inside.

Of all of the traumatic moments that I try to avoid, that scene in the emergency room is one of the hardest to remember. But what I would give to be able to relive it. I would gladly take all of the fear, shock, and heartache just to be able to hear him tell me one more time:

“I’m still here.”

And yet I know that he is.

Though I can’t hear his voice, I know that if I could get a glimpse of the other side, I would be able to see him holding me when it all is just to much, walking beside me as I make difficult decisions, smiling as our children grow, and cheering for me when I make progress in this new journey. I’m sure that he is here with me more than I will ever know.

I miss him.

But I know, he’s still here.

And so am I.

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