The Vegas heat has kept us inside or in our pool most of the summer. This week has been unseasonably cool, and we have been taking advantage of some much needed time outdoors. I snapped a few pictures during our walk today, and as I look through them now, I  just feel incredibly grateful.

I feel blessed to be here with my family. I soak up every regular old day, knowing that life can turn upside down in a moment. Knowing that every day is a gift.

Today we are happy (even with the bit of bickering in the back seat).

Today we are healthy.

Today, we are together.

Ordinary days are the ones I live for now. ❤



I haven’t been crying much lately.

The invasive memories and flashbacks that used to haunt me constantly, have faded into the back of my mind.

My anxiety has calmed, and I haven’t had to wake with numb fingers and a pounding chest in months.

I haven’t felt the overwhelming need to write out my feelings, to give them a home anywhere but inside of myself.

I miss my RJ every day, but somehow lately, I can look at pictures of him without completely breaking down.

I can see him in my children, Hudson’s little profile when we sit in church, in Gracie’s stubborn frown, or in Addison’s smile and crinkle of her eyes. I can look at beautiful parts of him within my kids, without my heart breaking into a million pieces.

I know that healing will most likely take a lifetime, and I know that I have many days ahead where waves of grief will knock me to the ground. With triggers like October around the corner, Gracelyn’s birthday, and the holidays soon approaching, I fully expect to be a sobbing mess again soon. But today I am thankful for a break in the clouds, even if it is just for a time. It is a welcome relief to my tired mind and aching heart.

I see progress. I see hope. I see brighter days ahead.

I see the sun again. ❤

2013 05 08 Ryan & Monica Bell47


There are moments in each of our lives that change everything.

Pivotal points that make us who we are. I can look back and pinpoint each monumental milestone in my life:

The day that I met a certain blond haired returned missionary on a blind date.

A cold February day when I happily promised to be his forever.

The birth of a beautiful red haired little girl–the day I became a mother.

A phone conversation with a friend that lived in Las Vegas.

I look back on these moments with fondness and appreciation. I know that each decision and twist of fate helped to create a life that I treasure.

But there are other moments. Moments of indescribable heartache:

A damaged relationship or loss of trust.

An ultrasound that confirmed that two little hearts had stopped beating.

A final rise of his chest, and then silence. And then slowly taking the blanket that I had used to cover him, and walking out of the hospital wrapped in it’s warmth.

It is interesting just how God uses trials and joy to mold us into the people that he wants us to be. And often, the hard times have changed my outlook so much more than the pleasant ones. I truly believe that we knew and agreed to the trials that we would face in this life. Although sometimes I wish I could jump back into pre-mortal life and shake myself, I know that my individual challenges were hand picked for me by the being who knows me better than I could ever know myself.

During painful times, I beg for relief. I focus all of my energy on “feeling better,” but looking back I don’t regret any of it. Each silent tear, and shaky breath, and shattered dream has shaped me into the person who I am today. I would do it all over again in a heartbeat.

Hindsight is always twenty/twenty right? But that doesn’t mean that future trials aren’t just as difficult to accept as previous ones. Hard is hard, no matter what you believe. This life wasn’t meant to be comfortable, for it is in the moments of discomfort and stretching beyond what we thought was possible, that we grow the most.

What I have found however, is that if we let it, grief can be so much more than pain and suffering. It can be the ultimate teacher of what truly matters. Our hearts can grow. And pain, although still vivid and real, can be used to find a deeper appreciation, a new perspective, unshakable faith, and a strong desire to live an intentional life.

One of my favorite quotes, one that I review when I need a little pick-me-up on dark days is by Orson F. Whitney:

“No pain that we suffer, no trial that we experience is wasted. It ministers to our education, to the development of such qualities as patience, faith, fortitude and humility. All that we suffer and all that we endure, especially when we endure it patiently, builds up our characters, purifies our hearts, expands our souls, and makes us more tender and charitable, more worthy to be called the children of God … and it is through sorrow and suffering, toil and tribulation, that we gain the education that we come here to acquire and which will make us more like our Father and Mother in heaven.”

The choice really is up to us, whether we allow the darkness of grief to keep us stuck in a dark place, and to take our hope, or whether we use our pain to become stronger and better versions of our past selves.

Trust God first. Understand later.

He knows what he is doing.


The face of a widow.

It has been almost twenty two months since my husband passed away. Today, as I was driving home with my kids from the grocery store, a song came on the radio that reminded me of him. I took a deep breath as I tried to fight back the inevitable tears that were soon flowing down my face. My kids were laughing  in the back and asked me to look at something. I quickly wiped my face, and smiled as I turned, knowing they could worry if they saw me crying.

This is something I do often.

Hurry and hide the tears.


Everything will be ok.

Except in that moment, I felt anything but fine. I felt so indescribably sad.

I have become an expert at faking it until I make it.

So I am here to tell you, that grief has so many different expressions. The face of a widow has much to tell.

It’s a look of pleading and desperation as she begs God to save the person she loves more than her own life.

It is kissing her husband for the last time, as silent tears stream down her cheeks.

It’s a blank stare as her world moves in slow motion, while the rest of the world remains seemingly unaware that everything is somehow less vibrant than before.

It’s the look of disbelief as she lays in her bed. Alone, for the first time, she stares into the darkness waiting to hear soft snoring beside her. In the silence, she hugs the pillow that still smells like him.

It’s in the tears that are unseen, washed away by drops of water as her shoulders shake and she sobs violently on the shower floor. She doesn’t want her children to have to watch her fall completely apart.

It’s in the look of longing as she stands in her closet, touching each item of clothing and smelling a half used bottle of cologne.

It’s an angry outburst. She is well beyond her breaking point.

It’s a forced smile at her children as they call their Daddy’s phone to hear his voice the only way that they can now…on an old voicemail recording. Then, after enduring all she can, finding an excuse to leave the room so she can scream into her pillow.

It’s holding the most precious parts of what are left of her husband in her arms as they beg and cry for their Daddy who is in Heaven. Though she tries, her own tears are impossible to contain, because she feels so discouraged, helpless, and broken herself.

It’s a clenched jaw and an understanding smile when someone mentions a fight with their spouse.

It’s the moment, when after kneeling in sincere prayer, her heart is full of peace and her eyes close while she just absorbs the moment.

It’s the look of determination, as she drags herself out of bed to start yet another day.

It is the tears of overwhelming gratitude as she realizes just how much good is in the world. She know she will never be able to repay all of the kindness, but she vows to herself that she will do her best to pass it forward when she is able.

It is the face of pure exhaustion. Pale, with dark circles hovering under her eyes.

It’s the smile that masks all of the pain, and that reassures others that she is doing ok.

And then, one day, it is the smile that surprises her. It feels foreign, but it is genuine.

It’s red eyes and smeared makeup. Or sometimes immaculate makeup and a smile. She doesn’t remember him any less in either moment.

It is a look of hope as she moves forward.

My tears are more managable these days, and smiles come more easily. But oh how my heart still misses my RJ. Grief is exhausting, and at times I feel so very alone. So many of my battles are fought within my own heart and mind.

But with so much divine help, I have made it through six hundred and fifty five of the hardest days of my life.

So I will wipe my tears, and think of all of the reasons that I have to truly smile.

It really is all going to be ok.





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. ❤



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. ❤




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.




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


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. ❤


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. 💙