Cancer · Change · Christmas · Joy · Life · Single Mom · Sorrow · Trials · Trusting God · Widow

November 2014

It’s been a while since I’ve done one of these month memory blogs. Life has truly run away with me these past couple months, which isn’t always a bad thing. Busy can be good, but I did not want to neglect this part of the blog. So here I go.

November 2014 had some really great memories. On the first we went sat in a parking lot with my brother & my parents and watched the air show from afar. The air show up close is really awesome, everyone should do it at least once… but you can get some really cool views by just finding a spot to relax from a distance, and it’s a lot more comfortable that way. We had a great day, it was a wonderful day of family bonding & one I won’t soon forget.

One of the things we loved doing as a family that we did not get to do often enough was go see high school football games. On the 7th, we got to go do that. We watched Deer Park play the neighboring Baytown. I remember the inflatable tunnel for Baytown had deflated and it looked so funny. We joked about how that it what Baytown would look like when our boys got done with them. Football season was a bitter sweet time each year for us. When it came to college and NFL, we were on very opposing teams, but I loved when we came together and supported our home team. We have many sweet memories from those games.

On Veteran’s Day I wore one of Jeff’s Army jackets. I never thought there would be a time when I wouldn’t want to wear his Army gear, and now I can’t seem to put it on for anything. It’s little things like that which will bring a flood of emotions. Most of his stuff still very much smells like him. So went and ate at Applebees. We were always so thankful to the restaurants that would offer special deals to veterans. Aaaaaand now I’m craving ribs from Applebees, perhaps I should move on haha.

On the 13th we got the chance to take family photos by our very talented friend. To this day, they are still my favorite photos. They hang on the wall in our living room and every time I see them, they make me smile.

Thanksgiving that year was spent with his family. We went out to his brother’s lake house, we had the whole clan together and then some. It was a wonderful time with great memories, it is always a good time when we get together.

One thing Jeff had always wanted to do was to go see the Bush 43 library. He wanted to see everything about 9-11 and his presidency as 43 was the reason he joined the military. So after Thanksgiving we drove up there with his parents, brother and his family. I think that was probably one of the most memorable days of his life. He was like an excited kid who wanted to see everything. We spent part of the weekend up there before driving back home to the real world. That for sure was a holiday weekend we will never forget.

At this time in the cancer journey, Jeff was still doing well, he was still responding to chemo, there was still hope he would have many more years. I always wanted him to be hopeful and optimistic, but for me, I always had the lingering reality in the back of my mind that God may not choose to heal him on earth, that his healing might just be when he received his Heavenly body. I tried not to dwell on it, wanted to dwell on hope that he could have more years here on earth. But as I spoke to a friend the other day about it, I had to always be prepared for becoming a widow. I had to keep reality in sight so I would not be blindsided if and when it happened. I needed to make sure to enjoy each moment as if it were the last, and it is because of that mindset, I remember more moments, more events big and small which I will carry with me always. This is a major reason why I believe my heart has grieved and healed in the way it has.

So friends, don’t take life for granted, make sure to find joy in all things big and small, and honor God with all you do. 

God Bless, 

-A

 

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10 Months

So it was no surprise to me with as hectic as the Holiday season was that I didn’t get around to doing my blog for the 9 month mark, it was the day after Christmas, so here we go just moving on to the 10 month update. Well… 10 months and 3 days.

Life has been crazy busy, just days after Christmas, all the decorations came down (but not put away, no no… I still have to do that) because with signing my new lease at my apartment, I got new flooring in my living and dining rooms. It’s the little things, but I am so glad to have the new flooring! It’s so much better than the carpet we have had.

So then on Saturdays I have started back to refereeing kids basketball. I have missed working with this ministry and these kids, it is the highlight of my week. It helps get me back into shape and do it the fun way! On top of it, I get to work with my dad and brother. I do this for 7 weeks and when its over, its very bitter sweet. I miss doing the job, but its nice to get my Friday nights and Saturday mornings back.

Soon Jacob will have baseball tryouts and that will take us into full swing madness no doubt, but I am so excited to get back into baseball season with him! 

Praising God for all these great things, but life has not been without its struggles. I am currently battling residual effects from having the flu which kept me out of work for days. Big changes coming up with a few things in the near future. Just trying to stay on top of responsibilities. But like always, God has shown his faithfulness to me. He has given great peace in the hard times. If you think of me, please pray for these changes and decisions. 

On Sunday the 7th, I was introduced to one of my new favorite worship songs. It was led to us in church by Chris Crump and instantly I felt the presence of the Spirit as the congregation sang out. The song was Reckless Love by Cory Ashbury.

It opens with:

“Before I spoke a word, You were singing over me
You have been so, so good to me
Before I took a breath, You breathed Your life in me
You have been so, so kind to me”

This is a great reminder that before we go through anything, God knows we will go through it (Colossians 1:17), and if we listen and are sensitive to the spirit, He prepares us ahead of time for the battles we will go through. Nothing takes Him by surprise, and while things will take us by surprise, if we are equipped with the Holy Spirit (only through accepting the perfect and free gift of salvation through Jesus Christ), and keep ourselves grounded in the Word of God, these surprises will not defeat us. They might sting us, stun us, knock us down even, but God will not leave us down for the count if we reach out our hand. He has been so so kind to us in this way.

The Chorus goes on to say:

“O, the overwhelming, never-ending, reckless love of God
O, it chases me down, fights ’til I’m found, leaves the ninety-nine
I couldn’t earn it, and I don’t deserve it, still, You give Yourself away
O, the overwhelming, never-ending, reckless love of God, yeah”

So in this stage of life, I am not in a place where I am running from God, but I have been. Many times I have told myself the lie from Satan than I can do it on my own and I don’t need the guidance from God. So if I did not take this time in life when I am so close to God to reach out to those who are running or maybe even know nothing of His Salvation, then what am I doing with my life? So as I sing this song in praise, it comforts me to remember those times when I was running and how fiercely God ran after me like leaving the 99 sheep to find the one. 

There are many great parts to the song, but the last part I will share is the Bridge, as I would love for you to check out the whole song and be as blessed as I have been by it:

“There’s no shadow You won’t light up
Mountain You won’t climb up
Coming after me
There’s no wall You won’t kick down
Lie You won’t tear down
Coming after me”

There are no lengths at which God will not go to get the attention of his children. I am reminded of Jonah, running as far away as he could to escape his calling of telling the people of Nineveh their sins…. God sent a freakin fish to swallow him! This is how much God loves us, He wants to get our attention so He can show us the truths He has for us and the wonders that await us in Heaven. Is this side of life hard? Absolutely! But He promises us He will never leave us nor forsake us. (Deuteronomy 31:6)

So that’s been my world the last several weeks. I look forward to hopefully getting more frequent with my posts now that holiday craziness has died down.

God Bless,

-A

 

 

Cancer · Change · Christmas · Joy · Life · Single Mom · Sorrow · Trials · Trusting God · Widow

It Just Can’t All Get Done & That’s Okay!

So obviously this is the first Christmas without Jeff, although, even though he was alive last Christmas, it was about that time he really started to take a turn for the worse, so it was a different Christmas all together. But this Christmas is the first one as a single mom, the first one to start new traditions, figure out which old ones to keep, everything is completely different this year.

It’s the little things, like not buying his  Twizzlers, not ordering his pair of matching pajamas, and then there’s the big things like not getting each other gifts, not having him put the star on the tree, etc.

But on top of all those things that are missing, even more things are missing… the things I just cant get done because there’s just not enough time, and there’s only one me, and quite frankly I don’t always have the motivation to do all the “Christmasy” things. 

So let’s talk about the things I did get done:

  • The Christmas tree went up
  • It has lights
  • Jacob’s ornaments are on it
  • The tree skirt is below it
  • The Nativities got put out
  • The Christmas villages got put out
  • Christmas presents are bought
  • We got special moments with Jeff’s parents
  • Jacob sang in the choir
  • Many Decorations went up on the wall
  • We went to Bufkin’s Christmas Wonderland
  • We went to the Alvin Christmas Train (maybe I’ll tell that in a later blog)
  • We got to enjoy the snow (what?! snow in Houston?!)
  • Christmas cookie dough got made
  • Wassail got made
  • Christmas cards went out (what?!)
  • Christmas movie favorites have been watched

*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*

Now… the things that didn’t get done:

  • Cookies didn’t get baked (but there’s still time!)
  • The train for the tree did not get put up
  • My ornaments did not go on the tree
  • Neither has the star…
  • The Christmas card lights display did not get put up
  • The Christmas lights on the balcony didn’t go up
  • The Wreath on the door is not decorate

*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*

And you know what?! That’s okay that these things didn’t get done, no one would blame me for being a bahumbug this year or for not having the energy and motivation to do any of it, but I did! The most important thing of all about this Christmas… it has been centered around Christ, the joy we have from Him & the redemption we get because he came as a baby, lived a perfect life and then gave that life up for us, 3 days later he rose from the grave, came back and showed himself as the risen savior to many, ascended to Heaven, offers us salvation by acceptance of His sacrifice and one day is coming back for His kids! So if nothing got done, if no one got presents, if not a single cookie gets made and no lights ever went up, as long as Jesus was the focus… THAT’S a successful Christmas. 

So if you aren’t getting to be with loved ones, no matter the circumstances, please, no matter what keep Christ as the center of your Christmas. Not just that he was born, but because he is the risen Savior!

Merry Christmas and God bless!

-A

 

Cancer · Change · Joy · Life · Single Mom · Sorrow · Trials · Trusting God · Widow

Eight Months

Goodness, I thought October was busy! November has been just as busy & I don’t anticipate December being any different.

So the Astros won the World Series for the first time in franchise history! It was so exciting to get to watch all of the games with different family and friends. For Game 7 I was with my parents, my son, my brother, his girlfriend, her kid & my grandma. I couldn’t imagine being with a different group of people for this game. It was filled with all sorts of emotions, Jeff was a huge Astros fan, as was my Paw Paw who passed in August. They would have loved watching these games with us and would most definitely have loved to be with the family watching Game 7. In the final outs, my brother went and put on my Paw Paw’s Texas flag jacket. As the final outs were made and the Astros won the game, there was lots of cheering, shouting, hugs, high fives and tears, tears of both joy and missing our loved ones. It was a beautiful moment.

On November 3rd, mom, Jacob & I got to go to the Astros Champions parade downtown with some of our cousins. It was crazy hectic, and getting in and out of downtown was exhausting and  bit stressful, but being at the parade, seeing the hometown heroes, all the fans, the sea of orange and blue, it was quite the experience! Once in a lifetime (hopefully not, hopefully they win it all again real soon!)! This is something I will never forget and I’m so glad I got to experience it with my mom and son!!!

November 11th was the 30th anniversary of my miracle brain surgery (I will try and come back with pictures when I finish scanning them from my baby book). At 5 months old I had hydrocephalus.  In the late 80s this was not a common medical issue and only a few hundred of these brain surgeries had been performed to correct this issue. Even so, in most cases (especially as severe as mine), there weren’t many success stories and those that were successes often resulted in many physical and mental disabilities. So when Dr. Larent came out saying he had performed the best surgery he had ever done, most still believed my parents would face many challenges with me. Little did they know I would wake up a perfectly healthy baby with no side effects! There was no denying the Lord’s hand on my life. There are so many more details to this story (It filled up a 10 minute facebook live post) that I’m sure I would get a hand cramp typing up many pages! All this is to say… God is good… God is the ultimate healer… Jesus Christ is the Lord most High! I would not be here today if it were not for His hand on my life.

Most of November was a blur, a lot of cleaning up the apartment, organizing, etc. I’m still working on it, but I WILL get it done!!!

Thanksgiving weekend was busy but great! We went to the downtown parade, which after fighting millions of people for the Astros parade, this felt like no big deal! The kids had a blast, the weather was gorgeous, it was great family time! After the parade we took Grandma to Luby’s for lunch and then headed to my parents’ place. We took it easy Thursday because we decided to eat Thanksgiving dinner on Friday. So Friday we got up, enjoyed the weather and started cooking. Everything was delicious, but the best part was the together time! It’s been a very long time since my brother, my parents and I got to all be together and happy, and to share it with Jacob, my brother’s girl and her kids made it one of the best Thanksgivings! Friday night Jacob and I headed up to Jeff’s brother’s lake house, and we had a crowd there too! It was nice to relax, get rest and enjoy company. The drive back home yesterday was a bit exhausting… 2 hours back to my parents to pick up my dog and the rest of our things and then another hour and half home. But getting all the family time made it worth it!!! To finish off Thanksgiving weekend Jacob and I ate cereal, put together the Christmas tree and watched The Santa Clause (always one of the first Christmas movies I watch as its my all time favorite). I wasn’t sure how my emotions would be not having Jeff this Thanksgiving, but the Lord brought great comfort and accented the joys in the holiday. It was very enjoyable!

On the drive home I played Christmas music while Jacob played movies with his head set on. One of the songs that really struck me this year had also struck me last year, but this time different emotions. The song was Immanuel by Point of Grace. This time last year I was struggling so much with watching my husband slowly die in front of me, not knowing when would be the last day I would have with him. It was a very hard Thanksgiving and Christmas season to get through. Even though he was still with us, he wasn’t the man he used to be, and I knew I was losing him already. There was a lot of sorrow surrounding the holidays. This Thanksgiving & Christmas, while we greatly miss Jeff, knowing he is in Heaven praising the Lord has brought more comfort than I can express. I cannot explain the kind of healing the Lord has been doing in my life these last 8 months. It is truly a miracle, there’s no other way to explain it. So as the song was playing, this year instead of tears of sorrow and crying out for the comfort from Immanuel (God With Us), I was able to thank God for the comfort of Immanuel because He has already shown His presence in my life, in my spirit, in my heart. I look back on the woman I was 8, 12, 18 months ago and I’m not sure I would recognize myself. I am so so thankful to God for his peace that passes all understanding, especially in a season when no one would blame me for being depressed, yet I am able to praise and have great peace. I pray for my fellow widow and widower friends who are hurting so deeply it physically hurts, this season is a hard one & I pray they experience this kind of peace in their lives. It truly is a miracle. 

I encourage you to check out the song, here are just a few lyrics from the chorus of Immanuel:

For all the broken
Here in this moment

Immanuel
Our God is with us
Yes, He is with us still
Immanuel
He has not left us
And He never will

He has not left us and He never will. This has been the message I have been sharing from the beginning of this blog journey. No matter what you’re going through, God has not left you and He isn’t going to! Take comfort in that and let that be your focus this Christmas!!

Happy Thanksgiving & Merry Christmas!!!

God Bless,

-A

Cancer · Change · Joy · Life · Single Mom · Sorrow · Trials · Trusting God · Widow

Seven Months

Wow, it’s hard to believe its been a month since my last blog. Life has honestly blown by for us this month. October is always a busy month for us, but to throw in Fall Baseball to the mix has made it insane! 3 nights a week at the ball field but I love it! Jacob is doing really well and picking up the game quickly considering he had never played before. He’s growing athletically, physically, mentally & emotionally. I’m really going to miss our time out at the field when the season is over and will look forward to Spring Baseball. 

Speaking of baseball, our house has been filled with so much excitement between Jacob’s team and the Astros going to the World Series! It reminds me so much of growing up and having our lives revolve around God, family & sports. Makes my heart happy! On Saturday, game 7 of the ALCS, Jacob also had a baseball game at the same time. We had our phones out watching feed of the Astros/ Yankees while watching Jacob’s team win! As soon as the game was over we rushed off to dinner in Whataburger (doesn’t get more Texas than that) where we kept the feed running. The moment George Springer caught the fly ball to clench the series was so awesome that everyone on their phones in Whataburger erupted in cheers! Our family even did the wave at our table even though dad thought we were goobers. This is a sight I know Jeff & my Paw Paw would have loved to have been apart of. A moment none of us will forget. 

I’ve been able to get out and make time for friends, which has been really good for the healing journey. For so long I put everyone else first and I ran myself into the ground over it many days. Learning to make time for what I need has been a huge mindset change, but I’m finding a healthy balance slowly but surely.

The 8th would have been our 6th anniversary, we got to spend it doing just what Jeff would have wanted to do… watching the Packers defeat the Cowboys surrounded by friends. We had a great time & I even cheered for the Packers... shocking I know. Being surrounded by close friends helped it to not be a ridiculously hard day and it is a testimony how God can heal hurts. It doesn’t mean I don’t still love and miss him, but life is getting easier. 

The other week, my best friend Christina came over while I sorted through crates of Jeff’s clothes and some keep-sakes. I am going to have a quilt made for Jacob of some of his old clothes. And then I went through and separated out all the Packers gear Jeff had said he wanted to go to our friends. It was very healing to process through all of it. I felt like a huge weight had been lifted off my chest. 

I fully expected October to be one of the hardest months of this journey, but God is showing his grace and mercy! It has been a really great month. If you think about me, pray for me over the next 2 months as we tackle the first Thanksgiving and Christmas without Jeff, pray that we find amazing blessings and joy in what could feel like a very lonely time. And pray that we keep our eyes on Jesus for comfort.

God Bless,

-A

Cancer · Change · Joy · Life · Single Mom · Sorrow · Trials · Trusting God · Widow

Six Months

Six months ago today my husband passed away. I’ve noticed over the last few months that around the 24th or 25th of each month, my body revs up in preparation for the 26th. I end up with unexplained tension, stress, heightened emotions & sometimes even anxiety. With still trying to get things back on track and in a routine from after Harvey, plus the start of fall baseball, I was so busy I didn’t even realize yesterday was the 25th, and yet my body was in major tension and my emotions very sensitive.

I’ve gone through a lot of the grief process already, because as a friend and mentor pointed out to me, she saw me begin my grief when we were told Jeff’s cancer was terminal. But as another friend pointed out recently to me, you can be 11 years out and still little things will hit you like a ton of bricks.

On top of all these emotions, life has been crazy recently! Fall baseball for Jacob is in full swing (see what I did there?)! This past weekend was so much fun, but exhaustively busy! Watched Jacob’s friend play boys football, watched youth students cheer at high school football game, then Jacob had his first baseball game, lead worship for kids in 2 services, watched at home the Texans nail biter & finished the weekend off with the Astros game. Still 6 months later I’m trying to finish putting our home back together, I still find remnants from hospice from time to time. 

Dealing with a preteen coming into his hormones is a new one for me. We are learning to navigate through this, but when it comes to “man things” he begins to deal with, it is a constant reminder that my son doesn’t have a father at home anymore. I am so thankful for the men in our lives who are stepping up and helping me out when it comes to these things. He’s a strong one though, oh how I have seen him grow so much these six months, especially since getting into baseball. He’s getting stronger, stockier, braver & more ambitious. 

Through all of this, I will continue to trust that God is always with me, always sees me, always love me. Hebrews 13:8 says “Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever.”, I believe this, not only because the Bible is inerrant, infallible & truth, but because I have seen God’s faithfulness throughout my life, my family’s lives and my friend’s lives.

Ecclesiastes 3:1 says “For everything there is a season, and a time for every matter under heaven:”, verse 4 goes on to say a time to weep, and a time to laugh;
a time to mourn, and a time to dance;”, Today I am mourning, but there are so many other days when I laugh and dance. 

If you are going through a tough time, know that it is okay to go through it and have these emotions, but they should be for a season, so look for the brighter days too!

God Bless,

-A

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Hurricane & Widowhood

In the midst of Hurricane Harvey, through all the devastation, I couldn’t help but think about the comparison to widowhood.

Right now Texas is getting a lot of attention, a lot of aid, people from all over coming to help, and rightly so! We need it! But in the aftermath of the main storm, attention will begin to slow, help will decrease and eventually, whether we are ready or not, the help from all over will die down and we will be left to pick up the remaining pieces on our own. We may still have needs, still have hurts, still need help, but we will have to learn to do it for ourselves, rebuild, create a new normal & get into a new routine.

This is very similar to what it’s like becoming a widow. In the beginning, everyone brings meals, sends cards, calls or texts to check up on you, comes over for visits, offers to help with projects, etc.and then gradually it dies down, first it’s with those who aren’t as close to you, maybe it’s casual friends, maybe it’s friends of your late spouse, but they’re usually the first the stop contacting, then you have normal friends, people you see fairly regularly but maybe don’t share intimate details with, they help for a good while, the texts still come, tell you they’re thinking of you, but then mostly, those stop coming too. Eventually you are left with immediate family and best friends to love on you and share daily lives with you.

In both these situations, no matter how long it has been, the pain is still there, the images, the memories, the grief. So if you haven’t particularly experienced either of these grievances, reach out to a friend who is grieving loss. Love on them, share a meal, pray for them, don’t forget about them as your lives move on.

 

God Bless,

-A