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

Funerals, Blessings, Prosperity, Hope & Truth

So the last 10 days have been tough. On August 12th my Paw Paw went to Heaven. He has had many health issues for a while now and in his last days he had been crying out to be with Jesus.  Though it hurts to lose him, we are blessed to know he is no longer in the great pain he was in here on earth & that he is happy in the presence Jesus. Oh the glory he is seeing right now!

In preparation for the funeral, I spent many hours with my cousin and uncle going through photos, walking down memory lane, hearing stories that correlate to the photos we were seeing. Recalling the great things he did, trips he took us on with Grandma, all the fun we had … It was a sweet time of family togetherness.

The funeral was wonderfully done, it certainly represented Paw Paw well, many family & friends came. Some people that came I haven’t seen in years, even as far back as about 20 years ago! What a testimony to how big his heart was to see people from all over. My Paw Paw was certainly one of a kind. He loved his Blue Bell, Diet Mountain Dew, wanted meat & potatoes for every meal with his tea of course, he loved to read the paper, especially the comics, he loved his soap operas, playing solitaire on the computer, he loved sports, he loved his country and he loved the state of Texas, but most importantly, he loved his family & he loved Jesus more.

Even though we knew the end would be near for Paw Paw, it does not lessen the pain. I miss him every day. If you had told me a year or 2 ago I was going to lose my husband and my Paw Paw within less than 5 months of each other, I don’t think I would have believed you. 2017 has been a very rough year for my family.

On top of it all, one of my closest friends who has been there faithfully to support my family over the last year plus is moving far away. So much loss! There are many moments where I struggle with all this change & loss, it’s a lot to take in all at once. Anyone without Jesus in their heart might feel as if there was no hope for the year (or life for that matter), like things could never get better. I choose not to look on life this way, because I know my God is carrying me through these tough times & there are lessons He wants me to see. The closeness I have felt with God this year has been like no other & I cherish the time and lessons He has taught me.

Jeremiah 29:11 is an extremely popular verse, you see it all over t-shirts, signs, it is often quoted & while it is a great verse, many people tend to forget the context in which it was written, or maybe not even know it at all. Often times is used for people to comfort themselves that things will for sure get better and prosperity will come their way. Jeremiah 29:11 is apart of the letter to the Israelites in exile, verse 1 of chapter 29 addresses surviving elders of the exiles, the priests, the prophets & all the people Nebuchadnezzar had taken into exile from Jerusalem to Babylon.  To sum up verses 4-9; God told the Israelites in Babylon that they were to live there for a time, to make it their home, have families, not to let their numbers decrease & to wait. Their time was coming, but this wasn’t it. Can you imagine being the elders longing  to see the Promise Land? Some of them would never see it!

10 “For thus says the Lord: When seventy years are completed for Babylon, I will visit you, and I will fulfill to you my promise and bring you back to this place. 

Now we get to one of the most popular verses in all of the Bible: 11 For I know the plans I have for you, declares the Lord, plans for welfare[b] and not for evil, to give you a future and a hope.

This verse has a completely different meaning than I think many see it to say. This is not an “ask and you will get it now” prosperity gospel verse (prosperity gospel is a false gospel in case you didn’t know). Jeremiah 29:11 is a promise that God’s people would ONE DAY be delivered to their Promise Land, but it would not come soon. I don’t know the plans God has for me & my life, I do know my eternity in Heaven will be filled with God’s Glory, but my earthly life, I do not know what holds. This does not promise me prosperity, but does not give me a pass to let go of hope that good might come to me & this does not excuse me to have a bad attitude in the face of trials. This tells me, I must keep the faith and recognize that God is ALWAYS with me & I will ALWAYS have Him to lean on in times of trials & that one day (even if it is in Heaven), God will give me great things.

The Christian life is not about what will God give me, it is about giving EVERYTHING to God. In Matthew 4:19 Jesus said to Simon Peter & Andrew:  “Follow me, and I will make you fishers of men.”, they were called to drop everything, give up everything they owned & follow Jesus. In the modern world, with the technology we have, we do not have to give up all of our earthly possessions in order to follow Christ (although some do get that specific calling), but if we are holding on to earthly things too tightly, they become our gods. Is your heart willing to give up everything you own to follow God? Are you as Christians telling others about Christ regularly?

My Paw Paw loved the Lord & people knew it. He loved to sing the hymns & he made sure his family knew he loved & knew Jesus. There is no doubt for anyone of where he is spending his eternity. Do you know where you will spend your eternity? If you have any questions, please reach out! If not to me, to someone who you know is a follower of Christ.

God Bless,

-A

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

The Various Stages of Widow’s Grief

So I had a completely different blog intended for today, but like many things in life, God spoke and changed the direction.

Today I want to talk about grief, and in particular widow’s grief. I think most people out there have heard the 5 stages of grief: denial, anger, bargaining, depression, acceptance.

In my experience, with widow’s grief those can often times be mixed in together. And with a widow who went through a long cancer battle and long periods of hospice, the time lines are even more skewed.  

When I first started out in widowhood, I was asked (and still get asked) a lot, how I could be handling all this so well. When asked this, I told them a couple things: I have been preparing for this time since Jeff went on Hospice in September (it’s hard to believe we are less than a month away from the anniversary of the first day of hospice) & the other thing I would tell them was God has been doing miraculous things in my heart to prepare me for such a time is this.

So then as time went on I began to think that I really believe I started grieving in the summer of 2016 when Jeff started his decline and we were in and out of the hospital 9 times in 5 months.

But as I spoke with a dear friend over dinner recently, she told me she believed I started my grief when we were told it was an incurable cancer and his life would be cut very short.

So for those who don’t know, in April of 2014 when Jeff was diagnosed and we finally got to put him on chemo, the doctor informed us that there was no cure, and no true long term treatment. The first type of chemo would last at most 7 years, the next 5, and the last 3. That would still have him only surviving to about 47. Jeff never got put on the 2nd form.. After less than 2 1/2 years on chemo, his body stopped responding & expert opinions said that no other chemos we had planned to switch to would work. Talk about a huge blow. 

So back to the conversation with my friend… she told me she saw the gradual change in me and the realization that I would become a young widow, because truth is, even if he lived to full capacity of the chemos, I would still be 40 and widowed. That to me, made complete sense. 

So now, for the 5 stages… denial, anger, bargaining, depression & acceptance… Jeff & I both went through a period with the chemo where he was doing so well for a couple years and feeling great… we thought “surely he will heal from this, it will go away“…. DENIAL. Now it’s not to say that God couldn’t or wouldn’t heal Jeff, but there was a time when we both were so convinced we would get to grow old and grey with each other, that why would God deny us of our plans?

The heart of man plans his way,  but the Lord establishes his steps. Proverbs 16:9

I don’t know that I would say I have ever felt the need to bargain with God, but that’s possibly because growing up in a God fearing home, I know this does not work with God because we cannot earn His favor, it is given through accepting the gift of Christ.

Anger, Depression & Acceptance however, I feel as though I go through those simultaneously on a regular basis. One of the things I have learned with Widow’s grief in particular is our own stages with these 3 particular emotions. For the first 2-3 months, I felt like crying ALL THE TIME… I hid it often times, especially in work life, because let’s be real… I need to be professional and can’t be blubbering all over my bosses and our customers… and for the most part I think I’ve done fairly well around friends to not just break down all the time, but to know when and who I can break down on. Thank you by the way for those who let me do that!

This last month & a half, the grief has been more in the form of exhaustion. Now part of that is because this summer has been CRAZY busy, and we have had a completely different routine than we ever had before & in a week we will have a whole new routine to get used to! But also, the simplest things have made me just soooooo tired. Like yesterday, I intended to make eggs, bacon and biscuits for dinner… we love breakfast for dinner in our house!! I did not however get all of that done. I pulled out a can of biscuits from the fridge, popped them in, took them out, put jelly and butter on it, and that was dinner. I didn’t have the energy for eggs and bacon! Two very simple foods. That’s just how it is sometimes.

The reality of it is, I didn’t just become a single mom… I became a widow. Please don’t misunderstand me… being a single parent is hard, so hard… I’m not knocking that & I’m not saying you don’t have your own griefs you go through with being a single parent, because I know you do! I have a few friends out there who are beasting and owning their calling as a single parent. But when you simultaneously are dealing with handling everything by yourself & grieving the  death of your spouse, that is a whole other ball park folks.

I don’t say all this to gain sympathy or empathy, that’s not what this post is about. I say all this to shed a little bit more light on our situation as widows, specifically young widowed mothers. We deal with on a daily basis not knowing if we are going to break down into tears in the middle of the grocery store, we deal with going from having someone to share the workload with to doing it all for ourselves, we deal with grieving children who just wish they could hold daddy/mommy one more time & trying not to break down with them every time they get upset, we deal with having to be the good guy AND the bad guy with discipline when we were so used to sharing that role, we deal with suddenly having to be both bread winner and home maker (which being a stay at home mom until my kids were older was a big dream of mine that I had to let go of…. another loss I suffered) but probably the biggest thing of all is we deal with no longer having your biggest supporter there when you need to lean on them or to curl up with them when you’ve had a bad day. And the realization of these things only makes you more upset in those hard moments. 

I thank God all the time for my friends and family who are there for me and offer a helping hand whenever I need. I truly don’t know how I would have gotten through all these months without their help. I am especially thankful to my widow friends who I get to share in this journey with. Y’all are amazing!! And of course I thank God for being there me anytime I need Him, He is the biggest supporter of all.


I’m putting a page break here because this is not the end, but I’m going to switch directions on you. All of the above is about the grief I have gone through with this journey, but y’all, there be been some great things to come out of it!!! 

Because of my gradual grief journey over the years,  even though I’m only 4 1/2 months out, I feel way more happiness and excitement than I thought I would these days! I get to experience early, a hope that there are better earthly (as well as Heavenly) days ahead! I hope to one day, when God’s timing is revealed to find (what we call in my young widows support groups) a Chapter 2 in love. Maybe more children are in my future (oh how the Lord knows this is a great desire of my heart!)… but I can’t promise a baseball or basketball team mom & dad (haha)! I have seen many people go through depression who don’t want to go out and enjoy life with friends… this is not my case at all! In fact, I would much rather be out  (or in) hanging with friends than at home alone! I have seen God do great things through my testimony as well as through Jeff’s!!! So when someone asks me how I am able to be handling all this so well… I won’t give them this whole blog schpeel (that’s just for you lucky ones), I will keep telling them: “I’ve been going through this journey for some time now, God is good & faithful to be with me in all my circumstances, and I do still struggle, even though it may not always show, so I will always take a hug, a call or some hang time!” Just remember friends, each grief looks different, acts different, sounds different, but we all need love.

 

God Bless,

-A 

 

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

Happy Birthday Jeff

Yesterday was Jeff’s birthday, he would’ve turned 37.… we always teased him that he was an old man. Being 7 years older than me, had grey hairs and more injuries than a man for his age, he was an easy target. Truth of the matter is, he wasn’t old at all… so when I think about the fact that at 36 my husband died, it still hits hard. So young!!! 

The day wasn’t as emotional as I thought it would be not having him with us to celebrate. We filled the day with as many fun distractions as we could. Emotions were still there and there were other family issues going on that brought on all sorts of emotions. For us here on earth, it was a sad day, but when you think about Heaven, it must’ve been one great birthday for him! That thought made the pain here on earth a little better.

For most people,  I’m sure they would want their loved one to come back to earth, but I don’t. Now don’t go judging me here… hear me out!! Earth is a place filled with sin, sorrow and pain. Yes it has joys, great happy moments, people to love, things to experience, and we should experience life to the fullest! But when you compare to the glory and splendor that awaits in Heaven, the lack of sin, pain, sorrows.. the absence of Cancer, PTSD and emotional hurts… sounds like the best best place to spend a birthday to me!

So while here on earth, family and friends miss him dearly… but for those of us who are believers in Christ, we look forward to seeing him again in Heaven one day. Until then, we will keep his memory in our hearts.

God Bless,

-A

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

October 2014

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October has always been one of my favorite months. It houses fall, football, cooler weather, wassail, chili, because we live in a small football (and baseball) town, the town is always a buzz, but most importantly… our anniversary. October of 2014 we got to go to a few high school games as a family, we had met our sweet friends the Garretts in September and were now finding tons of fun things to do together! We even went to a movie at the park to see the Goonies. I had never seen the movie.. and apparently the 3 of them forgot how much “bad stuff” was in it and we quickly sent the kids to the playground so they wouldn’t hear and see it. We took the boys to the fireman parade… looking at these pictures is so fun! Oh how little they were!

Jeff had bought me 3 roses one day just because I was having a bad day… things like this… I really miss. Another thing I miss… date nights. Jeff and I had gone to see Left Behind as an early anniversary gift. It was a great night out.

It’s weird now to see pictures from when he was so healthy because for the last year of his life, he slowly turn and deteriorated, especially in the last 6 months.

One of the things Jeff and I loved to do together was watch tv, for us it gave us the chance to wind down together and we would talk about the shows that were in season, which was a blessing when he was unable to move much because we could sit together and enjoy them rather than feeling the need to go out and do things. We loved watching Dancing with the Stars, and this season Alfonso Ribeiro was on it. For those who didn’t know Jeff.. he could do a mean Carlton. The video I snuck of him doing it is something I treasure so much! I laugh at it all the time & it reminds me of the free spirit he was.

October 8th is our anniversary, it’s hard to believe we were 3 years into marriage and 6 months into the cancer battle. we didn’t do anything special on the actual day since we had celebrated early & had plans a few days later. One thing that did happen though was our son lost TWO teeth that day.

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I am so glad he was able to be there to see so many milestones, but I grieve when new milestones come up that he isn’t there for. Like learning to ride a bike, soon it’ll be the first day of middle school.. high schoolfirst dates, graduations, wedding. All things Jeff will miss, but still… we are thankful for the time and moments we had with him. On the 12th we got to have another date night and go see Kari Jobe at our church. It was a wonderful night of worship & a great way to celebrate our anniversary.

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On the 25th we took family photos that turned out to be my favorites we ever took. I am forever grateful to Natalie for taking amazing photos.

October is in the season of changecolors changing, temperatures changing, typically switching over from baseball to football… it’s all about change. This year will be no different… then again, my whole year has been about change.

October 2014 was a great one, possibly the best one we ever had together. This one… will be a hard one. Praying for the Lord’s comfort every day, but this coming October… we will need extra prayer when it comes.

God Bless,

-A

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

Changes

So it’s been a week and a half since I posted my last blog about the truth that punched me in the gut. Well the punches just keep on coming.

I like to think I handle changes fairly well for the most part. Pretty much got a crash course in that with Jeff’s cancer battle. Does it mean I like the change? Of course not! Change is hard! And this summer has been full of changes. Some are good, some are bad & some seem like they’re bad, but are likely just not developed enough to see the good that will come of it.

You’ve seen it on here before when I’ve asked how I can pray for people. I often get asked how I can be so uplifting and pray for others when I have my own things to pray for. My answer is always that I get joy out of going to the Lord about things, especially for others. Even though circumstances are hard, talking to God always fills me with joy. Does this mean my pain is taken away in that moment? Often times not… and why not? Why wouldn’t God just take away my pain when I ask Him? Wouldn’t a God who loves me just want me to be happy all the time?! NO!!! God doesn’t call us to be happy… He calls us to be OBEDIENT to His calling. It is in our times of trials and suffering that we get closer to God (when we choose to lean into Him and not run from Him), when we are closer to God we can more clearly understand His will & His will for our lives is simply this: to live a life that is holy and pleasing to him (paraphrasing Romans 12:1), because that is true worship of God. He wants us to love Him and trust Him in the good times and bad. When times are good, it is so easy to get wrapped up into thinking we can do it on our own and that we don’t need God.

So back to the topic of change. So much is changing in my world & if you think of me, please pray for me as I navigate all these changes and the emotions that go along with it. I so desire to handle these changes with humility, honor, integrity & to be a compass to point people to Christ. But changes are hard, and right now I’m hurting. I don’t like it, at all, but I’m going to trust in the providence of God because I know He sees all and is in all, therefore I don’t have to see it all to keep walking the path He is leading me down.

I hate the phrase “when God closes one door he opens a window”… to me that tells people:

1. The answer is right next to you & you’re not looking hard enough

2. The window of opportunity is smaller than the door that was shut

3. You have to work to get yourself through the window (have you ever tried to climb through a window?!)

I do not believe God is opening a window for me… I believe He is providing a path for me to follow. If I do not take the steps of faith to follow the path He has for me, then I will not see His will for me, but without the path to follow, I will get nowhere. Down the path God has made for me is another door, a better door than I could have imagined for myself. I may have to walk the path a while,  but it’s down there somewhere!

I know I’ve said it on Facebook, and I may have even said it here before. I LOVE the song Even If by Mercy me. It always speaks to me, often times makes me cry (but I always need the cry!) & I learn something different almost every time I sing it. I had recently been praying for an outcome to a situation, but still prayed that I accept the answer no matter what the outcome. Well the answer was not what I wanted… So today when listening to Even If, these words stuck out way more than they ever had:

But God, when You choose
To leave mountains unmovable
Oh give me the strength to be able to sing
It is well with my soul

So now, I must continue to sing “it is well with my soul”… even when it hurts… ESPECIALLY when it hurts!!!

So I’m telling you what I’m going to tell myself!!

1.Keep your eye on the path God has for you!

2.Don’t be distracted by windows!

3.Trust where He is leading you!

4.Praise Him along the way!

5. And when you reach the door… jump through feet first and be ready to shout to the world about all He has brought you through!!!

God Bless,

-A