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

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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

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