Friday, May 21, 2021

Returning to Me

 I used to be an avid reader of fiction. Reading was one of my favorite hobbies from high school onward. It was a passion I shared with my Granny. Special memories of swapping books and eagerly awaiting the other to complete them so we could discuss the plot and characters.

I used to be a lot of things before cancer slipped itself into all the little crevices of my existence. The constant care-giving, the years of battle, the loss. Widow brain (a real thing, friends). 

Since his passing in January of 2014, amidst the stresses and exhaustion of solo-parenting our two fabulous children through middle school, high-school, and into college. I have read exactly one book start to finish. One.

I have, within the past year, happily remarried and found amazing love which has expanded my heart in ways I didn’t know possible. I now balance having active kids in the home again. We are a blended family of seven. 

Moving to a new town, not knowing anyone, the isolation of the covid pandemic, and working from home (thankfully in my same career!) all added up to me desiring something of my own to do with snippets of free time.  Being my directionally challenged self, I got lost one afternoon (in our one stoplight town...don’t even ask) and found myself driving past a library. A library! I immediately parked and went in. Registered for a library card and perused the shelves for my first book to check out. Selecting a suspense fiction work by an author I had never read, intentionally choosing one of a series to help encourage me to finish quickly and return for the next. 

Over nine years since I’ve gotten fully lost in the pleasure of reading. Wouldn’t you know it the book I selected {“If I Run by Terri Blackstock”} unbeknownst to me, has Christianity as a subtle, well-written, underlying theme! 

Today I find myself poolside on a mini-escape with my two oldest finishing up book three in the series. Book THREE. 😃 Less than a month after I signed up for a library card in my tiny new hometown. 

Isn’t God good? Refreshing my soul and my passion simultaneously.  I feel extremely favored, as He reminds me daily that He cares about the smallest details of my existence.

Tuesday, January 12, 2021

A Good Man

 Yesterday was hard.

I can’t even explain why the seven year anniversary of my late husband’s passing hit in such a raw and fresh way; but man did it break down the flood gates of my tears.

Uncontrollable, guttural, breath-stealing sobs wrecked me multiple times throughout the day. Triggered by the most random things; a long early morning commute to work on a nearly empty highway; a friends name popping up on my ringing phone; walking into a lunch to see the faces of two dear friends who have faithfully walked the past nine years by my side; memory flashes of his final hours of suffering on this earth; scrolling up on a social media post from Mark’s late wife’s BFF and my heart shattering again for everyone who has suffered her loss; hearing my son answer his phone with a “hello, momma”...every little thing set me off.

A long commute back home.

A husband who without hesitation asks “how can I help?” the second he learns my emotions have run away from me all day, then rushes home to build me a fire in the fire pit.

And he lets me cry. 

He lets me sit and drink my wine beside the fire he built for me as the sun sets. He kisses my forehead and he returns to the house to prepare dinner for the kids while I sit with my thoughts.

Grief tears pour down my frozen cheeks as my heart breaks over and over again for our children and their journey. Tears of sorrow over what has been lost mix with tears of gratitude for a man who loves me so well in my new that sometimes it leaves me speechless. (No small feat there 😉.)

A man who understands. A man who doesn’t judge me for the uncontrollable eye leakage. A man who loves me deeply. 

I fell asleep last night after a day filled with so much hard and my heart was overflowing in gratitude to God for sending me a man who exceeds any expectation I could have ever considered having. My man. My present and my future. A good man. 

I’m one lucky lady. ❤️

Monday, January 11, 2021

Seven years...

Seven years…

It’s a long time. Two thousand-five-hundred-fifty-six days!

That’s a lot of living this life without your physical presence.

Seven years have contained some bad days; some days we weren’t sure we would survive.

So much change. Incredible growth. Hard roads walked; deep grief navigated.

Seven years have held some good days. Some days of thriving and confidence. Some days overflowing with pure happiness.

All days have possessed the common thread of your absence.

Each day also has been overflowing with the presence of God. He goes before, He walks beside, He hems us in from behind and He pours His blessing of peace within our souls.

Always loved. #EvenIf


Thursday, October 29, 2020

This man...

 This man...

I love being in love. 

Throughout my life, during decades of marriage as well as years of singleness; I’ve always been a huge fan of love stories.

I’ve been blessed far beyond what I deserve by being loved well. Loved perfectly and unconditionally by my gracious Heavenly Father. Loved securely by a devoted husband. Loved through my failures and successes by two incredible children. Loved intensely by supportive parents and siblings. Loved and truly known in deep friendship. 

And now, being loved by this man...I tear up at the privilege. 

He has opened parts of my heart that were long ago abandoned; unlocked new joys within me. He encourages me to be the best and kindest version of myself. He brings all good things into my life. Our life together is filled with laughter (usually at my expense which is refreshing and needed 🤣). He makes me want to tuck tighter under the wing of my Savior so I can pour deeper love into him and our combined five children. 

When God started opening my heart to the possibility of dating again, I was incredibly reluctant and hesitant. I didn’t want to settle and I was scared of being vulnerable. I remember telling God (and close friends) that what I really wanted was the comfort of a decades-long love affair without having to invest twenty years to get there again. 

And we laughed. 

Life doesn’t work that way. Or it isn’t supposed to. 

But God.

What He has given me with this man blows my mind, humbles me, and fulfills dreams I didn’t even know to dream!

I am most relaxed when in his presence. Stress flees with one long hug from his strong arms. A bad attitude vanishes with one smirk from his dimpled smile. A single glance from his blue eyes captivates me and pastes a cheesy smile across my face. His heart is warm. His mind is brilliant. He challenges and supports me. He makes me feel safe. And mercy, with that first kiss I was completely undone. 

This love did not complete me. It did not heal me. God did the tedious work of binding up the tattered edges of my heart in the years before I met this man. My Lord was tirelessly and patiently preparing me for this time and this marriage. With this man. 

What this love has done is magnify my happiness. It has enhanced my already wonderful life. It has revealed new facets of my heart.

This love with this man; it has transformed me for the better.

I’m not sure why I’m the least bit surprised this love has the comfort of a life long relationship, without having put in the decades to get here. 

You’d think by the age of forty nine I’d know my Redeemer’s generosity and expect His attention to the details of my heart’s desire.

Yet He continually amazes me.

God is such a loving Father and I am one overwhelmingly grateful child.

Tuesday, December 17, 2019

Love Has Found Me

The other half of my forever. 

It has come quickly and fiercely, yet looking back, I see God’s gentle prodding and preparing of my heart for this timing.

Five months ago I sat across from a widower in a local restaurant on our first face-to-face meeting. We instantly connected on several levels. When he spoke of his late wife, his eyes and voice changed ever so slightly. Maybe it wouldn’t have been noticeable to many; but to someone who also had a beautiful was obvious...this was a man who loved well and was loved well.

What a gift!

If I could visit the afterlife and have a few minutes with his late wife, I would hug her tightly and say...
Thank you, Julie.
Thank you for loving him well. 
Thank you for raising such sweet and respectful children with him.  Thank you for the beautiful relationship you had with both extended families.

Words actually fail me when I try to describe the gift he is to me, and I fully acknowledge that YOU were instrumental in molding him into the man who stands before me. I appreciate your love affair and your forever place in his heart. I am humbled to be stepping into the lives of your children and family. You will always be honored by me. Your family will always be respected by me.

Mark and I never could have imagined that you and my late husband would only be half of our forever's; but here we are.

We know we are fortunate to have found each other; to be experiencing two "love of our life's" in a single lifetime.  I am head over heels in love with him.

I promise to love him completely. I vow to love and treat your children as though they are my own.

I prayed, oh friends how I prayed!

I was content to remain single. We were a happy family of three. I had no desire to ever date again.

I prayed daily for an entire year that if God had someone special for me in my future, he would change the desire of my heart.

He did.

It scared me.

So I prayed.

I prayed daily for an entire year for God to prepare me for my future mate and to prepare him for me.

It was another year and a half before I met him.

A man who was loved well and loves me well. A man who knows the plight of solo parenting through grief and has excelled at it.  A man who is respected in his profession and adored by his family and friends.

I admire him. I cherish him. I enjoy being his. He is the answer to three and a half years of constant prayer.

So now, I pray.

I pray God blesses and protects our relationship.

I pray God continues to mold me into the woman this man needs as his encourager and partner.

I pray I can be a safe haven for him and his children in the years to come and that he can be a positive, loving mentor in the lives of my children.

This life is full of twists and turns; crushing turmoil and unexpected blessings. We cannot escape pain and loss; but we can embrace love. God is so faithful to expand our hearts to include new love without it standing in competition or comparison with the past. I marvel at how the great loves of my life can so peacefully co-exist independently within me.

Beauty from ashes...God is good.

Wednesday, May 1, 2019

A Podcast Interview: Memories and Missing

Yesterday morning, I sat with a friend and visited about widowhood.

She asked real questions and I gave raw answers.  We barely even noticed the microphone in front of us.

Today, her podcast interview was released.

My first thought while listening is, "Goodness gracious, I do laugh a lot in this life!" and I am not one bit sad about that fact!

Tim would be tickled that I am still laughing my way through this messy life.

Saturday, April 27, 2019

A Work in Progress - Uncovering Deeper Grief

It’s been quite the week here.

After a long hiatus from time in my kitchen (and complaints from the kids over my lack of cooking)…I returned to a place in my home that has always been about Tim.
He made one comment early in our marriage that stuck with me for the nearly two decades we had together. 

“I travel so much for work and eat out every meal, it would be nice when I’m in town to come home from work to a home cooked meal.”

That was all it took. One simple comment and I began spending hours in the kitchen to make sure he had a fulfilling and delicious meal at the end of his long workdays. He ALWAYS thanked me, and there were only a handful of times in the following 19 years that he didn’t wash the dishes and clean the kitchen afterwards for me.

Cooking was a way I showed appreciation and love to the man that gave his all in providing for us. It was an act of respect and obedience to his request as the head of our household. One simple comment from him and I willingly shifted my desire to be taken out to eat when he was in town. 

Within a year of that comment, we packed up and moved to Salt Lake City and I was able to prepare meals for him daily, as travel was no longer a part of his work.  It brought me joy to serve him in this simple way.

When he lost his ability to swallow during the cancer battle, I ceased cooking. I thought it too cruel to have food aroma wafting through our home for hours each day to torment him.  I was feeding him formula through his feeding tube every few hours and people were preparing meals for the kids and me several times a week for me to easily serve each evening.  This went on for over a year.

He died.

I returned to my beloved kitchen and began making meals from scratch again for the kids and myself. It wasn’t the same. Grief had somehow invaded this part of my life and besides, the kids’ schedules were so hectic that often, I wouldn’t get home to begin preparing food until close to 9:00 pm.   So I tapered off from cooking until finally in the past few years I pretty much have been non-existent in the kitchen.

Over the past few months, I have been open to the idea of dating.  Recently I decided I would just say, “I don’t cook” to would-be suitors so that I could avoid the pain of ever having to return to a chore that I no longer enjoy.  Saying it out loud, coupled with the recent teasing from our kids made me realize the reason behind my dislike of cooking.

It isn’t fun doing something that was so intricately tied to my marriage without Tim being here. That’s just my reality.  Now that I’ve been able to identify the root of my problem, I am able to properly address it and heal from it.

Communication is critical in every relationship. Unmet expectations can destroy happiness if we are unable to communicate our needs to one another.  Sometimes, self-communication is equally as important for self expectations to be met.

I’m still a work in progress…every single blasted day of this journey!  Last week, I completed three homemade meals for our family (and by Wednesday to boot...I was kind of a big deal over here).  Baby steps...but I'm learning more about myself and moving forward in new areas again.