Sunday, March 24, 2013

My Heart Will Choose To Say...

This song has been playing through my head a lot lately.

This year has definitely been one of giving and taking away. It has been one full of ups and downs. However, my heart knows that He has been there with me every step of the way. For that, I am thankful and I know that despite the ache, sometimes unbearable, that is in my heart, I am blessed because He will never turn His back on us. I know that even when He "gives or takes away" it is for His glory. Though I don't understand it, somehow, someway, it's for His glory.

He Takes Away
Some of you know, but many of you may not, we have been trying to sell our house since December 2011, which, because of the failing housing market in Florida, is not easy. We prayed about it. A lot. It was not an easy decision, but a path that we knew He was taking us down. This wasn't an easy decision to make. This was the first house Ryan and I owned together. This was the house I brought my baby home to from the hospital. This was the only house my parents ever knew. I could walk into a room, close my eyes, and picture them in the room, just as they were the last time they were here. There were many memories wrapped up within the walls. However, God reminded me, and had to keep reminding me, that the house didn't contain the memories, my heart contained the memories. It didn't matter whether or not my family was still within those walls, the memories, the feelings, would still be there. It's amazing how the mind works. A smell, a picture, a song - it can bring about the most vivid of memories in a flash. So many times, I think many of us associate those memories with physical places. However, thankfully, God has created us where we don't have to rely on those physical places. He has placed them in our hearts and mind forever.

Halfway through the process, is when my father passed away. I relied on him for his guidance and listening ear when it came to this process. It was not easy to know we would be continuing on without him. I understand what many of you may be thinking "she is an an adult. She should make her own decisions. It's time to grow up." I was raised to be independent and yes, I could make my own decisions, but I enjoyed my parents guidance. I didn't go to them because I couldn't handle things on my own. I went to them because I trusted them. They were wise. I wanted their guidance. My father was there for guidance, as well as a listening ear when I would need to air my frustrations with the whole process. However, suddenly, without notice, he was gone and I had to now figure out this process, along with many other things, on my own. Since we were just shy of 3 years since we had lost my mom, I truly felt like the "darkness was closing in" and it was not always easy to continue to praise His name. However, one thing is true, His love, mercy, and strength is unfailing and if we choose, in those darkest of moments, to praise His name, His strength will be there. In those moments when we don't think we can go on, when we feel as though there is nothing left in us, if we choose to praise His name, He will be there. He will humble us and give us such a peace and undeserved strength to continue moving on.

He Gives
Finally, after 14 months, we closed the door on our house in Groveland for the last time. As sad as it was, I have never felt more blessed.  God has shown once again His provision in the house he has given to us. I was reminded, yet again, of how faithful He is and how His timing is absolute perfection (I'm sure He's wondering when I am going to ever truly learn this lesson). At this moment, we are 2.5 miles from where Ryan parks to go to work. As many of you know, Ryan is (and will for some time be) on nights. As the area grew and construction increased, it got to a point where it would take him nearly an hour to get home. He is now home in 5 minutes. It brings peace to my heart. No more driving tired. No more missing time with us because he has to take 2 hours out of his day just to travel to work. No more missing family time because he is so tired he can't keep his eyes open. The house is more perfect than we could have ever hoped for or imagined. We truly feel His "streams of abundance" flowing.

One thing I have always known is that it's easy to praise Him when everything is perfect. It's easy to praise Him when things are going well. When things aren't so perfect, it's another story. However, in those dark moments, when we make the choice to praise Him, despite our circumstances, at least for me, that is when I have felt His presence the most. That is when I am reminded of how truly faithful He is and how undeserving of His continual blessings I am. An even more humbling thought is the fact is that when I do fail Him, when I do forget to choose to praise Him during those times, He loves me just the same and finds some way to gently remind me of all He does and the amazing praise He is so worthy of.

Wednesday, December 26, 2012

How Great Thou Art


 The Christmas season has once again entered our world and left just as quickly. All the weeks of preparation and anticipation were gone in a matter of hours, or for some who were able to stretch it out, short days. I will admit, I love the Christmas season - the decorations, lights, trees - I love them all. I love the sound of Christmas music filling the stations and stores (as long as it's after Thanksgiving, of course).  However, this year, was different. We didn't go all out on the decorations, tree, presents, etc. This Christmas was about survival and getting used to the way the holiday season would be from now on. Luckily, Parker is small enough to allow this. He didn't know that we didn't put up a tree up or brought out very little decorations. He didn't even know that we played Christmas music just a little less this year. For me, this year, even the music was different. While most were singing classic Christmas songs, the above song kept playing over and over in my head. This is a family song of sorts for us. This was the song my mother walked down the aisle to when she married my dad. This song was played at both my grandfather's funerals, my mother's funeral, and this particular version started off my dad's funeral. It is a song that has always been very special to my family and this is the song that has constantly been echoing from my mouth and heart this holiday season. 

I knew this Christmas would be rough. It's hard not having either of my parents here due to losing them under such young, unexpected circumstances. It's weird to think that the feeling of a childhood home, and simply being a child still, is now gone. I really do believe, no matter how old you are, you still want to feel like a child. You still want that love from a Mama and Daddy and that feeling of being protected - being taken care of. I expected to lose that feeling one day. I expected for that chapter to close and one day become the only Mama left, making my babies and grandbabies feel that way. I just never expected for that chapter to be closed by 28. 
However, this Christmas, my heart can't help but sing "How Great THOU Art!"

Despite the pain so deep it often times will take my breath away, I know that I was blessed to have amazing parents for 28 years. While I feel it was too short, I know it's a lifetime compared to the time some get with their parents. Are there hardships and aches that come from losing a parent? Absolutely. Are some more difficult and trying than others? Absolutely. But one fact remains - it doesn't matter what age you lose your parent or how you lose them, you will always wish for just one more moment. More importantly, I know that it's not the end. I know that I will get to spend eternity with them, where we will never be separated again, but can worship a wonderful God and smile seeing how all the hurt and whys came together to bring about a perfect plan. And for that, I can't help but praise Him for how great He is.

I still have a wonderful family left here on Earth. I know there will still be heartaches. I know there are still trials ahead, some that may seem to difficult to bear. However, these past few days, as I watched my son, who grows and learns every single day, find such joy in life, I can't help but remember how blessed I am. I'm not even talking about the enjoyment he got from his presents. I'm talking about the simple joy in life. The squeals he let out when his Aunt Rachel arrived at the door. The laughs that came so fierce from playing peek-a-boo they brought on hiccups. The smile that stretched from ear-to-ear when he caught us watching him from the kitchen as he played outside, realizing he was free to run around. These are little moments to be so thankful for. No, he will never know my parents. He will have no pictures of himself with my Mama. He will not remember the moments he sees in pictures of him with my Daddy. However, he will be able to take part in their legacy. He will hear stories and watch videos. He will experience the traditions and values that they have passed down. He won't realize it, but every day, he will be experience who they were and are through those moments.  It doesn't take the place of being able to physically interact with them. That ache, that hole, will always be there. However, I can't help but smile through tears at how great God is to leave us with those pieces.

The part that warms my heart the most, is this:

When Christ shall come, with shout of acclamation,
And take me home, what joy shall fill my heart.
Then I shall bow, in humble adoration,
And then proclaim: "My God, how great Thou art!"

Praise God that this is not the end. Praise God that there will come a day when all shall be made new and we shall once again be with those who we have missed for so many years. Praise God that there will come a day when we can take a step back, see His master plan, fully understand all that He has done for us, and truly proclaim at His feet, surrounded by those we love "My GOD, how GREAT thou art!"

We hope that this Christmas you were able to enjoy your family and friends, as well as find all the ways that you have been blessed this year. We hope, this Christmas season, you were once again reminded just how great He truly is and all that He has done for us and continues to do for us through His son.
From our family to yours, Merry Christmas!

Sunday, October 7, 2012

The Way I Remember My Father

I have taken a break from the blogging world lately. It was not an expected or planned break. We had a summer that was full of so many events that I had planned to write many blogs about. However, while God blessed us with so many things and wonderful times together, we also know He does allow hard times to come through our lives - times to grow and refine us as His children. This summer was a perfect example of that. This blog will not even begin to do justice to the feelings and thoughts that I am trying to process and will try to process for the rest of my life. However, it’s a start. 

As many of you know, we lost our father to an unexpected heart attack on July 27. He was healthy. He has had diabetes since I was in high school, which is a disease that has run in his family for years and one that I am now painfully aware of the impact that brings. However, he was otherwise healthy.  In fact, he had just been to the doctor and they told him he was better than he had ever been in a long time in terms of his health.  When we received the call on July 27 that he had experienced a massive heart attack and passed away, we were shocked. Even now, the day (and the days that have followed) seems like a crazy dream that we will one day wake up from.  

Three years ago we dealt with the unexpected loss of my mother. It was a pain I had never experienced before and one that I never thought to be dealing with at 24, at least not in an unexpected way. It was something I didn’t understand and still deal with to this day. However, we still had Dad. We were still the kid and we still had a parent to lean on. I never dreamed that almost 3 years to the day later we would be getting a call that my father had passed without warning as well. I understand that people lose parents. It’s the natural order of life. I understand that people lose parents young. However, to lose both parents, unexpectedly, without an obvious medical sign before the age of 28 was not something I was prepared to deal with. 

In the midst of all this, as I’m sure many who go through something like this would say, while I feel painfully cheated of precious time that I should have received, I am also largely aware of how lucky I truly was to have not 1, but 2 parents who were more than parents – they were friends. Not just during my adult life like most would say, but during my entire life. 

Who my father was
My father was one of the best, if not the best, man I knew. He wasn’t just our father, he was our best friend. My family was always close. You couldn’t go anywhere without someone (or all of us) being with you. Not because we had to, but because we wanted to be together. I would come home from college and hang out with my family. I would choose to hang out with my family in high school over friends. It wasn’t forced. We enjoyed being together. When my mom passed away 3 years ago, that only grew. We realized how quickly one of us could be gone and it became even more important to share everything together.

My father always tried to make everyone happy – not in the people pleasing kind of way, but because he enjoyed being around people and wanted them to be happy as well. Yes, he had his stresses, especially after my mom passed and he had to figure out how to live without her, but he loved being around people and being happy. He was always smiling or laughing or joking. That was him. He loved telling stories. The ongoing joke was the fact that you could repeat Dad’s stories line-for-line. Something I made fun of him terribly for, but something I am insanely happy about now. I know everything there was to know about my father and his life because of those stories and the fact that he loved sharing them with people.

His world revolved around us. That fact is true for both of my parents. Many would view that as spoiling us and, I will admit, we were spoiled. However, we were not spoiled by material things. We didn’t get anything we wanted and when we were given things, we were still taught about the importance of appreciating it and the work that went into getting that item. We knew that anything we needed, we could go to them for and they would help us through it, even if just listening to us. Ryan’s favorite line is how he has to deal with the aftermath of what Dad created because his favorite phrase was “how can I make it better?” Some might say they were wrong in their way of how they raised us, but I can tell you that I loved my parents, appreciated my parents, more than a lot of people I know. 

He was an amazing Morfar (grandfather in Swedish). He loved Parker more than I can ever express. I was amazed at the amount of people, people I didn’t even know, who were asking where Parker was at the funeral because all they ever heard Dad talk about was “that little boy.” I knew he loved him, but it wasn’t until then, that I realized just how much. For me, that is what breaks my heart the most. Parker will never know how amazing his grandfather was and just how much he loved him. I had finally come to terms with the fact that he would never know my mother. However, I never experienced them together, which means I never saw that connection made. I saw the connection between my father and my son and it breaks my heart most that he will never fully understand, despite how many stories will be shared, how amazing his Morfar was and what he was cheated of.  He will never know how much my mother would have loved to know him, but even more, how much my father did love knowing him and the dreams he had for him. 

My father was one of the hardest working people I know, yet didn’t have to “work” at all. My father was a great business man. However, he was fortunate to work from home and have a job that allowed a flexible schedule. Not only could be flexible with the days he worked, but where he worked from. This is something I am extremely grateful for, especially now. My entire life, I had a father who was there for us whenever we needed. We were able to be together 24/7 and that included my mother when we were younger since she stayed home until my sister went to school.  After I moved to Florida, he was able to visit frequently because of his ability to work from FL as easily as Kentucky. This helped us to cope with my mother’s death. We had always been together and now a piece of us was missing and I was the only one 12 hours away. 

However, because of his job, he was able to spend almost every month in Florida, even if it was just for a weekend. His work situation molded my idea of what a job should be like. Unfortunately, most jobs are not that flexible. However, I have been lucky and blessed to find a job that proves to be just as flexible. I will never forget how excited not only I was, but him as well. I am able to keep Parker home and have the same day to day impact on him that my parents had with me. When my grandmother fell, I was able to work from Kentucky for 2 weeks to help my father out. It’s yet another thing that has not only made me appreciate my father, but the blessings God has placed in my life.

 My father was an amazing husband. I can’t even begin to describe the love and bond that my parents shared. I have never seen my father more lost and alone than after my mother died. Yes, he was dependent on her. Not because he didn’t know how to do anything or was weak, but because he loved her and she loved him. They were an example of a true marriage partnership. Yes, I knew that we were our parents’ high priority, but I also knew that their marriage came before us and I am so thankful for that and the example they set. Just as I mentioned that my family always went everywhere together, my parents were even more connected. They were always together. There were never any separate trips to places. Where there was one, there was the other. They loved us. Deeply.  However, they looked forward to the day that it was just the 2 of them again - something that crushed my father so much after she was gone. They had so many dreams and those dreams were cut short. Yes, my father loved us and wanted to be with us, but I know he always missed my mother and longed for her. I do not believe that my father died of a broken heart. Yes, he missed her, but I do not believe he was so brokenhearted that he longed to be with her to the point of death. However, I do believe that right now, he is right where he always wanted to be and was waiting for the day to join her again. It’s an example that I strive to set in my marriage and one that I hope Parker, and our future children, will see in us. 

Who my father IS
There are many things that my father was. Even the words I have written today do not cover or do justice to the man that my father was and the example that he and my mother set or the many blessings they gave us. These words do not do justice to how connected my family was or how much I miss them and will until the day I die. They do not fully explain how much we hurt right now or how cheated we feel, but thankfully, these words do not cover who my father was but who he (and my mother) is.
More than how thankful I am for the fact that they were our best friends, set an example of love, gave us what we needed (and even wanted at times), I am thankful for the fact that they worshipped and followed the Lord and put their faith in the death and resurrection of Jesus. Because of that, I know that I can say these things are not just who my father was, but who he currently is, because I know that while he is not here with us anymore, he continues on, living, in Heaven, with my mother by his side. I am thankful that I can rest assured and trust in the promise that I will see them again one day because not only did they put their faith in Him, but they set an example for us so that we too, have that same faith and trust. Because of that trust, despite the intense pain we feel right now, we know that we have a God who will see us through it. We have a Heavenly Father who will give us peace and comfort and whose grace is sufficient. We have a God who is all-knowing and, even though we can’t see it and will never fully understand it, has a perfect reason and plan for all of this.  We know that even though we question why and at times, are insanely angry over the loss of both parents and the break-up of our family, we have a God who only holds us tighter during those moments.  
It doesn’t take the pain away. It doesn’t make us miss them less. It doesn’t take away the “why” or make us not want them here with us even more. It does, thankfully, give us the peace that the suffering and heartache is just for a while and one day, we will be together again and once again get to enjoy all that made my father and mother the great people they were and still are. 

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

One Of The Most Precious Sounds In The World

Parker had his first experience with bubbles this week. He loved them. He found them hilarious. I know he has been laughing for quite some time now, but I still never get enough of his deep, belly laugh. I think it has to be one of the best sounds in the world.

Sunday, May 6, 2012

I Serve A Risen Savior...

This year, we were blessed to spend Easter weekend with my family in Kentucky. It was a quick weekend, but full of visiting our favorite restaurants, spending precious time with old friends, traditions old and new, rare family time, and worshiping our Risen Savior in the church I grew up in.

This was Parker's first Easter and such a special moment to share with him. I found that this year, Easter had an even greater meaning. I grew up in church. I trusted in Jesus as my savior at a young age and never looked back. I know the story of the crucifixion and resurrection like the back of my hand. I have been told since I was very small how God sent his only son to die for me so that I could be wiped clean of all my sins and spend eternity with Him - something I didn't deserve. However, this year, the intensity of that gift meant so much more. I knew in my head, how difficult that must have been and what a large gift it was. However, starring at my son, holding my son in my arms, I finally  understood -truly grasped - just how much of a gift it was. I can't imagine sending Parker to die for anyone, much less a world full of strangers. It was in that moment, that I developed an even greater appreciation and love for what Christ, and God, really did for us. For me. It's a gift I can't even begin to understand or comprehend, but one that I am more thankful for than ever before. After my mom died, I remember being reminded and thankful for the gift that Christ provided us with for the shear fact that it meant I would see her again. However, having Parker and thinking about what it truly would mean to send him to die for something others did, brought about an even deeper appreciation for the gift of salvation. It's almost indescribable. Humbling.

It was also a joy to be home, not just with my blood family, but with my church family. There is nothing like a crowded church worshiping, not singing songs, but truly worshiping, the Lord. It takes on a different meaning and love when it's a place of comfort and familiarity. It's something that we have struggled to find since moving to Florida. We have found churches we enjoy, but none feel like home yet. It was nice to be back in a place that knew our history and held so many wonderful memories, especially those of our mom. It may be a different church building than the one we grew up in, but the feelings are there, as are the memories. Every time we are back home, one of the hardest things we do is go back to church, but at the same time it's the most comforting. It reminds us of our mom. Makes us feel close to her, sad that she can't be with us, but joyous that we will see her again.

We were also able to spend time with old friends. One in particular who I haven't been able to spend quality time with in a long time. It made me appreciate those life-long friends even more. The ones who have been with you for most of your life, accept you for who you are, and stand by you. Again, just another reminding moment of the amazing people God has blessed me with.

We ended the trip with a wonderful family lunch. For the first time in a long time, a family lunch that everyone could be at. It was a nice way to conclude the trip. Parker got to experience his first Easter Egg hunt - though he really didn't do a lot of hunting. We were able to see my grandmother, who is doing much better after her hip surgery and who, naturally, is in love with Parker, her only great-grandchild.

It's always nice to take some time to relax and be around loved ones, but more than that, be reminded of just how blessed we truly are.

Wednesday, May 2, 2012

In The Florida Keys...

At the end of March we had the opportunity to take a girls trip to the Florida Keys. The original intention was not for it to be a girls (plus Parker) trip, but unfortunately, Ryan  had a necessary test come up that prevented him from going with us at the last minute. It was Rachel's spring break and I already had the days off from my job, so we decided to go anyway and it was definitely worth it. It was a much-needed break and weekend of relaxing.

Rachel and I had been to the Keys once before on a family vacation and it was just as beautiful and laid-back as we remembered. I grew up taking family vacations. My best memories are ones that revolve around trips. My parents were never concerned with what we had, but rather, spent our time (and money) on trips. It's one of the things that I am most thankful for, especially with my mom not here anymore. There are few places I can go that don't contain some sort of memory from a family vacation. It helps to always provide subtle reminders, not only our family, but God's comfort in memories. Because of that, I can't wait to share family vacations with Parker. It's always hard on us to find time to go places as a family with both sets of relatives living out of town. However, it's important to me that we establish some sort of family vacation routine, just us, because those are the times I remember, and enjoyed, the most. Those are the times I felt really bonded to my family.

After finally feeling settled into my new job and feeling as though I finally had some hold on the way things worked, the trip to the Keys was a much needed break. With my job, it's hard to separate family and work since they both take place under the same roof. However, I was able to turn off the computer, put the cell phone on silent, and really enjoy some quiet time. I have never seen anywhere in the United States that displays such beautiful, crystal-clear waters.
It was a perfect reminder of how diverse the landscape of our contry is, but more than that, what a creative and unique Creator we have.

Monday, April 16, 2012

Let The Climbing Begin

This weekend, we turned the corner and found the little man doing this...

Luckily, we caught him at the bottom of the stairs. I'm sure we will receive the Bad Parent of the Year Award for letting him continue to crawl up them (and for grabbing the video camera to capture it). The scary part was this morning. After realizing it was eerily quiet, I rounded the corner to discover that he had moved my blockade of suitcases away from the bottom the stairs (unfortunately, the way our stairs are designed, a baby gate doesn't fit/work) and was sitting at the very top. Of course, he started giggling uncontrollably when he saw that I had discovered him. Needless to say, we have had to create a different, stronger baby blockade.