Saturday, October 3, 2015

Birthday Blessings

Today is my birthday and it's a good one. Not that birthday's are "bad" but the last two years they have been a bit tough. In 2013, it was a little too close to my Dad's departure to heaven to really feel happy. It was difficult to smile - especially on the inside. 2014 was better but life still felt askew. 

This year is different. It isn't because I miss my Dad any less. That isn't true at all. It's just that the pain which seemed to be ever-present, isn't dominant anymore. My eyes might tear up when I'm 'remembering when...' but it's usually paired with a smile now. Even on the inside.

And today has been filled with smiles and making memories with those that fill my life and heart with love. Waking up to texts from my 'besties' and receiving those special messages from family and friends means a lot.

Quality not quantity.

That truly is my heart. My little man, B was determined to make me breakfast in bed. With his Dad's help, he prepared me eggs, sausage, bagel and coffee. He has such a servants heart that desires to bless others. That coupled with his hugs and kisses is the BEST way to begin my day.

My teenager, J, slept in (he is a teen!) but he too blessed me in his own way - mainly a hug that I now feel lost in since he's grown 8 inches this past year and towers over me. He and his Dad have spent many hours today moving wires and furniture around in the basement. Bringing substance to what I envision our basement to be. It will not be finished but it's a start. And their sacrifice of time is a HUGE gift to me.

I've had the luxury of time to spend on items that have been on the back burner...making blends of essential oils with carrier oils for our families use, and finally making a batch of my whipped body butter. With the drop in temperature, I know my skin will be grateful. Sounds like work but no, this too is a gift I gave to myself. I took a break from my classwork, laundry, menu planning, etc and allowed myself the luxury of a few hours.

In a few hours, the tasks we've filled our hours with will cease. We will be getting ready for a lovely dinner together and a show that is my love's surprise to us all. 

Time together. That is the greatest gift of all. 

Tuesday, September 2, 2014


One year.

Today is September 2nd.

Last year that was the last day I had with my Dad.

In a single breath, I can see myself sitting by his bed. Holding his hand. Trying to commit every detail to memory. Because I knew it wouldn't be long. I heard the change in his breathing throughout the day. I knew he was going home to be with Jesus soon. He was ready.  He was at peace.

I was...well, I don't really know what word describes how I was. I was choosing to trust God no matter what. I was not oblivious to Dad's decline in health but I didn't want to say "good-bye". I knew that God could heal him this side of heaven in a blink of an eye but I didn't know if that was part of His plan.

That morning I had my last real conversation with my Daddy.

Holding his hand, looking into his eyes, I said "I love you". I don't think it's possible to count how many times I spoke those words to him throughout my life. A trillion bazillion would still not be enough.

He replied  "I love you too" and then added "I have to tell you something. I'm going to die."

Holding back tears, I said "I know." and then added "No matter what happens on Earth, you will live forever because you are one of God's children and you are united with Christ". I then continued to speak the truths of Ephesians 1 over him.

Later that night I broke down. I guess it was time. Time to tell him "thank you" again for being the best Dad / friend / confidant / etc. Telling him how much the simple gesture of holding his hand meant to me and all that it represented - the safety, protection, love, comfort... Reminding him how much I loved his hugs and embrace and how I was incredibly blessed that God chose to give me him as my Dad.

None of it was new. There were many times that I shared these sentiments with him before - in person, written in cards, talking over coffee, talking on the phone... But this time was different. And I had held out as long as I could. I didn't want it to be the last time for me to say and share all of these things with him. The last time to express my heart and love to him. But I also didn't want to miss it.

Live life without regret. I still remember making that declaration over my life after one of the many conversations Dad and I had during my teen years.

I continue to live with that as my mindset. I've added living intentionally to it as well. That doesn't mean every day goes as planned. It's doesn't. Clearly. No one plans to deal with grief and missing a loved one. But if that's what is on my plate for that day, I'm going to do it. No one plans on spilling a glass of milk (or coffee). But if it spills, you clean it up and then move on or continue doing whatever it was you were doing before it spilled. There were some days where it seemed like all I did was "wipe up the spilled milk".  All. Day. Long. But apparently that was on my plate that day. And I haven't experienced a day like that for quite some time.

I didn't know what today would bring. I wouldn't have minded just getting through the day without tears (or spilled milk) and I could have determined to not deal with it. To just suppress the emotions and push past the day. But that's not how I live. Instead I've journaled, cried, and owned my feelings.

I also don't think it's happenstance that this song is the one I've been singing all day.  You Make Me Brave by Bethel. He still ministers to me through music. I'm grateful for it.

Saturday, January 18, 2014

Evolving from Grayscale to Full Color

2014 has begun.  New year.  New beginnings.

I haven't written here for awhile.  It isn't that I haven't been processing but the thought of putting it all into words seemed haphazard with an extra dose of messiness.  It still feels this way but the need to get it out and on "paper" became stronger.  So here I sit, with my laptop, trying to put into words what has transpired over the last few months.

Interestingly, today is the 18th of January...two months since my last post.

December.  The funeral home we used invited us to an evening where we honored Dad, recognizing how his presence would be missed throughout the Christmas season.  It was surprisingly beautiful (although I didn't really know what to expect) and at the same time, it ripped off the bandage to my grief / mourning and the rawness of my heart felt exposed once again.

The day that followed seemed wasted with tears and sadness.  I know it was really another step for me to take but the day passed with the accomplishment of tear-stained cheeks and recognizing that I felt completely unbalanced with a head that was ready to move on and a heart that felt stuck.

That Sunday, prayer was offered for those who would be experiencing the holidays with a loss.  I stood.  And was blessed with my Father meeting me in my unbalanced, raw state.  A number of people surrounded me but there was one who shared that God would be like a gyroscope for me - providing balance regardless of the direction my steps took.  It wasn't like the skies cleared and all was new again, but I will say that a new level of peace, with a renewed hope, filled each day that followed.

Christmas.  We hosted.  So much could be said and shared but it isn't all relevant and really, this post is already super long.  Anyway, with hosting came the comfort of following a schedule and blessing my family.  I had to excuse myself one time to be still and breathe.  Dinner time, in the midst of the conversation, stories and smiles, I was struck with recognizing that I missed my Dad's voice.  He would have loved our meal of chicken parmesan, pasta with kalamata olives, meatballs, spinach casserole, broccoli and cauliflower casserole, bread from Brooklyn, etc. and I missed his words thanking all those that contributed to the yumminess and joy of sharing time with each other.  I missed his laughter that would start as a slow boil and then spill into everything we did that day.  I missed his smile and the sparkle in his eye as we would make eye contact at dinner and exchange "I love you's".  I missed him and needed to take a moment away from everything and just breathe.  So I did.  In the bathroom.  Because really, that is sometimes the only place where you can have privacy when your house is filled with people.

New Years came and I wanted to look forward to 2014.  I embraced it but still felt, I don't know how to describe it...detached?

Couple the start of the new year with reading.  In the series, I connected to the one of the main characters in a few different ways - the most tangible being the strength that she grasped to and dug deep for in the midst of all the yuck that she was surrounded with. At one point in the midst of despair and a sense of hopelessness, she experiences a revelation inside of her and silently declared that she wanted to live.  The reality of death surrounded her and yet there was this spark inside that was crying for her to live and I connected to that.

I wasn't about to die.  Not literally.  But I recognized that the level I was living at was not where I wanted to be.  I was still living in what I will label survival mode.  I don't think it was wrong.  I actually think it was fitting since I was surviving life after my Dad died.  But I finally recognized that there was this small spark inside of me that was waiting to be recognized, wanting more for my life.

And that is the place where I am now.  I still miss my Dad.  That will never go away.  But if I want to live in the present - living in full color rather than existing in grayscale, it is life without him being physically present in my every day.

I see him in my minds-eye.  Laughing with his broad smile and twinkling blue eyes.  That's my Dad.  And he would never want me to walk away from the joys that life can bring.  The life that is still there for me to live and experience.  In fullness.  No - he'd be cheering me on, reminding me that I can do anything that I set my mind to and that with God, I've got everything that I need to be victorious in my journey.

The next leg of my journey has begun and is set with the destination of living life out loud and in full color and so I lift my foot, regardless of the mixture of my internal emotions, I know I'm empowered, and therefore, I put my foot down, taking the next step with my eyes wide open and a heart ready to live.

If the sky could draw what living in full color could look like...

Monday, November 18, 2013

Birthday Letter to Dad

Happy Birthday Dad.  Today we would be celebrating 74 years that you walked the Earth.  We will honor you today.  I will also choose to celebrate the 77 days that you've been in the presence of Jesus - whole and healthy and strong.

I'm wearing a lot of blue today.  Not because I'm sad.  It's your favorite color.

Did you know I bought you a birthday card?  Actually I bought it in March.  I was perusing the cards and came upon this one.  It was perfect.  I remember hesitating - asking God if I should buy it.  I made the purchase and have kept it in my planner - in the November section - waiting to give it to you.

I never told you that I bought you a card.

Now it might be more for me.

The card reads...

Dad, the older I get, the more I appreciate everything you've done, the more I admire and love you.

You steadied my wobbly two-wheeler, you made yourself lend me the car, You tried to look calm and unruffled when I left the house looking bizarre.

You held me, supported me, steadied me...but loved me enough to let go.

You're my anchor, my safety, my hero, my dad...and you're loved more than you'll ever know.


Of course I would have added my own words - repeating the cards sentiments and telling you how much I love you and how special you are to me.  All true.  Still is.  That will never end.

Your girls are going to lunch today - at one of your favorite restaurants.  I'm trying to decide what I will eat a little bit of to honor you.  Haven't decided yet.  I'm purposefully choosing something that I don't normally eat.  Tapioca pudding?  Maybe.  Raw sushi?  Love you Dad, but no.  I still stick with cooked.

Walking Barber to the bus stop today, he asked me what we are going to do tonight as a family.  If we were doing something special "because today is Poppy's birthday, Mom".  He then rattled off a number of ideas.  Ice cream cake topped his list.  I told him if we were to have cake, I'd want to bake your classic favorite - vanilla cake with chocolate mint frosting.  He smacked his lips together, agreeing that would be a good choice too.

I made a Christmas stocking for Mom this week.  Barber suggested that I make one for you too.  I asked him what we would put in it.  He suggested we put in some of your favorite things.  I asked who would have those things?  He said "Grammie could have them all.  But she could also share them with us if we like them too."  Reminds me of how your little girls would save their money to buy you a candy bar from the store (or lifesavers or gum) as a gift for you.  You barely got the wrapping paper torn and we were asking you to share it with us.  And you always did.  With a hearty laugh and joke to boot.

Thanks Dad for being you.  For loving me - no matter what.

I love you.  Always and Forever.

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

Hearts and Black Holes

Finally I summarized all of the questions swirling in my's all of it.  He was so much to me and now, even though I have peace as to where my Daddy is, he isn't here and what is left behind is an emptiness.

That's where I was left.  Feeling the emptiness.    

I remember when our son Jeter was born and Simms and I experienced this phenomenon of our figurative hearts growing because a greater amount of love was added.  It was awesome and amazing and we felt filled to overflowing.  I remember contemplating having another child - not wanting to share the love we have for Jeter with anyone else.  But we didn't have to.  Once again, when Barber entered our lives, we felt our hearts grow with the addition of love that was just for Barber.

We didn't have to divide a set amount of love among those that are treasured in our lives.

What then happens when someone that you had such a huge amount of love for isn't here anymore?

And this was the next reality for me to deal with.  The next layer was being peeled off.

There was a hole in my heart.  

One that no one could ever fill.

So there I am in the pew of our church, tears rolling down my face as this new reality sets in.  Conversing with the One who I know loves me - even though I feel broken, fragmented, messed up, etc.

And I hear Him say "I can fill it if you want me to."

"Yes.  Please.  Do it.  And hurry up.  Please."

Later that day, Jeter and I had some time together and I shared this with him. This is how he responded: 

"You know what this reminds me of Mom?  Stars.  They fill the sky and each has it's place.  When a star dies, a black hole is formed and it sucks in everything that gets too close.  

That continues until it fills up.  And if a new star forms, it's because God created it.  It doesn't come from anything else.  

Poppy isn't here and there is a hole that has been left behind.  It could keep sucking you in but you've asked God to fill it up.  And He will."

Oh the wisdom of my sweet 12 year old.  I hugged him and he hugged me back.

It was exactly what I needed.

And then I shared this with him:

"You see the pain.  And I'm know you've experienced your own level of pain.  It could cause someone to not love deeply.  Or to be afraid to.  To hold back because of not wanting to experience the loss.  The pain is real.  And it hurts a lot.  But it's worth it.  I will never hold back the love I have for you or your brother or your Dad or anyone that is treasured in my life.  But there is a caution here.  Be careful who you choose to give your heart to.  You want to choose wisely."

Always a Mom.  Always a teacher.  I just can't help that.  

My journey continues.  There are still tears but I'm sensing healing from His salve of LOVE.  The kind that is patient, kind, rejoices in the truth, always protects, trusts, hopes and perseveres.  The kind of love that doesn't fail.  Which is good.  I'm counting on it.

The lyrics to Laura Story's "I Can Just Be Me" has been timely.  Here is a link to a video on YouTube if you're interested.  I've also written them below.  It's amazing how much of what I'm feeling is captured in these words.

I've been doing all that I can
To hold it all together, piece by piece
I've been feeling like a failure
Trying to be braver
Than I could ever be
It's just not me

So be my Healer, be my Comfort
Be my peace
‘Cause I can be broken
I can be needy, Lord, I need You now
To be, be my God
So I can just be me

I've been living like an orphan
Trying to belong here
But it's just not my home
I've been holding on so tightly
To all the things that I think
That satisfy my soul
But I'm letting go

So be my Father, my mighty Warrior
Be my King
‘Cause I can be scattered, frail and shattered
Lord, I need You now to be
Be my God so I can just be me

‘Cause I was lost
In this dark world
‘Till I was finally found in You
So now I'm needy, desperately pleading
Oh Lord, be all to me

So be my Savior, be my lifeline
Won't You be my everything?
‘Cause I'm so tired
Of trying to be someone
I was never meant to be
Be my God, please be my God
Be my God so I can just be me
So I can just be me
I can just be me