myths about love

First of all, I want to say thank you to everyone for your support and encouragement. This whole 'dating' thing - while a step in a good direction - has been very nerve-wrecking and emotional for me and I've been anxious about sharing it. Because of the way news travels on the internet these days, I wanted to make sure word got out from me, in my words, before it came out from someone else. And that came at the sacrifice of getting the chance to really share it, in depth, with everyone I wanted to. But the response has been very positive and I'm so thankful that people understand my heart and support this new step in my life. Thank you.

This is the first thing I've done since Jeremy died that is solely for me. It was hard to officially step out into a new world outside of widowhood, it's been my identity for so long. And while it's for me, I oddly feel Jeremy's blessing of approval on it, as if he had some say in the decision. Maybe he did. I'm okay with that.

This is all new territory for me. I have no idea how to navigate this, and I never in my life imagined I'd be standing in this place. Luckily, dating for me at the point is not like it was when I was younger. I've seen the best and worst in life, I've got a family to protect. Steve and I, in all the crap we've experienced, have at least one luxury: cutting through a lot of trivial stuff and getting to important matters. We both know what we need and want for us and our families. We both know what works and what doesn't. We've been able to share a lot of deep and meaningful pieces of our lives early on because that's just where we're at in life. This 'widow dating for the 21st century' as I've jokingly referred to it as, is quite bizarre. It's oddly strange and healing at the same time, while opening more wounds that I have to nurse in between. Like everything else in my life the last 15 months, it's been a roller coaster. A good one, but emotional nonetheless.

What I've discovered since Jeremy died is that I believed a lot of myths about death and love that I didn't even realize. I believed I'd never survive living without my husband, without my best friend, without my lifeline. Yet, here I am. Still breathing.

I believed that finding happiness was somehow disrespectful to my grieving and to Jer's memory. Even though in theory it's easy to say that Jeremy would want me to be happy, it's hard to really feel that way. It's like that old bit where an angel is on one shoulder, while the devil is on the other: the angel is telling me that joy is from God and is okay because you loved, while the devil whispers doubt and guilt in my ear, telling me that if people see me happy, they'll forget my loss, they'll forget my love. And yet, through relentless nudging from Jer's presence and prayer, and the patience of those around me, I'm discovering the real truth in understanding joy more because I've experienced deep loss. It's a work in progress.

The next has been the hardest for me to de-myth. I used to think I could never give my heart away to someone else, because it would compromise what I shared with Jeremy. I thought widows who never remarried were ones that loved the deepest and could just never love someone like that again. This is a myth that could only be broken by experience for me. What God has revealed to me is that what Jeremy gave me was a gift. He taught me how to love. I promised myself long before I met Steve that if the opportunity ever came for me to have a second chance, and I wanted it, that I would give all the love I can no longer give to Jeremy. I owe that to my children and to Jer because otherwise it'd be a waste of what he's shown me to be true in life: Love fiercely, there's no other way to do it. I can love deeply because I have been loved deeply. It's still a struggle to really accept this as truth, but I have no other way of explaining it outside of God shaping me and opening my heart to see that there is room for more. It was His timing, not mine. It's His healing, not mine. It is His plan, not mine.

So, I'm trying to make the best of the time I have left here. Using the lessons of life and loss and love that I've learned in life to bring healing in some way, to someone. And the image of Jeremy waiting for me with open arms and eyes filled with pride for using what he gave me for good is one that keeps me going every day.

I'm making my way to you, baby. Little by little, I'm picking up those pieces of truth that you have been leaving for me. My goal has been and always will be to make you proud. To honor your life. To pay forward the love that you have shown me in my relationships. It's not an easy path to take, and so many parts of me still want to run and hide and rock back and forth in my misery. It's hard to look forward when you ache for the past. But because you have loved me, I have no other choice. Because you gave me such beautiful children, I have no other choice. And because I am making my way to you, no matter what, I have no other choice.

Facing all this has been overwhelming and has made me miss you so intensely. I wish I could see your face and hear your voice, just to tell me that everything will be ok. 

I love you always and forever.


the new guy

So, my closest friends and family know this already, but it's time to let the rest of the world know:

I'm dating.

Yes, you read that right. It sounds weird to me too. I never thought I'd ever say that - people thought I was ridiculous for thinking I'd be single forever, but I truly believed it. Not only because I couldn't imagine loving someone the way I loved Jeremy, but also because I never thought there'd be anyone out there who'd be willing to take me and my baggage and my three very young children on.

Thankfully, I was wrong.

Where do I begin? Before I start to tell you all about this wonderful guy, let me begin by saying this: I'm not here to play games. I'm not dating just anyone for fun and I have a lot of grieving still left to do. Jeremy will ALWAYS be a part of my life, my story, and my children's lives and I would never settle for anyone who wasn't understanding of that. Anyone who is going to love me is also going to love Jeremy. End of story.

Lucky for me, God placed this incredible man in my life and it's undeniable how perfect we are for each other. In fact, I saw God weaving our lives together before I was even ready to accept it, and it scared me cause I didn't think I was ready. But he has been incredibly patient with my fragile heart and the last few weeks have been completely life changing for me, if for nothing else than the fact that he has opened my eyes and heart to possibilities I couldn't see before. He has given me hope for a future I never thought I could have.

Everyone, meet Steve:

And no, that's not his real mustache :)

I've known Steve for almost 2 years now. We share a few mutual friends (in fact, some our best friends, which is quite nice). It helps that I've known him awhile. I know his character. I know he is an incredible dad. I know he loves God. I know and love his daughters and our children are friends. I know what his good friends think about him. I know what he's been through. 

Aside from the fact that I've known him awhile, we have both been through painful experiences. I have been praying for Steve for a long time, and for his daughters, while they struggled through a painful transition in their lives. We both know what it's like to hurt for our children, to grieve a future we'll  never have, and we have both tasted hopelessness in its ripest season. One of my favorite things about him is that we both have perspectives about life that most people don't get to have: We have loved and lost and we no longer take those things for granted. It changes the game.

If that's not enough, Steve is a grief counselor (insert ironic chuckle here) and works in Hospice. In fact, he was the director of Camp Hope where Faith attended this summer. And he is probably one of the most patient and thoughtful people I've ever met. He's romantic and sweet, but shares the crass sense of humor that I miss so much from Jeremy. And speaking of Jeremy, not only did he know Steve, but they were friends - not close friends, as he lives out of state, but I remember Jer really liking him - and I trust Jeremy's judge of character like none other. And our girls seriously look related, it's freaky:

New Years weekend brought us together, along with our mutual friends. And we've had a great time together since. We've spent a lot of time talking on the phone, getting to know each other better and really determining if this would work or not. Our friends, knowing that we were well matched, have spent a lot of time praying with me and helping me open up my heart to the possibility of letting someone in. Steve has managed to calm all of my fears and reservations with his patience, kindness, and understanding.

The more I get to know Steve and his daughters, the more I feel God working in our relationship. But it has not come without bumps. This is scary, it's new, it's different. It's changing some of my other important relationships. It has brought me face to face with pieces of grief I had not yet experienced. I think my biggest fear is that people will see me in a new relationship and think that I'm over my grief.....but it's not something I will EVER 'get over' - it's with me for life. I'm afraid people will stop mentioning Jeremy and stop talking about him around me, and that would just completely break my heart. Steve is so great at asking me question about Jeremy and letting me talk about him, he understands where I've been and he appreciates who it's created me to be. He also knows that Jeremy's family is my family and they mean the entire world to me.

I've spent hours upon hours talking to Jeremy about not just Steve, but also about letting him go enough that I can let someone else in. I prayed God would show me right away if this relationship wasn't something good because I couldn't put my children or my heart through that and I didn't want to waste my time. I spent the first couple weeks trying to find things wrong with Steve, and honestly, nothing stuck. I don't know how to explain it, but I feel such peace from Jeremy about Steve. He treats me so well, he genuinely cares about me and my kids, my kids love him, he cares about my relationship with Jeremy (he has told me that one of his favorite things about me is the way I love Jeremy because it lets him know that I am loyal, which is a love he's never experienced before), and he wants to take on the responsibility to honoring him and remembering him with me - everything else seems secondary.

I have a long way to go. I am still figuring out who I am and who God wants me to be in the midst of all the dust that grief has left me in. But I'm thankful to have found a man that I not only care a lot about, but also a guy I know Jeremy would approve of.

And no, that's not my real mustache either :)

Thank you to those who have encouraged me, who have prayed for me and who have let me express excitement in a new relationship. Happiness these days still comes with a lot of guilt attached to it, cause I don't know how to do it without Jeremy. Luckily, I'm discovering that I don't have to - I get to bring him with me.

It feels good to feel good.

I posted this on my facebook status from another fellow widow blogger, and I've carried it with me since:
“We must be willing to let go of the life we had planned, so as to have the life that is waiting for us.” – Joseph Campbell


oh to be naive

Hello my love,

It's been awhile since I've been able to put my words down for you. But every once in awhile, talking to thin air doesn't seem to suffice. Sometimes I feel you there - most of the time, actually. And your presence has become one of comfort, instead of a reminder that you're not here with me physically. But not always.

The other night, I was rocking Carter before bed. He hardly ever lets me snuggle with him anymore, since he's gotten so squirmy, so I enjoyed my time just reading to him, rocking him, singing to him, and talking about you. This is always the most painful part. I told him about how much I wish you were still here for him so that he could know you and what an incredible man you are. I told him about how proud you would be of him, and how beautiful you would think he is. I told him how much you would love our new home, and all the great things we picked out for him.....then something suddenly occurred to me:

I would have none of these things if you were still here.

I wouldn't have this beautiful house, we'd still be in our tiny home that was falling apart in a horrible neighborhood. I wouldn't have my new vehicle - we'd still be driving the Explorer until it died and then we'd have to buy whatever we could afford, which wouldn't be much. I wouldn't have all the beautiful things we bought for Carter's room - I highly doubt that I would have had a baby shower for my third child if you were still around. I wouldn't even have some of the relationships I now have and cherish. This thought stung me.

I guess I've realized this before, but it never hurt me the way it did the other night. I wouldn't be who I am now if you were still here. I would still be a naive girl taking advantage of her charmed life. I guess that's part of the redemption of experiencing death so intimately: you are forever changed. It opens up realms of truth you didn't know existed and you watch the world from afar so differently. I would give anything to see you again, but knowing what I know now, I don't think I could go back. 

I don't think I could ever see myself in a place where your death seems justified. I don't think that's even possible. I think you should still be here. But the hardest lesson I've had to learn is to take things from where I am now and figure out how to put one foot in front of the other. I can sit around wishing for your return all I want, but I know it will get me nowhere. I just have to take you with me. 

I still have no clue who I am or who I want to be. But I am way closer than I was 14 months ago. You can't survive something so tragic without learning things about yourself. I know I've come a long way, and I know I still have a long way to go. It is still my goal every single day to make you proud.

I miss you, babe. I wish you could be here to celebrate Carter's first birthday in a couple weeks...I can't believe we're all still here, that we've made it this far.

I love you always and forever.


The change a year can bring

I've made a decision to try and be better about posting. I always struggle with feeling like people have heard enough and don't really care to hear me continue whining about everything, but I have A LOT to share and a lot on my heart....and well, this is really for me. Cause I have a horrible memory and my only recollection of the last 14 months is from what I wrote down. And, I have been EXTREMELY busy.

Tonight, I want to start with just a little snippet about my trip to Gulf Coast Getaway this year. We just got back this week from one of the most incredible events we do all year long - I've blogged about it every year cause it changed my life big time. It has become a bittersweet event for me, because Jeremy went with me my first time, and last year I was 8 months pregnant...I just miss being there with him. I want to tell him about so much. Like how beautiful it was there this year, the best weather I've seen yet for January in Florida:

I spent a lot of time on the beach this trip. I thought so much about this beach and the milestones it has taken me through. Two years ago, we sat at the very beach and cried with a hurting friend, prayed together, and solidified a friendship that will last a lifetime. Last year, I sat alone on this very beach, in the cold, screaming curses to God with tears streaming down my face and fury and confusion in my heart. This time, I thought a lot about how much change a year can bring. I stood on this very beach with a different song in my heart, at a different place in my life. I cried a lot for Jeremy, but not the way I did last year. This year, I cried a lot for my brother too...for some reason, his loss hit me hard on the trip. I think a lot of it has to do with the fact that I feel closer to God in His beauty and creation. I pray more by the ocean. I breath deeper. I listen. But no matter what ups and downs I experienced on this trip, what I kept thinking about was how much different it could be in a year from now, on this very beach.

What I also know is that through all my ups and downs, I have incredible friends. This event brings me together with dear people I only get to see a few times out of the year, or JUST this time every year. But they are treasures to me:

This year, I got another tattoo. This one I've been wanting for awhile, for Jeremy. Sarah and I have gotten both our tattoos together, which is very meaningful to me...and her tattoo was with Jeremy in mind as well:

Overall, it was a great weekend. I always encounter God in a powerful way at Gulf Coast. I even adopted a little boy from Haiti named Johnsley. The kids and I are very excited to write him some letters and learn more about him! It was a highlight of my weekend. 

I tried to take lots of deep breaths to prepare me for the changes of another year...


rock bottom

"Rock bottom became the solid foundation on which I rebuilt my life" -J.K. Rowling

I read this a week or so ago and it has been swimming in my head ever since. I wanted to write for New Years, but the truth is, I have been too busy and too exhausted for writing lately. I kept thinking about last year...the dread of starting a new year without my husband was so heavy, I was shaking and made myself go to bed before midnight so I didn't literally get sick to my stomach. My prayers were so heartfelt, I thought for sure I wouldn't have to wake up the next day because God would have mercy on me. And now here I stand after surviving the absolute worst year of my life. Where do I go from here?

I guess I can only go up from rock bottom.

Unlike last year, I was ready to ring in a new year. I am ready to recharge and restart. Not without my love - EVER - but carrying him with me to the next phase. I have no idea what that looks like, but I know that God has shown me way too much for me to hold onto the horrible grief with white knuckles like I have been. There are so many pieces to this statement, however. I am in no ways whatsoever done grieving. In fact, I still daily face different facets of grief that continually knock me down and shock me to my core. There may never be a time when I really wrap my head around the fact that Jeremy will never be here again. It still doesn't make sense. The kids are still grieving and I find myself grieving for them as well. It's just down right sucks what we've been through and continually go through as a broken family.

And, staying true to the roller coaster that is grief, I can tell you that every day is different. I do still grieve heavily and have had an emotional week, but I am definitely in a better place. God is pulling me in the right direction, and Jeremy is pushing me from behind. I can feel his presence still, almost daily, and it brings me a lot of peace. I don't know how else to explain it. So, I wanted to start my year of posting on a positive note. It won't always be - but today I thought I'd try.

The week after Christmas, I got to spend some time at Jeremy's grave, by myself, for the first time ever. I had the most incredible conversation with him and found it painful to leave. It always is. But even though I sobbed all the snot out of my head probably, I still drove away with a peace and a sense of Jeremy's protection over me. It was good and painful and necessary. 

After hitting rock bottom this past year, I found level ground to start rebuilding. The truth is, I'm ready to go home and be with Jeremy but I have this feeling that God has something planned for me here. And as long as I'm stuck here, I want to make the most of it. I want to live a life that Jeremy would be proud of. One thing I know he's proud of is the friends he's sent to me in my life, and they are one of the main reasons I've been able to start rebuilding my life. Definitely the biggest reason. They keep me afloat and have shown me so much over the past 14 months.

So maybe this post is going nowhere. Maybe it makes no sense. Maybe it's not happy or positive. But, it's me. And it's where I'm at. I'm still here, still grieving, still blessed. It's a weird spot to stand in and gets very confusing. So I'll just wrap up all this nonsense with some fun pictures of my wonderful friends at New Years:

Happy (belated) New Years. May you go up from here.


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