what ifs to even ifs

I'm not sure why I'm here tonight, really.

I don't blog much anymore these days. Sure, I think about it often - wanting to record memories of my children and family for later reference, wanting to get off my chest some of my grief that still chokes me from time to time, or wanting to share what's on my heart about life and what I am continually learning from it. But I can't ever seem to find the free time to write it all down. I've also find myself in this strange place of figuring out how to honor my life with Jeremy or talk about my grief, while still feeling like I can celebrate the beautiful life I am living now and give honor to Steve and what we've built together. I can't always go back. Sometimes I need to, but other times it's painful and is not a true representation of where I am now. But then not talking about it must mean it's not there, right? At least that's what some assume. No matter how incorrect that is, the balance is difficult and I haven't had the time or energy to figure how how to delicately walk that line.

And yet, here I am. Sitting up because I was supposed to be doing on online course for CPR which isn't working properly, so I'm sitting here listening to my sweet husband snore beside me, and I came here. Staring at the blinking line wondering what my fingers would type out and where my words would take me.

I'm preparing to speak again in April for a women's retreat in Ohio and have been thinking and praying about what direction to go and how let God use my story in powerful ways. And all I have been thinking about lately is how humbled I am by my own story. Sometimes, I don't know how I got here. Other times, like driving down the road this morning in random memory of Jeremy and my chest tightens and tears spill from nowhere as I remember the pain of knowing I can't ever see, touch, talk to, or make memories with Jeremy again.

I read encouraging words from another former widow who writes about life after loss and loving again.

I replay the synchronizing, miraculous events that unfolded to get me to Honduras in November. I think about how blessed I am to have lived out that part of a beautiful story.

I look at my beautiful children, aching to be more for them while thankful that I can be present more than I could in those early 'after' days.

I think about when my 'what ifs' changed to 'even ifs' and how scary that can actually be.

And I realize, I'm still here because life is still worth it. Love is worth so much more. I feel inadequate to describe how bittersweet it is that I'm here and I'm so glad. I never thought I'd be able to say that again.

So, perhaps my purpose was to leave you with this piece from an amazing book I've been reading for the second time (we read it while in Honduras as well). It's become a focal point for me as I prepare for my speaking next month, and it gives words to where I am now.

"And what makes all this hard stuff worth it? Only, always Him. God knows, we won't always be living the soothing words of the Psalms. we'll be living the agonized words of Nehemiah, Jeremiah and Lamentations that are miraculously still able to say with a loud voice, 'I want God.'

And praise be to Him that just about the time we feel helpless, drowning, incapable of making such a proclamation of wanting Him, He blows in with a hopeful, resuscitating wind and - mouth on mouth - revives us. This is the glory of traveling with the Life - how He breathes vitality in dead spaces and offers His marvelous, illuminating light in places that are dark. And when we're in those dark places, we want God in big heaps and not small portions, because pain doesn't ever truly get better without Him. The more we have of Him, the more we survive and even thrive; the more beauty we extract from life."

- I Want God by Lisa Whittle



I have been wanting to update everyone on what's happening lately, especially about my experience at Women of Purpose. I realize that it was over a week and a half ago, but would you believe I haven't sat down for a moment since then? I promise just when I think life couldn't get any crazier or busier, it always does! But God is doing so many amazing things in my heart this year and I catch myself more and more stopping to take a deep breath and appreciate the blessings I have in every moment. When I stay focused on what's important, the business becomes purposeful and I can take it in stride a little easier. Besides, idol hands are the devil's handiwork, right? Or, something like that.

Well, the Women of Purpose conference was a beautiful, spirit-led day full of incredible women (and some men too!) encouraging one another in worship and in faith. I am happy to report that I survived my 40 minutes of speaking...and even went over if you can believe it (ok, those of you who know me and are chuckling right now cause you know what a talker I am can stop now - I was surprised). I was so blessed by everyone who came up and encouraged me afterwards with their own stories and how sharing my journey helped them even in the smallest ways. I count it a blessing when even one person is encouraged by my experience, so I was overwhelmed and humbled at the opportunity God gave me to share my story with so many. Oh yea, and I got to sing with some of my favorite Mountaineers too!

And of course woven into this wonderful event is the beautiful story of how God brought me to the woman who built a home in Honduras in honor of my Jeremy 3 years ago, and allowed our stories to overlap just a few weeks ago. If you didn't read how that happened....YOU NEED TO. Scroll down and read the last blog post I wrote. I still get emotional thinking about it.

And speaking of that, you all are AH-MAZ-ING. Within the first 12 hours, you all donated enough for Steve and I both to make the trip to Honduras to serve!!! I can't tell you how thankful I am that he gets to come with me and share that experience (not to mention, his desire to go was so strong, and you all made that happen for us both!)

Thank you, thank you, thank you!

I'm overjoyed to see the work that God has been doing, and I will try my best to document the trip for you all (and I'm sure I'll want to remember every detail). But my work is not done yet....

It will cost $1600 to build the next home in King's Quarters. The WOP team and the REVIVE team are doing their part to raise money for this trip, as well as carving out the time and resources to make this house building project possible this year, so I want to do my part and ask once again for you all to be a part of this amazing story. I know God's hand is in all this, as been made evident through this whole process - but every dollar helps. I am keeping the donations open until the first of November (click the donate button at the top left corner of this page), so there are only 2 weeks left to donate.

If that's not your cup of tea, consider buying a Revive t-shirt (I bought one and let me tell - they are not only cute, but SUPER comfy!) and with every purchase, we will send another t-shirt to our Honduran missionaries that we serve. It's a great way to do something good AND get something cute as a reminder - CLICK HERE to order!

And if neither of those options are right for you (and that's ok!) - please consider setting aside a few minutes to pray over this trip and this ministry. Pray that the missionaries are indeed revived and blessed through these few days, pray that we raise the money needed for building as well as the money needed for REVIVE to operate, for safe travel, and for anyone involved to be blessed by this experience. This an important plea, as we can always use all the prayers we can get!

That's all I can keep my eyes open long enough to write out. Tonight, I go to bed with a full heart, and please know that YOU have a hand in that.


You won't believe this incredible story anymore than I did...

I am shaking as I write this.
I haven't been able to sleep.

It seems fitting that the first post on my blog in almost a year should arise out of this incredible experience I had last night. And I need to share it with you all.

A few weeks ago, I was asked to be a speaker/presenter to share my story for the Women of Purpose Conference here in Parkersburg (you can learn more about it here). I am definitely not a great public speaker and I'm incredibly nervous about delivering a message for hundreds of women, but I know God has a story to tell through me, and I am trying to be a willing vessel. I am humbled and honored at the opportunity. As a very cool twist of irony, I discovered this week that the event will be held in the very same building I came to lead worship in for a rally 2 weeks after Jeremy passed away. And some of the women on the WOP planning committee were in the audience that weekend and were praying over me when they heard my story. I can't really tell you why I went that weekend or even remember a whole lot about it, but it's humbling to put faces and names to the amazing people who lifted me up all over the country during the darkest days of my life.

Anyway, last night I went to a planning meeting for the event to run through the flow and focus of the day. One of the cool and unique things about Women of Purpose is that they support a ministry called Revive, which serves missionaries in Honduras. As they were sitting around the room discussing details of the trip and sharing with me the blessings of the ministry and how much it has meant to them, I half jokingly but genuinely told them how much I would love to be part of something so powerful. It has always been my dream to do a mission overseas and the few times I've had the opportunity, it had fallen through for one reason or another. And Honduras has a special place in my heart already...

Any of you that have been following this blog long enough may remember that on the first anniversary of Jeremy's death, a woman contacted me to tell me that in honor of his memory a group of people were building a house in Honduras and putting up a family who desired to follow God. As they put them up in a home, they also shared Jeremy's legacy as encouragement and example of a godly man and father. (I posted about it here - read it, it's amazing.) Of course, I hadn't touched base with that women in years but since that day, my heart has ached to someday travel to see the place that is marked with the memory of my husband.

I randomly shared this story with this group of strangers I barely knew.....and here's where it gets really crazy...

One of the women looked at me and said, "That was me. I sent you that letter."

Excuse me, what?!

This woman (her name is Jen, btw), this beautiful spirit who probably without knowing it brought me hope on one of the hardest days of my life, who gave me this incredible piece of honor for my husband WAS SITTING IN THE ROOM WITH ME AND I DIDN'T KNOW IT.

If you don't have goosebumps at this point, then I'm not telling this story right. But, it gets even better. They need extra people on their team because of the growing demand for this ministry...to teach, lead worship, encourage and pray with these missionaries in Honduras, and asked if I'd like to be a part of the team. ARE YOU KIDDING ME?! It's a no brainer - it combines so many things I've always dreamed about. And because of Revive and the great need for this ministry, they haven't put another home in "King's Quarter" since 3 years ago and there is a possibility that we may to able to add another this year and that I may get to HELP. BUILD. IT. (The tears are flowing for me now.)

If that's not enough, the trip just happens to land over November 9th, which will mark the 4th anniversary of Jeremy's death.

I got in my car that night and burst (almost literally) into tears! What an incredible overlapping of circumstance and stories that brought to me this moment. I have fumbled through how to share this and re-playing it over and over in my head. And praying. So much praying.

So....there's more to this story. This mission leaves in just over 6 weeks, and I am very far behind in the game! Luckily for me, I have everything necessary to make the trip except the funds for my flight. Lodging and food once I'm there will be covered, but I of course have to get myself there and back. I've never been good at asking for money, but here I am, hoping and asking for you to be a part of this incredible story and help me make this dream a reality.

My blog followers and those random people who just stop by once in awhile; my family and friends....you have all given me so much that I could never repay - monetarily, physically, spiritually - as well as banded together to bless another widow in her time of need. I am truly grateful for this space that God has used over and over again. I could never expect more from all of you. But, if you can find it in your heart to give, there would be no depth to my appreciation.

I have added the donation button at the top. My goal is to raise at least $1000 - anything above and beyond that will go to Revive to fund expenses for this ministry and further trips. If you can't give money, please consider giving up a few minute to lift these people up in prayer: The missionaries in Honduras, the people of Honduras, the WOP team, and my role in all of this as I attempt to serve in this incredible capacity.

Thank you thank you THANK YOU to everyone who is reading this. For even considering supporting me, for praying, or just for taking the time to read my story and hopefully mark in your heart the legacy of the man I love and how God has worked through the tragedies in my life to bring hope to others and glory to Him.


If you think my hands are full, you should see my heart.

Well, I have totally been slacking on this blog, and I apologize. Several people have emailed and messaged me asking me if I've had the baby yet and if everything was ok. Everything is wonderful, I just haven't had the time to sit down and share with the world the new joy in my life.

It's taken me 3 weeks to blog about it, but Bayor Matthias enter the world on November 23, 2013 at 8:49am, weighing a whopping 9lbs. 15oz. and measuring 20 inches long!

He is absolutely perfect. I am head over heels for this guy, and so is everyone else is our house.

What a joy it was to watch his brothers and sisters fall in love with him. They're all so great and such a big help. And going through this has made me fall in love with his daddy all over again too. I had a moment of deja vu when I was getting the epidural, and I started to have a panic attack because Steve wasn't in the room yet and I was terrified that I'd be doing this alone again. I had pushed aside how terrifying that really was for the last 3 years, but it seized me in that moment. But when Steve finally did come in the room, he kissed every tear away and calmed me down until we both heard the beautiful cries of our sweet son....and the tears came over me again.
I found out after the fact how much God really was watching over me. I had prayed really hard to have a VBAC, since I've never gotten to experience having a vaginal delivery. I got so close the first time around and desperately wanted to go through that with Steve. The doctor was hesitant because I had had more than 2 C-Sections and because there is always a 1% chance that my uterus could rupture, which would be fatal to both me and the baby, but he agreed to at least try if that's what I wanted.

Well, God didn't answer my prayer for a VBAC, but answered an unspoken prayer and saved my life and Bayor's. I was the 1%. As it turns out, the doctor found a tear in my uterus when he delivered Bayor. He said something about it to Steve at the time of birth, but didn't make it sound like too big of a deal. But the next morning he came into my hospital room to tell me how lucky I was to be here and that if I had gone into labor, or if anything out of the ordinary had happened, it would have been fatal. The tear was about 2 inches long and spanned across my stomach. He said that the only thing holding Bayor inside was the lining of my stomach. He also told me it was a good thing I had my tubes tied during the procedure, as having more kids in the future wasn't really an option any more.

After the doctor left the room, I started reading more about it (I was kind of in shock when he was talking and didn't ask enough questions) and just started balling, realizing how God had His hand in it. Even now thinking about it is a very sobering thought. I am ready to see Jesus, but my family needs me and the thought of our kids going through another loss so close to home makes me sick to my stomach. 

Now here we are, home safe and sound, grateful and happy. Bayor was very swollen when he was born and dropped a lot of weight before he came home, so he's only now getting back up to his birth weight. But he is a wonderful baby with a very chill and sweet demeanor.

He has already brought so much joy in our lives and I love watching the way he has brought our family even closer. What a blessing.

I mean, seriously. Look at those faces. 

"If you think my hands our full, you should see my heart."


(not so) ordinary life

My favorite picture of Jeremy with our precious first born

And so the countdown begins...

In 56 hours or less (not that I'm counting or anything), I will be holding a new little life in my arms. One small person I helped create. One tiny little reminder of what life is really all about.

My sweet little baby boy has no idea what his life represents already in this world. In a place that can be so cold, sometimes stabbing, unfair, and down right hopeless...my little miracle is a reminder that life can and will go on, and that it can and will be beautiful again.

This afternoon, I was watching my 7 year old concentrate so hard on her homework, trying to write sentences. As I watched her expressions, the curves of her face, the movements of her body, I was in awe of the fact that she used to be this 6 pound little miracle that introduced me to motherhood. I felt her daddy beam with pride at her inside me and I just couldn't stop taking her in. Memorizing all the pieces that are just her - how did she all of a sudden evolve into this beautiful young lady?! I had several of these moments today with all of my children. Maybe it's hormones, or maybe it's the clock ticking away reminding me that once again I will hold a new baby and blink an eye and he'll be 7 years old....but whatever it is, I'm trying to hold on to as many moments as I can.

I continue to be reminded of what bittersweet really means. The life of a widow seems to be plagued with this word. But maybe it's the bitter that makes us appreciate the sweet. And maybe we can only experience real bitterness because we've tasted sweet. 

One of my favorite quotes is "time stands still best in moments that look suspiciously like ordinary life." This epitomizes my journey. The moments that I remember and hold most dear in life really aren't the grand ones (although those are great too) but they're the ones where life stands still for just a moment and I'm able to observe and appreciate what life still brings.

I honestly cannot wait to start memorizing all the details of my son's features, hold his tiny hand, and soak in every moment I can before they slip away.  I'm excited to watch my used-to-be-broken family put one more piece back together. 

I'm ready to live out the rest of this not so ordinary life.


Ready. For now.

After hitting the 3 year mark on Saturday, I feel like a heavy weight has been lifted off my shoulders. Grief never really leaves, but I think the experience alone in a new place, along with the fear that I might have the baby before I got to properly grieve and get through the week left me scared and hurting in new and different ways. But, like always - and sometimes without my consent - I survived.

I watched most of my friends and family grieve from afar, over facebook. I watched some people forget. I watched my kids write sweet notes and hand prints on lanterns and their faces lit up when we let them off in the sky. I watched the clock, remembering every moment of the day 3 years before. I watched my phone, looking for the names of people I care about to pop up. Some did, some didn't. And I watched for signs that somehow, somewhere, someone made a mistake and after three years, this wasn't still real.

Now, I feel ready to go back to facing the life that Jeremy wanted for me. I know I'll have plenty more days like last week, when the weight of everything seems too much, but for now, I have some clarity. I have contentment. I have the desire to make him proud and love the way he taught me how. I feel this urgency to not waste the short life I had with him and to continue to love and appreciate what I have now. I was gifted with another reminder of how short life is....and to see that as a 'gift' is no small feat. I can feel a piece of Jeremy's heart beating through mine and through the hearts of the 3 little miracles we created together. And I see more pieces in his sweet family that means the world to me. I will hold on to those pieces and take them with me along the way.

I'm ready. For now. Ready to face another day, ready to live, laugh, and love. And most importantly, right now....I'm ready to have this baby!


When words are not enough

This Saturday marks 3 years since Jeremy took his last breath.
How can that possibly be?

Every year, I am in awe of how crazy it seems that so much time has passed, and yet how far away it seems when so much life has been lived in between. I have truly experienced more in the past 3 years than most people do in a lifetime. Since Jer died, I've bought 2 houses, purchased a new vehicle, traveled all over the country, lost and gained friends, dated and remarried, blended a large family, moved out of state, had a baby without his daddy, and am preparing to have another child with another man. Surely these things couldn't possibly describe MY life...

And yet, no matter how much life has been lived since I've seen Jeremy, the weight of the hole he has left in my life is still so evident, and still a very painful reality I face daily. The last several weeks have been especially hard for me. Part of it is because I now grieve so far away from his family and friends, far away from the life I shared with him, and far away from where I can feel his presence. I feel so far removed. I ache to hold on to pieces of him during this season. Part of it also is from the fact that the closer I get to delivering, the more terrified I feel. Pregnancy hormones alone could do me in, but the sleepless nights remembering a piece of my grief that I never thought I'd have to face again is sometimes too much. My anxiety level is high, to say the least.

I was texting with a friend this weekend just about how crazy it is that it's already been 3 years. And I realized how much I ached just to talk to someone about it. To let it out. To have someone actually ask me. She had no idea how much that filled my heart up. I confessed that it's been hard to feel like I have no outlet lately. She asked me if writing was no longer an outlet. I had to think about that for a minute....

Writing has always been my way of expressing emotion. Words are my ally and my weapon of choice. They help me sort through my own head when things don't make sense. And being able to write about my grief journey has brought me more healing than I could have ever imagined. But I found myself at a crossroads of guilt. Guilt for feeling like I couldn't talk about the depths of my pain without somehow sounding ungrateful for the life I have now and the blessings that come with it. And guilt for being too grateful for the life I have now and feeling like people think it means I'm just ok and don't need to talk about Jeremy anymore. I also just don't like feeling like I'm seeking out attention. Writing makes people think they know me and therefore the personal connections are lacking because they think they know where I'm at. They can watch from a distance.

The truth is that words sometimes are not enough. Most of the time, I really don't have much NEW to say. I've run out of ways to express how much I miss Jeremy, how much my heart longs for him, how hard it is to watch my kids grow up without knowing him.......it really never changes, just evolves. I want to scream from the top of my lungs just how much grief sucks still sometimes. I want the world to know what an incredible husband I have now, and that how deeply I cherish him has no impact on the amount of grief I have and will continue to carry through the rest of this life. I wish I could find the right words....words that connect with everyone. But, I can't reach everyone. All I can do is write what I know, what I am living.

I keep going back to an analogy I heard shortly after Jeremy died, I think in a book I read somewhere. It painted a picture of train tracks, one track representing grief and one representing joy: both running side by side on the same path. They both exist together.

This week, I don't have the right words. Just a jumbled mess of emotions that seem to represent my heart these days. My words are not enough. But just remembering to put one foot in front of the other is sometimes all I need to do.


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