Have a holly, guilty Christmas

Yesterday, after a full day of sitting at home with the kids, opening presents and playing with those presents, and then picking up after all those presents time and time again, we started to get all 5 children ready for bed. As I was helping my 6 year old, Faith, I asked her if she had a good Christmas. She nodded quickly with a smile and I added, “Best one yet?” She nodded again.

Suddenly, I regretted asking her that. And for a split second I was hurt by her response. Of course I did my best to give her the best Christmas I could, but Christmas will be forever missing her daddy. And that’s something I can’t give back. And, I’m thrilled that she enjoyed our first Christmas as a family of 7, with two new sisters and wonderful dad in her life that love her immensely.  But my regret came from feeling like I made her choose between her life before and her life now. Obviously, that’s absurd but that’s how I felt in the moment.

As a widow, I am always careful about using phrases like “best day ever” or “best time ever” because it always feels like that is somehow disrespecting the life I had with Jeremy.  Like if I say it, it means Jeremy suddenly means less to me. So I steer clear of theses phrases of absolutes. I surprised even myself when I asked Faith if she had the best Christmas ever. I got caught up in the joy of a child-like excitement and when I heard her answer, it suddenly brought me back to reality.

I don’t want that to bother me. I want all of our kids to be able to have the best Christmas ever. When I really sat on it, I realized that I, too, enjoyed Christmas this year. What a far cry that has been from my last two Christmas’ and I was so thankful to have a happy home this year and to make new memories and new traditions. Even though grief is always hovering, there was a lot of joy too. But enjoying it made me feel guilty.

I’d hate to think that my best moments are behind me.  I have wonderful memories, but I know I’m not done making them. And so, I smile knowing that I can make good memories still, even some of my best, without comparing the life I had with Jeremy.

I’m glad Faith had the best Christmas ever.  And I think Jeremy is glad, too. 

***Please don't forget that for the month of December, all proceeds from this blog will be donated to Amy Lewis, who lost her husband Jim tragically just a couple of weeks ago. Each page impression makes a small amount, but if we all keep clicking, it will hopefully add up to something big. You can also donate more safely and securely at the top left corner of the page! THANKS***



You have been everywhere lately. 

You know, I was dreaming about you almost every night for several weeks until Jim died. Now, I don't see you in my dreams anymore. I'm trying to make sense of what that's about. But now, you seem close in my every day things, more so than usual.

Maybe it's the sentimental time of year, maybe it's all coincidence, but I know better. I started playing "Song Pop" on my iPhone for Zada (she wanted to compete with me) - and it reminds me so much that you used to try to do that to me: play a few second clip of a song and I'd have to guess it. You were always so good at it, so I didn't want to play. And every time I answer one right that I knew you'd be proud of (you having been much more musically cultured than me), there's a split second I find myself wanting to show you and see that approval on your face. 

I finally cleaned out the utility room before our Christmas party last week. Going through your stuff is always challenging and emotional. I realize every time how much of my life is still very saturated with your influence and presence. 

I randomly found myself watching old videos of Faith and Caleb on the computer. Oh, how I ache to see you alive and moving - I always feel a deep yearn to reach out and touch you, just to make sure you were real. 

Yesterday, out of nowhere, I heard your voice singing South Park's Big Gay Al's "I'm super." I laughed remembering and realized it was one of those things I hadn't thought about maybe since you died. Steve had never heard it before, so of course, I had to look it up and play it for him. And I laughed more thinking about you singing it. And more importantly, the facial expressions that came along with it. 

Speaking of things I haven't done since you died, we drove down Mound yesterday past the park you used to play softball at. All of a sudden, I looked up and noticed where we were and felt a tiny panic set in because I hadn't grieved this spot yet. I instantly knew where we were and had to tell Steve why it was significant. I feel the need to share all our significant places to anyone that will listen. I need someone else to know how important these places are, and I never want to forget why. 

Carter and I spent the day shopping together earlier last week. I love spending one-on-one time with him, but the whole day I kept wondering what he would be like if you were still here. Would his personality be different because of your influence? Would he have picked up more of your mannerisms instead of mine? I know he's just the way he should be, but maybe that's what hurt about it. I wish just once, I could've seen you interact with him. 

I have shed countless tears for the senseless tragedy that occurred last week in Connecticut. Aside from the fact that it is inconceivable that someone could harm children like that, and aside from my momma heart feeling ten times more protective of our own precious children, I also shed tears of knowledge. The knowledge of intense grief. Of loss. Of those families losing hope, losing faith, losing memories and plans, futures and pasts. The ache to be with their loved ones and the hole that will never fill for those families. It's a pain I would never wish on anyone.

I can't believe this will be my 3rd Christmas without you. It doesn't seem possible. And yet our last Christmas together feels like an eternity ago. Faith and Caleb were so little. I'm so looking forward to Christmas this year, and celebrating it with people I love and new traditions and new family. But there's always a special place in my heart that holds on to the innocence of our Christmas' together. My sweet memories of life before grief. 

Thank you for staying close to me. I miss you more than I know how to describe. I felt the need to write it out and remember, and to tell you that I love you. Always and forever, I love you.

***Please don't forget that for the month of December, all proceeds from this blog will be donated to Amy Lewis, who lost her husband Jim suddenly just a couple of weeks ago, and has no life insurance. Each page impression makes a small amount, but if we all keep clicking, it will hopefully add up to something big. You can also donate more safely and securely at the top left corner of the page! THANKS***


Experiencing the face of God

Last weekend, I was leading worship in Iowa. I always look forward to being able to travel and sing, especially knowing I get to use that talent for God. I get to spend time with my favorite people, meet new people, and worship. What's not to love?

Like most trips, we stood on stage to model worship for people old and young alike. Sometimes, we challenge everyone in the room to get 'uncomfortable' with God and take a position of worship on our knees. It's always powerful to see how just stepping outside our comfort zone just a bit can change our hearts and the meaning of what we sing.

This trip, we did something we've never done before. Chris asked everyone to close their eyes and picture the face of God. The first thing that came to my mind was the stereotype of Jesus we see every day, in paintings and children's bible stories, deep eyes and brunette hair and beard. Quickly erasing that image from my mind, I realized that I had never actually attempted to think about the face of God. I don't know why.

I closed my eyes once more. The next thing I know, I felt the warmth of the sun on my face, smelled green grass beneath me, heard the beautiful sounds of my children laughing and playing, had this overwhelming sense of peace, and out of nowhere tears began to fall...

....and I felt Jeremy.

I quickly turned around, unnerved by my emotions getting the best of me on stage, and grabbed a drink of water. As I composed myself and got down on my knees in worship, I tried to push the image out of my head until we finished. Once I was off stage and sitting, the tears came again as I went back to that image of the face of God. I didn't "see" God per say, but I felt Him. My image of God was the closest thing to Heaven I've ever experienced on earth. As soon as I felt Jeremy, emotions took me over.

I realize that I might hold onto a very skewed vision of what Heaven will be. I'm okay with that. I figure if I'm wrong, I won't be disappointed. To me, Heaven is a place where all is made right. A place where children are fed and warm, there are no tears, and there is no death. Jeremy will be there waiting for me, and Jim will be there waiting for Amy. I can't picture it any other way at this point, and I don't want to. Suddenly I knew that I could no longer separate what God is to me from who I am because of Jeremy. In so many ways, Jeremy molded my image of God and my relationship with Him.

Jeremy is the strongest indicator of this love because I've lost him and that love is held and carried on in memory and in my heart at an elevated place. But the truth is, if I closed my eyes hard enough, the face of God would reveal all of those I love, because of course, God IS love. And being in the presence of completely unselfish, unconditional love is my Heaven.

I may not be able to do it without tears yet, but I'm glad I was able to experience that moment, however brief it was.


How you can help

I've posted this once before, but with everyone visiting to help Amy, I thought this was a great thing to share again, as it was so helpful for me (and still is!):

"How You Can Help Me"
Please talk about my loved one, even though he is gone. It is more comforting to cry than to pretend that he never existed. I need to talk about him, and I need to do it over and over.

Be patient with my agitation. Nothing feels secure in my world. Get comfortable with my crying. Sadness hits me in waves, and I never know when my tears may flow. Just sit with me in silence and hold my hand.

Don't abandon me with the excuse that you don't want to upset me. You can't catch my grief. My world is painful, and when you are too afraid to call me or visit or say anything, you isolate me at a time when I most need to be cared about. If you don't know what to say, just come over, give me a hug or touch my arm, and gently say, "I'm sorry." You can even say, "I just don't know what to say, but I care, and want you to know that."

Just because I look good does not mean that I feel good. Ask me how I feel only if you really have time to find out.

I am not strong. I'm just numb. When you tell me I am strong, I feel that you don't see me. I will not recover. This is not a cold or the flu. I'm not sick. I'm grieving and that's different. My grieving may only begin 6 months after my loved one's death. Don't think that I will be over it in a year. For I am not only grieving his death, but also the person I was when I was with him, the life that we shared, the plans we had for our children, the places we will never get to go together, and the hopes and dreams that will never come true. My whole world has crumbled and I will never be the same.

I will not always be grieving as intensely, but I will never forget my loved one and rather than recover, I want to incorporate his life and love into the rest of my life. He is a part of me and always will be, and sometimes I will remember him with joy and other times with a tear. Both are okay.

I don't have to accept the death. Yes, I have to understand that it has happened and it is real, but there are some things in life that are just not acceptable. When you tell me what I should be doing, then I feel even more lost and alone. I feel badly enough that my loved one is dead, so please don't make it worse by telling me I'm not doing this right. And remember, I was a capable adult before his death and I still am.

Please don't tell me I can find someone else or that I need to start dating again. I may not be ready. And maybe I don't want to be. And besides, what makes you think people are replaceable? They aren't. Whoever comes after will always be someone different.

I don't even understand what you mean when you say, "You've got to get on with your life." My life is going on, I've been forced to take on many new responsibilities and roles. It may not look the way you think it should. This will take time and I will never be my old self again. So please, just love me as I am today, and know that with your love and support, the joy will slowly return to my life. But I will never forget and there will always be times that I cry.

I need to know that you care about me. I need to feel your touch, your hugs. I need you just to be with me, and I need to be with you. I need to know you believe in me and in my ability to get through my grief in my own way, and in my own time.

Please don't say, "Call me if you need anything." I'll never call you because I have no idea what I need. Trying to figure out what you could do for me takes more energy than I have. So, in advance, let me give you some ideas:

(a) Bring food or a movie over to watch together.

(b) Send me a card on special holidays, our wedding anniversary, his birthday, and the anniversary of his death, and be sure to mention his name. You can't make me cry. The tears are here and I will love you for giving me the opportunity to shed them because someone cared enough about me to reach out on this difficult day.

(c) Ask me more than once to join you at a movie or lunch or dinner. I may say no at first or even for a while, but please don't give up on me because somewhere down the line, I may be ready, and if you've given up then I really will be alone.

(d) Understand how difficult it is for me to be surrounded by couples, to walk into events alone, to feel out of place in the same situations where I used to feel so comfortable.

Please don't judge me now - or think that I'm behaving strangely. Remember I'm grieving. I may even be in shock. I am afraid. I may feel deep rage. I may even feel guilty. But above all, I hurt. I'm experiencing a pain unlike any I've ever felt before and one that can't be imagined by anyone who has not walked in my shoes.

Don't worry if you think I'm getting better and then suddenly I seem to slip backward. Grief makes me behave this way at times. And please don't tell me you know how I feel, or that it's time for me to get on with my life. What I need now is time to grieve. Most of all thank you for being my friend. Thank you for your patience.

Thank you for caring. Thank you for helping, for understanding.

And remember in the days or years ahead, after your loss - when you need me as I have needed you - I will understand. And then I will come and be with you.

--Author Unknown


Reaching goals

Traffic is going down - let's pick it back up!

Because I have been out of town (leading worship in Iowa and recording a new EP for Sola), I haven't been able to post anything new or give you any updates. Our traffic has gone down this week, so please keep sharing, clicking and donating to raise money for Amy (read more about that HERE)

I made a promise that I would commit to posting more on this blog to help traffic continue to flow this month to raise money for Amy. I figured it was also an opportunity for the much needed face lift to happen to my blog. If you've noticed, the colors have changed, I have been working on a new display (hopefully it will up soon), and I've added and updated new tabs, so you can read more about me, my family, and our story.

At some point, someone had offered to help me design my blog. Obviously, it's nothing professional, but I would like it to be. I will blame widow brain, but I don't remember who it was or when it was because I can't find that comment anywhere. So I thought I'd shamelessly plug in a plea for anyone who designs blogs or knows of someone who does to help a sister out. I have big plans for this place.

Alright, now that that's over with, I would like to say that after just over a week, we have raised over $4,300.00 to help my sweet friend Amy! I've decided to just go ahead and state that I would like to set a goal of raising at least $10,000.00 for Amy. It's totally doable, we're almost half-way there, but I will need your help! Remember, clicking and visiting the blog helps, but if you are able, please consider donating (even if it's just $5.00) safely and securely at the top left hand of this page through Paypal.

Hopefully, while we're clicking away to help someone who needs it, I will reach another goal I set a long time ago: 1,000,000 page views to this blog. Right now, I'm just past 950,000.....can you believe that goal is actually in reach?! I can't. It's unbelievable what God has done. My other goal was to reach 1000 followers. I'm getting pretty close to that too!

Thank you all for your continued support. We are doing great things and making a difference. I can't wait to see what the final numbers are at the end of the month!


Community matters

I write for a blog called Widow's Voice. It's devised of several widowed people, writing each day about our grief journeys. If you know anyone or God forbid ever find yourself in grief, I encourage you to go there. What I love about it is that it's a group of people who understand that community matters. We're witness to the value of finding someone, anyone, to remind us that we are not alone. That's why most of us are there.

But this week, I've been struck by watching the rest of the world be reminded of how vital community is. Watching everyone anxiously reach out in their hurt and confusion over the sudden loss of life too young. And now everyone who loved Amy's husband, Jim, is searching for answers.
Searching for comfort.
Searching for peace.
Searching for community.

Two days ago, I announced that I was donating my blog earnings from the month of December to help ease the financial burden for Amy. Now, on a monthly basis, I make very little from this blog, maybe enough to go out to dinner - but when a community comes together, it's amazing what can be done. I won't know the final count from page impressions til the end of the month, but I can tell you that my blog went from an average of 700 page views to 11,000 page views overnight!!! And just in Paypal donations, we have raised over $3,500.00!!! And that's just in two days. Imagine the blessing we could be to Amy by the end of the month.

I watched my Facebook feed blow up to share and donate to Amy. The response is outstanding and overwhelming. Good people are still out there, and when they hurt, we all hurt. It's a reminder that we're not supposed to walk through life alone, but in community. I'm amazed at the community that has come together to help my sweet friend. Thank you from the bottom of my heart.

I will try to keep you updated along the way a few more times this month. But please, KEEP CLICKING. KEEP SHARING. KEEP DONATING. You are making an incredible difference!

Thank you all for reminding me that community matters.


Choose life.

As per my second annual post to my brother, I wanted to wish him a Happy Birthday.
Today, my brother Brian would have been 28.

Would have been. That past tense is killer. Just three words to make you come to screeching halt and realize he no longer is. It's hard to believe he's been gone for almost 17 months. Today I woke up thinking about Amy and all my friends that are suffering the loss of her husband Jim on Friday. Then my heart started aching for my mom & dad, brother Matt, and all the people Brian loved dearly.

All of sudden I realized that just more than 2 years ago I was just like everyone else. In just a short amount of time, I became a reference. A person who people think "I hope that never happens to me." I don't say that to gain pity...I say that out of the sheer shock that life can change at any moment. How did that become me? My friends and family haven't suffered enough loss?

I know that death is a part of life. And ultimately, death means that we have life. As I sit with friends grieving at Panera, or shopping for a funeral dress, or texting my parents and brother to let them know they're on my heart, or hearing the sounds of the last of Jim's family members coming into town and embracing one another in pure heartache - I am reminded that death is never far away.

Choose life. While you're here, choose to live. More importantly, choose to love. Or as my best friend Sarah so perfectly worded it: Make sure your default is love. Hold the ones you love a little tighter. Get rid of the distractions and follow through on promises. Keep your word. Keep in touch. Help a friend who needs it. Love without regret or restraint.

Love you, bro. Wish I could hug you and tell you in person. Know that you will never be forgotten and I promise your name will never be unfamiliar in our house. We love you and miss you dearly. Happy Birthday.

*****Don't forget that through the month of December, revenue collected from my blog will be donated to my dear friend Amy Lewis, who lost her husband suddenly last Friday. Each page impression will donate a small amount of money, so if we all keep clicking together, it will add up to a lot! Just since yesterday, we've raised over $2000 just in Paypal donations! Let's keep going! Please consider donating at the top left hand of the page to help ease the financial burden that Amy is facing. Thank you!*****



This week, my heart has been so heavy. 

Saturday morning, I got a call that my sweet friend, Amy Lewis, suddenly and tragically lost her husband, Jim, on Friday evening. As my jaw dropped to the floor and I tried to process the implications of what that meant, I couldn't stop shaking. Amy lives right around the corner from me, so I headed over there as quickly as I could, on the verge of puking the whole time. 

It was too familiar. Only this time, I wasn't looking at the moment to moment but could envision every horrible moment I faced through this painstaking journey that I was certain Amy knew nothing about yet. You'd think having walked down this awful road, I would have some insight or some inkling of what to say or what to do. All I could come up with was I need to hug her. I need to be near here. I need her to know I am here.  Past that, I was helpless.

Amy was one of the faces that continued to show up after Jeremy died. She was my comic relief, my break from real life, and one of the women who continually served me and my family. I specifically remember seeing her one morning on my way out of the house while she was making her way in bright and early to clean for me. I remember feeling overwhelmed with gratitude for one less task I had to think about, one less worry to have. 

It was two months to the day of Jim's death that I last saw him. We met up with mutual friends to have lunch after church at Dickie's. I sat on the kid-end of the table, taking pictures of the kiddos and keeping them under control, so I didn't get to interact with Jim much. But I remember a lot of laughter.

Amy and I have known each other for quite a few years. She worked at the college when I attended, and worked there with Jeremy, and she and Jim were in a small group with us a few years ago. We've grown closer even since Jeremy's death, through her generosity and our occasional week day breakfasts. My heart has been with her almost every moment since I found out. She's only 34. Jim was 39. This isn't supposed to keep happening to people around me. My heart has also been with Mark Johnson, who is one of Jim's best friend - who also happened to be the friend that found my Jeremy dead beneath his tree stand and was with Amy the moment she found out. He has lost two of his closest friends in such a short amount of time and I know the weight he is carrying is so heavy. 

My heart aches with the need to DO SOMETHING. I know how hard it was for me to ask for help, so I'm not waiting around for her to ask. I'm doing something. Anything. One thing I know is that Amy discovered the terrible news that since the life insurance policy her and Jim took out 20 months ago did not meet the 24 month limit before cashing out, she will not be receiving life insurance money. Just one more heavy burden on an already devastated heart. 

So, with the little resources I have, I have decided that for the entire month of December, I will be raising money for Amy, in honor of Jim, to cover the cost of funeral expenses and generally ease the financial burden that Amy is facing. I don't make much from this blog on my own, but with the help of all of you, I am confident that we can make a dent. A significant dent. All you have to do is click on my blog as many times a day as you can for the month of December. Make sure the page loads - THAT'S IT. Each page impression creates revenue. 

In addition, I have added a Paypal donation button at the top left of my page for people to go above and beyond the call to help. What Amy needs is community, and in the season of giving, I pray that you would consider helping this incredible woman, and my sweet friend, breathe a little easier while she struggles to take the next step without her husband of almost 11 years.

Amy & Jim Lewis - married almost 11 years.

Jim and Amy, along with some of my nearest and dearest friends, supporting my children at the Jeremy King memorial dinner last November. 

Jim & Amy's engagement photos

Jim & Amy, along with their closest friends, Tamara & Mark, at our wedding in May.

A few of the women who were staples through my grief journey, who are now walking this horrible path along side another hurting friend.

I will continue to remind you as much as I can this month to keep visiting, as well as commit to actually posting more here (I have really been slacking in that area).

Thank you in advance for the love and support I already know is over flowing for Amy. Thank you for your generous hearts and for the prayers that will be so vital to her. Y'all are such a blessing to me, and I know you will be for Amy as well.


Related Posts with Thumbnails