Saturday, November 19, 2016

Practicing Year-round Gratitude


November is such a popular month to be thankful. It is, after all, the month of Thanksgiving.

Just in case you didn't know you were supposed to be thankful in November, there are several thankful "challenges" floating around social media to remind you not only to be thankful, but what to be thankful for each day.

What did we ever do without technology?

Full disclosure: I fall for these games each year. I mean, who doesn't want to know which pair of shoes I'm most thankful for, right?

But this year, more than any other, I have been extremely cognizant of the year-round blessings. The easy blessings. The hard blessings. The punch-you-in-the-gut blessings. The everyday blessings. The tiny, unexpected blessings. The blessings that sneak up on you. The blessings you don't initially think of as blessings until they surprise you and become some of the greatest blessings.

Belly laughs
Farmers' markets
Birthday dinners
Mermaids

You might remember my blog post about reading Ann Voskamp's "1000 Gifts." It was such a profound book to read during a really low point in my life. Because of this book, I now carry around a gratitude journal and make notes in it every time I see something or hear something or experience something to be grateful for. It has really changed my attitude and outlook on life.

Random acts of kindness
Hearing the high school marching band practice from afar
Sunflower fields
Long massages

I am now thankful for at least one thing every day, even on days when I feel like crawling in a hole and hiding from the world. Even on days when there are more tears than laughs. Even on days when nothing seems to go right, and everything and everyone is plotting against me to have the worst day ever.

I find at least one thing to be thankful for.

And you know what? No matter what I'm going through or what I'm feeling, just practicing that one act of thankfulness completely changes the rest of my day. Sometimes, I have more than one blessing to be thankful for, and I make sure to write them all down. But, my goal is one a day. Since starting my journal in July, I have already collected over 300 "gifts." It doesn't seem like a lot, but re-training your brain to constantly be in gratitude mode takes some work.

Girls in the sandbox
Nature hikes
Giggles from the backseat
Silly, made-up songs

This November, and every month after, I challenge you to start a gratitude journal and be thankful for at least one thing every day. You will be amazed at how much more positive and affirming your life will become.

Bird watching
Old hymns
Sonic Happy Hour
Day trips
New pets
Mom's Night Out
Funnel cakes
Christmas music

What are your 1000 gifts? What are you thanking God for every day? Don't know?

There are blessings and joy all around. Train your brain to look for them, and start recording...

Blessings and peace,
Amber
xoxo

Wednesday, October 5, 2016

Pendants and promises

I'm sitting here waiting on my youngest to finish gymnastics and contemplating the events of this morning. It was a "normal" morning by Koehn standards, everyone running around, trying to get ready for the day. I'm making lunches and feeding breakfast and packing bags. The girls are fighting over who gets to hold the little boy I watch while attempting to get dressed and love on the guinea pigs at the same time.

It's our typical mad-house routine. And in the chaos of everything, I happen to notice my necklace chain lying broken and helpless on the kitchen floor. Said chain usually holds the really nice (and likely expensive) diamond cross pendant my dad gave me for Valentine's Day.

The pendant was nowhere to be found.

Panic set in and I started searching frantically for it everywhere I could think to look: the floor, under the kitchen table, the laundry room (where I had just finished starting a load of laundry), the living room, the bedroom. I even shook my shirt out and felt around in my bra (yes, I really did).

My search came up empty.

Still panicked and with tears in my eyes, I began to enlist the girls' help. This was the third time that stupid chain had broken (the second time that it broke without me doing anything to it), and I was not about to lose that cross because the jeweler did a shoddy repair job.

Searching and searching and searching and nothing.

I went outside to catch my breath and about that time, I happened to notice one of my cardinal friends having breakfast in the feeder. She looked up at me after a few seconds, then flew off into the hedge row.

"Hi, Mom," I uttered softly. "My necklace broke, and my cross pendant is lost. Can you help me find it?"

I do this every so often - ask my mom for help. Whether it's locating certain items or advice in the form of a sign, I still seek her out because I still need her.

So there I was this morning, standing on the back porch, asking my mom to help me find my pendant. I got one last urge to go and check my van. I hadn't been out to the van yet today, but I thought maybe the necklace broke last night, and the pendant came off in the van and the chain hung on until I made it inside.

One could only hope.

Van searched. No pendant.

As I was getting ready to give up for the time being, I looked down and saw a penny underneath the driver's seat.

"Hi, Mom," I uttered again.

And as I bent down to pick up the penny, my cross pendant fell out of my shirt hem and onto the driveway in front of my feet.

Yep.

The same shirt I so violently shook in the kitchen hoping for a pendant to fall out.

I won't pretend that the past 14 months haven't changed me. I'm a pretty open book when it comes to doing this life thing, and I've shared some fairly private posts. I have dealt with a lot of crap this past year, sometimes by myself... but then again, not really.

One thing that hasn't changed is my faith. If anything, it has grown stronger, even in the face of great sadness. I know not everyone can say this when dealing with a profound loss. But, my faith is something I cling to with my whole heart because I choose to believe in the promises made in the Bible.

God knows I still need my mom, and she shows up in the most spectacular ways. I choose to believe this - feel this, live this - because I believe in God and the afterlife. I believe in heaven and angels and spirits. I believe she is out there, watching over me (in the non-creepy sense, of course).

God's running a pretty cool ship, and I'm so blessed to be on it, especially through the storms...

"Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid or terrified because of them, for the Lord your God goes with you; he will never leave you nor forsake you... The Lord himself goes before you and will be with you; he will never leave you nor forsake you. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged."  ~Deuteronomy 31:6, 8

 

Monday, August 1, 2016

Dear Mom, and lessons on eucharisteo


Dear Mom,

One year.

I am sitting here one year from your passing, still trying to make sense out of the senseless. Still missing you - your presence, your voice, your touch. It just doesn't seem possible that I have lived an entire year without you.

Like most grieving people, I've done several things to try and get through this past year. I've read books, met with our pastor, talked to counselors, listened to the advice of friends. I don't want to say it has all been for naught, but I find myself some days still stuck in a place of deep sadness. There are days when I still refuse to accept what happened to you, and I refuse to let God in on the healing process. That means admitting my loss. Accepting my loss.

I am working on that, slowly, but surely. I've definitely come a long way from last August, but I still have a long way to go. I can't deny it forever. I will never heal if I do.

So I march on, deep in the trenches of grief warfare, full body armor, feelings pummeling me from every direction.


Yes. Tacos.

This summer, I read "One Thousand Gifts" by Christian author Ann Voskamp. In it, she challenges readers to start a gratitude journal, seeking out one thousand things that bring joy. How do we fully live when life is full of hurt? Eucharisteo.

Remember and give thanks, in everything. Even when it hurts. Even when it's hard. Even when it's ugly. Hard eucharisteo.

From Ann:

"Remembering with thanks is what causes us to trust; to really believe. Remembering, giving thanks, is what makes us a member again of the body of Christ. Remembering, giving thanks is what puts us back together again in this hurried, broken, fragmented world.

"He asks us to eat the mystery of circumstances we don’t understand. How to find gratefulness when we weep? Does it comfort at all to know that in the midst of our pain, God is keeping a list? A list that turns us and the cosmos inside out and changes everything, changes me and my perspective and the way I brain-film my life:

"You have recorded my troubles.
You have kept a list of my tears.
Aren’t they in your records?" (Ps. 56:8, NCV)

"God does not slumber for He cannot cease to bear testimony to our hurt. God keeps a list. It’s the wildest love that drives the Father to record his child’s every lament. We never ache without God attending, and he can’t stand to see a tear fall to the floor. God cups our grief and puts our tears in his bottle. It’s love that makes God a list-keeper of our brokenness, and it’s love that can make us list-keepers of our blessings. In this we might meet together in communion."

This book came at a pivotal time in my grief journey. But it definitely threw down the gauntlet: Grow closer to God, trust fully in Him, receive His full love and grace... by giving thanks for my grief? Giving thanks for the memories of you that still bring more tears than smiles? Seeing blessings instead of misfortunes?

Finding the joy in the everyday.

It sounds so simple, yet is so much more complex. Retraining myself to seek joy, to record the good, to completely change my perspective on my circumstances.

To fully let God in and work His magic in me.

It was difficult at first, but it is getting easier. I started that gratitude journal less than a month ago and am up to 142. It doesn't seem like a lot since 1000 is the goal, but like I said, it is a complex process.

And I am a work in progress.

Puppy kisses. Giggles from the backseat. Sunsets. Cardinals. Rainbows. Burgers and beer with Dad. Old photographs. Humor. Pie (because... pie). Freshly cut grass. Sand between my toes. Ice-cold Coca Cola. Back-to-school shopping. Movie dates. Nanny's biscuits. Girl time...

It really is the simple things that bring the greatest joy when we take the time to truly appreciate them.

I want to thank you for your spirit signs, comforting me when I need it most. Thank you for the songs, the synchronicities. Thank you for reassuring me that even though you aren't here, you aren't gone.

And I thank God, every time I remember you. Even when it hurts. Even when it's hard. Even when it's ugly.

Remember and give thanks... eucharisteo.

When there are more tears than words, I thank God.

I miss you every day. I think of you every day. I wish you were here every day.

And I thank God that He gave me you to be thankful for.

Happy 1-year anniversary in Heaven, Mom.

Love you forever,
Amber

"Gratitude unlocks the fullness of life. It turns what we have into enough, and more."  ~Melody Beattie

Monday, June 13, 2016

Summer's here, and so is the realization of my new role...

“Grace, then, is grace - that is to say, it is sovereign, it is free, it is sure, it is unconditional, and it is everlasting.” ~ Alexander Whyte

Our summer vacation is officially in full swing. This is a somewhat surreal concept for me, considering I swear it was just yesterday that I was escorting my girls into their new classrooms and meeting their teachers. Now it's time for swimming lessons, summer reading lists, church camp, fireworks and watermelon.

We are heading into a season that has so many wonderful memories for me, yet now also is marred by the death of my mom. It was around this time last year that my mom came down with the illness that eventually led to her passing (though we didn't know she was sick until later on in June).

So many things have happened this past year. I am just in awe of the amazing young ladies my girls are becoming. They have grown up so much, yet still, to me, remain so young and innocent. I want them to stay that way forever. But I know God has big plans for their lives, so I guess I'll allow them to grow and change and forge their paths in this crazy world.

God is forcing me to grow and change, too. It is definitely a process, learning to navigate this world without my mother. I was 35, almost 36, when my mom died. And while I realize that some people lose their moms at ages younger than me, I also realize that many, many more people don't lose their moms until a much older age.

It has been an adjustment, for sure (that might be a huge understatement).

I was speaking to my dad awhile back, and he said, "It's hard being thrust into the matriarch role this young, isn't it?"

It sure is.

In the last 3 years, I have lost both of my grandmothers and my mom (as well as a grandfather, but we're strictly talking matriarchs today). I've really been thinking about this a lot lately. So many thoughts have bubbled to the surface. It's finally hit me: This is it. I'm it. I am not ready to be it. I'm not equipped to be a matriarch. I am nowhere near responsible enough, knowledgeable enough, self-reliant enough, old enough. When I picture a matriarch, I see a woman with silver hair and glasses, not someone with a 3-year-old at home.

My great-grandmother. She was an amazing matriarch.

But somehow, in some way, the torch has now passed to me, and I am responsible for leading this family. There is no one left to look up to. I find this thought quite terrifying - that I am now the sole female on my side responsible for the next generation of our family.

I hope my kids are prepared to grant me a lot of grace.

I know I will be seeking God's grace frequently, as well. The one thought that brings me peace in this new role is that God's grace is ever-present, abundant, free. We only need to ask for it, and it will be given. I have relied a lot on my Lord this past year, moreso than I probably have my entire life. There have been so many times when I've needed His love, His understanding, His grace.

And each time I've called upon Him, He has answered in kind.

I trust and have faith in His divine plan. But while I may never know why God chose me for this new role at such an early time in my life, I at least take comfort in the fact that He is right there with me, helping me be responsible enough, knowledgeable enough, self-reliant enough (and hopefully, one day, "old enough").

Father, thank you for trusting me with such an important job. I pray that you will help me raise my girls in a way that honors you. Help me to be a strong matriarch for our family, so that one day, when I am gone, my children and their children and their children's children will mirror the example I set and become strong matriarchs in their own right. Be with us now and always. And keep that grace handy. All this I ask in Jesus' name. Amen.

"And after you have suffered a little while, the God of all grace, who has called you to his eternal glory in Christ, will himself restore, confirm, strengthen, and establish you." ~1 Peter 5:10

Wednesday, March 30, 2016

Hugs from Heaven

Finding uninterrupted time to write has been challenging, to say the least. I started the year with a goal to write something -- anything -- each day in one of my journals or on the blog.

I last posted here on February 8th, Mom's birthday.

I am doing a stellar job.

The last time I wrote something to my mom was on March 19th while I was sitting under the heater at the salon waiting for my color to set. It was a rather odd place to pull out my "mom journal" and pen some thoughts, but I overheard the gal next to me talking about her mom and I just had to jot some things down.

The specific words I overheard were, "Got to keep her healthy while I can! I don't know what I'd ever do without my mom. I just can't even imagine."

I don't think this woman knew the weight of her own words.

I have to admit, it is difficult for me to see people still enjoying life with their mamas. Talking about their mamas. Going on outings or talking on the phone. Hugging. I'm almost jealous even. I get daily reminders that my mom is no longer here while so many other moms are.

It really hurts sometimes, and it makes me so sad seeing some moms being taken for granted. Puts a whole new meaning to the phrase, "You never know what you have until it's gone."

I posted on Facebook the other day that I didn't think my mom's spirit had been around much. I hadn't seen any "signs" and my regular flock of birds had been MIA for quite awhile. I always looked forward to peeking out the back door and spotting my cardinals and blue jays, but their presence had been nonexistent. I looked up at the sky (like I do so often anymore) and I think I muttered something like, "Where are you? I miss you." And then the very next day, I received a male and female cardinal while I was sitting in my van in the driveway.

Why can't I trust that she's still with me, even if I'm not always seeing her signs?

Holy Week last week brought about an entirely new set of feelings I had yet to experience on my grief journey. It's emotional enough thinking about Jesus and what he went through for us, but to add thoughts of my mom to the mix was a kick in the gut.

But then Easter morning came, complete with 2 inches of snow on the ground. Our first snow all winter. And as I got up that morning to get ready for church, I felt this calming presence all around me. I'm usually dead to the world at 6:30 in the morning, but not that morning. I was up, I was with it, I was ready to face the day, even in the midst of my sadness.

I knew my mom was there.

And when we sang our cantata at church, and I sang my solos, I knew my mom was there.

And when my girls were opening their Easter baskets and hunting eggs and enjoying the day, I knew my mom was there.

I just felt her all around us all day long. Really felt her, in the pit of my soul.

And I wasn't sad.

Which brings me to today. If there's one thing I miss the most about my mom, it's her hugs. I can receive hugs from people all day long, and none of them comes close to a hug from her. So I looked up at the sky and said, "I need a hug." I wasn't expecting anything in return, just putting it out there that I was missing her hugs.

Not 10 seconds later, five blue jays flew over the fence and landed at the feeder. Five. All at once. I ran to get my camera, but by the time I returned, only two were left. Those blue jays are a bit skittish. They didn't sit still long enough for me to snap any pictures.

But as they were flitting about, in and out of the hedge, a male and female cardinal appeared. I can only assume these were the same two birds I saw last week. They were calling to each other, hopping from branch to branch. But they stayed in the yard. I watched them for awhile, snapping a few photos, and then the female decided to move to the front yard. The male followed shortly after, and so did I.

They were perfectly content to hang with me, let me take their pictures, let me talk to them.

They were my hug from Heaven.

It obviously wasn't a physical, touching kind of hug, but their presence comforted me and warmed my heart just like a regular hug would.

I relished it. I took it all in.

Then I realized I had a napping baby I needed to check on and two preschoolers who needed to be picked up. Back to reality.

I really can get caught up in the moment with those birds.

But I'm glad I have them, because they are proof that even though my mom is no longer physically present in my life, I know she's still here, watching over me and my family every day, giving us little hugs from Heaven.

And I'll never take them for granted...

Calling to his mate

Waiting for his mate

Beautiful bird

He was very chatty today

I kid you not -- she was on the roof of my van!! She even scared me one time when I opened the door to the garage and she was sitting on my rear-view mirror. I wasn't fast enough with the camera on that one, but I did manage to snap this one quickly before she flew into the trees. This explains the blurriness.

Listening to her mate calling

Calling back to her mate

He is so handsome, and rather tame in bird standards

You can't see it in this shot, but he was chastising two robins for getting a little too close to his woman! Ha!

My lens even followed him up to the roof (I stayed on the ground, of course)

My pretty lady having a snack

She makes my heart happy

Monday, February 8, 2016

A Good Cry


"If you've been up all night and cried till you have no more tears left in you -- you will know that there comes in the end a sort of quietness." ~C.S. Lewis 

I've been reading these grief books my father-in-law bought me. It is a series of four short books, and I am currently on the third. The books take you through the stages of coping with grief, and I am currently on "Finding Hope and Healing."

One of the chapters in the second book on experiencing grief is titled, "A Good Cry." It talks about how crying is a good release of tension and sadness, and how each good cry lets a little more of the pain out of our systems. It is a powerful healing force.

I've definitely had my share of good cries lately, there is no denying that. And I have experienced, more than once, the feeling C.S. Lewis describes in the quote above. I've even written about it before here on my blog...

Next to writing, crying has been the best release for me (I have never been short on dramatics). And this last week, I have had a lot to let go of. This past Tuesday was the anniversary of my grandmother's death. I was very close to my grandmother, and when she passed away suddenly three years ago, I was so devastated. Then my favorite cat died very unexpectedly early Saturday morning. That was such a hard loss for me. I kept wishing my mom were here to give me a hug. And now today is my mom's birthday.

Water works.

Oh, how I miss her. Everything about her. Even the stuff that got on my nerves. Lately, I find myself asking God to just let her get on my nerves one last time, because that would mean that she is not gone.

Oh, the crazy things we miss after our loved ones leave us.

If there's one thing I've learned from this grief process, it's been that the grieving process is different for everyone. Everyone grieves at their own pace and in their own ways. It has been therapeutic for me to share my grief experiences with you all here and on Facebook. I hope you haven't grown weary of my posts.

Or my crying.

After I posted one of my writings for you all a few weeks ago, I had several requests to share another. I have been debating on which piece to post -- they're all so personal to me. But, I have one piece that fits perfectly with this blog post. I wrote it in the silence after a good, long, hard cry... 

CRYING

I hear you crying, Mom, in the early morning hours behind a closed bathroom door. You are praying or talking to yourself – I’m not sure which. I just hear you crying.

I see you crying, Mom, after one of our fights. After a fight with Daddy. After a bad day at work. After someone has hurt you. I just see you crying.

I feel you crying, Mom, as I leave the nest and venture out into the world to chase my dreams. I feel you crying tears of joy, pride, nervousness. I feel it all. I just feel you crying.

I know you’re crying, Mom, when I get off the phone with you after a long heart-to-heart about some life choices I’ve made. Or when I call to tell you I’m engaged. Or when I tell you I’m pregnant… for the FOURTH time. I just know, good or bad news, you’re crying.

I remember you crying with me, Mom. Those times you spent hours in my room at night, holding me as I cried myself to sleep over whatever trivial thing was upsetting me that night. I am now beginning to experience this with my own daughters. I remember your love, your touch, your words of wisdom, your prayers. I remember it all. I just remember you crying.

You finally got tired of crying, Mom. You said, “I want to go. Just let me go.” You were tired of the disease. Tired of the medicine. Tired of the side effects. Tired of being alive, but not living. So, you cried your last tears and Jesus welcomed you home. 

I know you don’t want me to be sad, so I’m trying to put on a brave face and think of happier times. But for now, I just cry. I cry for what was and I cry for what could have been. I cry for you.

One day, though, I will stop crying, too…

So today is mom's birthday, and of course, I have been crying. It hasn't all been sadness, though. I have really been trying hard to focus on happy memories and things that I really loved about my mom. My family went out to lunch with my dad yesterday to celebrate mom. We wanted to go to her favorite restaurant, but they were closed because of the Super Bowl. So, we went and had one of her other favorite meals instead. The girls and I also released balloons this afternoon in memory of mom. It is so windy today, so I know they made it to Heaven in record time!!

One day, I will get to a place where the happy feelings outnumber the sad. I pray I get to that place sooner rather than later. Today, I am imagining mom in Heaven, surrounded by God and Jesus and her family. They're singing "Happy Birthday" to her and eating lots of cake and ice cream.

And she is looking down on us, smiling, and she is at peace...


Singing "Happy Birthday!!!"

Sending balloons to Heaven

Monday, December 28, 2015

Thinking

So, I've been doing a lot of thinking lately (scary thing, I know)...

Thinking about family. Thinking about friends. Thinking about the holidays. Thinking about my mom.

**And by thinking, I really mean crying (at least 75 percent of the time, anyway).**

One of my favorite places right now to "think" is in my backyard, watching the birds. I posted on Facebook awhile back that I have been receiving several visits from cardinals lately. In fact, one day, I had 5 of them eating off the sunflowers in my garden. All 5 showed up at the same time.

I knew it was a sign.

I never gave much thought to the afterlife until my mom passed. Perhaps I thought about it a little after I started losing my grandparents, but I never read any books about it or researched it like I have since Mom.

One of the most common things I have read is that cardinals are a sign from our loved ones, letting us know they are still with us, comforting us, loving us.

And then there's this one:

 

This one shows up pretty much every time I go outside (sometimes when I just look out the window). I can't explain it. Every time I think about my mom, this same cardinal appears. It flies down from the hedge row in the back yard and lands on top of our chain link fence. Sometimes, it just hangs out in the hedge, but always flies closer so I can see it.


I know it's the same bird each day, because it is the fattest cardinal I think I have ever seen (I feed it well). So, it is now my buddy, and we discuss life and what my girls are doing and how I'm feeling and that I'm sorry the squirrels keep eating its safflower seeds. You know, all the important things.

And it stays awhile and listens to me, or sometimes just watches me think cry. It has actually become my little grieving mascot, if you will.

I looked all over for the perfect cardinal ornament for my Christmas tree this year. There was nothing I liked. Nothing that conveyed what this beautiful bird does every day for my soul. I will keep searching for that perfect decoration. I know it's out there somewhere.

In the meantime, I want to leave you all with something that I wrote in one of my journals while "thinking." Putting some of my private thoughts out here. Therapy or something... It's (appropriately) titled "Thinking." Just some things I have pondered since August 1st (warning: you will need Kleenex)...

Thinking

What were you thinking on your wedding day? When you said your vows and pledged your love to Daddy?

What were you thinking when you first heard me cry? When you saw me for the first time, held me in your arms and smelled my baby smell?

What were you thinking when I took my first steps? Ate my first bite of cake? Said “I love you” for the very first time?

What were you thinking when we got into our first (of many) fight? When I let my temper control my thoughts and actions?

What were you thinking when I was 3 and read to you for the first time?

What were you thinking when I went off to kindergarten? Got off the bus and walked to class by myself because I didn’t need your help?

What were you thinking when I made new friends? Had my first crush? Lost some friends?

What were you thinking when I tried sports for the first time? When I tried music for the first time? When I succeeded for the first time?

What were you thinking when I went off to middle school and had some of the roughest times of my youth? When some of the teachers were as heartless as the kids? When you sat up with me all those late nights? When you cried with me?

What were you thinking when I accepted Jesus as my Savior, was baptized and reborn?

What were you thinking when I went through my rebellious phase in high school? When I did so many things I wished I wouldn’t have? When I probably disappointed you more than made you proud?

What were you thinking when I burned my arm? When you saw what I had to endure? When your gut was telling you to say, "I told you so," but all you said instead was, "I love you."

What were you thinking when I graduated high school and chose to attend your alma mater? When I then chose to leave your alma mater and graduate from the “rival?” When I told you things about my personal life that I knew would disappoint you?

What were you thinking when I called to tell you I was getting married? What was going through your mind on my wedding day? When you had to officially let go of your firstborn?

What were you thinking when you got your diagnosis? When you found out that your time in this life would be cut short? When you had to slowly start giving up the things you loved so much because you no longer could do them?

What were you thinking when you found out you were going to be a grandma for the first time? For the FOURTH time? When you held your granddaughters in your arms? When you saw the joy on their faces when they were with their "Little Nana." When you sang to them and read to them and played with them (even when you didn’t feel well), not knowing how long you would have with them?

What were you thinking when you had your first major “scare?” When six weeks in the hospital seemed like forever? When you knew it was the “beginning of the end?” What were you thinking when you were finally getting “better,” only to have a relapse?

What were you thinking when your dad died? When your mom died? When your sister-in-law died? When your mother-in-law died?

What were you thinking last year at Christmastime? On your birthday? On Mother’s Day? Did you know they would be your last?

What were you thinking when you went into the hospital for the final time? When no one could figure out your symptoms until it was too late? When every treatment seemed to make things worse? When Daddy and I left your bedside some nights and you were all alone?

What were you thinking when you took that turn for the worse? When Daddy and I could barely hold it together in front of you (but somehow we did) knowing you were slipping away?

What were you thinking that fateful morning, when the only one in the room with you was me, and the doctor came in and said, “I am so sorry. There is nothing more we can do for her.” And I wept on you? Told you not to leave me? Told you not to leave the girls?

What were you thinking when I had to be the one to make the call for Hospice care? When all you would say to us was, “Just let me go.”

What were you thinking when we sang at your bedside? Prayed for you? Hoped for a miracle for you?

What were you thinking when you heard me cry? When I held you in my arms and smelled your unforgettable smell and told you to hold on just a little while longer for your family?

What were you thinking when they moved you to Hospice? When all of the tubes and machines were disconnected. When you were no longer in pain?

What were you thinking when you saw Jesus, arms stretched out to you, calling you home?

What are you thinking now, watching us from up above? Visiting us when we’re sad or lonely? Missing us in Heaven?

So many times I wish I would have asked you what you were thinking…


Elf Shenanigans, Part 3

The final chapter in our elf story this year...

Day 17:



Clairece wrapped the girls' doors so they were trapped inside!
Day 18:

Baby Jesus needed an elf hug...
Day 19:

It took the girls FOREVER to find her this day...
Day 20:
The girls love this movie, but all the stores are always out, so Clairece brought one from the North Pole...
Day 21:

She wrapped herself as a present under the tree...
Day 22:

Mmmmmm... Chocolate...
Day 23:

Checking out the new fridge!!
Day 24:

Traditional Christmas Eve gifts...  :-)

Tuesday, December 15, 2015

Elf Shenanigans, Part 2

Our normally ornery and mischievous elf, Clairece, seems somewhat tame this year compared to previous seasons. #tiredmommyproblems

Here's what she's been up to the past few days...

Day 5:

Helping Barbie with her sight words...

Day 6:

A girl after my own heart...

Day 7:

I think she got this idea after watching A Charlie Brown Christmas with the girls...

Day 8:

More games. She is a card shark!

Day 9:

Welcome to the jungle...

Day 10:

Very appropriate, considering our new family members...

Day 11:

Hanging out with the Willow Tree angels... birds-eye view...

Day 12:

Peek-a-boo!! The girls thought it was funny that Clairece was posing...

Day 13:

Wheeeeeeeeeee!!!

Day 14:

She always brings us a Christmas movie or two...

Day 15:

It was one of THOSE days...

Day 16:

She came back!! And she's busy training for Cirque du Soleil...

Thursday, December 3, 2015

Elf Shenanigans, Part 1

While I've been on my hiatus from Facebook, several people have told me they've missed my Elf of the Shelf posts.

Don't worry, elf lovers. I am still taking pictures! Our little Clairece has been busy the past few days (a little too busy, if you ask the Tooth Fairy...). She is ornery, that one...

Day 1:
Clairece likes games, though I'm not entirely sure she's playing by the rules...

Day 2:

Clairece replaced our Christmas stockings with... "stockings"...

Day 3:
She missed her snowman friends...
Day 4:
This is more like our mischievous elf...


Stay tuned for more Clairece sightings!!