Friday, August 28, 2015

Rosy Memories

We lost Tim's mom a year and a half after losing our son.  In the midst of deep sorrow, facing her cancer diagnosis was difficult to say the least.  I worried so much for him, fearing it would just be too much too soon.

There would be times I'd think of her but would rarely mention it to my husband, afraid the sadness would cloud a rare good day he might be having.

Over time, we came to speak of Mamaw June again, especially around the holidays and whenever the topic of fried chicken would come up.

My goodness, that woman could cook.  And fried chicken with dumplings was her speciality.

Yesterday a reminder popped on my phone of a memory from exactly six years ago.  On that day she came over and taught me her secret.  We had such a great time that evening in my kitchen.  Watching her frail hands, I imagined how many batches she'd cooked over the years.

Seeing the love pour out of her with each motion, I realized, there truly wasn't a secret to it.  No exotic ingredient she used, just her special touch.

The memories of that day were so precious though, even more so now that she is gone.

Because of that reminder, she was on my mind throughout the day.  I would've never guessed that by the afternoon I'd end up in the apartment complex where she used to live.  Pulling into the parking lot and walking to the breezeway just next to hers, passing her favorite bench, I was flooded with pictures from the past.

One of the sweetest transitions from grief and loss is when a memory brings 
a smile instead of a tear.  

What happened next though gave me me goosebumps.

Talking with the kind lady I was meeting about her flower beds, she mentioned a rose garden in the back of the complex.  She had recently moved there and was happy to have a place to tinker in the yard.  The manager had mentioned to her there was an overgrown rose garden at the back nobody had taken care of for several years.  So she gladly did.  This season was spent digging out the weeds and leaves and pruning all the plants.  Next year she hopes the blooms will return.

That rose garden was June's.  

Aside from being a great cook, June had a green thumb like no other.  She could take a stick, plant it in the ground and something beautiful would grow.  Her favorite flower was the rose so every holiday imaginable, at least one of her boys would buy her a plant.  And thus, the rose garden began.  

It was planted on a hill alongside the "chocolate river," as her grandbabies called it.  We spent many an afternoon swinging or picnicking in her favorite space.

I shared some of those memories with this new friend and her eyes sparkled, as mine became misty.  Upon leaving her house, I opted for the back route, which led me around to the garden mentioned.  

June would've been so pleased with the progress.  

A lot has changed in the past five years.  Time passes on.  Yet I was grateful for the walk down memory lane and the fragrant scent of roses, if only in my mind.

Monday, August 24, 2015

Weekend Reflections

My hope is that all women think their husband is a rock star.  I know mine is and I'm thankful every single day for all he does for us.  Seriously.  I love this man.

He's been on a roll lately of being especially handy.  While it cost his time, he's certainly saved us lots of money.  Tim's fixed the fence, the boat and my car.  The last two projects took a chunk of this past weekend.  I'm happy to report the boat was repaired in time for not one but three fishing outings.  But that was mostly because he took Friday off to do it.  For me!  He knew I'd really been wanting to go fishing and spend time together.  The weather was forecast to be amazing.  And being the wonderful hubby he is, he didn't want me to miss out being on water this weekend.

And I sooooo needed this.

where troubles just melt away....

And this...
mighty fine date night, if you ask me

Bonus being even more the next day....

Sunrise and sunset are my two favorite times to be on the river.  

There's a stillness to the water, a peace that settles in the evening.  When twilight comes and the river sighs.  Crickets and cicadas increase their singing.  And you just can't help but relax.  In the morning, before the sun comes up, a fog dances across and the reflections are beautiful.  I love watching the world wake up, especially from a spot nice as above!

My soul needed this time away, to pour out everything and replace it with goodness.  Nature, my husband, and time with God.  

Sometimes we sat in silence, a sign of a content couple.  Others we'd chat about anything or everything.  Most of the time he ribbed me for not catching any fish.  

The time with God is always welcome and needed too.  Part of it was spent in prayer, reading a devotion and catching up on my studies, and worshipping from the bow of the boat singing one of my favorites that the scenery inspired.

Spirit lead me where my trust is without borders
Let me walk upon the waters
Wherever You would call me
Take me deeper than my feet could ever wander
And my faith will be made stronger
In the presence of my Savior

Saturday night, I surprised my mom and took her out to eat at the pizza place where Noah works.  She'd not watched him in action yet and I knew they both would enjoy seeing the other.  He was able to take a short break and snack with us.  Mamaw, of course, left him a sweet tip.  It was a special impromptu date with mom and I loved the time together.  Life is busy and although I talk to her almost daily, and see her every Sunday at church, we don't get a lot of one on one time anymore.

Sunday after church I was fighting a sinus headache and went to sneak in a mini nap.  I felt guilty for lounging when my hubby was hard at work repairing my car.  But Noah soon eased those feelings, when he hopped in beside me just to be close and play a game.  Although my eyes were mostly shut, we had a great conversation about nothing and I absolutely loved the unexpected snuggle time.

All of this was precious in the moment but after reflecting back, I am even more grateful today.  Within the past twenty four hours I've heard of the sudden passing of so many - both young and old. 

 Three children, siblings, I did not know.  My child-loss momma heart swells for that family and they've been in my thoughts and prayers since learning of the tragedy.  And two charismatic and unique individuals, one expected but painful for the family none the less, and one very much a surprise.  Though adults, both were still young by my standards and both the victims of terrible diseases. 

We know all too well how quickly life can change.  How fleeting life is.  It makes us appreciate the little things more and soak up time with those we love.  But even those of us who've survived tragic loss, still let life get in the way and busy dictate our schedule.  Sometimes it can't be helped.  Sometimes priorities need adjusting.  Sometimes we just have to grab hold of unexpected carvings and relish them for what they are.

So very glad I got to make memories with some important ones the past few days.  Because we truly never know when that moment may be our last with them...

Monday, August 17, 2015

Manic Monday...

I've been rained on.  Stood up.  Ignored.  And made two trips to work this morning back to back.  Yep, that'd be my Monday, folks.

Worst part, I've had this Monday all weekend. As in a nothing-is-happening-like-I've-planned-it day.  On repeat.

Now, I could get really grumpy, stomp around, and have every right to be upset.  But that's just not how I roll.  Well... most days at least!

As my shoes were squishing down the hall, the results from a rainy day of home visits, I had to chuckle.  The song "Manic Monday" was literally streaming in my head and I realized this has been life for the past few days.

Friday was a rare full day off for me, a result of working many late nights.  Though I daydreamed about what I'd do, being woke up at 5:30 from the sound of hammers on the roof wasn't what I envisioned.  This was my alarm clock all weekend.  But with each clang, peck, and knock, I did lift up thankfulness that it was being fixed.  And considering the rain we've had today, the timing was perfect!

Saturday my hubby was up bright and early, not just due to the roofers, but because he'd planned a fishing day with a friend.  I had him packed, fed, and waiting at the table when he got the text.  Cancellation.  Deflated, he made a few attempts at some stand-in buddies but had no luck.  Since my plans for the day had also been altered, I decided it was just meant for us to go together.

We haven't had hardly any fishing time this season since it's been more monsoon than our normal humid Kentucky summer.  And because it was just the two of us, we decided it would be a good time to see if your newest dog would enjoy traveling by boat.  He loves to go "bye-bye" but he was a little unsure of our rocky departure.  Tim had to pick him up and hoist him onto the bow.

After a few minutes of settling into a spot, I glanced down and noticed more water than usual in our well.  Questioning Tim, he turns on the bilge pump but nothing happens.  At this point, the theme song for JAWS is entering my brain and I'm on full blown survival mode, wishing we were on the other side of the river, since that's the side we're parked on, and wondering how many laps it'll take to get all the way back to the truck should we sink.  But on the outside I'm calm and cool as a cucumber, both for my hubby's benefit and for our dog.  I don't want him traumatized on his first voyage!

Long story short, we end our fishing trip and head home, as Tim ventures out for boat supplies to correct the problem.  He said later he was glad I went though because he doubted that two guys would've even realized it, until their ankles were wet and they were going under.

And Sunday continued, in less exciting changes to our plans.  From the boat to last night, I sat in awe of Tim's attitude through it all.  Several years ago, even one of these would've sent us spiraling into a bad mood.  There might've been cussing, or stomping, or throwing.  (I'll be kind and not share which would do what.)

Today, dripping wet from being caught in a downpour, I was grateful my instinct was to sing a happy little tune and find the humor in the moment rather than let it drown my day.

Happiness is dependent on our circumstances, 

JOY is not.

Friday, August 14, 2015

Beautiful Mess

The other night I went to bed exhausted a bit early for our household, especially for a Wednesday. With church, we never seem to eat dinner until after we arrive home, which is around "universal bedtime" for little ones.

That alone could send me tossing and turning, but for whatever reason I had a slew of issues that kept me from sleeping.  Restless legs, eyes wide open, even if tired, a random allergy attack, and tummy troubles shot me out of bed after midnight.

Normally, the minute I realize that sleep isn't going to come, I'll get up.  That night I wrestled with it for hours.  Sometimes the alone time is welcomed, a rare treat as a Mom.  Yet because I was already tired, this gal wasn't very grateful as I stumbled in dark to find my spot.

Not sure if I wanted to watch tv or read, I browsed online for a few minutes and realized it was prime viewing time for the meteor shower.  A few of my friends were already commenting about how beautiful and amazing it was on Facebook.

Stepping outside on my back deck, I expected to see a brilliant display.  Instead what was received was dizziness from having my head up and spinning in a circle in the dark.  Hmmm...

Back inside, I googled for the best direction to view the show.  Northeast.  Out in the dark I go, internal GPS positioned best I could gauge and - nothing.

Huffing this time, I stomp around, grumbling about being up at this hour and still not benefiting from it, I ask my sleeping husband for directions.  Of course in his slumber, he sends me the exact opposite direction.  Though I may not be keen on compass skills, I knew without a doubt he was sending me the wrong way.

Grabbing my phone and a blanket I trod out determined to catch a glimpse of something.  Anything.  To be fair, my other trips had been very impatient and short-lived.  I wanted results without doing any work to get there.  Lord, help me...

Turning on some inspirational music, blanket snuggled, I was ready.  While waiting, I decided that a good use of my time would be spend it in prayer.

Sometimes the best conversations I have with God are at 2:00 in the morning.

What I learned a long time ago, is that you don't always have to be knees-bent to pray.  He tells us to do so continually, without ceasing, so that means anywhere and everywhere.  So with worship music going in the background, under a canvas of twinkling stars, I lift my prayers up to One responsible for my view.

And then He responds.

In a brilliant streak across the sky, I finally see what I've been waiting for!  They happen so quickly that if I were not looking, the opportunity would've been missed.  Tears streaming I wonder how often that happens in my life.

How impatient I am to want things on my time, my way.  How many times have I overlooked what God had in store for me in the moment because I was wishing it away on something ahead?

An hour and a half later, I force myself inside, realizing some sleep might be appropriate given the work day I'm facing.  Obviously it was a lengthy day, given it's taken me two days to finish this post.

Today, He hits me when another morsel when I confirmed what a meteor specifically was.  The definition made the night's viewing have even more of impact.

It's just trash.  

Debris in the sky.  Dust and rocks.  Something we'd normally discard or pay no attention to, yet God makes it amazing.

Oh, how I love His whispers to my soul.

Quit worrying.  
Give it to me.  
I'll take your mess and create something beautiful.  
Just'll see.

Tuesday, August 11, 2015

Ready to ROAR: Eyes of a Lion

Even though I'm a child loss mom and write about the experience often, picking up a book about that topic isn't something I regularly do.

In the beginning, I sought those stories out and needed to read about others' experiences.  Then it just became too painful.  For awhile there was enough grief in my own home, I didn't want to see or hear about anyone else.

As I began blogging more and connecting with others, I found that my stories sometimes helped even those who've never faced child loss.  Survivorship from any traumatic event connects us to hope, inspires us, and lets us see how others have faced life events with grace, love and joy, despite the pain.

Several weeks back a random email appeared in my inbox with the invitation to receive an advanced copy of the new book, "Through the Eyes of a Lion" by Levi Lusko.  Of course, I welcomed the opportunity.  What I found was anything but random.  God had a message for me in the print and I know He has one for you as well.

Though the book opens to the heartbreak of loss, 
you close it ignited with mission and purpose. 

As a child loss mom, there were many points I connected with but the lens through which Lusko writes is beautiful and powerful.  Just as this blog isn't only about child loss, but rather life after, #EyesofaLion takes you on a journey and leaves you filled with a desire to stop what you're doing and run toward the roar.

I easily could've read the book in one setting but I purposefully paused to soak up the message and highlight sections which spoke to me.  The once pristine copy is now dogeared and colored, telltale sings of a good read.  It isn't a book to put on a shelf but rather one that can be turned to time and again for inspiration.

"The more passionate you are about setting your soul to Heaven's time zone, 
the more progress you will make in your calling here on earth." -Lusko

In losing Austin, we often yearn for Heaven and the chance to be reunited.  Having him there set our family's course to stay on the right path but Lusko reminds us how it shouldn't be just about waiting to get there.  Our reason for being is about what we do while here!

My life has been somewhat in limbo lately.  Torn between where exactly God wants to use me next, I've let fear slow and alter my decisions.  But as Levi shouts, "God isn't scared of what you're scared of!"

I'm grateful God sent me this book.  His timing is always perfect.  My prayer is that you'll also connect with the message He has for you inside.

photo taken in front of Austin's memorial tree

Friday, August 7, 2015

Fenced Up

We're in the midst of some unexpected summer maintenance to our fence and roof.  It seems the wind prefers to come full mach 10 force at the front of our house.  And blow straight through to the backyard, which now has our fence leaning forward.

This would explain why we've already had to replace the windows and roof on a house that is only about 17 years old.  The fence is less than ten.  But, after reviewing our latest damage and general wear and tear, fixing them both is inevitable.

Why is it they don't make things like they used to?

My grandma had her appliances, even furniture all of my life.  She only recently replaced her couch, just because she finally decided she was ready for a change.  And she gave her antique stove away because she didn't even realize it might be worth something.  Today we live in a disposable age, where everything is just tossed away when it is no longer useful.  Or a better model comes along.

But that's a story for another day.

As I've ben watching Tim take down our back fence, it's brought back many memories of when the boys were little.  It's hard to remember a time when we didn't have the fence but for the first few years we lived in the house, it was just a giant back yard of green.  At the time, there wasn't even a house behind us.

We're the first house you see in neighborhood so there was no hiding the day we bought our pool.  It was just a large inflatable oval but to little boys, ages two and seven, I'm sure it seemed Olympic size.  As it did to every other child in the area.

For many years our backyard was the playground for our cul-de-sac.  Kids would swim, play hide and seek, camp out, make smores, and gather in a "clubhouse" that was really Tim's shed.  They didn't have to ask to come over, kids just ventured behind our house for an adventure.

But I worried the pool was a liability and feared a child would jump in when we weren't home to watch them.  I was nervous enough watching them ride their bikes up the hills from the dirt mounds awaiting new construction.

As much I enjoyed interacting with the neighbors, with more houses being built we saw a need for a bit more privacy.  Actually, it was the house that would share a backyard with us that led to a final decision of building a fence.

Since the fence, the neighbors behind us have come and gone a couple times.  The current family is one I've written about before.  It inspired the story found in the book, 360 degrees of Grief.

We know them but not well.  Tim and the man of the house know each other better, mostly because they are outside more and they chat about yard work, hunting, or whatever guys do.  For myself, I'm more of an observer.  I smile at the family, wave when we pass on the road, and they've been included in my prayers for their own losses and joys.

Hoping to have sunshine and the length of extra time this weekend, Tim's been taking the back section down when he arrives home each night. As each piece is removed, more of our neighbor's home can be seen.

Our dogs are not fans of this situation. Knowing they get in trouble when leaving the fenced in area, they'll hover on the deck and softly growl or stare at their dogs.

But I've enjoyed seeing a glimpse of their life.

With toddlers running around, it lets me reminisce about our own early days.  One night, I sat on the deck, listening to their little boy talk about our dog to his mom.

"Momma, come see Roscoe!" he said, bouncing to her.  "He sits pretty, Momma. Come see!"

It was a sweet interaction I would've missed, had our fence not been down.  And I wondered, how often do I put my own personal fences up to guard myself - and miss the reward?

I've been described as an onion, from friends that took the time to peel the layers.  A defense mechanism I created years ago as a child, I keep my distance, only sharing bits and pieces based on trust.  If I'm hurt, I'm quick to re-patch the fence and step back, protecting my heart.

But I know that isn't what Jesus wants me to do.

Not that he wants to see me hurt, but if always guarded, protected by the fence or walls I put up, how can I really see with His eyes?  Help with His hands and feet?  Love with His heart?

Help me, Lord, to take down the fences that stand in Your way.

Sunday, August 2, 2015

Laughter Spree

I'm a simple gal.  As such, it doesn't take much to make me smile.

And though Friday was jam-packed, the grin I still carry is from quality time, not the quantity of things we did.

(However, in the eight short hours we had, we did get a lot accomplished.)

The day's mission was back to school shopping, specifically shoes for my son who is now wearing a size 15.  Although I could've done it on a Saturday, I took vacation time to spend some one on one with my towering teen.

Now, I don't know many teenage boys who willingly want to spend a day out with mom, much less shopping, but "Mom & Me" days are somewhat of a tradition in this house.  Hearing Noah's excitement this week, when he talked about our plans, brought joy before the day even began.

The only thing that would've made the outing better is if we weren't on a time limit but my hard-working boy had a 4:00 shift to clock in to.  And I got him there with minutes to spare!

We crammed a day of shopping, sushi, a matinee, and a stop for frozen yogurt in the few hours we had.  Noah asked for none of it, being so thankful and frugal our whole trip.

Well, actually he did simultaneously say "Orange Leaf" when I leaned over and said, "You know what would cap off this day?...."  And then we both laughed.

Laughter was a big part of our day.  Noah had me snickering at purchasing every color of shorts Academy Sports had, when we found a great deal.  Not one to care about labels, he gasped when comparing the savings shorts with a name brand.

"Why would anybody pay that much just for a logo?" he exclaimed, "I can get six pairs to this one!"

He was so price conscious, I had to persuade him to buy much of anything.  I'd watch his body language for things that caught his eye.  And then I'd show him how we'd go online, find a coupon, and save 20% at the register.

At Shoe Carnival, I walked in hopeful but worried we wouldn't find anything in his size that he liked.  To my surprise, we were in and out in 15 minutes.  Although I could've hand-picked the bright orange tennis shoes he wore out the store, he shocked me by buying some stylish slip-on canvas shoes.  My face must've questioned him because he shrugged and said, "I'm unique, Mom."

One of the highlights of the day was our ride home.  Running behind, because Noah had to sample every flavor of frozen yogurt before choosing, I was attempting to eat my treat and get him to point B on time.  Safely.  I'd scoop in a few bites (coconut and pistachio - yum) at every stoplight.  In the end, I drank the melted mixture.  Of course, mine went quicker because it was only a swirl or two.

Noah's was a heaping mound of weird concoctions.  Peanut butter and mango bobos.  Strawberry cheesecake and marshmallow creme.  For whatever reason, he thought it'd be funny to stuff a spoonful in my mouth just as I was yawning.  Now, there's two reasons this received an odd reaction from me.

One, it was gross.  I don't even want to recount the weird textures and flavor combinations my taste buds experienced.  Second, I have a really, really small mouth.  Although it was a "normal" size for him, I had ice cream coming out of my ears.  But it was too gross and cold to just swallow and I couldn't spit it out because I was driving down the road.

I was gagging and snorting.  He was laughing.  In the end, I was all but peeing my pants.  As we cornered his pizza parking lot on two wheels, he rolled out gasping for air.  It was a wonderful day that will always hold fond memories.

For after all, he reminded me this week..."Just three more years, Mom," as we were making plans for start of another school season.

Yes, this momma knows.  Much like he has a countdown to turning 16, I am holding tight to every precious moment, because I know one day I'll blink and he'll be full grown.  I'm already pushing in the brakes before this sophomore year even begins.

Time seems to go quicker with every passing year.

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