Category Archives: marriage

I don’t want to get over him…

imageI’ve come to realize over the past few weeks, that I don’t want to get over my husband.

While I realize that my statement may alarm my family and friends, stick with me for a minute.

You see, I was of the mind that the only way I would ever get over my husband was by meeting someone new. A new relationship would allow me to get over him, and enable me to move on with my life.

Recently, I’ve come to a new understanding.

I loved my husband. We were best friends. He was everything to me. I still love my husband despite the fact that he’s been gone for three years. I never entered into our marriage with the idea that I wouldn’t love him for the rest of my life.

I understand that he’s gone, I know that he died and that he’s not coming back, but does that magically mean that I’m supposed to tell my heart to stop feeling?

His absence from my life has no bearing on the way that I feel about him.

I don’t want to get over my husband because what we had was real.

We were friends. We respected each other. We loved each other. We genuinely cared for one another. He protected my very fragile heart and provided a safe place for me to rest in his arms.

We were passionate and silly…                    We laughed until we cried. We argued and fussed and made up and cuddled and talked about a future that involved our grandchildren… We dreamed together, and in the end, we mourned that we would not be allowed to finish this life together.

I’m not holding onto the past; I’m simply saying that it’s ok for me to still love my husband and not be interested in dating or starting a new relationship. Yes I’m human, and I get lonely from time to time.

However, to be honest, I’m lonely for Robert.  I’m lonely for my husband.

I miss his deep voice, and the way he called me “girl,” as if he failed to see the gray wisps of hair that had begun to pop up in my head… I miss the way he would complain about giving me foot rubs, but would massage my feet anyway.

I miss a thousand things about my husband.

The way he would get up in the middle of the night and say, “You need to come to be woman, you know I can’t sleep without you.” (I’ve always been a night owl.)  I miss his laughter that always made me smile and laugh and his amazingly beautiful smile that lit up his entire face and reminded me of how much I loved him. We truly enjoyed each other.

I miss my man. He was such a good guy. So yeah, I don’t want to get over him.  I just want to live my life in a way that would make him proud.

I hear him telling me I can do this, as he so often told me when I doubted myself. I imagine his smile when our children say or do something funny…  I hear him telling me to stay close to God and to continue seeking Him.  Until his death, I hadn’t realized how much I learned from my husband. How much my broken heart healed in loving him.

Lest you be dismayed, if God brought someone in my life, I would listen to Him and give someone a chance. But to be real with you, my priority is and will always be raising my children. They come first and I would be okay in choosing to live a life alone.

I have had the kind of love that people write about. The kind of love that movies depict and people dream of…. It was ordained by God and blessed by Him.

Why would I want to ever get over a love like that?  I don’t. And you know what? That’s ok.

Be blessed friends…  IMG_0296

 

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I hate my life, which is a weird title, and hate is a strong word, so how about “I’m generally unsatisfied with my current life status…” (Is that better?) 


This looks weird. I know… 

But it’s how I’ve been feeling lately. As if I’m walking through life with my eyes closed… Afraid to look at what’s happening around me, paralyzed and unable to really participate in my own life. 

The truth is, I know I’m very blessed. Like really really blessed. But there are moments when it all just seems like too much. Its not just being a single mom, it’s all of it. All of life.  More succinctly, all of life without Robert. 

It’s been almost three years since my husband died and there’s not a day that goes by that I don’t miss him. I feel like I’m walking in the dark without him. I’m playing at life without really being a part of my own life. 

I feel like I’m almost sleepwalking through life. 

I’ll be honest with you… I don’t like my life…  I realize that sounds bad.  Let me clarify… I don’t like my life without Robert. It just doesn’t seem right with him not here. 

He was my best friend. He was my person.  He was the person that I shared everything with. Every thought, every emotion, every pain and every joy. 

I miss that. A lot. 

I envy people who are married… I envy those whose husbands come home at the end of the day… 

I miss my five o’clock kisses in the kitchen. His deep voice asking me about my day. His texts to say that he loved me just because. I miss us laughing together and our long deep conversations.  I miss our long talks after church discussing the sermon of the day. 

I miss him. 

My best friend, my husband, my heart, my boy, my man…

My everything rolled up into one person. 

I don’t like my life without him at all. I’m just being transparent here.  I wish I could magically change the past and make the last five years disappear. However, I know I can’t do that. 

So here’s what I’ve decided to do… 

While I don’t like my life without Robert, I’m going to trust that God knows what He’s doing despite my feelings.  

I’m going to create a life that I love.  

I’m going to raise my kids and enjoy them. I’m going to dance in my kitchen and laugh at myself…  

I’m going to go on long walks and stay up late on the weekends and camp out in my backyard with my kids…  I’m going to have the life with my children that Robert and I talked about for so many years. 

I don’t like my life… But I’m going to learn how to love it anyway. 

I know that’s what my husband would want me to do.  I know that’s what God wants me to do. 

I know that’s what I need to do. 

So excuse my weird picture…  And my ramblings. Here’s to walking through life with opened eyes… Here’s to creating a life that you love even if you don’t like your circumstances… We can do this… God says we can, and he like; knows stuff.   

I double dog dare you to love your life.  😘😉

Be blessed… 

What does love look like? 

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It’s February, and sometime right after Christmas little hearts and red heart shaped boxes full of chocolates and goodies started popping up everywhere. It’s close to Valentine’s Day and restaurants everywhere will be chock full of lovers set out to celebrate their love soon.

I suppose that’s what made me start thinking about it.

What is love really? Is it demonstrated by cards and letters and gifts proudly passed through the hands of those who declare their love? Or is it something more?

I think we’d all agree it’s definitely more.

When my husband lay on his death bed weakened and unable to communicate with me, I sat by his bedside and prayed…  I wiped the sweat from his brow and read him scriptures that I knew brought him comfort.

His body, once strong and healthy, was left weakened and frail. He was never a small man by any means of the word, but he had lost so much weight that he didn’t resemble the strong muscular army private I had married.

I was losing him. Each day, I lost a little more and my heart broke just a little more with each passing moment…

In those private moments that no one else saw, I discovered after almost 16 years of marriage what love was.

I was washing his body in the bathtub as he sat on a shower chair when he could no longer stand, him apologizing to me, and me telling him I’d punch him in the face if he apologized again. Because, “This is what we do hon, we take care of each other. You’d do it for me. Now stop apologizing.”

You see, he felt bad that I had to help him. He was a proud man. He didn’t like asking for help. The thing is, I wanted to be the one who was there for him.

I loved him, and while he was no longer healthy and had little to offer me (his words not mine) and things were really really hard; I promised him when we were married that I would be there for him always. I was going to keep my word to my beloved.

In the weeks to follow Robert lost the ability to talk. I didn’t think I could mourn losing him before he died, but there it was. My heart was slowly crumbling and I wasn’t sure how I was going to get through the heartache of losing my very best friend in the whole world.

One day in particular when he was bedridden, there was a mix up with the  nurse who was supposed to come and bathe him. I was aggravated at the nurse, and I was worn out from little to no sleep. I had taken to sleeping on an air mattress at the end of his hospital bed so that I could be close to him if he needed me.

I asked him if it was okay if I bathed him, knowing how he must feel at not being able to do anything for himself. He nodded with what little strength he had.  I gathered my supplies, a bowl of warm water, soap, a wash cloth and towel, and I began to gently wipe his broken body.

In that moment, as tears streamed down my face, I felt the Lord very clearly say to my heart, “This Gretchen. This is what love is. You have loved him well.” I don’t know why God chose that moment to explain to me what love was, but I’ve never forgotten it.

Love is not always something that is shiny or glittery or easy. Sometimes it’s hard and ugly…. I could have walked away from my husband. People do it all the time when there are situations that are too hard to face. I chose to walk closer to him.

Watching my husband die was one of the hardest things I’ve ever had to do… (And I’ve experienced some hard things in my life) However, I know that despite the difficulty of seeing my husband in immense pain, he knew that I loved him. He knew that I was hurting as well, but I never allowed that to interefere with my care for him.

I’ll be honest. There were times when I wanted to run away, hide from cancer and the world and everything. But the thing is, I wanted to take him with me.  Leaving without him was never an option.

Love is ultimately a choice.

We choose who we love, how we love and if we love each other well. Selfishness is the opposite of love. Loving a person means that you put them before yourself or your own feelings and hopefully they do the same for you.

In my marriage that was the case. We were never this perfect couple who did everything right, but we worked through our issues and chose to allow our difficulties to strengthen our marriage.

It’s been almost three years since my husband passed away. There’s not a day that I don’t think about him… The blessing of that is that I’m not filled with regret.

I served him well, we loved each other well, and I am honored to have cared for him until he took his last breath. While it was difficult, I chose to focus on him and not myself. My needs could wait, because he needed me. I have no regrets aside from wanting more time with him.

Because we chose to love to God first, we were able to love each other.  I am thankful and honored that God allowed me to love him and be loved by him. Choosing to love my husband was one of the best decisions I’ve ever made in my life.

Love is a choice.  Choose well.

Surviving when Life kicks you in the buttocks…

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I know that my title is strange, but my husband always used the term buttocks, so it seemed fitting.  And really, that’s what it has felt like for the past four years.  Like life kicked us in the buttocks.

Like really hard… 

You’ve heard of sucker punches?

Well if there’s a sucker punch for the behind, that’s what it has felt like for quite some time.  But I’m getting ahead of myself.  I have to tell you a little more about my husband first.  Then maybe the title will make just a little more sense to you and you won’t think that I’m weird or inappropriate.  Or maybe you will; it could go either way.

 He was my best friend.

Someone I could talk to and share my heart with.

He was literally my only guy friend at the time

that didn’t try to push for something more than friendship.

I felt safe with him.

He knew my heart and he got me.

I never imagined that one day that he would become my husband.

But he did. 

It was like a fairy tale.

We never dated.

We never kissed.

                              He was my very best friend and one day he asked me to become his wife.

And I did.

One practice kiss before the ceremony, and a few hours later he was mine.

I was his.

And it was beautiful.

We shared our life and the children came and glued us together. Jobs came and went and a few gray hairs popped up here and there but his beautiful smile still melted my heart, and I seemed to melt his…

He encouraged me, he pointed me to Christ, he loved me, he believed in me; and we were happy.

Happier than I’d ever been before….

Life was good.

We were good.

The kids were getting older, and we grew even closer…

We dreamed together of our future…

A house in the country…

A huge front porch where we would watch our future grandchildren play

as we sipped sweet tea in our matching rocking chairs…

And then he got sick…

A stomach ache…

Which turned out to be colon cancer…

And I got scared.

And he told me to trust God.

So we prayed.

And we believed.

And he died.

For fifteen years, eight months, twenty-nine days,

two hours and fifty-two minutes I was his wife and he was my beloved.

I thought that in the end, our story would be our testimony of God’s goodness.

Instead; it is my testimony of his goodness and faithfulness.

It’s been almost two years since my husband passed away.

Two years.

Two years without hearing his voice, or feeling his arms around me.

Two years without his advice or encouragement.

Two years of being alone without my best friend.

If you’re married; close your eyes right now and imagine that for a few minutes…

Really think of how that would feel.

It’s not a good feeling, I can assure you…

I’m not sure how I’ve survived aside from the grace of God.

You see, He (God) was front and center in our relationship. He was the entire basis of what we were as a couple. He sustained us through a two year battle with cancer that ultimately took my husband home to be with the Lord.

Our five children were part of the equation that got me out of bed each day…

The other part of equation was that still quiet voice that spoke to my heart in the depths of my grief.

People kept telling me that I was strong…

That I was “amazing…”

I felt anything but those things.

I wasn’t strong at all.

I wanted to scream and cry and just disappear from my life.

I wanted to hide from the pain of living without my husband.

How was I supposed to live without the love of my life and my best friend in the whole world?

I’ll be honest… I didn’t want to.

I didn’t want to live without him.

It just hurt too much.

The pain was unlike any pain I’d felt in my entire life and I was no stranger to pain.

It was hard.

There were lots of tears during that first year…

And I’ll be honest when I say that I wasn’t always up to wiping their tears when I felt empty and broken inside, myself. But I pushed myself, encouraged their hearts and often cried along with them.

I remember one day while I was cooking, I just broke down in the kitchen… The pain was just too great to bear… This was not supposed to be how things turned out. He should have been walking through the door soon and greeting me in the kitchen with a kiss hello as he did every day since we’d been married. I broke down into tears and slid to the floor… I was no longer the person watching an emotional scene on television; somehow I had become that person…

Because surely this was a movie and not my life…

It couldn’t be…

This couldn’t be real.

And yet there I was, in a crumpled mess on the floor in my kitchen living out every melodramatic crying scene I’d ever watched on tv. Except this was real. There were no commercial breaks or actors involved.

This was my life.

And I was falling apart.

I couldn’t hide my tears anymore and

I couldn’t pretend to be brave any longer…

It wasn’t very long when I felt several sets of arms encircling me… “It’s ok Mommy…. We’re going to see him again.” “Don’t be sad Mamma,” another voice said. “We love you Mom,” yet another much deeper voice urged. “We can get through this together Mamma,” my little one added. I opened my eyes and saw that my children had encircled me… They were repeating all of the things that I’d been telling them. They had listened and they were now encouraging me. They all sat around me on the kitchen floor and we all began to weep. It had been about six months since we’d lost him and the pain was still very fresh.

It was then that I made my decision to live.

I was still here and God obviously had something for me to do.

I had to make that decision to live. I had to decide what kind of life I wanted to live. Was I going to be bitter and angry or live in a constant state of depression? I didn’t want to do either. My children had already lost their father, I didn’t want them to lose me as well.

It hasn’t been easy, but God has been faithful. He has surrounded me with friends who have supported me and my parents who have been there for us as well. He has provided for us financially and emotionally. He is the reason that I get out of bed each day.

I have to be honest.

I wouldn’t have chosen this life.

I still miss my husband. He was and is still the love of my life. But I know that I can survive without him because I know who God is. He has given me the strength to go back to school and work on attaining my Master’s Degree in Counseling. He has given me the wisdom to love these five kiddo’s through their own grief while working my way through mine.

I’m a widow.

It’s still an ugly word to me.

I don’t like it at all.

But I’m also an overcomer. (Thank you Ms. Mandisa) I’m a child of God. I’m a mother. A student. I’m a teacher. I’m a friend. I’m a daughter. I’m a sister. I am so much more than the word widow allows for… I was his wife and now I’m not.  But I’m also so much more now.  I am a person who knows that people die and bad things happen.  I am a person who knows that life isn’t always fair and that you don’t always get that happy ending that you see in the movies.  But I’m also the person that knows that even though all of that is true that it does not take away from who God is, or what he is capable of…  He is still good, and true and real and merciful.  Because of what I have experienced in losing my husband I am a person who loves harder, feels more, believes more and trusts in God more.

I have survived because I refuse to let my husband’s death be in vain.

God had a purpose in it.

He has a purpose in all that he does.

He has a purpose for me and my children

and his death has birthed some things in us that we didn’t realize existed prior to his death.

How do you survive tragedy?

One day at a time.

Moment by moment…

Each moment; hanging onto God for dear life.

Because no matter what it looks like, he’s always in control. As my husband told me when he was diagnosed with cancer, “Baby, this didn’t catch God by surprise.” “It’s not like he was up in Heaven saying, ‘Oops! Robert has cancer! What am I gonna do?’” “The bottom line babe; is that He knows everything and he doesn’t make mistakes. I trust him. You have to trust him too.”

I don’t think he could have imagined how much I would think back on that conversation.  It has sustained me through some very difficult times.

Whatever it is that you’re dealing with;

good, bad, or ugly;

it hasn’t caught God by surprise.

The reality is that we put God in a box and look at him through our own failings and shortcomings.

Today, almost two years later, I can smile without crying…

Look at his pictures without crying….

And almost begin to dream again.

It’s still not the life I wanted or planned for, but I’m trusting that God knows what he’s doing… Life may have taken me by surprise, but I’m happy to know that God isn’t IMG_6357surprised by any of it.  So while Life may have kicked us both in the buttocks, I’d like to think I’m kicking back now, and that God is here with me, guiding my foot. 🙂

Be blessed friends…

Reality…

He walked up behind me in the kitchen as I chopped up the lettuce to put in the salad, it was our normal routine….

He wrapped his arms around my waist and gently enveloped me as his lips touched the base of my neck in a tender kiss hello. I smiled. “What are you doing?” I asked. He kissed my neck again, tickling me, making me giggle. “I’m kissing my wife,” he replied. “What are you doing?” He responded, in his deep melodic voice that I so loved. I turned around to face him, wrapping my arms around his neck and kissing him on the lips. It was a deep kiss, a tender kiss, a prelude if you will, of things to come…
I pulled away, my lips lingering close to his and held his face in my hands, “I’m kissing my husband; that’s what I’m doing.”

He smiled that beautiful smile that melted every part of me and held me close. We stood there in an embrace for a long time, my head leaning on his strong chest as I listened to his heart beat. It was as if nothing else mattered; because in that moment, nothing did. There were no bills to be paid, no kids to referee, no family members to interfere, no stresses of life… It was just us. Him and me and what we felt for each other.

“Mom! Mom!” I looked up; alarmed at the steak that I was grilling; now charred and burned. My son stared at me with a puzzled expression. “What are you doing Mom?” “The steak is burning.” “Oh, sweetie, I’m sorry,” I said, as I turned the burner off and moved the pan off of the stove. I wiped my hand on my apron and rested my hand on my neck as a tear silently fell ever so softly down my cheek… “Are you ok?” He asked. “I’m… I’ll be fine.” I responded quickly. I smiled at him with the best fake smile that I could muster, “Why don’t you go get your homework done? I’ll be fine.” I patted his shoulder as he walked away and smiled again, as if to reassure him that I was indeed okay. But I wasn’t.

I could still feel his lips on my neck; his arms around my waist. But it wasn’t real. His deep voice was now only heard in my dreams and his laughter was only an echo of a dream.

He was gone.
I longed for those hugs at the end of the day. I craved those lingering kisses that reminded me of the infancy of our marriage. The ones I so often took for granted. I only had to close my eyes to see him here with me. I only had to breathe and I could feel his lips on the nape of my neck once again.

The reality of our love was now only a dream. A dream that I didn’t want to wake up from. The reality of a life without him was too much to bare. “What are you doing woman?” I heard him whisper in my ear. “Missing you, boy.” I responded to the air. “Live baby.” He said. “You’ve got to live. Let me go.”

The tears fell in streams now, ignoring my silent pleas to stop. “I can’t,” I whispered back. “I love you too much.” “Let me go woman.” He whispered, his deep gruff voice haunting me. “Let me go.”

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Even if I tried…

IMG_0475 I was looking for something…                                                                                                   That’s usually when it happens.  I was looking for something in some random drawer, filled with random things and I found a card from him.  I sat there for a moment, paralyzed by the soft blue hue of the card filled with pink daisies.  It was two years ago that he had given it to me.  “Don’t read it!” My mind screamed.  “You’re doing so good!  You don’t want to go there.  You’re in a good place right now.”  It pleaded with me; warned me of the consequences, but I couldn’t stop myself.

I had to…  How could I not read it?

The words; his words; pierced my heart in such a way that I gasped from the sheer impact of them.  My hand slowly found its way over my mouth and I tried to mask the sounds attempting to escape.  The tears began to quickly flow and my stomach ached with the pain of his absence and the presence of his words.

His words…  

Oh how they hurt me and blessed me all in the same moment.

The card began with, “I am in love with you…”  It told the story of falling in love unexpectedly…          Of the “Amazing gift of falling in love with you; and that “Being in love with you is something I couldn’t stop even if I tried.”  It ended with, “What I’m trying to say is- you’re “it” for me, now and forever.  It was the forever part that unhinged me, that made me gasp; that brought the tears so strong and hot and violently….

Because we didn’t get our forever,

and yet those words are not lost on me

when I think of seeing him in eternity.

I’ll love him forever… 

I can’t help but love him…

 As I opened the card to read his own words; the words he had so carefully written in the left handed script I had tirelessly teased him about, I tried hard to remember to breathe.  I tried not to hear his deep melodic voice saying them in my head unsuccessfully.  I tried not to feel the words wash over me like a tsunami and fill me with an intense longing for him.

He said that he was still “madly in love with me, and he thought that I was beautiful and grew more beautiful each passing year…”  He said that “Aside from Jesus, you truly are the best thing that’s ever happened to me.”

He closed with these words; “I love you girl.

Yeah, I couldn’t stop loving you if I tried.”

And I thought; me either Robert.

Me either…

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Worn…

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I’ll be honest with you…

I’m tired.

Like exhausted tired.

Worn.

Grieving is hard.  

It’s quite exhausting.

It doesn’t care that you have five children to care for, including two teens, two tweens and a five-year old going on 25.  No; grief punches you in the stomach on days when your teen has a bad attitude, and the five-year old is crying because you won’t buy her high heels to wear to church and the tween is upset that he can’t play video games all day…

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It just doesn’t care if you’ve had a hard day.

It doesn’t bother to ask you if you’re okay, or if your feelings are hurt from some random friend leaving you out of something that everyone else was invited to… Or bother to care that a friend stood you up.  Grief is grief.  It just doesn’t care.  It still hurts you, and it still makes you feel like you’re stagnant; knee-deep in mud, unable to move.

It’s the gift that keeps giving…

It’s the sleepless nights, and the long days, when you push through because you just have to…

It’s the putting a smile on your face and pretending to be okay when you kinda feel like you’re falling apart.  It’s the wondering if you’ll ever feel like a normal person again.  It’s the dream of a dream that feels more like a nightmare.  That’s where I am right now.  That is my address…  It’s where I live.

It’s the place that no one can really understand unless they’ve lost someone who they loved.  Some might try to understand, while others just wish you’d get over it.  That always makes me laugh.

Yes, get over losing the love of your life, the Father of your children.  The other half of you…            Your person…  Your everything.   The person that you shared your hopes and dreams with and knew that he was a very safe place to do so…  Yeah, that would be really easy to get over.

Not…

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I don’t have any answers, I don’t have any analogies to offer.  I can only trust that God knows what he’s doing here.  I can only trust that it won’t always hurt so much.  I can only hope that my heart won’t ache when I see his pictures, or that it doesn’t take my breath away when I accidentally come across a picture of him or us.

I’m tired.  I’m tired of grieving.  I’m tired of hurting.  I’m tired of crying.

But I don’t know how to do anything else right now.  I don’t know how to tell my heart to stop wishing he was here… I don’t know how to tell my body to stop missing his arms around me each night when I lay down in our bed…  I close my eyes and I see him.. I see his smile.. I hear his voice saying, “I love you woman,” and I ache for him.

I know where he is, and that brings me great comfort.  It’s because of that, that I can make it through the day, but I’d be lying if I didn’t say that sometimes I’m just going through the motions.  I’ve never needed a man.  I was a very independent single woman.  I don’t need a man now, nor am I looking for a replacement.  I just want my husband.  Robert.

I loved him then, and I love him now.

Time nor distance, nor his heavenly address will ever change that.

I have to hold onto the reality of the scriptures and God’s promises to me that “I can do all things through Christ, ” yes, even this.  That he said he would never leave me or forsake me… That he would take care of all of my needs according to his riches and glory in Christ.

So, while I’m tired and worn, and grief doesn’t care about how I’m feeling;  I’ll hold onto Jesus and get through this, and hope that he will use our pain for His glory.  But if you’re reading this, I’d ask you to please remember my children and I in your prayers.  Remember the teens, who wish they had their Dad to look to, to talk about the guy stuff they don’t want to talk to their mom about, remember my 8-year-old who, at times, seems lost without the guidance and love of his Dad, and my girls, who miss hearing their Daddy call them his princesses.

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I have to give all of that over to God, but I won’t pretend that it doesn’t bother me.  I have to trust that God knows what he is doing… I don’t mean to be a downer, but this is what is on my heart, and I’m nothing, if not transparent…

For the most part, we’re doing ok…  My children are well-adjusted.  They say that they’re okay, because they know that he’s with Jesus and that they will one day see him again.  Little girl just wants to be sure that Jesus is giving Daddy enough food.  (Oh the heart of a five-year old…)

There are times when I wish that I hadn’t loved Robert so much…  I’ve had the thought that if I could go back in time and some magical being showed me our future; his future, that maybe I wouldn’t choose a life with him. Of course that would alter my entire future and my children would no longer be…  What would my life look like had I not married my husband?  Perhaps I wouldn’t be in pain right now, but I would have missed out on so much.  All of the years spent together, our talks, our dreams that we shared…  All of the amazing memories that we made together and the life that we shared with each other and our children.

I wouldn’t trade any of it to be pain-free right now.

Not one moment.  

IMG_0950So, I guess I’ll do my best to live this life and wait for our reunion when God sees fit to arrange it.

And I won’t complain.

Because as I look back on my life; our life; it’s been pretty dang good.

IMG_2125So there; in your face grief. 

Be blessed friends.

 

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