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This week will being my migration back home. I’ve been fortunate to take things slowly and work my way back to “the new normal” for my life. While at my parents, I’ve dealt with the absence of Stephanie as much as possible while here. I’ve encountered a few situations that were difficult and dealt with those. I’ll spend this week trying to spend a little more time at my house over each day, and start handling as much as I can.

I put it best in my personal journal: “I’ll have to start taking care of laundry. I’ll have to start figuring out meals. Bedtime will be all me. Bathtime will be me. Diapers. Me. Clothes. Me. Dogs. Me. Drinks. Me. Loneliness. Just me. And it’s going to suck, all over again.” This is where the adjustment really takes on shape. I have to learn to do those things that Stephanie always took care of. I know it will be good for me – well, at least in whatever sense that’s possible. Anyway, I’ll be slowly getting to the point where I’m (mostly) on my own the entire day.

Part of me is looking forward to it. I’ve never been good at change, so I’m really hoping to make good on this change and do myself and my kids right. It’s really the only choice I have, but I want to give my best effort and not just let it happen. We’ll see how it goes, and I’ll let you know.

Plans

God is doing a lot in my heart these days. He is speaking to me in ways I would have never thought possible. He is ministering to my soul and nourishing my spirit daily if not hourly. He is being so incredibly gracious to me. His love for me is uncanny and unequaled.

A comment led me to thinking about how desperate I am for my time to come when I will enter Heaven and see my bride once again. I remember mentioning this idea in the past, too. Something has changed, though, and is changing. While that desire will never go away, I am finding myself more and more desperate for the rest of my life. I am getting giddy about what God has planned for me. I know they are good plans. I know it’s for my best and for the best of other people. I would love to be in Heaven right now (and scorn this sinful life), but I can feel in the very depths of me that God is not done with me yet here on earth. I’m excited to see what’s in store. I can’t wait to be used by Him and to serve Him.

“For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the LORD, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.” – Jeremiah 29:11

Glory

I was just reading a post that a fellow blogger wrote about me and all that has happened. It really got me thinking as she is not the first to make comments about how strong I am or about my unwavering faith and such other things that make it sound like I’m some fabulous person. While it really means a lot to me to hear these things, I want to be sure to keep myself in check and a good way to do that is to proclaim the truth right here for all to read.

It’s not me. Amidst all this turmoil and devastation, I have long been emptied of anything reminiscent of myself. God very quickly and easily filled that emptiness with Who He is. God is literally shining through my life because He’s good like that. He’s gracious enough to consider us worthy of showing off His glory. When people say such things about me, they’re really talking about God and such compliments are indicative of Who He is. I don’t know why He’s allowing me to receive His glory via these comments, but that’s what seems to be happening.

I don’t deserve what has been said of me – God does. God is perhaps allowing these things to be said of me because of the encouragement it provides me and it is His way of further sustaining me. I’ve always wanted to be used by God, and it seems He has answered my prayers. But it’s entirely about His answering and not about my prayers.

Painful

I’m not quite sure how it started or came up, but Brady was sad about something entirely unrelated when I asked him what was wrong. He said, “I just thinking ’bout Mommy.” At that, he started bawling. So, I scooped him up in my arms and cuddled him on the couch, asking if he missed Mommy. “Yeah.” And now I was crying, angry yet again at God for taking my kids’ mommy away from them. After a little bit, he pulled away from me and asked what I was doing. I told him I was crying because I miss Mommy, too, and he said, “You not s’posed to cry.” “Why not?” “Because I love you.”

And thus ended his tears as well, and he was now asking to go into the crawlspace to play. Despite hating being in there to play, how could I possibly say “no” at that point? He was fine after that, but I certainly won’t soon forget how horrible it was to see him go through that. This is the first real emotion he’s shown about it, at least of the crying sort.

Work

My job is incredible. I should rephrase that: the people at my job are incredible. The only word for it, and one that is often used is “family.”

I have been given an amazing amount of grace regarding my return date (which is still a ways off). Everyone above me has made sure to let me know that I will be supported and not to worry. If that weren’t enough, they let me attend our annual “party” (for lack of a better word) yesterday and today, even though I won’t be working for a bit.

And with that came everyone’s warmth and enthusiasm to see me. I didn’t realize how much love I had yet to feel after all of this. And I felt so much love today, with people saying just how seriously glad they were to see me. I just about cry to think about it. I’m so touched.

I got to have fun playing games and see friends and spend some really great time getting to know new friends. There was great food, with which I gorged myself and made up for any lack of eating I’ve had over the last few weeks. And I got to play Euchre, which may be my favorite card/board game and has been largely absent from my life since college.

A great big thanks to everyone at work. You all make it hard to not want to come back much sooner rather than later. And when I do, I’ll have to be careful about how much I hang out with folks.

Kids

Many of you have asked how the kids were doing. I’ve been meaning to post about that for a while, too, but have been a slacker.

Halle is just 19 months old so she does a great job walking and babbling and having tantrums. Understanding complex ideas? Not so much. For all I know, she just is having a good time getting to be at Nana and Papa’s for an extended “vacation.” She’s loving it (except for those tantrums I mentioned). I had her home very briefly, but the real test will be when we’re back home for good and seeing if she wanders around looking for Mommy. Expect that day to be soul-crushing if it happens.

As for Brady, I got great advice from folks at a place called Cornerstone of Hope, which was started by a family who lost a young child and now they minister to people who are grieving. I also received some books and pamphlets about toddlers and death. So, I was prepared to explain it all to Brady as plainly as possible (i.e. not using alternative phrases for things like “she passed on”). The night I had originally planned for it was the Thursday immediately after Stephanie was gone, but decided against it because of how the night was going and it said that kids remember how and when they found out and what they were doing. Heart-breakingly, Brady asked me that very night, “Why Mommy no love me long time?” He was afraid that Mommy was at home or the hospital and didn’t want to see him. I reassured him of her love for him and prepared to explain everything Friday morning.

It went well. I reminded him of Mommy’s seizures and explained that it was why she was at the doctor’s and why Brady and Halle were at Nana and Papa’s house. I told him that they had been trying to make her better, but she was too sick and the doctors couldn’t make her feel better and so she died. That was followed by talk of Heaven and how we’ll be with her again someday, but now we can’t see her or talk to her. She won’t be at home, but Daddy and Nana and Papa and other family members and friends would make sure he and Halle were taken care of. I told him that Jesus could pass along messages to Mommy if we want to tell her we miss her and love her. And he’s allowed to feel anything he wants; that even Daddy gets very sad or mad or worried or scared. He did a great job with all of it. We then drew some pictures to put in the casket (which I also explained – “her body will be in a box, but it’s just her body and not Mommy”). He even told my uncle and his second cousin that Mommy is dead now and in Heaven. He seems to get it. He asked to go home that day, which we did, and he just played with his toys while we were there, which I’m told is a healthy sign.

He will occasionally tell me he loves me and then follow it with, “And I love Mommy.” There have been a couple comments from him where I thought he might still not be sure, but when I ask him about it, he actually understands even more than I had thought. He’s a very bright kid and has a great memory, so I’m not surprised by his grasping of things. I’m still angry that they don’t have their mother, but at least they’re doing okay about it.

Friends

I spent some time this afternoon just thinking about all my friends, especially those who are new to me because of all of this. Obviously, nothing makes it worth losing my wife to me, but I’m just so thankful for all my friends, whether I’ve known them for one day, one week, one month, one year, or one lifetime. I will say that Facebook has been a much more active part of my life these days, and apparently a tragedy warrants more friend requests than I was getting beforehand. (Not sure what that says for me as a person, but that’s neither here nor there, I suppose.)

But, my point is not the humor I’m finding in the situation, but rather the gratefulness I have for those people who care so much about me “sight unseen.” I now have some new friends, and right now, friends (family, included) are everything to me. I gave everything in me to my marriage because I love hard, and spent all my relationship energy on my wife and kids. Certainly nothing will change the love I have for my kids, but I am finding how good it is to have so many friends (i.e. adults) around to talk to about everything going on.

Anyway, as usual, thanks again for all of you. If you’re new to my life, thank you for jumping right in and loving me as if you’ve known me for years. If you’ve known me for years, thank you for your endless devotion and for understanding that even I don’t know how I need to grieve and being okay with that.

Hard Day

You can never know what’s going to make a day (more like a moment) difficult or not. It seems to come out of nowhere. Brady woke up this morning coughing quite a bit. And, even though I usually got up with the kids so Stephanie could rest, I greatly noticed her absence this morning. I guess I’ve been mostly just sleeping in late enough to avoid that feeling in the past weeks. It’s a feeling that sucks (sorry for the “language,” but there’s no other word for it) like no other.

What probably is going through my head is the lack of that morning routine, where I’d get Brady up, start Stephanie’s coffee and go cuddle her every five minutes until she got up. She was always so cute to me in the morning (and all other times, too). Getting ready for work was uneventful, but then I got hugs and kisses from all and a big wave by everyone out the picture window as I drove off.

I know the memories are a blessing, but they often (at least for now) walk that line at the edge of a curse. Jerks!

Movies

Stephanie and I have always loved movies. We both had large collections before we got married and had a total of about 300+ movies when we got married. I think the biggest reason we both love them is because we always find parallels to real life or see some deeper meaning in the story being told (whether intended or not). We love seeing the characters change and learn from the events that play out, and I think we both often take something away from movies that we see.

We have seen less and less movies in the theater over time (despite our best wishes) because of having kids and less money. I’m sure many of you know how that goes. One movie we did make sure to see this year was “Inception.” We both loved it, which came as no surprise as we both really love the writer/director, Christopher Nolan. We loved it so much, in fact, that for her birthday (October 1), we saw the movie a second time. That says a lot for how many movies we wish we could see in the theater and how few we have seen recently. (Warning: there may be some light spoilers in the rest of this paragraph.) I find some similarities from that movie now in my life. It was always a dream of ours to be married for fifty years. And, like I’ve said, in some ways we acted like we had been married for fifty years. I feel a little like Leonardo Dicaprio, where his wife was no longer alive, but they had experienced a full fifty years of marriage in their own little dream world. I feel a little like Stephanie and I had that, and it actually makes me feel a little better to think about it like that.

Brady asked to watch “Finding Nemo” tonight. I hadn’t considered the movie much before agreeing to it, because we have always loved Pixar movies. I had forgotten about the opening scene. Thankfully, I didn’t lose it right then and there, even though it’s easy to be reminded of my life now. What really surprised me even more was later in the movie when Marlin is sharing his story with the sea turtles and the story travels the entire ocean. I am so touched by how many people have shared my story across the globe, and thus given me more help than I ever imagined possible. I was telling all my closest friends about what was going on, and now people who have never met me are praying and reaching out to me with their support. I’d say that’s pretty cool.

Like I said, we love the parallels and lessons that we can take away from movies.

Shift

I was meant for marriage. I’ve long known that and it only became more apparent to me as I got older. Now what I have to do is figure out how to negotiate that with my current situation. Stephanie was the same as me. We both knew for our entire lives that we wanted to be married some day. Married and raising kids was a lifelong dream.

We both also went through at least a couple years of being single during our early twenties that gave us some time to figure out who we are for ourselves. God taught us how to be content having no one else but Him in our lives, and we were both so thankful for that. We got to a place where we were no longer expecting to get married and could be content if we never did.

One of my favorite lines from a book about marriage (“Sacred Marriage” by Gary Thomas) goes something like “If we want to serve God, we should remain single; if we want to be like Jesus Christ, we should get married.” I love that quote because neither option is greater than the other. Both honor God so highly and serve Him in every way. For me, it was particularly exciting to think about the prospect of being more like Christ, and saw how marriage could really make a person more like Christ because of the intensely close relationship that marriage is. “As iron sharpens iron,” right?

Anyway, the point is that now I have to figure out how to reorient my life. Taking that quote, it would seem that now would be a great opportunity to serve God more directly. The one thing I didn’t expect in the equation was the fact that I have already been married and I now have kids. I don’t have any answers to these questions now, but I do feel like God has been helping me to serve Him more and showing me how to use my additional time for His glory (though that extra time is minimal because of the kids). I think my life has to make a shift, but I have to figure out what that’s going to be exactly.