Fall again

Stephanie loved the fall. She got excited about the leaves turning to light the trees on fire. She loved the crisp air, even though she was cold if the temperature dipped below 80. She loved pumpkin anything, especially if it had the word “Starbucks” in it. And there was no greater excuse for her to bake constantly.

But she loved fall for another reason. And it was my favorite reason for the summer to come to an end: her birthday.

She breezed in right at the beginning of October; a fact that she quite enjoyed. She would have turned 35 today. (She barely made it past 33.) I would have racked my brain for months trying to decide what spectacular thing I could do for her celebrating a “5” birthday, worried the entire time that I could have done better, and knowing the entire time that she would absolutely do better when it came my birthday.

But here I am, writing for the world to see. And hoping, that if the world can read this, maybe she can, too. Happy birthday to the most beautiful, most caring, most loving, most compassionate, sweetest, and — [list cut short so as not to break the Internet] — woman I have yet to know. You made the years you were here count so much that it’s hard to imagine you could have poured any more life and joy and love into those around you.

Whenever summer turns to autumn, I can’t help but think of you, Stephanie. Your name is synonymous with autumn in my mind. You made me love the fall more than I ever had. And now I also hate the fall more than I ever have. It’s painfully fitting that you died in your birth month and your favorite season.

I praise God for bringing you into the world on this day 35 years ago. And I thank God and you for who you are. You changed everyone around you for the better. Just like your daughter after you, you radiated joy and you brought it into the room along with you.

I love you. Brady and Halle love you. And we miss you.

It’s fall again. Happy birthday!

The Perfect Example

I really appreciate my grief counselor, and how well he could listen to me and also the way he could draw me out in talking about what he knew would help me to talk out. That’s what a good counselor does, at least in my opinion. I always imagine counseling school to be basically training people how to listen really well.

“And he will be called Wonderful Counselor” – Isaiah 9:6

I have a new perspective on this verse, this name of Jesus. I don’t feel like I ever really gave it the appropriate amount of thought. But He has certainly been my best counselor through rough times of life, letting me whine and moan and complain and cry and scream about what just happened. Of course, He already knows what happened, but He wants us to tell Him. And I think most of us don’t hold back, especially with a captive audience for our complaining. But He patiently listens, and more often than not, I come to “my” own conclusions.

But as long as I’m talking to God about what’s going on, He’s on my mind as I come to conclusions and I more easily view things from His perspective and make decisions that I think would please Him. He truly is a Wonderful Counselor, drawing us out to talk about our lives and allowing us to talk ourselves to the point of better understanding or acceptance or opinion on life.

“They will call him Immanuel (which means ‘God with us’).” – Matthew 1:23


Fairly miserable weather withstanding, my trip to Chicago was fantastic. In some ways, it wasn’t what I expected it to be, but it was everything I could have hoped it would be. Much of what made it so worthwhile were the stories and revelations I came home with.

I rode the Megabus to and from Chicago through the night, so I slept for most of my traveling hours. About one hour prior to arriving, however, I woke up and knew I wouldn’t fall back asleep so I pulled out a book to read. This book was the very same as I started reading when Stephanie died — a book my mother had given her to read. Anyway, the gentleman next to me commented on how good the author is and asked me how long I’ve been a Christian. We then, as brothers in Christ, shared each of our stories (I stole more of the time, for which I hope he doesn’t mind). After exiting the bus, we prayed for each other and got in touch in order to stay in touch. What really amazed me through this event and the entire weekend is the providence of God. He most definitely got me to start reading that book in a way only God knows how. And, guilty though I felt about it, I have put off reading it for the past 6+ months only to end up pulling it out of my book bag at this very moment. My seat partner knew the author and struck up a conversation. He also chuckled because he had been praying to God that he would sit next to another Christian. God really does have a plan for everything, and it’s so exciting to watch.

Friday morning was a gorgeous day, and it gave me a chance to have a slow breakfast outside while reading some more. It was such a meaningful time between me and God, as He reassured me in so many ways through the words of this book. I feel compelled to share so much of it, but will save that for later. Suffice it to say, that I would highly recommend everyone read “When Life is Hard” by James MacDonald regardless of whether or not you’re going through something you would categorize as hard. The rest of Friday was just a day out in the city, enjoying the weather and beautiful flowers along Michigan Avenue. God even blessed me with some opportunities to talk to friends on the phone and be encouraged by them and be an encouragement to them. I can’t explain to you the joy I feel when people can come to me for advice and I can feel God speaking through me to them.

Sadly, the weather went downhill from 11am Friday until I left, but I ignored that as best I could. I basically got to enjoy my time alone and also time with family and friends who live there. As is becoming more commonplace, I go into these situations expecting my heart to be wrenched into a mess, and yet I come away surprised at how little or how not at all I cried. And it’s all thanks to God.

I also chatted with the maître d’hôtel, who was there last year as well. I recognized him immediately and he vaguely remembered me and Stephanie. (It’s nothing short of amazing that a year can go by and he remembers me.) That is just the kind of reason why we hoped to frequent the same hotel, and I am so thankful to God to have had a familiar face. We talked quite a bit before I left the hotel for the weekend, and it was so wonderful to be able to share with him what had happened and thank him genuinely for being there and being so kind and welcoming. I told him how much we both enjoyed him last year and how great it was to see him again.

One thing that has been on my mind for some time now is what to do with this blog. I often think no one is still reading, but the response to my posts from that week say otherwise. I obviously can’t spend the rest of my life just blogging about the death of my wife, nor do I want to. (Plus, I’m sure that wouldn’t do a whole lot of good for attracting a potential wife.) Anyway, God has reminded me of my spiritual gifts: exhortation, teaching, and shepherding. I’m certain I need to be using these gifts, and also certain that God has given me a place to do it. (Note to self: write more about how God has used a Computer Science major, a Bible minor, and a desire to disciple others all via one outlet.) So, as long as God continues to bless it and people are still willing to read, I hope to share my thoughts on God and life and how I think we should live. And with that, I hope there’s also some sort of discussion. I very much appreciate the comments of support for me, but would be infinitely more blessed by God teaching us all more about Him through each other.

Thanks again for being a part of this.


Six years ago. May 14, 2005.

What do I even say here? Five and a half years is such a short, short time, especially when we both dreamed of celebrating 50 or more. And yet, there was an entire lifetime wrapped up in those years, almost as if it had been 50. I can only imagine how 45 more years would have felt.

What do you do for an anniversary that isn’t actually happening anymore? My heart breaks for so many people that deal with this, possibly on an even more difficult level, because of divorce. And I weep. I don’t know how they do it. I do know how I plan to do it, though. I plan to celebrate.

God gave us 5 1/2 years of a beautiful marriage, and I feel blessed beyond belief for what He gave us. Last year, for our five year anniversary, we went to Chicago. It was our first time leaving the kids for more than one night. And it came at a perfect time in our marriage. It was such a wonderful weekend, we planned to go back often, even as early again as Stephanie’s birthday in October. That didn’t happen, but going back this year was a definite in our minds. We wanted to be regulars at the hotel. We enjoyed being “loyalistas” (a made up word, I realize) like that.

Well, you know the story, and here I am today. I don’t remember when I first thought I would go back to Chicago in spite of everything, but it was likely way back in October. I couldn’t think of a better thing to do for God, for myself, and for Stephanie. As I’ve done all along, I won’t avoid the memories or any pain they might cause. I’m not going to hide from life as I knew it or know it now. And I’m going full in and full on.

I’m excited. I’m going to have a full weekend to spend contemplating (there’s that word again), praying, reading and introspecting. I plan to celebrate the marriage I had, praise God for it and accept in every way possible that it’s over — though I’ve tried to do that all along. Maybe even more importantly, I’m going to talk to God a lot about my future.

I appreciate how many of you have expressed that you believe a new marriage is in my future. I agree. One thing I haven’t broadcast is my conviction that I’m “ready” for that, even now. To be honest, I’ve felt ready since February, and those closest in my life have seen that. I talked with my counselor about it a lot, and he said the same. I only didn’t broadcast it because I wasn’t sure if others were ready for me to be ready.

I loved Stephanie dearly, of course, and I feel that I’m honoring her to move on. She and I talked long before the seizures started about remarriage if the worst were to happen. We were both very happy for the other to find someone else if it came to that. That’s yet another way God has shown me that He has a plan — that we even talked about such things. I know in my heart that I have no greater cheerleader regarding this than Stephanie. I can just picture her nudging God that He should bring someone into my life. I know she would never want me to be alone, and I know she wants a mother for her children.

My passion, dream and goal for my life has always been Ephesians 5:21-33, that I would have a wife and be able to sacrifice myself for her. (More on that in a later post.) I’m excited for this weekend, and for the chance to really talk to God about that and even pray that I don’t have to wait long to have that again.

Aside from October, this is the last big date that I expect might be hard. This weekend is an opportunity for me to place a pile of stones (Joshua 4) as a remembrance of God’s faithfulness and goodness and what He has brought me through.


I expected this past weekend to be incredibly difficult. I’m sure I’ve said it a hundred times, but I ache so much more for my children not having their mother than I do for me not having my wife. I fully expected the celebration of mothers yesterday to be a practice in misery for me. Many prayers must have gone up to God for me, as that was not the case at all.

I often find myself trying to imagine what my kids feel or think regarding all of this. That’s no easy task, as I have not lost my mother, nor am I a toddler. But, I want to be able to sustain them in whatever way possible, so I try. What usually ends up happening is that I assume all of these emotions that my kids simply don’t end up having and my worry is all for naught. Yesterday was such an instance.

One thing I was sure to do yesterday was to buy flowers to place at the grave. It only made sense to have the kids with me for Mother’s Day. This was their first time going to the cemetery, and I just wasn’t sure how it would go. I explained it to Brady a few times and he seemed to understand — God has definitely blessed he and I with his ability to comprehend so much of this. He asked to carry the flowers and to put them down.

I asked Brady what his favorite memory of Mommy is, and you can never be sure what type of answer you’ll get from a four-year-old with that question. Brady always has a different answer to it. His was perfect in light of my upcoming anniversary on May 14.

“I just love her so much because I love you so much because I love you and Mommy getting married before.”

Even at four years of age, Brady appreciates what it is for his parents to have been together. He always amazes me. I just told him that I loved that about us, too. Halle chimed in to say “Mommy come back,” as if she was requesting that she come home with us. I wish I could know what was going on in her little mind, to know what she thinks of this. I can tell that she misses Stephanie, especially at times, but she’s a very happy child and is doing perfectly fine.

I would be remiss not to mention my own mother here. It’s hard to express in words the appreciation I have for her. I know, because Stephanie was very similar, what it means to her to be a mother when that was her lifelong dream. And I know what a sacrifice it is. And now, even after all the years she put into my own life, she’s putting all the more into my children’s lives as she takes care of them nearly every day. There is no end to her grace to me and my kids. She somehow finds a way to balance being my mother — as a friend and supporting me through all this — and basically being my children’s mother — taking care of them so much — and all the while still being a grandmother to them and her other grandchildren. I can’t spend enough time expressing thanks for all she has done and does.

I want to thank my mother-in-law, who has also taken good care of me and the kids through all of this. She has been able to watch the kids as I do some of the things I really love, like playing handbells, etc. I never worried that she only loved me because of Stephanie, and now there is proof that I was right not to worry. I know other widows have experienced friends and family avoiding them because of the reminder they are of the person who is gone. I’m thrilled to say that no one in Stephanie’s family has ever done that to me — least of all Stephanie’s mom.

As a special thanks, there is a long list of other women in my life who have really been there for me and for my kids. Since my kids can’t have their own mother, they need other women who love them and guide them, and I am so thankful to all of you who have been “mothers” to my kids. I pray that you all know who you are, as I don’t want to risk leaving anyone out by trying to list you all. If you’ve spent time with my kids, please know that you’ve been a blessing to me and to them.


My sweet, spunky, fireball of a little girl turns two years old today. Happy birthday, Halle Charis.

You are so much like your mommy, and it’s so wonderful to see your personality coming out more with each day. I’m so thankful to God that I got to have a daughter after having a son, and I’m even more glad that Mommy got that, too. She was so hopeful that you would be a girl; and you are all girl just like Mommy. You already love shoes and clothes, and Brady assures me that your favorite color is pink because “you a gerl, Ha-yee.”

Just like Mommy, you’re able to light up a room with your smile and personality and make people happy just because you’re around. You are so good at making people laugh in the most unexpected ways. And you always have your little projects, and do not like people to get in your way of finishing those projects. I have no doubt you’re going to use that about yourself just like Mommy did.

I love the way you know just what you want, even if it does result in you yelling at me when I don’t get it for you. You just want things to be efficient and you always know a better way for things to get done.

You’re adorable and such a joy in everyone’s lives, and Mommy would be so happy for all the ways you’re so like her. As much as I wish she had more time with you, I’m so thankful for the 18 months of your life that she did get to spend with you. Your middle name means “grace” and it was Mommy’s favorite thing about God. It was His grace that gave you to Mommy. After three miscarriages, we weren’t sure we’d ever get to have another baby, and it’s clear that you are the exact child God wanted us to have.

We love you so much, and I can’t wait to continue watching you grow (as a person, at least, since you don’t exactly grow too much physically, my little peanut). I know you’ll make me and Mommy so proud.

I love you, Sugar.

Love Day

At American Greetings where I work, Valentine’s Day is like the Super Bowl for us. It is by far our biggest holiday. However, for Stephanie and I, it wasn’t quite that. Sure, we celebrated it – gave each other cards or gifts and ate out somewhere usually — but it didn’t hold a candle to our anniversary and birthdays. At the risk of sounding incredibly cheesy, we didn’t really need a holiday to celebrate our love for each other.

I’m thankful for that this year on February 14, as I think it will soften the blow. I’m sure it will still hit me. My day will no doubt come to a crushing halt as I double over in tearful emotional turmoil. But for the most part, I think I’ll be okay.

What really surprised me was that I found myself perusing the “For Wife” cards last week. I even thought I had picked one out and was going to buy it for my bride. That is not like me at all to do something like that. But I almost did. The only reason I didn’t was because I found one card after another that seemed too perfect. I couldn’t pick just one. I loved being married, and every card reminded me of how beautiful she was and how amazing it was to be married. God sure did an incredible thing when He created marriage.

And for that, I wish God — and all of you — a Happy Valentine’s Day.


Happy 4th Birthday, Brady Chase!

You are such an amazing little boy, Sweetheart, and this day is always a special day to your mommy and I. Ever since Mommy was a little girl, all she wanted was to be a wife and a mommy. And ever since I was a little boy, I only wanted to be a husband and a daddy. We anxiously awaited your arrival all our lives. When you came, you brought those dreams into our lives, and you didn’t come a minute too soon.

You make me so proud every day. You are considerate and always saying “please” and “thank you” and you love people so much. Any time someone is sad, you are the first one there to give sweet cuddles and tell them it will be okay. You don’t know it now, but you have strength and wisdom well beyond your four years.

I love the way you care about Halle and are so often trying to help her or help out with her. You’re an incredible big brother to her. It’s no wonder why she loves you so much and looks up to you and imitates you. I know the two of you will have such a strong relationship throughout your entire lives.

You are not only tender, but also strong, and I pray that you never lose that about yourself. I am so proud that you carry my name (plus a “y”), and I hope that you will always chase after God all of your life.

Mommy and I love you so very much. I can’t wait to see how you grow each and every year. Happy Birthday, Bean!

Another day

For my birthday on Wednesday morning, I woke up and cried for a bit. It was one of those “good” cries, where I really got myself into the moment and the memories and the sadness. I had the day off from work. Unfortunately, it didn’t turn out to be much more than just another day off.

Stephanie wasn’t there to wake me up with breakfast and a candle in my breakfast, and a present that she had specifically picked for me to open in the morning. She didn’t excitedly wish me a happy birthday when I woke (or the night prior when it hit midnight). There was no homemade card from her detailing just how much she celebrates me and loves me. She always made it so apparent how thankful she was that I was born on that day X number of years before. There was no “birthday week” celebration for the whole week. There wasn’t a surprise lunch to bring to work with a sweet note and small present in it. And dinner wasn’t my favorite dish lovingly made.

So, it was just a day off. It wasn’t bad, but it didn’t feel like my birthday. I had someone say to me that birthdays do feel more and more like just another day the older you get. I’m sure that’s true for some people, but not for me and not for us. And we made sure of that for each other. Birthdays were often better than previous years.

So that’s how my day went. Not bad, but not special. I went to see Tron: Legacy in 3D by myself. It was a great movie and fun to see it and I quite enjoyed it, so that was good.

I will say that I do feel very loved, and I’m so thankful for that. I had about 154 birthday wishes on my Facebook wall. I’m pretty sure that’s a record for me. Thank you all for that. And I’m told by my mom how loved I am based on all the help/support/money that people are putting into my birthday party. I can’t wait for it.

I really just pray that I can get into it. As I’ve been doing, to fully embrace whatever emotions I have, but that I could really just allow it to be a strong memory (whether good or bad for how I’m feeling – that it’s at least strong because it meant something). God wants me to prosper and I’m fully aware of that. I can’t prosper if I pretend my emotions aren’t there, and I can’t prosper if I don’t fully embrace every moment.


It has been nearly five years that I’ve had to hear about it. Every now and then it would come up and it gave her so much of a thrill to tease me. I’m pretty sure it was less than a week after my 25th birthday that she brought it up for the first time. I’m talking about the birthday party she was planning to throw for me when I turned 30.

January 12. This Wednesday. Sucks again that she’s gone.

I know most of you probably missed many of the parties she threw, but let me tell you how Stephanie puts together a party. Every party has a theme, and that theme envelopes every last detail. For instance, my 25th was a theme of miniatures. (I have an unhealthy obsession with anything that’s miniature.) The cake was tiered simply to accommodate cupcakes. Each cupcake had a circular tag stuck in it depicting something about my life. There were cocktail hot dogs and mini burgers and mini grilled cheese sandwiches and chicken nuggets.

I’ve always loved my birthday and Stephanie has always felt strongly about how special a person feels for his or her birthday (and the entire week). I’ll be excited for my birthday no matter how old I get – age doesn’t bother me. And Stephanie went to every length to make me feel so special. She’s literally had an idea for my 30th birthday since the week following my 25th birthday, and she has casually teased me with that fact over the years. I’m pretty sure the theme has changed a few times, but only because she thought of something better. She would taunt me, “I came up with an even better idea for your 30th birthday. It’s going to be incredible.” Oh, I couldn’t wait! (If only I knew what else 30 years would bring.)

I’ve been anticipating this 1 month for nearly 60 months and yet 3 months shy of it, my wife passed away. I have no problem sharing with you that I yelled at God about that. A lot. It ran through my mind a number of times while I was in the hospital. I’m not going to get to have my birthday party. Obviously, it wasn’t the worst pain of them all, but it certainly didn’t help the situation.

In line with my aversion to change, I’m trying to keep things as close as possible to what they were supposed to be this year. It’s why Thanksgiving was still at my parents’ house as usual. It’s why I had a Christmas tree and other decorations up based on the way Stephanie decorated. And it’s why I asked my mom about still having my party. Thankfully, Stephanie had shared most of her plans with my mom. (For the record, my mom can throw a quite a mean party, as well.) With the help of some friends – one of whom seems to throw similar parties as Stephanie always did – the party will be happening on January 15 with a rather large guest list.

Nonetheless, I expect this week to be possibly the hardest week of my life besides that time in the hospital. I think it goes without saying that I’m not looking forward to it.

I think of Stephanie’s 30th birthday three years ago and how joyous it was. I made sure her brother was in town for it and surprised her with two La-Z-Boys. (She was always manic about rocking in a chair constantly.) We had just had Brady 9 months prior, which was fantastic considering how desperate she was to have kids before she turned 30. It was such a fabulous celebration of her life thus far.

And now it’s my turn to hit 30. I hate to be melodramatic, but who gets stuck celebrating 30 years as a widow? I know I’m not the first and won’t be the last. But I’m one of them. What kind of birthday am I celebrating this year? Right now, I’m hoping that I can just stay 29 forever until my Stephanie is returned to me. I don’t want to turn 30 without her! It wasn’t supposed to happen this way.