Sunday, October 7, 2012

A New Chapter..

It has been awhile I know.  So much has happen since I last posted in March.  So I will try to catch everyone up...if anyone is still there!

Honduras was amazing.  I feel in love with our small town Jesus de Otero.  God met us in so many many ways.  Our pastor of our church that we worked along side was very mission oriented and he blessed us with his wisdom, his passion, and his church.  He encouraged us to be more bold in sharing our faith and our small team of 2 adults and 8 teens saw 160 people come to Christ that week.  I even had the incredible experience of watching an 8th grade boy be in-dwelt with the Holy Spirit and just boldly preach the truth to students who were mocking him.  It will be something I always remember.  Always.

We finished out the school year and God had big plans for us this summer and both Elizabeth and I felt like we have started a new chapter in our life book.  Elizabeth went to a few camps over the summer and continues to blossom in her maturity, education, and new adventures.  She started High School Band and that has consumed our free time.  But she loves it, so that is ok.

For me, I felt like I needed to push myself in the grief process and finally broke down and tapped into TAPS (Tradegy Assistance Program for Survivors).  It is a non profit that helps those who have lost a military member.  It encompasses widows, parents, siblings, and fianc├ęs.  I signed up to go to workshop down in Killeen, Texas at Fort Hood.  I was VERY nervous but decided I needed to be brave and just show up and hope for the best.  Through these short few days I was able to work through some anger issues, some hurts, find kindred spirits in the others that are walking this journey, and not feel like such a "freak" in my skin.  I was also able to find about some additional benefits that I had no idea my family was entitled too.   Probably the biggest thing that I gained was empowerment.  Sounds weird right?  Because Mike did not die on active duty, I have felt that we were kind of not worthy of the same honor as those that were KIA.  Just how everything happened, I have always felt like we were swept out to pasture as soon as the words "terminal" were written in his record.  But, in talking with others, I realized that isn't the case.  I was also empowered because I shared Mike's life over and over again.  It is sad, but there were 200 people that had lost someone in the prime of their life.  Everybody wanted to know your story, know about your husband, etc.  I said his name more times in that weekend than I had in 6 months.  It was awesome!

So then, when I got back something just changed.  I put in a job application and I signed up for a Widow's retreat with TAPS in California.  This was a retreat of about 40 Widows.  Again, I spent 5 days with amazing women who lost the love of their lives.  These men are heroes.  They all have different stories.  These ladies were age 20 - 50's.  Some with kids, some without.  I was so blessed.  It is sad, really, but I just pulled so much strength from them.  All are at different stages of grief, but all are still moving.  That is a BIG deal.  No one really understands how your world completely stops when you lose someone like your spouse.  Your future is completely wiped cleaned and you are looking at this road wondering, "what do I do now?" or more like, "how do I do anything now?"  So again, to spend a weekend sharing Mike, listening to stories, laughing at Widow Jokes, crying in groups, being inspired by widows standing up for wrongs, it was empowering.

So, during all this, I was interviewing for this job and guess what?  They hired ME!  This whole summer God was in the driver's seat.  Truly.  He really placed things in my life in the best timing possible.  He spent the summer preparing me for this next chapter.  My job is amazing and a perfect place for me to be right now.  I laugh.  A lot.  I love getting up and going to work.  I drop Elizabeth off at school and then go to work.  I get off from work and pick her up from school.  My job is flexible in that I get to be there for her at school for events.  A bonus is that I pray at work, listen to praise music, and go to a brown bag bible study once a week.  My job is creative and yet task oriented.  I remember filling out this survey at the grief workshop in one of the seminar's I took.  It asked you to think of what you were like before everything happened and answer these questions.  Then think of your work environment now and how does it measure up.  The point was that if that your job was asking you to be more than you were or creating stress in areas that were not your strong suits, you needed to find another job.  Well, this job matches perfectly.  I pray that it continues the strengthen me and molds me for the next chapter, whenever that may come.

So now I am learning how to find balance. It is hard not having Mike's help sometimes.  Laundry is never done.  The house is never fully clean.  Things are on the back burner.  I don't have enough time in the day to do everything that I want.  Sometimes, I am just tired.  Sometimes, I say no.  Sometimes it can't be done because I have to work.  This is all a big change for me personally.  Things now have a priority and that is what gets my attention first.

Elizabeth continues to do well and continues to be her Dad in so many ways.  She walks like him, especially when she is in a hurry.  She thinks like him.  She is as smart as he is.  She is amazing and I love and hate that she is in high school now.  Time is going by too fast with her.

I need to end this by saying Christ is my stronghold, my tower, my protector, my all in all.  I can't imagine this without Him.  I can't.  He has absolutely carrying me. I love you all so much and thank you for your prayers, your emails, your encouragement, your shoulders, and your love.

In HIS hand and holding on tightly.... STILL!

Thursday, May 3, 2012


Hey guys,

It's Elizabeth. I have decided to start posting again after goodness-knows-how-many months of not writing. 
     So in order to kick off the start of my posting, I'm going to do one of those Facebook "25 Things" lists. Just for future reference, I promise my future posts will not be similar to Facebook posts in any way and I will maintain proper grammar and vocabulary throughout. Anyway I'll start with 25 thing that I love:

1. God (no explanation necessary)
2. My parents (again, no explanation necessary)
3. Belle the Beagle (sure, she can irritate me, but she is entertaining)
4. Playing the oboe (stressful, but very rewarding)
5. Rick Riordan and the books he writes (The Kane Chronicles, Percy Jackson and the Olympians and The Heroes of Olympus)
6. Harry Potter (Oh yes)
7. James Patterson's Maximum Ride Novels (The Flock is awesome!)
8. The Hunger Games by Susanne Collins (Team Finnick. Period.)
9. Softball (Champions for at least three seasons!)
10. Science/Engineering (I'm sorry, but rockets are the coolest thing man has ever invented)
11. Movies (Especially in 3-D)
12. Cereal (It's not just for breakfast guys)
13. Books in general (Twilight excluded)
14. My phone (if for nothing else, the apps are cool)
15. Mythbusters (Best. Show. Ever.)
16. My bed (Paradise...)
17. The beach (Paradise 2...)
18. Saltwater fishing (It's how I learned patience)
19. Ancient history (Unfortunately not taught in my school)
20. Europe (I've been blessed with the ability to travel)
21. Airplanes (Second coolest thing man has ever created)
22. Writing (occasionally I'll throw something nice onto a page)
23. Storytelling (More than just fiction :))
24. Peanut butter (a dish that can complement just about anything)
25. Doing absolutely nothing (Again, no explanation necessary)

Now we will move on to 25 Things that Irritate Me

1. Loud Noises (More specifically, ones that come from people)
2. Losing Things (It happens at least once every other day)
3. Know-it-all's (The only person who is a qualified know-it-all is God, thanks very much)
4. Overgrown plants (Shrubbery should be well kept and aesthetically pleasing)
5. Powerlessness (When you can't control something)
6. Self-Righteous people (takes one to know one)
7. Middle School Relationships (pointless...)
8. Formal Wear (Takes too much time to maintain)
9. Reality TV (pointless...)
10. Politics (You know it's bad when 8th graders are die-heart Republicans)
11. Oboe (Yes, oboe is on both lists because it is fun, but it is one of the top contributors of my stress level)
12. School (Needs to be engaging)
13. That period of time after you finish a book ("I don't know what to do with my life!")
14. My phone charger (Just keep shoving the cord into the phone, it'll work eventually)
15. One Uppers (Me: Our team won the game last night :D 
One Upper:I won MY game with one hand tied behind my back, holding a violin, while jumping off a cliff onto a trampoline
16. Thorny plants (I don't see a purpose in creating them, God)
17. Complainers (Me: Cool we get to go camping!! Complainer: Eww. Bugs and mud and no wifi)
18. Pop Music ("Baby, Baby, Baby. OOOOOOOHHHHHHH!!!!" And repeat 10 times= Instant Rock Star)
19. Hot weather (It's just not my style)
20. Broken reeds (If you've ever played a woodwind instrument, you feel my pain)
21. Confusing directions/instructions ("Could you repeat that please?")
22. Neon colored clothes (The 80's called...)
23. Fashion in general (Confuses me...)
24. Gossipers (Gossipers: Did you here what so-and-so did in history class... Me: Ok, I'm just going to go read now...)
25. Commercials ("What was I watching again??")

Alright, well I've gotta split. Number 16 (on the first list) awaits and number 2 (also on the good list) wants me to get into number 16 A.S.A.P. 

- Elizabeth

Thursday, March 1, 2012

Two Years..

So it is right there again - hanging over our heads. Two years. Mark it. And guess what? It still hurts. I still cry. I still miss Mike more than words can convey. Elizabeth too. In fact last night she cried so hard her eyes are a mess today.

But the hardest thing to convey to everyone is the blessing of God all around us. The notes, texts, and calls from friends and families. Elizabeth didn't go to school today and we spent the day together. We went to Mike's grave and sat on the bench and REALLY talked. Well, she REALLY talked. I just listened and cried with her. But I consider it a gift that we have such an incredible relationship with my daughter.

I have to admit that as I was sitting at Mike's grave today, I was just overwhelmed by the thought of how did I get here? In all my time dreaming of the future, I never once saw myself sitting over Mike's grave. Not once. This path that I am on is not my own choosing. Elizabeth and I spent time talking about Florida and our house there. We talked about how we thought that it was going to be our home for a long time and how much we miss it. But then our conversation rolled around to: this is clearly where God wanted us to be because it wasn't in our scope of plans. Not even close. We also talked about how we wished we could wrap this journey in a nice bow and give everyone a reason why this has happened. And we can't.

But then our minds turn to the blessings in our lives. We talked about me still being at home with her. We talked about the men that have stepped in to help fill the void in her life and spent time calling her, having lunch with her, hugging her. We talked about our mission trip to Honduras coming up very soon. (Please be praying for us). We are going to the middle of Honduras and staying in host homes. We will have an opportunity to help people, go to school, plan rallies, and give our testimony. In all, 71 of us are going from our Youth Department at church and we are really excited to be used by God there. It is funny, because we both had to write our testimony for flyers, and I wrote my testimony how I came to know Christ. Well, it got turned back to be because it was full of scripture (which it is how it happened for me) and they reminded me that some people may not have heard about the bible or people in it. I had worked hours on it. So I went home and just started typing and did another testimony about cancer and I finished it in about 10 minutes. I will copy it below.

I have been able over the past month to be the physical hands of Jesus reaching out and hugging a new friend as her husband was losing his battle to cancer. I have been able to love on a very dear friend who is winning her battle over breast cancer. I have reconnected with a dear friend whose father is newly diagnosed with esophageal cancer. (Have I mentioned how much I hate cancer?) But in those moments, I am not Deanna, I am Christ physically being there loving gently, and passionately on them. I am surrounding them with love, hope, prayer, advice, and listening ears. And Mike's legacy is living on through that. Does that make any sense?

So yes, two years. Two difficult, sad years. But two years filled with blessings, Christ, and a richness that I would have never known.

Please be praying for us as we venture out soon on our first Mission Trip. I will blog when we get back and post pictures. Please pray for my Dad as he is getting a pacemaker this week. Please be praying for Mike's grandmother. She is in the hospital after cracking her c2 vertabra. She is 89 and has dementia among other issues.

I can't end this post without saying how much I love each of you and thank you for the years of prayer, friendship, support, and strength. As long as I live, I will never be able to express that enough.

Here is my testimony for our trip...
Cancer. It happened all of a sudden. When cancer came knocking, it took almost everything – our house, our job, all of our money, and then finally the love of my life, my husband, Mike.

I came to believe in Jesus Christ when I was 28 years old. Before Christ, my life was empty and really had no direction. After I started living my life for Christ, my life was full of happiness. I studied the bible, went to church, prayed, helped out at church, and lived a happy life that had a purpose.

Then Cancer came and took away almost everything I had. It was so hard! But through it all God was there. Mike was so sick, but I had to praise God for the great family moments we shared. Mike lost his job, but I had to praise God for the people that He had called to help us. We lost all our money, but I praised God for the money that people sent to help pay bills and even get school clothes for my daughter.

Finally, after fighting so hard, Mike went to Heaven to be with Jesus. I am still so sad, because I miss him so much. BUT, I have to praise God that he sent Jesus to earth to make a way for us to live in Heaven for forever. Mike believed in Jesus and went to Heaven. I believe in Jesus so I am happy because I will see Mike again in Heaven and live with him there forever!

It is still very hard and I feel empty sometimes because Mike is not here. But I fill that empty with Jesus. I remember to praise Him because he has taken care of me. He has sent people to help me with things I can’t do. He has provided money for me. He has provided a church full of people that believe in Jesus to support me.

Life can be very hard, but when you believe in Jesus and remember to look for His gifts even when things seem really bad, He will help you.

If you want a friend who will always be there, who will never leave you, who will be your greatest help in the hardest of times… Jesus is it! If you want to meet Him, I will be glad to introduce you!

Sunday, December 18, 2011

Sweet"er" and Sour

First of all, Merry Christmas! This Christmas season has been surprising in so many ways. It has been a roller coaster for sure. Last year seemed so much easier than this year. As I continue to walk and grieve over missing Mike so much, I realize that I have really changed as a person both inside and out. The outward appearance is easy to talk about. I put on extra weight that I didn't need in the few months leading to Mike's heavenly homecoming and also in the year after. But I have managed to make a change and lose some of that weight over the past 4 months or so. I see that as a positive change. The inside is a little harder to explain - moments and things are just more treasured and sweeter.

I truly praise God for moments with Elizabeth. Everyday moments and things like when she grabs my hand to hold during church or when we lay in bed talking about the day. They are just gold to me. I pray almost as much as I breathe. I pray for friends, for strangers, for moments, for guidance, for strength, for family, for direction, and for comfort. I pray for those who are stuck in the hospital this time of year. I have stopped strangers in Walmart and ask about their injuries. I am more aware that life is far from perfect and people are suffering and struggling. Ironically, I find life sweeter because of what I have been through. I don't take good things for granted and I hurt more for others than I have ever done in my life.

Now, on the opposite end, this Christmas season has had more moments of sour than last year. I will admit that I have found tears easier to come by. For instance when Elizabeth is playing Wii and she exclaims, "Mom, Dad and I are running together (Mike's Wii Person he created)!" or "Dad's really good at Tuba (again Wii Music)". I miss him. Elizabeth has had some great recognition moments this fall at school and with her music. I miss sharing those proud parent moments. Elizabeth has needed help with Geometry and I miss his incredible teaching ability. I have made some financial mistakes and I miss his financial practicality. The list goes on and on.

But God doesn't let me dwell in my moments too long. He produces great stand in's to help ease the pain. He has given us family and friends that show up to cheer Elizabeth on and provide the warm fuzzies during those accomplishments. He has provided special deacons at our church to check in on us and ask what help we need. He has provided a great tutor for Geometry that is not only from South Dakota, but has ties to the AF. He has provided a friend that is a financial planner to help me mop up my mess.

Finally, God has places some interesting people and organizations in my path this month. I have placed a call to TAPS and I think I have found a place that can help me in ways I haven't been able to find. TAPS is the Tradegy Assistance Program for Survivors. A dear friend, Norma, signed me up about 4 months ago and I finally gained to courage to call about a resume' question. Anyway, I got a call from a fellow military widow and she got it. She is the first person who really got me, got my situation, and understands all the mental "mess" that makes up my grief. Truly, at this time, it is the best Christmas blessing this year.

I can't end this update without saying again how much I love each of you and how thankful I am for everything you have done since the word "cancer" entered our lives in September 2008. May God fill you with his richest blessings and shower you with His peace and unconditional love this Christmas Season!

Monday, August 22, 2011

Summer ends.... last year of Middle School Starts

School started today and this is a picture of our beautiful 8th Grader. Elizabeth is the best gift God could ever give Mike and I. I absolutely hate that Mike is in heaven and not here with us. BUT, I thank God every day for her. She does things all that time that are Mike. She thinks like he thinks and processes things the same way. She will say things some time and I will turn and look at her because it is exactly something Mike would say. She still has his feet, his walk, and his ears. It is a special gift because while Mike is with Jesus, truly part of him is still here with me.

Elizabeth has been very busy this summer. She went to band camp, church camp, the beach, and earned her first 3 hours of college credit at SMU TAG program this summer. We topped it all off with the vacation of a lifetime to Europe. We flew to Germany and spent two weeks with Jeff and Wendy touring Paris, Normandy, Rome, Naples, and Pompeii. It was incredible. The best trip I have ever taken. So when I got home, I really wrestled with it. The trip provided happiness, joy, education, wonder, great food, laughter, great weather..... and all that happened without Mike. I known I have progressed in my grief in that I am not devastated that I did it without Mike. I thank God for that.

Honestly, the tears and sadness got so hard that I finally went to the doctor and got an antidepressant. I couldn't help it. It wasn't a magic grief erase pill, but it stopped me from crying at the mention of his name. I don't regret it and I am not ashamed to admit it. It is hard to process how time is going on and things are happening without Mike. But we are doing better... not perfect but better.

I am still not working, but feel stronger about that transition in my life. More importantly, I think Elizabeth is stronger to handle that transition than a year ago. But I am still praying on direction and I would appreciate your prayers.

As of think of this journey, I thank God for each and every one of you. As I have said before, you have carried me when I couldn't walk, breathe for me when I didn't think it was possible, smiled for me when my heart was in shattered pieces, and prayed for me when I couldn't form the words in my darkest depths. I truly love you and most of all love my Lord Jesus who has never left us and continues to provide in ways that are miraculous and intimate.

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Happy Anniversary Mike

Dear Mike,

Words can't explain my feelings today. Oh, how I miss you! Life is so different and it just doesn't see possible that the world can go on with out you. 19 years ago, one hot day in Texas, I walked down the aisle. I can still see everything like it was yesterday. It was the best decision I ever made to say yes to your proposal. Remember how nervous I was? You were holding my hand and rubbing it with your thumb to get me to stop from shaking!

Our journey together was incredible right from the start. How is it possible that two people can be so right for each other. That is probably why I miss you so much now. You balanced me in every way.

Elizabeth has gone to band camp this week with her dear friend Abby. She played a big softball tournament this weekend. I had to pull her from their last game in order to get her to auditions in time. (We made it with 5 minutes to spare). The team was losing and she was mad and upset. She said Father's Day is a bad day to play softball anyway and she missed you so much. All I can do is agree with her. But guess what we did that morning to celebrate? Do you remember when Elizabeth was around 2 and I took my first girls weekend to Fredricksburg to scrap book with the women from Godsquad? I called to check in on you and Elizabeth. You had said everything was going great by Elizabeth wasn't eating. I asked you what you gave her for breakfast. You replied, "I made her on large pancake, put a fried egg on top of it and then put syrup on it." I laughed so hard! What toddler likes to food to mix or even touch on a plate? You explained to me how good it was. Well, in your honor, we made blueberry pancakes and poached eggs on Sunday. No they were not mixed together, but Elizabeth and I laughed as I retold her the story.

We are trying, Mike. It is not the same anymore, but we are moving. I think you would be proud. Can't wait to see you again!

All my love,

Sunday, June 12, 2011

Another Hard Season on the Horizon

Summer is here and so much is happening in our lives. For the second year in a row, I spent 4 days at Extreme Camp with the youth from our church at FBC McKinney. 32 kids accepted Christ and spending 4 days without phones, email, tv, technology is awesome. I love focusing on Christ and I feel like that is how I want to live my life. Even though, I am exhausted after camp, I am revitalized. We spend most of the day with God through song, lessons, quiet time, small groups, prayer... it somehow brings me closer to Mike as I know that he is doing something similar in heaven.

I think the longing for Mike will never go away. I think I have learned how to push down the grief and let life take over. But, there are moments when it catches you and you have to take a deep breath to gain control. We are coming into the really hard part of the year for Elizabeth and I. Father's Day followed quickly by our anniversary. These are the hardest days when our hearts hurt the most. So if you could pray for us, we would appreciate it and gain much needed strength from it.

Elizabeth has finished up her 7th grade year. It was more of a struggle than last year. She missed a lot of school, had weekly counseling appointments, but somehow managed to end the year in style. I am so proud of all her accomplishments. We were able to go the Dallas Museum of Art yesterday and she got to meet her hero Rick Riordan, author of The Lightning Thief, Kane Chronicles, etc. We stood in line forever and she got him to sign her two books that she brought with. She told him that his books were her sanctuary this year after her Dad died. He said something to the effect of I am sorry for you loss, but I am glad the books helped. I wish as a parent I could explain to him the depths of strength that she pulled from his writing. She not only read the books, but listened to the books on her IPOD. She feel asleep to them. She retreated to them when she needed to retreat. She used them to escape too.

At Extreme Camp the speaker really helped me work through some issues that I have had since Mike went to heaven. Here is my big revelation: My heart wallows so much in my sadness that it is taking away from my ability to move. God really spoke to me about moving in the past week and it is time to move. I have to find my life and my purpose now without Mike. I have to stop waiting for whatever I have been waiting for. I have to jump/take a step in faith/change. I have been frozen in fear at the top of the ledge for too long.