April 15, 2018

Letter to Daron on His Birthday

I'm finding it hard to believe that we are already at the second birthday Daron is spending in heaven. That also means that we are moving closer to the second anniversary of his death. I just can't wrap my head around that fact.

My Dearest Daron,

Happy Birthday to my forever 44-year-old. How is it possible that you are celebrating your second birthday in heaven already? I can't even begin to imagine how you'll be celebrating. I'm going to guess that you will be skydiving in the clouds with the people you've met & family who welcomed you Home. Don't forget to talk my Grandpa into skydiving with you. 😊

For some reason, this year I am struggling with your birthday. I would love to be able to take you out to eat or somewhere special for your birthday. Taylor & I would love to be able to spoil you & make you feel special. But I know that you are going to have an amazing time in heaven again this year & I will have to remember that.

Happy Birthday, Sweetheart! I'll Always Love you!

December 12, 2017

Christmas Letter

Where to begin? 2017 has been a year full of growth & change in our home. It has been full of good times and rough times. The year started out full of emotions after the holidays of 2016. The start of the year was a time of adjustment and emotions as we continued the journey into our new normal without Daron on this earth.

I'll be honest, the first part of the year is a total blur for me. We ended 2016 with the majority of the firsts coming one right after the other (my birthday, our wedding anniversary, Thanksgiving, Taylors birthday, Christmas, New Year). With all of those firsts so close together, my brain and my heart went into autopilot mode as a way to protect me I'm sure. So the start of 2017 is very blurry for me. There were other firsts that we had to face in 2017 as well. Daron's birthday is in April and that was an emotional day for sure. July ended the first year since Daron's passing and started the second year. We went to the cemetery with his parents and nephew. That was harder than I thought it was going to be, but I'm glad we went.

Taylor started 8th grade - his final year of middle school. It's crazy how fast he has grown up. Here's a photo to show how fast he has grown physically...

October 2014  (5th grade)            December 2017 (8th grade)
My son is as tall as I am now! How did that happen?!?
Like I said, this photo shows the physical changes in my son. He will be 14 in a few days and he is already counting the days until he turns 18. I think he does it just to make me feel old. 😊  I am so proud of the young man he is becoming. He is thoughtful, caring, funny. He likes to make me laugh. He loves to hang out with his cousins and make them laugh. I can't wait to see what God has in store for his life! He did attend a grief camp over the summer, Camp Anew, and I know that helped him to become more sensitive to my emotions. I also truly believe it helped him to understand what he is going through since Daron passed and come to terms with it. He left the camp a changed young man and I am so grateful for that!

In October, I attended the Widows Retreat through Starlight Ministries. I attended last year shortly after Daron's death, but this year changed my life! I went last year as a way to fill part of something. This year, honestly, I went as a way to get away from everything. I just wanted a weekend to myself. I loved hearing Susan VandePolJolene DeHeer and Miriam Neff speak last year, I wanted to hear them again. I had no clue how much God was going to use this retreat to bring me closer to Him like never before. I can't even truly put into words how much my life changed from the retreat this year. I can say this, I have never had such a craving for the Word of God and for the relationship with Him that I walked away from. I am so thankful for this retreat! It is a huge blessing to be in a room with so many other women who truly understand the journey of widowhood. There is an unspoken bond between all of us and I felt like I was in a room with friends - even if I didn't know every single woman's name. Such a wonderful blessing!

2017 also brought along a milestone that Daron and I were looking forward to - our 15th wedding anniversary. I am thankful that I took the day off because it was so full of emotions. I wanted to have time to just feel the emotions, remember the memories, and just be in the moment of the day. This was a day that Daron and I talked about. We never made plans or anything, we just looked forward to this milestone anniversary. I am thankful for the 13 years and 9 months that I was married to Daron before God called him home. I will never regret the years we had together. But, there was a selfish part of me that just wanted to be with him for this milestone anniversary. I am sure that this feeling will come with every anniversary as the years go by. But, I look at our anniversary with love now and I remember the wonderful years we had together. This is one of my favorite photos from our wedding 15 years ago...


This year also brought a new job for me! I have enjoyed the past 5 years as a lunch lady, but God called me to a new job as a custodian. It is a different atmosphere and I'm sure it will be tough at times, but so far, I am enjoying this new job. I have learned that change can be good and when God calls me to it, I have to follow. Of course, this change doesn't just affect me, so I am praying that Taylor will learn to embrace this change as well. We'll see as I get further in since I only started this new job last night. 😊

As 2017 comes to an end and we look toward 2018, I can look back and see how much God has worked in my life and in Taylor's life. We have both grown in different ways, but we have grown and that is important. I have learned that you can't just stay grounded where you are. You have to keep moving forward. There are still times of deep grief and full of emotion over Daron's passing. I have learned that it is okay for me to sit and feel those emotions, but I have to remember to get up and keep moving forward when those emotions pass. If I stay in the middle of a pity party I won't learn anything and I won't keep growing. God has taught me so many things throughout 2017 and I am thankful for that. God has also brought new friends into my life and we are able to walk the widow journey together. I cannot express how thankful I am to have each of these amazing women in my life. 

May God bless each of you through this Christmas season. I hope you will be surrounded by those you love. Remember to be in the moment and truly enjoy being with friends and family. As you enter 2018, remember to cherish the memories of years gone by and look forward to the new memories you will make in the New Year. Keep yourself open to what God has in store for you throughout 2018. I know that I can't wait to see what will happen in my life in the year ahead!

Here are some photos from our recent photoshoot. Enjoy!







December 5, 2017

Making Changes

Following God's leading can be a tough thing sometimes. It can lead to a lot of heartache on this earth. It can lead to changes that you don't see coming. If you've been following my blog for any period of time, you know that my life has been full of a lot of changes over the years. Some of them I saw coming, others caught me completely by surprise.

When Daron died, I begged God to let me have some time without changes taking place. Well, we all know what Proverbs 16:9 says "A man's heart plans his way, but the Lord directs his steps." This verse has shown itself true in my life lately. I tried to make certain plans for my life - what job I would have, what church I would attend, what ministries I would be involved in, etc. Recently all of those plans proved to be my plans & not God's plans. He has truly directed my steps as of late & led me down a path I wasn't prepared for.

Let me fill you in a little bit:

My Job -- I have been working at the lunch lady at a local elementary for the past 4.5 years. Three weeks ago, I applied for a different job within the same district. I applied for a night custodian job that would allow me to get some extra hours during school breaks & over the summer. Last week, I was offered the job & will be changing jobs next week. This change will be an interesting one & I am looking forward to this change in my life.

Church/Ministry -- I mentioned before that I was stepping down from the ministries I was involved in at my local church. Following God's leading has taken me down a path that I was not expecting at all....a change in what church Taylor & I attend. This one had me questioning God's leading. It also had me nervous since we have been at this church since Daron & I got married in 2002. But, God has never led me astray before & I know that He has my life in His hands. For now, Taylor & I will just attend a church so we can get back into our Christian walks. When God leads to joining a ministry within the church, I will be ready to follow.

I did not go seeking these changes on my own. These changes are truly from God & I must follow His leading. Since getting myself back into the Bible & asking God to once again be the King of my life, I am finding that following Him is easier than before. I can truly follow Him without digging my feet in & being dragged along. When I gave my life back to God & asked Him to take complete control, my life changed for the better. These changes are showing this to be fact & I am thankful for that. 


November 5, 2017

Finding Time in the Word.....Struggling

In all honesty, I am still struggling with getting into my Bible every day. Without thinking I go straight to Facebook, my email or something else on my phone instead of my Bible. This has been frustrating to me. I have found myself slipping back into habits I am asking the Lord to take away from me. I know this is because I am not in the Word on a daily basis.

Why can't I make the Word of God a priority in my life?
Why is it so easy for me to put nonsense things in front of time with God?

I pray myself to sleep every night. I listen to Christian music in my car & at work. I recall Scripture passages or praise songs throughout the day. But I can't make time to open my Bible & read what God has to say to me first thing in the morning? That doesn't make any sense. I can't figure out why I am struggling so much with this. 

On another note, I have made two of the tough decisions that I needed to make. Since I have spoken with the people I needed to, I can let you know what they are. I have decided to step down from the VBS & AWANA ministries in my local church. I have felt God leading me to this for the past few months & I fought Him. I have been apart of these ministries for at least 14 years now. I have enjoyed every moment & I have loved working with so many different children over the years. These decisions were tough on so many levels, but I can't fight God when He is so strongly leading me. I have mixed emotions & I know without a doubt that I will miss these ministries. But, God has a plan for my life & I will follow His leading in this. 

There is another tough decision that I am struggling with. I cannot go into detail about this one yet, but I covet your prayers regarding it. God knows what the decision is & what the outcome will be. I trust His leading & I know that with His guidance the best decision will be made. God will not lead me from something without leading me to something. His ways are perfect!

October 24, 2017

Being Honest With Myself

This past weekend (October 20-22) I went to a widows retreat. It was a blessed weekend & I came home refreshed in my soul. While there, I got a chance to talk to a counselor & to the speakers - all who are widows themselves. I was blessed by talking with them & challenged at the same time. So, I want to open myself up to you, the reader, in a way that I never have before. I want you to understand more about me so you can better pray for me. I also want this to be a way that I hold myself accountable in the future.

How I see myself on the inside
I have been struggling a lot lately with my self-worth & my worth to God. I have been told that I am royalty to God as a widow & that I am a princess in the house of the King of Heaven. But, that is not how I have seen myself over the last 14 months or so. Instead of thinking that I am God's princess, I have seen myself has God's plumber. I see myself as the person responsible for all of the waste removal in the Kingdom of God. I mean, how much lower can one person get?

I have also been told that God sees me as beautiful. That is totally not how I see myself. I see myself as an ugly troll who doesn't even deserve to have God look at me. I see myself as someone who people avoid at all costs. I see myself as a leper at the gate of the city begging for mercy. I see myself as wretched & beyond help. I see myself as lower than dirt. I see myself as a fungus to society. I see myself as not worthy of God's grace, mercy, love, forgiveness, compassion. I see myself as the person who wasted Christs time when he came to die in my place. I see myself as the person who nailed Christ to the cross & didn't even think twice about it later. I see myself as the person who spits at the base of the cross & laughed at him while he died. I see myself as disgusting, defiled, worthless, forsaken, neglected, hopeless, unloveable. I see myself as the person who God cannot handle looking at no matter what. I see myself as a mistake.

The counselor that I spoke with encouraged me to write these down as a way to track my spiritual growth over the next month. This will give me a way to look back & see how far I have come & how I see myself in one month. As I write them down, I am saddened by how I see myself & how I look down on myself. You see, I haven't always looked at myself this way. This really has been since Daron died & I lost my way. My faith took a backseat & I truly blamed God for Daron's death. I questioned Him constantly about Daron's death. I couldn't see past my grief & see that God was trying to bless me. I still don't see my grief as a gift, but I am working on it. I still don't see how God can use my pain for His glory, but I am working on trusting that He will. I am working on seeing myself as God's princess again.






Back to My First Love
I have walked away from my first love. Actually, I ran away from Him. I have been so busy trying to hold onto what my life was prior to Daron's death, that I stopped moving forward & started looking back all the time. That led to my departure from my first love. That led to taking anger to bed with me instead of my Bible. That led to running away from God & then blaming Him for leaving me. He never left - I did. He has always been beside me, but I felt like He has been forsaking me. I have felt like He abandoned me in my grief. I have been blaming Him for something that I did.

I haven't been reading my Bible. I only "pray" when I want to blame God or ask Him for something. I listen to Christian music as something to have on in the background, not as something to feed my soul. Yes, I have scripture verses pop into my head throughout the day, but I try to push them away. I don't realize that the Holy Spirit is giving them to me for a reason. I gossip. I complain. I'm bitter. I'm rude. I'm angry. I'm hostile toward my son. I blame others before I take a hard look at my own involvement in the issue.

Now is the time for me to get back into the Bible. To get back into digging deep & trying to get as much information about God as I possibly can. Now is the time that I want to fall back in love with Him & truly change how I see myself to how He sees me. I want to learn about how I am not forsaken & I never was. I want to learn more about how God values me as a widow. I want to learn more about how God created me because He loves the thought of me. I want to learn more about how God uses widows for His glory. I want to learn more about how I can be a better mom to Taylor because of how God calls me to that. I want to learn more about how I can truly hand over my heavy burden & He will take it from me. I want to learn more about my calling on this earth.




Tough Decisions Ahead
This weekend has opened my eyes to a few tough decisions that I will need to make in the near future. This is the one part that I cannot be completely honest with you. I have written these decisions down so I can keep myself accountable in that way. I am asking that you pray for me as I make these decisions. God knows what they are. He will lead me to the correct choices. I want to follow His path for my life & these decisions have to be made in order to do that. I trust that God will not lead me to something outside of His plan for my life. I also know that I have never had to make such tough choices before. I need you to lift me up in prayer & trust that God will carry out His amazing plan in my life.





I know that this path won't be easy & the devil will be right there trying to pull me off track. I need to keep my eyes completely fixed on Jesus Christ & hold onto Him every step of the way. I need to go back to being a new Christian. I need to go back to the beginning of my faith & my relationship with God. I need to get my passion for God back & fall deeply in love with Him once again. God never promised that this life would be easy. He only promised that He would be with me every step of the way. I forgot that promise for awhile & I need to hold onto it once again.


October 15, 2017

Struggles

I have been struggling to....
....get out of bed in the morning.
....be a good mom.
....take care of my house.
....take care of myself.
....have a smile on my face when I leave the house.
....make others think I'm doing okay.
....read my Bible every day.
....pray every day.
....continue to trust in God's plan for my life.
....believe that God has a purpose for me.
....go to church on a regular basis.
....open up to trusted friends & family.
....not stay in bed & cry all day.
....remember & trust that Daron is in a better place, out of pain & happy with the Lord.

I have been struggling with all of these things & so much more. The past 14.5 months have changed me in ways I never thought possible. I honestly thought that my faith was deep enough to keep my head above water when Daron passed away. I thought that I was clinging to the cross hard enough. I thought that I would be able to truly rest in God's embrace through the past 14 months. I thought I had faith that would move mountains & I would be able to continue to put one foot in front of the other every day. I thought that I would be able to see God change my life & draw me closer to Him. I thought all of these things but I was wrong.

I am struggling to remind myself daily that God didn't do this to me. God will never harm me. God will never leave me or forsake me. I know all of these things to be true, but I am struggling to remember them. There are days when I feel like God doesn't hear the cries of my heart. There are days when I think that I am being punished for something I did. There are days when I feel like my Bible will burst into flames if I try to read it. There are days when I feel like I am being shunned. There are days when I feel like my life is going to crumble around me & I will fall into a bottomless pit. There are days when I am yelling at God instead of crying out to Him. There are days when I am blaming God for everything that I am going through. There are days when I want nothing to do with Him & I turn my back. There are days when I just can't walk the Christian walk anymore because I can't see outside of my grief bubble.

Then there are days when I can see God's hand at work in my life. Days when I can see a glint of light coming through reminding that life does get better after a loss. Days when I find myself talking to God all days long while I'm at work or doing things around the house. There are days when Scripture comes to my mind without having to search for it. Days when the same praise song is on my mind & in my heart for the entire day. These days are there, but they are few & far between it feels like.

When Daron died, my brain changed....my emotions changed....my life changed. I don't feel like I am in a fog anymore, but I don't feel like I am completely out of that fog either. These past 2 months I have had more emotional breakdowns then I did during the first 12 months. I am truly starting to feel my emotions now & that is where all of the struggles come from. I don't have control over my emotions & I don't know how to get that control back.

That is my biggest struggle......not having control over myself. I know that Daron's death has changed me & I feel like a completely different person these days. I thought I had gained control over my temper, only to lose all control since Daron's death. I am quickly annoyed by specific people, so I tend to avoid them at all cost. I am quick to snap at Taylor & then feel horrible about it soon after. I am quick to jump to over thinking a situation that doesn't turn out the way I think it should. I am quick to blame God rather than blame myself for something not turning out the way I want it to. This list can go on & on & on.

To be 100% honest, my biggest struggle, the one that I can't seem to shake or handle right now, is my faith. That one weighs the heaviest on me. I don't see my need to attend church on a regular basis. I don't see my need to reach out to others & ask them to pray for me. I don't see my need to worship in a corporate setting each week. I don't know exactly why I am struggling so much with this right now. I don't know why I don't feel the driving need to be in church every week & worship in a corporate setting with other believers. I know those needs are there! I know that God has called me to these things! Trust me, I fight with myself every day about it. I know that I'll be called a hypocrite or something along those lines. I can't control what others think about me. I can't control what I think about myself right now! I think I'm a giant failure when it comes to my walk with the Lord, my faith, my time in God's Word & my church attendance.

So there you have it. Those are my struggles. I don't know how else to explain them. I don't know what else to say about them. The struggles are real & I am fighting them the best way that I can these days.

August 9, 2017

Ramblings of an Introverted Extrovert

Anyone who really knows me, knows that I am a people person. I thrive in situations where I am surrounded by people & I enjoy being a large crowd. I have worked in jobs where I get to meet people on a personal level & really get to know them (hence being an elementary school lunch lady). Well, all that was true until a year ago. The past year has changed me in ways I never expected. Now, I am a lot more comfortable staying at home in my comfy clothes working on a crochet project or building my jewelry business. I feel safe at home in my regular surroundings.

Let me take a moment to explain a few things. I hope this will help those around me understand a little better when I don't accept their invitation to an event, a get together, a family outing, etc. So, let me introduce you to a new Cathy.....

I don't like to be in large crowds of people. In fact, they scare the daylights out of me & send me into a panic attack. I would rather work alone then with a large amount of people. I still like to get to know other people, but I'd rather get to know my close friends & family better then meet new people.

I plan all of my outings around the busy times of the day. I know when a good time is to go to the grocery store so I am not in a crowd of people in the checkout line. I know when a good time is to go to the mall -- I will never step foot in a mall between October 31 & January 30th. I have learned that sometimes it is better to order things online so that I have the least amount of contact with strangers.

Taylor & I used to go on mother/son dates to the movies once a month or every few months. Now, I have to plan those around busy times & pray that someone doesn't sit next to me. I can't sit in the middle of a row of chairs or a church pew because I need to know there is a way out if needed. When I enter a building - especially one I haven't been in before - I need to know where the exits are first so I know I have a way out. If I'm at a restaurant, I need to sit in a way where I can see either the main exit or the emergency exit.

Church has also become a place that can lead to a panic attack. Holidays in church, when it is super crowded.....no thank you. Being surrounded by my church family used to make me feel safe & at home. Now I feel closed in & out of place. Please know that I have nothing against anyone in my church family or against my church itself. I can't go to extended family outings or get together events for the same reason & I have nothing against any of them either. I trust the people who are there, but right now, large crowds of people are not my cup of tea. Honestly, I get small panic attacks just thinking about it sometimes & I have to talk myself off the ledge so to speak.

I know it sounds completely odd, especially to those who have known me for years. I do still go out to the stores, go on outings & go to restaurants. I just only go when the stores won't be as crowded or when I am with a trusted friend or family members. I also only go to family outings or events when it is a small group of family members. Now, I do make myself leave the house at least a few times each week so that I am not a complete hermit. It is intimidating to say the least, but I make myself do it. I may only go to one store or visit with a friend, but I still make sure I leave the house. I go to work & I go to meetings that I have scheduled. I am also still apart of children's ministry at my church. Those are things that I can control, so to speak. They are also commitments that I have made & I have been challenged to keep every commitment. That is my way of making sure that I step out of my comfort zone on a regular basis.

There was a time, a few months after Daron died, when I refused to leave the house at all. I would order my groceries online & pick them up rather then go grocery shopping. I used to love spending time in the grocery store. That was my alone time & I would savor every minute of it. Now, I can't wait to get out of the store. I map out my shopping so that I am in & out as quickly as possible. I used to make small talk with the store employees. Now I try not to even make eye contact. I have gotten better then & I am proud of myself for the small steps.

To say that life was simpler when Daron was alive is an understatement. I look back over the past year & I can see just how much his death has truly affected me - inside & out. I never realized just how much I relied on him being around. Even when he wasn't at home for those last 5 years, I knew that I could call him to help calm me down. I knew that he was only a phone call, or an hour drive, away & that kept my mind at ease. He was my rock, my safe harbor, my calm in the storm. Now that he's gone I am finding it hard to calm myself down.

Before you say it, I know that God is my Rock, my Safe Harbor & my calm in the storm. I know that He is only a prayer away & the He will calm my heart. I know these things, but remembering them is a completely different story. I mentally kick myself when I remember a verse after I needed it to help calm my heart. I am getting better, with God's help, & I am thankful for that. But, I still prefer my home to the crazy world. I still prefer to stay in my fortress then step out into the chaos outside my front door.

Please try to keep in mind that I am still healing from a huge loss. My heart & mind are still very fragile. I am only doing what I feel is best to let them heal. I will get back to myself, or at least a different version of myself, one day. I can only heal one moment at a time & only with God's help. I have learned that grief truly is a marathon & not a sprint. I have to take it easy with my heart or I can risk damaging myself even more. Trust me, I don't like being an introverted extrovert. I miss my outgoing personality at times. But for now, I am happy, safe & secure resting in God's loving arms & letting Him heal my heart. God is helping me to heal as He sees & I know that He is doing what is best for me. He did create me after all & He is the Great Physician.

Thank you for letting me share this part of my journey with you. I wanted to be able to let you see another glimpse into who I am a year later. I am changing every day & I pray that my change will be for God's glory alone.

Letter to Daron on His Birthday

I'm finding it hard to believe that we are already at the second birthday Daron is spending in heaven. That also means that we are movin...