Monday, December 25, 2017

When pain and joy collide

Dear Tony,

Merry Christmas! Sitting here with all the lights off, presents nestled under the tree, children sleeping, I look at our Christmas tree with its quiet white lights. The snow is gently falling outside and all the world seems to be sleeping.

Our second Christmas without you seems like the first. Last year you were gone just a few weeks before the holiday and everything was a blur for awhile. But this year is different. It’s our sweet baby Caleb’s first Christmas yet you aren’t here to share it with us... again. It’s strange how life now feels normal by myself, without you by my side experiencing it all together. Sometimes I really hate that but I know that this is the way things are now and I’m finally at a place where I know it’s okay.

I miss you terribly still. Missing all the little things about you hurts but now there is something new. The other day we were listening to music and I jokingly sang in an operatic voice- just as you did all the time to the kids. Laughing at myself, I asked our oldest kids if I sounded like how you did when you would joke around but they couldn’t remember that about you anymore. A lot of their own memories of you are fading and I am trying to keep those memories alive the best I can. Remember how I promised you I wouldn’t let the kids forget you when we were driving in the car that one chilly day in April? That promise will never be broken, even when a lot of their memories are going to be the memories of stories I tell them.

This Christmas season there have been so so many people who have helped keep that promise to you. One of your talented students made some amazing and absolutely unique memory boxes for the kids and me, just like you wanted. A loving friend spent a lot of time sewing blankets out of your shirts for  the kids to open tomorrow morning— a present to them, from you, just like you wanted. Another former student anonymously spent the past 12 days delivering gifts and a cute nativity set to help remind us about Christ and His joyous birth, just like you always reminded us. So many people have blessed our family with many different types of service to help our family during this Christmas season, and just as you feel, my words fall short of the gratitude I feel in my heart.

The joy of the season runs strong in our home— our kids are sure to make it so!— and this year I’ve felt a deeper connection to how my Savior’s love really works in my life. I still feel such embedded loss and sorrow that you are not here, and although I’ve tried several ways to “remedy” my heart’s pain, I have only found one solution. The pain can’t be taken away but joy can reside right in my heart at the same time. Only this has helped me find peace, and I celebrate the birth of Jesus in a new light this year: grateful that He continues to let me ache for you but that He also helps me to choose joy in my life. It’s a strange but beautiful collision, one that will slowly build a perfect heart one day. And that is what I give to you this Christmas, Tony: a renewed desire to allow myself to feel pain and let myself be happy and have joy as well as our family moves forward together.

I love you, and I hope you get to see the beaming faces of our kids tomorrow morning and hear their squeals as they enjoy a beautiful and joyous Christmas Day.
Love always,

Sunday, December 3, 2017

365 days/ How life has changed

As I lay on my couch tonight staring at our glowing Christmas tree in the dark, I listened to this rendition of “O Come, O Come, Emmanuel” about half a dozen times (it is one of Tony’s absolute favorites). All my kids tucked safely in bed and with the house quiet, I finally made some time for some deep reflection.

This weekend marked one year since Tony died. We have made it through a full year of “firsts” and now are beginning a journey that really feels like Tony is gone. This will be our second Christmas without him, and all the day to day happenings and even holidays feel different; we really have found a “new normal.” It is so much of a bittersweet emotion: I hate that I know I will never have the past again yet it is good that we are able to continue pushing forward to find a life that will bring us happiness, even without Tony here. Still, one day does not go by that I don’t think of Tony several times. Most of the time I can reflect with a smile but there are days when the pain is still intense. I’ve grown accustomed to feeling this way so that it is now “tolerable.” I imagine it will be a part of my character for the rest of my life.

365 days seems like such a short time period. Looking back, the time has gone by quickly and there has been so much change. Yet even with time passing, it feels as if its been a decade since I last curled up next to Tony, clenching his hand while he took his last breaths. He is so much a part of me and always will remain so, but I find myself forgetting what it felt like to have him here, watching him flourish as a father, as a husband, as a brother and son, as a friend, as a teacher. I hold all my memories of him close to my heart, and I cannot wait for the day when we are together, so that my heart will feel whole again.

365 days also has brought on a lot of change. Widowhood has affected every aspect of my life. There have been obvious hard changes such as being a single parent, changing social circles, making decisions alone, and the plain loneliness that comes at night. But there have also been good changes as well. They are harder to see but when I stop and reflect quietly, they are easier to be found. Above all, I have learned to rely on my Savior, who truly is the only one who can understand and feel my pain. I have learned that He will never abandon me even when the day seems dark and dreary. I have learned in more depth my strengths and weaknesses as a mother, which has allowed me to be honest and forgiving of myself. I have learned that it is not weak to ask for and accept help after I have done everything that I can. I have learned that I need to slow down, to be still and to listen. These lessons will continue to teach me as I strive to improve upon each one.

The most unexpected lesson I have learned is that I now ache in a whole new way when other people experience pain. This has been perhaps one of the best blessings yet hardest trial that has coincided with becoming a widow. Perhaps since I have been pretty open about my experiences this past year, it has opened doors for others to confide in me about their struggles in life. Learning of others’ challenges has opened my eyes and heart to a new level. This has been a blessing because I feel that I am feeling and changing in a way that my Heavenly Father wants me to, yet it is also very difficult to feel so deeply and ache when someone I love is hurting. At night I think about all the challenges people I care about are going through and all I want is to take their pain away, just as I wish my pain could be taken away. My fault in all of this is that I never know how to express my empathy and concern in a way that will be known as sincere. I am still trying to stretch and grow so that I can be our Savior’s arms and comfort others as Christ does. I sure have a lot of work to do.

Lastly, I have learned that there is so much good. My family and I are surrounded by wonderful people who are happy and willing to “bear one another’s burdens” and “mourn with those who stand in need of comfort.” We have truly been blessed during the hardest year our family has experienced. Thank you to all of you who continue to lift me up and care. I truly love you all and aspire to show kindness to others as you have shown kindness to my kids and me. You are truly my examples and the angels that surround my family.

Thursday, November 16, 2017

The answer to problems

Just a few of my favorite miracles in my life.
I love when they all pile into my bed in the morning and giggle about anything silly.
*Bonus points for finding where I’m hiding! ;)

The name of this blog is “Moments and Miracles.” When I first began blogging as a way of updating our friends and family about Tony’s health, I didn’t want this space to be full of sorrow and emptiness. While those emotions have a place and purpose here as this is real life and life is full with true raw emotion, I wanted to share with those I love all the moments in this journey where I have seen miracles. Over the past couple of years, I hope that you all have noticed all these beautiful blessings that have been added to life despite such a terrible loss.

I miss Tony so, so much. This past year took me on a journey in discovering a lot about myself, as I’ve been able to let my grief rush into and take residence in my heart. At first this nasty grief had a strong grip on me, making me a puppet in its awful show. It hurt. A lot. Every single moment of every day. I struggled with wondering why this happened to my little family and myself. Had I not been faithful enough? Should I had prayed with more intent? Was I not selfless enough in caring for Tony? What did I do wrong?

Those questions tore me apart on some lonely nights as I sobbed into my pillow. I didn’t get anywhere while focusing on them, they just added even more pain to my sorrow. Then I had a quiet realization that I was asking all the wrong questions instead of the one right question:

Why not me?

Why shouldn’t this had happened to us? What was so special about Tony and my family that we should have been exempt from deep heartache and moments of despair? I had been looking at the situation in the wrong light. Who was I to think I was above this suffering?

As soon as I acknowledged that I do not “deserve” anything, I started to see all these miracles and moments I was blessed with. Instead of looking at my life as a list of “have nots,” the list of all the glorious beauty my family has seen kept growing longer and longer. The real sense of gratitude came from knowing and feeling that God loves me and that He has provided a Savior so that I can be beautiful and glorified like Him one day. 

That is it. We don’t need to cling to endless lists of “I’m thankful for....” (although they are great and have their place) but rather need to see how blessed we are to be sons and daughters of God. And to know that is enough for us to feel deep gratitude. We need to know and feel this so that if everything we loved and held dear was taken from our lives, could we still find that foundation to be thankful?
And if we truly learn humility, what problem can stand in our way?

Humility will grow the best beauty in our hearts and souls. We will learn to love others in a deeper level. We will want to connect more intimately so that we may share in each others burdens. We will learn to be more patient, less quick to judge, and more accepting of others. Ultimately we will feel burning in our hearts pure compassion for everyone around us. Humility can answer whatever problems we all face in our individual lives, even the loss of those we love so dearly. I know that because God loves my family that we will be made whole again. And in the meantime, God has and will continue to bless us all as we keep moving forward and changing so that we can learn to truly love those around us. And that is the most beautiful miracle of all.

Wednesday, November 1, 2017

Take a piece of my heart

Happy Halloween!

Most mornings I turn on fun music while my kids are getting ready for school. It helps get everyone in a happy mood and gets them up and moving for the day. After my oldest three went off to school, Sophie (who is five), changed the music to a song I had never heard. Here are the lyrics:

“I promise that one day I'll be around
I'll keep you safe
I'll keep you sound
Right now it's pretty crazy
And I don't know how to stop
Or slow it down
I know there are some things we need to talk about
And I can't stay
Just let me hold you for a little longer now
Take a piece of my heart
And make it all your own
So when we are apart
You'll never be alone”
Already in a bit of a fragile state from beginning the holiday season with Halloween yesterday (one of Tony’s favorite holidays), my heart began pumping harder and harder like it was trying to break
out. When Tony died, I really do feel that half my heart went with him, and in a few small moments I have felt him say to me that I am never alone. I’m thankful for thoughts through letters and precious memories from Tony that I do know he loves me. What I now find harder and harder as time goes by is that I want to be able to show my love to him still.
That feeling of a pounding heart occurs often as it aches to connect with Tony again. How I wish I could still show him all this love compounding in my heart. I wish I could hold him, tell him my thoughts, serve him, or even give him a gift. I once heard that the hardest part of grief in any relationship is the inability to show them your love for them anymore. Because though he is gone, I will always continue loving him, with a love that just grows deeper as time passes. Nothing will change that regardless where life takes me in the next several decades. I can’t imagine how much that ache will hurt as each year passes.
Talking with a friend this morning, I did realize the one remedy for my exploding heart. I may not be able to physically show my love to Tony but I can use all this love building up in my chest to love others. I can love my children more deeply and try even harder to be a better mother. I can be there for my family and friends who I love dearly and be a better listener and show more compassionate. I can even make better efforts to cultivate new friendships and to be even more
 kind to strangers. I’m sure all of this is how I can still show Tony my love. And I’m sure that Heavenly Father knows this is the best way for me to grow and to continue to find ways to be happy in this life.
With the holidays upon us, I am going to make a more conscious effort to find joy in the journey. Tony has been gone almost eleven months now, although it has felt like I lost a good part of him over two years ago. God won’t take this ache from me and I know there is no going back to my life with Tony. But if I ask humbly, He will help me to carry my burdens of grief day after day and allow for beauty to grow in my heartache. Only through Him can we be transformed into something more beautiful and loving than we can imagine. Thank you to all of you who are my examples and my cheerleaders. And thank you for always letting me share my intimate feelings with you so that I can heal and grow. So, please take a piece of my heart with you.

Sunday, October 22, 2017

Tender Mercies

When Tony taught his seminary students, he’d often open his class by inviting them to share their “tender mercies” they had seen during that week. Occasionally I’d visit a class or two of his and get to observe the students and hear their tender mercies they recognized from their week.

I was drawn to Tony while we were dating because of his happy countenance. It was contagious! Despite whatever difficult thing had happened on occasions, Tony always acknowledged its difficulty and then put a positive spin on it by stating the tender mercy in it all. Those of you who know Tony remember asking how he was and his replies of, “I’m fantastic!” EVERY SINGLE TIME. I’d even tease him about his enthusiasm sometimes because I just found it so cute. How could I not smile when hearing “fantastic” about a thousand times a day? :)

This past week I’ve been doing some small studying on gratitude with some good friends of mine. As I glanced over my notes I’ve made throughout the week, I couldn’t help but feel that I should share, just as Tony gently encouraged his students to express their gratitude by sharing their tender mercies from God with their classmates and friends.

Here are the ways in which we can express our gratitude to God:
-through prayer or songs of praise
-by commemorating meaningful holidays (such as Thanksgiving, Christmas, Easter, or whichever holidays according to your faith)
-repenting of our sins and shortcomings
-by showing love toward others in our good works

Ways in how we can show appreciation to those around us:
-sincerely telling them in person, in a message, or by a hug
-finding ways to serve them in return
-paying it forward by helping others in immediate need
-being a real friend by opening up about your life and listening intently to them about their joys and struggles

Earlier today I was feeling a bit sorry for myself as I put my kids to bed and wished Tony was waiting for me to come and cuddle and have our nightly talks together. I miss talking to him about anything and everything with no judgement, and feeling his sincere concern and love for me. I thought about how this feeling will never fully fade from my life, that I will always long to be near him and hear his voice and hold his hand that fits perfectly within mine. How can I ease my ache when this happens? I can look for the tender mercies that I have now, and continue to look forward with happiness so that when I am asked how I am doing, I will honestly be able to reply, “I’m fantastic!”

So, to all my friends reading this, I want you to know a few of the numerous tender mercies I have in my life presently so for those who are struggling to find their own can see how such small things can have a big impact.
My heart is full of gratitude and thanks for:
-the wonderful love and outpouring from family who are always there to help me in any way I need at any time
-my sweet and dear friends who take the time and effort to talk with me on a regular basis and allow me to open up and “be real” about life
-my huge bed—- that once was a reminder of the emptiness in my life without Tony but has now become a family bed that any and all of my kids can climb into when they need some extra cuddles
-a healthy body that is able to care for my children day after day
-massages from my kids (for real— I had five of them rubbing my feet, hands, back and neck all at the same time last night!)
-new opportunities to meet new people and foster new friendships that I’d never would have experienced before
-being able to have my downtime each evening to work on bettering me as a person (outside of being a mother)
-the sweet faces of my kids that are a constant reminder of Tony and who help give me purpose in this stage of my life right now
-each of my kids’ laughs— they are all different yet all equally contagious and adorable

We cannot fully enjoy and appreciate the blessings in our lives until we recongnize how good life really can be and then show that gratitude. Our gratitude will in turn glorify us as we become new and beautiful from our cheerful attitudes.

Looking in the here and now, we can all find many more blessings in our lives than the difficult things. I don’t believe in coincidences because I know that we all have a Father in Heaven who will take any opportunity to show His love to us. And when we take the time to stop and look to see those tender mercies, we will see His constant love.

Tuesday, October 3, 2017


Dear Tony,

There is no other way to explain this but I am homesick for you. On days like today, my heart feels like it’s a stress ball, my stomach is in knots, my head is cloudy, the lump in my throat just plain hurts, and my eyes are welling up with tears every few minutes.

Grief is a strange thing; life can feel fine for awhile where I think of you constantly but with a smile on my face. Reminiscing about you and longing for you gladdens my soul with hope and excitement for seeing you again. But then some of those awful days hit when you least expect it as if being punched in the stomach. The after pains are just as intense as the initial blow, and I feel sick.

It really is homesickness. I long for our life together again where everything flowed and made sense, where I felt I always had a place in this world where together we worked toward our dreams. My ears long to hear your voice; my eyes to see your face when you laugh. If you could just come hold me for  a few minutes and talk and laugh and cry with me, I’d be ready to face another ten months of missing you.

This nasty homesickness reminds me of all the domino effects of things I don’t want to do anymore. I don’t want to mark “single: widowed/divorced/separated” on another form again. I don’t want to explain my situation to people and make them feel a little uncomfortable. I don’t want to tell our little Tanner over and over again that God can’t make you come back right now. I don’t want to navigate life’s challenges without your input and direction. I don’t want to miss you anymore.... because I just want you here.

Despite all the things I don’t want to do, slowly I’m finding the things I do want to do— and turn them into things I can accomplish. I do want to make you proud of how I am living as an individual and how I am trying to raise our children. I do want to sacrifice any “wants” in my life so that our kids will look back at their childhood, not feeling angry that you are gone but only grateful for how much they have been blessed. I do want to always be able to see God’s tender hand in our lives and know that you will always care and will be near. And I do want to encourage others in their daily battles by opening up about my own troubles, in hopes of letting the world know that regardless of our challenges we can persevere and become better through Christ. These are things I can do, and doing them makes the homesickness more bearable.

Tony, I also want you to know how much our kids miss you. And that they are all so beautiful and strong and remarkable in their own ways. Despite their own awful grief, they are happy, loving and kind; they want to be good and do their best. I know you are helping somehow and I want to thank you for still leading and guiding our family with me.

You have half of my heart with you and I am beginning to see that you left half of yours with me.
I love you.

Sunday, September 10, 2017

Elephant cookies/ Let's kick cancer to the curb

During the month of September, these cute elephant cookies are being sold at Kneader's with 100% of the proceeds going toward childhood cancer research. Not only are they yummy and adorable, but they are bringing hope to my family and many other families across the globe. Check out THIS LINK to see how elephant DNA is making ground-breaking research in Salt Lake City!

Dr. Joshua Schiffman at the Huntsman Cancer Institute is the orchestrator of this amazing discovery. Since Tony was diagnosed with Li-Fraumeni Syndrome (LFS) in late 2008, Dr. Schiffman has been a big part of our family. He is the type of doctor who invests his heart in his patients, and Tony and our children are no exception. When I last visited with Dr. Schiffman this past June for my kids' annual physical exams with him, he was sure to let me know how hard his team is working to fight against cancer, with Tony as a source of their determination to make this work. If research goes according as planned, human trials are likely to begin in THREE years! This is simply amazing!

Following Tony's diagnosis of LFS, four of our seven children have tested positive for the mutated gene. Landon, Emma, Sophie, and our newest baby Caleb, all are at a very high risk for getting cancer (90-100% chance in their lifetime, often occurring at a young age). Each summer, these four undergo detailed cancer screenings in order to detect any cancers in their bodies. As of now, we cannot prevent cancer from developing in their bodies; our only defense at the present is early detection. My great hope is that Dr. Schiffman's elephant and cancer research will help discover a way to actually help prevent cancer for my kids! This would be a wonderful miracle for my family--- and for anyone. Cancer affects so many people in today's world and this research can help our world population as a whole.

For more information about this research as well as Li-Fraumeni Syndrome, check out these sites and videos (some of which we are featured in)... And while you are at it, go buy an elephant cookie :)

 Li-Fraumeni Syndrome Association

Elephant genes hold big hopes for cancer research

What is Li-Fraumeni Syndrome?

Monday, September 4, 2017

A baby grows in nine months

Thank you to the amazing Lovetta Reyes-Cairo for painting this beautiful canvas of our family.

Waking up on Saturday morning, I remembered today marked nine months since Tony died.

Normally when someone mentions a nine month time frame, immediately pregnancy comes into my mind--- maybe because it always seems that I am pregnant ;)

For nine months, the most beautiful miracle is happening right below your heart. From the first time to hear your baby's heartbeat, to the first flutters and kicks felt, to feeling your baby pushing and moving against your belly, a true miracle is witnessed. And then as your baby is born and your body is flooded with inexpressible joy at this new life created inside you, you realize that all your hard work to bear this child is over. You have reached the finish line, closing a door behind you and opening a new one right beside it. For many women, those nine months can be physically draining and taxing on their bodies while dealing with sickness, etc. But every mother would say that those nine long months was worth every single minute to create their beautiful child. And they would do it all again for that child in a heartbeat.

For nine months, Caleb was the miracle growing inside me. I was a mess the day I learned I was pregnant with him. Tony's body was slowly falling apart as he was physically less able to do more things each week, almost becoming bound to a wheelchair full-time. His mind showed very small changes but he lacked the energy to really enjoy a good conversation anymore. I knew I was losing him and knew the huge possibility of him being gone before Caleb was born. Accepting where my life was heading was extremely difficult. At first I thought that maybe we would be blessed with some sort of miracle and Tony would be able to continue living so that he could hold Caleb in his arms and sing to him softly. Or that his disease would even improve for some time so that we could have a "normal" life again for awhile. But deep down I knew Tony was leaving. Oh, how he wanted to stay and kiss Caleb's soft cheeks!

For nine months, Tony has been gone. Instead of having a joyful end to a nine month time frame, I am left pondering about what has grown within me through this experience of learning to live without Tony physically by my side.

- My heart has grown. When Tony died, I literally felt like half my heart died within me. I felt that deep connection, that tender love Tony had for me, dim away as I could no longer feel it. Slowly, ever so slowly, the half of my heart that remains has grown bigger and stronger. I've felt deep despair and sorrow more than I ever could imagine, coupled with deep appreciation and joy for the tender mercies I see in my life. These emotions have worked my heart as the muscle it is and has made it stronger than I could have imagined.

- My appreciation for the small things has grown. Taking a drive through the mountains, reading a story with my kids surrounding me, listening to Tony's favorite music, and holding my sleeping baby all have proven to be more sweet and tender, more fulfilling and beautiful if I slow down and allow them to be so.

- My understanding of humility has increased. Learning to ask and accept help poses one of the most difficult challenges after losing Tony. I want so much to be completely independent and capable of caring for everyone in my life, but it just isn't possible. Deep appreciation has been felt as many of you have blessed my family's life in several ways. Thank you for giving me the opportunity to learn from your service and feel as if the Savior is personally ministering to me.

- My desire to teach my children has grown. All I want is for my kids to know how much God loves them, how much our Savior cares and advocates for them, that their father loves them and will continue to always love them, and that I will do anything to be there for them and provide the best life for them that I can, no matter what the sacrifices are for that emotional security to be theirs. I try to plan my days to teach them of their divine nature and eternal potential. To know our Heavenly Father is the greatest peace we can find in this life, regardless of our life situations.

- Lastly my desire to please God has grown. I just want "to be good" and to do those things that my Father in Heaven wants for me. I want to align my life with His will for me because only He knows the perfect path for me to take so that I can be with Tony again. I'm trying and failing a lot at this, but my desire is there and my determination to pick myself up and do it again and again and again only increases with each fall.

There has been a miracle through these nine months that is within me. It can't be seen by the world but it fuels every day of my life now. My growing heart is helping me to find my place in this world. I hope I can humble myself enough to let it keep growing until I am with Tony again. One day I will be able to look back at this life and say, "It was worth it. I'd do it all over again."

Wednesday, August 2, 2017

Life isn't fair/ Cars and destinations

Okay, I know this sounds like a downer post.... but I promise it's going somewhere happy :)

Life isn't fair.

We start life by jumping in a car with great anticipation for our final destination. As we drive along in life, we make sure we keep our car in the best condition we can by having frequent maintenance so that we can reach our destination smoothly, without any unexpected bumps, turns, or delays. We have the oil changed, we wash the outside and vacuum the interior, we rotate the tires, and we keep our fluids topped off. All effort to keep this car moving is expended during our long drive.

Of course, even when we do all we can to keep our car running smoothly, that pesky "check engine" light still comes on from time to time. Sometimes it comes on every couple of years but we can usually manage. The fixes can often be minor, and if they are major, we think that every couple of years having to fix something on our car isn't too bad. A short delay in our trip can usually be managed without too much difficulty, and we get back on the road.

But when that light seems to come on over and over again in a short time frame, it's hard not to get frustrated or even angry. If we've been keeping up on our maintenance and fixing small problems from time to time, why isn't it working properly? Why does our car AGAIN have to be delayed and put on another course than our original route? It really just isn't fair.

Back when Tony and I had just both finished school and Landon, Emma, and Lily were little ones, we had a car that just seemed to enjoy watching us pour money into it. We kept up on the maintenance and always fixed issues as soon as we noticed them, yet all our hard work (and the money we really didn't have at the time!) seemed to be thrown down the garbage disposal. It finally hit a point that there was no longer anything more we could do and we had to find a new car.

Buying a new car was really difficult at the time. Our budget was tight as the economic recession really put a damper on the job market and Tony could only find work continuing at his job as a student (still with student-level pay). Looking for a car within our budget was difficult, and even the thought of having a higher car payment stressed me out. But we knew our car could no longer get us to our destinations: either we would need to sit and no longer continue forward or we had to take a leap of faith (with some hard work as well) and go ahead and change our car and route.

Spoiler: it all worked out! Tony shortly after got hired as a full-time teacher and we were able to make our payments with no stress. And a new car was needed for more than one reason; other than the fact that our old car no longer worked, I became pregnant with Sophie during this process and we needed a larger car. While changing cars I learned that even when we are doing everything we are asked, life will still through curve balls at us that have nothing to do with our "life performance." But I also saw for myself that finding a new solution and taking that leap of faith brought blessings.

Whether you have a spouse that has died like me, or whether you are dealing with job loss, infertilty, depresssion, marital stress/ divorce, poor health, loneliness, strained family relationships, lack of true friends, etc., no one is exempt from suffering. We will all suffer, and sometimes, in our darkest moments when we're our most broken, we cry out that life isn't fair. If we are trying our best each day to work towards our goals and still feel a looming cloud overhead and a down-pour of continual rain, it isn't because we aren't doing "good enough."

You are doing good enough. And you are being blessed, it just may take awhile to see the beauty that comes in our brokenness. Down in our low points but with faces glancing upward, we will see that life isn't fair. It isn't fair because even though we are imperfect, God loves us and has provided a Savior to save us from our weaknesses and to always be warm and welcoming arms around our sobbing shoulders. All we have to do is trust Him and continue to try. The trade-off hardly seems "fair" to God, as our contribution is minuscule compared to Christ's. The life God has provided us isn't fair, it is beautiful because God loves us so much that all will be made right again. Fairness seems insignificant to the beauty that He offers and gives freely.

Whatever difficulties you had, have, or will experience will not be fair. But they can be beautiful in a different way if we allow ourselves to keep our eyes toward our destination. Keep moving forward and changing cars and routes, and embrace the delays as they come. Eventually we will all get to our destinations, but if we can trust God and follow Him whichever way He leads, we will find the beauty in life.

Sunday, July 23, 2017

How can I...?

  With God, we can do anything.

It's almost been two months since I've posted.

I am still here! :)

Between enjoying our summer schedule and working on writing a chapter for a collaborative book for widows (more on that soon!), I've been doing a lot of soul searching since my last post.

Life's changes for my family have settled in and we are getting better adjusted to our "new normal." Instead of looking back and longing for what we once enjoyed, I am continually trying harder to face forward with an appreciation for the foundations my marriage with Tony has laid for the obstacles in life ahead. I find myself more grateful for the time I had with Tony, and my longing to be with him again increases with every new sunrise-- but the longing isn't in despair or anxiousness, it is now a desire to find where my path in life needs to be and who I need to become so that we can be together again.

Of course, with any close associations with death, it often leaves us wondering, "Why am I still here? Why was it not me?" These inevitable questions have been on my mind and I've done a lot of deep thinking on it.

I haven't found an answer yet; in fact, I don't think I will while I'm alive. And I realized I don't need the answer.

My questions have changed to some that are actually helpful to my searching soul, "How can I be better? How can I increase in strength to live a good life?" While journaling and reading at night, I came across a scripture that says, "And inasmuch as they were humble they might be made strong, and blessed from on high..." (Doctrine and Covenants 1:28).

So, when we are humble, we receive strength, a strength not of our own but from God. Humility is often defined as not being vain or prideful, and in the context of faith it is a submission to God's will, or recognizing that He is our Father and we are His children. We can show respect to God by living His laws and by giving due credit to Him in our life. When we are blessed, it is because God blessed us. When we grow and learn, it is by His help in our life, etc.

A phrase I often say to my kids popped into my mind one night while journaling. My kids can almost finish my sentence when I say, "God loves you so much, and He also loves everyone else just like He loves you." I think when we understand that God loves everyone equally and then we act on that thought and treat others with the love and respect God shows us, this can be another way we can increase in humility. We can take that even one step further and try to change our thoughts toward others and try to feel more love to everyone we interact with in our daily lives. This is hard! And this is why humbling ourselves opens our hearts and allows us to love deeper, which in turn increases our strength to stand strong during the difficult times in our lives.

It is amazing that God loves us and will always help us in our times of need. Asking for help is another way we increase in humility. We recognize our inability to do it on our own and know that the only way to live a fulfilled and happy life is to be strengthened by others. I know firsthand from lots of experiences that asking for help is very difficult, but that it has increased my gratitude for the family and friends in my life and my resolve to be better in a way I wouldn't experience otherwise.

That ties into my other question of "How can I be better?" Here is the opportunity to step back and look at our lives, trying to find what our motivations are behind our actions. Why do we do what we do? (That's a mouthful!) When we discover what our motivations are, it is easy to pinpoint where our corrections can be made. Then we can use our search for humility to channel our motives in the right direction. Starting with a good heart is the biggest part, as when we want to be a light in the world then our actions will follow suit.

When you feel discouraged at the end of your day, and don't feel you measure up to who you want to be (which is your best self and no one else!), sit down and write what you are struggling with and where you want to improve. And on the days you feel great and I strong, write down what was good in your day and find the reasons behind it. Then look up and feel grateful for the opportunity to try again tomorrow and for the strength that's been given to you.

Keep moving forward! Keep doing your best! God loves you and is proud of the big and small wins in each day. Nothing is more important to Him than you!

Thursday, June 1, 2017

Six months without you/ Ten years turn to forever

Dear Tony,

Today marks six months that you have been gone. Six months have passed since you left and they carried your body away from me. The sheet covering you made me want to vomit because my agony was so overwhelming. Later that week when I closed your casket, I had to be alone so no one could see me gaze at you, longing that this was all just a dream.

But it's not a dream. In six months there has been a lot of change. We made it through two seasons, through the school year, through holidays and birthdays, through baseball season. I gave birth to our beautiful son Caleb. His little body is so strong and healthy and perfect. He has your lips and your nose. He is starting to coo and giggle, and every time he grins, I think of you. I think of you snuggling with him on our bed, talking to me about your day while we split a pint of Ben and Jerry's ice cream. I wish you could be here with him, with all of us.

In six months we have made it through a lot of tears, many from me, and so many from our children. They ache for you. They want to make you proud and I assure them that you are still and will always be so incredibly proud of them. They are such good kids, Tony. I see so much of you in every single one of them. I've had to change as a parent, and it's been difficult. I'm now both mom and dad to them. On some days I appreciate stepping into that roll as I learn new things about myself and learn to connect with our kids in a different way. But there are those days when I lay the kids in bed and wonder if I am enough for them. I know I'm not--- but that because you are their father and are here for them that together we can be enough and God will make up the difference. I'm not sure how it all works out but my trust in this whole plan is as strong as my desire to see you again.

I've also had to change as a person. When we married, we changed together as we were forming our new identity as a couple. Now that you are gone and it's just me, I've had to find who I am all over again. I have a long way to go and I hope those around me can continue to be patient with me, especially our kids. Through all this, I know God intends for me to change for the better; I hope I am starting to do that and that he is pleased in my efforts, and that you are proud of me, too.

Next week we celebrate our 10th anniversary! So far, I've been okay through all the celebrations and holidays since you've gone but our anniversary, especially the decade milestone, is hard without you here. When you died, all my hopes and dreams for us in this life died with you. I grieve you and I grieve the loss of our dreams together. Part of my heart died with you as well and now I am trying to strengthen and stretch the half that is left.

On the days that are hardest, I wonder if you will still love me when I die. I know it is so silly. I miss your reassuring voice and the sweet notes you often sent to me. The small things hurt the most: hearing a song on the radio, seeing your car in the driveway, watching other dads play at the park with their kids. I miss so much about you, even the obnoxious things you would do to tease me! I miss the most watching you with our kids and seeing how much you love being their father. And I sure miss talking about anything and everything while squeezing your left hand tightly into mine: our hands are a perfect fit. When I see you next, I will throw my arms around you and won't ever let go. I miss you so much and wonder if you miss me, too.

Ten years ago, if I knew this is where life would take us, I would choose you all over again. Even with the agony of grief deep inside I know we have each other forever. It will all be worth it. It will all work out. God's plan is perfect and what keeps me afloat is my unfaltering trust in Him. One day, I will look back on these moments with deep gratitude and with prayers of thanksgiving because they will lead me back to you, and most importantly, back to God.

I'm sending this letter to you and these pictures: the first from ten years ago and one of our beautiful family now. Maybe you will visit me in my dreams? I just want to hold your hand and see you smile at me with your perfect blue eyes and to hear your voice, even if just for a moment.

I love you even more each day.


Sunday, May 21, 2017

The battles we fight

This past weekend my kids and I had the wonderful opportunity to attend a family camp in Aspen Grove for single parent families. We met several other families in similar circumstances; there were especially so many young mothers without a husband due to a variety of factors.

While our kids were in age-group activities, the adults had lots of time to enjoy relaxing and visiting with each other. I spoke with several different women who were all single mothers. Some had lost their husbands to death, some had physically or emotionally abusive husbands, and some even had their husbands leave their family completely for varying reasons.

Listening to one woman's story, tears began streaming down my cheeks. She had left her husband and home and now was in protective services to keep her and her children safe. My heart just ached for her and I couldn't help but cry in front of this woman I just met (and for those who know me well, I am not a public crier--- it's really ugly to see me cry). She asked to know my story as well, and after explaining my circumstances to her, she choked up and I could see in her eyes the hurt she felt for me as well. This same scenario happened many times over the weekend, many different stories of hurt and pain and suffering were shared and compassion and understanding grew in our hearts.

Many times I had women tell me how much more difficult my situation must be because of the ages and number of my children, that I must be so much stronger than them because of the added weight of caring and raising for so many little ones. My answer to them was this, "One child or twenty children, or even no children, it all is just plain hard." We would talk some more and then a realization would come that life really is just hard no matter what has happened in your life. I don't have a more difficult life and I am not stronger than anyone else. We do not need to compare or be frustrated with ourselves because we think someone else has it "harder" and seems to be coping well. Comparison only brings us down and we begin to belittle ourselves that we aren't fighting as well as "so and so" because their situation seems more severe. It isn't.

Our trials are not contingent upon other people's trials. Seeing someone enduring a "public" trial (where it is easy to see) does not make those private trials less important to fight or less validated in its difficulty.

During the last several months, I've learned of so many heart-wrenching situations that people are living with right now. Almost all of these difficult trials are quiet; their friends or neighbors or even other family members are unaware of their private struggles, most which are from forces out of their control. We really are all facing (or will face) serious difficulties in our life that make us want to cry out in pain for relief, some so severe that it feels like there is no hope in the midst of it all.

When you hear the phrase, "Be kind to everyone you meet, for we all are fighting quiet battles," I think we MUST listen and act accordingly. We each will fight battle after battle while on this Earth so that we can each win our own war. Some may fight battles with no relief in between and some may have time to buoy up their strength before the next battle. Some battles will last a life time and some may be a short moment in time. But most battles are quiet, fought in the heart with little opportunity to find others to share in their woes and put on the armor to strengthen their defense.

So please know that your battles are valid in your life. Don't ever belittle the battles you fight, for you have difficult things that you can and will overcome to help you win your war and become who God knows you truly are.

There is one similarity that we all share in common in our stories regardless of our circumstances: we can all cope and heal through the power and love of the Atonement of Jesus Christ. No matter the sizes of our mountains to climb, let us all find encouragement and strength from each other that we can do it and that all things are possible when we rely on positive people around us, and above all, in God.

More thoughts on this topic written a year ago:
Comparison is the thief of joy

Reasons on why I publicly share my battles:
To love, to hold.... and to share

Sunday, April 23, 2017

The pain of letting them hurt

My little ginger Tanner (age 3) loves to say the prayer at every meal and begs to pray every night when we kneel as a family before bedtime. Out of nowhere this past week he has been praying for his daddy to get better and come home. He doesn't want his daddy to be in heaven anymore.

Sophie's (age 4) big brown eyes well up with tears whenever we talk about her daddy being sick and going to the hospital. She always holds it in as her chin quivers and then she hugs her teddy bear made from Tony's sweaters in one arm and grabs me tightly around my neck in her other arm.

After receiving her special book of pictures and a letter from her daddy, Lily (age 6) has me read the letter from Tony to her every night before I tuck her in. Every night. Always. She smiles with a faint sorrowful longing in her clear blue eyes.

Emma (age 7) asks several questions about her daddy every day. At night she always gets very sad and sometimes begins to cry, and she doesn't understand why. Same goes for when she hears certain songs that Tony would play frequently around the house. She hates to cry in front of others but sometimes can't hold it in any longer.

Playing basketball and baseball just like his dad did as a child is all Landon (age 8) wants to do as he grows up. At baseball tryouts a few weeks ago, he looked around at all the fathers present and then turned to me and whispered that he wished his dad could be there, just as he was the last time he played.

Little Amelia (15 months old) doesn't understand much of Tony's absence, but she loves any man with a beard. It's as if she is searching for Tony and the comfort of his bushy face that she used to rub her sweet cheeks against.

Day to day, my kids do well and have adjusted the best I could expect. There is a lot of laughter in our home and many good moments of reminiscing about the past as well as excitement for the future. Life has to resume and they are a good reminder of that for me. But there is still a lot of aching in their hearts. 

And the aching just plain hurts... and a lot at certain times. When the pain hits my kids in a bigger wave, I immediately want to react and "fix" their pain. I want to give them a distraction so that the pain subsides quickly, so it doesn't linger and rest comfortably in their heart. Really, I want so much to just take all the pain away and make everything all better again, as if it was all a bad dream.

The reality is that it is not just a bad dream. It really happened: Tony died. Nothing can change that. As I continue to weave myself through grieving I rely a lot on my Heavenly Father and my faith in His plan to cope. But turning to God doesn't take my pain away; in fact, my faith in Him and turning my sorrows to Him doesn't fix my heart at all. All the sadness and at times, feeling of despair, stay right with me but what God does for me is send me comfort. He doesn't lessen the blow of Tony's death and the intense emotions of missing him, instead His arms blanket around me and give me peace. The pain remains the same but God makes it more bearable because I know I am not alone and that I can keep going. His love motivates me and allows the pain to help change me for the better.

Just as my Father in Heaven wraps his arms around me, I do the same with my children. When they ache, all I can do is hug them and rock them as long as they need. Sometimes we don't even say anything to each other; holding them in my arms is all they need. I can't take their pain away, and if I was able to do so, I still wouldn't. Because they feel so deeply and have experienced such a difficult event (and it is a continual event for us), they have learned to persevere. They know that hard things happen to everyone in life that cannot be avoided but can be overcome with faith and trust. They understand that God has a plan for their life and that their sorrow has turned them outward instead of inward. Compassion and empathy are becoming a part of their character. What mother would I be if I took this experience and learning away from them? How could God be the perfect parent He is if He didn't allow us to struggle and change through those experiences? 

As hard as it is for me to see my kids undergo such a difficulties, how much harder it must be for Him to see us struggle to wrestle with our emotions. Oh, how He wishes He could take our pains away and shelter us from all the hurt we feel! I can only imagine. But how thankful I am that God lets us feel, that He helps us to learn and grow, and that our life here on earth is not in vain! 

Whatever heartache you may be experiencing in your life right now, let it seep in and then fully feel it. Then turn heavenward and let our Savior wrap His arms around you. Feel the comfort of His love and allow His motivating love to push you forward to grow and learn from your pains.

I promise you that it works. 

Sunday, April 9, 2017

Because He lives

My darling new baby boy Caleb is perfect in every way. At night I stare at his sweet chubby face in my quiet moonlit room as he sleeps peacefully next to me. I cannot help but think that Caleb would not be a part of our family if Tony hadn't been sick. I'm not sure he would have been born if Tony was still here; it's a difficult thought for my mind to process but there is much gratitude within it, as I know without a doubt that God has a plan for my family. Seeing the empty space in our bed where Tony would sleep makes my heart drop every time. And then I turn to my left and see Caleb tucked safely in my arms and I feel so much hope-- hope for his future, hope for the future of all my kids, hope for the life ahead of me, and especially, hope for an eternity at Tony's side, this time with me tucked safely in his strong and gentle arms.

Ten years ago when Tony proposed to me, we watched our favorite animated movie together, "Beauty and the Beast." We both grew up watching this movie and Tony always would joke that I was his Belle and that he was the Beast (thankfully he only had a temper as a young child and is now very patient!). The music, the story line, and the magic in the movie had us coin it as "our movie" and upon hearing of the new live action release, we planned to see it together opening night. Well I didn't see it opening weekend (I had a baby instead!) but I did finally see it this past week. Feelings of excitement, nostalgia, and even dread clouded my mind so much that I almost didn't go. Tony was supposed to be there with me to see it and now he can't be. I went anyway knowing Tony wants me to enjoy and move forward with hope in life, so I did. 

As most, I really enjoyed the movie... but I almost fell apart at the end. Even though I knew the Beast would die and then be transformed to his true self after his death, I died inside watching that moment. Belle has the lifeless Beast in her arms, clinging to him and expressing her love for him and it took every fiber of my being to not break down and sob. All I could think of was the night Tony died and I held him in my arms, begging in my heart for him not to be gone. It was too fresh for me, too soon, yet I needed to allow these deeply painful feelings to surface in a small way. 

And then it came, and I knew it would come. The Beast regains new life and transforms into his true self, and then true joy can be felt between Belle and the Beast as they have broken the spell and overcome the evil within. What a beautiful and powerful story that I've known since a child. But there is an even better story that is true and is not a fairy tale.

One day, Tony will be whole again, transformed into a perfect state, free of his earthly pains and sorrows. He will become his best self that is only possible after learning true charity and he will overcome death. One day, Tony will be perfected and will stand with me. And the best part of all of this : We can all become transformed and live again.

Because Jesus Christ lives, we can practice charity in this life and improve ourselves. We can look to our Savior for any mistakes or sorrow we have and He will be at our aid. Because of Christ, we can overcome the bonds of death and live again, even live as eternal beings. He broke the chains of death so that we may do the same. Because of Jesus, we can live with our families and with Him and our Father in an eternal family. We can all have joy that is everlasting.

Because He lives, so will Tony. And so will I, and my children and my family and my friends. And so can you.

Sunday, March 26, 2017

Spring has sprung

Last Sunday, on the last day of winter, our family joyously welcomed Caleb Anthony to our family.

It has been a long winter, mostly because it was our first season to get through without Tony here. I anxiously looked forward to spring, for the dreary winter to be over, and for the beautiful new life that spring would bring us, our perfect baby boy.

What a healing balm Caleb has been to our souls already! I saw it in all my children's eyes when they held Caleb for the first time. I catch them snuggling with him and staring at his sweet face. When Caleb was born and they immediately placed him on me on his back, he stretched out his arms, turned his face toward me and stared deep into my eyes for several minutes. He knows he is here for me and all my babies. I told my older children that Caleb really is a gift from God. He knew Tony would be gone and that we needed Caleb to help us heal.

The sorrow of winter has begun to melt as spring sweeps in to refresh our hearts. The new life in Caleb reminds me really how much Heavenly Father loves us and wants us to return to Him. We are given winter to turn our hearts and minds toward Him and then have the sweet blessing of a beautiful spring, just as Tony's death has brought me closer to my Savior as I seek Him out and learn of Him to find peace and lasting joy. Winter will come again, but if we remember God and cling to Him, spring will melt our pains and sorrows away and beautiful peace will rest in our hearts. The pain of missing Tony isn't gone, yet it has been softened just a little for this moment in my life. Deep sorrow and heartache will continue to flood my heart and mind for moments in the future--- but through my experiences I've had I know the calming peace of Jesus Christ will rest upon me and ease the burden continually in the future as I need it.

As Caleb was born, an amazing medical staff circled around me in support with loving glances. My mom said it looked as if angels were gathered all around the room. I'm sure they were not the only ones in the room with us. I have been blessed with a constant flow of peace, and I know that everything will be alright. Heavenly Father loves us and will never abandon us. I know that Tony still loves me deeply and will in some way be a huge part in raising Caleb and all our children. Oh, how I wish Tony could be here and to see the sweet smile on his face as he held our newborns with such strong yet gently arms. I now imagine those same arms wrapped around me with that same smile as we start this new season. What a blessing it is to know I will see Tony again, thanks to our Savior and Redeemer!

Tuesday, March 14, 2017

Bitter and sweet

In less than four months since Tony's passing, I've had a long list of things I wanted to accomplish before our baby is born. Tonight I finished the last item on my list.

It has been such a brief time since Tony died, the months have gone by quickly yet it has felt as if its been years since I've last seen him. I feel this is a difficult part of grieving as reality doesn't quite seem real and my heart feels confused at times.

As my days pass, I think to myself, "Is this really how life is now? When is Tony coming home so I can ask his advice, tell him a funny story, or hold his hand?" It's difficult to wrap my mind around our new world without Tony physically here, even though he has been gone for a season. But on nights like tonight, when I check an important item off my list, the reality settles in for a short time. As difficult as it is to feel the deep grief of loss and the sorrow of lost opportunities together in this life, it is also a remarkably refreshing cleanse of the heart and mind. It is bitter and it is sweet.

We have had wonderful service from many to help our family remember him. A dear friend and her mother sewed teddy bears out of Tony's sweaters (the kids call them their "Daddy teddies" and hold them close each night). Another sweet person offered to make quilts out of Tony's t-shirts. A neighbor is compiling all the audio recordings I've found from Tony, some which are priceless to me. I've made individual photo books for each of the kids with pictures of them with their daddy to keep in their beds with them. And my last project, all the wonderful stories and uplifting words you have shared with my family over the past year and a half have finally been compiled in a book along with letters and memorabilia from Tony. All these things mean the world for me to have for our children as these will become their memories as they grow. It's a relief to have it all compiled safely but difficult to see that it's actually finished. Again, it is bitter and sweet. I feel that the chapter of Tony's liveliness is now closed and ended, almost as it has made his death final in this life.

Baby Caleb Anthony will be joining our family before the end of the month. If you see me around, you will know that I am definitely ready to have this baby- my ever growing belly is stretched to its limit! The day of his birth is quickly approaching and as excited as I am to hold Caleb in my arms and feel the unique and special spirit of a new baby in my home, I am also very nervous. I am nervous to give birth without Tony by my side. I am nervous that I won't measure up to the mother I need to be for all my kids. I am nervous that the reality of losing Tony will sink in-- and stay.

Tony has always been such an amazing father. One thing I love about him is that Tony loves to hold our newborns, almost so that we would jokingly fight over whose turn it was to cuddle with the baby! Many of my favorite pictures of Tony are of him snuggling a baby in his arms on the couch after he drifts off to sleep for a nap. I love seeing my babies peacefully sleeping with my biggest baby :) I loved caring for Tony and stroking his hair while he napped with our little ones. I am nervous the heartache will feel too much for me to bear. The loss of future memories made in this life hurts so much sometimes.

My nervous worries may make this new change in our life bitter in some ways--- but I'm learning and trusting that they can become more sweet to me than bitter. Even though Tony has died, his spirit lives and he will live again as a fully perfect being! I know that while trying my best and trusting in my Father in Heaven, that if I allow Christ to make up my losses that those losses will turn into blessings. Those blessings can include joy and purpose in this life even without my sweetheart here. If I allow it and humble myself, God can transform me through the pain I experience and I can be more loving, thankful, and wise. And the most beautiful blessing of all will be when Tony and I can be reunited and I can then see how much he helped me every step of the way. I hope to tell him that I took those bittersweet moments and allowed the sweet to overcome the bitter, just as my Heavenly Father has intended for us all to do.

Sunday, February 19, 2017

I am glad the heart aches

This past week has marked 10 years since Tony proposed to me. It seems the fog is slowly starting to lift and my heart is aching more for him.

You wouldn't think so being around me. Sometimes I catch people off guard as I am still my "normal" self: laughing, smiling, talking about any topic, making plans for my future. And it is true, life continues forward and day to day I can find so much happiness around me (I have seven big reasons!). But I don't act this way because I am in any way "over" Tony. I miss him dearly.  I miss him being alive and well (like in this picture taken 10 years ago) but I find myself now even missing him sick. While Tony was ill, I began grieving the loss of him, as the Tony we all knew, as our life changed much as he slowly faded. So now I find myself not only grieving my Tony, but also missing taking care of him when he was sick and not quite himself. I am thankful he no longer has to bear the burden of such a broken body--- but I do miss caring for him because I love him in all his forms- sick or healthy.

Often many will remark about moving forward and looking for companionship and help as I raise our children, as it is a big burden to bear. I do miss having Tony here as my husband and as the father to our babies, but above all I miss HIM. I miss his deep laugh as he would hunch over and squint his clear blue eyes and smile with his perfect lips. I miss his grin as he would gently tease me and hold me in his good arm. I miss watching him rock our babies to sleep and then beg if he could just hold them longer instead of focusing on sleep training. I miss going to the store and it taking twice as long because he had to go out of his way to say hello and have a full conversation with anyone he knew-- or anyone he didn't know, too! I could go on and on for pages about the many wonderful, and even the frustrating things, I miss about Tony. No matter what, I will always miss him and everything that he is and nothing can fill that void. Life will continue and the grief will lesson, but I will never stop missing him until we are together again.

I am thankful for all the help my kids and I continue to receive in many various forms of kindness. Please know how much it brightens my kids' days and helps alleviate the new stresses that we can have. This is the hardest difficulty I have ever faced, and it is only the beginning, so your love and prayers are much appreciated. I have connected and met with other young widows with small children--- there are so many of us in the world. My situation is not unique or unheard of, yet you continue to reach out and "mourn with those who mourn." Thank you for being my friend and especially a friend to my children. This single parenting is tough stuff!

Recently I have been reflecting on (and trying not to dwell, though) the many years it potentially will be until Tony and I are reunited. Being 29, I have a lot of life ahead of me and a lot of time to improve myself and strengthen my promises I have made with God and those I have made with Tony. I deeply want to return with honor to my Heavenly Father, as well as to my husband, for our marriage is not broken by the stripes of death, but can continue forever. I can still continue to be a wife to Tony even though he isn't physically here. The one sure way I can be a good wife to him still is to be a good mother to our children, which I feel I struggle with lately as my patience is fleeting and my belly is ever growing this new baby. At night I reflect on the day and all the different emotions that were felt in our home, and I hate to admit that there can be a lot of chaos and not as much peace and patience as I would like. I yearn for Tony's gentle guidance but I cannot feel it yet.

So what can we do when we feel stretched to our limits and disappointed with our daily performance? What do we do when all we have prayed for has been answered differently than we wanted, or hasn't been answered yet? One thing is all we can and need to do: turn to our Savior, Jesus Christ. When we feel that heaven or our Father seem far away, Christ is there to lift us up and ease our burdens. He doesn't solve our problems or take the aching away, but He can ease our sufferings by sharing the load if we let Him. With the absence of Tony, I realize how much more I need to rely on my Savior and I am beginning to see how much He really loves me. Jesus allows us to keep the hurt and pain and frustrations but teaches us how to endure well, for if they were taken away, so much love and joy would be lost in our lives as we could not learn and grow. He is our partner to share in all of life's sorrows and joys; how wonderful that God loves us so much that He sent Christ to help us with everything we need.

When we turn to our Savior and trust Him, life becomes more simple and we more easily recognize Heavenly Father's love for us. This is my focus right now in teaching my kids; all you need to do is trust God and He will take care of us. We may not understand or agree with the way our life is heading but when we trust in Him the burden of worries and anger slip away and peace can be your constant companion.

I am glad the heart aches, for it is a witness of the deep and profound love we feel and it helps us to turn to Jesus Christ, which is where true joy is for us all.

Saturday, January 21, 2017

After the storm comes a rainbow

My sweet Sophie, 4 years old, painted a picture of a rainbow earlier this week with her watercolors. When she was finished, she proudly held up her hard work and with a big grin said, "I made this for Daddy!"

We placed the picture in a ziplock bag and set off to place it at Tony's grave. Unfortunately with the cold weather, his headstone cannot be placed until the spring so we tucked her beautiful gift at his unmarked grave onto the wreath holder. Sophie was so proud and wanted a picture taken of her, of course.

As she was painting her rainbow picture, I immediately thought of the story of Noah and the ark. Sophie had also painted me a matching rainbow, so I wrote "God's promises" on it and placed it on the fridge. When my older kids came home from school they quickly noticed the cute picture Sophie made. "What do you mean by 'God's promises,' Mom?" asked my oldest daughter, Emma (7). Before I even had a chance to open my mouth, Landon (8) piped in excitedly that he sure knew what it meant, and he wanted to give a lesson to our family that night about rainbows and promises.

Sure enough, a few hours later Landon rounded us all up for Family Home Evening (this is on Tuesday, I had failed to have it the night before but my little "man of the house" was making sure we still held it this week!). He passed the picture of the rainbow around and told the story of the prophet Noah to his younger siblings and then began to expound on promises that Heavenly Father makes to us. Baptism, temple covenants, and eternal families were all things Landon knew were promises we make to God, and in turn, God makes to us. Let's just say I was one proud mamma that day, and I was humbled by my beautiful children and their sweet hearts. I worry so much sometimes that I have much to teach them as they grow, but in reality, they are truly teaching me.

The rainbow picture will keep the coveted fridge spot for awhile. As I pass by it several times a day (I need to stay away from the ice cream more!), I reflect on all the promises I have made with Tony and together, as well as individuals, we have made with our Heavenly Father. What glorious promises I am reminded of when I look at the rainbow, and I can ground myself to remember God's Great Plan of Happiness. There is no trial or hardship too great that can surpass the peace and joy that comes from striving to live as God has asked us. I can really promise that, and I really do know eternal happiness WILL be gained if we do all that we can and rely on our Savior to fill in our inadequacies. If there is one thing I have began to better understand this past seven weeks, this is it!

After the storm comes a rainbow. Today we had a big snowstorm in the morning. It was dreary to go out in all the wet, and the sky was cloudy and grey, heavy and cold. But sure enough, the clouds cleared and the sun came out shining brighter than it had all week. What comfort we can receive if we recognize during the rain or snow that a rainbow or the sun will come again, and we will then have a deeper appreciation, even a greater desire, to see it and enjoy it.

Since Tony died seven weeks ago, a subtle grey sky has settled upon my heart. It is not a depression but the looming of a rain cloud above my head that is waiting to pour down on me. I know the hard work of grieving is ahead of me, and that the time to begin processing it is here. In order to help, I've scheduled a visit with a grief counselor to begin this process, for I know I need to be armed with all the help I can get when the storm pours over my soul. It may sound strange, but I am wanting to go through this since there will be a rainbow at the end, and peace can fill my heart. I long to feel the warmth of the sun. My appreciation for so many things in life has deepened, and my heart needs to begin to heal and grow again. Going into this storm, I think the half of my heart that is still left with me can heal and grow, even bigger than it was before.

I promised Tony I would keep writing even after he was gone. I am not wanting to be too personal, but am feeling a great need to share my feelings and experiences with you, for whatever benefit that my be, even if it is just theraputic to write down my thoughts for myself. So plan on hearing from me over the next several months as I sort through my ache of missing Tony and learn to patiently wait for my rainbow to come.

Thank you again to all who serve us so selflessly and send words of love and encouragement. My kids and I love you all!