One Year of Home Ownership

One Year of Home Ownership

March 7 marks one year of home ownership for us. One year filled with a lot of ups and downs, fun and reality.


We just learned how to replace the pressure tank in our well system. Yay for learning, boo for the cost of parts. But I figure that after having replaced the hot water heater, submersible well pump, pressure tank, circuit breakers to the well pump and the inner workings of all toilets (along with disinfecting the well and other myriad water-related chores), we should be all set for water in this house for as long as we live in it. That’s a silver lining, right?

While the repairs might drive us crazy sometimes, and there are so many things we want to do with the house that we just can’t afford (after all, we NEED a new roof, and that’s going to take every penny we can scrounge), but at the same time I often remind myself to just take it all in. I sit down at the end of a long day and remember back to when we were aching to own our own space. And here it is. All ours. And it’s looking pretty nice — all painted, furniture mostly situated, most boxes unpacked.

It’s home. Cozy. Comfortable. Hygge.

House under snow

There are complex feelings about it too though. This was a dream we’ve had for a long time, one we thought we would share the joy with Husband’s brother, who is no longer with us. So it’s sad, that we can’t share this abundant blessing with one we love so much. But it’s also a piece of our “new normal” as they call it — a place without constant reminders of the one we miss. A place he was never a part of. Both a blessing and a curse.

So on this day, I will rejoice in the blessings bestowed on us by a loving Father, and I will mourn the loss of the one we can’t share it with. But most of all, I will give thanks. For the Lord is good.

Marked by grief

Marked by grief

We had just celebrated our second anniversary when we lost Michael, my brother-in-law.

Marriage isn’t always smooth sailing, but ours was good and God provided and we were growing.

And then such a loss. Grief marked each and every day.

We just celebrated our fourth anniversary. And this weekend marks two years since losing Michael.

Half of our marriage has been marked by grief more than any other emotion — sadness more than happiness, pain more than joy.

And next year, it will be more than half. The percentage will grow with each passing year until we will have been married enduring the “after” Michael’s passing as compared to the happiness “before”.

I hope and pray that with each passing year while the longing doesn’t end, the pain will fade. The heartache will ease. Someday, maybe life will be marked by more good days than bad. By more joy than mourning.

It seems to be happening already, in fits and starts. But the reality of loss always comes crashing back into our life.

Sometimes I want to scream at God that it’s not fair. I didn’t sign up for this. This isn’t what life — marriage — was supposed to look like. I never agreed to this!

But the pain isn’t given at the hand of God, the comfort, the peace, the joy — those are the gifts of God.

We live in a broken world.

I’m ready for it to be healed. Yet it isn’t time yet. I long for it, but I wait.

I’m older than Michael now. 28. He was 27.

It’s a strange feeling, because he was a year older than me and now I am a year older than him.

Michael came into the world during Hurricane Gloria, and he left us amid Hurricane Sandy.

Then a great and powerful wind tore the mountains apart and shattered the rocks before the Lord, but the Lord was not in the wind. After the wind there was an earthquake, but the Lord was not in the earthquake. After the earthquake came a fire, but the Lord was not in the fire. And after the fire came a gentle whisper. – 1 Kings 19:11-12

The Lord isn’t in the storm, He is the still, small voice speaking comfort and peace.

My barista

My barista

StarbucksHusband and I made a quick day trip to Washington DC on Sunday. We needed to pick up some supplies from Ikea for our kitchen renovation before Dad comes at the end of the month. Every time we go on a road trip (no matter how short), we always stop for Starbucks. We don’t treat ourselves to this when we’re in town, because we simply don’t have the money. But when we’re on the road? We splurge.

The problem is that I never know quite what to order. Oh, I know I want a chai latte. But I don’t know how many pumps or what kind of milk or any of that. And every time I hesitate when ordering, I feel this pang of grief. Every time.

You see, Michael was a Starbucks barista, a good one. Husband and I would stop in his Starbucks every chance we got to say hi and get a quick drink. The first time I ordered chai, he took a moment to think and said, you won’t want it full strength. He came up with exactly the right combination for my tastes. I never asked him what it was, he just remembered and gave it to me every time.

Now he’s gone. And I don’t know how I like my Starbucks. And it kind of hurts a little every time.

An enduring loss

An enduring loss

I went to a funeral recently. It was hard, harder than I first thought it would be. Charlie was a dear friend of Husband’s family for many years, but his declining health meant that his passing was not unexpected.

But at the graveside service, it was so painfully evident that loss is enduring, long-lasting, never truly ending. You see, Charlie is buried next to Michael.

So we stood there, between the same two live oak trees that we had stood between in October of 2012. It was sunny and birds were chirping, though. An utterly different feel than the chilly wet weather surrounding Michael’s passing when Hurricane Sandy swept through. There was joy and smiles and prayers as we remembered Charlie. It didn’t feel that way when we buried Michael. It was a searing loss, a part of ourselves torn away forever.

I took a moment after the service to give Carol, Charlie’s wife, a hug. She took me in her grasp and looked me right in the eye. I want to tell you, she said. I’m proud of you. I saw how you handled everything a year ago. A young wife, so young in your marriage for such a hard lesson. But I saw how you handled everything, and I’m proud of you.

I can’t express what her words meant to me; I am recording them here so that I will never forget.

These past 18 months since Michael passed have been the hardest of my life. I pray that I live through them with grace and compassion. I pray that my marriage is strengthened by the hardship, not torn. I pray for healing and faith that goes beyond what any of us could imagine. And I pray for peace that passes all understanding.

A strange beast

A strange beast

A thought from Franchesca at Small Bird Studios:

The holidays are a strange beast. On the one hand they are my favorite, favorite time of year. It’s almost like people in general are friendlier, more giving, more forgiving, more compassionate. There is also this unseen magic that fills the streets… On the other hand, they have a way of highlighting all the painful wounds of grief that are so easily ripped open this time of year.

It’s true. I enter this holiday season with equal measures of anticipation and struggle…for so many reasons. Living in a temporary house, with the knowledge that we have to move out before the New Year (with nowhere to go), trying (unsuccessfully) to buy a home, soldiering on without Michael in our lives, celebrating holidays so far away from family.

So many good things, so many hard things. Such a plethora of questions, desires, and hurts on our hearts right now. But above them all, the will to follow our Lord with joy and thanksgiving.

This season is, indeed, a strange beast.

The pit of my stomach

The pit of my stomach

I think it was a sort of visceral reaction. I was shaking — imperceptibly to most, I’m sure, but I could feel it. My muscles tensed, exhaustion set in but fear kept me alert.

Really, it wasn’t a big deal. But to me, on that night, that week — it was.

The pup was having some sort of allergic reaction. First it was just itching, then hives on her chest, more on her legs. Next thing I knew her jowls were swelling big time.

Hives I can handle, but any sort of swelling near her throat and I get seriously concerned.

There was about an hour of back-and-forth with my mom (a vet tech) and her boss (the vet), several benadryl forced down Ginger’s throat, and then a lot of waiting and watching.

Watching for signs of distress, difficulty breathing. Because that’s the danger. Itchy hives we can deal with, swollen airways not so much.

I looked up the closest 24-hour emergency veterinary clinic — the first time I’ve ever had to do that. I had the number on hand just in case, and I memorized the directions. Difficulty breathing is nothing to mess around with.

My job was to monitor her until the next dosage, around 1am. Husband and I made an exception and invited her onto our bed for the night, so I could watch her closely.

We went through a bit more turmoil that evening, more forcing of pills, some vomiting, etc., and sometime around 2am I finally fell into a restless sleep. But I kept waking and hearing heavy breathing, always checking to make sure that was Husband and not the pup.

The whole thing felt eerily familiar. We had a similarly sleepless night one year ago. A series of them. Weeks of them. When we lost my dear brother-in-law.

I was tense, shaking, filled with dread. The same feelings.

As I watched the pup sleep, I prayed that this would not be like that night. That this would have a happy ending and not become a nightmarish new reality.

By morning the swelling had reduced. A few more pills and I felt safe heading off to work.

We escaped tragedy this time around, but I sometimes wonder if that visceral reaction will ever fade. Will I always feel that gravity, that twisting in the pit of my stomach when faced with such circumstances?

I’m inclined to think yes. I can never un-know or un-experience what we went through one year ago. And it will follow me for the rest of my life. The question is, how will I handle it?

snuggling with the puppy

This day

This day

There are a lot of emotions attached to this day…this first anniversary of our great loss.

Honestly, I don’t have much to say about it. We’re just trying to get through.

These words have been helping:

You call me out upon the waters
The great unknown where feet may fail
And there I find You in the mystery
In oceans deep
My faith will stand

And I will call upon Your name
And keep my eyes above the waves
When oceans rise
My soul will rest in Your embrace
For I am Yours and You are mine

Your grace abounds in deepest waters
Your sovereign hand
Will be my guide
Where feet may fail and fear surrounds me
You’ve never failed and You won’t start now

Spirit lead me where my trust is without borders
Let me walk upon the waters
Wherever You would call me
Take me deeper than my feet could ever wander
And my faith will be made stronger
In the presence of my Savior

I will call upon Your Name
Keep my eyes above the waves
My soul will rest in Your embrace
I am Yours and You are mine
-Hillsong United, Oceans

The journey still aches

The journey still aches

This morning as I read the blog of a sweet and insightful young woman, something she said struck me with its utter truth:

“The hard work of healing and restoration has begun, but the journey still aches.”

I guess that’s how I’m feeling. Big days loom before us, hard days. The day that would have been Michael’s 28th birthday. The first anniversary of his passing. They are coming. Each day brings us closer. And I know, I know it is going to be hard. Because although healing has begun, the journey still aches.

I struggle to know how to prepare for these hard days ahead. Prepare my own heart, and prepare to support Husband as he also works through this journey.

I’m reading Max Lucado’s new book, You’ll Get Through This. While I can’t say the content is ground-breaking, it is a wonderful reminder. In one example, Lucado records the words of a man who had to call his family members to let them know that his young son had died. The way he started each conversation?

Hold on to everything you know is good and true about the nature of God.

So that is what I will do. As the days and weeks of this journey continue to ache, I will hold on to all that I know about God.

A break in the clouds

Thinking lately

Thinking lately

I’ve been doing a lot of thinking lately…thinking back to that week in October when our lives changed forever with the loss of Michael.

Last weekend when I was leaving home I came across a collection of emergency vehicles and a thick plume of black smoke. Another driver waved me off, we couldn’t get through, the road was blocked. Curious, but on a time crunch I turned my truck around and headed out the other direction.

It wasn’t long before I learned what had happened–a young man, just 20 years old, had lost control of his truck and slammed into a tree, the truck immediately catching fire. The young man lost his life, and so many in our community lost a dear loved one.

As I drive to and from my home, I have seen so many gathered at that tree–a lot of young people, grasping for some understanding of what happened, some comfort in their grief. I understand. All too well.

A cross was placed by the foot of the tree, and since then notes and teddy bears and trucker hats and countless bottles of Mountain Dew have been left in memory of the young man. It’s like a glimpse into who this young man was. I rarely drive past that tree without seeing a car stopped in honor of the small memorial, or a young person sitting in the grass by the base of tree.

My heart goes out to them. All of them. I remember those days all too clearly.

The grief. The questions. The anger. The desperation. I’ve felt it all. I still do.

We know someone who knows someone who knows the family. We offered to help with a meal. It’s the least we can do. And pray, always pray.

And maybe, I think, maybe I should visit Michael’s grave to sit in the grass under a tree.

But to you, it is not a label or even an emotion.
This is your life. Not in a box, but the way your heart beats. – Franchesca Cox, The Thing About Grief



I turn 27 this week. And it’s been a tough one.

For me, birthdays have always been something to celebrate, not dread. I love celebrating my own birthday and the birthdays of those I love, because it is a way of celebrating them–their lives, their accomplishments, their passions, just simply who they are. A way of acknowledging my own life, my accomplishments, my day-to-day living that I rarely take the time to do.

When I was growing up, before the big birthday dinner, my family would all go around the table and thank God for something about the birthday person. It was a beautiful way to celebrate the things we love about each other, and to thank God for giving us each other. It’s a tradition I hope to continue with my own children someday.

But this birthday…it just isn’t so celebratory. I’m trying to be happy, and I am, or at least part of me is. My mom is coming to town, which is wonderful because I haven’t seen her in seven months–and visits from family are always something to celebrate, especially as they become more rare. So there will be plenty of laughter and good conversation to be had, I am sure.

But is something more sobering that permeates this birthday.

Michael was 27 when we lost him last fall. Had just turned 27. We were celebrating. His birthday. His life. His self. Him.

I was never supposed to be older than my brother-in-law. Never. And now, I will be. Because I will turn 27 and live through it. He didn’t. It’s sobering and hard and sad. I’m amazed at how piercing our loss is, and I wonder when the ache will ease.

Maybe next year’s birthday won’t be so difficult. When it’s been longer. When the number is 28, not 27.

Sunset at Northwest River Park