Monthly Archives: June 2014

Freedom to Move Forward

It’s like breathing deeper. Or flying. Or laughing for a long time.

This new sense of freedom.

Crazy how the layer must peel away.

And in each new layer of freedom how the heart soars.broadmoor 10

How I think I’ve arrived.

Only to find out weeks or years or months later that there’s a deeper level not yet lived out.

Last year it was in my body.

In my thirties it was in my mind, emotions, and spirit.

Yesterday it was a paradigm shift again, but more than that it was a very real change in how I do life.

Here’s the thing. Until my thirties much of my effort was centered around being good. I wanted to be good for God. To do it all right. As I’ve written before, that almost destroyed me, that crazy realm of perfectionism. And in one of those oh so sweet moments amazing moments, the God of the Universe chose to whisper to me, “Paula, all your life you’ve tried to be good. Get to know me, and I will make you good.”

And thus began the journey of letting go of the self-pressure to perform and clinging to the promise that the God who created me would complete His work in me and make me something better than I was.

At that time I remember thinking that life was really just about surrendering to the One. Moving when He directed. Instead of a myriad of rules I couldn’t keep straight, figure out, or live up to, there was one guiding word in my life: surrender.

And here I sit, about ten years later realizing that there was another layer of performance that had not yet been cleaned out. And that there have been times I’ve been paralyzed by it.

See, when life was about following the rules, there was a lot of pressure to do it right. When life became about following the Spirit, I wanted to do it right.

Somewhere in these last ten years I slipped back into the old rut of striving with a new face called living out God’s will.

Don’t get me wrong. I still want to live in God’s will.

Hang in here with me so I can explain.

Sometimes I’ve gotten so stressed about my ability to hear God or discern His will that I was held back in fear that I hadn’t heard correctly. Here’s an example:

Last fall my fabulous agent and I made the decision for me to focus a few years on writing category romance. It’s not the great American novel, nor it is the life-changing non-fiction work I dream of writing, but it is a genre I can write in the chaos of having children at home (or launching into the next stage, which frankly is way more momma work that I ever dreamed). It’s also a genre where I’ve been traditionally published and won some recognition.

So last fall I wrote a romance.

For the first half of the book I fought myself constantly. Somewhere deep inside I wondered if I was in God’s will. There had been a direction in my heart, wisdom in counsel, but not one of the rare, audible stamps of approval from Him. I doubted my decision, which made writing unnecessarily difficult. About half way through the story I began to see the unmistakable fingerprints of God flowing in the threads of my story, and my heart was at rest. Unfortunately I spent way too much energy on second-guessing myself before I finally came to grips that I was okay, and God was fine with my choice.

The last month or so I’ve been meandering through a book by Graham Cooke. I read a bit at night, pink highlighter in hand, and wonder if I’m retaining the concepts as I fall asleep. Over the last year I’ve also been memorizing the 14th chapter of John in the Bible, wondering if those deep magnificent concepts could somehow go even deeper than my cognitive understanding and change me. Wondering. Not knowing if I was learning or changing or growing or not.

But God is faithful to change us even when we don’t know we’re being changed. HE never stops working in us, even when we don’t know it is happening. Evidently my Spirit and His were processing when I didn’t even realize it because yesterday it all came together for me, and suddenly I felt it–that breathless, wonderful, want-to-laugh-out-loud-in-joy sense of new-found freedom.

It wasn’t even very different from how I’ve been striving to live, it just took out the striving, which is really what living with and for and in Jesus is all about, right?

Peace. Rest. Confidence. Joy!

Here’s the bright and brilliant and breath-taking truth: I am freed for forward movement.

Duh, right?

Here’s what I mean. My focus, my “job,” my only real goal in this walk with God is (or should be) getting to know Him. Growing in intimacy.

But I’ve spent way too much time focused on getting guidance, on what I’m supposed to DO instead of who I am in and with HIM and who HE is in and with me and who we are together.

Relationship. Beautiful, glorious, breath-taking relationship.

The kind where you enjoy life together. You talk about stuff. You laugh and celebrate and sometimes cry together. You simply BE in oneness.

See, when I am focused on relationship I’m not striving to figure out how to live life, I’m simply living it! Moving forward as I feel in my heart I am to move. Always pliable, surrendering to His nudges, but not striving to know His will, not struggling with decisions, not paralyzed by fear I might have misheard or made a wrong choice.

Just moving–walking, leaping, dancing, running, whatever the mood of the task or moment–forward.

I can trust that when the God wants to redirect or draw my attention to something I haven’t yet discovered, He will. Jesus said His sheep know His voice, and God told the prophet Isaiah, “Whether you turn to the right or to the left, your ears will hear a voice behind you, saying, ‘This is the way; walk in it.'”

I can trust my God to lead me. I can trust myself to know His Voice (and HIM to straighten me out if I miss it). I’m a grown-up and free to walk forward directed by who I am and who HE is in me. God doesn’t want to micro-manage me. He doesn’t want me to be afraid of every little misstep.

He wants me FREE and in motion!

The wonder of that–the joy of moving forward without constant questioning and too much striving to be sure I take perfect steps–makes me want to run forward and be brave and do new things and be comfortable with the old things I’m already doing.

And I have. But I’ll save that story for tomorrow.

May freedom fill your heart too,

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A Trick for Healthier Protein Shakes

shakesRead an interesting article I believe is pertinent for me and for any of you using protein shakes. As I’ve shared before I lost over 50 pounds on the BENew weight loss system formulated for healthier bodies, not just slimmer ones. Combined with my daily dose of Body Balance, I progressed from a place of physical distress to a stronger, more fit me.

Many of us use protein shakes in our health journey, not just for weight loss. It’s widely believed that whey protein isolate is the best. (This is what is in the BENew shakes I’ve used for the last year and a half.) Whey protein isolate is easily absorbed, helps build leaner muscle, and helps fight fat. (I’d link you to the article but believe it or not it was in a PRINT magazine, and I don’t even remember which one.)

Here’s the trick I read about: Be careful about over-mixing your whey protein as it can render it less effective! Over-blending breaks down the protein and reduces its ability to do all the wonderful things it is designed to do! I’ve shared how I enjoy mixing fruit into my BENew shakes. Since reading the article I’m doing befullthat differently.

First I blend my almond milk with my frozen or fresh fruit and oats or whatever I’m adding that day, THEN, after the shake is well blended, I add my protein powder and mix very briefly.

My lunch today? Vanilla BENew mixed in AFTER I blended peaches, nectarines, and almond milk. Mmmm . . .

Hope you find this quick tip helpful!

Why I Flirt in the Kitchen

Thanks to some links on my daughter’s fb page I’m thinking about modesty, sex, and what we teach our daughters.

modesty

This image from a fun site all about swimsuits of the 1900s

Here’s the thing. Sometimes in our attempt to raise modest daughters we inadvertently teach them that they should be ashamed of their bodies, that men are animals, and that sex is bad.

(And here I nod to Miss Kiki’s Journey and a wonderful post called Modesty, Lies, and Making People Mad.)

Children of conservative families are sometimes surprised to visit our house. I kiss my husband in front of my children and their friends. We flirt in the kitchen. We hint at the privileges of marriage. This is an intentional choice. Part of it is purely selfish. It’s fun, and Jerry and I like it! Flirting in the kitchen makes the day a little brighter and sometimes leads to a bit of fun behind closed doors later.

But I have another reason for my kitchen flirting. I want my children to embrace the idea that marriage is fun, and tat sex in marriage is a fabulous gift, one to treasure and look forward to. We don’t avoid the topic at our house because sex in marriage is right and good and God-designed.

I still remember one of the first times I hung out with Jerry’s parents. They were a very conservative couple who fit the traditional 50’s image of pastor and pastor’s wife. You rarely saw Ray without a tie, and Fencine is one of the most proper women I know. They were a deeply loving and spiritual couple with very conservative values.

We were in the home of Jerry’s brother and his wife. It was a family setting, no other guests, so things were a little more relaxed. Already grandparents several times over, Jerry’s parents must have been married close to 40 years at this point.

You have the set-up; here’s the punch line. As we headed into the kitchen for lunch Ray popped Fencine on the bottom! Just a little, affectionate, flirty swat!

I was shocked, but I treasure that memory of how a couple who’d been married that long were still flirting in the kitchen.

I don’t mean to be trite. Modesty is a real issue. I do believe men are wired more visually than women. (And frankly, under the clock of married love this can be a lot of fun.) What I don’t believe is that women are solely (or even primarily) responsible for how men respond to what they see.

Here’s another lesson I learned from Jerry’s dad. We all went to Schindler’s List. There is a scene that is not sexual at all, but the women in the concentration camp are stripped naked so the guards can decide which ones are strong enough to continue living. Jerry’s dad very quietly left the theater until the scene had passed. A real man respects a woman’s privacy.

As a mother of sons I expect my young men to be responsible. I applaud Kiki who said, “Boys are capable of looking at a woman without lust. Boys are not animals and we must stop putting it in their minds that they are. Also we need to stop telling that to girls. Men are not to be feared. Every man’s mind is not full of lust 100% of the time. They are intelligent and wonderful . . .”

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Kissing hubby on our 25th wedding anniversary

That’s not to say modesty is not a real issue. We need to teach our daughters that their body is a beautiful treasure to be unwrapped at the appropriate time. We need to teach her she is more than her body, that the sexy images on the big screen and glossy magazines that stress only the body are not accurately portraying the main reason for a woman’s existence.

We are not objects, but we are a work of art. We need to celebrate our daughter’s full person, not chop off the body as the shameful part in our efforts to help her learn self-respect and wisdom.  Modesty should not be stressed in a way that makes our daughters think their bodies are shameful, men are scary, and sex is bad.

Sex is good. Sexy behind closed doors between a husband and wife is fun. I want my children to enjoy their marriage privileges without shame. I want my daughter to be comfortable with her body. I want my sons to know that thinking a woman is beautiful is normal.

It’s why I flirt in the kitchen.

(Jerry just read this and said I flirt because he is irresistible. That, too. ;o))

Authenticity, Courage, My Hubby, and DtC

For a year and a half I’ve let it all “hang out” here at A BeNew Journey. I’ve admitted my struggles with weight, with cravings, with grace. I’ve invited you to taste the hopes and successes even as I’ve invited you to walk through the struggles with me. In return I’ve been given the grace of wonderful support from you, my readers, friends, and fellow bloggers. You’ve cheered me on, wept with me, and shared your stories, too. Thank you.

This weekend my husband did something incredible. He began his own journey of public authenticity.1597648_10202467803671428_1674233776_o Over the years he’s allowed me to share bits of our story, but on Sunday he wrote a blog post that gives a glimpse into one of his most personal areas of struggle and pain, and he talks about how he is processing out of old paradigms to overcome.

Marking my weight loss journey through this blog has been a bit of an unveiling so I can succeed. It’s taken courage to talk about this place of shame in my years of obesity and courage to invite you into my successes. Jerry’s latest two blogs, Before and After with the DtC Movement Part I and II, are the beginning of his own courageous unveiling. I gave him permission to start with my story. I was thrilled when he used it for a springboard for his own.

Please take a moment to visit his new website, DtC Zone, to catch a glimpse of how finding the courage to face financial struggles can be a launchpad into hope and success.

I’m proud of my courageous husband. I’ve watched with awe as he has fought for the last few years to enter a place of pain and push through to the other side. He grabbed hold of a new way of thinking. Once he grasped this new paradigm, he then had to learn to walk it out. He is doing so with determination and faith, looking consistently to His God for direction and asking God to teach him to be the provider he desires to be for the family he loves.

Jerry and I are very excited about the DTC movement and how this new concept combines a tried and true method of producing income with the innovation and opportunities of this new age of social media.

I invite you to follow Jerry’s blog. To glimpse his own journey of transformation as you have mine.  If you intrigued, then why not follow the links he’s provided and consider not only watching, but entering this journey with him.

I entrust you into the hands of the man who has taken good care of me. I know Jerry will be faithful and loyal to those of you who choose to journey with him. His track record is proven by the loyalty, devotion, and faithfulness the kids and I have enjoyed the last 25 years.

Naked and (UN)ashamed

Don’t you hate naked dreams? You know the ones. You’re in a public place and suddenly IMAG3123realize you forgot to get dressed. You’re horrified and afraid of being seen.

I had one of those dreams the other night.

What’s really funny is that in my dream there was a young man who upset me. We were in a crowd of people, and he kept doing irritating things. Then he started stripping!

The next scene of my dream I ran upstairs, looking for my father to ask him to deal with the chaos this young man was causing. But before I could find my dad, I looked down and realized that I was naked! I ran and found a sheet to hide in and wrapped myself in it, weeping.

When I awoke from this dream I immediately equated it to my life, especially the stuff I’ve been processing the last few weeks. When I wrote my Tension Tummy post I spoke about how boxes and legalism have hurt me and a lot of other people. I ended with these words:

I’ve had ample opportunity to process legalism and judgment lately. . . My human self comes up with all kinds of wonderful ways to fight . . . Instead I ask God to shed Truth and Grace where it is needed.

Including in the ugly remnants of legalism and religiosity in me.

See, my heart is to be loving and grace-filled, but I never perform up to my own desires. When I am hurt, or worse yet when someone I love is hurt, judgement and legalism are right there, ready to take up space in my attitude.

I think my dream is a reminder that while I am passionate about speaking out against boxes and legalism, I can never do it without that voice inside reminding me that I, too, am not perfect.

I have not yet let go of judgment or stepped out of boxes to the extent I want to. My mind is ahead of me even in the progress I have made. Often my thoughts and emotions don’t keep up with what I believe to be true. Sometimes even my actions contradict the grace I believe in.

I’m a work in progress.

There’s something in the Bible that talks about Jesus giving us robes of righteousness. That is the only answer to my naked problem. My raw, naked faults will be exposed from time to time. Hopefully I’m processing forward and becoming more loving, not less. But no matter how I long to be perfect, I’m just not.

That’s when I remember Jesus never left me naked and exposed. Long ago He gave me that righteousness robe to cover all the humanity I wish the world never saw. So when I feel hurt by my own lack, I look to HIM, to HIS fullness. To the way He cares, forgives, and covers me with the Good that is Himself.

Then I grab hold of His hand and hope I can listen to His Voice in a way that helps me be more loving and less judgmental the next time.

It’s not my desire to take away from anything I said in that Tension Tummy post. I believe those words to be true. It just seems important to say that even in my passion for freedom and against religiosity I have to say, “Me, too.”

I too am trying to find my way out of legalism.

I too have boxes I wish I could step out of.

I too fail at this grace thing, no matter how much I wish I didn’t.

Thank God HE is always there to remind me that failure is not the end of the story. That my missteps are forgiven. That He will help me journey down that road to loving more like He does.

Gulps of Grace

I just clicked off on the cordless phone, thoughts churning. My friend is an abuse survivor, no longer a victim, a woman of great integrity and strength. One of my heroes. I’m reminded of her journey forward, of how her abuser kept her in a stranglehold of condemnation and low self-esteem for far too long. How even survivors, victors who’ve long overcome have to keep fighting to maintain their freedom, especially when people who don’t understand knock them down again.

On the radio yesterday a woman called a talk show for advice. Her “husband” was clearly destroying her emotionally, mentally, and spiritually, but still she argued that she “should” stay to do the “right” thing.

If you know me well, you know I am not easily angered. But this. This makes me want to fight hard against the lies, against the boxes, for FREEDOM!

challah bread 9This morning’s phone call from my victorious friend who’d once again endured a senseless assault by a clueless do-gooder left me reeling, as did that lady on the talk show.

I reached for Ann Voskamp’s One Thousand Gifts Devotional in an attempt to right the churning inside of me. Ann reminded me that giving thanks is declaring my trust in God and that without the ability to trust God there is no joy.

For years I begged God for joy. Instead His offering was to allow seven years of grueling circumstances far beyond my control. I’m beginning to understand Ann’s words, that giving thanks is about joy and about trust and about choosing. It is curling up with the Bread that nourishes my soul.

So I today I wrote little notes of gratitude instead of dwelling on all that angers me. And what came out surprised me.

I thank Him for: freedom air gulped and eventually breathed in natural rhythm. 

When I first stepped out of my own crap, of walls self-imposed and imposed by others, of boxes of perfectionism and guilt and performance, I couldn’t breathe freedom every day, every minute, like life. I grasped for it. Looked for it. Begged for it. Gorged on it when I found it.

I found it in grace.

I gulped grace. Sucking it in for survival. Guzzling it. Only pure grace, the truth of it, fed me. The gulps pounded into my malnourished system, setting it free, a little at a time.

I sucked in the grace air as I could understand it, when I could appropriate it.

Grace.

God’s complete unconditional love and acceptance. The favor He offered even though I didn’t deserve it.

Wiki says it this way: . .  grace has been defined, not as a created substance of any kind, but as “the love and mercy given to us by God because God desires us to have it, not because of anything we have done to earn it”,[1] “the condescension or benevolence shown by God toward the human race”.[2] It is understood by Christians to be a spontaneous gift from God to man – “generous, free and totally unexpected and undeserved”[3] – that takes the form of divine favor, love, clemency, and a share in the divine life of God.

For years I lived without freedom. I didn’t know it. But I was controlled by the self-condescension of one who could never live up to her own ideals and of one who tried so hard to please others that I lived in a straight-jacket of effort and failure.

I didn’t understand grace saturated the very air I breathed. That I didn’t have to chase after it or fight for it, grabbing and suffocating.

I didn’t get that always, always, always my Creator surrounds me with loving acceptance, cheering me on in my victories, helping me to my feet in my failures, never condemning, only offering Himself and His grace, longing to love me and remake me into one who could love Him, myself, and others.

I had heard about God’s love, about grace, all my life, but I didn’t appropriate it to myself–thus the gulping when I happened upon grace. The gorging on it when I began to understand.

But over time–years, not weeks–I began to feel less desperate. My soul began to know grace would never run out, never be beyond my reach, never disappear.

And I began to breathe normally. Rhythmically.

In freedom.

Once in a while something happens. My throat constricts once again, and I struggle. I am hurt or I hurt others. My imperfections are glaring. And my breathing gets erratic as I take huge, gulping, heaving breaths.

Grace. My lifeline.

As I inhale I stabilize. My breathing becomes natural. Saturated with freedom.

As I type right now I finally understand how all of this comes together. Why in my need to reach for hope, for peace, I seek to offer thanks, to trust God, to hold onto joy. Why in the midst of this churning I wrote those words: freedom air gulped and eventually breathed in natural rhythm. 

It’s because of the process of freedom. It’s because when my friend first fought out of an abusive situation she, like me, had to gulp grace bubbles. She couldn’t yet understand the air was saturated, and grace was always there, free.

It’s like my friend and I spent years under putrid water, pressed down by the voices that said we would never be good enough to deserve such freedom as normal breaths. But eventually we had to breathe, to lift our heads out of the water before we drowned. At first we could only raise our head on occasion, could only allow ourselves stolen gulps because we thought we deserved no more. Didn’t even deserve those gulps, really, just needed them so much we had to take them.

Over time we began to understand that the air was ours, given freely by a loving God, and that we didn’t have to earn it with good behavior. We bobbed for a while at the surface where the air was  tainted by the smell of stinking water. But it was better. At least we were breathing more often, even with the times we were pulled back under. Then came the day we slowly swam toward shore. Swimmers still get their face wet, but they also have air. And they are moving forward

It was a while before we climbed out, touched the shore, realized how good and pure the air could be and that we were given the right to breathe it.

And sometimes, on bad days, we still forget. That cesspool of unworthiness and condemnation is always there, waiting for us to climb back in.

But we’re getting better, my friend and me. We’re choosing to stay away from the stinky water.

We’ve gulped freedom and are learning to breathe it in natural rhythm.

Breathing with you today, my friend.

Until next time,

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Instead of Hallmark–An Anniversary Card to My Man

I awoke to these words singing in my subconscious, then smiled, remembering how well Jerry has loved me, and that today we celebrate 25 years of marriage:

Now you’re my whole life1597648_10202467803671428_1674233776_o
Now you’re my whole world
I just can’t believe
The way I feel about you girl
Like a river meets the sea
Stronger than it’s ever been
We’ve come so far since that day
And I thought I loved you then

As this date neared I thought of the times my dear husband had told me, wonder in his eyes, that while he thought he loved me the day we married, the love just keeps growing, and he doesn’t know how he can love me more, but it just keeps happening. And I remembered, the song “Then” recorded (and co-written) by Brad Paisley.

On Sunday we had some quiet moments while the kids were gone, and I played the ballad for him, suggesting we call it our anniversary song. He readily agreed. He was even a bit misty-eyed.

After cuddling while we listened to the song, we danced (very badly) to it right there in our living room.

Later, when I was alone, I took the original lyrics and played with them a bit:

I remember trying to wait while
You found your courage
You had me mesmerized
And on Fourth of July
In firecracker light
You finally decided to kiss goodnight
I hadn’t told you yet
I thought I loved you then

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1988

Now you’re my whole life
And you color it with joy
I just can’t believe
The way I feel about you boy
Like a river meets the sea
Stronger than it’s ever been
We’ve come so far since that day
And I thought I loved you then

I remember Lake Tahoe Shore
Where you pledged to me your heart
Love in your blue eyes
Your voice the only sound
Showing me your care
And I said yes right then and there
And once again
I thought I loved you then

1989 wedding

1989 – I DO!

Now you’re my whole life
And you color it with joy
I just can’t believe
The way I feel about you boy
Like a river meets the sea
Stronger than it’s ever been
We’ve come so far since that day
And I thought I loved you then

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I can just see you
Wrestling toddler’s in play
I can just see you
On our daughter’s wedding day
What I can’t see
Is how I’m ever gonna love you more
But I’ve said that before

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2013 – Sarah and Dad

Now you’re my whole life
And you color it with joy
I just can’t believe
The way I feel about you boy
Like a river meets the sea
Stronger than it’s ever been
We’ve come so far since that day
And I thought I loved you then

2013 Sarah's wedding

And I thought I loved you then

People say 25 years of committed marriage is an accomplishment, but to me it is simply a gift. I’m not saying we didn’t put effort into this because we did. I’m not saying there weren’t hard times because there were. But always there has been love. Never once have I doubted I was your beloved. Never once have I questioned my decision to choose you.

paula and little ones

1998 – Mom with the little ones, ages 1 – 7

Those early years I worried I couldn’t love you enough. You were so giving, had such a servant heart. I must have prayed Proverbs 31 most every night for the first five years of our marriage, asking God to show me how to  bring you “good and not evil all the days” of your life. When you loved unconditionally, serving me with all you were, I worried I was selfish, and begged God to help me love you as well as you loved me. To cleanse me of selfishness.

After four little ones in six years, giving and giving beyond what I thought I could give, I quit praying that prayer!

When I was overwhelmed by the demands of nursing babies, toddlers whose diapers rattled as they ran up and down the hall, and preschoolers begging for just one more story, you’d smile at me over the tops of their downy heads, and I’d know I would make it.

Sometimes 2 or more children would pile in bed between us. We’d wrap our long legs around their sides and touch toes beneath them. Remember each other.

Those early years were a lot about me. You taught me to stand tall in who I was, not worrying about people-pleasing and performing and being perfect. You showed unconditional love. All you needed me to be was me. And slowly my tension disappeared, and I grew to be at peace with myself. I learned to protect my heart so it could become the well-spring of life it was designed to be.

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2007 – Dad baptizes Sam

You weren’t the Bible-thumper with all the answers who checked off boxes with prescribed religious behavior. You lived your faith in love. You modeled gratitude to God and to me. (Every time one of the boys thanks me for dinner I am reminded that you taught them to notice and appreciate.)

No wonder our boys follow your example of loyalty and faith. No wonder our girl searched for a man with a heart like yours. Faithful. True. Both to God and his woman.

You were there for us.

Your quiet, steady leadership set the tone.

And as the kids grew you didn’t dictate religion or anything else. You asked them questions. Taught them to think for themselves. Expected them to forge their own journey with God rather than forcing them to look like you. You taught them to be real and dedicated.

And all of us grew.

There came a time it was my turn to be strong for you. Life hit hard: crashing, crushing hard. Your very life hung in the balance. After your heart surgery I crawled in right next to you in that hospital bed, laid my head upon your chest, and listened. Listened for a steady thumping. Knew I would never again take the sound of your beating heart for granted.

I prayed hard as you fought to come back to life in every way: physically, mentally, emotionally, spiritually. Sometimes you would get a far away look in your eyes, and I would know your brush with death had changed you forever.

Changed us forever.

We shared fun moments. Coach pitch baseball where Sarah drew pictures in the dirt and Seth circled home plate, determined never to be tagged. Climbing mountains, Stephen in the carrier on your back, Sam in mine. The “big” kids running ahead. The children kept growing. Forts in the back yard changed to baseball diamonds which grew into obstacle courses. You drove Seth to those 6 a.m. hockey practices, letting me sleep. We both cheered when he experienced success–MVP, top teams choosing him. We yelled for Sarah at gymnastic meets and tried not to be too proud when she won awards there and in speech and debate. We grinned like crazy when Sam and Stephen were All-star team players in baseball. Whatever the kids accomplished we celebrated.

And even in this you would whisper to me to grow and expand and write and become fully me, not just fully mom.

When the kids (or you or me) didn’t come out on top we bought ice-cream, listened to each other’s pain. Sometimes cried for them. For us.

It’s what families do.

Our baby girl grew up, and we danced at her sweet sixteen party.

2007 Sarah's 16

2007 – Sarah Turns 16

Then life became a whirlwind of letting go as all four reached milestones, stretching their wings and leaving the caterpillar behind.

Dating and graduations and even a wedding.

dad talks to sarah (2)

2009 – Sarah graduates

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2011 – Seth graduates

graduation - family

2014 – Stephen graduates

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2013 – Sarah and David Marry

2011 family pics

2011

And while life was so much about them, it was still about us.

You loved me.

Always.

Fat or skinny I was beautiful to you. You always said so.

You believed in me. Told me I was a writer. A speaker. A great mom.

The best wife.

And the years passed this way. You holding my hand. Taking walks with me. Kissing me in the kitchen to the moans of children who told us to “get a room.” Whisking me away when the chaos got too deep or the world too loud. Holding me in your arms and never letting me go.

If I ever finish this blog you’ll take me away again today. A few stolen moments for just two. We’ll stroll hand in hand, maybe listen to a little Brad Paisley as we drive to a restaurant, me wearing the new dress I bought just for this moment. It won’t be so much about what we do. It’ll be more about who we are together. We’ll talk about the kids, how our whole world is changing, but we’ll talk about us, too. How the more we change, the more we stay the same, only deeper. Deeper in love. Deeper in us.

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2014 – Us (and the kids) in our 25th year

Sweet, precious Jerry,

Thank you for marrying me.

All my love,

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