The girls started December with their finals and both finished so strong. I am ever thankful for the wonderful friends that they have who provide so much loving support to both of them. It has been such a blessing as their mom for me to see them shining so brightly even in the midst of all of the pain and the loss that they have endured.
When they came home for a month (YES ?) then we started off with our annual cookie bake. Ever since they were little, we have taken a weekend and baked Christmas cookies all weekend. After our baking is complete, then we have a fun delivery night giving the cookies away and sharing love with a few of the special people in our lives who live close to us. It is always a blessing and most definitely one of our traditions that the three of us love to do.
When my husband was killed in a work related accident in August 2011 and then when my only son PK was killed instantly in a car accident in June 2013, I have to be transparent and share that there were times in the midst of my deepest pain and loss that I did not know how to keep all of the traditions going. My pain has been so deep and so prevalent that I could not live by how I was feeling. Thankfully, by the Grace of God, He strengthened me to be able to keep the traditions going each year. I wanted to keep them going for my girls. As I have shared many times before, when I look into my two beautiful daughters’ eyes, then I know that they deserve my very best just as much as their brother did.
The girls and I were so excited to be able to travel to my parents’ home in North Dakota for Christmas this year. It had been 8 years since we had been able to go home for Christmas. Because all of my three children were basketball players, then each year right after Christmas they had a holiday basketball tournament. My parents came down each year and were committed to being with us at Christmas and to stand with the girls and I in the midst of losing my husband and my son. We made many wonderful memories together. We will always be so thankful to my loving parents for their faithfulness and consistency in being with us. They have helped us in so many ways that they will probably never understand. We are so thankful for you both!
The girls and I had different moments of sadness and reflection while we were in North Dakota for Christmas as this was our first one without our guys. Thankfully, we were able to talk about it and process our feelings on those memories. As always, we are so thankful for each moment that we had with them, but as always, we miss them much more than we know how to explain.
Our week for Christmas in North Dakota was a winter wonderland. We got about 8 inches of snow while we were there in addition to what they already had. It was so beautiful. MiKayla fell in love with the northern pine trees that I love so much that were covered in snow so beautifully while we were there. One of the girls’ goals was to go snowmobiling during our visit. I had contacted my dad’s brother before we traveled north to see if that would work out with him as I knew he had a snowmobile. He told us that we could, but he said that it would be better if we had more snow. We told him that we would pray it in 🙂 (My dad talked to me about that a lot as he was shoveling the driveway every morning. LOL.)
We went snowmobiling that Saturday before Christmas. We met my uncle out in a field, and the girls and I had so many layers on. I was laughing so hard as my movement was quite restricted with three layers of clothes on. The girls and I had so much fun on the snowmobile and loved the opportunity to be able to do that. We had lots of laughs and loved every minute of it.
My brother and his family arrived at my parents’ home to stay with us for a few days, and we loved catching up with my brother, his wife, and their 5 kids. It is always so much fun to be able to get together with our family and to catch up. My brother also lives in North Dakota.
The church that I grew up in holds a beautiful Christmas Eve candlelight service each year. It brought back many memories as we sang the many songs that night. I most definitely had several times of tear-filled eyes as the images of my son and husband being with us there through the years flooded my mind. I kept remembering the last time that I was sitting there with my “whole” family. Who would have ever thought that the next time that we would be there that both of our guys would be gone. We truly must treasure each moment that we are given.
We also had a sledding adventure with my brother and his kids. My brother is an engineer and always makes our sledding more exciting as he constructs a ramp or something fun to add to the experience. This year was not any different. Kevin worked on building a ramp for us to hit as we neared the bottom of the hill. He teased Kylee and MiKayla quite a bit when I hit the ramp before they did. It is a good thing that no one captured my first time down the hill as I flipped the sled real good. LOL. My dad did have a good laugh watching me flip. We had lots of fun. MiKayla tried snow boarding and was persistent in her efforts. We were very impressed with my two twin nephews who are really good on the snow board. It was a wonderful family time filled with so much laughter.
Our days in North Dakota were wonderful. We are so thankful for our time with our family and for all of the love and joy that we got to experience the entire week. We also loved our time with my parents’ golden retrievers. Our dear Tessa is now 14 and is hurting from her age and the way her body has changed. She still loves on us and wags her tail and gives us her sweet Tessa smiles. I am always thankful for each time that I get to see her. My dad’s new puppy Bella is 8 months and full of life and energy. She loves to play and loves my dad so much. Dogs have always been such a special part of our family, and I am thankful that my parents still have their dogs, both new and old, that bring so much joy and love.
The girls and I were going to leave on Friday as we were planning on attending a wedding on Saturday. However, the weather had different plans, and a big blizzard decided to visit the states that we would be traveling through. 35 below wind chill and 50 MPH winds changed our travel plans to extend our visit for another day. We sure missed my sister and her daughter, but I was able to see her the weekend after New Year’s which was a wonderful time. My niece was turning two and kept me busy playing the entire weekend. She keeps increasing how many words that she puts together in her sentences, and it is so much fun to hear what she has to say. She loves to play and my time with them was full of joy and love.
The girls and I enjoyed our remaining days of our time together before they had to head back to their university. I was teary-eyed each time I thought about them heading back. I love these two incredible young women so much and am so thankful that even though we have experienced a lot of pain and trauma that we are still able to find joy and gratitude together. I am happy that they are both doing so well at their university, but this mom sure misses them when we are apart. I do know deep in my heart that the seasons of life and of my journey will continue to change. I want my girls to keep growing and soaring, and I know that in this season of their life now that even though that we are not living together that we can still remain close despite the miles between us.
I have some exciting things coming up in 2019 that I am very much looking forward to. Next month I get to speak at a women’s conference, and I am thrilled for this opportunity. I have two sessions that I get to speak for and have titled the first one “faith in the valleys” and the second one “resting in Him”. I have been doing a lot of reading, writing, and soul searching to prepare for this conference. I have so much excitement about it that each time that I think about it then I end up with a huge smile on my face. I know deep within my heart that this is what I want to do. I am so thankful for the opportunity and ask for you to join me in prayer that I may be a blessing and an encouragement to the women that attend.
This coming Mother’s Day, I have been asked to speak at one of my dear friend’s churches that he pastors. Kevin is just like a brother to me and a true friend. I am so excited to have this opportunity as well. Quite honestly, Mother’s Day has completely changed for me since my son was killed 5 1/2 years ago. I remember my first Mother’s Day without my son and not knowing how to get through the day. I also remembering my two incredible daughters being there with me and how much I wanted to celebrate them on that day in the midst of my overwhelming pain. As I approach each Mother’s Day since my son died, it has been such a mix for me. A deep longing and pain exists as I so desperately want my son with me, and then a deep joy and gratitude for my two incredible daughters who I want to continue to celebrate on that day along with my own wonderful mom exists right beside my hurt and pain. Now that Kevin has given me this opportunity to speak on Mother’s Day, I feel that I will be approaching this one with a new outlook. How can I be a blessing to the other moms that I will have the blessing of sharing this day with. I am thankful for the opportunity and would love for you to pray for that as well.
I hope that as we all look forward into 2019 that we do have things to look forward to. I hope that we all can take steps and set goals to keep growing in all areas of our lives. If you are in pain and hurting, then I pray that you will be comforted and that you will know that you are not alone. I have felt alone, and I understand the feeling, but I hope that you will take steps to reach out to others and that you will be reminded that you can find joy and peace even in the midst of tremendous heartache and pain. You are all in my heart and prayers. Thank you for journeying with the girls and I. We thank God for each of you.
“Only in the darkness can you see the stars.” Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.
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