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Sunday, May 10, 2015

Happy Mother’s Day!

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It is hard to grasp how much can change in a year, but today the reality definitely hit home. Here are photos of Kelsey with Alexa on Mother’s Day last year (which was on May 11th). Two months later, Kelsey would be in heaven. Mother’s Day today looked different for sure. Alexa got to spend time this weekend with a few of her favorite people: Mimi, Pop, Aunt Holly, Uncle Mark, Rylen and Layton. I know the reality of what this day means hasn’t sunk in with her and she had a great time playing with her cousins.

I had some sort of nasty crud this weekend, so didn’t get to head up to hang out with family until this afternoon. I had a sore throat of the variety where I felt like screaming with every swallow (if it wouldn’t have made my throat hurt even worse). It isn’t strep, but knowing that fact still didn’t help when it was really hurting! All that to say, I did have some time to reflect on things over the past couple days and wanted to share a few of those thoughts here. I had a chance to go visit Kelsey’s grave (which is a weird thing to say, because I know that she isn’t really buried there, just her body) this morning. It certainly pays testament to the amount of water we have received over a very short period of time here in Oklahoma!

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The picture quality isn’t perfect – I was using the wrong lens (and I didn’t think about taking a picture with my phone until I was already driving off, or think about taking a broom or brush to wipe off the headstone). The mud and leaf debris certainly demonstrate the type of weather we have had. Hail and LOTS of rain. Kelsey always loved storms. She said they were a wonderful display of God’s power. She would get almost giddy in the midst of a hailstorm or rainstorm and she loved the sound of thunder. We have certainly had our share of all of that over the past few weeks. I did think it was fairly ironic that I took flowers to the graveside. Kelsey liked flowers, but she told me she would appreciate me spending the money on getting her some “empty calories” (read as La Baguette caramel fudge cake or a double doozie from American Cookie Company) or taking her somewhere to eat.

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Here is a photo of this Mother’s Day. A noticeable absence in this picture. I had a chance to journal after I visited the graveside and as I reflected back on my years of life and thought of how grateful I am to have a mother who continues to be there for me, my heart aches for my dear daughter. I don’t know when the reality of what this day means will sink in for her, but it will someday. As I wrote in my journal, “Today is certainly a sobering day. Thinking of all my mom has meant to me makes my heart ache for Alexa – she only had four short years to spend with her mother and the rest of her life to live without her.”

I know it has been forever since I last posted (seems like about a two month gap between posts – I won’t promise I will do better, but I will try). Thank you all for your ongoing prayers – I know many of you have reached out to me to let me know you you would be praying for Alexa and me very specifically today. A lot has happened since then. Alexa celebrated her fifth birthday (with five parties, of course). I hope to write a post about her birthday celebrations. We got to go visit my sister’s family in Maryland (and see some good friends while we were out there as well). The builders have broken ground on our new house (and then we have subsequently been hit by monsoon season, so not much more progress than that). I finished another year of Bible Study Fellowship. Work continues to go well, I feel like my brain gets a bit less foggy each day.

For the first time, at the ten month mark since Kelsey made it “safely home”, the day was different. There was a lot of sadness (which is not different), but mixed with the sadness was a sense of God’s incredible faithfulness. Ten months later, I am still alive, the house is still standing, and Alexa has not run away from home. We both have clean clothes, I still have my job (and people tell me I am doing well at it), and we eat every day (generally three times a day). Alexa is thriving at school and has grown and matured so much. All of that overwhelmed me with God’s faithfulness. Had you asked me what life would like like 10 months after Kelsey died the afternoon of her death, I would have had no clue – I was not even sure I could make it through the next moment. The future is no longer as dark or bleak as it has been.

This post is getting incredibly long. I wanted to leave you with a few specific prayer requests:

-- Pray for wisdom to find a great nanny for Alexa for next school year. Have a fantastic gal for the summer, who both Alexa and I are totally excited about. She has been blessed with Jenny in her life this year and I look forward to seeing who God will bring along for next year.
-- Pray for special times with Alexa this summer. I hope for some great spiritual discussions. She is starting to ask more questions, I want to encourage that and help her to clearly understand how much she needs a Savior!
-- Pray for motivation to get some things done around the house. Piles need to be picked up and gone through, I still need to update the will, I need to finish sorting through photos and put together an album I want to give to Alexa and the list goes on.
-- Pray for a continually greater grasp of God’s faithfulness. Pray I can pass it along to others.

I leave you with this – a video of Alexa performing at the Mother’s Day Tea at her preschool (Gingerbread). Mimi and Aunt Holly got to go and they filmed this. You certainly don’t have to watch the whole show, but you’ll get a flavor of her flair for drama (she definitely takes after her mom) in the first few minutes of the video.

Friday, March 6, 2015

We’re still here!

Although my lack of posting would indicate otherwise, Alexa and I are still hanging in there. I have wanted to post many times, but wanting and doing have not lined up until this evening. A lot has happened since my last post. I have started back to Bible Study Fellowship (a dear lady from our church has been watching Alexa that evening so I can go). Alexa and I are going to church on Wednesday nights again (and Alexa is loving getting to sing each Wednesday night – she looks forward to it and asks when we get to go again). We celebrated Valentine’s Day (both at Alexa’s school and together). We played in the snow. We have read A LOT of books. We have played outside on nice days, played inside on not so nice days. We have played games and built many fun buildings out of Legos. We have gotten together with friends and family. I have been working with our builder and ground should be broken soon on our new house. Work continues on, with many different projects to keep me challenged and engaged (and in prayer for wisdom). Alexa came down with her first sickness in her almost five years where she was prescribed medication (walking pneumonia). We’ve had a few other sicknesses (colds and Alexa may have had the flu).

And, we have walked through milestones. Seven months since Kelsey danced into heaven. Our anniversary was two days ago, providing an opportunity to reflect on the special memories (and funny stories) since March 4, 2006 as Kelsey and I exchanged vows and embarked on our life together. Yesterday marked eight months since Kelsey’s death. I have seen God’s hand in this journey – I can trust He is supporting me. I have seen Him do it, but to say there are not moments when things are hard would be a complete lie. Referring back to a book I referenced earlier, Lament for A Son, by Nicholas Wolterstorff, I definitely identified with his sentiment as he wrote (I changed the “him” which he wrote to a “her” as identified by brackets):

Something is over. … A moment in our lives together of special warmth and intimacy and vividness, a moment which I specially prize [her], a moment of hope and expectancy and openness to the future: I remember the moment. But instead of lines of memory leading up to [her] life in the present, they all enter a place of cold inky blackness and never come out. … And now instead of those shiny moments being things we can share together in delighted memory, I, the survivor, have to bear them alone. … All I can do is remember [her]. I can’t experience [her]. The person to whom these memories attached is no longer here with me. … I’m still here. I have to go on. I have to start over. But this new start is so different from the first. Then I wasn’t carrying this load, this thing that’s over.

I am thankful I do not have to bear this alone. Thankful for friends who are so willing to help on days when the normal routine does not work out. Thankful for God’s Word, which reassures. Thankful for devotionals, which point toward the glorious day when there is no more suffering. Last month I read this excerpt from God Loves Broken People, by Sheila Walsh:

You keep track of all my sorrows.
You have collected all my tears in Your bottle.
You have recorded each one in Your book. – Psalm 56:8

Why would He do that? Why would God keep track of all our sorrows? Why would He collect all our tears in a bottle? Why does the Lord record each heartache, each grief, each sadness in some divine journal inscribed with heavenly ink?

It’s because He has plans for those things.

It’s because He wastes nothing.

He intends to fill our sorrows and tears with His expansive love. This was the glorious expectation of both the prophets and the apostles when each said of God:

He will swallow up death forever; and the Lord God will wipe away tears from all faces. – Isaiah 25:8

He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away. – Revelation 21:4

What a start to our 8 year, 4 month and 1 day journey of marriage together on March 4, 2006! I’ll share a few funny stories. The first was the hunt for a scrubby in Dallas the evening after we got married. As we were driving down, Kelsey realized she had not packed what she viewed as an essential for personal hygiene. This was before the release of the iPhone (I know, dark ages), and neither of us had a smartphone, so we tried finding somewhere to get a scrubby using our GPS. We struck out at two stores, then came to another store where I was honestly concerned our marriage may have been cut short. Thankfully, I walked out of the store with a scrubby and no bullet wounds!

The next two stories are from the following day. We didn’t leave ourselves a lot of time to lollygag at the airport – found a parking spot, checked in and headed to security. We got to security and I pulled out my passport and Kelsey just looked at me in horror. “I didn’t think to pack that,” she said. Filled with compassion, I said, “It was on the packing list we both got from the travel company.” She had paid very close attention to all of the toiletry and clothing items, but missed out on one of the most essential items on the list! Thankfully, we found a kind security agent who was willing to let her through after seeing her voter registration card. Near disaster averted. The other is not so much funny as it is just a good cap to the trip down. It was decidedly warmer in Riviera Maya than it was in Norman, OK. So, we get to the resort and walked around the grounds while we waited for our room to get ready. During this tour of the grounds, we were dressed in very appropriate clothing: jeans, and t-shirts, with the ever-so-necessary jackets wrapped around our waists.

The final story happened on day two, and is maybe not so much funny as ironic. Kelsey went out to enjoy the hammock on the porch, but did not have the hammock entirely secured. She ended up landing on her rear on the not-so-soft marble porch. Hurting your pelvis is not apparently something you really want to have happen on your honeymoon. We had a great time at our resort: we enjoyed long walks, LOTS of tasty food, reading, being lazy, great conversation, and meeting some really interesting people. So, all that to say, even on days which are hard, there are definitely some fun memories which do bring a smile to my face!

Thank you for your continued prayers and support. Thank you for those of you who have stepped in to help out with Alexa in times of need. Thank you for your encouraging words over the past couple days. Thank you for sharing your memories and your moments of sadness as you think back on your relationship with Kelsey. The sadness reminds me that death is an interloper.

Some specific prayer requests:

-- Wisdom: wisdom in making decisions concerning the house, wisdom at work, wisdom in raising Alexa, wisdom in decisions about care and schooling for Alexa during the summer and next year, wisdom in grieving.
-- Strength: there are days when I get home from work and don’t feel like I am up for spending time with Alexa. Pray I will continue to take advantage of those moments.
-- Alexa’s salvation: please pray that God would be drawing her to Himself and that she would be sensitive to his drawing.

I am sure there are more prayer requests, but my brain is fading… I’ll leave you with a few things. The first is Kelsey’s and my love story. We showed this video at our wedding (many people knew one or the other of us, but not both, and we wanted this video to provide a glimpse into how we met). The setup is this: both Kelsey and I were asked the same questions and responded to those. The kicker is that we were not in the same room. While I was being interviewed, Kelsey was in another room, while she was being interviewed, I was in another room. This video is a compilation of those responses.


Next are several photos of Alexa at various times over the past two months.

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Monday, January 5, 2015

Open Christmas letter

For those of you who received our Christmas letters in the past, you know we shared the “top 10 blessings” of the prior year. To set the record straight, in case anyone was wondering, the “our and we” used here is really “Kelsey” with a bit of token help from me. I was involved in thinking through the blessings, a bit of proof reading and help with when she needed to trim things down to fit nicely on the layout of our Christmas card. As today marks 6 months since the day Kelsey stepped into eternity with Christ, I thought it would be an appropriate time to share our top 10 list from 2014. Although I haven’t discussed them with Kelsey, I am sure she would share many similar sentiments (but would probably say them better than I will). I tried to do somewhat of a countdown, but many of these are ties, so the order doesn’t mean too much (with the exception of the number 1 blessing).

Top 10 Blessings of 2014

10. Care and caregivers - We were blessed to have caring doctors and nurses throughout the journey (during and after biopsies and surgeries and as Kelsey neared the end of her life). Knowing that Kelsey was not in pain in the final hours of her life was a comfort.

9. Work family - The support I have received throughout this “unexpected journey” has been incredible. What a blessing to have coworkers and bosses who are genuinely concerned with how I am doing and have been (and continue to be) incredibly flexible.

8. Grief stories - It has been a blessing to interact with others who are walking through the road of grief. Hope is offered when there is testimony upon testimony of God’s faithfulness. Books, the grief group through Calm Waters, and the new friendships I have with men who are at a similar place or a bit further down the road have been invaluable resources.

7. Church family - My local church has been (and continues to be) so supportive. We have also seen the church universal lift us up in constant prayer. Thank you for being God’s hands and feet. You gave me a reason to be grateful for Facebook.

6. Friends - They have been so willing to dive in and help: watching Alexa, running errands, mowing the lawn, listening to me verbally process (sometimes a messy affair) and other duties as assigned.

5. Family - I am blessed with two wonderful families. I cannot imagine the journey without them. Caring for Alexa, caring for Kelsey, miles traveled on the roads and in airplanes, encouraging phone calls, texts and emails, and constant words of affirmation are just a few of the blessings that you have brought into my life in this past year. I thank God daily for each of you!

4. Tangible memories - Kelsey left our family with a richness of memories. Many we have in tangible form: photos, videos, and written words (cards, the blog, her diary, and her notes from Bible Study Fellowship). A beautiful legacy to pass along to Alexa.

3. Alexa Hope - How true her middle name has proved to be. Caring for her gives me hope. Seeing her grow and blossom in her interactions with others and her delight in life gives me great joy. I am SO thankful she is eating.

2. 3013 days - The number of days I was married to Kelsey. Although technically only 186 days of our marriage were in 2014, I am thankful for each day. There were hard days, sad days, joyful days, challenging days, exciting days and fun days, but sharing 3013 days with such a special gift from God was a privilege.

1. Christ - He is the one I cling to. His birth, life, death and resurrection provide me with a confidence and hope. One day there will be a joyous reunion. Death, tears and sadness will be all made right.

Another blessing (which, if included, would result in a top 11 list, so was not included) is music. Thanks to each you who have shared music – it continues to be an encouragement. If you are curious what is in my playlist now, here is a YouTube playlist (this is the order I heard them on shuffle this evening). I will not be offended if you don’t listen to all of the songs (it is an hour and 55 minutes).

And, a couple recent photos of Alexa that capture some of her delight in life:

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Monday, December 29, 2014

‘Tis the season

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Thank you all for your ongoing prayers! It has been some time since I last posted, we have definitely been staying busy during the Thanksgiving and Christmas season. Many of you have asked how I am doing during this time of the year. The time from Kelsey’s birthday on, along with the last couple weeks of Alexa’s hunger strike, have been the two toughest periods since the loss of Kelsey. As Alexa and I were flying out to California on Christmas Eve, I had a chance to finish a book I was given recently. The book is Lament for a Son, by Nicholas Wolterstorff (thanks Kenneth Merrill for sharing it with me). It is a profound book (I am sure I will share more thoughts from it in the days to come), which certainly speaks in many ways to the craziness of the road of grief. While Wolterstorff experienced a different loss (his 25 year old son died in a climbing accident), there is a universality to many of the thoughts he expresses. Here is what he says about holidays:

“The worst days now are holidays: Thanksgiving, Christmas, Easter, Pentecost, birthdays, weddings, January 31 – days meant as festivals of happiness and joy are now days of tears. The gap is too great between day and heart. Days of routine I can manage; no songs are expected. But how am I to sing in this desolate land, when there’s always one too few?”

They are days of heartache in many senses. As I hear Christmas carols proclaiming the joy of family, “the most wonderful time of the year” doesn’t always seem so wonderful because there is a gaping hole in our family. Many of you who know Kelsey well know how much she enjoyed the entire season from her birthday on. She had such fun decorating the house for Thanksgiving, then getting all of the Christmas décor put up. She loved getting together with friends and family. She loved the joy of figuring out perfect gifts for those around her. She loved giving gifts – it always pained her a bit because we had a gift budget, she sometimes felt a bit constrained. She delighted in watching Alexa experience the joys of the season: advent calendars and devotions, “dancing lights” (what Alexa used to call Christmas light shows), time with family, snow, and opening gifts. She enjoyed reflecting on the prior year and determining how with God’s help she would face the new year. If you missed the post last year, or just want to be reminded of how much she loved this time of year, check out this post from December 24th, 2013: http://goo.gl/nueiZx.

Thanksgiving has come and gone. Christmas has done the same. The new year is fast approaching. The days march relentlessly on, the same as they have each year before, but there is something different. There is an absence. To quote Wolterstorff again, “There’s a hole in the world now. … A person, an irreplaceable person, is gone. … Only a hole remains, a void, a gap, never to be filled.”

Yet, there still is a sweetness to the season, albeit tempered by the stark reality of Kelsey’s absence. We are blessed. Here are two examples of the unexpected blessings. Every year, we decorate the inside of our house for Christmas. This year was no exception. Alexa was thrilled to help decorating our tree (she got to help several people decorate this year and loved it) and loved to see the final product come together (LED candles, Christmas tree, greenery). I hung our lit outdoor wreath and set up the two small Christmas trees outside our door. Alexa decided they weren’t up to her standard, “Dad, can we have more lights?” I said something lame and moved on. Alexa didn’t move on, but come to find out, there were some “Christmas elves” who came to decorate our house. Alexa was thrilled to see the new décor which now graces our house.

Another friend got Alexa and me tickets to the Nutcracker ballet at the Oklahoma City Civic Center. Alexa thought it was fantastic. She spent a good percentage of the ballet dancing in our aisle (there were a few open seats next to us). Afterward, this same friend helped us get backstage to see the set. Alexa actually got to hold the nutcracker which was in the ballet, got to ride the toy horse, walk down the stairs Clara used to enter the room, and meet the “princesses” (as she called them: the sugar plum fairy and Clara). She was on cloud nine!

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It has been fun to go to see Christmas light shows with Alexa, to hear her singing “Mary Did You Know?” loudly and proudly (she is enamored with the Pentatonix – we have listened to their newest album multiple times), to watch the joy on her face as she spends time with family, and to see her face light up as she opens a present.

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In the midst of grief, there is joy in the Christmas season. God’s plan to rescue us from our separation from Him due to our incredible shortcomings in living up to His holy standard became tangible through the birth of a baby in the little town of Bethlehem. As Christ lived a sinless, perfect, holy life, obediently went to the cross where he was crucified and died like a common criminal – taking the punishment for our sins, then rose again, he set the stage for the day death will ultimately be conquered. The day we hear of in Revelation 21:4 – “He will wipe away every tear from their eyes. Death will no longer exist; grief, crying, and pain will exist no longer, because the previous things have passed away.” The salvation I have through Christ ensures I will see Kelsey again. So, in the midst of pain, still, ‘tis the season. Maybe not a season when I am feeling “jolly” (as in happy and cheerful), but a season of joy in knowing there is a day coming soon when death is no more. A season of reflecting on the pain of our Father God who sent His beloved Son to be condemned to death. A season of rejoicing in God’s love for us – a love which chose incredible grief for Himself to ensure one day, we who trust in Him will never have another moment of grief.

Friday, November 21, 2014

Happy Birthday, Kelsey!

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Happy Birthday, Kelsey! Although you are not here to celebrate with us this year in person, it is an opportunity for us to celebrate your life and the many lives that you touched in your 35 years here on earth.

I am not sure if the day of our physical birth is as celebrated in heaven as the day of our second birth, but I would imagine that Kelsey is enjoying some chocolate cake made by Nonie (her grandmother) and making those around her laugh as she regales them with hilarious stories. It is crazy to think she has been in heaven for over four and a half months and, in light of eternity, she isn’t even getting started!

But, back here on earth, there is definitely a huge void. Kelsey loved birthdays, regardless of whether it was hers or not. Having an excuse to eat cake always made for a good day. She had such fun sharing her special day with her niece, Rylen.

And, her birthday is another day which reminds us she is not here. She is missed for so many reasons! Thank you all for the sympathy you have shared with us today. Thank you for your prayers. Thank you for the memories you have shared of Kelsey. Thank you for taking opportunities to share the gospel with others. She is daily missed, but there is encouragement when we continue to hear how the effects of her life continue to ripple onward. It seems like a short 35 years, but they were well spent!

God continues to give grace. Thank you for continuing to walk with us in this journey.

Wednesday, November 5, 2014

Four months

Four months ago, at 4:00 pm, Kelsey left this dry and weary land and stepped into an eternity with her Creator, Savior, Redeemer, and Dearest Friend. Four months ago, at 4:00 pm, began the start of a new reality for Alexa, me, and all of Kelsey’s friends and family. A reality where praying for Kelsey’s earthly healing was no longer necessary. A reality where we would never again see Kelsey entering a room with her infectious smile. A reality where there are reminders of her 35 years on earth, but where those reminders are not connected to her physical presence any longer. A reality where her words of wisdom and keen perception hang suspended – complete. Kelsey is not around to add to them or offer additional insight in times of joy or struggle. It is the reality of a race well run, but also the reality of a life which goes on before those of us who remain behind.

Four months. Am I better? No. Am I bitter? No. Are there moments when I am angry, discouraged, overwhelmed, and/or frustrated? Yes. Grief still comes in waves, sometimes when least expected. My days are full, but there is a semblance of routine and order. Alexa is settled in to pre-K, loves her nanny, as well as her times with our dear friend and her daughter: going to BSF on Wednesday mornings and afternoons on Wednesday and Friday. We cherish times with family. I value the moments I get to spend with Alexa, watching her grow and seeing a feisty spirit and a joy for life which reminds me of Kelsey. But, there is someone missing and we are missing someone.

Sometimes, seemingly small inconveniences become big deals. Here is an example. On Friday, a sticker came home letting me know that Monday was picture day. Getting Alexa to wear clothes she is not excited about is never an easy task, and the outfit she wore on Monday was no exception to the rule. I am resigned to not being a professional hairdresser and getting her hair mostly presentable was a big deal. Got her ready, calmed the tears when she was quite distraught about what she was wearing with a reassurance picture days only came one time a year, then got her off to school. When I got home, I saw the note, “We apologize for the inconvenience, the sticker you received on Friday was sent in error, pictures are actually Wednesday.” I was furious. Some unkind thoughts ran through my head. I may have been somewhat composed on the outside, but inside, I was tallying the injustices. About pictures? Yep. That is the current reality at times.

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And look, I did get a picture that day, just not one from the school!

I share with you, not so you feel sorry, not so you write letters to Alexa’s pre-K (trust me, I wrote some priceless ones in my head), but so you see the reality of life. Decisions around every corner. A lack of time to do the things which seem like they MUST be done, but yet, when they do not get done, the world does not fall apart. Taking advantage of the precious moments with Alexa is far more important to me than a dust free home.

And in all of this, the reassurances of God’s Word rise up around me:

“When you pass through the waters, I will be with you;
And through the rivers, they will not overflow you.
When you walk through the fire, you will not be scorched,
Nor will the flame burn you.” – Isaiah 43:2

“Do not fear, for I am with you;
Do not anxiously look about you, for I am your God.
I will strengthen you, surely I will help you,
Surely I will uphold you with My righteous right hand.” – Isaiah 41:10

“Casting all your anxiety on Him, because He cares for you.” – 1 Peter 5:7

“These things I have spoken to you, so that in Me you may have peace. In the world you have tribulation, but take courage; I have overcome the world.”
– John 16:33

God is faithful. He is good. He loves me. He loves Alexa. Sometimes, I have to repeat those reassurances to myself again and again. But there is growing hope. I see God’s faithfulness today, and trust a bit more each day in His faithfulness tomorrow.

PRAYER REQUESTS

-- Pray for energy to spend time in the Word. Some mornings it is all I can do to drag myself out of bed after a full day before. The days I spend time in God’s Word are much more grounded in truth than days I do not.
-- Pray for wisdom with Alexa. She continues to eat, which is a wonderful praise, but also continues to exert control in random ways. Prayerfully she is at the other side of a phase where she didn’t drink much, because she didn’t want anyone but me to take her to the restroom.
-- Pray for wisdom in making decisions at home and at work.
-- Pray for my interactions with others. I desire to encourage others who are maybe also walking through dark times and may be wondering why God seems to be silent.
-- Pray for Alexa’s heart. I continue to pray she will come to know Christ and come to understand He will ALWAYS be with her – nothing can take Him away.
-- Pray for sweet conversations with Alexa. Moments when she shares a memory she has with Kelsey are hard, but so special. Pray as Alexa learns more about the type of person Kelsey was, she will seek to emulate Kelsey’s godly qualities.

There is more to write – more stories to tell and more pictures to share. For now, I leave you with a few photos:


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Monday, October 13, 2014

Thank you!

I have been struggling with how to write this post for several weeks now. I start it in my head, then I get so overwhelmed with the enormity of it all, I give up. I start again (again in my head) and am worried I will leave someone out. Tonight, I am starting to write on the blog – we’ll see if I can do it! My parents taught me to be thankful from a young age. When someone did something unearned and undeserved, I learned the importance of saying thank you. I don’t think people did what they did to receive a thank you, but learning to say thank you helped me to see gratitude is probably as much for the recipient as it is for the giver. It reminds us we are undeserving.

Over the past eighteen months, you have all been God’s hands and feet. You have shown love and kindness to Kelsey, Alexa and me in literally countless ways. Bringing meals, watching and loving on Alexa, mowing our lawn, planting flowers, cleaning the house, sharing (and even writing) songs and poetry, photo and video sessions, calling to pray with us, sending notes, sharing your homes, helping financially, giving gifts, showing up at the house to spend time with us, sharing truth, sending books, passing along songs of hope, giving the gift of time, and on and on the list goes.

I had a pipe dream I would be able to write a hand-written note to each of you (and perhaps someday my dream can become a reality). Kelsey kept a list of all of the people who had invested in her life in some way until the days came when her hand was so sore it was tough for her to write. She would have me add to the list of people who had given some sort of tangible gift. The problem with the list we wrote down is there are many of you who are not included there. Many of you who prayed faithfully from the moment you heard of Kelsey’s condition until the day she breathed her last here on earth. The other problem is in the swirl of activity after Kelsey died, I was a bit less organized than she was and I know there are people who supported us in one way or another who are not written in the “giving book.”

So, forgive me friends! You may never receive a personal note to thank you for the gift you gave. So many of you gave gifts in memory of Kelsey. I think back now and it is incredible to think there was never a moment when I felt overwhelmed with any sort of financial burden. I honestly believe Alexa and I could live for three months on all of the gift cards we have received. You blessed us beyond measure and continue to do so. You have shared so many special memories of how Kelsey touched your lives, you ask me how Alexa and I are doing and are willing to listen and pray. My church family, both local and universal have been incredible in how you have poured out your love. My work family has been incredible in allowing me time to grieve. My family has been so incredibly supportive – what a blessing it is to have tremendous, godly parents and siblings on both Kelsey’s and my side of the family. I cannot imagine surviving the past 18 months without them. Multiple trips down to MD Anderson, multiple weeks they spent packed into our house – helping with Alexa and helping to care for Kelsey.

A thank you is really inadequate. My prayer is for God to bless each of you for the blessing you have been to me. My words cannot convey the overflowing gratitude I have in my heart as I see a significant part of my ongoing healing has to do with your prayers, love and support.

Are there hard days? Without a doubt. There are moments I look around and wonder how I will make it through the next minute. There are moments of utter exhaustion when I cry out for God’s mercy to get me through the hours before I can fall into bed. But, there are also nearly constant glimpses of God’s love and faithfulness – so many of those coming from you. So thank you! And, I thank God for you!

Please don’t stop now! I covet your prayers for Alexa and me. I am thankful for each time someone shares a song which encourages them, recounts a story of how Kelsey blessed their life, asks how I am doing, gives me a hug or shakes my hand and lets me know they are praying. Don’t stop! You won’t offend me when you bring up Kelsey in conversation. If I ever don’t have the ability to talk about her right then, I will let you know, but those times are very rare.

Many of you have asked how you can be praying for Alexa and me – here are a few specifics:

-- Pray for ongoing opportunities to share God’s love and grace with others. Like it or not, I have joined a community of people who lost spouses at young ages. I have been blessed with wonderful family and friends – others are not as fortunate. Pray I can glorify God in the way I live my life and point others to Him.
-- Pray for sweet times with Alexa. I want to be faithful to capture her memories of her mommy, so when aspects of her memory fade I can point to Kelsey’s tenacity of faith, love for others, and love for Alexa.
-- Pray for wisdom. There are more decisions to be made and time is very limited. Pray I can redeem the moments I have and make wise decisions with my time.
-- Pray for endurance. In a similar fashion, with everything to do, it can be a bit overwhelming at times. Ask God for strength for me to do the things which need to be done and trust Him for the non-crucial ones.
-- Pray for moments to grieve. In the chaos, it can be hard to find the time to take time to understand the loss.

Again, thank you! I have some insight into what Paul wrote in Philippians 1:3: “I thank my God every time I remember you.” I most certainly do thank God every time I remember you – while you may not receive a hand-written letter to that effect, it makes it no less accurate!

I’ll end with a less than perfect selfie of Alexa and me. Unfortunately you can’t see all of Alexa’s Elsa dress – she is very proud of it and was overjoyed when the package arrived in the mail from Mimi and Pop.

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