Home from my US tour

The past three weeks have been a blur. They’ve been a mix of grief, celebration, family time, traveling, sightseeing, and lots of time on a plane.

First, I went to Illinois for my grandmother’s funeral, which I posted about. Then, I came home to a full house with Aaron’s brother and his family, who flew in from Chicago. We had a fabulous time. This was the first time they visited us, and we loved having focused time with just their family. We went to Washington, DC, and saw so many things that I had already seen, but had a new or different meaning. I actually didn’t take a lot of pictures for either my trip to IL or Bruce and Katie’s trip here; I was still taking a step back with my Lenten commitment to decrease time on social media and therefore didn’t have my phone out 24/7.

In DC, we saw all that we could see along the National Mall, including the White House! I hadn’t visited DC since I was 16, and since it was the summer right after 9/11, a lot was inaccessible. We visited Arlington National Cemetery, as well, and visited graves of friends who had passed away while on active duty. Arlington is always a humbling place that takes your breath away. The next day we visited the National Zoo, where they have a baby panda.

We saw some sights closer to home, including Havre de Grace (only 5 miles away from our house!) and downtown Baltimore. Needless to say, we ate tons of crab in all its forms: crab cakes, crab dip, and I even had a fried soft-shell crab sandwich at a roadside shack off of Route 22.

On Good Friday, I flew out to Seattle from Philadelphia on a nonstop flight. I stayed with my sister Emily and her husband for a week. This was the trip that had been planned the longest. Historically, Emily and I have spent one week per year together, and in the past she’s usually visited me in El Paso. Of course when she moved to Seattle, I knew I had to see her this time.

The morning after I got there, Emily dropped me off at the Snohomish Centennial Trail, and she did yoga while I did my long run. Sunday we went to a local Methodist church for Easter service and then headed to Pike Place Market in Seattle. Many businesses were closed, but we still managed to have a great time.

Monday and Tuesday were spent in Portland by way of Amtrak. We explored the city mostly on foot, and rode the bus occasionally. We used AirBnB to book our room, and I loved the experience of actually staying in someone’s house. We hit up Powell’s Books (of course!) and a couple yarn shops. We ate great pizza and had gourmet ice cream. We literally ran into Deschutes Brewery, which we didn’t realize was on our walk back to the train station.

Wednesday and Thursday were spent mostly in Snohomish. We went wine tasting at Chateau Ste. Michelle and had lunch in Woodinville. We did laundry, and as with my sister(s) in any mundane activity, it was fun. We hiked in Wallace Falls State Park, and it was gorgeous. We ended the day with dinner in downtown Snohomish at a Mexican restaurant right on the river.

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Wallace Falls State Park, Gold Bar, WA

March was a whirl of a month, and I am glad to be home and get back in our normal routine. The ‘new’ normal of eating dinner together, not being apart for months on end, and having the ability to plan things more than a month in advance. I’ll take it.

 

March 23 | Grief

Grief

How appropriate that today’s word is ‘grief.’ I took a little hiatus from my daily posts (but not from Bible reading) because life got a little topsy-turvy after my grandmother died two weeks ago today. I went to Illinois for the funeral and time with family and then when I got back, we had family from my husband’s side visit for the week. They left this morning, so before I travel out to Seattle to see one of my sisters, I have a couple days to regroup and gather thoughts (and do laundry).

My grandmother Jane was a lovely lady. I know this, and my family knows this, but what I found out by standing in the receiving line at the visitation is that everyone who knew her knows this. For almost two hours I introduced (and re-introduced) myself as ‘the oldest granddaughter Elizabeth’ to people who played cards with her and my grandpa, people who attended to church with her, people who cooked with her in the church kitchen, people who worked their land, and I’m pretty sure that her entire floor of the retirement home came to pay their respects. I wish I could have recorded all the nice things people said about her in that line.

Her full name was Eleanor Jane, but she always went by Jane. Eleanor and Jane mean respectively ‘bright shining one’ and ‘God’s gracious gift,’ and let me tell you, she embodied her name. My husband and I had our children’s names picked out for years, but I told him the day of the funeral that if we ever had a girl, we would name her Eleanor Jane in place of the name we’d picked out. He said he wouldn’t even argue with that. I lightheartedly told him that was a good decision.

My grandmother left an amazing legacy of faith that was quietly and steadfastly lived out. During the memorial service the pastor read her statement of faith that she wrote in a Bible study class, and in it she said that when she was a young girl, she went to church when she could, with family members, with the neighbors. She loved to be in church. She always encouraged my faith, and I tried to go to church with her when I was in town, especially after my grandfather passed away.

She didn’t suffer. I’m happy for that. I’m also overjoyed for her present victory, but so overwhelmed at times with grief that this world (and I) lost a bright, loving, giving soul. God gave her an earthly vessel for 87 years. That, coupled with heartache, loss, and joy, makes for a long full life. I can only hope to come close to that.

I’m grieving still. My family is grieving. My dad has now lost both of his parents. Please keep us in your thoughts and prayers. It’s especially hard when I want to call her to tell her about our recent visit with family, or about my upcoming trip to the West Coast. My heart aches when I realize that I can no longer speak with her.

But I don’t think I’ve ever understood our eternal destiny in Jesus more until she passed. I have never had such a sense of the truth and power of the Resurrection, nor have I ever had such a concrete moment in life attached to the Lenten season.

The message at church this past Sunday talked about how disciples suffer with Jesus. Our pastor, just hours before church began, lost his brother to a long battle with cancer. In the midst of that, he spoke about how we can’t have light without darkness. We can’t have the true and full joy of the Resurrection on Sunday without the tragic and sometimes infuriating events of this holy week. The timing of all these events is not happenstance; it’s the mysterious workings of God, perhaps to remind us where we’ve come from and where we’re going, and what our purpose is while we’re here. There is darkness, death, grief, and sin in this world. But Jesus has already overcome it. We can have freedom and resurrection with Him.

“Therefore, since we have so great a cloud of witnesses surrounding us, let us also lay aside every encumbrance and the sin which so easily entangles us, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of faith, who for the joy set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.” Hebrews 12:1-2

My Grammie and me

On the plane I try not to cry so I clench my teeth

Seeing the flat land of my birth below fills me with grief

I know that this is real, this passing on

I know that her soul like a bird has flown

On this cusp of spring when the earth soon will bloom

For all of the stories of love and affection, I would never have room

With warm coffee in hand I watch her face so fair

As she tells me stories, and I’m content to sit with her there

And of my rich history, now of this I do know

Of the generations of people who came before me, long ago

Throughout my life I see the pain and loss she endures

But praise God, there comes a day when peace and rest are now hers

This day we celebrate a life fully lived

We take comfort in the fact that she gave all there was to give

With one last breath her soul gives a heart cry

Now under the wings of an eagle, with our Lord she now flies

–for Eleanor Jane Rhoades Little, 1928-2016–

grammie and grandpa 1966
Grandpa and Grammie, 1966
grammie and me 1988
Grammie and me, July 1988
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Grandpa, me, Dad, Mom, Grammie, June 2008

During my running in central Illinois, I had some great ideas for blogs. And then I forgot them. Maybe the extensive sunshine and 60-degree highs I came back to in Texas have something to do with it.

I had a great visit home. For the first time I just took things one day at a time and didn’t plan out everything before the plane even hit the ground. I got to see all my nieces and nephews (we have six total now) and witnessed my sister’s baby make progress in walking. For three weeks straight, if you count when my aunt came to visit, I’ve been around people 24/7, unless I was driving somewhere or running. Honestly, it’s kind of lonely being back in my house now, but I’ll pick up my dog tomorrow from boarding.

I’m pretty sure I saw every kind of precipitation there can be within the two weeks I was in the Midwest. Rain, snow, drizzle, mist (yes, that’s a thing), freezing rain… I’m not even sure they have all those words down here. It snowed before I arrived, and then in true Illinois style it melted away two days later. I got out of O’Hare just in time yesterday since it snowed again.

January and February have historically been my least favorite months going on years now. For the time I lived in Illinois, these months meant cold, dreary, gray days for weeks. The spring semester is actually a little longer than the fall, and the first quarter of the new year always feels like forever. Being in the Southwest for the past few new years has definitely helped with the abundant sunshine and spring-like temps.

Deployment is mostly done, and we have a tentative date. But who am I kidding? Every date thus far has been tentative and it seems there’s always fine print. We’ve just let ourselves get excited though, because this has been rough. We’ll take all the excitement we can get. I hope to have my husband back by spring break. Please, Jesus, PLEASE.

So, I have a few numbers for 2013. It was an…. interesting…. year. It’s like the second book in a series… it provides a bridge from the old to the new, and can be kind of boring at times, but it’s necessary all the same.

600+ miles run. Until August, I wasn’t too particular about tracking every mile I ran. I had a good running year, and felt like I grew a lot as a runner. I worked past a lot of mental blocks in order to succeed physically, and that means a lot.

17 ESL students taught. This was a highlight of 2013 for me. And I’ll have about 17 more students this coming semester.

7 months of deployment. From May to December, we completed the majority of this time apart.

4.0 achieved. 30 hours of my grad degree are completed One class and my thesis to finish and I’m DONE!

3 visitors. Both of my sisters (plus baby) and my aunt came to visit. I’m thankful; it helps give something to look forward to.

2 trips. Colorado and Illinois. Both were great.

1 nephew born. My sweet nephew Benjamin. I love that kid.

2014 has potential. We’ll see what it has to offer.

My only resolution? To spend more than a third of the year in the same geographic location as my husband. 😉

A Very Beth Thanksgiving

As I reflect on the Thanksgivings I’ve had since getting married in 2008, I’ve realized that we’ve had exactly one tradition: no tradition. And I kind of like it.

Thanksgiving 2008: I honestly don’t remember what we did, but I know we (my husband and I) spent it with our families. This was pre-layoff, pre-Army, pre-moving. Little did we know how much life would change….

Thanksgiving 2009: Aaron was in training in Arizona, and I flew out to Phoenix to spend the weekend with him. We stayed at this resort Thanksgiving night and had the dinner the hotel offered. It was awesome. We spent the rest of the weekend at a cheaper place, haha. One night at that place was enough for our bank account!

Thanksgiving 2010: Aaron was in Korea, and it was the first set of holidays we spent apart. I spent the day with my family and his, and I remember Skyping with him in my in-laws’ living room.

Thanksgiving 2011: This was our first Thanksgiving just he and I, and it was our first here in Texas. We had signed up for the Turkey Trot, but we decided to skip it to make a huge meal with all the fixins, including my first turkey. We had leftovers for dayyyzzzz.

Thanksgiving 2012: Aaron had just returned from an exercise overseas, so we were so happy to be together. We did the Turkey Trot in the morning (now one of my absolutely favorite things to do every year), and then stayed downtown for the parade. Later we spent the day with dear friends Alvin and Lacey and Lacey’s family just a few miles from our house. It was nice.

Thanksgiving 2013: This is what I have dubbed A Very Beth Thanksgiving. Even before Aaron deployed in the spring, I knew who I’d spend Thanksgiving with, my “adopted” family here in Texas. It was 24 hours of crazy fun. Wednesday night I went to a friend’s house and had a delicious ham dinner with friends from our college/20-somethings small group. Then, early Thursday morning Leah Beth, her oldest son, and I went downtown to run the YMCA Turkey Trot.

race2013

I had my sights set on running a new 5K PR this year, but after I took a little over a week off because I was sick last week, I wasn’t sure how I’d do. I was shooting for 26:30, but I’ll take this! My previous official 5K time was 27:33. I’ve taken nearly 6 minutes off my 5K time since my first 5K in 2010 where I had a time of 32:17. I really think though that if I’m consistent with speed and hill work I can improve even more. I also was hoping to see Farrah of Fairy Healthy Life and we ran into each other!

I PR'd! 26:49 official time!!
I PR’d! 26:49 official time!!

After the race, Leah Beth, Nolan and I were freeeezing from being sweaty. We headed back to their house, destinkified (yes, it’s a word) and finished up dinner. We did not cook our own turkey; instead, we ordered a smoked turkey breast from Rudy’s Texas BBQ. We had a slightly unconventional menu, including fruit salad, cranberry walnut salad, Texas potatoes, corn casserole, Hawaiian rolls (um, duh), apple pie, and Mississippi Mud. I have to say, this is the first holiday where I have not overindulged!

So, we had Leah Beth and her family; me, Elizabeth; and my “Mexican twin,” also Elizabeth, for dinner. We call each other “twin” because even though we have different cultures and first languages, it is freaky how many things we have in common. Seriously freaky. I just love having wonderful brothers and sisters in Christ! We truly are a family away from family.

Elizabeth, Leah Beth, Elizabeth (me)
me, Carson, Elizabeth
me, Carson, Elizabeth

Do not be deceived; our day wasn’t over after dinner. We watched Elf, which I am ashamed to admit that I had never seen. Elizabeth left and Leah Beth and I left to work a shift as “friends and family” at Old Navy. We worked together at a table giving cards to people who had received wristbands as they walked in for a chance to win a million. Most people were really nice and even offered to share a portion of their winnings with us, and we also of course had a couple interesting characters. After our shift was over, we shopped at Old Navy (50% off!) and then went to Target expecting it to be pretty busy. However, since the sales had started so early, at 1 AM it wasn’t busy at all. It was probably the calmest Target experience I’d had here.

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Working at Old Navy

We got home roughly at about 2 AM and we crashed. Hard. I’d been up for almost 24 hours because silly me, I had caffeine late Wednesday night and couldn’t stay asleep. The Very Beth Thanksgiving was undoubtedly a Thanksgiving to remember!

As you can imagine, it’s difficult to be half a world away from your spouse anyway, let alone during the holidays. But I’m thankful for a family who’s adopted me as their own (I’m Aunt Biff in that house ;)). Not every military wife with a deployed spouse has that. Several times this week when I thought about how many people I know here who love me and would help me out at any time, I became teary-eyed and felt overwhelmed with gratefulness.

Now the countdown is on for the end of the semester. Monday begins the last week of classes, and then we have finals and then I’m DONE until the third week in January. My favorite aunt comes to visit soon, and then we spend the weekend together here before flying back to Illinois together. Both of my sisters have come to visit me this year at different times, but my family hasn’t been together in one place since last Christmas. A year is a long time to go between visits!

I hope you all had a blessed Thanksgiving!

Busy.

We are in the fifth week of the semester already. This week has been crazy! It’s not that things I do are particularly challenging; it’s that every couple hours I’m starting something different. I practically live in Liberal Arts building. But I love this program. This week I taught a class in preparation to teach it as an instructor in the fall (in Texas you have to have 18 hours to teach college level). It was great. I love that I know what I’m good at, and I love that what I’m good at is also something I enjoy. I just hope I’m not shooting myself in the foot when I graduate and going back out into a sucky teaching field. Also, who knows where we’ll be stationed in a year and a half.

Lent is underway, and one thing I was thinking of giving up was social media; however, I don’t think that’s necessary! I’m not on nearly as much as I was, and it’s been a welcome change. One of my New Year’s resolutions was to be “all in”… and I am, out of both desire and necessity.

Spring break commences in only three short weeks, and my sister Emily is coming to visit! I’m so excited to give her a little tour of the Southwest. A few places we will visit are Mesilla, Albuquerque, Santa Fe, and of course different places in El Paso. Hopefully the weather will be good and not too windy. You know what they say around here, Febrero loco y marzo otro poco. Let’s hope the wind is poco.

I’ve been sick this week too, but I motivated mentally to run more, so I hope it will translate to the physical realm! My next post should be introducing to my new nephew, who is delaying his arrival into the world (my sister Leah was due three days ago!). Little stinker. 😉

The year of big girl panties: a recap.

My presence on my blog has been scant recently. I come to my laptop tonight from my sewing table. I always seem to think better when I’m sewing… my mind is free and it wanders while my hands are still busy. I’m so fidgety, just like my grandpa.

I doubt I’ll be posting much over the next few weeks; I finish up the semester this coming week, in a little over a week we fly to Illinois to spend Christmas with family, then we come back to Texas to go to the World Missions Summit in Fort Worth. I hope the last few weeks of 2012 go slowly and we’re able to enjoy them as much as possible.

So, the title. In the military-spouse world, when we talk about getting through “grown-up” things by gritting our teeth and putting our whiny ways aside, we call that “putting our big girl panties on”. A silly metaphor, maybe, but you can’t wear Disney Princess underwear forever. At least, I haven’t found any in my size…

This was a year of gritting my teeth and getting through things. It wasn’t a horrible year; I wouldn’t even say it was a bad year. But there were a lot of tough situations that have forced me to mature (we all need that, right??) and trust God more. That’s a generalization though, for sure.

Two-thousand twelve started out with me working a job that I severely disliked. Severely. Life is short, and in my 26 years I like to say that I’ve learned how to make sound decisions, so I decided to quit. I barely had another “job” lined up… nannying. It was enjoyable enough, but definitely something I wouldn’t want to do long term. I love kids. I love other people’s kids, for the most part. But I don’t have kids yet, so it’s safe to say that taking care of other people’s kids when I haven’t yet decided to go down that road just isn’t fun sometimes. However, on a farm in southern New Mexico, I finally learned what was important in life and became content in my situation.

I experienced a couple more firsts this year, namely the death of a close loved one, and the absence of my husband during this time. Actually, the absence of my family during the few days before I flew to Illinois. I would not relive those days or wish them on anyone. Never in my life had I been so anxious and desperate that I couldn’t even muster an appetite, and if you’ve been around me for even a day you know that I love food! It was awful. I am very lucky that I was able to go home and say a proper goodbye.

This year was also the first that my husband and I have gone on separate trips out of the country. While I would have loved to have him with me in Honduras, and I would have loved to go with him (sorry, still have to be vague about where!), it was a good experience to travel on my own. It only feeds my desire to travel somewhere every few months!

And as an ongoing event of 2012, I’ve finally become happy(ier) with my body and also with my fitness and eating habits. I haven’t been tracking my calories or paces for awhile now, and it’s freeing. Having no expectations of my paces makes good races and paces that much sweeter. I was just getting so bogged down with looking at my watch constantly and figuratively beating myself up over it, and then getting on the scale and beating myself up about those numbers. Damn numbers. Done. Done done done.

One of the most freeing aspects of 2012 was that I’ve finally, finallyFINALLY surrendered my baby fever. We, my husband and I, came to the conclusion that we are not ready for children yet, despite what people say. What do people really know anyway? They just want to oogle and stalk pictures of your family on Facebook; they’re not thinking of the sleepless nights, poopy diapers, and expenses that come with having children. We want to be a little selfish for awhile still. We want to finish degrees and fly on planes to cool places and just be us for awhile longer. Our family is complete the way it is now. It’s taken me awhile to be okay with that, but now I am. This pretty much sums it up:

my dog
Thanks, Jess!

…but really. My dog is awesome.

2012 was absolutely 100% essential for my development as an adult. I wouldn’t do it again, but I wouldn’t change it either, at least the things that weren’t outside of my control. 2013 will see a subsequently 27-year-old Elizabeth with her big girl panties on, guns a-blazin’. Strange picture…. but whatever. 😉

Thankful in November

I’m not a fan of blowing up my own Facebook news feed every day with stuff, so I’ll keep a blog entry for the month.

I’m thankful for…

11/1  …all the opportunities I’ve had to travel the US and the world. It’s such a blessing to be able to see all of God’s people in action, and to minister to His church.

11/2 …the safety we’ve had while traveling. Even when I was in Bolivia in the midst of their president resigning and there being transportation strikes all over the country, I was able to get home safely.

11/3 …God bringing us to El Paso. I’ve always felt connected to the Southwest, but wasn’t sure why, and I actually cried (not with joy) when Aaron told me we were moving here. But I can truly say we love it here.

11/4 …my parents and sisters, and that we’re so close. So many people can’t stand their families or are estranged from them, and although we’ve had our moments, we forgive each other and move on. My sisters are my best friends.

11/5 …my relationship with my husband. We’ve been apart for over half of our almost 10-year relationship, and because of that we are expert communicators with each other. We can pick our battles and not let the small things get to us (most of the time…;))

11/6 …the fact that God provides everything we need. We may not always have extra, but we have enough. If I didn’t have my job I have now, we wouldn’t be able to go home for Christmas or to the World Missions Summit. Coincidence? I think not.

11/7 …that I discovered my professional calling at a young age, 17 to be exact. I knew I would go into education before I graduated high school, and I found out that I love teaching. It makes me happy, especially when I’m having a crappy day. I love interacting with students, and with my international students, I’m learning so much!

11/8 …beautiful fall weather in the desert. Highs in the 80’s, lows in the 50’s. Sunny every day with barely a cloud in the sky.

11/9 …for the years my grandparents had together, and for the years I had with my grandpa. We got closer as I got older. Today would have been their 60th anniversary.

11/10 …growing up in the Midwest, and the fond memories I have. Things weren’t always perfect, but I had a stable childhood and lived in the same house practically all my life. I doubt our children will be able to say the latter. 🙂

11/11 …all the veterans that have protected our freedom, and especially for the veterans in my family.. my husband, brothers-in-law, father-in-law, older cousin, grandfather, friends… our country is free because of their sacrifices.

11/12 …for the desert sun in the fall and winter. It may be chilly (now it’s in the 30’s at night!) but that sun feels amazing.

11/13 …for my parents taking us to church when we were little. I spent a lot of time at the church behind my house in service, Sunday school and volunteering. I learned a lot and many of the Bible verses and hymns have stuck with me throughout the years.

11/14 …this opportunity to study further and to have a job that I love. Thank you, Lord. A year ago I was in a horrible horrible job situation and I’m thankful to be doing this now! In fact, I think a year ago I was saying to Aaron how great it would be to study for my Master’s in linguistics, and here I am! Now to apply for a scholarship that would pay for my whole year next year…

11/15 …for our Pit bull mix, Missy. This girl is the best companion when Aaron’s gone and such a sweetheart. Glad we decided to adopt her!

11/16 …that my parents raised us in a way that we were thankful for what we had, and we didn’t always strive for the newest/most expensive things. It makes me appreciate what I have now; if we didn’t have used furniture (family hand-me-downs) then we wouldn’t have anything to sit or sleep on!

11/17 …our cars, which are both 15 years old but still run well. I will have my little Camry until the day it bites the dust. 183,500 miles and counting! We got Aaron’s car, a ’96 Honda, over a year ago when we expected him to deploy only a few short months later. Over a year later (and after a little pocket change…) and it’s still running well!

11/18 …simple evenings. Homemade chicken and dumplings in the crockpot for dinner, and relaxing and watching TV on the couch.

11/19 …my husband’s approval of my coffee budget for school/work. Sometimes (or a lot of times) you just gotta have Starbucks.

11/20 …our church friends who feel like family here… Alvin, Lacey, Marc, Leah Beth, Elizabeth, Stephanie, Karla, Gabe, Doug, Priscilla, Rachel, Mando, and many others. We’re spending Thanksgiving with some of our “family” from church eating and playing games.. can’t wait!

11/21 …for “us”. I love everything about us, the way we love each other, that we’ve been together for almost 10 years, married for almost 5. That we don’t feel the need to have kids in order to enjoy parades or pumpkin patches or corn mazes. That our family, though it’s just the two of us, feels totally complete right now.

11/22 …for our nieces and nephews. We miss them so much!

11/23 …for the fact that we like to stay active. Today was Day 2 of the Holiday Run Streak and it’s fun to go for a run/walk with Missy in the mornings.

11/24 …for our junior high students. We’ve been working with them for over a year now and they’re such a blessing and teaching us a lot in the process!

11/25 …for our house. We had an apartment for three years, and while it wasn’t tiny by any means, it’s nice not having to go up three flights of stairs to carry groceries in!

11/26 …for my health. I thought a year and a half ago I might have heart issues, but I learned that it was something easily controlled by diet and lifestyle, which is also the same for my migraines.

11/27 …for the means to go to Illinois for Christmas. We weren’t able to go last year.

11/28 …for our nieces and nephews. Joel, Rhianna, Zaia, Lena, Rand, and little Benjamin is in the oven. 😉 Being an aunt is the BEST.

11/29 …for a full fridge and pantry. So thankful for all the delicious food!

11/30 …for my in-laws and the rest of Aaron’s family. Thankful to  have a good relationship with them.

The [family] that built me

I bought these frames and arranged these pictures shortly after my aunt sent them in the mail. I finally got them up on the wall tonight. You can’t see from the picture, but they are on the wall that joins the living room and the hallway. I think I put them there on purpose, so that I could be reminded of him, and family, often.

It still hurts, and still takes me by surprise. Today I was thinking that November 9th would have been their 60th anniversary and I got choked up, right there in the middle of Starbucks. If I’m feeling this emotional, I can’t help but think how my grandmother feels this week. So, if you have a chance, say a prayer of comfort and healing for her, especially as the holidays approach as well.

When I went home in June for the funeral, I felt like I had some closure. For the most part, it felt complete. But now that we’ve planned our trip home for Christmas, I know there is more to deal with. Family, at least for me, is such a present part of our lives, joining with us in the grief, joy, sorrow and healing. For holidays and birthdays. For deaths and births. This will be our first round of holidays without him.

After the pictures found their place on the wall, I just stood there and contemplated for a minute, thinking about the circumstances under which each photo was taken. There’s on in the frame on the right of my grandparents outside on the farm in front of the deck. All of a sudden, a memory rushed like a river into my mind, of when I was little and we were leaving one time, and Grandpa would hold me and bounce down the deck on our way to the car or station wagon or whatever we had then. And he’d always hug me a little too tightly, even when I was grown. As painful as memories can be, I wouldn’t trade them for anything.

My emotions have been building up all day. When I was sewing, I was listening to some old music on Spotify, the music I listened to when I was little like Steve Miller Band, Bachman Turner Overdrive, Chicago, and John Mellencamp. Maybe it’s because Mellencamp is from the Midwest, but when I listen to him, I can just see a late autumn, early winter Illinois country road sandwiched in between harvested, dormant fields against a gray sky with a hazy sun trying to peek through the clouds. I remember many trips home from the farm in the evening, the winter sunsets and electrical towers blinking in the distance. Maybe a train racing us along the highway. It made me homesick, and then that combined with finally hanging those pictures… yeah. I’m a hot mess. And of course, listening to Miranda Lambert’s “The House That Built Me” didn’t help either.

And of course when we’re home we will visit the cemetery in Farmer City, but I should declare to myself until then that he is not in the ground, it’s just his earthly shell. That’s how my mom described death to me when I was little, that it’s just their shell. He is celebrating his eternal life right now in heaven. Thank you, Jesus.

Give Life a Hug

That’s right, embrace it. If the logical “me” could tell the emotional whiny “me” some things it’d be these:

-Stop wishing you were in a different place. God put you here in El Paso for a reason. Enjoy the scenery, as drab as the desert can be. Learn something new about your surroundings as often as you can. Don’t take those panoramic views coming over the mountain for granted!

-Stop wishing you had a different/skinnier/more muscular body. God made you with a perfectly healthy, capable body. There is more to worry about in life than the [[shhhhh]] cellulite! on your thighs. Seriously?! Get over it. Your husband loves your curves, for real. He tells you that all the time. Keep eating 80% clean/healthy and stay active. You’ll be fine.

-Stop worrying and fretting over your resume. God has control over this. Everything happens for a reason, and as silly as it sounds, it’s true! A career and workaholism isn’t everything.

-I’m proud of you that you’ve grieved for your grandpa, and that more often you’ve been smiling instead of crying when a memory strikes you. He’s with you still in spirit.. I’m sure you make him proud! Let the Lord continue to heal your heart.

-Enjoy every minute you get with your husband, because you never know when he’ll have to travel again. Enjoy the morning, enjoy random lunch dates, enjoy having dinner and relaxing together in the evenings. Don’t want to sound morbid here, but you never know when the last day with him will be.

-Embrace your role in the ministries you’re involved in! Enjoy those 7th and 8th graders. You’re a role model to them whether you want to be or not. You were made to minister to kids, whether it’s in a classroom or at youth group. Prepare spiritually for each Sunday morning and Monday evening. Ask them about their lives and how you can pray for them, and when they don’t raise their hand for prayer, pray for them anyway.

-Latch on to your new friendships here. It’s okay to make new friends; don’t isolate yourself. I daresay it’s okay to not call your old friends as often. Gasp. Yes, it’ll be hard when you move, as it was last time, but you got through it! Isn’t life better with good friends by your side??

-Lastly, stop worrying about when you’ll have those babies. I know part of you knows you’re not ready yet, although the 13-year-old Elizabeth felt for sure that the 26-year-old Elizabeth would be a mother by now, and as mature as she needed to be. Ha! There is a time for everything. Spoil those nieces and nephews. Someday you’ll wish you had all this free time to knit and sew and read. Someday you’ll wish you’d enjoyed this child-free era more with your husband. God’s got this! Fo. Shizzle.

“But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well.”

Matthew 6:33