The Graduate. My love.

My Darling Graduate,

It’s hard to believe that after five and a half years we made. There doesn’t seem to be enough words to fully describe this journey I have watched unfold… But I will try.

For the last five and a half years I have had a front-row view of this rollercoaster ride. When we started this journey in 2014 our oldest was only 8months old and I was coming out of the first trimester with our second. Newly diagnosed with HG and had a host of other complications. We knew we needed to somehow make more money to help with our growing family. But I was sick, very sick, so it fell on you. After applying for part-time jobs and not having any luck you decided to utilize your GI bill and start your bachelor’s degree. It wasn’t a dream, it was a necessity. After several tests, you landed in the field of education. The next two years brought two new babies, buying and selling a house, a very sick wife with numerous hospital visits, caring for your family, working full time, and in school full-time online. Not to mention a broken knee cap. You were burned out and exhausted.

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After that burn out you decided to try someone you might actually enjoy. In fall 2016 you transferred to a local (well an hour away!) university to learn more about the field of aviation. You did odd jobs to help provide and started school again full-time as well as hours and hours of flight training. And we found we’re expecting another baby – surprise! Four babies in under 3.5 years. It was a hard season walking away from full-time work, but God provided in so many miraculous ways. Like friends gifting us a car that is still kicking! You earned your private pilot license and I got to see you fly!

the graduate

After a year of studying Aviation, our funds were running low and tragedy struck. You had already decided to go for a flight dispatching course in the fall of 2017 in Florida but what we didn’t know was God was calling my daddy home. We got the call about the accident and without hesitation, you gave up everything. You didn’t finish the second certification you were so close to getting. It didn’t matter you prioritized me, and my family. You moved us to Florida so we could be together, and grieve. And somehow in the midst of a house full of grief you studied and was tied for first in your class for dispatch course. After applying to almost one hundred positions the door closed again and God called us back to Delaware.

The year of 2018 was the only time you were not in school full-time. We had just moved back and our heads were spinning and if we’re being fully transparent our hearts were broken. We had four kids four and under, little work and had so many closed doors. That year would only bring some more lows and closed doors, crazy schedules and pieced together work. Finishing school didn’t seem possible, we were just trying to get through the day. But things slowly stabilized and the only thing that made sense next was to finish your degree, in anything really, just finish.

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In January 2019, you were back at it. Back studying the field of education, working full-time and going to school full-time. The kicker this time was it had to be the heaviest school load you’ve ever done or you would not have enough funding before the GI bill ran out. I remember sitting next to you looking at what the schedule would have to be and freaking out internally. And mustering up some lame pep talk like “at least I’m not sick this time, the kids are bigger, it’ll be a little easier!” Total baloney. I was also working two nights a week where you had to watch four toddlers while studying. Yeah, the two do NOT go together. It wasn’t easier, but you were even stronger and more determined. You even started to develop a passion for the field. And – YOU DID IT!

I sit here with tears of relief, pride, and thankfulness flowing. There is so much about you I didn’t know about when we started this journey two years into our marriage.

I didn’t know your brain was so mathematical. You’ve exceeded in all your classes but particularly in anything to do with mathematics. It’s proof opposites do attract.

I didn’t know you were such a deep writer. I know you will laugh at this one. You HATED all your papers, discussion boards, etc. But you are a really good writer. You are precise and calculated. There isn’t any extra fluff, it’s solid and worth reading. It reflects you.

I didn’t know you were so resilient. Only I know the intimate details of this journey. How deeply weary you’ve been, the stress and disappointments you’ve been through. The heartbreak. But still, you rise.

We must give praise to who praise is due. The Lord has gifted you, lead you, sustained you, and blessed you. I don’t fully understand all the ins and outs of what has happened but He is good. He holds your future and has a plan. This passage reminds me of you.

Psalms 1:1-3

“Blessed is the man who walks not in the counsel of the ungodly, nor stands in the path of sinners, nor sits in the seat of the scornful; But his delight is in the law of the Lord, and in His law he meditates day and night. He shall be like a tree planted by the rivers of water, that brings forth its fruit in its season, whose leaf also shall not wither; and whatever he does shall prosper.”

I am so blessed to be your wife. I knew I was marrying a winner but over that last few years and trials life has thrown at you I have been blown away more than once by your character. Thank you for commitment to our family, school, and the Lord. I am thankful that when our kids are bigger and I get to share with them the amazing accomplishment this is. They are blessed to have a father like you. I am looking to having study free weekends, evenings where you aren’t working on projects or taking tests. Even still, I wouldn’t trade it. I have fallen even more in love with you. So let me scream this from the rooftops (also known as social media!) CONGRATULATIONS!!!

With all my love,

The wife & your biggest fan.

From Thinking to Knowing

My mind often wanders back to the hospital room, the beeping monitors, the scans of my father’s brain, the car partially folded and his belongings scattered. The longest week of my life, the one where we all aged 10 years. It hurts. It sucks. As the anniversary approaches, it feels like I’m coming down with the flu. I am spacey, anxious, and weak.

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I was asked to sing this weekend, not only help lead worship but it is my turn in to sing the special. My pastor wrote and said he picked “Good Good Father.” When I read the email, I instantly burst into tears. You see that is one of the songs we sang over and over again. One of the songs we listened to while driving all night fervently praying I’d make it to Georgia in time to see my dad before he was called home. A song we sang in his hospital room, the song we sang by his hospice bed waiting for his transition to heaven.

“God no, not so close to the date. Why this song?”

He quietly pressed on my heart, “Because, I’m still good and people need to be reminded.”

I showed up for practice and one of the first things my pastor said was “I changed a few of the words.” You see the song started with,

“I’ve heard a thousand stories of what they think you’re like.”

But as my pastor reminded me, we have the Bible we can read and know what he is like. Instead of that line, I will be singing,

“I’ve read a hundred stories of what we know you’re like.”

This Sunday I will do my best to get through the song, and if I don’t, I don’t. I recorded the song on my phone to share with my family who won’t be able to hear it in person. I sing it for them, I sing it for my heavenly Father who is still good, the one who never changes. But most of all, I sing it in honor of my earthly Father. The one I am missing so much. But heart breaks all over again, the memories are flooding, the tears are flowing. But I cannot keep silent. He is still good.

This is for you dad, I miss you.

It’s the popcorn and haircuts… I miss you.

Hey Dad,

I haven’t been able to say that for 18 months… 18 months and 4 days since the accident… I know you wouldn’t want to come back, Heaven is better than I can even fathom. Through the pain I can smile knowing you’re there and completely whole. Even knowing those truths, I miss you.

When I go to make popcorn, I plug in the air popper and hear the hum. I close my eyes and imagine I’m making it for you again during the commercial of whatever game is on Sunday evening. You’re right, coffee mugs are the best for heating up the butter. I miss you.

When the dolphins are on and they lose… again. I hear your voice and all the funny things you’d say about them. By the way, they fired another coach! I miss you.

On Sunday mornings, when I hear songs about Heaven. Or hear any preacher (and we have several good ones…) I think back to tiny LCC and you pacing back and forth. Your sermons and teaching style will always be my favorite. I miss you.

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When I cut the boys hair with a buzzer, I think back to learning to do it on you first. And even though I didn’t like doing it then, and I still hate cutting hair. I think of you and would do it 100 x more if possible. I miss you.

Pictures of my wedding are sweet and hard, I remember David opening up the service, and you and I having a moment waiting to walk in. I don’t know what we said. But you were just as nervous as I was. I miss you.

wedding

When I tell my testimony to others, you’re there. You baptized me, taught me, and showed me through you life that God is the ultimate example to follow, our only hope. But I miss you.

Some of my greatest adventures were with you, when I hear of someone visiting the Grand cannon, my memories are with you. When they’re driving across the country, I think of you. I miss you.

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Justin’s taking a class on English Literature this term (he’s very close to a Bachelor’s Degree!) I get giddy over the writing assignments, I wish I could take the class for him. I think it’s in my gene, the love of written communication. And I got that from you. I miss you.

It’s all the big things, and all the tiny things that made you so special, and the whole in my heart so big. I’m doing okay, God is still good. All I wanted to tell you, is that I miss you.

Love you with all the pieces of my heart,

Stephanie Grace. (aka fedex… aka gator girl)

P.s.

I still occasionally cook stuff on too high of heat on the stove and smoke up the house… miss you.

– per·sist·ent –

I’ve been “silent” for a while. I’ve felt like a very empty vessel. The waves of grief are smaller and farther between but I was left feeling very tired and unable to form many sentences. But even in that, God is good.

I’ve been spending the few quiet moments I have reflecting on this past year. And the main difference from last is – things are looking up. Dare I say, hopeful? I can actually say I’m looking forward to this next year. A black and white difference. Here’s a recap:

Towards the very end of last year we had decided to move back home from Florida to Delaware. No jobs lined up, no real direction, just knew our time in Florida was coming to a very quick end. We were exhausted, weary and very discouraged. Justin didn’t find work right away, but piece by piece we were making it. We thought he’d be heading to the police academy in the fall but at almost the very last moment they chose someone else. I can’t tell you how stressful this year has been, how many deadlines we felt pressing. How may times we thought “if we can just hold on till this date, we’ll make it.” I spent hours one day tearing up my garden bed, my hands blistering, my back throbbing but it helped combat the stress of and heartbreak from another rejection… another closed door. I kept repeating over and over “Steph, you can’t lose it, you can’t give up.” The hardest part was knowing your spouse was in the pits of despair and not being able to help him. We both need to both choose to move on and trust God.

That was a few months ago now, and since then, Justin has started a full time job. It doesn’t pay much but it’s enough. I’ve also started waitressing on the side and this has been a blessing financially but also mentally I really enjoy is and it’s nice to have a set time out of the house. The coolest part is how God is continuing to provide in other way. A random scolarship given to Justin recognizing the kind of guy he is and how hard he works. What a sweet blessing after so much rejection. Gifts from people, cloths dropped off, generous tippers at work, etc. Our hearts have continued to be blessed and we feel God’s blessing in this messy, less than perfect season.

Our goals for next year are:

– Justin finishing his bachelor’s online (6 classes per semester 😫.)

– I am just over 10lbs from my goal weight, I’ve lost 65! So far!

– Teach my older two to read.

– Get out of short-term debt.

– Love on our church family, neighbors, and friends better/more deliberately.

So why persistence? What’s up with that?

To be persistent means: continuing firmly or obstinately in a course of action in spite of difficulty or opposition.

Justin has already completed three years of school, but it’ll take a very hard final push to finish.

I’ve lost the majority of the weight I want to but I can’t get lazy with it now.

My big kids are slowly learning the steps to read, but with 4 kids yelling all at once it’s been very hard for me to be motivated to make this a priority!

We have finally been able to make strides to pay off our short term debt. For a long time it had to sit on the back burner. But as a spender/gift person it has taken being brought down very low to help shift my mindset. It’s been humbling but good. Im looking forward and trusting we’ll be debt free outside our mortgage by 2020.

We love people, they’re messy and beautiful. With four kids it’s easy to make excuses and not take the time to bless those around us. This is something we want to make more of a priority this year. We want to set this example for our kids. My parents always had a revolving door, I’m not sure I want to go that far, ha! But I know I could do better.

Galations 6:9

“And let us not grow weary of doing good, for in due season we will reap, if we do not give up.”

James 1:12

“Blessed is the man who remains steadfast under trial, for when he has stood the test he will receive the crown of life, which God has promised to those who love him.”

We don’t have anything really “new” coming up. We’re not moving (hopefully…) No new babies, Lord willing no major crises, I’ve been through a big physical transformation. In some ways it seems borning to me. Slow moving goals are hard for me. But with age I’ve learned that the year will fly, and if we press in and have patience we will hit our goals.

Happy New Year, friends!
May it be full of God’s grace. 💕

In honor of the fatherless…

As Father’s Day quickly approaches, it becomes more and more evident that my earthly father has left a gaping hole. Passing the Father’s Day cards in Walmart, needing advice, or simply wanting to send him pictures of our newly installed fence. He’s not here. He won’t be here. And he is dearly missed. That fact won’t change, but this Father’s day – though there may be tears – is still be a day worth celebrating.

What about those who never knew there father? Or possibly worse, knew their father but he was abusive? Neglectful? What about you?

Most days I completely look over the fact that I still have a father, the best one there is…. my heavenly Father.

“So you have not received a spirit that makes you fearful slaves. Instead, you received God’s Spirit when he adopted you as his own children. Now we call him, Abba, Father. Romans 8:15

I have the spirit of the living God inside me and because of that I have been reborn into a new, and perfect family. Not only that, he cares for our needs.
“Look at the birds of the air: they neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not of more value than they?” Matthew 6:26
“Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in Christ with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places,” Ephesians 1:3

I find it interesting that even the Lord’s prayers starts out with “Our Father..” God wants us to come before the throne and recognize him as a father figure. He is that and much more but our human minds can only comprehend and compare it to what we are familiar with.

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If you are hurting, due to loss or a broken relationship… Take heart friend you’re not alone. This Sunday I will be repeating this verse over and over to myself. Maybe it’ll be an encouragement to you.

See what great love the Father has lavished on us, that we should be called children of God!” 1 John 3:1

What I didn’t know about grief…

We anxiously waited outside his room. He just got admitted to a new facility — hospice. Once the nurses and doctor got him situated we got to go back in ans see him. We didn’t know if he had an hour, or a day. We just knew he wouldn’t be leaving the building. We sang, prayed and cried. It was the longest week of my life and at the end of it my dad would be where he always long to be. Home. In heaven.

But what about us? What about those left behind? You see, I’m not worried about my dad anymore, I’m sure he hasn’t stopped talking and soaking in everything. He probably has the biggest place on the block after sacrificing all he was and did for the Kingdom. He’s free. And us? He was our leader, mentor, pastor, and the glue to our family… The grief  sets in.

Most days the thought of him finally free is enough to get me through the day. But then I hear my kids asking where padgie is..  I have big decisions to make and I want to give him a call.. And don’t get me started on how I feel about my mom losing her team mate way too soon. It sucks. It really does. Some nights I just want to scream. People say it gets better. And in some ways it gets more bearable, we learn to function. But does it get “better?”

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I’ll be the first to admit I was pretty naive about grief, I sure I still am. I had no idea that sometimes after loosing someone, dreams can be a common and frequent accurance. One week I had a dream every. single. night! About the accident, hospital, him waking… him dying… him resurrecting… another member of the family dying suddenly. It was pretty horrific and exhausting! I still dream of him. But he no longer speaks to me and he’s usually in the background. Two things are always very clear. His closed mouth smurk and big blue eyes are sparkling. He’s always happy.

Grief, a tiny word that carries a big weight. One moment you’re fine and the next you’re almost paralized with a wave of emotion. Whether that be anger, anxiety, or sadness.

I’ve learned a few things over the past 10 months. God is there in the midst of your grief. He is there in the darkness, he is there when you’re stuck in a crowd of people and you’re not sure you’ll be able to handle one more smile. He is there when you’re looking at your kids and aching for them to know their padgie. He is there.

I also know, he will be there on father’s day when my heart is re-breaking, he will be there as the facebook memories pop up from previous visits with my dad. He will also be there as the anniversary of the horrific accident comes around and memories come back like a flood. He WILL be there.

Hebrews 12:12-15

“Therefore lift your drooping hands, and strengthen your weak knees, and make straight paths for your feet, so that what is lame may not be put out of joint but rather be healed. Strive for peace with everyone, and for holiness without which no one will see the Lord. See to it that no one fails to obtain the grace of God; that no “root of bitterness” springs up and causes trouble, and by it many become defiled;”

I didn’t realize how hard grief would be, how consuming it can be. But I also couldn’t have fathomed the measure of grace that is given while you grieve. The days are hard, the nights are painful… but the presence of our Lord Jesus is much sweeter.

 

 

 

 

A year of restoration.

We’ve been home for over a month now, it seems like much longer in many ways. I miss my family like crazy, but I am so thankful for the sweet time we had together.

I’ve been praying for several things, asking for God’s help, guidance, direction, healing… During one of my quiet times of prayer a word kept popping up in my mind. I felt like the Lord was speaking to my heart saying, “steph, you need restoration.” Me “restoration? I can’t get any rest! I’m a mom of 4 kids 4 & under!” But that’s not what the word restoration means. Take a look.

res·to·ra·tion

[ˌrestəˈrāSH(ə)n]

 
NOUN

 

the action of returning something to a former owner, place, or condition:
“the restoration of Andrew’s sight”
synonyms: repair · repairing · fixing · mending · refurbishment · reconditioning · 

My heart has been wrecked, we’ve had so much change, coming and going and the person I sought out advice from the most is now home with the Lord. Great for him, but what about me?

My body is a mess, I have a lot of issues thanks to have Hypermesis 4x along with gastritis, gestational diabetes, I could go on… but you get the picture!

Our family is tired, the last thing we need this year is to be over committed, we need grounding, time together and a lot of grace.

Our finances are another story, we are trusting the Lord to restore them in his time and provide as he always has!

My personal walk with the Lord isn’t great. I do a whole lot of praying/singing but do I take the time to listen? Am I quieting my heart and giving him the time he deserves? Unfortunately no. Reading my bible has been extremely hard after my dads home going.

1 Peter 5:10

10And the God of all grace, who called you to his eternal glory in Christ, after you have suffered a little while, will himself restore you and make you strong, firm and steadfast.

Friends, restoration takes WORK. I’ve made some changes that have already been helping.

I’ve backed off from formal ministry at our Church, it allows me to 100% focus on the kids and ministering to people out of my home on my schedule. Whether it be meeting a mom friend for coffee, or having someone over for a meal.

I’ve also completely changed my eating habits and it’s working! I’ve lost 15 lbs and have almost completely eliminated my stomach pains.

I’m trying to hug my babies more, I’m very distracted most days and out of it. Just trying to get everyone fed, changed etc. But I am doing my best to spend focused time with them. It’s a work in progress.

Justin is currently working at our friends cafe, they’ve been so gracious in letting him come back till he finds something else. The pay isn’t much but it helps. He also got hired on to be a seasonal patrol officer from Memorial Day to Labor day. This is a big answer to prayer. We have something else in the works that would start in the fall, we won’t know for a while if he gets accepted but we would appreciate your prayers that he would!

It’s still hard to read the bible… But I am working on it, and won’t give up. If I’m being honest, it’s the hardest thing out of everything I need restoration in.

 

I have good days and bad, some days I am on the edge of crying or having a breakdown as soon as I have a moment alone and other days I’m fine. But all in all, He is good.

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