November 13, 2016

don't miss the gift

This day greeted me with peace and hope.

Today, I choose to trust in God and His timing. Today, I choose to not say the unkind thoughts rolling around in my mind. Today, I choose to live in this moment, and even though my life isn’t what I had planned on, or hoped for, or dreamed of, this is what’s before me and I don’t want to miss the gift.

I’m in several widow groups online. I read the stories of pain and brokenness and shattered lives. I can relate to so much of it. But then again, I think I’m different. I don’t want to be defined by my pain for the rest of my life. I had an amazing marriage and I was loved more than any one person deserves. But oddly, that doesn’t make me want to wallow… it makes me just want to love all the more. Love is the best decision I ever made.

I recently met someone who made me realize that, contrary to what I thought after Todd died, I can love again. It’s exciting! Things didn’t work out with this person, but my heart isn’t wholly dead, as I used to think, so I’m grateful for the lesson.

I was - and am - well loved. I’m not sure anyone will ever love me the same as Todd did, and I don’t think I’d want anyone to. What we had was so special and I can’t even find the words to tell you how so worth the past 15 years have been. I’d do it all over again in a heartbeat. I will never regret saying, “yes.”

But I have another gift still unwrapped.

I have the potential to have another 15 years - or 5 or 50 - of love all over again. If God brings love to me again, I will be the most blessed woman ever. To love and be loved all over again - I’ll say, “yes.” Every time. I will never regret love.

My girlfriends and I have been having some hilarious, some serious, and some painful conversations on the topic of finding love again. I don’t even know where to meet guys my own age that aren’t already husbands. I’m pretty sure that I can add socially out of practice and awkward to my list of fine qualities I have to offer. LOL.

Yes, I’m still grieving the loss of my husband. I think I always will. A love like that isn’t something I even want to forget or get over. I want his love to stay in my heart forever. Yes, I still cry a lot and have lots of fresh pain and memories. I hope I never forget the painful parts right along with the happy parts. Yes, I have a lot of feeling and emotions and I don’t expect that to ever change. LOL.

I am a widow. I’m not bitter or angry from my marriage. I come with a set of baggage that is unique and not what most people are used to. I won’t stop loving my husband, or talking about him or missing him. I come with two kids who long for a daddy here on earth. We’re a package deal. I feel broken and I feel like I don’t have much to offer anyone, but someday, someone will help my heart to heal and remind me what I can give. Someday.

And, I have really high expectations. My husband set the bar really high. I’m not going to settle for less.

So while I wait for God’s timing, and learn how to open my heart up again, I want to tell you to be brave. Say, “yes” to love. Don’t miss the gift.
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November 4, 2016

the blessings to come

In the dark moments of life it seems that there’s always a light waiting to shine though, if only we look for it.

For me, this light has come in many forms. Sweet cards and letters. Family who is there for me. Friends with open shoulders to cry on. Smiles from strangers who know our story. Hugs from church members.

So much love. So much light.

In Tennessee, it is still 85ยบ and sunny. We’re at the park. My mother-in-law is here visiting us for Todd’s birthday which was last week. Hard day. The kids are playing in the sand with friends and the MIL is watching the pup. So I’m sitting in the shade of a tree and trying to sort some things out.

I know when I have too many feelings that I need to write to sort them out. The hard ones, the happy ones, the yucky ones.

As we enter November and the leaves change colors and drift to the ground, I think about the changes in my own life. There have been so many this year. But those aren’t the ones I’m thinking about.

I’ve decided to be intentional about living in each day. I can’t dwell on the hurt and pain of my past, I need to focus on the blessings that are to come. Each day as I remember to breathe, try to eat, and watch my kids grow I look for the beauty and the blessings in the moments we have together.

I find myself wondering about to blessings to come.

Will anyone ever love me again the way Todd loved me?

Will I ever be able to open my heart again?

Am I too broken to have hope in love again?

I’m inpatient not knowing the future. Life takes time and love takes time. My brain knows these truths, but my heart looks to fill the holes torn through it.

The warm fall breeze reminds me that life is ever-changing. What I once was secure in was ripped out under my feet. I’m no longer naive enough to believe that it can’t happen again. Dare I risk it?

The fear of losing part of my heart again is real and raw.

Yet knowing how much his love was so very worth all I’ve endured, I feel that maybe I can risk it again. Maybe my heart will beat fast and my tummy will flutter again. Maybe someday.

As for today, I’ll face the sun and let the breeze warm my soul. This is the moment I’m living. Someday will come, and patience or not, I can’t rush it. But I can prepare for it. And pray for it. And enjoy the journey to it.
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October 12, 2016


Throughout our thirteen years of marriage, I used to get annoyed at the imperfections in my husband.

As time went on, I seemed to notice more and more of them.

Now, as I lie alone in bed at 4 am, all I can remember are my own imperfections.

The times when I was impatient. Unfair. Misplaced my anger.

All too late, I’ve been reminded of one of life’s quiet truths - you can’t change other people, nor are you responsible for their behaviors and actions. At the end of the day, all you can change is yourself. Your actions. Your responses. Your character.

Self, stop trying to change other people. Let’s work on you. On kindness. On patience. On grace - shall we?


Starting over in life isn’t an easy task. Neither is it a particularly gentle process.

We’ve been thrust into a world I was not prepared enter. This world is messy and rocky and often times I’ve felt like I’m failing at every single thing I try to do.

Life isn’t fair. I vividly remember my dad telling me that with a shrug when I was growing up. I never realized how painfully true those words are until the moment I had to say goodbye to my husband.

Life isn’t fair.

It isn’t easy. Or predictable. Or laid out in a neat little package.

Life is something else, something unexpected and complicated.

And here we are, starting plumb over.

It kind of feels like we just watched a really great movie, and then it ended. And you don’t know what’s going to happen next, but you hope they make a sequel.

I wish there was a script we could follow. I need a line prompt right about now…

I feel caught in a world where, even though I’m “doing well,” I’m an absolute mess. On the outside I smile and say, “we’re doing fine, thank you for asking.” I appear to have showered, and my children are relatively clean.

But on the inside, I don’t want to talk to people. Even my closest friends wouldn’t hear from me if they didn’t call me. I can see how easily it would be to close up inside myself and never open up again.

I loved him, and he died.

These other people I love, what if they die too? I don’t think my heart could handle it. It’s too risky. Better to let a little distance in to buffer the potential pain…

What a painful life we live.

If I didn’t have the hope in a life to come, a life without pain and death and tears, I don’t know how I’d make it through this life.

But just because something is painful doesn’t mean it’s not worth it.

Knowing what I know now, I’d marry that boy all over again.

Only this time, I’d be a little more gentle when I felt injustice had been done. I’d be more patient. I’d be more adventurous and do more of the things he wanted to do.

I’d kiss him more. I’d communicate better. I wouldn’t have any regrets.

Instead of getting to have my love story with my husband over again, I have a whole life to live without him. Maybe slowly, I can be more adventurous. And communicate better. And live without regrets.

As for the kissing…

It’s a hard thing to imagine anyone else’s lips right now. And I’m good with that.

Back to the starting over bit - we live in a RV-turned-tiny-house. The idea was to go wherever the wind took us. But as it turns out, there was just a gentle breeze and we didn’t go very far. For the first time since 2016 began, we’re starting to feel a little settled. A little stability. Weekend trips have been fun, but it’s nice to just be settled a bit.

Our grand plans of grand trips - it just feels a little hard and a little lonely right now. So we’re just going to hang out here till the wind picks up.

The children are growing. The pup is growing. The kittens have turned into cats. Life just has this funny way of going on, even if you don’t want it to.

As life goes on, hope goes on. Love goes on…

I never wrote thank-you cards. If you were wondering if yours got lost, it didn’t. It’s still in the box. I addressed them and sobbed over them. It feels like it’s the last thing to do. The final item on the list. Once I write thank-you cards, it’s over.

Please be patient if I hang onto them for a little while longer. I haven’t forgotten your generosity. Your kind words did not go unread. Your thoughtful gesture was not unnoticed.

Grief is just a funny thing. It doesn’t make the most sense or is always logical.

Please know, dear friends, that I am grateful for you. For the words and notes and kindness. My aloofness is a protective layer.

I think that someday I’ll shed that layer and emerge from the pit I’ve landed in. Until then, we would love your prayers. If you want to go on an RV adventure with us, we’d love your company. And if you don’t mind that I might not remember when the last time we showered was, we’d love your hugs.
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July 30, 2016


“How can you be gone?” I whispered to one of the many photos on our fridge.
I took a moment to study the faces. One from the dating days, and then one from the parenthood days.

We both got older. A few wrinkles have begun to claim space on our faces, a few grey hairs have claimed space on top.

We grew up, I realize.

We grew up together…

If you’re new to my little blog, hang on. You’re in for a roller coaster. There’s a lot of feelings going on here.

Three months ago I said goodbye to my best friend, my husband. Our children and I laid in bed with him as he slipped away from us, silently changing the course of our lives forever.

We had a happy Christmas, although we had already begun packing to return to our mission field - a remote little village in the jungle in South America. December 30th we found out that Captain had cancer… less than 4 months later we said our goodbyes.

Now, as I’m trying to pick up the pieces of our lives, figure out this single motherhood business, and find balance with working, nothing, homeschool, housekeeping, etc., I’m left in the quiet. The meals have stopped. The random visits from friends offering condolences have stopped. The barrage of affection from every direction has slowed.

There is a time and a place for everything, as the shock of our loss wears off in our community, we’re left in the quiet to figure this new life out.

Please don’t mistake me for complaining; there is a time for rallying and a time for quiet. Now is the time for quiet. It’s needed.  (Please don’t mistake this for a lack of support. My tribe around me is very much involved in making sure there are vegetables in my fridge and that the children have clean underwear.)

Like the gentle breeze stirring the grass, life seems to be gently stirring me away from shock and grief and darkness to light and laughter.

As I grapple with letting go of our old life, and trying to accept this new life, I’m left also grappling with God.

So many questions for God.

One of my best friends told me shortly after Todd died that she wasn’t sure if I would cling to my faith or turn to alcohol. I laughed at her statement, but I also wondered the same thing. Tragedy has a way of making you examine what you believe.

You figure out pretty quick if you have faith that will be scorched and whither away, or if the roots of your faith will fold fast through the storm…

There’s going to start to be some changes that you’ll see in our family. I’ll be writing about it, and I’m sure I’ll be posting on Instagram and Facebook too. After a lot of prayer, thinking and discussing, I’ve made a decision about our lives that quite frankly - feels a little crazy. I still can’t believe we’re doing this, but, we’re going to give it a go.

 I know that this decision isn’t for everyone, and that some people are going to think it’s stupid. But don’t judge me. Unless you’ve lost your spouse and know the emptiness and brokenness our family is experiencing, you don’t get to judge us. We need to heal some more before I’m ready to work and put the kids in school, and we have chosen an unusual way for this to happen…

We’re joining the “tiny home” world. We bought an RV and our goal is to live in it for a year. To take a year and heal, grow, bond, and learn how to be a family of three. We’re going to sick around TN through the winter with a few exceptions (I’ve always wanted to see New England in the fall), and then head west, visit family, see things, and homeschool as we go.

We might hate this. We might last two months and change our minds. And that’s OK. Our animals are coming with us. We’re going to be a traveling zoo. This is crazy town and I know it. I guess I’m just the right kind of crazy. But we need this freedom right now. The freedom to stay, the freedom to go. To cry some days, and have wild adventures other days. The freedom to cling to each other and to explore and to run in the wilderness.

Todd would have loved this.

I don’t know what this next year will bring, but I do know that God is with us. And He loves us. And sometimes that’s all we need to know.

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July 19, 2016


“Mama, I need you!”

I walked back to my bedroom where my little boy was laying in my bed, trying unsuccessfully to fall asleep. Those bright blue eyes looked up at me and I sat down next to him.

Earlier we had talked about the sheets we just put on my bed. It was all I could do to make it sound like a happy thing to put these sheets on the bed.

Todd had slept in them.

Just a couple nights, on the blow-up mattress when he was staying with his parents while the kids and I headed out to Washington for chemo treatments. 

He had shoved them back in the cloth bag and they were forgotten.

Until now.

I had covered Sam up and told him to smell deeply. I told him that these were Papa’s sheets and sleeping in them was like sleeping next to Papa.

“Mama,” he said again.
“What sweet boy?”
“I feel like Papa is dead. Can you lay with me?”


It’s the little things in our broken lives that remind us how acutely we feel his death.

The skinned knees. Standing at the sink without him hugging me from behind. Riding bikes. Lazy Sunday mornings. The deep void next to me as I sleep…

We live in a different world all of a sudden. A different life. What was meant to be a a temporary stop - Tennessee - has turned into home. What was meant to be our dream - living in the Guyana jungles - is nothing more than a distant memory.

It was never about surviving.

Every time we sat down to talk about our lives in the jungle, or any time anyone else would talk to us about our lives there - we always knew what we would need to survive.

But we didn’t want to go to the jungle to survive. What blessing is there in surviving? We wanted to thrive there.

Now, I’d be happy with surviving.

This is it. This is my life. It’s not the jungle. It’s not with my husband. It’s not what I had signed up for.

There’s a common theme among married people these days - people don’t really mean their wedding vows. I’m not sure I did either, truthfully.

Till death do us part.

Like that’s when the love stops.

Death did part us. But the love didn’t stop.


I don’t want to survive in life. I want to thrive. I want my kids to thrive. I want us to not count cold cereal as a supper meal three consecutive nights in a row. I want us to be able to lay in bed together at night and talk and laugh instead of being so exhausted that I barely tuck them in.

I want us to stop feeling death.

I want us to not feel broken.

I want us to find a new dream.

The shock has worn off. I don’t walk around in disbelief anymore. A semblance of acceptance has crept over our home and we’re starting to eat more vegetables and less frozen waffles.

I often find myself remembering our other life and feeling apathetic over this life. I wonder if someday that spark that we used to have will find us again.

“I feel like Papa is dead. Can you lay with me?”
I looked into those hurting eyes. “I feel like Papa is dead too.”
“I’m really sad that Papa died.”
“I know, sweet thing. So am I. Close your eyes. Ok, Can you see Papa?”
He shook his head no.
“Try to see Papa’s face. It’s smiling at you.”
“I see him!” His eyes were clamped shut but they smiled. “He’s picking me up and giving me a hug!”
“That’s right! Do you hear what he’s whispering in your ear?”
He shook his head no again.
I leaned over and whispered in his ear. “He’s saying, I love you, Samuel. I love you so much!”

And he fell asleep with a smile.

Oh, to dream.
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July 7, 2016

hot mess

For being a Christian, I sure do lie a lot.

The first thing people generally ask me when they see me is, “How are you doing?”

“I’m doing alright, I guess.”


For the first time, yesterday I decided to try the truth.

I don’t know what made me say it, but when our supper arrived (our community has a meal train going for our family and is bringing us suppers several times a week), the pastor’s wife asked me the question.

“So, how are you really doing?”

I hesitated for a moment. What would people say if I told the truth?

“Well.” I paused. “I’m a hot mess.”

That’s really the only answer I had. And it was the only truth.

I AM a hot mess.

She followed me into the kitchen and shifted the mess around on the table to set the meal down. I shifted mess around on the counter to set something else down.

The kids came in. I told them to wash their hands and set the table. There were only 2 clean plates left. All others were stacked disorderly in the sink and surrounding vicinity. “Uh, just get a paper plate out for me.”

A few moments later the report came back that the paper plates were too far buried under the mess on the counter for the 5-year old to find.

I looked at Heidi in exhausted confirmation. Yep, hot mess.

I don’t want to be a hot mess, but I do want to be real. I don’t want to say I’m OK when I’m clearly not. Why do we do that? Why is it so hard to say that we really aren’t OK?

This year has been the worst year of my life. My children have learned far to early how unfair life really is. That bad things happen to good people. That sometimes it looks like darkness wins.

But darkness doesn’t win.

And yeah, I’m keeping it real over here with all my belongings in boxes lining the hall wall because I don’t want to unpack. I keep forgetting to put things back in the fridge and having to throw them out. Not because I’m ungrateful or trying to be wasteful, it’s just part of the coping. The honest truth is, I’m in survival mode.

This morning Millie walked into the front room and gently asked me, “Mama, what are you looking at?” She looked at the blank wall and saw nothing. I tore my gaze away from months ago back to the present and smiled at her. “Nothing.”

I don’t know if she understands or thinks I’m crazy, but probably once a day there is a small hand on my shoulder with a gentle, “Mama, what are you looking at?”

I’m looking at Papa, I think to myself. I’m watching him sleep in the hospital bed. I’m laying next to him. I’m watching him slip away.

I know that someday the time will come to move on. I weep at the thought. But I know that someday, I really will be OK. It won’t be a lie anymore. I know that I’ll be able to be present with my kids without them having to remind me to. I’ll be able to stay on top of dishes and laundry. Ok, maybe not laundry because, life, but the dishes I can handle.


So there is the truth, friends.

I’m not OK. But I will be.

Until that day comes, I’m so grateful for the community we have here and the support for our family. I’m so grateful for every prayer offered on our behalf. I’m so grateful for the generosity that has been poured out often times from strangers. I haven’t forgot your kindness. I’m grateful that God is holding onto me when I struggle to hold onto Him. 
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July 4, 2016

I can't do this...

The last few moments of my husband’s life refuse to stop playing in my head.

It’s like a song on repeat.

I can still smell the hospital smells on his skin as I lay next to him. I can see the expression on his face as he slowly slipped away. I can feel his chest rising and falling… and then still. I can hear his last breath, and then, silence.

I can close my eyes and I’m laying next to him in that bed again. Holding his hand. Silently hoping and waiting for a miracle, even though I had thought I didn’t have any hope left.

Every ounce of hope in my veins poured out in those last minutes until it was gone. Until he was gone…

And now. Ever day of my life is measured by that day. At first it was one week, then two. One month, then two.

Every tick of the clock is another measurement of time that passes.

Tick. Tock.

I never imagined what a halting stop my life could come to. People keep saying, “I can’t imagine what you’re going through.” But I bet you can, if you try.

Life just kind of stopped. Suspended in midair. The wind stopped blowing and all is still. That’s kinda how it feels. Like being in the ocean all alone in a raft with no wind to take you anywhere.

It’s a deep and painful loneliness.

Tick. Tock.

But not all stopped. The children keep going. They keep me from staying in bed all day and from getting lost in the deep retreat of my mind.

They get hungry. They make messes. They get bored.

So on we go. My body goes. I can carry on conversations and even laugh at the appropriate times. I make polite small talk with the other moms on the playground and banter with the check-out lady at the supermarket. I know the things to say, so I say them.

But my heart is still lost at sea, and the clock is still ticking.

How much time will pass before I can feel my heart again? How much time until those last minutes stop playing in my mind? How much time?

Please, don’t answer that.

Sometimes, I talk to God about it. Other times, I can’t find any words, only tears. And still yet I cry out to God in pain and anger and confusion.

Every time I am overwhelmed with life and death and fear I cry out to God that I can’t do this. I can’t. I can’t be a single mother. I can’t provide for my children. I can’t do this. Every time, God, in some quiet way, reminds me that I’m right.

I can’t do this.

But I’m the beloved of the One who can help me.

Oh how He loves me. Oh, how He loves me.

My faith didn’t protect me from pain. It didn’t protect my children or my husband. That’s not what faith is for. It’s not a protective measure, rather, it’s the strong line that connects me to God as I walk through this pain. As my children walk through it. As my husband walked through it.

So many people have told me that they were so surprised that Todd died when so many people were turning to God in prayer for him. Todd would have died 100 times to give people the chance to turn to God. This much I know.

God heard those prayers.

He loves Todd so much.

He loves us so much. With every tick of the clock, He loves us.

Someday this will all make sense and we’ll know. But for now, as the wind is still, I will close my eyes and cling to the faith that connects me to God.
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June 22, 2016


 Dear Todd,

Our lives keep going on and on.

Everything is changing. Nothing is the same.

Each change is a stark reminder to me that you are gone.

We have a dog now. And 2 kittens. I call them our therapy animals. I have a new car. The kids needed new swimsuits. I got new shoes. We got camping equipment. I even have my own paddle board now. All of the new things are reminders of what I can't share with you anymore. Camping trips you will miss. Road trips you will miss. Memories you will miss.

It's been two months now since you left us. I can still see your smile so fresh in my memory, but sometimes I struggle to remember the sound of your voice. We watch videos of you and look at photos often so we don't forget.

Today I sat down with a grief counselor for the first time. We met at the park and chatted while the kids played and rode bikes. He says I'm dealing with my grief well. I don't feel like it. I feel like I'm falling apart.

I wish you could meet Samson. He's our puppy. He's a black Great Dane and his eyes look so much like Alex's eyes. I look into them and I remember so many adventures we had when we got Alex. He was such a good dog, and Samson is following in his footsteps. I'd forgot how much I enjoy training a dog. He really is therapy for me. He's Samuel's dog - Samuel got to pick him out for his birthday - but Samson is a mama's boy through and through.

The kittens are so much fun. They are so tolerant of the children constantly carrying them around. Amelia named hers Mary and Samuel named his Moses. They are going to be really good kitties.

We got back to the house just over 3 weeks ago. I thought that once we got back here everything would fall into place and I could think more clearly. Instead, the house feels so empty, just like my heart.

I printed and framed a large family photo to take to your funeral. It's up on the piano now. It's one of the ones we had taken in November with your plane. I stare at it, that was just a few months ago. Already the cancer was spreading throughout your body and we had no idea. No idea that we were spending our last happy months together. No idea of the fight that was to come. No idea of the heartache that was to come.

We were happy.

You were so proud of that plane. I am still proud of you. You know, that plane is going to Guyana soon. James is going to fly it. I know that's what you would have wanted.

I haven't mustered the courage to go look at it yet. The kids have asked to. Maybe someday.

We had a little party for Samuel last week on his birthday. It was small and simple and I didn't spend hours making anything. In fact, all I made was a cake. I was fine until I brought out the cake and we sang to Sam. Then, I lost it.

A boy needs his father.


Next week I will spend our anniversary without you. Thirteen years. I'm so glad for the time we had together, but it wasn't long enough.

After that is my birthday, the children are concerned that I'll never get a birthday present again. Haha. There's only one present I want now, and I can't have you...

I wish I could end my letter by saying, "See you tomorrow!" I can't wait for the day when we are reunited. I'll have so many things to tell you, and so will the kids. They keep growing, you know. I see you every time I look at them. Thank you for that gift.

I love you.

I'll always love you.

Someday when we are together again you'll laugh at me for writing letters to you. I hope that I'll be able to remember to tell you all the things I wish I could tell you now. I close my eyes and imagine talking to you and despite the pain of missing you, it actually makes me feel a little better knowing that someday will come.

Love forever,

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June 5, 2016

his last letter

We got back to Tennessee a week ago.

I walked into our house, where I knew someone had been staying the last few months.

I took a deep breath and let my eyes sweep around.

The kid's artwork, the Christmas cards I had left on the door frame, our books and personal things were all gone from the walls. The worship books and candles were not on the piano. Furniture was moved.

I felt like a stranger.

I just walked into a house. Not our house. Just... a house.

I went into the kitchen and dining rooms.

Empty walls stared back at me. Our homeschool shelves still were full of books. But there was no "Anderson Family Kindness Plan" on the wall.

Even though I knew someone had been staying there, I didn't expect to feel like our home had been violated. It probably wouldn't have mattered at all if my husband had been by my side... but he wasn't. 

It's kind of silly, I now realize, but for some reason I had it in my head that if we could just get back to this house, to where our life was, to where he was, that I would be able to think clearly and make decisions and figure out what I want.

But as I stood in a empty house there was no clarity. In fact, I felt more confused than ever.

It's been a week and I've been halfheartedly unpacking at best. The kids' clothes finally made it into their dresser today.

I don't want to be here.

I suspect that I don't want to be anywhere.

Friday morning we spent the morning out at 12-acre farm that's been offered to our family for 2 years. From the emails back and forth prior to seeing the property, I wasn't sure it was something I could handle. But, with a little help from our amazing community here, it's going to be a sweet little house for us.

I don't know if I'll get there and not want to be there, but for now, it's something I need to try.

I'm going to surround myself with animals and write and be outside as much as I can.

I think I'll love the space and hate that I can't share it with my husband.

I'm still living out of boxes, and I'll continue to do so until we get out to the farm - it will take a few weeks to work on some repairs and such. I'm also having to move our belongings that were moved out of our living space, everything was put in the kids' room.

As I'm going tenderly though the stack of things that once sat beside my husband's bedside. On impulse I put them back where they belong. Then, I sat down on the bed and looked through his things. Books, notes about airplane things, doodles from the kids. On the bottom was a composition notebook.

The man loved his composition notebooks.

I opened it up expecting to find a maintenance log or tax-record log (heaven help my non-record keeping self). It was mostly empty as I flipped though except for the first 3 or 4 pages. I turned the book right side up and let my eyes scan the first page.

My heart stopped.

It was a letter.

To me.

That he started after we found out he had cancer.

I read the first few lines and closed the book. And my eyes.

I can't.

I paced the room a bit, grabbed the box of tissues, and sat down on the bed again, determined to read the last letter he wrote me.

We were letter writers. I'm a better communicator when I write, so we've written hundreds of letters back and forth over the years. As I'm reading this letter, it's not just a letter. This was us. It was only 3 pages long, and then it would be over.

I slowly opened the book and found where I had left off.

Two more lines and I'm sobbing again.

The pain. Oh the pain. My heart. Oh how it hurts.

He never finished his letter. We ended up flying him out to Seattle so fast that he didn't have time to finish it.

He loved me so much more than I ever deserved.

Now his love is gone and all I have are his words and the memories of his love.

Friends, leave memories of your love with the people you love.

Write letters. Take photos. Do the all the things. Go places. Be present.

Don't forget to treasure the memories in your heart.

You'll never regret love.
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June 2, 2016


I am restless.

I feel as if I’m searching for something, but I’m not sure what it is that I’m seeking.

I sit down. I get back up. I sit outside. I go back in. I sweep the floors and put the broom away. Then I get it back out and sweep more.

What am I supposed to be doing?

Everyone keeps telling me to take my time. For what? What is it that I am supposed doing with all this time?

I hate time. Time tricks you and it makes you think you have time, but then it’s gone.


This month will be my 13th wedding anniversary. It will also be 2 months since I lost my husband. Thirteen years wasn’t enough. I feel cheated out of the life I had. And now I have this life… A life of searching and wondering and staring out the window watching for him to ride his bike over the last hill before home…

You know, we didn’t have a Hollywood romance. There were moments, but for the most part, it was not a great story. No one will ever make a movie about our love story. It was too real. Too boring for Hollywood. We had hard times and we had great times. We had sad times and quiet times and frustrating times. We had fights and we had hurt feelings and we cried. We made up and we laughed and we never stopped loving. Our love never stopped.

We loved until death parted us…

And I love him still.

I have a new car. When I say “new” I mean NEW. I’ve never had a new car before. Some friends and churches worked together and raised enough money and bought me a new car. It’s my dream car. It’s so fancy and practical and techy and all I want to do is show my husband this amazing gift. I keep closing my eyes and imagining his reaction. His eyes open wide and his mouth drops open. I love his surprised face. It always makes the surprise totally worth it.

The first thing he would do after looking inside is open the hood and check out the engine and start a maintenance notebook and start keeping track of the gas milage.

But I can’t imagine for too long. My heart can’t handle too much imagining.

We also came home to 2 fluffy black kittens. A friend of a friend had a litter and as we were driving home, on a whim, I had someone go pick them up and take them to the house for me. Something to help with the transition. The kids are in love. Amelia named her girl Mary and Samuel named his boy Moses. They named them totally on their own.

Samuel is asking for a doggy for his birthday in 2 weeks. I want to get him a puppy, but finding the right one is tricky. When Todd and I got married we rescued Alex, the best dog ever. He was a Great Dane, and that’s what I want to get now. So if anyone has any leads on good puppies, let me know. ;)

The kittens, and the puppy and the car and everything, as great as they are, are all things that I can never share with my husband. It’s all part of moving on and I hate that. I hate moving on. It’s so sad and hard and painful. I’m afraid of forgetting. I’m afraid of the kids forgetting.


Change. Moving on. Time. I don’t have as much control in this life as I once thought I did…

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May 20, 2016

Dear Todd

My Dear Husband,

It has been a month now since I heard your voice.

A month since you told me for the last time that you love me.

A month... it feels like 2 days and it feels like 2 years. I miss you so much... so, so very much.

The children mostly just play and are generally happy, although they are both showing their grief in their own ways. Samuel has stopped asking me if you're going to get all better, but when his sensitive little heart gets hurt, he still cries for you. Amelia tells me often that she's sad that you died. She is afraid that I will die too and asks me lots of what-if questions.

I wish you were here to help me navigate grieving children. I wish you were here to help me with my own grieving heart.

It's hard for me to get out of bed in the morning. It's hard for me to do the tasks that need to be done each day. I want to stay in bed and cry all day, but the needs of the children keep me going.

I have this scream that is caught in my throat. Sometimes I'm afraid that it will come out. Other times I imagine standing on a mountain top and letting it out. I feel like if I started screaming I'd never stop. Well, until I lost my voice.

I want to scream because my heart hurts so much. Because I'm so angry that you died. Because I'm so confused and lost and alone.

I don't want to move on.

All I can think about are the plans we had for this year. We were moving back to Guyana with your plane. We were going to build a house. Get a dog. Adopt a child. Our family was going to be full and happy and blessed... but so far... I'm not feeling very blessed...

A lady from the counseling department at the clinic came by to talk to me yesterday when I had the kids in for an appointment. She said that the first time she met me she was struck by my strong faith... And she said that she knew that strong faith would carry me through this. But I don't feel like I have strong faith... I wish you were here to pray with me. I always feel stronger when you are at my side. How can I be strong without you?...

I am so thankful that you showed me what love looks like. I'm thankful that you never gave up on me. That you never stopped loving me.

You used to annoy me. LOL. I can remember getting so frustrated because you did things the "wrong" way. All of that died with you though. I can't think of a single fault you had. In my mind, you'll always be the perfect husband, perfect papa, perfect Captain.

You never got to see Chelan in the Spring. It's beautiful here. The hills are all green and wildflowers grow along the banks of the river and lake. The seaplane is making regular flights. We always stop to watch him take off or land, and we think of you. That was something you were really looking forward to - getting your seaplane rating. I wish you could have taken at least one flight...

I wish a lot of things...

I'm so glad that we have the hope of heaven. The hope of seeing you again. The hope of a world without cancer. I feel more impatient than ever for the resurrection.

There aren't enough words for me to tell you how much I love you, or how much I miss you. Sometimes I wonder if my heart is too broken to ever heal again.

I know it's silly to write you, and that you resting peacefully, and that you can't read this, but I just have to much I want to talk to you about. So I'll just be silly and pretend I can talk to you a while longer.

I'll love you forever.
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May 13, 2016

paddle boarding

Paddle boarding. It’s my new thing.

I’m not always excited to drag the heavy board down to the water, but I’m never sorry I did.

The thing about paddle boarding is, you don’t get anywhere unless you paddle. There’s no motor. No autopilot. No one else on that board but you (unless you have small children, then there is a good chance one of them is sitting on the back).

Today the current in the lake was pretty swift. And the children were pretty sassy. So I paddled out a ways (my sister was on the beach with the kids) and laid on my back on the board. And I drifted in current.

It struck me as I looked out, only inches above the water, that I was drifting. And not just in the water.

I’m caught in a current.

My head is barely above the water.

I need to stand up and paddle. Give the board some direction. Go somewhere.

But instead… I drift. Unable to stand on my feet. Unable to do what I need to do.


Today it’s been three weeks since I was widowed.

That word.

It still plagues me.

I picture a widow as an old woman who lost the argument with her husband “who would be the first to go.”

Not someone in her early 30’s with a 4-year old and a 6-year old.


Anyway. Three weeks. Or is it three years? Sometimes I’m not sure. Sometimes it feels like it was only moments ago I last held him in my arms. Other times, it seems like so long ago.

In the last three weeks I have begun adjusting to being a single parent. We’re not there yet. Oy. Single parenting is not for the faint of heart. I’ve been virtually a single parent for months now, but at least I had someone I could talk to. That at least was something more than nothing.

I drift alone in parenting.

In life.

In all things…

Yet. The board, even without me controlling it, provides quite a bit of stability. No matter how close to the water I am, I don’t sink. No matter now much I drift, I float still.

I have a God who doesn’t let me sink either.

I feel like I might fall - especially when the waves come - but I don’t.

He is what keeps me stable. And floating. And above the water.

I’m drifting. But not alone.

We had a lovely day on the lake and my pale skin has darkened a little. My muscles are starting to get used to moving again now that I’m not sitting at my husband’s bedside for days and weeks on end. I’m starting to make healthier choices. Eating a little more. Drinking a little more water.

Paddle boarding is good for my body. And my soul. And my heart and my mind.

Todd would have loved it.

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May 8, 2016

the light and the dance

I wasn’t going to to camping. It’s too soon.

But Jenn and Sandy talked me into it.

But then the morning of, I changed my mind.

It was too soon.

Everything these days is the first of something.

The first time we went to church after Papa died. The first time we had fun after Papa died. The first camping trip after Papa died.

It’s too soon.

But friends have an amazing way of helping you navigate what is really good for you.

We went camping.

It was warm (minus the night hours, we froze properly for the first camp of the year). We were on a river. It was beautiful. It was peaceful. It was sad. It was hard.

Todd loved to camp. We camped as often as we could, which was never enough. He would have loved this trip.

Saturday night the kids went down late as always happenes when camping. Not long after they went down (all 6 kids crashed pretty quick), the grown-ups were sitting around the campfire chatting. Actually, it was an impromptu group counseling session. You know who your friends are when you can tell them all the hard, raw, ugly parts of this hard, ugly, raw journey. Those people sitting around that campfire - those are people I can trust with all the feelings. All the fear. All the uncertainty. All the tears.

There was a quiet lull in the conversation and someone noticed that there were flashlights bouncing in one of the tents still. One last, “go to sleep!” When Ryan, in a uncertain voice that was almost comical, said, “Uh, speaking of lights…. what is THAT?”

We all looked straight above us in the sky to see a brilliant white light lighting up the sky above it. We stared at it a few minutes before the light began to dance.

One of the things Todd always wanted to see his whole life was the aurora borealis. Now, two weeks after we said goodbye to him, we stood there and watched it light up the sky.

I sobbed. Happy tears, sad tears, and hurt tears.

We all ran to our tents and tried to wake the kids up. Not one of them could be roused. So the grown-ups all enjoyed the show together.

If I hadn’t gone camping, I would have missed the first time seeing the aurora after Todd died. I wouldn’t have wanted to miss this one.

The lights danced for over and hour before they faded into the night sky. As quickly as they appeared, they were gone.

Todd died in about 10 days. It was so short. But you know what? That’s about how long it took me to start to fall for the guy. We were engaged two months after we met.

I know, crazy, right?

Ten days was enough for me to see that he was special. It was enough for love to begin to bloom.

And like the northern lights, as quickly as our lives began together, it was over.

Only our dance was longer than an hour. Our dance was 14 1/2 years. I’m so, so grateful for every step, every turn, every dip.

We danced more in those years than most people do in a lifetime. I can never regret a single moment.

Moving on is a term I’ve grown to dislike. I don’t want to move on. I was happy where we were. I was happy with my life. I wasn’t ready to stop dancing with the love of my life.

Now I feel like I’ve been left on the dance floor without a partner. Though the world swirls around me, I’m standing… wanting to keep dancing but not knowing how to dance alone.

Not wanting to dance alone…

Camping is therapeutic. 

I’m so glad I went and got to experience something most people never get to experience. I’m glad I got to sit by the river and cry. I’m glad I got to explore in the woods alone (note to self, make sure people know where you’re going next time so no one freaks out and think you fell in the river). I’m glad I got to see the aurora and be reminded of our dance.

I’m so sad and my heart hurts more than I think I can bear, but tonight, I get to be a little glad too.

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May 6, 2016

maybe someday

Everyone said there would be good days and hard days.

It’s a hard day. The loneliness and pain are overwhelming.

It’s been two weeks since I said goodbye.

Two weeks. The world keeps turning. Life continues. We keep on breathing.

…Just keep breathing…

I sat with Todd and begged him to keep breathing as he struggled. Now I’m giving myself the same reminder.

It was so painful for him to take breathes at the end.

It’s painful for me now also.

So painful.

But I keep on breathing.

We’re back at the lake house. The water is sparkling. The sky is blue. This is such a beautiful place. But I can’t stay here. I need a plan. A life plan. I’ve had numerous offers of spare rooms, jobs, etc. Nothing feels right. I was 19 when Todd and I fell in love and I’ve never done anything really without him. He’s always been the sensible one who keeps me grounded.

Without him, I might not ever eat a vegetable again.

Without him, I might end up with 20 dogs.

Without him, my heart might shrivel up.

I don’t know how to keep going, but I don’t have the option not to.

The questions that everyone is asking me are, “What do you need?” And, “What are you going to do now?”

I don’t know, and I don’t know.

Actually, I need to get a car. I’m a grown up and I don’t own a car.

Other than that…

I don’t know what I need. A house in the country with room for 20 dogs?

Feel free to comment below with life-plan ideas. Be creative. Or realistic. Or whatever. Maybe you can come up with something better than I can.

Todd and I always talked about what we would do if we couldn’t be missionaries. We’d make imaginary plans for if we had to live in the US again. I’ve always wanted to be a farmer and so most of our plans included a little farm somewhere. With an airstrip on it. While I don’t have need of an airstrip on my farm, it’s still a dream I have. Maybe someday.

My life feels full of “maybe someday”s.

Maybe someday I’ll get my farm.

Maybe someday my heart will heal.

Maybe someday I’ll feel whole again.

Maybe someday I’ll understand all the whys.

Maybe someday.
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April 24, 2016

I am a widow

I am a widow.

The word doesn’t want to come out of my mouth, but it’s a word my brain keeps playing with.

I keep thinking back over the last 3 weeks. I sat in the hospital next to his bed for more hours than I can count.

Before he was intubated, I would lay next to him and beg him to just breathe.

Just keep on breathing…

His lungs were destroyed so fast. I am what his doctors call an “excellent patient advocate.” That means I asked questions like my life depended on it… like his life depended on it…

The doctors were very kind and patient and were good at showing me the progressive scans and X-rays of his lungs. I’m no doctor, but even I could see that what was happening was happening very, very fast.

One of the chemotherapy drugs he was given - a lower dose than usual - caused a devastating toxic reaction in his lungs that happens so rarely it’s never been studied. When it does happen, there is only a very small percentage that doesn’t respond to the steroids…

From when the disease began until death was about 10 days.

Ten of the longest, shortest days of my life.

And there was nothing anyone could do.

We said goodbye, just in case. He made the decision to be intubated. I was both thankful that he made that choice so I didn’t have to, and devastated that he chose to. We all knew it was the last chance he had to live, but we also new that chance was only a whisper.

We laid in the hospital bed together, whispering our last words.

We have a little thing we’ve been saying to each other for almost 15 years. He says the first line and then I finish it with my part. I can’t tell you what we say because it’s our secret. But we both knew we were saying it for the last time.

As the doctors and nurses bustled around the room preparing for the intubation, instrumental hymns played from Pandora. I watched the doctor unpack the emergency kits and give orders to the nurse.

My husband and I gazed into each other’s eyes for the last time, and I was asked to sit in a chair away from the bed. I wanted to scream at everyone to leave him alone and to get out. I wanted to scream at my husband to not give up. To not leave me. I wanted to run back over and so he could hold me one last time.

The doctor came over and we had to discuss if they would resuscitate him if it didn’t go well. The decision was made that they would not.

The roughly 48-hours he was intubated there were moments when we could communicate to him. He would nod or shake his head, or give a thumbs up. He tried to write to me a few times, but the only word I was ever able to read from him was, “HURT.”

His lungs continued to deteriorate so quickly. First a hole in one lung, then one in the other. The medical team worked around the clock to try to keep him stable. Friday morning it was apparent that they no longer could. He was likely already suffering brain damage from the low oxygen levels. Because of the lack of oxygen, his heart was also beginning to fail.

There was no more chance. No more hope.

The children arrived around 10 am. Amelia sobbed like a child should never, ever cry when I told them that Papa was going to die. I explained what was going to happen. I reminded them what we believe about the Christian hope we have after death. I wept with them.

We all went into the room and surrounded him with all the love in our hearts. Both our families were there, and my best friend.

The tube came out and he continued to breathe on his own for about an hour. And then, he didn’t.

He slipped quietly into the deep sleep of death as I clung to his side.

My heart. Oh my heart.

I never imagined I could feel so dead inside.

Yet, despite all the sadness and pain, it doesn’t feel dark to me. Instead of what I was expecting - a dark shadow to consume me - I instead find myself wrapped in love and light.

Maybe the darkness is still to come, but for now, I am comforted knowing that my husband can rest until Jesus calls for him to wake up and go to heaven. I am comforted knowing how much love is being poured out for our family. I am comforted by looking into my children’s faces and seeing him live on. I am comforted with the knowledge that he ran his race well, didn’t stop until the end and finished with grace and love.
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March 31, 2016

what cancer taught me


It has a funny way of changing your perspective on life.

It's changed my perspective on life.

Some thoughts on what I've learned:

That lady that cut me off - maybe she just found out her husband has cancer. Maybe she's not being a jerk. Maybe she's having the hardest day of her life.

That lady who, at the cash register at the supermarket, suddenly remembers she needs tomatoes, and the cashier makes everyone in the line wait - well, maybe she's overwhelmed with just finding out her husband has cancer.

And when she bursts our sobbing over the tomatoes, a smile might not seem like it matters, but it does.

And when she goes to pay and all of a sudden can't remember how to count money, maybe she's not just a dumb blonde. 

Those people who seem like they just can't be bothered (returning the shopping cart/parking askew/etc), they seem like they're acting aloof and entitled. But maybe coping with life isn't their best thing at the moment.

People need a little more grace than we give them.

People need a little more understanding and compassion.

I can't say in words the outpouring of love, support, and generosity that has been blanketed around our family the last 3 months.  Utterly indescribable.

What if we looked at people through the lens that our community looks upon our family? We've been invited to cry, yell, scream, vent, and wear PJs to church with no judgement.

I've acted so selfish, said stupid things, and asked so much of my closest friends. Yet it's all been met with so much sympathy.

"You're going through so much, you're allowed to not be your best self."

What if we allowed strangers to not be their best selves either?

What would the world look like?


What I've really learned from cancer is that sometimes bad things happen to everyone. Good and bad. That's not a new thing. God causes the sun and rain to shine and fall on the good and the bad.

It doesn't mean we did something wrong or aren't good enough. It means that we live in a sinful world where people get sick and get hurt.

But we won't always.

We're not our best selves on our best day. None of us. Because what we are isn't what we were created to be.

We are all in need of a little grace.

As I write this, a song is playing on Pandora,  "Grace, grace, God's grace, grace that is greater than all our sins." 

We're all in this hurting world together.

The good and the bad.

We're in it together.
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March 25, 2016


I sat down to write this (what I'm about to write) earlier this week, but instead a lot of hurt came out. Writing is my therapy and so I guess I needed to write about my hurts.

But today, no hurts. Today I want to write about my gladness.

I'm so, so very glad. Right down to my toes.

People have been so generous to our family.

We were given a free house to live in during the chemo treatment. It's the nicest house we've ever lived in. And it's on a lake. And peace floats throughout the house like a light cloud in a spring breeze.

Our souls are refreshed here.

We were also the blessed recipients of generosity of funds.

I wanted to give a report for some of these funds:

Gas. Every week we drive to Seattle and back.
Housing. The cancer house is not a cheap place to stay. We are blessed to be able to stay here on treatment days.
Chocolate. I didn't like chocolate before I got pregnant. Now, it's my lifeblood. (Theo and Alter Ego brands are my favorite. If you were wondering.)
Food. We are not eating as cheap as we used to. Traveling means eating out, convenience foods, etc.
Clothes. We broke down and resigned ourselves to the fact that we aren't going back to Guyana before winter is over (we still have snow around the lake). Todd and I got coats when we got to Washington. Samuel and I needed jeans. We're not naked. Thank you.
Chai. Not a lot of sleep and lots of driving. I can't bring myself to drink coffee but chai tea is my BFF.
Apple juice. Seriously, it's all Todd wants to drink.

Despite the generosity from all directions, people are still asking what we need. Our answer is still usually, "We don't know."

Actually... there is something we need....

But it's kind of a secret. Do you want to know?

Ok, so it's not actually a secret, but it's something that's been rolling around in my brain for quite some time.

We need a vacation.

Our little family, though we have traveled to some amazing places to do mission work, has never been on a family vacation.

We've never seen the Grand Canyon.
We've never been to a national park.
We've never - gasp - been to Disney Land.

And we happen to have a period of time after chemo and before surgery that is three weeks long.

Can you guess what we're doing in those 3 weeks?

Yes, world, we're finally, after nearly 13 years of marriage and almost 7 years of parenthood, going on vacation!

We have been tossing ideas around. We love the ocean. We loved the idea of a cabin in the woods. We thought about a camping/road trip (but we don't want to because we're sick of going and just want to be somewhere. Also, we don't have camping gear.). My dream vacation is to a dude ranch. Amelia's vote is an African safari (I'm thinking logistically and economically this will not be what we end up doing).

What should we do?

Here are our must-haves for a vacay:
Must be somewhere were we can stay in one place for the 3 weeks.
Must be in a low-populated area.
Must be in a relaxed, low-key environment.
Must be generally affordable (no African safaris)
Access to horses are preferable.

I'd love to hear your ideas!

Most of all we just want to be a family again. Together and enjoying life. We haven't had that in what feels like a really long time. 

I'm really glad that we can plan and dream. I'm so thankful we have a future together and I look forward for what is to come: Peace. Healing. Life.

After today, we have TWO more Mondays of chemo.

Sob. Happy, relieved sobs.

And then, chemo is finished.

I am so, so very glad.

I am blessed to have been able to go through this by my husband's side. I have cried. I have grown. I have come to know God in a way I didn't know possible before this.

What a blessing that God would let us know Him in such a way.

So very glad.
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March 23, 2016

the quiet

I've been accused of being very quiet online lately.

We're on our 3rd cycle of chemo.

It's hard and it stinks and we can't wait for it to be over.

When I'm at the lake house, I feel like a single mother with an extra, ill human to look after. Todd is generally tired and weak from the chemo. I am generally tired and weak from the chemo.

When we're in Seattle I have little ability to do much but fret over him. Although I'm sure I don't do enough, I feel like I need to be feeding/watering/blanketing/etc. him. I have the contents of the "Nourishment Center" cupboards memorized and often recite them to him, lest he forget something he might want. As it turns out, there's not much he wants in the Nourishment Center.

I have been silent online.

This is hard for me to talk about.

I don't talk about it offline all that much either.

I have a strange and strong desire to move my family deep into the mountains in a cabin by a lake for the next four years.

People spoke out against our decision to move forward with chemo. They felt it was wrong and would do more harm than good and felt it their duty to warn us as such.

How dare you?

I so often brushed it aside noting that I was sure they had good intentions.

However good it was intended, it wasn't right. And it's made me feel like I can't talk about this horrible thing called chemo, lest I be told it's our own fault and we did it to ourselves.

I've never in my life felt so judged and alienated.

Now, this was not the majority. Of the hundreds - yes, hundreds! - of messages, emails, texts, calls, cards, etc. we've received since this all started, it was relatively few that were of this nature.

Unless you* read the medical reports, you* are not qualified nor invited to share your* opinions and I kindly ask you* to keep your* advice to yourself* in the future when you* hear that someone has cancer.
*you being general you, people who feel it's their place to give advice without being asked

I guess I needed to rant a bit. This is actually not at all what I planned on writing when I set out to write an update. So. Moving on.

Before chemo began, Todd's tumor markers were measured in his blood. This is basically the amount of cancer cells floating around like they're on vacation. I imagine them as if tubing around a lazy river pool.


Anyhow, before chemo Todd's markers were at 64. At the beginning of cycle two they were down to 28. Doc was hopefully they'd be so low that they wouldn't even show up this time, but we just got the results from Monday's blood work and they're at 12. Not gone, but going. Thrilled at the progress.

After the last 3 weeks of chemo which started Monday, Doc expects them to be gone.


Chemo is 3 weeks from being a thing of the past. Surgery is scheduled. Let me tell you about that. The tumor, which has shrunk some, we know from the pain level (currently at ZERO), is still very much taking up space in Todd's abdomen. We can feel it. We knew going into this that some of the tumor wouldn't respond to chemo, though there was no way of knowing how much. He'll go in for new scans in a month and then we'll be able to see how much shrunk. The remaining tumor will have to be cut out.

Now, if you've been following along on this journey you may remember that the tumor is around several main arteries and veins. Well, it might still be. We met with the surgeon last week and he said that the surgery can take up to FIFTEEN hours.

Bless that man's hands.

If the thing is till wrapped around the arteries and veins, it will have to be cut out layer by layer, ever so delicately. I'm thankful there are people in this world who thought to be trained to do such things. I can't even.

The surgery is the last week in May.

After that, recovery.

So, that's the latest. Maybe someday I'll be able to write about the long days and dark nights we are living at present. As it is, I'll spare the details and ask for your ongoing prayers for our family.

Thank you for the prayers and support that have been shown to our family. I have been trying to write thank-you cards but there is no way to truly thank everyone I want to thank. Maybe someday we'll find a way. But for now - thank you from the bottom to the tops of our hearts!!!
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February 25, 2016

the lines

I looked in the mirror at myself.

What happened?

My fingers gently felt along my forehead.

Yes, the wrinkles in the mirror are really there.

Worry has carved lines along my once youthful skin.

It wasn't that long ago Todd and I were at a Weekend to Remember marriage retreat and a darling older couple was commenting that I didn't look old enough to have kids, let alone to have been married for 12 years.

Bless them.

But today... today I do look old enough for kids and marriage and life.

My face is showing something that I didn't want to share.

Laugh lines are beautiful. I want to be covered in them. Doesn't that represent my life so much better than worry lines? I want people to look and me and think, now there's a girl who must have a lot to smile about.

Because I do. I have so much to smile about...

The ducks are gathered just past the dock off the back yard. Every few days the ducks, all the ducks in the whole lake it seems, all gather for hours in this spot. Like they're just stopping by for a visit. I can watch them for hours - though the kids make sure that doesn't happen. I love to watch them dive under the water. Fish? Seaweed? What are they doing down there?

All I can see is what's on the surface.

They bobble along, sometimes skimming something off the water with their beaks, sometimes quacking at an offending neighbor, sometimes just going with the flow.

I can relate to my ducks in so many ways. They seem to be doing their own thing, even when the whole flock is there together. They're out there surviving and fending for their lives. They're small and vulnerable and have to choose fight or flight.

And then they disappear below the surface. Alone. Their survival depends on their ability to hold their breath as they plunge below in search of that which sustains them.

Oh ducks. I am holding my breath also. Searching for that which will sustain.

In the cold darkness of the depths, holding my breath, I look out and see a light. My lungs hurt from being under for so long, but I can't turn away from the Light. The nearer to it I get, the less I hurt. Until finally my lungs are filled and I am warm.

Still under the surface surrounded by darkness, I am sustained. Even in this dark place, I find Light.

The ducks swim on, and I turn back to the mirror. The lines are still there. But the worry is not. I can close my eyes and see my worry resting on the bottom of the lake. I can smile.

We are days away from leaving our children and returning once again to the city. Cycle #2 of chemo begins Monday morning. Back to the 7-hours of infusions every day, ER visits, and endless sitting, wondering, and waiting. It feels a lot like sinking into the lake, farther and farther from oxygen and light and life.

I find peace only in knowing that even in the depths, there is Light still.

Oh praise God, there is Light still. 

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February 13, 2016

unreliable memory

Putting Samuel's space footie-jammies on him after his bath, I notice that his little toenails need to be trimmed.

I look at his fingernails and frown.

When was the last time I trimmed the kids' nails?

I stop and try to remember. I can't.

At least they had a bath tonight...

All around our room, the one room our family has been staying in for the past 10 days, I see things that have been forgotten. A half-emptied suitcase, a partially unpacked box, and the avocado that went uneaten before it began to go bad. A sign that meals remain to be a struggle for the adults in the family.

We had planned on staying in this room for the entire 9-weeks of chemotherapy. When we got here we paid a whopping sum from the money our dear church family sent us off with (don't even get me started on how well Chattanooga First SDA loves. They do it so, so well.). We paid enough we though, to tide us over until we can get some financial aid. Yesterday we found out that we don't get the aid we were hoping for.

Instead of paying for half of the housing costs, the aid we were granted only covers 8 nights for the rest of his treatment. Too little to make it work for us.

Oh sure, there are plenty of other options. We explored every one of them. There are extensive pro-con lists.

But the one option not on our list was a house sitting on Lake Chelan, just waiting for us.

We have several friends and family members within 3-6 hours from Seattle. Almost all of which have offered us a spare room, a basement, something. But jumping from one room to another offered our family no stability.

But the house by the lake - we can stay there, rent free, until May. In May the snow birds (can I call them snow angels?) will return and we'll cross that bridge if we need to. My best friend called the owners and explained our situation. They welcomed us with open arms... er... doors.

There is a yard for the children, and the lake (with a locked gate in between), and room for us to breathe and not be all up in each other's business. Cause let me tell you - we're all up in each other's business in one room in Seattle.

In the end, after all of the options were considered, weighed, and placed on one side of the pro-con list, the thing - the deal breaker - was help.

We need help.

I'm exhausted all the time.

I snap at my kids.

I struggle to be helpful to my husband.

I can't find the energy to cook.

We need rubber gloves and I can't seem to make it to Rite Aid to get some. I can't even remember we need rubber gloves until I need them.


I have to share another huge blessing. Being so far away means more driving plus paying for lodging when were in the city for appointments. The same BFF who found a house for us also started a crowdfunding page for us. I'm blown away by the response! People I don't even know are giving to us, leaving messages for us, and praying for us.

I feel weird even talking about it. I shared it on my Facebook page and it took about an hour for me to work up the courage to actually post it.

Anyway, there is enough money there to pay for gas and lodging! I'm so very grateful for each and every person who has helped with this. <3 <3 <3

Since I'm talking about it - here is the link. We are already so very blessed!

Well, onward we move now. My lists are growing. Things I need to get ready for our jaunt over to the lake. Things I need to pack. Things I need to buy/return. Things I don't want to forget to grab. My memory is unreliable these days. Thankful for lists.

Thankful for prayers.

Thankful for the help of friends.


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February 7, 2016

nothing to give

I thought the roller coaster was bad before.


I'm glad I didn't know what was coming because if I did, I might have run away. Most of the time I wish I could stick my head in the sand and pretend that this all isn't happening.

But it is.

On and on it all keeps going, no matter how much it squeezes my heart dry to watch my husband suffer.

I want to cry almost all the time. But I don't. It wont change anything. I want to cry for Todd, for his pain, for his heartache of trying to be strong but only getting weaker. He doesn't want me to talk about all the side effects and the state the chemo leaves him in - but it's all I can see and it makes me want to cry.

I want to cry for my children. For their childhood that's been put on hold because, frankly, I can't muster up the energy to play trucks with Sam or horses with Amelia. I sit there on the floor with them and my body is there but my mind... sometimes I don't even know where my mind is.

So I've been thinking that putting them in school might be best for us. For them and for me. I've planned on homeschooling my children since before they were my children. I feel an immense amount of guilt for considering putting them in school. Not because school will hurt them or be bad for them - but because I feel like I should be stronger right now. More able. I should be able to play with my kids on the floor and hear what they're saying and be present and loving.

What kind of a mother mentally checks out on her kids and has to send them away because she just can't.


I want to cry for myself. For the exhaustion of paperwork and insurance and housing and appointments. For feeling so inadequate and helpless. For feeling so guilty for an endless list of all the ways I'm failing my children, my husband, and myself. For feeling so, so very lonely.

I see a lot of other chemo patients, and so many of them smile so sweetly at me. I wanted to be that person who was smiling and comforting and encouraging others. I had a plan. I was going to cook for other families and make sweets for the nurses.

Instead I feel empty when I smile and hollow when I speak.

I have nothing to give anyone.

I stare blankly at walls.


There is this small, warming flame in my heart. Despite all the despair and emptiness I feel, I have this little part of my heart that won't be moved. I don't always feel it, and sometimes I forget it's there. But when I'm able to finally quiet my mind of the worry, and jumbled thoughts, it's still there: a still, small flame in my heart.

When my heart is stilled, I still know that it's that little flame that's keeping me going right now. That I'm not as lonely as I might feel. That God is helping me make the right choices and is working through this situation in a mighty way even though I can't see it through my tears. 

People keep sending me songs and sermons and encouraging stories. I don't read them. I feel so bad admitting that. It's not that I don't appreciate it. It's just that... I just have trouble making sense of words strung together. I can't concentrate. I lose my focus and before I know it I'm wondering if the insurance company received my fax or if we'll be approved for financial aid for housing.

Someday, I will go back through the virtual mountains and mountains of messages, emails, sermons, stories. Someday I'll be whole enough again to listen to a sermon and I'll hear what's being said.

Someday, I'll read this journal again and I'll probably cry. For my husband, knowing how bad it got before it got better. For my children, knowing that I made the right decision for them, and for myself. Knowing that that little flame in my heart never went out.

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February 6, 2016

chemo begins

Oh friends.


This is a rough road we're traveling.

I know it's been a while since I wrote an update. I had planned on writing on Wednesday evening, but that didn't happen.

Monday morning we drove up to Seattle to get pre-appointment bloodwork done. Todd was feeling pretty good and we spent all day Tuesday with my sister. We visited the aquarium. We had lunch. We hung out and made jokes and ate together and it was all so normal.

Wednesday we walked into our appointment meeting 2 new doctors, who exuded confidence, experience, and hope. Our new doctor knew exactly what he was looking at. There were all of a sudden no more maybes, no more doubts, no more questions. In fact, they let us ask all the questions we've been lacking answers to for the past 5 weeks.

It was the best feeling ever not to be wondering anymore.

Doc said he is going to fight this pretty aggressively. The cancer is spreading, but we also have every reason to believe that after 9 weeks of chemo, it will be totally gone.

My husband will live.


So many emotions over the last 5 weeks have been surfacing all over again. All the fear, all the uncertainty, all the distress. I felt it all one more time as I had myself a cry and then it was all gone. Replaced by hope. By life. By the future.

Wednesday Doc said that it's looking like the soonest they can get us started with chemo would be Monday or Wednesday next week. When we went in Thursday for some more tests, we found out that it was starting in 24-hours.

I knew it was coming, but I hadn't yet digested what was happening.

When we left Portland on Monday to come to Seattle I packed 2 sets of clothes for each of us. And I didn't take my computer. I thought we'd be waiting more. Back to Portland. Waiting. But then, all of a sudden it was time.

Yesterday we started chemo. There's a huge learning curve. They said the first day is always the hardest, but it wasn't too bad. Day two is already proving harder. Hopefully this won't be a trend.

I might not write a bunch. It's hard to write about what's going on. Todd needs his privacy. I will try to write weekly updates, but the chemo schedule is as such that some weeks, thankfully, will be pretty uneventful. He's on 3-week cycles. It starts with 5 days (7 hours per day), then 2 days off, 1 day on, one week off, one day on, one week off, then the cycle starts over with 5 more long days. We'll do this 3 times. Then the cancer should be gone. Dead. Over. He'll have surgery about 2 months later to remove the parts of the tumor that the chemo leaves behind. After a few check ups, we should be free to go on our merry way. Right on back to our lives. To Guyana. To life without cancer.

Happy sob.

As for now, everyone keeps asking what we need. We are trying to figure out housing. We're hoping to stay in the cancer house, but insurance doesn't cover it like we had hoped. It may or may not cover the nights Todd has chemo, but even that we have to wait until Monday to figure out. Please pray about that. If it doesn't work out, we need to get an apartment. Some friends bought us a membership to the Pacific Science Center, there is also a children's museum I want to get a membership to. That should help keep the kids busy.

We're just going one day at a time. The nurses here are good, one of them just drug me to the little nourishment center and made me pick out some food. It's hard to feel hungry when I'm sitting by my husband, who is sleeping from all the meds they have to give him just to counter the effects of the chemo. It's hard to watch, but neither can I leave his side.

Todd's parents are here to help with the kids until Tuesday. Then the juggling will really begin. Sigh.

As hard as all this is, we are so, so thankful for so much. My husband will live! How can I complain about anything knowing that after this rough spell, we will be a normal family again? Every time I remind myself of that I can't think of anything to really complain about. We can do anything for 9 weeks. There is nothing we go through that God won't go through with us.

I'd better go eat my oatmeal now before I get in trouble with the nurse. Thank you all so much for traveling this journey with us. We appreciate your ongoing prayers!
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January 24, 2016

don't want to be obnoxious

Ok, here's the deal.

I really, really don't want to be obnoxious.

But... I'm just going to throw this out there.

This is something I've been doing low-key for a while now, but I just want to throw it out there and say, if you're a doTERRA user, and you need oils, I'd really love for you to buy them from my site because we could use the money right now.

If you have questions about oils, I'd be more than happy to answer them. I honestly feel like the oils have made an impact on my family and I'm so happy with the results and this is something that we personally use and believe in.

If it's not for you - then just pass this by. :)

But if you are interested in essential oils, I would love you as a customer. <3

>>>Here is my doTERRA site<<<

Thank you!

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January 23, 2016

wondering still

Life just keeps going on.

The children get hungry, the truck needs gas, the trash needs emptied.

All around us are people who are living lives the go on seemingly without any weightiness in their hearts.

And we’re still in a holding pattern.

Todd’s biopsy was rather uneventful. They did it quickly and we spent most of our day watching HGTV and eating hospital food. The nurse in the recovery area was in every 30 minutes to check Todd’s vitals. She checked his incision. She made sure we knew were the bathroom was.

We made a last minute decision to leave the children with Aunties Lisa and Joyce. I spent the whole day amazed that I had planned on bringing them along and realizing what a disaster that would have been.

Instead of chasing kids, I held Todd’s hand and made inappropriate jokes at every given chance. The valet parking guy was trying to be sympathetic but I was cheering because chemo patients get free parking.

Who does that?

Underneath the jokes, the busyness, the “strength” that people see, I’m still left standing alone in the rain, wondering if my husband will live or if he will die.

It’s a very lonely place to stand, no matter who is around. I smile and even laugh at the appropriate times in conversation. I make the appropriate small talk. I do all the things that seem like normal things people would do. All the while, still wondering.

It’s been three and a half weeks now since our lives were turned upside down. Three and a half weeks of uncertainty, craziness, and wondering. I feel like there isn’t much more to say now than when I first started writing. We still don’t know anything more than he has cancer.

Todd’s pain has only increased. The mass of cancer pushes and pulls on things in his belly. He spends most of his time in bed, but also suffers from cabin fever. He looks for opportunities to get out of the house, but then usually ends up regretting it, hurting and back in bed.

So this is where we’re at: the biggest mass of cancer is around all of his main arteries and veins. It’s around other things too and causing other problems, but this is the biggest concern.

We’ll find out hopefully Monday or Tuesday what the results of the biopsy are. That will determine our plan of attack. About 50% of sarcomas aren’t responsive to chemo, so we’d have to try other treatments.

This is the holding pattern we’re in. This is my reality. An inoperable tumor that may or may not be responsive to chemo.

Will it be best case? Or worst case?

Will we grow old together? Or will I be a single mom?

I’m at peace with all the questions, most of the time. I have them, but I have faith too. Faith that no matter the outcome, I won’t be alone. Faith that in the hardest moments Jesus will hold me tight and hold my heart together when it feels like it’s breaking. Faith that goodbye isn’t forever.

I have faith and I am blessed. No matter the outcome, I am blessed.

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January 10, 2016

not saints but blessed

January 9:
Today, for the first time, I let my mind go where I haven’t let it go yet. I was in the shower and I started thinking about what our lives would look like without Todd. And before you all tell me to rebuke those thought and not have them - my reality is that I can lose my husband. And more than just we can lose anyone at anytime.

I thought about how I would tell the children, and what it would be like to have to call places (student loans, etc.,). Then I thought of sleeping at night all by myself. And I wondered what I would do and where I would go. Not planning, just… wondering. Not getting worked up, just realizing the reality of the situation.

Reality is a weird thing...

People keep treating us like we’re saints. And we are so, so, so not. We sin just as much as everyone else. We have the same struggles as everyone else. We are just as human as everyone else. If you are tempted to think that for whatever we are better/stronger/saintlier than the rest of humanity, please don’t. This entire experience has humbled us more than I knew possible and I fully know how unworthy we are of the ridiculous blessings we are experiencing right now.

It’s because of God’s love, not because of us. Can we just be clear about that?

This afternoon after church our closest friends, our pastor, and the elders from our church came to our house and surrounded us with so much love. They shared, encouraged, and prayed for us, and the pastor anointed Todd. Such a moving experience. It was draining because it was so emotional. Emotions make me so tired. I wish I couldn’t feel anything for just a little while.

I feel like I could start a new blog called, “All the Ways the Andersons are Blessed.” It would be a full time job just to keep it updated. Yesterday I took Amelia to church and this is what I have to say about our church - they know how to love on people! I can’t even tell you. The love was so thicks you could feel it in the air. And these loves gave so generously to Todd and I. We were blown away with a substantial gift that our church family all contributed to.

So much love. So many blessings.
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January 9, 2016

something to smile about

January 7:
It feels like weeks since I’ve written last - so much has happened. So many emotions. So many feelings. So many blessings.

Our day began with the news that our local hospital, where we went to the ER initially, called to tell us that the tumor is inoperable as-is. They wanted to start chemo right away to try to shrink it so it can be removed as soon as possible.

One thing we have learned about Sarcoma is that about half of Sarcomas are not responsive to chemo.

You can read between the lines and imagine the thoughts that exploded as the chain-reaction of realizations went through my mind. My husband looked numb. I went into “strong mode” and set to work on the tasks that needed to be done.

Be strong for Todd. Stay strong for him. Don’t break down yet.

By the time I got home from the bank and picking up trash bags, the west coast was awake. I might have made more calls today than I’ve made in the last 4 years combined.

After paying the deposit to make an appointment (which praise the Lord, they will give back to us after the insurance gets all entered), I was able to start talking to various departments around the hospital. My little notebook is filling up fast.

The surgeon who will be doing the surgery to remove the cancer needed to look at Todd’s file before they could give us too much info. We made a tentative appointment for January 18th, the first available appointment. The lady scheduling it said that we could do the biopsy tomorrow morning as planned and have it all sent up to Seattle.

Hours later, they called back. The doctor had looked at the file. Suddenly an appointment opened up a week earlier and they want him in right away. The doc also said no biopsy here - he wants to do it himself in Seattle when Todd gets here. I’d like to think I shouldn’t feel nervous about the haste, but after hearing this morning what the local hospital’s opinion is, it’s hard not to. 

January 8:
Today we packed up the hangar. Eleven months of blood, sweat, and tears was boxed away, and put in one of 2 piles: one of our personal belongings that got piled in one corner, waiting for us to return to pick back up where we left off, and the other in the opposite corner of everything needed to finish the plane. That pile is the small pile.

If this cancer thing wouldn’t have happened, I might have been writing about our first flight today. It’s that close. But, nonetheless not finished. Everything is boxed up neatly, waiting for someone to be able to come along and finish it up so it can get down to Guyana.

Today was the most normal day I’ve had since this all started. There were some hilarious parts, like when my girlfriend and I got back to the hangar and realized that the tailgate had not latched and the massive truck grill had fallen out at some point. Not hilarious until we found it and were able to make sure no one was hurt.

And there were some surprises, like when I took Amelia out to say goodbye to the horses and was thinking we might be able to let her get the pony out to ride in the yard, and we were actually surprised with one last little trail ride. I didn’t want to get on that horse, but as soon as I did, I was so very glad for this blessing. It was the first time since all this happened that I felt free. Just for a moment, all was right in my world and I felt the sunshine on my face.

And there was a scary part, when Amelia’s friend was bucked off the pony. I was so glad - we were all so glad - she was OK. Just a little scared. When I got a call from the hospital I popped off my horse and the little one got on her. I was happy to see her get back on.

The best part of the day was finally getting a prescription for some stronger medication for Todd. I’ve been worrying so much about him flying alone in so much pain. At least he’s got something to help him now. I just hope he’s not too drugged!

The most exciting part of our day was finding out that Amelia (6) has not one, but two loose teeth! Both her bottom front teeth are loose and she is thrilled! She’s been wanting to lose a tooth ever since her friend Liam lost his first tooth.

It’s nice to have something to smile about.
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January 6, 2016

up and down

It was this time last week my whole world was turned upside down. I feel like I’m forced to walk on a treadmill. Only the treadmill is on a roller coaster. And there is a tornado. Up, down, 5 steps back, and everything is up in the air again. Rinse, repeat.

I got puppy therapy today

This morning I woke up to the news that Todd is required by the FAA to ground himself. That means he’s not allowed to be PIC (pilot in command). Having cancer means he lost his medical. The FAA will clear him to fly PIC again 1 year after the cancer is totally gone and treatments are done.

The only thing on the planet, other than finding out my husband has cancer, that makes my heart break to pieces is finding out his love, passion, and lives work is being taken away. Down, down deep.


We later found out that there might be loopholes, and it might depend on the type of cancer. I am praying this is true. Back up.

Later, I hear a knock at the door. I look at my friend who was over, and in the middle of a good cry with me, and winced. I open the door to a group of kind looking people. I wasn’t ready for this visit. Down we go.

The came to pray with us, encourage us, and people I had never met before left us with $1,700 in our hands. Soaring high to see that God is providing through strangers!

Up, down, 5 steps back, and everything is up in the air again.

We found out that there are very specialized Sarcoma hospitals in the US. Hospitals that only deal with this rare cancer. Did you know this? I did not. The thought never occurred to me.
But there are. Only, not in Tennessee. If we want to best care to Todd - which we do - maybe it will be best to leave after all. The though of leaving our support network makes me sink down, makes my heart sink down.

On the phone with the Seattle Cancer Center Alliance and as I’m talking to the new patient adviser, I begin to feel so strongly that this is where I want my husband to get care. And then we start talking about the finances. Down, down to the bottom dollar. They won’t even make an appointment unless they know we can pay for it. Our insurance doesn’t cover out-of-state. Down, down I go.

And then she tells me that if we’re self pay, we have to pay a deposit.
“Are we talking $50 or $50,000??”
A pause. “$1,600.”
I laugh.
She must think I’m crazy.
I am laughing harder, “I just have to tell you something. These strangers showed up at my door today…”

Up, up to the heavens where God quietly whispers in my ear, “I am with you.” 

Up, down, 5 steps back, and everything is up in the air again.

So now we are trying to see if we can get insurance in Washington. Figure out housing. Get Todd over there. Get the kids and I over there. I need to pack. What do I pack for Todd? What do cancer patients need? Will I be able to cook for him and keep him on his whole foods, plant-based diet? This part, the part with all the questions, feels like the treadmill. The questions run and run through my mind but so far, our answers continue to be few.


I would like to address something that has been said to us a few times so far. Everyone has their own spin on it, but basically it’s a statement about how we’re so amazing, or so strong, or so whatever.

Yesterday I wrote about why we aren’t asking, “why us?” and this is a continuation of that thought. This is going to suck and it’s going to be hard - but aren’t the things that are the most meaningful and the most worth it hard? We are ready for this. I mean, as ready as we can be at the moment, but God is sustaining us. God is leading us. We truly believe that. That doesn’t make us amazing - that makes us Christians.

We are no more amazing than anyone else.

We are no more strong than anyone else.

We have nothing special in and of ourselves that makes it so we can be or do something extra-ordinary.

We are simply people who love and trust God.

We go through ups and we go through downs.

And when we’re up, we thank God.

And when we’re down, we thank God.

We are amazing? No. We are nothing but vessels. Who’s love we’re filled up with - now THAT’S amazing.
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