Monday, December 21, 2015

This year

I am not in the habit of creating and distributing Christmas Cards each year.
I'm a huge fan of the practice; I love getting them from friends... however, I can never seem to think about such things in a timely manner...

Although, if I were to send out a yearly Christmas greeting, I think I would lean toward the Christmas news letter... letting all know what we have been up to and how we have been fairing.

Then it occurred to me... I may not have been punctual enough to print and mail-out such news, but I can certainly write it all out here.

So, for all who would delight in receiving a Christmas shout-out from my family to yours, please consider this post to fill that gap. 


This year has been hard.

I do not say that so you are pained for us... hard is just that... hard.

Some things are hard and painful... others are hard with great reward in their wake... hard does not in and of itself indicate bad... just... not easy.

This year has not been easy.

It has been hard to learn to live in a world without the Captain. There are so many wonderful and different things in our lives today then there were the last time I saw him. I wish very much to share those things with him. It has been hard to celebrate and push on without him by our side.
His absence some days is profound...and some days I feel as though I've been doing things solo for much longer than a year. Each and every thing that has occurred this past year (and most of it has been good, truly good) has had a tinge of sadness because Andy is not with us. And although that is sad... we are still in the process of learning. Learning how to deal, how to live, how to adjust in this: our new normal. 
Hard things are not solely bad things... they just take effort, time, and work. This year has taken all of those things... and it has been filled with joy, laughter and amazing things...but each of those amazing things have been wrapped in a layer of wistful longing; an ache because of our loss. 
And that is hard

Here are a few of the things we did this year.

Our little house got some TLC in February when I updated my kitchen.
This was a big we lived in a construction zone for awhile. But In the end it turned out beautifully.

The boys and I were able to visit my sister and her family in May. It was the boys' first plane ride and my first time taking them on a long trip... in order to save my own sanity... I made my parents come with me. We enjoyed some family time together... went out to eat.. went to the beach.
And since our whole family was going to be together in Anaheim... we went to Disney Land.
And it was awesome.

Rigg rode his first grown-up roller coaster... and loved it. Ryder cried for an hour because he was 3 inches too short to go. I tried to buy him off with ice cream... because that's real life.

Ring mentioned, as we were standing in line for The Pirates of the Caribbean ride for the 3rd time, that he wished daddy could have come with us. I told him I bet daddy would have loved to be there... but Heaven was even better than Disney Land, and one day we get to go to Heaven too. These are truths I am trying to set deeply in my boys hearts.
Most days we try to balance the tension between hopeful joy and grief... and most days it's a little hard. But I have seen God's grace and faithfulness to me in each day.

Rigg and Ryder may not know... but they have been the biggest help to me this past year. Together the three of us are learning how to press on without Andy. Both of the boys are so young that they do not fully recognize the struggle... but I do. And having them to keep my hands and my mind busy has been a wonderful gift. They bring joy, laughter and so much purpose into my days.  My boys are a gift and blessing to my soul.

I (officially) started my own business this year.
I have been working in the interior design industry for awhile now... but this year my business exploded. God has graciously plopped amazing projects in my lap...and I could not be more delighted... even if I do seem frazzled at times because of the newness a work schedule brings.
This has been a source of great joy and frustration for me. The work itself is amazing... the learning to run operate a business makes me ::shudder::.
Studio 6.2.6 is the result of God blessing me in a way that I could never dreamed up myself.
I really love the work, but am still figuring out the balance of being a single, working mom. Again... hard. (but really, soooo fun)

{from Instagram: From where does the name Studio 6.2.6 derive? It's numbers represent Matthew 6:26 'look at the birds of the air, that they do not sow, nor reap nor gather into barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not worth much more than they?' This was Andy's favorite verse. He loved talking about how he saw God care for us in our hardest and darkest times. This business I see as God's provision for me; for income, for purpose, for a fun creative outlet. God has given this to me because He cares for me and is taking care of me. That's where 6.2.6 comes from. 
Combining it with Studio just sounded super rad. 😉.... Now you know!}

I have also been figuring out how to be a mom, well a better, more present mom. It is something I think about daily. Learning to balance work and parenthood has been a struggle for me. God has blessed me with more help then I could have asked for. My sister-in-law, my mother, my mother-in-law all are weekly go-to's for me. I could not do it all without them. But there is still a tug on my heart to be more present in my boy's days. Which is difficult when you work. 
Being a single parent is hard.

But God.

God has poured grace and mercy over my days. He has provided all of my needs... and a lot of my wants this past year. His faithfulness not only never waivers, but continues to amaze. Even on my hardest days I am graciously reminded of His constant love and care for me and my boy's. 

I was asked to speak a a couple events this year. I adore being a squeaky wheel about how amazing and real God is; about His faithfulness in every situation.  Being able to speak and share my story, which is really God's story, was such a gift to me. I feel like I have learned a lot over the past 7 years. God has been pouring truth and knowledge about Himself into my heart, to be able to share those things with others is a humbling and awesome thing.

Ring turned 6 this year in June.

He loves school... and I know -I KNOW- every parent says this... but the kid is smart. He is learning to read, write... do math. He loves a good puzzle or maze, builds legos like a champ, and is learning to master Super Mario World on the Wii.
Rigg is grasping onto truths of God and Heaven in ways that are amazing to watch... the trust and complete faith he has in God's word encourages me in my own faith.

Ryder turned 4 this year.

He loves to dress up like super hero's and fight all the bad guys. He loves school and tries with all his might to keep up with his brother. Ryder is active and talks all.the.time. I mean, all the time. The kid is never silent. He is talking or singing or humming... and he has a spectacular imagination. Ryder is ornery and mischievous and gives you all the grey hairs one minute... and the very next he is the sweetest most polite child you've ever seen. Ryder does not live in the in-between... he is an extreamest.

So that's us.
2015 was hard... in both good and painful ways.

It was, as they say in sports, a rebuilding year.

When I look back over this year, the primary thing I see is not the pain, the grief or the hard... it's God's abundant faithfulness and lovingkindness toward me. I have been in need this year. I needed comforted, I needed peace and calmness... I needed help, work, money, wisdom, discernment and understanding.
God, because of His overwhelming love and care for me has provided everything that I needed. He poured out Himself into my life... into my days and into my moments.
He has taken good care of me.
When I look back over 2015 I see how God carried me through and paved a way for us to press on.

This year has been hard.

But this year has also been amazing.
It's always amazing to watch God work.

And because I have witnessed His awesome care for me this, of all years... I know next year will be no different.

I do not know what next year holds... I do not know if it will be easier, or harder, or if these hard days are just our new normal for awhile... but really that doesn't even matter. Because whatever is in my future I know it will be OK... Because I have seen the faithfulness of my loving Savior...

And i know it never fails.

Thursday, November 12, 2015

Sometimes I preach to myself.

It's only been forever.

Ok...only almost 4 months. 

So this would technically be a breakfast of sorts... Since I am breaking my fast of silence on this blog... (or something less nerdy??) 

Life has been fuller, busier than I expected. I'm talking of that time just before Andy died and I was picturing what my life would look like without him. I thought life would slow down.
You would think that being almost 34, and treading through the past few years that I have, I would have known better.

I was/am still surprised by how the days zoom by.

My life today is the same as it was 6 months ago.... But in many, many ways it's so very different.

I had a moment a couple months ago. I had a very full and busy 2 weeks; full of work meetings and new clients. In the midst of this whirlwind of new, I realized that I was spending my time and days with people who only knew me as a widow... only knew the Cari without Andy. Only knew me as a single, working mom. And this realization hit hard. I started to mentally process through what I had already been living.

My life was moving forward... I was pressing on.
And my days, my time, my life looked different than it had before.
I was a different person.

Maybe not in big, personality-changing type ways... but different enough that if I met a new person... they would not know the "old" me unless I told my story.

Processing this was a big moment in my grieving. My days didn't look any different than they had been... but my mind finally caught up to my reality. And as my mind played catch-up, my heart hurt a little... knowing it was just one more step away from Andy.
That's the way grieving goes. As life continues, as the days keep coming, you get further and further from the person who is gone. Those steps hurt. Because they increase the absence of Andy. 
I do not like thinking of myself as a widow. I do not like thinking of myself as a single mom. Both of those titles are heavy. Both hurt my heart to say.

Both seem like something that would happen to someone else.

But they happened to me.

I am a widow.

I am a single mom.

I am only surviving under the weight of these roles because of the grace and mercy of my faithful God.

I spoke with a friend to day and told her that the past few days have worn me down. I'm stressed and I am barely keeping my head above water. 
On days like these I preach to myself.
I preach the lessons I have (supposedly) learned. I preach the lessons I need to relearn; the lessons I need to bury in my heart.

I remember, when the Captain was in hospice, people used to ask me how the boys were holding up.
My response was 'They are doing OK. Something like this, the death of a father, is always hard for us to understand. But I firmly believe that my God is all-knowing and all-powerful. And because of that, I have an unwavering belief that He created my boys knowing full well what they would have to endure; how they would have to live. And with that knowledge I believe that He made them not only to be able to endure living a life without their dad... but to do it well.'

And I still hold unwaveringly to this principle.

And I believe it about myself.
My loving God knew. He knew I would marry a man I would only get to spend a brief time with. He knew I would lose a baby girl. He knew I would have to care for a sick and dying husband. He knew I would be responsible for raising two young boys. HE KNEW.
He knew all of these things before He ever made me. And when He made me, my God created me in such a way that I would not only be able to carry the burden of these things... not only be able to live through them and walk the special road He has for me... but to do it well.

On days like today. This is the truth I preach to myself. That God created me to live the life He chose to give me. And my God has provided each and every thing that I might need to live this life well. He has given me the truth of His word. He has provided family and friends to aid me wherever I cannot do it alone. He has poured grace down upon my days. He has brought joy and laughter. My sweet Savior has taken care of not only my physical needs but also my heart.

With all that I have been so abundantly given, I can live this life well.

And so I preach.

Because I need to remind myself of the truth. 

So today. I am taking big, deep breathes and reminding myself that this, lovely, joyful, sorrowful, blessed, sometimes hectic, chaotic, busy, whirlwind of a life is the one I have been chosen for, and I can live it well... not because of me but because of Him.

Thursday, July 23, 2015

The surrender

Time is a gift in many ways. Time with people is a gift... but the passing of time can be a gift from God to help heal... to help bring comfort and peace... if used wisely, time can make strong the weak,  build trust where once there was doubt, bring acceptance where before there was only denial.
In both of the hard things I have faced, God has blessed me with time to process and time to grieve.
With Caden, that time was after she died. I was a stay at home mom with no baby to care for. I had months, weeks, days... hours to read, pray, sit and think. God gave me that time. When I was in the midst of my pain and suffering, in those days right after we buried my baby girl... when I was ankle deep in my own tears... it felt like torture. The pain of heartbreak is so real, so powerful that is grips your heart, throbbing in your chest radiating out to your fingertips. I remember that feeling. I remember throwing a book across the room because its sweet truth was too much for me to absorb. I remember collapsing on the steps of my church under the cross my own father had built sobbing to God about how much it hurt...about how much the absence of Caden physically hurt me.
I remember reading of other's pain.. of other's losses. In those stories I saw how God was using their lives, how they could see His beauty and plan... how they viewed their own pain. And it helped me focus; helped me gain a footing and see my life with fresh eyes.
God gave me time.
And in that time after Caden's death He taught me... He did not answer all of my questions. But He taught me more about Himself. He taught me more about me. He taught me more about how I am to live, respond... behave and obey.
And in those God brought me peace and comfort. He brought me healing. He gave me more wisdom and discernment over my own life.
He proved to me He was faithful and could be trusted with the most precious... most important things.
With the Captain, my time of grieving was sprinkled throughout years.
I look back and see I grieved a small part of my husband after Caden died. The death of a child changes every parent... I'm sure I changed too... But I watched Andy lose a part of himself that I never saw him regain; a childlike joy... a playfulness. This side of him slowly slipped into the background. That was almost 7 years ago.
Then November of 2012 Andy had his second surgery. He recovered for a brief time... then radiation took his strength and energy. Then chemo took more. Then the tumor itself took his speech and his mobility. And for 2 years I watched my Andy... my husband... my Captain slowly fade and slip from me.
In those 2 years I slowly grieved each step, each stage, each fade, each slip. And unlike grieving over Caden, where we did it together... because of the cancer and his condition, I felt like I was grieving alone. I was missing and hurting over the loss of a person still with me. And there is a small measure of guilt that comes with that... one that I took to Christ... shared my heart with my Savior and was comforted.
One of the greatest things I realized as I was walking through the grief of losing Andy, was that God had allowed me to remember most of what I had learned walking through my grief of Caden. I still had to deal with my feelings, I still had to walk the path set before me... but the lessons of who God is, who I am in Christ, what He has promised... all the truths I clung to in my life during the most horrendous moments of pain and suffering... those things He preserved in me.
Not to say that going through the death of my husband was easier... it was not. Not in the since of the loss, or in the missing of the person, or in the pain.
But because of everything God taught me through the death of Caden... because of everything I had already set my heart upon... because of all the truths I had chosen to believe; the promises I had already hidden in my heart...because of these things, the decision to allow God to do with my life what He willed was easier.
The surrender.
I am still, daily, working through my grief. Some days it comes as tears. Some days it comes as short-tempered responses to my boys. Some days it's silent prayers of thankfulness and leaning into grace.
I am blessed to have a God who gives graciously to me more that I could ever ask or imagine.
 I am grateful to a Savior who loves and cares for me in the tiny, little day-to-day-ness of life.
I am thankful for a Hope that puts all the hurt of this life into the proper perspective.
And I am joyful to a Redeemer who has taken the time to carry me through and gently nudge me towards living with open arms.

Friday, April 10, 2015

taken care of

You know when you have a closet that's full? I mean, just crammed full of everything you tried to hide or didn't want to mess with? And you know that feeling of needing to clean it out... but just putting it off because it seems too big for today?
And the longer you wait, the more stuff that closet accumulates... so the clean-up gets bigger and bigger...
That's how I've been feeling about this blog. I want to write. To sit down and pour my heart into words that my heart and my mind have been feeling. To share what God is doing, what I am learning... How I've seen Him provide. I want to show you pictures and tell you how my boys are...
and life is busy, so I haven't given this blog my time.
and now I have SO much... and the task seems too big.
So I'm going to cut myself some slack... and I'm not going to try to play catch-up. I'm not even going to give you pictures in this post.
This is me, opening the door... and starting to get it done.
I've been learning how to live in a world without the Captain.
It's not easy.
More often than not, I am busy, surrounded by people... but I feel alone.
After being with Andy for over 10 years, I am relearning how to function as a single unit.
My boys help, family helps, friends help... but it is still an adjustment.
One that makes me miss him so much.
When Andy was sick I struggled to remember him as a strong healthy man. I remember scouring through videos just to watch him walk... to remember how he moved. I could not remember his voice... so the videos were precious remainders not only of  his strength and movement... but of his sound, his smile... his joy.
Now, I have to work to remember him sick. When Andy comes to mind he is healthy, strong... it's bittersweet. I love knowing that my brain can hang on to who he was... but as each memory surfaces I grieve over it. Because it magnifies, just a little bit more, what has been taken out of my life.
On the flip side of that, I know in my heart that God provided me with Andy for 10 years. To help me, to teach me, to share live and responsibilities with me... and I know now that my husband is no longer here God will fill those gaps with other good things... He will provide those things for me in different ways.
But a girl has to get use to the changes... and some of those ways God will fill those gaps... might just be with my own hands and my own time.
I, possibly naively, thought that "after" might be easier. I wouldn't have to watch him suffer... wouldn't be stretching my days between boys and Andy. I knew that grief would come, but in my mind I separated the emotional from the physical...
I have since discovered that the "after" has been harder than I expected. Not the grief over the loss of Andy... that has been about what I expected... but the areas I could not know of until I lived them. The Captain was gone from our home for 6 months before he died. But it wasn't until after he was gone that I felt like a single parent. I struggle with managing my time. I feel stretched thin. I feel the weight of my boys discipline and upbringing lay heavy upon my shoulders. I press back the nagging doubt that I will be able to earn enough to support my family.
All of these things are valid thoughts...but they are only true concerns when I separate them from truth.
And the truth is... God will give me grace that is sufficient for each day... for each moment.{2 Corinthians 12:9 ~ But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me.}  God will provide all of my needs because He cares for me. {Philippians 4:19 ~ And my God will supply every need of yours according to his riches in glory in Christ Jesus.}
God is in each breath of my day... each step I take, He is present. I need only to ask... only to take a pause and refocus to grasp what is needed... what is freely given; His power and His grace and His strength. {Philippians 4:13 ~ I can do all things through him who strengthens me.}
At the end of Andy's funeral, a message from Andy was read. The Captain stated that one of the top three happenings in his life was watching the church work together to love and support our family. God uses His people to show His love, His care, His gentle compassion. I have been privileged to witness first-hand the provision of God. I have never, not once, felt abandoned or over looked. I have never been lacking in a need, I have never been in want... because God abundantly provides.
He shows up and shows off.
and friends... My God is faithful, He does not change... He does not grow weary.
Because I know all of this to be true... I know that even though some days I feel the hard and I feel the heavy...
I know I have nothing to fear... I have no worry I cannot give to Him.
I am generously and abundantly taken care of.
{Matthew 6:26 ~ 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?}

Friday, February 6, 2015


After Caden died, I had this nagging fear that she would be forgotten... that no one would remember she lived... that no one would remember I was once the mommy of a sweet baby girl. I doubted God would provide what I wanted... I feared so many things because I was uncertain what my future held... I was uncertain that I could be truly joyful again... I feared... I was afraid. Grief does that... It magnifies things like fear and doubt.
I remember wanting to scream at people who would smile at my belly (when I was pregnant with Rigg). I wanted to shout that I had already had a child... I was not a first time mother... I had a baby. I didn't do that. It would have been rude to scream in strangers' faces... and more to the heart of the matter, although I wanted them to know, I didn't want to see the look on their face when I told them. So I kept quiet.
As it turns out. I have people who love me very much, and people who love you very much tend to remember when hard and life-changing events happen to you.
God proved Himself faithful to calm my heart and fill me with peace regarding so many things with Caden's death.  
After Caden, I remember God showing me such wonderful things about Himself. He taught me that I could trust Him with the hardest things... He did this by providing for all my needs, big and small. By showing up in the strangest of places and reminding me He was with me. God proved His faithfulness to me and to every promise He declared in scripture. I found them all to be undeniably true.
Since then, I have rejoiced in the knowledge of things already learned... I have tried to remember the truths of His faithfulness...His graciousness to me. I strive to preach the things I know to myself so that I not only remember... but so that I can lean into them when I am weak.
God has allowed me to have a firm grasp on what He taught me through my grief with Caden, and because of that, this trial, this road I have walked alongside Andy... and after Andy, this road is not the same kind of hard. I do not doubt the things I did before, I do not fear as I did after Caden.
God proved Himself in my hardest time. I am blessed to remember so well the things He did. And because of that I trust in His word and faithfulness to me.
This time what I see God magnifying in my life is His sovereignty; His power and authority over my life. I am seeing how my big, mighty, gracious, loving and holy God not only has a right to cause or allow any and all things that happen to me... but He knew, He planned, He designed, He orchestrated it all... His hand has and will direct each moment... His fingerprints grace each breath... He has gone before and He goes behind.
My Savior is actively sovereign in my days.
{ From my Instagram ~ When Caden died, the couple at the grave marker place were so incredibly kind to the Captain and me. They too, had lost a young daughter years before and their empathy and encouragement was something Andy and I always remembered. I went back today to order a headstone for Andy...and the same sweet woman who hugged me and talked boldly about how good God is, lost her husband last year too. She and I have been brought together for brief meetings but have walked parallel paths. She speaks, with tears in her eyes, of a God who loves her greatly and has a divine purpose for her life. These moments, past and present, that I've shared with her are times I know God has given to me as a gift. To prove tangibly He is caring for me, He is guiding me... and He loves me greatly and has a divine purpose for my pain. It's in these moments... that are supposed to be hard and gut wrenching... my God shows up and shines... and I am restored with Hope and much Joy.}
I see God's provision, not to merely sustain me and keep me afloat, but to teach me more about Him... to guide me to live according to His wishes, not my own. He is gently leading me as a shepherd does his sheep.
I have witnessed so many little snippets of grace these past weeks. God shining in the details. Proving that He has this...that He knows not only what is happening to me, but He knows the plan... the why, the how, and the end.
Since the Captain has passed into glory, I have not seen the same facets of God that I did after Caden... I still do see those... But this time... this time God is magnifying a different attribute of Himself to me. I am learning not only to trust God because He is faithful... But to trust His faithfulness because He is sovereign.
He is taking me deeper.
Do not misunderstand me. I still struggle...I still cry. I still have days where I want to scream and pull out my hair. I live days where I cannot wait for bedtime.
But God is in those days too.
I was playing a game with the boys the other night. The overwhelming desire to see and talk with Andy swept over me... and I missed him so greatly in that moment. I started to cry. Rigg asked me why I was crying. I told him I missed daddy... and sometimes missing someone comes out as tears. Both boys expressed how they to miss their daddy. Then we hugged and spoke of Heaven and what daddy might be doing. Which quickly turned into what they want to do when they get to Heaven...

which proved they have excellent imaginations.
Lately, when singing during worship at church, I cry. I just cannot get the picture of Andy worshipping in the presence of Christ out of my mind. When I sing to God about His holiness, His faithfulness... His glory and majesty and might... I an overwhelmed with the knowledge that what I am longing for... what I an eagerly anticipating; Heaven and glory and being with my Savior... the Captain is living now. I cry because it is an awesome thought... and I am so grateful.

I am just seeing the beginning of understanding, I am in the warm-up... but I do know that God has it all. He provided for me in every chapter of my life. He provided Andy for me, that is what He had for me then... and I know He has provided for me not only now... but each and everyday that follows this one. He is already there, already designing my moments... He is guiding and leading each breath until I can join Caden... until I see the Captain... Until I too, can sing and praise and worship Christ in Glory. 
 God is sovereign.

Friday, January 9, 2015

He has this

The past week and a half has been long, hard, emotionally draining, full of memories, full of people, full of sorrow, full of hope, full of joy and laughter. The past week has been shocking and amazing and overwhelmingly covered in the peace and sovereignty of God.
Last Friday (Jan 2nd) was the Captain's visitation. It was scheduled from 4-8. I wore heels. After 3 hours standing in the aforementioned heels, I kicked them off and stood in my tights, standing on tippy toes (I'm not what one would call 'tall') to hug another 3 hours worth of people who came to pay their respects to my husband. 
I was standing and hugging people for over six straight hours... no break, no lull... just 6 hours of amazing God given love and encouragement. Some of those people waited over 3 hours in a line that was so long it wrapped and weaved through the sanctuary and out the doors. Over 1000 people showed up, waited in line and blew me away with how much they love my family... and my amazing husband. It was one of those sweet, amazing gifts God gives in the middle of a very hard thing... a gift He gives to remind you He loves you and He has this.

He has this.
The next day we buried the Captain.
His funeral was exquisite. Four men spoke. All four knew Andy from childhood... three were some of his best friends, one a mentor whom he loved like a second father. Each man spoke with love and conviction, telling of who Andy was, how he loved Christ... and his family. Each man told those seated how Andy wanted each person to hear the gospel and come to know Jesus.
At the end, a dear friend read something written by Andy's own hand... specifically written to be read at his funeral.
The Captain told us not to be sad for him... he was in Heaven, he was with Christ!
Andy's service was one of those moments that is emblazoned in my mind and I remember it with a swelling heart and a joy that can only come from God.

He has this.
It was cold and wet at the cemetery. Mud everywhere; umbrellas trying to stave off the rain. It was surreal and a sight I wasn't really prepared for... to see my husband's coffin next to my daughters headstone. At Caden's funeral, after the graveside service was over, Andy grabbed my hand and said "Let's get outta here." Saturday, although I was surrounded by everyone I love, I felt very alone.
But as my dad walked back and hugged me and walked me to my car... I looked down the line of cars that went on for what seemed like forever; winding down the path and out of the cemetery onto the main street...and I knew...I KNEW that God was here, I was not alone, and even though this time looked different He was going to get me through this too.

"To stand in the presence of the Lord when you'd rather go to bed and never get up, and to praise Him in the night when taunting voices tell you to curse Him - these things are nothing less than a battle cry of victory." ~ Beth Moore


(From my Instagram post on the day of the funeral:  Today was flawless. The service was given by 4 men who knew the Captain since birth/childhood. It was deeply personal. It was honoring to Andy, glorifying to God and every inch was smothered in the gospel of Christ. It was rainy and muddy at the cemetery. It was surreal to see my husbands coffin next to my daughters headstone. It was overwhelming to be loved on and prayed over to the point of joy. God smiled upon today. Andy finished well and we celebrated his victory. I'm broken hearted and already feel a hole in my life, but I know God will be infinitesimally faithful to care and guide me. Today was flawless. And I am grateful.)

He has this.

Since he's been gone, my brain can't seem to catch up. I was sitting at a stop light the other day and I thought to myself, "It just doesn't make sense that he's not somewhere here... he can't really be gone." it is in the very definition of the me, unbelievable. I cannot make sense of it. It doesn't feel real...
Three days after I buried my husband I turned 33. It was incredibly weird to have a mailbox full of both Happy Birthday cards and Sympathy for Losing your Husband cards. I might have giggled at the sight... stress and grief make you do weird things. I, personally, make sarcastic and inappropriate jokes and splurge-shop. Those closest to me know this and go with it.
Tuesday night, over 40 of "my people" came out to celebrate my birthday and celebrate the Captain's Heaven Day. Each year we celebrate Caden's Heaven Day. So It was very important to Rigg that we also celebrate Daddy's Heaven Day. So in 12 degree weather...we set off floating lanterns. It was windy and freezing and slightly ridiculous... and Andy would have been laughing at our efforts... it was perfect in it's flaws and chaotic-ness.

(From my Instagram post on January 6th: Each September, on the anniversary of Caden's death, my family gathers and has a "Heaven Day" celebration. We celebrate that Caden is living in Heaven with Christ, and because of Christ's work on the cross we can have the promise of Heaven ourselves. Each year I preach this truth to my boys. Each year they understand more and look forward to Heaven Day. It was very important to Rigg that we celebrate Daddy's heaven day. So tonight, about 40 of my friends and family stood out in the 12 degree weather and sent up lanterns. As Rigg watched his take off I heard him say "Happy Heaven Day Daddy."  God is working in my boy's hearts. He is growing them and teaching them and they are becoming strong and brave. The Captain would be proud.)

He has this.
Many people have asked how my sweet boys are doing. They are just fine. They are happy daddy is out of his stupid bed... that he can run and talk! They are processing this in the only way their 3 and 5 year old brains know how... a little bit at a time.  They ask questions... which I answer and then they go on their merry way playing and wrestling and giggling.
Again, I am reminded of God's sovereignty. I believe God is sovereign in all things. And if I believe that... then I believe that when He was creating and forming my sweet boys, He made them in such a way that they not only can "handle" this... but that they were specifically built for this. God created my sons to live in a world without their daddy... He made them so they can grow and live well under circumstances we see as a hindrance. It is my job as their mom, to teach them and build into them this understanding and grow them up in the Grace and Knowledge of Christ. And, furthermore, if I believe that God is sovereign to create my boys for this... I believe He was sovereign to create me for this.

(From my Instagram post on Jan 2nd: If you are wondering how the boys are... They are doing well. The true weight of death does not apply to preschoolers. They do not truly grasp what it all means. But we talked a couple times yesterday about daddy living in Heaven. They were happy that he is with Jesus and Caden. Rigg asked if he was walking and talking... I said yes... he jumped up and down yelling "Yay!"  It made me smile. They will deal with the death of their father their whole lives...but for now we will take it a step at a time and rejoice together...maybe one day we will cry together... but for now wrestling and being 3 and 5 will have to do.)

He Has This.

I've done way more laughing than crying over the past week. I can't decide why that is... this grief looks so different than my grief after Caden's death. Maybe it is because Andy lived at his parents home the past 6 months... and I had a small separation anyway...maybe it's because I have been grieving the loss of my husband in small pieces for over a year... maybe its all the love, support and prayer that have surrounded me over the past couple of weeks... maybe it's because God has built a faith and hope in me that wasn't this big 5 years ago.
Maybe it's all of the above.
Don't get me wrong... I've cried. I miss him.
I miss him.
I don't know what my life looks like without Andy. I'm not sure I can be, or will be the same person now that he's gone. And I'm not sure how I feel about that.
I don't do well with change. It takes me awhile to process and catch up. And when there is no script... no lines to memorize.. it's all ad lib, well, then, it takes a lot of leaning into God and finding your way in Him.
As each day dawns and all my responsibilities cry to be taken care of... as life continues without pause or lag... I am constantly encouraged by and reminded of Gods unwavering faithfulness. The lady at Banana Republic who helped me shop for my "widow dress" cried with me in the dressing room when she learned that the funeral I was shopping for was my husband's. All the amazing stories people shared at the visitation. The message I received from a sweet woman who told me her husband was the one who's job it was to open Andy's grave...she said he takes his job seriously and he prayed for us as he prepared Andy's last place. All the little details that are not coincidence... God is sovereign and has this...has me, has my boys. God held us and carried us through each moment. And because I know my God... I know He will continue to do so.

He Has This.

Though you have not seen Him you love Him; and even though you do not see Him now, you believe in Him and are filled with an inexpressible and glorious joy, for you are receiving the end result of your faith, the salvation of your souls.
1 Peter 1:8-9


Thursday, January 1, 2015

New beginnings.

It's a brand new year full of brand new things and brand new beginnings.
 My new beginning will be learning to live in a world without the Captain.
Andy went to be with Jesus at 8 am on December 30th 2014.
I was with him, as were his parents and his sister Elizabeth... who summed it up nicely when she said, through tears, 5 minutes after he passed "I miss him already."
And I do. Miss him. With my whole heart I miss him.
Every time I think of him being gone... not being able to see him again here... my brain can't make sense of it.
But even through my heartache, I can tell you one thing I know to be undeniably true. At 8 am on December 30th 2014 my brave husband opened his eyes and beheld Jesus, our risen Lord and Savior. He walked that morning... he talked that morning... I'm sure he sang. And I'm even more certain that he beheld the Glory of God and is now perfect. Andy is whole and glorified and already spending eternity with Christ and my sweet Caden.
Kinda hard not to be a little jealous.
He is out of that dumb bed... he's not in pain...He is fully healed... he is in Glory with God.
And I love the Captain with everything I have... So I do not want him back. I want Him right where he is.
I'll go to meet him one day. He just beat me there... which is so Andy... He was so competitive.
I have much, much more to say... but because of time constraints this week (and exhaustion) I'll save all the other emotions and facts and details for future posts.. written by future Cari. She seems like the kinda gal that can handle all of that.
Service times:
Visitation: 4-8 pm Friday January 2nd at LifePoint Church
8540 Combs Road, Indianapolis, IN 46237
Funeral: 11 am January 3rd at LifePoint Church
8540 Combs Road, Indianapolis, IN 46237
In Lieu of flowers contributions may be made to the
Andrew D. Chastain Sole Benefit Trust
8063 Madison Ave. #352
Indianapolis, IN 46227
A few things if your new.
You can find our full story here.
If you would like to know more about the Captain, read this... and this.
A BIG, GINORMOUS thank you to every single person who has prayed for us, to everyone who has called, texted, emailed, commented, messaged, snail-mailed, brought by dinner, flown in, is flying in, has hugged us, cried with us and loved on us. I feel incredibly loved and cared for.
Thank you.

Monday, December 15, 2014

He is

I started this blog post 3 times.
I typed... I deleted.
I typed... I deleted.
I typed... I deleted.
I closed the tab and started to walk away and my phone dinged. A cute little app told me that a year ago I wrote this post about how crazy faithful God is.
I went back and read that post... and cried. I am so quick to forget all the amazing things my God does for me... and when I sit down, to try let others know that our life is heavy and hard and some days are beautiful and some days are just a slow drudge to bedtime... I forget that I have BOOKS I can write on God and His overwhelmingly abundant goodness and faithfulness.
I spent some time over the weekend adding rocks to my rock jar. It was such an amazing encouragement and reminder about how God truly is carrying me through...guiding me, protecting me, providing for me, and loving me.
So here I am. Typing again... but this time, instead of trying to make this post about me and my life... I'm going to tell you about my God.
 He has a plan.
I know that sounds crazy...especially to those who are looking at my life and trying to figure out what that is...
I'll give you a tip... don't. I don't know what God is doing. I just know He is doing something.
And it will be amazing.

How do I know my God has a plan?

Sometimes it's small things.

He uses.
People: I get about 4-5 emails/texts/calls/letters/messages a week telling me about how God has used my story, my life, my testimony to teach someone else about Him, or to encourage someone. I always shake my head a little because these notes are always so encouraging to me. God uses these people, who in essence are thanking me for loving God and sharing about Him, to encourage me to continue; they spur me on...give me added endurance and perseverance.

God has allowed me the opportunity to speak a few times this year. To share my life and my story... to tell about how amazingly He has held us in the midst of hard things. God has allowed me the opportunity to process and think on what He is doing and He has provided me with experience and knowledge in Him to share with others. By spending the time preparing to speak and by delving into what God is showing me He reminds me how much He has taken care of me and how much He provides and loves me.

Not just me, but my family, have had some amazing opportunities to share about Christ. With people all around, bringing meals, bringing gifts, spending time visiting, aiding in caring for Andy and being in and out of the house all day we have been surrounded by people. When you are around people so often they see how you live, really live...and some of these people do not believe in Jesus Christ. They have seen our lives, our situation. They see us dealing with death and sorrow and pain... but more than that they see these things.. they see Hope, and Peace... and Joy and laughter. And they are able to see these things because we know the only Son of God... and we have put our faith in Jesus.

My children are watching me - everyday - deal with some hard things. They are too young to understand the weight and gravity of what is going on around them, but I know they are taking it all in. They are absorbing awesome truths about God. Rigg and Ryder are learning that what they are being taught in church, what mommy tells them at home, the stories they hear in bible study... are true, proving in some small and in some very big ways that God is real and can be trusted.

He provides.
This past year has been filled with both some of the hardest things I've ever had to deal with as well as some of the most amazing things I have seen.
God provides in both.
 Last week Andy was having a great day... and then it was time for me to leave - go home and put the boys to bed. When I told the Captain we were going to go, he threw his covers back and reached for me, as if he wanted to try to go with us. I told him he had to stay and he was confused. Long story short, he had forgotten he was sick... I had to tell him. The news hit him like a ton of bricks. He was heartbroken...inconsolable for 20 minutes or so. Those 20 minutes were some of the hardest minutes I have ever had to live through. To watch him realize he was dying... to completely understand all the details and ramifications and then trying to comfort and console him was so hard. However, later, I realized what a precious gift those few moments had been. It was in those hard minutes that I was able to speak to him, really say things to him that I may never have another chance to say... he was all there, fully aware and that doesn't happen often. And for that moment in time he and I were able to grieve together, and I didn't feel alone. God gave us that, and I am forever grateful.

Also this year God has continually provided for my monetary needs. I have had design job after design job fall into my lap! As well as the trust to help pay bills and other expenses (new air conditioner and furnace)
And then you might remember the week from... well it was not a good week.   And at the end of said week I totaled my van. Well God stepped in in a huge way by providing a brand new car for me.
 Ephesians 3:20-21.
 Now to him who is able to do far more abundantly than all that we ask or think, according to the power at work within us, to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, forever and ever. Amen.

He blesses.
See above about BRAND NEW CAR.
I have also been blessed by getting my home cleaned once a week. You might remember last year I mentioned that it was the best gift ever... I stand by that comment (although this year I do have a competing new car...)
This year has been filled with food. Meals coming from anyone and everyone! What a gift! To not worry about dinner, or shopping and making dinner is such a blessing, giving time and comfort to all of us. Along with the food, we have been the recipients of gift cards and care packages that all bring smiles and encouragement as well as help lighten the load.
And who can forget the fund that was set up to send the Captain on a trip to Colorado.
We hit our trip goal in under 6 hours! It was incredible. Not only did we go on the trip and have a great time... the fund remains open to help fund other needs. God has prompted people to be abundantly generous.

Because of all of these amazing things I can say with overwhelming confidence that,
He loves.
He is faithful.
In each and every circumstance this past year... in the good things, in the hard things, in the confusing things and in the joyous things... God has been there. Every moment has His almighty and powerful fingerprints all over them.
God has a plan for my life... He is using each day to teach me about Himself. He provides in astounding ways for me. My God blesses and gives and stuffs every inch of my life with His goodness and grace.
And He has allowed me to peek into His ways and see glimpses of what He is doing. He is not done... He does big amazing things... He is continuing to work in my family... in my life, in the Captain's life... and I have every intention of letting go and letting Him do His thing.


Wednesday, November 12, 2014

About the boys

It's been over a month since I've posted.
A lot has happened... and a lot has stayed the same.
I'll start with a brief update on Andy. I never know how to properly answer the question of how he is doing.
Because the honest answer is, slowly dying.
However, in that are moments of laughter, joy, tears, heartache, pain, sleep, alertness, conversation, prayers... ups and downs.
Andy cannot talk, hasn't been able to say words or carry a conversation since May of this year... but he can still communicate, with his eyes, hand motions... nodding... he still shows us he is still there and loving us.
Today marks a week since he has been out of bed. He has been taking all meals (when he wants them) and all baths in bed. He is getting weaker, sleeping more, skipping meals and showing less interest in things.
Slowly fading.
Yet, still has moments of pure Captain.
We cherish those.
I often get asked how the boys are.
Again, a hard question to answer. Because they tow the line and throw fits and get attitudes... but where do you decipher if these things are from abnormalities in their lives or because they are 3 and 5? I am not sure. So I try to be firm, consistent, gracious and caring... but even under normal circumstances parenting is a monumental task that takes more then what we know how to give.
God continues to be gracious and merciful to me and my boys. There are many moments of laughter and joy and sweetness... which helps in the moments of screaming and disobedience.  :)
Rigg seems to get and really be processing all that is going on. He talks about remembering when His daddy was home and walking and talking. He knows that most daddies are not sick. He also knows that his daddy is going to Heaven soon. He commented the other day to a visitor who was speaking to Andy, "Daddy can't talk because he is sick, he won't get better until he gets to Heaven."
It's in those moments that I am both saddened and in awe.
Saddened that at 5, he has to know and understand these things... and in awe because he does know and understand these things... and believes them and trusts in them.
Faith like a child.
Rigg and I have good talks... ones that leave me hopeful for the man he will become and thankful for a God who has provided hope and truth for me to teach my children.
Ryder doesn't question much... but is usually a willing bystander to all the deep convos Rigg and I have. He takes it all in, and where Rigg questions everything, trying to understand and get a grip on all the new knowledge, Ryder just accepts it all as true. They are so different. Ryder is a cuddle bug.
 He wants to hug and snuggle and touch and be too close. Some days it's fantastic... some days Mama just needs more space and less touching... everyday he wins me over with his charm and adorableness.
Ryder brings laughter and silliness. It rubs off on Rigg, and then they both get lost for a time in just being little boys who are too loud and too rough and say the words poop and fart too much.
Mixed blessings. :)

 I've been trying to take time to go out with just them for something fun. Cupcake dates, mac and cheese lunches at a sit down restaurant, hikes through the park... times where we can sit and talk about important things... and nothing at all... or all things silly and little boy. I want them to know I love them, enjoy them, and have time for them.

Rigg and Ryder both LOVE superheroes. They pretended to be transformers...rescue bots, Superman, Spiderman, The Hulk, Captain America, and any and every other super hero you can name. They wrestle and save the world from bad guys
I am either the most hunted or the safest lady around... I'm still not sure which, because all day I am, both,  being threatened by imaginary bad guys as well as being saved by very real and very short super heroes.
They are cute though, so I don't complain.

We went to a festival a couple weekends ago and Marines were collecting for Toys for Tots. As I was digging for my wallet I told the boys that they were going to get a chance to meet some real superheroes, who wear real superhero outfits and fight off real bad guys. The boys were so excited... the Marines were so kind to my little guys.

The days are a mix of really normal and very hard.
And any and all things in between.
But I am clinging to the promise that God is using this for His glory and His purpose.
I continue to pray that my boys will be drawn closer to God because of this hard thing in their lives and that God would magnify Himself in their hearts.
Apart from their salvation in Christ this is my biggest prayer for my sons... that the death of their daddy would not drive them from Christ but firmly draw them to Him.

Friday, October 10, 2014


No joke.
I've been sitting here staring at the blank page for over 20 minutes... drinking coffee and trying to think of something, with a meaningful point, to write about.
I have come up with nothing.
So I thought I would just start typing and see where it leads. Such planning and forethought is inspiring, no?
It's the first day in over 3 weeks that I am home without the boys and have no plans for my day. It's freeing and stressful all at once. I have the freedom to do nothing and rest... but I have a list of things a mile long to do, and the undone-ness of it all is staring me in the face... which in turn is stressful.
The past week (maybe two, but my brain doesn't function properly anymore so who knows) have been difficult. The Captain is declining at a steady rate. So much so, his hospice nurse thought he would pass last weekend... but then he rebounds a bit and is up, laughing and eating... so it is still incredibly uncertain as to what to expect.
Life for me right now looks incredibly strange. On one hand, I look and live part of my days as a single mother, trying to get housework done, trying to raise boys, trying to learn how to do life on my own. And on the other hand I am a married woman... traveling to see my husband, spend time with him, make sure he sees the boys, that the boys hug and see him... striving to make decisions based on what Andy would want.
It is a weird and abnormal balance.
I was chatting with my Father-In-Law the other day about Andy. More specifically how I am dealing/grieving. I told him that it has been so long... well over 2 years since I have had the Andy I knew. And even before that... the Captain changed so much after Caden's death, I have been slowly grieving the loss of My Andy for a very, very long time. So even though watching him these past few months has been difficult, I feel like I have been in the midst of losing him for much longer.
I remember hanging out with a friend and her family around this same time last year. Seeing her and her husband interact, watching how involved and interactive he was with her and his kids was heartbreaking for me... it was that experience that made me fully realize that I no longer had that with Andy. And it broke my heart. I remember crying for days... I grieved then. It wasn't his fault... it was the cancer. And we both had been living so close to it for so long that I didn't even realize life was as  hard and as different as it had been, until I got some new perspective. I look back on that time of realization and grieving as a blessing. God has allowed me to see, and process, and grieve slowly... and still be able to sit next to and hold Andy's warm hand... and that is not something I was able to do after losing Caden. To ache for something that is gone and not be able to have comfort is so hard. God has given me time to have both simultaneously with the Captain. 
Andy and I made the decision for him to go and live his final days at his parents home a long time ago, when he was still fully capable of making that decision. When we discussed it, we knew we wanted to protect our boys from seeing things that could change them forever, maybe even tarnish the memory of their daddy. We did it out of love. We chose a hard thing for us, so they could have more peace and freedom.
It hit me just the other day that my in-law's are doing the same thing for me.
I struggle, so much, with wanting to do more.... be with Andy more. On one hand I feel like I need to be with my boys as much as possible. I do not want them to feel like they have lost both parents at once. On the other hand, I feel like I do not spend enough time helping out and being with Andy. It is something I struggle with everyday. But as I was sorting through things in my mind the other day, I realized that my sweet Mother-in-law and Father-in-law, by taking Andy in, caring for him and allowing me to care for my kids, have protected me from seeing and experiencing things with my husband that could change my memory of him...
I am aware that some women in my situation never have the choice, and have to be the caretaker... and I think God honors and blesses that. But I am so thankful that I have family that loves me, cares for me and allows me the freedom to care for my sons.
I was sitting next to Andy the other day, wondering what God was doing... wondering why Andy had to have days where he is in pain, why God allows people to linger when they are in such a state. (not super pretty thoughts, but real) And I was gently reminded that God has a plan and purpose for all things... even the hard and painful things. He uses the things in our lives to teach us, as well as teach others, who are watching from a distance. He is a God who wastes nothing. I might not fully understand or see what God is doing in these hard and final days... But God has a perfect and Holy plan. And because I trust God, I choose to lay my uncertainness, my doubt, my heartache down at His feet over and over again.
I am actively leaning into the only One who can make all of this beautiful.
2 Corinthians 4:17-18
 For our momentary, light suffering is producing for us an eternal weight of glory far beyond all comparison  because we are not looking at what can be seen but at what cannot be seen. For what can be seen is temporary, but what cannot be seen is eternal.
Romans 8:37-39
No, in all these things we have complete victory through him who loved us!   For I am convinced that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor heavenly rulers, nor things that are present, nor things to come, nor powers,  nor height, nor depth, nor anything else in creation will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.