Life After Loss

 

Today I ran across this picture on my Timehop:

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It’s not the type of picture that would normally elicit memories from the entire day because I probably posted a million similar pictures. This picture however brought with it an array of unexpected emotion.

2 years ago today I sat alone in my living room with my ridiculously pitiful pup and wrote the last blog post I have had any desire to write. I sat for hours with tear stained cheeks and typed my heart out in my Microsoft Word document. I hit saved, exited the program, and never posted it.

So here it is, the last blog post I wrote on January 13, 2015. Take heart half way through, it gets a little better toward the end

Dear 2015, 

I wish I had nice things to say to you, but I can’t think of any right now.
So far you have brought pain and bitter heartache.

I want this to be a letter about all about the positive things, the things you have in store, the secrets to come, the adventures to be had, no negative and no bad…

but it can’t be. 

Because with all of the things that are in store and all of the adventures to be had, there is still a bitter ache.

2015 will never be what I thought it should be.

Every happy thing that happens, the things I will want to shout from the rooftop,
the things that make me want to pick up the phone and call home,
will immediately remind me
that 2015 will never be what I thought it should be. 

And when the days get hard and I feel low,
when I am in the grocery store and I can’t find the right aisle,
when I have more kids in my house and need advice or just an understanding ear
I will again remember
that 2015 will never be what I thought it should be. 

No matter what else happens, 2015, when I look back at you it will sting.
Along with the good memories will come the heartache
Along with the adventures will come a sharp pain
2015 will never be what I thought it should be.

It’s 2015 and 10 days ago my mom died.

2015 will never be what I thought it should be.

Don’t stop reading yet though, because the good part is coming.

For me, 2015 has been heartache and pain beyond what I have known before
but 2015 is not what my mom thought it would be either.
You see, my mom was battling Leukemia, she had been battling it in one form or another for over 2 years. She had undergone extensive chemo, lost all of her hair, had a catheter in her chest, been through a bone marrow transplant, and lost her life as she had previously known it to be. She didn’t have the energy to work, or the immune system to spend time around many other people.
Her life had become something that she never thought it would be.

But she didn’t quit.
She persevered, she ran the race and she finished well.
She loved to the end.
She loved the people that others took for granted.
She loved the downcast and the overbearing.
She knew the love of Jesus and she gave love from Jesus.

Her life had become something that she never thought it would be,
but that didn’t matter,
because Jesus was still the same.
He was the same for her
and I know
that even though 2015 will never be what I thought should be
He will be the same for me too. 

and 2015, even though you bring me pain,
I know you brought my mom peace

I know that right now she is Singing With the Saints.
So even though I am angry enough to throw things at you, and I am extremely conflicted about my feelings on the next sentence… on behalf of my mom I will say,

And for one reason or another, I never wrote that last sentence. I have no idea or memory of what I was planning to put there. Today I sit in a different living room typing once again with tear stained cheeks while eating crackers to curb the nausea that has come with the pregnancy of my second child and trying to my keep my first child from chewing on my toes with his brand new, really sharp teeth (babies are gross).

In September 2015 I found out I was pregnant for the first time, and I realized in that moment that this letter was accurate. For the rest of my life it will never be what I thought it should be. There are still so many happy days, and the years have looked much brighter than the end of 2014 and beginning of 2015 looked for my family, but the ache that comes with loss never really dulls or goes away, you just kind of learn to live differently.

I have also learned that while the first half of the letter is accurate mostly on the days when big things happen, the second half of the letter is even more accurate every single day. Jesus is still the same, and He is enough. He doesn’t take the pain away, because pain is part of life on this sin riddled Earth, but He holds us through it, He gives us the strength to continue, and He gives us joy even in the hard times.

So I want to encourage you this year, if you are or find yourself in a place of loss, depression, shame, guilt, fill in the blank, look to Jesus. He is the author and perfecter of our faith, He is there in every season, and as I have seen over and over again the past 2 years

HE MAKES ALL THINGS NEW

*Sorry my first post in 2 years was sappy and full of tears, hopefully in the years to come I will fill these pages with much more upbeat words.*

Oh The Feels

I could write about so many different things right now. My life has had a lot of twists and turns lately and the emotions have all kind of jumbled up inside of me. Which means that at just about any moment in time I am likely to have a complete emotional breakdown (which is super neat, because if you know me, or anyone else in my immediate family, you know that we just don’t cry like normal humans…). Crying at the drop of a hat and random moments in my life, ya know, the moments in which tears don’t even make sense and I cannot explain why they are there, has been a pretty major life change in and of itself (for me and my sweet husband who has no idea each time why I have just totally lost it in the car while we were singing and dancing to fun songs just 30 seconds earlier. I am sure he is rethinking our marriage or at least looking up mental hospitals….. Jk. He loves me and has handled this so well.) But here is the really crazy part, when I am not having an odd emotional moment I am simply a 5’2″ 100lb picture of complete apathy. And it is the worst. I know there are real emotions inside of me that care about things but they are all so tangled up that it seems the only thing that can come out is apathy. Am I alone here? When all the other feelings are just too much or too tangled, or buried too deep….

I probably have you all very confused right now, because if I don’t see you daily or you’re not in my immediate family I have done a terrible job of keeping you informed and I really am sorry. So let’s do a quick recap:

January: I’m not explaining this one, you can read some previous posts here If you want to know more about what life was like in January. Along with the hard stuff though we also received a foster placement of a 3 and 4 year old which was mostly fun (except the potty training) but there will be a later post about all of that.

February: the company that Clint works for made some huge cutbacks and laid off over 300 people including like 40% (maybe 30? Math is not my strong suit) of his division including him.

March: other things…

April: clint got a job, this is good news but it meant uprooting our lives and moving to Dallas where we know a grand total of 2 people. We are starting over again (more on this later too). Also the day after we moved here the kids went back to their biological family (again, more later), it was not planned out like the last placement but it wasn’t really a surprise either. It was a loss all the same. We miss them, but we are trusting that God loves them more than we do and that He will take care of them when we cannot.

All of these things by themselves Are hard, but by themselves I think I probably would have handled them better. All together it is just a lot. I miss my Lufkin people. It’s so cool how God created a family for us all over the world and we were privileged to spend three years with our family in Lufkin. I know God has planted family here as well, but seeking them out is a long and vulnerable process.

I did not write all of this so that you will pity me. People have had harder times and there will always be someone who is going through something. Writing helps me understand what is going on inside of me.

Currently I am taking delight in a passage of scripture I read a couple days ago via She Reads Truth.

“and there I will give her vineyards, and make the Valley of Achor a door of hope” Hosea 2:15

Achor translates to trouble. We all will go through times of trouble. I will hold on to the promise that God will turn my valley of trouble into a door of hope.

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The current place that we are calling home. 🙂

-Kels

Part 2: Being There

Excerpts from my Journal while Traveling

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12/13/2014
Day 4

“Lord, You are the master craftsman. You have made everything I have seen and been in awe of. I know that You can heal mom and give her a long, full earthly life.
I also know that mom is tired, and that she is looking forward to her long, full heavenly life with You.
Whatever she decides through this process, help us to be understanding and at peace.

Please teach me to be humble and obedient. Help me to really listen to Your words and to be sensitive to go where you lead.
Give me a longing for ‘the least of these’ and a heart so full of compassion that standing still simply isn’t an option.

I know your timing is perfect, though it makes no sense to me.”

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12/16/2014

Day 6

“… when we got back to the village our hosts wanted to hear more about the Living God. I got to share about how Jesus was born, how he lived, died and how he rose again so that we could live with Him forever. I got to share about how this news took away my fear of death and gave me hope for a future.
And then it was like someone else started talking even though it was my voice, and they were sharing about things in my life that felt far too personal to be sharing with total strangers whom didn’t even speak my language.
I started talking about mom and what my family is currently walking through. I shared about how mom is not afraid of the possibility of death and about how I have hope and peace despite my sadness because I know I have an eternity to spend with her after death.”

I never had any intention of sharing my situation, but obviously God had other plans. It felt so weird to say those things out loud, and even as I was saying them I wasn’t really believing that things were going to work out the way they did.

We went to a lot of villages and came home with a million stories, but this will always be the one that I remember the most. It taught me about vulnerability. It reminded me that, even though we often times feel like we need to hide the hard parts of our lives and only let people in on the good, that is not how God intended us to do life.

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It doesn’t do anyone any good for me to pretend like I am not sad when I am. The beauty of doing life with Christ is that there is joy even in the pain. I am thankful that God gave me an opportunity to share what was going on in our lives with people on the other side of the world who have never heard of a hope beyond this life, or a peace that surpasses all understanding, or joy regardless of circumstance. So I will end this blog the same way I ended my journal that day,

“Lord, I pray that the words You gave us today would take root in the hearts of the people we shared with.
I pray that they would have an unquenchable desire to hear more
and that You would send someone to tell them more.”

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Part 1: Deciding to Go

I can remember the last “normal” day that I had pretty well.

At least normal is how it began…

It was Friday. I love Fridays. It means the end of stressful schedules and ensuring two days of bliss in the company of the worlds best husband. I was especially excited for this specific Friday because we were getting ready to drive to OKC to spend the night before we left the country for a three week trip on the other side of the world.

I had just gotten off work and was headed to the store for some last minutes supplies before we embarked on our newest adventure. I was pulling in to my least favorite place in any small town and getting ready to park while proceeding through a mental checklist to make sure I didn’t miss anything. As I pulled into my parking spot I got a text from my mom.

“Just letting you know I am at the hospital getting platelets. What time are you guys leaving tomorrow?”

I didn’t think much of it right that moment so I went into walmart and started doing my shopping.

**Sidenote; my mom was diagnosed with Meylodysplastic syndrome about 2 and a half years ago. She had a successful bone marrow transplant about 6 months later (my dates may be off slightly). You can read more about that here, here, and here.**

As I was walking through Walmart I started processing the text.. Mom was getting platelets. She hadn’t needed platelets since before her transplant. Why would she be getting platelets? I was slightly frantic as I walked through walmart. I was losing my cool, which was strange because I am normally pretty in-control of my tear ducts. I called my husband and told him about the text as tears streamed down my face in the middle of the camping aisle at Walmart. Eventually I pulled myself together, checked out, and called the one person every girl calls when they freak out or have a complete meltdown.
My mom.
My dad answered and I asked what was going on. His voice cracked as he handed the phone to my mom,
and I braced myself. 

Mom told me that her last appointment hadn’t gone quite as expected.

She had been diagnosed with leukemia. Chemo would buy some time and from what I understood that was our only option.


Maybe I shouldn’t have been shocked because I guess in retrospect there were a few signs pointing to the idea that she may not be recovering as she should have, but I was. I was shocked. The news totally threw me off my game.

I drove home and could not even pull all the way into the carport before totally losing it. I found Clint and sobbed for a good hour before remembering that we were supposed to be in the car driving to OKC.

It was probably the longest drive of my life.

6 hours of off and on tears full of fear for what may lie ahead.
My mom told me she still wanted me to go on my trip and even though I was extremely reluctant, I went.

I decided to go.
I decided to go and it was one of the hardest decisions I have ever made.


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5 Reasons I am Glad I Got Married When I Did

I recently read a blog about why it is good to get married young. It was a very good article and it got me thinking about my marriage and its timing. I got married about a month after i turned 22, my husband was about a month away from turning 22. The pastor who married us (an extremely wise man) asked us to make a list, 10 reasons why this was the person we were supposed to marry, and 10 reasons why now was the time we were supposed to get married. The first one was really easy, I came up with 10 reasons Clint was “the one” in no time at all, but the timing list was much more difficult. I had never really thought about it, but after a couple days of racking my brain this was the list I compiled:

1. We have been together long enough to see each others personalities change and learn how to deal with it.

2. We have been dating for 4 years and I am running low on patience

3. Clint graduates in December and we want a summer wedding.

4. After his trip I knew God had equipped him with that he needed to be a spiritual leader for our marriage.

5. We have realized how much more God can do with us for His kingdom if we are together acting as one.

6. We want the rest of our adventure to be together!

7. We are finally both at the point in our lives where we are willing to let God take the reins.

8. After a lot of prayer, I only feel a peace about our wedding date.

9. Because I have spent more time praying and thinking about life after the wedding than about the wedding itself.

10. Because our parents are not only behind us, but excited for and supportive of us!

There are a lot of people who will tell you that getting married young is a bad idea and you should finish school and start your career before you start life together. Figure out who you are and figure out your stuff before committing your life to someone else.

A possible problem I see with that logic is this: Marriage is meant to be a picture of Christ and The Church. Imagine if we told people to figure out who they are and take care of their own stuff before committing their lives to Christ. Ridiculous right? You will never have it all figured out and part of the beauty in being married is that you are two imperfect people coming together in an imperfect life where you have given God the reins and said, ‘we can’t do it without you.’ That being said here are 5 reasons post-wedding that I am glad we got married when we did.

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1. The trust

I learned to trust that Clint had my back no matter what. I learned how to share my problems with him and how to shoulder some his burdens as well. Christ tells us to come to him when we are weary because his yoke is easy and his burden is light. (Matt. 11:28-30) Now I am not saying that being married and sharing problems, hard times, and emotions is easy because it is not. I am saying that I am glad I met a man who didn’t run from those times but let me lean on him and chose to lean on me when those time came for us (and will continue to come).

2. The adventures
We are 25 years old and we have had so many adventures. I know you can have adventures without being married, but think about how much better those adventures are when they are shared with the person who is literally your best friend forever. We have traveled, we have moved, we bought a house, we were first-time parents for 9 months (you can read more about that here).

3. The growing up
Yes, technically we were adults when we got married, but all the adventures I talked about above gave us some life experience that made us begin to feel a lot more like adults than we ever did before, and we did it together. We have changed since we got married and certainly since we started dating 7 years ago, but the beauty of changing in marriage is that you change together. It’s as though Christ saw us and knew that we could be better and He changed us, molded us to become a closer picture of what He wants for His Church, and I do not believe that we are done changing together.

4. The debt
I will never tell you that it is a good idea to get married while you are in debt, but then again I will never tell you that it is a good idea to be in debt either… for any reason (I don’t count buying a house because you can always sell that.). That being said, we got married in debt. We are still in debt from school loans. However, here is what I will tell you about our married experience with debt 1) We learned to live within our means, and we learned to prioritize. Both very important to learn at an early age. 2) We will never ever make this mistake again. 3) When we pay off the last of our loans it will be a huge victory that we will celebrate together, because it is something that we have worked toward for a very long time together. Also this is another part of the growing up thing… you live and you learn.

5. The first and the only
He was my first. My first love and my first partner. When I married Clint I married him with a whole heart. A heart that hadn’t been ripped into a million pieces by previous relationships. I know that God could have healed that part of my life if this hadn’t been the case, but I am still glad that I married him when I did and without the sting of relationships gone bad lurking in my past. I am glad I married him young because it left less time for me to mess up and get myself into trouble.

Please note that I am not saying that these are reasons that everyone (or anyone) else should get married young. God has a plan for your life and chances are it is very different from the plan he has for mine, but looking back at my life I am just saying that these are 5 (of the many) reasons that I wouldn’t want my life so far to have gone any other way.

Kelsey

An End and a New Beginning

I am typing this now because in a week I may not be able to get it all out.

We have a court date next week. Our last court date. If everything goes as expected in court next week the girls will go back home with their mom that night. This is a good thing. We are thrilled to have been a part of a case that has turned out so well.

I am including numbers for Texas and Oklahoma because that is where I believe most of my readers are from.

According to Adopt Us Kids there are 8,362 (over 1,000 of this number are kids who are legally eligible for adoption) kids in foster care in the state of Oklahoma and 28,883 kids in foster care in the state of Texas. Of the 28,883 kids in Texas there are over 10,000 kids who are legally eligible for adoption and waiting for their forever families.

You hear stories all the time about the foster system. You hear about abusive foster families, delinquent foster kids, crazy biological families, and a broken imperfect system.
I want to tell you about our very first experience with the Texas Foster system

(while simultaneously bombarding you with pictures of my amazing kids.)
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(At Disney World)

In February we got a call about two little girls who needed a temporary home. We were told that we would be their first official foster home (it’s complicated).We were also told that their mom was doing really well and was on track to get them back when her case ended in a little under a year. The plan was for the girls to live with us until December.

When the girls came they were little balls of energy. They giggled nonstop and they never once cried. They came with a carload full of clothes and toys and a Chihuahua, and they took to us almost immediately. It was the complete opposite of what I expected to encounter. Eventually the tears did come, and months down the road they admitted to me how scared they really were. They said they were afraid that we would be mean.

I don’t think we were what they expected either. 

We expected it to take some time for them to settle in and get used to a new structure and new rules. It did. We endured crying, screaming, and guilt-tripping. In the moment if felt impossible,

but what we eventually realized was that these kids just needed someone who was going to be there for them no matter what, and, much thanks to the overflowing love that Christ gives us when we least deserve it, that was something we could do.

Even more than the bad times though, we had so so much fun with giggling, traveling, first experiences, and silly phrases;

(for example I was cleaning out a drawer in their room yesterday and I found a notecard that my oldest had written on, it said “When I die I hope I go to Google.”)
What does that even mean?

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(In the airport on the way to Disney World, sorry it’s blurry)

Along with kids comes the joy of many many appointments and meetings. The first two months we had to schedule doctors appointments, get shots, go to the dentist (3 times), enroll in school, find a daycare, schedule counseling, and meet with our CPS caseworker, CASA worker, and Buckner worker once a month. We also started doing visits with their mom every other week. All of this was, of course, on top of our normal schedule. I know what you’re thinking right now,
“I just wouldn’t have time for that”
I thought that too, but we had an incredible team. Our CPS worker was always willing to provide transportation for the girls when needed, our CASA worker worked around our schedule and ALWAYS made our visits so much fun. Really, the girls LOVED meeting with her. Our Buckner workers not only worked with us, but they were always for us. They provided advice, trainings tailored to our situation, and they connected us to all the dr.’s we needed to see.

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(I promise I did not tell them to do this and they did not know I was taking a picture.)

I realize that this is probably not what you would expect, but the girls biological family soon became part of our team as well. One of the things I was completely lost about was how to do my youngest one’s hair. It was wild. Her mom sat down with me and explained how she usually did it and even brought me the gel she normally used, and that’s just one example of our teamwork through this process.

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(this was at one of our dates with our CASA worker. The girls rode horses, fed catfish, and picked berries. My oldest informed me that she was in fact a country girl. Don’t let her fool you though, she’s a total diva)

We also have an amazing church family who has since began a ministry at church providing clothes to foster families and is about to train some new substitute caregivers for when we need a break (praise Jesus for community, I would be so lost without it, but more on that another day.)

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(Meet the teacher. The child loves her boots.)

We have had tough days, but we now go through life on a fairly smooth schedule. We rarely deal with the screaming and fighting anymore. It’s amazing what can happen in just a matter of months when you are consistent.

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(In Galveston, ready to play in the sand)

My heart breaks when I think about the amount of time we have left with them in our home, but it swells when I think about the possibilities for their future with their mom. My continued prayer for every family we come across on our Foster Care journey is restoration of family and reconciliation with Christ

I hope this gave you a new perspective.

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(Really though, so precious)

Whatever state (or country) you are visiting from please take the time to consider those who need something as simple as a loving home. If you click on your state below the link will take you to your Heart Galleries with photos of kids in need of exactly that. If you are not in Texas or Oklahoma, all you have to do is google “your state heart gallery”. These are kids in your state who are ready and waiting to find their forever families.

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Oklahoma

As always, thanks for reading. You are all amazing.

Kels

A phone call to remember

I remember thinking it was a really strange phone call.
My dad said, 
“Kels, we are taking your mom to the Doctor, she has been really tired for weeks now and we want to see what is going on.”

I didn’t think much of it except that it was weird that my dad was calling to explain that he was taking my mom to a doctor’s appointment, but then he called again a little later,

“mom was really low on blood” 

I don’t remember the specifics (because I am not a detail oriented person), but I remember the amount of blood they had to give my mom was crazy. I remember the Doctor told her that it was amazing she was even up and walking around. I remember that in the weeks to follow my mom had more appointments and things were very up in the air. I remember that I knew was that this was a lot more serious than that initial phone call left me feeling. 

And I remember the day they gave my mom the diagnosis. Myelodysplastic Syndrome. 
We learned that she would need a bone marrow transplant which would require chemo. Basically the disease was treated the same as cancer.
And Clint was in Canada
And we had not lived in Texas very long
And I could not think of where to go or who to call

 

I finally called Rachel. She was the first friend I made in Lufkin, she was the first real conversation I had after moving to Lufkin. And she is wonderful. She sat with me and she cried with me and she prayed with me. I am so very thankful for the people God placed in my life here. 

I remember talking to my sister a lot more often than I normally do, we were both researching the disease looking at the numbers, comparing statistics. They didn’t look good. The only person in our family that could even possibly be a match was my Uncle and we eventually found out that he was not. After that discovery my mom’s information went into an international database where we waited for a match. 

I remember losing it on a regular basis. I remember my brother being the rock out of the three of us. He was so peaceful, like he just knew it was all going to work out. His faith was unwavering. 
Another side note, my siblings are incredible. I couldn’t have asked for better.

Then the call came, they found a donor and mom started the whole big long process where she spent a large majority of her year in Houston. We were all there off an on to keep her company, my grandparents stayed with her the whole time and so did my dad. It was a hard few months for my mom as you could imagine but I think we all grew through the process.

One thing I can look back and say for sure is that God was glorified through the situation. The amount of people my parents came in contact with that they were able to share the love of Christ with was amazing. The amount of faith stretching and relationship building that happened for us spiritually and as a family was incalculable. 

It is nice to be at a point in my life that I can look back on certain events and see how God used it for His good. Romans 8:28 brings on a whole new meaning. 

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This was my instagram post one year ago yesterday. =)

GOD IS GOOD ALL THE TIME

 

Love you mom! So so so so thankful to be able to call you on the days when I don’t know what to do and need the advice that only a mom like you can give. 

Happy Friday Everyone!