It Had Reached Its Proper Perfection

The other night, after the dishes were washed and put away, Ryan and I sat in our big soaking tub, catching up after a long day of work, chaotic schedules, and managing a bunch of children. By the way, if you find it difficult to enjoy alone time with your spouse, draw a bath.  Seriously, there is not a child alive who wants to acknowledge anything about that situation or be anywhere nearby when it’s occurring. 

I exhaled and sighed, “I wish there was a way we could see a glimpse of what life would have looked like if our former spouses had lived. I’d just be curious.” And I paused for a second to really think through what that might look like. One or two of my children would most likely be all-stars in tennis and/or golf because their father was extremely talented in both sports. They probably would have grown up in the same hometown and attended the same school most of their lives. I assume Jason and I would still be married, and Mabel would have been the only daughter so her life would be drastically different without three sisters (at least our wedding budget would have been significantly lower!)

So many possible scenarios swirling about in my mind.  

I continued, “And it’s funny, but I assume things would be great like it was “’supposed to be.’”  

Ryan paused and then offered a different perspective, a very black-and-white perspective outside of his normal thought process that tends to see every single perspective from every single angle, yes, his gifts have to do with adaptability and peacemaking 😉 

“No,” he replied, “this is how it’s supposed to be. They were always meant to be our children at this stage. God didn’t make a mistake.”  

I suppose there’s a reason they say curiosity killed the cat. 

After Jason died, I was given A Grief Observed, a book written by C.S. Lewis. I highly recommend it to anyone going through a period of deep grief and mourning.  Lewis wrote that after his wife had passed away, he understood that their time together “had reached its proper perfection.”  

That quote continues to resonate with me. 

In my recent book, Lovin’ with Grit and Grace, I mention how I have moved numerous times in life; in fact, it’s been 11 times since I married Jason in 2000, and I have never returned to a home after I’ve moved away.  Never driven by to see what the new owners might have done, never pulled it up on google maps, and never even been tempted to return or inquire about it. When I leave a place, I’m done.  There are no “what ifs” and no looking back because when it’s time to say goodbye, I do believe that whatever the situation may be has reached its proper point of perfection in my life.  Referencing back to last week’s post, the sap has reached 219 degrees – the point of completion. 

It’s been a bit more difficult to practice this philosophy as my children age and carve out paths of their own. I’ve found that my grief has felt weightier (not more or less) just heavier like a dusty stable blanket dropped hard on my weary back. I so desperately want my children’s biological mother or father to see a glimpse of what wonderful people they have become in spite of having such difficult paths to navigate: a path full of disabilities, death, and grief. I want them to be able to experience the same pride and admiration that I do. 

I like the idea that Jason might have a front-row seat to everything going on in his children’s lives, but I don’t know that I really think that’s how it works.  I have a hard time believing that he would be allowed to witness the pain that often accompanies this journey we call life. The Bible tells us that in the eternal space where he resides, “there are no tears, no grief, and all our sorrow shall be wiped away” so, I’m not sure that he’s privy to what occurs here on earth. 

But who knows, I could be very wrong in this area.   

I accept that our life together had reached its proper perfection, but as it is with all good things that end, there is a deep scar.  A scar I will carry throughout my time here on earth, a “what if” scar or maybe it’s simply a longing for all to be made whole again as we’ve been promised.  

Our hearts yearn for eternity because that’s what we were made for.  Jason is in the light and God willing, my children will join him in that light someday, but not too soon, not too soon. 

Just keep livin. 

Revelation 21: 3-5 

And I heard a loud voice from heaven saying, “Behold, the tabernacle of God is with men, and He will dwell with them, and they shall be His people. God Himself will be with them and be their God.  And God will wipe away every tear from their eyes; there shall be no more death, nor sorrow, nor crying. There shall be no more pain, for the former things have passed away. Then He who sat on the throne said, “Behold, I make all things new.

If you enjoyed this and want to read more, check out my books, Sunlight Burning at MidnightBlended with Grit & Grace, and  Lovin with Grit & Grace.



As the early morning sun peeked through the curtains, I poured 5 gallons of sap into a large cast iron pot, turned the igniter to high, and eagerly anticipated the maple syrup I’d enjoy later that afternoon. Ryan and I recently discovered that we have about 15 maple trees on our property at Hope Farm, Luke’s future home, and our friends taught us how to tap them.  We had heard that making syrup was a long, tedious process and while “long” is an appropriate description, I haven’t found it tedious at all! Most days, I’m giddy about “checking my trees” and leaving with 10+ gallons of sap to cook down into syrup the following day. 

I finished my kitchen duties, poured myself a steaming cup of coffee & sat down to read my devotions. I opened the Bible and settled in before the house came alive with chaos & noise from 6 children who needed to get ready for school. I was reading through Daniel, Daniel 3 to be exact, a familiar story and one I’ve heard numerous times throughout my childhood in a Sunday school classroom or around the dinner table.  A story of three brave men: Shadrach, Mesach, and Abednego. 

Then Nebuchadnezzar was furious with Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego, and his attitude toward them changed. He ordered the furnace heated seven times hotter than usual  and commanded some of the strongest soldiers in his army to tie up Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego and throw them into the blazing furnace. So these men, wearing their robes, trousers, turbans and other clothes, were bound and thrown into the blazing furnace. The king’s command was so urgent and the furnace so hot that the flames of the fire killed the soldiers who took up Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego,  and these three men, firmly tied, fell into the blazing furnace. Then King Nebuchadnezzar leaped to his feet in amazement and asked his advisers, “Weren’t there three men that we tied up and threw into the fire?” They replied, “Certainly, Your Majesty.” He said, “Look! I see four men walking around in the fire, unbound and unharmed, and the fourth looks like a son of the gods.” Nebuchadnezzar then approached the opening of the blazing furnace and shouted, “Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego, servants of the Most High God, come out! Come here!” So Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego came out of the fire, 27 and the satraps, prefects, governors and royal advisers crowded around them. They saw that the fire had not harmed their bodies, nor was a hair of their heads singed; their robes were not scorched, and there was no smell of fire on them.

I paused and underlined seven times

How often had I felt the heat increase at least 7 times before there was a breakthrough? When my son was diagnosed with a stroke in utero or my husband battled brain cancer for three years. Or when I found myself unexpectedly pregnant in the middle of chemo and radiation, or my current husband admitted a struggle with a lifelong addiction or as Lucas went through years of aggression due to puberty. 

I’ve learned that the number 7 has an immense amount of significance in the Bible and in my life. In Biblical history, the number is drenched in meaning and represented completion, rest, and victory. There are numerous accounts related to these themes including: the completion of the seven major divisions of the Bible, the completion of creation which culminated in rest on the 7th day; every 7th year was set aside for God’s chosen people as a year of rest and jubilee, Joshua’s march around Jericho which resulted in victory on the 7th day, and, of course, King Neb increasing the heat seven times before deliverance arrived for his boys Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego.

My peaceful contemplation was interrupted as my children began to emerge from their rooms, looking for nourishment before their day began. I set my Bible aside, handed each a breakfast burrito, and hurried them out the door for school. Before I sat down at my desk to begin the day, I grabbed the thermometer and set the alarm to sound when the sap reached 212 degrees. 

It would take about 6 hours to reach this number, and then, during the 7th hour, once it hit 212 it quickly began to increase – 13, 14, 15, 16, 17, 18, 19 – seven degrees to 219; the magic number of completion for maple syrup.  It would reach 219 within a matter of moments, and if I wasn’t watching the progress very closely, the sap would burn, and I wouldn’t be able to pour the deliciously warm syrup into jars. I wouldn’t be able to enjoy the fruit of my labor. 

Sometimes the heat must increase 7 times before something reaches completion.  

Or before our rescue arrives.

And we must be patient because the fruit of our labor is enjoyed after completion.  

It’s 2023.

 2+2+3 = 7. 

The heat has increased significantly since Lucas reached the age of 12, and it’s become difficult to be his primary caregiver now at 18 years old. His needs have, at times, surpassed my capacity, but the Lord has been faithful. He’s provided manna for the moment. Lucas will turn 19 this August, and I do believe that deliverance has arrived via the gift of Hope Farm which we are creating as his forever home, Lord willing 

If you’re going through something unbelievably difficult and life-draining, hear me with this truth. Hold on with every ounce of your being, hold on to Him who is greater than he who is in the world, hold on to that last shred of faith in your soul no matter how unraveled or mangled or beat to crap it may seem, HOLD ON for goodness sake and for every other sake for you have absolutely no idea what’s around the bend.  You have no idea what happens after the heat increases seven times and when you finally reach completion. You have no idea how the Lord will bless your life when the rescue arrives. 

Just keep livin. 

If you enjoyed this and want to read more, check out my books, Sunlight Burning at Midnight, Blended with Grit & Grace, and  Lovin with Grit & Grace


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Just Keep Livin’: How Thankfulness Shifts Our Perspective

Excerpt from Blended with Grit & Grace. 

The measure of obstacles we overcome is often a sign of the greatness waiting for us on the other side. When I reach my breaking point, I think of you and the obstacles you have overcome in your life, and it gives me strength. —Ryan, 2012

When Ryan and I met in 2010, we were in a season of death, with the passing of our spouses Jason and Kaci, and this loss included a burial of lifelong dreams. Dreams of a nuclear, intact family. Expectations that we would grow old with our spouse. A dream of biological parents raising the children they chose to bring into this world, and the assumption that the biological father would walk his daughter down the aisle one day. Buckets of grief and despair and unmet opportunities filled our hearts.

The next few years, we enjoyed a resurrection as our lives merged and birthed new realities: our marriage and blended family; a simple life in rural Tennessee, where we learned to work the hard clay earth with our bare hands, where the sun wrinkled our brows, and we slept deeply at night after a day’s labor tending to children, chickens, housework, and gardens. A good life. A difficult life. A life where every moment was a teacher in some capacity. A life where I birthed a book, a teaching career, a nonprofit dream, and another child. Buckets of hope and growth and beauty.

As I grapple with these words, I once again find myself in a season of decay and confusion, with our family enduring broken bodies over the past year: Ryan’s shoulder surgery; my fractured foot, which continues to hinder my participation in favorite activities like walking, tennis, and yoga; and Lucas’s brain surgeries, which resulted in his month-long admission in PICU in December 2019. As I write these words, my children have just reentered the craziest school year of their life after a five-month hiatus, where every part of me was broken as a pandemic swept across the world: my control, my plans, and my pride—nothing working out like I thought it would. And I still grapple with numerous unanswered questions and concerns about how the future is going to play out. Will they stay in school? Is school good for them? Will they get sick? Broken ideals and realities surround our family as we restructure and determine how we’ll proceed from here. And through these trials, we’ve buried systems that used to work when the world was one way, and now they no longer serve us emotionally or spiritually, and we wait because we know.

I know because I’ve been here before. I remember August of 2010, the most difficult month of my life, as a tumultuous month full of overwhelming obligations and demands—work, Lucas’s birthday, family pictures, doctor’s appointments, four children farmed out on a daily basis to anyone, and everyone, the arrival of hospice equipment, nursing staff in and out, important phone calls determining life-or-death decisions, and ultimately good-byes whispered and a funeral prepared for a young husband and father. I wait and I remember. I recall that this is familiar soil, deep and dark and rich soil where perhaps I’ve not been buried but have instead been planted, and now I await my reemergence into the light.

I wait for a resurrection.

And I am confident that growth will occur in due time because that’s how the gig works. It’s how our lives are rigged.

Everything remains in motion: a continuous movement of death and resurrection, waves upon waves washing away the brokenness and grief and moving what remains to the shore— natural disasters and despair and divorce and special needs and bereavement not excluded, a blending of grit and grace. It’s all involved, collectively and individually; ashes to beauty and back to ashes again; circular movements until the maestro sweeps his baton for the last time and bows his head in holy reverence; that moment when his beloved creation leans into the finality and releases a labored breath—bursting through the birth canal into an everlasting resurrection.

And until then?

We rise up out of the boat and walk toward the land; we walk toward the Rock of Ages from whence there is no shifting sand. We move toward a purpose higher than ourselves. We pursue life and do our darndest to live in the present and practice thankfulness. Loss has a way of bringing a newfound appreciation and respect for the present. There are lessons in despair that are incredibly painful, but these lessons are also remarkably life-giving as we navigate forward into a new reality where pain bequeaths joy.

Gratefulness has the ability to carry a family forward as they navigate the numerous roadblocks encountered to get to a healthy place of peace and fulfillment. I should preface— there’s no set arrival date to this place of peace. The process will be ongoing until the day we die. Ryan would love it if I could just give him a future time when we will no longer struggle with anything and instead live in peace and harmony until the end of our days, but that’s not how life works—not in a traditional family nor in a blended one. But we keep lifting ourselves up out of despair. Keep willing ourselves to rise out of the muck and put one foot in front of the other. We keep moving forward, one step at a time with determination, grit, and grace.

We Just keep livin.

If you enjoyed this excerpt from my book Blended with Grit & Grace, my publisher is offering it 50% off for a limited time!  Follow the link below to grab the book for only $8.00!  This is THE lowest price it’s ever been.


One More Flower for the Wreath.

I ventured out shopping the other day, something I rarely do for pleasure anymore due to my busy schedule, and I stopped by two old favorites, Michaels and TJ Maxx. I wrapped up my time at Michaels fairly quickly as I spotted the ceramic flower pots I required, purchased them, and headed out the door. I then crossed the highway to one of my favorite stores, TJ Maxx.

I slowly perused the aisles looking for unique and comfortable business apparel for a few upcoming speaking events and fully enjoyed the peaceful moment.  As I sauntered up and down, gently touching potential purchases, I noticed the younger moms with their children; perhaps children who were too young for school or maybe homeschooled.  I glanced their way, occasionally meeting the eyes of a toddler and warmly smiled as I was transported back twenty years to my carefree days as a young mom with two-year-old Caleb sitting in a shopping cart while I waddled about, pregnant with his brother Lucas.

That was such a simple, joyful time – the year after having Caleb and the months prior to discovering that his brother had experienced a stroke in utero – the time before I lost my innocence forever.  The time consisted of keeping my children entertained, happy, fed, and making sure I always remembered to clip the 40% off one item coupon for Michaels from each and every Sunday paper. That habit led to a memorable weekly moment, the following day, when I drove to Michaels with young Caleb to purchase one more silk flower to be incorporated into the front door wreath I was creating for our double-wide home.

Money was scarce, and I did everything in my power to pinch pennies, but I was still a young wife and mom who desired to create a beautiful, welcoming home for my growing family.

That was mostly my purpose twenty years ago.

Being a mom, clipping coupons, making a whole chicken last for four meals with enchiladas, pasta, casseroles, and pizza toppings, bundling up Caleb at night with his “monkey suit” – footed pj’s, and gobs of blankets to keep him warm as I turned the thermostat down a few degrees in an effort to save a few bucks, and, of course, pursuing the aisles of stores like TJ Maxx and Michaels looking for the best deals.

Those were the good ole’ days in many ways.  Less stress, worries, advocacy work, and more love, presence, and peace.

I don’t worry about coupons or prices all that much anymore.  I’ve “made it” in terms of purpose and financial stability, but yet…

Yet I find myself envying the young moms as they count the change in their wallets, making sure they stick to their tight budgets. I envy the simplicity of my purpose from twenty years ago, which included the purchase of one more beautiful silk flower for my wreath.

It took eight weeks to finish the wreath that moved with me many times as life progressed. It moved from the doublewide to the apartment where we would hear the devastating news about Lucas, to our new home that we brought Lucas home to, and to my next home with Ryan after Jason died. That wreath has hung on numerous doors and served as a reminder to stay present, stay grounded, and pursue simplicity and joy.

I no longer have the wreath.  Once we moved to Tennessee, a strong gust of wind blew it off our front door, and I later found it mangled and ruined beyond repair. As much as it served as a reminder to pursue simplicity and joy, its final demise also taught a poignant truth.

I wish we could know that we are in the good ole days when we are in them, but that’s not how life works.  I believe we do become more aware as we age that the sands of time are dwindling, and when those early, blissful, innocent moments of our lives become simply a breath. A beautiful memory that makes up the tapestry of this thing called life, and all we can do is use those memories to value the present gift of time.

Just keep livin.

If you enjoyed this and want to read more, check out my books, Sunlight Burning at Midnight, Blended with Grit & Grace, and  Lovin with Grit & Grace

“Man is like a breath; his days are like a passing shadow.” Psalm 144:4



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