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Friday, September 22, 2017

Human


"She made broken look beautiful and strong look invincible.
She walked with the universe on her shoulders and made it look like a pair of wings." 
~Unknown


Tired.

The word doesn't even begin to touch the weariness I feel within my depths. 

You know, the older I get the more I loosen my grip on "the plan". 

The one my type A personality feels like I have to have. 

This year "the plan" derailed in more ways than I could count, and I'm still trying to wrap both my mind and my heart around it. 

Not only did our family experience gut wrenching grief-the kind of grief that we are only now slowly, but surely making our way back from with the knowledge it will always be there-but I also experienced the death of a dream. 

One that I had been holding close to my heart for a very long time. 

And over the past four months I have been watching as the story re-writes itself-shifting on me mid-chapter. 

I'd be lying if I said the suddenness of it all didn't sting just a little.

Actually, it stings a lot. 

Like a lot more than I've let on over the past four months. 

But, yet here I am.

Smiling, holding on, and taking it one day at a time.

I used to think I knew how this was going to play out.

I used to think I was headed in the right direction.

I was writing the ending before it was even in sight.

But, this upending of everything-yet again-has left me melancholy, restless, and more than a little unsure of myself.

And tired.

Very, very tired.

I know the right answer is this: that I know this is His way of reminding me that His plans are so much better than my plans-even when they sting a little. 

I also know that He brought me to this place for a reason, even if the reason is to teach me how to simply wait.

But, over the last two weeks my very human body has decided that while I know these things, it doesn't truly understand these things that come with this season.

This season of waiting.

I am reminded of all the women who came before me.

The ones who endured similar seasons such as mine.

I am reminded of their outcomes, their successes, and the truth that nothing ever happens overnight.

I am reminded of His faithfulness and provision.

I am reminded of all the valleys that have come before this one where I have come out on the other side-a little scarred, a little jaded, but much stronger than I was before.

These reminders propel me.

They keep me putting one foot in front of the other.

They allow me to get up every single day.

They fill me with hope when everything seems to be falling apart.

But sometimes I just want to sit at the kitchen table and stare out the window with the weight of what seems like the whole world on my shoulders and just be.

Be heartbroken.

Be lost.

Be more than a little unsure.

Be a very human girl with a very human heart.

Because in my short 32 years of life I have come to know this: that we are all a little broken, we are all a little scared, and we are all destined to struggle in this life.

He never promised it would be easy.

He only promised that He would be there: taking our hand, walking us through each valley, and allowing us to sit at our kitchen tables heartbroken and scared, while He sits next to us reminding us of all the things we know, but we just don't understand.

I know there's a mountain top at the end of this valley-I'm pretty sure I see glimpses of it's peak every now and then.

But, today I'm tired.

And that's ok. 

Tuesday, August 29, 2017

To The Girls Like Me


We will carry pieces of all those who have built and broken us.
~Atticus


On Monday, I will celebrate 5 years since I celebrated the birthday in this picture.

I remember that girl very well. 

I always try to keep her at the forefront of my mind.

I wear her like armour. 

I have told her story over and over and over again to the point that most people are tired of hearing it and they wish I would move on.

But, the truth is, I'm not going too. 

I will never-as long as I live-get over her.

The girl who sacrificed everything for a lie.

The girl who paid heavily for her sins.

The girl who once was lost, but was finally found. 

That girl.

Me.

You know, sometimes I wish my testimony was pretty. 

That is was all clean lines and perfectly poignant prose of a life lived totally in service to my Savior.

You know, the testimony I was "supposed" to have.

If you would have known me during my youth, you probably would have said that my life was set firmly on a Godly path. 

My mother absolutely filled the lives of my sisters and I with Christ. She blessed us with the opportunity to attend a Christian school, and encouraged us to be active in our church and youth group. She allowed us to attend Acquire the Fire retreats and summer youth camps. She prayed fearlessly and continually over us. She did EVERYTHING within her power to ensure my "spiritual success".

For a while, I chased after the life my mother had prayed that I would have. I married very young, and I still managed to obtain my Associates degree. I volunteered at the same Christian school I had been blessed to attend growing up, and I went to the church that supported the ministry of that school. I sang "specials" during Sunday service. I tried to fit their mold, and I volunteered in children's church and with their youth. I tried my best to be everything I was supposed to be. 

But, life has a funny way of never going according to plan.

And over the last five years, I have learned just how messy, but beautiful a unplanned life can be.

I have talked often on this blog about my story. The one I wrote shortly after the picture above was taken.

My story is pretty messy.

Some would even consider it ugly and they still do.

It broke me.

It destroyed me.

It left me with some pretty deep scars, and all of the wisdom I wish I could of crammed into my 21 year old mind all those years ago if she would have listened.

But, in life there are no take backs.

You don't get to redo the moments you've already lived.

So, the girl in the picture, she had no choice but to rally.

To pick herself up, dust herself off, and try again.

And you know what?

She made a come back.

My life is now more beautiful than I ever could of imagined when I was the girl in that picture.

I have a wonderful husband who I do not deserve. A man who encourages me, supports me, and leads me in the most amazingly, self-less way.

I have a beautiful little girl who thinks I hung the moon. A steady job. A cute, snug little house on a hill. And a future that looks bright, even on the days when it seems like it doesn't.

I am blessed beyond measure.

And while I always try to keep the girl in the picture at the forefront of my mind, I know that I am not her anymore.

I have come a long way.

But, despite all of that, there are still days when I find myself looking back-second guessing every single step that brought me here.

Just a few weeks ago, I read a Facebook post that basically said that women "like me" don't deserve Jesus.

That we are disgusting, and we should live our lives ashamed of who we are and the message we are sending.

I'm not gonna lie.

It hurt me.

It penatrated my armour and for a moment I felt like that girl.

The one in the picture. 

The one who would have traded every single moment of the previous two years before that picture just to take it all back.

The one who would have crawled into a hole just to take all eyes off of her if even for a second.

The one with the bloody knife in her hand that had killed all of the hopes and dreams of more people than she cared to count.

I cried for her that night.

In fact, I've been crying for her off and on for the last 20 something days, and for all the girls just like her. 

Because I don't know much, but I know this: Jesus loves that girl in that picture.

He loves her so much that He didn't allow her to have something that she so desperately wanted, because what He had planned for her was so much better.

He loves her so much that He died for her, and He extended grace to her that day and all the days before and after.

He loves her so much that He made a way where there was no way, and He brought her out of that desert and set her apart for something so much bigger than anything she could ever ask for or imagine.

He loves her so incredibly much that when He sees that girl in that picture, He doesn't see disgusting.

You know what He sees?

He sees a woman who is beautiful, blessed, and redeemed.

A woman with a story.

A story He has asked her to tell.

And I plan to keep telling that version of the story over and over and over again.

Because that's the version that so many women just like me need to hear.

The version that says that there is hope and there is grace.

The version that says that there is life after loss.

The version that says our mistakes do not define us, but what we do with the lessons we have learned from those mistakes do.

So, this is for all the girls just like me.

The ones celebrating milestones of a life built on top of what was once ash and rubble.

The ones choosing everyday to own who they've been and who they are becoming.

The ones who don't shy away from their story, because if they did, then the person who needs to hear it most may never get the chance.

The ones with fire in their eyes and love in their scarred up hearts.

The ones whose stories are different than mine, but whose are also the same.

I'm so proud of you and everything you've become.

Just like I'm proud of her.

That girl in the picture. 

Thank you for choosing every single day to stand up and fight-even when the world wants nothing more than to keep you down.

And for the ones who are just starting the rebuilding process, I'm proud of you too.

It takes so much courage to start again.

There is hope for you, and so much more to your story.

So, hang in there.

God's got this and He wants nothing more than for you to allow Him to drown out all the noise.

Because that's all it is...noise.

And I'm here to tell you that I'm living, breathing proof that all the noise doesn't matter.

Not one little bit.

And if I ever got the chance, I'd say that to the girl in the picture. 

Monday, May 8, 2017

The Wilderness


"For I am about to do something new.
See, I have already begun! Do you not see it?
I will make a pathway through the wilderness.
I will create rivers in the dry wasteland."
Isaiah 43:19

Our life lately can best be described as a wilderness.

A dry, barren place where it feels like we are ever making our way through the dark, and crying out for rest.

My soul is in desperate need of rest. 

But, yet we keep walking. We keep trusting. We keeping holding on to His promise to make a way.

And He is.

As always.

He is making a way.

*****

In 2013, I found myself walking through another wasteland.

I was week's away from my divorce, a new single mom, and navigating my way through the most crippling heart break of my entire existence.

I was also starting a brand new job.

After years of being blessed to stay at home with my daughter and only working part-time here and there, I found myself walking through the doors of my first full time job in 4 years.

I had never held a job in the property management or real estate field.

My background was healthcare.

I knew everything about health insurance pre-certification; protocols for CT scans, MRI's, and Ultrasounds; and how to navigate a large healthcare database.

I knew nothing about things like pH of swimming pools; or how to coordinate a major stair tower rebuild; or what to do when someone decides to improperly install a.k.a "jimmy-rig" an ice maker on the top floor and said ice maker decides to break loose and flood all six units below it.

This job was completely foreign territory, but I needed it.

So, like everything else I have ever done, I threw myself into it and surprisingly, I grew to love it.

The girl who was bound and determined to finish her degree and go into healthcare suddenly changed her mind.

This job I needed to survive quickly turned into a career.

When I think about my life 10, 15, 20 years down the road, this is what I see myself doing.

It's a rewarding feeling knowing you have found a job that not only pays your bills, but that also plays a role in giving your life a fulfilling purpose.

And as the years have gone by, I have moved up steadily through the ranks. As off this time last year, I was running my current company for a guy who lived several hours away.

I was rocking my #bossbabe status and loving every minute of it.

But, unfortunately, running this business hasn't been all sunny skies and roses.

I have had to see this ship through many, many storms in my short time at the helm.

We have road some of them out with ease, while others have been far more crippling.

And the most crippling blow came two months ago at the beginning of my family's devastating journey through loss and grief when I found out that this little ship I've been navigating and coaxing along was going to suffer a blow so powerful that there would be no way we could stay afloat.

*****

It's hard to watch something you've fought so hard for sink deeply into the abyss, but that's what I'm doing these days. 

I'm doing my best to prepare the life boats for all of us who are left: the final four of us who have been manning this ship alone-but together-for basically the last two years. 

I want desperately for us all to be okay.

I want this blow to somehow not take the wind out of each of us.

But, it is. 

When we are honest, we will tell you that this has left us reeling.

Grasping. 

Hurt, angry, and trying to make sense of what the next steps will be. 

Because most days it feels more like giving up than what it actually is...the inevitable.

And for all of us that's more than we can swallow. 

But, we put on our brave face.

We line out each new step. 

We've all taken new positions or made plans for our retirements. 

We smile, and nod, and pretend like this isn't killing us.

But, it is. 

Because for the past three and half years, this place and these people have been home. 

This place that gave a young, newly single mom a chance at the wonderful life she now gets to enjoy every single day. 

This place that never, ever felt like "work", but an extension of me and who I was always meant to be. 

These people who always allowed me to be mom first and the employee second. 

And if we're being honest, I don't know how to walk away or how to not be a mess about this. 

Because I am. 

*****

But, God is good. 

And He always, always, ALWAYS provides. 

And I'm doing my best to trust Him in all of these things that I just can't seem to understand, because I know His ways are perfect and His plans are always better. 

But, this wilderness...this dark, barren place He is leading me through...can start showing signs of light anytime now.

Because my soul is deeply exhausted and ready for rest. 

Anytime now, Lord. 

Anytime. 

And until then I'll be here taking all of this one second, one minute, one hour, and one day at a time. 

Because that's all I know to do.

Trust in Him and this new direction of forward. 

Always forward.

Friday, April 14, 2017

The Good




I've been feeling a pretty embattled lately. 

Scripture describes struggle as being hard pressed and crushed on every side, and I feel like that doesn't even begin to scratch the surface of the last 4 weeks. 

First, my mother-in-law suddenly passed away which shook our tiny corner of the world in a way I still cannot describe. (I wrote about that this week. If you click back, you can read that and how we're coping.)

Then, less than a week later, my largest client-the one who generates almost 75% of the revenue for my business decided to pull out.

Yep.

After 15 years and modeling our entire business around service to them, they went with a semi-cheaper bid and a couple of lame excuses as their reasons why. 

No warning. 

No chance to re-evaluate my numbers. 

Just gone. 

And now I find myself unwillingly holding people’s jobs, livelihoods, and futures in the palm of my hand; and I’m starting to wish I would have thrown in the towel a year ago.

Boss babe status isn’t for the faint of heart, even though the Pinterest memes make it look easy.

And lastly, a dear friend and mentor-whom I admire with my whole heart-was diagnosed with stage 4 uterine cancer last week. We are still waiting on the pathology results to confirm, but right now the prognosis isn't good.

And as I talked with her yesterday, she made light of it and put on her usual brave face.

Instead of turning the conversation inward and focusing on her diagnosis, she spent our conversation time coaching me through the unknowns of a career that seems to be vanishing right before my eyes. 

She has always been my champion.

And as I sit here on a beautiful Good Friday afternoon watching my daughter play quietly with the craft in front of her, I am doing my best to continue this charade of holding it all together.

But, the truth is this: I can’t.

Because, shattered doesn't seem to adequately describe the state of my heart and all of it's pieces.

And you know, I wanted to tie these words into Good Friday and keep being brave.

I wanted to tell you that while I know that all of this sadness and pain doesn’t hold a candle to the sadness or pain my Jesus experienced today, I am reminded in midst of all of this, that MY sadness and pain is exactly WHY He did it.

I wanted to tell you that I know that this world with all of it’s pain, sickness, heartache, and disappointment was never intended to be my home.

That I know these struggles are temporary.

Because I do KNOW all of these things.

And quite honestly, weakness has never been my color.

But, today…TODAY…I feel vulnerable and weak.

I feel like my drive and my purpose died somewhere along the way of the last four weeks.

Maybe it’s in the pond with my mother-in-law’s ashes and the roses we threw in there for her.

Maybe it’s in the file folder with the termination letter that I wasn’t expecting.

Or maybe it’s buried somewhere in my text messages with the message my friend’s husband sent telling me that the prognosis wasn’t good.

Honestly, I’m not sure where I lost it.

But, I think I have a small sliver of a grasp of how Jesus might have felt in the garden.

Because right now, there are a few cups in front of me that I don’t really want to drink.

Not one little bit.

And even though I know God is good, this crap sure as hell doesn’t feel good while I wait here expectantly for Him to provide the next move.

The next door.

The next path.

Because despite how angry and how sad I am, I still know that I know that I know that He is here, He is going to provide, and this mess-as painful as it is-is all apart of the plan.

So, today I am going to keep trusting, and attempting to hold it all together.

And you know, I can’t even begin to comprehend what the weight of the world must have felt like for Jesus that day.

But, today I think I have a pretty good idea. 

Tuesday, April 11, 2017

The Truth About Tomorrow


"We talk about them, 
not because we're stuck 
or because we haven't moved on, 
but we talk about them
because we are theirs, 
and they are ours,
and no passage of time will ever change that."
~Scribbles & Crumbs


I can still hear her laugh.

It really was the most infectious laugh.

I had never really thought about her laugh until someone else pointed it out to my husband in a condolence message.

And the more I think about it-I couldn't agree more.

On Saturday it will be exactly one month since my husband lost the first great love his life: his mother.

It was sudden-totally unexpected.

It shook our little corner of the earth in a way I didn't even know was possible.

Nothing prepares you for walking your spouse through this type of overwhelming, gut wrenching grief.

Nothing. 

We didn't touch on this in marriage counseling, there isn't a neat little check list of do's and don't, and blog posts on this subject are basically non-existent.

Trust me. I checked. 

The death of a parent-especially a beloved parent-is a different beast.

It doesn't look anything like grieving a grandparent, a favorite teacher, or sweet friend.

And so here I am-my marriage less than a year old-trying to help guide this completely shattered person down a path I never expected we would be traveling down so soon.

And let me be the first to tell you: it's heart wrenching. 

My heart breaks every time I make eye contact with him, or when I see him pause and get that far away look in his eyes.

And all I can think to do-all I know to do-is to propel us in the direction of forward.

One minute, one step, and one day at a time.

Forward.

Always forward.

Life doesn't stop or slow down just because we want it too.

And in the forward motion I find myself leaning even harder into the things I know to be true:

That God is good. That God is faithful. And that God is always there.

I read something this week in which the author mused that maybe God chooses for us to go through these valleys to teach us how to totally depend on Him and Him alone, and the more I ponder that-the truer it seems to me.

And in this moment, it is the only thing that makes sense. 

Because too often than not my heart wants to trust in people.

Real, tangible, living, breathing people.

I want them to pick us up.

I want them to bind up our wounds.

I want them to tell me what it is I'm supposed to be doing and how I am supposed to be helping him cope.

I want real bandages, and morphine, and the things I know of that were created to stop real, physical pain for him.

But, you can't put real bandages on a broken heart.

And in Psalms 147:3, David says, "He heals the broken hearted and binds up their wounds."

HE does that.

Him and Him alone.

I know this is true because I have seen Him do it.

I have felt His peace and love like a salve on my own broken heart many, many times.

And in the midst of all of this, I can feel Him there.

Ever present. Ever faithful. Ever propelling us into the direction of forward-toward the life He still has planned for us.

While I'm not exactly what our today, or our tomorrow, or even our next week is going to look like, I do know that this has taught me how brief and how fleeting our time on this earth is.

We can make these grandiose plans.

We can store up all of our hope in our futures because we think it's going to be there.

We can put things off until tomorrow or the next day.

We can make lots of promises full of good intentions.

But, the truth is this: we have no guarantees.

Every second we get to spend on this earth with the people we love the most is a gift.

A beautiful, wisp of smoke in His grand scheme of things.

And if my mother-in-law taught me anything in the very short amount of time I knew her, it was how to make time to love your people and how to love them well.

Because she loved well. 

Her love shaped this extraordinary man I get to call my husband.

And for that I am ever grateful and ever convicted, as I find myself now more than ever asking myself, "How am I loving my people today and am I loving them well?"

Because when my time on earth is through, I want nothing more than for it to be said that I loved well.

I honestly don't think there is any greater accolade.

And I know there is no higher calling.

Yes, He has called me to great things.

There is definitely a plan for my life in motion.

But, I know my ultimate calling is in the privilege I have of being someone's wife and someone's mother, and the fact that I have been called above everything else to love them and love them well.

My people will encounter lots pain, discouragement, broken-heartedness, disappointment, and frustration along life's path.

I want to be their soft place, their champion, and the unconditional, unwavering love of Jesus in their life.

What about you?

How are you loving your people today?

Honestly, I think we all need to take this play right out of my mother-in-law's playbook and implement it in our lives today.

Not tomorrow.

Not next week.

Today.

Today let's love our people.

And love them well. 

Monday, January 2, 2017

My One Word


“To reach a port we must sail, sometimes with the wind, and sometimes against it. 
But we must not drift or lie at anchor.” 
Oliver Wendell Holmes

A few years ago our pastor preached a sermon series on praying and seeking out one word from God that defines your life's calling. There were no limitations on what that word had to be-we were just simply instructed to pray and wait for God to reveal that word to us. 

And it was during that sermon series that I was given a very specific word that defined the calling God has placed on my life. But, shortly after He gave me that word, I was made aware that my heart and mind were not quite ready to fulfill that calling. 

So as a result, 2016 was a season of waiting for me and allowing myself to be conditioned by God. 

In my human frailness, He chose to shine the light into areas of my life that need to be addressed-the things that stand between Him and I that cannot be there for me to reach my full potential for Him. 

And, I wish I could write this post and say with total confidence that I have addressed all the things He has revealed to me and that I am ready to live out my calling to the fullest extent. 

But, unfortunately, that is not the case. 

Sometimes being broken and poured out takes time, and I have learned in this season of waiting to allow Him to work. 

Yes the work is slow-but it is steady. 

I am praying that 2017 will be the year I take the leap, but I am learning to be content in the waiting, because I know the plans He has for me are far greater than anything I could ever dream up on my own. 

So as 2016 came to an end, I found that many of the areas He was drawing my attention too had a lot in common, and most of them had to do with how I was spending my time. 

2016 felt so incredibly BUSY to me!

Does anyone else feel that way?

There were moments within the chaos that I wondered if I would ever catch my breath. 

All of my evenings were planned out a week in advance and most of my weekends were planned out two to three weeks ahead of time.

I was taking on too much and a lot of the more important areas of my life had been/are suffering.  

And as we approached December (the busiest month of the entire year for me),  I found myself overwhelmed by the prospect of yet another busy holiday season.

I wasn't sleeping well, and as a result I was sleeping later which meant I was always late to work.

My stomach issues were getting worse and worse.

And I was agitated all the time! My family was suffering from my bad attitude.

Fast forward to about three weeks ago, and I found myself desperate for a change.

In that desperation, God lead me to a place where I started researching habits of highly successful people.

I think I just found myself wondering, "How do they do it? How do they juggle all their success and responsibility and make it look so easy?"

I found that one of the most effective habits of other successful people is in their routine and in their ability to live with intent.

They live like every moment and every day counts.

They don't assume that they "have time", because they know time is precious.

While a lot of the things I was reading wasn't spiritual in content or written by Christian writers, I was reminded of the sermon series my pastor preached a few years ago, and I found God writing the word "intentional" upon my heart.

How can I be more intentional in 2017? 

How can I  manage my time better and prioritize things so that my primary focus is on the things God has called me too?

How can I strive to be more intentional in my quiet time with God and in the areas where He has called me to serve?

How can I be more intentional with my family who is my greatest calling?

How can be more intentional at my job or with my fiances?

How can I intentionally work on the areas of my life that God needs me to work on before I can move forward in the plan He has for me?

These are the questions I find that I am asking myself, and I have already begun the process of praying and beginning to journal through them.


One of the ways, I am doing that is by filling out Jennie Allen's 2017 Dream Guide. Jennie Allen is the founder of IF:. 

Many of you who know me personally, know that IF: is a ministry that I am drawn too, and one of things IF: encourages women to do is to live intentional and authentic lives for Christ.  

So, last week when Jennie released her 2017 Dream Guide, I was instantly intrigued. I downloaded it and finally took some time today to fill it out. It's exciting to re-evaluate the last year, and dream about what I want 2017 to look like for me spiritually, relationally, personally, and through my work. My plan is to put this guide in my prayer journal and review it often throughout the coming year. 

I also printed off an "Intentional Living Goal Setting Worksheet" that I am hoping my husband and I can look over tonight. We have some very specific goals for the coming year, and I think this will help us to put these goals down on paper and get a plan together for how to accomplish these goals. 

I also want to make some very specific changes in areas of my life such as developing a morning and evening ritual; how I schedule my time and how I can prioritize my time with God and my family; and how I can cut out some of the things that are robbing me of my time such as social media and developing clear boundaries for my time regarding my job. 

I know that the New Year is traditionally time for New Years Resolutions that don't always stick, and instead of making myself promises I probably won't keep, I want to take my one word for 2017 and live life with more intent and purpose. I want to actively seek out ways to prepare my heart and mind for God's calling on my life, so that when He opens the door, I will be ready. 

What about you? What are your plans, dreams, and goals for 2017? How can you purpose to live more intentionally this year? 

Today is the start of a fresh, clean slate. 

Let's make all of our days count from this day forward. 

Wednesday, December 21, 2016

Lessons From The Tide

Remember that this experience of life is tidal.
That some days we are invincible
and others, fragile.
And that both are always true.
~Jesh De Rox


For some moments in life there are no words.

Even for someone like me who always seems to be full of them.

On November 9th, I woke up filled with hope.

While I know so many didn't share my sentiments, my anxious heart was a little more steady as I greeted my day.

My daughter was up early, so we were able to take our time that morning to get out the door. 

She lounged in my bed, watching her shows on our iPad, and eating her breakfast. I lounged next to her and sipped my coffee while I perused my Facebook newsfeed getting a feel for everyone's tone regarding that morning's early election results. 

I was mortified by all the hate and backlash from both sides.

I purposed in my heart to not be that way, as I hit the home button on my phone and proceeded to put on "real" clothes to take my daughter to school. 

After I had made myself somewhat presentable, I got her dressed, made her lunch, and bussed her out the door.

We were off.

School drop off that morning went as smoothly as it always does. I dropped her at her classroom door, kissed her forehead, and signed her in on the sheet as I walked out the door to head back home to get ready for work.

The drive back home wasn't anything special.

There were no feelings of premonition or foreboding thoughts. 

There was just the sudden flash of sunlight blinding me through my windshield and the glittering of glass on the road.

I saw something.

A piece of a vehicle. 

I slammed on my breaks and looked to my left.

There was an elderly man standing in a driveway.

My heart was racing as I rolled down my window, "Are you okay?!" I asked frantically, as the smell of burnt rubber hit me like a wall.

"I'm okay," he said, "I just thought I heard a terrible noise like someone crashed across the road."

I looked to my right and there it was: an SUV on it's passenger side near a silo at the catfish hatchery down my road.

The following moments were a total blur. 

I pulled my car over and clicked on my flashers. I got out of my car and began to walk toward the SUV trying to look inside to see if I could see anyone.

I was shaking uncontrollably. I was totally terrified by what I would find.

And then I heard her.

Deep, painful moans.

My eyes searched around the vehicle from where I stood near the ditch and that's when I saw her. She was laying outside the vehicle and seemed to be trapped half way under the SUV.

I gasped.

And then a man appeared in a truck.

He got out and ran to the vehicle, as he yelled at me to call 911 which I was already doing.

The phone was ringing, an officer picked up, I told him to send help.

The rest of the conversation I hardly remember.

I remember rambling in sheer panic and desperation.

I remember telling him things he probably didn't need to know, but he patiently listened to me talk.

I remember the man who came to help trying to lift the vehicle with another man and trying to get her out.

I remember him putting something on her head to stop the bleeding and telling me to stay where I was so I wouldn't have to see her.

I remember the fire trucks coming and the ambulance as it pulled up on the scene.

I remember as they knelt down beside her and then how they all just stood there starring at her.

I remember thinking, "Why aren't they helping her?!"

I remember the police officer gathering all of us bystanders around.

I remember him saying something about how her injuries were "unable to sustain life".

Words I will never forget as long as I live.

I looked around at our small group that had been there as she passed from this life to the other: an owner of catfish ponds, a couple utility workers, her boss and a co-worker who had driven down from their shop, and me-the girl who was too scared to hold her hand.

I went home.

I cried.

I called my mom.

I wished with my whole heart that my mom would have been the one who had been there.

The former emergency room nurse.

The helper.

The woman with the instincts of a first responder.

And since November 9th I have carried that regret.

The regret that I didn't have more courage.

Not for me...but for a woman I didn't even know.

I can't imagine how lonely it would be to die that way.

No family. No one to hold your hand. No medication to ease your pain.

I spent the rest of the week in a haze.

Floundering in my weak human body that craves to "understand" such tragedies.

In the hours and days that followed, I found myself needing to know everything I could about her.

I found out that she had a son and that she was only 36.

36. Years. Old.

I wondered if she had a bucket list of things she'd left undone.

Things she wished she would have gotten to do or see or experience.

I wondered if she was happy and content with where she was in life.

I wondered about the things left unspoken, the hurts that never got the chance to heal, and all of her dark places.

And through the hours and days of wondering and grasping, God lead me to a clearing by the sea of my grief where the profoundness of the following truth hit me like a rolling tide:

This life, dear one, is not permanent. It is not your final destination. So, quit living like there is a promise of tomorrow-because tomorrow's have never been guaranteed. 

While I'm still struggling and still grieving for this woman I didn't even know, I am beyond grateful for the lesson-even if I've lost sight of it over the past few weeks.

It is no secret that Christmas is stressful me.

Co-parenting your own child at Christmas and then having to mix that with your own parents who are co-parenting tends to rob you of the joy you should be experiencing at this time of year.

Granted, we make the most of it.

My mom and dad still spoil my sisters and I rotten every single year, and I am always so grateful for my daughter's co-parenting situation that we have all worked together so hard to achieve.

However, I will still be waking up on Christmas Day without my girl.

And even though we have been at this for three years now, I will be the first one to admit that this is one part of the story that I don't think ever gets any easier.

So, joy is a little hard to find these days.

I find myself wishing my words were kinder and my heart was softer.

And last night as I sat on my daughter's bed having a hard conversation with my almost eight year old who wants to talk about life and death, I realized that I am doing a terrible job matching my words to my actions.

How can I tell her that life is a gift, and the people we get to do it with are the greatest part of that gift if I'm walking around this house like the world's biggest Scrooge?

So, for the next few days, I am going to purpose to be a little less stressed and little more grateful for these moments that we are not guaranteed we are going to have.

I am going to remember how blessed I am to have a big crazy family that makes time for each other, and a husband who truly loves me unconditionally.

I am going to purpose to love people the way my daughter loves people with her pure, unjaded heart.

And I am going to be more thankful for another year spent with all of those I love most.

Especially because I know there is a boy out there who won't get to spend Christmas with the woman who truly loved him the most.

So, this Christmas as you look around your table or your house that is filled with those people who love you the most whether they be family or friends or both-remind yourself to be grateful for that moment and for those people.

Because it can truly all be over in the blink of an eye.

In the blinding sunlight of an instance.

The course of your life and the lives of those around you could forever be changed.

So, hug your kids a little tighter and kiss your husband a little longer and just be grateful.

I know I am going to try.
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