My Favorite Question
Late last night I was on a plane traveling from LA to San Francisco and I met a new friend. I just finished spending the most glorious weekend with my sweet girl and my heart was very tender as I left her. I boarded the crowded plane and wondered who would be sitting next to me. Over the past few months, I have been flying from here to there and have sat next to a few interesting people. It’s like people watching but close up and personal.
On my flight, I sat next to a single dad from Mexico and his precious three year old daughter. He began sharing with me about the difficulty of being a single parent and the wonderful time he spent with his little girl over the weekend. I shared about being a widow, a single mom, and our plans to visit Europe soon as a family.
He then asked me, “Is your husband going with you?”
The questions that arise about my late husband don’t hurt me. They don’t make me cringe. These questions are difficult because I know as soon as I say, “Oh no, he passed away seven months ago,” the sweet, easy conversation takes a turn. Usually the person asking the question has a look of regret for asking and I just want to console them. Last night, my new friend felt sad for me. He was visibly troubled by the news of what happened to my family and told me how sorry he was for our great loss. We kept sharing stories of our lives and laughed at the wonders of raising kids. Halfway through the flight he looked at me and said, “You seem so happy! You seem like you are okay.”
Then he asked, “How are you okay?”
This is my favorite question. It gives me an opportunity to share what the Lord has done through this incredible suffering.
Below, my desire is to answer this question and a few more that I get asked often. I hope this helps you understand our valley even more and that it also encourages you in your own valley of suffering.
How are you okay?
The one expression I have noticed the most from people is a sense of awe over how well I am doing. If someone told me a year ago that Jeff would die in a horrible car accident while my son was driving, I would not have believed them. I also wouldn’t believe that I could survive losing my best friend and husband. I would have thought I’d never make it out of bed. But I am surviving. I am not only surviving, but I am stronger now than I have ever been. I feel like a superhero most days.
It’s really difficult to explain because it is supernatural. It has nothing to do with me or my human nature. I am nothing special. There is no amount of strength I can muster up to be okay on my own. Every ounce of strength I have — every bit of courage shown — every amount of hope I find is completely from the Lord Jesus Christ. From the moment Jeff died, the Lord has carried me, lifted me, and strengthened me. Christ has been my Rock and my Salvation from day one.
Each day, the Lord teaches me that I am not in control, He is. I am not my own but I am His. I am better than “okay” because the Lord is rebuilding me into the woman He created me to be long ago. It is a painful pruning process, but it is the sweetest time of refinement I have experienced. I find blessing and joy in life that I may have overlooked before. When we are broken, the Light shines through the cracks and makes beautiful things. Joy is found even in the brokenness. Nehemiah 8:10 has been a life verse for me. I remind myself of this truth over and over.
“The joy of the Lord is my strength.” —Nehemiah 8:10
How are you REALLY?
Some people will lean in close after asking how I’m doing and ask this. They care so deeply and they want to know more. Honestly, the answer above is REALLY how I am doing. It is the truth about how and why I am doing okay. On the good days and hard days, I will always give the truth of what I am feeling. Please feel free to ask me.
How are the kids?
The kids are doing amazing. The Lord is working in their lives to strengthen them and bring glory to Himself. They are becoming who He created them to be and it’s a beautiful, hard, long process.
Emilee is growing at a rapid rate. She misses her daddy every day but also leans on the Lord in the most difficult moments. She hates this valley, just like I do. But she also loves it, just like I do, because she sees the Lord in ways she hasn’t before. She worries about her future sometimes. She thinks about all the things Jeff will miss and how hard that will be for her. It’s a long, hard road for sure, but she is willing to trust that God’s plan is the best.
Arie is a lot like his daddy. He is strong and accepting of the things he cannot change. He says, “it is what it is” in regards to this valley. Those are the same words Jeff would say to us when we were going through a tough time. Arie believes that he can’t change anything so he must learn to handle his new normal. I am watching Arie change before my eyes. He is maturing and becoming quite the protector. God is refining him and he is letting the Lord do His work even on the most challenging days.
Zachary is the one who wears his emotions on his sleeve. It is so difficult to take these waves of intense emotion at 13 years old. He is doing well though because he is pushing through, feeling all the waves and yet still finding joy in the midst of it all. His heart has become tender toward others who are suffering. God has shown Zach comfort and now I see him comforting and caring for others.
Why all the traveling lately?
One year ago, I prayed and asked the Lord if I could travel somewhere, anywhere. I really love traveling and it had been five years since I had been on a plane. I was itching to go somewhere. I wanted to get away with Jeff and have a real vacation. We began planning a trip to Hawaii for our 25th wedding anniversary in 2019. After Jeff died, I decided to plan a couple trips with my dear friends as a time of reflection, therapy, and fun. I planned two trips. One trip was to New York and the other to Magnolia Market. Both trips were amazing and filled my cup to overflowing.
Soon after, other opportunities began to fall into my lap. It just so happens that all of our travels are from the end of August through the end of October. In just two months, we will have taken five trips. Some are for the weekend and some are for one week. It is amazing that come November, we have nothing on the calendar at all. I am thankful for the busy, but also for the rest that is coming. These trips have become special memories made with dear sweet friends, my precious kids and therapy for my heart. Our new normal is being created out of our experiences.
What can I do to help?
We have received so much help in the past seven months. It is amazing to experience the Body of Christ come together to love and to care for those in need. We are so blessed. We don’t need as much now as we did at the beginning of this valley, but we still love receiving dinners, hugs, and practical help on whatever days there’s a need. Please feel free to ask what we need help with and if there’s something, I will for sure let you know. We are grateful.
How can I pray for you and your family?
Prayer is why we are doing so well. I love how many people are praying for us and lifting us up to the One who heals, comforts, and guides us.
Please continue to pray for comfort on the days that are really difficult. We also need prayer that our hearts and our eyes are totally focused on Christ. We want to trust in His plans for our future. Please pray for each of the kids as they move forward in life. Pray that they surrender to the Lord and walk closely with Him even when they don’t understand. And lastly, please pray for patience for me as I wait on Him each day. I don’t want to rush this valley but I want to fully walk in His ways through it. Thank you so much for your love and your prayers! You are a treasure to me.
“Therefore encourage one another and build each other up, just as in fact you are doing.” —1 Thessalonians 5:11