Saturday, March 28, 2015

March 2014 - March 2015

365 days can hold a lot of changes! I'd better hurry up and write a blog post before the forgetful hormone totally kicks in! My last triathlon race was exactly a year ago...and about a month after it, I had come to grips with it being the indefinite end of competition...although my heart catching up to my brain took a bit longer. The end of a dream was really sad, especially when it didn't pan out the way I'd hoped and thought was realistic. Ahh, life. At the end of the day, I knew that "...the Lord works everything for good for those who love Him. Romans 8:28" ...and if I understood everything, that would seriously minimize an all-powerful God.

April 15, 2014
This was my 33rd birthday. It was also the day after I found out from a foot doctor that my MRI showed results interpreted that it would take about a year to fully recover from the injury - and that's if I was obsessively rehabbing. When I considered that I had already been obsessively rehabbing, and it wasn't getting better, this was not news I had hoped for...Not a great birthday present! In my family we always joke about the random statistic that when you're 33, it's (supposedly) the happiest year of your life...I think I laughed through a tearful statement that my 33rd year was starting off pretty rotten! So much to be thankful for, though, in the 2007 - 2014 stretch of competing in triathlons...I didn't want to lock the door and throw away the key, but definitely move on...
Whenever a girl goes through a major life transition, it's always a good idea to get a haircut! :) I wanted to try a really short 'do, but never had the guts...and always liked and felt the need to have a pony tail option for running...but that wasn't necessary any more. Some day maybe I will try highlighting or coloring my hair...but I left that for the next life transition ;)
chop chop (with Tessa's bootie in the pic too)
this is what I would look like if made into a cartoon...or...short hair bedhead
Mid May 2014
I got pregnant! What a gift!!! And what a shock that I got pregnant that quickly.

Pregnancy: The Good
There are some perks to being pregnant:
1. Double the blood flow. This is probably the reason (in addition to time off and resting) why my body healed faster than normal.
2. Related to #1...Better circulation, so it was the first time my feet and hands were warm in the winter!
3. My nails were stronger.
4. Feeling Jillyn kick was the sweetest feeling...
5. Twice I parked in the special "Expecting mothers" parking space...yay.
I wasn't someone who loved being pregnant...But, so very thankful that I was pregnant!

Pregnancy: The (not so?) Bad & Ugly
Week 8 I was dragged to the life-sucking machine on The Princess Bride, and it was cranked up to the max. I felt horrible and remember a close relationship to the couch. I never threw up, but had some serious nausea....I think the hard part is always uncertainty...many told me that it would go away after I got to the second weeks 13 - 23 were especially hard since I kept thinking that the next day, I might feel just kept dragging on.
The bright spot and turning point was when I felt her kick during week 18! It made me cry all morning. What an amazing miracle. 2 cells to a bubbly kick in my belly?! Incredible.
almost 18 weeks, a few days before I felt her kick:) 
At 19 weeks we found out the gender...We loved the fact that we get to find out if it's a little girl or a little boy, and see that little munchkin! It went from talking about "it" to talking about Jillyn Sue! And praying for her by name, and talking to her, & about her! A boy first seemed normal to both of us, just with our own family orders...but when we found out that she was a little girl, it was like I realized that I wanted a girl! haha. I'm so glad we don't get to choose! I'm glad I got to transition my constant sense of wonder into knowing it was a little girl. When she was born, there were so many other surprises and things to enjoy other than her gender! ha.

We didn't realize we'd see her in 3D, so it was an extra fun surprise for us in addition to finding out her gender. We knew that we were her parents because we thought this pic was completely adorable!! haha. I made a pavlova dessert and we took it to Spemilies' house to reveal the surprise gender and share her name, but it kind of all melted together and was hard to see the strawberries at the bottom, signifying a girl. Ha! Oh well, mission accomplished even if it wasn't perfect:)
Tessa was getting even more clingy than normal...

Although pregnancy wasn't a totally feel-good experience for me, I never threw up. I despise throwing up - but who likes the jaw-watering, nauseous feeling?! And I've heard that it doesn't even make you feel better after you throw up (unlike if you have food poisoning or a virus...), so...I guess feeling rotten on the couch was a step up from feeling rotten next to the toilet! (It can alllllways be worse!!!)

Perk of Having More Time: Art!
I was able to do some art work...I've always liked art, and wished art classes in school were longer and also wished that there were more of them! I sort of wanted to major in graphic design when I was in college, but some of the classes were twice as long, and right smack in the middle of swim practice, so I decided to go the logistics route (I wanted to swim for Tennessee, and besides, it was paying for my education!).
I have taken only a few classes in high school, so I think abstract art is what's best for me right now (seems like there are less rules and critiques on what is a "good" piece of artwork). I made a few pieces for my little nieces and nephew...and a couple for was so much fun!
for Andrew

for Kaitlyn

for Aimee

for Mabry...still needs a verse:)

Sunrise for Jillyn
for Jillyn...still needs a verse:)

29.5 weeks was my first baby shower. This was special because it was at my parents' house, and so many sweet friends were there...some I had known since birth and others were new friends, and many in between. Stephen's mom was able to come all the way from MO, which was also special, along with his aunt and cousins. My mom and Emily put it together, and Kathy also helped get things ready before the shower while I was in bed resting. My favorite part of both showers was when we prayed for little Jillyn Sue...(and for Stephen and me as parents!)...that she would know and follow Jesus with all her heart...the sweetest, best prayer! My heart was so full!! Here's a pic of many who were there...some had to leave face is teary after such sweet prayers!

Christmas Day was 34 weeks!
Jillyn's first Christmas:)
Every appointment after week 34 showed that Jillyn measured the same 32cm...the doctors kept saying it wasn't a big deal, because she could be in a different position...I'd been feeling "little zingers" as the doc described them of just feeling like she was moving down, so it wasn't a huge shock that my belly didn't continue getting bigger. Boy did I feel big though!! Another valid reason I kept the same measurement was because Christmas night, I came down with the stomach bug, and was in my bed for 36 hours straight (unless I was on the toilet or puking in the trash can) was horrible! I have never felt so horrible in my life. Dry heaving and 34 weeks pregnant is seriously rotten. I told Jillyn that if she decided to come during that time, she would kill her mommy! I really couldn't get out of bed, and was so thirsty, but couldn't keep it down. Finally after 12 hours of puking and dry heaving, I could sip a little water and later had a popsicle. Oh, man! My mom stayed with me in Townsend and kept me hydrated and alive. Here is a pic of the rainbow in the sky when she drove me home 2 days later:)

36.5 weeks was my other baby shower, thrown by Joy, Katie, Kim, and Rachel. What a sweet, fun, delicious day! Again, we prayed for little Jillyn and laughed and smiled all afternoon! My heart was exploding - I felt so loved and am so thankful for such sweet friends that God has given me!
Sweet hostesses - we'll have had 5 babies in 5 months!!
Not everyone was in the pic, but here are many who came:)

37 weeks and 5 days, my water broke at 11pm. We were in Townsend making sure our new phones work there...In hindsight, I realize my body had been prepping a bit, but nothing too crazy to tell me I would have her the next day! I went on a jog with Stephen and we had a sweet date at a delish Mexican restaurant in Townsend.
I heard a pop when my water broke! And it leaked quite a bit, but kept leaking for the next hour or so.
Dr. Eaton was on call when we arrived, and was there until 8am. She checked and verified that my water broke. She also told me that I was GBS positive and because of that, she wanted to start inducing me sooner than later. I was having very light contractions, but not making progress yet. Around 2am, she started me at level 2 pitocin.
My mom arrived around 1am and brought soothing Christian music that helped me all night. The music was so sweet to focus on and hum. 
my fav pic from the hospital:)
The uncertainty was what was the hardest. Within a couple hours, they put the pitocin to 4, then 6. At 6, I was having some serious contractions! Pitocin was a b-e-a-s-t. Okay, actually I have heard it is a beast. I don't have anything to compare it to. I thought I might pass out from pain...which honestly could just be labor, but people tell me that pitocin revs up the pain train more than without it. The pain was intense, but the uncertainty behind the pain was the worst... I remember being at 3cm at 9:45am, and asking Dr. Shirk when he thought she would arrive. At this point, I was having intense contractions that lasted 2 minutes (!!) and occurred every 2 minutes. There was a clock on the wall in front of my bed and I remember looking at it....and then having 3 intense contractions, and then looking at it again and it was barely over 5 minutes later! ...I couldn't believe I was only 3cm still... I really wanted to have Jillyn naturally, but I was getting worried that I wouldn't be able to push her out if I kept this 2min/2min schedule up much longer. I asked the Dr. and nurse what time they thought she'd come, and he guessed maybe around 3p...At that point, I was really worried. I knew that in the transition phase, it was typical to think that I couldn't do it...but I was 3cm, which was far from transition!!! How could I do that for 6 more hours and then think that I couldn't do it?!?!
my two amazing helpers all night!
Nurse Lindsay was amazing! She knew I didn't want any anesthetic, and told me that based on how I had acted until that point, I could do it. It was one thing to hear that I could do it from Stephen and my mom, but to me, the nurse carried much more weight in this situation!! ha. She sees births every day, and I felt like I believed her more than anyone else in the world in that moment. The next check about 40ish minutes later, I was five cm, and then right after that, I felt like I had to push - I couldn't not push (sorry for the double negative, but it describes it better!)...And then I pushed 10 minutes and she was born at 10:44am! All that time I was most concerned about transition and pushing, and those were the easiest for me. The hardest hours were 2am - 10:30am...pushing was the easy part since I felt her moving down, making her entrance...I knew she was so close, and I was so close to holding her! She came so fast that the doctor missed her, which was not a big deal. Nurse Lindsay was my coach, and Stephen and my mom each had one leg. I knew it was special when I looked at Stephen and my mom in between pushes and they were both teary and almost crying! Babies are truly miracles! Going from 2 cells to a precious little baby is beyond this world, a work of the Lord Most High. It is just amazing. I never want to forget those sweet moments before and after she was born. Wow....and at 37 and 6 days, our precious little girl was born!

I wondered if I would be loud, like in movies or TV shows, or even watching births on the seemed like women screamed or moaned loudly or deeply. I never screamed or made lots of deep moaning sounds - who has the energy for that?! Giving birth was so hard! I was just trying to focus on relaxing, breathing in steadily, and exhaling. When I exhaled, I often softly moaned, but I didn't have the breath to push out lots of crazy loud energy. I knew I needed to conserve everything for the end! Another myth-buster was that I never lost modesty...I mean, sure, do what ya gotta do to get that sweet baby out, but there was never a point that I didn't care.
Stephen and I took Bradley Method classes for 3 months of Monday nights...our last class was the night before my water broke! How nice of Jillyn to wait until we were finished! ;) We really enjoyed the classes and learned a lot and met new friends - I would recommend it:)
I hope I don't have to get induced for #2! I remember thinking that Jillyn was going to be an only child. Haha! 
Dad visited during labor and then of course after she was sweet:)
Emily came with lunch - yay! (and with Andrew, Kaitlyn, and Aimee, but they were banned because of the flu outbreak (all kids under 12)). Spencer also visited and met little Jillyn Sue. Sweet to have fam so close and able to be there and visit.
Stephen spent both nights with me...after the first night, he went downstairs to tell his coworkers the news:) and that he wouldn't be coming to work for a bit.
She was itty bitty, 6# 2oz. And such a sweet little snuggler from the start. 
itty bitty lovins!
I was scheduled to have an appointment with Dr. Shirk at 1:45 that day, so we all laughed that I wouldn't make it...and he said he'd tell them not to call me to tell me I was late...ha.
Hard parts in the recovery room: she latched on great, would suck three times, and then fall asleep. Sweet baby was soooo tired! It'd been a long night! They kept checking her glucose levels since she dropped to 43...and to leave the hospital, she had to be at least 45! The lactation consultant kept coming to help me, but she just wasn't interested, and then would start screaming. It was sad and broke my heart! They had to keep pricking her little heel to check the glucose level...uuugh.
The next Monday, we had an appointment with our pediatrician, and he said not to worry about her first couple days - most babies don't come out knowing they need to eat...they've never eaten before! He was so great at reassuring us, and said she needed to lose weight first to know that she was hungry, and then she'd be just fine. He was right, and she has been a nursing all-star since day 3. Watching her eat is so adorable.
snuggles with daddy:)
The first month was h-a-r-d. Wow, starting off the birth experience with no sleep (we arrived at the hospital a little before midnight) is not recommended!!! I felt like I was in the twilight zone for the first month. 

Jillyn loooves to snuggle. When we first put her in her crib, she acted like we had abandoned her on an island. Figuring out what made her happy was hard in the first month...but the second has been a lot easier, and she even seems to be in her own little groove and schedule. She loves to be walked around the kitchen island...probably because I jogged a lot during the time she was in the womb. Another thing she is pretty obsessed about is a black/white picture. There are a lot of printouts that she loves staring at.
I'm pretty sure I wouldn't have survived the first month without her swing! Even now when she is over 2 months, she still loves it although sleeps most of the time in her crib.
love the pic of Jesus in the background - the perfect example of Love:)

love her!!
Family and friends have been incredibly helpful and have blessed us with many gifts and words of encouragement! We are so thankful and praise God for giving us such a sweet blessing from Him! Thaaaaanks!!! I feel like I've only blinked a couple times, and she's already over 2 months old!

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

...and then the story twists...

...and then, the story twists in an unexpected way that sent me into unpredictable (not to mention unwanted) circumstances beyond my control. 

I wouldn't have written this order of events if I was in total control of my life, but...I'm not. As a disclaimer, this blog post isn't the common "Dream Big" type motivational, "You can do anything that you set your mind to; just believe." message. In my experience, my core hope in Christ is unchanged even if everything I want to do doesn't end up the way I dream & hope for. Sometimes I feel more deeply encouraged when life throws its biggest curveballs and leaves me weeping. Those moments, (or sometimes I have to wait after the nasty storm clears), I find the Lord's sweet mercies and protection, and feel like I know another piece of Him that I wouldn't have discovered had I not been through the rotten trials. 2 Corinthians 4:16-18 reminds us of this short life on earth... "16 So we do not lose heart. Though our outer self[a] is wasting away, our inner self is being renewed day by day. 17 For this light momentary affliction is preparing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison, 18 as we look not to the things that are seen but to the things that are unseen. For the things that are seen are transient, but the things that are unseen are eternal."

If you need to be kicked in the bootie to work a little harder, this blog post might not hit home for you, but if life right now is more underwhelming than sky-high-high sailing with your potential met, then by God's grace, He might let me articulate a little of what is going on in my heart that might resonate with yours.

I really wanted to win races and point to Jesus and thank Him for giving me the insane talents, abilities, & opportunities to compete at the highest level. As I've learned through the past 6 years, even the opportunity to work hard in training is a gift! Oh, the many days I would've loved to train hard but was sidelined. And to compete is a gift - it's so much fun to feel the surge of racing well. What a contrast the last 4 years of my tri career have been to the end of 2009 when everything clicked, & I won 2 national amateur championships. Those were 2 of the most fun races I'd ever had the opportunity to compete in! What a thrill. It gave me joy to train hard and compete with fierceness. 

On the other hand, the past 4 seasons, I've dealt with several serious injuries. The most recent was last October - during a race, we were delayed 10 minutes in 65 degree water. For a girl with poor circulation, ain't nuthin good about a pre-race ice bath. I finished the race, and after it, I knew my achilles wasn't well. I nursed it all winter, barely running yet making great improvements in biking...At the end of March, I raced. After the painful race, my ankle (which usually is quite bony) was so fat that I had to guess where the ankle bone was. I got an MRI, and the doctor said it'd take a year of obsessive rehab to get it back, and then after that, would take more obsession to keep it healthy while training. At that time, I knew it was time to move on. I'd already worked through 4 seasons of obsessive care.
Stephen took this right before I crossed the finish line at NOLA 5150 :)
The first couple weeks were especially sad. I let myself be sad and cry to Stephen, family, and friends. And still today, I might get teary a bit if I talk to the right person in the right moment. At the same time, though, it's also an answered prayer. I prayed that the MRI results would be conclusive. And another encouraging part is that I know that the Lord wanted me to be in triathlon these past years, and I know that it would have been so easy for Him to heal me and enable my body to click into top form...yet, it didn't happen, and I know that He always has His BEST for me, therefore....everything went as planned, and the very best happened to me (although it didn't feel like the best!!!). I know I did everything I could with the available resources to enable myself to be in a position to compete at the highest level. 

I want to be a reason that others believe in Jesus. In my thinking, I would put myself as the best in the world with a gold medal and have that platform to tell others. But it seems like an underwhelming 4 seasons as a pro triathlete who stays close to God and points to Him in the good and the bad is the ideal message that the Lord has given me...So, whether I won a gold medal or had 4 unsuccessful seasons as a pro, it's encouraging to me that my most important bottom line is the same: Jesus Christ is alive! And I know that everything that happens in this earthly kingdom (that doesn't last) refines me and brings me closer to the Lord. What a treasure that is! 

Starting a new season in life doesn't take away the sting of unfulfilled dreams, but...having a relationship with the Lord Most High sure does make the transition sweet & gives me joy although sprinkled with mourning. My new season has started with lots of fun times although a different style of life. I go on walk/jogs with Stephen...quite a change from a lifestyle that used to sort of revolve around my job as a professional, mastering 3+ sports!  I've been able to spend more time teaching ESL, helping friends, with my little nieces and nephew, calligraphy and art projects, finishing up the house remodel, and hanging out with Stephen. Also, I am excited keep the books for my parents' property in Townsend, TN, aka "The Peaceful Side of the Smokies". If you have an upcoming family reunion or executive retreat that you are planning, you should look into the Wellspring Retreat on the Little River. It's uniquely beautiful and definitely a one-of-a-kind getaway that sleeps 30!

Although I have been sad, I've been slightly surprised that it hasn't been harder. I know that many family and good friends have been praying for me when they found out a new chapter in life had started...THANKS! There are many who know how much I enjoyed triathlon, so a complete change like this is only smooth with love and prayers. I still love watching a great race or game - and I still think there are so many parallels in sport and life - lots of the same lessons! 

As for triathlon and competing again in the future....I will cease to predict that! Up until this point in my life, I have been a horrible fortune teller - ha! 

Thanks for reading and I pray that whether you are having the "season of your life" or not, (and whatever that would look like, athletic or not), you will know Jesus is alive! My relationship with Jesus is the only way I can truly walk away with joy and gratitude in my heart. Although this earthly kingdom doesn't last, events that happen here sure teach priceless lessons.

Reading the Bible every day has been the single-most comfort and piercing healing! **Highest recommendation**
Reading it with an open heart changes my life every day!

With a grateful heart,

PS: Here are a few juicy things I've come across lately:

Thursday, March 13, 2014

Knowledge vs. Experience

Spiritual Parallels Physical = Great Learning Tool for Me
God teaches me about the spiritual realm as I live in/through the physical. I see the parallels all the time, and could go on..and on...but lately I've been thinking most about the similarities of having a strong core.

As I grow in my core strength physically, everything else in my body works better. It's the same with God - Jesus is my Core, and when my relationship grows with Him, I can better handle whatever happens in life.

Sure, I've lived quite a while without properly engaging my inner core. I'd heard a LOT about the importance and benefits of "having a strong inner core" and "exercises to strengthen my inner core" ...I knew about the concept and could explain it to you, I just never experienced it!  I completed (consistent!) "core workouts" - still completed the movement that my brain told my body to do, but used other muscles to get 'er dun. Now that I am getting better at using my core, my body works better, and I have a ridiculous amount more power. Even my coach commented after a workout a while back, "Was that you? :)"

Of course, I'm thrilled to learn how to have an ultra dose of power during training/racing! ...but infinitely more important to me is to have Jesus at my inner Core. When I live my life with my inner Core activated with Jesus, it does not mean everything in life turns to smooth sailing (!), it just means that He is always strong and can use my weaknesses when I live my life engaged in the point that others who know me well & know all my shortcomings might say, "Was that you?"


Wednesday, February 12, 2014

My winter highlight...what's yours?

Small head cold => forced rest and....extra time to write a blog update!

The plan for the first 3 pro races of 2014:

March 30th: 5150 Series: New Orleans
April 27th: 5150 Series: St. Anthony's
May 18th: Rev3 Knoxville

Winter training is going well! I've had a few challenges with my achilles this winter, but overall everything is looking good to have a true peak in my racing season! Continuous thanks (!!) to Prompt Physical Therapy and Sport & Wellness Chiropractic for helping me get/stay healthy. I'd classify myself as "high-maintenance"...and what a huge value to work with such amazing healthcare providers! I don't take it for granted and know how fortunate I am to have found the best (& they haven't yet locked their doors on me)!

Last year, I gained a lot of experience and was thankful to get to the start/finish lines & try to be in the mix. This year, I can't wait to race. Training and racing as a professional triathlete gives me such joy! What a gift.

Probably the highlight of this winter training has been to enjoy the trainer. It was always my least favorite part of training. Lately, it's been fun, in a torturous type of way;) ...and my watts keep increasing, which is a very good thing!

What's your winter highlight? Be sure to tell someone about what made your heart sing lately, including the bumps along the way. "Gracious words are like a honeycomb, sweetness to the soul and health to the body." Proverbs 16:24

Happy February & God bless you!

Thursday, January 16, 2014

2014 Sponsors!!

PFJ is Knoxville-born (just like me!) and has given back to this city so much support. The people I know at the company and work with are incredible! I love what PFJ is doing to help their employees and also their customer-focused efforts on healthy food and workout opportunities. On average because of the nature of their job, truckers live 7 years less than others. PFJ is working hard to add workout facilities and healthy food choices for the truckers. It is an honor to be part of Team Pilot and their concern for their customers' health. PFJ is taking care of my logistics and transportation. What a gift to not have to worry about means to get to the race to compete! Thank you!

Steve Bailey was seemingly the only person on the planet who had insight into what was going on with my chronic neck/back dealio. He's the reason that I was able to have even an abbreviated season last year, and has an amazing gift. I love going to his office still for maintenance – it's like 90 minutes worth of PT exercises, hanging out with good friends and therapy...walking out always feeling better. What's there not to love?! Thanks!

Dr. John has helped me learn how to activate my hamstrings and butt as I ride my bike and run. My back doesn't feel as stiff, so I can freely move and have a better rhythm. He has really helped my achilles recover - I had achilles tendinitis, and he used ART to break up the knots in my calf and release the tension. Adjusting my hips relieved my lower back tension. I'm feeling much better now, and so thankful for his help!

What a fun, knowledgeable store! They've helped me maintain my bikes and have answered lots of questions for me! Lately they gave me 5 saddles to try out. My bootie didn't like the 2 saddles on my bikes from last year. Ouch! Developing saddle sores and cysts on my bum was not a highlight of last year, but(t) (hehe)...there are other saddle options! I have since realized that if a saddle still isn't super comfy after a few months, try a different one. At this point, I've weeded out 4 saddles out of...thousands! ha. Thanks, CBC, for your patience and help!

Also known as "The Dream Team"...seriously. I'll admit, RPS is a somewhat unusual sponsor for a pro triathlete...but there are actually a lot of parallels and ways I can learn from a company like RPS. In their core values, you'll see: “Excellence: We strive to honor our God, our families, and our clients in everything that we do.” Sure, we have very different jobs, but using our God-given gifts in whatever our daily work looks like can have the same core values! I've learned so much from my dad and brother in their top-level athletic careers, their values in their workplace, and have benefited immensely by their choices to love their families well, and honor God first always. Thanks for your encouragement and support!

I am so thankful to have the opportunity to run with the UT track/XC team for some key workouts. Coach Clark lets me tag along with his speedy team, and being in the midst of a team is of such great value whenever I run with them. Thank you!

Last but certainly not least, I'm thankful for my coach! He's not necessarily a "sponsor" but has my best interest at heart and adds value every day to my triathlon career. I have data that shows what I'm doing on a daily basis is significantly faster than just a few months ago, and that's exciting! Coaching an athlete to master 3 sports isn't easy, and I really appreciate his time, energy, patience, and wisdom on helping me get the most out of myself. Thanks!

Next post, maybe I'll share a tentative race schedule....oh boy!

Thanks for reading, and God bless you today!

Thursday, January 2, 2014

Old, new, life, death, seasons, years, earth, heaven...

Whether I am in a seemingly perfect season or whether it is a survival mode season, I always find myself saying, "There must be more!"

Grandma Hall
A little over a year ago, I witnessed my grandma breathing her last breaths in the house I was living in (3 generations were living in my parents' house)...and just a month before, I held my niece moments after her birth. Life is short. James 4:14 says, "...yet you do not know what tomorrow will bring. What is your life? For you are a mist that appears for a little time and then vanishes." C.S. Lewis said, “100 per cent of us die, and the percentage cannot be increased.”  

Watching/living with someone I love in the last 5 weeks of her life didn't necessarily always leave me with "Life is so good!" type sentiments. My parents graciously opened their home, energy, resources, & time to serve her as she approached the end of her life, not knowing whether it would last a month or a couple years. It was hard caring for her, watching her mind slip, teetering back and forth from a gentle, lovely demeanor & dry wit, to a grumpy, "whatever" type mentality. She absolutely loved my mom. (Of course she did! Who doesn't?!) My mom was the all-star care-giver, for sure...and I was the 2nd string; probably more like the 8th string in my grandma's eyes...So when my mom was out on an errand or busy with something then I was on duty:) I would come into my grandma's room and enthusiastically ask if she wanted me to make her breakfast...And she'd growl, "Where is your mother."  Every. time. HAHA! It took me off guard at first - like, "Aren't grandparents supposed to adore their grandchildren?!" ...But after her almost daily question, I started smiling and holding in a chuckle when she said that, although she just peered at me even more perturbed. I knew that wasn't my grandma! It's just her mind & body dying... and the filter of niceness/appropriate behavior dropping to zero and her true desires transparent. I knew she loved me but it still completely shocked me the first time she said that, and then continued to say it! But even just a few hours later, she would joke with me or say something sweet, and I knew she had snapped back into herself.

It was such a tender, heart-heavy day when she died - it took us all by surprise since she had sort of perked up and been jolly. It wasn't graceful nor elegant, but such is life sometimes. She completely lost control of her body, as it was shutting down for good, and her tongue was hanging out of her mouth. My dad got to hold her hand during that time and thank her for being his mom!! I wasn't in the room, so I don't know exactly what he said, but before her pulse shut down for good, she had a tear drop from her eye. Ahh, what a sweet ending to her earthly life and such a gift that he had already come home from work and could be there with his mom! I think her tear was especially sweet because she wasn't the typical teddy-bear type grandma. She was a tough one - grew up in a family of 6 on a farm during the depression...Very loving and ultra supportive, but not gushing, ya know? I had never seen her teary, much less cry. What a sweet day the Lord gave us all. And how thankful we are for her life and love!

Death and new life are a definite part of this gig we're born into! I have no hope to share other than hope in Jesus.

I know for Stephen and me, we couldn't be more excited to start a new year. Thank you, Lord!
I'll be posting soon about my 2014 sponsors - stay tuned! 

I'm thrilled with how 2014 is already starting out. Thanks for reading, and God bless you today.

Monday, November 4, 2013

When life gives you rotten lemons...give thanks:)

More-than-gutting a house is the most challenging thing we've ever accidentally signed up for! We're truly thankful for it...and PS: not every moment has been a giving-thanks-type moment! That refining fire has singed a few hairs! ha;)

Hey, when life gives you rotten lemons, throw 'em out in the compost, mix it around, plant some seeds, water it and you'll get some juicy fruit [eventually]!

...thankful for my parents' generosity since we've been livin' the dream in their basement (hahaha. thang's fer sure: inside jokes will last through eternity after 1.5 yrs in the basement!)

...thankful for reaping the grandiose benefits of having them on our work crew! ...they've renovated [a few] houses;)

Here's a pic of our front yard...I love how Kaitlyn is looking at "Uncle Steebin" & Andrew has his feet up as they all laugh at Pappy being silly. :)