christmas

I am purposely being clear about the content in this post because well, it’s January now. I recognize that Christmas was #solastyear. And I also recognize that I just teased the village of Martin yesterday for the Christmas remnants that still flank the main street (but only in my Instagram story so it’s like it never happened).

I’m not gonna lie. I struggle with the holidays. It’s basically a month-long reminder of how life is different for us. There is grief and loneliness and a desire for solitude that doesn’t make sense in a time that should be joyful and filled to the brim with family and apparently, reindeer corn.

This year felt similar except that grief was exacerbated by the tragic loss of a young man in our community; a man I’d watched grow into a simply amazing husband and father. There was a celebration service held for him on a cold Friday night. His mom, dad, brother and sister spoke and I don’t think they realized how much they ministered to the many hurting hearts there. And our grief is a fraction of theirs. But my grieving heart felt held and reminded of the beauty in the brokenness. It might not feel like it’s supposed to be this way, but there is pure grace. And it’s all I need. (Scroll down to see how you can support the Pavlak family)

After that Friday night, I felt a shift in thinking about the remainder of the holiday season. Connor and I did our one of two shopping trips that weekend and we went to one of our favorite shops and wandered Eastown and it was perfect. Perfect because we weren’t at the mall (praise!) and because we were together shopping intentionally for those we love the most. Imperfect only because there is one store I heart big time and I swear every item with language on it in the store is inappropriate. And well, CJ is at an age where he starts laughing and I feel immediately shamed for bringing my child into such an establishment; however, they have amazing completely appropriate gifts! Such a battle.

The other big change this year was that our Christmas was on Christmas Eve. With schedule shifts in recent years, this was the first Christmas Day I wouldn’t see Connor and I was kind of a wreck about it. But, with the change in thinking, I decided that Christmas Eve was Christmas and that was that and we were going to enjoy the crap out of it. And you know what? We totally did.

I’ll also give a major shout-out to my family for being so flexible and willing to host Christmas on the Eve. And for the agreement we all had to avoid going insane with gifts this year. My parents asked that I donate to the Pavlak family’s education fund and that was the best type of gift to give. Otherwise, we all set limits and for the most part, stuck to them. I was so proud of us!

As usual, we read the story of Christ’s birth and ransacked the living room with wrapping paper. The one gift that was not.cool. was the stuffed dog my parents gave him. My mom and dad both acted like something big was going to happen so I got all excited and grabbed my camera and then we got a dog! A fake one. Lame.

We ate an amazing meal and got to do some church before CJ had to go for the night. As hard as Christmas Day (the real one) could have been, I just enjoyed it for what it was … an extra day off and more freaking food. #sweatpants

It all really just comes down to this choice we make and I’ve allowed myself to see the world from this place of pain for too many holiday seasons about where I should be and how far away I am from everyone else my age and … etc.; when, all the while, I do have so much to be joyful about. And again, I choose joy.

*As I’d mentioned, you can be a part of supporting the Pavlak family. Know that they are humble, sweet people who would only ever ask for your prayers, but if you are so inclined a fund has been set up to ease the burden on Kaitlyn and her two small children as they navigate life without Mitchel. https://www.gofundme.com/the-mitchel-pavlak-memorial-fund

summer fun (pt 2)

You know how many (likely more seasoned and life-put-together type) travelers plan out their summer adventures well in advance of the season because well, #puremichigan? Heck, I’ve even heard of families logging on to state park websites around January 1ish to book their sites for the much-anticipated best this state has to offer. Well, what I’ve come to learn and accept is that’s just not me.  Continue reading

summer fun (pt 1)

Given Summer is still in full swing (insert lots of sarcasm here), I figured I should do a quick recap of my two brief, yet amazing experiences with my little blended blessing of a bunch before it’s officially too late! But, likely today, just one because you know, words!

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wordless wednesday

Because it’s quick and easy; and because I haven’t posted since July (what the what?!) … I present to you a special birthday celebration edition of wordless Wednesday. Without further ado – which, by the way, I’ve literally always wanted to say but I usually just keep on talking which sort of negates the whole purposes of not further a-doing something. Oh, oops. – here are just a few selects from our little family gathering up in the absolute middle of nowhere in Michigan this past weekend. It was … everything. Continue reading

the simplicity of breath

I finished a workout early Saturday morning and laid my worn-out (and now older) self on the floor completely out of breath.  I had unwillingly found extra time in the day due to an early wake-up call from a horrible (never to be shared aloud again) dream. As I slowly worked back to a normal rhythm of inhales and exhales, all I could do was appreciate that I could and recall that she couldn’t.

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another brand new ending

I had to share the name I adopted for my little spot in the bloggy world this week with two very special people.

See, August 31, 2016 became the start of a brand new ending for the two people I’ve wanted this moment for for more than anyone else. My mom and dad are retired. It still doesn’t sound quite right but by golly, it’s real. It’s right now. And it’s amazing.  Continue reading

wordless wednesday

Ok, fine. It’s sort of Thursday but only if you’re in, like, the first third of the country. Never mind that … I mostly just wanted to present to you, ‘Grandma Lowman turns 90’. Literally, this was one of the brightest spots my family’s shared in the past seven years. I’ll never forget her clarity that day and how just the day prior (when we took some five generation (!) photos) she called me by name and gave me eskimo kisses. My cup runneth over. Continue reading

clothed in strength

I watched as the snow gently fell outside today and my mind swirled. As it does. But as it’s done much more lately.

Last Saturday, the weather was beautiful. We’d had a storm earlier in the week but by Saturday, the snow began to melt and the sun shone brightly. The stage was set for a grand procession for Rich and Tyler Smith and, as I’d written, the amazing sunset I’d hoped to capture in their honor as well; to say ‘until we meet again‘ to two men whose lives had been cut short. And, interestingly, the sunset also gave me the opportunity to reflect on the strength of the two women closest to them; Laurie and Emily.

Today was the same but different.

The sky was overcast and it felt as though a light mist fell this morning as we walked into the church to celebrate the life of another great man; my friend Andy Van Beck.

I’ve worked with Andy’s wife, Kate, for almost 15 years now. It’s so hard to describe Kate with any level of brevity because there at least 117 things that I absolutely love about her. But if there was a word (well, before today), it would be joy. At her core, though, Kate is simply a daughter of the King who epitomizes the light and love of Jesus on Earth and if only each of us could reflect a bit of that light and love back well … I’m quite confident our cheeks would hurt from smiling. That, or our voices hoarse from giggling that infectious giggle.

It wasn’t long after I began working with Kate that I met Andy. Kate shared today about Andy and she used every single adjective that I would have associated with him; adorable, compassionate, talented and funny. Oh. So funny. I related to Andy so much because, like me, he was loud and obnoxious (I can only say that because I mean it in the nicest way) but also just so silly insecure. He had no idea how amazing he was! And I loved that about him, too. But at his core, and just like Kate, he was a son of God.

And for all of those years, Kate just loved him. She loved him for the man that he was and for the father he was to their two children, Celia and William. She loved him through all of the good and all of the bad. And she lovingly honored his life today by speaking in front of a crowded sanctuary at their home base, Radiant Church.

The family had a private service yesterday and I’d texted Kate in the morning, ‘clothed in strength.’ I had to jump to Proverbs 31 because that’s the wife that Kate is.

25 She is clothed with strength and dignity;
    she can laugh at the days to come.
26 She speaks with wisdom,
    and faithful instruction is on her tongue.

That’s how this Saturday was the same.

I watched this woman, this amazing woman, suffering from the unbelievable pain of losing her husband, rise and speak with such passion and conviction that, instead of being comforted by the many that came to do just that; she comforted us.

She reminded us of what love is; what strength is; what grace in its very purest form looks like and of course, she did what she always does; she glorified the Lord and chose joy.

I love you, Kate. Be held. ❤