Monday, October 20, 2014

105 Stages of Grief

Last weekend Lydia Grace and I traveled with my mom, sister, and brother-in-law to West Virginia. I even wrote a post for the Knoxville Moms Blog about our trip--Mothering Through Grief.

"The country roads that wind before me today not only carry me home, but they serve to remind me of the twists and turns that life takes us through. You never really know what’s coming around the next bend. Sometimes you turn and the view is breathtaking. Other times storm clouds lie ahead. The last several years have held both for me. I have delighted in becoming a mother to my three precious blessings. There have been moments of pure bliss that have taken my breath away. There have also been dark times…I’ve experienced multiple miscarriages that have broken my tender mommy heart, the loss of loved ones, and having to say goodbye to my father–a man who once seemed as strong and invincible to me, as the Blue Ridge Mountains I’m headed towards today."
You can read that post in its entirety here.

October 10 marked two years since daddy's death. It seems like just yesterday that he was still here with us though. The last two years have certainly had their ups and downs...

One of my dearest friends and I were talking several months back and she said, "How are you dealing with your dad's death? You know that I love your blog, but it is the posts where you share your heart that I enjoy the most. The crafts are great, but I like to read about the personal things that are going on in your life." I quickly replied, "I know. I haven't been opening up as much lately and sharing the personal stuff. It has just been too hard to let myself really dive in and feel it all. It's been too painful. That post is coming though. I promise. It's coming..."

So here it is, sweet friend...

I miss my dad. It's been two years since I sat holding his hand as cancer ripped him from me. {gasp.} And I miss him. The rest of the world has continued on. But for my family, time seems to have stood still...

Two years ago I had to say goodbye to someone who had previously been a daily part of my life. I don't remember much from the days surrounding his death. It's just snippets and snapshots of a hazy and painful time...

Waking up the next morning praying it had all just been a terrible nightmare only to discover that it was in fact our new reality. A life without my dad...

Lord, give me the strength to get up and face this dismal day.

Sitting with my mom and sister as an obituary was scripted out. There it was--the feeble attempt at summing up the man's life who had been my father in one short paragraph.

When I don't have the answers, Lord, I know you are still there.



Going through the motions.

The outpouring of love at the funeral.

Music. A hymn. It really is well with my soul because I know where my strength comes from. Lord, it comes from you!

This doesn't seem fair, but I trust your plan, Lord. Please help me get through this.


Traveling to West Virginia.

Sitting beside the coffin.

People fading in and out.

Well-meaning people at a much later stage in life--older than my dad even--telling me that they knew exactly how I felt because they had just lost their dad. Although no less painful, losing your dad in your twenties is different than losing your dad in your sixties. It just is.

A deep ache in my heart.

Not wanting to leave him.

Needing to hear him say, "Hey there, Miss Priss!" one more time.

Just. One. More. Time.


Still surviving.

Kicks in my tummy from the sweet baby who I was pregnant with at the time. Caleb Joseph even got his middle name from his papa Joseph Edwin.

My little ones asking where their papa went.

Trusting God.



Day by day...

No, minute by minute.

Breathe in. Breathe out.

Then it happens...

The rest of the world seems to return to normal. The cards, meals, and kind words stop. Everyone moves on...

Except those who are most affected. Except those whose lives have been shaken to the core by the loss. The aftermath of hurting hearts...

Clinging onto every shred of good just to get through the bad.


And not "5 Stages of Grief". It's more like 105 stages. Confusion. Denial. Depression. Anger. Heartache. Hope. Always hope. And always God. The stages seem to come and go like the seasons.

My anthem being the words from a song...

I still believe in Your faithfulness
I still believe in Your truth
I still believe in Your holy word
even when I don't see, I still believe

My faith in God never faltering. My faith in myself was a different story though.

You see...

That's the thing with grief. There are times when we question ourselves. Am I enough? Was I enough to them? Did I say everything that I needed to say? Was there something more I could have done?

Then comes realization. (105 stages, remember?) This life is so fragile. Our time is so short. There are no guarantees of tomorrow.

Resolve. I have to make it count. I have to make every moment matter.

Then the guilt rolls in when our resolve is not stronger than our sadness.

God, I will get through this.

Resistance. I believe a big part of grief is fighting against what has happened. There's a struggle between wanting to change things and finding acceptance in it. It wasn't in plan, so there's resistance. We long for things to be different. We struggle. We grieve. We mourn for how we thought things were supposed to be.

And that's where my faith plays a critical role. Romans 8:28 says, "And we know that God causes everything to work together for the good of those who love God and are called according to his purpose for them." It doesn't say that God will cause only good things to happen in our lives. It says that he will work things together for our good. Even in the midst of tragic circumstances, his hand is at work. His peace and presence cover us especially in our darkest hours. 

Acceptance. What a beautiful day when we find acceptance of God's plan, of the perfect peace he offers, and of the beautiful things he creates from the ashes of our lives.

So there we were...

Two years later...

Country roads guiding us home to put new flowers down at daddy's grave and pay our respects.

Although Lydia Grace doesn't fully understand the magnitude of life and death, she knows that her Papa isn't with us anymore. She knows that he is in heaven and that she misses him. She also knows that she will see him again someday. Until then, she left him a gift. As we laid flowers down, she left two small acorns perched atop his headstone. I'd like to think he smiled from heaven at her sweet, childlike gesture. He loved his L.G. so much!

Like the seasons that are always changing, our lives have changed forever. There are some things that will never change though...

I'll always love and miss him. But God's presence and peace will continue to cover and guide us as we navigate through life without daddy.

God's beautiful promises carry us on...

"Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted."
Matthew 5:4
*The photos were taken near my grandfather's farm in Princeton, West Virginia, the cemetery in Bluefield, West Viriginia, and my uncle and aunt's farm in Bland, Virginia.
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Sunday, October 19, 2014

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

A Little Bird Told Me Link Party #112

Welcome to...
The Life of Jennifer Dawn

It is wonderful to have you here! Let's get this party started with four fabulous posts that were linked up last week...
Michelle of The Gracious Wife linked up her recipe for German Sweet Chocolate Cake!
Jackie from I Heart Arts & Crafts linked up this fun Butterfly Craft for the kids!
Paris of My Big Fat Happy Life shared how she turned a Picture Frame into a Chalkboard!
Jessica from Living Chic on the Cheap shared how to make Pumpkin Spice Sugar Scrub!

Wonderful posts, ladies!  Feel free to grab a button if you were featured...
The Life of Jennifer Dawn
Now it's time for this week's party! I know my fellow bloggers are doing some fantastic things out there in blogland.  A little bird told me that you are!  I'd love for you to share a recipe, craft, home decor project, homeschool post, activity/craft for kids, or any other post you're proud of! Your post will be shown over at The Natural Homeschool too where my friend Tanya and I will individually pick features each week. Be sure to check out what she's featuring from last week's party. We've teamed up to bring you an even bigger and better party!

Grab a button, link up, visit others, and be sure to leave some comment love on each other's posts!  That same little birdie told me that we all love comments!

Remember that you must link back in order to be featured.  If your link does get featured, I have a special Pinterest board to further showcase your tremendous talent!

For my non-blogging readers, feel free to visit the links and glean inspiration!

Here we go!  I can't wait to see the amazing things that you link up this week!

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

Pumpkin Appliqued Tees and Onesies

I love making my own appliques and turning a plain tee or onesie into something cute. For fall, I recently made these cute pumpkin tops for my three kiddos! Here's Lydia Grace in hers...

Sunday, October 12, 2014

Friday, October 10, 2014

Craft for Kids: Finger Puppet Monsters

Over 110 fabulous Halloween Ideas shared by bloggers. #halloweenideas #halloween

It's Friday and day 5 of the Halloween Bash Blog Hop--a fun collaboration between 110+ bloggers! If you are looking for Halloween ideas, this is the perfect stop! You'll find costume ideas, recipes, crafts, treats (not tricks), and more! For my part, I'm sharing how to make these cute monster finger puppets with the kiddos!

Wednesday, October 8, 2014

A Little Bird Told Me Link Party #111

Welcome to...
The Life of Jennifer Dawn

It is wonderful to have you here! Let's get this party started with four fabulous posts that were linked up last week...
Bambini Travel linked up a fantastic Art Activity for Kids involving Leaves and Watercolors!
Kathi from Run 'n Stitch linked up her recipe for Cranberry Orange Bread!
Kyla of House of Hipsters shared her tutorial for Marble Dipped Mugs!
Sarah from Edea Smith shared her unique Upcycled Vintage Pumpkin!

Monday, October 6, 2014

A Belated Wedding Toast to My Sister on Her Anniversary

My dearest sister,
Happy anniversary! It's hard to believe that it has already been two years since your wedding day. And what a beautiful day it was! I know it wasn't the wedding you had originally planned. In fact, through all the changes with the dates and venues, you may have planned about five different weddings. How many brides can say that? I'm pretty sure that even fewer can attest to having been faced with the hard decisions that you had to make. For you, they weren't hard choices at all though. Daddy was sick. That awful c word--cancer--was looming over our heads. It just wasn't going to be the same without him there, so the wedding was moved from December to October. Then at the last minute, it was moved to the hospital, so daddy could leave the Intensive Care Unit long enough to attend. I remember daddy getting upset at first. He didn't want to do anything to upstage your and Carl's BIG day. No one could have anticipated that things would take such a sudden turn with his health though. I don't know if I ever really told you how proud I was of the choice you and Carl made. It was one of the most beautiful, selfless acts I've ever seen. In fact, your wedding was one of the most beautiful things I've ever seen...

I didn't take a single picture that day. My mind was in a million places. But your photographer did a beautiful job of capturing the wedding. She even shared some prayers, tears, and smiles with us along the way. And can you believe that sweet hospital janitor out there on the morning of your wedding cleaning the courtyard? Or the nurse helping to get daddy into his tuxedo? Or the numerous others who pitched in to make it such a glorious day? And the prayers that went up! Our parents' strength! The love that filled that place! The lives that were touched! It really was a remarkable day...

Sure the rehearsal dinner was pizza in the ICU waiting area, the wedding took place in the courtyard of the hospital, and the reception was in the hospital cafeteria. None of that mattered though. Daddy once told me when I was in the midst of planning my own wedding, "All that will matter at the end of the day, Jenn, is that you're married and ready to begin your new life together."

That's what you and Carl did on October 6, 2012! You got married and started a beautiful journey together. It's a journey that began out of love and sacrifice. The whole wedding was filled with love. It was in the choices you and Carl made leading up to the wedding. It was in the example of marriage that our own parents and Carl's parents had set for us all. It was in family and friends pulling together to make the day a success. It was in the acts of the hospital staff to make it all happen. It was in the lives that were immeasurably touched that day. It was in the prayers of our pastor and his family. It was in God's presence surrounding us. It was in daddy's determination to get out of the bed and walk his baby girl down the aisle even when he had been told he couldn't do it. And most importantly... It was in the feelings that you and Carl had then and still have for each other.

So since I never got an opportunity to give you an official toast on your wedding day, and we all know how much I hate public speaking even in the best of circumstances...

I'd just like to take this opportunity to say...

To the bride and groom! I love you both dearly. May God's presence continue to surround you. May you continue to bask in a beautiful love for the things that really matter in life--faith, family, friends, and each other! May you have many more years of wonderful memories together! I know that daddy is looking down on both of you and smiling. We are all so proud of the love you share! It really is one that epitomizes this precious passage of scripture...

1 Corinthians 13

If I speak in the tongues of men or of angels, but do not have love, I am only a resounding gong or a clanging cymbal. If I have the gift of prophecy and can fathom all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have a faith that can move mountains, but do not have love, I am nothing. If I give all I possess to the poor and give over my body to hardship that I may boast, but do not have love, I gain nothing.
Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.
Much love and happiness to you both!
Happy anniversary!
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