Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Disney Princess Half Marathon

Sunday morning I woke up at 2 am to get ready for my ball. I had a date with 16,000 others who were going to run the Disney Princess Half Marathon. I got into my Belle costume: sequined skirt, gloves, rose and all.  I chose Belle because she was my sister's favorite princess and since she died about a year ago I wanted to run this in her memory!  Once I was ready, I made my way to the bus, and hopped on board, by now it was 3 am. 

It was a bit of a wait until the race started at 6 am, but I filled the time with meeting up with some online running moms from around the country, and even making friends with some random strangers.  Then at 6 am when the fairy godmother shouted 3.... 2.... 1.... And fireworks went off, I started my race.  13.1 miles through the Disney World roads, including Magic Kingdom and Epcot.

My favorite part of the race was running up main street in the magic kingdom, and seeing cinderellas castle.  The streets were lined with crowds, and even though I didn't know a single person, it didn't matter.  Their cheers got me excited, their signs made me laugh, and when I made it around the castle and began to run underneath I wanted to cry.  What girl doesn't want to be a princess and live in a castle, right? Well sometimes life isn't a fairy tale.  Sometimes you face hard situations. Sometimes you lose loved ones.  Sometimes you feel like the evil one is winning, but at that moment, as I ran under the castle I  was winning! I didn't need a prince or a carriage, or even a castle. I was a strong independent woman, discovering something I love, living and enjoying life.  I was a princess!

My goal was to finish the race in under 2 hours and 30 minutes.  Based on my training this was a reasonable goal.  Having only run one other half marathon this past fall, at 2 hours 48 minutes, I was confident I would break that and set a personal record.  3 miles into it I realized I was about 3 minutes off and the 2:30 time was unlikely.  At that moment I made the choice to do my best and if I didn't break it, it was okay.  That was a huge deal for me to be okay with, as I usually set very high expectations of myself and get very disappointed in myself for not meeting them.  Perhaps the struggles of losing a spouse and dealing with his addictions have helped me to relax and enjoy life more than I did before. 

I am very proud to say that I had an amazing run! I finished in 2:33:38!  I set a personal record and took almost 15 minutes off my previous time! While it may not have been my initial goal, I am pleased and I have no regrets.  I am sure that as I crossed the finish line, my arms raised in victory, that my sister karrie, my late husband Jonathan, and my father were all watching from heaven.  Cheering for me when I was tired, and celebrating with me as i finished.  I know they would never have thought I would do this! And if they were still here, who knows if I ever would have.  
Words can not express how grateful I am to have found running.  It has become not only my stress reliever but my grief reliever.  It's my healing process.  Each race I accomplish, each celebration I have is a way to celebrate my new life, my new adventure.  Just like this race, I've had expectations for my life, and a few years back I realized those things may not happen right away.  But I've decided that i am just going to run it my best, enjoy each mile and celebrate... whatever the result may be!

Friday, February 24, 2012

My Princess

This weekend I am heading to Disney World along with 20,000 other runners, to run the Disney Princess Half Marathon.  While I am excited to break a personal record, and celebrate my 35th birthday in the "happiest place on earth", the race such such a deeper meaning to me than any of this.

Almost one year ago, I lost my sister and best friend.  She unexpectedly encountered some complications from her seizure disorder, and on March 7, after being removed from the respirator, she went home to be with Jesus.  She was the most special person in my life, EVER!

Karrie was mentally impaired, and had the mental age of a 3 year old.  She is technically my step sister, which I almost NEVER reference, because she had been my sister for 25 years.  I was 9 when I met her, she was 14.  She was fun, silly, strong and obstinate.  We shared a room for almost 6 years, often falling asleep holding hands, if we hadn't already pushed the beds together.  She stood up in my wedding, and was the best aunt my son could have ever asked for.

So as I head down to Disney, to run a Princess race, I will be running for my princess, Karrie.  I'm dressing up as Belle, her absolute favorite princess.  I don't think she knew Disney had other movies besides Beauty and the Beast, and anything that had Belle on it, she loved.  So I will be donning a yellow skirt, yellow tank, long yellow gloves, and carrying a rose.  Every mile I run, I will remember the honor it was to grow up with and later care for my sister.  I will remember every moment we shared, and try not to cry for the moments we were robbed.  I hope that on Sunday morning, as I board my bus at 3 am, wait in a corral in Epcot til 5:45, and cross the finish line about 2 1/2 hours later, that she will be looking down from heaven and see.  She will be the strength I need to keep going, and the tears on my face when I finish.  I love you Karrie, and I miss you.  I'm doing this for you sister.  You're my best friend!

Thursday, February 23, 2012

Daddy's Little

So we were shopping at Gymboree last week, and I let my son pick out an outfit.  My almost four year old heads right over to the basketball outfit, and decides he wants the whole ensemble: shorts, shirt, socks, and hat.  Since I told him he could pick out an outfit, I had to honor that.  So as I gathered all the pieces I notice the hat says,"Daddy's little ....".  Immediately I think, we can't buy that, he doesn't have a dad. So I tell him we aren't getting the hat.  He was very upset, he really wanted it.  At that moment I stopped and thought about it.  Why? Why couldn't he have that hat? Is it really a big deal for him to wear a hat that mentions daddy, even if he doesn't have one?  In the end I bought him the hat, and he was so excited he wore it for days.

I realized something that day.  Even though my son not having a daddy is a part of our daily life, I am still sensitive to it.  Every once and I while I feel its impact.  Whether its shopping, planning for the daddy night at school, or just every day life, there is a void.  I trust God to fill it, until He selects the right guy to be his new daddy.

Monday, February 20, 2012

Most Important

We get so frustrated with our little ones at times, don't we? Today it was in the middle of my prayer time.  I'm trying to spend quality time with the Lord, which can be so hard to do with a 4 year old,  and my son has an "emergency".  He needs to build a dog house for his toy puppy, and in the process is getting into things I'd prefer he left alone.  So I interrupt my important time with God, to deal with his disobedience.  As I am putting the items away I say to God, "Do you see why its so hard for me to spend this time with you?"  I was frustrated.

Fast forward 10 minutes, I'm sitting on the floor singing and worshipping God, my hands are raised and my eyes are closed.  My son crawls onto my lap, lifts his hands and starts singing along as best as he can. It was precious.  At that moment I realized THIS is what its all about.  Yes my time with God is important.  But more important is teaching my son how to pray, how to love God, how to worship.  That is what was happening at that moment.  I was leaving a legacy to my son.  That is the important thing!

So often as moms, especially single moms, we are so caught up with the day to day tasks, and to do lists, that we often brush over moments like this.  We are set on our agenda, and we don't bend enough to give our children what really matters to them.  My pastor, Richard Crisco, says it like this, "Don't let the urgent rob us of the important."  Today I learned that valuable lesson.  My son was joining me in spending time with the most important person in our lives, Jesus.  Instead of getting him busy and preoccupied so that I wouldn't be interrupted, I let him join.  In fact when he requested to dance, I finished my "talk" with God, and put on an up beat praise song.  We jumped, raised our hands, danced and told God how much we loved Him.  There is nothing that is more important for me to do than to teach my son how to have a relationship with God, and to worship Him freely.  I will not sacrifice the important things, for the urgent.

Thursday, February 16, 2012


I'm noticing a pattern among people who experience loss.  It's guilt.  It doesn't really matter what the circumstances are surrounding the death, someone, or several people even, take on guilt and responsibility as if it was their own fault, or they could have prevented it.  From the outside its clear to see that the guilt is unnatural, and the person who carries it really couldn't have stopped the loss from happening, or had little to no role in its final outcome.  Yet I continue to witness innocent people carrying the heavy weight of guilt surrounding a loved one's death.

The first time I took notice of it was in my mom.  After we lost my sister my mother would talk about how she feels guilty about her death.  She would make statements such as "if we wouldn't have gone out of town", and I could see her continually blaming herself for a situation that she had absolutely no control over.  My sister had a seizure, didn't recover normally, and the EMT put her on a respirator.  That respirator caused her to develop pneumonia, and she eventually had to be taken off the respirator.  It was a horrible series of events which lead to her leaving this earth long before any of us were ready to let her go.  But in all honesty my mom was in no way to blame.  She had done nothing wrong, and living her life to go visit her newborn grandson is certainly not a mistake which she made.

Now I sit here thinking about my own father, who died of lung cancer.  Yes I too had an element of guilt related to his death.  I was my dad's caregiver, and a few weeks before he died I went on a weekend trip.  Before the trip my dad was independent, sharp, and doing very well.  However when I returned he seemed frail, and a bit more blurry.  The decline he made over the 4 days I was gone was noticeable. It was what appeared to be the beginning of the end.  In 3 weeks time he passed away.  On several occasions I felt myself regretting that trip, or feeling selfish for going away with my husband for business. Guilt knocked on my door, and I opened up and let it in.

With the passing of my late husband I am pleased to say I have never opened the door when guilt came knocking. I had excellent counseling through our tough times which taught me that I am only responsible for my own actions. I am not responsible for someone else's response to them.  I knew I had heard from God to take the steps I had taken, and when he died I was able to say I do not blame myself.  But many people I greeted in the funeral home had the guilt.  Even to this day I have discussions with people who loved and cared about them and can see the guilt they carry.  "If only I had known, I could have helped.  He would have listened to me." "I was gonna talk to him about his problems, if I had maybe it would have made a difference."  From the outside I see the heavy weight they carry, and although I have reassured them that it would not have made a difference, that people who knew were helping him and it wasn't enough, they continue to carry it.

God is not a God of death, nor a God of guilt.  There is another spiritual force at work in our world, and he is the one that brings death.  Yet I can see him at work, causing innocent  mourners to carry the guilt of a death they had nothing to do with.  John 10:10 says "the thief comes to steal, kill and destroy, but I [Jesus] have come that you might have life."  Guilt is part of the thief's plan.  He steals, he kills, and then he continues... to destroy.  The guilt will destroy you.

If you are carrying guilt over the loss of a loved one, please hear me.  It is not your fault.  Don't carry the weight any longer. Put the blame back where it belongs: the cancer, the accident (which is just that an accident), sickness or even the enemy of our souls.  You will heal much quicker and faster when you let go of what you could not change and are not responsible for.  Father, In Jesus' name release these mourners who suffer with guilt.  Help them to see the situation as you see it.  Set them free from guilt and blame.  Renew their mind with the truth of your Word and set them free from the guilt.  Give them your peace, comfort them as they mourn, give them the oil of joy, and remove a spirit of heaviness. In Jesus' name, Amen.

Monday, February 13, 2012


Whitney Houston died this past weekend. And all over Facebook I saw comments about her. It takes me back to my own personal loss, losing my husband at age 38 of a drug overdose. So many of the comments are those that we said about Jonathan. And many of the I have said repeatedly. 

"It was probably drugs."  Many people referenced her addictions and although at the time a cause of death had not been announced people knew.  And that's how it was with us. Those who knew Jonathan and his struggles knew, even though I didn't announce a cause of death.  I didn't have to say. 

"What a waste!" I can't tell you how many times I said that, and heard it said. When someone dies young we look at the balance of life they missed out on and it causes us to be sadder for what could have been. But when it's a needless death from an addiction, like an overdose, that loss is magnified. Jonathan could have gone on to do great things. He could have continued to raise his children. He could have continued to lead the window cleaning industry in professionalism and excellence. But he didn't. He died young. He died before he fulfilled all the plans God had for his life. It was a waste of his talent, abilities, gifts and callings. 

"In a way its a blessing." Unless you have struggled in addiction or watched a loved one suffer under it this comment seems cold and insensitive. But that couldn't be further from the truth. Addiction is bondage. It holds a person captive and destroys anything good in it's path. And anyone tied to that person is dragged along with them. When my late husband died, God continually told me two things. "he's free" and "your free".   His death freed him from his pain and torment. The chains of addiction held him down in such a way there was no escape. Death freed him. And it freed us, not only from the effects of his struggles but also the pain and torment of watching a loved one destroy themselves day by day.  Recognizing this truth does not negate your love for them. Jonathan was greatly loved. And perhaps it's that love which understands this statement most.  True love sets people free, even if it means losing them. 

"Truly an amazing artist." Last week I wrote a whole post on how someone's death effects the way in which we remember them.  It gives us an ability to look past a person's faults to see the treasure. The world did it when Michael Jackson died, and they are doing it with Whitney Houston.  I did that with Jonathan.  His funeral was an amazing memorial of the man he was, the impact he made on the window cleaning industry.  It was not a gossip fest of his issues, but rather a celebration of his life!

"Addiction is a horrible disease."  I didn't know whitney. I didn't have to. I knew Jonathan. I saw his pain. I saw his struggles. Addiction is a horrible tragedy that destroys. It takes beautiful talented people with a purpose in this life and wastes it away. Unless we have personally had an addiction, we don't truly understand.  We look at situations like Whitney, or my late husband, and we judge their choices.  We say things like, "why don't they get self control", or question why they would choose drugs when they have so much!  And we shake our head.  But the truth is addiction has a hold that those of us on the outside will never understand.  It is a disease.  And we shouldn't judge, but rather pray.  I believe nothing short of a miracle of God can truly free a person from addiction. So instead of judging something we have no business judging, let's pray for those caught in addiction, that they would experience a true freedom that only God can bring.

My heart aches for everyone who suffers under addiction. Every person who dies daily whose name is not known, whose talents have not yet been revealed to this world and now never will be, I think of them. And every family member who loves a person bound in chains, prisoner to drugs, I think of them. And my late husband, a man who suffered, but now is free, I think of him. 

Friday, February 10, 2012


When my late husband died, I felt this hurry and rush to get rid of his stuff.  Someone I respected greatly in my life had shared her story how God had led her family to remove all of her deceased husband's belongings from her home the day he died.  It helped her healing process immensely.  Knowing this, I thought if I want to get through this and heal I need to do the same.  So I went through his belongings and gave things away, all within the first week.  Months later I was longing for his Bible, and wishing I kept his shirts to make a blanket for my son.  It wasn't the right time for cleansing.  And I learned it the hard way.  

Now 14 months later I am downsizing.  In preparation for selling my home, and reducing my living space by almost 2/3, I am needing to clean through.  While I removed almost all of my late husband's belongings immediately, there are so many things I still have which were ours, or my personal belongings which are a symbol and memory of the life we had together.  Some of them are little things like pictures, our original towels we registered for and cards he sent.  And there are other things like the first couch we picked out, our baby grand piano which I taught my step daughter how to play, or his desk.  

As I prepare for the move, I'm throwing out, donating and selling a lot of things. I recognized that it feels really good.  I had been dreading dealing with all these things, and ultimately starting over where my possessions are concerned.  But its been healthy, and I have felt a lot of healing.  See there is a time to cleanse your past, to wash away what was, and let God begin a new work.  When God prompts you to take that step, and clean out, it will be refreshing.  It may still be hard, there may still be tears, but in the end you will feel lighter, and refreshed.  It took me 14 months to hit the place where the cleansing came and brought refreshing!  I feel lighter, excited, and ready to close that chapter of my life, in a way I wasn't aware of before.

Another important lesson I learned was that what God directs one person to do is not a formula or "the" standard.  I need to hear from God for myself, and let Him work His healing through me in the way He knows is best.  Each one of us widows is different.  We may have a common bond, and understand the hurt and pain, confusion and despair.  But our lives, our marriage, our loss of our spouse is a unique experience.  We need God to lead us through the grieving process.  There is no formula for healing.  There is no typical way that grief appears in our lives, or our children's.  Each one of us have a different story, a different experience and a different path to healing.  My prayer for you is that you would hear God's voice behind you leading you down your path.  And as you listen that you would experience His promise to you:  

To comfort all who mourn,
To console those who mourn in Zion,
To give them beauty for ashes,
The oil of joy for mourning,
The garment of praise for the spirit of heaviness
Isaiah 61:2-3

Wednesday, February 8, 2012

A Memory

Tonight as I looked out the window, I saw the most beautiful sunset.  I stopped my son from playing, and we walked to the window to admire it together.  As we stood there looking and talking about God's painting in the sky, I thought of my late husband, Jonathan.  Before him I never noticed the sunset, or the arrangement of the clouds in the sky on a bright summer day.  He taught me to stop and enjoy the beauty of life around me.  And when I stop everything to admire a sunset, or stare into the clouds, I think of him.  So I wrote a Facebook post about it.  As soon as I posted it I wondered if I should have.  I'm moving on in so many ways, closing the door on that part of my life.  Was it appropriate to post this?  I thought about where we were in our relationship when he died, we were headed to divorce.  Would a divorcee post something about how the sunset reminds them of their ex, because he taught her how to stop and enjoy creation?  Likely not.

Death has an interesting effect on how we remember our loved one.  It doesn't matter how they lived, or the things they did, we tend to remember them in a much more positive light.   I'm not saying my late husband wasn't a good man, because he was.  He just didn't live life to the fullness of that good nature which dwelled within him.  And as I am spending time recovering from his death and the destructive lifestyle I was connected to, I am more and more aware of the negative impact his sickness and issues had on me.  But yet I continue to memorialize him.  I look past the struggles and the faults and in moments like these, I remember the good side.

Had he lived, and we had been divorced, I wonder if I would view him in the same way which I do tonight.  Would it have been a pleasant thing to think of him as I stared at the sunset?  Would I have carried a bitterness and anger for how our life turned out, instead of sadness?  The mere fact that he is no longer alive here on earth impacts the way I walked out of the horrible situation in which I found myself.  And I can't deny that it helps me to look back on our life with fondness in ways I may never have been willing to.  I am grateful for that.  We had good times, and he made me the woman I am today, through the good and the bad.  So I will cherish these memories and I will cherish these moments when I can see how he touched my life.