Compelled to Breathe

(Yes, some pictures are sideways. No, I can’t figure out how to fix it. I have tried all week and lost interest. Just tilt your head sideways and voila!…)

Grieving with three young kids is tough. I have all these emotions and thoughts, but I don’t have the time or opportunity to process them. My kids are still so young at 5, 4, and 2, so demanding is an understatement. In some ways it has been a blessing because it has forced me to grieve slowly and in pieces. I simply have no option to hide away in my bedroom, draw the shades, blast me some sad music and cry the day away. I want to sometimes, but it isn’t an option. I have to be there for my kids. School dropoff and pickup, swim class, cleaning, counseling, bills, making meals and packing lunches. My life can’t stop.

The day after Marcus passed, a wonderful woman told me that Marcus would show himself everywhere. At first I brushed it off because that seems weird, right? I was so wrong. God was EVERYWHERE. One day I will share an actual list because it was so incredible, and it gave me a reason to smile when the pain was so intense and physical.

So let me tell you a story, and it has a lot of context so bear with me. A few days after Marcus passed, a friend asked if I wanted to go see For King and Country. A client had given her tickets months ago, not realizing the significance of the band for us. So for those who don’t know, that band has been a household staple for our family. My kids can sing every word to Joy, and we even played it at Marcus’ funeral. So YES, of course I want to go! But the concert was in Florida, and we live in New Hampshire. Womp womp. My sister whips out her phone, checks her airline miles, and guess who had enough miles to fly her and I to Florida for FREE?! (Well, not free, she had to pay a $22 transaction fee… also Marcus’ number, but that is part of the whole God-showing-us story!).

Fast forward six weeks after Marcus passed and my sister, her husband, and I (and Scarlett, a last minute addition!) were on an airplane for a basically free trip to the sunshine. We were headed towards the much anticipated “Jesus week,” as I would call it. We were able to stay with Marcus’ best friend and his family and spend a few days just relaxing and enjoying the sun and a break from the schedules. I knew I needed it, but I didn’t know how much! I spent hours reading, praying, pouring over our Job Bible study, and just reflecting. It was so healing. And I am so glad it worked out for Scarlett to come to because girlfriend needed a vacation too! God figured it all out so we had no excuses NOT to go.

The band was playing at Strawberry Festival in Lakeland, which coincidentally was one of Marcus and my first dates back in college. And, we had done this same trip exactly three years ago, which was so random but probably not! I am learning that nothing is really a coincidence. It was absolutely incredible. We were up front and center and I spent most of the concert sobbing while worshiping. It was just so surreal to hear these songs that had become so important to our family come to life, and their performance was amazing!

My sister and I had bought tickets for the Lauren Daigle concert in Boston forever ago, and it all worked out so we landed back in Boston Saturday afternoon, enjoyed walking and eating with some friends in the city, and experience another night of worship. God is just so good.

I am just so thankful. Life is still really hard. When I get overwhelmed and stuck in the sad, God has been so faithful to give me little hugs like this. Well, this wasn’t a little hug…this was one giant embrace! My life is so different than before. I have so many new perspectives, priorities, and worries than I ever did. But God is there and He has been, and I am confident He will continue to be. I am so glad that I was basically forced to make room and to get away. I was compelled to actually breathe, let it all sink in, have a few more teary sob fests with friends, and remember the amazing man my husband was.

This is not the end of my story, it is part of it. I can’t wait to see what the next chapter holds.

Also, I should note, there were quite a few parts of this trip that were way more emotional than I realized they would be. I was looking forward to the vacation, and didn’t realize how hard it would be to be in an airport without him. We always traveled together. We traveled so much these past couple years! Also we landed in Tampa, which is where we first met and began our life together. I am giving myself grace and permission to feel these emotions. They come out of nowhere, completely unexpected. But it is ok. None of this was expected. I am grieving and will always be in some way. So I hereby give you permission to acknowledge whatever it is you are going through and respect it. Life is hard, it throws you some curveballs, and we need to adapt and understand what we are feeling. Give each other grace and room to have emotions. Emotions are not a weakness.

Here are a few moments from our trip I want to remember…


On our way to the airport! Scarlett’s first Uber. (She is in a booster! Check out this super cool one my friend let me borrow that can fit in your PURSE. Seriously.
Working diligently on writing her own luggage tag
We found our airplane!
So excited!
Bye winter!
Six mile run to appreciate the fact that my face doesn’t hurt when I run!
Drinking in the vitamin D
The whole group! Adam, Kelsey, Daynet, me, Eric, and Scarlett.
My beauty.
For King and Country!
You can tell how Scarlett felt about the evening… she will appreciate it one day!
Putting on a brave face in spite of how tired she was!
The next day at the Strawberry Festival. SUNSHINE.
Officially wiped out.
Delirious at the airport. She was so exhausted, but I saw my precious girl sparkle again. Worth it.
Flight back home!
I highly recommend this book. Lysa is a gifted writer and has such a painful past, and she still clings to God and draws others to Him! What an inspiration.
Quick change in the airport family bathroom before my aunt picked up Scarlett and our luggage so Kelsey and I could explore Boston with friends! Sometimes you just have to make it work 😆
Met up with some babes to explore the city!
Jess and Kelsey at the Lauren Daigle concert
It’s blurry, but Lauren Daigle was awesome. Such powerful words and incredible voice!
We drove back the next morning in a white out snowstorm! And then got stuck in my driveway. It was worse than it looks, ok?! You can’t tell the angle from here… but my driveway is a bit… challenging. And I was sliding down and couldn’t back out. I am thankful for awesome neighbors to rescue me! Welcome back to the north!

There are more people than I could even list that made this trip possible and I want to thank. My mom and dad for watching the kids. Kelsey and Adam for the flights. Eric and Daynet for the lodging. My aunt Kristen for help with parking and watching Scarlett. And so many more people who made the trip even possible! So thank you. Thank you for giving me time and space away so I could breathe and take it all in and truly process it all. I am so thankful for the many amazing people in my life!

Why We Don’t Do Santa

Why We Don't Do Santa

This is going to sound like the biggest ba-humbug statement ever, but our family doesn’t do Santa. (I know, I can hear you gasping in horror from here). Now, please let me explain. I am not out to make my kids’ childhoods terrible or deprive them of something awesome. It is just something that we decided wasn’t something for us. Here are a few reasons why:

We want the credit.

My husband busts his butt to provide a nice home for our family and put food on the table (and I make a few pennies here and there, but nothing to support our family on). That magical moment when the kids are opening gifts and they are in AWE of the great gifts they got; oh how I live for that! And to hear them utter “thanks SANTA” instead of “thanks mom/dad”? No thanks. I spent hours planning, shopping, and wrapping. Why would I let my kids believe someone else gave them that gift? No sir! I am selfish, and I am completely ok with that!

It is confusing.

We are Christians, so we believe and teach our kids about Jesus and his birthday. That’s the meaning of the season, right? While I know there are ways to teach about Jesus and Santa cohesively and without taking away from the true meaning of the season, we just couldn’t figure out how to balance that. Our focus as parents was to point our kids to Jesus, and we felt that by introducing Santa would only take away from the true meaning of the season.

It is complicated.

Since our kids are all under the age of four, they aren’t quite to that age where they can think about the dynamics of the whole Santa thing. But, I’ve heard of the questions the kids come up with- and I can understand why it would be confusing! How can one man visit the millions of kids around the world? How does he enter homes with no fireplace? How do reindeer actually fly? How old is Santa? The story is flawed. And I know I would feel like I was lying to my kids or misleading them if I couldn’t answer sufficiently. I just can’t get beyond the fact that I would straight up lie to my kids. It just feels unnecessary.

 

We try very hard to make the Christmas season magical for our kids. So, even though we don’t introduce Santa, the season is filled with love and fun traditions. We cut down a tree at a local farm and decorate it as a family. We open special Christmas jammies. We go see Christmas lights. We open presents and stockings on Christmas morning, as well as other days throughout December with family/friends. We read the story of Jesus’ birth from the Bible on Christmas. Our kids watch Christmas movies, some of which have Santa in it. I am not anti-Santa, we just don’t “do” it. We are a few years into this parenting thing and our kids seem to have survived thus far!

What do you do as a family? Do you introduce Santa or not? Do you have any special traditions? Share and let me know if you agree!

Why We Don't Do Santa

Did you check out my other Christmas gift guides? Click the links below for some gift-buying inspiration!
What I Want for Christmas

Women’s Stocking Stuffer Guide

Men’s Stocking Stuffer Guide