The Wedding Story

Most girls spend the months (or years) leading up to their wedding date furiously planning flowers, dresses, tuxedos, music, venues, themes, color schemes, bridesmaids, groomsmen, receptions, food, guests, invitations, and honeymoons. All I wanted was to be his wife. All those other details just seemed like white noise. Marrying him was truly my only focus. So much so, in fact, that the week leading up to the big day, my sister lovingly looked at me and said, “This really is just kind of a ‘by the seat of your pants’ kind of wedding, isn’t it?!” I’m sure my lack of planning made some a bit nervous, but I knew that with as smoothly as God has allowed each step we’d taken thus far to fall, this wedding wouldn’t be any different. Just one short year earlier, a 24-year hiatus from our college dating and any type of communication, had surprisingly coming to an halt. This relationship reignited quickly and urgently, and truthfully neither one of us quite knew what to do with it at the start.

He and I have both been pleasantly shocked and thankful at the direction this relationship quickly took. Within probably 2 weeks of us initially reconnecting, I said to him, “You’re totally going to marry me!” I just knew. Something in my spirit knew that neither of us would be satisfied with simply continuing a long distance dating relationship. Although I’m not sure he’d admit it, I’m certain that deep down this initially scared the pants off him. We went from, “Hi, Jeff, we’ve not spoken in 24 years. How are you doing?” to a very sudden, practically innate, discussion of where this relationship was going. It was just undeniable. I love our story. I love the grace God poured down upon us. It was truly a welcome, unexpected gift. Someday I’ll write our story in its completion, and include it in one place, but today isn’t that day.

When we knew that marriage was our next step, we started talking about how that would look. Would we just elope, and then tell everyone after the fact? We knew we wanted it quick, simple, inexpensive, and reflective of who we are. We quickly came to the realization that our two sweet mothers would most likely kill us if we tried to run off and do this alone. We knew our families were happy for us, and would want to be present for whatever type of ceremony we had. So, that much was decided. Parents definitely. Then, the children. If our children wanted to be present, and we hoped they would, we wanted them to be a part of the big day. I’m fortunate that I live in a small town, and I have a talented family. It was soon realized that my sister could be the photographer, while my brother in law could be the officiant. So now, we have my sis, her hubby, and of course her girls coming; so it was only fitting that we invite Jeff’s beautiful sisters as well. Our plan was never to make anyone feel excluded, while also realizing that an unintentional/intentional line would have to be drawn somewhere. Fifteen. Our attendance count was now fifteen.

Jeff had been looking for months for employment in TN, so he could move here and we could begin our lives together. The call came on Monday, January 8. He had been hired, and he would be starting work on January 22. We had much to do in a very short amount of time. Twelve days. It was agreed that we would get married in twelve days. We want to be married and living in our house together before he starts work. Now, I don’t know how many people have ever planned and pulled off a wedding in less than two weeks, but I must say, the whole thing pretty much went off without a hitch. As with all other things in the Jeff and Amanda story, I attribute that fact to one thing only. Fully Jesus. Jeff and I were listening to the will of God in our lives, and He was blessing us for it. Just as He had been doing all the months prior.

He and I discussed where would be a good place to get married. We talked about our house. Truth is, fitting fifteen people in the living room for a ceremony would have resembled a bunch of nicely dressed people packed in like commuters on a New York subway at rush hour, so we quickly scrapped that idea. We still wanted it to be a place that was meaningful to us. Then Jeff said, “What about your mom’s?” It was perfect. Of course, I love my mother’s home. Jeff had visited it when we dated back in college. It was a place I had spent much time during the past 27 years. Most importantly, it was last place I saw my father alive. I love that space. We asked Mom, and she was quick to agree. I told Carolynn that we wanted her to go to no extra trouble. I told her we would come to her house in the days before the wedding, and do all necessary cleaning/arranging. Before I was even off the phone with her from asking permission to get married in her house, that woman was painting baseboards in her living room. Truth.

I realized that with 15 people being present at our ceremony, and the time of day we would be holding the wedding (sometime between 3-4 p.m.), we would need to feed everyone. I wanted something light, because Jeff’s family had generously offered to take everyone to dinner at The General Morgan Inn in Greeneville after the wedding. So, I texted my sweet friend Mandy Royston from the middle of Walmart. Mandy and I had been friends for years. My daughter swam on her swim team. She consigned with me at Clothing Carousel. She used to have her own catering business. Her husband had been our preacher, and years ago, during a particularly difficult day I was having, Mandy told me that God had a special man out there for me. She told me I just needed to pray and be patient. I assured her that while I loved her tremendously, God most certainly did NOT have someone for me, because there weren’t any good men left. Mandy told me that day that she’d begin praying with me for God to move, and to bring “him” (whoever that was) to me. I appreciated her gesture, but I was certain I’d be an old woman with a hundred cats. I just wasn’t cut out for relationships. My track record wasn’t pretty. Now, at the time of this text from Walmart, Mandy knew that God had already brought Jeff into my life, and we’d already had our big cry of thankfulness over it when it first happened. So, today’s text was to ask her if she still catered. Mandy’s family had recently moved, and she had begun a new job. I wasn’t sure if she’d even have time. When I told her what it was for, she immediately called me, and said she’d be happy to do our food. I ordered some of her famous Mandy cupcakes- almond- and she agreed to do individual peanut butter pies for our guests. I was so grateful she agreed. At the end of our call, she told me that she was so happy that God had worked this out for my life, and she wanted the food from her to be her gift to me and Jeff. Any of you who know me will know that I immediately burst into tears in the middle of the deli section at Walmart. How was this even possible? God had completely provided our venue, our photographer, our officiant, and now our food. Just amazing.

In the next few days, we secured a marriage license, and began making lists of what still needed to be done. His family would arrive the Friday evening before the wedding. There was much to be done at the house to prepare. We’d invited Jeff’s sisters and children to stay at our house on Main Street, and my kids and I would make mom’s house our base camp for the weekend. We were off from school that Monday for MLK day, but I was scheduled to work the rest of the week. I did put in to be off that Friday to get final touches ready for our guest before they arrived. Then, just as perfectly scripted by God as ALL the rest of everything has been, our town has below freezing temperatures and snowfall which was enough to allow for school to be canceled for the entire week. Jeff and I were not only able to get ready for our company, we were able to integrate his furniture and things into the house, clean everything we could get our hands on, and organize everything down to the bathroom drawers. We were ready!

Everything was ticking along perfectly, and then- as life sometimes goes- a problem snuck up on us. The water pressure in the downstairs shower had recently become nonexistent. We’d have to have the issue fixed before his family came into town. Five people trying to get ready with only one functioning shower would be a bit tricky, so I started by calling the water department. The sweet gal on the other end of the line informed me that they’d noticed a jump in my water usage. I asked her how big a jump. She informed me that in a typical month my household uses somewhere around 3,000 gallons of water. She said that for this month ALONE, we were sitting in the range of about 66,000 gallons!!!! Holy WHAT?!?! These are those moments in life where you have mere seconds to make a choice about how you will react to something. I was certain the top of my head was going to blow off! We’d basically used enough water to fill several swimming pools full in less than a month’s time. All I could hear in my mind was the cha-ching of dollar signs floating over my head. Ugh. Then, I remembered, God has been so gracious and good to me through everything, this had to be the devil trying to rain on my parade. It was a 66,000 gallon rain, but nonetheless… I wasn’t going to give him the victory of stealing my joy. No way! So, I thanked the lady on the phone, she offered to send someone out to reread our meter, and we hung up. To make a long story short(ish), both the water department guy AND a plumber came out, and told us that it was going to be “bad.” There was no standing water inside the house, nor in the basement, nor anywhere outside that we could see. That most likely during the recent freezes, a pipe had burst underground, and the driveway AND yard would have to be dug up to find/fix the problem. I was expecting six of Jeff’s family members at my house in two days. We were getting married in three days. NO WAY could we have this level of destruction happening at this house. Still, we tried to stay positive. I went into the house. A short time later, Jeff walks into the house, and he’s beaming! He and the plumber had discovered a secret room underneath the front porch that I never even knew existed! It was in this hidden space that a two foot section of PVC pipe had sprung a leak, and was the root of our problem! Our major problem and yard-gutting situation turned into a $175 problem which was fixed in less than an hour. Total God moment. Without a doubt. Crisis averted.

When Friday finally arrived, Jeff and I were so excited to see his family! His sisters and children had traveled from Virginia, and his parents had driven up from Florida. We had dinner at our house, and my family and his all had the opportunity to meet one another for the first time. It was a special night. Everyone instantly got along, there was talking and laughter nonstop for several hours. Then, everyone said goodnight, and we all got ready for bed. Tomorrow was the big day!

My Saturday morning was busy and amazing. There was much to do in a short amount of time. Jeff and I were exchanging sweet texts during the morning. I had spent the night at my mom’s, and realized that the skirt I had decided to wear (still wasn’t sure about my top) was back at my house. Now, you need to know that this skirt is one I had purchased about 14 years ago. It had been worn once, and then hung in a closet. That morning I snuck back to my house, pulled the skirt out of the closet, and got quite a shock. This skirt appeared to have had a drink of some sort spilled down the front of it. Fourteen years ago. So, to reiterate, I’m just discovering that the skirt I’m wanting to wear to my wedding in about 5 hours has a 14-year-old stain on it. Not only that, it is- of course- dry clean only. I had asked Jessica to pick me up at the house, so I could go back to moms without a vehicle. When she pulled up, I hesitantly told her my dilemma with the skirt. We drove by the local dry cleaners, and I jumped out. I carried my skirt in with me, and showed the owner my problem. She apologetically told me that they don’t clean on Saturdays, and offered suggestions on how I might could pin my skirt, so the stain wouldn’t show. Jess and I drove back to moms house, where Jess immediately began googling how to wash dry clean only garments at home. My mind started to panic just a bit. In retrospect, perhaps waiting until 5 hours before I’m getting married to finalize my outfit wasn’t the smartest thing I’d ever done, but here we were. I heard Jess say something about cold water and Ivory soap. I start filling the tub with cold water, and grab a bar of soap. We submerge the skirt in the water, and the most amazing thing happened… the stain… it just disappeared! We didn’t even have to touch the soap to it. It was like the water melted it completely away. Jess and I just stared in amazement, and then cracked up. Again, total God. No way was that more-than-a-decade old stain just going to vanish, but it surely did! Gone! Like magic!

The rest of the morning was peaceful and precious. My daughter had asked if she could do my makeup. Considering she’s better at it at age 14 than I am at age 47, I easily agreed to it. My niece, Neely, agreed to do my hair; and my sister ran around all day with a camera documenting the preparations. Emma, my other niece, helped out with my kids and running any and all errands that needed to be run. All the while, an 80’s soundtrack quietly played in the background compliments of Neely who understands my love of all things from my high school era.

At three o’clock family starts arriving at my mom’s house. We had fantastic food, and all I could think about was wanting to go ahead and get married. We had planned to start our ceremony at four, but almost as soon as people started arriving, I knew I’d never make it until then. Jeff came in, looking as handsome as ever, and looked at me and said, “There’s my wife!” We hugged and quickly kissed. We greeted everyone, and shortly thereafter took our places in the living room. I don’t really know how to verbalize what took place in that room the afternoon of January 20. It was the same sort of other-worldly sweetness that was present the night my dad died in the next room over. You just knew God was in your midst. Jeff had suggested that we write our own vows. You may think that because I love to write so much, this would be an easy task for me. Not so. I experienced the same writer’s block now as I had when I tried to write what I would say at my dad’s service. A life moment this big required my BEST words. How could I possibly do it justice? I just prayed, and asked God for His help. I knew if I were left on my own, I’d fall over myself trying to speak. We had everyone to gather in the living room. We faced our family, and Jeff Millard (our acting officiant) stood right beside us. No one was having to look at anyone’s back. Jeff M. began by welcoming everyone and saying the beautiful message he had written about how God loved Jesus, how Jesus loved us, and how husbands and wives are called to love one another. It was perfect. During one part of his talk he mentions that he knows our story and after talking to us and others there is no doubt that God has ordained this. Then, the most amazing thing happened. My sweet brother in law (the same brother in law who shamelessly mocks the Elder women for crying so easily) began to get choked up. It was just precious. He continued to speak his wonderful words, and then Jeff and I said our vows. We cried and laughed and even kissed before we were supposed to, but it was just perfect. It was exactly what we wanted that day to be for us. Our family was there. That room was literally bursting at the seams with love. Tears flowed, and hearts were filled. I wouldn’t change one single second of that day. Not even the skirt incident. Everything was exactly how it was meant to be. After the ceremony ended, without any rehearsal beforehand, Jeff and I just started making our rounds hugging our family. My sweet Ava was in a pool of tears. It warmed my heart. I don’t think anyone in that room could deny that this union was anything but the complete will of God. My heart just burst with thankfulness. I never knew I would ever experience such blessings. I had a new husband. I added wonderful people, whom I genuinely love, to my family. Life is just beautiful.

I’ll tell you something else… and I didn’t really realize this until I started going through the amazing pictures that Jessica took of us that day. Her pictures are exquisite. However, I can be quite critical of myself at times. I’m not still 21, as I was when he and I first met. I don’t still have a stomach you could bounce quarters off of like I did when we first dated. This gal, this body, has experienced a lot of life in the time we’ve been apart. Jeff Crawford loves me just the same. He really, truly loves me. Just as I am. In a perfect world, I may have been several pounds lighter and perhaps all of this would have happened many years sooner, but the truth is- I’ve never felt more perfectly myself than I did that day, in that room, with that man. THIS is God’s will for my life. It has happened exactly when and how HE wanted it. I am humbled, and eternally grateful. I’m blessed to be Mrs. Jeffrey Alexander Crawford. He is my greatest love.

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Divorce and the Believer

This is a blog I’ve wanted to write for a while, but needed to take a few years to wrap my head around. I have a sweet friend, Jennifer Taylor, who posted a beautifully written article about a couple on the edge of divorce, who were able, only through the unfailing grace of God, to restore their marriage and stay together. I know for a fact this can happen. I’ve witnessed it firsthand. But what about the other side of that coin? What if you find yourself divorced (or divorcing) as a Christian? Have we totally let both our families and our Creator down? I’d like to share (some) of my personal experience. 

I became a Christian at the age of ten. I grew up in the church, and cultivated a very real and personal relationship with Jesus Christ. I was always taught that if I wished to marry, I should pray that God would send me the spouse He intended for me. I did, for many, many years. Without boring you with unnecessary details, in my Christian walk, I’ve had seasons of being close to God, and seasons of being further away. I think most of us can relate. Probably beginning with college, I found myself living more for me than HIM. This was what I refer to as my “season of selfishness.” I made my own choices, and consulted with God on very little. He was never fully absent in my life, but the static and noise of my everyday life became too loud for me to ever really listen to Him. During this time, and into adulthood, I made mistakes- many of them. Some people proclaim loudly, “I wouldn’t change a thing in my life, because it’s made me the person I am today.” I’m not those people. There is SO MUCH I would go back and change if I could. Stupid decisions, most taking merely seconds to make, have had a long-lasting ripple effects (dare I say “consequences”) throughout my life.

One of those would be when it came to marriage. The Bible tells us that we are not to be unequally yoked (2 Cor. 6:14). This means if you are a Christian, we are not to marry non-Christians. As a Christian, we receive the Holy Spirit. A non-Christian doesn’t have that gift. They aren’t able to view life, the world, and the will of God for their lives as we are. This creates a myriad of difficulties for an unyoked couple to overcome. I’ve even realized that we may marry someone who says they are a Christian, but I would encourage you to look for FRUIT. Do you actually SEE Jesus in their lives? Is it reflected in how they conduct their daily lives? If you do not, I firmly believe this is yet another example of being unyoked. 

Anyway, considering I have young children, and I always state that the “why” behind the unraveling of my marriage is unimportant (someday, perhaps my children and I will have that discussion, maybe not). Let’s just say that my marriage and my home became an uninhabitable place. For years, I pleaded with God for the restoration of my marriage. I cried out to Him to preserve this family unit that I so desperately wanted to keep intact. There were pastors involved, counseling, praying friends, etc. We would experience brief moments of peace, but ultimately, the chaos and unrest would creep back in and overtake any peace that had been found. This is where the battle for me truly began. How can I, as a Christian, get a divorce? Doesn’t this go against every ounce of scripture and teaching of Christ I had ever been taught? Won’t this be an embarrassment for my extended family? How can I demonstrate a Christian walk, and knowingly walk headfirst into a divorce?

Here’s what I’ve learned… first, you will be judged. This initial judgment is by the world. It’s painful. However, after about 3 years of fighting fiercely to keep my family together, I realized that by staying I was actually doing my children more harm. The words, the actions, the fights they were witnessing was doing damage to them. I’m supposed to protect them, right? What protection was I offering them by keeping them in a hotbed of anger? Those who judge aren’t privy to the endless hours of calling out to God for reconciliation. Those who judge aren’t witness to the nights of laying with my face to the floor praying to God for His mercy. Those people didn’t have to live within my four walls. They don’t know the behind the scenes damage taking place in my lovely, historical home. 

Second, I knew that God would judge me. However, I also know that I serve a God of forgiveness. As painful a decision as it was to agree to the decision the day I had papers served to me just months after the death of my father, I knew that it would take more than one person to salvage this marriage. I couldn’t do all the work for the both of us. It doesn’t work that way. So, I continued to pray, and ask for forgiveness and for covering for my family. 

Third, I will freely admit that this was one of the darkest periods of my life. I’ve never felt so empty, so helpless, so hopeless, so alone. My only comfort was that I had an amazing support system of friends and family who offered prayer and support throughout. There were many days I didn’t feel that I’d survive it. I had only two reasons to get out of bed each day, and their names were Ava and Elijah. I wanted them to see their mother not devastated by the circumstances, but instead leaning on my hope in my Heavenly Father. I was so weak, but He was strong. 

In closing, and in case you’re wondering, God brought me through that dark wilderness. He never left my side. I had to fight many battles, and there were times that I only made it because He carried me. Isn’t that what our gracious Father is all about, after all? Even when we mess up, He still loves us unconditionally. So much so, in fact, that He made the ultimate sacrifice, sending His own Son, to pay for our transgressions. Today, five years later, I’m in a place of peace that I never ever thought possible. God has poured out blessing over blessing upon me and my children. So, yes, I am divorced. More importantly, I am a child of God, who has been forgiven from the moment my sweet Jesus experiences His nail-scarred hands. God is so good. Never lose sight of the fact that He is present in all times, even those when we are struggling to see the Light ourselves. 

Be blessed, my friends. ❤️

Feels Like Home

Today, I have a sick child.  Ava isn’t feeling well, and we left church early, so my mom could take her to her house.  She put her in a bed, so I could run out in the car and get the things she needed.

When I returned to my mother’s, there is my child, snug as a bug in her grandmother’s bed.  She’s buried up to her eyeballs in a comfy blanket, and is lying still as can be on my mother’s heated mattress pad.  All in all, not a bad situation if you’re sick.  My mom is catering to her.  I am catering to her.  All is right with the world.  After all, isn’t all any of us really need in this world is to know that there’s someone out there who is going to take care of us?  This is a perfect segue for me to bring in the fact that our Heavenly Father, ultimately, is the One Who will always take care of us.  It is always He Who will meet our needs.  But for today, I’m talking about humans.  Those angels right here on Earth who are placed in our lives to cater to us when we have our own needs.

Once I knew that Ava was safe and secure in bed, had been given the fluids and meds that she needed, my entire body- mind and all- just wanted to shut down for a bit.  I made myself a place on a couch in my mother’s room (within eyeshot of Ava), found my own comfy blanket, and allowed myself to just turn everything off for a moment.  For this rare, fleeting instance I wasn’t going to be mom, or teacher, or friend, or sister, or any other hat that I wear.  I was simply going to be “Amanda”, and I was going to let myself get the rest I’ve needed.

It struck me, as I was attempting to tune my mind off of the everyday static, just how blessed I am to have a mother’s home to go to where I can let the stressors of the everyday world just wash off of me the moment I enter the threshold of her home.  Home.  That’s the key.  It is in this feeling (this sense) of “home” that I am most at peace.  An important aspect that I’ve learned over the years is that HOME doesn’t have anything to do with a location.  Home is not an address.  It doesn’t matter if my family is residing in Fort Smith, AR, or in Rogersville, TN, my home is truly where they are.

It is at this home that I would return from weekends at college- armloads of laundry to do, and parents who were eager to see us.  I could rest here like nothing I would ever experience at school.  Too many friends, dances, nights, and classes to really be able to let oneself completely relax.

It is at this home that I would bring newborn babies.  Tired, frazzled, and feeling exhaustion like I’ve never known, and I could hand over these little loves of my life to people who loved them (almost!) equally as much.  I could lie down, and close my eyes, and recharge my completely drained battery.

It is at this home that I would return during the darkest days of my divorce, and be able to just rest, cry, and know that someone in the other room had my best interest at heart.  Regardless of what was happening in my personal life, I never had to worry about being alone.  As long as my family is here, I’ll always have someone.  That’s a good thing to know.

It is at this home that I would spend the last few months/weeks/days/moments of my father’s life.  What should, on the surface, be a difficult space to enter into because of the insurmountable levels of loss experienced on that January day, is a complete place of peace for me.  Ironically, it is because of the insurmountable levels of loss experienced on that day, paired with the peace and love that burst into every corner of the home… filling the walls, and the air, and all spaces in between with the sweetest of memories any human could ever be fortunate enough to have.  Immeasurable love abides here.

It is at this home that even now, as I type this, my mother (without a word) sets down a cup of hot tea beside me and walks away.  I realize how blessed I am.  I am so thankful for this home which has been provided for me, my children, and all who enter into our world.

Giving Thanks

I realized just tonight that I began blogging on this site on practically this exact day in 2009. Let me just say that WOW, the landscape of my life looks so different now than it did back then! I’m astounded at the changes and challenges that have occurred, but also at the overwhelming peace and perfection of the place I’ve found myself settled into today.

Who can predict from day to day where life is going to take them? How many of us can look back to even this time last year and see the absences and additions in our lives? Jobs, people, life… it ripples up and down like a slow-moving wave deep out in the middle of a vast ocean. We are all trying to navigate our ships out there, the ups and the downs, and to not allow a rough time to bring so much water into our ship that we drown. 

I’m thankful that I have a personal relationship with the Captain of my vessel. He is the One ultimately responsible for getting us to shore safely. Our job is to listen and follow His instruction. How comforting it is to know that I, in my limited wisdom of handing the ship, am not the one in charge. I have definite responsibilities during the voyage, but He is the guiding force. 

My thankfulness this season begins here… right here.  It is from this point that all other blessings and lessons are determined. 

My wish for each of you reading this is that you have a wonderful day of celebration with people you love. Take a quiet moment to hug everyone a little tighter knowing that this landscape may not look exactly the same next year. We are given these precious moments. They must not be minimized, or taken for granted.  I wish each of you a personal relationship with your Captain. It is through Him that you will have more to give thanks for than you ever imagined possible.

Abundant blessings to you all! Happy voyage!

Love ’em if you got ’em

Tomorrow will mark the 2nd Father’s Day my family will experience without my dad.  If you’ve lost a parent you understand the pain.  If you’ve not this message is really for you.

I was fortunate in my household to have grown up with a very expressive family- perhaps too expressive at times.  There was never a shortage of discussion in the Elder household- whether it was about church, life, boys, God, school, friends just whatever.  Jess and I grew up having open lines of communication with our parents from the time we could speak.  We were always encouraged to express ourselves (a life lesson I often wonder if my mother regrets having trained me in SO well!).  I never had to wonder how my parents felt about me.  “I love you” was a common phrase used in our house.  I’m not trying to paint an unrealistic picture of a fairytale existence, but the truth is we all  liked each other and even though we had our squabbles at times they were usually short-lived.

This Sunday, just as it is most other days, there isn’t anything I wouldn’t give to have the opportunity to see  my father just one more time.  I would give all the earthly possessions that I have for even just 15 minutes of sitting in his presence, holding his hand, hugging his sweet neck, hearing his voice say “Mandy” or “Manda” to me, and getting to be with him.  I miss my dad like I never knew I was capable of missing someone.  It’s an ache that comes from a deep place inside and never truly goes away.  I’m not even sure it fades.  I think I just chose to tune it out during the times when it is too hard to take.  It’s an enduring absence that never lessens.

Most of you know, but some may not, that during his sickness my father was at home.  It was his wish and my mother fulfilled it perfectly, beautifully, unselfishly, and without complaint.  The importance of that for our family was two-fold.  First, my dad’s final wish was being honored.  How could any of us not honor this man who had shown such honor for us as husband and father?  Second, we were able to see him all the time.  The night he died we stood at his bedside, and whereas in the movies a family will gather around and have the opportunity to say final words and things they’d never had a chance to say before, for our family it was simply a restating of the words and love we had for him every day.  Mom, Jess, and I all got to thank him.  We all told him how proud we were of him and what an amazing job he had been as provider, leader, and spiritual covering he had been for all of us.  I will forever be thankful for those moments.  Hard as they were to go through they were as perfect as we could have ever hoped for.

I guess what I’d like to express in this blog is this one simple thought- while you still have your family, your parents, your siblings…. love them.  Tell them that you love them.  When we are able to step out of ourselves for a moment and really, really take a hard look at the big picture it’s amazing how the problems and quarrels that we felt were “so big” will simply fall away like ashes from a burning paper.  People fuss.  We disagree.  We hurt one another whether intentionally or accidentally, and we all could benefit from growing up and learning to be more forgiving and more thoughtful.  If you have your loved ones this holiday, or this Sunday, or any day this month please don’t take it for granted.  Things can change in an instant.  I promise you.  Hug your dad tomorrow.  Kiss his face and tell him you love him.  In doing that simple and important action you’ll have the opportunity to do something that I’ll never again be able to do in this lifetime.  Don’t miss the opportunity.

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