Answered Prayers….

I was asked by the pastor of my church to share my faith story – specifically focused on surviving the storm. Now some people might panic or think “no” I cannot do that – stand up in front of the entire church and speak; but not me I love sharing my story so of course I said yes!! Below you will find my faith story that I shared at Freshwater Church on Saturday, February 14, 2015. I pray that my story and the storm that I went through will help you find your way through your own personal storm.

On September 7, 2011 my husband and the father of my 3 children died and on that day my faith changed forever! Mike had been fighting cancer for 27 months and during that time…

…I had been waging my own battle; one for my faith.

Faith

From the outside looking in I looked strong and secure in my faith and in my hope of the future, I spoke confidently to everyone about how my faith was getting me through and how I knew that God would answer our prayers. In my private moments and prayers to God I begged, pleaded and even tried to bargain with God to save Mike’s life all for my own selfish reasons. It was the most difficult time I have ever experienced in my life. Like the disciples in the boat, my faith was shaken.  Even though my faith was shaken during those months, it never crumbled. Shortly before Mike died, I fell to my knees and prayed like I have never prayed before though it was so very simple – I prayed that God would guide me as what I should do next. I was having to make huge, life changing decisions by myself because Mike’s health had declined so much. When Mike died 2 weeks later I can say that I was grateful to God for answering my prayers. They had not been answered in the way that I wanted, but I knew then that he was listening to me…

…he heard every whisper, every cry and was with me during the entire storm.

That was the day that I was forever changed though at the time I didn’t realize how much or what the future purpose was. God had given me a peace that I cannot describe, though I knew he was there and He lifted me when I could not lift myself.

I turned to closer to God in the coming days, weeks and months because I knew he was listening he guided me through the deepest darkest moments within my grief and gave me a hope that stirred within me. Within a few months I started to take small steps to realize my purpose in this life and that including finding myself again. I was 33 years old when Mike died and for 27 months I had cared for him so I wasn’t really sure who I was anymore. This storm tore me apart so I had to begin rebuilding myself again with God’s help so I could fulfill my purpose. I went to yoga class, I changed my hair, and I began dating a wonderful man. It was a whirlwind of change, but I was ready for it and needed it.

Life wasn’t over, I just turned a new chapter.

Around the same time I created a Facebook group specifically for the caregivers of cancer patients. I could never find a group that supported me during Mike’s illness so I formed one after he died and today I have people from all walks of life that support each other while they care for their spouses. I started to write a book from my perspective as the caregiver and I started a blog (this blog) to tell my story.  It was cathartic and reassuring to me that I could help others through my story.

Two years after Mike’s death, I found Modern Widows Club and I knew then that I was called to minister to widows in a way that supported them and showed them that they can move forward all while honoring their past. I started a chapter in Waconia and every month I host widows at my home and love them like Jesus called us to do. 

I married Jeff in 2013 who is a wonderful, caring, and loving husband. Our blended family of 8 is very happy though we are just like every other family and have our rough moments. God has helped us to endure and we have all grown closer to Him throughout the process, something I could never have imaged when Mike was first diagnosed with cancer.

Through Mikes death and all of our suffering that went along with it, God has transformed me into a stronger woman of God, one that speaks passionately and without refrain about her faith and my everlasting hope in Jesus Christ. Mike’s death helped me to fully become the person that God wanted me to become.

I encourage you to keep your eyes on Jesus during the storms in your life. God will carry you through it and give you a peace that you didn’t even know was possible. I know because he provided that peace for me.

The sun will eventually shine again, just be sure to look up so you can see it. 

Sunshine

The above photo was taken on a recent vacation to Antigua with Jeff. Life is so very beautiful when you stop for a minute, focus on God and allow yourself to see the beauty no matter what the storm you might be in or have gone through in the past.

I pray that my story and storm help you find your way through your own personal storm.

Blessings,

Lyn

Age, it’s just a number…Right?!?

I have never been one to worry much about my age; when my best girlfriends and I turned 25 and many of them felt like they were already getting old, I never thought much about it. Then when we turned 30 – I thought who cares life is great, I had just had my 3rd baby and I was feeling overall very happy with my life. Then I turned 36 this past May and it hit me like a ton of bricks and I felt this weight of sadness that sat on my chest and I couldn’t figure out why for several days.  I realized that I would live longer than Mike at some point during this year of my life. I always knew that though just like everything else about being a widow – these moments come up when you might least expect it. Realizing that Mike will never be 37 just struck me and as the days passed I thought it would be interesting to learn what day I would actually be older than Mike. He lived to be 36 years and 247 days so when add that number of days to my birthday I arrived at today’s date – January 4, 2015.

Privlage of aging

 I will be 36 and 247 days old on what would have been Mike’s 40th Birthday!

My personal Facebook feed has been filled with hopeful and almost overly positive thoughts focused on wanting to find 2015 better than the past year in a 100% different ways. It is natural to want the future to be better than the past, many believe that they need the new year to have a fresh start to begin. In reality you can take the small steps to change anytime you want! Mike’s death changed my life for the good and bad, though I chose to focus on the good and realize that it gave me the opportunity to change. Things are different because Mike lived and things are different because he died and I am different because of him. Now as I begin to officially live longer than Mike I choose to continue to embrace the change, live big, out loud and just for me!

As I wrote this I thought of a man I met last year; Phil Hansen. He spoke at my work conference and his thoughts on life and “embracing the shake” really stuck with me. You can watch his TED Talk below.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YrZTho_o_is 

http://philinthecircle.com/

Mike will never live to be 36 and 248 days old so I have some amazing living to do for us both starting TODAY!

 No regrets

“What is perceived as bad things in life might be the best things that happen in our life…it is just how we look at it and if we choose…”

What will you do with the number of days of your life and how will you make them count?

Blessings,

Lyn

Patience…

Today is December 2nd and for many that date doesn’t mean anything but it means everything to me. Mike and I were engaged on December 17 on the 26th Floor of the Marriott Hotel in downtown Minneapolis. It was a magical Christmas centered evening! I had my heart set on a December wedding, so we selected December 2, 2000 as our wedding day. Unfortunately the church I grew up in and was to be married in did not do weddings after Thanksgiving because of the various holiday programs and decor. I know we even offered to use all of what they had for decor and not do our own decor so they wouldn’t have to reset anything within the church, but it wasn’t meant to be so I had my Christmas themed wedding in November which had its own special meaning to it because it was on the 18 of the month and both our parents were married on the 18 of the month they married and later my brother & sister-in-law were married on the 18 of another month. I will admit that I was fairly disappointed at first, but Mike reassured me that something special was going to happen on a future December 2 so that date needed to be saved so I just needed to be patient.

Patience-allows-life-time-to-fall-in-place.8x10

Well over the years I speculated about what December 2 might mean for us……

When Jeff asked me out on our 1st date I never realized what date on the calendar it was; only that it was a Friday night and I could get a babysitter. About halfway through the day I realized what date it was…

December 2

I felt like Mike was smiling down on me and saying “it’s okay with me, have fun and be happy”.  Jeff once told me that Mike walked me through the first part of my life and that he was here to walk me through the rest of my life and I honestly believe that is true.

I am incredibly blessed to have special meaning on this day with the 2 loves of my life.

Having patience is hard and knowing that all in God’s time things will happen as designed. I know from experience this can be particularly hard for widows to understand because sometimes we cannot understand why we lost the one we loved so much or how life can ever move forward when we feel so lost and left behind in life. Because I have been willing to be patient and have faith I have found the most profound blessings in my life.

Wishing you a very Merry Christmas!

Lyn

Secret Mission…

Love Again

Over the years I have been asked the question of “how did I manage to find love again” and sometimes people are confrontational enough to ask if “I ever loved Mike since I have been able to remarry”. I believe that I am able to love again because I loved so fully the first time. Mike & I had a relationship that some people dream about; he loved me beyond words and I know this because he always told me so and I lived for him, I loved him more than I loved myself. I often tell people that being married again is like having another child – your heart just grows bigger and still love the other just as much as before but differently.

Here is the quick back story for those that don’t know it – Mike was diagnosed with a brain tumor in 2009 – this was his 3rd diagnoses from Melanoma. Our kids were 1, 3 & 5 at the time and he fought extremely hard and never gave up fighting but after 27 months, the cancer continued to spread and God called him home. I was introduced to Jeff in late November – less than 3 months after Mike died, by one of Mike & I’s dear friends who knew us both so well and also happened to grow up with Jeff. Honestly if you had asked me even earlier that day if I thought I was ready to date again I would have told you “NO” under no uncertain terms.

“God knows when our hearts are ready even if we don’t know it in our heads yet.”

I realized after a 3 hour phone call with Jeff that I would be okay to go out for dinner with him and get to know him better; it would be nice to be a woman again to someone that didn’t know me as “mom”, “the woman whose husband has cancer”, or “the 33 year old widow”; I was just Lyn. I read an article in the week after my 1st date with Jeff that talked about the “secret mission of getting me back” and it became my mantra at that time, because honestly it was everything I was thinking in my head. I didn’t want to dress up too much or look too sexy because I was a widow after all and I felt like I was cheating on my husband. I almost talked myself out of going on the date several times and that was just in the last few minutes before the babysitters showed up at my door. It spoke to me and after some serious hunting I found the link and have it posted below for you.

http://kriscarr.com/blog/dating-after-loss/

After a few dates, I found that I was smiling more, having fun and becoming me again, the me that I had lost when Mike got sick and died and WOW it was INCREDIBLE to find this person again – she is AMAZING!

I hope that this post gives you the courage to remember the person that you have always been, the person that got lost in your loss. Dating again isn’t for everyone and each person should take it at their own pace – don’t ever let anyone tell you differently, but maybe just maybe doing something you never thought you would do again will help you fulfill your secret mission.

Blessings,

Lyn

Jeff & Lyn St. Lucia 2014

Jeff & Lyn St. Lucia 2014

Standing Outside the Fire

It is amazing how one song can bring you back to a place and time…

Twirling Photo

I was leaving for work this morning and I heard the legendary Garth Brooks was coming back to Minneapolis to perform this November.  When Mike got sick, I found a few of his songs brought me great comfort; specifically “Standing Outside the Fire“. I must tell you; until today I had never seen the video though I just imagined a kid trying to make it beyond all the odds because that is how I felt when I heard the song (I guess I was right)! I would listen to it cranked up in the car when I was feeling my most sad about Mike’s illness and my life in general. It’s upbeat tempo helped get me into a better mood and the words…they spoke to me like I am sure a song has spoken to you at some point in your life.

“Life is not tried, it is merely survived
If you’re standing outside the fire”

After the announcement today the radio station played “Standing Outside the Fire” and I again cranked up the radio in the car and belted out the song…thank goodness no one could hear me sing as I am sure I sounded terribly off-key, but it felt so refreshing and rejuvenating.   The song brought me back to the time of life when Mike was sick, though it now brought new meaning too…I might be a fool to some when it comes to falling in love again or really living my life fully in general, but I know the REWARD is worth the risk. I have lived both in and out of the fire per say, and I would much rather dance with the flame than miss this life by letting is pass me by.

I added the song back to my playlist so tomorrow morning I can again belt out the very song that helped me find slivers of hope during my darkest days and now I know that I am NOT “standing outside the fire” of life.

What song brings you back to a time and place and how does it make you feel? Good or bad?

Are you dancing with the flame of life or are you “standing outside the fire“?

Lyn

P.S. I want to always be truly authentic so I will tell you that after they played “Standing Outside the Fire“, they played “The Dance” and I broke down into sobs; I even had to pull over to regain my composure before I continued to drive. That was the last song that Mike & I ever danced too at my brother & sister-in-laws wedding about 3 months before he died…how hauntingly true are the lyrics. I wouldn’t change a thing though if I could go back – never in a million years.

And now I’m glad I didn’t know

The way it all would end, the way it all would go

Our lives are better left to chance

I could have missed the pain, but I’d have had to miss the dance”

Sparkling Bauble

Tonight I lost my diamond tennis bracelet that Mike gave me about 6 months before he died. It was the last piece of jewelry that he ever gave me and it was a replacement bracelet from the one he gave me when Brooklyn was born that was lost when she was about 2 months old. After I hunted through the closet, through the car and through my purse I sat down and cried for a material possession that was lost and for what that possession meant to me. Through my tears I saw my amazing husband Jeff coming back after searching himself in all of the places that I had just searched.  He wrapped me up in love and through the sobs I told him how this piece isn’t replaceable and that I can still hear Mike saying

“Brooklyn, don’t you think mommy needs a little something sparkly to go on our date today?”

He had just given her some sparkly costume jewelry that he purchased for her since we were going to see Disney on Ice and she was all dressed up as a princess. Jeff then reminded me that I will always feel that bracelet on my wrist and I will forever hold those memories in my heart even if the bracelet is gone.

Memory

What things do you have that hold memories for you? Are you holding onto the things that are important or just holding onto things?

Still hoping the bracelet shows up, but if not I know that I will forever hear Mike’s voice in my head and I know he is forever with me.

Lyn

Update: My bracelet has been found…a kind and caring soul turned it in. I was checking each place I was at yesterday and honestly it was a crazy day so I fully expected that I would never find it again, but I did at Target of all places. Thankful to have it returned, but now I know that I carry Mike within me and even if I lose possessions I will never lose the memories that I have of him.

Perspective

“Take the first step in faith. You don’t have to see the whole staircase, just take the first step.”

Martin Luther King, Jr.

 

People have told me that I have a gift for writing and that I should write a book. Well after years of thinking about it I finally took the leap of faith and took time off from work to just write! It is still a work in progress though many of my stories, emotions and memories are now down on paper and I can stop reliving that part of my life. I can say that this year was the first time that I didn’t relive each and ever last day and moment of Mike’s life; like I had in the past few years. Maybe this is something that comes with time, though I like to think that writing all of those memories and emotions down helped too. It helped me heal and to see losing Mike for all of the beauty that it was and is now.

Until you have lost someone you love so much that your soul hurts you can never understand how amazing it also feels to see life bloom again like a flower and be eternally gratefully for the “new” blessed life that you have been given.

I watched a video just yesterday of a presentation by Christina Rasmussen the author who wrote “Second Firsts” and it really spoke to me. A tragedy did happen in my life but you don’t need to have a tragedy to reclaim your life.  When Mike died I never thought it was possible to be happy and see the beauty in life again, but as I have told many widows it is possible!  I am so grateful and thankful for everything that I have been given. Now before you start judging or thinking that I am thankful that my husband died that is not it at all. I wouldn’t wish this on anyone at all, but it is all about perspective. I am thankful for the journey and path that God gave me and that I am living.  As much as I would have loved to have the typical life: get married, have children and grow old together that was not the path that God gave to me or wanted me to have. I have been given a gift and many people will never understand this, but when you are in the “waiting room” as Christina would say you are comfy and not really stretching yourself beyond your bounds and I was in the waiting room long before Mike died. I was just comfy and not stretching to be me fully and after he died, he gave me the gift of the 2nd chance. You don’t have to have a tragedy occur to step out of the “waiting room” and live the life that God intended. There are still days that I just want to crawl back into my “waiting room” and cry and be sad for the cards my life got dealt, but then I remember that if Mike hadn’t died I wouldn’t have other amazing things in my life. Again – no hate mail needed – I love Mike and always will, but again it is all about perspective. I choose to thank God for all that he has given me instead of the negative and what was taken away from me. If you are feeling stuck; I highly recommend you watch Christina’s 15 minute video (link below) and visit her FB page for additional uplifting messages. Christina’s book changed my perspective and meeting her changed me and how I look at my life!

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MtTkeO_HTM4

Today marks the 3rd anniversary of Mike’s home-going. My heart hurts today and especially miss his face.

The kids are thriving, amazing and happy. They miss their dad, though I have taught them it is okay to miss him and we can honor his memory and how he lived his life by truly living ours! If I had 1 request for my children, I would ask if you knew Mike when he was a child/teenager could you please take a little time out of your day and email me a story or two? The boys especially are always asking questions about what their dad was like as a kid or when he played basketball, how he played and more. I can share so much with them, though these are the stories I don’t have.

Today in church Pastor John’s message felt like it was just for me and it was about how each person receives a God-given gift and for many years as I was in my “waiting room” I didn’t know what my God-given gift was. I know now that my gift is to share my story and to help others. I do so by being the chapter leader for the Modern Widows Club Minneapolis West Chapter, running an on-line cancer care-giver support group and volunteering at church. I have a purpose!

 

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In memory of Mike, our family will smile, laugh and honor him by loving this amazing life that we have been given!

Have a blessed day!

Lyn