Choosing to Live

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Two Years Ago Today

Haven’t made a lot more stops (yet) but I have definitely made a lot of steps.

I still have a long way to go in healing the broken places in my heart, but I can’t negate the progress thus far. Honestly, I think that part is truly a life long process.

This journey has been, ironically and so much like, a roller coaster; so full of ups, downs, twists, and turns. The ironic part is that roller coasters were our absolute favorite thing. While most couples plan something romantic on special occasions, we went to Kings Island on ours. We loved to laugh and have fun, being goofy and like big kids. As much as that is who I am, I lost that part of myself when I lost him. I’ve had to intentionally work hard at trying to find that in myself again. I’m not there yet, but again, I’ve made steps in the right direction.

Ive learned to be grateful for the ups as well as equally thankful for the downs. That might not make sense, but it’s in those times that I’ve learned to put my trust in God. It’s in those times that I’ve allowed Him to not only walk me through, but to teach me so much in the process. My faith has increased and I’ve discovered so much about myself and who He created me to be.

Now to, hopefully, begin to add more of those stops I was talking about in the FB post above.

Choosing to live is a decision. I like to think that I can, eventually, be so genuinely happy that I can live enough for the both of us.

We always went to Kings Island for our anniversary. The last time we went, he stopped me as we were walking and started dancing with me in the middle of a crowd of people. One of my best memories ever ❤️

Reality of Grief

For the last 6.5 years I have had one main purpose; making sure my kids were okay.

Making sure they have everything they need, a nice place to live, helping them through all of the hard times that they have had to face, without their Dad.

Trying to keep everything afloat on my own. Struggling through my own grief, mostly in silence, trying to put a positive spin on everything when I just wanted to scream, “this is horrible and so unfair!”

Trying to make ends meet so they didn’t feel or see the difference, financially, of how different and difficult it is to go from two incomes to one.

Throwing the football or trying to practice baseball when it was obvious that the person that should be doing those things just wasn’t there.

Attending school functions and faking a smile when it was painfully obvious that their Dad wasn’t there.

Struggling through homework when I couldn’t even do math for myself in school, knowing that their Dad would have been able to help.

Dropping them off at practice when I saw the Dads walking to the field to stay with their kids.

Talking through times when they lost interest in things or gave up on things that were just too hard because he wasn’t there.

Scrolling through FB to see the Daddy Daughter dance pictures or the sports awards pictures. Seeing the heart warming videos of parents returning home from service to see their kids who missed their parent so much while they were gone, wanting to lose it, knowing my kids won’t ever see their Dad again.

Night after night of sleepless nights, followed by mornings when none of us could even hear the alarm go off.

Injuries, ER visits, sicknesses, birthdays, holidays…. Every single day there is something that he is missing, something they were going through and just wanted their Dad.

Answering questions about people leaving their lives, after they had already lost so much, with some generic answer that made it sound okay.

I could go on and on.

But, at the end of the day, it’s not okay. There is nothing okay about two young kids having to grow up without their Dad.

Nothing.

It’s messy.

It’s unfair.

It’s so incredibly heart wrenching.

I found some old videos last night.

There were videos of the kids from before 6/19/2012. They were so happy. Pure joy, innocent laughter; they were just normal and happy kids.

There were videos from shortly after 6/19/2012. There were smiles and laughter, but it wasn’t the same. I heard two little voices, making me painfully aware of just how young they were when it happened. They were trying so hard to be normal, to just be kids. But behind those smiles and laughs, I could see and hear the pain they tried to hide.

There were videos that were a taken a couple of years later. They were much more serious and somber; those little voices and brave laughs were no longer there.

Then I realized that I don’t have any recent videos. The struggles over the last several years have been so hard and so intense that not only do most people not even know about, but made me wonder if we would ever be okay. There wasn’t much happiness to capture.

We have just been trying to get by.

Just trying to survive.

Then, tonight I was hit with such a raw and real picture of all that I just described. It just hit me all at once. It was like 6.5 years of grieving and pain was being felt, out of nowhere, almost as if for the first time.

I have lived every single bit of this with these two, every single day. I have dealt with my own grief and the struggles that come with being the adult left to take care of these two people. But, although I have walked through the hard times with them, I had to be the strong one. I had to make it okay. Or at least try to, the best I knew how; all the while feeling that I was always falling short. But, I hadn’t truly allowed myself to feel the hurt that a Mom feels when they see their kids hurting. That changed, truly out of nowhere, in a moment.

All of the sudden I am sobbing uncontrollably, trying to explain to them what I was feeling, what I just attempted to describe above. I could hardly talk through the trembling in my voice, blowing my nose, and trying with everything to get the tears to stop.

You know what they did?

They hugged their Mom and just kept telling me that it was okay. They wiped my tears and told me not to cry for them. They said that they were okay.

How did those two little heart broken children grow up so fast?

Now, 16 & 18, they were taking care of their Mom and saying whatever necessary to make it okay.

Here is what I realize…

There is nothing okay about what the three of us have had to endure since 6/19/2012.

We have been through hell and back.

We have struggled through things that no one else will ever truly know or understand.

Life doesn’t look the same for us as it does for others and people can judge what it might look like to them all they want, but at the end of the day…

We are okay.

We have survived what could have broken us.

We will be better, more loving, more compassionate, and stronger people because of it.

We are going to make it.

And lastly:

I have to believe that there are still great things in store for us and that we can still find joy and happiness in this life that has dealt us an extremely hard hand.

And….

Despite all the hurt and all the pain…

This is not where or how our story will end.

Love doesn’t end. Not even death can break the strong bond of true love. We may be missing an integral piece, but we are and always will be family.

path OF peace

I heard a sermon that really resonated with me and I’m sharing the overall thought process here. The reason it resonated with me so much is because it is probably one of the biggest sources of struggle for me. If someone asks me what I want most in life, it’s not anything of material value. It’s peace.

Anyway, before reading this, stop and get in your mind:

What is the greatest source of stress in your life?

Think about that thing as you read through this.

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Whatever brings you the most stress, will also usually determine how you seek out peace.

God will bring you peace, but it’s not always going to look the way you think it will.

First…

Surrender your expectation of perfection.

God promises us peace.

He doesn’t promise us ease or convenience.

Peace isn’t found in a place.

Peace isn’t found in a set of circumstances that is problem free.

Peace won’t be found in people.

The problem isn’t the problem! The problem isn’t what is causing you stress.

The enemy of your peace is your insistence on perfection!

It is impossible to experience peace when you are expecting perfection.

Psalm 23:4

Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil.

He doesn’t deliver me from it, He meets me in it. He will guide us with the light in the valley. He didn’t take us out of the valley.

I’m at peace on the path.

Why?

Not because I’m not going through it, but because I’m not going through it alone. There is somebody with me that is greater than what is against me.

Think about this.

If peace comes from people, people can take it away. If peace comes from situations, situations can change and take it away.

The same person that you let steal your peace, is still that person. You can’t change people so you can’t let your peace depend on people.

I’ll have peace when _______________.

It’s not the path to peace. Because that means that the peace is far off, out there, somewhere.

Peace.

Stop waiting for it.

Start walking in it.

Watch the whole sermon here:

Living for Two

My heart continues to look for you. It doesn’t understand the physical separation and wasn’t ready for you to go.

My soul knows that you are at peace and assures me that we will meet again.

As difficult as it is to accept, I won’t see you again this side of heaven. I will try my absolute best to live, this earthly life I have left, to the fullest.

Don’t Give Up

You may feel weak and tired. You may feel lost and alone. You may be losing hope that things will ever get better, that you will ever truly be happy.

Let me tell you, God sees you. He knows your heart, what you want and need. He hears the cries of your heart.

Your pain is not without purpose.

This is a temporary season.

God is working it all out as you walk through it.

Hang on.

Don’t give up.

Your breakthrough is coming.

He says, “I’m going to do a new thing.”

Just you wait and see.

Recovering People Pleaser

I’m a, what I like to call, recovering people pleaser. I no longer feel bad for saying no to things that I don’t think I should do. I no longer give of my precious time to those that are negative and toxic. I no longer force my kids to be around people that haven’t actively been a part of their lives. I decided to stop explaining and defending myself to people who will only see from their chosen perspective anyway. I no longer make decisions based on how others might think of me. I now make myself a priority rather than being the last on the list. And you know what? I don’t even feel bad about it!

The Empty Chair

Today is a day to be thankful. There is ALWAYS something to be thankful for! However, this also a very sad day for many because someone will be missing. I always remember both. My heart for today is that we all remember what today is really about. Hug those you love and don’t leave things unspoken, for tomorrow is never promised. If you are one with a heavy heart because your person is missing, I will say a special prayer for you today. Again, there is always something to be thankful for, but that in now way negates the fact that you are missing someone, that there will be an empty chair.

Wishing all my friends and family a beautifully blessed day ♥️

Change and Balance

Change. It’s inevitable!

Sometimes change is exciting and at times, scary. It can be tough and uncomfortable to navigate through. It can also be easy to be derailed in transition. I’ll give you an example.

When I started this blog it was at a point in my life when change was exciting. I had a job that gave me the freedom to start dreaming. It came with the gift of time. I was being creative and starting new things. I was writing again. I was finding myself in a new way, working through hurts and things that had been holding me back, and finding God in a new way. There was a renewed sense of hope.

Fast forward to this past February…

The company I was working for was dissolving and I found myself in a place of uncertainty. Change was happening again and I wasn’t excited. I spent the next four months looking for a new job, trying to have faith that God would carry me through; that He had a plan.

A lot happened in that four months as I was stretched in many ways. I’ll write about that in a different post.

I started a new job in June. More change. It was a big transition, coming from working from home and having so much freedom with my time. My focus became learning and becoming acclimated to a new career. It’s a great job, a great company to work for, and I love the people I work with.

I realized something today. I’ve been so busy with my new job that I haven’t had time to write, do anything with my apparel company, or much of anything else really. Most importantly, I’ve not made time to maintain my relationship with God like I should. How quickly we fall away from that if we aren’t careful.

I guess what I’m getting at is that I’m reminded how important balance is in life. Instead of saying that I don’t have time to __________________; I need to MAKE time for the things that are important. I need to make time for God. I need to make time to work on the creative projects that I started that made me happy. I need to make time to write. I need to make time for me!

There are only 24 hours in each day and most days that definitely doesn’t seem like enough! But, it’s up to me to prioritize and be disciplined enough to use the time I do have in the best way I know how.

Here’s to attempting to find that balance that I so desperately need!

xoxo Joni

Unapologetically Me

I love this so much!

I remember a time when my Mom said, stop apologizing! I said, what do you mean??

She told me that I apologized for everything, all the time, even for things that I shouldn’t. What’s crazy is that I didn’t even realize I was doing that. I became so accustomed to saying I’m sorry that it basically became a habit.

I’m what I like to call a “recovering people pleaser.”

I’ve spent most of my life trying to make other people happy, a lot of times at the expense of my own happiness. What I realized is that, in striving to be everything to everyone, I forgot about me. I was like a chameleon, changing (sometimes moment by moment) to adapt to who I was around; just being who they needed at the time. Well, you do that for long enough and you can wake up one day with the realization that you don’t even know who you really are.

Losing one of my identities only complicated this further. I was Jonathan’s wife. So, when I lost him, I really lost my sense of self. For almost 6 years now, I’ve been on a journey of grief, only parenting grieving kids, trying to maintain a household by myself, navigating my way through changed relationships, deconstructing (and reconstructing) my faith, and trying to learn to live again.

One of the biggest things I’ve had to face is seeing myself for who I really am. I realized that I felt my worth was all about what I did for others.

I was Jonathan’s wife

I am Chase and Brenna’s Mom

I am a daughter, a sibling, an aunt, a friend

I am still all of those things and they are important, but above all else, I’m Joni.

I am not what has happened to me

I am not who I used to be

I am not the mistakes I have made

I am not who others think I am

I am not invisible or anonymous

I am not what I look like

I am not what I do

So many of us practically kill ourselves trying to be something or someone else. Desperately and tirelessly attempting to fulfill this imaginary list of qualities or capabilities that we think will make us feel loved or happy. And then we have to spend a ridiculous amount of time tearing through the layers of unrealistic pressures and expectations we have put on ourselves. It’s exhausting. I know because it’s what I have done.

I am the daughter of the most high God, who created me in His image. He doesn’t make mistakes. He formed me with His very hands. He loves me. He created me completely unique, down to my fingertips. So why shouldn’t that be good enough for me??

I am… ENOUGH

Be unapologetically YOU ♥️