Sunday, October 9, 2011

Oh death, where is your sting?

This one's kind of deep...beware....

This question couldn't be more appropriate for the kind of year I've had. I'll explain why in a bit. Although 2011 has been a year of many blessings for me, I have unfortunately lost two of the most influential men in my life. 

My stepfather passed away in February from a series of strokes, and my godfather passed away unexpectedly at the end of September. I am using this post as a way to express my roller coaster of emotions I have experienced in the past few months.

Prior to my stepdad's death I was exploring and deepening my relationship with Christ. Matt and I had started attending church regularly, and praying was a part of my daily life. However, my faith was truly tested with the abrupt passing of Jon. I didn't have the opportunity to see/talk to him before he became unconscious, and it had been a while since I had talked to him personally. I was immediately overcome with feelings of regret and sadness for not having talked to him as often as I could have. Neither of us were phone talkers and with our hectic schedules, we didn't get the opportunity to have dinner as often as we'd tried. I remember the last time we talked was on Valentine's Day. I had called him to thank him for the sweet card, and of course our conversation didn't last long. Fortunately I told him I loved him.

Following the funeral, I became very angry with God and couldn't make sense of why he had taken Jon so fast without any warning. I didn't understand. I found myself pulling away from church and prayer altogether. I can't even explain why it happened that way, but it did. I guess I was playing the 
blame game. The one thing I was sure of, was that Jon loved me, and I am confident he knew I loved him like a father. What a lucky girl to have had 2 awesome ones?!!

Here is one of my favorite pictures of Jon. It was on my wedding day just before he and my daddy walked me down the aisle.

Don't worry, there is a good ending to this post. Just be patient with me. 

On Wednesday, September 28th, I got a call from my dad. I was at work turning on the lamps in my classroom, when he told me the sad news. My godfather, "Papaw Ray" as I referred to him, had passed away from intestinal complications. He had gone in for surgery on the 23rd and was expected to make a full recovery. However, things made an unexpected turn for the worst, and he lost an unfortunate battle for his life. I immediately lost it, and Matt rushed to get me from work. We packed up our things and headed down to Hot Springs to be with everybody. 

Papaw and his wife Mary were two amazing influences on my entire life. My dad was a single parent, and they were our refuge during difficult times. We spent several weekends over there and every holiday. Mary passed away 3 years ago this month, and I can't even express how tough that was. She was like a mother to me, and Papaw was just as special!! 

With everything in such a rush during the preparations for Papaw's services, I felt extremely numb. I was beginning to feel angry again and questioning why God was taking all of my "rocks." 

It wasn't until the funeral that I had my first reality check. The preacher had read a verse from the bible that stuck with me. I recognized it from one of my favorite songs at church:

"The bodies we now have are weak and can die. But they will be changed into bodies that are eternal. Then the Scriptures will come true. Death has lost the battle! Where is its victory? Where is its sting?"

Wow! I know Christians have known this for years, but I truly had a peace of mind hearing it. Matt even recognized it. If I hadn't been in church to learn this song, I wouldn't have made this connection. God truly was speaking to my heart! 

Following the service, we went back to "Ray and Mary's" (as I will always refer to it) to catch up and relive the memories of these two amazing people. With it being my father's birthday, we surprised him with a cake and sang happy birthday. It made my night to see him smile. I have no doubt Ray and Mary were singing with us. Sadly, it was our last birthday to be spent in that house. 

Since I just recently went through all of these pictures, I wanted to share some of my favorites:

Ray and Mary holding me 

LOVE this one!

He was always being silly.

My absolute favorite card game was Crazy Eights, and of course, Papaw got suckered into playing with me all of the time. He enjoyed every minute of it as you can tell. That's why I loved him!!
(I bought the game last Sunday and plan on teaching Mattison and my future kiddos.

This picture says it all!

Although my heart is still hurting and will continue to hurt from the loss of my loved ones, I am absolutely certain they are in heaven watching down on me. I know our lives here on earth are only temporary, and I will make certain my life here is spent worthwhile, so I can be with them again someday. I can't imagine that this will be the last time God tests my faith, but I can guarantee I'll never lose it again.

I can't forget my family, extended family, friends, coworkers, and countless others who have made an impact on my life. They've encouraged me along the way. Have I mentioned how truly blessed I am?!?
(I realize this sentence doesn't flow with the rest of the post, but I wanted to make sure everyone in my life knows how truly special you are to me!!) 

Saturday, October 8, 2011

Calling the Hogs with the Steeles...too bad we lost that one

Matt and I had our first official party at the house a couple of weeks ago. Since most of our friends and family are Razorback fans, we decided to get together for the Hogs vs. Bama game. Unfortunately the game didn't go over as well as we'd hoped, but we had a BLAST catching up with everybody. 

Matt surprised me with a delicious birthday cake from Mickeys in Little Rock. He also gave me an iPad! Have I mentioned I have the most amazing husband?!?

One of my b-day presents from Dawn and Julie. LOVE it!

Matt set up our bedroom t.v. in the car so people could watch the game outside. 
Yeah, that's how we roll.:)

My bro. and Matt showing off their mad skills

One of my best buddies, Carly, came into town for the festivities. MISS her!! 
 Wish this picture captured our entire outfits because we were unplanned twinkies! Skinny jeans and all. We do it all of the time. We are so in sync (not to be confused with the boy band)

My bro's sweet girlfriend Kari and me 

Dawn, me, Lindsay, Julie, and Carly 

The newly engaged couple: Laura and Ryan
Arent' they cute??

I started to get a little sidetracked ;) during the game/festivities, so I started slacking on the picture taking. Here's part of the outside crew. Thank you Laura and Ryan for pretending to be interested in the game. 

My sis and her husband came after the game. They brought their youngest, Lane. My husband was teaching him how to use a large knife to cut the cake. 


Steph (my sis) and me
We were a little sweaty from our LONG game of Baggo. Fortunately we pulled off a win.