big picture

What is this thing we are doing? I find myself asking myself that so often as I get caught up in LIFE and everything its “not” supposed to be but yet it creeps in…slowly…unintentionally…

I wake up to my girls fighting every morning.  A 12 and a 6 year old sharing a room=bad news.  6 year old has some strange and disconcerting habits that 12 year old chastises 6 year old for which results in crying and hitting.  Every morning.  Broken mom ( that’s me) has yet to figure out how to curb this issue.  Also 9 year old is very sensitive and tends to freak out over many many many things.  Better this year than last, for sure.  Much better.  Yet many tears.

Not a good way to start a morning.  I get irritable.  Then I think, what am I doing? Every time this happens I think, I have experienced unspeakable loss, I should be able to handle this. This is nothing. Nothing. Ha. Ha.  I have been all of the way to the bottom, the cold dark, hellish bottom and a hectic morning should be like a bug on the windshield.

It just doesn’t work that way.  Life happens and in the moment I don’t do the right thing.  Sometimes I do some stuff more right ( this is my blog and more right is grammatically correct).  I hug more and encourage more and I am trying, not doing well, but trying, to be present more.  Emotionally and physically.  Yet I feel like so many, like a failure.

Few would understand, and for even fewer this may be true, but connecting with other children is harder after a loss.  Right or not right, that lost child looms larger than the ones that are physically present.  The Lucas shaped hole makes it easier for the others to slip through.  There is just no getting over or filling that Lucas shaped hole.  No one else fits in it.

Yet I keep trying. I have to.  I have to remember the big picture of this thing called LIFE that isn’t really about hectic mornings and crying and gnashing of teeth.  Its really about the God shaped hole that can be filled.  This is everything and all and completely what keeps me going.  Because (again my blog- grammer is optional) this is IT. There is nothing else.  The rest is all details.  I have seen that in a thousand different ways in the last almost 9 months.  People.  Gestures.  Situations.  Boards coming together. Live Like Lucas becoming a household name and affecting hundreds maybe even thousands. Who knows?  Basketball games in a public school where I got to talk about my sons FAITH IN GOD.

Here’s a beautiful one- someone I didn’t even know (at the time) messaged me on facebook and told me her son had decided instead of birthday gifts to have his friends donate to the LiveLikeLucas organization.  I was flabbergasted.  Then she dropped off the money- over $500.  6th graders. All these wonderful kids.


yes I spilled coffee on it.  I spill on everything.

She told me all about how excited they were to give.  They connected with LiveLikeLucas.  They don’t even fully know what it’s going to be (trust me there’s A LOT of planning going on) but they see the person that he was and the impact that has already happened and they are EXCITED.


I couldn’t even begin to describe to you the things that would have been so cosmically unlikely if the world was just a spinning unattended ball in the middle of space…no- there is someone in control.  Guiding, protecting and loving us.  Who created us just for the pure joy of loving us, send Jesus to redeem us, to redeem EVERYTHING.

Is that kind of hard for me to see redemption in the pain, the suffering? Yes- but its getting just a little clearer every day.  Will I ever understand fully how the loss my my precious child plays into this redemption? Not until I get to heaven.  I also don’t understand why little children die of starvation and students get gunned down in their classrooms.  Suffering is hard.  The hardest.

So what do we do with this, this life? This life that is so precious.  This life that does not belong to us, that we don’t even deserve to have.  We muddle through it and get disappointed in ourselves and feel like failures sometimes.

Yet we have to come back to big picture.  These awful mornings are like dots in a giant beautiful painting.  I feel like my son dying is a huge, gigantic, ugly black blob on the painting of my life- yet somehow I know that when God is looking at it he sees the whole thing- and it’s beautiful.  He created us in his image, with his artistic hand, with his omniscient being and he said to us, “I LOVE YOU.  I WILL ALWAYS LOVE YOU.  EVEN IF YOU HAVE AN AWFUL MORNING.   EVEN IF YOU CAN’T SEE YOUR WAY OUR OF A DARK TUNNEL.  I AM HERE.”



I think the hardest thing is knowing there is no foreseeable end to the pain in sight.  As I grow more and more comfortable talking about him to people- and in just living the daily life of “a mother who has lost,” the pain still just seeps deeper and deeper in my bones.

Lately it’s the feeling that every day that goes by I feel like I should be healing a little more but in reality I’m grieving a little more because its one more day since he lived in my house.  Slept in his bed.  Ate dinner with us.  He’s one more day further from us.  That was the most painfully obvious part of everyone else starting school- he didn’t.

I know I’m having another one of those one step back seasons right now.  It makes me wonder how progress is measured when you lose a child.  Will  I ever really step forward? What does that mean?

The fact that life goes on doesn’t mean progress to me.  It means putting on a brave face.  It means adjusting to the fact that your eyes might be red sometimes going into the grocery store or picking up your child from soccer.  It means just trying to put one foot in front of the other and keep some semblance of a life going for your family.  Staying afloat.  Trying really, really hard to enjoy the things that you once enjoyed.

There’s just so much ache though.  Every time I see a homecoming picture or talk of getting driver’s licenses- who are we kidding, anything that has to do with teenagers.  Anything to do with baseball.  Anything to do with hunting.  Talking about being tall.  Talking about high school and classes and grades and getting into college.  Every. Time. I go into a store I feel my heart grow heavy with pain at the sight of something that he would wear or eat or throw or shoot… basically LIFE reminds me of Lucas.

I sold candles at the Painted Farm girl Flea market yesterday.  It was amazing, fun, touching, tons of people; sold almost every candle. I met so many strangers who read this blog and were so sweet and encouraging and it felt SO GOOD.  I had my brave face on talking to people all day about my sons legacy.  How we are starting an organization to help bring youth together and scatter kindness.  To do service projects and missions across the world.  Explaining how my son’s heart just empowers and inspires me to do this thing and really put love into action.  Like he would do.  Like he would want.

Then I got in my car and cried, like so many other times, a soul wrenching guttural cry of a mother who has lost a piece of her.  Who feels so lost and hurt and desperate.  Just to see her boy and feel his warm skin and hug him so tight.  There is one thing to have this deep desire to carry out your son’s legacy and do something good with a terrible situation.  It is another to have empty arms and an empty bed in your house.

I don’t know that it will ever go away.  I just kept thinking about the contrasts last night as I tried to sleep.  That amazing feeling when you really share a part of yourself with someone and relate to them and that they are on this journey with you.  That people pray for you that you’ve never even met.  People seeing the LiveLikeLucas and taking your card and asking you what it means.  Feeling like you are touching lives.  So many highs.

Yet so many lows.  Then ironically someone sent me this:life is amazing

Life is breathtakingly beautiful.  God given, God breathed life.  Whether its one day or ten years or fifteen or one hundred.  Every day is a gift.


Sometimes I just cannot handle it.  Sometimes I think I AM THE BIGGEST HYPOCRITE IN THE ENTIRE WORLD.  I AM SO MAD AT GOD I AM SO MAD I AM SO MAD I AM SO MAD.  Today, at this very moment, I am irate.

I miss him so much. I miss him so desperately, so acutely, so painfully, so unbearably I want to literally go outside and started digging a hole for myself.  I cannot, will not accept that I won’t ever see him again.  Cannot accept.  I must have him back.  I LOVE HIM GOD SO SO SO MUCH.  I NEED HIM.  I NEED HIM LIKE AIR.  LIKE WATER.  I CANNOT LIVE WITHOUT HIM.

I just found his lunch bag in the cupboard.  Oh my dear Lord Jesus his lunch bag is still in the cupboard waiting.  Waiting to be used.  It needs to be filled with yogurt and almonds and granola bars and some extra for Christian and go to school.  It needs to go to Forest Hills Central High school and be carried by a handsome six foot four gentle giant who made people smile and consoled them when they cried.  Who told his teachers how much he appreciated them and came home and asked his Mommy when he walked in the door how her day was.

I laid on the floor and willed myself not to throw up.  I’m sorry this is graphic.  You should know by know that I say whatever is on my mind, I suppose there are worse things than throwing up right?

I remembered the coat in the cubby and the cologne in the bathroom drawer that I have not been able to touch along with this square blue lunchbag and I fell.  Completely. Apart.  Right at the seams- crack.  If you were here you would have heard a crack.

I had Pandora on the radio.  The moment I felt myself crack apart this song came on, one that we have held close since January 16 because it so aptly describes, well everything we are going through.  Really everything about Christianity.

Listen to it.  I am no longer crying right now.  Five minutes ago I couldn’t breathe through my sobs but I have been reminded by God, oh for about the 4,639th time in the last eight months how much he loves me and has a home for me in heaven.  I am sad.  I am sad about Lucas.  BUT LUCAS IS HOME!!!!

Praise God.

Man of God

Life has been very chaotic lately.  First week of school.  Sending my 3rd baby girl to kindergarten.  New milestones of grief.  My brain has been all over the place, and I have to tell you, it was pretty unorganized before I had “grief brain.”

I’ve been trying to make as many candles as I can for the Painted Farmgirl Flea market.  My sale at Kennedy’s was a smashing success, netting almost $1,000 for the van.  I love making the candles.  Yet I feel torn with my sweet 3 yr old at home asking me to play cars, read books, play outside; the laundry calls ( I try to block it out), the ants are having a heyday with the crumbs on my floor, there are meals to be made…oh and the 6 and 9 and 12 year olds do require a tad bit of attention too.  Alas. Overwhelming.

I am also starting (with the help of a board of amazing ladies) a non- profit foundation. Which requires much thought and planning and paperwork and brainstorming and more paperwork.  Then a little more paperwork.  It is something I am immensely passionate about and  tremendously driven.  LiveLikeLucas.  Its not just a name or a slogan but a way of living.  Lucas’ legacy of kindness, of selflessness, of love will live on.  Not just an idea, a passing fad- an entity.  It will change us.  It will change others.  People will see how powerful just a drop of kindness can be- it spreads and spreads.  It heals wounds and forms bonds; forges connections and builds good will.  The kindness of one boy can have a ripple effect across oceans.

Today I was feeling a bit discouraged- with the amount to do and the the very fuzzy and unorganized brain that I have.  The sheer number of people in my household can have that sort of effect as well.  Thank goodness for my Mother and the Mondays she comes over and always makes everything OK.  A good dose of Grandma Linda will cure all ills.

I was standing at the counter making hamburger patties and she said, “I have something to show you- I’ve been waiting until just the right moment because I know it will make you really emotional and I don’t want to make things worse.”

She hands me a notebook that she had found while cleaning out one of my drawers a few weeks earlier.

It was a notebook Lucas had used in middle school at around 13 years old.  She opened it to a page that read this, in Lucas’ unmistakable handwriting.

I was the recipient of a string of brain surgeries.  I, despite the odds, retain good health and show few signs of the afflicting ailment.  There were many miraculous moments that compelled many around me to come to a stronger Christian faith.  I went into a medically induced coma and was expected to emerge some two weeks later.  Despite their fearful expectations I awoke four days later.  This astounded all that were involved to a great extent.  This miraculous healing was only a small part of my experience with the grace of God.

Soon after, my heart, having been damaged, began healing vigorously.  It made such rapid improvements, it rendered the doctors dumbfounded.  My eyes having received much stress, lost all function.  Whilst in the hospital, my eyes regained their complete function.  None of the things said were normal or much less expected.  These things could not have come about so impeccably perfect and ideally (given the circumstances) without the divine hand.

I have been around many of the faith, and many more who are not.  The prevailing theme is that, quite honestly, the faithful are better off.  I don’t mean money, or success as others might have it, but a sense of happy contentedness.  I have noticed this same things occurring in my life when I put God first.  My family put God first by coming to him in my time of need, and that is why I am here today, that is why I am a man of God.”

13 years old.  A man of God.  A tremendous gift to me and so many others. Wise beyond his years.  A legacy and a faith to be carried on.  THIS is why it is all worth it.


man of god

Love letter

Dear Lucas,

Every time I think the pain to be away from you hits rock bottom, as deep as deep can go, it goes a little further.  Today the tears flowed so often I’m surprised I didn’t just shrivel up.  I wanted to see you off to your sophomore year of high school so bad, so bad, I couldn’t stand it.  Driving past the high school to drop off your sisters at school was the emotional equivalent of being burned alive.  I have never. Ever. Missed you more.  I wanted to hug you, to hold you, to ruffle your curly hair, to playfully wrestle you as we used to do, my arms just ached with the absence.  I felt in such limbo today- stuck between a rock and a hard place.  Your absence is the worst hell I can imagine.  Yet I must stay here.  I can’t leave my other babies, my four other beauties that I love with all my heart.  Yet they have only part of a mother.

You are everywhere though in my pain I cannot “feel” you as others have described their loved ones who have died.  You just pop up everywhere- a soccer picture from first grade, your old ipod on the basement floor, your sandal in the corner of the garage. I find myself bringing you up in so many conversations, like you are still here but then your name just hangs in the air- another painful  reminder.  Having to pick up your class directory from last year with your handwriting on the front.  Looking at your handwriting is torture.  Looking at your picture is torture.

I don’t know how I’m going to make it without you my sweet boy.  You just knew me so well, knew just what to say, just how to help; so handsome and smart- I was, I am, the proudest Mama on the planet.  How you could be taken from this earth at fifteen years old is STILL unfathomable to me.  I think I will go to my own grave still unable to completely comprehend it.  How life can be so cruel and heartless, how deep a level of pain the human spirit is able to feel.  How physically I grieve for you my son.  It literally takes my breath away.

Such love, such a bond between mother and son we had.  It is so infinitely unbearable to be without you.  The fact that every day that passes is one more since I’ve touched you, talked to you…your presence is just that much further away.

I must remind myself.  You are perfect. You are in glory. You would never want to come back to this sad downtrodden earth.  You get to be with Jesus.  Why doesn’t it help my pain.  I just love you so much.  I love you so very very much.



No fear

she will not fail

I recently posted this to facebook; I had stumbled upon it while looking for another verse.  I know I was meant to find it, because I do feel like I am failing.  I feel like I am failing my family because my grief is so deep and overwhelming.  Being around them reminds me that he is missing, it reminds me that he is no longer their big brother or son on earth, it reminds me of how desperately we can try to be good parents and then one day have one of those precious jewels just slip through our fingers.

As so many things have surprised me, the weeks leading up to school have been like a tsunami in my soul. An endless beating of pain like giant waves crashing over villages destroying them. I feel like my village is being destroyed.  I feel like I have lost my bearings as a wife and mother.  The pain just envelopes me like giant vise squeezing the life out of me.

I feel lost.

I can barely stand the outside world that moves on with vacations and outings and celebrations and families that are WHOLE.

Inside my family I feel like a failure.  Too beaten up to be of any worth.

So where do I go?

I will not fail.  Every part of my being says “you are failing” but God says “you are not.” He says that I am perfect.  That because of him I am perfect no matter how completely utterly worthless I feel, how defeated, how tormented, how I will never be whole again.

Thank you Jesus for that.  Otherwise I think I might just let go of the rope.

2 Corinthians 12:9-10

But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me. 10 That is why, for Christ’s sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong.”

I am strong.  If strength is measured in tears, well then, I’m getting pretty buff.

verse tattoo


riding the waves


I had absolutely no intention of blogging tonight, I have been working on candles for about 4 hours, and was working on the tedious task of cleaning up wax drips and putting away the various paraphernalia I use and was really looking forward to going to bed.  Until I realized it was 12:23 am, August 16.

When I realized the day had turned over my eyes immediately filled with tears, catching me completely by surprise and my heart just filled with that incredible heaviness, that physical hurt.  It hurts to hurt.  My eyes burn, my throat is tight, I can hardly breathe.  My chest is like lead.

I have been avoiding going to this place so much lately.  Trying so hard to avoid that hurt.  Feeling like I had to try really hard to distract myself lest I get sucked down into the mire of grief.

It has not been hard to stay busy and distracted.  Guatemala, of course- getting ready to go, being there, reflecting on the week, thinking about my goals going forward.  Working on making the Live Like Lucas foundation happen.  Trying to figure out what to do about the race. It just isn’t going to be able to happen this fall, sadly but instead next summer.  It is an extremely involved process and every duck has to be in a row.

Oh and of course my four other children.  My 24/7 job.  Well almost.  I do get a night off now and then…

I guess what I am getting at is I feel another tidal wave coming on.  The mind will only let you tuck away those thoughts for so long before they coming flooding out again and what better day than 7 months to the day that my son went to heaven.

The feeling that I have in the pit of my stomach of that of total fear.  I have lost him.  I have lost him until heaven and that just seems so far away.  I have thousands of hours, millions of minutes to survive until I can finally join him in heaven -although no one knows how much time they have.

I wish so badly, that I could take him to drivers training. To go get school supplies. I ache to have him with us at the pool with us. To sit next to him on the couch watching Big Bang Theory. To take him and his friends bowling.   I see his friends and classmates on my Facebook news feed every day, their lives continuing on at a rapid exciting pace and my son’s has stopped.

It is beyond comprehension.

I could have written 10,000 plans for my life and not one of them would have included losing a child.

Like a million carat diamond ring slipping into the bottom of the ocean.  Only worse. Much much worse.

I have been avoiding that pain of loss.  The one that goes all the way into the marrow of your bones.  I carry the heaviness every day, that will never stop. Never.  But that deep grief, there is a time.  God knows when that time is.  He is holding me in the palm of his hand, just like before, just like today, just like tomorrow.  He will not let me drown in my suffering.

There is a time for everything,
    and a season for every activity under the heavens:

    a time to be born and a time to die,
    a time to plant and a time to uproot,
    a time to kill and a time to heal,
    a time to tear down and a time to build,
    a time to weep and a time to laugh,
    a time to mourn and a time to dance,
    a time to scatter stones and a time to gather them,
    a time to embrace and a time to refrain from embracing,
    a time to search and a time to give up,
    a time to keep and a time to throw away,
    a time to tear and a time to mend,
    a time to be silent and a time to speak,
    a time to love and a time to hate,
    a time for war and a time for peace.

Ecclesiastes 3: 1-8

Guatemala part III

I felt compelled to write about the medical “investigation” component of my trip today after my daughter was complaining excessively about her plantar wart.  I promptly showed her this picture of Elena:



We had gotten to know her pretty well during the week, her house was one of the first ones built and she was very sweet.  We came back the last day that we were working in the village and she had a scarf wrapped around her neck.  We asked her why and she promptly showed us her swollen mouth.  She had a cavity in one of her front teeth that had gotten so bad that the tooth had cracked and now her entire mouth was infected.  You can only imagine the pain- I have never had a tooth nearly that bad but have had needed root canals and I thought the pain before that was unbearable.  I never saw Elena shed a tear.  These people are used to pain and hardship. I am not sure what would have happened if we had not had a solution through GRACE ministries.  The grandson of the manager of the mission house was a volunteer paramedic.  Due to the frequent needs for tooth extractions he had learned how to take out teeth, at least non-molars, to relieve the pain for the poor people. He would drive the 1 1/2 hrs to her village to extract the tooth. I am sure her family would not have been able to afford a dentist.

There was another woman in line for the food distribution who I noticed had a scarf around her mouth and I knew immediately she also had a tooth problem.  Mauricio the translator asked her to see what the problem was and could immediately see it was a molar.  Unfortunately that is something too complicated for a paramedic to handle.  It was an awful sight when she pulled the scarf down- her face was hugely swollen and the smell from infection was putrid.

This is just a small glimpse inside the world of these people.  There are no free dental clinics other than the ones provided by missionaries and with the hundreds and hundreds of villages the chances of them getting one is very slim.  This village had never even had a food/clothing distribution or a team of doctors visit their village.

The Live Like Lucas medical van would be used for people with similar urgent painful situations.  Because of the enormous need of these people it would be used in many contexts to try to improve the quality of life and reduce suffering for these people.  Please help.  You can donate through the Go Fund Me

or if you would like a tax receipt you can write a check to  GRACE Ministries  P.O. Box 756  Grand Bay, AL 36541 make sure it says medical van in the notes.

Through the Go Fund and money sent directly to Grace we are at just over $10,000!  Share with everyone you know who has a heart for the hurting and might light to donate.  Lets do this.


Guatemala part II



What could be harder in this glamorized materialistic keep-up-with-the-Jones’ country?

I know I can’t be the only one.

Before I kind of thought it was OK, I mean my husband works sooooo hard, why can’t we have those things that everyone else has? Why can’t we go on a nice vacation? Why can’t we replace our ripped up funiture? Why can’t I drive a newer vehicle?

Ha. Stuck up brat is what I am.  I am comfortable beyond belief.  A roof over my head? I have a 2000 foot square house.  We built 12×12 foot sheet metal houses for people in Guatamala and they were on their faces on the ground crying. I have comfy furniture, an amazing bed, a table to eat on, fridges and cupboards full of food, I can take my kids to a pool any day I want, they do camps…Not mention they have so many clothes and toys that I could have probably given a piece away to everyone in line at the food distribution.  Oh yeah, and I have a vehicle. I can DRIVE WHEREVER I WANT!!! If my kids need to go to the doctor, the dentist, the store, visit friends, visit relatives, whever. Whenever.

If you are Guatemalan and have extra cash (which is rare) you get to ride one of these in a tuk tuk.

tuk tuk


Or maybe cram yourself into a chicken bus:



Or more likely you will find transportation like this:



This was also an extremely common sight (if you had money for a motorcycle!)


So the transportation is at best…scary.

After all that, can you believe I was still whining to my husband about wanting a new vehicle? That translator, Mauricio that traveled with us most of the week (who is AMAZING) but I will talk about him more later- has a tiny Honda Civic or something similar- which he drives 12 or more kids to church in every Sunday.  He is a youth leader.  I immediately exclaimed, “you need a van!!!” as if he was about to just go out and buy one.  He said to me, “God will provide.  I trust in God.  I do not ask for help, I just trust.”  That made the biggest impression on me I think out of the entire trip.  Just trust.

After seeing such poverty (even among those with “good” jobs- a nurse for example makes $50 a week) I just want to give my Suburban to Mauricio.  Or help raise money to buy him a van.  How many vans can I buy you ask?  I don’t know but I will trust too.  I will pray.  God will provide.  What  powerful message.  With trust comes contentment.  It is not my will but his.  Did I provide myself with all the conveniences and amenities around me? No. It was God.

Matthew 6: 32-33

“For the pagans run after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them.
 But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well.”

Please don’t forget, if you haven’t yet, to donate to the medical van if you so desire.


Guatemala part I

Its been a whole week since I have been back from Guatamala and I can’t believe I haven’t written a thing so far- its a combination of having my dear little children around all of the time and being so overwhelmed by the experience I don’t really know where to start.

What is on my mind today is how the people in Guatemala have so many things right.  One of which is their sense of community.  Togetherness.  Watching out for one another.  We may think we do that- but trust me, its but a mere shadow of what they have.

True- their houses are mere feet apart.  Built into mountain sides with dangerous, uneven footing and slippery clay underfoot- its like a maze and you wonder how children (and adults) aren’t constantly breaking their ankles.  Yet living there since birth they seem to have adapted.  There is no other way.

Yet is it not that much different than the neighborhoods many of us live in with people living next to us and behind us and in front of us, just a few minutes walk away.  Yet we close ourselves off.  We don’t even know our neighbors.  We shut our doors and do whatever we do in our American houses.  Hop on Facebook or Instagram and “share.”  Its not sharing.

I can’t think of one time I went on Facebook and felt really connected to someone.  Really connected.

However spending nearly a week with groups of women and watching them and seeing them do laundry together, watch each others children, just walking around the village with their babies on their back- it just seemed so right.  I would imagine this is what God would have in mind for his people.

When everyone has a one room cement or tin house with a dirt floor and maybe a makeshift bed of scrap wood and corn stalks, one lightbulb in their house, one window, one door, everyone is on a pretty level playing field.  No one is griping, “well she has TWO lightbulbs!” There is definitely no vacation envy or car envy or Louis Vuitton bag envy.


Instead, they help each other out as needed. When I gave a little girl a granola bar she promptly broke it into three pieces- one for her, one for her sister and one for her mother  The giving is evident- They shared their pop with us, cookies- things that are a sacrifice for them. Yet they gave willingly.

We went to Guatemala to help them- by building houses- but they gave us so much more.

This is the house we dedicated to Lucas.

(Notice many Guatamalans don’t smile for pictures- unless we told them to- because they don’t realize what they look like in pictures. They don’t know they are supposed to.)


Another family we built a house for.


sweet ladies






beautiful children



photo credits  Mariah Nelesen