"For you have delivered my soul from death, my eyes from tears, my feet from stumbling; I will walk before the LORD in the land of the living." Psalm 116:8&9

Thursday, September 30, 2010

Happy Birthday Barry!

Today is my husband's birthday. This year it has been such a bittersweet day. It is a sweet day because it is the day God blessed me and so many others with the life of a man that would show me how to love and chase my Savior with passion and zeal. I love today. I am thankful for today - for the gift of Barry's life. It is also a sweet day because I know that it is, by far, the best birthday he has ever had - in heaven, at the feet of Jesus, where joy is ever increasing. But it is also a bitter day. I miss him. I selfishly wish he were still here. I wish I had more time with him. The pain of what I am missing has brought many tears today.

So, how do you celebrate the birthday of some one who has passed away? It has been very important to me to learn how to grieve and learn how to remember Barry well. He was a precious part of my life. I don't want to ignore special days because they are painful. I refuse to not talk about him because it hurts or might make others uncomfortable. I am passionate about making sure our kids know who there daddy was and celebrate his life. But on days like today, it becomes difficult to take those desires and come up with a "plan" for accomplishing them. I've spent the past month thinking and praying about how to handle today - for myself and the kids. And here is what we ended up doing:

William goes to school on Thursday, so this morning we followed our normal routine. It was helpful to have to get up and get moving. Then, Layla and I ran some errands and met some dear friends for lunch. I am so thankful to have friends who will help me celebrate a hard day. We ate at Freebirds, talked about life and celebrated the many blessing God has given us. After picking William up from school, we went to the grocery store to get two things: flowers and balloons. The flowers were for me - flowers make me happy. Even on the saddest of days, I think it helps to be surrounded by beautiful things. The balloons were for William and Barry. We ordered a dozen royal blue balloons (Barry's favorite color). Then we took our balloons to the park and let them go. We sent our balloons to heaven to daddy for his birthday. As William released his balloons, he started screaming, "Happy Birthday Daddy!" We watched our balloons float to heaven. Then, all on his own, William started blowing kisses into the air. He figured if we could send daddy balloons for his birthday, we could also send him kisses. It was my favorite moment of the day. My family came over tonight to have dinner. We played and ate a great meal. We talked about different things and just enjoyed our time together. Then we had cake. Chocolate cake. My husband loved chocolate cake.  

I'm sure our method of celebrating Barry's birthday will change over the years. As the kids grow older and their understanding of death and heaven deepens, we will do different things to help them understand, cope and celebrate. But we will always celebrate. And I know/hope/trust that each year will become a little less bitter and a little more sweet.  

The house is quiet now. The kids are in bed and everyone else has gone home. To everyone who has called, emailed and prayed today - thank you. Your compassion has been a precious blessing to a hurting heart and I am so thankul for you.  

Here are some pictures from our day:

William getting ready to release his balloons

Letting them go, one at a time...

Bye balloons!  Happy Birthday Daddy!

Layla watching the balloons float away

"Mmmm... cake..."

Happy Birthday Barry! 

Sunday, September 26, 2010

An Update on Layla Joy

I know many of you read this blog to get updates on the kids and how they are doing. Thank you for loving them and praying for them, especially during the last 7 months. This last week was an important week for Layla. We had her 18 month check-up with the pediatrician - it was an important one for several reasons.

A few weeks after Layla was born, she developed a benign tumor on her lip (a hemangioma). It was a relatively common birth mark that is usually untreated and goes away on its own. But when they are on the face (especially the eyes and mouth), treatment is needed to prevent complications. Since we caught Layla's hemangioma early, her treatment was easier than most, but did involve giving her strong medication for 9  months. The medication was a steroid and had some harsh side effects on her little body. Most of the side effects went away when she stopped taking the medication, but steroids can stunt your growth. (We Keldies are vertically challenged people anyways...) When we took Layla off her medicine, she quickly fell off all growth charts.  She lost weight. Usually, parents feel like their babies are outgrowing their clothes too fast. We were concerned because Layla actually went back in sizes and wore her clothes for much longer than she should have. For the last 10 months we have been monitoring her growth very closely and her 18 month check-up was a marker too see if she had caught up.

Also, in the months and weeks before Barry died, Layla was babbling a lot. When I came home from the hospital after Barry died, Layla said her first two words - "daddy" and "momma". They were not accidents. She said them repeatedly when she needed me or was looking for her daddy. A few days after Barry died, Layla basically went silent. For almost two months, she did not make any vocalizations except crying and laughing. After two months, she began cooing again and eventually started babbling. At her 15 month appointment, she only said one word. I knew her delays in verbal development were part of her dealing with losing her daddy and the doctor agreed. We decided to reevaluate her at 18 months to see if she improved and to decide if she needed therapy.  

Needless to say, I was curious and a little bit anxious to see how she was doing at her appointment. I was confident that God was in control and was taking care of her. But I was anxious about what role I needed to play to best care for her.  

Her appointment was wonderful. She is finally back on the growth charts (!!!) and is very advanced in her physical development (she has her daddy's coordination!). The doctor was impressed with how healthy she has been. And, drum roll please... she is exactly where she should be in her verbal development. She is not nearly as talkative as her brother, but she does have the verbal skills she should have and is improving each day.  

Aside from the development side, Layla is doing wonderful. She embodies her middle name, Joy. She is full of laughter and joy. She adores her brother and wants to go everywhere he goes and do everything he does. (If William gets put in time out, Layla goes and sits with him.) She loves to dance and read. She has recently started to spend lots of time "taking care" of her baby dolls. She loves to kick balls and run.  

Layla is a daily reminder of God's generous provision in my life. When He gave me her, he brought into my life a joy that I had never known. He has been faithful to care for her every day of her life and I know that He will continue to do so. I cannot wait to see what God has in store for my sweet girl - I know it will be big and beautiful.  

Sweet Father, continue to bless Layla Joy. Bless her with good health and a joyful heart. Protect her from evil, fear and harm. Reveal yourself to her little heart and save her at a young age. Thank you for the beautiful blessing that she is to our family. I love you and trust you with her life. In your Son's sweet name, Amen.  

I'll do an update on William soon...

Friday, September 24, 2010


In the weeks after Barry's death, so many people reached out to me, encouraging me with Scripture, prayer and kind words. It was a blessing that cannot be adequately described with words on a blog. I was/am so thankful.

During that time, two different people spoke the same idea to me that penetrated my heart and mind. They were both people that I greatly admire and respect. One was a widow who had walked the same path that I was setting out on. Her words carried so much weight because I knew she knew what I was struggling with. Even more, she is a godly woman who has used her life to proclaim the truths of the gospel all over the world - I want to be like her. The other was a sweet friend who is a missionary. He is one of those men who chooses his words carefully, whose words are always full of godly wisdom and truth - I want my son to be like him.

They both spoke of something that my heart desperately wanted. They both spoke of a fear that was overwhelming. They spoke of what one would call "home-builders."  

You see, not only was I dealing with the grief of losing my best friend and husband, I was also dealing with the fear of how to live life without him. When you get married and build a life with someone, you each have roles and jobs. Without Barry, I was now responsible for every aspect of my life. I was also solely responsible for every aspect of my childrens' lives. No pressure there...

Here is what these two friends said to me:

"Again, I am so thankful for His presence - that He is watching over you, that He is a husband to you for now.  You will learn more about that as you watch Him at work in your life.  He takes care of me like a husband - people offering things I would never think to ask, comforting me, giving me wisdom for all kinds of decisions, teaching me His intimate presence, that oneness that you understood with Barry - which has helped with the loneliness."

"I also learned to appreciate all the more the “home-builders” in my life.  It is kind of so many to point to the sky and say, “Look!  The storm is gone!  We are thankful with you.”  But there are those few precious saints who say, “The storm is gone.  But everything you knew was injured by it.  Let me get my tools—I am going to help you build again.”  Please forgive me if this is too forward.  But I am asking God to rise up strong men and faithful women as home-builders with you in this time."

I share this with those of you reading for this reason - to show you that God is faithful.  He hears and answers the prayers of his children.  He knows our needs and meets them in beautiful ways.  

I have had several friends step into my life and become home-builders since Barry passed away. And this week, that has been demonstrated in a big way. After Barry died, I was left with two cars. After several weeks of prayer and just letting some of my emotions settle, I made a decision about which car I would keep and which car I would try to sell. Then, I was faced with the task of actually selling the car. Now here's the problem I faced: I've never bought or sold a car. My parents gave me a car to go to college. Every car I've had since then, Barry bought for me or sold for me. I didn't know the first thing about how to sell a car. And to be honest, I didn't want to know how to sell a car!  

But God knew my fears and my needs. After hearing that I had made a decision about which car I was wanting to sell, one of my best friends informed me that her husband was going to sell my car for me. I cannot express the gratitude I felt for this help. He came and got my car to take to his house (they refused to keep it at my house, not wanting strangers coming to the house to look at the car). He made some repairs on it. He posted it on Craig's List and fielded all the questions and calls. He did the research and found the help we needed to make sure everything was legally taken care of correctly.  

While in the process of selling my car, he was injured playing softball and his ankle was shattered. He had to have surgery. And having every reason to quit, he continued to help me and sold my car this week.  

In all of this, God has been so faithful and so generous. It took several months to sell my car. Sure, God could have sold it in a couple of days. But I think he allowed it to take some time. He was showing me that not only is he faithful, but he had given me friends that would be faithful in being home-builders in my life.  

So, thank you Beau and Melissa Schmidt! Not only are you some of the funnest people I know, you are a sweet gift from the Lord and a beautiful example of his goodness.  

(And just so you know, the Schmidts didn't just sell my car. They watch my kids. Melissa has cleaned my house, planned my birthday party, spent hours crying and praying with me and for me and has been a safe place for my son to grieve the loss of his daddy. And they don't just do this for me. They do this for lots of other people.)

"And the King will answer them, "Truly, I say to you, as you did it to one of the least of these my brothers, you did it to me." Matthew 25:40

Sunday, September 19, 2010

In this world you will have trouble...

It is amazing how generous God is. In the difficult, dark moments of life, He is there. He is at work. He is faithful to carry us through those moments.

Barry was in the hospital for less than 48 hours before he died. To me, it seemed like weeks. On the morning he died, I met with his doctor at 5am. The doctor did not have good news and hope was gone. We made plans for the course of action for the day. We knew that Barry would not live through the day.

The ICU was closed to visitors from 6-8am while nurses changed shifts. After getting the worst news of my life, I had to wait 2 hours before I could go back into my husband's room. Knowing it would be a long day, my parents insisted I eat and took me to a nearby restaurant. It was one of the most surreal moments of my life.

There were lots of people eating that morning - talking and laughing and going about their normal day. As we sat down, my eyes filled with tears. At that point, I didn't care what anyone else thought. The waitress came and took our drink order. What an awkward moment for her! When she came back, I had somewhat pulled it together. I had ordered a Dr Pepper and she handed me my drink in a styrafoam cup. She had drawn a butterfly and smiley face on it, trying to cheer me up. I think my parents told her briefly what was going on, but I really don't know for sure. She was very respectful - she took our order, brought us our food quickly and kept our drinks filled without being intrusive or chatty.

As we finished our meal, she came to our table and told us our ticket had been taken care of. Then she placed a piece of paper on the table in front of me and said, "I am praying for you." Then she walked away. As I looked at the paper, my eyes once again filled with tears. But this time, they were not tears of grief, but tears of overwhelming gratitude. Here is the piece of paper:

She very easily could have said and done nothing. She didn't have to comp our meal. She didn't have to reach out to me. In fact, she took a risk. She had no idea how I would respond. But she saw someone hurting and did the most loving thing she could do - she showed me Jesus. She reminded me that, despite my troubles, Jesus was in control. Despite the loss I was experiencing, Jesus would win.

On the darkest day of my life, God was not absent. It was quite the opposite. He was there. He was close. He used a college girl, a stranger, to remind me of His victory over sin and death. He broke through the darkness to shine light into my heart.

I will be forever grateful for the courage and compassion that girl showed to me that morning. And I will be forever grateful to God for His salvation and His faithfulness to carry me through times of trouble.

I can take heart - He has overcome.

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Happy Birthday Amanda!

Tomorrow is my little sister's birthday. I am overwhelmed with gratitude that God gave me such an amazing sister to walk through life with. She is wise beyond her years. She thinks deeply on things and everything she believes is firmly rooted in the gospel of Jesus. She sacrificially loves Jesus and the church. She has spent her entire adult life and even her teenage years not only pursuing Christ, but passionately sharing Him with others. (This includes spending a year in Kazakhstan sharing the gospel. My guess is no one reading this even knows where Kazakhstan is on a map!) She is the funniest person I know. She never fails to make me laugh. She is my best friend. She is my hero. Even though she is younger than I am, I want to be like her when I grow up. I want my daughter to be like her when she grows up. I want my son to marry a woman like her when he grows up.   

Over the last 6 months, Amanda has daily loved me and walked with me through my grief - no small feat considering the grief she was herself going through. She and her AMAZING husband Jeff come over every week (without fail - no mater what else is going on in their lives) to spend time with me and play with the kids. Amanda watches the kids so I can go to meetings or just have a break. She has been there when I need to cry and kept me laughing when I wondered if I would ever be happy again. There are no words to describe my love for her and my gratitude that God gave me such an amazing sister.  

Amanda, you have made the world a more joyful place during the last 28 years. You bring God glory in the manner with which you live your life. I am blessed to get to walk through life with you. Happy Birthday Sister! I love you! May the Lord grant you the best year yet!

Sunday, September 5, 2010

6 Months

6 months
26 weeks
184 days...

Today is the 6 month anniversary of my husband's passing. It feels surreal. On one hand, it feels like he was just here, like it's only been a few days. On the other hand, it feels like it has been years, almost like him being here was just a dream.  

In the last 6 months, our daughter turned one. She said her first word ("daddy"), then decided she wouldn't speak again for almost 2 months, then slowly began to speak again. She took her first steps. She got her first busted lip. Our son took swimming lessons for the first time. He started playing soccer. He has learned his letters and is (trying) to learn to write. He took his first trip to the emergency room. He stopped wearing diapers. He learned about the finality of death. The kids played in the ocean for the first time. I've learned how to run our home alone. (Well, for the most part. I still refuse to mow the lawn. Our neighbors may hate me. They can get over it.)

All of these things were supposed to happen with Barry here. Some of these things were heartbreaking to do alone. Some of these things were confusing and comical to do alone. (Side note: Single moms + potty-training little boys = crazy, funny, horrifying moments!) God chose a different plan for our family and we are learning to trust Him and praise Him in the difficult moments.  

We sang "Great is Thy Faithfulness" at church this morning. It was so fitting and exactly what I needed to be reminded of. God has been faithful since the beginning of time. He has been faithful since the day I was born. And He has been faithful for the last 6 months/26 weeks/184 days. He will continue to be faithful - no matter what else may come.

Great is Thy faithfulness, O God my Father; 
There is no shadow of turning with Thee; 
Thou changest not, Thy compassions, they fail not; 
As Thou hast been, Thou forever will be. 

Great is Thy faithfulness! 
Great is Thy faithfulness! 
Morning by morning new mercies I see. 
All I have needed Thy hand hath provided; 
Great is Thy faithfulness, Lord, unto me!