Sunday, August 2, 2015

What You See



Something I've learned as I've gotten older, met different types of people, and traveled to several places, is that there are many commonalities in various cultures. "Everyone smiles in the same language" is printed on a poster in my classroom, featuring children of different races. This is a phrase that has echoed in my mind time and time again as I found myself in desolate African villages where I literally knew no other way to communicate with the people.
It's a phrase that has been written across my face as a woman directs me where to go in her thick, fluid Spanish lingo. It's one that has floated through my mind as I made funny faces at a joyful infant. 

Common courtesy and respect go a long way in cultivating both meaningful and temporary relationships in many cultures. In the south we say "yes/no ma'am/sir." Elders  are greeted with the word "shikamo" in Tanzania. Many cultures expect that children remain quiet at the dinner table.

I learned something new in my most recent trip to TZ that crosses the barriers of culture, language, AND species.

Yes, species.

I'll just say it so we don't have to dwell on it and can carry on: I'm obsessed with my dog. 
Need I say more?!
 Although he's pretty perfect in my eyes, he's a little trouble maker. I can pretty confidently say that Ollie has gotten more spankings than the young Brittany Anderson ever did. When he gets to nosing around in things that he shouldn't, he hears me make a loud, firm clap and say "ENNNNT." You know the sound--the one your mom made when you tried to lick the bowl full of batter before it had been put into the pan. The one your friend made when you got a trivia answer wrong. The one that "some teacher" may or may not have accidentally used on students when they were trying to prematurely rotate stations.  {Go on...say it out loud so we can all make sure we're on the same page. ENNNNT!} Yeah, all creatures seem to freeze when you make that sound {cue the Swahili speaking herd at VBS!}

Something that always seems to shock me when I go to TZ is the difference in the way bodies are viewed. I can remember being warned before my first trip over there that they would probably call some people fat, but they don't mean it to be rude. It's just a simple observation. 

Something along those lines was said on my trip there earlier this summer, and it is sure to stay with me forever. My sweet friend  Beth and I went on an African safari. We saw a lot of beautiful things and have a lot of great stories to tell from that adventure.  Probably half of those stories have to do with our safari guide, Benji.  
We had many interesting conversations with him, none more memorable that the one when he told us that many African men like girls who are fat.

I can only write this next part with a smile on my face and a gut that hurts from laughing because it simply isn't true.  He said to Bethi, "You have on a big body."

Not:
"You're fat."
"You have a big body."
You have ON a big body.
Some things that I might typically have ON: deoderant, earrings, glasses, makeup.  Something I've never considered having on: my body.
Isn't she beautiful?! And she does NOT have on a big body!
What an interesting way to phrase that! I can't help but see the spiritual application here. We are simply souls abiding in the flesh here on earth. What we look like on the outside isn't what really is important.  What would you look like if your designer clothes were stripped off of you? If you didn't have the body of a gym rat? If you couldn't hide behind your mountain man beard? If all we could view of each other was our souls?

Did you just get a lump in your throat? There have been many times in my life that I would be ashamed if people could have seen beyond the body I "have on" and could see the sin within.

It's really pretty cool to think about being a soul in a body while on Earth knowing that we'll take a different form in the everlasting. I recently read an article about what happens after you die. It is a subject that there is a lot of controversy over in many religions and denominations, and there is clearly a lot of misunderstanding of the Scriptures. Read it {HERE}

A lot of well-meaning people try consoling me with encouraging words stating that they KNOW Bradford is in Heaven. Acts 2, by itself, proves that a person does not go straight to heaven or hell when he dies, and that a person does not become extinct, cease to exist, or pass into a state of unconsciousness at death.  It gives me great comfort to know that Bradford is very much in an alert state and not just sleeping. I often wonder what Paradise must be like for him. Although his body has returned to the dust from which he was formed, his soul will live for eternity--as will so many others' that we know and love who have gone on before us!

I found this journal on another trip this summer:
"It's not what you look at that matters, it's what you see." -Henry David Thoreau
What are you looking at?  What do you see?


When God looks at you, your life, and your mind, what does HE see?


Tuesday, June 2, 2015

Happy Place :)


For since the beginning of the world Men have not heard nor perceived by the ear, Nor has the eye seen any God besides You, Who acts for the one who waits for Him. Isaiah‬ ‭64‬:‭4‬

I've been many places in the past 13 months. There have been times of constant pain and grief, and there have been times of laughter and joy. I've experienced some pretty dark and scary valleys, and today I experienced my highest high {literally!}.

I don't know about you, but I'm a pretty visual thinker. Whenever I've been down in the dumps, I've had to go to my happy place. This usually consists of going to encouraging scriptures, praying, reading helpful quotes, or dreaming of what lies ahead. Want to know what I picture each and every time I go to my happy place?

This.

{Wouldn't you know that I'm having trouble uploading to blogger while in TZ! All of the words on the site are written in Swahili!😁 I'll update this post soon! See the pic in the comments on Facebook.}

The Ngorongoro Crater is a place I visited for the first time in 2005. It is such a magnificent place...a place with God's fingerprints all over it. Although the entirety of the crater is chock full of beauty, there's something perfectly breathtaking about this one spot along the exit route. There's something about the dark shade of the green trees angling to form this stunning "V." There's something about the way the bright blue of the sky, freckled with frothy white clouds, meets the blue of the water below, gently fading to the light green of the grass. 

Every time I've been here I've been overcome with love for God and in awe of His majesty. The God who created the entire world in six days took the time for the intricacies of this masterpiece. The God who sent His Son to die for ALL of our sins has the power to form every hill, grow every tree, and care for each animal. THAT'S THE SAME GOD THAT LOVES ME! THAT'S the same God who works in mysterious ways to provide for me. That's the same God who wants ME to spend eternity with Him! And you know what? It's the same God who loves you and wants the same for YOU! It blows my mind that as beautiful as this place is, it doesn't begin to represent what awaits us in heaven!

Moments like these aren't soon, if ever, forgotten. They put things in perspective and help in times of doubt and despair. Traveling can shrink and humble us; we're so small in this great big world. That's something cool that I've grown to love about God...He's greater than it ALL!

Tuesday, April 28, 2015

TRUST ME!




So it’s usually hard to decide exactly how I want to start a post, especially when I know it’s not an upbeat, chipper, clickin’ my heels kind of beginning.  Let’s be honest...how many of my posts have actually started that way… ;)

Last week stunk.  More harsh realities crept in {and by crept I actually mean stabbed me in the chest with a knife} and death took the lives of those that colleagues of mine loved.  Several months ago a coworker in my district was told that her husband's cancer had returned and the outlook was not good. A couple of weeks ago I was told that the husband of one of my coworkers was in the hospital and would not be coming home.  Both of these men passed away last week.  People are generally sad about stuff like that--feeling sorry for those in the family, praying about it a few times, maybe thinking about it over the next couple of days.  Once you have come face to face with loss, you can’t help but feel a deeper hurt.  {Not that others CAN'T feel a deep hurt.  Weeping with those who weep has simply taken a new meaning for me.} It brought back so many memories of the first moments and days after.  I couldn’t help but wonder if in any given moment, this sweet teachers' assistant was experiencing one of her worst moments that she would remember months, and likely years or decades, later?  Is she making arrangements?  Is she filling out that dreadfully difficult paperwork? Is she wailing into his pillow?  Is she remembering to BREATHE?! My heart literally hurts just thinking about the pain.  I am thankful that my today is not a day I was facing a year ago, when it was still so very fresh and even more physically exhausting than it is now. It saddens me to think that would be even my worst enemy's current reality.

The service for Mr. Duncan was on Sunday.  I was under the assumption that someone was going with me, but as it turns out, I would be going alone.

Nobody would expect ME to go alone.  I’m sure she will understand.  I mean, this is something that is just so unbearable.  This hits so close to home.

Wait.  THIS HITS SO CLOSE TO HOME! 

On Saturday I spent some time working on a lesson that I plan to present in a class on a mission trip I’m going on to Tanzania, East Africa this summer.  I took a lot of good insight from the book I Love Me, I Love Me, Not by Mrs. Rosemary McKnight.  In it she describes how both low self-esteem and high self-esteem can affect the role you play in the Kingdom.  When you feel inferior, guilty, or fearful, you aren’t opening yourself up to opportunities for growth and encouragement that you could otherwise experience with confidence in yourself and in your God.  Thoughts of this lesson came to mind while I was playing an internal tug-of-war.

C’mon, Brittany.  The fact that this DOES hit so close to home is EXACTLY why you need to go.  You go places alone all the time.  You’ve got this.  He has helped you through every step of the way.  Remember how much people’s presence meant to you?  Remember how much HER kind words and deeds meant to you?  You have no choice.  Suck it up and GO!  You don’t have to stay—just speak to her before and you can sneak out. 

So I went.  Anxious and praying that I wouldn’t totally fall apart amongst strangers, I made the drive out to this church for the service.  When I pulled up, I wasn’t totally sure I was in the right place.  I walked in, only seeing a couple of familiar faces, and made my way to have a seat on the back row.  I hadn’t been sitting there too long when someone came up beside me and asked if she could sit there with me.

YOU’VE. GOT. TO. BE. KIDDING. ME.

Let’s rewind to April 9, 2014.  A sweet lady, who I came to realize was such a sweet and brave soul, came and knocked on my door.  She didn’t know me from Adam, but she brought me cards that her Bible class had made for me at church that night.  She explained that she lost her first husband in a car accident when she was in her 20s.  She and I had since made plans to have dinner and talk about things, but it just hadn’t happened yet.  The only conversation I had ever had with her before Sunday was on my doorsteps the day after Bradford died.  We didn’t have long to talk before the service started {which we ended up staying for because the family was not in there yet}, but that was the absolute best thing that could have happened to me.  We were able to share a little bit about our experiences, some with smiles and some with tears.  Although we don’t know each other well at all, we both know the hurt that comes from losing your spouse unexpectedly.  I know that she could have been the support I needed if I fell apart right there—and let’s be honest, she was a much better alternative than the menthol man sitting on the other side of me ;)  

Sometimes you have to look really closely at things and search intensely to see God in them.  And sometimes He just hits you square in the face and says HERE I AM!  TRUST ME!
 
After losing Bradford , they said I would have a million acts of kindness done and feel so overwhelmed with the goodness of friends, family, and strangers.  Ms. Mickie is such a kind lady. She is one example of a selfless and truly giving heart who showed up to help me when I needed it most.  Who would've ever thought I would have the opportunity to do the same a year later?!  I'm
crossing my fingers praying to God that I won't be too much or too little, but that I'll be able to provide just the right amount of love and encouragement that she and Ms. Jean need right now. Kind of like Baby Bear #justright ;)

I hope that you’re actively seeking Him through His Word and in your life.  He is there, and, boy, is He good.

Wednesday, April 8, 2015

{good} grief

May the LORD answer you in the day of trouble; May the name of the God of Jacob defend you; May He send you help from the sanctuary, And strengthen you out of Zion; May He remember all your offerings, And accept your burnt sacrifice. May He grant you according to your heart’s desire, And fulfill all your purpose. We will rejoice in your salvation, And in the name of our God we will set up our banners! May the LORD fulfill all your petitions. Now I know that the LORD saves His anointed; He will answer him from His holy heaven With the saving strength of His right hand. Some trust in chariots, and some in horses; But we will remember the name of the LORD our God. They have bowed down and fallen; But we have risen and stand upright. Save, LORD! May the King answer us when we call.
Psalm 20:1-9
          It's been a year of highs and lows, laughter and weeping, blessings and curses, love and loss, pride and humility. It's been a year since my husband died in a car accident at 28 years old. {You can read about it here.} It's been 365 days since I've heard his laugh, held his hand, looked into his eyes, and felt him look into my soul. As with many who face loss, we encounter a lot of unknowns. I better understand a lot of things now than I did a year ago, despite so many questions, and I'm certain I'll have an even better understanding a year from now.
 
          If I could have a conversation with myself a year ago about the things I need to do for myself in GRIEF in the following months {in true elementary teacher fashion with an acrostic ;)}, it would go a little something like this:

G is for Guidance
          Without counsel, plans go awry, But in the multitude of counselors they are established.  Proverbs‬ ‭15‬:‭22‬
          You're going to need counsel in many forms. Learning how to study the Scriptures, and I mean REALLY study the Scriptures, is going to be the best thing you can do for yourself. It is THE way to build your faith {faith comes by hearing and hearing by the Word of God Romans 10:17}, and boy are you going to need that. It will honestly be the only thing that makes any sense.
          Committing to seeking guidance from a professional will be irreplaceable. You'll have so many emotions to sort through and it will be helpful to know what is "normal." It won't always be easy, but that's okay. None of this really is.  It's also going to be kind of convenient that your husband was "in the biz" and several of his friends/coworkers will regularly reach out to you to try and assist you.  It's going to be so precious and helpful to you, if only just by knowing that they remember.
          You will need to surround yourself with godly people with whom you wish to have help point to the Scriptures for strength and motivation. There will be no room in your life for naggers, but only people who will give you the encouragement and space you need to grieve this loss and help give you godly counsel.

R is for Rest and Redefining
          Rest is going to be more challenging than you think, but try to get it every chance you can. It isn't going to make any sense; your body will be more exhausted than you could've ever imagined, mentally and physically, yet you will struggle with getting a full night of sleep, oh, 364 out of 365 of the upcoming nights. You may wanna invest in lavender and Lunesta early on.
Seriously...thebomb.com. Who knew?!
          Redefining yourself is going to be one of the most challenging aspects of this grief thing. The instant your husband died, you became a widow. Husbandless. 1/2 of a "we." Don't rush into figuring this out, because when you do... Well, rest will REALLY become an issue then. It will be hard internalizing that you're not a wife anymore...that you're not HIS wife. One day you WILL reach a place that you become more comfortable with it. Not OK with it, but more comfortable. You will probably still say "we" a year later, but you'll eventually learn to play it off like you were talking about you and your dog.  #allthetime

I is for Information and Insight
          That the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory, may give to you the spirit of wisdom and revelation in the knowledge of Him, the eyes of your understanding being enlightened; that you may know what is the hope of His calling, what are the riches of the glory of His inheritance in the saints, and what is the exceeding greatness of His power toward us who believe, according to the working of His mighty power.  Ephesians‬ ‭1‬:‭17-19‬
          You're going to get a lot of books. Read them, mark in them, take notes, and reread. Although no two grief journeys are the same, there are things you can learn from the insight of others who have "been there." There is a LOT of interesting information on grief, and the more informed you are, the better you feel about it. Normalcy will be what you hope for when you feel your craziest.  You're going to meet others throughout this year who have traveled this road. Their insight and experience will help with creating normalcy. The bond you will feel with many of them with be instant, and you will all have at least one thing in common--nobody wants to be in this club.

E is for Expression
          Use your creativity to express your love and your loss. Some things will be more painful than others, but there is a lot of healing and encouragement in expression. Blogging, journaling, decorating, and creating a memorial will be excellent outlets for you. Do them, and do them often. Part of expression will be in surrounding yourself with people who are comfortable with hearing story after story and emotion after emotion.  Pray for these people, and pray for them often.  You're probably going to wear them out. :)

F is for forgiveness
          There are a lot of things that are going to be said and done that will be hurtful. Like your dad said, nobody is going to intentionally hurt you, but it's going to happen. Know it's coming from a good place. You're going to have some things about the past that YOU are going to regret...forgive yourself.

          When it comes to grief, I wholeheartedly believe in the power of the struggle and see the benefit to doing the "hard things," even when nobody else is doing them or understands why you're choosing to do them. Grief is more unique than a fingerprint. It is different for every person.  What works for me may not work for you and vice versa.
          I ran across an {article} recently that had some personal questions about how one feels he/she handled grief during the previous year. I plan to answer them and hope that if you're experiencing grief that you will, too.
  1. Did I give myself permission to grieve freely, at my own pace, and in the ways I needed to?
  2. Did I give myself permission to fully experience love for my spouse/child/sibling/friend?
  3. Did I allow for moments of happiness without guilt?
  4. Was I honest with others about my feelings?
  5. Did I honor my loved one in ways I chose to?
  6. Did I embrace my pain in order to release it?
  7. Did I open my heart up to healing moments, once I was ready?
  8. Did I go on living life in the aftermath of the death of my loved one?
          I've done a lot of thinking about Matthew 5:4-  Blessed are those who mourn, For they shall be comforted. Most commentaries that I've referenced say that this is talking about sinners being overcome with a godly sorrow, leading to repentance, and then ultimately being comforted by God who redeems His own through salvation. What I see in this verse is that the word mourn is a verb. It's an action, not a feeling. It doesn't say those who are really, really sad or those who cry...it says those who MOURN. If you consider the context of this passage in reference to grief, I think at some point, once we've gone through many of the stages, we can totally be comforted in a way that only turning to God can provide. Mourning takes action, and that's not always easy. Should you feel bad if it takes a while for that comfort to come to you? Not at all. My prayer is that all who mourn will totally embrace it and commit to riding it out while immersing themselves in His truth.
          Bradford James Higgins taught me more about life and love than I ever thought I could know. He was a fantastic fella and my most fav. My life is forever changed for the better because our paths crossed. There were moments I literally didn't know how I could take another breath without him. How would I make it through the day? Week? Month?! And here we are...a year later. I miss him every single day and always will. The last words he ever spoke to another person {from what phone records and timing tell me} were to me and were "I'll see you when I get there."

          How about I'LL see YOU when iiii get there, Bradford. :)

 

Monday, March 9, 2015

Content


     The anticipation for this past weekend has been years in the making!  My lil bro, Bradley, finally married the girl of his dreams!
     It was just over a year ago that Lauren and Bradley got engaged at the Grand Canyon.  Bradford and I came to town for Tyler and Janna’s wedding shower and, luckily, the newly engaged couple made it back to town before we left. 
Janna recently told me about the last time she saw him.  We were about to leave the restaurant, and Bradford told her he’d see her at her wedding.  They both did a cute little dance. :’)  Who knew that would be the last trip we took to MS together.
     At Bradley and Lauren’s rehearsal dinner, each person in the wedding party was to get up and say a little something about the bride and groom.  I don’t normally get nervous in front of a crowd, but for whatever reason I kept saying how much I enjoyed growing up with Bradley “at the house.”  HAHA!  I mean, we had fun in public too, unless you count that time I thought I would throw him out of my car while he was hanging half of his body out of the window as I was driving down the interstate. Everything but that.  And maybe the time he punched me in the mouth. ;) Something I forgot to mention was how happy they always are talking about one another.  Bradley and I have had countless conversations where he would simply say, “She’s awesome” with such a cute little grin on his face.  There’s nothing in this world that brings me greater joy for him than to see the way that Lauren looks at him and talks about him.  I know how much she admires and respects him.  {I will never forget being looked at and made to feel the same way!} Even better than that, I know how much she loves God and wants to please Him, and that will naturally overflow into her marriage.  Something else I forgot to say at the rehearsal is that I’m SO GLAD that Lauren found SOME WAY to get to be my sister!  Whatever it takes, right?! :)
     Weddings have always been emotional for me.  Most girls attend them and at some point in their lives wonder if they’ll ever find love.  And then there are the weddings you attend after you HAVE found love and can’t wait for your own!  Even still, you’ll go to some after being married and have great memories of your own wedding to look back on.  Some of us even go to weddings after our spouses have passed on.  Hands down, those are the toughest. 
I was so thrilled to have a front row seat {minus the chair, add the high heels and a few stairs} and witness these two lovebirds letting the whole world know how serious they are about their commitment to one another.   It blows my mind how I can be so overjoyed that I can’t stand it, yet so ridiculously sad.  Tears were flowing because I was so thrilled that my brother has found the one whom his soul loves.  He has a partner in this life to build him up when the world tries to bring him down.  He has someone to share the best and worst moments in life with.  He has the most adorable mom for my future nieces/nephews!  Time kind of froze in the moment I heard them say, “As long as we both shall live.”  Tears also flowed as my mind went back to my own wedding day, and I couldn’t help but compare the happiness on their faces with the unknowing joy on mine and Bradford’s faces.  No clue!
     But you know what is cool?  We did it.  We were faithfully committed to one another as long as we both lived.  Even knowing what I know now, I wouldn’t change it.  I’d marry him a million times over.
     The prayer I began March 7, 2015 is one I will continue—that they will not know the pain of losing one another for a very, very long time.  That they will grow old together, even when their legs don’t work like they used to before…

     One of my favorite inspirations has become Michelle Steinke, founder of One Fit Widow.  She lost her husband in 2009 and has found numerous ways to encourage others who find themselves walking a path similar to hers.  She recently remarried, and before she did, she and her fiancé had this to say--He told her he’s never known anyone who loves more completely and more deeply than her.  She laughed and said, “You don’t know very many widows, do you?”  There really is a unique perspective, deep sensibility, and keen awareness of time, or lack thereof, which is granted to survivors.  We’re aware of the value of each moment we have.  In recent months I discovered that although I gave every bit of my love away, I’m pretty sure I still have a whole lot more where that came from.
     I hope that wherever you are on your love map, that you will be satisfied and content in being who God wants you to be.  He takes care of His children and provides for them in ways that only He can.  Lonely?  He’s got you covered and is with you {Matthew 28:20}.  Abundantly happy?  He’s right there with you and wants you to trust in Him {Proverbs 16:20}.  Aggravated and disappointed?  Well..are you clinging to Him or more concerned with yourself and your own agenda?
I pray that whatever your circumstances are that you are able to allow God to “do His thing” without getting in the way.  I hope that you will look to Him, and trust that He will provide you with exactly what you need, exactly when you need it.  I pray, most of all, that you will be content.
Now godliness with contentment is great gain.
1 Timothy 6:6

Tuesday, February 24, 2015

All About the ThinKs

          I bought a huge box of thank you cards before I flew back to TN from Kansas back in June, figuring I'd have some time to get caught up on some thank you notes during my layover. The only thing I caught up on was phone calls and the current book on grief I was reading.  During the next several months it was all I could do to even breathe. I don't want to make excuses, but living really hurt, let alone reliving the trauma from April. Fast forward to now...
          There isn't a day that goes by that I don't remember many of the kind things that were done for me in the moments, days, and weeks after losing Bradford. I run into people in town and smile to myself, thinking of whatever selfless acts they displayed to me in a time I needed it most. I've tried to express to people just how much they mean to me, but I don't know that I could give enough hugs, say enough heartfelt words, or give back enough to tell just how blessed I've been and how thankful I am.
          During the 2015 Snowpocolypse, I've made the time to finally write out many more of the thank yous that I've put off for too long. I'm realizing why... It's not that I'm not thankful. It's not that I'm ungrateful. It's not that I'm simply just that lazy.
It's hard.
It's hard to revisit those times, visualizing all that was associated with what each person did for me and that pain that accompanied it.
It's hard to express how deeply touched I was by countless brave and selfless individuals.
It's hard feeling like I'll never be able to give back and return to others what was given to me.
And it's hard realizing that it's been almost 11 months and many people have yet to have a handwritten thank you from me, which I feel displays a lack of gratitude.
          I've been on the fence about whether or not I would share this blog. I want everyone to see some of the most precious tokens I was given. I'm surrounded by so many incredibly loving people, near and far, and have been blown away by not only the material gifts I've been given, but their gifts of listening, showing up, and fearlessly helping me through this thing called grief. My fear in sharing some of the tangible gifts I've received is that I know I'm leaving so many things out, and I don't want to THESE come across as being more important than the gifts of encouragement, time, and attempted understanding. I just got some really thoughtful things I wanted to share with y'all...

          First of all, what girl doesn't love flowers every now n then? I have some thoughtful folks in my life who knew just when to make this girl feel extra special.
          This is seriously one of the most thoughtful gifts ever. If you don't know Jennifer Gerhardt, you should. She is a writer/blogger/mommy extraordinaire, and she has shared her gift of writing in the form of a self-paced writing workshop called Field Notes [a workshop].  Her sweet parents, who were also Bradford's dorm parents at FHU, gifted this to me. Click here to find out more information about it for yourself or someone you know who would benefit from this. It has provided such insight  and proven to be oh so helpful in helping me to do what I set out to do from the moment my world turned upside down--see God in it.
          I got a LOT of books as gifts in an effort to help me sort through the pain.  These are 3 that I would HIGHLY recommend to those who are dealing with grief.  Grace for the Widow by Joyce Rogers discusses both the profound and practical aspects of life, encouraging widows to center their lives on the Word of God, and provides practical ways this can be worked out in our daily lives. Hope for Those Who Struggle by Don Williams and Walking with Those Who Weep by Don & Ron Williams help to provide clarity and insight to those who are dealing with any type of grief. Hope for Those Who Struggle has specific information for people who have lost parents, spouses, children, both born and miscarried. 
          I received several personalized and precious pieces of jewelry. How do people even come up with this stuff?! On the first necklace you see a key hanging down with the word FAITH written on it.  This is such a sweet token from a sweet lady who barely knew me but who has become such a great source of encouragement to me. If you haven't heard of The Giving Keys, you should check their website out. It is such a simple, yet meaningful, way to encourage others and have them pay it forward.  I just adore the necklace with the quote about holding him in my heart! It has our wedding date, his initials, and a sentiment that will ALWAYS be true, no matter what.   My cousins got us matching bicycle bracelets--if you look closely there is a heart in the center of each wheel. Do you see that silver necklace there? The oval one? Yeah, that's Bradford's handwriting... :') Cue the waterworks!  A sweet friend of mine took a picture that I posted of a letter he had written me and had this made!  I'm in love with the Alex and Ani starfish bangle, and I'm even more in love with the meaning behind it.  The gal who gave it to me is quite the adaptable one, herself. :) The Katherine Popesco bracelet is from a dear family friend, and she wanted me to know that Bradford will always be remembered as iridescent, beautiful, shimmering, shining of many colors from the inside out, like that of a rainbow, like a kaleidoscope. I received 2 Pandora charms from my college girls {well, they're present-day, too!}  The one on the right has some sparkly, diamond-y jewels that represent each of us...The Fab Four!  The one on the left is called "Forget Me Knot" and represents Bradford.  And then there's the amazing necklace that says "I'll dream of you and count the days..."
          Anybody that knows me well knows how much I love music, esp. the indie/acoustic artists I've watched grow over the years.  Ernie Halter is one I discovered just before Bradford and I started dating.  He truly wrote the soundtrack to our love story, and I can't listen to him without visions of that crazy, loving dude I married.  In the first few days and weeks after losing him, all I could do was listen to his music, over and over again, tear after tear after tear.  You know when people say it hurts so good? That's what it was doing.  It made me feel close to Bradford, even though I knew he was gone and it tore me apart.  Count the Days was our song pretty much since day 1 {which made a lot of sense for our long-distance love}.  The thing about listening to this song after his death was that it was so upbeat,which felt so wrong, and all I could do was count the days until I would see him again.
We LOVED seeing him!  I don't know if Bradford ever laughed harder at me than the night we met him!
          Want to know why Ernie Halter is thebomb.com and one of the most incredible singer/songwriters EVER?! I mean, besides the obvious talent aspect.  He redid "our song." For me.  FOR ME!  This was definitely one of the most touching gifts I could've received. Thank you, Ernie, for selflessly using your talent to help this girl out, expecting nothing in return. You can {hopefully} listen to the song here:

Play Song
Here are the original and live versions of "Count the Days." 
          If you don't have any of this guy's music, I dare you to go to iTunes download an album or 2 of his tonight...or at least a song :)  Better yet, schedule him for a HOUSE CONCERT!  That's right, folks...he can come to YOU! :)  www.erniehalter.com
           I would be remiss if I didn't mention the never ending piles upon piles of cards sent to me from countless individuals, many I've never even met. Whether you wrote one card, have sent one monthly, weekly, or even DAILY, it touched me. I want to be more like so many of these people :)
          It would seriously take me all month  if I attempted to post pictures of every box of sunshine, Sonic unsweet raspberry tea, figurine, picture, etc. etc. ETC.  Again, it's not about the THINGS...it's the THINKS that have been so priceless.  Every thought and action have done so much in helping me face reality.
           Today was the perfect day for me to finish this post. It's so easy to be overcome with all of the worries of this world and the negativity in it while trying your best to bear the burdens of others around you who are hurting. I need to always remind myself of the good in this world, and when there doesn't seem to be any, remember this world isn't what it's all about, anyways. 
Who can YOU encourage today? What peace can you help to bring them? 

Monday, January 26, 2015

Loopty-Loo



If the Andersons weren't busy getting excessive amounts of sun at the local Y growing up, you could most likely find us at Six Flags. We LOVED riding roller coasters--the bigger the better. I can remember the first time I rode the Shockwave. It was the one right by the interstate and I always cringed as I watched people go upside down not once, but TWICE! I'm pretty sure I cried the whole way through the line, but Daddy insisted that I try it. Turns out, I loved everything about it and begged to ride it again! The best thing was when you were done riding and there was no line, so you got to stay on board for another round.
You wanna know what my least favorite roller coaster is? This one. The high points have been higher and longer lasting than they've been to date, but the lows drop faster than anything the Tower of Terror has ever seen.
People probably don't really care to read my sob story about the sadness I deal with/overcome/succumb to daily or the nostalgia of every special day, but I want to keep this memory to remind myself of everything I've dealt with in days to come, and, possibly, provide some sense of normalcy for someone else experiencing a similar pain. If you're in the former group, just stop reading now ;)
This past weekend I went to "Granny G's Christmas." It's the one time of year that all of my grandma's extended family gets together down in Fayette, AL to eat, laugh, and play games. We didn't go last year because we went to NOLA to cheer on my sister-in-law Melissa in her first 1/2 marathon. So, this was my first one to attend without Bradford since we've been together. I had a really great week and started off the day with the best of intentions to remain as upbeat as I could, even though the memories flooded me, starting with the first ice patch I dodged before I even got to Main St. You see, today marks 5 years since that sweet fella asked me to marry him.
 
I love that he proposed in the living room of the house I live in today :)
 This crazy guy drove down to MS to ask my family's blessing to marry me {after meeting them only once, I might add!}  He cooked my favorite meal and I called him Lucifer for asking me to stray from my diet #CLUELESS
There goes my fiance, y'all!  I couldn't wait for him to never have to leave at night again.  And don't worry; my walls aren't green anymore ;)

The following weekend was the annual Christmas gathering. It snowed so much that week, but there was NO WAY I wasn't making the trek down to show off my man and my bling!
Ice, Ice Baby!  The funny thing about this picture is that I took it right in front of the house we ended up living in!
Look at these BABIES!
 

            I told myself early on in my grief that I’m committed to feeling whatever it is that I’m feeling and riding it out.  I can’t tell you how frustrating it is to think I’m doing okay and then to be punched in the chest, barely able to breathe.  It is indescribable.  I also decided that I’m going to celebrate, commemorate, and whatever other –ate word you wanna throw in there during any memorable time this first year without him…who knows how comfortable I'll feel to be able to freely do that in the future.  He was a guy worthy of remembering and celebrating and was the best thing that ever happened to me.  Although it’s tearing me apart, tonight I am reminiscing and am so grateful for the night he asked me to be Mrs. Bradford Higgins. :)