It has been 6 weeks since my last post and what a full 6 weeks it is has been! SO bear with me while I recap what's being going on! First of all we celebrated Thanksgiving, our second one without our beloved Todd. We actually spent it with his mother in the house he grew up in. As you can imagine since Todd and I started dating in high school there is a lifetime of memories in that house not only for him but for me as his love and best friend for 24 years! Even though I knew it may be difficult being there I asked his Mom to host Thanksgiving and actually it was very nice and really not sad. I sat in different parts of the house and reflected on many a memory some good and some not so good but none the less it was a walk down memory lane. It was also nice getting to share fun stories and memories of their Dad with the kids. It ended up being a really nice visit and Thanksgiving surrounded by Todd's family. I thank God for another one down! Holiday that is.
The kids and I welcomed the Christmas season by getting a tree from Lowes and unlike this last year, this year my heart was ready to see and remember the box of ornaments that Todd had collected each year of his life and then the ornaments that had been given to me beginning with the dating years until now. Each ornament could tell it's own story of a special trip where it was bought or the thoughtful person or friend who gave it. I even pulled out many of our old decorations that Todd and I had collected over the years on our travels to different Bed and Breakfasts. Which was another thing. Todd started a tradition with me that first December in 1993 (the year we were married) when he surprised me by taking me to a B & B in Salado to look at lights, shop and just get away from the "day to day" life to celebrate each other, our marriage and all God was doing in our lives. SO several months ago I had the idea to celebrate the season in a place that I had always wanted to visit in December... New York City!!
So the second weekend in December me along with my dear friend, Mati , who also happens to be a widow decided to visit what I feel is the most magical place at Christmas. Todd and I actually had the privilege of visiting NYC about 8 years ago with a dear couple friend of ours and it was an amazing trip, one that I will never forget but this one was going to be different. It would be a girls trip and one to celebrate our new life. God was good to give us great weather, it was cold and rainy which may not seem like good weather to you but to this girl from hot and dry Texas it was wonderful and I enjoyed every minute!! Our first night we saw the enormously gorgeous tree in Rockefeller Center and even ice skated under it's lights. That was a real treat as I have never ice skated outside before and again soaked up every magical minute!
The next day we got up and braved the train from NJ where we were staying with Mati's family into NYC where we then had to figure out the subway system and did get a bit turned around but felt like God sent us several angels disguised as New Yorkers who helped us find our way to SERENDIPTY!! And oh my word if you have never tried their famous, "frozen hot chocolate" and you are a chocolate lover it is a MUST and totally worth the two hour wait!!
Next stop was Bloomingdales which was girls dream store and apparently most of NY also thought so but none the less we had a great time looking at all the beautiful things there. Our day would have been complete with our stop to eat at Little Italy which was incredible and loved every bit of that too but we decided we needed to take in the night life and danced the night away at a hip NYC club! Have I mentioned I LOVE to dance, well I do and it was a lot of fun! So day two was a complete success and we saw everything or almost everything we wanted to see up to that point but we had one more day!!
Sunday was spent in the Times Square where we saw Wicked which I knew very little about but ended up LOVING!! I think the story and overall production itself was incredible and has now replaced what used to be my top favorite, Phantom of the Opera! As we were watching Wicked and laughing throughout enjoying the story the two main characters (Glinda and Elphaba) begin to sing a song called "For Good" they talked about friendship and I immediately thought of Mati and gave her a little nudge and then the song took a turn and as I listened to the following (which is just part of the song) the tears began to run down my cheeks as if the dam had broken as I thought about Todd...
(Glinda): I've heard it said that people come into our lives for a reason
bringing something we must learn
and we are led to those who help us most to grow
if we let them and we help them in return
Well, I don't know if I believe that's true
But I know I'm who I am today Because I knew you...
Who can say if I've been changed for the better? But because I knew you I have been changed for good
(Elphaba): It well may be that we will never meet again in this lifetime
So let me say before we part so much of me is made from what I learned from you
You'll be with me like a hand print on my heart
And now whatever way our stories end, I know you have re-written mine By being my friend...
Who can say if I've been changed for the better?
Because I knew you...I have been changed for good...
I don't know if reading those lyrics moves you in any way but when you have lost an amazing person or persons in your life who have touched your life, molded and shaped it forever... those lyrics move you!! Or at least they did me! About the time tears are streaming down my cheeks I look over at Mati and she is sobbing so I hug her and we cry until the end. Then the women sitting next to Mati leans over to her and says, "Are y'all gonna be okay?" We laughed and said, "that's what everyone tells us" We realized we must have been making a scene but I guess it was exactly what we needed to be doing! Up to that point there had been no tears on the trip. So thankfully our time in NYC didn't end with tears but we found a really fun pizzeria in Times Square to end our night with some really fun characters laughing and recapping our trip. Yes this December trip was quite different from the B &B trips Todd and I took every year for 17 years but it was healing for my heart and soul and reminded me that there is still much life to live, experience and that everything in life has a reason and purpose. Even loss... there is benefit even it that! And I believe I have been changed for the good, wow did I just say that??
SO fast forward a couple of weeks to Christmas break the kids are out of school and we chose to stay home for Christmas which can I say was big step for me. Todd always decorated our home for Christmas and made it a special place to be! Last year I could not even be in the state but this year my heart was in a much better place and I felt as though we could have Christmas here. We created new memories like looking at the trail of lights at Zilker Park, we ventured to one of Todd and I's favorite Hill Country towns, Gruene. I have to say while I was there I thought a lot about Todd and at one point we were looking in his favorite store I was overwhelmed with missing him and wishing he was there. And it's as if the Lord said, "Cassi I gave you 24 years with Todd and you were blessed to share dozens of times coming and looking through this store with him" In that moment I told myself that was true and what a gift our life was, I chose to focus on the incredible memories and not be sad and realized that I was now getting to share this fun and really cool town/store with my other family and we were creating new memories! I realize there are others who have no family to share such things with... I am blessed indeed!
The pic above was taken outside the General Store. Jackson found the candy cigarettes, you know the kind we played with as kids? It was a flash back night in many ways =)
The weekend went on and I even hosted a party for 24 friends and family who did not have family in town, another first since Todd's passing as we used to host lots of parties and continually had people in our home. It was even jokingly said of us one time that we should call our house, "Todd and Cassi's B & B". It felt good to open our home and everyone seemed to have a good time. We celebrated with our church family the day before Christmas Eve and that was new as in the past we did a Christmas Eve service with our church family where we were on staff with but it was a sweet time none the less. The on Christmas Eve we went to play mini golf which my kids love and I have to say I really enjoy too! It was a blast and a new tradition was born!
Christmas morning came and the kids slept until 8:30 which worked for me as I stayed up wrapping until 2. So the first thing we do in our home is tell the Christmas story and then the kids can open presents. It was really fun to see Jackson help tell the story. Again we are walking through some of the same traditions and then lots of new ones too. There is no doubt Todd's larger than life personality, love of Christmas and anything that involved family and celebrations was still missed beyond measure but what I love about how God heals and allows good to still come from what seems like a situation that initially you think may never produce good. My kids, our families and even myself have walked through another year. Gaining more strength to walk through our new life. We have a renewed Hope in the plan God has set before us. I am realizing more and more that we are all changed for the better for knowing Todd and we are changed because of this loss and difficult road God has asked us to walk down.
So as you process your past year and enter a new one. What have you learned? How has God grown or changed you?? Maybe you are struggling to see the growth or change? You can't change the past but you can certainly change the future. I know for me I have some lofty goals for the New Year, some I may share later. I am praying that for those who are searching for the strength to be different and changed this 2013. Change starts first and foremost by asking Jesus to come into you heart and life and make you new and by having a relationship with him. My hope and prayer for you if you do not have this, that God would reach down and touch your life in a way that you will forever be changed. The way He has done with mine. May God richly bless you as you seek His presence this year!
Because I know Jesus I am changed for the good and can Live For More,
PS My kids and I had the great privilege of camping with family after Christmas at the gorgeous Perdenales State Park and we hiked Enchanted Rock for the first time. It was a beautiful display of Gods majesty and creativity, what wonderful new memories we created there as well. I look forward to more camping memories this coming year! Also, look for more frequent, shorter posts as I share life through the eyes of widow, single Mom and child of the King!
2 Chronicles 16:9 "For the eyes of the Lord range throughout the whole earth to strengthen those whose hearts are fully committed to Him"