A week I will always remember...

I am home again after being gone for six days. I left for Tennessee on Tuesday. I spent Wednesday and Thursday visiting with family (including an aunt and cousins I had not seen in many years), drove to Franklin to see my kids Friday, then spent my last night in Murfreesboro with a friend. I also got to go back to my church home of the last nine years, World Outreach Church in Murfreesboro, for the Saturday night service. I was so tired by the time I got to Murfreesboro that I didn't really feel like going anywhere. But I was glad I made the effort. No matter where I go or how comfortable I am anywhere else, WOC will always feel like home. I can't express how good it felt to be there.

I made it home in six hours and ten minutes. I only stopped for gas one time. It's such an easy drive for me. And it makes living in another state (away from my grandsons) a little easier. I have been back every month since we moved. And when I say goodbye each time, I do so knowing it will only be a matter of weeks before I see them again. But I still get a little melancholy. I think it's because I have reached the age where I see time slipping away faster and faster.

I was feeling a lot of emotion this whole trip. It was primarily good emotion. I loved seeing my Aunt Jan, and my cousins, Sandie and Bonnie. And I always enjoy seeing my brothers, sisters-in-law, nephews and nieces, and my dad. But my dad and my aunt are in poor health now and they have aged a lot in the last few years. I have so many memories of both of them in the prime of their lives. My dad remained extremely healthy and youthful up until he hit the age of 60. He is now 76 and has had many health issues in the last 16 years. One of his health issues is Parkinson's Disease. But he also had triple bypass surgery a few years ago and he has had CLL for about 15 years. I've watched him struggle with these challenges and decline physically, especially in the last several years. But I cannot get used to seeing him as this elderly person he now is. I realize I never pictured him getting old. And I wish he didn't have to.

I have not watched my aunt age gradually. The last time I saw her, she was young. She is only 72, but because of health problems she is a little more frail than a healthy 72-year-old. And it was hard to wrap my mind around this new version of Aunt Jan. I kept wondering how we all got this old so fast. And there is always that awareness in my mind that I am "up" next. I'm only 53 and I pray I have many more years of good health ahead. But none of us knows that. I have been reading a blog this year of a 33-year-old mother of two young boys who is in the last stages of colon cancer. If God does not perform a miraculous physical healing, she won't be here much longer. I feel so unworthy and yet so thankful for my last 20 birthdays. If only we could realize at a younger age just what a gift each day of life is.

I felt emotional after each time I said goodbye to different family members this week. I don't know when I will see my aunt and cousins again. And because life has taken us all in different directions, we've lost so many years of closeness I wish we'd had. When I got back to Murfreesboro, I stopped by our old house to pick up a few things. And I got all choked up just walking around in the "shell" of what was our home. I have never felt so sentimental about leaving a house before. And it has nothing to do with the structure. It's all about the memories. Every time I go back inside, I am overwhelmed with thankfulness for the five amazing years there that are now behind me. The emotion isn't sadness about leaving. I have never been any happier than I am right now, living in West Virginia. I just feel an emotional attachment that I have never felt about a house before. And I think it's because I'm getting older. (It definitely isn't the house itself because I never want that much house to take care of again!)

It's always good to get home after being away; especially when I go anywhere without John. Driving home today, I kept thinking about how different my life would be without him. I am so thankful for every day of the last nine years and three months. There is never a moment when I am not thankful for being blessed much more than I deserve. There were many days prior to John when I felt despair and loneliness in an abusive marriage. As many of you already know, I have been working on a book about domestic abuse and my own past struggles as an emotionally battered woman. I spent three times as many years being abused as I have spent being loved and cherished. And the marriage I have today was beyond my wildest dreams for all of those years. I could not have imagined my life as it is today. But it was always a reality in God's plan.

We all have a different path to walk. God does not bless us all in the exact same ways. And He doesn't give us all the same challenges to overcome. But there is a purpose and a plan for everything He allows in our path. Part of our spiritual and emotional growth is learning to embrace both equally; the challenges along with the blessings.

Every time I see my dad, I wish he did not have to have Parkinson's. I wish he could have stayed healthy and youthful into his eighties or nineties. And I hate seeing him suffer. But I also see things God is doing in his heart through his circumstances. That makes me thankful. I recognize God has strengthened my character and increased my compassion by allowing me to go through hard things.

After I posted a picture of my dad and me on Facebook, I got a few private questions about the status of our relationship. There was some distance between us for a time. But that has changed over the last year or so. I can tell my dad is genuinely happy to see me every time I visit him. And I believe he loves me as much as I love him. I had given our relationship to God and was at peace with whatever did or did not happen. And I didn't realize how healing it would be for me to experience the warmth I have felt from my dad in recent months. I'm thankful to have the memories I will now have for the rest of my life.

This post may seem a little melancholy. I am definitely feeling reflective tonight. But I am not sad. I am just aware of how precious every day is. And I felt like writing. This has been a week I will always remember.