The Last Couple Weeks…

Last night after a 12- hour shift I pulled into our apartment complex, parked the car, took the elevator up to our floor and walked into our home.

“How was it?”

That was all it took. The tears just flowed. And flowed some more.

DJ jumped up from the couch and just held me.

The end of my first week of in-hospital nursing came to a close. With it came feelings of incompetence like none I have ever experienced. Those feelings of inadequacy slowly chipped away at my confidence, as though carving out pieces of my soul. After three shifts, I was broken.

I knew this was coming, mentally. I have heard it from countless other new nurses before. I won’t let that happen, I lied to myself.

Yes, this past week was perhaps one of the most emotionally draining of my life. I knew orientation would be a challenge- but I truly don’t know how I’m going to finish everything by the deadline of April 19th. We have countless skills we have to perform in-hospital, but when caring for patients, it’s hard enough to find a bathroom break, let alone demonstrate how to set up a chest tube, how to clean a tracheostomy, how to insert an NG tube, how to change a CVC dressing, set up a lumbar drain, etc.

On top of that is the physical exhaustion- the 4:30 wake up calls, the intense modules to complete on my “day off”, the desire to keep a home running for DJ and I to live in, including keeping groceries stocked and the laundry done.

But perhaps one of the most challenging aspects right now stems from the deep love I have for the people I am caring for. All that above, it’s hard to do, but oh man, it is so worth it when I can care for someone so intimately and make a difference in their lives. But out of this love I have for caring for my patients comes a desire to be freaking good at caring for them. And I’m not. I have no idea what I’m doing right now, and I am beyond frustrated with myself. One of our educators told us multiple times that we have to be forgiving with ourselves. Now I totally understand what she meant.

I forget to chart so many things. I lay awake panicking because I can’t remember if I did A, B, AND C, or if I only did A and B. I drive to work nauseas because I’m so terrified.

But it’s normal, they say.

Do I regret this choice or decision? No.

Do I wonder if I have what it takes? Yes.

Do I have to remind myself multiple times a day that God has a specific plan for me here? Yes.

Is this the first chapter of my story that has a beautiful ending where I can confidently say that I am a good nurse? I really hope so.

Ya’ll know that I’m pretty candid around here. Yes, I LOVE to make the world’s-worst jokes, and I LOVE to laugh-but I will let you know when it’s been tough tough tough. When things get stressful, I tend to go into hermit mode and cut myself off from the world. But in this past couple weeks I have worked up a serious appetite to blog. I feel like it always helps me put things back into perspective. When you can write about a situation, it gives it a tangibility and control at your finger tips. You decide what is highlighted, and ultimately you decide the perspective you have and the learning you gain from the experience. That’s what writing does for me, and it’s cathartic and healing in an essence of its own.

And although this week was so hard, I know that it will get better. I am in a learning season, and sometimes learning is one of the most trying obstacles we can face in life. Why? Because learning requires a stretch of our will, minds, energy, patience, and that is usually uncomfortable. But the awesome truth about the trials of learning is the accompaniment of growth. Lessons aren’t learned in complacency, but rather in tribulation. As is growth. So for that growth I am thankful, I need this stage to help me blossom. I need it to refine me and my character. I need it to meet new friends, lead people to Jesus, and carry out a purpose for which I have been called. One day this stage will allow me to encourage others that walk through it too.

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(Romans 5:3) Not only so, but we also glory in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope.

And in the mean time, I refuse to solely survive. I want to live, I want to thrive. I want to learn as much as I can and not let every negative, exhausting, emotionally draining situation define me or my perspective.

I also don’t write this for pity or anything- it’s simply to have a baseline for myself moving forward so I can see that growth that takes place! I know things will get better, and I hate to be negative, but it’s also important for me to be candid about these things for my own reflection! 

Hope I didn’t give anyone an extra case of the Monday blues! 🙈

Sooo, without further adieu. I would love to share some highlights of our week…

I am officially running the Big Sur Marathon!!! I haven’t officially announced it here because I didn’t know if my work schedule would allow it. To be honest, I haven’t trained much, so it may be a bit rough. If anything, I will see some spectacular views! I’m trying not to put too much pressure on myself to get a great time or even finish it if my body says, “heck nah”, so we will see. I did complete an 18-miler with two minor breaks on Friday while studying on the treadmill, so that’s not too bad! This weekend I don’t work Saturday, so I might go for a 22-miler while I study! Anywho…. here are my nature-y pics from other runs during the week!

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DJ and I still haven’t seen each other much during the week. Baseball season is gearing up, so he has been at work till about 10/11 pm every evening including many weekend nights. However, Saturday March 25th, he had a lunch break (where he could actually leave the office). We met at Bill’s because where else?! He ordered the french toast croissant and I ordered the greek omelette again because I’m addicted. We missed ya, Mom and Gordie! (If you missed our awesome weekend and the full review of Bill’s Cafe, check it out here).

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For dinner these past couple weeks, I have done crockpot ribs and a combination of Hello Fresh/Blue Apron, and salads. Blue Apron > Hello Fresh by a LANDSLIDE. I used Hello Fresh because we had a promo giftcard. It was promo no-no. I mean the stuff wasn’t horrible, but it was not Blue Apron. Blue Apron makes me feel like this in the kitchen…

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NOTHING ELSE DOES THAT! 

Oh, and here are the ribs. Made with none other than the SJ Giants BBQ sauce 😉 #REPRESENT

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This meal below was easily one of my favorite Blue Apron meals of all time!!! It was a mozzarella pizza with fresh oregano, spinach, and green bell peppers. YUM. The dough was perfection too.

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Traditionally, spring has been my least favorite season. But these California blooms are poppin’!

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BEST part of the day right here. Circa 5 am. Time with Jesus, coffee, Ezekiel bread/yogurt/strawberries.

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Oh hey look it’s a nurse! Don’t let the uniform fool you. My only recommendation for anything currently is to eat chocolate and take a Tylenol.

***Unless you have liver issues. Do not take more than 4g in a 24 hour period.***

Have to protect my butt now that I have a thing called a license.

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I’ve tried to change the scenery of my study areas and resorted to hanging out in our apartment’s community area. It’s so cute, I don’t know why I haven’t done this more in the past. And I’m lovin’ those pillows.

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On one of my days “off” (there is ALWAYS something to study and do or a class to attend on our days “off”, hence the quotations), I returned a ton of the business casual clothes I didn’t end up wearing for our two big business cas. weeks of orientation. I decided to take a quick stroll around Santana Row just to be outside for a bit. So many amazing memories here. There’s this memory and this memory and this memory……. It made me happy and nostalgic all at the same time.

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Thursday night we had our church group. This is the first time I have been able to make one since the group started up three weeks ago. DJ actually was able to request to leave early and led the group for the evening. Such a stud. My good friend Danielle (from that insane hike), made Lamingtons- a traditional Australian dessert. Holy Maloly they were so good. I can’t even explain. All good things come from Australia.

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She also made Vegemite/Veggie/Bacon and cheese scrolls- Which are seriously manna from heaven, and all people need to try these before they die. Danielle is also one of the greatest bakers ever, and I think Jesus blessed me a little extra with her as a friend.

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Last night was the first date night DJ and I had since my last post (at the Socialight on March 24th). I came home from work around 8 pm emotionally exhausted and hangry as mentioned above. ***I also have to make a side note that DJ cleaned the whole house, did dishes and laundry on his first day off in a couple weeks. He is amazing.***

Anyways, there was a very specific meal I was craving- and that was Lazy Dog’s Sesame Crusted Ahi Tuna over Cauliflower mashed potatoes in a curry coconut cream sauce. Luckily, DJ hadn’t ate a huge dinner so we headed over to Main Street for a late one. (Also what better place to go post 12-hour work day than Lazy Dog?)

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This was the highlight of my week. Just spending these precious, small moments with DJ. (He doesn’t like me taking his picture, so I sneak them and then post them on the internet while he’s not looking 😉 ). And then he’ll read this and I’ll get a lecture. It’s like clockwork.

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And forever, the PEET’s mug will host our Sunday mornings.

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So, today was PALM SUNDAY!!!! I needed my church family badly. They encouraged me greatly. Also, in this worship service today, I felt so wrapped in love. There is a specific reason for this… it’s amazing the way God works.

Going back a few years… the day after my dad passed away in high school, I went to church. I felt like going through the “normal” motions was just how I coped. I remember the first song that played in our worship service was “Hosanna”. I couldn’t choke out the words but my heart was singing them. It was laden with emotion and has been for me ever sense. It’s weird though, it doesn’t bring with it feelings of immense sadness and loss necessarily. It brings back the reminder that the Lord is my comfort in my darkest moments. Our church that DJ and I attend now has their own worship music from C3 Church’s elevation worship- they rarely play more “mainstream” worship that most churches know. However, this morning, while I was feeling downcast and perhaps more stressed than I have in my life, the worship team started playing this song. It just brought me such comfort- reminding me that God is my place of rest, my Prince of Peace. I felt like Jesus was reminding me that He will be with me through all of this.

DJ had to work today, but was back home for dinner (officially an anomaly).

For dinner tonight I had some leftover Seared Sesame Ahi tuna from leftover’s last night in my salad with tons of avocado and white cheddar puff pastries from Blue Apron. DJ wanted his leftover ribs.

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I spent the rest of today studying and basically trying to get organized (contrary to what the picture might say).

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The work week starts again bright and early at 5:00 am (which now feels like sleeping in compared to my hospital days). I have modules and classroom work the beginning of the week and 12-hour shifts starting Thursday.

I am so very sad that blogging has been put on the big ole’ back burner. Once orientation is over the load should lighten up a bit. I send ya’ll so much love.

xo ❤

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Week(end) recap & First Day on the Job!

Happy Mondayyyyy!!!!!!!

Maybe your Monday has been like this….

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Or, perhaps, like this…

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Based on the amount of caffeine I’ve needed to support my 2.5 hours of sleep and first day of work (hence the 2.5 hours of sleep), my Monday has been like this…

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I will recap how today went a little bit later. But for now I will give a short little recap of our week/weekend.

Last week I had to finish up last minute things on the checklist to get ready for work. On Wednesday night we met our friends (Danielle, I went on the hike with ,and her husband Matt) for sushi.

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We just love hanging out with them. Except they are forever cooler than us because they have Australian accents!

This might be my new favorite sushi place in the area. I love everything about the ambiance, and the sushi was superb!

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DJ ordered their lobster tempura roll and I may have snuck a few extra bites when he wasn’t looking… because YUM!

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I ordered a bit of a unique dish-but  I cannot wait to order it again! It is called the “Feel Free and Fresh Roll”- this is a cucumber wrapped roll with salmon, yellowtail, white fish, crab and avocado topped with creamy ponzu, apply pear, and tobiko. It was the most refreshing roll I have ever had. It is hearty too- with all the good protein from the fish. The whole thing was just a winner, and a new fave. Don’t be surprised if you see this little guy poppin’ up more around these parts 😉

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Thursday I went on a nice long run outside. I snagged this picture without realizing I was stepping in a beehive. WHOOPS! No worries- no stings, but it was a close call. I probably looked hilarious to the cars passing by as I flailed in a million directions while doing a furious pat-down to make sure no little devils were on me!

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I also went to Santana Row while running around getting last minute things for the job. H & M is a winner for business casual! I also finally found a great hair salon that doesn’t cost an arm & a leg… it only costs a hair!!! LOLOLOL. Ok- come on, that was one of my better ones, eh?!

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Thursday night I made another Blue Apron meal for DJ!! I have had SO many people ask me about Blue Apron, so I reached out to them to see if I could get a discount for my readers! If you go to my About page, I have link for $30 off your order! This service is a life saver- especially on busy days, and you will learn tons about cooking and how to use a vast array of different ingredients in the process!

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This night we made Oaxaca Plantain Tortas with sautéed shallots and red peppers. I didn’t know what to expect, and I wasn’t sure how DJ was going to respond to them, but he gobbled them right up! The combination of ingredients in BA always surprise me, but they always work!

After dinner we went on a nice walk together. Something I miss about our Indiana days were the walks we took after dinner when the weather was nice. Life is getting crazy, DJ isn’t returning home until 7:30/8 every night now (but he loves his job!), and soon I’ll be leaving before he even gets home (Get used to working that microwave, baby!). But it makes us appreciate the time we do have together, and reminds us to stop to smell the flowers 😉

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FRIYAY= ST. PATTYS DAY!

Ya’ll know I get wayyyy too worked up about any holiday. Mom L and Gordie sent us these gorgeous flowers as a thank you for the weekend, but also as a Happy St. Pat’s day. Now if that’s not permission to get into the spirit, I don’t know what is!!!

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ALSO, I am convinced that I have a sprinkle of Irish in me because I have freckles. And Mackenzie is a somewhat Irish name, right? It has an “M” and a “C” soooooo…………… I’m basically a leprechaun.

DJ rolled his eyes about 290359 times at me during the night when I said, “Kiss me, I’m Irish!”

He denies that I have even a smidgeon of Irish in my heritage.

I’m coming for ya Ancestry.com

But for real, who doesn’t get a serious case of FOMO if they aren’t Irish on St. Paddy’s?

Anywho. Ain’t gonna let the DNA keep me away from the ST. PADDYS DAY!

I had to make sure that we had our “Irish pub fix”. DJ and I have never “celebrated” this together before, but I didn’t want to miss the chance to take advantage.

Where better to go than Historic Murphy Avenue in Sunnyvale?

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We never knew this area even existed, but it has a street lined with darling lights, fabulous restaurant options, and interesting, eye-grabbing shops. We will certainly be back here to explore more!

In doing my “Yelp” research, I found that The Oxford is great for your St. P’s fix.

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To really get in the spirit, I decided to get an Oxford Mule (their main drink). I liked the ginger a lot, but I’m not gonna lie- I missed my Friday-date-night glass of red wine!

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Still good though, especially if you like Moscow Mules. Then again, this is the only one I’ve ever tried so I have nothing to compare it to.

This place is a fusion of all types- but I would say it’s retro london with a taste of modern industrial architecture (but maybes that’s just English style?).

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For dinner we were placed at their outfacing island. I loved this because we felt like we had the best of both words, half in and half out of the restaurant.

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It was challenging getting good pictures under the dim lighting, but I gave it my best Irish-girl shot. We started with the Monterey Squid with char-grilled squid, arugula, tomatoes, radish, & parsley relish. Every time a menu has octopus or squid as an app I basically have to order it. Why you say? Because the spanish octopus I had at Marco Prime in Marco Island was the greatest thing on the planet, and I will do anything to have that taste linger on my tongue once more. To have Spanish Octopus grace me with it’s presence……. Yes, I am the Shakespeare of food, how kind of you to notice. Anywho, this did not even come close to that level of flavor. On to the next squid..

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DJ ordered their Lamb Sliders. He devoured these little suckers right quick, so I’ll take it he enjoyed them. Orrrr he was trying to avoid conversation with me. We will go with the former.

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Now- I’m super bummin’ that I didn’t get a great picture of this dish because it was AH-MAY-ZING. Allow me to present chermoula eggplant with roasted eggplant, saffron rice, spiced yogurt, and cherry tomato crush. I don’t know what they put in that yogurt sauce- but good heavens, there are no words. DJ even said he couldn’t believe how good it was. I downloaded a saffron yogurt recipe and plan on trying to re-invent this in the future.

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DJ and I walked around Historic Murphy path after swearing we would be coming back in the near future. It was hopping since it is stacked with pub after pub after pub.
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Saturday, I got a nice long training run in on the treadmill while reading HP (currently on the third book, and I use it as motivation to get everything done during the day so I can read #HPaddict), did the household chores, and waited for DJ to get home from work.

At this point in the weekend I was feeling ancy mcnancy (Not making another Irish joke- I’m done, I promise, maybe). I was ridden with anxiety knowing I was starting up work on Monday. I wasn’t running to God’s truth and scripture much during the week, and naturally the anxiety was consuming me.

But I’m telling ya, God truly will renew our soul and relieve our anxiety, we just have to come to Him (1 Peter 5:7). I flipped open to John 14, the next chapter I was going to read going through the book of John, and literally the first verse said, “Do not let your hearts be troubled.”

And then a few verses later in vs. 26, “But the Advocate, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, will teach you all things and will remind you of everything I have said to you. Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid.”

He doesn’t give us a peace like the world gives- a peace that’s fleeting, a peace that is contingent upon circumstances, a peace that is dependent upon our emotions. The peace Christ has for us is lasting and sure. It is a peace that we can use as weapon when life isn’t comfortable (and it’s not a lot of the time). We can find joy through this peace in His name, despite anything that comes our way. My anxiety lessened when He worked on my heart and my perspective. His still, beautifully familiar voice (I haven’t made time for in my chaos) spoke to me and stopped the world from spinning off it’s axis-“I’ve got you” He said. He reminded me of His love and His promises which gave my heart utter, perfect, heavenly peace.

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DJ and I went on a walk when he came home. We went to Main Street Cupertino and then idly strolled other side streets. I savored each step, because I don’t know how this next chapter will look for us moving forward.

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DJ and I had a late snacky-type dinner of cheese and crackers (We have ate SOOO many cheese and crackers this week, it’s comical)…..but we still had a bit of room for more food around 8 pm. We decided to go to Rootstock, a place we had been wanting to go together for a while.

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They have an awesome bruschetta menu. We split the bruschetta (smoked salmon FTW), and I finally had my glass of red wine that I was sad I veered away from the day before.

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Sunday we went to church and then I finished up last minute errands. I made sure all my documents were good to go, and I even got a big girl purse to store everything from Target!

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For dinner we had salmon, edamame, and saffron rice leftover from The Oxford (There was tons).

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And today was the first day on the job!!!! I am wearing my Ann Taylor thrifted shirt that I bought a couple months ago if it looks familiar 😉

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GUYS- I LOVE THIS JOB! I love love love love love love love it. I am fatigued beyond words, but I love my colleagues (instant friends right there), I love my hospital, I love their mission, I love that I am only a couple weeks away from meeting my first patients as a real RN, and I am absolutely elated. The first day could not have gone better. Even on ZERO sleep, it was perfect.

I woke up (or more correctly, rolled out of bed) at 5:00 am- chugged a cup of coffee, a protein bar, & left the house by 6. The whole day the environment radiated non-pompous professionalism, compassion, joy, and genuine care for us as residents and for the patients of the hospital. Although it was mostly just logistical stuff, I truly think I gathered a great feel for the atmosphere, the expectations, and the type of program I am in. Lemme tell ya, I can’t wait to go back tomorrow. My fears have certainly been mitigated, and all I feel in this exhausted moment is blessed. I can’t wait to get on my floor so soon!

The rest of this week is orientation- same old, getting up at 5 getting home at 7 ish and then next week I have a similar schedule until I start 12 hour day shifts the first week of April. After that I transition into nights. I am actually excited about nights because I can’t sleep when I know I have to wake up early- I get all nutty about missing my alarm and stay awake like a raccoon. So rather than not sleeping nights & days, I just won’t be sleeping nights! As though this time difference isn’t enough already for my East coast folks, now I’m gonna go all nocturnal on ya’ll.

How is everyone doing?! Anyone out there legitimately Irish? Ya’ lucky ducks

Blog Birthdays!

Lathi at CookwithSmile on Thursday March 23rd

Myra at The Cooking Spoon on Monday March 26th

Happy Birthday to both of you! I am thankful for you both as blog friends and hope your birthday is absolutely perfect. You deserve to be spoiled and know that you are SO loved!

xo ❤

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SURPRISE: San Antonio, TX!

HOLAAAAA!!!!! To say I’m ecstatic to share this post would be an understatement. I arrived in Texas late Thursday night, so I will share the very beginning of those festivities in my next update post. BUT for now- guess what we have?!?!?…. A TRAVEL post!!! And the best part was how unexpected this one was!

On the Thursday that I arrived, my mom handed my sister and I each envelopes with the CUTEST notes inside….

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My sister is fluent in Spanish, has lived in Dominican Republic and Honduras for brief periods of time, and has been dying to use her Spanish lately, so she was beyond excited about this “hispanic adventure”. 🙂

My mom also knows how much I love blogging about our travels, and so she thought it would be a fun place to go to take lots of pictures, experience authentic culture and cuisine, and make some amazing family memories.

DJ had to stay in Cali for work, and my stepdad (Pete) insisted that we make this a girl’s trip… hence, we had the most epic girl’s trip to San Antonio for a literal 36 hours. We left at 7:30 am Saturday and returned 7:30 pm Sunday, on the nose.

Also fun fact: the last time I was in San Antonio was with my mom and dad when I was 23 months old. Now here I am, almost 23, going back to San Antonio on the exact same weekend I did all those years ago ❤

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As soon as we arrived, we took our bags up to our hotel room and hit the gym for a 30 min. run to get our energy levels up after the 4.5 hours of driving. It was exactly what we needed. The sun was just beginning to peak out too when we stepped outside, so it was perfect timing.

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We walked by the river walk, but didn’t yet explore because we had other things on our minds……. FOOD.

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My mom insisted that we eat at a restaurant in the Historic Market Square. This place is just one giant festival. The colors and decorations are multitudinous and vibrant, a nice change from the neutral tones of the Bay Area. Patrons and restaurant employees line the bricked walkway in los charros and las china poblanas (traditional hispanic garb). The atmosphere was contagiously upbeat, and the smells of food lingered through the air, enticing each passerby to consider stopping in to sample their own claim to fame.

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Mi Tierra is where my mom insisted we indulge. She never leads astray when it comes to good comida, so Halston (my sister) and I happily obliged.

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We put our names in and were told there would be about a 45 minute wait. Ya’ll think I can get hangry? You haven’t met mi hermana. She can be a wildebeast when she needs food. Sorry, Hal, it’s the truth. So 45 minutes just sounded a tad too long for us to twiddle our thumbs. Rather, we decided to go to the bar and order some drinks and apps to tide us over. Luckily we snatched the last few seats next to some locals wearing Mexican palm cowboy hats.

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Frozen margaritas for me and mother bear for starters

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I’m not the biggest fan of them, but when in Rome (Aka when in San Antonio). This one was delicious and accompanied the food super well. My favorite is the salt around the rim and I do prefer them frozen better, I must say.

& Virgin pina colada for baby sister bear. 

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We decided to split their special shrimp cocktail which uses jumbo shrimp, cocktail sauce, avocado, cilantro, and a bit of something magical to create the perfect combination. I wish so badly you could have tried this, Deej, because it was RIGHT up your alley!!!!

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And naturally- we had to taste test the salsa, avocado, and chips. My mom makes some out-of-this-world homemade guac, so that’s always the degree of comparison when we try other places’ recipes. The smoky flavored salsa was fantastic, chips were great, and the guac… on.point. No worries, Momma Jill’s still takes the lead.

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We didn’t leave a morsel of food behind… and then our buzzer paged notifying us that we had a table available. Oh shoot, we were gonna eat lunch weren’t we?! We decided we were pretty darn full and would just munch on the boardwalk when we grew hungry again.

We hopped into this bathroom before heading out and I had to take a picture. It was just darlin’!

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TIME TO EXPLORE!!!!

We finished exploring the Historic Market Square and then went to the indoor Historic Market place right next to it.

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Santa was just hangin’ around.

We stopped and watched the performances going on here for a few minutes, walked through the shops, and admired the handmade trinkets that littered the walls.

Now it was time to make our way to the River Walk!!!!

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The River Walk was absolutely like nothing I have ever experienced. It takes you to another place, and you really don’t even feel like you are in the United States anymore.

With the authentic Mexican eateries every few feet, one may assume they are in Mexico. When passing the Italian Cafe’s, one may have assumed they landed in a Venetian oasis.

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After exploring the River Walk we went to the Alamo. This holds a special place in my family’s heart. We have an Uncle who voluntarily came down from Kentucky and was killed in the battle. We found his name on the wall, took a picture, and discussed how sobering this moment was. All these years later, here are his great-great-great nieces were still coming to this place and discussing his memory because of his service.

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After exploring The Alamo, we hit the road and went to the Shops at the Rivercenter.

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I know where some of my blogging ladies would be spending their time 😉

The mall wasn’t insanely huge or anything, but it was awesome because you had a spectacular view of the river walk the entire time you shopped! We also picked up some Timberlands for my sister while we were there from Journeys!

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We did a bit more exploring around the awe-inspiring architecture and Cathedrals.

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TIME FOR A BREATHER.

We went back to the hotel and spent about 15 minutes resting our feet and recouping our energy. My mom kept saying, “Ya’ll better not fall asleep! I mean it!”.

Ok- we are good to go.

LET’S HIT IT!

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We headed back out as it started getting dark and decided to do the Riverboat Tour, because it’s like a requirement in San Antonio, honestly.We waited for a bit over an hour before we finally were able to get on the boat, but it was worth every second. The way the lights lined the gargantuan trees that loomed over the water, the jovially boisterous noise from all angles as people settled in for dinners and drinks, the music reverberating off the ancient brick, and memories being created for lifetimes all around us made the wait pleasantly bearable.

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The tour itself was one of my favorite parts of the trip. The air had a gentle breeze that was soft enough to just about put me  to sleep (coupled with the fact that we probably walked about six miles in a day). The coaxing of the boat down the water and the smooth rocking enhanced the experience of seeing the River Walk in an entirely new way. I loved the history that the guide provided about gems of San Antonio. Buildings we would pass by without a single glance now demanded a thought in space and time.

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We were able to get up close and personal to a monologue of Ebenezer Scrooge. This moment took me back to feeling like I was five years old again. The magic of Christmas was thick in the air.

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It cooled down incredibly quick, so I threw on this cardigan that I have been anxious to use for a night just like this!

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I know that you are all wondering- what about dinner?!?! I was wondering the same thing too by the time I got off that river boat! Most of the places on the River Walk are chains, and the ones that aren’t have a tremendous wait. We decided to try Yard House. This is one of my sister’s favorites. I have never been, but I will certainly be going back. The ONLY negative is they don’t serve bread, and my sister and I live for the bread at the beginning of meals.

We all basically have the same taste in food between my mom, sister, and I. We ordered a few things and then just shared them. We had the red quinoa salad bowl which included kale, parsley, brussels sprouts, roasted beets, cauliflower, pomegranate, feta, baby tomatoes, pumpkin seeds, and blood orange olive oil vinaigrette. Oh my lanta. I could eat this every day for the rest of my life I’m pretty sure.

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Next we shared the Mediterranean Salmon which was za’atar crusted with spicy tahini sauce and red quinoa with cauliflower, kale, golden raisins, and pistachios. It was YUM. I have never known what to use za’atar for (I have a bunch in my cabinet), so I am so pumped to start using it to crust my salmon!!!

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Last was the INSANELY delicious BBQ “Chicken” Pizza. It included Daiya (vegan) mozzarella, cilantro, red onion, and BBQ sauce. **Usually it just comes with normal mozzarella, but we asked for the substitute. This reminded me of the pizza samples we had from Morning Star at EAT/DRINK SF in August!!! Just fantastic.

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Next, we had to face the cold. The temperature had plummeted from the time we went in for dinner to when we left. Good thing giant blankets are back in style. LOLZ.

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In the morning on Sunday, we worked out for an hour, and then hit the River Walk for brunch.

But before we actually ate, we had to commemorate little sister’s first steps in her Timberlands 😉

When Halston read this ^^^ she said “Kenz, you make it sound like I’m a two year old! Take that off your blog!” Hahah. Tough luck chuck. I like it so it’s stayin’.

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Isn’t she the cutest in all the land?

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In other news, I hit a new level of basic. Didn’t think that was possible did ya?

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And on that note…Off to brunch!!

We decided to try this amazing place called Ostra. Momma Jill went in the past with Pete and said it was the bomb dot diggity. Just not in those words. We basically skipped in there we were so hungry and excited to eat their food.

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My sister ordered a hot chocolate while my mom and I ordered mimosas and coffee. Why coffee too? Because coffee never needs a reason, but also it was PEETS!!!!! Yes they serve Peets!!!!!!!

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We decided to do the breakfast buffet. They had about four tables of delicacies to choose from and an omelette bar. It hit the spot! We tried their special Chilaquiles, jams, fruit, toast (they had Fage to put on my toast, so I was pumped), granola, etc. etc. For meat eaters, they were not lacking in options- they had a plethora of delicious and unique options like blueberry sausage!

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We ate our fill (and then some) then headed out to the Natural Bridge Caverns. My sister and I have never been to Caverns before, so we were in for a real treat.

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Everything felt prehistoric and although we were freezing our tooshes off outside, the caverns themselves were toasty warm. Also, it’s a third degree felony to touch the cavern objects, so don’t do that.

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The pictures below cannot do justice to just how mammoth these caverns were. They were breath taking. Despite how my sister and I stood with our mouths agape the entire time, my mom swore that these didn’t even compare to the Luray Caverns in Virginia. Anyone ever been?

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Just a couple of cave-dwellers.

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We headed home after thirty-six hours that we will each forever treasure ❤

Thank you again, Mom!!!!

See ya’ll on the next post on my time here in Fort Worth!!! 🙂

xo ❤

Mack

Deck the Halls & A Special Announcement!

Hey everyone! First I just want to send a HUGE thank you to everyone who read and left the sweetest words on my last post. I truly just felt overwhelmed with encouragement and love. It’s amazing the connection and conversation that has been made through this blog and yours, and I am incredibly thankful for it.

Thank you also to Michael for his nomination for the Sunshine Blogger’s Award! I absolutely love his writing- It’s so genuine and full of truth. Check it out if you get a chance!

Today is Thursday. The awkward middle child of “FriYAY” and “HUMP DAY!”. Soooo I think you all can relate to this “poem” right about now. My mom sent this to me a few days ago and I had to share.

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And this was another one of my favorite things I saw all week..

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Anywayyyyy, I think for the update we left off right before Thanksgiving! I didn’t get many pictures of actual Thanksgiving day, but it was a good one! Just great family time, conversation, and happy bellies. I was on salad and fruit duty! I love that the holidays are an extra special excuse to make extra festive foods 😉

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This little guy had apple slices/farro/pomegranate/goat cheese/craisins/mixed greens. Pairs well with a nice balsamic or champagne vinaigrette.

Friday, I had a to-do list ten pages long. I conquered the errands for the day with a No Cow Bar in hand. These are my FAVORITE. I am a notorious Quest bar addict, but I like these even more. The lemon meringue flavor is by far the best, but I am a sucker for anything lemon. The dark raspberry truffle is really good too. The macros here are terrific, and they are vegan!

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I didn’t do any Black Friday shopping. OK. That’s a lie. I did jump into TJ’s real quick, but they weren’t having any sales “technically” because that place is always like one big Black Friday sale, and I love it.

I feel like the winter is birthday season central!! I love picking out the perfect card — and in my search I think I found the best card of all time. It’s 3-D sushi. I should have stock piled them.  

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Saturday during the day DJ went to a friend’s basketball game and caught up with a good friend that he hasn’t seen for years. That night we finished up The Office series. I cried like a baby when *spoiler* Michael came back for Dwight’s wedding. *ALL THE FEELS*. We have moved on to my choice series, which is Dexter. Good so far! Parks & Rec is next on the list after this. Also I need to catch up on Gilmore Girls so I can jump into that chit-chat.

We had Thanksgiving leftovers most of the weekend and into the beginning of the week. I swear Thanksgiving food is always better round dos. Saturday for dinner we decided to take a break from the bird & sweet potato mash and picked up some Oren’s. You guys know how much we love our Oren’s!

Also, Main street Cupertino is looking GORGEOUS. One of my favorite things this time of year is the way the Christmas lights suddenly appear in shopping centers and line the roads! Funny story though…. when I was driving on Main Street this past week a cop went through a stop sign and almost hit me (no lights flashing). The IRONY. He did wave in apology, but what is up with my run-ins with the po-po lately?!

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Sunday-FUNDAY! It was baptism Sunday at church. Everybody who participated was such a trooper considering it was in the 50s outside and the water was ice cold! There is something so powerful and exciting about watching others make a public declaration of their faith!

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Sunday afternoon we went tree picking!!!!!! I was havin’ serious FOMO when I saw everyone setting up their trees all over Insta & Fbook. We were planning on going Saturday, but by the time DJ was back it was nearly dark out! It gets dark so gosh dang early nowadays. It makes me all sleepy and hungry for dinner at like 4 o’ clock. Anywho- it was so fun looking for our own little piece of nature to bring into our home.

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Time to set it up! We named it Bow-Bow (Pronounced like “boe-boe”). Yes it’s silly & a bit strange to name your tree, but also more fun. No judging. We are hoping that Bow Bow stays alive longer than Spanky Tom did… RIP little guy.

Yes I know I am being I’m being such a type of girl in these next few pictures. Being basic isn’t a choice, I swear, I can’t help it.

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DJ wouldn’t let me get lone pictures of him by the tree. Party pooper.

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Yes, Aunt Terry, you best believe we are rocking the mugs you got us last year!

Confession: I made nine trips to Target in two days for various reasons. NINE. The first five were for the Christmas tree lights/decor. We kept getting the wrong kinds of lights (one of my friends said “HOW, they are Christmas lights?!”) and we still cannot find a good star topper that will actually stay up there. I think Bow Bow is a bit flimsy. I still have one more trip to make back to return a few things, but I’ll wait till we have to do a grocery trip. 

I had so much fun pulling out our Christmas decor. The stuff collects dust all year, so when it’s even kind of remotely socially acceptable these decorations come out to play.

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Monday DJ started a new job!! Wooohoo! He is working with the Church, but still getting his MBA next year. This is the perfect job in the meantime. He absolutely loves it so far!

On Tuesday morning I made this little guy because DJ wanted bacon and eggs. I couldn’t help myself and made a face. I couldn’t get the egg “eye” right on the left, but I just said it was because he was winking 😉 For some reason I think you would enjoy this, Cyranny. Hahah.

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I squeezed in a run outside on Tuesday to take a break from Shaun T kicking my rump (Insanity).

The trees are finally changing!!! It’s nothing like gorgeous Ohio in the fall, but I had an added pep in my step seeing a few bright colors here and there ❤

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Yesterday I went to Peet’s (which I have been spelling wrong forever, along with pescetarian, which is really embarrassing) and caught up on e-mails and last minute organization for holiday shenanigans!

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I have had to get creative this week to use up random leftovers. Last night for dinner I made sautéed scallops over farro root with roasted root carrots and sautéed almonds with orange zest and basil. It turned out pretty good!

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Another meal I have been making this week is this omelette. I can’t get enough. I had a ton of left over stuffing from my stuffed acorn squash as well as goat cheese. I just threw in 1/2 cup egg beaters, 1/2 cup of the stuffing, a sprinkle of goat cheese and some sprigs of rosemary. All the stuffing is gone now, but I have got to make more soon so I can do this again. It was so tasty!

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Wednesday night we had our Bible study group. Someone brought CRONUTS! (AKA: Croissant + Donut). I am not even kidding, one of the best pastries of my life. We were going crayyyy for our cronuts.

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This morning I woke up at 6 to meet with a friend for coffee @ 7. I love getting up early and soaking up the mornings. We went to Philz coffee. They make every single cup over drip. It’s really great, but SUPER strong. I am so jittery after. We had such great conversation, and my heart just bursts with love for the amazing individuals we have met since moving here in July.

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Quick side note: the reason I changed my name to “Mackenzie” from “Mack” for the profile is a lot of people thought I was a guy. LOLZ.

OK- now I am super excited to announce…….drum roll…… I am going to be hosting my first blogging Meet & Greet, BUT it is going to be called “Mingle & Jingle” in light of the holiday season!!!!

For those who don’t know what a Meet & Greet is, it is essentially a post where you can come in and talk about your blog a bit, leave your link to either a favorite post of yours, or your site in general and find other blogs you may enjoy too! It will be some time next week- stay tuned! 🙂 I am so excited!!! Hope to see you there!!!

I must ask one very important question before I go: What is your favorite kind of Christmas cookie/dessert/holiday treat?! Feel free to leave recipe links!

Stay warm everyone!

xo ❤

Mack … or Mackenzie….. or a million other options…oh shoot, identity crisis!

How God Answered My Impossible Prayer

This is the most intimidating story of my life for me to share yet. There are many reasons for this- I know it will uncover emotions that I have learned to keep at arms length, it may be a challenge to condense many interplaying factors into one single comprehensible post, and I am afraid that sharing this story will in turn somehow destroy a sacred cherished memory I hold dear. I am afraid it will offend people, confuse others, or cause me apprehension and regret on sharing it in the first place. However, when I started writing on this platform I promised God that I would be obedient to His prompting. I am writing this without any idea on who it may give hope, encourage, or touch, if anyone at all… But at the end of the day I am choosing to place these fears in God’s hands and allow this story to bring Him glory because there was a day He answered my impossible prayer. 

On November 28, 2009 my dad passed away unexpectedly from a pulmonary embolism. I remember the moment I found out clearly. There is a door in my mind that accesses the room I house that memory. Rarely do I go near it to look inside, but sometimes I do, inevitably feeling like a train has bouldered into my heart. Sometimes I don’t choose to look, but the memory works it’s way through the corridors of  my mind, forcing itself to the forefront of my thoughts. Regardless, that moment has a way of replaying itself occasionally like a reoccurring nightmare.

The phone ringing, my older sister sounding on edge on the other end of the line, asking to talk to my mom, not wishing to chat or make small talk. My mother sitting across me as I was just casually unwinding from a day at basketball practice. A plate of cheese and crackers next to me as I watched some mindless television. The characteristically cloudy November day. The look on her face.

I knew. I just knew.

Screaming “No” over and over again as I felt that I was spiraling into the ground. I begged myself to wake up as I embarked onto my first stage of grief, the shock and numbness manifesting in both denial and hysteria. The realization. This is not a dream. My heart breaking more minute by minute, realizing this would soon be my younger sister’s nightmare too. She’s only thirteen. Thirteen. The millions of questions in my head, far too clouded and confused to even articulate one. 

Yes. That moment I will forever remember- branded into my brain and onto my heart, an indelible mark. The events in the months to come thereafter were not so clear. I remember parts and pieces of that time like a bystander, rather than a partaker. I barely remember the Calling Hours, but I do remember a few conversations from that day. People would say, “You will see him again”, and “He is watching over you!”. I never grew angry at anyone’s attempt to empathize, I greatly appreciated all the compassion and could not have made it through that time without it. But those phrases… those words. I couldn’t come to peace with them. Here is where this gets tricky to explain. But I will do my best.

My father was a remarkable man. He had the kindest heart. He loved people and above all else family. At the end of the day, he would always ask my siblings and me, “Did we make a good memory, guys?” He is the reason I understand the value in making and treasuring the memories in our lives. He saw no one as a stranger, but as a potential friend. He was one of the funniest people I have ever known, and could put a smile on anyone’s face. He was a math wizard, a gene I did not inherit. He was the best listener, my protector, and the one with whom I had the most inside jokes.

But there was something I had great unrest about. There are many factors here, far too complicated to explain for the sake of this, but overall I just didn’t know for sure if my father had a personal relationship with Jesus. We had never talked about it, about what he believed personally. I could assume that he did, sure, he supported my siblings and I in our involvement in church growing up, would pray rehearsed prayers with us before meals and before bed, and referenced God occasionally. I just didn’t have an assurance that outside of those things he believed. I hope this doesn’t come across harsh or condemning. I know that we cannot truly know the state of someone’s heart. I know God is just, and He is the only one that can judge. I just wished so badly I could go back in time and ask him if he believed all this too, for himself- that the motions of religion weren’t just a way to raise us “right” or appease my mom, but something he wanted personally.

So I prayed for peace and assurance. I wanted to be able to say with confidence that I would see him again, but I just couldn’t. I just didn’t know. It felt like such an empty prayer, because how could God possibly give me this rest in my soul I so desired. I couldn’t go back in time. I couldn’t ask him.

Three years went by and healing did take place, slowly. For a long while I didn’t want to admit that anything good could come out of losing one of the people I loved the most. But upon reflecting, I see how God turned elements of the pain into blessings. It has taken me a long time to admit that.  And yet, despite the tremendous healing that time allowed, I still longed for peace about the wearisome question mark in the back of my mind.

The  summer before my freshman year of college my grandfather on my dad’s side, whom we called Papa, received the diagnosis of cancer. Since my  dad’s death, my siblings and I had become especially close to my papa. That summer, my sisters and I sat with him and read the Bible, prayed with him, and just talked with him. He never gave much feedback during those times of scripture and prayer. I couldn’t read how he felt about all of it.

In Autumn of 2012 that followed, we knew things were taking a turn for the worse with Papa’s health. Before heading back to school on my fall break I made sure to visit him. I remember that he wasn’t “all there” anymore mentally. My heart broke as I watched him slip away, and I knew this was likely my last time with him. As I said my goodbye and walked out of the nursing home, I felt a nudge in my heart, turn around and ask. I ignored it and walked to the car. TURN AROUND. I started the car and started driving. I became nauseous and the words of my soul screamed incessantly turn around now! The tears started and right when I was about to turn onto the highway entrance I turned around. A great part of me protested within myself, I don’t want to ask him. What if it makes him angry. He won’t even know what I’m saying. I don’t know how he will respond. I want to leave on a good note! 

But I pulled back into that nursing home, and jogged through the halls with a sudden urgency. I opened his door and started sobbing. I could barely calm myself down enough to ask. But regardless of the trepidation, I had to ask, I had to know. I blurted out before I could second guess what I was doing, “Papa- do you love Jesus?”.

He looked at me, as though a switch had been flipped, and lucidly said, “I sure do, Honey, I sure do” with a weighted confidence.

On that drive back to school I felt overwhelmingly thankful that I heard those precious words from my papa. I didn’t want to deal with the questioning that forever would be on my mind about my dad.

A few weeks later, my papa passed away. I drove straight from school to the funeral home. Although it was a painful time, I was thankful he was no longer in pain, and even more thankful for our last conversation. I remember standing over the casket with my older sister’s hand on my back. I said to her, “Andi- I know we will see Papa again, but I don’t know if we will see Daddy”. This is the first time I had said these words to anyone like this. She looked at me, without saying anything for few seconds, and then took me into the lobby of the funeral home.

She handed me her phone and had a voicemail playing she had saved. I listened. It was my dad’s voice, my dad’s beautiful voice, saying such sweet things to my sister and concluding with “Thank you Andi, for getting your old man ready for when his time comes”. I stood there in shock and awe. Andrea explained that they had been reading the Bible on the phone for the last few months leading up to his death. She said with undeniable certainty that we would see him again. I heard it in my father’s own voice, three years later. He was ready, he was prepared.

I will see him again.

So while November 28th is a day that brings with it memories that harbor tremendous pain, on the other side of that pain is a prayer. An impossible prayer. And on the other side of this impossible prayer is a limitless God.

And He answered my impossible prayer.

To Him forever be the glory. 

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See ya later alligator… ❤