Me: Before, After and and Now (STBD)

As each has received a gift, use it to serve one another, as good stewards of God’s varied grace. 1 Peter 4:10

I have written before about using what is in my hand, but first I need to know/understand what is peeking out from between my fingers.

This week was another big first, my first cross country trip with work. This is very different as there is no one on the “other side” waiting on pins and needles to hear about the adventures of each day, the people I met, or the mountain I climbed.

I purposefully limited my contact with Taylor because it is important to me that she makes lasting good memories with other people, without worrying about me. Most 22 year olds don’t have “one more parent and I’m an orphan” going through their mind, but Taylor does. I want her to know she will be ok, even after I am gone. She can’t do that if I am consistently by her side and checking in on her daily. No worries, though, as she has a house full of guests to keep her busy and safe.

I would take a picture that I would normally shoot over to Archie but then stare at my phone…no one to send it to. Arch was my best friend and we did everything as a couple. I never saw the need of having “woman” friends. Weird, but the situation is what it is. The first step is this realization.

In my time with my heavenly Dad, He reminded me that He has given me gifts and my purpose (possibly) right in front of me (even though I don’t see it).

Time warp, where I thought I would be while growing up:

When I was a young teenager I said I was going to get married and have 12 children, most of them through adoption. That was it. No career plans for me or my prince charming, basic and simple. Love was enough.

Thhhhen I became a child of divorce. My perception changed at 16. I was NEVER going to get married, so there also went the need for a twelve foot dinning room table. At first, I was going to attend cooking school and become a chef. My first job as a dishwasher at The Town House Restaurant in Wakarusa was an eye opener and showed me what I didn’t want: to work nights and weekends.

My dream got better: I was going to Chicago and attend The Wilton School of Cake Decorating and Confectionery Art. Next on the master plan was to either own or work at a bakery, buy a barn(preferably in stone), turn it into a house with an indoor arena for horses and live the ranching/decorating life. Did I know anyone that had ever done either of those? NO!

I did take steps towards that dream, even at 16 and 17. I talked to my Grandma Smeltzer, who did cake decorating out of her home, and she told me about Wilton. She showed me all of her books and gave me decorating advice. I later took a correspondence course (there was no such thing as “on-line.” Yes, I am old 🙂 ) and began slowly building my baking pan and tear/pillar collection.

And then I met Archie… .

He had some life experience and definite preference with where he wanted to live. I heard stories of his childhood in downtown Richmond, VA. His bicycle and stepdad’s truck were stolen, the neighbors house burned down one night (since it was so close and the flames incredibly bright, he thought it was morning), and getting spanked for riding his Big Wheel in a nearby parking lot.

As a teenager, he lived in the country. Everything he wanted to do was at a distance. When he went to play basketball, he would drive for miles, load up his car with six to eight guys, sitting on each other’s laps, and go to play on the Court at Jouett Elementary School. He smiled when he described their emergency stops for generic Oreos, Yahoos and Little Debbie Fudge Rounds. I loved to listen.

Country and horses? Absolutely not.

He was not interested in a large family, as he came from one. Three bio-siblings, four steps, and three half siblings, with hand-me-downs, shared rooms and beds with two brothers, had made a lasting impression. Since we then lost two children to miscarriage, that idea was reinforced.  We were extremely happy to be blessed with Taylor, who we almost lost twice. One and done.

We did try to foster-to-adopt, but those doors always slammed in our faces. Retrospect: I am grateful because at this moment I would be trying (and probably failing) at balancing grief, work, single parenting including school, school events, grades, court ordered therapy if through foster care, to name a few.

The cake decorating dream? I still love to decorate and bake. Unfortunately, now if I pipe icing for more than two days consistently, my fingers and hands go numb and wake me up at night. I am now grateful I can do it for family and friends. Heavenly Dad opened up the door to create in the world of paper with Heartfelt Creations. Not only creating, but meeting new people, encouraging struggling stores, introducing possibilities to people they never knew existed! Did I mention, it is A LOT easier on the hands and wrists :)?

Dreams: 0-3, a widow at 45, and I’m 28+ years into this post high school life.

The amazing part is, no regrets, (except that it didn’t last for another 28) especially the man I married. I just hope I added to the quality of his short life.

As each has received a gift, use it to serve one another, as good stewards of God’s varied grace. 1 Peter 4:10

According to this verse, He didn’t say,”If you feel like it, use your gift to serve one another.” Reality check: What gift?!?!?!

I feel like I used what He gave me to serve my husband and the child He entrusted to us. Now I am no longer a wife and my child graduated from college. 11+ months of Widowhood but before I determine my “gift” with which I am suppose to be serving others, I continue to figure out who I am as an individual.

While flying, I had the opportunity to watch a movie I had wanted to see for over a year. A statement was made in which I could relate,”When you’ve been married for this long and you look at your shadow, you see two.”

With a free afternoon, my bosses offered a shopping trip to get out of the hotel room for a bit. Though I am not a shopper, I jumped at he chance for a drive to see more of AZ with a bonus, to get a walk in.

Who ever thought a two hour trip to a mall could help one define themselves?

We stepped through the door of what is marketed as one of the largest malls in AZ or America. Two hours; what to do, what to do. First things first, get in a brisk walk. After covering nearly every inch in an hour and treking past some physically challenged twenty-somethings, I made a discovery. When given options of escalator, ramps or stairs, I was instantly grateful that I was able to choose the stairs.

When my stride slowed to a stroll, a new insight. There were very few stores in which I was interested. Clothing: no. Jewelry: no. Toys:  no. Perfume/handbags: no. Sports: I had to stop and consider. Arch and I used to visit those on our “dates” and I loved to see him light up as he reminisced about the times that “were” and his dreams of what he wished could be. No…no lighted eyes, not doing it.

Crate and Barrel was Arch and my favorite. Was it his, mine, or our interest? Both. Top to bottom I walked and enjoyed it all. For the next 45 minutes. I continued to evaluate. The only stores I entered were furniture (Archie designed furniture so that was definitely a commonality) and cooking. I LOVED meandering around and dreaming of chopping, sauteing, baking, decorating, and creating with food. But dream…for who and what? The cost of the food would/could not be justified for just Taylor and me.

There was no crafting stores to visit, so that was not even an option. There was one Christmas store clearancing at 70%. Do I? Don’t I? This Christmas was emotionally awful. Dare I dream that next year could be better? In I went and out I came. No tears, I consider that progress.

A quick stop to examine a 1930’s car and take a billion pictures, pausing to chat with a fellow car enthusiast who showed me pictures of his 60’s Coronet with the 361 engine. I headed back to the mall hunt. Antique cars? Yep, a definite passion. I just wish I knew more about them.

Though I had a coffee card and hesitated in front of the kiosk, I opted for free Keurig at the hotel. I felt a sense of accomplishment while flexing the muscle of self control. I did, however, spend my coffee money on two cookie cutters, but combined they were still cheaper than a single cup of that joe. That was the day. I made my way back to the meet up spot.

I count this as one day closer to understanding who I am. What does this have to do with anything? I think Theodore Roosevelt summed up my “verse for the day” best when he said: “Do what you can, with what you have, where you are.”

As I get to know myself and understand the gift, whether is it old, new, or just now being developed, I hope to do just that.

What is yours? Are you using it?

Until January 29th: Blessings!

 

 

 

 

 

 

Author: Tracy Cook

Widowed one week before our 27th wedding anniversary, Heavenly Dad continues to carry me, now blessing me with a second chance for love.

One thought on “Me: Before, After and and Now (STBD)”

  1. Amazing! The things you are learning every day are inspiring – and so important to life ahead. Continuing to pray for you – and Taylor – as you both discover the “charts” for your journeys ahead! Love you guys!

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