I think I need a t-shirt that simply says, “I survived.”

This week was the one year anniversary of my husband’s death. The day itself was OK. Friends and family rallied around me to make sure I was doing alright while letting me take the lead and set the tone for the day. Other than a few painful flashbacks to that day, I really was OK. One of my kids stayed home from school and another made it a whole half day. The routine of school was what the other two needed. We finished it off at Dad’s fav restaurant–Famous Dave’s. We did OK.

While sitting in Starbucks with a few close friends just so I didn’t spend the morning alone, I was asked how I was doing. I said it was like the weight of what today was sat next to me, an almost tangible presence, but I was calm. My friend, Deb, responded that she wasn’t surprised because today was more of a celebration of having crossed a finish line.

This anniversary was almost an exhalation of stress. We did it. We made it through the Terrible Year of Firsts—all the first holidays, first trips, first milestones without husband and father in our lives. We got through it. Although I wonder if survive is the best word.

I can’t help but think of the new Casting Crowns song (‘cause all my readers know how much music speaks to me). “It’s time for us to more than just survive. We were made to thrive!” I think we did better than survive this year—we thrived.

At Kraig’s funeral, the pastors he once called colleagues read letters each of us had written to him as farewells. Each of our children, save one, found the words to say what they’d miss about Daddy. (One daughter found her words too personal to share.) I wrote a letter of promise. I promised him I would continue to take our kids on adventures. I would make sure they learned to laugh again and healed from this loss. That thought was in my mind strongly this summer as we launched into a busy schedule of activities, trips, and moving into a new home.

We know we were made for so much more than ordinary lives. It’s time for us to more than just survive. We were made to thrive!

What an awesome testament to the gift of life Jesus gives us. When we surrender to him we get heaven. But C. S. Lewis wrote, “If you shoot for heaven, you’ll probably get earth thrown in but if you shoot for earth alone you’ll get neither.” This life is a glorious bonus that should not be squandered.

My late-husband and I wanted to pass onto our children the zeal for really living life while we are here. Serve God and enjoy the gift this life can be. It doesn’t take tons of money to do more than drudge through life in a meaningless monotony of work, eat, TV, sleep, church, repeat. Living a life stuck in a rut like that, I believe, lacks the joy God intended for us. It’s a waste of this precious gift called life.

So I’m celebrating surviving the most difficult year of my life. And I survived by the grace and mind-blowing provision of a God who repeatedly amazed me with His presence, His blessing, His provision, His comfort, His wisdom, and the strength to keep moving forward. This year we wept and laughed; we traveled and we had all-too-quiet times at home; and we chose to keep our eyes on His promises as we chose to thrive.

What have you gone through that would earn you an “I Survived!” t-shirt? Are you choosing to find ways to let God help you thrive in the midst of struggles you never asked for or imagined would overwhelm your life? Are you keeping your eyes focused on the promises of a God who sees the big picture we cannot? Or are you letting the weight of tragedy or sorrow or grief or even stress stop you in a dark place?

Let me encourage you that you can survive this because God promises to use ALL things for the good of those who love Him. You can bandage those wounds and someday show them off proudly as battle scars of what God helped you survive. But while you are in the midst of this struggle, choose to thrive.

Jesus came to give us life more abundantly. If thriving today just means getting up one more time than you’ve been knocked down, take it! If thriving means making plans to move past this, embrace them! If thriving means letting go of painful memories or bitterness, release them knowing God has so much better for you to hold on to.

Joy unspeakable, faith unsinkable, love unstoppable, anything is possible! (Casting Crowns, Thrive bridge)

When we serve Him, He promises to care for us and walk through the tough times with us. Anything is possible with God! I survived and I believe I thrived through the grace of God. I am making preparations for the amazing Disney trip my husband was saving to take our kids on when he died. God provided for it in His infinite goodness. We will go on this trip with more joy than tears, with all of it paid for (and even some of it free), all thanks to God’s amazing provision. This is a trip where we get to thrive.

How will you choose to thrive today?


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