Another year is coming to an end. I’m a little older–hopefully a little wiser–and a whole lot happier.
Life is good.
God is good.
Ian turned 2 in February and continues to bring joy and love into our hearts. He’s such a sweet and happy boy, and his smile is infectious. He’s very curious about the world around him, always on the go, and touching everything in sight. He’s also finally starting to talk more, which is such a delight. Seems like yesterday he was just a baby. He’s growing up so fast. Hopefully he’ll be potty trained soon! I’m so tired of buying diapers…
Elizabeth finished 1st grade in June, and it was bittersweet. Her teacher moved to another state for a new job, and that was hard because she had become like a mother to Elizabeth. It’s been a challenge adjusting to a new school year, but Elizabeth likes her 2nd grade teacher and being around her friends at school. She continues to do well in the Spanish immersion program and is quickly gaining fluency in another language–something I wish I’d had when I was her age!
I had an especially proud Daddy moment when Elizabeth asked Jesus into her heart on May 25, and then when she was baptized at church on September 27 (you can read about that in this blog post, where I also posted a YouTube link to her baptism video). Being a single father is not easy, and there are days when I feel like I fail more than I succeed, so to see and hear her publicly confess her faith in Jesus Christ was a moment I’ll never forget. It felt like I actually did something right!
Professionally, I worked tirelessly on my dissertation proposal during the first half of the year, and my committee approved my topic in August, so now I am officially ABD (All But Dissertation). My main focus is my dissertation, the last requirement before I earn my Ph.D. in history, which means I’m going to have to travel to archives around the country that have the documents I need for my research. I went to D.C. this past summer to conduct research at the Library of Congress, which was a very enjoyable experience. When I wasn’t in the archives being a researcher, I was walking around the city being a tourist.
I began my fourth year in the program in August and was very fortunate to earn some nice awards. I won the history department’s award for Outstanding Teaching by a Doctoral Student. Then I presented my dissertation research through the Graduate School’s 3-Minute Thesis competition and won the People’s Choice Award (you can watch that video here). And finally, I earned a travel research grant from the Truman Library in Independence, Missouri, so I’ll be flying out there in 2016 to access written records for my dissertation. I’m finally getting into my career, and I am loving it!
On a more personal note, what has really made this year so wonderful has been my girlfriend, Lauren, a beautiful woman of God who exudes love and compassion. We went on our first date in May and have been together ever since. Lauren also loves my children as if they were her own and provides them with warm affection and healthy boundaries when they need them. It thrills my heart to see how happy and playful Ian is with her. He loves to jump on Lauren when he thinks she’s not paying attention, and she can make him laugh and giggle like no one else. Elizabeth enjoys giving Lauren big hugs when she sees her at school (where Lauren teaches 3rd grade). It’s obvious that Elizabeth views Lauren as a surrogate mother, and the time they’ve spent together has begun to heal that part of Elizabeth’s soul.
The four of us have been on several adventures together. We went to the NC Zoo over the summer and the Polar Express train ride at Christmas (you can read more about that trip here). At this point, I don’t know how my family would function without her! Lauren has become such an integral part of our lives, and we have all been made better because of her. Having someone in my life to share in the responsibility of teaching, correcting, and loving my children has been a tremendous blessing.
Our most memorable time together came on November 18, when Lauren made dinner for my family and surprised us with a birthday cake. Kristen would have been 33 years old that day, and Lauren wanted Elizabeth and Ian to celebrate their mother’s life by blowing out the candles.
It was an incredible moment, one I’ll never forget, as it demonstrated just how special Lauren is. I respect and admire her so much for walking into my situation as a widower and father of two and making it look easy. She always displays patience, grace, understanding, and especially love.
I’ve had many struggles since Kristen died. Losing my wife so tragically and unexpectedly made me vulnerable to a swirl of emotions that crashed over me like rushing waves. I didn’t have her to talk to about my day or to listen to my hopes and dreams. I didn’t have a partner to help me with my children, so I had to do my best to give them the guidance and direction I think they need (and to apologize when I’ve been wrong). But little by little, as I turned my attention toward God and trusted Him with my life, He comforted me and gave me what I needed. In 2015, He saw fit to give me Lauren.
Lauren has been the answer to so many of my prayers these past 2 ½ years.
I thank God for her everyday.
I pray for her everyday.
I wake up with a renewed sense of hope and peace because of her everyday.
The best way I know to thank God for this wonderful gift is to love and cherish her each day, forever.
Happy New Year!