Tuesday, March 7, 2017

New Site

You can find my new blog site on loss, motherhood, relationships, and faith at:

Thanks friends!

Wednesday, January 4, 2017

The Blog Wrapping up 2016

Just for my records:


January: Sweet Beatrix was born on my dad's birthday. This was easily one of the most healing events of the whole year. I noticed a lift in my emotional altitude with her presence in our family.

February: Theo turned four!

March: Cousin Joy's wedding! So fun to be apart of celebrating her marriage to Kappes!

April: Adoptive sissy Meghan weds Jordan... And on what would have been my mom's 60th birthday. This totally helped redeem the day, much like Beatrix's birth alleviated the pain of Dad's birthday. PAUL TURNED 30!

May: Grantiers come to visit from Jackson, Mississippi!

June: We all traveled to Riviera Maya, Mexico to welcome a new sister in law! Tyler wed Jaclyn on the beach and this was my 3rd a final wedding I was apart of for 2016. Also, came home to another year of Fry Me Up food stand at the College World Series. This means I was a widower for a few weeks.... but, I made it! It was also an honor to speak at Bridge Northwest on Father's Day. What a special experience! 

July: Went to Minnesota for an Abide-staff retreat! So many memories made. It has been such a source of life and blessing to be apart of this team!

August: Violet turned 3! We also moved to north Omaha to be apart of Abide's light house program. Also, we traveled to Chicago for the Willow Creek Conference with other Abide staff members- amazing! Wrapped up the month with a getaway to Mahoney State Park with the Lanphier side of the family... 10 cousins!

September: breathed

October: My grandpa came a stayed with us  while he was in town for the Hope Center Gala and Abide's Better Together Bash. This was another monumental moment in my healing as I was immensely blessed by seeing my kids make memories with my grandfather. 
Another huge highlight of the year was visiting New York with my sister. 
I continued my globe trotting with a trip to San Francisco with one of my besties Melinda. We won a trip to Stitch Fix headquarters and got style makeovers! An amazing, kid-free, once-in-a-lifetime girlfriends' trip!
October wrapped up with the Aksarben Ball where us Schenzel siblings had the privilege of witnessing Mom and Dad inducted into the Court of Honor.
I must also mention taking our kids trick or treating Halloween night was a parenting highlight. The sheer joy of realizing everyone would give them candy was hilarious to behold... we had an awesome family night!.

November: Spoke at MOPS for the first time about being an overcomer at Stonebridge Church...
  Celebrated my sweet sis-in-love Sarah's bday with some girls in Nebraska City.. we had a blast! 
 Went to West Virginia for Thanksgiving. All my siblings traveled to Morgantown as well to spend the holiday with my mom's side of the family.

December: Paul and I went to Colorado with dear friends Rob and Samantha Johnson so the boys could ski. I thought I'd died and gone to heaven with four nights of uninterrupted sleep! The day we got home the Grantiers came to help us ring in the new year! So grateful for our history and depth of friendship with this wonderful family!

In case I didn't make this clear: I was in THREE weddings. I took SEVEN trips this year (and that's not even counting a few getaways Paul and I took to Nebraska City)... A year where I expected to hunker down and reflect was the exact opposite. I never stopped moving. While I resisted the fullness of our schedule at times. I'm so grateful for the opportunities that presented themselves. I feel like I have such a treasure trove of experiences from the last 12 months. I'm wildly grateful

On the books for 2017? Paul's going to Africa this month (January 2017), I'm turning 30 in June, and settling in to raising our babies... I hope to blog more frequently... Life is beautiful. 

Tuesday, November 29, 2016

When you hate Christmas for a year...

   It would only be fair to warn you that I still love Christmas. I actually adore it. Minus the great debacle of "pregnant-and-just-lost-my-parents-Christmas of 2015", the holiday has been a shining beacon of joy in my calendar.
  But last year knocked the wind out of my squished, pregnant lungs and I will never forget what it feels like to freaking hate Christmas.

I hated that everyone was so happy (so I thought) while I was dying of grief.
I hated that the holidays so highlighted the relational fixtures I DIDN'T have in my life.
I hated that I actually had to buy my children and siblings Christmas gifts for the first time EVER to compensate for the presents Mom and Dad would have given.
I hated the Christmas parties.
I hated cold weather.
I even hated freaking Santa.

  Last Christmas, I was so overcome by the reality of loss in my life that I took a nap... On Christmas day... and it wasn't short. I wanted it to be over.

The birth of my third child, Beatrix, a few short weeks later served as a healing salve for my holiday-hating soul. She was born on my dad's birthday. The first birthday he was gone.. and Beatrix arrived....

My therapy baby, as I affectionately call her.

  The months following sweet B's birth became less enveloped in pain and more full of gratitude. Her entrance into my world jolted me awake from a fog of grief with the great realization that I have a choice... No one can create my happiness other than myself....I began to keep a journal on my kitchen counter and would jot down things that brought me joy during the day.... Somedays I recorded pages... other days, the journal sat empty... but I determined to keep fighting because I didn't want my kids to grow up with memories of a mom who was always sad.

  The more I recorded in my journal, the more I realized life's gifts are coming at us faster than we can take them in... and if you doubt me, just grow conscious of that last breath you drew... pure gift. Are your eyes reading my words? Gift. Has your tongue tasted food today or your ears heard the sounds of Christmas music? Gifts abundant....

 There has been a shift in my mindset since the holidays last year. I am devastated by my parents' absence. I miss them everyday. But in many ways, their death has forced me to live with greater intentionality than I otherwise would have. I make decisions differently. I love my kids and husband more. I am more sensitive to hardships in others' lives.

I have already determined life is beautiful because I see it as such. I see the gifts. And the more I see, the more I become aware of. Not without the absence of pain, but alongside it. Pain and beauty, grief and hope, loss and love link hands to comprise the human experience. Sometimes it's sheer joy and other moments, it hurts... but I am wide awake to life.

And some years, it's ok to hate Christmas a little.

Wednesday, May 4, 2016

"It might not be for you, Momma."

 "It might not be for you."

The thought rings loudly through my mind as I change my "potty-trained" 2-year old's pants for the 2nd time before 10 am.

My son is throwing a fit again because he wants to eat out of "the orange bowl and green is not my favorite color"..

The baby fusses. This whole scheduling/Baby Wise thing just, (can I say it?) sucks.

I change another diaper, mediate a sibling scuffle, and take a moment to say aloud, "I love being a mom," in order to facilitate healthy brain pathways and gratitude when I'm feeling overwhelmed.

I hear it again, "it might not be for you."

I sit down on the couch and read aloud to my 2 toddlers while feeding the baby while mustering up some brain energy to ask them questions about the story that will engage their minds. #multitasking

I pay some bills, call my husband to ask if we should register the kids for swimming lessons tonight, and make a mental note to give a speech on self-control the next time I'm driving with my little people in our glorious minivan (where I have a captive (i.e. contained) audience). I try and intentionally pre-teach during moments of non-conflict.

I'm hit with a wave of exhaustion and realize I need to eat lunch.

I sit down and the moment I have a reprieve from the hustle and bustle, I feel the dark blanket of grief tug at my heart. Mother's Day is THIS Sunday. My mom is gone. Her void is immense and I carry it's weight everyday. I cannot believe that this month marks 9 months since the car accident that took my parents' lives. They are missing it all and countless things I want to share with them.

I would tell them:
"Mom! Dad! The kids are so big! Beatrix is my easiest baby yet! You'd adore her!"
"You guys will never believe it, but Paul took the COO (Chief Operations Officer) position at Abide... we went into ministry/nonprofit.... CAN YOU BELIEVE IT?!"
"Mom, you'd be SO PROUD of Jade. She is standing by Turner so faithfully while he grieves losing you. We learned all we know about being wives from YOU!"
" And TURNER, seriously, he is a rock. He might not always feel like it, but he is doing something with his pain... Dad, you're gonna faint, Turner's a youth pastor."
"Tyler and Jaclyn... They are such hard workers. They are industrious, motivated, and such a dynamic couple... you both would BURST with joy.
"And Annie, she is the definition of self-less. She helps out with the kids all the time, gives Paul and I date nights, and organizes sibling gathering. We cry a lot, but you've trained us well. We love each other deeply..."

I sigh. There is so much they have taught and imparted to us that they aren't seeing the harvest of...


It hits me like a slap in the face. A Mother's Day epiphany if you will:

Mommas, the seeds you're sowing day in and day out might not be for you.... they might be for an audience far larger. The love, care, and correction that you pour so imperfectly, yet fiercely, into the very souls of your children you may never fully see the fruit of . The seeds you're planting may be for:

the books they are gonna write
the countries they will visit
the lives they might touch
the babies that they, themselves might raise
the families they will love
the careers and industries they will affect
and the mountains they will climb

But you can be sure of this: those seeds are so deeply embedded with your DNA and fingerprints that it is as if a piece of YOU will be:

writing those books
visiting those countries
touching those lives
nurturing those babies
loving those families
bringing change to those careers and industries
and climbing those mountains

even long after you are gone....

You see, that's what legacy is all about. It's living for something beyond 'the now' so your life has impact even after your walking years on this earth. Legacy is equipping your own kids to sow even better seeds than the ones that were (or weren't) planted in your own life.

The hand that rocks the cradle
Is the hand that rules the world.
-  William Ross Wallace

So rock those cradles, Momma.
Sow those seeds.

And the generations that follow will be stamped with the beauty of your care. Some buds may bloom before your very eyes and other will grow in the aftermath of your love.

Happy Mother's Day.

Friday, February 19, 2016

Welcome Beatrix Tyler

  Sweet Beatrix Tyler,
     My "bringer of joy," source of tremendous healing, and reminder that life is beautiful and worth living. 
     You came into the world 6 weeks ago. I guess what they say about each child getting less coverage is a little true. I am a mom of 3! Life is crazy, and full, and to be honest, a bit of a blur- but, I'm truly happy. I'm doing well. I look at your sweet face and my heart swells. I feel a nudge from heaven when I hold you in my arms. I know that you are a gift. You are what we needed in our dark night of the soul. The timing of your birth was incredible. You see, you were born January 12 on your Tyty's birthday. This is a big deal because your Tyty LOVED his birthday more than anyone else I have EVER met. I feel like you being born on this day not only strongly ties you to their legacy, but it also allowed me to feel joy on what otherwise would have been a very hard day.   
    The week of Christmas 2016 was one of the hardest of my life. I felt completely consumed by sadness while celebrating the holidays without Mom and Dad. I was also initially supposed to be induced December 26th because of a possible liver condition. Thankfully, I was able to enter 2016 still pregnant and had some time to gain emotional altitude before you were born. 
   Breazing through January, my induction date was set for Jan 11th. If I went past midnight, you would be born on Dad's 55th birthday. When the clock struck midnight on Monday night, I realized Tuesday was here and you were coming on Tyty's bday.   
   Your birth was so special to me. Your dad, Nanna (Paul's mom) and Aunties (Paul's sisters Sarah and Amy and my sister, Annie) all watched you enter this world. You were born into the most loving environment imaginable. I joked all through my pregnancy that I would need a delivery room with bleachers... Most people don't want a crowd watching them give birth, but I needed to feel like it was special since your Nonnie and Tyty were present at your siblings' births. And it was.
   Induction, epidural, quick birth.... you know the drill. I had some complications after you were out and lost some blood, but being with my favorite midwife put my mind at ease and I felt better after a few days.  
   Back in November, when we went to Texas for grief counseling, the Lord spoke HOPE to my heart that He had many gifts in my future and that I didn't need to be afraid of a crushingly sad life. Beatrix, YOU have been one of the most TANGIBLE gifts from the Lord. The great tenderness of His timing brings tears to my eyes. Getting pregnant exactly 9 months before Dad's birthday brought me a token of hope, legacy, and healing on a day that otherwise would have been filled with more pain (much like Christmas felt for me). While I spent much of my pregnancy thinking He had placed too much on my shoulders, YOU were actually the greatest gift I have received since the accident. 
   B, the timing of your life has taught me that sometimes the most unexpected blessings and healings come from the places we where we wrestle in our minds with God because we can't see the whole picture. Those areas that cause pain, doubt, and confusion can become the launchpad into our destiny if we trust that God is good all the time, even when we can't fully see his plan. I believe these values will mark your little being for your whole life. I know that losing your grandparents has caused me to cling to beauty and joy much more than I did before. The gift in their death is the realization life is brief and what really matters is put into perspective.

So thanks for being born. You are a treasure and I can't wait to watch you grow up. 

xo, mom

at your gender-reveal party! Nonnie and Tyty were so excited you are a girl!

Monday, October 26, 2015

When hope feels hard...

“Ok…. I’m doing it today,” I tell myself. I have avoided the luggage haunting my living room corner for almost 2 weeks. Mondays are one of my few mornings without commitments, so I decide to tackle the dreaded task.

Today I unpacked the bags that my parents took on that fateful trip that took their lives, as well as the life of their beloved friend Ryan Hrubes… his wife Emily being the only survivor.

It hit me so strongly as I sat cross-legged on the floor, and it seems so obvious, but they had no plans to die. Each neatly folded clothing article stands testament to the future they planned to live. This trip was but one pit stop on the journey of their mapped-out future.

The realization that they didn’t plan to die was quickly replaced by the smothering sensation that I- no, WE weren’t prepared for them to die. There is no way to fully articulate how much we have relied on my parents’ counsel, friendship, and guidance even as adult children. We each talked to them every single day. So what do you do when the bottom of your world drops out? I’m figuring that out. Unfortunately, I am an involuntary participant in my worst nightmare. The best way I can describe it is: someone learning to function that has lost an appendage. You never realize how much you use your hand, foot, leg, or arm until it’s gone (I imagine). We (my siblings and I) are learning to live without a piece of our lives that is as engrafted as using our own arms and legs. Let me just tell you: it’s not fun.

“I know how important it is to hope,” I told my cousins this morning… “But I’m not even sure what to hope for. I feel lost.” Darkness clawed at my heart. I called my husband. I wept into the phone. I tried to wipe the tears off my face fast enough that my 2 and 3 year old didn’t see me crying as they came down the stairs. “Mom, you miss Nonnie and Tyty?” My perceptive 3 year old’s question ripped at my heart… I don’t want him to grow up with memories of a momma who is always sad. I’m careful to not be too sad in front of him.

Sweet baby. Yes, I miss them. I’m glad they are in heaven, but you have no idea what you will be missing out on your whole life. That’s why I cry. I cry for all the times I will miss them to come. I cry because this pit of grief feels too deep and dark and long.

“Theo, I do miss Nonnie and Tyty, but I’m happy they are with Jesus…” is my 3-year-old appropriate answer… “It’s ok to cry because we love someone.”

A tiny sliver of light breaks off some of the heaviness I’m carrying when my cousin Joy sends me a link to Ann Voskamp’s blog. It’s about hoping when you just feel like giving up. I read it quickly, devouring the idea that I can feel even the slightest hope today… on a hard day.

Joy texts me back. Her instructions for what to hope for read: “hope that it will get better, hope that Jesus will be enough, hope that you can really live fully again, hope that you are and will be a powerhouse for the Lord, hope that the heaviness and sadness will go away… because of Jesus we have hope…”

It sounds like a pretty comprehensive list to me. I’m too tired to hope on my own so I simply allow myself to use her text as a guide. I remind myself that the very darkest night of the soul in the Christian faith was when Jesus died. He stared death in the face. And beat it once and for all. This is truly the cornerstone of what I believe, what my parents believed: because He died, we don’t have to be afraid of death- it’s power is broken. Death isn’t the final destination. I feel a little better.

The sting of finality is a bit lessened, but the waiting still unfolds before me. Life feels long, and I feel young to carry what I carry. I wonder to myself what life event will cause my pain to lessen. Will counseling and care help to temper the ache? Perhaps holding my newborn baby in a few months and the gift of new life will cause my heart to live again. Maybe, just maybe, after the first full year following Mom and Dad’s death I won’t be agonized by all the special calendar dates…birthdays, anniversaries, holidays… Sigh. Probably not. It takes longer than a year I’m sure.

I flip open a daily devotional: Henri Nouwen’s “The Inner Voice of Love”. My favorite entry is entitled “Love Deeply”…. I read his thoughts, “The more you have loved and allowed yourself to suffer because of your love, the more you will be able to let your heart grow wider and deeper. When your love is truly giving and receiving, those whom you love will not leave your heart even when they depart from you… Every time you experience the pain of…death…you can stand straight in your pain and let the soil on which you stand become richer and more able to give life to new seeds… Thus the pain…of death…can become fruitful. Yes, as you love deeply the ground of your heart will be broken more and more, but you will rejoice in the abundance of the fruit it will bear.”

Got it. Love is the reason for grief, but grief becomes fruitful when new love is born out of it. That’s the only thing I can do. Respond in love. Love my kids, love my husband, love my siblings. I can do that. Even though my heart is breaking, I will learn to love more deeply than I ever have before. This is my lifeblood. I must cope with love.

I put the book aside as two sets of eyes prod me from behind the pages. “Mom, will you snuggle me and hold me like a baby?” Yes, Theo. Yes, Violet. I pull them up on to my lap and stroke their little blonde heads and smell their sweet fragranced hair and my heart is a little bit healed by love.