Just another day

26 So too the [Holy] Spirit comes to our aid and bears us up in our weakness; for we do not know what prayer to offer nor how to offer it worthily as we ought, but the Spirit Himself goes to meet our supplication and pleads in our behalf with unspeakable yearnings and groanings too deep for utterance.

27 And He Who searches the hearts of men knows what is in the mind of the [Holy] Spirit [what His intent is], because the Spirit intercedes and pleads [before God] in behalf of the saints according to and in harmony with God’s will.

28 We are assured and know that [God being a partner in their labor] all things work together and are [fitting into a plan] for good to and for those who love God and are called according to [His] design and purpose.

Romans 8:26-28 (AMP)

7/22/11 Ben, Mark, and AJ

7/22/11 Ben, Mark, and AJ at Six Flags over Texas

To 99.9 percent of the world, yesterday was “just another day.”

For the Howell party of three, it signified the 4th year we’ve walked this earth without Mark.

I keep thinking and hoping July 30 will not hurt as much as the years pass.  So far, that’s been the farthest thing from the truth.  And for those of you who have never suffered a loss of a great husband or daddy, you most likely won’t get “it.”  If you’re in that category, you might want to save yourself some time and stop reading now 🙂

Time stopped July 30, 2011, a little before midnight.  A great guy died.  At least time stopped for those who knew and loved him.  And for those of us closest to him?  Life as we knew it stopped with his last breath.

As the intensive care nurses coded him (protocol followed, short of a miracle, there was no hope), I felt part of me washing away with the bitter tears I cried.  His spirit, so tangible in the room, had bigger fish to fry, so to speak, and I felt him leave.

And as difficult as July 30 was and is for me, today, July 31, is worse.  For today is the date I had to drive over to a friend’s home and tell Mark’s sons that their dad was gone.

It’s been four years.

By the grace of God, we’re healing.

By the grace of God, we’re moving forward.

By the grace of God, I’ve found purpose and meaning in a single life unimagined before his death.

By the grace of God, our sons are emotionally, spiritually, and physically healthy, despite the gaping hole left in both their hearts.

As I watched the clock yesterday, trying to make the hours go by faster, I heard from a few friends and family.  They remembered.  They know what July 30 means to us.

The words spoken, the texts and messages written?  Touched us deeply.

Thank you, from the bottom of my heart, for remembering. It might not be a big deal to you, but it certainly was to us.

Life goes on.  It was “just another day” to everyone else.

For everyone who has a day on their calendar like July 30 is on ours, know that we get it.  We understand your hurt.

We acknowledge that while the world says to “move on and heal already” (infamous words from someone so clueless it’s laughable), it is perfectly fine to just move forward.

Moving forward is healthy.

Moving on?  For this household, at least, it’s not an option.

I trust God to continue to make beauty out of our ashes.  He’s in full control.

Someday, we may understand why life as we knew it stopped 4 years ago.

Until then, we’ll keep moving forward, in this, our next chapter.  We’re depending on God to pen beautiful stories for all three of us.

Hope floats

“We who have run for our very lives to God have every reason to grab the promised hope with both hands and never let go.

It’s an unbreakable spiritual lifeline, reaching past all appearances right to the very presence of God where Jesus, running on ahead of us, has taken up his permanent post as high priest for us, in the order of Melchizedek.”   Hebrews 6:18-20 (The Message)


Hope.  It’s the connection between mere mortals and our Creator.

Sometimes it’s the only thing that gets me out of bed in the morning.

Especially this week, full of memories I’d rather forget.  I replay the events from 4 years ago, a routine surgery gone terribly wrong.  I walked into the hospital with my healthy husband.  I walked out 5 days later as a widow.

Try as I might, the events play over and over in my head, like a macabre highlight reel stuck on “repeat” or “rewind.”  Last Sunday, 7/25 (the date of his first surgery), my phone, kept on silent by my bedside, vibrated twice at 4:30 a.m.  That’s the exact time we’d awakened to go to the hospital, 4 years ago.

Talk about a wake-up call.

I just went ahead and got up for the day, there was no going back to sleep afterwards.

Hope assures me, however, this is not how my family’s story will end.

Hope tells me I must keep my head up, looking ahead.  Looking back will bring only pain and a litany of “shoulda-woulda-coulda” moments.

Hope reminds me this is only a dress rehearsal, this thing called “life.”  It passes in the blink of an eye.

Hope insists God will restore us.  Hope declares His purpose for our lives will eventually be revealed, and that any pain will be used for His glory. He’s given us glimpses, and it’s going to be beautiful.  But right now it just hurts.

When we’re weary, replaying sad events in our minds, hope is the nudge that refocuses us.

It’s an unbreakable lifeline, hope.  No matter the circumstance or situation, hope remains.

So we continue to hope.  “Hope is an anchor, firm and secure.”

“Hope floats..”

In the meantime, my boys and I will keep plugging along, fixing our eyes on an unknown future–trusting it to a known God.

Grabbing onto the lifeline, not letting go.

Hoping for better days in August.


I love my family.

Are we perfect?  No.

But boy, do we know how to have a good time.


This past week my sons and I have been with my mom, brother, sister-in-law, and two nieces, near Branson, Missouri.  We rented a cabin and spent 24/7 with one another for 5 days.

I consider it a success because we all survived and no one got hurt (physically or emotionally!).

During that precious time, I got to drink coffee with my brother in the mornings.  I drank something a bit stronger with him in the evenings.  I watched him be a daddy and husband.  I observed his sweet demeanor with our mom, who lives near them in Kentucky.

My boys got unlimited time with their only cousins, both girls.  The older will be sixteen next month, the younger is eleven.  It’s amazing to see how all 4 easily fall back into a routine, enjoying each others’ company.

My sister in law is a jewel; I love her strong will and her ability to find good in all circumstances.  She’s a great mother, to boot.

My mom, who is getting older, sure enjoyed watching her grandchildren, and relished having 7 of the people she loves most under one roof, if only for a few days.

My boys and I hadn’t seen them in a year.

I’m almost ashamed to type that sentence above….but living so far away makes visits more difficult.

Life passes in a twinkling of an eye.  You never know how many days the good Lord has for you in His book.

So make time to visit those that you love.  Whatever cost or inconvenience or rearrangement of schedules necessary is well worth it.

Make some memories. I hope we get the chance to do it all again, sooner instead of later.

I know my boys will remember the zip-lining, the roller coasters, and “throwed” rolls from Lambert’s Cafe.

I’ll remember the laughter, the conversations, and all the hugging.

But the zip-lining was pretty cool, too.

July stinks

I hate July.

That might be a bit of an exaggeration, but I truly dislike this month.

This month holds too many memories.  Most of them wonderful, great, and fun.  Some of them, however, are very, very bad.

July 30, 2011, was the day we lost Mark.  That day, my life forever changed.

That day, our sons’ lives forever changed.

I became a widow.

They became orphans, at least in the biblical sense.

I felt like my arms had been cut off.  I lost my best friend, husband, lover, confidante, and biggest cheerleader.

My boys lost a wonderful role model, someone who was compassionate, just, loving, patient, and had integrity to spare.  They lost a dad who loved them beyond compare.

Life goes on.

We adjust our sails and move forward, because that’s what Mark would want us to do.   I have two boys to raise, and by the grace of God, we’re doing okay.

And while there’s been great healing in all our lives, and we’ve forged a new path, July still takes us back to the surreal place in time where we were forced to say goodbye to not only the best man we’ve ever known, but also a way of life.

So we hurt.

And grieve.

And cry, in the midst of smiles, remembering.

Life’s not fair.  You play the hand you’re dealt.

I’m determined to play the heck outta this hand until the dealer’s out of money and the casino’s closed 🙂

“God in His holy house is a father to those who have no father.

And He keeps the women safe whose husbands have died.”  

Psalms 68:5 (NLV)

Howell, Party of 4, Wilderness Lodge, Walt Disney World, August 2010

Howell, Party of 4, Wilderness Lodge, Walt Disney World, August 2010

Wandering in the desert

It’s mid July.  And it’s hot here in Wichita Falls.  Not hot enough to qualify as a desert, thank-you-very-much, but hot enough for this Kentucky native.

I’ve been absent from this, my “first love” in writing, for months.

But no more.  I’ve come to realize that I cannot be all things to all people, and I’ve re-aligned my commitments and priorities.  As much as I loved being a part of both A Widow’s Might and aNew Season ministries, those responsibilities were beginning to keep me from this, my first love.  I will never be able to express adequately both my love and my thanks to a group of women I worked alongside for 3 years.

Because of that opportunity, I am now a published contributing author, part of 4 seasonal widows’ devotionals (http://www.amazon.com/Love-HER-Life-Devotions-Ministries/dp/1499676255/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1436980258&sr=8-1&keywords=for+the+love+of+her+life).

Because of that opportunity, I have grown spiritually by leaps and bounds.  I have discovered a sisterhood of women, all part of the club no one wants to join.

But God is calling me to follow in a new direction.  One that I am so not equipped for.     He assures me He will do the necessary equipping, as needed.

I’ve argued with Him, asking:

“Are You sure, God?”

Questioned His nudging:

“Do You really think I can do this?”

Attempted to barter with Him (yes, I know, not a good idea!):

“Just let me keep doing what I’m doing, at least until xxx date.  Then, I’ll be ready to take the plunge.”

He’s having none of it.  So I finally surrendered.  Cried “uncle.” Threw in the towel.

I’m listening.  No more excuses, no more one-sided arguments.

God’s a great negotiator.  He ALWAYS wins.

Another chapter in the re-invention of Nancy has begun.

I don’t know how my story will end. Heavens, I don’t even know what tomorrow will bring.

But surprisingly, I’m not worried.

The best Author ever is in charge of writing it.

The one thing I do know for sure is that it certainly won’t be boring.

All for His glory, that’s my motto.

 This is what the scripture says:

“If you hear God’s voice today,
    do not be stubborn, as your ancestors were
    when they rebelled against God.”

Who were the people who heard God’s voice and rebelled against him?

All those who were led out of Egypt by Moses.

With whom was God angry for forty years?

With the people who sinned, who fell down dead in the desert. 

When God made his solemn promise, “They will never enter the land where I would have given them rest”—of whom was he speaking? Of those who rebelled. We see, then, that they were not able to enter the land, because they did not believe.  

Hebrews 3:15-19 (GNT)

Equip me, God.  Enough to get through today.  No more wandering in the desert, I promise.  Nine months is my limit.  My thirst is parched, my soul hungry for You.  I know You are enough.

Tomorrow, we’ll do it again.  And again the next day….until I’m who You want me to be.

love, Nancy