DC Bound For Go Out Be Great

Early in 2014, my mom had this crazy idea to put a Ragnar team together for Ragnar DC.

My answer was no way. I don’t have time. I’m still recovering from the ankle sprain. It’s in NCBF’s busy season with fun day.  September is an emotionally exhausting season for me and I’m not sure I have it in me.  And a million other reasons. But she wouldn’t let it go. So before I knew it, I relented, and said “Okay we will form a team but I can’t run it. I don’t have time to train and I need to let my ankle heal.” Of course, before I knew it I has signed up to run it as well! Then before we knew it we had enough interest that we formed not just one but TWO teams!

Ragnar? Wondering what it is I’m talking about. Ragnar is an overnight relay series where teams of 12 run 200 miles in two days and overnight. A race where your run, maybe eat, probably won’t sleep, and make some really awesome memories. A race where you have to step outside your comfort zone and be willing to just have fun while you run!

Several months ago, 2 teams formed.  Some family members, some friends, some friends of friends… some people I’d never met.   I was nervous heading into Ragnar about spending time with people I’d never met who were running for Team Nate and Go Out Be Great.    The interesting thing was, bonds formed instantly.   Because we were all in the same situation, stepping out of our comfort zone, running high mileage over 2 days without sleep, we were all scavengers for healthy food, all “showering” with baby wipes, and we all had the same goal…  We were DC Bound for Go Out Be Great with one sweet boy watching over us.

This is an extremely exhausting season for me for many reasons.   Grief is exhausting, trying is exhausting, surrendering is exhausting, getting into the back to school routine is exhausting, and planning is stressful for fall events.   So, I left for Ragnar, and I left it all behind for the weekend.  I brought Nate’s spirit but the rest had to be left behind so I could focus.  I had one goal.  Running 14 miles at my goal pace.

There are so many stories, stories of strength and admiration, stories of inspiration, funny moments, and memories I want to share but if I did this could go on forever!  There’s one story in particular that was the most special moment on this 36 hour journey.  After running all three of my legs, around 14 miles total, feeling exhausted and worn down from lack of sleep and proper nutrition, I was running on adrenaline alone.   One of our runners was injured and unable to run her last leg of the race.   Another runner and I picked up her last leg because at Ragnar, that’s what you do.  As a friend, that’s what you do.  You help each other out.  On my final, and unexpected, last 1.8 miles of Ragnar I was nervous I would be to tired to run, my muscles too fatigued to move, and my body would just give out.  But something came over me, about a half mile into that run I felt like I was floating.  I was gliding along a paved path beside the road where traffic breezed by as I looked down at my Garmin watch.  I quickly saw myself running at by far my fastest pace of the race (and maybe ever) as I ran with ease.  I literally felt like I was floating.  Tears began to stream.  Mid run… I was full on crying, tears streaming down my face.  I began to talk to Nate and to God.  I thanked them both for this journey and for their help through it all.  I wasn’t alone in those moments.  Maybe it was pure exhaustion, maybe I was delirious, or maybe a sweet angel took me by his wings and helped me through that last run.

I want to go back and do Ragnar all over again. It was an amazing experience. It was also 36 hours in time that I didn’t have to face reality. It seemed that we were so in tune with each other, the run, directions for the van driver, and monitoring our runners that the outside world seemed centuries away. As crazy as it may sound, that near 16 mile run was easy compared to “life” itself.

I am so proud of our team. I am so proud of every runner who ran a race in honor of Team Nate – Go Out Be Great this season. To learn more about races for Go Out Be Great teams email us at and we will connect you to the Go Out Be Great running page on Facebook!

Two Years Later...

It’s really been a busy summer.  I have been craving a good writing session to sit down and just let it all out … every emotion put on paper. Rarely will you find me voicing to many of my feelings out loud so it’s therapeutic for me to spill out the lonely cloud of grief and share this journey that we are on. But it seems like lately every time I sit down and try to put my mind on paper I just can’t. My thoughts are all over the place and what hits the paper is next too nothing.

As the weekend approaches I felt like it was time I spill it. No agenda or story in my post but just let my mind settle and let it spill out. It’s been almost 2 years since we lost Nate.  It still feels like he was just here yesterday at times and at other times it feels longer. But no matter the time that passes, the emotions may change but the pain still stays the same.  We miss Nate.

Last week, I found myself sitting in the boys room just looking around.   I was sorting through clothes and prepping for fall.   As I sat on the edge of the bed, I found myself kneeled in front of the boys dresser which still has Nate’s clothes neatly folded in the bottom 2 drawers that are decorated with stickers from him.    Just before school started 2 years ago I had gone through the closet and each drawer to sort and fold every article of clothing they owned.   Most things within the house have moved.  Some of Nate’s things have been put up to be sure they aren’t touched, some have been played with daily, others like his clothes have been untouched.  As I sat on the floor, I found myself with his drawers open, sifting through his clothes, smiling at his favorite shirts, and tearing up as I leaned in to take a deep breath of the smell of Nate. In those moments he feels so close.  Like he’s hugging me and knows I’m in pain but telling me it’s going to be okay.  I miss you, Nate.

How did I get here? To this place two years later…

School has begun. It was hard to send Drew off to school because, selfishly, I just love having him home. But harder than that is to see all the children Nate’s age growing… they are off to second grade now. 2nd grade. The grade Drew was in when he lost his brother and our lives changes forever.  The grade Nate would be in now.  In my mind, Nate is 5 heading off to Kindergarten. He still loves monster trucks, dirt, and all things outside. He still says “nake” instead of “snake” because he so adorably still hadn’t picked up the s sound.  He still draws people with the arms and legs sticking from the circle of a head.  He still draws trucks on every picture.  He still occasionally writes his name with a backwards N.  In my mind, he still leaves his scooter and bike on the front sidewalk to step over with an assortment of hotwheels and monster trucks through the yard as well.   He was still small enough to curl into my lap for an afternoon cartoon as he nodded off on a lazy afternoon.   It’s the way my mind has him etched in.  But as I watch his friends grow…. it’s really hard to imagine what Nate would be. We don’t know.  I wish we knew.  Oh, how we miss you Nate.

Two years ago, our lives changed in an instant.  

Two years ago, our lives changed forever.  

Two years ago, we lost our son Nate.  

Two years ago, God took over in the midst of darkness and allowed us to shine.  

Two years ago we asked for donations for a playground in lieu of flowers.

Two years ago that goal of a playground became a mission for our family.

Two years ago the motto of Go Out Be Great was etched onto us and took on more meaning than being just a motto. It gets us through days that otherwise we’d crawl back in bed. It’s challenged me to work harder, fight harder, love harder, and be a better person.

Two years for The Nathan Chris Baker Foundation have passed. A foundation built in Nate’s memory. A foundation I am very proud of but a foundation name that still stuns my mind when someone asks “Who is Nathan Chris Baker”?  I am honored to say, “Nathan is my son”… but the formulating the words… “who passed away in 2012″ are not easy to say. It will never be easy to say.  

Two years ago the dreams we had for our family changed forever. Two years ago we let go of dreams.  Two years ago we began to build new dreams.

Some moments, some days, even some weeks I look back and wonder how did I make it through?   How did I find the moments of joy, how did I find the strength to smile, how did I keep putting one foot in front of the other?    When grief gets the best of me I have to take a step back and remember the promise I made two years ago.  I promised to honor Nate and I promised in my darkest moments to keep faith and follow my heart through this journey.   I promised to let this light shine for us, for Nate, and for God.  It isn’t easy but when I let myself hand it over to God, the burden is lifted, and I find peace.

Go Out. Be Great. For Nate.

All My Love,

More than A Day Of Greatness

I wondered if I should write something about my friend Harry who passed away this week but really didn’t know what to say. Harry and I only met 3 months ago and it’s hard to put into words what our relationship meant to me. Harry was The Nathan Chris Baker Foundation’s first ever Days of Greatness recipient. Harry enjoyed a great day out with his 3 boys. I received numerous email pictures about the day as well as numerous thanks for a fantastic experience.

A month later I met Harry. He had on his Go Out Be Great shirt, as did I. We talked for over an hour about his amazing wife and family. I have never known a person who spoke so passionately about his family. I told him that if my parents spoke 1/4 about me as much he spoke about his boys that I would be truly blessed.  I formed a special friendship with Harry that day and over the next few weeks we texted, emailed, and sent pictures through Facebook.  Harry loved to communicate!!!

I realized that Harry was not doing well and reached out to his son, Patrick. He kept me updated and I always hoped he would prove to be stronger than his disease.

Unfortunately Harry did not win that battle and I said good-bye to him a few days ago.  He left behind a great legacy, a wonderful wife, three amazing sons and their families, and fantastic memories that his son Brian so vividly shared with his eulogy. He lived life, stopping to talk to everyone, sharing a part of him with everyone he came in contact with.

Today here’s what I ask… take the time to say hello or smile at someone new.  Your smile or friendly greeting might be the only one they receive today. Do this for me but also for my friend, Harry, who brightened this world with his personality and smile. Because you see, Harry gave me the greatest gift, the gift of friendship.  I only knew you for a short time my friend but you taught me so much. Thank you for all your calls, texts, and messages. You are truly Great!!!


Colleen Gallagher

Read Brian’s beautiful Eulogy here.

Bohde – Days of Greatness

The Nathan Chris Baker Foundation encourages everyone to pay it forward and to do things for others that will have a lasting impact. We as a foundation attempt to do this in many ways to include our Days of Greatness project. I recently had the opportunity to sponsor four year old Bohde with a Day of Greatness. Bohde has been fighting cancer for well over a year and it goes without saying that Bohde is a trooper. His mom, Jami, is a trooper as well. Jami lost her young husband to cancer, several months after the birth of their daughter and only months before Bohde was diagnosed. Yet Jami finds the strength and courage to take every new day head on; caring for her two year old daughter, ensuring that Bohde’s treatment continues as planned, all while still grieving for the loss of her husband and trying to find time to take care of herself.

When I began preparing the details of Bohde’s day, my goal was to give him a day that he and his family and friends would cherish forever. It would give them all a break from thinking about the next doctor’s appointment, the next step in the course of treatment and possibly a day that would build everlasting memories. As the day came together, I was blown away with the compassion and generosity of all involved: Jonce at Bayside Limos who helped provide limo transportation through the day; Kristi at Hoppers Kid Zone who opened her doors to just Bohde and his crew; Sandy and Deb at Piney Run Park who not only opened the park for our use, but also brought out animals for just Bohde and his friends and family; Matt Robinson with M.R. Balloon whose wife painted faces and made balloon animals; Chief Welker at New Windsor Volunteer Fire Company who let Bohde see and feel just what it is like to be a real fireman; and Joanna Little, who spent her day capturing the memories on film. The day was a huge success because of so many caring people.

And yet, I feel that that the Day of Greatness for Bohde was a Day of Greatness for me as well. Seeing the smiles on all of their faces was a gift to me. The kindness that I saw in others was another reminder that people are good and compassion is abundant. During his Day of Greatness Bohde wore a shirt with “Stronger than Cancer” written on the front. There is no doubt about it. He is stronger than cancer. He is stronger than cancer ever will be. He and his family are proof that through hard times, and in the face of tragedy and sorrow that life sometimes throws our way, happiness and strength can be achieved. Sometimes it comes from deep down inside of you. Sometimes it comes from the help of others. Sometimes it is a combination of both.

The bond that I gained with Bohde and his family will be one that continues on beyond the Day of Greatness. I am grateful and honored to be part of NCBF, an organization that allows me to be on the front lines of witnessing and partaking in all that it means to go out and be great.

I personally thank Bohde and his mom for allowing me to take part in such a wonderful Day of Greatness.

If you know of an individual or family who could benefit from a Day of Greatness, please email us your nomination at

Go Out. Be Great.

Bill Porter and the Days of Greatness Team

Decisions, Decisions, Decisions...


When Nate died so many decisions needed to be made in such a short amount of time...the music, the flowers, pictures of Nate, the location of the service, the location of the reception, the obituary, and the list goes on and on. All of these things that I would have never imagined I would ever have to think about.

I am sure that not all of the decisions we made were right. We were trudging through the fog of grief without clear hearts or minds so I know that nothing was perfect. I was ok with that – we aren’t perfect people and Nate would not have expected us to be.

Nate was born just months after we moved into the home that we still live in. We moved into this house because Katie was pregnant with Nate and we had outgrown our townhome. It’s not a perfect home…..we struggle with the same things that most people do – not enough space and nothing is new enough. Our house is small because of all of the stuff we have acquired with three kids. Toys, toys, and more toys creep in and invade every area of the house. We are constantly fixing this or that or trying to upgrade this or that. All of these things keep me busy but I am not sure that we will ever be able to move from this house – even if we want to. Nate lived almost every day of his five plus year in this house (minus the times we were away). He never knew any other home. That is not lost on us and would probably be a deciding factor if we ever thought of moving.

I remember sitting in the funeral home planning Nate’s service and all of the decisions that needed to be made. Overwhelming doesn’t even begin to describe it. The funeral director asked us whether Nate would be buried or cremated. I thought briefly about this and just knew deep down in my gut that I could not bury Nate in a cemetery. I couldn’t leave my son by himself somewhere. Nate only knew one home and I knew that he had to come home to his home. I couldn’t picture myself putting my son into the ground and leaving him there, not even for a night. I knew that I wouldn’t be able to visit him 24/7 and I didn’t want him away from our family, not even for a minute.

On the exterior Nate was one tough kid. He had my temper and it wasn’t easy to hide. As tough as he was……he would struggle when he stayed the night at a family member’s house. The summer of 2012 – he stayed with his uncle in Virginia for the weekend and Katie and I got a call because Nate was crying. He missed us and wanted to be at home. His Uncle Bubby sat up with him and got him through it but Katie and I were hurt that our boy was struggling for us and we were in another state.

The decision to bring Nate home with us was easy. I don’t know if it was the right decision. I know it’s a personal decision and may not be right for others. I just know that it was the right decision for me – I couldn’t think of it being any other way. We brought Nate home to the only home he ever knew.  Some nights I sit and look up at the mantle and the pictures of him, Drew and Kaylee that hang on the wall. I know Nate’s not really there but I am comforted that he is not somewhere else. I know that his spirit is in this house and that’s the only way I can imagine it.

Nate’s laughter no longer fills our home but his spirit and great memories are indelible and irreplaceable. Things you will only find in a home. Things that I’m not sure we could find in another house.

Go Out. Be Great.


Three Babies

Right there – those 3 beautiful babies fill my heart.  I am proud of them.  I want to share them with the world.

I remember the first time the question was asked.   I sunk into my seat, fumbled through an answer, and then picked up the pieces of my heart one by one.  It doesn’t matter how many times I’m asked the question it doesn’t get easier.  I still stumble for an answer.   Some situations the answer comes easier.  And sometimes – I lie.

“How many children do you have?”

Seems like that should be an easy question but the first time I was asked that simple yet somehow startling question, after losing Nate, was  in the Christmas season 2012.  I remember sitting in a chair at the hair shop making small talk when it happened.   As I discussed things like the weather with the hair dresser the obvious question of Christmas and gift shopping arose.  Then, a moment I’ve never forgotten happened, as she asked “How many children do you have?”.    I sat dumbfounded in my chair…  how do I answer that question?  My mind literally raced in circles in a matter of what felt like an hour, but was probably only seconds, as I tried to find the answer.   If I say 3 then I have to follow it with our story but I don’t want to sit here sobbing awkwardly with someone I hardly know.   Or I have to lie and pretend I had been Christmas shopping for Nate too but that just seems like torture for myself to let my mind go there.   If I say 2, then I’m lying because I don’t have 2 children.  I have 3 children that I am proud of and want to share to the world. One is in heaven.  But, in that moment my heart could not handle telling our story to a near stranger so I said 2.  I remember the rest of my appointment just sinking into my chair because I felt shame in that lie and wrestled with how I could have answered the question.   It has never left me.

I’ve been asked the question many times over since then.  I don’t remember it every time specifically but I answer differently depending on the circumstance.   Sometimes I feel comfortable to share and sometimes it’s a passing conversation.   On more than one occasion I have answered two children, then was followed with the completely average and normal question of asking how old they are.   I have heard more than once about the age gap between my children or oh one boy and one girl you must be happy your family is completed.  But because it’s not a conversation I need to have with everyone I meet sometimes I have to just smile, nod and move on.   It’s funny how a stranger has no clue that what they are asking seems so wrong.   They are not at fault.  But my heart still feels the ache… every. single. time.

Just last week, I took Kaylee to have her toenails painted with me.   As we sat, in the pedicure chairs, she relaxed in the chair beside me making herself totally at home and loving feeling like a big girl beside mommy.  She looked at me with the biggest smile and love filled eyes as she got her toe nails painted and watched me.   (Have I mentioned how much I love those kind of moments?!)   Again, as the small talk began the question came….   “How many children do you have?”   I have gotten to where I can read the circumstance pretty well by now and know how to answer even before it is asked but last week I was stumped again.  I had Kaylee with me.    I answered 2.  Then as the nail tech turned to Kaylee to ask about her brother – my heart stopped.  What would she say?  We talk openly about Nate at home.  Kaylee may only be 3 but she knows she has a brother in heaven that loved her.  She talks about him and knows his face in a picture.   She’s asked questions.  She’s asked to visit him in heaven.  So, in that moment, I again sunk into my chair as I waited for her answer.   She sat shy and didn’t answer and as  I realized I now have a new dilemma to figure out of how do I answer that question when Drew and Kaylee are with me.

I want to share all of my babies with the world.  I want to tell everyone about Drew, Nate, & Kaylee at every corner as every mother does.  Each are unique and special in their own ways.  Each has a story to tell.  But sometimes, my heart can’t handle it.   Or better yet, I know the recipient of the conversation may not be prepared for the answer.  Sometimes I can write so publicly here.  I can share my deepest emotions, truths, stories, and literally let my heart out there but in my day to day life I just want to feel like the average family.   I don’t always feel comfortable sharing our story with a stranger.  Often, I prepare my heart and mind for those situations before they happen.  I want the world to know of our love for Nate and his foundation but when the time is right.  Through this walk of grief, the roads continue to wind.   They don’t end or get easier  - they just change direction.

 All My Love,


Never Just a Picture

Earlier this year we were approached by Joey D Cares, another local non-profit, who was interested in partnering with Nathan Chris Baker Foundation for their annual Rockin’ The Cause event. We were excited about the opportunity, researched their organization, and crossed our fingers that we would be chosen!    We were honored when we were chosen as the charity of choice for their annual Rockin’ The Cause event and that all proceeds would be donated to The Nathan Chris Baker Foundation so we can continue to Go Out and Be Great in our community.   Planning began almost immediately and our team was ready to develop a GREAT partnership for this event!

A few weeks ago, Joey D, asked us how we would feel about putting together a slideshow to share pictures of Nate and our family during a song called, “My Daddy.”    My immediate reaction was absolutely!   Then, I thought about it, and realized just how hard that task would be.  But I’d already said yes so I couldn’t turn back.  I have to admit that I really have put off digging deep into files of pictures because I’ve known it would bring a flood of emotions.   I knew that the pain would be deep when I saw that thick hair, smiling face, funny memories, and remembered the story behind each picture.

There was one particular picture that as I scrolled through electronic albums that I just, for lack of better words, lost it.   My heart broke in two and tears hit the keyboard like rain drops falling from the sky.  In the same blink of an eye I was laughing hysterically and trying to figure out which emotion had a stronger hold on me.   This sweet boy, our middle child, had a spunk to him that everyone he met would notice.   He loved his family, he loved his friends, he loved life, he loved to play hard, he loved to be a leader, and he loved to be silly.    He was a one of a kind act that can’t be replaced.    When I saw this picture, my arms reached for him, literally.   My soul ached for him, to hear his laugh, and to feel his love.   Our night time routine often included dance parties, tickle fights, and hide and go seek as we made our way into bedrooms.   I longed to be sitting on his bedroom floor laughing with him and then tucking him into bed as we so often did.

But I believe, this slideshow, has a purpose far beyond what you will see at the concert.    It gave us a reason (and a deadline) to sort through all the pictures that we love, to find some of our favorites, to share.  Some pictures made me cry, many made my heart break, and some left me with overwhelming love pouring from my heart.  Every picture has a story hidden deep within. I am so thankful I have so many pictures to look through when I find the strength to do so.  They say a picture is worth a thousand words…  but to me they are priceless.

Tonight, as I sat at a full rehearsal for the Rockin’ The Cause concert I was in awe at this team, the work they put in, their dedication, and what it takes to put this event together… and that with all of that they give every penny made to the charity of choice. I mean, wow, that’s what Go Out Be Great means to us too! We work day and night to give back in our community whether it be by donating to schools for playgrounds, Days of Greatness, care packages, or youth sports scholarships. This is going to be a great event… I don’t just think so but I know it will be!

Please join us in supporting Joey D Cares, our foundation, and our community by just purchasing your tickets and enjoying an afternoon with your family. This is not just a band concert. This is an orchestra team that rocks and sings everything from The Beatles to Taylor Swift. You will be dancing in your seat… or maybe in the aisle too!

Team Nate

Greatness Lies Within Each of Us.

Whew!  What a weekend!   Sunday, May 18th, was the Marine Corps Historic Half in Fredericksburg, VA.   We had a team of approximately 40 runners split between running the half marathon, the 10K, and 5K distances!   I will say, it’s always so inspiring to watch runners tackling fears, reaching new goals, and smiling with pride knowing their training has paid off.   There is a sense of pride written on each runner’s face, no matter their distance completed, as they cross the finish line.

Experience It.

This year our shirts read, “Greatness lies within each of us.”   I couldn’t help but think of how perfect that is in so many ways.  Greatness does lie within each of us in many different ways.  But Sunday, that greatness that helped push each runner through their personal goal was experienced within themselves as each runner made a choice to Go Out and Be Great in their own way.

Show It To Others.

Part of why we organize the team runs is to bring awareness to our foundation, remember Nate, and spend time with some really amazing family, friends, even friends of friends, and people we’ve never met as we cheer each other on during a mentally and physically challenging experience that they were inspired to run in honor of Nate. On Sunday afternoon, I received the following message:

“I wanted to share a story from my race today. For some reason, every step was a mental battle for me and about mile 6,  I was honestly just ready to stop and go drink some coffee!  I was praying, asking God to give me strength and excitement to keep going, when a guy ran up behind me and kind of whispered in my ear.  He said “Who was Nathan Chris Baker?”.   As I briefly told him, I found new strength and knew I needed to run for Nate.  Even though I got injured shortly after, I felt at peace to keep pushing through and finish!”  Dana Mills, Team Nate Runner

What amazes me each time we are at a team race is that among 8,000 plus runners is that 40 Team Nate shirts are noticed.    I have to admit that when I am asked the question, as Dana was, it takes my breath away.  I wear my shirt to bring awareness to our foundation and to show my love for Nate but when asked about him I often find myself at a loss of words because sometimes speaking the words, “Nate was my son…  ” are just too hard to say.  I usually stumble my way through an answer about Nate and the foundation then turn away to take a deep breath.  Every event, every time I’m asked, every time I have the chance to share I remind myself that Nate’s life has a purpose still, a story to be shared, and the power to be big!  We want to keep sharing our little boy with the world and inspiring others to find that greatness that lies within them to Go Out and Be Great.

Our youngest Team Nate Runners making us so proud with their determination and love!

Thank you for everyone that came out to run for Team Nate on Sunday! We love each of you and all the support that you, your families, and your friends continue to give The Nathan Chris Baker Foundation! Keep running for Nate. Keep sharing his life and our story!

Go Out. Be Great.

Justin and Katie

Mother’s Day Love

The last week has been incredibly crazy as we are in high gear preparation for our Inaugural Golf Tournament this Friday and the Benefit Concert on June 1, 2014.   I have stressed my mind and run my body endlessly the last week and on Friday was telling a good friend how I was craving a break.  As I entered Friday, with a to-do list longer than physically possible, I was at the brink of crawling into a corner for an emotional breakdown but literally did not even have time to consider it before I realized that I had to keep going.   I was seriously craving that “take a break from the world” feeling but I realistically couldn’t have that time until I get through May.

Today is Mothers Day.   I have 3 beautiful children that fill my heart and made me a mother, 2 here with me and 1 waiting for me in heaven.  Today, I quieted this all too busy world and spent the day with my family.  I, unexpectedly, got that gift of time I needed.  I so desperately needed this day with Justin, Drew, and Kaylee by my side.   I woke up feeling mixed emotions as we started the day.  I received so many heart warming messages from so many and felt so loved by so many.   It’s an awkward feeling of expectations that our society holds for Mother’s day.   Mothers being spoiled, pampered, breakfast in bed, and so on that just never lives up to the hype.    We were exhausted from the last week so we all actually slept in for the first time in a very long time!   Drew’s birthday and Mothers day were just days apart this year so we had decided to share our celebration meal as breakfast out on Sunday morning.   I immediately felt a sense of peace as we sat and talked and found quiet in our life.  The stress, worries, and fears were easily set aside as we just enjoyed our time together.    While out, we decided it was a beautiful day to be outside…  so we came home loaded up our bikes and headed out.   To say I enjoyed our afternoon at the park is an understatement.  I loved it.  Every Single Minute Of It.   Time with my children and Justin – I don’t need gifts, I don’t need spoiled, and I don’t need special pampering.   All I need is what’s most important to me…   uninterrupted time with my most important people.  There are no gifts that could compare to the gift of time to me.   I went from a morning of feeling mixed emotions about what to expect out of the day to realizing that I couldn’t have picked a more loving day to spending with my family.

Did I miss Nate on Mother’s Day?  I sure did, but I miss Nate every single day, so yesterday was no different.   I felt Nate’s presence all day.  He was with us at the park as I imagined him, more than once, breezing past freely on his bike, all while I took a deep breath to soak it in.   On the way home from the park, completely unplanned, we stopped by the preschool Drew and Nate attended and Kaylee will start at in the fall.   I wanted to show Kaylee the school, the playground, to see the tree that Wesley Freedom EYLC planted for Nate, and the Go Out Be Great rock in the garden.  When Nate was 4 he was able to plant a flower in the preschool garden as part of a project in class.  I remember, vividly, him being so proud and excited about his flower (maybe because he was allowed to dig in the dirt at school which was one of his favorite things).    As we admired this years garden and tree, I could still see Nate standing there pointing out his flower to me with the biggest smile as he told me how he helped plant it.   We then let the kids spend a few minutes playing as Drew showed Kaylee around the preschool playground and talked to her about preschool.   When I look back at the memories that truly spark my heart, it’s the little ones that I remember most.   The memories that may have seemed small at the time are the ones that I won’t forget.

Again, on our way home, I had another instinct and it was to stop by the playground at Mechanicsville that was dedicated in Nate’s honor last August.  The playground that we worked tirelessly to raise money for through some of our darkest hours.  The playground that very well may have been a driving force that pulled us through the year after losing Nate.   To be honest, I haven’t been by there since the dedication last August.  I’ m not sure why I haven’t been by there actually…  maybe I was afraid of the emotion or just a loss of time.  Today we went, unplanned, and we played on a beautifully remarkable playground.  I was, once again, taken back by the magnitude of the playground as I gazed and took it in.   It’s a beautiful playground.  Nate would love it.  We spent some time just playing and letting the kids be free in the fresh air and laughter and soaking in the sunshine and beautiful day that it was!

No day is easy.  Mother’s Day isn’t any different than any other day when it comes to how much I miss Nate.   But I can promise you – my day was full of love.  Love that bursts from my seams for my 3 children and I felt completely filled by love from them too.  It was exactly what I needed and I am so thankful for each moment of this day.  Thank you for every single heartfelt message that was sent.  I read and appreciated each and everyone.  Days like these are too hard for me to fathom responding to each so I say thank you here!

I am thankful today for these precious smiles that love us unconditionally every day and continue to light up our lives.  I am thankful for being blessed with children that call me mom.  These smiles continually make every day meaningful!

I’ll keep listening for you, Nate.   I’ll keep reaching for you, Nate.  A mothers love has open arms that never end… I’ll hold you again one day buddy.  Until then, we will soak your love into us in every way we can.


All My Love,


Nate's Tree

After Nate passed, we were given a gift certificate to a local nursery. We put thought into where the tree would go and what we wanted. But when it came time to actually purchase a tree everything seemed so overwhelming. We spent what seemed like hours searching the nursery for the perfect tree. The thought of picking out a tree in Nate’s memory was quite a daunting task. We walked around the nursery forever looking at different shrubs, flowers, and analyzing every tree that was there! Finally we picked a willow tree and a red crape myrtle, since red was one of Nate’s favorite colors.

I am so concerned with what I look like from the outside. And will I blossom in to what you hope I’ll be. Yet you are so patient just to help me see that blooms come from the deeper seed that you planted in me.

This was a hard winter. The winter that would not end and brought storm on top of storm from December through April! There was an ice storm that hit us in February that was unlike anything I’ve ever seen! I remember sitting without power, feeling helpless, wanting hot coffee… and heat, as I stared out the window just gazing at the ice. Then I saw Nate’s willow tree so heavy from the ice that it had bent over and literally the top was touching the ground. I began to cry, slipped on boots, and walked down to see if I could help the tree. With a mere touch of the branch it cracked so I decided not to touch it for fear the whole tree would break. Walking back up the driveway feeling helpless, I realized I was very attached to this tree and began to pray for my strength and peace as I worried about that sweet tree hoping it would survive this storm and this crazy harsh winter as a baby tree.

Some times it’s hard to grow when ever body is watching. To have your heart pruned by the One who knows best. Although I am bare and cold I know my season’s coming. And I will spring up in….in Your faithfulness.

Our sweet tree survived the winter and is beautifully enjoying spring. I was so happy as I watched this tree through early spring just beginning to show its beauty. We’ve taken care of Nate’s tree, watched it, staked it, loved it, and somehow feel oddly connected to it now.

With my roots deep in you I’ll grow the branch that bears the fruit. Though I’m small I’ll still be standing in the storm.

Last month, at church, I first heard the song, For Your Splendor Lord by Christy Nockels (quoted above), and was stunned by its beauty in so many ways that I wanted to share it. Every word reminded me of myself, our family, our story, and of Nate’s tree. When I think through the story of Nate’s tree I think about our journey as well. I may be small but I am still standing through the strom because of the deeper seed that was planted in me. It is hard to grow and be pruned but it is in the journey that we learn to trust the One who knows best. I trust that He is bringing us joy through the storm that we journey through.

All My Love,