Mar 06


It was well over 90 degrees, with a blazing hot sun, and a festive mariachi band nearby.  Well … throw in an amazing bride & groom, a gorgeous old chapel, all of the college friends and a few beverages to boot.  This had been circled five times over in bold red on our calendars for months in advance.  We were in San Antonio in July 2019 to party like it was 1999.  Mission #1: celebrate the newlyweds.  Mission #2: close the place down … as in the very last person standing on the dance floor.  Jen wasn’t feeling well, but you wouldn’t have known it.  Missions accomplished.  She outlasted everyone.  It was so much fun!  … Fast forward to just a couple of weeks ago and the memories came flooding back.  Sitting on our kitchen counter was a B/W candid from that very night that had been smuggled into our house by loving elves while we were gone.  It totally stopped me in my tracks.  It captured exuberant joy that transcended the struggle beneath. A priceless picture for a priceless moment.

Now, close your eyes.  Imagine yourself at the age of 8 or 12.  It’s eleven o’clock in the morning on Valentine’s Day and most other kids are at school.  But not you.  You’ve been up since three o’clock because you caught an early flight to chase a new adventure.  You’re starving, but you find yourself in a taxi and your dad won’t tell you where you’re going and refuses to get you food.  Next thing you know, you pull up to some random place in what feels like a residential neighborhood and you’re told to hop out of the car.  What on earth is going on?  “Serendipity!  We’re here!”  Wait .. what .. what?  5 minutes later, you’ve bypassed all sense of rationality and sitting before you is your very own $20 ice cream sundae that is as big as your head and literally overflowing with sugary goodness.  Lunch can wait.  It’s time to get this adventure started right.  … Another moment for the eternal memory bank.

It said March on the calendar.  When we got out of the car we were in shorts, shirts and hiking boots.  Several hours later, we were a few thousand feet higher in elevation.  We weren’t celebrating early spring in the south any longer, though.  We found ourselves with full-on winter gear, wearing crimp-ons to scale the sheets of ice, freezing our badonkadonks off.  We were blazing the summit trail with awesome friends for the opening weekend of the Leconte Lodge in Smoky Mountain National Park.  We were completely cashed and could barely muster the energy to de-ice our bodies and drag ourselves for hot chocolate in the lodge that was buried by snow and icicles.  Magical.  A moment sketched in permanent ink.

We wanted to get out of dodge on a wintry weekend to just be the 4 of us.  It was a 1800’s rustic cabin assembled with hand-cut timbers off the beaten path.  We had a fire crackling and had just returned from sledding in over a foot of fresh powder from the overnight snow storm.  With a cup of hot chocolate in hand, Jen had curled up to a read a book beside the front window.  The girls were still outside frolicking in the snow and giggling as they made snow angels and attempted a snow man.  A picture perfect day of rest and family joy.  A moment captured in passing, but frozen in time as its memory echoes on.


This is roughly the number of minutes the average person lives.  These never-to-be-forgotten memories, however, took just a handful of minutes.  It is so clear to me just how much the moments matter.  The moments are what pull us out of the mundane and send electricity through our imagination.  Sometimes the moments are just waiting for us if we dare to walk with open eyes.  Other times, a few intentional steps allow us to create magic for someone else.

Jen and I often talked about the “80 year old rule” when making priorities.  Simply, what would we care to recall and talk about when we were 80 years old and sitting in rockers, contemplating the joys of life.  Our answers always jumped to the sweet moments.  Funny how a few handfuls of minutes out of millions are all we would choose to carry in our eternal satchels.

Our daily lives continue to be bittersweet.  We’re functioning well, but are continuously tripping over shared memories – wondering when she will walk back through the door.  I often find myself turning to ask her opinion on something only to be struck with the reality that I need to pull up my big boy pants and be the solo parent.  My battle is to trust in the freedom of the cross.  My girls are delightful and beautiful and adventurous.  We have lots of moments in our memory banks – thank God.  Still, we’re continuing to invest and make more deposits.  It is so worth it.  The moments are so worth pausing for.  Sometimes the moments are mountain top experiences.  Sometimes they’re found as roses in the mundane.  Other times, sweet moments are found in the reminder of promises wrapped up in the bittersweet.  In all cases, the moments are worth it.  They cannot be lost and they strengthen our understanding of truth as it is experienced.

We really miss Jen.  I clutch the memories of our special moments daily and choose to trust and hope that God’s unfolding story will be best.



  1. Conni Carlson /

    Beautifully written, Brad. Thank you for continuing to share . . .
    Blessings to you and the girls always.

  2. Nikki /

    I picked her up from the airport in Seattle for a little writing adventure on Orcas Island and we bonded immediately over the names of our girls; her/your Maren Karis (who looks so much like Her Mama!), and my girl Charis. Until then I’d never heard another name the same, just spelled different. I felt something kindred in our hearts for this that we have given to our girls; grace and love. Jen is/was (so hard to say ‘was’) such a sunbeam; a ray of light whose momentary few days on the timeline of my life has left a deeply warm and profound mark on my heart and soul. Its hard to say ‘was’ because she is still so very present, though not in form, but very much in spirit. She is a gift. 💞 Thank you for sharing your moments; she lives on.

  3. Denise /


  4. Christin /

    “Funny how a few handfuls of minutes out of millions are all we choose to carry in our eternal satchels.” Gah. I had to read that three times to feel like it really sunk in. Thank you. I have so much goodness to chew on.

  5. Lisa Smith /

    Sending big love to you Brad, Greta and Maren. I get the very tiniest dose of what you are describing when I see Jen’s name in my inbox. I feel so happy to see ‘Do Today Well’ and then sad to realize I won’t be hearing from Jen but then eager to hear from you as you continue to process. Your marriage continues to inspire me in mine and both of your insights inspire my parenting. Hearing from you on her behalf is water to my parenting and family life soul. Love, Lisa, Jason, Gloria, Van and Thatcher. Thank you for writing.

  6. Kathi Roth /

    ❤️ beautiful. Reading your words makes my heart sing, hurt and rejoice all at the same time. I treasure the postings. Prayers continue

  7. Kim Rourke /


  8. Bonnie Jackson /

    Such a heartfelt and heart rendering post Brad… Saw Maren today and we talked braces and VB 😂. She has Jen’s same bright eyed enthusiasm and loved seeing her eye to eye! Love your satchel image and totally agree on the image memories that carry the most weight ❤️❤️ Praying for all of you!!

  9. Robyn Malcomb /

    Continuing to send your family so much love and so many prayers. Thank you for continuing to share!

  10. Amber Hahn /

    We love Serendipity! i took Sydney there her Freshman year of high school. Life’s an adventure. Live a great story!

    Carsten just turned 15. We are so thankful for the night he was born. You guys just showed up in the moment we needed you to stay with Sydney.

    We’ve been up in the Eau Claire area quite a bit for basketball tournaments and think of you. Sydney’s team won the first regional title ever for Poynette.

    Sending love from Wisconsin.
    Amber, Brian, Sydney, Carsten, Morgan

  11. Brad, thank you for sharing.

  12. Newbie friend /

    You are so right – it’s those special moments that make it in the memory bank. Cancer has helped me be more intentional about making those happen. I still hold dear the moment that I met Jen- she said to me as I sat in the chemo chair for the first time” you look like a newbie” and so our friendship began. I was old enough to be her Mom, but that didn’t matter, we both had things to teach and learn from each other.
    You are continuing her legacy and she would be so proud! May God continue to bless your family with special moments!

  13. Fredda /

    Thank you for continuing to share, it means so much.

  14. I can only imagine the sound and volume when the three of you recall a sweet adventure memory together! What gifts these experiences are. So many more to be had that God will provide!
    Praying for you all.
    ~ Jill