2020 Seniors, You Can Do This

IMG_0817[1]


I’ve enjoyed looking at everyone’s senior photos from back in the day trending on social media. I also understand that although the intent is to encourage the Class of 2020 amidst the coronavirus quarantine, with a laugh at our expense, it could end up hurting as well as helping. In an effort to help, I’m adding my senior photo to the worldwide yearbook to offer hope for today’s graduating seniors.

Seniors, you can do this. You can graduate (however that looks) and go on to live a full and productive life reaching your goals and realizing your dreams.

Looking at myself in the photo, I don’t even remember my senior year — or 10th or 11th grade. I never attended one high school dance, including prom, due to crippling social anxiety. Pep rallies, extra-curricular activities, field trips, and basically anything outside of structured class time sent my anxiety into a tailspin.

Bucking tradition, I did not attend my high school graduation. Rather, I walked into the school office that summer and picked it up from the secretary who found it tucked away in a file cabinet.

Why did I skip it? I could not emotionally handle hearing classmates’ family and friends clap for them as they walked the stage; or seeing everyone take photos afterwards and enjoy parties for themselves and their friends knowing I didn’t have an audience for me. I was merely trying to find the strength to get out of bed and take a shower every day.

My mom was dying of breast cancer my entire junior year. I spent as much time at the hospital as I did in class. She passed away the summer before senior year, and twice divorced, there was no father in my life.

My grandparents and sister were grieving the loss of my mom as much as I was in their own ways. Frankly, I spent any extra energy apart from daily survival on trying not to fail math.

Years later, I found a letter from the principal congratulating me on my academic success of my senior year. I have zero memory of those days, so seeing I made honor roll was a shock. The letter was addressed and written to “The parents of…”

I was one of those students who fell through the cracks. The school evidently did not realize I had no parents and that my grandparents signed on as legal guardians to keep me out of foster care my senior year since I didn’t turn 18 until August after graduation.

My boyfriend broke up with me to date my best friend during my mom’s illness. Within a week of her death, life began to free fall and all I could do was watch frozen in horror.

As a minor, I had to legally vacate my childhood home and our belongings had to be sold in an estate sale to pay off family debt. I was forced to put down my 13 year-old dog (my 4th birthday present and BFF) because the stress of everything caused her to starve herself. She was emaciated beyond help and having to end her suffering was one of the worst moments of my life. My cat ran away, and the only mentor I had in the whole world announced they were moving out-of-state for a new job. Friends told me my life was a trainwreck and they didn’t know what to do with me.

I totaled my ’74 car (which had been my grandmother’s, then my mom’s, then mine), which meant losing my driver’s license and gaining a probation officer with community service hours to work off — the night before my mom’s funeral.

All of this happened the summer before senior year. I had nothing and no one except Christ, my sister’s hand-me-downs, and ironically, an empty hope chest.

I was devastatingly lonely, had no college fund to rely on, and began to struggle with an eating disorder as a result my mom’s death — with which I still wrestle.

There is always a story behind the smile.


I read a Facebook post regarding ancient senior photos floating around the world wide web which said today’s seniors don’t want to see others’ senior years in tact. *In tact* is a huge assumption.

No life is perfect. Every life has a story. It’s what we do with our story that paves our journey forward.


2020 Seniors, your grief is real. Your feelings are valid. Do not deny yourself working through the loss of your senior year. In your grieving, I encourage you to stay there only as long as necessary to heal.

Use grieving to help you take the next step forward. 

From someone who spent more time wanting to die than live because of trauma upon trauma, with no coping skills or outside help, I can tell you that you get to choose what you do with this senior season.

You can let it destroy you, or you can tap into strength you did not know you have and lean on God in ways you did not think possible.
Not only can you make it through this, but you can emerge stronger, more determined and more focused than you ever imagined on what you want for your next chapter.

Want to know what I chose to do instead of attending my graduation? I got on an airplane with my (then) boyfriend and flew from Florida to New York to meet his family. Four years my senior, he served in the Air Force and his mandated leave time overlapped with my graduation.

I had a choice. I could either attend graduation, which highlighted what I didn’t have while unresolved grief & social anxiety swallowed me alive walking across a silent stage, or forego tradition and take a leap into my future to meet a family who I already knew would be my future family.

He and I celebrated 30 years of marriage last month. My decision then was absolutely the right call and I would make the same decision a million times again. They welcomed me into their family when I was 17 and I married at 19.

We worked hard. He worked day, swing, and midshifts full-time with full class loads and I worked two jobs and took day and night classes. We put ourselves through college debt-free with every cent we had plus scholarships and grants we earned. I completed my B.A. four years later. He completed his B.S. the year after.

We bought our first home when I was 21. A tiny foreclosure on a cul-de-sac, our nicotine-drenched, ripped wallpaper, nasty bathrooms, abandoned house needed a lot of love. It was our little nest, and we slowly remodeled it room-by-room while working and going to school.

If someone had told me only four years earlier at 17, when I didn’t know what home address to put on my high school contact card, that I would own my own home — I wouldn’t have believed it.

If someone had told me when I skipped my high school graduation that I would go on to earn my bachelor’s degree and graduate on time — I couldn’t have believed it.

What I knew that night, donning a black silky robe and balancing a mortar board on my head, as I waited to take my turn to walk the university stage with my husband, grandparents, sister and her then boyfriend (now husband) and our best friends cheering for me in the stands, is that God can most certainly redeem what was lost.

The loss may be irreplaceable — as nothing could bring back my mom or replace everyone and everything ripped from my life — but if we stay in a posture of being willing to receive the gifts God has planned for us, and we continue to take a new step forward each day, then our hearts and lives can be genuinely full to overflowing with good things. Soul-filling, goal-accomplishing, dream-realizing things. Things beyond what we could ask or imagine (Ephesians 3:20).

An awesome, fulfilling and rewarding life is possible after traumatic loss. 

During my junior year of college, someone I highly respected flat out told me that I would never graduate. They genuinely did not believe in me and it broke my heart in ways that silently hemorrhaged for years. I chose to extend forgiveness toward that person, and felt a personal cathartic release proving them wrong, as I shook hands with faculty on the stage that night.

Moving my tassel from right to left was a symbol that I did it. God gave me the strength and work ethic and I used all of it to run through that finish line.

I skipped my high school graduation because I was embarrassed and overwhelmed that I didn’t have a traditional posse cheering for me. One thing I’ve since learned is me cheering for me was enough. Accomplishing a goal is personal. And when I walked the stage to receive my college diploma, I was eternally grateful for those who came to cheer me on, but most of all I looked to heaven and gave thanks to God that he completed a work in me and we did it together. (Phil. 1:6)

Everyone’s journeys looks different. My husband and I were blessed to rear three kids who have grown into amazing adult children whom I highly admire. They have my heart.

One out-of-state move, three houses, multiple jobs, and being blessed to live out our heartbeat for international missions and relief work, I never could have dreamed that God would raise up beauty from ashes in the brokenness of my life. All glory goes to him.

He is absolutely the God of the impossible and only asks we trust him and take the next step that he puts in front of us.


2020 Seniors, I know inconsolable grief. Overwhelming loss. Desperate disappointment. Uncertain futures. Gripping fear. Unquenchable loneliness. Paralyzing hopelessness. Catastrophic helplessness.

I also know that you have the choice to allow how much this surreal season affects your present and future. I know there is purpose for you. I know there is an entire world waiting for you. A world who needs you to do what you were born to do. And I know that you have the power to choose whether this season breaks or benefits you.

If you’re quarantining in your home with those you call family; food in your pantry; an education to continue online or otherwise; and you have one friend who misses you; and a sport, club, volunteering or work that you miss, then you already have everything you need to graduate abundantly blessed.

Embrace what you have. Trust God that he can work for your good if you give it all to him, including your grief. Choose to let this season make you better, not bitter.

Keep looking ahead. Keep stepping forward. Take Bruce Lee’s advice and “Be water, my friend.” You can do all things through Christ who strengthens you. (Phil. 4:13) And keep smiling, knowing the best is yet to come.

Lessons from Nana…Stay grateful

Today (March 8th) is Nana’s birthday. It’s the first birthday that she is celebrating in heaven. It’s fitting that today is the first time I’ve written since she passed away.
Wrapping up a life is a process I’m happy to do and honored to get to do it. I cleaned out her apartment in a total of four days. Whew! Sorting it all is another story, lol. So much of what she had will be a tremendous blessing to others as the family agreed to donate most of it.

I had the distinct honor of receiving her ashes. The funeral home director was kind and soft-spoken and showed genuine compassion and empathy. It was a tender moment I will never forget. The last time I was at the funeral home I had to confirm her identification. It was surreal and obviously hard because of the nature of the task. But she looked so peaceful; just like she was sleeping. And after being with her in her last days, it was a gift to see her not suffering and struggling anymore. I choose to look at it that way. I stroked her arm and said, “We love you, Mom.” It was an odd moment because, as a believer, I know she is no longer in her body. Still, it seemed fitting to pay my respects.

When the director gently handed me the small box of ashes meticulously wrapped in brown paper, I thanked him and tried to hide that for a moment it felt hard to breathe. I thought about all the times she and I drove in my JEEP to her doctors’ appointments; to breakfasts, lunches, and dinners; to our home for surgery recoveries, holidays and celebrations or just to hang out; to Walmart, the grocery store, and just to get an ice cream cone, her favorite.

This would be our last drive together. Instead of sitting next to me coloring her lips with lipstick or checking her hair in the mirror, recalling a fond memory, talking politics or writing her shopping list, this drive would be silent. I shook the man’s hand, said a final goodbye and walked outside. The cold, grey sky was blanketed in huge dark clouds and made the sky feel low enough I could touch heaven.

I tucked Nana’s ashes safely in the back seat and ran my hand over the smooth, brown paper. I touched her name on the label and whispered, “Let’s go home, Mom.”
Arriving home, I carried Nana’s ashes upstairs where my father-in-law’s (a.k.a. Bompa) were and sat them next to each other. The world seemed strangely balanced once more. They will be laid to rest together this summer in New York. Their ashes are together, as I know today, they are worshiping the Lord together alive and well in heaven. Both truths comfort my soul.

The following weeks have been filled with phone calls, closing accounts, sorting through photos and paperwork and making plans. It has been busy indeed.

In moments of laughing at good memories and tears of missing Nana, I am reflecting on everyone who helped walk Nana to heaven. So much of those last months are an emotional blur, as I knew they would be. We think we won’t forget faces and names, but like a flooded river, there is too much emotion, too many decisions and too little sleep to retain it all.

In preparation for what was coming, I asked some of these special folks if they would take a selfie with Nana, or I take a photo of them, and grant me permission to post it publicly in an effort to say thank you and so we will never forget those who impacted Nana all of us.

On her birthday today, I count these photos as a celebration of life and love. Nana was never shy to shout, “Praise the Lord!” and gave God the credit for his many blessings. In the spirit of her grateful heart, and for the thousands of times I heard her sing, “God is so good, God is so good, God is so good, he’s so good to me!” This is my grateful post. Grateful for those who helped Nana in countless ways and showed the love of Jesus with authenticity and joy. Our family is eternally grateful for each of you. From the bottom of our hearts, thank you.

89504028_10223386506117234_2298921759610503168_o

Dr. Shehadeh, you will receive a letter of thanks soon, but for now I want you to know Nana and our family owes you a debt we can never repay. As her oncologist, you helped us wade the deep waters of cancer with compassion and sensitivity. You treated her with dignity and respect. You listened. You made eye contact. You hugged her. You held her hand. She was not just another patient. I don’t believe you have any “just another patients.” Your kind-hearted nature and sharp intellect helped us understand the Goliath she faced and how to deal with it. You kept us calm. You answered my millions of questions. You addressed her terminal illness with tenderness and reason. You are the best doctor I’ve ever worked with, and you were a big reason why we got an extra year with Nana. Thank you, thank you.

To RNs Demetrius and Melissa at Agape Hospice. You showed up every day. You cared for Nana in every way. You were our eyes and ears, hands and feet to do the hard tasks. We would have been lost without you. Because of you, Nana had the very best care, and your help allowed me to get some much-needed sleep so I could be there for Nana in other ways. We are indebted to you.

89386744_10223386508477293_2776562761906257920_o

To Dr. Grattan and your staff, thank you for being so attentive to Nana’s medical needs. Your P.A. who saw us in a last minute appointment caught the angiosarcoma in 2018 and her quick diagnosis was the reason she could have surgery and add another year onto her life. We are so grateful that you guys caught what the radiologist missed!! Without your expert insight, we would have lost Nana much sooner. Thank you for the gift of time. There are no words that can fully express how much we will awlays be thankful for you all.

89603322_10223386544238187_6425489701536268288_o

To Matt, Nana’s deacon from church. For two years you took Nana under your deacon wing and served her with love and compassion. Thank you for all your visits and phone calls. She loved your company and the chocolate milkshakes with which you surprised her. We appreciate you so much and “Thank You” seems inadequate for all your time, energy and attention you gave; as well as to your wife and children who shared you with Nana.

To Med-Techs Melissa, Tamica and Jessica, thank you for giving your time, talent and love to Nana. You are the best at what you do! You were never too busy to help. You were always kind and caring. No task was too small, no question too insignificant. You helped Nana feel at home in the apartment she loved.

Melissa, the night we moved Nana in you changed my life. It was a long day of moving and settling her in and we were exhausted. I remember coming to end of my emotional and physical strength. Melissa, you popped in to introduce yourself. I said to you, “Thank for your help. I am doing all I can and often it seems not enough.” You replied, “We’re happy to help! Don’t worry, we’ll take it from here.” I broke down into tears. I knew Nana would be safe and cared for in ways she needed, and a wave of utter relief washed over me, largely because of you. Thank you.

Tamica, one of my favorite moments with you was when we needed an extra hand on the third floor, and you had just started your lunch break on the first floor. Without hesitation, and without the slightest attitude of being inconvenienced, you put the sandwich down, that you almost took your first bite from, and rushed right up. You don’t know this, but I saw when, after helping us get Nana into bed, you leaned in close – nose to nose – smiled and softly stroked Nana’s cheek to comfort her. It was the kind of caring family does for each other. I was beautiful to see. Thank you.

Teisha with Agape Hospice, you are incredible. Thank you for helping Nana with her personal hygiene. She was fiercely strong and independent and didn’t want your help. Still, you waited patiently nearby in case of an emergency. Stopping to chat with me in the hallway just days after her death, you took the time to share your memories of your time with Silly Salli. Thank you for asking questions about her life; showing Nana meant so much more to you than as just another client. You really wanted to know more, and your caring is precious to me. Learning about all the sweet moments you shared means the world to me. You sat with her and laughed at her stories. You danced with her while she sang her own music. Sometimes you were the first face she saw in the morning and I am so glad it was you. You told me about the day Nana accepted your help at last, and how you knew that was an indicator it was close to her time when she no longer struggled against your efforts. All of this helps heal our broken hearts.

89602498_10223386466676248_1767718155741822976_o

Thank you, Marie. We got to know each other well while rendezvousing in parking lots all over the city as you helped provide transportation to her appointments via her assisted living. Your heart is priceless! Not only did you help with the driving, but you did so with a joyful heart. You were always patient, courteous, kind and funny! Nana loved your sense of humor. Thank you for making the long drives from South Carolina to Charlotte fun and an adventure for Nana. You were a huge help to me as we tag-teamed literally all over the city to get Nana where she needed to be. Your help was invaluable to me. Your caring heart is a treasure to us both.

89624486_10223386492396891_2701248105189212160_o

To Stephanie who works in the dining room at Nana’s assisted living. Thank you for bringing light and smiles and joy to every meal. Thank you for knowing the residents by name as well as their preferences and allergies. Thank you for treating them like family. Your energy and positivity are contagious. Keep doing what you do. You are a bright blessing!

To the lovely young lady who took care of Nana’s laundry, and others we do not have a photo of, but are forever imprinted on our hearts – thank you. You loved Nana well. Your kindness is seen by God and I ask that he richly blesses you in return, in ways so personal you will know without a doubt that it is an extension of our gratitude for a job well done that went far beyond work. Thank you that Nana mattered to you as a person and you showed it in so many ways.

Thank you, Father John, for coming to see her one more time. You always bring a funny story, a joke and a smile. Your visit was a highlight to her, and we appreciate you coming by to hug and love on Nana. Your friendship dates back 50 years when you sold cars with Bompa in upstate New York. Who knew that Nana and you would reconnect as the presiding Father over the church she attended in New York many years later, only to wind up living right down the road from each other in South Carolina. It’s a small, small world, and you colored her world with laughter and joy for decades. Thank you for praying over Nana. Circling up to give her again to the Lord is a memory we will forever hold in our hearts.

To all my friends who loved on Nana, thank you! Thank you, Yvonne, Tonya and Gayle for keeping her company when we were out of town. Jean-Paul, Kim, Lisa, Frances and Ann, thank you for celebrating her 80th birthday last year with us! Thank you to all my wonderful friends who didn’t mind me texting all hours of the day or night requesting prayer for Nana. Every prayer, every text, every call, every visit, every act of kindness is deeply, deeply appreciated. I love you all.

On Nana’s birthday today, what can be a hard, hard day, is covered in what feels like a big hug of hearts and smiles of those who loved her well. We will continue to sing, “God is so good, he’s so good to me,” and we will indulge in ice cream and raise a cup of coffee (her favorite pleasures) in her honor knowing she is fully alive, fully healed and rejoicing in the presence of the One who made her and allowed us to share so many birthdays with her. Nana’s life on earth may be over, but in heaven, the party is just getting started. Happy birthday, Nana! We love you. Save a piece of cake for us.

Seeing God’s blessing with fresh eyes: Guyana Part 2

6x4 photo horizontal - Page 004

Blessed are those whose help is the God of Jacob,
    whose hope is in the Lord their God.

He is the Maker of heaven and earth,
    the sea, and everything in them—
    he remains faithful forever.
He upholds the cause of the oppressed
    and gives food to the hungry.
The Lord sets prisoners free,
the Lord gives sight to the blind,
the Lord lifts up those who are bowed down,
    the Lord loves the righteous.
The Lord watches over the foreigner
    and sustains the fatherless and the widow…(Psalm 146: 5-9)

We’ve had the honor and privilege of serving folks in multiple countries in many capacities with several non-profits over the years. However, our recent mission to Guyana’s jungle and remote areas brought a new task for Bruce and me.

It was a joy to fit men and women with reading glasses! Such a small token can change a life. I know because I’ve worn glasses for most of my adulthood. Not only do glasses help make words easier to see, but no more eye strain means no more chronic headaches. Hallelujah! No squinting. More reading!

I love how Psalm 146 describes the mercy and compassion of God our Father. Yes, he is focused our salvation and eternal destination, but he also cares about the here and now. The Bible is full of ways he offers tangible help to meet people’s needs.

We’ve all been the recipient of his gracious heart. The farmer gives thanks for rain. The sailor gives thanks for wind. We give thanks for medicine, help with a broken car on the side of the road, and neighbors who offer to help chainsaw huge branches that fall in the storm (Thanks, Jesse!!). All of us receive blessings every single day from our Creator as said beautifully by the anonymous author of Lamentations.

Because of the Lord’s great love we are not consumed,
    for his compassions never fail.
They are new every morning;
    great is your faithfulness.
I say to myself, “The Lord is my portion;
    therefore I will wait for him.” (Lamentations 3:22-24)

It’s always exciting to wake up on mission and see what the day will bring. Fitting folks with reading glasses was a tangible way to help better the lives of others. We enjoyed great conversation with them, helping improve their reading vision, and serving them in this personal way in the name of our Lord.

6x4 photo horizontal - Page 020

There’s also a physical exchange that was quite meaningful. The exchange of glasses hand-to-hand; helping gently fit them on their faces; the eye-to-eye contact when asking how they well they worked for them; and cleaning the lenses & straightening the arms of the glasses for them once their perfect pair were found was personal and sweet. It felt intentional. Care-filled. Love-driven. One person at a time. One pair of glasses at a time. It was beautiful.

6x4 photo horizontal - Page 015

The process is remarkably easy. Start with a 1.0 lens and ask them if it makes it easier to read. If it’s too strong, then they don’t need glasses. If it’s not strong enough, keep going up until we find their perfect number. Then they can pick out the frames they like and that’s all there is to it! They leave with a new pair of reading glasses free of charge.

ICA buys the glasses from dollar stores so they’re an affordable, helpful way to bless someone in need. I have no idea how many pairs of reading glasses we gave out on this mission, but a few folks’ smiles stay with me.

One woman only had sight in one eye and that eye was strained. Keeping her only seeing eye is imperative to her quality of life and independence. She owned a pair of glasses, but they were the old, were the wrong strength and were pretty much useless. She was THRILLED to have a new, correct pair. Her smile said it all!

One man, in his late 40’s, never spoke a word. Bruce and I helped him together as we tried pair after pair. We knew we found the perfect ones for him when he did one thing – he gave two thumbs up, way up! His enthusiasm was contagious.

Another man showed up hours early because he was going to be at work when we opened the reading glasses clinic. We were more than happy to fit him with new specs, just in time for his shift. Yay!

Missions is God’s time, not ours. It’s not volunteer tourism – though that in itself is a great thing. Our daughter volunteered in Costa Rica to rehabilitate injured animals for eight weeks. Amazing work!!! We are huge fans!!

Mission work for God is surrendering oneself to the cause of Christ however needed; easy or hard, in our comfort zone or way outside of it, it’s all good. Even a simple conversation can be life-changing, both for us and those we serve. That’s a different blog post. 😉

There is nothing more rewarding than to be a vessel to help heal hearts while meeting tangible needs. This assignment was to give away as many reading glasses as possible. I loved every minute of it and hope to do it again and again.

6x4 photo horizontal - Page 009

One of my favorite quotes is from Schoolhouse Rocks, “Knowledge is power!” The more people can easily read, the more information they will have that can change their lives and others’ in countless ways. This was one of those tasks that you walk away from knowing it will have a lasting effect and that feels GREAT!!!

6x4 photo horizontal - Page 017

Below are photos of some of the recipients. I never grew tired of seeing people walk in with curiosity and leave with new reading glasses and big smiles. We can’t wait to do it again! See below how you can get involved.

Wow! These folks are rockin’ their new specs!!! 🙂

6x4 photo horizontal - Page 0166x4 photo horizontal - Page 0146x4 photo horizontal - Page 0126x4 photo horizontal - Page 0116x4 photo horizontal - Page 0066x4 photo horizontal - Page 005Guyana 2019 vertical 4x6 - Page 026Guyana 2019 vertical 4x6 - Page 025Guyana 2019 vertical 4x6 - Page 024Guyana 2019 vertical 4x6 - Page 023Guyana 2019 vertical 4x6 - Page 022Guyana 2019 vertical 4x6 - Page 019Guyana 2019 vertical 4x6 - Page 018Guyana 2019 vertical 4x6 - Page 017Guyana 2019 vertical 4x6 - Page 016Guyana 2019 vertical 4x6 - Page 015Guyana 2019 vertical 4x6 - Page 014Guyana 2019 vertical 4x6 - Page 013Guyana 2019 vertical 4x6 - Page 012Guyana 2019 vertical 4x6 - Page 010Guyana 2019 vertical 4x6 - Page 008Guyana 2019 vertical 4x6 - Page 007Guyana 2019 vertical 4x6 - Page 006Guyana 2019 vertical 4x6 - Page 004Guyana 2019 vertical 4x6 - Page 003Guyana 2019 vertical 4x6 - Page 002Guyana 2019 vertical 4x6 - Page 021

If you’re inspired to help, there are two easy ways. You can donate to ICA as they continue to ship reading glasses, clothes, shoes, Christian books and cds, and a non-denominational bible study to Guyana on a regular basis. The Guyanese team with this ministry directly receives it, no middle man. They also organize food distribution to those in need all over the country of Guyana. Everything given away is a gift of the ministry with no cost to the recipients.

Another way to help is to choose International Celebration Association as a charity that receives a portion of your Amazon orders. There is no cost to you as Amazon donates a portion of your order. Simply to go AmazonSmile to find out more.

(Disclosure: Bruce and I are volunteers with this ministry and do not receive any compensation of any kind for our time or service. We serve in a volunteer role and do not work in any official capacity for this non-profit.)

 

 

 

 

The Mammogram

Today was my yearly mammogram. However, the doctor was concerned about something and ordered a 3D diagnostic test plus an ultrasound.

I’ve had a mammogram every year since I was 26. Believe me when I say I’ve gone through every emotion possible over the years. But this time, I was full of angst. I had not seen a doctor’s concerned expression like that since my first test. And because she was concerned, so was I. I haven’t slept well for days and have had terrible dreams.

On the way there, a familiar song came on the radio. “I lift my hands to believe again. You are my refuge, You are my strength. As I pour out my heart, these things I remember, You are faithful, God, forever.” I often lift my hand in the van (safely) in worship. Today was no different and I gave Him this appointment all over again.

However, worry unlocks the gate in my mind and lets my imagination run wild! I thought about the worst-case scenario. So, what WOULD I change if I was told I hadn’t much time? Evidently a lot according to my rambling thoughts. Hmmm….

While waiting in the office, I caught a friend’s smile from across the room. She is a special friend to me; someone with whom conversation is always thoughtful and deep. She is a tender soul and is a compassionate and kind woman. She is Chinese and noticed my necklace that I often wear. She said, “Your necklace. It is the Chinese symbol for faith.” “Yes,” I told her. “I bought it in China and wear it almost every day.”

It began a conversation where we talked all about faith, her family in China and her home country’s lack of faith in God. She talked about faith and trust and how we are called to live it every day. I smiled and listened. She had no idea that I had this same exact conversation with God mere moments before walking through the heavy, wooden doors.

While she talked, I noticed a woman walk in with her husband. He was gentle with her and protective of her. He waited in line with her. He wrapped his arm around her tight while she filled out her forms on the couch. They sat close, folded into each other…and waited. When her name was called, she slowly stood up. He still held her hand. He held her hand until the steps she took toward the technician pulled their tender hands apart. His back was to me, but after the door closed behind her, I saw him wipe his eyes and nose.

I thought about their journey. Was she in the beginning, middle or post cancer? Was it cancer or just a horrific scare? Was this her first mammogram? Her tenth? Had she lost a loved one to cancer? What made this appointment so hard for them? I don’t know them, but I deeply cared about them because, without a spoken word, they told a beautiful love story.

Still listening to my friend, we talked about faith. I wondered if this man, who sat directly behind her, could hear – and if so, what did he think about our conversation?

My name was called. I hugged my sweet friend and we parted. I know exactly how this goes. No deodorant, no perfumes or powders. Use baby wipes just to make sure. Undress from the waist up and put on the disposable blue half robe with white snaps, open in the front. Then wait for the tech to come get me. Yep, got it. This was my twenty-first time.

It took a little while for the tech to come back, and Fixer Upper played on a small tv monitor in the tiny room with well-worn magazines and sugar cookies under a glass dome for patients. I thought, “I can worry or I can relax and watch tv. Either choice doesn’t affect the outcome of the test.” So I watched tv, ignoring the pit in my stomach and lump in my throat as I kept seeing the doctor’s concerned expression play in a loop in my mind.

Every year I forget to take Motrin first. Shoot. Mammograms hurt. They really do! Not gonna lie. But, it’s short. As the tech worked through the process, I gritted my teeth and held my breath, squeezing my eyes tight, she said, “Now place your hand here.” I had to raise my arm to the spot she wanted.

Just then, I sang to myself, “I lift my hands to believe again. You are my refuge, you are my strength. As I pour out my heart, these things I remember, You are faithful, God, forever.” It was not a coincidence that song played on the radio as I pulled into the office.

See here’s the thing. I believe God and I trust God. Period. Walking into the office I quoted Psalm 139 in my mind over and over. “Every one of my days were written in your book before one of them came to be.” Walking out I quoted the same verse.

I praise God that my results are normal. I felt my knees grow weak from relief on the way to my van and I shed happy tears in the parking garage. I was so ecstatic that after putting back on my bra I turned to leave the dressing room, topless! :O

But, I also carry love for my precious friends who are my age and are also mothers – one is suffering from spinal cancer and the other from lung cancer. So I don’t even want to quote the over-used phrase, “God is good” for me, lest someone think He is bad for my friends.

None of us know the number of our days. I can get a pass on this breast test, but then be killed in a car accident on the way home five minutes later.

The reality is that what we’ve all been given is today. Not tomorrow. Today. How are we going to spend the 86,400 seconds that make up this day?

Wiping the tears away, I recounted the list I had made about what I would change if the tests had rendered a different result. What do I do with that list now?

And on the matter of faith, I need not look farther than Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego. They had a moment with King Nebuchadnezzar that I have used to define my life in words for the last three decades –

Daniel 3:16-18, “Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego replied to him, “King Nebuchadnezzar, we do not need to defend ourselves before you in this matter. If we are thrown into the blazing furnace, the God we serve is able to deliver us from it, and he will deliver us from Your Majesty’s hand. But even if he does not, we want you to know, Your Majesty, that we will not serve your gods or worship the image of gold you have set up.”

God can do anything. A.N.Y.T.H.I.N.G.

Why He does some things sometimes and not others other times I have no idea.  But I know He is sovereign. He sees. He knows. He cares. He fights for His children.

I think we get tangled up in our thinking that this life is our happily ever after. It’s not. This is a life where we were born into sin and live in a broken world controlled by the enemy of God. Does it have awesome highs? Yes! I can name many. But with the mountaintop comes the valley in this life.

For children of God, our perfect life still awaits. Our reward awaits. Hebrews 11:39-40 says it best, “These were all commended for their faith, yet none of them received what had been promised, since God had planned something better for us so that only together with us would they be made perfect.”

Unless Jesus comes back first, we are all going to die. My pastor said it well once, “We’re not afraid to die. We’re afraid to suffer.”

As a believer, I only have today to make it count for Christ. Do I want to stay on this earth longer for my husband, children, family and friends? Yes! Do I want to complete the work He has called me to (Phil. 1:6)? Yes! Do I have hopes, dreams and goals? Yes! Does it utterly break my heart to hear of people who don’t get that chance? Absolutely!!

I read a story of a married mom with young children. She was dying of cancer. The family photo in the article had all of them piled on Mom & Dad’s bed like a sleepy Saturday morning. They were smiling while playfully knotted in the sheets. She said she wasn’t afraid to die, but she “loved her life and wasn’t ready to leave the party yet.”

My heart BROKE for their sweet family.

Those us of who haven’t been told a time or date still have a time and a date, though we walk around in a hazy stupor as if that were the farthest thing from reality.

Maybe it’s my age that I am acutely aware of how short life is. Nah, it’s not my age. I learned that lesson when my mom died when I was only 16 from breast cancer that spread to her lungs in less than a year. Since June 13th, 1987 I have never lived a day in a euphoric state of ignorant bliss that life should be our Disney princess dream.

No, that life is coming. And because it is, even today I had a brief moment of sadness that I am going to have to wait a little longer to see God face-to-face. The overriding joy is that I get to see my family’s faces tonight, and Lord willing, tomorrow.

Lying on the table during the ultrasound, I stared at the ceiling, trying not to peak at the monitor because I have no idea what I’m looking at. But, every single time she paused the ultrasound gun and snapped a picture I thought, “Is this something? Did she find something?” And I peeked at the screen. With each time, I wrestled with what to do with my emotions. “Is this where I fall apart? Is there where I run to the roar? Is this where I stand strong or emotionally crumble and weep?” I only had one answer.

I said to God, “I did my part. Now you do yours.” Meaning, I came in for the mammogram. What you do with it is up to you.

It is a familiar, though not very eloquent, prayer because I’ve been praying this prayer since I was 14. Not about mammograms, but about our roles in our relationship, His and mine.

I am not a “saved by works” girl (I’d NEVER, ever be able to do enough to save my own soul!!), but we do own the first step. We have the choice to believe. When I made that choice when I was 14, I gave Him my life and I’ve never taken it back.

He’s had every second, minute, hour, day, month and year of mine in His hands. When I chose to follow Christ, I have never looked back. So I see life’s timeline in a continuum of sorts. This life is just a blip on the radar; a piece of a much larger puzzle. There is so much before and after it and so many parts to it.

I accepted the cost of following Christ no matter what back then and still do today. My only prayer is that the suffering I am called to experience (physical, emotional, spiritual or intellectual) for Him draws others to Him so they will know God as their One True God and Christ as their Savior.

So whether that is to succumb to an illness I cannot control; be killed while serving others for Him; or live a long, healthy life and quietly pass in my sleep – I just want my life AND death to bring others to life through His saving grace. Through medical tests, gunfire I recently heard while we were on mission, and dashing to my car in a massive thunder and lightening storm last night, I want every second to count for Christ.

The solar eclipse is coming and people are so excited about it. It makes me wonder how many rotations this ‘ol world has left. How many rotations does this ‘ol girl have left?

I am somberly grateful for my good report today. It makes me pray harder for my friends who are suffering from this wretched disease that I hate with a fiery passion. But I can tell you one thing, these women are running an amazing, magnificent race – one worthy to be called a child of the King.

Whatever may come my way, like Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego, whether God chooses to walk in the fire with me or deliver me from this life through it, either way I will follow Him. I will continue to lift my hands to Him – in the car, during a mammogram and in every moment in between.

I want my life to be seen as a symbol of faith, like the necklace that rests on my chest. I want people to look at me and say, “Your life, it’s a symbol of faith” like my friend said of my pendant.

Whatever has to happen to make this reality, come what may. Because I believe God and I trust Him. We are inseparable, like the couple in the waiting room. He is gentle with me and protective of me. He holds me tight. The difference is that He never lets go. He walked with me into the mammogram. He kept me company in that tiny room. He drove home with me in rush-hour traffic. He sits with me now. Why? Because I asked Him to. Will you?

It was her!

joy prom11

My friends and I gathered in a small room tucked away known as the Glitz & Glam room, what I affectionately call the Cinderella Room. We hugged and prayed over the night in a quiet moment away from the noise and bustling activities of Joy Prom.

Guests began to arrive not long after we prayed. They were awestruck at the sparkle, mirrors, and colors of the room. Here, a guest can have lip gloss applied and pick out earrings, a necklace, a bracelet, a dressy headband and a ring – all to keep.

joy prom5joy prom10joy prom2

joy prom4joy prom7

joy prom8The guests’ favorite item in the room? Blinky rings! 🙂

joy prom1

After they browse the selection, my job is to greet them at the table closest to the exit lined with an army of glitter hairspray. The guests LOVE it!

joy prom3

A few hours into the night, it felt like a pound of aerosol and glitter was sitting in the bottom of my lungs, and my brain was a little foggy (LOL) but I wouldn’t trade this night for anything.

The room was full as crowds of guests and hosts had a ball getting ready for the ball that awaited them.

I turned around to greet the next guest and there she was.

I knew her!

She is the bagger at my local grocery store. She often greets me in the store’s uniform of khakis and a polo shirt. I’ve seen her donning the store’s bright neon, pedestrian vest to collect carts as well as sweeping the aisles with a huge broom in hand.

Tonight, this was her night. She was Cinderella at the ball.

Her beautiful blonde hair professionally done. Soft pink nails, too. On her wrist was a gorgeous corsage and her dress was fancy and formal. She looked like a princess.

This was her first year attending Joy Prom.

I smiled a HUGE smile and said, “HI! I know you!! Do you know me? We see each other at the grocery store!” My excitement was a little dorky, but I was so incredibly happy to see her I could not contain the joy.

She stared wide-eyed around the room, a little overstimulated from the people, noise and busyness of everything. I asked if she would like glitter hairspray in her hair.

Without a word, she nodded yes.

I guided her to the chair and asked if she would have a seat. Next, I gently placed my hand on her forehead to shield her from the spray and asked her close her eyes real tight as I began spraying the glitter hairspray.

In an instant, her beautiful blonde hair now shimmered with golden highlights.

She looked in the mirror and smiled. She never spoke, but I could tell she was amazed at the night’s magical feel. This night was about her. She seemed so humbled as though she’s never had so much fanfare on her behalf.

For me, I loved seeing same guests that I’ve come to recognize over the years. It was also a hugely fantastic moment to share a short conversation in sign language (something I don’t get to use much on a daily basis) with a guest who is deaf. I loved soaking in the laughter, squeals of delight and even some strutting from our special guests who knew that looked that good.

Serving with my family and girlfriends is deeply rewarding and fun. Watching my teens serve warms this mama’s heart that we are raising them in the way they should go when they are on their own. Being the hands and feet of Christ to our community is life-changing.

But the best moment of the night was having the opportunity to serve the young woman at Joy Prom who so faithfully serves me at the grocery store every week. It was a personal moment for me to say Thank you, by way of simple glitter hairspray. I choked back a lump in my throat as I had not anticipated getting to serve someone who works hard for me bagging my groceries while making pleasant conversation. I cherished our role reversal.

I am so grateful God connected our paths at Joy Prom. I had the privilege of watching her be blessed back and honored as our special guest, as well as see her as who she truly, beautifully is – the beloved daughter of our Good Father.

Take away our uniforms, hats of responsibility we wear, job titles, community titles, how others see us and how we see ourselves, and when God looks at us I believe He sees in us the masterpiece He created us to be – uniquely made by the Creator for the display of His splendor. ❤

Isaiah 61:3, They will be called oaks of righteousness, a planting of the Lord for the display of his splendor.

 

 

 

 

Why I signed the pledge to boycott Target

Target's rainbow bullseye logo

What this post isn’t: It isn’t a political debate. It isn’t a religious debate. It isn’t a cultural debate. It isn’t a debate at all.

It’s not often I post something that is super-charged with emotion swinging from every side. Today solidified something for me on this issue and I am compelled to share it.

I’ve kept up with the news about the public restroom situation in this country. I’ve followed it on a national, state and local level. In the end, I am still confused, particularly with Target. I read their recent public statement, but wanted to hear their policy for myself so I went to Target in person hoping for some clarification.

I asked to speak to the store manager. They called for a woman I’ve seen in Target for years. As soon as I asked my question, “Would you please explain your restroom policy to me?” she completely, physically backed away and said I would need to speak to the store manager (that’s who I asked for in the first place, so not sure about the chain of command). She turned around and practically ran from me. Something I’ve never seen her do in all the years I’ve shopped there.

They called for the store manager and in a matter of moments we were shaking hands. I purposefully relaxed myself, leaning on the garbage can near customer service. I didn’t want her to think I was there to debate or make a scene (which I wasn’t). I repeated my question to her. Her response, “All I can do is refer you to a phone number from corporate to listen to their position on the matter.”

I asked the same question several different ways, hoping to receive more clarification than I need to call corporate. “If I need to go to the bathroom, you are saying I have to call a number first to help me decide if I want to go in the restroom?” “Is a man allowed in this store’s restroom?” The conversation was so difficult it was like we were speaking two different languages. We, in fact, were.

After struggling to get a clear answer, I smiled and said gently, “Please, just talk to me person-to-person.” Her whole demeanor relaxed except her facial expression. She pulled her long hair forward, stroked it nervously and said that she totally understood my concern, but that she isn’t able to discuss the matter. That’s interesting because at that point I had not told her my concern, just asking questions for clarification on their store’s policy. See, that’s the other language I didn’t understand.

I asked, “Have you changed the signs on the restrooms?” “No. Corporate hasn’t sent anything to us about that.”

My next question was with all sincerity because I don’t fully understand all of this…”Does Target’s policy usurp the law? I understand where states have put into place a law about gender-neutral restrooms, but in this city, which I can only speak for, we have a law that protects restrooms. This is what I don’t understand. Is Target’s policy as a private business now above the law on this issue?” She said she couldn’t answer this question or any of my questions. There’s the language barrier again.

Our conversation was painful of both of us. In the end, I replied, “I understand you are doing your job. However, I came here needing answers for an important issue for me. I’m still as confused as I was when I walked in. You can’t tell me anything. I get that. But it just seems so ridiculous that we can’t talk about using the bathroom without the conversation being censored by corporate. I’ve shopped in this store for almost 20 years. It’s my happy place. I like the environment. It gives me a department store feel for my everyday household needs. I like the clothes, the atmosphere. Everything. (She smiled.) But the truth is, after our conversation, based on what you cannot talk about, my unanswered questions and the fact that you are only allowed to say what has been told you may say (she said that earlier), I simply no longer feel safe in this store. I do not feel protected in any way. Corporate has such a stronghold, I doubt the power this store has to handle itself. There are so many unsettling things happening in this world, I am shocked Target has chosen to jump in the ring over this. I am saddened. I’d rather shop here than at other superstores, but the fact is I can get my laundry detergent anywhere. And so I will. After almost 20 years I will no longer shop at Target until they choose to value ALL of its customers’ personal safety.

She genuinely looked sad and apologized. I believe she felt torn over the issue.

I called the phone number the store gave me. 1-800-440-0680. Hmm. I was told it was the number to answer my questions so I asked my original question, “Can you please explain your restroom policy to me?”

Her response, “We welcome transgender men to enter the ladies’ restroom. So if a person was born one way, but now feels they are something different, they can choose the restroom they want to enter, whichever they identify with.” (I found it interesting she targeted men in her verbiage.)

“How are you going to oversee this policy so that other people aren’t abusing this policy with ill intentions?”

“We have no way of doing that at this time.”

“So, you’ve allowed anyone to enter any restroom without anyway of knowing if they are being honest or not?”

“No ma’am, I’m sorry.”

“So you made a blanket policy without having any way to enforce it for it’s original intent?”

“No ma’m. I have no other details I can offer at this time.”

“But, I was told to call this number for clarification?”

“I have no other details to offer at this time.”

“My next question, does Target enforce this policy in states where there are laws protecting us from it?”

“I have no other details at this time. You may want to call your state government.”

“I really need Target to answer, not my state government. Target has put a policy in place in states where it is against the law. Does Target feel it’s above the law?”

“I have no other details to offer at this time.”

“But I was told you could help clarify because I need these questions answered so I can decide where to shop.”

“I have no other details to offer at this time. We are simply taking down customers comments and sharing them with leadership.”

“Okay. Well, I am very disappointed you could not answer my questions, so here are my two comments I’d like you to record for leadership: One, I will no longer shop at Target because I no longer feel safe. This isn’t about politics, religion or culture. It’s about my personal safety, and nothing Target has said to me either in person or on this phone call has helped me feel any safer. Two, it seems Target made a huge, company-wide decision without any type of plan to oversee it. You have told me there is no way to enforce the honesty of transgender people with the dishonesty of others. How can I feel safe? Buying toilet paper at Target is not worth the risk of getting sexually assaulted – ever. Tell corporate that they’ve lost a loyal customer because they made a decision that they have no idea how to carry out for the benefit of everyone. I will not shop at ANY store where I feel my safety is at risk. I will no longer shop at Target until they reverse their policy.”

What amazes me is that they have one-stall restroom by the pharmacy that is open for anyone to use. Even on Black Friday there is never such a rush on restrooms where this one-stall restroom would not be sufficient.

Here are my three reasons why I will not shop at Target –

#1 – They put in place a nation-wide store policy, with disregard to the law, that they have no clue how to properly enforce – a policy which personally affects my physical safety every single time I visit Target.

#2 – They have neither equipped their store management nor corporate call centers to handle this properly. Both are under such a heavy gag-order by corporate they cannot answer simple questions about the policy. Simple, but important, questions such as how are they going to make sure people are not abusing their new policy?

They make sure other security measures are in place. There is a plan for shoplifting including security cameras and prosecuting offenders. There is a plan for emergency weather, emergency first aid, lost children and security threats to the store.

What is the plan for those who will abuse this policy and enter restrooms for the sole purpose of sexually assaulting women and children; videoing and photographing them using the bathroom (which both have already been done numerous times now with the new transgender restroom issue; protecting young eyes from those who wish to expose themselves to children; from ptsd situations for the 1 in 3 women who have already been sexually assaulted in our country; the sheer intimidation factor of having the opposite sex in the restroom; not to mention the privacy factor, especially for women who need to change out pads and tampons as well as a personal privacy for restroom issues without the embarrassment of having the opposite sex present?

Target has absolutely zero plan of action on enforcing their new policy, which leads me to my third and most important reason why I will not shop at Target anymore as long as they allow men in women’s bathrooms…

#3 – When (not if) a problem arises in a Target restroom, store management has NO authority or plan on how to handle it.

Clearly, Target is not looking out for the entire demographic of its customers.

After speaking to two managers and the corporate call center (the only option they could refer me to), the unbelievable truth is that they have no plan to protect women and children. Zero. We are on our own. So, when an incident occurs, what would management do? It’d be the woman’s word against the man’s. It is obvious Target would side with the man as soon as he cited “transgender” regardless if he is or not. This title is a free pass for any man, teenager or boy, to have free reign in a woman’s restroom.

Everyone from predators to boys on a dare can now do whatever they want in a women’s restroom and have been given full permission and protection by Target.

What happens when a transgender male is followed into the women’s restroom by a man who wants to do him harm? Transgender people aren’t protected either under Target’s store policy!

Where is my protection as a woman? Where is the protection for little girls AND little boys not old enough to enter the men’s restroom by themselves.

Target has miserably failed its customers. They reacted too quickly to an issue they have no plan on how to implement for the protection of all.

Because of their haphazard decision without a plan for protection of all of its customers, there is no way I am darkening their door. Why will I knowingly go somewhere I am not valued and my safety is not a concern? Target sells nothing I cannot buy anywhere else.

Wow. I really wanted a productive dialogue with Target. All three times I was left with the same response, “Corporate will not let me comment.” Again, WHEN incidents occur, they have not given local managers the authority to handle even a simple conversation about it, so why in the world would I have confidence that management would handle the incident more than referring me to another 800 number?

I will gladly give my business to stores that value the personal safety of all of its customers. That’s also why online shopping is so great. Avoid the whole issue altogether. However, Target’s online store has also lost my business for the sheer fact they’ve decided not to value me as a customer.

Why did Target pick a fight with me, an ordinary, yet loyal, customer? It’s a lose-lose for both of us.

Since Target refuses to protect the safety of all of its customers, I will gladly give my dollars and customer loyalty to its competitors. If you are so inclined. feel free to sign the pledge here.

As much as I will miss my Target runs, I value my physical safety, and the physical safety of my family WAY MORE. That’s a no-brainer. Hopefully Target will see that they had already accommodated all customers with their one-stall restroom that allows 100% privacy.

Until then, Target missed the target of what they were trying to accomplish. I hope Target rethinks its reckless policy, lack of a plan to carry it out, and the removal of physical safety for every customer who enters its store.

Picture frames, greeting cards, paper plates and fabric softener are not worth altering any future forever by becoming victims of sexual crimes, bullying or permanent emotional distress simply because we needed to go to the bathroom.

Making peace with Mother’s Day

mothers dya blog
Mother’s Day is coming soon. Since 1987 I have wrestled over this day. For years I just couldn’t even think about it. I wanted to erase it from the calendar – or at least from my mind. I loved celebrating my mom when she was alive. But losing her at sixteen changes every holiday – especially the one in honor of her.
I went through every stage of grief after she died. My body suffered from IBS for an agonizingly long time because it didn’t know how to process such tremendous loss. Migraines. Nervous ticks. Depression. Isolation. Losing the will to live. Hopelessness. So many pebbles in my shoes on this uphill journey.
Then, one year while shopping in Hallmark (I am a card junky), I passed by the Mother’s Day card section. It’s pink. It’s flowery. It’s all-things-mom. I so badly missed participating in this day for a mother I loved and longed to simply give a card to.
It is though God whispered in my ear that, even though she is not here to receive it, I could still buy her a card in hopes that it would somehow heal another piece of my heart. So I walked down that aisle slowly, unsure of what this experience might do to me and my journey.
I read dozens of cards, each one bringing back a memory of her – of us. I pulled several and spread them all over the carpet and sat down, in the middle of the aisle. I lost myself in this moment. Time stood still. The joy of her being my mom bubbled up in my heart for the first time in years. I had the BEST time reading, searching, pondering, remembering and finding the perfect card.
There it was. The. Perfect. Card.
A huge lump swelled in my throat as I proudly escorted the card to checkout. I wanted to share this journey with the clerk. Moreover, I wanted to keep it private just between Mom and me.
This experience was extremely healing. I felt like where I had been excommunicated from the beloved mothers and daughters club, I was brought back in, on my terms.
I still have this card. I never wrote in it.
Fast forward to this week. I’m in the store looking for a few needed household items and there it was. The pink, flowery and all-things-mom card section.
Because I braved my heart’s hurt all those years ago, I am able to shop for Mother’s Day cards again. I buy them for family and friends and my treasured mother-in-law.
But this day I just couldn’t. So much is swirling around in life right now that my heart is weary. Literally, they’ve put me on blood pressure meds. (If only they had such an easy fix for our emotional heart as they do our physical one.)
I stopped and looked at the cards. I looked at the other woman reading them. I reached for a card, but before I opened it I put it back.
Today was not the day to shop for Mother’s Day cards. There will be other days, but this one wasn’t it.
As I walked away from this card aisle, pangs of guilt seared my heart. But then, I stopped and told myself it was okay. Not shopping for them today out of spontaneous convenience doesn’t mean I don’t care about the moms in my life. It simply means I’ve traveled this path long enough, and felt every possible emotion of all of the pebbles in my shoes over living with loss, that I’m in a new pace now.
A place that is much more sure-footed. Solid ground. I am not persuaded by guilt nor am I running from emotions stronger than I can face. I’ve come to a place in this journey where her loss is a part of me that softens me. A part that reminds me to enjoy life and not take the simplest of blessings for granted. To appreciate not just the beautiful, but to seek the beauty in everything.
The momentum of strength that has built over time with each passing holiday or memory that comes to mind gives me passion to fully love, fully forgive, fully embrace life and those God has put in it.
Walking into the Mother’s Day card aisle all those years ago was the best thing I could’ve done for who I was then. Walking away from it the other day was the best thing I could’ve done for who I am now. It shows just how far my heart has come on this journey of living with loss.
I’ll be back. I look forward to card-shopping for the moms in my life to let them know what fabulous moms they are. But, it will be when I’m ready and it will be joyful. Until then, I’m going to stop and take a breath on this most difficult journey and thank God for how far He has brought this baby girl who misses her mom. ❤

Walmart, Rod Stewart and Valentine’s Day

I had the perfect storm today of an unexpected kind. After a wonderful weekend of glorious weather and lots of hugs and laughs around the house from our teens, Monday came and it was time to get back to work.
I went to Walmart, my other office, and caught myself meandering down the Valentine’s aisle. Valentine’s is my FAVORITE holiday to celebrate, and although I wasn’t looking to buy anything it just makes me happy to be surrounded by lovey stuff. I turned the corner and found myself in the children’s Valentine’s section. Gazing at the selection of Valentines, I was transported back to another time.
A time when I had one child walking beside me, one sitting in the basket of the cart, and a little one in the child seat. We scoured this aisle forever looking for just the right Valentines that encompassed their interest, but would also be cool enough for their friends. I remember their homemade “mail boxes” that held their friends’ wishes and how they raced home from school to pour them out all over the kitchen table.
They read every card (quickly and only because Mom made them), carefully sorted the candy, then ate all of it in one fail swoop. That time of life was magical. As I choked down the lump in my throat at the memories, Rod Stewart sang over the store speakers, “Have I told you lately that I love you?”
I lost it. In the middle of Walmart. I cried, in public. With the dichotomy of the swell of sweet, lingering memories of the past and the warp speed at which the future races toward us with one chick out of the nest and two quickly on their way, this mama’s heart broke. But, it’s a brokenness out of gratitude for the growing years and hope and optimism for the years yet to come. Gratefulness to love so deeply it hurts. Gratefulness that my college son loves where he is and is embracing independence, which is the goal of parenting, after all. Thankfulness that our teenage daughter is excited about her dreams and goals and isn’t afraid to make them a reality. Gratitude that our youngest teen has so many plans, with the drive and ambition to match.
So why is it that when they start to stand on their own two feet I miss holding them? And as they share more of themselves with the world, I want them all to myself? I’ve told them countless times over the years, “You can grow up, but you’re not allowed to outgrow your Mom.”
No matter how old they get or where they live or what they do with their lives, this mama’s heart is a homemade mailbox that keeps every tender moment tucked inside. Life is changing. They are changing. I am changing. But one thing is for sure, I will never outgrow their love.
 IMG_7959[1]

The blessing of waiting

Bruce fire

This moment caught my eye today. It represents eight months of waiting.

Bruce’s layoff was part of a company downsizing in May. Since then, he’s been working so hard building NEED POINT, Inc. while looking for work. He’s also been resting.

Resting.

After 34 years of working tirelessly. Working three jobs as a teenager. Joining the Air Force at 18 so he could pay for his college education while serving his country. Working day shift, mid-shift and night shift until he couldn’t see straight.

For 25 years he’s never taken his role as leader and husband carelessly. It’s always been his first priority.

We’ve seen companies come and go. We’ve experienced promotions, layoffs and a relocation.

He’s traveled to work by car, bike, plane, bus, carpool, trolley, taxi and on foot. He’s gone to work healthy and sick. He’s worked when there were celebrations and when there was sadness.

He received calls when I went into labor and when his dad passed away while he was at work.

He’s always put family first, which meant passing up promotions, travel opportunities and jobs themselves if it would be a determent to our family.

He is brilliantly genius. The best in his field. Technology courses his veins and there is no one better.

So these eight months have been a blessing and a burden. He has felt discouraged, down-trodden and depressed. A man of his talent and energy, and humility, can start believing the lies about who he is after this long.

Recently, when we turned the page of a new year, I had a moment. It was a gut-wrenching moment of realizing we were dragging the dreaded unemployment into a new year. The weight was crushing.

But then, something happened. God flipped a switch in my heart. I watched Bruce as he slept and prayed, “Lord, if you are not going to change his circumstance, change his perspective on it. Change my perspective on it.”

From that day forward, everything changed. We have found peace in the waiting. We know that God is working around the clock to bring everything together in His way, His time, for His glory.

We know for certain there is purpose in the waiting.

As my husband hammers out countless resumes, holds numerous phone and video interviews, and reaches out to every contact we know – all while still working on our non-profit – there is a new perspective which gives us the strength, peace and joy to meet each day while we wait.

We are living Isaiah 40:28-31 –
“Do you not know?
Have you not heard?
The Lord is the everlasting God,
the Creator of the ends of the earth.
He will not grow tired or weary,
and his understanding no one can fathom.
He gives strength to the weary
and increases the power of the weak.
Even youths grow tired and weary,
and young men stumble and fall;
but those who hope in the Lord
will renew their strength.
They will soar on wings like eagles;
they will run and not grow weary,
they will walk and not be faint.”

So when I saw Bruce resting on the couch as our city is shut down with winter weather, I smiled as I looked at living, breathing Scripture. God is giving him a much needed, long overdue, season of rest both as a respite from decades without a break and to rejuvenate him for the days to come.

I thank God for this gift, as the hope for our future blooms a new bud in my heart. It is well with my soul. ❤

 

 

 

The path of a new year

New Year’s day seemed like the perfect time to take a hike. You know, fitness resolutions, take-more-time-to-experience life resolutions, all that jazz.

My husband and I went to a familiar park, but we decided to take a trail we’ve never blazed. This was an impromptu date, but we weren’t alone.

Just a short ways in, step-by-step, God began speaking encouragement over this new year. Receive it, friend.

Sometimes the path is uncomplicated and clearly marked.

IMG_7502

Sometimes it’s not.

IMG_7544

If I brought you to it, I’ll get you through it, under it or over it.

IMG_7501

I never promised the path would be easy. Keep walking even if you get dirty, really dirty.

IMG_7521

When the journey is effortless, remember me. It is my gift to you.

IMG_7510

Ask me when you don’t know which way to go. I will tell you.

IMG_7528

It’s possible I will bless either decision. I can do that. Include me.

IMG_7522

When you don’t know what’s around the corner, trust me and keep walking. I am with you.

IMG_7533

When life goes sideways, I’m still right here, walking with you. I haven’t left you.

IMG_7552

If the path seems exhaustively uphill, ask for my strength. I will give it to you. Just keep climbing.

IMG_7523

Sometimes I have a different plan than yours. Trust me. I know the best path for you.

IMG_7531

I am with you. Sojourners are also on the path. You are not alone.

IMG_7514

Leave your mark on the path…for my glory.

IMG_7515-002

I put people in your path for a reason. Some go before you to help blaze the trail…

IMG_7539

…others come behind you to follow it.

IMG_7511

Don’t be too proud to accept help. 

IMG_7545

You don’t always have to forge your own way.

IMG_7526

Follow my narrow path regardless of how narrow it gets.

IMG_7508

Sometimes you have to take a running leap of faith to stay on the path.

IMG_7543

When you’re between a rock and a hard place, my path will lead you through it.

IMG_7527

Look for my beauty along the path. It’s there to encourage you.

IMG_7504

In every season, follow me.

IMG_7542

Follow my path, but be smart about it. You don’t have to be the hero. I already am.

IMG_7534

A friend to walk with is a blessing from me.

IMG_7524

My children are rooted in me.

IMG_7553-001

The wind cannot blow over they who are grounded in me.

IMG_7520-001

 “Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged, for the Lord your God will be with you wherever you go.” Joshua 1:9