Her name is Marie

Standing in line at the post office, I ran through my list of to-do’s while staring blankly at the rows of P.O. boxes. The woman in front of me was trying her best to understand how to work the self-serve kiosk.

She was doing okay, but was slow – well, slower than what I wanted.

I’ve worked the kiosk dozens of times at least and can do it with my eyes closed. I began to get restless and thought about offering her help, but she didn’t need help. She just needed a little extra time.

Was I going to be gracious and wait patiently, or would I begin to do the unspoken motions of impatience – shifting my weight, an obnoxious sigh, making some borderline rude comment to the person behind me or offering her “help” with a curt tone that is obvious more about helping myself get out of there more quickly than truly helping her mail her boxes.

We all know these actions. We’ve done them and they’ve been done to us.

I closed my eyes and took a deep, silent breath.

“Marie!” a voice called.

It startled me and I opened my eyes to see a woman coming through the doors. She called again to the older woman who was studying each kiosk screen very carefully.

“Marie! How are you! It’s so good to see you.”

The older woman, obviously Marie, looked up from the kiosk and smiled. She was a little rattled having been shaken out of her deep concentration, but was delighted to see her friend. Her voice was soft. Her smile, warm. It was easy to see she was a kind soul.

The two exchanged a brief hello before Marie returned her focus to the kiosk.

As I stood waiting my turn, I thought about what just happened. I was bent on my to-do list. Hustle, hustle, hustle. My day, my time, my list, my errands.

I saw Marie as an object, not a person.

She was holding up my day, my time, my list, my errands.

The very moment another person recognized her as a person, calling her by name and engaging her in brief conversation, I was immediately able to see her as a person, not an object.

She is a person who has seen decades of life and has had countless experiences tucked behind her thick glasses and droopy overcoat.

I asked myself if my initial feelings toward Marie as an object would have been different if she were my neighbor walking by my home; if she was introduced to me through a friend at a restaurant; was having a hard time carrying groceries to her car and needed help.

Of course I would have responded differently! She would have been a person in each of those circumstances. But because she was the obstacle in the way of my day, she was an object, and that justified my feelings of impatience.

Suddenly, my impatience melted and my heart warmed up to her. I realized she didn’t want to spend her time delayed at the post office any more than I did. She was doing the best she could.

She finished up and it was my turn. I’m grateful God showed me, once again, how easy it is to treat people as objects and how hurtful that can be to others.

Just before leaving, I heard the postal clerk ask a customer, “Would you like religious stamps or not so much?”

The woman replied, “Not so much.”

Hmm. I felt a wave of relief wash over me that I had not let my impatience get the better of me, lest I give a black eye to Christ as a believer.

People are watching and looking and hoping for the real deal. They want to see believers working out their salvation in a slow line at the post office, in heavy traffic when they’re late, dealing with a screaming toddler, returning an item without a receipt, and in every other annoying or inconvenient circumstance way more than they want to see us clustered in our Christian groups sequestered from society.

I am going to remember Marie and the woman who wanted the “not so much” stamps the rest of this holiday season.

My faith may be real, but so are my emotions and weaknesses. Christians aren’t perfect by any stretch, but we do have the choice to choose how we are going to – respond in faith or react out of emotion and weakness.

This Christmas season, let’s be sensitive to others around us. It benefits them and holds us accountable, which is a good thing.

Let’s look for opportunities to bless the Marie’s and be an example for the “not so much.”

On our own we can’t do this. We’re organic, sinful creatures. But with Christ we can do everything as He gives us strength to do it (Philippians 4:13).

Let’s invite Christ into our errands, daily grind and grunt work Monday – Saturday just as much as we invite Him into our worship and Bible studies on Sundays.

Make the most of the opportunities we are given. We never know when they are truly divine appointments.

Photo credit

 

Making a local, global and eternal difference

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Twenty-five years ago, God told my husband, Bruce, and me His vision for our marriage in the most unexpected, nearly unbelievable, way. To skip to the spoiler, His message was that our marriage is to be an extension of His open hand.

Huh? Not sure what that meant.

In the last two and a half decades, we both graduated from college, celebrated weddings, retirements, births & baby dedications, buried loved ones, moved, changed jobs, honored anniversaries, graduated our firstborn from high school and sent him off to college (with two more teens right behind him), endured surgeries and illness, learned a lot of lessons and made a million memories along the way.

We did not understand what God meant all those years ago about being an extension of His open hand as we just did our best at living life.

We were cruising along to the rhythm of the American dream of the house with a picket fence, kids running barefoot on the lawn with the family dog, and saving for retirement while planning the next annual vacation.

Then, five summers ago God rocked our world through several very significant moments placing us at life-changing crossroads.

He was totally setting us up for a one-way ticket from a life and future we worked hard for to a life He had planned for us since before the beginning of time.

Cut to the chase again, and we found ourselves on our first mission trip (and first trip out of the country sans the Bahamas for our honeymoon) with our 10, 12, and 14 year old children in tow.

Are you kidding me? Bring our children? This mama bear was hyper-vigilant, anxiety-ridden, and fear-filled about doing this at all, much less as a family, much less to Africa. I felt utterly unequipped to handle being a chaperon with school to the local museum (stressful!) to taking my kids so far out of our comfort zone I can’t even describe the angst that churned inside me. Our trip leader stills says that he really didn’t think I’d actually get on the plane.

But I did! We did! And, our family has never been the same.

God blew our hearts away with a bursting love for this world in a way we could never conceive. He took us to four more countries around the world over the past four summers on mission, and we have never been so in love with a world He so loves.

This love continues to multiple in our hearts every single day as we laugh with, cry over and pray for those from every walk of life around the world who we now consider family.

Fast forward to this past December 29th. Bruce went in for simple shoulder surgery, which proved to be anything but.

After a full tear was reattached and repaired, he had some serious, and extremely painful, recovery waiting for him.

Four months into recovery, after not having been able to return to work due to the pain, he was unexpectedly laid off. We felt like we were kicked when we were down.

However, God reminded us of a conversation Bruce and I had a year ago. Bruce said to me, “I’ll be honest. I’m never going to have the courage to leave this job. It’s too stable.” To which I replied, “Since we’re being candid, I’ll never have the courage to tell you to jump. It’s too stable of a job. The most stable company you’ve ever worked for.”

Bruce then said, “If God ever wants us to make a change, He’s going to have to take this job from me.”

So when he came to me on a regular ol’ Tuesday morning, after almost nine years with the company, and sat down at our son’s desk and looked at me, I should not have been surprised when he said, “Well, God took it.”

We both knew exactly what he meant.

Ever since then, Bruce has looked for work.

Nothing.

He told me in the beginning of his job search there is nothing for him in this city.

Then came an interest in him, but it involved relocating. I’ll save that story for a blog post, but here we are. No relocating. No more job prospects.

All the while, he was meeting weekly with a dear friend in albeit a different kind of work situation, the end result was the same – unemployed.

They began meeting as encouragement to each other over coffee.

Like a good pot of coffee, their hearts began to percolate an idea that brought both of their long-term visions into one plan.

NEED POINT, Inc. was born.

Nothing quite like this exists in America, much less the world. As God has brought people across their path over the past few months, something beautiful began to take shape. Something neither of them could have ever imagined.

NEED POINT combines our team’s passions for both global and local missions in new and innovative ways that meets individual needs on a community level.

NEED POINT is a non-profit that connects people in need with people in local churches and faith-based businesses to help meet their needs. From needing lawns mowed, to helping with medical bills, to befriending the lonely and beyond, NEED POINT is the liaison to match the person in need with someone who can help meet it.

The vision is to expand this blueprint to local communities all over the world!

Curious as to how this all works? CLICK HERE to visit the website.

This grassroots movement is swelling as folks get excited about how they can be a part of something bigger than themselves.

Our team is stoked about this opportunity and trusting God for every step of the way.

Between global missions and NEED POINT, Bruce and I are beginning to understand what God meant by our marriage being an extension of His open hand. We only wish I didn’t take twenty years to get there. But, better late than never, right?! 🙂

We would LOVE to have you join us in the journey. Check out NeedPoint.org and like us on Facebook at facebook.com/needpoint. Let’s get going!

One decision that changed me as a wife

When I said I do to my husband at the ripe age of 19, I was insecure of myself as an emerging woman and distrusting of men.

Never thinking I was pretty enough, smart enough, funny enough or simply – enough – I used to watch my husband when he didn’t think I was looking when other pretty women were around. Whether passing a Victoria’s Secret store in the mall, standing in the checkout line at the grocery store or stopping at a red light, I was always on high alert, not because of him…because of me.

In my heart, I was constantly testing him. I didn’t say a word, but I was always looking and waiting for my fears to be confirmed.

Twenty-five years later, I did something that surprised me.

We were in a large bookstore, waiting on our teenagers to finish browsing. My man and I meandered to the magazines. I was interested in cooking, travel, etc. He was interested in cars.

What comes with cars? Women. Women scant-fully dressed, selling sex as much as selling cars.

Over the years, this is when my palms started sweating. This is when I watched him out of the corner of my eye, waiting for my fears to be confirmed.

Oh but this day was different. I casually walked ahead of him, beating him to the magazine racks. Quickly scanning the selection, the car magazines with provocative women were there just I as I suspected.

I quietly walked over to them and turned them over.

Then I proceeded to the cooking and travel magazines as if nothing happened.

What was different this time? Was I being proactive in fear that he may catch a glance and lose all interest in me? Was I being paranoid that this would be the day he would look for visual pleasure elsewhere? Would this be the day all of my twenty-five plus years of insecurity, inferiority, and self-deprecating secret thoughts would be proven right publicly?

Why did I do this without a second thought?

For one, my husband has never done anything that would make me fear all of the worst. He won’t even watch a bra commercial. Trust me, I know. I’ve watched him countless times–because I was watching, testing. He fast-forwards romantic scenes in PG-13 movies. He has literally told me that he will spend his entire life proving to me that he is faithful to me.

But you know what? There is another reason. One that is even bigger than his noble character.

I’ve changed as a wife.

Wives are helpmates, and I realized after all these years I wasn’t helping him navigate the minefield of everything sexual this broken world offers. Instead, I’ve been testing him out of paralyzing, unsubstantiated fear.

How doubly difficult for him it must have been all these years to not only have an insecure wife, but a wife who won’t trust him, not because of who he is, but because of who she believes she is.

He’s been fighting this battle alone. Where was his helpmate? Retreating in the shadows, biting her nails, watching and waiting for him to fail, simply because that is the reputation of other men.

I’ve decided to help him and stop testing him. I’ve grown up enough to understand the God-given teamwork of marriage and to get over my own insecurities.

It’s amazing how many other ways this this has changed me as a wife. I am now intentionally looking for ways to share more of the load mentally, physically, emotionally, financially, etc. in areas of our marriage whereas before I was content letting him carry his load while I carried mine.

I surprised myself at the ease and confidence in which I turned over those magazines. A fighter raised up in me that said, You’re not doing this to my man, with strength I didn’t know I had.

Since that day, I continue to change. I am growing stronger as a woman as I understand who I am in Christ, who I am to my husband and who I am in my own skin.

Although my man has never given me one reason to worry, a sense of protection has raised up in me. Not a territorial, jealous woman. Rather, a woman who believes in fighting for who she loves.

I am protective for him, not of him.

He is a grown man and I am a grown woman. We will make our own decisions about our respective lives. But together, we are a force to be reckoned with as I have finally opened my eyes to see that instead of watching over his shoulder at his every move, I am standing with him, back-to-back, watching over him. There is a difference.

It is no coincidence that both the website Ashley Madison and the movie War Room are making headlines at the same time. There is a battle for every soul, marriage, family, church, community, city, and state in this country.

One of my favorite Scriptures is the account of Nehemiah spear-heading the rebuilding of Jerusalem’s wall. Read it, slowly, in the context of fighting for rebuilding and strengthening marriages (from chapter 4)…

But when Sanballat, Tobiah, the Arabs, the Ammonites and the people of Ashdod heard that the repairs to Jerusalem’s walls had gone ahead and that the gaps were being closed, they were very angry. They all plotted together to come and fight against Jerusalem and stir up trouble against it. But we prayed to our God and posted a guard day and night to meet this threat.

10 Meanwhile, the people in Judah said, “The strength of the laborers is giving out, and there is so much rubble that we cannot rebuild the wall.”

11 Also our enemies said, “Before they know it or see us, we will be right there among them and will kill them and put an end to the work.”

12 Then the Jews who lived near them came and told us ten times over, “Wherever you turn, they will attack us.”

13 Therefore I stationed some of the people behind the lowest points of the wall at the exposed places, posting them by families, with their swords, spears and bows. 14 After I looked things over, I stood up and said to the nobles, the officials and the rest of the people, “Don’t be afraid of them. Remember the Lord, who is great and awesome, and fight for your families, your sons and your daughters, your wives and your homes.”

15 When our enemies heard that we were aware of their plot and that God had frustrated it, we all returned to the wall, each to our own work.

16 From that day on, half of my men did the work, while the other half were equipped with spears, shields, bows and armor. The officers posted themselves behind all the people of Judah 17 who were building the wall. Those who carried materials did their work with one hand and held a weapon in the other, 18 and each of the builders wore his sword at his side as he worked. But the man who sounded the trumpet stayed with me.

19 Then I said to the nobles, the officials and the rest of the people, “The work is extensive and spread out, and we are widely separated from each other along the wall. 20 Wherever you hear the sound of the trumpet, join us there. Our God will fight for us!”

21 So we continued the work with half the men holding spears, from the first light of dawn till the stars came out. 22 At that time I also said to the people, “Have every man and his helper stay inside Jerusalem at night, so they can serve us as guards by night and as workers by day.” 23 Neither I nor my brothers nor my men nor the guards with me took off our clothes; each had his weapon, even when he went for water.

The battle is raging for our marriages and families. Turning over those magazines was a huge push-back against the enemy because I finally realized that my husband and I are on the same team, and have been all along. I was just too insecure to see it.

Fight for your marriage with faith, love and absolute resolve. Being on God’s team, we’re not in this alone. He goes before, and fights for, His children.

Ephesians 6:10-18 – The Armor of God

10 Finally, be strong in the Lord and in his mighty power. 11 Put on the full armor of God, so that you can take your stand against the devil’s schemes.12 For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms. 13 Therefore put on the full armor of God, so that when the day of evil comes, you may be able to stand your ground, and after you have done everything, to stand. 14 Stand firm then, with the belt of truth buckled around your waist, with the breastplate of righteousness in place,15 and with your feet fitted with the readiness that comes from the gospel of peace. 16 In addition to all this, take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming arrows of the evil one. 17 Take the helmet of salvation and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God.

18 And pray in the Spirit on all occasions with all kinds of prayers and requests.With this in mind, be alert and always keep on praying for all the Lord’s people.

Photo credit here

Because I am ready for a change…

A dear friend of mine once summed up a million thoughts I had about being a woman, wife and mom…and we were talking about bras!

She said, “For years I’ve shopped at Wal-Mart for my bras. At checkout, I’d throw the huge bag of dog food on the belt and slap a bra off the rack on top of it–until one day I took the time to have a clothing professional fit me properly. I was wearing bras that were two sizes too small! No wonder the bras I wore were so uncomfortable. They didn’t fit!”

Her word picture is my life.

Fill in bra with so many aspects of who I am and how I think about myself and it’s cause for a serious pause.

Drug store make-up, less-than exciting clothes, home hair dye, and naked nails reveal two things about me: I know what needs some attention on my body, but I don’t think I’m worth enough to really try to change it.

The nails? Well, that’s just personal preference. I wash my hands way too much throughout the day and simply can’t stand the feeling of nail polish.

I’ve always thought of my body as a tool for my mind. Each day I wake up and my brain tells my body what to do, whether it feels like it or not.

I’ve pushed my body through illnesses, surgeries and hardships, silencing anything it was trying to tell me. Over the years this lifestyle landed me with mono, anxiety attacks, heart palpitations, the nervous habit of chewing my cheeks, and perpetual physical exhaustion, just to name a few.

This life led me to feeling like I didn’t fit into my own skin, so to speak, much like my friend who didn’t fit into her bras.

Neither of us knew there could be a better way until that way intersected our lives.

Why have I chosen to be a Rodan + Fields consultant? Tomboy, generic shopper, bottom-of-the-totem-pole person that I am?

Because one change can lead to many.

A precious friend of mine often posts on Facebook about her own health journey to lose weight, “It’s about small changes. What will be yours today?”

I did not realize how I treated my body had become so routinely neglectful, and that routine thinking led to a downward spiral of how I felt physically, my perspective, my confidence, etc. It is all connected–mind, body and soul.

The day that changed how I thought about how I treat my body was when the dermatologist called and told me the biopsy came back as squamous skin carcinoma–skin cancer.

This biopsy wasn’t my first rodeo. I’ve had several early-stage or suspicious spots removed, including basal cell carcinoma, but I couldn’t outrun this one. My heart sank.

All those years of skipping sunscreen for more time for playing, working and resting under the Florida sun caught up to me. That phone call was like my body telling my mind to sit down and listen, for once.

Especially because my father and grandfather had skin cancer.

I did, but I didn’t know what else to do except to always wear sunscreen. As for all of those decades of sunburns? I thought all I could do was prevent more damage and accept the damage that had been done (and cover it with make-up).

When small children point to my arms and ask what’s all over them (a.k.a. sun damage), I am embarrassed. I hate having my photo taken without at least some bronzer on to help blend the dark spots on my face.

I scan through photos of me and hit delete twenty times for every one I may reluctantly keep, despite the requests of my family to stop deleting. I don’t like the message this sends my teenage daughter at all because guess who now deletes her own photos?

Rodan + Fields is a cheerleader for life as much as, if not more than, for skin. The opportunity to work with this company is coincidental timing as so many changes are happening our family right now.

So I stand at the mirror and look at myself and think, “I don’t want more change. I need normal. Predictable. Stable.” I look at the R+F products and exhale a heavy sigh and think,”Does this have to change now, too? I kind of like my old stuff. Can I handle adding being a consultant to my plate right now?”

But, as much as I like the ease of the same-old products I used, and the same-old routine I had using them, they also produced the same-old results.

Another way to acclimate to change is to roll with it. Thinking, “Well, why not! Everything else is changing so why not this, too! What’s one more thing?” This actually lifts my spirit because in a season of new, it’s one less thing I’m trying to hang onto from the old.

Both of my friends have seen big results with their small changes from losing a ton of weight to finding a healthier, more comfortable way to live her 24/7. They are such an encouragement and inspiration to take care of our bodies! I am curious as to what can result from a small change such as changing my skincare and sharing it with others who are interested.

Rodan + Fields is more about the journey than a sale, as well as all of the ways a life can be lived resulting from healthier skin and a happier person stepping out to realize goals and dreams by sharing these opportunities with others.

I am the LAST person on the planet to sell something. It’s just not my passion. But, teaming together to begin a journey that can lead to self-discovery, healthier skin, enlarging community, and doing good for others with its success, now that gets me excited!

So I am going to give it a go.

Am I nervous? Yes. Open-minded? Yes. Ready for a change in what I call my “giraffe spots?” Yes! Ready to help my husband, who has faithfully provided for our family for 25 years, realize his God-given passions through new opportunities by me sharing the financial load? Absolutely yes!

If you’re ready for a change in your skincare, are curious about the financial opportunities with Rodan + Fields, or just want check out the products, please visit my website here. Thanks! 🙂

 

An unexpected college blessing

My last few posts have been about sending our firstborn to college. There are many emotions surrounding this experience and I have been bracing myself for them pretty much since I found out of was pregnant all those years ago.

However, within this first week of him being gone, our family has been touched twice in a very personal way.

Two friends of ours have intentionally asked me for his mailing address so they can send a note of encouragement or a care package.

That in itself is very kind and we are grateful for their generosity. But their backstory is what melts my heart.

One friend lost her husband last year about this time. It was an extremely traumatic day as he had taken his own life. And, as God would design it, my firstborn and his sister were first on the scene, by my asking.

The short version of that day is we saw something was very wrong, but I was detained, so I asked my two oldest teens to see what they could do to help. None of us ever, ever imagined what they would walk into.

As my friend was called from work to come, among the myriad of emergency vehicles, etc. she arrived to see my two kids waiting.

In the midst of the many emergency responders, there stood my teens–barefoot in shorts and t-shirts.

They stayed with my friend for over an hour, offering her a hug and shoulder to lean on.

A while later, to my utter amazement, I turned to see my two teens sitting in a tight circle linked together arm-and-arm with my friend and her daughter, praying. It was one of the most beautiful sights I’ve ever seen.

Afterwards, my son (who had asked them to pray and led the prayer), gently wiped the tears from my friend’s face.

In the weeks and months that followed, they attended his memorial and helped with dogsitting, meals, etc. A friendship between my kids and my friend organically grew out of a situation no one how to handle.

So when I ran into her at the post office this week, and she asked for my son’s address, it deeply touched me because this time she wants to encourage him.

There is a bond between them that formed from brokenness.

We all waded in unfamiliar waters with this tragedy, and none of us acted like we knew what we were doing. My kids’ genuine humility and hurt for this family was a blessing, and now she wants to bless him back as he lives away from home for the first time.

Her thoughtfulness is powerful. Sacrificial. Healing…for everyone.

I didn’t know my friend well before this event. We were casual acquaintances. Now, there is a cord that cannot be broken, a cord that holds broken people together.

Another dear friend of mine also asked me recently for his address. I was overwhelmed and deeply touched when she did. In fact, when I read her Facebook message I burst into tears–not because of how much I miss my boy, but because of how much she misses hers.

Two years ago, six weeks into her youngest son’s freshmen year of college, he died in a tragic accident. Our entire church deeply mourned for this precious family.

My friend is one of the kindest, sweetest people you’ll ever know. She is always giving and doing for others.

I have thought of her often during this new season of school and can only imagine how hard it must be to see another year begin. My heart stays broken for her.

She and her husband have done many wonderful things to honor their son’s life. It’s been amazing to watch them continue his legacy of faith and friendship.

But mother to mother, I don’t know how she does it. By the grace of God she gets up every day and chooses to walk toward the light and not toward the dark (as one friend said).

Every day she chooses life and I stand in awe of her strength.

Knowing what a giving, tenderhearted person she is, this would be the time she would be sending a care package to her own son. From one care-package sender to another, this thought brings me to tears.

The fact that she remembered my son, as she remembers hers, floods my heart with emotions I don’t know how to process. To say I feel blessed is an understatement. To say I am thankful and grateful isn’t enough.

This beautiful soul, who has grieved in a way that only one can who walks the road of losing a child, has chosen to gather her grief in her arms and turn it into a blessing for someone else.

She is a living testimony of God’s love for this world.

Our family is very blessed that we have family and friends who want to encourage our son while he is away at college. Each and every person holds a special place in our hearts.

But for these two women, who have chosen to give out of their grief, pain and loss, I have no words.

These women come from the most broken of places, yet have determined in their hearts to allow God to make something beautiful out of it.

They have no idea that they also help fill a huge hole in this mama’s heart. Both of my parents are deceased and aren’t here to walk this new season of life with our family–to give our son an atta-boy! in his new journey or us a hug as we adapt to his absence at home.

I highly admire and respect these amazing women. Their joy is contagious in a home that misses our guy very much. They are an inspiration.

Our son may be the one who receives the card or package, but it is all of us who are healed a little bit more by their kindness. ❤

 

Photo credit here

 

Rebuilding – lessons learned from change

In the past week, I’ve had two friends lose their fathers and one friend lose her mother. I’ve congratulated a dear friend on his engagement and received news of a friend’s health concerns. I’ve sent our oldest child to college, and feel like I’ve sent a dozen more young friends off to begin their freshmen years. Our other two teens prepare to change schools while my husband and I seek new employment options. So much change! Thought I’d repost this as an encouragement to all who are going through change… ~ Kristi

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Are not two sparrows sold for a penny? Yet not one of them will fall to the ground apart from the will of your Father. And even the very hairs of your head are all numbered. So don’t be afraid; you are worth more than many sparrows. ~ Matthew 10:29-31

A year ago, spring brought us the most delightful surprise. A pair of birds decided to make their love nest in the beams of our front porch. We watched them toil for days making everything perfect. Their nest was strong – and beautiful.

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Over time, tiny, extraordinary eggs appeared. We could not get close to them, because Papa and Mama birds would have none of it. This was private, and they were quite territorial over their precious little eggs.

Before we knew it, baby birds burst forth from their shells. Their sour, grumpy faces made us smile. They huddled together for safety and warmth. With eyes still shut, they were a lump of feathers and fuzz with bulging eye lids and pointed beaks. Truly, they had faces only a mother could love.

As they matured, we enjoyed their incessant chirping, which kept Mama and Papa quite busy trying to feed them. It reminded me of when our teenagers were babies and the constant attention they needed – so helpless and soft.

In no time at all, these baby birds quickly grew up, outgrew their nest…and flew away. It was time for their own journeys to begin.

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I loved this small, beautiful nest. As far as nests go, these birds had a great flare for decorating. It hardly looked real it was so picturesque. I had plans to photograph it against the brilliant backdrop of the changing seasons and was so honored our front porch was chosen.

Months later, we had our home pressure washed. I gave instructions to leave the nest intact, even if it meant the wood and paint surrounding the nest stayed messy with splattered clay from the hard work of the birds.

The crew agreed to my request.

However, the man who came behind the crew to clean any missed spots of mold or dirt didn’t know about the nest – nor my desire to keep it.

Using his powerful pressure hose, he annihilated their love nest in a matter of seconds.

It was utterly and completely destroyed.

I stepped onto our front porch only to find small clumps of moss and pine straw lying wet and sad at my feet.

My heart broke.

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It was gone. The beautiful, nurtured nest was gone, and so was my hope to enjoy it every day.

Throughout the passing seasons, I looked up at the corner of pristine white walls and missed the splatter of mud and clay. I missed the fuzzy green moss and amber pine straw woven into a perfect circle.

It was something beautiful…and it was gone by way of a complete stranger.

A year passed since the pressure-washing incident. This spring, while working at my desk, I noticed more-than-usual activity outside my window. In addition to the many greedy squirrels that steal the birdseed from our “squirrel proof” bird feeders; the various songbirds birds that search our yard looking for hidden earthworms in their daily treasure-hunting; and the flocks of predatory ravens that descend in droves (and honestly freak me out a little as they stare bold-faced back at me as I pass them), I noticed one bird quietly perched upon our flagpole.

It wasn’t just any bird. It was a bird with a mouthful of gorgeous green moss larger than its head.

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It can’t be! I exclaimed to myself. I jumped up from my desk and hurried to the front door. Peering through the glass, I saw the makings of a new nest!

A huge smile swept across my face as I pressed my hands on the glass to get a closer look – careful to not be noticed.

Indeed, a new nest had been lovingly, painstaking crafted in the exact same hidden corner of our porch. One piece of moss and pine straw. One tuft of fur. One patch of mud and clay at a time.

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What could make this sight even more beautiful? A few days later – eggs!

bird nest 2014 with eggs-001What could be better than two eggs? Five eggs!

birds nest april 24 2014-003What could be sweeter than five new eggs? To see Mama herself guarding them, keeping them safe and warm under her protective wings and ever-watchful eye.

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Checking on the eggs one day, we were greeted with the sweetest surprise…new life!

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Days passed and all of the baby birds hatched. Faint chirping strengthened with each new sunrise. Tufts of fuzzy heads could barely be seen peeking out above the rim of the nest. Five little lives were growing.

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We are blessed to live in what feels like a bird sanctuary. There are more species of birds in our neck of the woods than I can name or count. Most of them are welcomed by our family. The ravens – not so much. The owl that has been known to sit outside our windows and hoot deep into the night is super cool. But, there is one particular bird that stalks the skies whose presence is daunting…our resident hawk. He’s not afraid of people and stared without blinking at me when I took this photograph only feet away from him.

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He’s lived here for years. Once, in front of a neighboring family he swooped down, hooked its claws into their family pet – their beloved small dog – and carried him away never to be seen again.

I’m not a fan of this hawk based on that reason, and on our own experience…

My family was enjoying supper on our back porch on a hot, summer afternoon. Amid rich conversation and a lazy ceiling fan slowly spinning above, we heard rustling in the overgrown bushes just a few feet away. We didn’t think much of it because squirrels, chipmunks and other woodland creatures are constantly up to something. However, the rustling grew louder and limbs and leaves began to vigorously shake. This mystery had our attention.

From of the dark shadows of the thick brush shot out this large hawk – and it wasn’t alone. In its beak was a baby bird. The hawk darted right toward us before jetting up into the sky at the last second. The baby bird cried for help. The father and mother birds were hot on the hawk’s trail. They also shot out of the brush squeaking and squawking and flying in frantic circles around the hawk. With silent, majestic wings the hawk continued on its steady path – laser-focused on the destination and dead-set on sticking to the plan.

For the small songbirds, it was a losing battle. They tried to fight. They risked their lives. They did everything they knew to do for their baby.

My family and I sat in horror as we helplessly watched these tragic seconds unfold that seemed to last forever.

As the hawk soared away in victory, the songbirds gave up and flew back to their nest. The last sound of this drama, which is forever recorded in my ears, is that of one last call for help from the baby bird. Then there was silence, and our half-eaten supper abruptly ended as we had suddenly lost our appetites.

Walking in our neighborhood the other day, I was content listening to my favorite music and being with my own thoughts. Suddenly I saw something ahead of me drop to the ground. It had fallen out of the clear, blue sky (literally). Weird! How odd for something to fall in the middle of the road. I couldn’t make it out so I moved toward it.

Ahead of me about fifteen feet sat a quiet, lonely miniature nest.

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Where in the world did it come from? I looked up at our tree-lined street, but leafy branches nowhere near extended over the road. Only a vast, sapphire sky above filled every inch of eyesight. I was totally bewildered. That’s when I heard it. Caws from a nearby raven – and boy was it mad! The closer I got to the nest, the more it yelled at me. The raven had stolen this adorable nest and accidentally dropped mid-flight.

There was something about how helpless and vulnerable this tiny, dainty nest sat in the middle of the road that touched my heart. I thought about the bird that made it, and how it would respond to returning to the place where now only emptiness waits. As for the nest, it was only be a matter of time before a car unknowingly ran it over – or the pirating raven would swoop down to retrieve his booty. I was compelled to save it.

Carefully, I picked it up and placed in my bag and took it home. No, the raven would not enjoy its plundering spoils that day. It was on principle that I rescued this nest from the street… as well as from the thieving raven.

Yesterday, I stepped outside to get our mail. Instantly, I had this eerie sense I was being watched. Looking up, there before me stood an enormous turkey buzzard in our front yard! I had interrupted its lunch – a small, lifeless turtle. At some point in the morning, a car had proven to be faster than the turtle. The turkey buzzard was all too happy to help clean up. Eww. I grabbed my camera before it flew away.

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All the while, our beloved baby birds had hardly looked like birds at all. Alien in appearance, their pink, translucent skin sprouted static fuzz and a random feather. However, before we knew it their feathers filled in and everything came together. This nest was filled with restless, hungry birds – not so much babies anymore.

DSC_0019They now noticed my presence and with weak stares they chirped when I came near, mistaking me for their mom. I saw on their faces new journeys that would soon embark.

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On a quiet Sunday afternoon, they began to hop out of the nest and stand along the porch beams. We knew this would be the day they would leave us.

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On the same day, I stepped into our backyard and found a sweet surprise. A different bird was building a different nest. I stood and watched for a while and thought about these nests popping up in unexpected places on our property and what a joy they are to our family.

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Throughout these experiences with various birds, God is teaching me lessons about seasons and the changes that come with them:

1. There is a purpose for our lives. Starting at the beginning with the original love nest, we also were designed and crafted for a purpose (Psalm 138:8).

2. As diligently as Papa and Mama birds worked to create their nest, so our Heavenly Father is preparing us for the plans He has for us. He stays diligent and focused on the task until it is complete (Philippians 1:6).

3. Bad things happen to beautiful things. But no matter how bad, God can make anything beautiful again (Ephesians 3:20-21).

4. God is our Redeemer. What has been destroyed can be rebuilt by He who promises to never leave us (Job 19:25).

5. There is no death with God, only life through the power of Christ who overcame death. What has been taken away from us, opens opportunity for new life (1 Corinthians 15:54-55).

6. God doesn’t forget about us. He sees. He knows. He cares. His work never ceases and He never grows weary (Psalm 121).

7. He sometimes allows the last thing we want to happen – to happen.  This does not change that He is good, even in the bad times. These are times that, despite unanswered questions and even prayers, we trust God that He is working and moving and is sovereign in the midst of they why’s (Proverbs 3:5-6).

8. As difficult as it can be to accept, sometimes a new season or purpose requires a new nest. Where once our old nest was right for a time and for its purpose, a new purpose may require a new nest (Hebrews 13:20-21).

9. God rebuilds our hearts to make room for His purposes. Just like the old nest was intended for those eggs and baby birds, a new nest holds new dreams and potential for a new season of growth (2 Corinthians 5:17).

10. God works in the same way and can use the same material in our lives for new purposes. What we think needs to be scrapped or re-designed, He can re-work it for the display of His splendor (Isaiah 61:1-3).

11. If we try to birth new dreams and plans out of an old heart, it won’t work. We can trust God to be gentle, even if life has been hard. He knows we are fragile. However, sometimes it’s in brokenness that we are made whole (Psalm 51:16-17).

12. Embrace the new season and let go of the old one. These birds came back to the same exact spot to do the same work, but for new babies. If we can’t release our dashed hopes, dreams and desires for what will no longer be, our hands will be too full of the past to filled with the future (Jeremiah 29:11).

13. It’s okay to mourn what is gone. There is a season of mourning and it is intended to help us heal so we can be strong for what is ahead (Ecclesiastes 3:1-8).

14. Embrace change. This one is so hard. It’s hard to believe anything could be as beautiful as what we had. If we trust God, however, He can make something beautifully new (Lamentations 3;22-23).

15. Don’t confuse letting go of the old with the old not being valuable. I often think of Job, and how in the end of his testing he was given new sons and daughter. For years I struggled with the idea that people can replace people. No. They can’t and that wasn’t God’s intent. Job’s children were gone, but  Job was still here. I believe God gave him new children – not to replace his past – but to redeem his future. If we live walking backwards, looking only at what we’ve lost, we cannot appreciate, or even recognize, what God is giving to us in the here & now. Jesus came to give us abundant life, and we can trust God that He will help us have that with the days we are left to live on this planet (John 10:10).

16. Let God get messy with our lives. May there be mud and clay from the Potter’s hands splattered all over us. This is a brilliant, magnificent sight. To the world His work in our lives may not look appealing (and some may try to help clean it up!), but He is diligently, purposefully crafting us so in the end we look more like His Son. There is nothing and no one more beautiful than our Savior (Isaiah 64:8).

17. When we let go of what was, and allow God to work something new in our lives, we can trust Him knowing that where His work is, His presence is. Like the baby birds, we can rest under the shelter and shadow of His wings (Psalm 91:4).

18. His watchful eye is always on those who love Him. He is seeking out His children who are desperate for encouragement, hope and a new filling of His joy to give them just what they need (2 Chronicles 16:9),

19. Good things. Beautiful things. Blessed things can be stolen from us. People. Memories. Holidays. Our sense of normal. Possessions. Homes. Cars. Trust. Safety. Security. Happiness. Traditions. Legacies. It can all be taken against our will in this broken world. God is the only One who can truly know and understand the depth of our loss. He is the only One who can truly pick up the pieces of our lives and give us hope for a future (Psalm 34:18).

20. Sometimes plans for our future unfolds in unexpected places. Like the hidden nest burrowed deep in my iron wall-planter, we sometimes can’t see a new opportunity until it’s fully ready to be seen. God can make a way both in the same place and in a new place. He can use the same materials or completely different ones to form our purpose. He can even bring a new plan by way of a totally different bird (Psalm 33:11).

Everyone has fresh or scarred hopes and lives that lay fallen on the side of the road of our journeys. Some lay barren, like an abandoned nest. Others, by our own doing or someone else’s, have been ruined when life was swept in the undertow of this broken world. Others were crushed, annihilated, destroyed, sabotaged, stolen or vandalized and it can feel like life is more than happy to pick at the broken pieces.

One thing is true. Time doesn’t heal all wounds. However, God uses time to help us to:

* Distance ourselves from the point of crisis.

* Allow hearts and minds and bodies to do what we were born to do, survive – and dare I even say thrive.

* Soften the sharp, jagged edges of the memories, flashbacks, and feelings.

* At the right time, begin to show the new work, the redemption, that can come out of unwelcome or unexpected change.

* Reveal a new perspective.

* Show us strength, both God’s and ours, that we didn’t know was possible.

* Allow opportunity for a new work, a new purpose to begin.

* Most importantly, although time doesn’t heal all wounds, it reveals the One who is our Healer, our Jehovah Rapha. Nothing, nothing, nothing is beyond His reach; too broken to fix; too complicated to be understood; or too hurt to be healed.

Change scares us. It’s not in our comfort zone and didn’t ask our permission to invade our lives. However, God can be found in change. His gifts can be found in change. Change does not have to kill, steal and destroy us. In fact, we can come out the other side stronger with His peace and joy in tact in our hearts until it spills over into the lives of others.

Just as these adorable baby Carolina Wrens sat day-after-day with mouths open to be fed, may we render ourselves open to God. May we wait for His redemptive plans with confident expectation; plans which are already at work so they can take on a life of their own and give us wings to soar. (Psalm 103:1-5).
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The Lord is trustworthy in all he promises
    and faithful in all he does.
14 The Lord upholds all who fall
    and lifts up all who are bowed down.
15 The eyes of all look to you,
    and you give them their food at the proper time.
16 You open your hand
    and satisfy the desires of every living thing.

17 The Lord is righteous in all his ways
    and faithful in all he does.
18 The Lord is near to all who call on him,
    to all who call on him in truth.
19 He fulfills the desires of those who fear him;
    he hears their cry and saves them. ~Psalm 145:13-19

May God’s deepest blessings be yours today and always, Kristi

 

 

 

 

 

Mourning Sickness

We took our firstborn to college yesterday. This is a first for our family, so we’re not sure what to expect, feel or think.

Leading up to taking him, I was busy helping tie up loose ends at home. He and I shopped for dorm items. My husband and I went over a myriad of business details relating to school and before we knew it, it was the night before he was supposed to leave.

That’s when it hit me–like a brick. Nausea overcame me.

No matter how many Tums I chewed, Prilosec pills I swallowed, or Saltine crackers I munched on, nothing worked.

After mindlessly chomping my way through an entire sleeve of crackers, I realized something…this felt familiar.

I had horrendous morning sickness when I was pregnant with our son. Just ask my husband.

It took literally hours for me to be able to get out of bed each day. He had to leave a cooler with orange juice and grapes by my side of the bed. It was all I could possibly tolerate in the beginning.

He could not use the oven or the microwave, and anything he ate had to be consumed outside. One whiff of any food and there I went running to the bathroom, again.

Brushing my teeth made me gag.

I laid in bed most of the first three months, getting up only to throw up or dry heave over the toilet.

At eight weeks, I caught a stomach bug on top of the morning sickness. Great.

This landed me in the hospital.

The upside? I got to see our boy way before I normally would have as they ordered a sonogram to make sure he was okay despite how sick I was.

Oh my goodness! What a treat! He was the cutest little human I’d ever laid my eyes on. Look at this lil’ pumpkin! Eight weeks!!

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After the hospital escapade, I was back to waffling between throwing up, eating nothing and craving McDonald’s filet-o-fish sandwiches, Boston Market’s creamed spinach, Captain Crunch, Lucky Charms and cherry Now & Laters.

I joke that I can’t believe he wasn’t born with two heads with that meal line-up. :O

The gnawing nausea of morning sickness is like nothing else in the world. My grandmother used to say, “It’s a sick, sick.”

She was right.

With each doctor’s visit during those months, I only lost weight. I remember crying in the mirror, longing to have a baby bump.

But, I kept pushing through the tears and weakness, knowing it was all completely worth it because soon I was going to get to hold my little baby boy.

Two days ago, when the nausea began I realized that what I was feeling was so much like when I was pregnant. But this time, it was mourning sickness.

Even though I thought I had handled it pretty well up to this point, our bodies can’t lie. Stress, pain and grieving find their way out, no matter how hard our minds try to suppress the weight of reality.

When I was pregnant, and the first contractions came, I put on make up, double-checked my hospital bag and celebrated the impending excitement with my husband.

After 56 hours of grueling labor (28 hours when contractions were 5 minutes apart and 28 hours of them 2 minutes apart), my husband grabbed the hospital bag and ran every red light to get me there in time.

On the way I thought to myself, “It feels like we’re packing for a trip from which we’ll never return.”

I was right. Parenthood has a one-way ticket. Once a parent, always a parent, no matter our children’s ages or circumstance.

As we loaded up our van with our son’s college things, I recalled the same thought, “We’re packing again, but this time it is a return trip–without him.”

It’s not a forever goodbye, Lord willing, but goodbye to a season of parenting. He’s still our son, but no longer a child.

There is nothing that really prepares a parent for this experience. Whether it’s college, the military, a gap year or the workforce, change closes the chapter on all we new as normal.

I felt like I was going to throw up all the way to the school. However, once we arrived adrenaline coursed my veins and I was in full business mode.

Much like showtime for giving birth, a second wind rushes in and we moms do what we have to do to survive.

I am a relentless nester, so I was in the zone. I didn’t want to overstep my role and set up his room for him, but I wanted to help a guy who was a bit overwhelmed himself.

I parked myself at his closet in the corner and hung up all his clothes. That was a great place to settle. I wasn’t thinking for him or making dorm decisions for him, but I was indeed helping him – and that made me feel good and connected and productive.

His dad and he wrestled with all of the computer technical stuff, of which I was very fine to not get involved.

No matter how many times we thought through the packing list, cross-referencing the school’s list with stores’ lists, he was still short a few necessities so off we flew to the closest store. We were on a time schedule to get our daughter to work back home. Stressful!

I was not prepared for the hoards of people at this store! It made Black Friday look like a regular old Tuesday morning. Never have I seen a store so ransacked, nearly looted. There was not a pair of nail clippers to be found. Trust me–I looked.

And check out the checkout line–all for college shopping, judging by the cartloads. This is only a third of it!!

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Tick toc! Thank goodness our youngest stood in line while we flew through the store like we were on a game show racing the clock to find a number of disjointed items in the least amount of time.

Walking into the bright sunlight in the parking lot, the adrenaline that had peaked in me while in the store crashed in me like a sugar-buzzed child riding home from the circus.

The nausea returned in full force because I knew the next item on the to-do list was…to say goodbye.

We were in a hurry to get back home, but my heart so badly wanted to stay, just a little longer.

Anyone need to go to the bathroom? Thirsty? Hungry? All of the well-worn procrastinations of childhood were now full throttle in me.

Now that our son is an adult, I can say that he is one of my best friends. It was ripping my heart out to think of leaving him.

We unpacked the last of the bags and he walked me back to the van to give everyone one last hug.

Like being pregnant, we had planned and prepared his whole life for this moment. The moment when new plans and dreams and passions would give birth to a bright future full of adventure, hard work and great memories waiting to be made.

He couldn’t stay inside me forever, nor could the dreams he has be fulfilled if he stayed home.

I know this in my head, but tell that to my heart.

And then the day was done. He was unpacked. Our job was complete.

I pulled him close, like when he was born, and held him in my arms and whispered to him how much I love him.

I looked him in the eyes and told him how proud I am of him, all the while my gut is twisting inside me knowing I’ll have to face his empty bedroom and chair at the table.

The rest of us piled into the van, sans our oldest. He stood on the sidewalk, eyes filling with tears as he tried to manage a smile to make us feel better.

It just didn’t feel right. My whole motherhood I’ve always made sure our children were safe, knowing at all times where they were.

Now I’m just going to leave him on the sidewalk? It felt like I was committing treason against his heart.

It felt the same as the first day I dropped him off at preschool. He was crying for me while the teachers smiled and reassured me he’d be fine.

They told me that, for his good, I needed to just walk away, and that the longer I stood there the worse it would be for him.

I remembered those words as I fastened my seat belt, not wanting to leave, yet feeling I needed to go, for his sake.

I plastered on a wide smile, choking on the lump welling up in my throat. I could hardly breathe, but had to push through the tears and weakness of heart so I could let my baby boy go.

The smile stayed frozen on my face as we cheered for him out the windows, waving all the way down the street.

He stood in the middle of the street, watching us drive away until he could see us no more.

That plastered smile quickly faded when my husband immediately broke into an ugly cry. His tears were contagious, and as we drove onto the highway we just cried and cried.

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The hole in this cloud on the way home reminded me of the hole I feel in my heart.

When we went to the hospital all those years ago, it was my journey as a mother that was beginning. My bag was packed and I was ready for a one-way road into motherhood, just as my husband was for fatherhood.

Yesterday, it is our son’s journey that is beginning. His bags were packed and he is ready for his one-way ticket to the plans God has for him.

It was a silent ride home.

Today, I awoke praying for him. I spent two hours waking up and going back to sleep, each time praying for him with all of my heart. Praying that God would show Himself in a personal way to my boy who feels very alone among thousands of people.

We hardly ever miss church, but I couldn’t do it today. I couldn’t shower, get ready and absorb a sermon and talk to people. Today, I needed solitude. And that’s okay.

I ventured out to Target, again, and in doing so I accidentally left my returns at home, forgot the shopping list in the van, and left the store without the very thing I went to get – printed photos I spent hours compiling for our boy. And that’s okay.

Things are not normal today.

We are exhausted from all the activity and needed a day to rebound. And that’s okay.

I put on my walking clothes when I got up and still haven’t walked. I just don’t have it in me today. And that’s okay.

My husband has cried off and on throughout the day. Not me. My tears will come when the last of the adrenaline wears off and I’m setting a table for four beloveds instead of five; when my other two teens come home and tell me how their days were and he doesn’t come home; when I watch our dog wait for him by the back door.

For now, I’ve channeled the last bit of emotional energy left in me into beginning a care package for our boy. It’s one way I feel like I’m still involved in this new chapter of his life.

It seems like just yesterday we were buckling him into his infant car seat. However, yesterday we were strapping down all of his belongings to a trailer.

We were just breaking in a new crib, trying to figure out how it worked. We were trying to find wi-fi and ether net cables and shuttled routes.

I was hanging his matching Gymboree baby outfits in his baby wardrobe. I was hanging his adult medium, trendy button-downs and pants in a rented old closet with a lock.

We were finishing reading “What to expect when you’re expecting” and beginning to read, “What to expect the first year.” We were reading, “Welcome college parents” and “Navigating the first year of college.”

We were taking a ton of photographs of him sleeping and us holding him in his nursery. We were taking photographs of him setting up his stuff and with his new roommate in their dorm room.

We were calling family to tell them how he was settling in. I was texting family and friends telling them how he was settling in.

We had a baby monitor on the nightstand. We have our cell phones on our nightstand, just for him–just in case.

We were crying tears of joy that this little guy was ours to have and hold forever. We are crying tears of thankfulness for the last 19 years, knowing now he was never ours to keep, rather God has big plans for him and it’s time to share him with the world.

We were praying blessings over his baby days. We are praying blessings over all of his days to come.

He’ll be fine. Not sure about me for a while.

Morning sickness was hard, but I knew it was just for a season.

Mourning sickness is hard because I know this is the beginning of the rest of his life.

I am looking forward to all of the ways in which our family will grow through this change. But for today, no Saltines, Tums or Prilosec will help this mama’s heart. There is grieving to do. And that’s okay because I have the privilege of watching him become the man he was born to be.