2020 Seniors, You Can Do This

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

Light the world

I was in the bank recently when God met me there with a word for the day. An armed security guard’s poised stance, with hands folded in front of him, greeted me at the door. I walked passed him and said, Hello. Nothing.

Entering the bank, I noticed I was the only customer. Good! A quick transaction and I’m outta there.  The teller was friendly. The room quiet.  When she stepped away for a second, I looked around the sterile square building with the ambiance to match. However, next to me was a Christmas tree. Festive! Unfortunately, it wasn’t lit. I looked closer to see if it had lights and indeed it did.

Hmm.  Maybe there isn’t an outlet nearby, I thought. The ornaments were pretty, but it just didn’t catch an eye without the sparkle of tiny lights brightening up the tree.

The teller and I finished our transaction, and I took a chance on offering something potentially embarrassing.  I asked, Would you like me to plug in the Christmas tree lights?

I held my breath for her reply.  Glancing at security cameras, I was reminded that in a bank, one is expected to act within a tight box of behavior. Nothing out of the ordinary. Nothing to draw attention. Do what you need to and leave. Rummaging around on the floor was far from the norm.

Yes! Thank you! she smiled. The outlet is on the wall near the back.

Relieved, I turned toward the tree and searched for the outlet.  Finding it, I realized I’d need to get on my hands and knees to reach it.  Down I went, searching for the plugs. One plug in.  Two plugs in. Done!

I crawled backwards from underneath the tree, still with my purse slung over my shoulder, and stood up – only to find a long line of people now waiting for tellers…staring at me.

EEK! I thought no one was around.  I made no eye contact and quickly headed toward the door.

When lights are plugged in, whether it be on a Christmas tree, on garland, on bushes or mantles, people usually like to stand back and take a look.  I never looked back, though I wanted to.

As I reached the door with the same security guard still not speaking, God met me and reminded me of my dear friend’s words. She often tells her children, Be a light in this world.

With the hustle and bustle of this short Christmas season, where panic and stress is thick in the air, God reminded me that wherever we go, whomever we speak with, we are to leave their lives brighter than we found them.  As followers of Christ, we have the privilege and responsibility of illuminating conversation, situation and circumstance with Jesus’ light – especially at Christmas.

When we are long gone, if we have done our job well as an ambassador for Christ, His light will continue to shine in the path we leave – just like the bank’s Christmas tree was something now beautiful and brilliant to look at while waiting in line.

We may never know the impact of Jesus’ light shining in our lives, but if we could see our path from God’s perspective, it must look pretty cool.  Imagine the map of the world we’ve seen as nighttime sets in.  Suddenly, there are pinpoints of light clustering all around the globe.  If our lives looked like a map, how bright would they shine?

The holidays are hard in their own right.  They bring pressure, stress, distraction, exhaustion and dynamics of relationships that can be both sad and difficult. Believers’ lives are no different.  We have our own share of struggles. But, this is when we need to let Jesus’ light shine in our lives even brighter.

Give the person in the car behind you that great parking spot you could have. Pay for someone’s meal. Bring cookies to the unpopular neighbor, teacher or coworker. Make Christmas more about people than things. Celebrate Christ, not stuff.

Only God can take a wacky moment of lighting a bank’s Christmas tree and turn it into a devotion for me that lasted the whole day. I love that about Him!

Let’s look for places we can shine His light – and begin at home. A hug for a difficult teenager. Patience for a preschooler. Grace for a spouse. And let the path of light continue into every relationship, every moment of this season. After all, this is not only exactly what Jesus did…it is who He is.

John 8:12 When Jesus spoke again to the people he said, “I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will never walk in the darkness, but will have the light of life.”

Without His light glowing in us and through us, we are just a prickly, sticky mass with a lot of bling hanging off of us.

His light may illuminate spaces that just might surprise us…like our own hearts! Be a light in this world. Shine on!

Why I love the body of Christ – forgiving friendship

Yesterday, I wrote about a friend of mine who has an amazing testimony of redemption and transformation.  Today, I’d like to tell you a story…

Once upon a time there were two friends.  For years, they shared life together.  One day, massive heartbreak occurred.  The friendship dissolved.  Time passed, but not without the lacing of an occasional, short hello or semi-genuine smile when we saw one another. It never grew less awkward.

Boundary lines were drawn and mutual friends were lost.  My name was dishonored, and at times I felt extremely alone.  Betrayed.  Unloved.  Forgotten.

During this time, I sought God as my refuge.  He and I dealt with my heartache.  He taught me how to be okay, even if life around me wasn’t fully okay.  He became known to me as my God of sanity.  Still, there was a sense of awkwardness stirring.  Things were unsettled between my friend and me.  I had done what I could to seek amicable relations, yet I felt powerless to do anything more as I no longer had a dog in the fight.

I let my friend go – partially because I will never force anyone be with me who doesn’t want to, and partially because I could not control any of this, including her feelings toward me.

Years passed.

Recently, to my surprise, I received a phone call from her.  Just to hear her voice on my voicemail caught me off guard.  I had no earthly idea why she called because our lives have not overlapped for a long time.  Before I was able to return her call, I ran into her at church.  I began with an immediate apology for not returning her call yet due to life barraging me with wave after wave of relentless issues to deal with all at once.

She simply took my hand, and with tearful eyes, began to apologize to me.  I was taken back at her sincerity, genuineness and humility.  She was visibly, transparently broken. She told me that God used a recent sermon to convict her so heavily regarding me that she could not carry this weight one more step.  The words she used were extremely powerful to me…

Although I have always loved you, I have not loved you well.  I am sorry.

When she said that, it was like cool water to a thirsty soul.  Over time, I had worked things through with God to overcome my grief, anger and sheer shock of events, but I had no idea how much good it would do for my heart to hear her words.

Her husband stood with us as she offered her apology several times.  I told her with amazement, Your countenance is different.  You have a softness about you that I haven’t seen in years.  She replied through tears, Thank you.  I needed to hear that. 

It was a beautiful moment between two people.  God had surely done a huge work in her heart.  It was visible in many ways.

Her apology is one I never thought would happen. You know how it goes – hurts happen, time passes, life goes on, the subject gets dropped, feelings get stuffed and we smile as if nothing ever happened while a sting pierces our heart – but we hide it well.

This is not how God intended it to be with people, particularly within the body of Christ. He has set forth rules for handling life’s sticky situations, and Christians are, therefore, held to a higher standard.  I totally get that, but what I think the world doesn’t understand is that we are human, very human.  Christ lives in us, but we have free will to choose our behavior.  We want to please God, but we wrestle incessantly with our human nature that is selfish on all counts.

Paul wrote about this in Romans 7:14-25.  It takes everything in us, but it is only with God’s help, we live the way He wants us to live.  Our spirit knows the Truth, but our flesh craves a human response.

Delightfully, because God had worked with me to forgive her a long time ago, I was freely able to extend that forgiveness to her with no strings attached.  That’s what felt so incredible!  She and I came at this from two different vantage points, but because God was the common thread, He wove us together in His mercy and grace.

I can say with a sincere heart that all is well.  It was a biblical moment that superseded our humanness.

Just last week, I read the headlines of a national magazine that so-and-so will never forgive so-and-so and that she has written her off forever.  I thought to myself how sad that was.  Forever is a long time.  And, for Christ-followers, we will share forever together so we’d better learn how to get along now!

Are either of us, my friend or me, perfect people?  No.  Do we have perfect lives?  No.  Do we serve a perfect God, who took the time while ruling the universe, to reach down and mend a relationship among the 6+ billion people who walk this planet?  Yes.

It was a miraculous moment.  Honestly, I had given up hope that anything like that would ever occur.  Her heartfelt actions and words refreshed my hope that the seemingly impossible is possible with God.  Everything is possible with God (Mark 10:27).

Had we not been believers, trying to live according to God’s ways, our story would end with the same headline of being written off forever.  Not so with God.  Who would have thought?

Being a part of the body of Christ means we are intertwined in each others’ lives.  We are – family.  We have a Heavenly Father to whom we are accountable for our actions.  The world says to be our own god and make our own rules and answer to no one.  The only place that gets us is alone, because it’s all about us, right?

Christians may not always get it right.  We live under a microscope of cynicism from the world who waits for us to get tripped up in our faith journey.  Yep.  It’s going to happen. We are sinners saved by grace.  But, the difference is that with God, we get a chance to start again.

His forgiveness is the only kind that lasts.   If we forgive on a human level, we are bound by conditional love – which is hyper-temperamental and unreliable.  We forgive out of our finite capacity based on our personalities and life experience.  However, God’s forgiveness is based on what has been given to us – divine forgiveness through Christ’s sacrifice for our sin.  And that is an unconditional, endless supply to offer others.

Do we wrestle with emotions?  You bet.  In the course of my life, it has just about killed me to offer forgiveness in certain circumstances, and I will not write that I have perfected the area of offering divine forgiveness.  But, through this experience with my friend, God has poured streams of living hope into my soul – an unexplainable optimism – that where we give up and come to the end of ourselves, God says, Finally!  Now let me carry it the rest of the way.

I love being part of the body of Christ.  Why?  It works.  God’s way works.  Not according to world’s standard because good guys finish last, right?  But, according to God’s standard, we can have unshakable peace, audacious faith, and irrational joy – and we get to share these hidden treasures with other believers who have also discovered them along their faith journey.

God’s way is hard.  Really hard.  But, it’s the right way.  The world’s way of dealing with broken relationships is broken itself.  Grudges drain energy.  Unforgiveness poisons the soul.  Ongoing anger turns bitter.  Relationships end, but the hurt never stops.  I’ll take the hard, but beneficial, way any day.  Christians still have feelings to work through, we’re not robots, but laying them at the feet of the One who carried the cross of my shame, I am free to trust His system of perfect love.  After all, at any moment, I may be the one asking for forgiveness.

Even though I am imperfect, I can love with God’s perfect love.  Where what I have within myself ends, He begins and carries the baton of righteousness and godliness for me – holding my hand as we run the race.  Helping.  Cheering.  Instructing.  I am never alone. Neither is anyone who calls on His name.  I have my friend back again and we have both been changed in the process – hopefully to more resemble the One who created us.  God is our Redeemer, Restorer and Reconciler.  We are thankful.

If you, O Lord, kept a record of sins, O Lord, who could stand? But with you there is forgiveness; therefore you are feared. ~ Psalm 130:3-4

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Be completely humble and gentle; be patient, bearing with one another in love. Make every effort to keep the unity of the Spirit through the bond of peace. ~ Ephesians 4:2-3

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Therefore, if you are offering your gift at the altar and there remember that your brother has something against you, leave your gift there in front of the altar. First go and be reconciled to your brother; then come and offer your gift. ~ Matthew 5:22-23

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Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you. ~ Ephesians 4:32

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Then Peter came to Jesus and asked, “Lord, how many times shall I forgive my brother when he sins against me?  Up to seven times?” Jesus answered, “I tell you, not seven times, but seventy-seven times.” ~ Matthew 18:21-22

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Therefore, as God’s chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience. Bear with each other and forgive whatever grievances you may have against one another. Forgive as the Lord forgave you. And over all these virtues put on love, which binds them all together in perfect unity. Let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, since as members of one body you were called to peace. And be thankful. ~ Colossians 3:12-13