Monday, December 14, 2015

A House Divided Against Itself Cannot Stand

It is no secret that our nation has seen its share of this world's brokenness in recent years. As evidenced in mass shootings. Bombings. Civil unrest.
I watch the news these days and it just feels like a pot beginning to boil over. With someone slowly, methodically, turning up the heat. A little more each day.

Such disconnect, in a world that boasts how well its technology keeps us all connected.

Such discord, in a society that claims to support everyone for who or what they are.

Such disregard for life.

Such disgrace.

Such disagreement.

Such disdain. Disappointment. Disgust.

You begin to wonder if anyone out there is even still trying. Trying to make a difference for the better. Hoping the turn the tide.

I stumbled upon Benjamin Watson on Facebook last Fall, like so many others. Not being a fan of football, I had never heard of this young man, but like so many others, saw his posts on recent racial news stories and felt moved. Putting the words to what so many of us have struggled to put to words in our own minds and worlds.

Feelings of: Anger. Introspection. Embarrassment. Frustration. Fear. Confusion. Sadness. Sympathy. Offense. Hopelessness. Hopefullness. Encouragement. And empowerment.

At the moment, the overall racial climate has settled somewhat since last summer. At least as far as the media's concerned. However, there have been more incidents since Ferguson. 
Incidents that, due to the nature of them, leave everyone with mere speculation. Heavily laden with individual backgrounds, biases and preconceived notions.

It is only once we acknowledge this bias in ourselves and bring it out into the open, that things can begin to improve.

And this is what Benjamin has set out to do in his book 'Under our Skin'.

This book compels you to not only try to see things from someone else's perspective, but also check your own. Gently challenging both sides to step back and try to be more objective.

I appreciate this so much. In a world that's become so callous. So brazenly opinionated. So critical. Condemning. We need more folks willing to be open. Humble. Respectful. Considerate. 

Broken. Over the brokenness. 
And eager to mend that brokenness.

In hopes of following suit, I would just like to take the time to express some of the bias I've discovered in myself. Some of my perspective.

I grew up in Sheridan, Illinois.
A little farm community - a village with one traffic light - in what seemed a world away from the big city of Chicago. (75 miles to be exact.) Racism wasn't exactly on the radar in those parts. In those days. 
When I was in grade school, a new prison warden moved to town. A black family. That was huge! (Undoubtedly for them as well!) But, I don't really remember thinking that much about it, to be quite honest. I just remember that Howard (as far as I knew) fell right in with the other guys and was always upbeat and friendly. I'm not even sure how long they remained there, now that I think about it?

I moved to the Deep South - Covington, GA - my Junior year of high school. 
So, imagine my surprise when not only was the demographic of black/white population almost 50/50... but that the KKK was still in full-swing. At least, as much as the law now allowed.

What?! I thought that was just in the history books back home!

Yep. 1990 was when we moved here. And by the end of my Junior year, we had actually had racial riots. One day, everyone seemed to get along just fine. The next minute, there was such uglilness and hatred and ignorance spewing, you couldn't believe it was the same place. The same people as the day before.

I couldn't believe my eyes.

I wasn't scared so much as I was just broken. How could this still be so alive in my lifetime?

Well, thankfully, it all died back down relatively quickly and things got back to 'normal'. The ugliness retreating back into the recesses of individual hearts and homes.

I undoubtedly learned way more from my culture shift than I ever could have in the classroom.

I've always been a student of human nature, of sorts. If I read, I'd sooner read a biography than anything else. I love documentaries. Of noble, inspirational folks. And even folks who go astray. I'm always curious as to what has driven them to greatness... or depravity. What compels one person to move halfway around the world to love on and selflessly serve others and yet another person to set off a bomb or empty a gun on a place, destroying countless lives?

What makes us tick?
What makes us different?
And how in the world do we get along?

I think, first of all, in this day of political correctness, we make the mistake of trying to pretend that we are all the same. A strange need for us all to be the same.

But, guess what... We're not!  :)  
And that's okay!

A year or so ago, my sweet little neighbor friend, Jolasia, was telling her grandpa that she was talking to me out on the porch. And she whispered when she said "I told him you were white." I laughed and reassured her that I already knew that. And so did he. She didn't have to whisper. It wasn't a secret. I'm as white as the day is long. No mistaking it. Ha. How absurd that we would try to conceal the fact that we are different!

We are different. I think to acknowledge that we're different frees us to not only be ourselves but to appreciate each others' differences all the more. And we can learn so much from one another!

It's been 25 years since our move to Georgia.
I have lived in an apartment complex for the past 13 years as a minority in a primarily black population. My workplace has also become much more diversified. And as such, have acquired more black friends that I have subsequently learned from. 

So, as a very white person, I would just like to share some of the things I've learned, as a white person, to maybe help others see a little more clearly. And objectively.

Just because I'm not racist, does not mean that racism is dead.
   Shamefully, I, like so many others, always just expressed "Why don't they just let it go already? The Civil War is over." 
No, I may not look at you differently or treat you as lower than me, but that doesn't mean it doesn't happen. A friend of mine told me a couple years ago that he was in Kroger just picking up a few things. And when he leaned past a guy for a can of green beans, the guy just said, "You know, I'm racist." Out of the blue. For no good reason. My friend just replied "I really just want a can of beans. Excuse me." Yes, the actual war may be over. But, the fight is still fought. Many times, without provocation. Without explanation.

To diminish the effect that is still felt generations later, is dishonoring, disrespectful and wrong.
   I was also guilty of the common mindset among whites that states "I wasn't there. You weren't there. Can't we just get past this already?" 
No, I wasn't a slave owner. No, none of my friends or their family have been slaves. But, that does not diminish the wounds that are still there. And the ripple effect that is still felt today.
  In January of this year, an older couple headed to South Georgia with the plans to buy an old classic car they saw on Craig's List. Instead, they met their death when they were each shot in the head and dumped in a lake like a sack of trash. The man who placed the ad never had a classic car; just the intent to kill, steal and destroy. They left behind a devasted family; children, grandchildren... Would it even cross your mind to tell those children or their children's children "What. I didn't pull the trigger. And you weren't there either. Get over it already"? Hopefully not! I would hope that your answer would simply be "That is so awful. I am so sorry that happened." 
Saying sorry does not imply that you had anything to do with it. But, it does serve as a means of acknowledgment that it did happen and expressing that you know that what happened was wrong.

Just because others don't meet your standards does not make them any less valuable.
   I remember thinking many times "Why do they seem so intent on living down to people's expectations? If they would just dress better (aka: whiter) and speak better (aka: whiter), they would be seen in a better light (aka: whiter). 
When I was in high school, we had two English teachers. 
One was bitter. Hateful. Looked down on us. And spoke down to us. I couldn't stand her class. And found myself doing the bare minimum to get by. Seemed no matter what I did, it was never good enough anyway. I felt worthless. Unappreciated. Devalued.
The other teacher was encouraging. Supportive. Kind. Appreciative. And I would've done anything for that teacher. In her class, I felt challenged, but valued. Appreciated. Proud.
The first teacher brought out the worst in me.
The other brought out the best in me.
How can we expect others to value themselves while at the same time, criticizing them and berating them? 

I certainly don't have all the answers. I'm just a middle-aged white girl trying to learn what she can and to do her part to keep the pot from boiling over. The more people that stand together, the better our chances are.

Sunday, November 8, 2015

Blood Brother

A few weeks ago, I determined that if I were to watch anything on TV, it must at least leave me smarter than before. And seeing as I have already learned all that I possibly can from Frasier Crane and Ray Barone...  :)

I caught several interesting documentaries that week.

One in particular was "Blood Brother" on Netflix.
It features the story of a young man who discovers that he has a profound heart for the children in an HIV orphanage in India. And so he does whatever he can to stay there with them and care for them. 

So humbling. Encouraging. And convicting.

But, one statement in particular really caught my attention and stuck with me. He said ~ 

  "I could live in a nicer house... there's a lot of reasons why I don't do that. I think it creates a separation... Other people can't turn off their suffering or medicate their suffering with money. But, when you put those same standards on yourself, it almost forces your heart to change."


So true.

Rocky could, even in ministering to these people, place himself in a more comfortable situation than those he cares for. But, he doesn't. He keeps himself on the same level. In the same conditions. It matters for both he and the children that he do so. In that, I believe it reinforces that they are not simply charity, but his family. He is one of them. And, as such, truly understands their struggle.

How different would our lives look and others' look, if we lived by this example and more readily entered into the messiness of others' lives. And not merely gave from a place of our own comfort?

The Power of Just One

Many times, over the years, I've thought about how very different a life can be with (or without) just one person.   

One person who 'gets you'.
One person you click with.
One person to do life with.

I can't help but think that I'd be a much more interesting person if I just had that one person. 
I love to travel. Have a whole bucket list of places I would love to see. But, who wants to go alone?
So, while everyone else talks about weekend trips and getaways and asks how my weekend was, all I have to offer is "It was alright."  

(I tried to even go alone to a state park a couple hours away once by myself, years ago, because I wanted to go and was tired of missing out just because I didn't have someone to go with. So I bucked up, packed up a lunch and headed out. The drive there was fine. It was a beautiful Fall day. But, by the time I got there and got my lunch out, surrounded by all kinds of people there with loved ones, I choked down my sandwich and choked down tears the whole way home.) I wasn't made to do life alone.

If I had but one guy - I'd more than likely have a nice home. I'd probably have had many a sleep-over nights with my niece and nephew.
Might even have my own kids running around. A house full of craziness. But never a dull moment. 

And man, how different that would be.

With just one, I might not feel like an appendage to family gatherings. I would have my own entity within it. And not everything would hinge on my sister's family. (Which I think would be a relief to them as well.)

I'd have sooo many more unforgettable moments. And someone to remember them with.

Gosh, I think... the power of just one.

But, then I think of the One I do have in my life. And the limitless power of that One. The holy One. The One who laid the very foundations of this earth. The One for whom the stars dance and sun shines. The One who both precedes and follows me. Who I can never escape from! Even in darkness, I cannot hide from Him. (Psalm 139)

It may be lonely at times. But, I am not alone.
I may feel stuck at times. But, He's stuck right there with me.

And for that One, I am eternally grateful for.

Missing Someone I Have Never Met

If you've ever seen the movie "Facing the Giants" then you probably remember the scene. (Especially, if you've seen it as many times as I have.) 

Brooke and Grant Taylor have been struggling with infertility and despite the recurring disappointment, Brooke maintains a hope that one day, they will have children in their home. Someone to read to. Someone to teach songs to. And ends by saying "How can I miss someone so much, that I have never met?"

Man, do those words resonate with me.    

Though I have never had the 'ticking clock', overwhelming desire to have children, I do struggle with this overwhelming desire to be with someone I've (evidently) not yet met.

Will I ever meet the one whom I long for, this side of glory? Only God knows.

But, I believe the older I get, the more I begin to recognize another deep longing within me as well. The desire to be with the One I have yet to meet; God himself. 

And I believe that overwhelming desire will be met. One day.

"If I find in myself a desire which no experience in this world can satisfy, the most probable explanation is that I was made for another world."  (C.S. Lewis)

Sunday, October 18, 2015

God... and Chili Dogs

This past Monday, I was determined to start my week off right - up and at 'em early and time spent with God.

I felt a little twinge of guilt as I checked Facebook real quick - but alas, God was ready to meet me even there.

The first post I came across that morning was from that of a friend of mine from high school. And after reading what he posted, that was all I needed to read that morning. And I was ready to get up and face the day in praise!

Below is that post.
Read and be blessed.  :)


I have been living in Dallas Texas for the last 5 months. During this time I have been fortunate enough to witness the blessings of my Creator, not only through His impact on my life, but through the faithfulness and obedience of some truly spectacular young men. (Yes I am officially old enough to say that)

Four months ago I was called to head to downtown Dallas and feed the homeless. I had never done anything like this before and had no idea where to go. I went to Home Depot and bought a small gas grill, then headed to Kroger and bought hotdogs and all the fixings. I Googled homeless shelters in the area and decided where I was going to make my triumphant debut to save the less fortunate, or at least give them a hotdog. When I arrived at my destination I was disappointed to see that there were no homeless in sight. I sat in my truck and wondered what I was doing there. I had already spent this money and it appeared that it may have all been in vain. As I sat there and began to grow more and more discouraged it finally dawned on me. I had been obedient to God's call by getting up and moving, but had decided not to take him on the journey with me. You see, once I has succumbed to the initial urge I took off without asking God about step two, the execution of His plan. When I finally stopped and asked for guidance God took me on a journey that would change my life forever. 

When I left the first location, I drove for about 5 minutes while praying that God would guide me to the location of His choosing. After a few turns I drove down a street that was packed with people in need. I found two parking spaces on a side road and setup my makeshift kitchen there. As I fired up the grill and began to organize the food, a few people started to form a line in anticipation of the delicious hotdogs that were about to be served. While the hotdogs were cooking, I was asked if I had any cold water. I am in downtown Dallas Texas, in the middle of the summer, preparing hotdogs on a day when the temperature exceeded 100 degrees and I didn't bring any cold water! How could anyone be so stupid!? Within 60 seconds of the first request for cold water a man and women pulled up and asked if they could park next to me. I had no idea what they were there for but told them to feel free. When they exited their SUV the man opened the back and pulled out two coolers full of cold water. I WAS STUNNED! I asked him how often they came down and he told me it was their first time! That fast God had answered a need that I didn't plan for, with people who had never done this before and were guided to my exact location! That my friends was a humbling and exciting moment in my life. 

Shortly after I started handing out hotdogs, I began to feel like it wasn't enough. The people were very appreciative of my efforts but I couldn't shake the feeling that I should have prepared more. At that exact moment a convoy of vehicles pulled up and a man named Jeff Polk stepped out with his army of God's servants. The location that God had guided me to turned out to be an area where Jeff's team served at regularly. On this day they happened to be serving chili. I'll say it again, they were serving chili! Who doesn't love a chili dog? Jeff came over to me and asked if I would be interested in teaming up with them for the day to provide a real treat for the people waiting in line. I responded with a YES! What a mighty God we serve! 

As things began to wind down for the day Jeff introduced me to a friend of his named Sven Nickerson. It turned out that both of these young men had founded organizations with the explicit purpose of taking Christ's love to the streets. God had dropped me right in the middle of a movement lead by some very faithful and obedient young men who have gotten in on the ground floor of something spectacular. I knew right then that these were some true Kingdom Men!

Over the last few months I have witnessed Jeff Polk, Sven Nickerson, Chris Rogers, Taurayon Henderson and a host of others, take the words of the Bible and apply them in a way that impacts not only their community, but the people serving along with them. I have watched these men take money from their own pockets and purchase food for the homeless, when the donations ran out, just so no one went away without a meal. I have seen them take shoe strings out of their personal shoes so that someone could lace their sneakers up. I have seen these men put their arms around people who have not showered in weeks just to let them know they are loved. I have participated in prayers with these men that have meant more to me on any given day than these fellas will ever know. I have seen Christ in these men.

I have told you all of this because I want you to know that these men are the real thing. They are not doing this for the recognition, they are not doing this to make a name for themselves and they are not doing this to become rich in this world. They are doing this because they know that it is their destiny to show the world Christ's love.

Please pray for these men and their organizations. While you are praying please ask God if you should support these men with financial contributions to their cause. It's not often that I can confidently say your offerings will be used to advance God's Kingdom, but I can assure you these guys are legit. Below are the Facebook pages for their ministries. Please look through their posts and message them if you feel compelled to help. I am truly going to miss these guys when I head back to Louisville this week, but they have inspired me to carry this movement home. I can't wait to see what God has planned for us all!

Faithwalkers Charities
Rest Eazy feeding the homeless 

God bless!
(courtesy of Chris Caldwell)

Thanks so much for sharing your story, Chris!
Can't wait to see how He continues to move through you, brother!

Saturday, October 17, 2015


I don't consider myself a crazy cat lady.
I'm sure there are others who would disagree. 
But, as I so often defend: I care for cats, but neither inclusively nor exclusively. In other words, I don't only care for cats. And I don't care for all cats. There have been several I couldn't stand, actually.
And I only have one under my roof with me.

It just so happens that cats are the ones who tend to show up on your doorstep. And if they have a sweet disposition or have a look on their face like "What am I doing out here on my own? Please take me in!" - then I cave. 

Two to three months ago, I had a sweet one show up outside my balcony who looked like she could use a meal, so I came in and got a handful of cat food and gently tossed it down to her. This often ends up scaring most of them away, but after having stepped back, she came back up to check it out and then ate her little heart out.

After that, it became our routine. If I saw her coming down the sidewalk (which was every couple days or so), I would gently call her over, she would come just far enough to check things out, I would toss some down and she would then procede to eat. 

Then, several weeks ago, I tossed a couple handfuls down to her and as she started to dig in, she started shaking her head. Uh, oh... Ants. 

Sure enough. From the nights that I was a little too generous, the excess food on the ground had attracted ants. And it seemed that I had lured her in just to get eaten up in ants.

Broke my heart. It saddened me to watch her, knowing she was so hungy (and around this same time, had actually just delivered a litter), taking a bite then shaking her head. Trying to get in there again and take another bite, then shaking her head. Finally, to walk away after only managing a few bites.

I felt so bad. I wanted to tell her 'That was not from me. I had only wanted to care for you.'

I didn't see her again after that - until this afternoon. Nearly a month later.
I had actually begun to think that something had either happened to her or perhaps (and hopefully) someone had kindly taken her in to care for her.

But, she is still out there. On her own. Looking for food. Fending for herself. But, I didn't see her outside my balcony. She was looking elsewhere to be fed. 

And it's not for my lack of looking out for her. I have stepped out onto that balcony countless times over these last weeks, looking for her. Hoping to see her. Worrying about her. Longing to care for her once again.

But, now I can't help but think that she hasn't been back, by choice. Because she was hurt last time. That trust broken. Even though she had been provided for time and time again leading up to the ants; watched over and spoken tenderly over... She was willing to just walk away over one painful moment.

And tonight, as I looked out there once again, with no sign of her in sight, I thought - 

How many times have I been the same way? 

I have had a Provider, tending to my needs, speaking gently over me, reassuring me, caring for me in an unpredictable world. And yet I'm prone to walk away from the very One who cares for me, due to some uncomfortable moments. 

And all the while, He keeps looking... scanning the horizon... waiting expectantly to care for me once again.

Saturday, September 19, 2015

What Might Have Been

Gosh - In some ways, it feels like it was last week. 
Yet, in other ways, it feels like it's been a lifetime ago.

This week, I've had a lot of 'What might have been's going through my mind. 

September 17th has stuck with me for 20 years now. It was this date, back in 1995, that I met the guy I thought I would marry. There have been others over the years, and all have remained special to me - but this one always hits me differently.

Maybe because this is the one I essentially ended. When I gave the ring back. 
I knew when I did, all of what I was giving up. He was a wonderful, sweet, considerate, fun-loving guy  with a loving, enveloping family. And yet, for whatever reason, I felt it the right thing to do. I had no absolute reason; it was just a gut thing. And I have never doubted that it was the right decision. Not that it was an easy one.

But now, all this time later... I find myself thinking... What if?

What if I had just gone through with the wedding... the marriage?

Would we have been able to work through whatever it was that gave me reservations?
Would we have been stronger for it?

Or would we have continued to struggle and grow apart?

I guess it doesn't really matter. We'll never know. 

If my 20 yr old self knew that I would still be single at 41, I may have been more inclined to have stuck it out and taken my chances. I don't know. 

What I do know is, I am stronger and wiser for the road I have taken. There are lessons I never would have learned had I not loved and lost in such a profound way. And I will always cherish him and his family for what they meant to me. And for these things I am thankful.

(lyrics to 'What Might Have Been' by Little Texas)

Wednesday, June 3, 2015

Need a Lift?

Tonight, after work, and sitting down with some dinner, and my thoughts (always dangerous)... I began to feel a bit overwhelmed. Discouraged. And a little broken down.

Just then, through misty eyes, I cast a glance outside. And I noticed a tow truck looping around in the parking lot. He circled around, facing away from me and then drew up his hitch... in the shape of a beautiful cross before me. The next minute, he was gone.

Such a sweet, simple reminder. 

If you're broken down... be it spiritually, emotionally, financially or physically... look no further than the cross. Its power can lift you back up and carry you on to a place of refuge and restoration.

Monday, March 30, 2015


Thursday. The time had come. The aroma of the final supper fresh in the air. A few more moments left for any words yet left unspoken. Some words of advice. Some that cut deep. And some final words of reassurance. All spoken out of great love. And deep devotion. With great humility, dusty feet are lovingly washed. Even those of the one who would betray. Bread is broken. Wine shared and savored. Moments to be cherished. Symbols to be remembered.

A little while later, dusk settles in over a sheltering olive grove. Weary followers drift. While gut-wrenching prayers are offered up. Beads of sweat, mixed with that of blood. Final petitions for another way, ultimately relenting to the desire for a greater good.           

Friday. Beaten. Bruised. Humiliated. Scorned. Flogged. Broken, hanging on a cross. Bearing the brunt of the evil of a fallen world. Hopes are crushed. Broken hearts left grappling. 'Does it really end like this?' 'Where do we go from here?' Darkness falls. A veil is torn. One final breath draws out: “It is finished.”    

Saturday. Fresh blood still trails up the hillside. The body lays behind a large cold stone. Loved ones meet in heavy silence. No words sufficient to satisfy their souls. Lost. Alone. Confused. Broken. A jug on the table still holds some of the wine. The basin in the corner still holds dirtied water. What did it all mean? Was it all just in vain? It may seem like a dream if the pain weren’t so real. The void so profound. All hope lost. The final words that still linger in the air now only seem to mock their weary minds and torture their broken hearts. “It is finished” now resonates more than anything else.

“It is finished.”

That’s how it sometimes feels, doesn't it? Finished. A dream gets crushed. A relationship ends. A greatest fear becomes realized in an unexpected diagnosis.

But, it’s not necessarily finished, is it? At least not in the way our worldly minds tend to think. In a way that would lead us to believe that all we are left with are some lingering memories and a cold heavy stone before us.

No, if you are in Christ, you know that "It is finished" is not a resignation, but rather a declaration that a battle has been won. You may not yet see that victory played out, but you can rest assured that a greater work is taking place. And when that stone finally gets rolled away, you will be left singing His praises, wondering how you could have ever had the slightest doubt that He would overcome.

Thursday, March 19, 2015

The Elusive Sunrise

I am obsessed with sunsets. Sometimes I wonder if they've always been as radiant as they seem these days or if it actually took me that long before I began to notice and truly appreciate them. 
Then, I can't help but wonder how many folks out there may be driving headlong into one... and simply do not see it. And, how could they possibly miss it?

Well, when my sister mentioned the possibility of us heading over to the coast to catch a sunrise one morning during our stay at her place in Florida, I couldn't help but be tempted. Even though I am not a morning person. In the least. But... time slipped away and I suppose we got a bit too lazy and just never made it over there to catch one.

So, while on our stay at Cocoa Beach, on the way home, I had decided that I was going to take advantage of my last chance to catch it rise over the ocean (until who knows when). I kept watching the weather and though the rain had held off for us up to that point, there was a good chance it would be rolling in just in time for the sun to come up that day.


Still. I had to at least try to catch it.

So, though I normally sleep like a rock, I awoke when I heard Dad get up at about 4 a.m. and I did not go back to sleep. I just kept checking the time, to be sure I didn't miss my chance. 

Finally! 6:45! One more glance at the weather app... Sure enough - clouds are rolling in. Gotta hurry!
Got out of bed, like a kid on Christmas morning and threw on some shoes, a jacket and my hair in a quick ponytail. Asked around if anyone would like to join me....

Umm... No. 

Got it.  ;)

Grabbed my phone and key card and snuck out the door. 

You could almost feel the atmosphere swelling, awaiting the approaching showers.

'But, maybe it'll hold off.'

We were only staying one block away from the beach, so I headed into the wind that had kicked up and made my way to the beach access.

There... peeking through the gathering clouds... a little glow of light. 

My sunrise.

Awww... Okay. So, it wasn't quite as glorious as I'd been hoping for. But, it was still beautiful in its own right and worth losing a few hours of sleep for. 

And it was very peaceful out there.

So, I just took my time walking closer to the shore to see if it might manage to peek out some more before being completely engulfed in clouds.

Uh oh... Now, we're talking. 

And just so you have an idea of what the sun was up against that morning...
This was just to the north of where I was facing:

Just a matter of time....
Which would win out... The radiant sun? or the menacing clouds?
Only time would tell now.

Lo and behold...
Just when it seemed that the storm clouds had all but won...

Radiance began to shine forth.

And then took our collective breath away.

There were only a handful of us on the beach that morning, but we were all completely mesmerized. 
A gentleman who was out running, slowed down to snap a picture and say 'Wow! Really beautiful, isn't it!'

And it certainly was.

And just like that...

It was gone.
And I found myself seeking refuge from the rain shower that had now settled in.

But, the rain of a thousand storm clouds couldn't put a damper on that beautiful moment.

Monday, March 16, 2015

Trip to South Florida

I finally made it down to see my sister and her family in South Florida, where they've been living for the past year. And aside from the eight hours it took for me to get there... by plane... it was a really good trip.
Spent the first couple of days just lazing about and taking it easy. Just enjoying the time away from it all. 
   (View from Emery's bedroom window)

That Monday, we all headed out to the children's museum in town. It was pretty fun. Emery had a blast with the flight simulators. Savannah loved playing with all the magnets and seeing how high she could stack them. I personally could've hung out and watched the sweet little otters all day long. So busy... doing absolutely nothing. After the museum, we enjoyed a tasty dinner beachside. 
The next day, Jodi had arranged for she and myself and the kids to ride horses on a trail ride nearby. Who'd have guessed... Trail riding in South Florida. But, it was fun. I hadn't been in... let's just say: ages. Which my butt reminded me during the ride, and my legs promptly reminded me upon dismount. But, it was fun. 

   (The 'gang'... Savannah and Emery on their horses, me and my 'Prince' and Jodi on Sierra.)

After the ride, the kids didn't seem too determined to head to the butterfly house, so we decided to hit the beach again instead. Beautiful day for it, too! And we were not the only ones who thought so! (Emery's decided it shouldn't be the Sunshine State, but rather the Retirement State. Haha.)
But, the kids had a blast playing in the cold water and building sand castles... while Jodi and I just enjoyed the sun and the breeze... and the view.

   (Sum Beach... Sum where)

By the next day, it was time to head home. Mom and I decided to take the 'long way' home and drive up the coastline instead of I-75 and take our time getting back. Glad we did. The first day, we were able to take in the Kennedy Space Center and were there most of the day. Very impressive. That night, we had a yummy dinner at a steakhouse that came recommended by a friend of Mom's. Good call.

The next morning, I was bound and determined to catch the sunrise. Jodi had mentioned us doing that one morning while at her place, but we never made it. So, I knew this was my last chance of seeing it rise over the ocean... until who knows when. No one wanted to join me, but that's okay. It was well worth the getting up early and getting rained on shortly thereafter. It was absolutely beautiful.

   (Captivating Sunrise at Cocoa Beach)

While we were in Cape Canaveral, Jodi mentioned to me another place that may be on some interest while we were in the area. Just down the road from Kennedy Space Center was an Old Testament Tabernacle replica. Sounded pretty interesting, so we went ahead and stopped by on our way out of town.
Though there were only 4 of us there to see it and we had not reserved ahead of time, they were gracious enough to sit us down and go over all the significant parts of the Tabernacle with us and uncover the actual replica for us outside and walk us through it. Very touching. And evident that it is near and dear to the folks who operate the place. So glad they took the time with us.

   ( )

From Cape Canaveral, we made our way up to old St. Augustine. I hadn't been there in... ages either. 
I have fond memories of St. Augustine and it's still just the sweetest place. Wish it hadn't been so brisk and windy that day, but we still enjoyed the visit. Savannah enjoyed the art shops they had there. 

   (Making our way up to the fort. I was enamored with the clouds that day. They looked painted up there.)

By that evening, Mom and Dad said they were tired of eating, but Mom needed to eat something to take her meds with, so we found a local little seafood place just up the road from where we were staying. It was just like our hometown Neely's seafood restaurant. Sweet little family-run place. So, Mom and I just placed an order and took it back to the room to eat with Dad (who just wanted dessert) and Savannah.

That wrapped up the trip, just short of the 5 remaining hours to get home. But, it really wasn't bad. Good weather. Not much traffic. And lots of good memories.

Saturday, March 14, 2015

What a Single Woman over 40 Needs Most

Woke up this morning to several Mommy friends of mine sharing a link on Facebook:

Probably should've just left well enough alone, but below is my rebuttal on behalf of all the single ladies (now that Beyonce seems to have moved on).  ;)

Please know that it's all in good fun and maybe just a reminder to all of us that the grass is always greener and we all have pretty much the same desires at the end of the day. 

1. Sleep - The uninterrupted kind.
    Sleep - The interrupted kind.

2. Coffee - Plenty of it.
    Wine - A little bit of it - in good company.

3. A hot shower - Alone.
    A hot shower - And someone who even cares if I do shower.

4. Appreciation - Spoken words. Written words. Just let us know you notice.
    Appreciation - Spoken words. Written words. Just to know we're noticed.

5. Some time alone with Dad.
    Some time with... just about anyone.

6. Regular time with girlfriends.
    Regular time with girlfriends.

7. A creative outlet. - An old one. A new one. Maybe one yet to be discovered.
    A creative outlet - An old one. A new one. Anything to keep our minds preoccupied.

8. Encouragement - Daily. If possible - many times a day.
    Encouragement - Daily. If possible - many times a day.

9. Permission to have an occasional emotional meltdown - Because let's be honest: Sometimes, nothing feels better than a serious ugly cry.
    Permission to have an occasional emotional meltdown - Because let's be honest: Sometimes, nothing feels better than a serious ugly cry.

10. A nap
      A nap

11. Some romance
      Some romance - And not just vicariously through some chick flick already watched a million times.

12. Some new clothes - (Picking up Costco's latest does not count.)
      Some new clothes - (What's this about Costco's latest? That sounds affordable.)

13. Exercise - If it is not scheduled, it won't happen and it is easy to put our own health behind everything else. Help support us here!
      Exercise - And a reason to even do so.

14. Grace - We're doing our best, but we are still human.
      Grace - We're doing our best, but we are still human.

15. A hand getting the house clean - Family: Pitch in. Get the kids to help. Hire a house cleaner. Just don't leave it all on Mom all of the time.
     A hand getting the house clean - Kitty: Clean your own stinkin' litter box for a change!

16. A good book. And the chance to read it now and then.
      A good book. And maybe a reason to put one down now and then.

17. Yummy food that we don't have to cook - Husbands: Cook for us. Or get takeout. Or take us out. Just feed us something delicious that we don't have to make (or clean up!) once in a while.
      Yummy food that we don't have to cook - Cook for us. Clean up after us when we cook. Take us out. Whatever. Any of it. All of it. Just sit with us while we eat.
18. Some time to ourselves. All alone. - Or at the very least, the chance to use the bathroom without interruption. 
      Some time that is not all to ourselves. All alone - Or at the very least, an occasional interruption.

19. Chocolate - Our own stash. Please don't touch it.
      Chocolate - And someone to share it with.

20. Laughter - Every day.
      Laughter - Every day.

21. Thoughtfulness - A kind note. A spontaneous gift. A box of chocolates.
      Thoughtfulness - A kind note. A spontaneous gift. A box of chocolates.

22. More coffee - At a real coffee shop, without the kids. (Bringing a friend or a book is a bonus.)
      A little more wine - Maybe at a winery somewhere. Maybe even with a friend or two.

23. Unexpected things - Mommyhood can be so mundane. Surprise us! Flowers or a gift. A trip to Paris (we can dream!) Rescue us from monotony.
     Unexpected things - Singledom can be excruciatingly mundane. Surprise us! Flowers or a gift. A trip to... oh, I don't know... the next county over (we can dream!). Please rescue us from the monotony!

24. A vacation - Or at least the chance to plan and dream about one. Even if it is years away, dreaming and planning is half the fun.
     A vacation - Or at least the chance to plan and dream about one. Even if it is years away, with someone we've not yet met... dreaming and planning is half the fun.

25. Prayer - Don't forget: We need it too!
      Prayer - Please don't forget... we need it, too.

Sunday, March 1, 2015

Not Alone in the Journey

In response to my 'Burden of Hope' post, a couple of posts back, I received the below from someone. (I hope they don't mind my sharing it.) It has meant a lot to me, not only for its reassurance that God is there and hears our hearts' cry, but also for the reminder that I am not alone in my struggle.

  On the subject of hope, I thought I’d share this little personal experience I had. 
Several years ago I was going through one of those spiritual funks that we all have to endure from time to time. I had woken up feeling blue and got ready for work. I couldn’t seem to shake this cloud that had been hanging over me for a while.  I went downstairs, set my lunchbox on the dining room table, and started my morning prayer time as I waited for my car pool buddy to come and pick me up. I started out with “Lord, is there any hope for me, is there any hope for me?” That is also how it ended. It was the only thing that was pouring out of my heart. I kept repeating it over and over and over again. “Lord is there any hope for me?” I prayed that for several minutes until I heard his truck pull into the drive. I opened the truck door, threw in my lunchbox and just as I was about to pull myself up into the seat, I heard the man on the radio say excitedly “Hey! The Lord sent me to tell you that “yes” there is hope for you!" Then the station immediately went to a commercial break. I imagine that my buddy was wondering why I was sniveling all the way on the ride to work. I couldn’t  tell you if I told him or not what had happened. I was pretty overwhelmed with emotion; knowing God had just spoken to me and that yes there is hope for me. With that being said, I still look back and wonder if I’m somehow missing something. With my poor spiritual eyesight am I not seeing what God is laying before me? I’m feeling like a race horse stuck in the gate. But I do know there is still hope and that I’m not walking alone.

I love stories of when God shamelessly speaks to us. I've got a whole journal of such instances that He has spoken to me in my life. And this is a great one. 

But, I also appreciate the honesty in confessing that, even after having received this powerful reassurance, the struggle still remained. 

Sometimes God simply doesn't give us want we want, but He will always give us what we need.

And what we need is Him.

So, even though our hearts may continue to long for something unfulfilled by this world, He will most assuredly meet us on the journey and walk beside us. Should we but invite Him to do so.

Sunday, February 15, 2015

God is Just Not Fair

I always have the intention of sharing more about some of the books I read. But, then just never seem to get around to it.

But, I just finished a book that was such a blessing to me, I can't help but share. I wrote Jennifer when I finished it and told her how I just didn't want it to end. Sitting down with this book was like sitting down with an old friend each night. A friend who understands just how I feel (when many others don't seem to understand) and offered such timely words of encouragement and truth.

I'd like to share with you some of the passages that I've underscored.
However, I've highlighted half of the book. 

But, I guess maybe I could narrow it down to a couple and let you discover the rest, should you sit down with this book yourself one day.

For starters... When you first see this book's title, you see "God is Just Not Fair". But, once you begin to read, you begin to see it more as "God is JUST; Not Fair". Big difference. One may be your current outlook. The other is rock solid truth.

   "When you're really hurting, think about what you really deserved and thank Him for what you got instead. You got grace; you got peace; and you got unconditional love that will carry you through any sorrow. And both you and I got the best gift of all - fairest Lord Jesus."

It all boils down to the sovereignty of God. 
And trusting His omnipotent hand.
Even when it doesn't make sense.

   "Because He is perfect, holy and immutable, you can trust Him. Even if you don't understand His ways, you can trust His character."

So much more I could share about this wonderful book. 
But, I hope, if like me, you find yourself in a place with more questions than answers, that you will consider sitting down with Jennifer and allowing her to speak truth and encouragement over you, through these pages.

Wednesday, January 14, 2015

Burden of Hope

You know, I don't remember where I heard the term 'burden of hope'. But, it's been several years and it still resonates with me.

You might think... How could something as uplifting and optimistic as hope... be a burden?

Well, I suppose it has a lot to do with how long you carry that hope... for something in particular... when nothing seems to change.

Ten years ago... Wow... Can't believe it's actually been ten years...

Ten years ago, I went through the most difficult, life-altering year of my life. The proverbial straw snapped my proverbial camel's back, leaving me careening for something to grab hold of. Which lead me to my knees, at God's feet. In a crumpled, pitiful mess.

And He took me... Just as I was.

And He took me to a new place with Him. A place I'd never even considered before.

And I am so grateful. For Him. And even for that heart-breaking year.

I still remember listening to Jeremy Camp over and over and over during that time. Finding such comfort and reassurance as I'd cry myself to sleep. And encouragement to face another day that I just didn't have in me.

"Well I will walk by faith 
Even when I cannot see 
Well because this broken road 
Prepares Your will for me"

Over and over and over... 

Now, whenever I hear those words... that beautiful song... my heart can't seem to decide whether to hope... or hurt.

Still clutching onto those words... and the truth behind them... I think "... but this broken road was supposed to all prepare Your will for me, Lord. It was supposed to lead me somewhere. And Lord willing... to someone. But, it just feels like it's all been in vain. With only more broken road ahead."

Feeling forgotten.

And alone.

Carrying that burden of hope. 
A burden that only gets heavier the longer you hold onto it.

Going on 2 years ago, I stopped attending my church home on Sundays. 
A church I still dearly love to this day. 
A church I wouldn't miss for anything on Sundays, for 8 years straight.

People have inquired about my 'falling away' and I feel a little bad. I don't want anyone thinking it had anything to do with the church or its members. And it's not that I've drifted from God or fallen away from my faith. 

If anything, I'm trying to keep it intact. 

I haven't known how to answer.

To be honest, I don't even know that I could put my finger on the reason.

But, I think it has to do with that burden of hope?

I was desperate to meet with God during that difficult year. And He invited me in through the welcoming doors of my home church. And He showed up. TIme and time again. 

It felt like He had lead me to, yet lead me through, that dark time and had a will for me. For my life. That there was a purpose. A plan. For a future. And a hope.

That was ten years ago. 

And yet, I still seem stalled out on that same old broken road.

Trying desperately to continue... to shoulder that hope. 

You know, I would've thought, if anything, over time it would just crumble... eventually into a pile of dust. And I suppose that could happen. Should you decide the load is just too great to bear.

But, Lord, please help me to continue to bear my burden of hope.

"Help me to win my endless fears 
You've been so faithful for all my years"

Remind me... That if nothing else... You continue on this broken road right alongside me.
And that sure beats going it alone.


Sunday, January 4, 2015

YET... I Will Rejoice

Though that which I've planted has grown, but shows no fruition
Though there is no fruit on my vine,
Though that which has burst forth with harvest in years past now fails
And the seeds I have sown show no signs of reaping,
Though I cannot find one sheep in my keeping 
And not so much as one meager lean old cow, let alone a fatted calf to my name,
YET I will REJOICE in The Lord!
I will be JOYFUL in God my Savior!
For the Sovereign Lord is my STRENGTH;
He makes me as nimble and steady as a deer that treads on the mountainside, 
Allowing me to reach the highest heights!

~Habakkuk 3:17-19 (Jessica Standard Version)

Determined to get back into the Word more this year, I was prompted to start with Habakkuk. Short and sweet. And was looking for a verse the other day that  I'd remembered being in there, that was actually in Isaiah - haha, so decided to revisit Habakkuk and re-familiarize myself with his story.

And what I found was myself and my own heart's cry in those pages. 

How long, O Lord, must I call out to You
And You will not hear?
I cry out to You... 
Yet You do not answer.

Lord, how can You bless the godless and allow them to prosper
And turn a deaf ear to those who love You?

This is the Lord's reply - to Habakkuk, as well as myself:

Look... and be amazed! Watch and be astounded at what I will do!
For I am doing something in your own day; something you wouldn't believe even if someone told you about it!

Things I plan won't happen right away. I work slowly, steadily.
If it seems slow, wait patiently, for it will surely take place. It will not be delayed.
The proud trust in themselves, but the righteous will live by their faith. 

Even though....

It may feel like He's distant and removed.
Your life feels stalled out with not much to show for it.
What once held promise now is gone.

Wait patiently...

He's there. And He hears every heart's cry.
He has a plan for Your life; a plan He is working out even now.
A plan that offers promise. And hope. And a future. (Jer 29:11)

Rejoice in The Lord!

Friday, January 2, 2015

Catching Up...

I can practically hear chirping crickets when I come back to this blog. Absolutely no posts since last year at this time? Geez.... Pitiful.

Gonna try to do better about that this year.
Boy... sounds familiar, huh.

Anyway - So, 2014 for me in a nutshell...

Did end up paying for all that culinary indulgence by the end of January.
Big time. 
Worst flare of my life - lasted from beginning of February 'til the first weekend in May. It was rough. I lost 30 pounds overall, was totally depleted in every way possible and felt like I would never feel good again.
Enough to pretty much scare me straight and give me the kick in the pants that I needed to really go all out with eating strictly Paleo/SCD. Pretty proud of myself actually. And you know, it actually gets SO much easier once your body gets used to all the good new food. It actually starts craving the good stuff. And now that I'm not so overwhelmed with it all, I'm actually enjoying my new normal foods. I've got all new go-to meals and have been learning so many great new items. (Like Spaghetti Squash - how fun is that stuff! And I have learned that I love avacados. And asparagus. Who knew.)

And the best part was... it all got me feeling better again by June, which allowed me an awesome weekend in my beloved Boston (long overdue trip!) with my friend! I was quite anxious leading up to that weekend, not sure I wouldn't start to flare again, but so glad to report that I felt great! And we had such a good time there. 

Awwww.... Boston. How I love you so.

Let's see... what else.

I don't know that I actually kept up with the empty shelf reading challenge per se (kinda tough to do when so much of your library is virtual these days); however, I did read a fair amount of books last year. Not as many as I'd have liked to have read, but not bad considering all the time I spent online reading up on health and food issues. 

Big news this past Fall - our company merged with another company and we now have benefits! Yay! Hadn't had insurance since 2011. Just feels good to have that safety net there again. Now to just keep my job.  :o

I managed to foster 3 more stray cats that somehow all seemed to find their ways to me. And all 3 ended up in very loving homes... So glad. 

The first was a beautiful, soft sweet little baby that greeted me out in the parking lot of my apartment complex one Saturday morning. I was headed over to Mom and Dad's to hang with them and the kids, so I just took her with me. She was very sweet. And did I mention soft? Just like a bunny rabbit. Of course, Mom and Dad wished me the best of luck with her, so I took her on back home. Two weeks of having her, I was completely ready to keep her (though Li'l Bit still needed convincing). Then a friend called me up and asked if I was still looking for a home for it. *Gulp* She assured me that her Aunt and Uncle wanted one just like her, as they'd lost one just as beautiful. And their dog was depressed and hadn't eaten since they'd lost theirs. *Gulp* So, I took the sweet baby up to Commerce with her and checked out her new living quarters... Let me just say - I almost asked if they'd adopt me, too! Beautiful piece of property! Beautiful home! And Charlie, the dog, was either convinced that this was indeed his new best friend... or his old friend come back to life. So sweet. Humongous dog - most assuredly scared the snot out of my baby, but word has it, they are now best of friends and she torments him relentlessly.  :)
Just a matter of weeks after giving her up, I ran up to Kroger real quick (as I had just thrown something in the oven that needed to be taken out in about 30 min's) and coming back home, as I passed right by Mom and Dad's, I spot a black figure in their turn lane... "Lord, please just let it be trash, please let it be trash..... Dangit! Another kitten?!" Wheeled around, headed toward their turn lane, turned in, got out and walked toward the all black kitten so as not to scare him into the busy road. Scared? Ha! He walked right up to me! So, still in a hurry and taking advantage of this one being on their actual property line, I tossed him into my passenger floor board and said "C'monnnn..." Mom and Dad were just sitting down to dinner and I walked in with him and said "Alright - this one's yours. Your property. Your cat." They weren't too keen on the idea, but needless to say, his name is now Jack and his favorite pasttime is wrestling with Gracie (the adopted dog) and he can't go to sleep at night until he's kneaded Grandpa's stomach.  :)  (I come by it very honestly.)
Jack was initially supposed to go to Ms. Pam's house, but we (and he) just got too attached. So, we laughingly said "Don't worry - you'll get the next one she finds." Never thinking I would actually come across another in such a short amount of time. Let alone, one that looks just like Black Jack. 
I stepped out my door one morning, leaving for work and there was another jet black cat, pitifully tucked in behind our stair railing looking up at me with eyes that I swear said "I heard you take in loving cats in need of a loving home..." Ugh. So, I let him in, locked him in the bathroom with some kitty litter and food and water, while I went to work. Came home at lunch to check on him and didn't think I'd be able to. That rascal had opened my vanity drawer to where the door couldn't swing open any more than 1/4 inch. Had to take a pencil with an eraser and scooch the drawer back closed. He was another sweet one. He now lives happily with Pam.  :)

Wow. Could've done a whole post just on cat fostering.
Hopefully, that's all for awhile. I don't need another, I'm pretty sure Mom and Dad are maxed out now and my heart can't take it!
Besides... Li'l Bit is quite happy keeping to herself in her older years.

Well. I better wrap it up. I might not find anything else to blog about for another year. Best pace myself.

Happy New Year, whomever reads this.  :)