Waves, Coasters and Journeys

My last question was asked by Jeanine Byers of the Hallmark Christmas Life blog; “How do you – meaning you, personally – navigate ongoing grief and loss?”

Such a good question that has needed time to meld in my mind before responding. And I have prayed about the best way to do so.

Grief has been compared to waves that come and go, a roller coaster with highs and scary lows, or a journey that takes you places you never wanted to go. All are excellent comparisons. The thing is I have personally felt every one.

The waves of the sea are said to come in sets of 7. And the stages of grief are also said to be 7. Just as the waves vary depending on the wind above the waters surface, so too does my grief vary based on the winds of my emotions. Some days all is calm, other days the wind is violent and difficult to navigate through.

Jeanine watched a movie where the end hit her hard. I call those “rogue waves” that hit out of no where. She didn’t see it coming so the affects it had on her were greater.

Movies and music provide touchstones (parts that connect to you on an emotional level or shared experience). I’ve found when this happens the best thing to do is like a big wave—roll with it. It won’t last and it may be that my tears have been building and need release.

However, I have to guard my mind when it happens. Or I get on the emotional roller coaster that leads no where.

The grief I have experienced recently has left me sad. My brother died of Covid, but God determined the day he would take his last breath. This gives me peace because God is in control, I can trust Him.

Life is a journey and God has chosen an exit for each of us. He would that all of us believe in Jesus Christ for this is the door to eternal joy.

I have hope as a Christian knowing I will see my brother and my parents again one day in Heaven. My parents were both older (Mom 90 and Dad 81). My brother was only 66. He had so much ahead of him he hadn’t experienced yet. And that would be sad if this life was all there is. My belief in Heaven has made all the difference. He is experiencing a level of life now that I can only dream of.

I highly recommend Randy Alcorn’s book, Heaven. He has spent his life studying and forming a theology of Heaven that is compelling.

This is how I process ongoing grief, but everyone is different.

The best thing to do is to listen to those who are grieving. I’ve heard cliches are not helpful and I’ve found this to be so true for me. Just be present and let your grieving friend share. We don’t ever move on from the loss we’ve experienced, but we do move forward, some faster than others.

A good friend is there for the ride—whether it’s rolling waves, scary coasters or long road trips—whatever is needed.

“A friend loves at all times, and a brother is born for adversity.”
‭‭Proverbs‬ ‭17:17‬ ‭ESV‬

This is my 27th post in The Ultimate Blog Challenge to post everyday in November.

One of My Favorites

Welcome to Day 26 of my month-long challenge. We were prompted to share a favorite quote.

One of my favorite quotes is by Hunter S. Thompson. Although I’ve never read this book, I love this quote…

“Life is not a journey to the grave with the intention of arriving safely in a well preserved body, but rather to skid in broadside, thoroughly used up, totally worn out, and loudly proclaiming, “Wow what a ride!”

Hunter S. Thompson, The Proud Highway: Saga of a Desperate Southern Gentleman, 1955-1967

I would add that my goal is to slide into Heaven having fully used up everything God had given me to live and love well.

The last few years have attempted to knock me off my feet. Stress has a way of making everything hurt. I’ve realized that my body may always hurt, but it won’t stop me from living my life to its fullest. Anything worth doing comes with a sacrifice. It usually involves enduring pain and hardship.

Athletes do this well if they want to reach their full potential.

Dancers push through the rigorous discipline of practice to achieve their best performance.

Musicians master their talent with finger drills and playing their instruments hours at a time. I’ve seen guitarists with bloody finger tips who play on. Such commitment to excellence is inspiring.

How God-glorifying to use up all that He has equipped me with—my gifts, my talents, my very heart, to lay it all at His feet one day. Showing that all I did in this life was for His pleasure and glory.

For from him and through him and to him are all things. To him be glory forever. Amen.”
‭‭Romans‬ ‭11:36‬ ‭ESV‬‬

This is my 26th post in The Ultimate Blog Challenge to post everyday in November.

Take A Moment…

Mill Pond, Banner Elk, NC

Take a moment today to pause alone. Take in your surroundings. Let God speak of His faithfulness through all generations including yours.

As long as He ordains it, creation will continue to pour forth praise to Him for all He has done.

Happy Thanksgiving to you and yours!

This is my 25th post I n the Ultimate Blog Challenge to post everyday in November.

Long-Distance Family

We gather together to ask the Lord’s blessing

Today is 24 days of posts in November. I’m amazed I’ve made it this far!

Nikki asked a really good question about celebrating the holidays.

“I have been thinking about the differences in holiday celebrations now compared to when I was a kid. Our family isn’t quite as close-knit — everyone in my generation has moved away whereas my parents lived near their parents so we could all gather for the holidays. Have you noticed the same in your family?”

In my generation most of us stayed close to our parents, so holidays were always a big event.

Our children all moved away after they were married. Some it took years and our last one moved when she got married. All three living in different states from us.

I never considered this would happen.

When our daughter moved to GA with two of our grandchildren ages almost 4 and almost 2 in nearly killed me. I didn’t see this coming and my heart was broken.

I had well-meaning friends who said things like, “At least you are close enough to drive there and see them.” This was like pouring salt in my wounded heart.

But God! He had other plans.

My hope was that our family would share life together. We would be available to babysit so our kids could cultivate their relationship in the throes of raising a family. Holidays would be challenging in how we would seat everyone around the same table.

First our daughter, son-in-love and two grandchildren moved to GA. in 2011.

A year later my Mom died in 2012, leaving me feeling orphaned since my Dad died 9 years earlier.

Second, our son moved to Tennessee for his dream job in 2014. He took his sweet wife and three more of my precious grandchildren with him. While I was happy for the dreams they were pursuing, my heart was broken for what could have been. It haunted me daily.

Then Disney came out with a new movie and a hit song that was played everywhere. It had the three words I kept hearing God say to me. “Let it go!” I was afraid to let go of my desire for fear that my kids would never move back.

Finally, when our youngest daughter got married and moved to yet another state in 2018, I was undone. Finally I knew I had to let go of what I had imagined life would be to let my kids have the freedom to follow their dreams. I needed to be their biggest fan, not their strongest antagonist!

This made all the difference.

I was able to let go and trust that God was leading our kids exactly where he wanted them to be.

Our holidays change from year to year. We have enjoyed times where we are all together, but more times than not, we’ve had to adjust our expectations and enjoy the ones who were able to be with us.

Most times we are the ones who travel to see them because our kids and grandkids are a priority to us, even if it’s not convenient. I love them and anytime we are able to spend together.

FaceTime is an almost daily occurrence, and for this I am so very thankful. I think often of my grandmother, Grace, who moved away from her family at 16 years of age. There was no telephone, no internet, no cars even. Miles separated them and the only communication took weeks to receive.

As I write this we are with one third of our family for Thanksgiving. The other two-thirds are spending Thanksgiving with their in-laws. We are choosing to focus on being present and enjoying what is, rather than being sad over what could have been.

But God! He is the only reason I’m able to say this.

We almost lost two grandchildren in the last two years, and I lost my brother this year. The distance that separates us doesn’t seem as significant now.

As my youngest daughter recently wrote about raising an infant with special needs, “Every day is thanksgiving, and even though I can still struggle with a heart of complaint. I pray my perspective is always pointed to what God has blessed me with rather than what I think He has taken away.”

Yes, Perspective. it makes all the difference in how we move forward from grieving what could have been to what we’ve been given.

This is my 24th post in The Ultimate Blog Challenge to post everyday in November.

About Elias

Yesterday I invited questions from readers, and I received some outstanding ones. Thank you all!

Tamara asked about our youngest grandson Elias.

Our daughter and her husband were expecting their first baby on January 29, 2021. Tom and I were so excited to finally visit them in Arkansas to see Heather pregnant. It was such a happy anticipation to welcome grand baby #9 and watch Matt and Heather receive the blessing of parenthood.

After our wonderful visit. I got a phone from her saying the doctor was putting her on bed rest. I flew out to take care of her and to help keep her baby safe and secure.

But what we didn’t realize was God was working to rescue Elias from a virus he had contracted during the first trimester called CMV. Babies that go full term with this virus often have very serious health disabilities including hearing loss, lung, liver and brain damage. Some don’t survive.

Elias Angel was born on October 14, 2020, at 24 weeks and 5 days. He was 1 lb 6.6 ozs and 12” long. Roughly the size of a water bottle.

Elias and Ollie Octopus at one month old

“For you formed my inward parts; you knitted me together in my mother’s womb. I praise you, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made. Wonderful are your works; my soul knows it very well.”
‭‭Psalm‬ ‭139:13-14‬ ‭ESV‬‬

The NICU staff was amazing. Our daughter calls them God’s angels. They began Elias on medication right away to fight the effects of CMV. Everyday he surprised all of us making forward progress.

From his little NICU cubicle we were able to watch God do what He normally does in the “secret place” as Psalm 139 declares. We were in awe of this miracle being formed before us.

He was in the NICU a total of 116 days. When Matt and Heather were finally able to drive him home from Oklahoma to Arkansas (a two hour drive), Papa and Nana were there waiting to see and hold him for the first time. What a moment that was!

He was so tiny and quiet. The ventilator and his immature core muscles made his voice very weak. The only way we knew he was crying was when his heart rate monitor would go off. His care required 24 hour diligence with feeds and medications.

Fast forward to today, Elias…

  • Is still making forward progress, thanks to an amazing team of doctors and therapists
  • can hear well
  • can see and recognize people
  • Has the cutest personality
  • Loves to belly laugh (still quiet but now he’s audible)
  • Is trying his best to crawl
  • Is eating baby food
  • Has two teeth
  • Loves books
  • And kisses Mommy every chance he gets

His prognosis is wait and see. Every child in his condition is unique. There are no certainties. But one thing we know! But God! He has been leading every step of Elias’ treatment since the day He was conceived. He is our miracle baby and one whom we call our Tiny Warrior.

He now weighs over 14 lbs at 13 months of age.

I write a song for each of my grandchildren. This is Elias’ song, sung to the tune, Jesus Loves The Little Children…

🎶Nana loves Elias Angel. He’s as sweet as he can be. When he was born he won my heart, tiny warrior from the start. I thank God He brought you to our family!🎶

This is my 23rd post in The Ultimate Blog Challenge to write everyday in November.

An Invitation

Our Micro-preemie Grandson’s, Elias, first time
seeing our Christmas tree.

First of all, thanks for coming my blog and reading about whatever is on my heart for the day.

I have a favor to ask of you! Now that you are here, what would you like to know? What question would you like answered or discussed? What is causing the most pain for you right now? Go on, Ask Me Anything!

I will select one or two and answer them if I’m able.

So, leave a comment below and ask me a question! Thanks for taking the time to consider and comment.

This is post #22 in The Ultimate Blog Challenge to post everyday in November.

The Power of Words

When we moved into our neighborhood in 1992 our children were 10, 8 and 6. We had a cat named Bunny and a guinea pig named Cupcake. I homeschooled all of our kids since day one and this neighborhood was full of other homeschooling families. It was so nice to be able to plan things together and not feel so isolated.

Imagine my disappointment when we went to our first HOA meeting.

The air was so tense neighbors were using it to fling lots of complaints and insults at each other, many of which were warranted. But still. There is a positive way to say things that produce results. This was not working. I had an idea but had to ask myself if this was a challenge I was willing to take.

I asked the HOA President if he would be open to me starting a neighborhood newsletter. I told him I could say what needed to be said in a way that would be more “hearer friendly”. Since things were so volatile, he was more than will to let me try. I said I would never be on the HOA so my words would always be from one neighbor to another, not from the Board make directives to the “homemoaners”.

Our Sun newsletter began in 1999 with the byline, “helping our neighborhood shine”.

It was more of a hope than a reality. But I knew the power of words, and this was a challenge that would have tremendous rewards. Not only for our quality of life, but for our property values too.

It began as a monthly newsletter. I write a regular piece for the front page that focuses on the importance of being a good neighbor. Other regular columns are from the HOA President, the Architectural Review Board highlighting Yard of the Season, and our Neighborhood Watch report. The last page is the Kids page with seasonal jokes, puzzles and challenges.

As the years have passed we have changed the newsletter to be distributed quarterly. Some have suggested we go digital, but honestly we have found people are more likely to read a colorful newsletter dropped at their door, then they are to click a link on their computer.

Our neighborhood was established in the early 80’s. The fact that our HOA is still being run by neighbors who volunteer their time for a year commitment is an anomaly. It’s even more so that our board gets along well. When there is a disagreement we have learned how to work it through in a civil way.

Words have the power to tear down.

We’ve seen this more so on social media in recent years. And we can never take those words back. It is best to use our words to build up and say what needs to be said without a pointing finger.

Our pastor says, “Every time you point a finger at someone remember there are three more pointing back at you.” Which goes with the saying, “Better to remove the log from your own eye before going after the speck in your brother’s eye.”

We are all capable of tearing down or building up. This challenge was to see if a simple newsletter could shine the light of kindness on a battlefield and bring peace. I’m thrilled to say it did, and our neighborhood is shining all the brighter as a result.

What challenge have you taken and found positive results?

This is the 21st post in The Ultimate Blog Challenge to post everyday in November.

Once Upon A Blog

My husband and I started blogging on The Romantic Vineyard in 2008. It was an extension of our marriage ministry and was initially meant to be a reference site for our friends and those who live locally for date night ideas and great resources. It didn’t take long for it to become much bigger than we ever expected. With the growth came new friends who also had marriage blogs–couples who shared the same vision and passion to see marriages become all God intended and to last a lifetime.

These couples ended up becoming friends. We read each other’s blogs regularly. We encouraged one another and did all we could to help as well. We even ended up meeting most of them in person. What a joy it was to finally meet face-to-face.

We saw a need as many new marriage bloggers became discouraged in their first year. They struggled with either lack of technical understanding, or difficult responses to posts they had written. Isolation made many call it quits. So we formed the Christian Marriage Bloggers Association. We have a statement of faith we all believe in and it’s from this creed that visitors to our blogs know if we line up with their beliefs too. It has broadened our community and we are thrilled at what God has done.

When we began in 2008, there were very few Christian marriage blogs available offering help and good Biblical advice. Now, fourteen years later and there are too many to count. And many are so helpful.

When we were prompted to share the blogs we follow regularly, I knew I had to include the background in order for you to understand how I came to know and respect these bloggers/now friends.

We have a Core Team. These consist of the 6 couples who began the CMBA.

I also love to read good writers blogs. Some of the following are friends and some are columnists. But I read every post.

  • Life on the Lighter Side – Bonnie Anderson has been a friend for as long as I can remember. We share many interests, which makes any time we have together a blast. Her blog is inspirational and humor focused.
  • Not That Big A Deal – Roxanne Chin is another dear friend who always makes me laugh. Her humor is usually pointing inward on something she said or did. And I think she’s a pretty big deal.
  • Sean of the South – Sean Dietrich’s biography linked here has enough credentials to draw you closer. His storytelling skills are unmatched. I look forward to his posts; I will laugh, cry and think about what he’s written for a while afterward.
  • The Power of Story – Mitch Teemley found our marriage blog and commented. Which let me find his and I am so very grateful. He is a fantastic storyteller. His Fool’s Odyssey series is one hooked me. You can start this with his first post, My Big Epiphany in London

This is my 20th post in The Ultimate Blog Challenge to post everyday in November.

Four for a Dollar

This post was originally shared on The Romantic Vineyard blog in November 2010. I thought it was worth sharing in the UBC on Day 19. Enjoy…

It was the week of Thanksgiving, and I was set on trying a new creamed corn recipe for the holiday.  Having a large extended family I was going to need a lot of corn – 24 ears to be exact.  I knew that the grocery stores would be too expensive for such a large quantity; so my husband and I headed towards a roadside vegetable stand.   I was sure that their candy corn, as it’s called, would help me duplicate the dish I had so enjoyed at a New Orleans’ restaurant, Commander’s Palace.

Off we went.  We stopped at the first stand we came to, and I scouted out the market to see if they had what I needed.  They did and at the right price, too; four ears for a dollar!  My husband stayed in the car certain it would only take a moment to make my purchase.

I bagged my corn and took it to the man working the checkout counter.  He looked a bit odd, but seemed friendly enough.

“Hi!” I smiled as I placed my corn on the table in front of him.  “I have 24 ears of corn in the bags.”

He looked at me while figuring my total in his head, “That’ll be $21!”

“$21? The sign said that the corn is four ears for a dollar!

“That’s right – $21.”  He said with a toothless grin.

I knew he just wasn’t thinking, so I attempted to help him with his figuring.  “The sign says four ears for a dollar – that’s eight ears for two dollars, twelve ears for three dollars…”

I thought he would have stopped me by this point, but it was obvious by the unbelieving smirk on his face that he still wasn’t getting it.

I continued, “sixteen ears for four dollars, twenty ears for five dollars and twenty-four ears for six dollars!”

“Naw! You’re tryin’ to cheat me!” was his reply.

I couldn’t believe it!  Was he joking with me?  Was there a hidden camera somewhere? He was serious and so convinced in his mind to the point that he wasn’t going to sell me the corn!

I asked, while looking around, “Is there anyone else that works here?”

Before he could answer me I saw a couple of men sitting at the far end of the stand. I walked up to them and asked if they worked there.

The owner replied, “Is he giving you a hard time, darlin’?”

“Well, he’s trying to sell me 24 ears of corn for $21.” I still couldn’t believe this was actually happening.

“Man, he hit his head yesterday and must’ve hurt himself worse than I thought.  Come with me!”

I followed him as he approached the checkout counter.  “Mac, I want you to sell this lady her corn for $6, ya hear?”

He took my corn from under the counter and still hesitated in taking my money.  He kept staring suspiciously at me, and when his boss had walked away he said under his breath, “You must’ve really winked your eye at him!”

With that I took my bag of corn before he could grab it from me and quickly got in the car.
As I closed the door and took an exasperated breath, my husband said, “What took you so long?”

“You won’t believe it…”

Do you have an unbelievable story to tell?

A Family at Feud

Photo Credit You Tube

It seems only right that I should share this with you now, on this week before Thanksgiving. Family Memories are what this holiday is all about and we have one that may outlive us!

My sister-in-law, Sherry, called with an idea to do something we’d never done before. It would include my daughter, Tracy, my daughter-in-love, Ashley, and my niece, Amy. Five total to do it.

The application was made and we waited.

When the call back came we were told to make a video telling them why we wanted to do this thing we’d never done before.

Since we live in the tourist capital of the world, we loaded up in one car and drove to Universal Studios. What better place to make a video?

We laughed more that night than we ever had. We kept asking ourselves, “What in the world are we doing?“

We turned in our hilarious video and we waited.

We received another call that they wanted to see us in person at, of all places, Universal Studios! Now it all seemed possible.

And it was. In 2010, the five of us appeared in the inaugural season of Steve Harvey’s Family Feud. All of our spouses watched from the audience as we attempted to answer ridiculous questions as the Top 100 survey respondents would.

Embarrassing to say the least.

The TV audience never sees what happens when the camera is ordered to “cut!” That is when the “comedian Steve Harvey” appears and shares stories not meant for television.

Many times I thought the producer of the show was going bust from laughing so hard. Steve was unpredictable when off-script and unleashed. She had to let him flow with his stream of thought or he would bust.

And we watched it all as our daughter was many times the brunt of his jokes. He called her “Crazy Tracy” mainly because she knew how to play and answered how she thought the those surveyed would answer. Not how she personally would.

We ended up being on 5 episodes, won the car and $25K. Those five shows were replayed over and over for years! We haven’t received any Facebook messages recently with the familiar, “I just saw you on Family Feud!” so maybe after 11 years it’s settled.

Are we glad we did it? Absolutely. Knowing what we know now about how it went would we do it again? I’m not sure. But we made a lasting memory in our family, and I got new bedroom furniture with my part of the pot. Not bad for 5 hours of embarrassing moments.

You can watch one of the outtakes on You Tube here.

This is my 18th post in The Ultimate Blog Challenge to post everyday in November.