Bon Appetite Julie Powell

Photo Credit: NY Times 2022

It is late. We are in a long season of caring for our daughter and her only son, Elias. Yet I felt inspired to sit at my computer, which is collecting dust, to pay tribute to Julie Powell. You may not recognize the name, but you most likely know her. Julie Powell’s story was featured in a movie in 2009 titled, Julie and Julia. Meryll Streep played Julia Childs and Amy Adams played Julie. It is a true story filled with many touchstones to my own life.

Imagine my sadness when I found out that Julie Powell died last week, October 26th at the age of 49.

I didn’t know what to think. This movie impacted my life in a profound way. It was the exclamation point to my new endeavor of blogging which had begun just months before in 2008. It also was a catalyst to my love of cooking. Her story mattered to me–every blog post, every recipe, every disappointment and achievement.

Thank you for sharing your story with us, Julie. In the movie you asked if what you did in life mattered. Yes. It did. You took the time to put in words your adventure of cooking all of Julia Child’s recipes in a single year. While watching the movie I had to keep reminding myself that you really did this–Amazing! Your passion was evident. The scene of you stirring chocolate cream pie into a pie dish was mouth-watering. As was every recipe you prepared throughout the movie.

As you paid tribute to your beloved Julia Childs she helped you realize something…

“Julia taught me what it takes to find your way in the world. It’s not what I thought it was. I thought it was all about–I don’t know, confidence or will or luck. Those are all some good things to have, no question. But there’s something else, something that these things grow out of. It’s joy.” – Julie Powell

Joy is found when you pursue the things for which you were created to do.

A cardiac arrest took your life suddenly leaving behind your husband, Eric, of 24 years. I learned you both met playing the leads in a romantic play at your high school. What a loss he must be experiencing tonight. My condolences to your family and friends. Although we never met, I felt as if I knew you. Our love of writing and cooking was a deep connection that gave me the courage to pursue my own passions with joy, so thank you!

I’ll close with a quote from the movie with a chilling reality.

“So the end may be a long time coming, but that doesn’t mean it doesn’t have a way of sneaking up on you.” – Julie Powell

Sadly, your words rang true. Bon Appetite, Julie.

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A Letter To My Grandson on His 2nd Birthday

Dear Elias,

Happy Birthday, Elias

I’ll never forget hearing your Dad tell me over the phone, “His name is Elias Angel.” He said it with such certainty that I took notice. Your Mom was still unconscious from an emergency C-section. I was keeping your Dad company by phone as he waited alone in the middle of the night for news.

Elias means The Lord is my God. Angel means Messenger from God. I can’t help but wonder if your life isn’t a message sent to us by our Heavenly Father letting us know more of Him.

Elias in the NICU – tiny warrior

When your parents brought you home after 116 days in the NICU, I couldn’t wait to see you in person. You see, you were born right in the middle of a worldwide pandemic caused by a wicked virus called COVID-19. No one but your parents were allowed in the hospital to see you. I stared at every photo your Mommy sent to me. I caressed your sweet face in my heart as I lifted my prayers to the One who created you.

Another virus caused you to have many health problems. CMV. It is a virus that is minor in its effects to adults, but most often fatal for unborn babies. At 24 weeks and 5 days God decided to rescue you from this virus. Once you were born the meds were administered to stop CMV in its tracks. But the damage done was irreversible. At least that is what we were told.

Yes. It is confirmed by MRIs that you have microcephaly and only 40% of your brain mass. (See Ultra-sound photo above)

Yes. It is most likely to be confirmed as you turn two that you also have Cerebral Palsy.

But God. When we see your cognitive ability, the way you look at us and react to what we do and say is nothing but miraculous. Yes. You can do more than they thought. But your limitations are also many: You can’t sit. You can’t talk. You can’t walk. You can’t swallow food. But God. He is writing your story to a watching world.

Hundreds all over the globe from California to the Bahamas, to the faraway country of Ukraine have leaned in to hear every update your Mom writes. They want to watch what our amazing God will do. We have prayed for miracles. We have cried on our knees for His will to be done in your life. And I just realized something huge–God has answered our prayers. You, my sweet grandson, are a miracle. Like Tiny Tim from A Christmas Carol, you are teaching all of us how to rejoice in long-suffering and how to have joy in the midst of pain.

When you cock your head to the side and smile at me the way you do, it’s as if you’re looking deep into my heart saying, “It’s going to be okay, Nana.” When I hold you and snuggle I pray for God to help us help you to the best of our ability. And He has.

When your eye began to bulge and your Mom asked if I thought it was bulging, I prayed, “Please, Lord. Don’t let this be cancer.” But it was and now we are walking with you through your silent battle with this beast called Rhabdomyosarcoma. You can’t tell us what hurts. It is hard not knowing what you need when you need it.

But God. I find comfort in knowing that He knows what you need and He is working miracles everyday that you continue to fight. The joy on your face comes and goes now, and it’s in those moments when all I see is your boo-boo face, that I want to cry and take the pain for you. But I can’t.

Your life is speaking volumes to all of us about perseverance and hope that doesn’t fade. And you haven’t spoken a word.

Two years now I have loved you, and I will continue to love you for all eternity. But my most important prayer for you, sweet Elias Angel, is that you will know the love of your Heavenly Father who dwells in the secret places with you. He is always there and comforts you in all your afflictions. You have a godly inheritance that will not fade. It is being kept in Heaven for you. So stay the course Elias, and I will be by your side to sing your song to you every day if you like. That’s what Nana’s do. “God bless us, every one.”

Nana loves Elias Angel

He’s as sweet as he can be

When he was born he won my heart

Tiny Warrior (Super Hero) from the start

I thank God He brought you to our family

Buddy

He was my 1st cousin, but old enough to be my Dad. His children (my 1st cousins, once removed) were the cousins I played with, hunted Easter eggs with and spent the night with at our grandmother’s (Big Mama’s) house. This was in Clermont, FL. What used to be a small citrus community west of an also unknown town called Orlando.

It used to take us all of 30 minutes to drive to my grandparents’ house when I was growing up. We watched for the only landmark among acres of orange groves during our drive—The Citrus Tower!

How times have changed. Clermont and Orlando are nearly inseparable. But I will never forget my growing up years and the adults who watched over me.

I learned last week that he left this life. I cried remembering the ways he helped our family through the years.

He was in the citrus business as was his dad, granddad and great-grandad before him. But he watched the industry dissipate. It was such a sad day when he bought the last 20 acres of groves from my Mom to develop it into a neighborhood. Of course we were grateful he was able to do this from a financial standpoint. But my Mom and I never went back to Oswalt Road in South Clermont after it was fully developed. Not because we weren’t happy for how he had taken the next step in our family’s story, but because we wanted to remember what was. My Mom moved there from Oklahoma when she was only 9 months old. This was her hometown!

Richard “Buddy” Oswalt went to be with the Lord last week.

I loved his laughter, his pranks and the way he loved life. Following is the tribute his three surviving children wrote about him. You’ll see what a man he was by the legacy he leaves behind.

Buddy was born on September 16,1937 in Clermont, FL. to Vick and Frances Oswalt. Buddy was a lifelong resident of Clermont, graduating from Clermont High School in 1955.

He passed away peacefully on September 26, 2022, surrounded by his loving family at his home in Clermont.

He married his high school sweetheart Gloria in 1957, the love of his life. He was employed by his father Vick Oswalt who owned Oswalt Grove Service, a citrus grove caretaking business. He became his dad’s right-hand man. His mother Frances was the office manager and bookkeeper. During his lifetime he also was involved in several ventures always connected to the citrus industry. B&O Dragline, Florida Air Spraying, Lake-Sumter Fruit Dealers and buying several orange groves through the years.

He belonged to the Clermont Jaycees who at the time built the Clermont Jaycee Beach. He was also a Clermont City Councilman for 4 years.

After the Citrus Industry in this area was devastated in the late 1980’s and early 1990’s, he began thinking of new ways to use his grove land. He attracted a few home builders who were looking for land to build homes for the new residents moving to this area. His son-in-law, Bill Thomas, custom home builder, built the first beautiful brick home in Crescent Bay on South Lakeshore Dr. on Crescent Lake. There were several more neighborhoods built throughout Clermont and South Clermont on Oswalt Land, one being on a family property originally owned by his Great Grandfather & Grandfather, purchased for a citrus grove in 1920.

He loved ranching, hunting, fishing, working and being in the outdoors. One of his special loves was growing things. He enjoyed growing oranges, lemons, avocados apples, peaches, blueberries, pecans, asparagus, flowers, and his favorites, daylilies, hibiscus, and flowering trees in both Florida and North Carolina. He took great pride in everything he did.

In the last 15 years, he enjoyed his mountain home on Cranberry Creek extending his love of water from Florida to North Carolina where he and Gloria spent the summers. He had the best of both worlds enjoying all the spring, summer and fall flowers and leaves. They met many friends through the church and the community where they lived.

He dearly loved his wife of 65 years, the love of his life and his family and especially spending time with them telling stories and making everyone laugh!

Survivors include, his wife, Gloria, daughters, Vicki O. Thomas (Bill), Becki O. Young (Faron) and son Mark A. Oswalt (Sara) He was preceded in death by his son Richard E. Oswalt, Jr. “Rick”, his father, Vick Oswalt and mother, Frances Oswalt, grandparents William and Grace Oswalt.

Grandchildren, Stacey Padgett, Stephanie Giraldo, Michael Kirkand, Mason Oswalt, Grace Oswalt, Lily Oswalt and Holden Oswalt. He has 6 great grandchildren Hunter and Joshua Crumbo, Madison and Makenli Kirkland, and Isabella and Ryan Giraldo. He is also survived by many cousins, nieces and nephews.

Brothers, Tom Oswalt (Shirley), John Oswalt (Carol) and sisters, Carolyn Bond (Wayne), and Dianne Russ (Charlie).

Funeral services will be held Friday, October 7, 2022, 2pm, at the First United Methodist Church of Clermont. The family will receive friends starting at 1pm at the church.

May he Rest In Peace!

Pleasant Places

Today my heart is once again clinging to God and His Word for strength, help and comfort.

Elias, our 22 month old grandson, is a fighter. He has been since he was born.

  • Born at 24 weeks and 5 days, after his water world broke at 22 weeks
  • He was in the NICU for 116 days
  • He was born with CMV which led to microcephaly and cerebral palsy
  • He exudes more joy than most of us on our best days
  • He is a miracle whom God rescued

Now another challenge has confronted him. He has cancer—rhabdomyosarcoma—behind his left eye to be specific. Of the two strands, his is the one less threatening, but still serious. He had a biopsy of his protruding left eye revealing a 1” tumor intertwined with nerves and blood vessels—inoperable. The pressure in his eye threatens glaucoma.

God rescued him yet again. Heather happened to read the story of a little boy who’s eye started bulging. It turned out he had this same cancer hiding behind the eye. After reading it, Heather thought Elias’ eye looked a little bulged. Her doctors all said to watch it and see if it changed. Most likely it was just swollen with allergens.

Had she not read this story we may not have noticed the threat as quickly. She has tried to go and find this article to no avail. Could it be God was leading her in a miraculous way?

Elias will have to do many more hard things to fight this beast. One happened yesterday when they inserted an NG tube through his right nostril. To say he didn’t like it would be an understatement! I am grateful I wasn’t there to experience his protest. Nana has limits. The good part of this, Elias will get all the nutrition he needs to gain some weight before chemo begins. It is also giving Heather the first break from around the clock feeds since he was born.

What’s next? Tomorrow he will have a bone marrow biopsy as well as a spinal to see if there are any cancer cells hiding there. He will also have a PET scan.

A two week hospital stay is likely this time. And once again we wait.

But God! He is not absent or indifferent. While I can’t say why He allows these things to happen. I can say that He has rescued little Elias for a reason. His joy is infectious, ask anyone who has followed his story—and there are many! He has shown us all how to keep going making the most of each day.

I love this little guy so much.

The Lord impressed Psalm 16:5-6 on me yesterday at church:

“The Lord is my chosen portion and my cup; you hold my lot. The lines have fallen for me in pleasant places; indeed, I have a beautiful inheritance.”
‭‭- Psalm‬ ‭16:5-6‬ ‭ESV‬‬

My circumstances are not the boundary lines around me. If they were it would be hard to agree with David that my lines are pleasant places. No. God has also said in His Word that He goes before me and behind me. HE is the lines that surround me giving me boundaries of His grace. I can rest knowing He’s my Shepherd no matter what threatens.

Indeed, the lines have fallen in Pleasant Places!

If you would like to help, our oldest daughter set up a Go Fund Me campaign to provide for their many needs in the months to come.

https://www.gofundme.com/f/elias-angel-fight-cancer

Yesterday, Long Awaited

Yesterday finally happened. We’ve waited for over two years to honor her the way she deserved.

Julienne L. Walter born 6/30/39, died 3/20/20.

Right at the start of the pandemic she breathed her last in this life. We were sad at the distance (CA) and our inability to gather as a family to celebrate her life.

Grandma Jill, as our kids called her, loved life and laughter. She loved to shop and find little gifts to bless those she loved. She loved being a Mom and a Grandma, and she did them all well. We lovingly called her our “Bonus Mom” because she added so much joy to our lives.

I’d be remiss to not mention her dog, Genna. She was her pride and joy. She also loved good music—Andrea Bocelli and Sara Brightman were two of her absolute favorites.

We moved Tom’s Dad, her loving and devoted husband of 40+ years, to FL 6 months after she died. But it wasn’t until yesterday, the week of her 83rd birthday that we finally had our moment as a family to gather.

A long-time family friend and retired Bishop, Lou Campese, led the service under the pavilion at Florida National Cemetery in Bushnell. If you’ve never been there, it is a version of Arlington in Washington DC. Only approved veterans are honored there in memoriam, and since Tom’s Dad is retired from the US Army Reserves, he and his wife were accepted to be buried there.

A side note, when they were living in CA, Dad was honored to be accepted with burial privileges at Miramar National Cemetery in San Diego. This is where the original Top Gun movie was filmed.

It took some time to get approved to move his burial privileges from California to Florida. But as soon as he was approved, the plans for yesterday we’re made.

What an honor bestowed on all who have served our country heroically. You can feel the hushed reverence as you drive through the cemetery, passing row upon row of marble grave markers standing at attention to honor the ground where these heroic men and women lay.

Jill, we are happy you are at rest. We love you and thank God for the blessing you were to all of us. May you be remembered in the hearts of all who knew you and loved you. Until we meet again…

Dolphins

We are blessed to have a week at the beach. It’s been a long time since we’ve had this kind of down time together. Time to think. Time to reflect. Time to remember.

Whenever I come to the beach I’m reminded of a story I heard as a teenager back in the 70’s.

My friends and I had fallen in love with Jesus. We would often drive the 45 minutes to the beach in my little yellow VW bug, Sunny. He may not have had air conditioning, but I had installed a great stereo with huge speakers. I added long enough wire so I could set them on top of Sunny while we laid on blankets soaking in the sunshine. What a memory.

Barry McGuire had recently come to love Jesus too. He shares a simple story about dolphins, and today I want to share it with you. Take some time and listen.

Then follow this by listening to the song, Callin Me Home. The video photos are captivating and the lyrics beautiful. Happy Monday

One Chapter

Books are divided into chapters much like life. We go through each one not knowing how it will play out. And how one chapter ends will determine if we want to continue turning the page.

When I wrote my book, Through The Eyes Of Grace, about the life of my maternal grandmother, my sister told me she had stopped reading. When I asked why, she said she couldn’t get past one chapter that was such a horrible part of her story. I told her she needed to keep going because this was the worst part of the story. Grace didn’t stay in this hard place, but God led her through the valley to green pastures.

The point is to keep going!

I am on a similar path. I’ve made it through a really dark valley the past three years:

  • We have a granddaughter who faced the fight for her life and sanity with PANDAS
  • Our grandson was born a micro-preemie with several mental and physical challenges due to CMV
  • We lost two parents
  • We lost my brother to COVID
  • A pandemic shut the world down for a season
  • We closed two estates and sold three homes
  • We moved three family members – two across state lines, one across town

And we’re not finished yet. I realized today that these are all chapters of the story God is writing of my life. I can choose to engage with it or withdraw. To be honest there are days when all I want is for life to go as planned, as I’ve planned. But this isn’t reality. Life is made up of ups and downs and they’re not for nothing. They have a purpose if I’m willing to do the hard work to find out–to turn the page.

Ann Voskamp’s new book is titled, Waymaker. It is a timely read for me as I’m finding connections all through her story to mine. One in particular is what she calls living SACRED lives. It’s an acrostic for

Stillness – to know God

Attentiveness – to hear God

Cruciformity – to surrender to God

Revelation – to see God

Examine – to return to God

Doxology – to thank God

Ah, just typing out this sacred process fills my heart with an expectancy. Like getting to the end of one chapter and diving right in to the next because you can’t wait to see what happens. I am realizing that God is leading me through the valley to green pastures, but He wants me to learn the lessons of the valley. This comes by spending SACRED time with Him.

I have one chapter left in Waymaker, and I’m hesitant for it to end. I have cried through page after page when her pain mirrored mine. I have anticipated the Word becoming real to her in her time of need. I have been thrilled as she connected the dots of God’s faithfulness to her in her darkest times. And I have nodded in agreement with the lessons she learned acknowledging it was all worth it .

We are all growing into the person God made us to be. But we can’t get stuck in one chapter–whether we love the chapter and don’t want it to end, or it’s a horrible chapter and we want to quit because we are weary and afraid of what will happen next. No. Read on, press on.

“But one thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and straining forward to what lies ahead, I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus.” – Philippians 3:13 – 14 ESV

Tweet this: Looking back keeps us from moving forward.

Sweet Fragrance of Unity

A pleasant warmth brushes my face as I inhale the morning air.

IT WHISPERS,

“Winter has at last fallen asleep”, tucked beneath the black dirt of the garden bed.

“Tread lightly,” it cautions.

Hope, peeking through the soil as a timid flower, is unsure of the climate.

Thunder clouds gather like opposing views bringing with it…

…winds of threat and cloudy accusations.

…Meant to harm, yet providing something needed…

RAIN

As the

words

fall

from

the

sky

of lofty

opinions,

some run off rejected

a torrential flood of judgment.

Other words

                        S

                        I

                       N

                       K

                       deep, bringing with it gentle correction.

The solar sentinel ever present though not seen, 

sends out rays of help

chasing the clouds of accusations away

like a faithful friend.

SUNSHINE

A second look and hope has emerged safe and at attention

in response to the steady cadence call of the sentinel in the Sky.

Gone are the threats.

Spring at last.

The garden has learned to embrace only words which nourish the soil and the soul,

thus filling the air with a sweet fragrance of 

UNITY.

Interviews

I’ve had two recent interviews that I need to share with you. They were both significant moments where time seemed to stand still as I listened to myself answer questions from across the screen or room. Stories of the last three years and God’s faithfulness in each step.

The first interview was with my husband. A friend who hosts a podcast, Counseling Over Coffee, asked if we would be willing to share what it’s been like to have a grandchild with special needs. I like what her daughter, who has two boys on the spectrum called him, not disabled, but different-abled. Elias has continued to surpass expectations. We had so much to share our interview quickly became a two-episodes. You can hear the first interview here.

The second interview was unexpected and one of those “connect-the-dots of God’s faithfulness to me” moments.

Norah is our second oldest grand-daughter. She will be 15 next month which in itself is huge! Almost three years ago she battled a wicked disease called PANDAS. It is a miracle she has survived these past three years. Most of you are aware of this part of her life. If not, you can read it here.

She was given an 8th grade assignment to interview a grandparent. She came up with all the questions and asked them to me over Facetime. We got off to a good start…

“What year we’re you born?” 1959.

“Where were you born?” Orlando.

“How do you come to know Jesus?” This is when time seemed to slow to a crawl.

I realized Norah was asking me all the questions I regretted never asking my own grandmother. She died when I was 19. I was her youngest so she was 90 and had lived a full life. I just didn’t hear the answers to these questions until she had died.

I regretted my missed opportunity. How I wished time had slowed in that season of my life to ask such questions.

“How did you and Papa meet?“ We met at a Jesus Festival held here in Orlando.

“Have you ever seen God do a miracle?” Yes! I’m talking to her now!

Just this exchange was a moment—me sharing with her the miracle we both saw from two different perspectives.

“What gifts has God given you?” In 1989 God impressed on me that He had given me a gift of writing. He said He wanted me to keep a journal. And I’m still writing to this day—I am currently on my 78th journal.”

“You have 78 journals?” I do. I realized that writer’s write and God wanted me to learn how to write by writing. She smiled.

Through all my years of journaling I learned how to write, and this allowed me to finally write my grandmother’s story in my book titled, Through The Eyes Of Grace. It took me 12 years, and my Mom was the first to read it. To say it was my life-long dream would be an understatement. I have recorded with words the story I never took the time to discover when she was alive. But God helped me uncover it one question at a time.

What questions come to mind when you consider the story of your life? Do your children know the answers? Do your grandchildren? I encourage you to write them down so when they finally think to ask, the answers will be available for them to discover.

Hands

Hands are a vital part of our bodies, Most of us have two with one being dominant. We don’t realize how vital they are until we can’t use one or both. My friend Bonnie has been recovering from a severe injury making one hand unusable for the last few weeks. She’s in a real pickle. (Pun intended to make her smile).

Our hands are used to grab things, sort things, signal others as they come or go. But this week our hands are doing something I’ve grown accustomed to, but don’t like.

Our hands are letting go.

Our cabin in Banner Elk, NC, will soon belong to someone else. We know this is God’s leading and our hearts are at peace. But the actual moment of locking the door and driving away will be fraught with tears.

Letting go is an act of faith. It’s believing that there is something new to embrace that we can’t yet see. Our hands must be open to receive in the same way they must be open to give.

Have you also had to let go of something you enjoyed? Even when you didn’t know why?

This is where our faith is evident, because it’s based on that which we can’t see. We prove our trust in God knowing that He sees the beginning from the end. He knows all the days marked out for us. Time is in His hands alone.

So as we drive away tomorrow and wave goodbye, we will keep our hands opened to embrace what’s next.