A Beginning, Not An End

Today is the final day of The Ultimate Blog Challenge to post every day in November. I have succeeded in what I set out to do.

But God! He succeeded in giving me a fresh vision for the purpose of this blog.

Originally it was simply a place to share bits and pieces from my book, Through The Eyes of Grace, (now available in hardcover) as well as background stories. I realize how limiting this has been to me.

Instead, I now see that this blog is mine to use for my enjoyment; writing whatever is on my mind for the good and hopefully encouragement of all who read it. But even if no one reads, I will still be full of happy to have this outlet of creativity and joy.

You all have been a part of this discovery. Thank you for reading, for commenting and for encouraging me in countless ways.

It took me a long time to call myself a writer. But I realize the old adage is true—Writers write! This is what God has given me to do in this life. I will listen to His prompts and follow His lead in writing from this foundation.

I write because I enjoy it, I always have—since I was a young girl writing silly poems that expressed my heart at the time.

I write because it helps me process life with all its good and enjoyable times as well as the hard and difficult times.

I write because it connects me to others who write well and inspire me in my craft. it is an art worth pursuing well.

I write to hopefully do the same in inspiring others. Either in their writing, in their faith, in their parenting, marriage or dreams.

To celebrate this, I am changing the name of my blog…

Write From the heart

Writing from my heart is what I’ve always done. Now my blog lines up with my mission. Thank you all for your part in this challenge and in this change. I invite you to join me as I discover more in this new season of writing.

I have been blessed to meet so many of you.

Completed November 2021

A Letter To My Teenage Self

Today’s prompt is to answer this question: What would you say to your teenage self based on what you know today?

When I was a teen I thought I knew a lot about life and how it worked. But I didn’t know what I didn’t know.

I would say to myself—take it easy and enjoy the process. You don’t have to have all the answers. You don’t have to be everything to everyone. You don’t even have to be in control. You never will be anyway!

I would say—God is leading every step you take, even when His footprints are unseen. What you can’t see you don’t know, but that doesn’t mean He’s not there.

I would say—take time and talk to your grandmother. When she gave you her ring when you were 16, pause and ask her the story behind why she was doing this. You won’t have much longer with her, and you will regret not knowing what you don’t know.

I would say—laugh more at yourself and stop taking what everyone thinks of you so seriously. What really matters is what God says about you. Focus on Him and all the other stuff will dim in comparison.

Relax.

Embrace every high and low of the road ahead. These are the lessons that will carry you to maturity.

Read your Bible everyday. Not because you have to but because you don’t know what you don’t know. This is the place to begin discovering those answers.

Be grateful, humble and kind. Everyone has a story. And friendship is the key to unlocking them. It begins with a smile and asking good questions. It takes being a good friend to have good friends. You never know what you don’t know until you ask.

This is my 29th post in The Ultimate Bog Challenge to post everyday in November.

A Personal Breakthrough

Today I had a personal breakthrough.

Normally when it’s time to leave any of my grandchildren I am an emotional mess. My sadness would cling to me for weeks. My poor husband learned to let me grieve the what could have beens and trust God to speak to me words of comfort. Everything in him wanted to help me, but he couldn’t. The waves of grief surrounding my broken heart were too big for human rescue. I needed God.

Today He broke through! As we huddled together with our daughter, son-in-love and four precious grandkiddos, in what our family calls “the group hug”, an amazing thing happened; there was only laughter—no tears.

But God.

Maybe it’s because we know the separation is only temporary. Lord willing, we will make more memories. But even if we don’t due to some unforeseen circumstance, this thing I know, we will have no regrets. We have shared our love and made memories that will last long after we are gone.

Maybe it’s because of the trauma our family has faced, making these goodbyes seem like gifts, not punishments.

And maybe, just maybe it’s because God is maturing me to trust Him with the things that are precious to me. I no longer hold tightly to those I love, but I hold tighter to God who holds them faithfully better than I ever could.

I remember getting on my knees one morning and desperately asking God to help me let go of my last child who was moving to Arkansas to start her new life as a Mrs…

“Dear God,

I humbly bow my knee in surrender to Your Lordship in my life. And I choose to worship You with joy, trusting in Your faithfulness to me and to them.

In Jesus’ name,

Amen

It didn’t happen over night. I have prayed this prayer countless times in desperate moments. Times when the rising tide of my emotions attempted to take me out to sea.

But God.

He has been and will always be the anchor of my soul. I experienced a calm today as I walked out of my daughter’s front door. I expected stormy seas and instead found beautiful trade winds.

But God!

This is my 28th 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.

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.

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.

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?

I Hate Pandas

Please share

Now before you click away, let me explain. I am an animal lover and panda bears are the cutest. I was even able to visit the National Zoo in Washington D.C. as a kid to see the two pandas China loaned to us in the 70’s.

So why do I hate PANDAS? It is an acronym for what our 12 year old granddaughter came down with in the summer of 2019. It stands for Pediatric Autoimmune Neuropsychiatric Disorder Associated with Strep. That is a mouthful for the most horrific time in our family’s life.

When we were given the prompt to talk about an adversity we had endured, I knew what I would write about. I’m just not sure I can tell the whole story–partly because this is my granddaughter’s story. It’s her’s to tell when she is ready and old enough to process it all. And partly because it’s hard to go there. So for the sake of getting the word out about this disorder and to help other’s who may be facing it and not know it yet, I will share my Nana’s heart on the matter.

I got a phone from my daughter telling me how concerned she was about her oldest daughter. She told me she woke up one morning paranoid, crying, in severe pain and unable to get herself dressed for school.

You must know a little background: she is a driven young lady, makes good grades, plays volleyball and loves the independence she is gaining as a pre-teen. But suddenly she reverted back to a 6 year old. She couldn’t write in cursive. She no longer remembered her multiplication tables and she stopped eating and drinking. She had an unfounded fear of water, so she wouldn’t wash her hair, brush her teeth or drink it unless forced.

In a few short weeks she was unrecognizable and we were all afraid.

Our daughter and her husband were frantically seeking the medical community’s advice through multiple ER visits and pediatrician appointments. But she was declining so rapidly it became impossible to get her to leave the house. She lost 14 pounds in just a few weeks time because she wouldn’t eat. She was fading from us. But God.

Finally while searching for answers, they found a 20/20 special on ABC that featured a story about this strange psychotic response children were having after having strep throat. Our granddaughter had just recovered from a strep infection a couple of weeks before this began. They were drawn to finish watching to find out more, and it was hard to do. The way this disorder effects different children is like having a front row seat to a horror movie, but the characters are children you love.

This show was the answer they needed that led them to a pediatric neurologist in Washington D.C. (ironic given my first paragraph). Miraculously they were accepted by the doctor and she cleared her schedule to see our granddaughter. She said that our granddaughter was one of the worst cases she had ever seen, but since they got her to treatment quickly she was confident she would recover. She also added, but it might take two years.

The most frightening part of all this was not being able to rely on the medical community for the help she needed. Several times the emergency room doctors wanted to admit her to the psychiatric ward. They even questioned our daughter and son-in-law’s quality of care. It was hard to know who to trust. Unfortunately, many still haven’t heard of PANDAS, and insurance doesn’t cover the expenses either. It was difficult on so many levels. This is why I tell my part of the story as often as I can and to whoever will listen.

It has now been two years and our granddaughter is fully recovered, like her doctor said. It took time, treatments and lots of donations given by friends and family to see her through. But God! He orchestrated every detail and every step. He carried us through this dark valley of the shadow of death and rescued her from the grip of PANDAS.

For more information on PANDAS please visit the Pandas Network website. And if you know of any children who suffer with strep on a recurring basis, make sure they get retested after their initial round of antibiotics to make sure it is gone. I hate PANDAS and will do anything I can to get the word out. Please share this post if you feel so led. This Nana is grateful our precious granddaughter has recovered. Not all children do; their nightmare continues…

This is my 16th post in The Ultimate Blog Challenge to post everyday in November.

Photo by Fabian Centeno on Unsplash

Misunderstood

Our blogging prompt was to share a song lyric that means something to me.

There are too many to even begin to share, so I decided on a twist. I’m sharing the song lyrics I misunderstood as a kid and only recently discovered the correct words. I must admit this is embarrassing, but it’s understandable. I was attached to my record player as a pre-teen. I listened faithfully to Casey Kasem’s Top 40 list every Saturday. Once I heard the #1 song for that week I would get on my bike and ride it to the Five and Dime store (T.G. & Y.) to buy the 45 rpm before it sold out.

Music was my companion and my 10 year old friend’s companion too.

I remember us turning around in circles to the EP version of In-A-Gadda-Da-Vida by Iron Butterfly. Why? Because we were kids and we had nothing better to do. I had a crush on Davy Jones of The Monkees and loved his British accent. My BFF loved Mike Nesmith and his beanie hat. Life was simple for us.

You have to realize we didn’t have Google in the 70’s. If we misunderstood a song lyric, the only way to find out the correct words was to buy the album where the lyrics were printed on the paper sleeve inside the cover. I didn’t have that kind of money, so I improvised, often at the top of my lungs I’m afraid to admit.

I gave my older brother, (who was a huge tease and my biggest nemesis), lots of material to mock me. And mock he did! I can laugh about it now, but as a ten year old I was humiliated more times that I can count.

Songs with lyrics I misunderstood:

  • “Hold me close I’m tired of dancin…” by Elton John is actually titled, Tiny Dancer, and was released in 1971. The line really says, “Hold me close, tiny dancer.”
  • “Blinded by the light. Wrapped up like a douche…” by Bruce Springsteen originally, but this version of Blinded By The Light was recorded by Manfred Mann in 1976. The line actually says, “…revved up like a deuce…” A deuce coupe more specifically. A fancy way to describe a sports car.
  • “I’ll light the fire. You place the flowers in the bras that you bought today.” by Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young. Our House was released in 1970. The song has nothing to do with putting flowers in a bra. Haha! As a pre-teen I had never heard the word vase pronounced with an “ahh” sound. The song makes more sense as written, “I’ll light the fire. You place the flowers in the vase that you bought today.” And finally one more…
  • “Had a F-___ing nightmare, and a little thunder.” I almost didn’t share this one, but this will probably garner the most laughter from you. I know it would have from my brother. Yeah, I really thought that’s what this line said from Steppenwolf’s, Born To Be Wild released in 1968. I have never been one to cuss, so I would always skip this line. I could never understand how the radio station back then was allowed to broadcast such language. It never occurred to me I might have misunderstood the lyrics. The song actually says, “I like smoke and lighting, heavy metal thunder, Racing with the wind, And the feeling that I’m under.” How in the world I came up with those lyrics instead I’ll never know. But I’m grateful to be able to sing the entire song now if I so choose. And with a clear conscience.

I’m curious. Did you ever misunderstand the lyrics to a song? I’d love to hear your embarrassing story–I promise not to mock you. But I might laugh. We can all use some laughter these days.

Speaking of laughter, check out this video I found on You Tube from The Holderness Family. Apparently I’m not the only one who has done this. These are hilarious!

This is post #13 in The Ultimate Blog Challenge to post everyday in November.

Photo by Eric Krull on Unsplash