Sunday, September 24, 2017

A New Life

This past week I lost a beautiful friend. This woman knew the true meaning of kindness, gentleness, selflessness and love. She stood for what is good and right. She had a heart for God and her fellow man. I never saw her angry. I never heard an unkind word come out of her mouth. All I heard were positive statements, encouragement and prayers. I once was the recipient of one of the strongest prayers anyone ever prayed for me or a family member from her.

One morning, as we got together to discuss our writing projects, my friend asked if we could pray out loud together before we chatted. She asked if I had anything specific on my heart. When I shared a recent hurt with her, not only did we pray about it together, but she made a point to pray as if the situation was already resolved. She thanked God for taking care of it. She spoke confidently and boldly in one of the most powerful prayers I'd ever heard.

This woman also had a generous spirit. As an author, I know only too well how difficult it is to make a small profit from writing. When we purchase our own books for events, they are costly, and we try to perhaps make a few dollars with each sale. The book she'd written was centered around women who wanted to change their lives. Each of them had issues, a group of friends who met and encouraged one another. It was a wonderful story, and lives were changed by it. My friend would attend author events and announce at the end of her talk that if anyone wasn't able to afford her book, she would gladly give them one for free. She was like that. Nothing mattered except to be a blessing.

I want that legacy. I want someone to write words about me that I lived for others. Oh, I know I have had a good heart for people from time to time. But I find myself annoyed when called upon to go above and beyond lately. I think things out, and decide on the easier option--the more comfortable one. But what if I made a huge change? What if when I went to work, I looked for more to do instead of less? If I searched out things in the office to make my co-workers lives easier. What if I made that phone call to someone lonely instead of putting it off because I didn't have enough time to myself after a busy day? What if I listened to the still, small prompting that God places on my heart every so often to go out of my way for someone else?

This morning was one example. I've been praying since my friend's death for God to use me each day. I've been praying for the desire to be a blessing to others. I got up for church, hubby had to work, so I knew I'd be going alone. But I like my alone time. The drive is quiet and pleasant. It's time for me to reflect and talk to God from my heart. And sitting by myself in church feels wonderful, because I can speak quietly to the Lord without distraction. Today was different. I learned a valuable lesson: never ask God about being a blessing to others if you aren't prepared for an immediate answer. I thought about a friend up the road who had just undergone knee surgery about a month-and-a-half ago. I knew she hadn't been back to church recently. It bothered me all morning about texting her, asking if she'd like for me to pick her up and go with me. So I listened to the voice in my heart and phoned her. She was ecstatic. She emphatically said "yes," and the extra twenty minutes or so it took out of my private little morning was well worth it.

We had great conversation. She smiled and thanked me several times. She told me I'd made her day. Yes, that was much better than my selfish little cocoon that I sometimes weave myself into. It's not easy to give up parts of who we are. Especially when moments are so limited when we work full time, or are a caregiver or wife and mother. My time is precious, for it is time to write--painting pictures with my words, inventing fictional towns and characters to inspire others. But what good am I if I don't live that sort of life--the true reaching out to others type of living that goes the extra step, leaves the zone of comfort and becomes a light to make someone else's world a little brighter?

By the way, the prayer my dear friend prayed so strongly for me that day so long ago did get answered in a major, powerful way. It wasn't overnight, but it was in God's timing; a perfect timing no less.

Here's to you, Michele, dear friend, beautiful lady, big heart, and kindhearted person. You made my world a better place. You left a legacy of such a good, good life behind. May I begin to follow in the footprints you indelibly left behind to make such a mark in the world.

Monday, September 11, 2017


We sat riveted to the television set yesterday and Facebook yesterday for Hurricane Irma updates. My husband's son, Michael, had decided to stay and ride it out with his beloved dog Ella. Though he encouraged his wife and little daughters to flee to safety, he left us with concerns and anxiety over his outcome.

Standing in church yesterday listening to the words of the songs, powerful Holy Spirit-filled lyrics brought comfort and a deep centered peace to my innermost being. It was in that moment with arms raised to my God that I gave Him my all. Trust, honor, worship, adoration. In the middle of the storm, literally and figuratively, I knew His desire was for good and He would see Michael through as well as so many others we'd been praying for.

It may seem too easy to some--this complete letting go. A trust that you have deep inside your soul that God's plans are for you and not against you. I've seen it many times, you see in my life. Too many times to deny that His mighty Hand was at work and that prayer was heard.

As a young child, my mother had severe depression and anxiety issues. It wreaked such havoc on her health that she was hospitalized many times. Though I didn't completely understand, the innocent child that I was, believed. I never envisioned life without Mom. When things looked their bleakest, when family members doubted that she might return home, I always felt a sense of everything working out. I may not have prayed as I do now, but a quiet trust became such a big part of me.

When a few years later, Mom was well, our family knew that a miracle had occurred and our lives would be better for it. Never again did I see my mother go down the path of fear or darkness. My father was a praying man too, you see. And his father, my Nonno, another who prayed.

I would learn through the years to ask God for situations that would arise, if I should continue on a certain path, or let go. When I would strike off on my own, confusion set in. But if I remained steadfast in prayer, an answer always presented itself. Maybe not the one I wanted, but in time, I would see how the outcome was for my good.

There was prayer during my year-long battle with scoliosis. Prayer for my brother, a change-of-life baby that Mom was told to terminate due to health issues.

A difficult time for my son in his late teens almost got the best of me. Fear and worry began to engulf me, threatening all that was good. The prayers of so many would carry us through this battle, and nothing harmed us.

I prayed in my forties about a man I met. I would have to move away from the town, friends, and family I loved. God's signposts pointed the way: Go. But I never knew that there was a reason even deeper than love that would bring Jim and I together.

Jim grew up with drinking as a normal every day occurrence. I hadn't been around this sort of behavior before. I didn't understand his issues with binge drinking, or the need for alcohol every day of a person's life. But I would see him begin to change during these times. With my heart breaking, I wondered if I had done right by marrying this man. I loved him, yes, but it all became too much. He changed when he drank. And I wasn't sure I would be able to withstand all that the drinking brought on.

I began in earnest to pray. Not the usual, "Lord please bless Jim, amen" type of prayers. I'm talking about honest to goodness out loud prayer. Bringing all my fears, anxiety and concern before God. I knelt with my face in my carpet with tears streaming down at times. I rebuked Satan out loud and cast him away from my husband. Yet year after year, the behavior continued. Wouldn't God answer this prayer? Would He ever show me the way?

I'm happy to report that this December will be two years that my husband is sober. Without getting into the details of how he quit, I know that it was my Lord and Savior. For even Jim had been praying too. And the powerful prayers defeated the enemy--the bottle--and the hold it had on my husband. He often says that I helped save him. I like to believe we were put together for this reason and many others.

Years ago, I remember meeting an older gentleman in the dental office I worked in at the time. He spoke freely with me about God. He told me the way to God's heart and listening ear were to ask Him. I keep a prayer journal and occasionally I look back on what that man said to me, and all the prayers that were heard through the years. The Bible says: Ask and you shall receive.

Life has not been easy or perfect. I've had many defeats and battles that were lost sometimes due to my own making, and other times, they just happened. I lost both parents within nine months of one another recently. But my prayers were different then. I was able to truly ask what was best for them. With my heart shattering, I knew it was time to let them go. My prayers changed and became some of the hardest ones to pray.

Yes, I've learned to ask. I've learned to listen. I've learned that it's not always best for me to have everything I've ever wanted. This life is meant to live and we are not meant to be perfect. That, my friends, is for our Heavenly Father. For He is perfect. Just ask.

Tuesday, September 5, 2017

Finding Myself

Daughter. Caregiver. Right now, I am neither of those. I can't seem to find who I am, this new person that feels isolated and alone. I miss my parents so much. They were a huge part of my life and their passing has left an awful hole in my heart. How many days and nights were filled with sadness in this last year? I cried watching my parents aging and heading toward their final days. I cried because the task at hand was so difficult. I cried when I had to let go.

I made the decision almost twelve years ago to move about an hour away from my parents. Still able to see them once a week, and always ready to go to their side when an emergency would arise, I was fortunate it wasn't farther. But in the last year, weariness would take its toll. The trips back and forth almost every few days weren't easy, but I wanted to be there with them during each of their health trials. I was so very blessed that my brother lived close. He had chosen to stay at their house every night also, giving up comfortable bed and privacy to be there for them in case of emergencies or need. He became their strength when they became weak. Yet we both had days where we felt we couldn't take another moment.

We've talked about it recently, my brother and I. There's a twinge of guilt when we admitted that it's been almost a relief not to have that constant low grade panic in our stomachs at all times. There's guilt associated with harsh words spoken when we felt we couldn't give another bit of ourselves. There's reliving their last days, the things that were said, memories we wanted to hold tightly onto. There's laughter and tears, joy and fears, emotions so raw they almost bleed.

There hadn't been much time for friends or fun. Many times I had to say "no" when asked for a get-together because I knew my parents' time on this earth was waning, and I wanted to spend every precious moment with them. My brother and I gave up so much, but gained still more. We gained the knowledge that unconditional love and care may be the most difficult thing to go through, but when you open your heart wide to give, to let go of yourself completely, you become so full of love and appreciation that you want the world to know. No longer do you care about petty things; gaining a few pounds, getting another year older. Silly arguments with co-workers or friends become something to giggle about as they lose their grip on you. Foolishness that once gave you pause and caused many a sleepless night, falls by the wayside. True beauty shines in these moments. And it isn't in the form you are used to. Grey hair, bent bodies, gnarled hands and wrinkles become glorious. Each facet of your elderly loved one is just one more thing to love and appreciate. They are God's masterpiece.

Stories become precious as they are told. Little nuances and habits become memorized for posterity. All the things you hold dear, remain with you forever to become your own story to the next generation.

So, who am I? I am first God's child, beloved and special in His sight. I may not be a caregiver right now. I may have to seek new adventures to fill the lonely void left by the loss of my parents. I've lost a little of myself surely, but I will find her, that woman God is molding me into. And when I meet her, I bet she sounds a little bit like my mother. For certainly that is what we really take from our loved ones--parts of them that will remain with us forever.