Held in Tight

When my husband and I were first married he drove a small transportation bus. He really liked his job. He came home with all sorts of stories-most of which involved how tenacious people are. He brought people to work each day-people who could have easily decided that things were just too hard. He enjoyed his riders company.

My favorite story, once while parked and waiting for his next scheduled pick-up a group of clowns got on his bus. Yes—clowns, red rubber noses, floppy shoes, full clown make-up in either sad or happy faces, all of it. This group of developmentally delayed young adults were not on his schedule. While doing his best to explain that he wasn’t the driver they had been waiting for, and that he was sure another was on the way, one tearful young lady refused to get off. That’s all it took. Moments later he had a clown revolt on his hands. He had to call dispatch and explain that he had clowns on his bus, some angry, some sad, some who were painted happy but had now become sad, and nobody was getting off, and what was he supposed to do now? Not my point at all-but how do I keep the clown revolt story to myself?

Some things stay with me, with more profound reason.

He had just as many riders whose challenges were not developmental, but physical. He came home one evening haunted by an exchange he had earlier in the day. After strapping a quadriplegic man’s chair into the bus’s harness system, the man asked him if he had pulled the straps as tight as possible. He asked if he wouldn’t mind doing it once more, pulling each strap as tight as he could. The man looked at him apologetically, explaining that he had been thrown from a vehicle the day he became paralyzed. No ride had ever been the same since and now he needed to know that he was held in tight.

Sometimes we need to know.

DSC_3391My 13 year old daughter spent much of the past school year with her cell phone almost always in hand (sometimes I wish I could chuck that thing-or give it to a group of clowns). Somehow she even worked texting her friends into her already time pressed pre-school morning routine. One morning late Spring she received a text like none she had ever received before. It wasn’t about who was crushing on who, or what she should wear that day. This one was different. One of her friends had tragically woke to find her Mom lying on the floor. Just like that. She hadn’t been ill, she hadn’t hurt herself, she was just gone.

I drove home from work that evening anxious to see my girl and hold her tight. As I drove I thought about how things had shifted for my daughter a bit that day. She’s my oldest child, and here was a moment I couldn’t shield her from. This heartbreak was inside of her circle-not mine. I guess things had shifted for me a bit too.

I walked into the kitchen and put my arms around my girl, tight. With each moment my embrace intensified. I needed her to know she was held in tight. Sometimes we need to know. I closed my eyes and thought about the wheelchair bound man from so many years before.

We chatted about her day. We talked about how fragile life can be. We talked about how her friend’s life would never be quite the same again. We talked about the ways in which she could be a good friend. We talked about prayer.

This will likely stay with me too.

Lapel Roses

Sometimes my senses are crazy technicolor dream-like sharp. I can also sleep walk through the most important moments, but sometimes I’m all in.

It was a fresh morning late this spring-the rush to get my kids out the door had just passed. I sat with my first cup of coffee in hand. (Complete with essential non-dairy flavored creamer-Lord help me, what is in that stuff anyway?) I looked around at all that begged for my attention. Balancing work and family, some weeks I faired better than this. This one was ugly.

I sat contemplating if my Friday morning Yoga class was a good idea. Wavering, I looked down at our ten pound oatmeal colored pup for guidance. “What do you think Tucky, do I go do the Yoga thing -or do I deal with one of these piles?”

11026054_10205422161860959_4263521531158385620_nHe thought it best that I go. I love that dog. After a ten minute drive to a nearby church that hosts my class, I found that the parking lot had three times the regular number of cars. Parked on the circular drive was a hearse. Behind the hearse cars lined up with those little magnetic flags attached to the hoods-the ones that say “I’ve lost someone-please move out of my way”.

I parked and watched for a moment. Funeral attendees slowly made their way to the building. Fellow yogis walked in slowly too. I moved towards the door wishing there was a service entrance or something. Freshly planted flowers lined the church’s sidewalk-bright pinks and reds nestled in black moist dirt. Just before I reached the doors I looked down at my clothes. I mirrored the level of disorder I had waiting for me at home. I wore Yoga layers in the most awful way, a hot pink tank with an orange t-shirt over the top. I paired my four year old look with gray, used to be black yoga pants. I was grateful that my mismatched socks were my secret-but oye my hair was no ones secret.

I walked through the doors and directly into a reception area. With my purple mat in hand I scan the room wondering how I might inconspicuously cross and make my way to class. I caught the eye of my teacher who was both trying to be a wall flower and guide her students into an alternate classroom. I crossed the room filled with mourners and linen covered tables. My eye caught an open shallow box upon one of the tables, boutonnieres laid inside, each a dark red rose.

Thankful to be out of the funeral attendees sight, I made my way to the second floor. Squeezed into a small space, we started our practice. Even so, my mind stayed on the first floor. I thought about whom they celebrated, whose life they reflected upon from the pews below us. Air moved easily in and out of my lungs. I paused, recognizing the gift in something so effortless-my breath.

file000527022049I thought about the newly planted flowers lining the walkway and the freshly cut flowers pinned upon dark suit lapels in the sanctuary. Soft new-age music filled our room, yet my ears were drawn to the muffled sound of “When The Saints Go Marching In” escaping from the sanctuary.

Some time of quiet followed the old hymns before laughter erupted spilling far beyond the sanctuary doors. The sound of a life with rich moments. It made us smile at one another.

Leaving I tried to sneak through the crowd the way I had going in. Tall easels with dozens of pictures displayed on heavy poster boards now lined my exit. Upon them were snap shots in color of aging grandparents surrounded by family. There were photos in black and white, photos in sepia, and ones with hand-painted touches, pastels painted upon lips and cheeks.

I drove home with my windows down and my sunroof wide open. With fresh air blowing wildly through the car’s cabin contentment washed over me. I was grateful for my unorganized, chaotic, beautiful life. I was grateful for that morning, for my smart dog, for the chance to listen in to the celebration of someones seemingly rich life, for freshly planted flowers, and for freshly cut lapel ones too.

More technicolor mornings like this please. Thank you Jesus.

Tucky it seemed hadn’t done anything with my piles-there they remained upon my return.

Humility, Headstones, and Headless Corpses

(Originally posted for Easter’s Blog in May of 2015)

Parenthood is crazy hard sometimes. In part because children hold your heart hostage in the most beautiful and frightening ways. Being asked the really difficult questions by people who call you Mommy, that’s when things feel especially slippery. I do my best, but honestly sometimes I wonder who is teaching whom.

In Matthew 18 the disciples came to Jesus and asked “Who is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven?”. In verse 4, with a child upon His lap, Jesus answered by saying, “So anyone who becomes as humble as this little child is the greatest in the Kingdom of Heaven.”

Humility. Humility and the greatest in the Kingdom. How do I lead them?

Ever notice the beautiful way a child can simply accept circumstance in spite of adversity?

From my book, Embracing Charlie (circa 2010, Charlie’s question of his “crossed-up” tubes is in reference to his congenital heart defect-Transposition of the Great Arteries)

file0001330232053 Riding in Cars ~ We were out for a drive through the city, my babies and me. The day was sunny and fresh. With the windows down, cool air blew through the Jeep’s cab. A voice from the back interrupted our cruising music: “Sophie, why did my tubes get crossed up? I mean, how did that happen to me?” My finger promptly hit the off button on the radio. Charlie was five, and he preferred to ask the big questions of his big sister first. I suspect he figured he was more likely to get it straight from her. I was on edge. I hoped she would answer him well. He believed her every word. If Sophie said it, then it must be true, because she was eight and she knew lots of stuff.

“Well, buddy, I guess it just happened like that. They must have got crossed up when you were in Mom’s belly,” she said, giving it little thought.

“But why? Why did they get crossed up?” he questioned again.

“I guess that’s just how you were made, Char-Char,” she answered. Moments of silence passed in the back seat, while I held my breath in the front.

“Mommy?” he called out, throwing his little voice to the Jeep’s front. It was a “listen to me” plea, as if I hadn’t been waiting on his every breath. “How come my tubes got crossed up, how come?” he asked.

“I’m not sure, buddy. I don’t really know how that happened. Things like that just happen to babies sometimes,” I said.

“Well, did something like that happen to Sophie when she was a baby? Were her tubes crossed up?” he questioned.

“No, sweet boy,” I softly replied. We drove along in silence, letting our thoughts drop where they may. It wasn’t the first time he’d asked.

“What are all those things?” Charlie said, breaking our silence once more. He was pointing out his open window at the hundreds of stately headstones tightly packed next to one another beyond the white, cast-iron fence of a grand old cemetery.

“That’s where all the dead people are,” Sophie said. See, she did know lots of stuff.

“What? Where are they?” he questioned.

“They’re buried under the ground, and those big crosses and stuff have their names on them,” Sophie said in her “I know stuff” matter-of-fact way. I looked back at him in the rear view mirror. His face was covered in question, eyebrows raised like Come on, there’s no way all those things have dead people under them?! But Sophie had said so. . . . More silence, more processing.

“Mommy, your friend Kelli died because she didn’t wear her seat belt, right?” Charlie said, moving on.

“Well, yes, buddy, that’s right, she died in a car accident,” I answered.
Then, using the Arabic word for “Grandma,” Charlie asked, “Mommy, why did Teta Jacqueline die?” His wheels were really turning now.

“She was old, honey, and sick. Remember, she had a disease that made it hard for her to breathe?”

“So are Kelli and Teta Jacqueline buried over there under the ground?” he asked.

“No, hun, they’re not buried in this cemetery. There are lots of cemeteries all over in different places. People are usually buried near the city they lived in.”

When Charlie learns something of interest, he’ll share it in a rather theatrical way. With the white iron fence disappearing in the distance behind us, he extended his hand toward the cemetery and announced, “You see all those dead people, Sophie? You see them? All of those dead people have their heads chopped off!” I shook my head reflexively, as if to rattle his sentence loose and knock it out. I was certain I must not have heard him correctly.

“What? No, they don’t!” Sophie replied.

“Oh, yes, they do, they totally do! You see, Sophie, when you die, your soul goes to heaven to be with Jesus. But only”—great dramatic pause on only—“your body stays here. So, your head gets, well . . . chopped off.” He said it dramatically, making a cutting motion with his hand across his neck.

Conversations rushed back to me, and now they made perfect sense. Charlie had repeatedly asked me what happens to you after you die, and each time I’d tell him, he’d look at me with the most bewildered expressions. Repeatedly I’d said to him, “Just your body stays here, but the you that makes you you, that place in your heart called your soul, it goes to heaven to be with Jesus.”

And so, we spent the remainder of our sunny drive discussing how you actually don’t get your head chopped off after you die. Hard as I tried, I couldn’t steer the conversation away from headless corpses. I was forced to admit that there was the possibility that somebody buried in that cemetery died because their head was chopped off, and they, in fact, would be buried without their head attached.

Crossed-up tubes, headstones, and headless bodies—you can’t prepare for this; I was just along for the ride.

Jesus, we call on You ~ As we face the crazy hard challenges of this life, may the beautiful humility that each of us carried as a child uncover itself again and bring us peace. Amen.

Little Armenians

(Originally posted for Easter’s Blog in April of 2015)

Who knows what a new day brings. Last Sunday morning I woke up to find images of Pope Francis strung through my Facebook newsfeed. Comments he made during Sunday Mass at St. Peter’s Basilica marking the 100th Anniversary of the Armenian Genocide left the Turkish Foreign Minister turning to Twitter and ambassadors scrambling.

For a brief moment and in an incredibly insignificant and selfish way I thought, Lord Jesus show the world who the Armenian people are, so that I may never, ever, ever have to resort to the Kardashians as a reference when trying to explain my husband’s ethnicity. Just an honest Jesus moment, what can I say.

10985340_10205796771465965_7283016304982171630_nPope Francis called the slaughter of Armenians by Ottoman Turks the first genocide of the 20th century and urged the international community to recognize it as such. Although historians estimate that 1.5 million Armenians were killed by Ottoman Turks around the time of World War I,  the Turkish government has definitely denied that a genocide ever took place. Sadly, for decades now the United States has avoided officially using the word Genocide in regards to the Massacre. Not because it wasn’t indeed Genocide, but because Turkey is an important military ally with an important military base.

As I rattled off the Pope’s eloquent and unapologetic statements to my hubby, my little Armenians, the ones I’m lucky enough to share my life with, were still snuggled into their beds.

I’d affectionately coined them my watered-down Armenians-a sentiment I shared in my own Facebook post that morning. To which my brother-in-law, Pierre, responded warmly that there is no such thing. After some days to ponder, not only do I think he’s right (yes, Pierre, I’m admitting it to the whole world) but I think it might just be the smartest thing he’s ever said.

My kids, 10 and 13, spent the morning watching a documentary about that atrocities of their ancestors. It’s a graphic and upsetting film. I wanted to hide this from them, to shield them from the inherent evil in the world-but that too would be injustice. They watched and my heart was heavy for them.

Before my children were born, in the heartbreaking images of starving survivors I’d see the face of my husband’s grandfather, Dikran.

Raised in a multigenerational home, my husband shared his childhood home with his grandfather. Dikran served in the French Colonial military and was an accomplished tennis champion. Well into his eighties he still had the physique of an athlete. Because he preferred the sympathies given to the frail, his appearance often mirrored unsteadiness. Nonetheless, when he thought he was alone we would find him running and jumping through my mother-in-laws living room. Dikran and I shared the same conversations countless times. In his limited English he would do his best to tell me about his love for tennis. He would also say to me, “I speak English very good… Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, Sunday…” and then he would laugh at himself like it was the first time he said it, and as if he thought that English sounded absurd. I’m told that he had an incredible dry sense of humor, and that in his prime he was the life of every party without ever cracking a smile. Dikran died four years after my husband and I were married. In the last few days of his life whenever he saw my face he wept.

Dikran was born in Armenia in 1913. He was a toddler during the massacres.

Through the resolve and tenacity of his mother, Jameleh, Dikran and his siblings survived genocide. Refusing to deny Christ, her husband was taken in the night, put in shackles, and marched off to slaughter. The sound of shackles scraping along the cobblestone road would haunt her for the rest of her life. She was forced from her grand home filled with fine things. Knowing they would be driven into the death marches, she made the decision to leave Dikran behind. He was hidden away and cared for by his aunt. With her two older sons at her side she carried her infant daughter for nearly 40 days through the Syrian desert. Witnessing the most vile abuses at the hands of the Turkish guards she resorted to covering herself in animal feces in an attempt to avoid their abuses. They finally found refuge in Aleppo, Syria. Dikran would make the pilgrimage to Aleppo three years later. They lived for five years in Aleppo off the repayment of a debt that was owed to Jemeleh’s husband. When the debt was paid in full, Jameleh was no longer able to care for her children. Dikran would spend much of his youth in an orphanage run by Catholic Charities.

11156232_10205796771625969_4920684143615517400_nSince the birth of my children what I see now in the haunting documentary images are the faces of my own children. Pierre, you’re so right there simply is no such thing as a watered-down Armenian. Perhaps it’s the incredible tenacity of my husband’s grandparents to survive, to refuse to let evil win, that shows itself in the eye’s of my children.

And so we continue to move forward, and my little Armenians carry the resolve of their ancestors. They are beautiful and thriving, as are our nieces and nephews and in that I know that evil didn’t win. It never truly wins.

Searching scripture to match the enormity of the pain of Genocide brought me to Revelation. Some things are just too heavy for this world and so we must fix our eyes on the next.

Revelation 21:4 New Living Translation (NLT)

He will wipe every tear from their eyes, and there will be no more death or sorrow or crying or pain. All these things are gone forever.”

A Prayer for our heavy hearts-

“Lead us Lord that we may, in both big and small ways, challenge evil.  Where it begins help us to be your light that overshadows darkness. Help us to lead our children in a manner that honors those who have gone before us and have endured great sorrow. Protect our hearts, in your Son’s precious name. Amen.”

Textiles for His Grace

(Originally posted for Easter’s Blog in March of 2015)

In the Gospel of Matthew, the 21st chapter recounts Jesus’s entry into Jerusalem on the first Palm Sunday-“Jesus Triumphant Entry”.

It sounds like it was a pretty amazing party. A parade of waving palm branches, shouts of admiration for the Son of David, His Jewish brothers and sisters acknowledging Him jubilantly as their prophesied Savior-a joyous celebration indeed.

Matthew 21: 6-11 NLT

The two disciples did as Jesus commanded. They brought the donkey and the colt to him and threw their garments over the colt, and he sat on it.[c]

Most of the crowd spread their garments on the road ahead of him, and others cut branches from the trees and spread them on the road. Jesus was in the center of the procession, and the people all around him were shouting,

“Praise God[d] for the Son of David!
Blessings on the one who comes in the name of the Lord!
Praise God in highest heaven!”[e]

10 The entire city of Jerusalem was in an uproar as he entered. “Who is this?” they asked.11 And the crowds replied, “It’s Jesus, the prophet from Nazareth in Galilee.”

Other translations read “Hosanna in the highest heaven!”. “Hosanna” was a Hebrew expression meaning “Save” that became a exclamation of praise-how lovely!

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I can’t help but put myself there among the shouting crowd. What resonates with me most is verse 8, “Most of the crowd spread their garments on the road ahead of him…”. In the midst of a mess of people, a public parade no less, people in the crowd felt compelled to spread their garments on the dirty road. Thus, making a textile trail for the King and His colt to enter Jerusalem upon.

As we move into Holy Week may we consider ways that we too might lay down our garments for Christ-ways in which we can humbly serve as the foundation upon which His Grace moves within the world. Let us not forget that in spite of all things, He laid down his life for ours.

May this Holy Week be full of reflection and blessings!

 

 

Granddaddy was a Hillbilly Scholar

Ever hear this phrase? -“If you wanna hear God laugh, tell him your plans.” The country duo Van Zant used it as a song lyric in Help Somebody.  I’ll admit it-I love Country music, my favorite is a little classic Kenny and Dolly circa mid 80’s. My love for country music should come as no surprise. My dad has a pickin’ porch on his property in rural east Texas. (Pickin’ porch-a porch that looks like a western store front made for playing bluegrass music. My daddy has a banjo and a handle bar mustache-true story.) The first line of Help Somebody -“Well, granddaddy was a hillbilly scholar, blue collar of a man.” Ok… so none of this is my point, but I couldn’t help myself-let’s regress.

The song, with it’s deeply highbrow lyrics, came out in 2005. It was the same year when the life I had planned for myself had taken a dramatic turn-probably why it struck me so. I learned so much that year- including the realization that we have such little control over life’s really big stuff.

If you look back at the things that have happened to you along the way, do we not have times when we say-  “Whoa…I did not see that one coming.”? My experience, this thing that I hadn’t planned for, left me on my knees calling out. It also brought me to a beautiful place of growth and joy.

BanjoPicking-Small

Jeremiah 29:11-13 (NIV) 11 For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future. 12 Then you will call on me and come and pray to me, and I will listen to you. 13 You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart.

As we enter into this new year, I have my idea of what I’d like the coming year to look like. I have goals for my personal and professional growth. I’ll also do my best to remain open to what God may have in store for me-cause who knows.

In 2015, no matter where it may lead us, “Let’s Prosper”

In this, let us pray,

“Jesus as we enter into the coming year we ask for your favor, may we prosper. Help us to relax the grip of control we have over our lives Lord so that we are able to recognize the direction you may place before us. Amen.”

Also,

“May my peers think none less of me, now that I’ve exposed my love for The Gambler, and Islands in the Streams. Amen.”  

(Also published for Easter Prays on January 4th, 2015)

Oh-Yes…my Ugly Step-Children

(Originally posted for Easter’s Blog in November of 2014)

I love Thanksgiving. It’s the one time of the year when I peel potatoes, whip-um up with heavy cream, butter, and cream cheese (I mean that’s a call for celebration alone). Pair my mashed potatoes with all the other turkey day deliciousness, a glass of wine and most importantly great company and there you have it-a lovely holiday. Normally my house is filled with loved ones on Thanksgiving. The bird gets cooked in my oven. Last year was an exception.

I was driving to work on a Tuesday morning-a Tuesday like every other.  It was the week prior to Thanksgiving. I was chatting with my hubby through Bluetooth-our quick “hey I’m off to work, have a great day” conversation. I was turning from one county road onto another-following a green traffic arrow through an intersection. When, much to my husband’s horror, he heard the sound of screeching tires against pavement, crushing metal, and finally…my screams. The driver of the other vehicle had barreled through his red light. He struck the drivers side of my vehicle propelling and spinning it through the intersection.
A moment later there was a man at my broken drivers side window, a window I was certain I had broken with the force of my head. I looked in his direction but couldn’t make out the features of his face. He told me that an ambulance was on its way and that he would stay with me. That was my last memory of the accident scene-as if someone switched a light off. The police officer told my husband that I wasn’t lucid and could only follow simple instruction.

The rest of that day, and even the hours leading up to the accident is a discombobulated string of memories with whole chunks of time unaccounted for. I remember lying on my back, seemingly tied down wondering where I was, when I saw my husband’s face over me. His face I could see clearly. He explained where I was, what day it was and more importantly where my kids were (safe at school, thank goodness). I asked him in a matter-of-fact unemotional way if I was dead, and then I asked if he was dead (so sorry my Love).

It’s taken me months to process what took place that day. Just a month or so ago, thinking about the events of that day, I realized that I never saw the faces of the people who helped me that day. Not a single one-not the crash witness who came to my side, not a police officer, not an EMT, not a single doctor or nurse. My memories include looking towards them but unable to process their faces. I’m sure there is all kinds of science behind this-my bruised brain not being able to take in a new face.

Here is the beautiful thing…in that same hospital room where I couldn’t take in the face of a stranger, the faces of my loved ones were as clear as any other day. My very alive husband (again, sorry Love), my dear friend, who made it to the accident scene, announced she was my sister and climbed into the passengers seat of the ambulance, my mother, my sister, my brother-in-law-all crystal clear and comforting. My brain-my heart, already had a place for their images…what a blessing.

So, this Thanksgiving when my house is full and I’m on my second piece of whip cream loaded pumpkin pie, I’ll be thankful for the faces I love.

My Thanksgiving reflection, well this year it’s so simple.

“Thank you Jesus for the faces of my loved ones, for images that are etched deep inside of who I am-certainly, this Lord, is a reflection of abundant blessings.”

Oh-and Yes…I guess I must confess, apparently I have ugly step children. When you’ve been hit in the noggin doctors and nurses come in one after the next to ask questions-seemingly this helps determine just how many lights have been knocked out. When asked how many children I had, with an unsympathetic seriousness I told a doctor that I have four (nope, not true-just two), the oldest two were from my husband’s first marriage (umm…married to my high school sweetheart-I’m his first and only), making them ugly children (hmm, this one is tricky, I guess I’m quite comfortable, even on a subconscious level, with my husbands frequent declarations similar to “Thank Goodness you look like your Mother.”, My Love, seriously…terribly sorry). The kicker, I won’t claim them as my own (you know on the account of their ugliness). Really? Yikes-this-I have no answer for. Perhaps…it’s time for some self-reflection.

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Loving one Another and other Matters of the Heart

(Originally posted for Easter’s Blog in Sept of 2014)

We’re called to love one another. Jesus said so-it’s our second commandment.

Matthew 22:36-39 New King James Version (NKJV) 36 “Teacher, which is the great commandment in the law?”37 Jesus said to him, “‘You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind.38 This is the first and great commandment. 39 And the second is like it: ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’

Flip on the news (you pick the cable network depending on the spin you’re in the mood for).  In the end it’s all the same-we mostly stink at this. On a global scale-as a whole-we’re failing rather miserably. It can be disheartening in the least.

Scrolling through my Facebook news feed one morning this last July I came across this posting of a fellow “Heart Mom” (as we affectionately refer to one another-another mom whose child, like yours, was born with heart disease).

On July 28th, 2014 Liz Tauer wrote~

blog photoThis is Willliam’s heart friend Luke. They attend Camp Odayin together and have been bunk mates for years. When Luke was 8 months old he was abandoned in a train station in China. He remained in an Orphanage until Mayo offered him a medical visa. The doctors in China thought he had Pulmonary Stenosis (narrowing of the artery) which would explain why he was alive. Upon arrival to the U.S. the doctors learned he had multiple severe heart defects including the one William has. It was and is unexplainable why he survived. The doctors here fixed him and today he has amazing parents and a family and we are blessed to know him. Luke hounded his parents to get to the hospital to see William. I foresee a lifelong friendship. –with the Nassif Family.

I couldn’t shake this photo or the story behind it-I brought it into my day. I thought about all the beautiful ways that in this story people chose to love one another. What an awesome contrast to the “globally-we stink at this” stories that fill up the network news.

Luke’s birth mother abandoned him at a train station. Yes, she walked away from her child-but possibly this was a selfless act-her only option to give him a chance at survival. -Loving one another

The Chinese orphanage, Mayo clinic’s medical visa, pediatric cardiac doctors, nurses and surgeons -Loving one another

The Nassif family opening their hearts to Luke (yes-Rob and Carol, I already hear your humble rejection to this one. Yes-I know you have been blessed beyond measure by having Luke in your family, yes-I hear you-it was nothing-he’s your son) Yet still –Loving one another

Camp Odayin-this beautiful organization that provides so much for these kids with heart disease and our families, their donors-both corporate and individuals, staff and volunteers who all make it happen Loving one another

The most remarkable example from this post-the way these two young men (and their caring families) choose to support each other. -Loving one another

May we see ourselves in this-recognizing a similar way in which we can love one another in our own lives.

“Jesus, all that surrounds us in this broken world can leave us feeling disheartened. Help us to honor your commandment. Help us to recognize ways in which we can love one another-in the way that you have called us to. Amen”


Please Note, Photo and subject matter shared here was done so with the knowledge and blessing of both the Tauer family and the Nassif family. Thank you for allowing me to share. Oh, and yes-that little unexplained bit about why Luke survived, I might need to tuck this gem away for a later post. ~Mindy

Joy-for Always

(Originally posted for Easter’s Blog in July of 2014)

Hairdressers hear all kinds of good stuff–I know I’ve been guilty of spilling some myself. The juicy, profound, and sometimes guarded parts have a way of spilling out. If I’m honest- it doesn’t take much for me.  Snap on that nylon apron and spin my chair around-from there it’s a done deal. Thankfully, there are other places where equally authentic dialogue is shared. I’m grateful to be on the receiving end too.

I’ve been a dental hygienist for a dozen or so years now. There is so much about my job I enjoy. Without question the thing I enjoy the most is the unexpected way in which some people-well-spill it. I imagine in part it comes from a place of physical vulnerability -a blinding light, lying flat on your back, having to trust that I know just where all those sharp pointy thingies go. Some pretty awesome conversations arise. Some I’ll never forget.

One such story ~

He was comfortably in his eighties. His face was soft and his cheeks spidery red. His clothes were neat and worn thin from a decade or more of Tide. He inquired about my personal life-asking if I was married and if I had children. I told him that I was, that my kiddos were little and in charge (just three and six years of age at the time).

His smile widened in an instant, as if to imply that I was in the middle of something magical. He urged me to enjoy every second and to find a way to remember as much as possible. It seemed too many of his moments had escaped him.

I asked about his family. He said he had raised four children. He expressed how that period of time felt like three lifetimes ago. He said, “They are all grown of course, and have raised families of their own, some even have grandkids-if you can believe it.” Then, as if realizing it for the very first time he said, “Sometimes when I think back at that time of my life- it was so quick-so-fleeting I wonder if it ever really happened.” . . . and with his awareness, tears filled his eyes.

 “Whereas you do not know what will happen tomorrow. For what is your life? It is even a vapor that appears for a little time and then vanishes away.

James 4:14 (NKJV)

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Ever since that touching conversation, each time the “they grow up so fast-like crazy fast” conversation arises, I think about him. I think of this sweet man with equal parts sadness and appreciation. My appreciation comes from him sharing something so intimate with me-in the hope that I might really get it. He hoped that I may fare better than he. My sadness is in that perhaps since the time his children were little, at least three lifetimes ago, he hadn’t experienced true joy.

So now that I’ve blinked for a moment in my own life-it seems that my babies, well . . . are no longer babies at all. My daughter enjoys lifting herself on her tippy toes, increasing her height advantage so that she can easily look down upon her mama. I’ve recently recognized that in a pinch I can wear my son’s shoes-a bit of an epiphany. Yep, it’s happening-my magic is moving forward at an alarming rate. James 4;14 says our life is a vapor that appears for a little time and then vanishes away.

I’ve decided to handle this epiphany in a couple of different ways.

  • I’m going to dig deep-to engrain this time into my memory. Etch it in there . . . somehow.

Now this one’s a biggie-and probably most important.

  • God willing my vapor will be as long as a vapor can be, and throughout each life stage-

I will seek Joy.

For this and all things, I will call upon the Lord~

“Heavenly Father, Thank you for this crazy-beautiful life, help me find joy within each passing moment of my precious vapor. Help me to etch in the good stuff and to continue to seek you-always. Amen.”

USA Best Book Award

Who doesn’t LOVE a gold sticker? I was overjoyed when I received this notification from USA Book News!

November 12, 2014
Congratulations!
The results of the 2014 USA Best Book Awards have been announced.
Your book has been honored as a “Finalist” in the “Religion: Christian Inspirational” category.

Along with the shinny sticker, USA Book News gifted me with this verbiage to compliment Embracing Charlie :  “Award-Winning Finalist in the Christian Inspirational category of the 2014 USA Best Book Awards”.

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