Early every morning since my unemployment, since the world started spinning, in the quiet of my still darkened bedroom, I’ve reached for my phone. With a reluctant heart, I scan the headlines, looking at the number of deaths. My heart is especially heavy for the people of Italy. There is a moment in the quiet, when I’m hopeful that maybe I’ll find nothing of Covid-19, maybe the last few days have been a dream.

While each day the spinning continues.


We’ve been encouraged to stay HOME, to do our part, to flatten the curve. Home is my refuge anyway.

Early last Saturday morning, in the quiet, amongst the Covid-19 updates, was the news that Kenny Rogers had died. I read the headline twice. Kenny Rogers, my very favorite singer of all time, had died. He had been my favorite for as long as I can remember. He was 81 years old. He died of natural causes surrounded by his family in his Georgia home, and so I layered this upon my already heavy heart and brought it into my day.

With a vintage Monopoly game laid out on my kitchen table, my family graciously let me listen to Kenny as long as I needed. We had a dance party during snack breaks. My husband shamelessly put hotels on all of his skid row properties and instructed my kids to make sure I didn’t end up with all four of the Railroads. Kenny crooned “Love Will Turn You Around” and the worry, of the last few days fell upon my cheeks.

While each day the spinning continues.

…we’ve spent time cooking together and baking together and snuggling on the couch. We’ve watched The Office and This Is Us. I’ve spent uninterrupted time on the phone, checking in with friends and family. We’ve taken walks and tried to process a bit of disappointment. I’ve stood in our hallway immensely grateful for our church family, listening to my Daughter connect online with our youth group. We’ve spent time in prayer.

Our sweet little dog whimpers for what seems to be no reason at all, his eyes looking right through ours. I’m certain he too feels the spinning.

… we’ve eaten pancakes, lots of pancakes (ok it’s mostly me) I sent a text to my co-workers asking for help. I can’t seem to stop with the pancakes. I received a reply suggesting I switch to waffles. Thanks for understanding me Amanda, because it’s true, we are all in this together.

While each day the spinning continues.

Yesterday, I scrolled through my Facebook feed and came across a friend’s updated profile picture. Lyndsey and I worked together when she was newly married. Now, a handful of years later her and her husband were excepting their first child. There, in my news feed, was a picture of a new little family of three. The photo was taken in an OR, because things don’t always go the way we plan. Lyndsey, still on oxygen, had the most beautiful smile. Her husband was in surgical gear, his eyes full of emotion, as he held their beautiful, perfect baby girl.  Their image overwhelmed me, and again the worry of these past days streamed down my cheeks.

Welcome to this beautiful broken spinning world sweet Lena, we are so glad you’re here.

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Old Westerns On the Flip Side

IMG_2445I lost my dad on Friday. Nearly all the things that can happen to someone fighting Type II Diabetes had been put upon his plate. “Respiratory Failure” I suspect will be the official cause of death. The moment I lost him, that moment stole my breath away.

Paul and I went to see him just a few weeks ago. We had a late flight, and found a hotel near the airport. We left for the three-hour drive through rural East Texas the following morning, pointing out the insanely large trucks and SUV’s along the way. It’s all bigger in Texas. Thankfully, a mixup at the car rental lot left us in an SUV of our own-albeit not the size of most.

My stepmom called with news that my dad was taken by ambulance that morning from their small-town hospital to a larger facility. They were on their way to dialysis, when he started having trouble breathing. We arrived at the hospital in Tyler just as my dad was being admitted into intensive care. That’s where I had my last visit with him, deep inside the hospital, beyond heavy mechanical doors.

My parents divorced when I was five, and there had almost always been miles between us. Miles, but never distance. He was easy. He was easy to please, easy to love, and the only thing he ever wanted for me was happiness.

He played the accordion as a boy. He joined the Navy during the Vietnam War-perhaps contributing to his later lung damage. He was a Mama’s boy. He loved motorcycles and Mustangs. He could play the guitar by ear. He loved blue grass music. He’d been known to have a pretty epic handle-bar mustache from time to time. He loved nice jewelry and had a ring for every finger. He worked hard but always worked to live, he never lived to work. He once told Paul that if he wanted something than he should find a way to go out and get it, because you only live once.

I spent summers with him in Texas, until I became a teenager and decided that I couldn’t possibly leave my friends. When I got my driver’s license he bought me a Chrysler Laser and drove it from Texas to Minnesota for me. The hood had sun damage from the hot Texas Sun, I kept the Texas plates as long as I could-it was the coolest used car on the planet.

During our Groom’s dinner, the night before my wedding, he pulled me aside quietly to give me a gift. It was a ring he had designed using stones from a ring my Grandmother had.

I walked into his hospital room relieved, as a part of me had worried that we might not make it in time. He had lost more than 100 pounds, and he had somehow aged decades over the course of two years. It took me a moment to find him, to see him in this frail man. Thankfully, his eyes had remained unchanged, expressive and tender as ever.

I spent time holding his hand, telling him about his grandkids and making sure he knew how much I loved him. I recognized how devoted my stepmom had been to him, and how much he needed her. I watched my oldest brother lean into him and apologize for words they had shared months ago. The ventilator took his ability to speak, and so my father reached out to him and instead held his face in the palm of his hand. I watched my uncle work to catch his own breath after seeing his brother. He endearingly called him “big brother”, and told him he loved him. I watched my uncle and brother tenderly shave his face, they worked carefully around the ventilator’s tubing and the straps on the side of his face.

We had to IMG_2331leave the room for hours at a time, as kidney dialysis nurses pushed in their equipment to filter the toxins from his blood. I spent time lying across a bench under a grand southern magnolia tree in he hospital courtyard. I closed my eyes and let the sun warm my face while I talked to God.My last evening with him we stayed as long as we could. He had been heavily sedated and still I left the old western he had been watching on for him. Just Paul and I sat with him, Paul allowing space, while I sat at his side. I tried my best to etch his image into my memory, while time in the room slipped away. I reached down to kiss him-my heart tangled in grief. With all that I had, knowing it would be my last moment with him, I walked away. Paul held my hand and walked beside me. He pushed the button for the heavy mechanical doors to open and then close behind us.

Almost two months had passed, and we’ve remained more than a thousand miles away. He had only been home for a handful of days before being helicoptered back to Tyler. I was home alone on Friday, I had just called to check on him a half hour before, and was excepting a call any moment. When the time came, somehow it was as if I hadn’t prepared at all, as if he’d been stolen without warning

I set my phone down on my kitchen counter, and I turned and searched for a chair in the front room of my home. Full sunlight poured in through the picture windows. I pressed the palm of my hand over my mouth and then my other hand tightly over the first, instinctively as if I felt that all of me might somehow spill out with the crying and the rocking.

“Sorry for your loss.” It’s what we say, and I heard it differently than I ever had before. The word “loss” now weighing on a tender piece of my heart that will never be quite the same.

Sharing the first Paragraph of my book, Embracing Charlie; it seems different now.

I Love you Dad, and I take comfort knowing that you’ve been made whole again, I’m sorry it was such a long road. See you on the flip side.

“Maybe I’m three years old, or perhaps I’m four. I’ve fallen asleep during an evening car ride home, or maybe I gave in to heavy eyelids as I snuggled up watching TV on the living room couch. It’s all the same once I’ve been scooped up. I’m only slightly roused. My body is limp and heavy. I recognize his scent. It’s masculine, but never over-powering. I open my eyes to catch the pattern of his shirt and the soft edge of his collar. Closing my eyes once more, I let my head drape heavily over his shoulder. Part of the magic comes from the sense of floating above the ground. His legs are strong and steady under us. His strength moves us forward. I’m just along for the ride. It’s the safest place in the world, the embrace of my father…”

In Loving Memory ~ Rodney Dwayne Constant, January 17th, 1949 ~ May 18th, 2018

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Pumpkin Spice

59b14a8f42d9c.image Two months have passed, pumpkin spice is everywhere, and just like that, my kids are well into a new school year. All things considered, it turns out, I’m ok. I got this.

It wasn’t pretty there for a moment or two last year, oh the feels… oh the feels of last year…

We said goodbye to our amazing little neighborhood school. We spent ten years there. Ten years of watching our kids grow, ten years of music programs, school picnics and fundraisers. Ten Pumpkin Spice Falls.

A bright early June morning…before the Pumpkin, when it wasn’t pretty…

We pulled away from home, my Charlie and I. It was his last day of fifth grade. I turned onto the school property like I’d done hundreds of times before, only this time it was my last. We made our way up the half circle drive to the top of the hill. The school was built on a former sheep farm. Sheep, like for sheering and making cozy sweaters. It was sunny and bright, with billowy clouds on the horizon, the school on top of a rolling hill. Norman Rockwell rolling hills and the ghosts of wiry sheep-I mean come on-like that helps. *sigh*

I thought I had it. I had given myself a hard core, “don’t be a baby Mindy” pep talk. Just keep your feels shoved in, you got this… I took a deep breath before walking in with Charlie. I needed my “Last Day Picture” with his teacher, and a moment to thank her for a great year. (Truth be told, I needed a moment too.)

Charlie’s teacher wrapped her arms around him warmly, the way you do when you love a child. I took their picture and then confessed to her that this was a hard day for me, being that it was our last day at Shannon Park. She smiled softly at me, and just like that, her eyes overflowed with emotion, escaping softly onto her cheeks. Great… and there goes that pep-talk. There was no way out now…my feels. For just a moment they pressed upon my chest, and then began to fall onto my cheeks. I didn’t have it.

I wasn’t alone in the “bitter sweet end of an era” thing. I’m pretty sure it was a crowded room. You see, it was also the Principle’s last day, which I’m certain accounted for much of the lovely Mrs. Larson’s emotion. Mr. Guthrie, after decades of amazing leadership, was retiring. There had been rumors, the last couple of years, to which I always thought, Please, let it be after Charlie is in middle school.

IMG_2366He knew hundreds of kids by their first names. He stood outside the entrance every morning greeting students as they started their day. If there was rain he stood with a wide umbrella and a smile. If the morning was bitter cold, he rocked a furry Elmer Fudd hat, same big smile. Sometimes, I would stay a moment before pulling away so I could watch Charlie and him chat.

Every year he sang during the Kindergarten music program. I don’t mean he participated, I mean there he was, full production, his signature suit and tie, go big or go home microphone solo.

He listened to concerns, he personally returned emails and phone calls. At the start of every school year he would take time to come into classrooms during orientation. He praised the teachers skill and dedication publicly. I watched him seek out new families in the community, welcoming them to the school.

He allowed students to dunk him in an old-fashion dunk tank during annual school picnics. At the same picnic, microphone in hand, he would personally man the last few moments of the annual silent auction. He’d heckle families in the softest way possible, encouraging them to invest in this school that he loved so much.

Ten years or so ago… (Regressing here, it’s really a piece of cake for cry-baby Mindy.)

I can still see my girl in a sweet short ruffled skirt and soft purple tee. She was five and confidently leading the way through her Kindergarten orientation. Her teacher, Ms. Franzen, seemed lovely. She asked each family to introduce themselves, giving the task to the little ones, if they would be so brave. My Sophie, my oldest, my sweet baby that couldn’t possibly be starting school, introduced us proudly.

Somewhere in the middle of introductions, Mr. Guthrie made his orientation appearance. I’m not sure what I noticed first, his gravely voice, or his beaming persona.

He took command of the room quickly in the most authentic, unassuming way. He welcomed the children first, with his boisterous signature “Well hello Boys and Girls!”. He introduced his “finger wave”, bending his pointer finger up and down. A quick scan of the room, and I noticed that returning families beamed, while these Kindergartners and first time parents, looked at him questionably, suspiciously like, is this guy for real?

Then he turned his attention to the parents, saying, “I know what you’re thinking, how on earth am I going to send my baby off to school, *insert long dramatic pause* we understand how hard it is to let them go, *insert dramatic body language here* But what I promise is that we are going to love your children, we are going to care for them, as if they were our very own. They are in the very best of hands.”

Ten years later, a promise made was a promise kept. They had loved on my kids, they had cared for them, as if they were their very own, they had been in the very best hands.

So that final day, as I walked away from Charlie’s classroom I took the long way out. I passed by the tiny chairs at each computer in the school library. I looked at the little bit of art work that remained hung on the walls. I tried to take in the “smallness” of it all, while recognizing, as hard as it was, that my kids just didn’t fit in those tiny chairs any longer.

I walked out the front doors to find Mr. Guthrie in his normal greeting spot. With children surrounding him, I shamelessly grabbed his attention ahead of the little ones waiting. He wore a multi colored patchwork plaid jacket. Let that just sit with you a moment…multi colored, patchwork, plaid suit jacket. Just like his vocation, the suit jacket was suited perfectly for him. I asked him for a hug, and I thanked him and wished him well. It all seemed silly really. My words, my hug both seemed silly and small.

IMG_1318It was just all so poetic, I think that’s why I was so squishy inside. My little family it seemed had just fallen into this sweet little place in the world, all sheep farm cozy and safe.

Little blessings, they seem to just weave themselves in, right into the tapestry of all the rest. This amazing school, Mr. Guthrie, his jacket, this sweet moment, blessings just woven into the fabric of this simple, beautiful life. Sometimes its just too much. Thank you Jesus for simply too much. 

Here’s to Pumpkin Spice…and the feels. You got this cry-baby Mindy.

Mindy’s book Embracing Charlie was honored with a Finalist Title in the Christian Inspirational Category of the 2014 USA Best Book Awards.

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Jelly Sandals

I wore brightly colored plastic barrettes to pin back my mousy stick straight hair. I loved Michael Jackson, Star Search and The Golden Girls. I wore girly rompers and jelly sandals. I was in awe with Shel Silverstein’s, Where the Sidewalk Ends. Somehow he knew how to use all the best words, and then piece them together. It seemed like magic. I dreamed of becoming a dancer.

I wish I could remember more about her, more about my little third grade self.

imagesWhen my Charlie was in the third grade he brought home a paper with a classmate’s name across the title and his name in the byline. It was an interview he had done with a boy named Carter, it was typed and consisted of about fifteen lines or so. Carter had big plans for himself, and from the sound of it, he was pretty darn happy with his third grade self too. It was pretty impressive. Somewhere In the middle, Charlie snuck in the line, Charlie is awesome, I guess “birds of a feather…”.

I asked Charlie about the assignment. He didn’t know where the paper was with his name in the title. Months later I came across it, crumpled and shoved in the back of a cabinet. Each line was worth the wait.

A few of my favorites…

  • Charlie was born in the…U-S-A.
  • He has lived in the U-S-A his entire life.
  • He likes to ride in his Dad’s 1972 Volkswagen Bug.
  • He does not like homework.
  • He hates tomatoes.
  • He hates potatoes.
  • When he is 25 he will either be a spy or design Matchbox Cars.
  • He is an expert on Volkswagen history and he is really good at kickball.

His assignment stuck with me. It was so authentic and unapologetic. I can’t think of an age when we are more authentic. He was fearfully and wonderfully made. I’ve seen the kid actually gag on potatoes, and he really does know an impressive amount about Volkswagens.

It made me think about what my list might have looked like. What did I think I might become, better yet, what did I expect to become when I was twenty five? …and would that little girl recognize me now?

It seems it doesn’t take long for the world to take hold-for our list to start to look more realistic, more responsible. It doesn’t even take long before we might choke down that potato because we think we’re supposed too.

“I will give thanks to You, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made; Wonderful are Your works, And my soul knows it very well.” Psalm 139:14

No worries, I’m not giving up my scrubs for a tutu, Lord knows that would serve no one. But I’ve given some thought to some things I could do. Dance parties. I could easily have more kitchen dance parties. I could also spend more time writing. More time trying to find the right words and piece them together until they seem magical. I think that would make her smile, the little one with hazel eyes and jelly sandals.

cfd90d2dbb5c432aa77097d4e5122ab2-2… and for my own little girl who is now in High School, It’s on my heart to remind her of who she was in the third grade.

Sophia, you were a lover of all things girly. You were both sweet and sassy. You still had that heavenly awareness that we never could make sense of. You spent hours and hours in our basement, “arting”. You left paints, beads, sequins, glitter, permanently and beautifully engrained into the wood tabletop of your workspace. You were, and remain, hopelessly messy.

A bit about your Violin, in case you’ve forgotten. We were at church one Sunday morning, Pastor Sarah had incorporated her Violin into her sermon. When she began to play your precious face lit up with admiration. You turned to your Daddy and whispered in amazement, “I want to do that.” As if there were pieces of you made… fearfully, wonderfully, for the beauty of the wood and bow. The psalmist David, said it beautifully, with all the best words pieced together,  “…And my soul knows it very well.”

I think I could use an episode of The Golden Girls, I miss Rose.

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A Letter for Jacob

Light at Night.I left our porch light on for you last night. You’ve finally made your way home. I walked out onto my driveway before bed. It was a beautiful night-a welcomed hint of  the crispness of Fall. My heart was tender. I looked up and down our street to see other porch lights lit-other homes like mine, where young boys play. You see Jacob, my eleven year old son has the kind of childhood you dream of for your kids. He gets on his bike and sets out to find some kind of neighborhood game anytime he wishes.

Last night he and his older sister watched Mrs. Doubtfire up the street from our house. It was outdoor movie night. Robin Williams in drag up on a big screen, set up between where backyards meet, kids sprawled out on blankets under the stars. I’m told this time there was cake instead of popcorn.

I sent the two of them, eleven and fourteen together, each of them with a cell phone in their pocket and with instructions to walk home together after the movie. It’s the way I parent. I do my best to let them be kids. But if I’m honest, all the while, there remains this tiny bit of fearful unrest knowing that I can’t protect them from all things.

I was fourteen that October you went missing. Your story seemed to captivate the public. We all wanted you to find your way home. For months your disappearance dominated the evening news-leaving your school picture etched forever in my memory. Parents started to parent differently. Gone was the age of “come home for dinner”.  And just as life happens, time just slipped away.  We started to remember your lost smile in years gone by.

Your name, your picture, your amazing mother, the anniversaries, lit porch lights, false leads, all of these sadly seemed to expose that same bit of fearful unrest. That place of fear for the unimaginable, not just for what happened to you Jacob, but for all the worst kinds of evil.

As I share my life with my own eleven year old boy, I know that you were more. You were more than how your life ended, and who you were is what I wondered about as I drifted to sleep.

I spent time this morning reading about your case in my newsfeed. I was hoping to learn more, more about who you were on October 21st, 1989.

This is what I learned; you had a giant smile, you had sandy colored hair and blue eyes, you loved your family, you liked sports and riding your bike, you played the trombone, you were the goalie on your school’s hockey team and you dreamed of becoming a professional football player some day.

These  are the things I’m going to try to think of now when I see your image, either on a screen or in my mind’s eye. The trombone, hockey, and your big smile.

Somehow to say “rest in peace” doesn’t quite seem to fit. The darkness that this life can sometimes bring leads me to concentrate on the next. So Jacob, may you play on and so will we.  We will enjoy neighborhood games, riding bikes, bonfires and movies under the stars. We will play on so that evil doesn’t win.

For your parents, whom have worked tirelessly to bring you home and have worked to be a voice for all missing and exploited children, may God wrap them in His arms. May He overwhelm them with His peace, which surpasses all understanding. May He allow them to feel a glimpse of the fearless place where you play on. Godspeed little man.

Mindy’s book Embracing Charlie was honored with a Finalist Title in the Christian Inspirational Category of the 2014 USA Best Book Awards.

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Some thoughts chase me. Healing, restoration…these have been trailing me lately. Pastor Kris’s recent sermon “Peter Heals” was the catalyst this time. It was beautiful.

During her message she shared how her brother was injured in an auto accident when he was 22 years old. A senior at West Point Academy, Bobby no doubt was a young man with nothing but promise ahead of him. A single moment of time changed the direction of his life, forever. He flew through the windshield of a car. He was left a quadriplegic with significant brain damage. He needed a-round-the clock care for the remaining 26 years of his life.

Kris shared that after his death his caregiver of many years, a deeply spiritual women, called her to tell her that she had a dream the night before. In her dream Bobby was in heaven, and that he had been restored, completely, restored. But the thing that struck her is that he remained in his wheelchair.

Remained in his chair, yet completely, perhaps most importantly, spiritually restored…

Kris shared how she never thought about healing quite the same way again. Maybe I won’t either.

I settled into a yoga class that following Tuesday morning. At the start of class my instructor sat upon her mat, faced her students and asked for Grace. With a heavy sigh she explained that one of her children, a Son who has struggled with drug addiction since his teens, had called her over the weekend asking for help. He was high and combative, and was likely to lose his place to live. In the process of trying to help him, he physically assaulted her.

She was brokenhearted. She shared a bit about her family’s seven year struggle. She asked for prayer.

Upon my mat, staring up at the ceiling I prayed for her family. I prayed for healing, for restoration. I thought about her Son, wondering if he’ll break free from his addiction. I prayed for healing for her brokenness, and for his. I thought about Pastor Kris’s brother Bobby.

Restored in his chair…maybe life altering adversity doesn’t have to cripple our spiritual wholeness.

Pastor Kris suggested that perhaps we assign worldly expectation to what we feel healing should look like, and in doing so maybe we limit God.

And so I’m left with this swirling about…

file000539488754Perhaps healing, the miraculous, crazy crisp, soul cleansing, blanketing kind, the kind that only He can offer, maybe that is best obtained by letting go of our own expectations, remove that which may hinder our renewal, and instead allow Him in. We might never be the same. Maybe we still carry with us the scars of this world. But, He shines them up, restoring us to more than we once were.

Ecclesiastes 3:11 New Living Translation (NLT) 11 Yet God has made everything beautiful for its own time. He has planted eternity in the human heart, but even so, people cannot see the whole scope of God’s work from beginning to end.

Restoration was originally posted for Easter Praise. Mindy’s book Embracing Charlie was honored with a Finalist Title in the Christian Inspirational Category of the 2014 USA Best Book Awards.

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Chocolate Atonement

The one and only time I gave up something for Lent was more than, ahem… a dozen or so years ago.

I wasn’t raised in a Christian home-I was in my twenties and passionately navigating my faith walk. As this particular Lenten season approached, I announced quite stoically to my husband that I would be giving up Chocolate for Lent. It would be my Grand sacrifice for Christ. I give in big ways (sarcasm intended).

Well… it felt like an epic failure-a Dove chocolate dipped creamy vanilla ice-cream kind-of failure to be exact.

file000555426934Jesus spent forty days in the Judaean Desert. Forty. He fasted, like-he didn’t eat anything. Oh, and there was that whole thing with the devil showing up. Scripture says that he was led into the wilderness by the Holy Spirit-a time of preparation and deep spiritual reflection for what lay before him.

Back to my delicious failure. As it turned out this first sacrificial Lent experience of mine just so happened to line up with my first trip to the Happiest Place on Earth, no not the Coach Outlet Store in Eagan (remember this was 2002) no, The Happiest Place on Earth… DisneyWorld with its shiny castle and perfectly placed billowy clouds.

Our trip to The Magic Kingdom was about ten days before Easter Sunday. Up until that point I held true to my no chocolate vow. More importantly, I understood the value in giving something up. Each time I would normally reach for chocolate, I instead took pause and thought about the incredible, unfathomable, ultimate sacrifice on the cross.

Enter Dove Chocolate… Ugh. It was a short trip, my Hubby and I were there four days. We visited each park, all four of which had those little treat carts every twenty steps or so. The first three days I watched with envy as attendants reached into their portable deep freezers to pull out the Disney Signature Treat-Mickey’s Premium Ice Cream Bar. Imagine a vanilla ice cream bar, on a stick, in the shape of Mickey’s head, and then covered in a thick hardened layer of rich chocolate. Each time I saw one I wrestled with the notion of breaking my Lenten promise.

On our last day, Mickey won… and truthfully it was as good as I had imagined it to be. I am so impossibly human. Jesus in the desert, fasting for forty days, forty.

The beautiful thing is that in Christ each day is new. Jesus, The Son of God, atoned for my sin, he atoned for your sin. His atonement leaves us fresh and clean. Nothing can separate us, not even our perceived failures, chocolate sized or otherwise.

I continue my faith Journey-and these years later I understand more deeply that it will always be just that, a journey. I’ll always be a work in progress, an impossibly human work in progress.

Come Lord Jesus, more of you Lord.  And with that, a beautifully impossibly human  ~  Amen.

Mindy’s book Embracing Charlie was honored with a Finalist Title in the Christian Inspirational Category of the 2014 USA Best Book Awards.

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Ballroom Bird’s Nest

420593_10200698533813210_651053855_n (1)For I can do everything through Christ, who gives me strength. Philippines 4:13, Geesh, at least there won’t be a bird on my head… Yes, this continued to run through my mind, and thank you Jesus for it.

When God has laid out something before you he’ll prepare you, and in the most creative of ways. He’s kinda awesome that way.

Before Christmas I was preparing to share my heart-publicly. If you’ve read any of my stuff you know that it’s quite easy for me to spill it all over a page. I tend to leave nothing unexposed. However, this was entirely different, this was me, in the flesh, facing a full sanctuary. I knew God had led me to this place, but holy-cats, did he know what he was doing?

In my preparations (who am I kidding… truthfully, in my panic) it didn’t take long for me to recognize the parallel between this moment and that of an experience almost three years earlier.

He’s good at that-reminding us of our past experiences, of the moments we’ve already survived.  Perhaps our past is laid out for moments like these.

Spring of 2013 ~ I received an email from the director of Camp Odayin (a residential camp program for kids with heart disease). It’s an organization that we’ve been a part of since our son Charlie was about five years old.

She asked if Charlie would take part in their annual fundraising Gala. She asked if he would be part of a “fashion show” to highlight the things campers do while at camp. He would have the theme “Nature” which would require a home made costume to reflect his theme. Most remarkably, she asked if he would stand up at the podium and thank donors for coming to the Gala.

Without hesitation he said, “sure, no problem”. We had just celebrated his eighth birthday.

The day of the event, I put together his nature threads with a glue gun, a vest, and a dismantled easter wreath. I glued a bird’s nest to the bill of a white baseball cap. I took apart the vines from the wreath and I wrapped his entire body in them, and with that we set out for a ballroom downtown.

My normally very confident very outgoing little boy kept looking at himself and then at me like, “Really Mom?” Once downtown, we peaked into the ballroom where there was hundreds of people in suits and cocktail dresses.

He was nervous, and I kept reassuring him that it would be ok, that he’s got this-no problem.

He trusted me, I’m his Mama and I led him to this place and told him he’s got this. Encouragement came for the handful of campers as they entered the ballroom for the fashion show. To end the show, Miss Minnesota, who was the MC for the evening, invited Charlie up to the podium. She was wearing a pageant dress, and of course a crown (could this moment seem any stranger?). She helped him get up onto a chair to reach the microphone.

I didn’t know what he was going to say, as my own words rushed back to me, I had told him to say just what was on his heart-and then I thought …oh Dear God, what was on his heart? He leaned into the microphone and said, “Well, I just wanted to thank all of you for coming- and yeah, well… I’m just happy that my camp is gettin’ a whole lot more money!”

…and with that the ballroom exploded with cheers, he jumped off the podium and enjoyed a round of high-fives as he made his way back to me.

It was a done deal. He said what was on his heart. It was the truth, his camp was gettin’ a whole lot more money. He was also the only one who could say it out loud, considering that he was eight and had a zipper-club scar down the middle of his chest (all the while covered in a dismantled easter wreath).

December of 2015~ So I was reminded of that moment, and I hung onto it as I prepared to share “just what was on my heart”.

My night turned out to be a blessing-not easy-peasy, but definitely a blessing. Holy-cats, He knows what He’s doing, and thank goodness I got to dress myself.

As we enter this fresh new year, who knows what may be in store. Let us find courage in Him.

“Thank you Jesus for your unending presence. Help us to trust in you, to find courage in you- wholeheartedly, in the way of a child, especially where it really counts, where perhaps you are leading us into something bright and new. Amen.”

Mindy’s book Embracing Charlie was honored with a Finalist Title in the Christian Inspirational Category of the 2014 USA Best Book Awards. Ballroom Bird’s Nest was also published on Easter Praise.

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little Aylan

Last Wednesday I woke to find images on FaceBook of a lifeless little Syrian boy lying on the shore of a Turkish resort town. His image stole my breath, and left my heart heavy in grief. The photograph captured his sweet innocence in perfect contrast with the atrocities of the evil that is the islamic state.

If I could melt away all that surrounded him, the cold sand and rocky beach, the waves of the sea washing over his sweet face, his soaked clothes and shoes-if only. In my minds-eye I see him lying in his parent’s bed warm and dry, air filling his little chest allowing it to rise and fall sweetly as he dreams of toy trains and running beside his big brother.

mašinkaThe world soon knew his name-little Aylan. He was three years old. We knew his story as well. His family spent $4,000 to board a small boat off the coast of Turkey with the hope of reaching Kos Greece, and a new life in Europe. Tragically-as if his story was anything else-after his family payed the smuggler $4,000, no money remained for life jackets. The small boat capsized and Aylan perished along with his mother and five year old brother.

Syrian refugees have a piece of my heart. Aleppo, Syria is my husband’s birthplace. Birthplace, I must premiss, but not his ancestral home as he is often quick to point out. His family also endured incredible atrocities at the hand of radical islam. His grandfather, and great-grandparents were survivors of the Armenian Genocide. Also refugees, they settled in Syria and Lebanon in 1915. It’s been 100 years since the Armenian Genocide-sadly it seems little has changed.

A few months shy of my husband’s eighteenth birthday his family set out for a new life in the States. My Pauly is the best storyteller. Over our marriage he has shared so much about his childhood. Stories about growing up in a Christian neighborhood in Aleppo. Stories we all can relate to, even if our stories are an ocean away. Stories like sneaking out and taking his dad’s car for a midnight joy ride with his buddies-who needs a license anyway. Girls, bicycles, birthday parties, corner ice cream shops, more trouble than his parents would like to know-he has painted a colorful picture for me describing a group of young boys with life to burn.

Recent reports say that half of Syria’s population is now displaced. Half. Most of Paul’s childhood friends left Syria in the same way he did, now more than two decades ago. But some remained-who knows where they are now.

SIRIA_-_LIBANO_-_aleppo_devastataThe Armenian Catholic Church, his family’s church home, where he served as an alter boy was destroyed by a bomb this last April. The Church dated back to the 15th century and housed relics and icons including a painting from 1703. His neighborhood has been a hot spot for violence, as it has been home to Syrian Christians for hundreds of years.

The building where he grew up was also bombed-destroying homes on the top floor. Families still occupy the floors below the damage. Who knows what each day feels like for those living beneath and amongst the rubble. My Paul has my heart, and I can’t help but think about what his life would look like had he stayed. These are the things I ponder.

…and now with the image of little Aylan, now it seems I have a picture for my heavy heart.

Jesus, Please Come…  Revelation 21:4  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.”

Consider joining me in supporting World Vision in their efforts to help Syrian Refugees.

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On The Marquee

I have a place for my emotion. It’s a tidy little space, and for the most part it all fits quite nicely in there.

Except for anxiety … that prickly stuff doesn’t fit anywhere.

splitsville MGD©This last week it was getting the best of me. I’d lie awake with my thoughts circling my mind like they were suspended on a marquee. The possibility of a new job seemed to have sparked this unwelcome feeling of unease. Then there is all the silly stuff too, insignificant things that shouldn’t share my pillow. My anxiousness didn’t just occupy my mind it extended to the tips of my fingers and rose to the top of my chest. I couldn’t seem to tuck it away, so I’d bring it with me into my day.

One such day ~ I had a meeting scheduled with my pastor. I hadn’t even sat down across from her before she invited me to speak at this year’s Christmas Tea. What an incredible honor. Then, just a couple of hours later, I received a phone call in which I was offered that new job-the one that had consumed my 2:00 am thoughts. Holy buckets, I felt immensely blessed! But for heaven sakes, there was no place to put all this emotion now.

Before bed that night I knelt under the picture window in the front room of my home. I thanked God for these new opportunities.

The next morning with my coffee in hand, and my kids still tucked in bed, I scrolled through my Facebook feed. I held my breath as I read the post of a fellow “heart mom”. Her nine year-old daughter was just wheeled back into the operating room for her fifth heart surgery, and with that, all my pent up stuff, all the nonsense worry, it found its release. It poured from my eyes, streaming down my cheeks.

I found her CaringBridge page where her dad shared his raw emotion across the page. He talked about the brutality in watching his little girl suffer. He ended his post with, “If you pray, please do so. Ask for steady hands, sharp minds and peaceful hearts.”

Steady hands, sharp minds and peaceful hearts. His words stayed with me in the most profound way-far beyond his intention for her medical team.

The next couple of days each time I prayed for these things I thought about how his requests, especially for a peaceful heart, transcends all that challenges us.

The next time I’m up at 2:00 am, I’m going to do my best to put his words on my mind’s marquee. Steady Hands, Sharp Minds and Peaceful Hearts. It’s sure to be a prettier display.

Mindy Lynn is the Author of Embracing Charlie. Embracing Charlie was honored as a Finalist in the Christian Inspirational Category of the 2014 USA Best Book Awards. Consider Subscribing to Mindy’s Blog Via email-ensuring you won’t miss a post.

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