The party guest I invited

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Some of the decorations outside

Over 100 people came to my middle OS’s college send-off party.

It was a beautiful celebration and I just revelled in God’s goodness as I looked at the crowd.

I recall my high school graduation party and it was nothing like this one.

Mine had a keg of beer, Michael Jackson music and I remember my tube top falling down unexpectedly. Someone had yanked on it and whoops, there it fell right by the kitchen door leading out to the backyard.

I nearly died of embarrassment but shrugged it off because bursting into tears is just plain gauche for a burgeoning French major.

Possibly one of the sweetest sights at Aaron’s party is this one. People pausing to pray for my son. Such a tender moment, thank you precious family and friends.

Aaron’s bash was nothing of the sort…No booze, (none necessary) folk music, Christian fellowship and everyone remained fully clothed to my knowledge. ūüėČ

Among the treasured guests were our current church family, close personal friends, extended family, pastors, friends from our old churches, some of Aaron’s former teachers and classmates that were in choir and drama together.

Our pastor spoke a beautiful prayer just before dinner which was a gift in itself.

We ate Chicago style hot dogs from Sonic, Chicago style pizza from Rosati’s and filled in with healthy food like cranberry quinoa salad, lentils and jasmine rice, marinated mozzarella, watermelon juleps and other lovely treats.

All the hard work paid off seeing the faces of people who obviously loved my olive shoot and felt cared for by him as well. Afterward, I told Aaron it was like a wedding but no wife and no sex. He wasn’t sure how to respond but appreciated the sentiment and just chalked it up to another one of Mom’s awkward sayings of which he has quite a collection.

Oh yes, knit Chicago style hot dogs and knit Chicago style pizza slices!

But in the back of my mind throughout the preparations and during the actual party, when I allowed myself to think,

I remembered that a year ago on this same day marked my grandma’s last full day on earth.

That is a very hard thing to process when one is getting ready for a party, I assure you. Myriad emotions wafted in and out.

I loved her so much, she was so dear to me.

She profoundly loved my babies.

How had I even survived this year without her?

Step right up and get your picture taken with Aaron in front of the Sears Tower!

It was a Chicago theme celebration since our ministry-minded OS is going to Moody Bible Institute in the heart of the Windy City. As many of you who have been reading my blog have noticed, I built a Sears Tower (I refuse to call it Willis Tower) in my family room.

Each guest got a picture with Aaron in front of our own homemade indoor skyscraper and I chuckled to see small lines of families getting ready for their turn in front of the impressive structure.

And in my own way, unbeknownst to most people, I secretly invited my grandma to the party.

She had to be a part of the night and oh how Grandma loved to party. The poor woman couldn’t cook worth a darn but she was an enthusiastic and memorable party guest. Young and old alike loved it when Grace was coming over. She had a way of getting a party started as many will attest.

My orange hair freckle face OS and his great grandma. She made everyone smile.

And that’s what I did.

I took her to the party.

It was hard to do but I wore her Chicago Cubs shirt to my OS’s celebration.

It didn’t matter that it wasn’t especially flattering or that it slightly clashed with my skirt, I wanted my grandma there with me.

I also wore her high school necklace which rarely leaves me. And I ate some hot dogs. Grandma ate like a bird but loved hot dogs.

Grandma joined the celebration last night. She would have had a blast even if she had some Alzheimer’s, rarely wore her hearing aids and needed a cane. Heaven is the only thing that stopped her from making an appearance and if my grandma is with Jesus, I completely understand her not wanting to leave the ultimate celebration.

All of us, Nate is even in the picture. And I’m wearing my grandma’s Chicago Cubs t-shirt

As the night drew to a close and August 5th soon approached, more tears fell from my tired eyes.

The one year anniversary of my grandma’s passing had now arrived.

I saw my family’s facebook statuses change and their profile pictures show photos of them with Grandma.

I was not alone in missing her.

And those tears mingled with the tears of joy I experienced toward my treasured OS. I can scarcely take it all in today but all is well.

I miss her.

I love her.

I will miss my boy.

How many people can say they have done the YMCA at their grandma’s 80th birthday party? And how many can say that later on in the night, they danced a conga line through their aunt’s house with that same grandma? I did both and will treasure those times forever!

I love him.

I praise the Lord for all the tears, all the people, all the kindness, all the sadness, all the memories, all the love, truly I am blessed on this most notable day.

These two people were crazy about each other.

PS. In honor of my grandma who loved to party, remember to enter my give-away for a fun party gift! I’ll draw a winner tomorrow! Leave a comment on this page if you want to be entered in.

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Going to church on a sad day isn’t really easy but…

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So yesterday I went to church. I would have preferred to be holed up in my house having a nice, little feel sorry for me time but I thought that would just be self-serving and non-productive. I also thought it would be a bad example for my children, one of whom was feeling as miserable as I was. 

Dark sunglasses hid my tear-stained eyes as we made our way into the church. With a wad of Kleenex in one hand, I tried to creep in quietly because I wasn’t in the mood for small talk. Honestly I don’t like banal small talk to begin with as I dislike superficial conversation and yesterday was certainly not a day for idle chit-chat.¬†

We currently attend a small, start-up church so it’s not like we walk into a sanctuary or a fancy building. Our church is actually an elementary school. There is no organ music or choir, our chairs are not pews but just folding chairs. It’s fairly modest and it’s hard to “disappear” into the crowd. ¬†
But I safely made it into the gymnasium which is where the service is held without really saying anything. Whew! My emotions were very raw and close to the surface and it was all I could do to not bawl my eyes out. Maybe some people thought I was a rock star or something because I kept the sunglasses on as I waited for church to begin. Wait a sec, is that Hannah Montana? No, it’s just Cindy the crying West Point mama! HA!


I certainly wasn’t giving off an aura of “hey, somebody talk to me.” I have always been the kind of person that for some reason doesn’t get accosted by the people at the perfume counter. Even though I am rather petite, I guess I give off the impression that I shouldn’t be squirted with the latest fragrance. I don’t usually have to worry about people approaching me in an unnecessary manner.
But here I was, hurting, crying, sunglasses on, my treasured parka covering my aching mama’s soul and suddenly I got blessed.

Someone hugged me.


She took a risk and hugged me. Her tender words reached into my sad heart and made it feel a little better. It surprised me, quite honestly because it was a beautiful single woman. We don’t really talk too much although she is a very nice person. Heather didn’t know why I was crying, why I was so sad but she took a second and reached out. And I noticed that I hurt a little less.

Then to my horror, the pastor asks everyone to stand and greet each other. “Puh-lease! Today is NOT the day! Can’t you see I’m falling apart!,” I thought to myself. ¬†I reluctantly stood up because it would have been looked more awkward to remain sitting on my gray, plastic folding chair. I felt sorry for the new guy who shook my hand because he had no idea how to respond to a crying lady in sunglasses but heck, at least he tried.

And then it happened again. 


I got another hug. This time from Jessie, beautiful single woman behind me. In a broken voice, I told her why I was so sad and although she has never had a child, I felt like she sincerely cared. And I noticed that again, I hurt a little less.

Church was over. My sunglasses had come off during the sermon and I was gaining composure but I felt the tears surfacing again as we were leaving the gym. All I wanted to do was bolt for the exit but before I that happened, another woman came up to me.

This time it was Tricia, a mama and she asked if she could give me a hug. I gladly accepted and dutifully deposited some tears on her nice, clean shirt. Yes, I was still sad but something had changed.

So why am I writing this post? Because I want to encourage you, I want to challenge myself, to reach out. I wasn’t putting out the welcome sign for any of these women but the love of Christ gave them the unction to see past my exterior. Despite the sunglasses and the withdrawn attitude, these ladies reached out. They weren’t full of nice-ities and platitudes, they didn’t pat me on my little head and say everything was going to be all right. They didn’t placate me and give me some worn-out clique. In fact, they didn’t even say they understood what I was feeling but those few seconds it took for them to be nice to me, I’m telling you, it ministered to me in ways they cannot understand.

In my work, I purpose myself to reach out to hurting teenagers. They are everywhere. In every classroom, auditorium where I speak, I can spot them so easily. Their personas can be hard and intimidating. Some have a seemingly inpenetrable attitude and I admit, I can be afraid to extend myself but I try to move beyond my insecurities and touch their heart. Sometimes with a motherly pat on the shoulder, other times with a listening ear. I have been blown off and it hurts but I still must do it. Interestingly, Sunday, I was on the receiving end and three people extended a hand of kindness my way. 

Check out this Scripture found in Matthew 25. Jesus says, “For I was hungry and you gave me food. I was thirsty and you gave me drink. I was a stranger and you welcomed me. I was naked and you clothed me. I was in prison and you came to me.” Then he says to his disciples, “Truly, I say to you, as you did it to one of the least of these my brothers, you did it for me.”

The physical hugs from these women lasted a short time but the impact of what they did is still with me. For that, I give great thanks. Go do it, dear friends. 

PS. Shout out to my sister Lorri for letting me use her pics!