Five minute Friday – visit

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photo 17It was a Sunday night

Another Sunday night where my mobility is limited

And I am challenged to fight off another unwelcome visit from Depression

Too often these days as I sit on my bed and count the hours until I am FREE, Depression is my companion.

Nothing made this Sunday night any different until my son walked in with two of his buddies

And instantly the doldrums were lifted

Without any extra food, no advance planning

A spontaneous dinner party with four teenage boys ensued

Cheerfulness and hospitality visited

Friendship and fellowship stopped by

photo 18We supped on homemade pao de quiejo, (a dish that was visited upon us thanks to our borrowed Brazilian olive shoot), fresh green salad with homemade dressing, fried zucchini rounds and some leftover chicken. We all made the food together, no complaints, just fun and teamwork.

Those boys do not realize their arrival brought sunshine to this tired foot and soul

And in a way, we entertained angels unaware

How about you? What memories come to mind for you about the word “visit?” Any recent “visit” that especially encouraged you?photo 19

5minutefridayCheck out what other people are saying about this word on Five Minute Friday! It’s so interesting to read different perspectives!

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Love and letters, part one

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photo copy 5The response to writing my Soldier has been incredible.

Most of us do not understand how wonderful it is for a military person to hear from loved ones and friends.

The longer I am a mama of a Soldier, the more it sinks in.

For my son, he has loved every single message.

Here’s why. Imagine marching 800m through the swamps, then doing a 9k patrol base at night followed by a 17k back. Your letters matter to these weary men.

Picture getting 30 seconds to inhale an MRE (meals ready to eat) somewhere in the mountains but then getting a funny card from a friend delivered to you sometime during training. It can kind of make you feel like a person for a second. If there’s a stick of gum inside, even better!

So today I want to highlight some of the incredible letters and cards Nate has been receiving, I’m amazed at everyone’s thoughtfulness. We’re not done yet, so please keep writing, I feel blessed because of you.

Dog owners – Can you believe that Nate is getting a letter from a couple who adopted our emotionally disturbed greyhound, Toughie? Years ago, we were the owners of a retired racing greyhound. Poor Toughie was an emotional basket case and we had to find him another home. Before going over the Rainbow Bridge, Toughie found some infinitely patient souls to care for him. Now they are sending Nate a letter! Oh how he will chuckle seeing the name Toughie again!

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Oh dear nephew, your cousin will cherish this picture forever! He will love all the detail and action! I love you and so does Nate! RLTW!

Cousins – This picture is from Nate’s seven-year old cousin, Jon. The more I look at this picture, the more I love it. Tanks, swamps, fish, words of encouragement, this drawing also has plenty of action and Nate is smiling through the whole thing. I’m not so sure about that in real life but I do know this. Nate will grin ear to ear because of this letter. According to Jon, Nate is the #1 23-year-old and I have to agree!

Katie and the kids she's working with this summer.

Katie and the kids she’s working with this summer.

Classmates and cool kids – One of Nate’s high school classmates is working with K-5th kids this summer.

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Daniel, this is a beautifully written letter. You are a really nice guy!

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974857_10201224092465611_1526572933_n Stacey, this letter is a work of art. Nate will love it!

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Thank you Alajah for thinking of my Soldier.

Since Nate is a strong example of perseverance, obedience, courage and integrity, determination, Katie had an idea.

Last week she talked to her kids about unconditional love. Then the kids sent him some snail mail. Just look at the adorable sentiments expressed by these precious children!

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So bright and colorful! Much prettier than looking at the swamps! Thanks y’all!

Thanks to Katie and her efforts, Nate will receive 30 Scripture filled letters from these boys and girls. This will mean the world to him!

Brothers – Equally delightful are the cards my orange hair, freckle face OS sends his brother.

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It takes a unique mind to come up with this character. What a creative little brother!

Spermy the Whale is the featured character Ike created during his middle school years.

Spermy now makes regular appearances on correspondence with Nate.

In particular, Nate has specifically mentioned how much he enjoys getting these bizarre greetings.

Ike really makes some interesting cards...

Ike really makes some interesting cards…I know he enjoys sending them to his bro.

It would seem that Spermy the Whale is transforming from a gangsta with grillz and a gold chain to entering the business world sporting a briefcase and a professional tie. The grillz are now a thing of the past. Um, ok!

My joy multiples as a mom. On behalf of all the families we represent who have a son, fiance, husband, boyfriend or brother in Ranger School, know it is a highlight for us to know others care.

From Korea to California, Texas to Michigan, El Salvador to New York and all points in between, thank you, bless you. We should never undervalue the significance of sending support to our military servicemen and women.

Questions: If you have a special person in the military, how have letters and cards helped your loved one?  What are creative ways you offer support to others! Let’s share ideas!

Some Good News for a change!

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I want good news. I long to hear joyful stories. Often it seems as if there is one sad tale after another, do you know what I mean? Can I get an amen?!

Seventeen years ago, while pregnant with my orange hair, freckle face olive shoot, I knew a mother at church who lost her newborn baby. My husband attended the memorial service; my emotions were too intense as to offer any comfort to the grieving family.

When I told an acquaintance of this news, she followed by telling me an equally sad story about a mom who had lost a child. Every time I shared the tragedy that I was familiar with, though my belly was full of baby, it was guaranteed the listener had to tell me something worse, usually about a child.

Soon I learned to not share information like this while pregnant. It felt like the world was competing to tell me the most heartbreaking lament. Plus the OJ Simpson trial had also started. Bad news loomed everywhere.

Today I want to share Good News!

First, it is Penguin Awareness Day (my favorite animal) = yay.

Second, Jesus loves you and cares = He alone is freedom and redemption, a mushy kind of love you have never experienced. I made a mess of my life, Christ cleaned it up. I continue to stumble and goof up, Jesus grants me new mercies each day.

I like to read the Bible in French. It’s such a beautiful language and God’s Word speaks to me differently when I employ these parts of my heart and brain. I have my English Bible and my French dictionary nearby just in case something doesn’t make sense since I’m quite rusty. But today as I read Marc 1:1-8 (La Bible du Semeur version) these two words stirred my soul.

Bonne Nouvelle

Bonne Nouvelle translates to Good News. In English we say “Gospel,” I just like it better in French.

This is the Bible reading I'm going to do for the next three weeks.

I’m doing the Deeper Into Scripture study for the next three weeks but the other ones look great too! Click here for info. 

Whatever language you speak, whatever your cir-cumstances, Happy day, sad day, seriously you need Good News, Bonne Nouvelle as badly as I do.

Different versions of the Bible in French! Formidable!

Different versions of the Bible in French! Formidable!

For the next 21 days, I’m participating in a Deeper Into Scripture: A 21-Day Plan Reading Plan through YouVersion. Although I’m involved in a weekly women’s Bible Study, I need more time with the Lord. I’m praying that this simple commitment will help me connect with God daily through His Word. I’d love some friends to join me. We can share Good News together, Lord knows we need it!

Here’s the link if you want to learn more. Scroll down the page on the link for all the options, you will find one for you! What have you got to lose? Reading the Bible could truly change your life!

“Thank you, Cindy”

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I took this picture just before going to meet with Charlotte. I had no idea what to expect.

I took this picture just before going to meet with Charlotte. I had no idea what to expect.

I began my career as a stay-at-home mom when my youngest olive shoot was 18 months old. I had experienced a spiritual conversion to Christianity in December 1997 and instantly felt the Lord beckon me to be more present with my husband and family.

What I didn’t know is that just before leaving the corporate world, apparently I had made a profound impact on a person’s life. Honestly I only have a vague recollection of the small effort I exerted. A competent professional was deserving of the referral I offered. For me it was no big deal, a no-brainer. But for Charlotte, it was life-changing. Don’t we all want to positively influence others and make a difference?

Today, I’m privileged to have Charlotte as a guest blogger. I’m sharing her words with you today to encourage YOU.

Charlotte carefully wrapped a beautiful gift for me. She even carefully picked the ribbon.

Charlotte carefully wrapped a beautiful gift for me. She even carefully picked the ribbon.

Now, here’s Charlotte…

In 1997, Cindy recommended me to one of her corporate clients. Fifteen years later, I am still providing consulting services for that company. My sincere thanks to Cindy for the referral and for her confidence in me and my business. I met with her a few weeks ago to celebrate the 15 years and to give her a special gift. As I reflected on the great gift she gave me in 1997, I thought of these “Three R’s”:

Receive – Through Cindy’s generosity, I was given an opportunity to receive. It was clear that I could never repay her for what she did for me. Yet I could pray for her, for peace and prosperity in her life. In addition to the gift of the referral, it is a gift to be able to receive without any strings attached.

Remember – I am intentional about remembering those who have blessed my life and my business. Cindy’s name remains on that list. Though I could never repay Cindy for her generosity, I do take time to remember her and to express my appreciation. This year when we met, I gave her a gift of art and it was a total surprise. We shared updates with each other and through our laughter and tears, we remembered, reflected, and relaxed.

I just sat there stunned at the kindness. I had no idea.

I just sat there stunned at the kindness. I had no idea.

Repeat – Another way to express my appreciation for the referral from Cindy is to make sure I support others by making referrals, connecting people, and cheering them on as they pursue their dreams. Each time I do so at the company I mentioned, Cindy’s one act of generosity in 1997 continues to be shared with others.

This is Charlotte!

This is Charlotte!

Thank you, Cindy. You have made a big difference in my life, my family, and my business. May God continue to bless you and your family today and always.

With a grateful heart,
Charlotte

Whether you are a professional career person, a retiree, a college student or a stay at home mom with a side business selling soap nuts and stuff (um, that would be me!), employ the three “R’s” more often. Your efforts, however seemingly insignificant they may seem at the time, can bless others in ways you never imagined. Expressing gratitude can help move someone from the miry pit to a place of hope. Charlotte did that for me and I guess I did the same for her. Blessings replete with potential and healing await, truly!

What “R” are you going to do today?

Charlotte Purvis is a communication coach and highly rated professional speaker. Since 1985, she has partnered with individuals and organizations seeking to take their communication skills, customer service, and presentation styles to the next level. She’s also a lovely and generous person I call friend. To contact Charlotte, here’s a link  and her email  charlotte@purviscommunications.com. 

Twice in a summer

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We argue. We fight. We disappoint each other and intentionally do things to annoy. These are some of the rather unsavory characteristics of my family.

On occasion our clothes are left on the ground, someone “forgets” to empty the dishwasher, the carpet needs vacuuming and the kitchen floor hasn’t seen a broom in a few days.

We battle big things too in this house…depression, anxiety, temptation and Ambien, to name a few.

But then there are these halcyon moments –

And it’s like one of us is a polished diamond

And we get it right

I didn’t grow up going to church. Raising a Christian family means so much to me. Sitting next to one of my guys makes it even sweeter.

Maybe not for the whole day, for that might be too strenuous

But for a snapshot of time, we experience a flash of heaven

Which is what happened Sunday morning…

Aaron helping lead worship. He did a great job and found it to be a very emotional experience.

It was Aaron’s last Sunday at church before leaving to attend college in Chicago. This summer Aaron has acted as one of our church’s interns. For a small church of about 50 people, I must say, they put my OS to work like a boss. In addition to holding a paid, part-time job as a pool attendant, Aaron had many church projects to accomplish. Whereas many nearly 18-year-old young people are majorly chilling the summer before going off to school, Aaron has been learning Greek, reading church leadership books and writing reports about them. Aaron worked tirelessly compiling a hymnal for our church filled with rich, beautiful hymns that are still reverent and true. Each time my OS showed me progress on this hymnal, he beamed with excitement and joy. Aaron and the two other summer interns led an entire church service and my middle OS was so moved by the experience, he ended up in tears before our small congregation recently one Sunday morning. Incidentally as a result, most of the congregation was equally emotional especially the mama with pink highlights in her hair = me!

The three pastors poured into our boy’s life and gave him a glimpse into how to truly minister and shepherd a flock of people. They showed Aaron the inner workings of a healthy church body, how to receive feedback before and after the sermon (something I’ve never heard of pastors doing before attending this church). Through their personal investment in my OS’s life, Aaron is developing into a vibrant and active young leader.

And on Sunday, our pastors blessed him in a grand way before sending him off to the Windy City. Although the Hubs and I knew about this previously, it came as a surprise to Aaron when he was asked to come up to the front of the church. Jerry, one of our pastors, explained to the crowd that Aaron was leaving to attend Moody Bible Institute and this would be his last Sunday with us. He then asked the men of the church to come forward and to pray over my boy. It wasn’t creepy and it didn’t offend my former feminist ways in case the mere thought of this bristles you.

Twice in a summer I have witnessed a moment like this.

My sandy-haired boy bowed his head and I realized at that moment, wow, this is the second child in a summer that I have seen kneeling before Jesus and his followers. (Click here to read about the first time with Nathan). We weren’t at West Point; we were in the suburbs of North Carolina but another one of my olive shoots was submitting his life to the Lord and receiving from His people, words of blessing and protection. Honestly, I think the statistics for something like this happening twice in a summer are quite small. And when I consider my wretchedness, I think it is nothing short of miraculous that something this beautiful could happen to me as a mother. And furthermore, this is the second time the orange hair, freckle face OS has laid hands on a brother and helped usher him into a new season of life. Not your everyday, run of the mill brother stuff but something lofty, holy and lovely.

The prayer didn’t last too long, no one spoke in tongues, snakes were not handled. 😉

Seeing godly men praying for my olive shoot, thank you Jesus for this glorious moment. That’s my orange hair, freckle face guy in the black shirt, his hands on his bro.

As the prayer finished and the men made their way back to their seats, Pastor Rob asked Aaron to stay up front for a moment.

And that’s when they gave Aaron another gift as if the gift of prayer, love, protection, shepherding, accountability and manly, godly leadership weren’t enough.

Sitting next to my boy one last time before college, Aaron getting his hymnal, the actual hymnal

He sweetly handed my boy the very first copy of our church’s new hymnal. The project Aaron had devoted hours on was finished and my OS got first dibs. Aaron hugged our pastors fiercely and shined like a diamond holding that hymnal in his hand. He sat down next to me and while he began flipping through the pages, I patted his knee, tears in my eyes. As sad as I think Aaron might feel about leaving his family, I think he feels even sadder leaving his church. He will be a part of our fellowship even if he’s thousands of miles away.

Here’s one of Aaron’s favorite songs, Jesus, Savior Pilot Me which can be found on page 82 in our hymnal. Surely I will think of the precious child who sat and snuggled next to me even as a teenager each Sunday morning. As a benefit of birthing this fine olive shoot, I too, was handed a copy of the hymnal which Aaron will be signing for me. I cherish it already. (Btw, yes, I’m crying while writing this.)

This is a cool song. Beautiful, timeless words. ❤

So today, we’ll see how it goes. One of us might be grouchy. The Hubs and I might bicker, the guys might not initiate folding the mounds of laundry. We are alas a very human bunch. Still, I will praise the Lord. I will exalt His name. I will rejoice in the blessings I am given, those moments when we transcend our selfishness, stubbornness and foolishness and I see extraordinary beauty in the land of the living. May it be so with you and those you love as well. ❤

Ambien – setback, stepback, not giving up

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Wednesday around 3am, I felt like a puny junior high girl in PE class…

Good times posing in the Kmart photo booth

Circa 1974ish

My opponent this time wasn’t the rope that was hooked to the gym ceiling that I never could climb at Jefferson Junior HIgh

And it wasn’t the chin-up bar from which I couldn’t pull myself to save my life or my dignity

Wednesday morning, I wasn’t the last one picked for the volleyball match or the girl who lost the softball game

in my red PE  shorts, red and white thin-striped polyester PE shirt with red trim, a lithe and flat female frame devoid of all muscle tone either

No, in the wee hours of Wednesday, I was in bed, in my pajamas, a grown woman!

but I just as felt defeated that night (or should I say morning) sleep mask, pillows, fan going full blast

Tired

because I took the stupid Ambien

it was 3am and I told the Lord I was going to do it

There have been times when I have told Jesus I was going to do something and I knew He wasn’t going to like it

I bet you have too

but I was so tired

and having been up with my orange hair, freckle face OS for yet another night

feeling helpless about how to care for him and desperate for some rest

I swallowed that tiny pill and fell asleep with my sick boy nearby

I continue to trust in the Lord

Middle school Cindy

Blocking out the Enemy’s voices that remind me of my failings

My Holy One is teaching me things

I may falter and get distracted

Day and night

Ambien and life

But there is grace

My Heavenly Father presides over me

And through Him, I can do all things

Even sleep

The Lord loved that little wimpy middle school Cindy way back then and is compassionate towards me now. I’m on his team, He picked me many years ago and doesn’t laugh at my shortcomings but gives me the courage to press on

And so I will try again and claim this promise

Isaiah 40:31 (KJV)

But they that wait upon the LORD shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings as eagles; they shall run, and not be weary; and they shall walk, and not faint.

Thanks for listening….I welcome your thoughts and prayers

Cycling is like life – another woman’s story

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My inbox held a special treat. A friend from a former church had written me with something to share. Honestly many times a feeling of nervousness comes over me just before I read an email or a message. Am I in trouble? Did I tick someone off? Are they going to tell me something really sad or disappointing? That’s honestly what I wonder but whew, that wasn’t the case with Debbie’s message.

She told me that after returning home from a recent solo, very warm bike ride, many thoughts flooded her mind. Although not typically one who uses writing as a creative outlet, she felt compelled to write about an epiphany of sorts she had experienced on this ride.

As I read it, I knew I wanted to share it with you and so with Debbie’s permission, here are her words. As you read these, I encourage you to think of a daily activity or passion that you have…how does God speak to you through it?

This bike has taken Debbie on quite a journey

cycling is like life:

Super cool pic of Debbie and her hubs out hiking, one of her favorite pics following a really long hard hike in TN/VA

some rides I anticipate, look forward too, am excited for,
others I dread, look at as a chore, see as mundane,
some rides I encounter difficult climbs or easy descents, others rolling hills,
some rides I encounter beauty beyond compare, others not so beautiful,
some rides I encounter bee stings and accidental ingestion of bugs,
others I have witnessed awe-inspiring butterflies, birds and animals,

some rides I get a flat tire, many I don’t,
some rides I have been cursed at, spit on (yep), given the finger when I was doing everything right,
others I have been shown immeasurable grace when it was me who made the mistake,

I mean seriously, how could anyone spit at this lovely woman while she’s biking?

some rides I have been disliked just because I am a cyclist on the road,
others, maybe, I have inspired another,
some rides are extremely hot, cold, or surprised by storms,
others beautiful, sunny and calm,

some rides I have met wonderful, ‘want to be around’ folks, others not,
some rides I have gossiped unfairly, others I have been gossiped about,
some rides I put my best effort forward, some I have not,

Here is a huge turtle Debbie and her cycling buddy stumbled pon this summer!

some rides I have encountered dogs that want to attack, others that don’t,
some rides have unknown potholes, rocks and gravel, others smooth and beautiful,

some rides I am inexplicably weak, others I am inexplicably strong,
some days I have great ride, others not so great,
but no matter how the ride was,in the end,
I am so glad I have gone,
I am joyful to accomplish the ride
I am thankful to be healthy enough
thankful for my experience,
thankful for the journey.

Like my bike rides,
some days are smooth with perfect temperature,
sunny skies, dog free,
full of stranger kindness and feelings of strength,
other days are wrought with potholes, heat, bugs, winds, meanness and weakness.

Pic of new freeway intersection – this stretch of road actually promoted Debbie’s writing. Old US 1 just reopened after putting the bridge for 540, an ominous intersection for cyclists “out in the country side” in the heart of North Carolina

In spite of my anticipation and preparation, each ride has a life of its own.
I choose to embrace the journey of each ride, each day, for I know it will make me stronger and I will be glad for it, but I can only do it if I rely on the One Who is bigger than me.

cycling is like life

The more I read Debbie’s words, the more I relate to them. The more I want to take my bike to the repair shop and get on it! Thank you Debbie for inspiring me and trusting me enough to share it. I’d love to hear from you also. If  you have a story to tell, let me know, maybe I can help you speak your words to others.

A few other things about her: Debbie Douglass is married 25 yrs to a wonderful man, Jay  and mom of two sweet college aged kids. She’s also been a cyclist for 30 years. I’m not a biker but Debbie and I have a few things in common, we both are a lover of pretty tables and we’ve both been Christ-followers for 16 years (and oh SO thankful!!)

It’s truly a privilege to share her lovely message.