MOM WOULD BE TURNING 80 THIS YEAR.

When my mom passed away thirty one years ago, she was just 49 years old. That’s how old I am now.

It’s a lifetime ago, and yet at times it feels like it was just yesterday.

Sometimes I can almost recall the sound of Mom’s voice… there was a time when I could just close my eyes and easily hear her voice, recall her words, and even picture Mom perched on the stairs, smiling down at me, listening as I played piano.

But as time marches on, we lose some of these memories that used to give us comfort. I used to find this very upsetting, but lately I’ve been thinking that perhaps it’s all part of God’s plan because while memories can be comforting and full of joy, when we have lost a loved one, memories can also keep us stuck.

This year, as the season of missing Mom approached, I realized that I was the same age that Mom was when she died; that my oldest daughter was turning 18, the age I was on that fateful day; and that my youngest daughter was 14, the age that my little sister had been when we lost my mom. Suddenly I realized how difficult it must have been for Mom to carry the burden of knowing how sick she was, and even realizing that her daughters were going to have to grow up without her.

I carried that with me for awhile, but a funny thing happened right before my daughter Breanna went off to college, on her 18th birthday. She told me she wanted to make me a salad. It sounds crazy, but it was the best salad I’ve had in a really long time for several reasons.

First, watching her make a salad, I realized how much she’s grown up this past year, and I was comforted about her going off to college. Second, seeing how happy she was just making a salad for me showed me that she enjoys doing nice things for others, and she can appreciate the little things in life.

But the real gift came because it had been weighing on me that I wouldn’t be taking her to college, helping her plan, or getting her settled into college life. Perhaps this hit me so hard because these were some of the last things my mom and I did together before she died. Finding our way around campus, shopping in town, setting up my dorm room and going out to dinner in town were some of the last memories I was hanging on to, because they were the most recent and all I had. Or so I thought…

With that salad, so many other long-forgotten memories rushed back: the wonderful, pungent smell of tomatoes on the VINE. Making salads in the kitchen, using the tomatoes and cucumbers we grew in our own backyard, and mixing up our own vinaigrette in the glass carafe that measures out the oil and the vinegar. Adding a teaspoon of sugar to spaghetti sauce, Mom’s little secret when it hadn’t had time to simmer… I also felt the pride and sadness Mom might have felt, watching me as I got ready to fly the coop. (“We give our children two things: roots and wings,” she reminded me, on more than one occasion…)

While the college memories were some of the last memories I have with Mom, they weren’t the best memories. All of a sudden there was a flood of other memories: summers in the cabin, Sunday morning breakfasts, coffee toast, snowmen, family dinners, so many holidays, Irish coffee, chocolate mousse, Yorkshire pudding, and of course, Nana’s burned carrots.

Sometimes we just need a little reminder that we can always find new memories to hold on to, and to find joy in simple things. Like SALAD.

They say grief comes in waves or goes in cycles… I never know what will trigger grief, but I’ve found that each year, the season of missing Mom typically starts at the beginning of summer, and really gets going by her birthday in July. Then there’s the anniversary of her death and a series of family birthdays in October, followed by Thanksgiving, Christmas, New Year’s, my sister’s birthday, and Easter… For some reason there’s a short lull between Easter and summer (probably because we were always in crazy end of the school year stuff during that time) but to be honest, even after all this time I never know what will trigger grief. I’m thankful for happy memories, but I still find myself missing my mom (and Dad) all the time.

WHAT WOULD JESUS SAY?

Irreconcilable Differences in the United Methodist Church

I’m a humble student of God’s Word, a servant at my church, and a sinner in need of a Savior. We all sin and fall short of the glory of God. In my humble opinion as a lifelong, third generation United Methodist who watched the UMC General Conference and witnessed the aftermath in the media (social and otherwise), I’ve never felt so strongly that it is time for the United Methodist Church to split.

In case you missed it, there’s been great controversy in the UMC lately. The United Methodist Church website, www.umc.org, states “A Special Session of the General Conference of The United Methodist Church took place February 23-26, 2019 in St. Louis, Missouri. The purpose was to act on a report from the Commission on a Way Forward, authorized to examine paragraphs in The Book of Discipline concerning human sexuality and to explore options to strengthen church unity.”

Several different plans were proposed, and after the delegates narrowed it down to the two plans that would be voted on, people found themselves on opposite sides depending on where they and their congregations stood on highly controversial issues.

Like many, I watched the Special Session online, and the UMC did an excellent job from a technical standpoint; to home viewers it seemed to be very well-organized, effectively moderated, and live-streamed complete with worship and prayer. But it was very difficult to watch because the stakes -and emotions- were so high. Both sides were so committed to their views that I saw no way it would end well. So, like many others, I prayed for God to bring peace, wisdom and reconciliation to the proceedings. I appreciated the prayer and worship breaks and I’m sure those attending did as well. I appreciated the requests to go to God in prayer before votes were made.

At the Special Session, members took turns vehemently arguing FOR or AGAINST whichever amendment or plan was on the floor. Passionate speeches were made. Alliances were formed. Positions were defended. Feelings were raw. Accusations were made. Threats and rallying cries went up, people chanted and sang and booed and cheered at various points in the proceedings.

Throughout the Special Session, and in the days since the passing of The Traditional Plan, The Traditionalists and the pro-LGBT members, who supported the One Church Plan, have repeatedly shown how diametrically opposed they are. When the Traditional Plan was passed, and the One Church Plan defeated, nobody truly won because it was more confirmation of how opposed the two sides had become.

I have loved ones in the LGBT community, and I hate to see so much hurt and divisiveness, with harsh words, accusations, and promises for more strife and conflict thrown about. I share these thoughts at the risk of angering and even possibly alienating friends and loved ones, for the sake of those people out there I’ve never met yet: those who desperately need to hear the Good News. Those are the very people we are meant to reach, so that we can share the Gospel of Jesus Christ. I love our church as I love the Lord, with all my heart, and I pray that the Lord will guide each of us to understanding His will for our church.

How can we go on like this?  During the Special Session there were pledges to run out the clock, delegates speaking over one another, delegates refusing to acknowledge the Chair, and accusations of members buying votes. In the days since Special Session we’ve seen a flurry of communications and outrage on social media, with more accusations of impropriety, and there is an incredible sense that things will never be the same again.

What would Jesus say about our current situation?

Would Jesus want us to disrupt the missions and tarnish the witness of a longstanding church, or would He want us to settle this quickly so we can get back to building the Kingdom of God? Are we serving our own interests, or His?

Would Jesus want us to blame our brothers and sisters overseas for how their numbers affected the vote, or would He want us to pray for those who are being persecuted and murdered in His name, while we in the United States churches argue amongst ourselves?

Would Jesus have taken sides at the Special Session, where each side was so focused on winning arguments and amendments and winning more people to their point of view? Or would He have been disappointed or even furious to see the leaders of the United Methodist Church trying to win arguments and thus win worldly approval, ideological victory and riches, i.e., church properties, rather than winning souls for the Kingdom of God?

Would Jesus want us to continue fighting amongst ourselves? Or would He tell us each to pick up our cross and follow Him?

HOW COULD WE MOVE ON FROM HERE?

We need to trust and empower our leaders, not ask them to do the impossible. If we cannot reconcile our differences, we must agree to disagree and move on.I’ve worked with Pastors, School Principals, Presidents of companies, and Presidents of nonprofit organizations.  As an Executive/Administrative Assistant, I have worked with 5 different Pastors, and countless church and ministry leaders, in two different denominations.  I have seen firsthand the burden that Pastors assume for their staff and their congregations, and in the United Methodist Church there is the added commitment to go where one is sent, a call which includes and impacts a Pastor’s family and children. Each year, Pastors make a request and then they wait to learn whether their request to move or stay has been approved, a decision which affects their entire family and often involves new jobs, new schools, new homes, new doctors, new circles of friends, and new church families. This fact must have weighed heavily on all during these negotiations.

Leaders of churches, schools, companies and organizations feel great responsibility, both for those within their organization and for those served by their organization. I’ve had a hand in Executive Search, Mergers & Acquisitions, Human Resources, Public Relations, Event Planning, and Corporate Communications. I’ve been privy to behind-closed-doors meetings where the higher-ups agonize over the ramifications of big changes. It’s never easy and we need to extend grace to our Christian brothers and sisters who have had to make difficult, agonizing choices that will affect so many others.

There seem to be irreconcilable differences within the UMC. Watching the Special Session felt like being a devastated child forced to choose which parent to live with, while fearing that the parent they didn’t choose would be angry and very, very hurt, and might shut them out of their life completely. There was a definite undercurrent of strife throughout the Special Session, and now that a decision has been made, both sides are reeling, just as in divorce, and there are cries of injustice. What makes it seem even more surreal is the realization these are the chosen delegates, the leaders of the United Methodist Church, and yet there is still so much strife and contention.

IRRECONCILABLE DIFFERENCES MAKE SPLITTING UP THE ONLY LOGICAL REMEDY.

The UMC needs to split because a church needs to agree on foundational issues so that leaders and Pastors can do their ministry according to their own interpretation of God’s word, ministering to those for whom they are called, as they see fit.

The UMC needs to split because a church needs to agree on how to interpret scripture and how to minister to their congregation because it affects the type of ministry we can and will do at church. How we interpret the Bible has many implications for what we hear, say and do. What am I equipped for? Do I relate to my Pastor and does he/she relate to me? As a divorced person I’ve gotten all sorts of counsel and advice, and I often feel that only someone who has walked in my shoes can truly relate.

The UMC needs to split because a church needs to recruit and retain staff based on geography, qualifications, preferences and family considerations, and do not need additional burdens such as ideological conflicts on core beliefs. Ideological consensus will mean better opportunities for church growth, ministry and evangelism.

The UMC needs to split because a church needs to foster relationships with congregations and pastors, and because churches need to take good care of our pastors. UMC Districts are already at a disadvantage as compared to other local churches where Pastors can stay in place for decades and build up long relationships over years and years. The LGBT community has unique issues including a high suicide rate among youth and suddenly losing a trusted pastor could severely impact ongoing relationships. How would a Pastor feel being sent away from those who they know are counting on them? How would a pastor feel if they were sent from an LGBT congregation to a non-LGBT congregation, and vice versa? How effective would ministry be, with such changes on the table each year if this is such a pivotal issue? How would these factors affect pastor retention, morale and burnout?

IF THE UMC SPLITS, IT DOESN’T HAVE TO BE CONTENTIOUS OR CONTROVERSIAL. WE HAVE A RESPONSIBILITY TO FIX THIS AND SET AN EXAMPLE THAT GLORIFIES GOD.

If we can agree to disagree, our leaders can discuss things rationally. Of course, the legalities are complex. But despite all the horror stories, there ARE peaceful divorces. The Church can and should set an example that glorifies God and reduces strife and contention. The world, and our children, are watching and the world at large is already fascinated, and so affected by how we are handling ourselves in this situation. Even with our differences, we have two incredibly important things in common:

WE SHARE A COMMON ENEMY who seeks to kill, steal and destroy, and his weapons are strife, offense, anger and lies. Our only weapons against Satan and his lies are God’s word and His truth. We are all meant to stand together against the enemy, to strengthen each other against his attacks, and to bring God’s hope and light to the world. Settling this amicably within the UMC will send a strong message that the enemy can not divide us- we can separate on our own and each be stronger than we were before.

“When he lies, he speaks his native language, for he is a liar and the father of lies.” ~John 8:44 (NIV)

WE SHARE A COMMON MISSION, fulfilling the Great Commission:

Then the eleven disciples went to Galilee, to the mountain where Jesus had told them to go. When they saw him, they worshiped him; but some doubted. Then Jesus came to them and said, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.” ~Matthew 28:16-20 (NIV)

WE SHARE AN INCREDIBLE CHURCH FAMILY, and just as in divorce, there is tremendous opportunity for harm or good, depending upon how we handle ourselves in this situation. The unchurched need us, the world is watching, and our children are watching.

In my humble opinion, it’s time to pick up our crosses and follow Jesus.

Then Jesus told his disciples, “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me. For whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will find it.  For what will it profit a man if he gains the whole world and forfeits his soul? Or what shall a man give in return for his soul?  ~Matthew 16:24-26 (ESV)

I Lost My Mom 28 Years Ago Today…

…and my tradition has been to spend a part of this day grieving, and a part of the day counting my blessings and reflecting on how to make the most of the time I’ve got left.

I live in South Florida, and I feel very blessed and thankful to have been spared the wrath of hurricane Matthew.  The winds were howling fiercely during the night, and when I ventured outside this afternoon the winds were still howling as Matthew was looming off the coast of northern Florida.

The lake behind my house is usually as still as glass, peaceful and silent except for birds chirping…  As I listened to the wind, and saw the ducks in the water and heard the birds in the trees above,  I remembered a bit of scripture from Matthew:

Do Not Worry
25“Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink; or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothes? 26 Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not much more valuable than they? 27 Can any one of you by worrying add a single hour to your life ?

Where have 28 years gone??   I’ve come to realize that grief never ends, it continues cyclically.  Like the tide, the moon and the seasons, grief is just something I’ve learned to expect.  Sometimes grief is like the undertow I remember so well from Jones Beach: even after 28 years it can still knock me off my feet if I’m not careful.  Sometimes grief is like a brilliant full moon that catches me off guard, sets my nerves on edge and leaves me feeling unsettled.  Other times grief is like a gloomy moon obscured by clouds, it’s not one sad memory but rather a longing for happy times.

And sometimes grief is like a cold blast of winter, when I feel the profound loss of my mom most acutely.  I continually grieve that she didn’t get to see me through motherhood, she never got to be a grandma, she doesn’t get to know, much less spoil, my kids.  We don’t get to bicker, reminisce, share recipes, gather for holidays, or ride out storms together.

For a long time I felt that grief was a bad thing, something to downplay or suppress so as not to burden others, but I realize now that even though it’s not fun or always welcome, it’s a part of the healing process.  Grief will never end because something irreplaceable has been taken from me, and I will never be the same. But I’m getting stronger, worrying less and praying more, and I’m immensely grateful for the blessings I have each and every day.

And grief has made me more compassionate, better able to relate to the suffering I see in the world, and more willing and determined to do something about it.  As difficult and traumatic as it was losing my mom so young, I have the luxury of happy memories and a few photographs and a roof over my head.  Even when we lost my Mom, as hard as that was, we didn’t have to struggle to survive like our brothers and sisters in Haiti  are struggling right now.  And we have the luxury of grieving because we aren’t fighting for our lives.

So today when I thought about how I can make a difference, I decided to make an additional donation to Compassion International, to help those kids and families in such desperate need. Today I grieve for our brothers and sisters in Haiti, where the destruction is catastrophic and resources are so scarce.

Please join me in lifting up special prayers for the people of Haiti, for our Compassion child Jac and his family, and for everyone affected by hurricane Matthew.

To help the victims in Haiti, please consider COMPASSION INTERNATIONAL:   http://www.compassion.com/haiti-hurricane-donation.htm

My mom was a nurse, and I know if she were here today she would also be pulling out her credit card to help those in desperate need, so in memory of my mom Sandy, I pray that the Lord will multiply our gifts, to bring healing and peace and hope and safety to our brothers and sisters in Haiti.  I’m grateful for organizations like Compassion International that will venture into these areas to render aid that’s so desperately needed.  I pray that their efforts will be blessed, their workers will be safe, and their impact will touch lives and hearts to restore safety, promote hope and healing, and allow the people of Haiti to grieve and heal.  In Jesus’ name, Amen.

Mom and girls

 

Prayers & Puttering on Father’s Day

Today at our church and at churches around the nation, prayers and prayers and more prayers were lifted up for Orlando… My heart breaks for all the families who are planning funerals and memorial services when they should be planning holiday barbecues and summer vacations. I know from experience how incredibly difficult the holidays are after losing a loved one, having lost my mom nearly 30 years ago, and my dad nine years ago. Losing a loved one is hard enough, but their grief is compounded by the senselessness of these violent losses.  We will all continue to pray for these families, that they can get through this incredible tragedy and carry on after such loss.

Today was my ninth Father’s Day without my dad, and church was a welcome diversion in the morning, a routine that helped me to get it going on a morning when I would have loved to sit around missing Dad and feeling lonely and wistful, especially since my girls are with their dad on Father’s Day and it’s just me, myself and I at home.

After I got home from church, a jumble of memories flooded back to me in no particular order, like a memory playlist on shuffle.  My dad loved puttering around his koi pond, gardening, building things, delivering wise lectures that typically began with, “in life…” and working outdoors.  And of course right after the happy memories came the bittersweet wistfulness: how I wish my girls could have known him! They were so little when he passed away, and we’ve missed out on so much.

with Dad by the pond

I’ve found that on days like these it helps to keep busy, so today I spent some time PUTTERING, in my dad’s honor.  I cleaned off and polished the beautiful heirloom server that had belonged to my parents, and as I polished it, I admired the beauty of the intricate woodworking. I imagine my dad did too, especially because he had done some beautiful woodcarvings of his own.

dad server beforedad server wood topdad server after

After I finished polishing the server, I went to admire one of my dad’s woodcarvings. There aren’t that many, and sadly, he said that the nicest ones were confiscated by a senior officer when he was serving in the US Army.  Apparently he had quite a lot of time on his hands when he was stationed in Alaska, and he said that compared to the ones we’ve seen, his Alaska carvings were exquisite.  I can only imagine, but I’m so grateful for the ones that we do have.  And I guess that’s the takeaway for me today.  Even though Father’s Day is difficult without my dad, I’m so grateful for the time that we did have, and so thankful for the happy memories.dad birds wood carving

I’ve arrived at a stage in grieving that I wrote about here, where it comes in waves, and where there is life in between the waves.  I knew Father’s Day would be tough, so I was prepared for it, and actually for me it’s not just the day, it’s the whole time period that begins just before Mother’s Day and ends on Father’s Day.  And I’ve survived it again this year, in part by admiring my dad’s handiwork.  Looking at it now, it’s a great visual reminder that we’re never alone, and even when we are physically alone, all we have to do is LOOK UP.

I do have so many happy memories of my dad, and because laughter is good for the soul, I’m sharing a clip from The Skit Guys that celebrates Fatherhood.  I was blessed to take the girls to see The Skit Guys recently, and they are absolutely phenomenal, they gave an amazing performance and they were so nice and down to earth, we were all so blessed. Enjoy!!

 

 

 

 

Happy Veterans Day to all the Heroes Among Us

Dad army photo

This past Sunday at my church, and today throughout the USA, we celebrated the heroes among us, those who have come before us, and those who are currently serving.  What a beautiful sight it was watching our congregation on Sunday, as those who have served in our Armed Forces slowly stood up to be recognized, a powerful reminder that at any given moment, there may be heroes among us.

It always brings tears to my eyes to think that so many soldiers gave their lives to protect our freedom and defend what our country stands for, and none were more aware of that than my father.  Born in France, he was just six years old when our troops landed on that beach at Normandy, and if it hadn’t been for those brave soldiers, my father might never have gotten to finish his childhood.  It’s staggering to think that so many died so that others could live.

My dad grew up and went on to immigrate to America, proudly serving in the U.S. Army himself.  He never forgot the tremendous sacrifices that were made on his behalf, nor should we.  Thank you to all the brave men and women of our Armed Forces, we love you and appreciate you!  As Americans we can show our gratitude by remembering you and your families in our prayers, thanking you personally when we can, and taking good care of you when you return home.

Thank you so much to all the amazing veterans I’ll mention by name here: thank you to Mark, Rob,Wayne, Jann, Harry, Rocco, Russ, and Larry, and all those we can’t possibly list but whose names God has in a special place in His heart…

Thank you to those currently serving: Ernie, Aaron, Lindsey, Nolan, Doug, Chris, Rick, Justin, Christopher,Lee, Joey, Craig, Shane,  Cory, Aaron, Daniel, Kristopher, Joshua, Jeremy, Justin, Kyle, and  Jefferson.  God bless you all!

And there are 2 other humble heroes I have to mention… I met Donald awhile back at an indoor flea market at my church.  As we were talking I thanked him for his service to our country, and he was humble about his own service, but he was so proud as he told about his lovely wife Dolores.  She is one of the many women who also supported the war efforts here on the home front, epitomized by the famous “Rosie the Riveter.”

Thank you all, and a very Happy Veterans Day.  Remember to always be on the lookout for the Heroes among us, you never know when you just might get a chance to thank one of them personally.  God bless you all.  ~Michele

 

HEROES Donald and Dolores HEROES Rosie the Riveter

 

 

Treasure Each Day

Happy Father's Day

Today would have been my dad’s 78th birthday, and I celebrated his life today by remembering all the little things we did together: reading, drawing, fishing, woodworking, skiing, skating, painting, cooking, building, the list goes on and on…  My dad worked long hours and came home exhausted each night, and although he could be pretty introverted and even intimidating, he had a heart of gold.  This story reminded me of my dad, who was very fond of sharing “life lessons,”  so I’m sharing it here in the hopes that others will be inspired and remember to always make time to create happy memories.

Enjoy!  God bless you!   ~Michele

 

1000 Marbles

The older I get, the more I enjoy Saturday mornings. Perhaps it’s the quiet solitude that comes with being the first to rise, or maybe it’s the unbounded joy of not having to be at work. Either way, the first few hours of a Saturday morning are most enjoyable.

A few weeks ago, I was shuffling toward the backyard patio with a steaming cup of coffee in one hand and the morning paper in the other.  What began as a typical Saturday morning, turned into one of those lessons that life seems to hand you from time to time.  Let me tell you about it.

I turned the dial up to listen to a Saturday morning talk show, and I heard an older sounding gentleman, with a golden voice. You know the kind, he sounded like he should be in the broadcasting business…  He was telling whoever he was talking with something about “a thousand marbles”.

I was intrigued and stopped to listen to what he had to say…

“Well, Tom, it sure sounds like you’re busy with your job.  I’m sure they pay you well, but it’s a shame you have to be away from home and your family so much. Hard to believe a young fellow should have to work sixty or seventy hours a week to make ends meet. Too bad you missed your daughter’s dance recital.”

He continued, “Let me tell you something Tom, something that has helped me keep a good perspective on my own priorities.”

And that’s when he began to explain his theory of a “thousand marbles.”

“You see, I sat down one day and did a little arithmetic. The average person lives about seventy-five years. I know, some live more and some live less, but on average, folks live about seventy-five years.

“Now then, I multiplied 75 times 52 and I came up with 3900 which is the number of Saturdays that the average person has in their entire lifetime.  Now stick with me Tom, I’m getting to the important part.”

“It took me until I was fifty-five years old to think about all this in any detail,”  he went on, “and by that time I had lived through over twenty-eight hundred Saturdays.  I got to thinking that if I lived to be seventy-five, I only had about a thousand of them left to enjoy.”

“So I went to a toy store and bought every single marble they had.  I ended up having to visit three toy stores to round-up 1000 marbles.  I took them home and put them inside of a large, clear plastic container right here in the shack next to my gear.  Every Saturday since then, I have taken one marble out and thrown it away.”

“I found that by watching the marbles diminish, I focused more on the really important things in life. There is nothing like watching your time here on this earth run out to help get your priorities straight.”

“Now let me tell you one last thing before I sign-off with you and take my lovely wife out for breakfast.  This morning, I took the very last marble out of the container.  I figure if I make it until next Saturday then I have been given a little extra time.  And the one thing we can all use is a little more time.”

“It was nice to meet you Tom, I hope you spend more time with your family, and I hope to meet you again.”

You could have heard a pin drop on the radio when this fellow signed off.  I guess he gave us all a lot to think about.  

I had planned to work that morning.  Instead, I went upstairs and woke my wife up with a kiss. “C’mon honey, I’m taking you and the kids to breakfast.”

“What brought this on?” she asked with a smile. “Oh, nothing special, it’s just been a while since we spent a Saturday together with the kids.”

“Hey, can we stop at a toy store while we’re out?  I need to buy some marbles.”

Source: Anonymous

 

Finding Peace, Conquering Grief

serenity prayer 2

I lost my mom 27 years ago today, and today I’m reminded of a little card that Mom had tucked away in her jewelry box.   The card contained just the first half of the Serenity Prayer, the part that you’ll often see on bookmarks and wall plaques.  I even have a Christmas tree ornament with that little quote on it that came from New York to Florida with me over twenty years ago, one of the treasures I look forward to seeing each year when I put up my Christmas tree.

The first few lines are the most widely quoted part, but it’s only half of the poem and it’s and not even the best half because while it defines what we’re after, it doesn’t tell us HOW to get it.

I’m sharing the whole poem here in my mom’s honor.  We lost her when she was just 49, and while she accomplished great things in her life I often wonder about and grieve for those lost years, the years we might have had with her, if only…

If only Mom had known how to get what she was after.  She knew and feared God, but she didn’t ever experience peace that I can remember, not really.

The Serenity Prayer has gotten me, and many others, through some very dark days because it’s a road map to trusting God and knowing that it’s OK not to be OK sometimes.  I pray that my kids will learn that from me by my living it, rather than by finding it in my jewelry box one day when I’ve gone to be with the Lord.  But I am absolutely confident that I have more joy in my life now, despite having lost both my parents and struggling as a single mom, than I have ever had in my life.

God is good.

I’m so thankful for my sister, she’s an amazing mom, wife, sister and friend, and we were blessed to be able to spend a week in Maine with our families this summer.  There is absolutely nothing in the world that can compare to watching our kids play together.  And I know that our relationship now would make my mom so happy.

mothers prayer

I’ve loved my little sister for as long as I can remember, but there were years where we got on each other’s nerves.   And my prayer for my girls, in addition to the one above, is that they can get through those years with as little drama, scorn and hurt feelings as possible.

sisters frames

 

It’s only now, years later, that many of the pieces are falling into place in the puzzle of my life.  It’s funny how my sister and I each have a cat that resembles our favorite cat we had growing up…

sisters frame2

…and we are here for each other, even when I am here and she is there.

 

sisters sentiment

 

I’ve received amazing love and support from my family, but I live in Florida and my closest family members are in Upstate New York and Connecticut, so far away!   But I feel blessed that even though we may not see each other that often, we don’t allow the miles to come between us.  When we get together it’s like old times.  We talk on the phone, send cards, pray for each other, and I’m hoping and praying we will be able to see each other more often.

And God is so good, I’m blessed to have made awesome friends in my neighborhood, at school and at work, in organizations like my college fraternity and the MOMS club, and I am blessed to have an amazing and very supportive church family.

I regularly attend events by myself, but I never FEEL alone, because I never am alone.

matthew 18.20

My prayer for each of you is that you would have a loving, supportive network of friends and family to lift you up when you’re down, and to help you celebrate the milestones and achievements in your life, and to help you draw nearer to God.

God bless you!

~Michele

 

P.S.    One final note…  I write and talk about grief a lot because grief and loss have dominated much of my life, and I wanted to share one of the most helpful things I’ve found on the subject of grief.  This post has been widely shared and frequently attributed to GSnow in various places online.  It’s a very poignant and kind post in response to the heartfelt plea:

“My friend just died.  I don’t know what to do.”

ALRIGHT, HERE GOES. I’M OLD. WHAT THAT MEANS IS THAT I’VE SURVIVED (SO FAR) AND A LOT OF PEOPLE I’VE KNOWN AND LOVED DID NOT.

I’VE LOST FRIENDS, BEST FRIENDS, ACQUAINTANCES, CO-WORKERS, GRANDPARENTS, MOM, RELATIVES, TEACHERS, MENTORS, STUDENTS, NEIGHBORS, AND A HOST OF OTHER FOLKS. I HAVE NO CHILDREN, AND I CAN’T IMAGINE THE PAIN IT MUST BE TO LOSE A CHILD. BUT HERE’S MY TWO CENTS.

I wish I could say you get used to people dying. I never did. I don’t want to. It tears a hole through me whenever somebody I love dies, no matter the circumstances. But I don’t want it to “not matter”. I don’t want it to be something that just passes.

My scars are a testament to the love and the relationship that I had for and with that person. And if the scar is deep, so was the love. So be it. Scars are a testament to life. Scars are a testament that I can love deeply and live deeply and be cut, or even gouged, and that I can heal and continue to live and continue to love. And the scar tissue is stronger than the original flesh ever was. Scars are a testament to life. Scars are only ugly to people who can’t see.

As for grief, you’ll find it comes in waves. When the ship is first wrecked, you’re drowning, with wreckage all around you. Everything floating around you reminds you of the beauty and the magnificence of the ship that was, and is no more. And all you can do is float. You find some piece of the wreckage and you hang on for a while. Maybe it’s some physical thing. Maybe it’s a happy memory or a photograph. Maybe it’s a person who is also floating. For a while, all you can do is float. Stay alive.

In the beginning, the waves are 100 feet tall and crash over you without mercy. They come 10 seconds apart and don’t even give you time to catch your breath. All you can do is hang on and float. After a while, maybe weeks, maybe months, you’ll find the waves are still 100 feet tall, but they come further apart. When they come, they still crash all over you and wipe you out. But in between, you can breathe, you can function.

You never know what’s going to trigger the grief. It might be a song, a picture, a street intersection, the smell of a cup of coffee. It can be just about anything…and the wave comes crashing. But in between waves, there is life.

Somewhere down the line, and it’s different for everybody, you find that the waves are only 80 feet tall. Or 50 feet tall. And while they still come, they come further apart. You can see them coming. An anniversary, a birthday, or Christmas, or landing at O’Hare. You can see it coming, for the most part, and prepare yourself. And when it washes over you, you know that somehow you will, again, come out the other side. Soaking wet, sputtering, still hanging on to some tiny piece of the wreckage, but you’ll come out.

Take it from an old guy. The waves never stop coming, and somehow you don’t really want them to. But you learn that you’ll survive them. And other waves will come. And you’ll survive them too. If you’re lucky, you’ll have lots of scars from lots of loves. And lots of shipwrecks.

~ by GSnow

Combat CHARLIE with EDUCATION from a great Facebook post, and PRAYER

If you haven’t heard about the Charlie Charlie game going around on the internet, sit up and pay attention. THIS IS SCARY STUFF. FOR REAL.  Any Pastor, Priest or Rabbi will tell you that Ouija boards and the occult are NOT something you should fiddle around with.  Movies may make things look fun and harmless, and that’s one of the biggest dangers of the Internet- this is catching on because kids pass it around.  The videos seem harmless, often seem funny and most people have access to a phone so they are so accessible.    IF YOU’VE PARTICIPATED IN THIS, OR IF YOU HAVE FRIENDS WHO HAVE, I URGE YOU TO PRAY.  I’m including a prayer and some scriptures here to get you started.

Internet-Safety Prayer

Here is an excellent analysis by Matt Walsh, who writes for theblaze.com.  Look for him on Facebook (this post was featured on his Facebook page) or follow Matt Walsh at themattwalshblog.com.

“I’ve seen this floating around, and want to add a quick note about it. Apparently, some kids have devised (or picked up from somewhere) a new makeshift version of the Ouija board. In this “game,” they make a cross with two pencils and attempt to summon a demon named “Charlie.” The “game” has become a viral sensation, and I’ve seen many people on my Facebook and Twitter having a grand old time with it. Even many Christians, from what I’ve seen, have laughed about it, or at it, and treated it like some silly bit of child’s play.

To those who want to deny the metaphysical and spiritual realities of existence, what I’m about to say will sound superstitious. But it isn’t. A superstitious person sees objects, numbers, and rituals as somehow powerful all by themselves. If I were superstitious about this game, I would believe, I guess, that the pencils have some kind of magical power on their own.

That’s not what I think. It’s not about the pencils. It’s not superstition. But I will tell you that if your kids are playing this game, you need to have a very serious chat with them. It’s not “silly” or “stupid.” It’s dangerous.

Demons exist. Evil forces are at work in our world. This is a fact. As a Christian, you have to believe this or you are not a Christian. To deny it is to deny Scripture and to deny Christ’s saving work on the Cross. Demons are real. Possession is real. It’s scary, it’s horrible, it’s terrifying, but it’s the reality.

When you play “games” like this, you are explicitly inviting them in. You might think it’s funny, but as humans we do actually have supernatural abilities. We can participate in things beyond our physical nature. On the good side, this is what happens when we pray. On the very bad side, this is what happens when we mess around with demonic “games,” or witchcraft, or fortune telling, or whatever else. We are attempting to harness something that we don’t understand, and don’t want to understand.

“The Exorcist” was based on a true story of a boy who was possessed after playing with a Ouija board. There have been, in fact, many documented cases of this kind of thing, where possessed people have levitated, exhibited superhuman strength, spoken in dead languages, etc. These have been documented, filmed, and witnessed by impartial observers. In every case, the possessed person invited the possession somehow, often through tinkering with these sorts of demonic experiments.

There are things happening out there that science can’t explain, no matter how hard it tries.So, seriously, leave this stuff alone. Satan wants to eat you alive and condemn you to an eternity of torment, not play a fun game with you so you can put it on YouTube. OK?
OK.  Thanks.”

Here is the link: http://www.theblaze.com/stories/2015/05/25/viral-charlie-charlie-social-media-challenge-has-kids-trying-to-summon-demon-with-ancient-ritual/

Memorial Day 2015: THANK YOU, VETERANS!!!

Star Spangled Banner Forever WP photo

MEMORIAL DAY 2015: THANK YOU, Veterans!!!
These two little words are so important! As children we were taught to say “please” and “thank you” as a matter of courtesy- but “thank you” is the more important of the two because it offers gratitude, rather than an introduction for making a request.

But how do you thank someone when words are completely inadequate?

How do you thank someone you don’t even know?

How can we truly thank our Veterans for protecting us, for saving our lives, for saving the lives of our children and families? How can we thank our Veterans and their families for their sacrifices?

Well, we were also taught as children that actions speak louder than words, so here goes…

You may have seen this question posed on social media:

“SHOULD THE NATIONAL ANTHEM BE SUNG AT EVERY GAME?”

As an American who is so grateful to live in the Land of the Free and the Home of the Brave, my answer is YES, OF COURSE! And what better way to thank our Veterans and their families than to take up this fight at home?

The National Anthem pays tribute to our country and honors our Veterans. Let’s answer that question with a loud and clear, “YES, THE NATIONAL ANTHEM SHOULD BE SUNG AT EVERY GAME.”

If you agree that the National Anthem should be sung at every game, please LIKE this page on Facebook, and SHARE with friends and family.

https://www.facebook.com/StarSpangledBannerForever

 

 

Prayers for Peace: Thanksgiving 2014

This Thanksgiving Day, I’m lifting up prayers for anyone who is hurting because I’ve been there.  I’ve grieved the loss of friends and the loss of family members including both of my parents.  I’ve also suffered enough to know that we don’t always make the best decisions when we’re hurting or under pressure.

The scriptures tell us, “and we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.”  (Romans 8:28 NIV)   It’s often hardest to feel close to God when we’re going through a storm, but this song by Laura Story conveys the depth and constancy of God’s love for us beautifully.  He is always, ALWAYS there for us, but we must remember to seek Him and watch for Him working in our lives.

And in the aftermath of the Ferguson grand jury verdict, I offer two excellent viewpoints, one from a black woman married to a black police officer, and the other from a well-respected NFL player, along with my prayer that we will have peace while we wait to see God use this incident, and so many others like it, for good.  The waiting is always the hardest part but God is there with us for that too.

I offer continued thanks and prayers for the men and women of our armed forces and their families, who sacrifice so much for our great nation.  Prayers for our first responders, doctors, nurses, teachers, clergy and all those who make it a priority to serve and care for others.  Best wishes for a very blessed and Happy Thanksgiving.

 

http://www.cnn.com/2014/11/25/opinion/simmons-ferguson-grand-jury-complicated/index.html

Editor’s note: Safiya Jafari Simmons is CEO and chief strategist of SJS Consulting, a Washington public relations consulting firm. She is communications director for the Congressional Black Caucus, the Center for Policing Equity and other clientele. She has been a press secretary to U.S. Rep. Elijah E. Cummings, D-Maryland. She lives in Washington with her husband, a police officer, and their three children. The opinions expressed in this commentary are solely those of the author.

(CNN) — I dreaded the Ferguson grand jury response for weeks. Not simply because I knew it was likely to lead to more heartache and unrest for the black community — my community — but because it would most certainly dredge up deep internal conflict for me.

I’m raising a black boy to be a black man. So the grand jury’s decision seems to double down on a pattern in this country of killing black boys without care or consequences.

Safiya Jafari Simmons

Safiya Jafari Simmons

But I’m raising my black son with my black husband, who also happens to be a police officer in Washington. And being the wife of an officer means I can’t support either camp fully — neither the outraged black community nor the justice system sworn to protect us.

When my husband first donned his uniform nearly 10 years ago, I told him clearly and directly: “You do whatever you must to come home to me.” Nearly a decade and three children later, he’s heeded that order, navigating the dangers that only populate my nightmares — just to make sure he comes home.

The irony isn’t lost on me. I know what the research says. I know that this country often denies agency to African-American boys, and that they’re often seen as a threat just by virtue of their skin color.

But in moments such as this, it’s the denial of agency to law enforcement officers that angers me.

All cops aren’t bad. All cops aren’t racist. Many cops have spouses and children. They have loved ones and friends and pets. They leave all this every day to place themselves in harm’s way for people they never meet.

They love their communities. They want the law of the land to work as it’s supposed to. They don’t like to see children hurt, people taken advantage of. They are people doing a job that few are brave enough to take on.

So when I heard St. Louis County Prosecuting Attorney Robert McCullough describe how Michael Brown allegedly lunged at Officer Darren Wilson in his police car, I knew it was likely that my husband could have responded the same way: shoot to disable the threat. Do what he must to make it home to us at night.

This is part of my reality. It’s how I process these incidents now.

But it was also my reality when, as we sped home to relieve our sitter one night, my husband and I were pulled over by a police officer on a dark, wooded parkway in Virginia. And I watched my husband, an officer for nearly 10 years, immediately turn off the car, turn on all the interior lights, place the keys on the dashboard and put his hands on the steering wheel.

He turned to me, calmly and coolly, and said, “Get our insurance card out. Don’t make any sudden moves, and leave your hands on your lap.”

I froze. I teared up, and fear welled up as a lump in my throat. Because that night, before he was an officer, my husband was a black man. Like Michael Brown and Trayvon Martin and Oscar Grant.

These conflicting parts of my reality are why the South Carolina state trooper shooting earlier this year isn’t, to me, a black-and-white case of excessive force used by white law enforcement on an unarmed black teenager. And it’s why I’ve not waded into the debate waters on Michael Brown either.

Because I need my husband and his colleagues to make it home. Every night.

So I can’t “like” many of the stirring posts I scroll through on Facebook or Instagram or Twitter. I can’t post my own rants of outrage at the failings of our justice system, nor can I post any statement that might be interpreted as in support of the Ferguson officer. Not because I can’t connect to them or feel them on some level, but because it’s complicated.

And complicated in a way that no one seems to respect or acknowledge or care to understand.

 

 

https://www.facebook.com/BenjaminWatsonOfficial?fref=nf

At some point while I was playing or preparing to play Monday Night Football, the news broke about the Ferguson Decision. After trying to figure out how I felt, I decided to write it down. Here are my thoughts:I’M ANGRY because the stories of injustice that have been passed down for generations seem to be continuing before our very eyes.I’M FRUSTRATED, because pop culture, music and movies glorify these types of police citizen altercations and promote an invincible attitude that continues to get young men killed in real life, away from safety movie sets and music studios.I’M FEARFUL because in the back of my mind I know that although I’m a law abiding citizen I could still be looked upon as a “threat” to those who don’t know me. So I will continue to have to go the extra mile to earn the benefit of the doubt.I’M EMBARRASSED because the looting, violent protests, and law breaking only confirm, and in the minds of many, validate, the stereotypes and thus the inferior treatment.I’M SAD, because another young life was lost from his family, the racial divide has widened, a community is in shambles, accusations, insensitivity hurt and hatred are boiling over, and we may never know the truth about what happened that day.I’M SYMPATHETIC, because I wasn’t there so I don’t know exactly what happened. Maybe Darren Wilson acted within his rights and duty as an officer of the law and killed Michael Brown in self defense like any of us would in the circumstance. Now he has to fear the backlash against himself and his loved ones when he was only doing his job. What a horrible thing to endure. OR maybe he provoked Michael and ignited the series of events that led to him eventually murdering the young man to prove a point.

I’M OFFENDED, because of the insulting comments I’ve seen that are not only insensitive but dismissive to the painful experiences of others.

I’M CONFUSED, because I don’t know why it’s so hard to obey a policeman. You will not win!!! And I don’t know why some policeman abuse their power. Power is a responsibility, not a weapon to brandish and lord over the populace.

I’M INTROSPECTIVE, because sometimes I want to take “our” side without looking at the facts in situations like these. Sometimes I feel like it’s us against them. Sometimes I’m just as prejudiced as people I point fingers at. And that’s not right. How can I look at white skin and make assumptions but not want assumptions made about me? That’s not right.

I’M HOPELESS, because I’ve lived long enough to expect things like this to continue to happen. I’m not surprised and at some point my little children are going to inherit the weight of being a minority and all that it entails.

I’M HOPEFUL, because I know that while we still have race issues in America, we enjoy a much different normal than those of our parents and grandparents. I see it in my personal relationships with teammates, friends and mentors. And it’s a beautiful thing.

I’M ENCOURAGED, because ultimately the problem is not a SKIN problem, it is a SIN problem. SIN is the reason we rebel against authority. SIN is the reason we abuse our authority. SIN is the reason we are racist, prejudiced and lie to cover for our own. SIN is the reason we riot, loot and burn. BUT I’M ENCOURAGED because God has provided a solution for sin through the his son Jesus and with it, a transformed heart and mind. One that’s capable of looking past the outward and seeing what’s truly important in every human being. The cure for the Michael Brown, Trayvon Martin, Tamir Rice and Eric Garner tragedies is not education or exposure. It’s the Gospel. So, finally, I’M ENCOURAGED because the Gospel gives mankind hope.