About Me...

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In a nut shell : I'm a wife, a full time working mom, a teacher, a Star Wars geek, comic book nerd, Disney enthusiast, hockey Mom, a decade long breast cancer survivor, and oh let's not forget such a happy, sassy, southern mess!

Sunday, June 25, 2017

Life Lesson #169 ~ Love Lives Here




"Welcome to our comfortable, happy, sometimes loud, usually messy, full of love home." ~ Unknown

Love absolutely lives here, within our home, within our hearts and in our memories. If these walls could talk they would surely tell you stories of courage, bravery, sadness, overflowing joy, goofiness and laughter, lots and lots of laughter. We have filled these hallways, rooms and walls with so much love I can feel every moment, see every memory almost as if I could reach out and touch each one of them. Since we first moved in 12 years ago, on June 30, 2005, my birthday to be exact we've built a life together. Within these walls we've watched our boys grow, celebrated birthdays, anniversaries, promotions. We've seen our boys prepare for homecomings, prom and graduation, sent them off to college, watched them walk out the door and come home again after the first day of a new job, gathered for Thanksgiving, Christmas, and sat down to family meals almost every night. We have grieved together, disagreed together, laughed uncontrollably together, prayer together, shed tears together but most importantly we have lived and loved together. Our memories live here and by God's grace we've been blessed to put roots down in this house together. Our home has been a mighty source of both comfort and joy. I am convinced of this truth, "It's not about how big the house is. It's how happy the home is." I have to tell you it's crazy for me to think we've been here in this house for over a decade. Seriously in one place, in one home for so long. For a world traveling wanderer, an adventurer and a girl who's moved over 21 times in her lifetime there's something to be said about that believe me. And if we have our way one day we'll welcome our own grand-babies into this very same home, the one we've raised our boys in.

This house has seen many things. These walls have experienced loss, grief, death, fear, job loss, breast cancer, and the list goes on. Yes, we have come close to losing everything and yet we have everything. The reality is even if this house was to fade away, we'd be OK. Why? Because we'd still have our home, we'd still have each other. God, well He's more than idea in our home, a once in a while guest. Jesus Christ is the foundation of our home, the architect of our lives, of every hope and every dream. He is the light illuminating from within and He's the One who fills our home with unconditional, compassionate, forgiving love. Not a one of us is perfect, not a saint, because truly we are all sinners. We are human, with human problems and human predicaments, plights, quandaries, dilemmas and mishaps. But that is where unconditional love come in. 1 Corinthians 13:13 is a reminder of this. It says," Three things will last forever—faith, hope, and love—and the greatest of these is love." We don't demand much in our home. We've always allowed our kids a safe zone to be themselves, finding too many expectations or ruling with an iron fist to handicap a family causing an inability to grow.  However we do ask our family to love unconditionally daily, to forgive regularly and to show compassion always. This is simply who we are and who we will always be.

Through the years, we've made so many amazing memories together. I've lost count really but many of them are captured on the walls of our home while others are simply found in a moment, thought lost then remembered turning a corner or entering into a room. I am so blessed to have been called to raise such beautiful young men, to have been given the privilege of seeing them both grow into adulthood and begin lives of their own. God has been good to me, blessing me with an additional 10 years of life following a TNBC diagnosis. A life we have loved, a love we have experienced and so many memories we have collected together within these walls are just beyond anything I could have ever imagined. I pray long after these walls have grieved my passing, given way to new pictures on the walls and this house has yet again created new beginnings that these three things will still remain...Jesus, unconditional love and joy. A strong home, not a perfect one is built upon beautiful, ordinary and heartfelt moments. The kind we share together, not the material things which we fill it with but the heart that beats within it. As Brene Brown says so perfectly, "Joy comes to us in ordinary moments. We risk missing out when we get too busy chasing down the extraordinary." What I know in the deepest part of me as a mom is I want our house to always be a home. A home that's filled with unconditional love, compassion, forgiveness and acceptance. I know our boys will start their own families, and build their own lives. But I pray with all my heart they will take pieces of our heart and some of the roots we've grown together with them. My greatest prayer as a mom is something beautifully said by Soul-fully Beautiful. "When my children remember their childhood I want only for them to remember their mother gave it her all. She worried too much, she failed at times and she did not always get it right...but she tried her hardest to teach them about kindness, love, compassion and honesty. Even if she had to learn it from her own mistakes she loved them enough to keep going, even when things seemed hopeless, even when life knocked her down. I want them to remember me as the woman who always got back up." Now I know I may not always be the mom of the year, or even a Wonder Woman of a mom, as my boys call me from time to time but I am their mom, and I do love them, their father and the home we have built together.

There's a saying by Sara Jane. It goes like this, "Let's fill our homes with memories instead of things - Moments instead of distractions." So I have to tell you it's almost serial, watching our house transform. I say house because while it's true the structure and the scheme is in the middle of a metamorphoses, our home will forever stay the same...warm, welcoming, and a place where love lives and breathes. This has been years in the making. We have put our children, and the memories we've made together above all material things. And we have never regretted it. But now as I've begun to work full time, and the boys have finished high school we're able to do a little more than ever before. I tell you it's such a heart warming feeling knowing as the walls change color, as the carpet's are replaced by wood, and as our house evolves into a brighter, more contemporary canvas the heart of our home is still the same... full of  unconditional love, contentment and happiness. Our home is a place filled with Jesus, built on Texas soil, our country roots dug in deep around us and our love for all three hung proudly on our door. Our home, is a place where we can be ourselves, no pretenses. Whatever the day or night our children can find safety from the outside world. Any given afternoon you can hear drumming coming from upstairs or find a small group of recent high school graduates gathered preparing for a Melee tournament. Our house is full of life and I wouldn't have it any other way. As the late Paul Walker once said, "You know, all that really matters is that the people you love are happy and healthy. Everything else is just sprinkles on the sundae." And he was absolutely right. I may not always agree with my kids or my husband, but I love them, completely and that's all the really matters.

What I know is this: we have a beautiful life. Even in our worst times, God has been good. He has secured and strengthened the ties that bind us together with His own hands. Whether we have everything this world could offer us materially, or simply the unconditional love and the memories we carry with us, we are family. I'm going to repeat this one more time because it's so important and Sara Jane explains it so well. "Let's fill our homes with memories instead of things - Moments instead of distractions." And this truly embodies the message of Life Lesson #169 ~Love Lives Here. These walls, these rooms and hallways are not made of gold or filled with unimaginable worldly treasures, those things do not make a home. What I can tell you is our home  and our heart as a family has been filled to overflowing with love, memories, laughter, tears and genuine happiness. Love absolutely lives here. Love lives within our walls, within our hearts and inside the unconditional love that is not only our foundation but the center and the pulse of our home.

"It's not the home I love but the life that is lived there." ~Unknown

~Christina


Saturday, June 24, 2017

Life Lesson #168 ~ Love As Old As Time




"It's not until you lose everything that you can truly appreciate everything." ~ Belle, Beauty and the Beast

I am a loved woman. I am married to the love of my life. He is strong, handsome, a bit ornery at times but always kind. He's far from perfect, but then neither am I. He can have a temper, but be assured so do I. He is fair, gentle, sweet and yes sometimes a bit unrefined. He calls me his Beauty, and at other times, his Baby Beast. I call him my Beast, the love of my life and my hunny-bee.  We are quite the oddly mismatched pair to many, but that's what makes us work. I've always been what you'd call a bit peculiar, just like the song..."Look there she goes that girl is strange, no question. Dazed and distracted, can't you tell? Never part of any crowd. 'Cause her head's up on some cloud. No denying she's a funny girl that Belle" But Johnny knew this about me from the moment we first met and he loved me for it. I was different, unique in a world full of fake. He saw my heart, he loved my laughter and my smile, and yes he was taken with my eyes. He told me from the moment we met I'd be a wonderful mom. He saw me, and I love that he still does. I still get lost in books. On any give day you can find me sitting with my my Harry Potter t-shirt on, my Beauty and the Beast PJ bottoms, Dr. Who slippers sticking out from under my Star Wars blanket and a Mad Hatter mug full of hot tea as I'm listening to my play list. I'm that girl. And Johnny loves me for it.

On the other hand Johnny is a sports guy. I've always loved his arms, the strength they hold and of course his gentle, warm smile. He may have appeared ridged to some and unwelcoming to others, that is until he gets to know you. To me, well I 've always seen his warm, tenderhearted, vulnerable, gentle and generous side. He's Native American, I'm Irish. He's a manly man, loves his whiskey and steak, loves to fish and a good action flick too. He's a cross- fitter, lifting weights and pushing his body to it's limits. He believes "your body is the engine and your mind is the engineer." Just as I've made Harry Potter, Disney, Star Wars, Marvel and DC part of his life he's made football, baseball, basketball, golf and ice hockey part of mine. And I love him for it. He was the linebacker on his high school football team, and was popular. The truth is we wouldn't have ever run in the same circle, and we'd never have dated if we'd met during those years. But you see God had something special planned for us. He knew we'd find each other later. He could see what we couldn't. You see He knew when we did meet, the truth of Beauty and the Beast, this very tale, yes one as old as time would ring true for us.

Doesn't it go like this," Bittersweet and strange, finding you can change, learning you were wrong."  And the truth is if we'd steered clear of each other simply because of our differences, we'd have missed out on something pretty amazing. The reality is there is no simple love story. Seriously nothing about love is ever simple, easy or uncomplicated. Unconditional love by virtue of definition is  complicated. But as Toby Mac conveys, 'Love is not IF or BECAUSE. Love is ANYWAY and EVEN THOUGH." And I have found in all our adventures out there in the great wide somewhere, in being married to the love of my life for over 21 years that this is a very important piece of loves puzzle. See Johnny and I, well we are complete opposites in every way. Yet our hearts, our lives and our love for one another has proven united,  stronger than any obstacle set before us. What does the song say? "Tale as old as time, true as it can be. Barely even friends, then somebody bends unexpectedly. Just a little change, Small, to say the least, both a little scared...Beauty and the Beast." That is us.

Now I know some will say but what about the heartache and the pain ya'll experienced? Was that part of the plan? Nope, it wasn't but it is part of our story. It was not fun, let me tell you but it was worth it. To say Johnny and I have had our ups and downs, that we've struggled is putting it mildly. I mean a wife with breast cancer, RA, stroke, lymphedema, among other assorted conditions unable to work for years plus a child with a TBI and another on the spectrum well let's be honest here, those things can prove to be very worrisome, even burdensome and exceptionally hard to carry on your shoulders. Even if you are a strong, unmovable person, lifting Olympic sized weights like a beast. Add the addition of any more weight, in just the wrong spot, well that can have you shaking, losing your balance and in those moments everything can come crashing down around you. It's life right? It's at this point when the phrase "like a beast" oddly turns into being a Beast and not in the same awesome terms. But you see, this tale, the one as old as time has been tried, tested and told again and again and you know why? Because love is more than a feeling, more than a pretty face and much, much more than an idea. Love is forgiveness, love is putting yourself last and seeing through the eyes of your partner. Love is not about me, not about you, but about us together. Love is talking through the disagreements, but most of all love is about selflessness and unconditional love, never being afraid to put your heart on the line for each other. I absolutely agree with Mrs. Potts, "Love doesn't have to be perfect, it just has to be true." She also explains, "You don't lose hope, love. If you do, you lose everything." And that's what Johnny and I have held on to during the tough times, the difficult, tiresome and beastly moments of our relationship...hope. No, I'm not an expert on love or marriage but I can assure you that while it's been learned by trial and through fire mostly, we are inseparable. Together we have seen the best in each other, the worst of one another and we have chosen to stay. We know where our hearts lie, and it's together,in one another's arms.

As I begin to reach the last of my tale, I say to all who question me: I'm blessed. Over the last few years Johnny has fully embraced my Disney side. If not he'd probably gone mad by now. He's started bringing home many Beauty and the Beast ornaments and figurines for our mantel. I love each and every one, because they just don't tell a story, they tell our story. I personally relate to these characters, and in many ways so does Johnny. Much like the lyrics of 'Belle', "But behind that fair facade. I'm afraid she's rather odd. Very different from the rest of us. She's nothing like the rest of us. Yes, different from the rest of us is Belle! " Then they go on to belt out..."It's a pity and a sin. She doesn't quite fit in cause she really is a funny girl. A beauty but a funny girl." This is me. The one and only Christina in the flesh. The real me, the fully odd, strange and different me. Bill Murray has it right, "A soul mate is someone who appreciates your level of weird." And Johnny does, all of my crazy, weird, nerdy, geeky and whatever else you want to say about me level of strangeness.  I will tell you this with complete confidence, what I love about Johnny and I is this: Even though I've always been a bit odd Johnny a bit grumpy, both those characteristics are the very things we absolutely love about each other. He sees me, really sees me for everything I am and all I'm not. So yes, in my eyes we're true to the characters, Belle and Beast. Yet I know that's also what makes our love, our life and our years together so rich and full. We may disagree and we may not always get along.  He may be moody and I may be unreasonable. We may be oddly paired, a strange girl, with wild ideas and a beast with a big heart who's learned to love that very same weird, peculiar girl all the same. See, N.R. Hart  is correct. "Every girl needs her Beast to protect her from everything but him." And in Johnny's arms I am safe, loved, secure and protected.

So now let me bring our story to a close. It's true, love, is a tale as old as time. It's truly "certain as the sun, rising in the east." Johnny and I , we are two imperfect people yet our love is as real as it gets, tried, tested, and true. Our love it is kind, generous, impatient at times but always unconditional. It keeps no record of wrong doing as our love has come to understand what real, genuine forgiveness is. Much like Ephesians 4:2-3, our marriage has grown, been challenged and overcome the adversity of being imprisoned by conditional love. By God's grace  we have been freed by true loves kiss. The scriptures say this to us,  "Be always humble, gentle, and patient. Show your love by being tolerant with one another. Do your best to preserve the unity which the Spirit gives by means of the peace that binds you together." And so Life Lesson #168 ~ Love as Old as Time, speaks of the forgiveness, of patience and the unconditional love Johnny and I have found for and with one another together. The truth is we all can find this, if we chosoe to. It's been said many times, spelled out beautifully for all of us if we'd only listen. "If he could learn to love another and earn her love in return by the time the last pedal fell, then the spell would be broken. If not, then he would be doomed to remain a beast for all time." This tale is simple, not complicated. If we wish to break the spell of unforgiveness and despair in our lives we must be willing to love unselfishly,unconditionally, ungrudgingly and of course generously. It is then, the beast inside of us is tamed, transformed, and the age old question is answered, "Who could ever love a beast?"  The answer is you, and me. Your tale, it will be told just as ours has been today. The two of us together can tell our story, our tale of love and forgiveness without shame or hesitation. Our tale is truly as old as time, and our song as old as rhyme. I as his Beauty and he as my Beast till the end of time.

"I love you. After all this time. I still love you. It's always been you. It was you yesterday. It was you today. It will be you tomorrow. And for the rest of my life it will be you." ~Unknown

~Christina




Thursday, June 22, 2017

Life Lesson #167 ~ You've Got A Friend in Me





"I'm much more me when I'm with you." ~ Unknown

I love the summertime. I mean what's not to love about the lazy days of summer? You know what I'm talking about, especially if you're in the education field. The stay up late nights followed by those non alarm sounding wake ups, messy hair, no make-up, PJ wearin', barefoot I'm burning daylight, I don't care filled with a hot cup of tea, a good book, your play list turned up best morning ever kind of days. And the best part well that's the ability to spend the afternoons with your closest friends. When I say I'm truly blessed I am. Over the last few years God has strengthened and fortified several wonderful and remarkable friendships in my life. These women many of you know I call my sisters of the heart. Truth be told, I have no doubt, we'll be the old ladies causing trouble, racing our wheelchairs and dueling with our canes one day.That's just who we are, goofy, silly and downright amusing, to ourselves anyway. Yesterday was no different. I got to spend the afternoon with my very best friend in the whole wide world. She's my sister, my confidant, my other half and she loves me for the goof ball that I am, never judging me. No, we don't share the same DNA, but we do share the same heart. And this is why I have called her my sister for almost two decades. I'm sure God made us best friends because we'd probably be too much for either one of our moms to handle together. Just like so many afternoons, we spent the day yesterday talking, sharing scriptures and praying with and for each other. We went to lunch, sharing our baskets of food, and agreeing we were a little too stuffed by the end. Then we spent the rest of the day wandering around our local mall, trying on masquerade masks, looking at purses, pondering shoes, thinking ahead to Ren Fair, contemplating trying on way over priced gowns in preparation for our Vegas vow renewals with our hubbys, snacking on banana split ice cream dots and ending our day taking the silliest pictures we could manage. Dare I say it? Mischief managed!

There is no question I am a Potter Head, hence the reference above but there's absolutely no doubt I'm a Disney enthusiast. And this spills over into most of my friendships as well. So it's probably no surprise to anyone when I hear the song, "You've Got A Friend In Me" I think of my sweetest friend, Shawna. How does it go again?  Oh that's right..."And as the years go by our friendship will never die. You're gonna see it's our destiny...you've got a friend in me." It's not that we don't have close relationships with others, because we do. In fact I'd say our hearts are full knowing we have a beautiful circle of friends, together and individually we call family, sisters of the heart, our partners in crime. And though I have a small circle, I know each one of my sisters are God sent. Natalie, Julie, Marnie, Lori , Megan, Michelle, my Aunt Rosermarie and Morgen are never far. They are always in my heart, stitched and woven together into the fabric of who I am. Their presence in my life makes me a far better woman than I would ever be on my own, that's for sure. They each have a place in my life, a special part of my heart that no one else can take away. In the last couple of years I've learned something, something big really, something thegoodvibe.com expresses perfectly. "Sometimes your circle decreases in size, but it increases in value." The beauty about the women God has hand picked and placed in my life is that we understand "family isn't always about the people in your life who are blood relations. It's about the people in your life who accept you for who you are, support you in the things you choose to do and no matter what, are there for you. It's the people in your life who love you, respect you and who you can depend on." I'm blessed to have several sisters in my life, sisters who are the exact definition of this honestly. And Shawna, she is my spiritual sister, the one who encourages me to be strong in the Lord, re-enforcing the idea that God has His hand on me. Shawna prays over me, for me and often feels my pain and joy in her own heart. I look to Ecclesiastes 4:9-10 and count my blessings when I think of my beautiful sister of the heart. It says this, " Two people are better off than one, for they can help each other succeed. If one person falls, the other can reach out and help. But someone who falls alone is in real trouble."

And that's the thing, it's no secret these women, my sisters are invested in my life as I am in theirs. I know I can call Shawna at any time of the day or night. She will cry with me, laugh with me and uplift me, never once making me feel less than her, ridiculous and becoming offended by my heart or jealous of who I was created to be. She is not my rival, but my equal no matter where we started or where we will eventually end up. My Father, has taught me many lessons in life, some hard, some easy but never as important as understanding the importance of true friendship. Word porn has this quote. It's powerful, filled with truth. It says this, 'It's important to make friendships that are deeper than gossiping and drinking and going out. Make friends who you can go get breakfast with, make friends you can cry with, make friends who support your life goals and believe in you." It's crazy to me how as teenagers we feel the need to have an over abundance of friends in our lives. The more the merrier it seems right? And for a brief time that's exactly what we need as we learn how real friendships work. As we experience gossip, heartaches and rivalries we start to see the bigger picture. We become a bit more guarded and not so much an open book for everyone, maybe even a bit awkward to a few souls. Our lives become private, more safeguarded than before. As we grow up and mature we begin to be much more selective understanding having a few, close friends in your life is more important than a 100 acquaintances. If I have learned anything in life, I've learned this: "Everybody isn't your friend. Just because they hang around you and laugh with you doesn't mean they are your friend. People pretend well. At the end of the day, real situations expose fake people, so pay attention." And that's the point of Life Lesson #167 ~ You've Got A Friend in Me...real is rare but when you find it, you know it. The mask falls off, the genuineness of who you are and who they are shines through and you not only realize but you embrace the idea that "real friends are family without a birth certificate."

This is what I know without a second thought: I can be me, the down right silly, goofy, nerdy southern hot mess that I am with Shawna. She sees me, she knows me and my heart better than I do myself sometimes. I think of Shawna  when Buzz Lightyear says, "This is falling with style." Why? Well because that's exactly what we do, fall with style. We aren't perfect, we doubt ourselves but when it comes to being there for one another, to encouraging each other it doesn't matter if we're actually flying or falling with grace, we know either way, we're going down or soaring upwards hand in hand, together. We can act crazy, be silly and even look hilarious, bringing out the best in each other even if the world looks at us like a pair of mismatched goofballs. See what I know is this : God has given me some pretty amazing sisters of the heart. In each of them, and in Shawna He has provided me a sister, much like myself, but different. I may have been brought into this world an only child, but I will not go out one. I have no doubt Shawna, and these women God has hand picked and placed in my life "will always be the sisters of my soul, the friends of my heart."

"But I love you so much more than just to the moon and back." (thisislovelife.com) No,  I love you to infinity and beyond!

~Christina


Monday, June 19, 2017

Life Lesson #166 ~ I See You




"Allow beauty to shatter you regularly. The loveliest people are the ones who have been burnt and broken and torn at the seams, yet still send out their open hearts into the world to mend with love again, and again, and again. You must allow yourself to feel your life while you're in it." ~ Victoria Erickson

Our family just spent eight wonderful days inside the World known as Disney. I know what could we possibly do for eight days and why? Well, for us it's a feeling I can only describe as coming home. We're just Disney people. We were there for many different reasons but the biggest was to celebrate our youngest finishing high school. It's hard for me to believe Micah is 18, done with high school and heading out into the great big world in pursuit of his very own hopes and dreams. I mean I just closed my eyes for a moment, and suddenly both my little boys were men standing in front of me. It's bittersweet is what it is. With all the excitement lately I've definitely shed a few tears knowing my baby is now on his way to the life he's always dreamt about. I have no doubt nor do I fear where life will take him. I know the love and faith we've raised him in and I trust in the One who gave him to us first. Micah, just like Joshua, will always be a child of God, empowered with faith, boldness, courage,  and ready to step out into his journey with a destiny hand - craved out for him and him alone. I was fighting back tears as I snapped the picture above. The boys were messing around, being silly and getting ready to take a posed photo for me. It's a tradition going back at least 8 years, inside the studios, in front of the tow truck. With each picture, every year I can see my children growing right in front of my eyes from little boys into men. This moment, like the one captured in the picture above is one of those moments...a moment I can say to my boys...I see you.  I see the men you have become, the strength you have inside you...I see you just as you are...I see your heart, I see your soul.

Now you have to understand our connection with Disney. It's not just a place to vacation, to ride rides or grab a meal and a souvenir. Disney is part of us, in our fabric, where celebrations take place and milestones are made. Think of it as the keeper, a living album filled with all of our fondest memories if you will.  I admit without shame that Disney World for our family is a place of wonder, imagination, celebration, letting go of our fears, embracing our dreams and re-enforcing our bonds. It's not just a vacation for us, it's our happy place. As Micah so beautifully put it a few years back, "Disney World is where we bond, where our bond as brothers is strengthened." And this year was no different. As we wandered through the new world of Avatar, my breathe was taken away. I can say we all felt as if we were transported to another world. The beauty and majesty of Pandora was astounding. Walking through it's magical landscape filled with waterfalls, vines, interactive plants and flowers was a moment I can't really explain with words. Then as I walked beneath the floating Hallelujah Mountains above me I was moved to tears.  But it was when I entered Flight of Passage I found myself experiencing  a moment of pure emotion. I was truly struck by how far our family has come, and how we have landed on our feet after so much struggle. As I took flight on a banshee one word stuck out, "Sivako!" It means "Rise to the challenge" in Na'vi, the language of Pandora. For a sci-fi geek like me, that's something that sticks with me and hits close to home.

What I know, what I can see when I look into the hearts and the eyes of our children is this: we are fighters. We don't give up. We most certainly stumble, we fall and feel completely broken sometimes but we always stand back up. We have faced my breast cancer, Micah's autism and Joshua's TBI as warriors, fighters embracing  the unique  challenges each have brought into our lives.  Psalm 61:2 says, " From the end of the earth I will cry to You; when my heart faints, lead me to the rock that is higher than I." Yes, we have faced many great battles, the struggles that have tried to tear us apart and yet here we are, here we stand...together. Broken at times certainly, but continuously we've mended again and again. Together we have faced the fear, the hardships and together we have risen to the challenge. Together, we have found the Rock that is higher than ourselves, higher than all our fears. We have sivako, risen to the challenge. We have taken that flight of passage together. If we have learned anything as a family it's this, "Being challenged in life is inevitable but being defeated is optional." Looking at this picture, I see strong, mighty and genuinely happy young men. I see a big brother taking care of the little one, looking out for him, walking beside him through his own right of passage, acknowledging his ability to rise to the challenge and passing the torch, giving Micah his moment just before flight. And that's what it's truly all about isn't it...giving them wings to fly?

Behind us are the memories, and before us the challenges still yet to be met. The truth is some unfair things have happened to us as a family and individually that are down right awful. Not everything we hoped for turned out either, or at the least the way we thought things would anyway. But I know God is good, all the time and "If we'll rise up out of those ashes, put on a new attitude, He will not only bring us out but He will bring us out with twice what we had before." And that's the thing about God, nothing is a surprise to Him. He knows what's ahead, or waiting just around the corner. The thing I believe we have come to understand about life is something Cheryl Strayed says beautifully. " Let yourself be gutted. Let it open you. Start there." The strong at heart and of mind rise to the challenge, no matter how unimaginable the feats are. And that's what my family and I have come to understand, we have the ability to rise above whatever is towering over us. Like the flight of passage, we bond, we rise and we soar... together. God knows every challenge, and He knows we may wander, get lost and fumble a bit too but He always gets us where we are supposed to be in the end. I know God sees us, and through His eyes I see my children. I understand them and they me, through different lenses than the world does, but together we  see and we get one another. "I see you" in Na'vi is spiritual. It means "I see the love and your feelings and your soul and you mean everything to me." And so yes this is what Life Lesson #166~ I See You is all about, seeing each other with an unconditional love.

Micah I see you. I understand you. I love you. I am so proud of you.. You've spread your wings and taken your flight of passage beautifully, even if a bit bumpy at first. "I wish you strength to face the challenges with confidence along with wisdom to choose your battles carefully. I wish you adventure on your journey, and may you always stop to help someone along the way. Listen to your heart and take risks carefully. Remember how much you are loved." I know we don't always see eye to eye. I know it doesn't always feel like it, being on the spectrum, but I see you Micah, I see you.  I love you, I know you and your soul. I love who you are, completely, fully and you mean everything to me love bug. I see you baby... I see you. And I have no doubt when you are ready you will take flight, and not just fly but soar!

"OEL NGATI KAMEIE" ~ I see you.

~ Mom
(Christina)




Saturday, June 17, 2017

Life Lesson #165 ~ Fly Sweetheart, Fly





"No one in this world can love a girl more than her daddy." ~ Unknown

From the moment I was born I was daddy's little girl. In fact my dad was the first father ever allowed inside a birthing room at the hospital I was born at way back in 1973. It was groundbreaking back then. My dad held me even before my mama did. He was the first safe place I ever knew. Right from the start he cradled me inside his arms and in his heart. The fact that I was a girl, and and his only child only seemed to strengthen our bond through the years. My dad, through everything, he's always been there for me. My dad is a man of God, who's shown me His grace, mercy and unconditional love every day of my life. Psalm 103:13 says, "The Lord is like a father to his children, tender and compassionate to those who fear him." My dad, never gave me reason to fear him, he's kind, gentle and loving, and yet he is a man to be respected, a soldier, 82 nd airborne strong and green beret tough. My dad introduced me to Jesus by his own example. I never understood the God everyone feared would knock them over with a lightening bolt. Why? Because the Jesus I knew by my dad's example showed compassion, spoke honestly, directly and loved unconditionally. My dad's life is a living illustration of all these characteristics, then and now in my life. And as life expanded, my dad made room under his wings for my husband and our boys, loving them as he loves me...unconditionally. The bond my dad shares with Joshua and Micah is an incredible force to witness honestly. Just as I know my dad loves me unconditionally, fiercely, completely knowing he's willing to lay his own life down for mine his love has grown just as great and as wide for his grandson's and Johnny. I can tell you today, my boys not only respect their Paw Paw, they love him with all their hearts. He is their hero, an example of true faith and unconditional love in it's purest form. I can also tell you my dad is one of the most humble, selfless and giving men you will ever meet. Everything about him echo's self sacrifice. He loves, gives and thinks of himself last, in everything. When I think of my dad, I am reminded of a quote by the great Billy Graham. "A good father is one of the most unsung, unpraised, unnoticed, and yet one of the most valuable assets in our society."

My dad, he taught me to be absolutely and fully myself. If I was wearing two different colored socks, a mismatched shirt and a skirt, my hair falling out of my pig tails, he'd still tell me how beautiful I was. My dad, spent hours having tea with me, entertaining me and my menagerie of stuffed animals and dolls. He put on goggles, tied a towel around his neck, crawled under and inside my fort made of cushions and blankets and read Wonder Woman comic books to me. My dad, he listened to me sing until I passed out, held my hand, walked with me on top of his shoulders and watched my favorite movie, Dumbo, without sound over and over again beside me as if it was the first time each and every time. It didn't matter how burnt the food was, he ate whatever I made him to the very last crumb, proclaiming it was the best thing he'd ever had. That is my dad, humble, selfless and giving. The reality is because of my dad's belief in me, in spite of my learning disabilities,  I grew up understanding I could wear the glass slippers and shatter glass ceilings too. When I look at my dad, I am awe struck. I know I am blessed, and while I know my dad is far from perfect, he was made perfectly to be my dad. Anne Geddes, has it right. When I look at my dad I realize, "Any man can be a father, but it takes someone special to be a dad."

So as we approach this Father's day, I am reminded of the blessings I have been given in my parents and in the bond I share with my dad, as his daughter and daddy's little girl. At the age of five my dad was deployed to South Korea on what they call a hardship tour, We spent a year apart. I won't lie it was hard, I missed my daddy terribly and I didn't understand why we couldn't go with him. Before he left, my parents and I made our first trip to the Magic Kingdom. It was magical, and I came home with my first stuffed Mickey and a pair of ears with my name embroidered on the back. I still have both. The memory I hold closest though is the ride I took with my dad, inside a flying elephant named Dumbo. I can never forget that day, we soared over top fantasy land together. I could see forever it seemed in those moments. As we flew, I can remember my dad whispering in my ear. It was a quote form Dumbo, going a little something like this." The very things that hold you down are gonna carry you up, up and up Criggy. Fly sweetheart, fly!" And he was right, they have. Diabetes, learning disabilities, cancer, stroke, RA, and everything else in between hasn't ever held me down. No those difficulties have given me wings, and much like Dumbo I haven't just flown, I've soared. Why? Simple, my dad believed in me and just like in the movie I was shown how to fly, to believe in myself and to accept, "what makes you different is also what makes you incredibly special."

This Father's day I just want to say I love you daddy. You're an incredible force behind me, always have and I know you always will be. I know who I am, where I stand and where I'm going because you never stopped believing in me. I know I can fly, and soar in my glass slippers shattering that ceiling above me. "Daddy, in your eyes I've seen God's love; in your words I've heard His wisdom; through your life I've found His grace." And today, the day before Father's day I want you to know I am proud to be yours, to be your little girl. "I love you blue as the sky, as far as the moon, as hot as the sun, as big as a kite, as deep as the ocean, as tall like a tree." Daddy, I want you to know as I close Life Lesson #165 ~ Fly Sweetheart, Fly how grateful I am for the wings you gave me. As Timothy Mouse says, "Just look at 'em. Dumbo. Why, they're poifect wings! The very things that held ya down are gonna carry ya up and up and up!" Thank you daddy, for teaching me to look at my imperfections as perfect wings. Because of you, I have learned not to just fly, but to soar!

"Some people don't believe in heroes but they haven't met my dad." ~ Unknown

Always your little girl,

~ Criggy




Wednesday, June 14, 2017

Life Lesson #164~ I'm Home




"Because when I look at you , I can feel it. And  - and I look at you and I...I'm home. Please...I don't want that to go away. I don't want to forget. " Dory, Finding Nemo

I can hardly believe it's been 14 years since we first watched Finding Nemo with our boys. The year was 2003. Joshua was 6 and Micah just 4 years old. Little did we know that just three short years later breast cancer would come for me, wrangling for our family and the life we were creating together. How could we know then that every memory we were making was about to be put to the test, tearing at our fabric, and pulling at the very stitches holding us together? How could we know a barracuda named breast cancer would come seeking to destroy our home, our life together in 2006, possibly leaving our boys without a mother? I wanted nothing more than to see my boys grow up. I mean what an awfully big adventure that was going to be right? I longed to see where life would take our boys even as my hair fell out and as I read them a book called 'Love You Forever' by Robert N. Munsch. And yet, by God's grace here we are some 11 years after that terrible day. When I was diagnosed with the C word it was a crushing blow. The moment that barracuda stuck her head into our little anemone we called home, grabbing at our life with her sharp, terrifying teeth, seeking to tear me apart and away from my family will never be forgotten. How could it be? Fear, uncertainty, loss and death are just a few of the words that come to mind. We all still bare those emotional scars, just as I wear my physical scars. BUT to God's credit, we have done just as Dory says, "When life gets you down, do you know what you've gotta do? Just keep swimming."

I really love this line from Finding Nemo, so heart fully said by Dory. "When I look at you I CAN FEEL IT.  I look at you AND I'M HOME..." That one line caught me off guard and honestly by complete surprise the other day. I couldn't hold back my silent tears watching this movie again with my class. I was stunned Dory's words had such a grip on my emotions. Dory's words pleading with Marlin held me tight and in that moment stirred such a deep reaction within me I felt my heart break open. I was struck by the reality of how far my life, our family's life has come since May 2003. Our boys were still babies for one, and second cancer had yet to make her presence known. Looking back now, I am so thankful for those powerful, strong and beautiful memories we made long before breast cancer took her first bite. Those moments before built a strong foundation, a desire to fight back, and not to give up but to keep swimming. And every moment, memory and adventure since has been a resounding victory call. As we did then, we still hold onto God's Word believing our faith is not in vain. When the waters start to churn, tossing us around, when the barracuda seeks to cast her shadow or a well intending shark approaches, shouting "Fish are friends, not food" we have learned to remind ourselves of Romans 8:37. "In all these things we have complete victory through Him who loved us!"

Truly, I'm so very aware during this month of celebrations, from my baby boy finishing high school to my own birthday how exceptionally fortunate I am. I 'm here not only to see our youngest become a man, to see both our boys in college but to celebrate my 44th birthday with my family some 11 years after being told I had triple negative breast cancer. I  know I'm truly a blessed woman. I know without a shadow of a doubt I would not be here today, where I am standing right now without both the mercies of God or my beautiful family holding me up. During those days of fear and uncertainty, not knowing if the barracuda would ever let me lose and if I'd live to see this very day the words said by Bambi's mother played over and over again in my heart. "I'm always with you, even if you can't see me. I'm here." And while they are true, no matter what tomorrow brings, or where the current takes our boys my love will always be with them. I can't begin to explain how full my heart is tonight preparing to watch Disney's new fireworks, Happily Ever After over top Cinderella's castle. And yes, I know silent tears will again fall from my eyes, this time tears of joy, not uncertainty. It's been 11 years to the day since we stood together, hand in hand, watching Wishes wondering if we were making our final memories together. And I say again, HERE WE ARE, TOGETHER, hand in hand, beginning the next chapter of our lives, again...together. All I wanted, all I asked my Father for was to see our boys become men, to see them finish high school and here we are 11 years after my diagnosis at Disney World, celebrating a new beginning in life. Cancer came for me, she came for our life but she hasn't won. The barracuda is now far from sight, and yes her scars are always near. I can't lie, cancer's  constant reminders are with us, but if we have learned anything in our journey, finding our courage along the way is something Spiritual Inspiration reminds me to do often. "You may be up against a giant today. But don't be focused on how big your giant is; focus on how big your God is!"

If you've followed my blog over the years you know Disney has a special place in my heart and in the hearts of my family. I was raised on Disney, experienced the Magic Kingdom for the first time at the tender age of 5. I was just a year in between the ages of my boys when we first watched Finding Nemo, and a year younger than Micah was when we first saw the barracuda peek her head into our lives. Now a decade later, we are a family of survivors. Breast cancer and her viscous attack on my body failed. Today just as Walt Disney believed, I know, "The most important thing is family." This has been my resounding message over the last 10 years of writing, and it will continue to be my mantra, family is everything. Today's Life Lesson, #164 ~  I'm Home is my proclamation. I'm home, I know it, I can see it and as wide as the ocean is deep I can feel it. When I look at my family I know I'm truly forever and always part of something beautiful and amazing. I'm loved unconditionally....and I'm home. I won't forget, I can't forget... the hardship, the heart ache when the barracuda came. But she left empty handed and instilled a courage and a strength inside of us that can't be rivaled. Today, this 12th day of June 2017 we celebrate being a family, God's triumphs, and you can bet we'll shout from the roof tops how we've survived a barracuda attack, crossed an ocean, and found our way back home TOGETHER.

Boys, my love bugs, my sweet, sweet baby boys...."I'll love you forever. I'll like you for always. As long as I'm living my baby you'll be." ~ Robert N. Munsch

Wife, Mom, Daughter, Sister, Breast Cancer Survivor...

~Christina


Sunday, June 11, 2017

Life Lesson #163 ~ Next To Me





"With you, I am home." ~Unknown

When I lay my head down every night, he's next to me. When I wake up every morning, he's still right there beside me. When I roll over, he's never too far. He's always just within arms reach, his hands pulling me closer in toward him. Even when we disagree, he's still there, never far from my side. We may agree to disagree but we never go to sleep mad. Life's way too short for that kind of funny business. It's never just my way or just his way. We're a team and we make decisions together, with each other, for each other. He's the love of my life, my husband, my strong, steady and loving refuge. I call him my Beast and yes while he calls me his Beauty, his goof and his love,  he will certainly tell you I'm the only woman who can drive him crazy. The one woman who brings him to his knees and still makes him happy to have all the above in one breath. When I think of Johnny, of our home, our bed and our life together all I can think of is "I have found the one whom my soul loves." Right out of Song of Solomon 3:4.

Johnny makes me happy, but he also loves me enough to be honest with me. He's a man who loves with all his heart, and though I don't always get my way, he would move mountains for me. I am loved, completely and fully. Each decision he makes, he does so not only with his interests in mind, but ours together. I love coming home from work knowing our evenings will be spent cuddled up on the couch, side by side, under the blankets together watching anything from hockey to sci-fi. Being together for more than 21 years, we have grown together, found each other's weaknesses and strengths diving into the deep end of the ocean together. Sure we have had to fight our way back once or twice from the helm of disaster but in those dark times, we found the light of day together, side by side. The reality is in the shadow of our darkest hour we weren't torn apart, instead we were forged sounder and sturdier. In fact we came out the other side even stronger, and more in tune, in love and in step than ever before. Was it easy? No, it was one of the hardest things I think I have ever gone through. But you know what? I wouldn't change it for anything. Why? Well because of those hard, deeply dark times Johnny and I don't take our love, our life or our family for granted. We know the risk and we understand the chances we take. But in everything, in all we do, in every step we take, we take them together. I think the truth of what we have discovered is that "sometimes home isn't four walls, it's two eyes and a heartbeat."

Now I know I can be difficult. I don't always see things the way I should and still he loves me. No matter how old or gray I get Johnny still sees the same silly, goofy, kind, brave and honest girl inside me standing in front of him. Johnny, he just takes it all in, still grinning at me, eyes up to mischief. And why? Because he loves the hot mess I am, even when I'm standing there with my hands on my hips, making crazy faces at him unconditionally. The truth is we may not always agree, but what we have both come to know deep within our hearts is that nothing can separate his love from mine nor mine from his. An honest woman, once said, "I never cared about the material things a man could give me. I cared about his time, attention, honesty, loyalty and effort. Those gifts mean more and more than anything money could buy." No matter how much we have in the bank, which cars we drive, cancer or not, hurdles, obstacles of gigantic proportion or not, we are one. I don't need extravagant gifts, a big house or even a second one. No all I need is the man whom my soul loves. That man is my one true love, my husband and yes my Beast and his name is Johnny. He can be found next to me, every night, and beside me each and every morning. When I am next to him, face to face, laying beside my love, my lover and my best friend I am home. When my lips are close enough to kiss him yet far enough away to appreciate his desire my heart is full and in those moments I'm not only content, more importantly I know I'm safe.

The truth is, "I believe in the kind of love that doesn't demand me to prove my worth and sit in anxiety. I crave a natural connection, where my soul is able to recognize a feeling of home in another. Something free-flowing, something simple. Something that allows me to be me without question..." I absolutely agree fully heartedly with Joey Palermo on this. We have grown as a couple, and we have found we're not that different after all. We bring different pieces of who we are to the table and into our bed of course. Yes we most definitely express ourselves and our love in distinct and independent ways but at the end of the day when the lights go out we lay down, sleeping, side by side in our bed together. And the truth is I'm truly my happiest, my truest self, and to be honest the most content when I'm next to Johnny and he's next to me. It's a wonderful feeling to know that after 21 years, we still embarrass our kids. We're still in love just as much as we were if not more than the day we married beneath the wide open skies of Texas, under a canopy of trees that seemed to rival Nottingham forest on that beautiful late April afternoon. Just as then, we're each other's peanut to our butter, water to our ocean, glaze to our donuts, spring to our steps, twinkle to our eyes, blue to our sky, cherry to our sundaes, flip to our flop, milk to our cookies, sweet to our dreams, beat of our hearts, cheese to our macaroni, best to our friend and the love of each other's lives.

Life Lesson #163 ~ Next To Me is a reminder that love is a gift, a treasure we mustn't take for granted. Breathe in every moment, share a passionate kiss or simply one on the forehead, both are priceless. Don't fear the pruning. Hold on to each other, and the knowledge you are rooted in His mercy and grace. After all, they say "the couples that are meant to be together, go through everything that is meant to tear them apart and come out stronger." Love, like a tree's roots grows deep, like it's trunk bends with the storms, and as with it's leaves, blooms, stretching out wide and tall over time. I am thankful for this kind of love. And I am blessed by God's grace to not only be loved but to love this man. The love of my life..my lover, my friend, my Beast, his name is Johnny and he's the love of my life, the man who holds my heart everyday and shares my bed every night... always part of me, always next to me.

"You. Next to me. That's all I want."  ~ Unknown

~Christina


Wednesday, June 7, 2017

Life Lesson #162 ~ Recalculating




"I am learning everyday to allow the space between where I am and where I want to be, to inspire me and not terrify me." ` Mind Set on Greatness

Have you seen the car ad where the guy's life GPS just keeps recalculating? Personally this ad, strikes a cord with me. Maybe it's because my life continually feels like it's constantly changing, adjusting, modifying itself and ultimately recalculating my path. This ad gets it right. Sometimes life takes a sudden, and very dramatically different turn from what we originally had planned. Truthfully my personal internal GPS has driven me all over the map through the years. I set off in life with a plan of my own but not everything lines up as perfectly as we want it to. "Life is funny isn't it? Just  when you think you've got it all figured out , just when you finally begin to plan something, get excited about it and feel like you know the direction you're heading in, the paths change, the signs change, the wind blows the other way, North is suddenly South and East is West and you're lost." Seriously, that's how it goes isn't it? Life' s taken me a lot of places. Many of them amazing, from the castles of Europe to the mountains of West Virginia. I grew up an only child, and have had two children of my own. I'm a public school teacher, a writer and a breast cancer survivor. I'm a daughter, a wife, a mom and one day, though hopefully not too soon, I'll be a Granny too. For the most part I've stayed pretty much on the road less traveled. I like it that way, but on occasion I seriously have to ask myself where the heck am I now and why?  When I think of my life, snark e cards comes to mind. "If my life was hooked up to GPS you would constantly hear, Recalculating." Maybe it's just my life but I suspect it's how all our lives work. Turn left, turn right, follow the white rabbit or make a U-turn in 3-2-1...  followed by you guessed it, another U-turn. Personally I know Jesus is my personal GPS. So if there's no exit sign, and He says exit I know there's something there for me. Of course that is if I can simply trust Him. No matter how many crazy turns, or sudden direction changes happen along the way, He's leading me in the right direction.

If I spent my time arguing and yelling at my GPS about where I'm going most of the time, I might really miss something important. Seriously, we all know how frustrating GPS can be at times. I mean, why is GPS pointing me towards a dead end? Unless of course I'm simply not aware of the train station waiting on me at the end of that so called dead end street. See what I often don't account for is God's master plan. I forget to remind myself , "You need to keep moving on, darling, or you'll miss the train to bigger things in life than this." I certainly wasn't looking for a lane change from single to married and I certainly wasn't looking for love when I met Johnny. Lord knows I was no where near take a left and say I do but God knew better. So my GPS recalculated taking my journey down a completely different path.  As our children were born life changed yet again. Then after years of planning, and saving we bought our first and only house. Our plans were as wide as the sky and as deep as the ocean. Breast cancer definitely wasn't one of them and chemo was not in our grand plans I can assure you. But while that combo along with an MRM were nowhere in our sights or on our radar, six months after signing closing papers, life recalculated again. And it continued to recalculate as the years went by. Everything from job loss, a child on the spectrum, another with a TBI, going back to work full time, the loss of Johnny's mom, going from one to three dogs and now sending our boys off to college you can be sure our GPS has not only recalculated but been recalibrated often.  Life simply in a rather complicated process continues to recalculate over and over again. If I have learned anything about life, God's plans, my own plans and where life actually takes you is something Marc Andangel so eloquently speaks of himself. "Use your struggles and frustrations today to motivate you rather than annoy you. You are in control of the way you look at life. Be mindful." And that's the thing, we can't always control where life takes us, what happens around us or even to us but we can control how we respond and react to each and every one of those unexpected GPS turns.

What I have come to fully and completely understand is that life is most definitely like a box of chocolates, just as Forest Gump tells us sitting at that bus stop. Not one of us has the ability to choose our starting point or set our own GPS when we first start out on this road we call life. Along the way we learn quickly life will recalculate and relocate us as we choose certain paths or as change takes over the driver's seat more often than not. Life may start off shaky or it may wind up somewhere down a dark, creaky, poorly lit not to mention badly maintained rickety road or bridge in the middle of nowhere. Either way, we all experience loss, pain and suffering at the hands of grief, fear and chaos. Life is not easy, and anyone trying to sell you that line probably has a bridge to sell you too. I love this quote from The Perks of Being a Wallflower. It explains things brilliantly. "I guess we are who we are for a lot of reasons. And maybe we'll never know most of them. But if we don't have the power to choose where we come from we can still choose where we go from there."

Today I can confidently tell you  my hands are firmly on the steering wheel. I've set a course I've chosen for my life and I'm extremely excited to see where it takes me. At 43 years old I still have a lot of living to do, sights to see and experiences to experience. I'd be lying to you if I didn't say I'm nervous and excited at the same time. Life, well it's quite an adventure, and one that seems to be recalculating with each mile we pass along the way. But this is the thing, I fully understand who's already programed my GPS. I know how that sounds, relinquish control, are you serious?  I get it but I know when I surrender myself to the One holding the master key, with access to a complete atlas, my life will recalculate correctly, sending me in the right direction. Proverbs 19:21 is a perfect example," We humans keep brainstorming options and plans, but God’s purpose prevails." And that's so true. We plan, we yell,  beat the steering wheel, scream at the passing cars beside us, take a right hand turn instead of the left one our GPS was so clear about in the first place. Then oddly enough we wonder why life is completely off course and our GPS is spending so much time recalculating a new route. So take Life Lesson #162 ~ Recalculating as what it is, a friendly reminder to stop and smell the roses. Life is going to turn you around, get off course and take more wrong turns than you can count and yes those new calculations will probably confuse you. When that happens, just pull over, take a deep breath and let your internal GPS do the recalculating. You'll be fine, I promise.

"In the end, she became more than what she expected. She became the journey. and like all journeys she did not end, she just simply changed directions and kept going." ~ R.M. Drake

~Christina


Monday, June 5, 2017

Life Lesson #161 ~Growing Up Wonder Woman




"I didn't always know what I wanted to do but I knew the kind of woman I wanted to be." ~ Diane Von Furstenberg

Ever heard the saying we all have a little Wonder Woman inside us? I have, and my daddy was the one who repeatedly affirmed this to me every day of my life growing up. My dad was a believer in who I was then and the woman I would become later. He taught me long before it was cool to rise up and be a woman of character and strength. The saying, " She needed a hero so that's what she became" was ingrained into my fabric long before it made the social media rounds. My dad has always been my greatest fan, and while I loved my Barbie dolls right long side my comic books my dad made sure I understood being a strong woman was far more important than ever looking like a Barbie doll. And truthfully my Barbie's stepped in as Superhero substitutions more often than not. I was and will forever be a Wonder Woman kind of girl. I know I'm not Wonder Woman, but I could just throw it out that that no one has ever actually seen me and Wonder Woman in the same room together now have you?

So all silliness aside, I have to admit I was beyond excited finding out my parents were treating my family and I to a movie this past weekend.  Any guess which movie it was? And nope the first one doesn't count. Truthfully anyone who has talked to me or followed me for that matter over the last year pretty much knows I've been excited about this particular movie. OK yes, I am talking about Wonder Woman. I mean how did you guess? And no I can't lie, I have no shame... I was actually wearing my Wonder Woman under-roos beneath my regular clothes.  No it's not secret I have and will always be a Wonder Woman kind of girl. If you've followed my blog then you've heard my references to comic book nerd status, without shame I might add. Maybe you've even noticed my profile picture wearing the Wonder Woman Chuck Taylor's my boys gave me for Mother's day two years ago. It's even possible you've read my many posts regarding my favorite D.C. super hero, Wonder Woman through the years going as far back as 2007.  What can I say, I have loved the world of comic books  and Diana Prince since I can remember. My dad first introduced me to sci-fi, Star Wars and yes comic books, most notably, Wonder Woman before I could read. Long before I ever saw Lynda Carter twirl her cape around in circles as Wonder Woman my dad was reading Wonder Woman comic books to me.  I know I've told this story many times, but till this day my parents can't resist a chance to recount my Wonder Woman leap tale. Yes, I'm speaking about the 'Christie flying through the air, after jumping from the dresser, across the bed with a towel tied around her neck, yelling Wonder Woman' story. As you might be able to tell imagination has never been a problem for me or been a trait I've ever lacked talent in. My parents, with their humorously shocked faces were proof of that as I flew over the tops of their heads that morning. I'm simply the kind of girl who has never believed she needed saving.

As a little girl I wanted to be strong, smart, beautiful and most definitely a force of nature, a woman to be reckoned with. To be honest, much like Wonder Woman herself. I was taught I could be anything. I was shown unconditional love and given the freedom and tools to explore my own dreams. I was encouraged to be completely myself, nerd, geek, super hero, to become a strong woman, soft, powerful, humble, kind and unconventional. From the time I was a little girl I knew I was capable of standing up for myself and for others.  So when breast cancer washed up on my shores, I knew what I had to do...pull my hair back (what was left of it anyway) and fight like the girl I was. I simply remembered and repeated something Wonder Woman would say. "Hang on (Cancer). I don't want to wreck my hair when I wreck your face." Then I looked straight into the eyes of that two-headed monster, Breast Cancer and Chemo and went to war. I fought her with the strength of my faith, my God and my family. I applied all the training I was given as child, and took it into battle reminding myself of the biggest truth I knew. "You, Father,  have chosen me and called me for great things. So I will choose to say yes to your way, your will and your plans." (TrueBeautyMinisties.com) See I may have doubted myself, but I never doubted the resounding truth in my heart...I was, I am and will always be a child of the King of Kings. I'm a woman walking in His grace. A woman who's been taught how to face the world, to stand up for herself and others, to never play victim and to always stand and deal  with her problems with her head held high.

So why Wonder Woman you ask? Well that's simple, she's strong, feels deeply, loves fiercely and while she's soft, she's still powerful and as tough as nails. As a woman she knows who she is, even if she didn't fully understand herself in the beginning. She came to understand by trial and error who she really was and what her path was, and she accepted that. Every time my dad read me another one of Diana Prince's adventures, I knew there was a little bit of Wonder Woman inside me too. There's a scene in the new Wonder Woman movie where Diana takes her first real stand, charging into no man's land. She leads the way, across the battlefield, not worrying who or if anyone will follow her. She simply takes up her sword and shield, exposing her true armor and the real warrior she is, adjusts her tiara and confidently goes to battle. In these moments, she inspires others, not because she was trying, but simply because she was leading by example. I was struck during that scene by the true strength of a woman and reminded of a great quote by W.E.B. Dubois. "There is no force equal to a woman determined to rise." This particular scene brought me back to my very own battle with breast cancer, and how the Wonder Woman in me rose up then. I never thought I'd face a monster such as breast cancer, but I did. The reality of who I am today is directly influenced by the battlefield I faced crossing my own no man's land. I learned a life lesson on that war torn battlefield, one I still carry with me today. "You can break down a woman temporarily, but a real woman will always pick up the pieces, rebuild herself, and come back stronger than ever." And that's what going toe to toe with breast cancer and all her monstrous consorts did for me...made me stronger, bolder and braver than I had ever dreamed I could be before.

So today, I humbly bring you Life Lesson #161~ Growing Up Wonder Woman  simply to encourage all you little girls who've grown up to become women who believe the Wonder Woman inside them is real. Have courage, and faith in who you are, and who you can yet be. I'm truly blessed to have been brought up in the way such as I was. With a dad who not only read Wonder Woman to me, but inspired me to believe in myself and to be myself. Every day after reading another great adventure of Wonder Woman AKA Diana Prince I was also reminded of Proverbs 31:25, "She is clothed with strength and dignity, and she laughs without fear of the future." And because of those powerful words, I knew the kind of woman I wanted to be... strong, courageous and true to myself. I wasn't afraid of the woman I would grow up to be one day because I knew who I was inside and out. I can tell you since becoming a woman, a wife, a mother and a breast cancer survivor I've found there is strength even in my failures. Each loss has been a lesson, teaching me, showing me how His grace is enough. And the scars cancer left behind across my chest well they simply serve as beautiful reminders of that same amazing  grace. The reality of my life today is I'm free to be me, strong and on a path God alone has set before me. I'm thankful beyond words I found out who I was inside at an early age. Today, knowing myself fully even as an adult I can most certainly wear my Wonder Woman under-roos confidently in spite of the peanut gallery.

At the end of the day the truth is quite simple, because of dad's love for comic books, he not only passed that love to me, I've passed the same love on to my boys. Now as I close this post all I can tell you is this: I will face whatever washes up on my shores. Why, because I've learned it's not my own strength, but the might, the backbone and the resilience of those who've always believed in me and who stand behind and to each side of me everyday that strengthens me. My family may wonder about me sometimes, and sure I may wonder where I've left my keys or my glasses from time,  to time but I'll never doubt there's a little Wonder Woman inside me, and neither should you.

"Here's to strong women. May we know them. May we be them. May we raise them." ~ Unknown

~Christina



Friday, June 2, 2017

Life Lesson #160 ~You Can't Rewrite Your Past





"I can't. You can't rewrite the past." ~ Jay Asher

How many times do things go wrong in life? Our plans get caught up in mayhem or simply fall off course and  into a stinkin', rotten, nasty, unpleasant, gigantic pot hole in the middle of the road. Sadly a lot of the time we can't avoid the road hazards. They just come with the territory. Goodness gracious I know I've found myself more than once taking the detour. Life just has this way of altering , faltering and revising any and all of our perfectly laid out plans. For whatever reason, life seems to have a mind of it's own right? The same can be said of our past. Our lives are all different, each one of us has a distinct, separate story to tell and like those unaccounted for detours, we tend to stay stuck in the same chapter, and often on the same page over and over again. We get caught in a warped time loop, becoming prisoners of our own poor, sad, story-telling. The reality is while you can't change or rewrite your past, you have the ability and the power to decide this isn't how your story will end.  What is it that we don't have or that we feel we so badly need we're willing to rip out the pages of our life apart to obtain? Personally, when I look back, flipping through the pages of my past, I've realized, "the greatest challenge of my life has been discovering who I am. The second greatest has been being happy with what I've found."

If we're not careful fear, emotional pain and panic combined are more than likely than not to play a very large, dark part in how we view our past. Maybe it's because we feel we were slighted, bruised, snubbed, unnoticed or deserving of more than we got from life. Maybe we've come to believe in spite of all we really do have that life is still simply unfair, unequal, biased and one- sided.  We want more, therefore we deserve more. I've watched it happen more than once as people have desperately tried to re-write their past, to alter their history. Folks so discontent and dissatisfied with the pages of previous chapters, and  full of unrealistic fantasies and expectations they've collectively destroyed, damaged and sabotaged any hope of a promising future. Sadly as I've observed insecurity and anxiety take over the writers pen, I've witnessed envy and bitterness kill more than one story. Brene Brown, couldn't be clearer about this. "Owning our story and loving ourselves through the process is the bravest thing that we'll ever do."

Unfortunately when we allow ourselves to dwell on destructive ideas that focus on emotions and feelings rather than our reality we end up with a corrupted, misleading and misguided past. A story that continues to remind us of how we've been left out, forgotten, erased, omitted, excluded and passed over. Thinking this way, is a pretext for an unfounded view of our circumstances and those who actually love us . Instead we become angry, resentful, spiteful, vengeful and un-thankful writers in our own story. This is the thing, as hard as it is to swallow, Tony Gaskins thoughts on our past are truthful. "If you can't do anything about it, then let it go. Don't be a prisoner to things you can't change." Just because we don't like how our past unfolded, how life started out or developed doesn't mean God can't re-write our story. Now understand me, I'm not talking about changing or rewriting your history. I'm referring to how your life plays out from this point on. What we all need to understand, especially when it comes to our live's is this. "The moment in between what you were, and who you are becoming is where the dance of life really takes place." (Barbara De Angelis)  So I wonder who do you really want to be? An overcast shadow of your past, a copy of someone's life you wish had been yours over run by hurt, senseless guilt, filled with self inflicted misery and a victim of you're own making? Or do you want to be free, to be yourself, an original knowing your past is simply that, the past?  Umar Ibn Al-Khattab speaks a truth many of us seem to forget, a little too often. "No amount of guilt can change the past and no amount of worrying can change the future. Agree or disagree with the author, there is truth in his words.

What I know about myself is this: My story is my own. I am not you nor are you me. My past, my present and my future are all uniquely my own. The pages of my life are filled with tragedies, hurts, slights, scars and rejections. But those are only pieces of my past, definitely not all of my story. The rest of my life, all of the pages written from the moment my life and my story first began have also been filled with unconditional love. Those two words, well they have been the driving force behind who I was, who I am and who I will become by my stories end. I don't know what my story holds just like I don't know what the pages of your past say about you, or the story they tell. All I know is no one can rewrite their past, not even if you make a wish upon a star. No, the pages that come after what's already been written are blank for a reason. And while those pages are yet unwritten, they're also full of promise and possibility. Tomorrow's chapters are blank intentionally and if you can let go long enough God will begin writing something pretty amazing for your life. Marie Kondo, is so on point when she says, "When we really delve into the reasons for why we can't let something go, there are only two: An attachment to the past or a fear for the future." This is the absolute truth, and the reason why so many of us  throughout our lives lose opportunities for real  happiness, contentment and closure.

Isaiah 43:18-19, encourages us. "Forget about what’s happened; don’t keep going over old history. Be alert, be present. I’m about to do something brand-new." And this is what Life Lesson #160 ~ You Can't Rewrite Your Past is all about. God has something new, something wonderful and something pretty tremendous waiting on us in the next chapter. I don't want be so hung up on yesterday that I miss tomorrow. As emotional beings, we just get too focused on what we don't have yet, or on what we feel we weren't given or should have had all along we end up missing the moment our new chapter begins. The dance eludes us because we're too busy looking back on the past, instead of looking at the partner we're dancing with today. Unfortunately, when this happens we become too deeply engaged in tying to rewrite the pages of our past to suit our present that we miss the pages unfolding in the here and now. Sadly in those moments we fail to look ahead toward the bigger picture God's passionately working on. And all because we can't let go of our past or give God control of our circumstances, trusting Him to write those yet unknown, upcoming chapters for us. Bottom line is we can't undo what's been done, or change how things unfolded. We can however look at our past through His eyes, understanding it, learning from it and moving on to the next chapter in spite of it. Just never forget, the more you fear life, opportunity, change and possibility the more reasons you will have to dread them. The more you love life and those given to you, the more you find a way to see all the beauty life offers, even while sitting in the potholes of life. Just remember, none of us can rewrite the past, but God sure can fill in the blank pages ahead of us!

"It doesn't matter what's been written in your story so far, it's how you fill up the rest of the pages that counts." ` Unknown

~ Christina

Tuesday, May 30, 2017

Life Lesson #159 ~ You Are Enough!





"Do not tame the wolf inside you just because you've met someone who doesn't have the courage to handle you." ~ Bella Estreller

When you look into the mirror what do you see? Are you hard on yourself, pushing yourself to be better, to do more, to be enough? Do you think you should be skinnier, fuller, do you want straight hair, curly hair, a smaller nose, bigger eyes or maybe you simply wish you were taller or even shorter? Being honest, that's probably most of us. We all feel we're lacking, invisible or too visible at some point in our lives. Some of us choose to fight our battles privately, while others do so publicly. Many of us feel we can hide our insecurities, while others wear them on their sleeves. My question today is , do you know you're enough? I'm not talking about being conceited, of thinking you're the cat's meow, talking bad about others when they have no way of defending themselves or making someone else look bad in order to feel good about yourself. No, that's another form of insecurity. Believe me it's loud, obnoxious and it's a powerful tool too. This kind of instability and insecurity is brought to life by a particular kind of person and believe me the enemy uses them in our lives to beat us down, and keep us off track. I'm telling you from personal experience , I know how off track I can get when I feel insignificant. So yes, this is exactly what I want to talk about today. Joshua 1:9 tells us, "Be strong and have strength of heart! Do not be afraid or lose faith. For the Lord your God is with you anywhere you go.” So if I believe His word is true and I do then He is with us and in us right? So then how can we be worthless? How can you not have value or not be pretty enough, smart enough or brave enough? Your talents, creativity and interests are unique to you. Each gift, each talent is God given, and within those abilities is potential. Who cares if your enthusiasm is not something someone else finds fascinating or intriguing. Their opinion of you has no influence on your worth. The only power anyone has over you is the very same power you freely give them. I can tell you from my own past, especially over the last 3 years, no one can take away your value or worth but you. No one can dictate or take your merit and importance without your consent. If I have learned anything it's as women and men, believers in Christ or not, we have to "be bold enough to use our voice, brave enough to listen to our hearts, and strong enough to live the life we've always imagined."

Repeat after me," I am extraordinary,  I am strong. I am confident, valuable, talented, blessed, fearless, determined, beautiful, loved, and I am victorious!" The reality is you are all those things and more. There is nothing about you that is unworthy of love and acceptance. The problem we tend to run into, especially as women, is that we compare ourselves too much. We give other women power over us, instead of looking to our Creator to define us, to be our champion and to inspire and fortify our purpose. Those of us that don't see ourselves as enough VS those who see themselves as more than what they really are, are always at odds. That's why it's so important to be selective with who you allow into your inner circle.  Not everyone is good for you, and because of that it's OK to graciously decline any and all invitations you receive leading to drama and self-doubt. This is what's so important to understand, your self worth and confidence are not up for grabs. Anyone attempting to bring you down has no argument in your place, or your standing and definitely no dog in your race. Remember those who seek to shape you into who they want you to be aren't looking to better you, but to lessen you, to feel they control and manipulate you for their benefit. Don't ever forget "those that try to destroy your happiness do so out of jealously." Pay close attention, they know and realize you are enough, they see your potential but in order to to raise themselves up, they have to deconstruct what's good inside of you. My mama has often reminded me through the years, and the last three years are no exception: "People who repeatedly attack your confidence and self-esteem are quite aware of your potential. even if you are not." And don't you dare forget they do all this at your expense by the way. Ignore them, listen to your heart and lift your head. In your Father's eyes you are precious, priceless and absolutely enough.

Listen to me sweet girl, "The face you see in the mirror? SHE'S PRECIOUS to the King of Kings, so don't you dare underestimate the plans that He has for her, because they are great." Getting to the place where you can accept you are enough, isn't easy. It's an uphill battle mostly. It isn't so much finding our security in who we are but holding on to it. When you doubt you are enough, you begin to lose sight of who you are. I love how Britteny Moses explains this. "Your calling is meant for you, not everyone else. Everybody may not get it, and that's okay. It's not for them. They weren't designed for this. You were. God didn't place it in their heart, Ge placed it in yours. If we left the plans and purpose of our life in the hands of people, our entire life would be conformed to what people want to see instead of who God made us to be, and that's just no way to live." So how do you want to live? Defeated, downtrodden, manipulated by those who talk behind your back, attempting to discredit your character? Or do you want to walk victorious, secure in who you have been created to be?

So what are we to do then? How do we respond to those who attack us, throwing stones and trying to start fires? Well personally I have begun to simply walk away. You are enough, and I am enough. I think of my worth and the changes that have taken place in my life hurdling me forward in this way. "One morning she woke up different. Done with trying to figure out who was with her, against her, or walking down the middle  because they didn't have the guts to pick a side. She was done with anything that didn't bring her peace. She realized that opinions were a dime a dozen, validation was for parking, and loyalty wasn't a word but a lifestyle. It was this day that her life changed. And not because of a man, or a job, but because she realized that life is way too short to leave the key to her happiness in someone else's pocket." Now as for my own self worth, I have found myself fully in Christ. Since my journey began over 3 years ago I have turned over my fears, and though it's still a day to day uphill battle, I know when push comes to shove I am His creation and my worth is not up for grabs to anyone. And especially not to the lowest bidder that's for sure. Truly I can only speak for myself, but I want to encourage all  of you who feel less than enough to stand up tall, take heart, and embrace His courage within you.  To those who disregard my value and overlook my worth I repeat Lupytha Hermin's words , "You only know a part of me, I am a universe full of secrets." Need more, well Jessica Katoff can help me out here too, "I am made up of depths the ocean couldn't fathom."

Today as I publish my last post for the month of May, Life Lesson #159 ~ You Are Enough,  I encourage you to be yourself. There is no one else like you. Remember this, as so perfectly said by Clarissa Pinkola Estes, "If you are not free to be who you are, you are not free." So be as imperfectly perfect as you were created, yes be that. Darling girl simply be free to be yourself... be creative, independent, persistent and curious living the amazingly full life that God has given you because you my beautiful girl are enough!

"She remembered who she was and the game changed." ~ Unknown

~Christina