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, February 26, 2017

Life Lesson #127 ~ Time

"All we have to decide is what to do with the time that is given us." ~ J.R.R. Tolkien

When I look back on my life, on the clock ticking away one minute at a time I'm left breathless. We all know the sun goes down, the moon comes up and the stars come out. It's the cycle of our lives but realizing how all those days and nights add up is pretty astonishing. Counting up my life span so far, as of February 26, 2017 my clock comes to 523 months, 2278 weeks, 15,947 days, 382,728 hours, 22,963,680 minutes, 1,377,820,800 seconds give or take a digit or two. That's startling actually if you think about it. Now think about this, something Henry David Thoreau once said, "The price of anything is the amount of life you exchange for it." So I guess my question is this, what are we willing to exchange for the life we live, with the time we have?

As a little girl I held on to my daddy's hand and to his every word. As he still does, my dad hung the moon, the sun and the stars in my life. I was his little girl and he was my hero. I looked up to him, sought him out, ran into his arms everyday when he came through the door.  My dad, he taught me to live out loud, to take life in, every minute and to appreciate those who shared each of those moments with me.  After all, "The greatest gift you can give someone is your TIME. Because when you give your time, you are giving a portion of your life that you will never get back." My dad, and my mom together gave me their time. They gave me room to experience life, to find myself and to be myself without apologies. Time may not have always been kind, but it has definitely given me a full life. I've graciously lived an active, lively, rich ,full life. And yes it has been at the expense of the precious time we've shared together through the years. My mom and dad, they have given me their time from the moment I was born some 43 years, 7 months and 27 days ago. By God's grace, my parents hands and the stretch of time I have lived abroad and across this great county I call home. I have experienced life uncut, and in doing so I've learned life is beautifully messy. I've also found tomorrow is not guaranteed. James 4:14 spells it out perfectly for us, ""How do you know what is going to happen tomorrow? For the length of your lives is as uncertain as the morning fog—now you see it; soon it is gone."

Looking at this picture of my daddy and me, I realize just how much time has passed since those very moments in Germany, sitting there as a little girl looking out over Heidelberg.  I was about three here. It feels just like yesterday but the truth is that moment in time, captured in this photograph was over 40 years, 5 months and 27 days ago. There's a song I remember as a teen by a group called DC Talk. It went something like this, "It's too short, it's too short. I have lots of time. They say time waits for no man. All the time. Time is tickin' away, time is tickin',Tick tock! Time is tickin' away, time is tickin' Tick, tick, tick, tock, tickin" And the reality despite our best attempts to overlook the truth is "Time is ticking away" and quickly at that. As a teenager I had no idea of how true this song was, I just knew I liked it, But now, some 25 years later I understand the lyrics and they hit closer to home more than ever. I guess when we're young we tend to think we're invincible, that we have all the time in the world and then some to make things right, for our dreams to become a reality or to go on that vacation we've been contemplating forever. As we get older we tend to understand, time is precious, fleeting, fragile and truly that we never have enough of it. The truth is, we make time for those people and the things that really matter to us. Time, no matter how we spend it ultimately has a way of showing up and showing us what really matters. Looking at my life today, where I stand, looking backwards and gazing forward I'm reminded of something William Shakespeare once said, "Time is very slow for those who wait. Very fast for those who are scared. Very long for those who lament. Very short for those who celebrate. But for those who love, time is eternal." You see love is the key to life, unconditional love to be exact. This is the gift my parents not only gave me, but taught me growing up. See the thing is if we place unrealistic demands on those we claim to love, then we do not understand the meaning of the word. Love is something we give freely, it should never come with stipulations. I've truly been blessed having been loved in a way such as I have. Not only loved by my parents in this way but by the love of my life, our children together and by those who call me family, related or not. 1 Corinthians 13:8 puts it this way, "All the special gifts and powers from God will someday come to an end, but love goes on forever."

Life Lesson #127 ~ Time, is a reminder that while time is endless, we are not. Maybe the truth is we just need to stop, take a moment, carve out a minute to live and to love, unconditionally. Don't be afraid so much of time passing or stopping, be more afraid of not loving and of an un-lived life. I think we'd spend our time a bit more wisely if we understood the true essence and the measure of our time here on earth. The reality is, "If we remembered that we could lose someone at any moment, we would love them more fiercely and freely, and without fear -not because there is nothing to lose, but because everything can always be lost." The truth about time is we can't go back, we can't make up for lost time and we can't skip hours, minutes or seconds either. We have to live in each moment as if it's our last, not leaving words unspoken or chances un-taken.  We are only given so much time on the clock, and when our time is up, there is no more to give or to be taken. Don't you want it said yours was a life well spent? I know I do. And so I pray just as my parents have, I'm a good steward of each day I am given.

"Sometimes you will never know the value of a moment until it becomes a memory." ~ Dr. Seuss

~ Christina

Friday, February 24, 2017

Life Lesson ~126~ The Power of Choice

"There is no reset button in life.You can't take anything back and you can't undo anything. All of your actions have consequences, and the things you say and do today will have a lasting impact on the rest of your life. You have to understand that, and you have to be aware of it while making you own decisions." ~ Anonymous

The power of our choices, good, bad or somewhere in-between have the ability to shape our future, our entire lives really. Being indecisive, is a decision, a choice. Going left, moving right are also choices. When I graduated college I had so many choices to make, deciding which direction I would take. Of course my parents had their ideas, all parents do and I had a few of my own. Some didn't pan out, while others led me to the happiness of my life now. I was scared, venturing out on my own. Becoming an adult, pursuing my education, a career, my dreams and making choices that would affect the rest of my life. You could say I have always surprised myself, in the chances I've taken. I never saw myself as a risk taker, but that's exactly what I grew up to be. I was encouraged to be me, to be anything I wanted to become and so I have always taken the road less traveled. I see life pretty much the same way I did back then, some 24 years ago. In many ways like Caroline Myss does, "Always go with the choice that scares you the most, because that's the one that is going to help you grow."

Growing up I was always told by my parents that no decision I could ever make would cause them to love me any less. I grew up with unconditional love. Because it was freely given to me, without stipulations or requirements it was an easy choice to make myself as I grew into an adult. As with my parents, I've passed this same wisdom onto my own children. Disappointment, yes that's a given, as parents and as children alike. We all deal with letdowns in our own ways but a lack of love due to a changing of our minds, or the way we see and feel things differently should never divide us. I'll tell you this, I've never feared going home, even if I have messed up unbelievably. I pray my children know and feel the same. As Ronald A. Rasband so eloquently says,"There is no choice, no sin or mistake that you or anyone else can make that will change His love for you or them." This is the standard I was raised and continue to live by.

What I have learned in my 40 plus years is to live life starving my ego and feeding my soul. When we make choices based on our ego, we tend to take 10 steps backwards. That's what I've found myself anyway. I have made many decisions based on how I would look, how people would see me or admire me. We all make these kinds of choices for many different reasons, during many different periods in our lives. What we really need to do is realize something Abraham Maslow shares, "In any given moment we have two options: To step forward into growth or step backwards in safety." This is what I remind myself of every time I become indecisive. We make our own decisions. The outcomes may be different, but they are all by our hands, by the boxes we check. "Everything you do is based on the choices you make. It's not your parents, your past relationships, your job, the economy, the weather, an argument or your age that is to blame. You and only you are responsible for every decision and choice you make. Period." Let's let that sink in for a moment. OK, that's heavy isn't it? But it's true. The thing we have to understand, especially when it comes to blame and saddling others with our rap sheets or the liability of our guilt is this: "we are free to choose but we are not free from the consequences of our choices". It's a wide spread, universal paradox most of us have heard a time or two. So why is it so hard, right or wrong to accept a decision once made has to be owned by the one who has made it? Yes this life is full of circumstances that can leave us feeling like victims of choices we've had no control over. But this is the truth, we all have the ability, the choice to make as to how we respond and react in every situation. I love how Dumbledore, from Harry Potter explains this, "It is our choices, Harry, that show what we truly are, far more than our abilities," The reality we have to face about life is we've got to be the change we want to see. If we can't change then how can we expect anyone else to?

Change is a choice. If you keep doing things the same way you've always done, nothing will change and the outcome will continue to be the same. Being fearful of change, going left instead of right or just staying right where you are because it's easier is like saying you need a hole in the head. Think of it this way, "Right or wrong, make a decision and then learn from it. The road is paved with flat squirrels that couldn't make a decision." Making the big decisions seems hard in the moment, but honestly it's the easiest part. The hard part is actually taking responsibility for our choices, right or wrong. We can blame others for the way our lives have turned out or we can own the rights to the movie. The truth is,"We never make the same mistakes twice, The second time you make it, it is no longer a mistake. It's a choice." ( Lauren Conrad) In the end, at the close of the day you have to take ownership for your life, for the decisions you've made and be willing to live with them and by them. Humility is a choice, faith is a choice, and so is forgiveness. All three can guide you home, navigate and light your path but only if you make the decision to allow it.

"Falling down is an accident, staying down is a choice." And this is where Life Lesson #126 ~ The Power of Choice speaks loudly, audaciously and fearlessly to us. We are the product of every decision we've ever made. Every single choice has led you here. By your own hands you've folded the map, and by your own feet you've set out on your own path. Within those consequences each decision you've ever made can be found. The power of choice can be a heavy burden to carry or it can be the foundation from which you rebuild your life upon. Choice gives us two or more possibilities and those possible course of actions depend on us. We can choose unconditional love or we can live by the repercussions of it's denial. Proverbs 4:23 says,"Be careful how you think; your life is shaped by your thoughts." And God's Word is ever so faithfully true in this verse. We shape our lives, making choices the good and the bad by our thoughts. So my friends as you go about your day today, remember your choices reflect both your hopes and fears...choose wisely. Don't forget,"I am not a product of my circumstances, I am a product of my decisions." ~ Stephen Convey


Monday, February 20, 2017

Life Lesson #125 ~ My Life as a Nerdy 40-something, Geeky Southern Bell

"There is no beauty without strangeness." ~ Edgar Allan Poe

Anyone who knows me can't deny I'm a different kind of girl, a different cup of tea, always have been, always will be. I was born in the south, the daughter of a southern gentleman and a Philly girl. Yes, seriously I'm the kind of girl who wishes "it was socially acceptable to wear beautiful corset dresses or wizarding cloaks every day." I'm just weird that way I guess. I love the Ren Fest, Harry Potter, Star Wars, Marvel and DC comics, Sci-fi, Lord of the Rings, Disney and the list goes on. I was born during the silver age of comic books. The Flash, Captain America and Wonder Woman are dear to my heart in ways you probably wouldn't understand and may honestly think are crazy. To me, being a comic book nerd is just normal. I am absolutely a bit of geek with a hint of nerd and a southern accent mixed in if you want to get technical about it. And you know what, I'm perfectly happy being different. I've always had an imagination and a nerdy, geeky side that describes my personality best. 

I was taught to be authentic, to be an original in a world full of copies. This meant understanding,"The world can be amazing when you're slightly strange." As a little girl I was simply encouraged to be myself, the real me. Not the Christie the world wanted to see, but the girl I was deep down underneath what society dictated. That meant capes, masks, wands, tiaras and swords.  It meant wearing my sassy pants, singing at the top of my lungs, building forts, wearing costumes to the store and hosting tea parties with imaginary friends on a daily basis. It included jumping off dressers, soaring above my parents bed while they slept no less, a cape on, yelling "Wonder Woman". But it also meant being rejected and misunderstood still that never detoured me from being the girl I was or becoming the woman I knew should be. Despite the teasing or even the shunning, I persisted. As a grown woman, I'm still the same girl I was back then. I've raised my boys in much the same way, encouraging them to embrace who they are, not who the world tells them they should be. I may have married the high school football linebacker, but he married the wallflower, the nerdy, geeky girl whose nose was always stuck in a book. And yes I am the e-card mom who said to her kids, "One day Mommy is going to teach you all about muggles,dire wolves, the one true ring, and wobbly timely wimey stuff. Why? Because Mommy is a nerd and nerds are cool." The biggest thing I was taught, and what I'm most proud of for a lack of a better word is knowing our boys understand, "Love is being stupid together." Being yourself and whatever label you give it, be it goofy, silly, a nerd, a geek, a jock or anything else in-between is perfectly acceptable as long as you are authentically yourself. Personally I think Shailene Woodley says it best, "No one is just a nerd. No one is just the cool girl. No one is just shy or popular."

See, I was brought up in a home where Colossians 3:1-2 was repeated to me often,"So if you’re serious about living this new resurrection life with Christ, act like it. Pursue the things over which Christ presides. Don’t shuffle along, eyes to the ground, absorbed with the things right in front of you. Look up, and be alert to what is going on around Christ—that’s where the action is. See things from his perspective." What I took away from this,what continually resounded in my ears daily, encouraging me were these thoughts,"Who I am in Christ matters more than what I think or what other people tell me about myself." Now being a nerd, a geek and a southern bell you can imagine the combination was not exactly the norm. But then when has my life ever been normal? Understand, being brought up a southern girl has been a blessing, not a curse even if I was sitting on the bleachers reading a book during Friday night games. Being a nerd, a geek and a southern woman, is who I am.  If I have taken anything away from my childhood and the way I was raised it's this,"Growing up Southern is a privilege, really. It's more than where you're born, it's an idea and state of mind that seems imparted at birth. It's more than loving fried chicken, sweet tea, college football, Coca-Cola and country music. It's being hospitable, charming and respectful while having strength, grace and a genuine love for our family and our land. We don't become Southern,  we're born that way."

Life Lesson #125 ~ My Life as a Nerdy 40-something, Geeky Southern Bell hasn't always been easy, but it's definitely been worth every mile. I can assure ya'll of that. Sure I may be a bit of a rare bird, but I'm happy being me. Oh me, oh my, oh yes, I'm absolutely a crazy, strange, odd, peculiar, unusual southern, nerdy, geeky mess of a girl with light sabers, cloaks, and a library of her very own at home. But truthfully, I wouldn't have it any other way. Evel Knienvel was about as unusual as they come, but he was 100% himself, no apologies offered. He was correct, "You come to a point in your life where you really don't care what other people think about you, you just care what you think about yourself." You see labels don't define you, YOU define YOU. So remember that the next time you're shamed for being authentic, different or unconventional. It's perfectly acceptable to be a one of a kind, to be eccentric and a bit wacky. Besides normal is overrated anyway. That's what my kids have always told me and I think they hang the moon.

"For what it's worth: It's never too late to be whoever you want to be. I hope you live a life you're proud of and if you find that you're not, I hope you have the strength to start over." ~ F. Scott Fitzgerald

~ Christina

Sunday, February 19, 2017

Life Lesson #124 ~ The Love & Importance of Extended Family

"Extended family is a wondrous thing because their love and influence is a choice." ~Christina Olachia

Our family has been blessed many times over by an extensive extended family. Through the years, as close as we were to our family, those bound to us by blood we were also separated by hundreds of miles more often than not. This is where we learned ,"home is wherever our bunch of crazies are." The wonderful thing about growing up in an environment like I did was even as an only child, I was never lonely. I was in fact surrounded by unbelievable and generous brothers, sisters, uncles, aunts and second moms and dads. Today many of those same folks are still part of our lives, entwined and defined simply as family. In fact many of these extended family members are not only an extension but an intricate part of who we are, who I am today.

It's been said, "Family isn't always blood. It's the people in your life who want you in theirs; accept you for who you are. The ones who would do anything to see you smile and who love you no matter what, without an agenda." And I have found this to be true in my life. Growing up so many times away from my biological aunts, uncles and cousins and without biological siblings I could have been a recluse, an introvert or even a hermit. keeping to myself, unattached to anyone. While I may have been born an only child, I wasn't ever truly one. I learned to share,to give and to think of others before myself because my parents believed in the importance of extended family. Proverbs 17:17 says this, "A friend is always a friend, and relatives are born to share our troubles." This not only describes our biological but our extended family as well. This is how I was brought up, to love unconditionally, to share one another's burdens, to give and to make room for everyone at the table. The truth as I see is the same as Mike McHargue does,"People grow when they are loved well. If you want to help others heal, love them without an agenda." This is why the importance of extended family is invaluable and their love priceless. I am so grateful to have always been loved well by both my biological and extended family. You could say our extended family, gave me the confidence to be myself. They are the reason I'm the the open-minded, glass half-full, light-hearted woman I am today. What I learned as a child and know now as an adult is sometimes in life we just need to know we're loved, no strings attached, no conditions or demands. Just pure and simple love born of choice, not obligation. 

The beauty of my life is that it's a tapestry of brilliant, bright, beautiful and imperfect people. Our family album is a collection of the good and the tough times, of love and loss, of friends and family and all the moments in-between. Collectively, our family album holds our memories of those who have stood by us, through thick and thin, without flinching. What I know is this, I've been given more family than I could have ever hoped for. My parents not only have friends, but friends who have become family. I have more aunts and uncles than I could dream of. I may have been born my parents only biological daughter but I am by far not their only child. In fact I have dozens of siblings who I gladly share my life and my parents with. I have been blessed so greatly I couldn't begin to name them all. I can tell you without a second thought because of my sisters, the women who are absolutely the other halves of my heart I'm not afraid of what today may dish out. "My sisters remind me, by their very steadfastness that truth, beauty and goodness exist in the world. That no matter what there are and always will be people loving people through thick and thin." Because of the love of our extended family there's always a light on, a home that can be found anywhere and a place where we can be ourselves, imperfect and all. And this is how love is suppose to be, open, giving and accepting. I'm blessed today as I was yesterday and will be tomorrow by these very souls who have taken this journey of life with us. And you know what I've learned above all, "The most beautiful discovery true friends make is that they can grow separately without growing apart." ~ Elizabeth Foley

And so today, Life Lesson #124 ~ The Love & Importance of Extended Family is a love letter to all those who I can't see my life without. Maybe we all need to tell our extended family how much we love them while we still have the chance. These are the very people who see you for who you really are and still love you, by choice, faults and all. These loved ones in no way take the place of our family by birth, No, they simply add, compliment and expand our circles, broaden our horizons, adjoining and uniting our family trees together. I guess I see it this way, there's always a way to make more room at the table. True family is always a blend, a merging of hearts, lives, DNA and love. Today, I am just one person, an individual piece, part of a very large extended family puzzle. I have siblings, aunts and uncles from all over the world, from diverse cultures with countless different stories of how their lives blended into ours. The amazing thing is we're all connected, part of something bigger than ourselves. As an extended family we have one heart beating together even when we're separated by hundreds of miles. And what's even more incredible is my children have inherited this family, my family, their family... our extended family. 

After all as Micheal J. Fox says, "Family is not an important thing. It's everything."


Thursday, February 16, 2017

Life Lesson #123~ Forgive, Forget, Begin Again...

"Today I decided to forgive you. Not because you apologized, or because you acknowledged the pain that you caused me,but because my soul deserves peace." ~ Najwa Zebian

Forgiveness is not something that comes easy. In fact forgetting can be just as hard. Beginning again, well to accomplish this we have to be ready and willing to leave our baggage behind at the train station, ALL of it. That ain't easy is it? I don't know about you but I know myself,  and walking away gracefully isn't always in my demeanor nor part of my disposition. I may be graceful, but I'm a southern woman. No one pushes around a southern woman, that's for certain. The other thing about a southern woman, good or bad is she has the uncanny ability to put you in your place with a smile on her face and a gleam in her eyes all while words of sugar drip from her lips. Now the truth is my emotions get the best of me sometimes and my tongue too. But let me make this very clear I'm not a my way or the highway kind of girl. I believe in compromise and admitting when I'm wrong. In fact I'm usually the first to apologize or attempt to make peace even when I feel I'm not necessarily wrong. However when it comes to the protection of my family I am fierce, And yes, I'm just as human as the next girl. If I've learned anything though in recent years it's this,"It's OK to say God, I don't feel like I can forgive but I'm asking You to give me the grace and strength to do it."

What I know about life is this, it's full of questions, the whys and the hows but it's also full of love, happiness and second chances. The truth is not all second chances are easy. The other thing is they don't always involve those wrapped up in the genesis of the wound. Most aren't even tickets back to the same train station. They are however, safe passage to new beginnings, for redemption and the recovery of peace in our lives. God's Word says this in Ephesians 4:31-32, "Stop being mean, bad-tempered, and angry. Quarreling, harsh words, and dislike of others should have no place in your lives. Instead, be kind to each other, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, just as God has forgiven you because you belong to Christ." The thing I've learned about forgiveness is forgiving someone doesn't always mean reconciliation or repairing the window between your lives, it simply means you've made peace with your own shattered and broken pieces in the aftermath of the storm.There's a brilliant quote by Bryant McGill that sums it up like this, "They caused the first wound, but you are causing the rest. This is what not forgiving does.They got it started but you keep it going. Forgive and let it go, or it will eat you alive. You think they made you feel this way but when you won't forgive, you are the one inflicting pain on yourself."

In recent years I've learned something really beautiful about forgiveness...it's not made to weaken you, but to strengthen you and set you free. Yes I have suffered incredible loss and pain over these last few years. Much of it unnecessary and unwarranted. I have been the target of blame, resentment, bitterness, jealously and cruel agendas. Much of it unwanted and pointless, and not by my own hands either. Non of that matters though because the hurt still inflicted wounds I've had to tend and recover from.  I know right, forgive those who purposely hurt me, plunging a knife into my back while smiling and hugging me? Surely not, how could I even think to say those words...I forgive you? But I have and I do forgive. And why, well because Matthew 6:14-15 tells me this,"When I come face-to-face with how much God has done for me, how can I fail to forgive you?" I know there are many who have been witness to the events of the last several years in my life. Many have seen the devastation and mayhem of those same said events.  Some have wondered  how do you forgive a situation like that? The truth is being able to forgive, forget and begin again has been a journey. Reminding myself of  1 Corinthians 13:5 has definitely been part of my process. Repeating over and over again,"Love keeps no record of wrong" has been my saving grace. I have dug deep into God's word, evaluating my life, my own intentions and motives and stopped questioning those of others. I am no longer worried with the whys or the hows. 

This is the thing, we all have the choice to forgive, forget and to begin again. We can allow bitterness and resentment to consume us or we can choose peace, a reliance upon our Heavenly Father and a hope in the One who knows our hearts. Jesus was hurt, and still He forgave while hanging on a cross.Remember this,"When you have been falsely accused...look up for so was Jesus. When people twist what you say for their own selfish motives...look up for so was Jesus. When you have been betrayed...look up for so was Jesus. It's written Jesus will bring everything hidden in the darkness into the light for all to see. He will bring justice, He will vindicate you. Shake the dust off your feet, forgive and move on." So my advice is to hold on  to Jesus casting ALL your cares on Him. After all, "He will defend you; He will never let honest people be defeated." Psalms 55:22

As I wrap up Life Lesson #123 ~ Forgive, Forget, Begin Again remind yourself, holding onto resentment and un-forgiveness is the same thing as drinking poison and expecting the other person to die as so well said by Buddha. This life lesson strikes deep, hits between the eyes begging us to make the choice to show mercy, an extension of love not just to our offenders but to ourselves. That or we continue drinking the poison of un-forgiveness and being consumed by our own toxins. Personally I chose to continue to love, to continue to forgive and continue to grow.

"Forgiveness is not an occasional act, it is a constant attitude." ~ Martin Luther King Jr.


Tuesday, February 14, 2017

Life Lesson #122 ~ When Love Grows...We Grow.

"When a flower doesn't bloom, you fix the environment in which it grows, not the flower." ~Alexander Den Heijer

Today there is no escaping a'more. As we begin this day, no matter where we go we'll be faced with cards proclaiming love, flowers scenting the air and hearts full of candy. All these things are truly lovely, but they are in truth just things, trinkets. None of which can actually cause true love to grow or bloom. Valentine's Day, with all it's romantic glory is just like any other day. Nothing about today can make us love each other any more or less. The growth or the withering of our relationships isn't dependent upon the antics of one single day of the year. Nope the environment we cultivate our relationships in on a daily basis does. The growth of our connections are dependent upon our deliberate actions the rest of the 364 days of the year. How does love grow? How do we keep relationships alive in an environment overrun by technology, an unstable economy, sexual tensions and unrealistic demands society lays at our doorsteps every day? How do couples stay together in a world of broken promises and jaded emotions?  Well I guess for starters, you have to cultivate an environment where imperfection is not a four letter word. 

Life Lesson #122~ When Love grows... we grow, is both complicated and simple. I can tell you from experience, my marriage had to go through the pruning process, undergoing pain like I can't begin to explain before it could fully grow into the beautiful, imperfect flower it has become.We had to stop trying to change one another. Instead we began working to change our environment, together. We were trying way to hard, over watering, under watering, cutting down and pulling up anything we saw as imperfection or unattractive. See, this is the thing, "Love isn't perfect. It isn't a fairy tale or a storybook and it doesn't always come easy, Love is overcoming obstacles,facing challenges, fighting to be together, holding on and never letting go. It is a short word, easy to spell, difficult to define and impossible to live without. Love is work, but most of all, love is realizing that every hour, every minute, every second was worth it because you did it together." ~ unknown.

The truth is as our love personally has matured, thriving and flourishing. Johnny and I have found a real refuge in each other. Paraphrasing F. Scott Fitzgerald our marriage has "skipped briskly into an intimacy from which we'll never recover." See when love grows it becomes strong, bending and adapting with the elements, basking in the glory of His Son. As love is pruned and cultivated in soil rich in unconditional love forgiveness begins to provide that same love with a truly healthy environment allowing it to breathe, for it's roots to become deeply rooted and built on choices that say ,"I love you"  not "I love me." This is how true love can actually become happily ever after. Christine Caine says it so well, "God prunes us when He is about to take us into a new season of growth and expansion." And this is exactly how God has brought our marriage into a brand new season, full of growth and awareness. Perfection honestly has no place in marriage, we are all  human, full of faults and flaws and hangups.  But we are also works in progress, flowers missing a pedal or two but still fully blooming in the light of God's grace and mercy. Ephesians 4:2 is clear, telling us," Be humble and gentle. Be patient with each other, making allowance for each other’s faults because of your love." I know if not for God's love, for His continual grace in my marriage we'd have been choked out by the weeds of doubt long ago. The past is the past, we have today and if we're blessed we have tomorrow together. Nothing in life comes easy, love least of all. However I do believe with all my heart something 'I'm just a girl' proclaims beautifully. "I feel like everything in my life has led me to you. My choices, my regrets. Everything. And when we're together, my past seems worth it. Because if I had done one thing differently, I might never have met you." Simply put I could never see my life without him, without the "us" we have fought hard to become or without the crazy love we have grown and worked for together for over 20 years.

And so this Valentine's day I want to encourage all those struggling, trying to find purpose and balance within the boundaries of love and happiness. Some days are effortless while others are complicated. Love isn't easily defined so don't judge your relationships based on the romantic notions of one made up day of the year. After all there are 364 additional days for love to grow, to bloom and to mature. Just remember to "continue to love, continue to forgive and continue to grow."


Friday, February 10, 2017

Life Lesson #121 ~ The Rear View Mirror

"Even though there are days I wish I could change some things that happened in the past, there's a reason the rear view mirror is so small and the windshield is so big, where you're headed is much more important than what you've left behind." ~ D.I. Quotes

Three years ago this month my life changed. Actually my life went up in smoke. Uncontrollable flames reached epic heights and the smoke of what was left of my life up to that point billowed. I'm not talking some small campfire either, not even a bonfire. No, I'm talking about a raging, out of control wildfire, burning and destroying everything in it's path. This sweeping fire consumed everything, all of me, who I was and who I thought I should be. Three years later, the fire has been extinguished. Truth, for a time there I was fighting hot spots spontaneously re-igniting, area's of my life left unattended. I was lost, hurt, betrayed and abandoned. Night had fallen, the sky was black, I couldn't breathe for all the smoke and there was no way I was going to find my way out of a burning forest alone.

Let me say this, while I may have felt lost and alone, I wasn't ever alone even after losing my way. My faith, my God and those He placed in my life were always there, calling out to me in the darkness. They were there, fighting back the flames, pulling me out of the chard ashes. And when I completely lost my way, when I thought all hope was lost, gone, forsaken and burned beneath the dark, smoke filled forest, those same loved ones held up lanterns, lighting the way back home. When I thought the flames would consume me, God was there. When I was overcome by the inferno, when the intensity of the fire was closing in, these brothers and sisters of mine ran in, dragging me out of the fire, speaking peace into the chaos consuming me. To this day I still cling to Rachel Platten's lyrics, "Losing friends and I'm chasing sleep. Everybody's worried about me in too deep. Say I'm in too deep (in too deep) and it's been two years, I miss my home but there's a fire burning in my bones. Still believe, yeah, I still believe. Starting right now I'll be strong, I'll play my fight song. And I don't really care if nobody else believes 'cause I've still got a lot of fight left in me." No, truthfully I couldn't understand any of the things that were happening to me. I was afraid, scared and deeply wounded. I wanted nothing more than to fade into the abyss surrounding me. I felt like a refugee, kicked around and abused in my own life and my home. I lashed out in pain and in anguish I completely fell apart, losing my mind. Still God was there, His warriors, my brothers and sisters, were right there beside me. I learned, more than anything during the wildfires of my life in 2014-2015 , "no one heals themselves by wounding another." Not even if they set the fire meant to destroy you. 

Three years later looking at my life through the rear view mirror I'm a completely different woman, having risen up from the ashes, looking forward, not backwards. The truth is,"The past is like using your view rear mirror in the car, it's good to glance back and see how far you've come, but if you stare too long you'll miss what's right in front of you." And what I know is this, I've emerged from the chard ashes of my previous life, a phoenix with strong wings. The events leading up to and soon there after February 2014 through October 2015 were burned to the ground. When it was over I crawled out, a bit battered and bruised but still standing tall, resilient and regenerated in the grace of God. Abiding in His light I've become a strong woman because of the wildfires that swept through my heart and spirit. And you know what I realized, once the smoke cleared, after the burns healed, "The struggle is part of our story."The woman I have become three years after the fire is nothing like the woman I was, and yet I'm still the same girl I've always been. Maybe just a little stronger, wiser and far less afraid. But you know more than anything, I'm not bitter. In the aftermath, dusting off the soot, covered by the blood of Jesus Christ, I've come to understand the meaning of Philippians 3:13 fully, "...the one thing I do, however, is to forget what is behind me and do my best to reach what is ahead." 

And so Life Lesson #121 ~ The Rear View Mirror, is more about looking forward, leaving the past behind you, You can't change what's happened, but you can change the way you allow it to shape you from this moment on. I choose the view of my front windshield. I choose forgiveness, joy and happiness. And never forget, "Look forward with hope,not backwards with regret." ~ Anonymous


Wednesday, February 8, 2017

Life Lesson #120 ~ Timeless Love

"Mom and Dad, I cannot begin to describe how BLESSED I am to have amazing parents in my life. Seeing true love through you both makes my heart happy. As your daughter, I see perfection in both of you. I love you." ~ Anonymous

My Mom and Dad met in May of 1968 and married just 9 months later on February 8, 1969. Today my parents celebrate 48 years of marriage as husband and wife. For almost 5 decades my folks have built a life together, cultivated a family and been an example to so many of what true timeless love is. Growing up as my parents daughter I not only felt un-conditional love but I saw it in practice, in everyday life. I watched my parents, listened to them and felt their constant encouragement. I not only saw their love flourish through both good and bad times, I felt their love each and every day of my life, seeing it in continuous motion. To say my parents have endured trial by fire is an understatement. To say they have overcome does not begin to explain their extraordinary spirits. Defeat, despair, self-pity or even resentfulness have never seemed to take root. This is despite the unfairness of the situations and circumstances they've had to face together through the years. My Mom and Dad have shown me through their examples, "Happiness is letting go of what you think your life is supposed to look like and celebrating it for everything that it is."

After 48 years, my parents are just as in love, if not more than the day they said "I do." Over the decades they have learned what it means to sacrifice and yes what true love actually is. Perfect, no not in the least. I mean the Word of God is clear, no one except God is without sin. What they have together, what they have built, pruned and grown is a timeless love transcending a lifetime hand and hand. They love each imperfection, and think of one another first. I have never seen my parents possessive of one another, feeling they owned the other nor have they been jaded by or condescending to each other. What I have been witness to my whole life, from an early age is a very real, compassionate, playful,thoughtful,humble and genuine, authentic kind of love. The kind of love that stays with you, changes you and inspires you. My parents love is a once in a lifetime kind of love. You can see it in the way my dad opens the door for my mom or in the way my mom says my dad's name. You can hear it in the way they whisper, "I love you." And you can feel it in the way they enter a room, hand and hand.

Growing up I was awe struck by my parents. I wanted to grow up and be just like them. They never ceased to amaze me with their ability to give, to open our home and to love not only me and each other but others so unconditionally. I watched them stumble, fall and even question God from time to time but I also saw them get back up TOGETHER. Looking back, I can see Paul Newman's advice rings true,"People stay married because they want to, not because the door's locked."  Piece by piece my parents built a life together and have taken care of one another everyday. There's no shame in the struggle, but there is a beautiful intimacy that develops when two people overcome the obstacles together. I have been witness to this very voyage for over 43 of my parents 48 years together and believe me it's quite a beautiful tale worth telling..What I can tell you is this: I love the fact my parents don't even have to try, they always have a good time together. This is self evident, not only in pictures or in status updates but in the presence of their company. My parents taught me how to laugh, a lot and to be spontaneous, to be authentic and to forgive and forget. Being my parents daughter I mastered how to fight fair, speak up, forgive and let it go. My Mom and Dad showed me each and every day that being kind was far better than being right, and practicing kindness far more rewarding than having the last word.

Through the years, I have seen my Mom and Dad face many challenges, face uncertainty and heartache and yet I have never seen them waiver from each other. I am thankful for all they have taught me, shown me and given me. I love the way lovendar.com speaks of the Love Rules. "Never take each other for granted. Remember to still go on dates. Try something new together. Say "I LOVE YOU." Remember why you fell in love. Respect each other, Be spontaneous. Celebrate the special days. End an argument as soon as possible. Be WILLING to COMPROMISE. Grow old together." And why do I love these rules so much? Well because these rules are as close to our own family rules as it gets. This is how I grew up, and what I took away as the child of some very remarkable and extraordinary parents. And so today as I share Life Lesson #112 ~ Timeless Love, I can say without a doubt love, real, genuine, timeless love knows no bounds, nor does it understand the notion of time. Timeless love is true love, and it can never be measured or confined. Just as Genesis 2:24 says,"The two became one." my parents heart began to beat in sync. And so my story began that day too, on that one cold winter 1969 February morning in Philadelphia Pennsylvania when my parents set out on their journey together.

Happy Anniversary Mama and Daddy. You have paved the way not only for your daughter and her husband, your grandsons and their one day loves, but also for all those who know you. Thank you for teaching me FAMILY IS EVERYTHING. I'm truly grateful for your imperfect, amazing example of timeless love. Just as Lisa Jackson explains,"Some secrets are meant to be passed on."

Your forever loving, awe-inspired and grateful daughter,


Saturday, February 4, 2017

Life Lesson #119 ~ Home.

"Oh how she loved to be home." ~ Anonymous

Home, there is no other place like it is there? Home is a place we feel a connection, a special attachment to and find a feeling of closeness and belonging as we come through the door. Home is where we let our hair down, toss our shoes off and kick our feet up. So what thoughts comes to your mind when you think of home?  For me home is the place my heart dwells, a place of comfort, warmth, refuge and retreat. Maybe you live in a house, an apartment or even something more exotic like a bungalow. The thing about home, is it doesn't matter what kind of dwelling we reside in. What matters is the ones we share it with. Home for me has always been a place I've felt safe, loved and welcome in. Growing up the daughter of a soldier we moved a lot. Some of our houses were small while others were quite large but they were always home. As beautifully said by Mother Teresa, "Love begins by taking care of the closest ones -the ones at HOME."  My family, they are my home. The ones I love with all my heart, the ones I am the closest to and the ones I give my all to each and every day.

When I think of home I think of chasing babies around just out the tub, a towl dragging behind or being snuggled up on the couch watching Roly Poly Olie and Bear in the Big Blue House. I think of tea parties with my daddy or bedtime stories with my mama. I think of Jesus, sweet tea and I think of mornings waking up next to the love of my life.  If our walls could talk I imagine they'd have a lot to say. They'd surely tell of giggle fits, forts and tickle fights, Saturday morning pancakes, Sunday afternoon naps, smiles, tears and love divided endlessly without ever being lessened. I know these walls would speak of moments of grief, heartache and discontent as well as times of happiness, contentment and pure joy. Our home, is not a place made solely of physical walls but a hearth of dreams and unconditional love. There's an old Amish saying I love. It's a truth and it goes like this, "A house is made of walls and beams; a home is made of love and dreams." 

Our family, we may be small, but we're strong. Yes, our little family is tiny, it's true. And yes, I may have been born the only child and my children, the only grandsons of a courageous old soldier and his beautiful bride of 48 years. But you see I've learned the size of our family tree isn't a reflection of less but instead it reflects the depth of our roots. I love my family, and I love the home, the hearth, and the heart we've built together. "I know every family has its problems. But I admire those that stick together." And we have absolutely done that. Abandoning one another because things were tough, has never been an option. We've weathered storms meant to destroy us, together. We've stuck together through the good and the bad times. We've learned to rebuild our walls, lay a stronger foundation and mend our fences after the storms pass. Remember I mentioned Jesus and sweet tea? Well here in the South that's spot on. Sweet tea is a must, God's grace is sufficient and Jesus, He's our everything. I can tell you, Jesus Christ, He's the center of our home, the Living Water running through our roots and the Rock for which our foundation is built upon. I think our messy little family is much like Jeremiah 17:8, "He is like a tree growing near a stream and sending out roots to the water. It is not afraid when hot weather comes, because its leaves stay green; it has no worries when there is no rain; it keeps on bearing fruit." And why, because our roots our planted deep. By God's grace, we don't break, we bend.

Life Lesson #119 ~ Home, is where we all love to be. Home is made of walls, beams, love, dreams and heart. Home can go anywhere with us. Home provides us roots, connections to our past, present and our future.The unconditional love we share, is homegrown, precious and eternal, passed from one generation to the next.

"HOME is where your story begins." ~ Anonymous