Painting by: Melody Hogan, 2009

Ok, this is not CSI or 24 or Bones. All of which would believe fingerprints to be the key to unlocking the case, to knowing for sure who has been there or could this be evidence enough to convict. These days, with all the forensic evidence techniques that are in use, it's only one key piece that can help solve a mystery. Whether a crime has been committed or not, fingerprints are used in a variety of ways.

When I was working towards becoming a teacher in Pinellas County Florida schools, it was imperative that a fingerprint/background check be done prior to my being allowed to work in the schools. It was a bit intimidating, especially when I had to have my fingerprints done a few times...because they couldn't get a very good print. These days there is a new electronic imaging technique that is used instead of an ink blotter. They said there are many points on the print that have to be clear in order for the print to be useable or valid. Over and over they would scan my fingers and about the 5th or 6th time it might work. It's still a mystery, but the scanner is apparently very accurate. The details really matter.

I've seen little signs at the banks now, you can opt for fingerprint identification on your bank account. This isn't something I'm ready to jump into, but the option is there. Next thing you know, we'll have to be using them at ATM's, at the grocery store, at the Walmart, at the gas station. I'm hoping that's a ways off, but if it cuts theft and illegal activity where our finances are concerned, then bring it on.

Closer to home, I remember a moment in time when Michael and I were at a crossroad in our relationship, the discussion was intense and emotions were tender. We were having this discussion at the beach, which we did many times because it was so therapeutic. At one point Michael got up, threw something which had previously been of value into the gulf. I was shocked by this and questioned him on what would prompt him to do such a thing. It was just an object, perhaps the meaning had gone out of it, but I could see no real reason for just throwing it away. So, I got up, took off my shoes and with my clothes still on, dove into the gulf, into the waves to see if I could retrieve it. He was calling for me to come back, that it was useless, we would never find it, it wasn't worth getting drenched over, just let it go. But I told him that it just didn't seem right to throw something like this away. Having it wasn't going to change things now or in the future. It took a few moments, but I think he started to believe it. So, the next thing I see is Michael removing his shoes and shirt, running towards the water. Then Michael prayed, asking God to help us find it, that he was sorry for throwing it away. He petitioned God to somehow redeem this mistake and allow us to retrieve the item from the gulf's sandy floor.

After several times of diving in chest deep water, glancing along the bottom and raking through the sand with my fingers we thought it wasn't going to happen. I tried one last time, in a different direction, closed my eyes, went down under the water, placed my hand flat on the sand to feel around, and I felt this object touching my palm. I wrapped my fingers around it, allowed the sand to filter through the water as I pulled it to the surface. I turned to him and held out my hand. He could NOT believe that I had found it. We both knew in that moment, that God had his hand of favor on us and gave us a huge measure of fingerprints to validate our previous discussion. It was a huge miracle that this small object was found on the cloudy, sandy floor, under the water and the waves. It was a huge blessing that God answered that prayer for such a small thing, allowing us to see how big He truly is. We had our miracle, we had our fingerprints. We knew God was present. He showed us in those moments that the past doesn't have to be thrown away, that He, being God, can redeem the past and even restore many times over the hurts that the past can hold. The fingerprint was that God was in the process of redeeming our past, we had to trust that and be open to the possibility that it could be done.

Fingerprints have shown us the way along a very bumpy road. On occasion we read them incorrectly, but for the most part we get it right. God has even sometimes left us a handprint or a footprint, which has even greater validation when we are confronted with an issue. The joy wrapped around finding those fingerprints is amazing, we are sometimes literally speechless. It's so easy to go from hope-less to hope-filled in the blink of an eye, all because of a fingerprint. In our case, Gods fingerprints left for us to find tell us a few things: 1) we're in the right place, 2) we're going in the right direction, 3) we're making the right decision or 4) we are being blessed simply because He wants to bless us. And as fingerprints are, each one is unique to the moment. Affirmations are very powerful and God seems to know when and where to interject them into our path.

The painting above is the second of three that I acquired from Melody Hogan. This heart with fingerprints jumped out at me because it is so significant. Michael and I, from day one, have asked God for fingerprints on our relationship. And God has never failed to show them. This illustration of fingerprints on a heart shows me that of all the fingerprints to find, the ones affirming love are the most precious. That's why there are so many. God doesn't just give us one and stop. If we allow Him, he will always leave us fingerprints of affirmation on all our actions and our direction in life. Right now, I'm waiting for the next big fingerprint....because it's coming. The waiting is hard. Perhaps it's better said this way - 'not knowing what to do while we're waiting' is hard, that would be more accurate. Regardless, I guess the only thing to do is keep dusting for fingerprints. They will be there when we need them, this we know for sure.

(to see more of Melody's artistic here:!/photo.php?pid=10185718&id=758020001&subject=133754906830)

Love Love Love

Painting by: Melody Hogan, 2009

Within the soul of every human being is the desire to love and be loved. I'm not sure which is easier, to be loved by someone who truly loves you, or to extend yourself in loving others.  There are complications with either one.

In the first case, being loved by someone who truly loves you, there is something very comforting about being loved unconditionally. You never doubt that person's motivation or whether or not you will be loved. It's always there, there's something steady and reassuring about it. The complication is - feeling secure in the idea that you deserve to be loved that much. Allowing yourself to doubt that for a second, adds a layer that is difficult to peel off. Remembering that even God loved us first, before we even knew who He was or what He had in store for us, gives a measure of peace in knowing that we are worthy of love. He created us to love us. We believe others are worthy, we tell them, we love them, we show them. At the same time, nothing should keep us from feeling that we deserve to be loved.

In the second case, extending yourself in loving others can be humbling, it can be rewarding, it can be very fulfilling and very satisfying. Our heart and soul wants to give love. Whether out of compassion or empathy, our hearts feel for others and sharing a moment reaffirming their place in the world gives them comfort and peace. The language that we choose to express love is truly an outward expression of what is going on inside. We can choose to give love by sharing words of love, by sharing a touch of love, or sharing an experience of love. Mothers want to give love to their children by a combination of all three. The complication is - at the same time it can be treacherous ground to walk on. Those that we so want to love may choose to reject us, they may refuse to open up and receive our love, or they may choose to be ungrateful for the loving things we do for them. It's difficult not to be affected by their response. It causes us to make decisions about whether to continue extending a portion of ourselves or investing emotionally in giving love. Relationships can really get complicated quickly. And, unless there is time spent repairing or reconciling, the love will never be exchanged in a way that benefits both.

Jesus said, "greater love has no one than this that he lay down his life for his friends."(John 15.13)  Regardless of how others respond to love, our loving them is what is required. Putting our life aside, laying it down, in order to love others is really the greater expression of love. But our being able to do love at this level means that our hearts and soul are in a healthy place, feeling complete and nurtured by whatever sustains us. As the saying goes, you can't give what you don't have. So, the loving others and being loved go hand in hand. One cannot exist fully without the other.

In the painting above, if you can't see the detail, the person is standing in the middle of a field, arms open wide to the sky and little hearts are flowing out. With this posture comes a decision to feel the freedom to love, to share love, to give love. There aren't strings attached to the little hearts, there is no net trying to catch them and reel them back in. There is a free-flowing from the inside to the outside. I recently heard someone say that not that long ago, "Jesus came into my heart. And now, Jesus is knocking to come out." This person was preparing for a mission trip, and he was passionate about going and sharing the love that Jesus had put into his heart. Apparently, it was too much to contain and it became a driving force to find ways to share it with others. We don't have to go so far as a mission field, we can share with those right in our midst. 

This being Valentines weekend, look for ways to share words, share a touch or share an experience of love with another person. It's not just for "lovers," it's for people who love...and that would be all of us. I have this painting hanging in my living room, along with two others by Melody Hogan, that remind Michael and I of the freedom in loving one another, remind us of God's fingerprints and how he brought us together to love and be loved, and how He gives us the capacity and the resources to go and share love with others abundantly. With this as our foundation, we will accomplish much, not only in loving each other, but in loving others. Love, love, love....there is nothing else.

Attacking Life - or Attacked by Life?

In a little over a week, my best friend Charlene will be visiting us for a few days from Florida, actually for my birthday. Haven't seen her for a while and have missed her so much. By profession, Chacha is a personal trainer, nutritionist and all around health fanatic. Boy do we need her right now! I have been thinking about how to explain the state of physical disarray that I've gotten myself into these past few months. The lack of conditioning, the lack of toning, the lack of eating a balanced nutritional meal 3 times a day. This is not going to be easy. And, being the truthful person I am, I have to come up with a reasonable "excuse" to present along with my case. Whatever I say, she will be able to see right through it.

So I began by thinking about how I really and truly feel, physically, emotionally, mentally, spiritually. That is a huge inventory to have to take and right now...honestly,I just don't feel like it. I would rather say that all is well, I feel great, things are very positive and all is right with the world, or at least my world. And there would be a thread of truth to that, if it was expressed in just those words. However, that perspective is from about 30,000 feet out. When I get up close and look at the minute details, yikes. The truth isn't going to be pretty. It sort of feels like a stuffed animal looks after Maxx gets done with it, all ragged and ripped with stuff falling out. When he attacks a little critter, stuffed to the seams with cotton, he does it without regret and with anticipation of killing it. So much for the cuteness factor of that poor stuffed animal. Pretty soon, it's hardly recognizable and there is a trail of destruction across the room.

While I might not feel quite that bad, there is plenty of room for improvement. At my age, the window of opportunity for once again getting back into shape, could slam shut at any moment. That is a scary thought. So many things could start to go wrong and I'm just not ready or willing to head down that path. I might feel like life is attacking me right now, but that is about to change.

Truthfully, this past year has been one of immense stress and strain on my physical well being. You can be mentally, emotionally and spiritually healthy...but if stress is on a slow rise and attacking daily, physically we can be breaking down without even realizing it. Sure, we can walk through disappointments, regrets, disbelief and heartache (and all have been present over this past year) but on the other side there is a bit more wear and tear than I'd like. But healing begins when the realization of what has been happening manifests itself.

It was in October when we were told that we would no longer have a job by the end of the year. We were told not to come to work through the month of November and that December 2nd would be our last official day. (too many details for now, but trust me, it was gutwrenching.)  Now imagine for a moment that you are clutching something very tightly in your hand, so tight that your knuckles hurt and your palms ache from your nails digging in. Now imagine what it would feel like to open your hand and release the object you've been holding. Your hand relaxes, blood can flow through to the ends of your fingers, there's a tingling sensation, and the discomfort is gone.  You suddenly realize the pain you were in and wondered how in the world did you ever have the strength to hold on so tightly. The next question is why? However that gets answered, the reality is that healing can begin. The body relaxes and all things begin to lay in proper perspective.

Now that we have been in that healing phase for a time, we realize that our bodies need a little repair. That's where Chacha comes in. Not that we expect her to work miracles, but having a fresh perspective will be just the motivator we need to get back on track. And believe me, she really is that g-o-o-d!

Yes, life has been attacking us, and still is. But as we decide to stand up and work hard at the healing process, we will be the ones to attack life with a vengence. God promises us new mercies every day and His grace is sufficient. So, how am I going to explain things to Chacha?  Well, by the time she gets here, she will hopefully have read this blog. That will be a start. Then the truth will be told, even that will be healing. I'm not looking forward to getting started, because that is always, always painful. What I can't wait for - is to be able to attack life and live it like I mean it. Oh, the picture at the top - was me and Chacha after a long bike ride 3 years was so much fun and I remember well how we attacked that bike trail. Move over snow-mobiles...the bikes are coming out real soon!

Baby Stuff

By baby stuff...I mean baby clothes, baby shoes, baby blankets, baby toys, baby pacifiers, baby hats, and on and on and on. I love the stuff, all of it. And shopping for it, is an adrenaline rush for sure. The sales on baby stuff are a $30 outfit for just $5. Or a little Onesie for $2. Amazing. Why didn't things seem so reasonable when my kids were small? Maybe I just didn't know where to find the best deals. It helps now to be living in Freeport, the outlet store shopping mecca. Even the resale shops here are fun and there's always a surprise bargain that I just have to walk out with. Right now, all the baby stuff I buy is for the little guy in the picture, my grandson Wyatt. I've given him quite a bit of stuff already, I hope he's enjoying them. I have a little stack here at the house, waiting to be sent. I would rather give them to him in person, but I doubt that will happen soon, at least not this week, or the next.

But is giving him stuff what our relationship is made of? Right now, he doesn't even realize he has stuff. Giving him stuff makes me feel that a little part of me is with him, even when I'm not. As it can go, babies can accumulate a lof of stuff before they are even a year old. Then mom has to organize it, clean it, put it away, or hang up the stuff. So, even though the stuff is for Wyatt, I'm hoping his mom will say enough is enough with the stuff when it truly is too much. It's hard to pass up a bargain or something so amazingly cute though...the thought is that surely he can use this stuff or he will look just too cute in this stuff! Sorry mom, if the tendency is to overwhelm you with stuff. But, it's really meant for Wyatt to enjoy and for you to think...whoa...something I didn't have to thankful for all the stuff!

The reality is, no, I don't want our relationship to be made of stuff. I would rather it be made of amazing time spent together, reading aloud the same story over and over, pushing him in the stroller around the mall or around the park, visits to Grandma's house to enjoy the comforts that only she can bring, laughing and playing or cuddling in the rocker while going to sleep. I want to know the joys of being a grandparent, of feeling the unconditional love that a young child brings, the delight of seeing my own daughter be a mom, the pride and the peace that comes with having the next generations in our presence. Never has so much stuff seemed so insignificant as it does when thinking about the measure of time we actually have to spend with our loved ones. Of course we would lay it down in a second if we thought it was our last second, as if we had a choice of where and who to spend it with....the value of another human being, in this case a daughter and a grandson, cannot be matched with anything in this world that we could possess.

I can only hope they realize this is how I see our relationship. Once that's clear, then the stuff...even though it's just stuff...can flow from one heart to the other. And perhaps, even forgiveness can flow for all the unintentional wrongs that we as parents seem to be constantly reminded of from the past, because afterall parents aren't perfect until they become Grandparents. That's just the cycle that happens, and has for generations.

Since now I'm the Grandparent, I have more time to look for stuff and actually, it's a nice diversion from the other stuff that my days are consumed with, like studying for my next class, paying the bills, wondering where my next job will be... And, since I have a long way to go to get to the perfect Grandparent stage, I better get busy with doing whatever Grandparents do. I'm new at this, just like I was new at being a parent. The thought is...I really want to get this one right. There aren't too many chances left to work on that legacy I'm supposed to leave when I'm gone. I wonder if that means I should learn to play games on the Wii? I guess I'll just have to ask Wyatt when he's a bit older.

~Photo courtesy of Jami Dale~