Sacred Memories

The last thing I expected was for adult women to be crying. But here they were, standing in front of me, crying. It wasn’t a reaction I could have anticipated that morning. And it has caused me to wade around in a sea of ideas for the possible reasons that this could have happened.  I wanted to make certain that if this was a good thing I could explain it and possibly use this newly learned information in the future. On the other hand, if it was a bad thing, I wanted to be sensitive to where these women were coming from and not make an issue of the wrong things. Either way, this wasn’t something I had contemplated before now.

Recently, I was asked to participate in a book signing at a convention for Moms of Twins and More.  This is an annual event, held in many locations, where moms of multiples can retreat, reconnect and relax with other moms whose life has been transformed simply by giving birth to two babies, or more, at the same time. They are part of a special club, or association or group that the rest of us won’t understand. We have our own truly-blessed birth moments when our children were born. Each one is unique, special and unexplainably captivating. Yet, there’s something disproportionately unique about giving birth to two or more. I can’t explain it, having not ever done it. But all of these moms lived it. For them, this weekend represented a lot. A chance to take a breath and actually exhale, a chance to eat a meal uninterrupted, a chance to sleep through the night, a chance to have full conversations with friends. In other words, being at a hotel for two nights, without kids, was a super-magnified, highly intense and emotionally charged experience. It takes more than one or two nights to decompress from the normal day to day stresses. But here they were, making every heart felt attempt to put themselves first, even if it was only for a few minutes.

Interject a small section in the lobby where just four people were there to share their “goods.” On one long table a business owner had spread out her entire inventory of jewelry, i.e. rings, bracelets, and more charms than I knew existed. Her table had the most visitors. (I was somewhat jealous and decided next time I needed to have jewelry, too.) Her jewelry wasn’t cheap either. But because she had everything “twins,” everyone wanted one. There was another table with a pantry of health food and samples. She also had a steady stream of lookers and tasters. The next table was a line of personal lotions, perfumes and lovely things for the body. Lots of moms were testing lotions on the back of their hands, lost in the smells and feelings invoked by such sweet smoothness. The next table, on the end, was mine. There we had displayed my children’s book “As I Grow Up and You Grow Down.” It was completely different than the other tables, but fit in with the idea of moms, kids, and even the grandma’s who were attending, and had been for many years, because they were moms of multiples, too. I was super happy to be there. A good friend of mine, who is helping me promote my book, helped set up and get things going. It was a blast.

When I wrote the book, my focus was on the relationships that grandchildren have with Grandparents. They make an indelible imprint on the life of a little one, in between the moments they’re fully involved in spoiling them. I was hoping it could be a conversation piece adults would use to teach children that these relationships are special and to anticipate making memories with them for a lifetime. The underlying theme is that Grandparents model values that will be passed on, ultimately teaching little ones to do good for others as well as giving back to the Grandparents as they are aging or “growing down.” There is a strong message for children, but this week, I’ve had to think of other messages this simple, thought-provoking book has created. The surprise for me was the reaction of women, moms and grandmothers, standing at the table, reading this book. Some read it and smiled, some read it and tears began to stream down their face. Some read a few pages, abruptly closed it and backed away from the table exclaiming, “I just can’t read this right now.” What? It’s just a simple book about grandchildren and a grandmother. What’s so complicated about that? What’s so emotionally complicated about that? I caught myself intensely observing these reactions, realizing there’s more to their stories and to this story than even I know.

I decided to start with what I did know. What about my relationship with my grandparents would possibly invoke an emotional reaction to a simple story? I certainly didn’t have any surface while writing the book so this is newly explored territory. But if I think long enough, I can come up with some. They aren’t as emotionally charged as they once might have been, but the potential is there and even as I think of them, tears well up just a little. Like the time my grandmother was sick and dying of cancer. I wasn’t allowed to see her near the end of her life. And what I really wanted was to be with her, talk to her, and sit next to her before she passed away. I was still in elementary school. I didn’t want to lose my grandmother that actually made me feel loved. I didn’t feel her presence again until about 40 years later, standing in a church service, my parents next to me, singing a hymn my grandmother would sometimes play on the piano just because I asked.

Or another time when my other grandmother made a comment about how I was sitting and how my feet were turned a certain way. She said I had “pigeon toes.” Really I didn’t. But the fact that out of all the things about me she could have noticed, she chose the “pigeon toes,” made me feel really small, insignificant and like there was something wrong with me. It wasn’t a horrible comment but to a 12 year old already having self-image issues, it didn’t endear her to me at all. I’ve long since gotten over the pigeon-toes-something-is-wrong-with-me feeling, and grew to love my grandmother, who is now 97. It’s amazing that her life has been so long. I put her in the category of true Southern Belle, who has seen a lot of change in her lifetime.
If I shift a bit to seeing my own children with their grandparents, there is emotion attached to a few memories. Like the time I had to watch my son, Chris, hear his grandpa say he wasn’t interested in seeing him play basketball sinply because he didn't care for basketball and didn’t want to show up for a game. Or the time when his other grandpa didn’t show up for his eight grade or high school graduation. He had tears over that for quite some time. This is obviously something he will have to process (or maybe already has), but at the time, empathy caused me to feel strong emotions because I could see what was missing for him in his relationship with them. It could have been so much richer; they could have had so many more opportunities to share moments together. Along the same feelings, I remember driving away from a visit with my sister, her family and my parents. My daughter Sara sitting in the back seat, looked out the window as I backed out of the driveway, her little hand waving and said in her soft sweet voice “bye Grandma, I love you.” Of course, my mom couldn’t hear this, but I heard it and wept for miles as we started on the long drive home. It resonated with me because at that time I had difficulty saying “I love you” to my parents. Not remembering it said to me as I was growing up, I realized in that moment that a child has very strong feelings for parents and grandparents, and those feelings should be freely expressed. I could not come up with memories of my grandparents saying it to me either. Talking about love evokes tender, yet powerful emotions. But some neglect those three significant little words, which said together in one sentence, become the most power statement ever spoken.
I guess that for some, reading As I Grow Up and You Grow Down could trigger memories similar to these. Some probably have memories that extend far beyond on both ends of the spectrum when it comes to their relationship with their Grandparents. But what I love the most is that emotions are a part of who we are, what we’ve experienced, and how we’ve walked through this life. Emotions are not bound by time, they can make quantum leaps into the present from years ago, from moments past, through decades of joy and happiness or pain and sorrow. Sitting with them for a time, allowing them to merge with our more experienced, more mature, more grown up self, can result in all kinds of reconciliation where that needs to happen, forgiveness where that needs to be given, love where that needs to grow. The memories can be just that - memories. They can touch our present reality, but they can only remain with our permission. Our older, wiser self knows better now how to care for us and will take those emotions and memories and catalog them in the exact right place and time. The security of that is we know they are there and they can’t affect us any more unless we need them to.
So to the Moms of Twins and More, I hope you’re doing ok. I hope the moments of tears you felt were tears of joy not tears of sadness, tears of happiness and love, not tears of regret or pain. But either way, know that they were noticed and they matter.

A Story Too Good to Not be Told...Again

This August27/30th finds life in a much different light than in previous years. What a difference 365 days make. For me, the scenary has changed yet again, job responsibility is blossoming, relationships are growing and opportunities are presenting themselves as if they were written long ago on the calendar especially for this day and time. It's a moment for reflecting and coming to the realization that everything has a beginning and everything has an ending. I applaud both, especially when endings allow somethings to be put to rest forever, after which emerges a beginning. It's staggering to think about the amount of change that happens during the course of just one year. Dizzying to say the least. 

But what hasn't changed are the stories that we tell about our life and how we got to this place. Each year about this time, I love repeating the story that started my journey to Motherhood. I love repeating the details of how God was so gracious and loving that He gave me two precious babies just three years apart. I don't like to dip into many of the pasts emotions any more than I have to, but these are some that I find give me strength, hope and faith that God works miracles. This I know for sure.

This last week in August is always met with excitement - it's the week that Sara and Chris were born....Sara on the 30th and Chris on the 27th - just 3 years apart. I tried for the same date, but the reality was that Sara was 10 days late and Chris was 2 or 3 days past the due date. So, exactly plan and predict I wasn't able to do so well. But their days of being born were as they should be on the day that God designed for them.

What is a little known fact was that both Sara and Chris were miracle babies. Growing up associated with a church that didn't allow us to celebrate birthdays, this miracle story didn't get repeated, except only on occasion. For that I am truly sorry. It should have been celebrated to the max each and every year - they deserved it. They deserve the story to be out there from the moment they arrived because they are unique and special and a true gift from God, it is their story.

For nearly a year and a half attempts to become pregnant yielded no results. The discouragement and sadness were a lot to carry in my heart. At times it was overwhelming grief at the continued loss of another month without a positive sign. Other friends were getting pregnant and I felt totally inadequate. 'What was wrong with me?' I used to ask. I did visits to Doctors to see if there was anything easily detectable. And nothing. So, I thought perhaps it wasn't meant to be. That was something that I wasn't really prepared to accept.

Knowing that was a real possibility I decided to allow my faith to enter into the equation, although this probably should have been first in the equation (some of us take longer to see the light!) Anyway, one thing the church did teach was prayer, accompanied with an anointing of oil. It was a petitioning of God, in a biblical way, that says 'God - I'm serious here - I need Your help.' So after many months of frustration, I decided to go to the Elders in the church and tell them my situation and ask them to pray for me. They understood and had prayed many times for this same thing for individuals who desperately wanted a child. With a quiet confidence I approached the throne of God, in prayer, with an Elder, with an anointing - asking 'may I have a child to care for and love and nurture and bring up in Your ways?' I wanted whatever the obstruction was in my body that wasn't allowing it to happen naturally to be corrected. I wanted the miracle of conception to occur. The thought of having a child finally seemed real and possible. I had faith that God wanted this for me and would bless me indeed.

It took only one month. God had indeed provided the necessary miracle to allow me to get pregnant. I was tremendously overjoyed and excited and in great anticipation for the delivery that would follow. Sara was born 9 months later, miracle child number one. Heaven was thrilled over the completion of this miracle - as was I. When it was time to have another child, I went through the same process, but this time I didn't wait a year and a half. I went directly to the Elders again after only a couple of months, was prayed for and anointed, and again, the miracle occurred. There is nothing more exciting than seeing the "positive" sign on the pregnancy test stick! What a thrill. Nine months after that - Chris was born. Miracle child number two.

Every year I have wondered if I hadn't been obedient to that voice in my head that said 'let's ask for a miracle here' would the outcome have been the same. I don't think so. What I know of Sara and Chris, they are miracles. Their lives are miracles. They have become a force in this world and their purposes are greater than themselves.

Miracles continue to unfold around their lives, and it's evident how much God wants to bless them and bring joy and happiness and love into their lives so they may give it to others. Sara, as a woman, with her effervescent personality, always has a big smile and warm heart towards others. She is truly blessed with talents, gifts, skills and passion that will propel her into a life rich with experiences, intense with love and running over with excitement. And nearly two years ago, she was blessed with a son of her own. She has fallen into the role of Motherhood head over heels in love with Wyatt. For Chris he has been blessed with wisdom, intelligence and a sensitivity for compassion way beyond his years that will propel him far through life. He is a man that will truly love, truly work hard, truly care for others. I pray for many opportunities for them and for many in their life whom they can love and be loved by. Only God knows the path for their life, and as a Mom I can only pray that they would continue to listen to that voice inside them that is leading them. Life is big, life is a miracle and I want nothing less for Sara and Chris.

Bless them indeed, put Your hand of favor on them, enlarge their boundaries, keep them from the evil one.

I love you both,


New Project: A little off my usual topics

I'm taking this opportunity to share with you a new venture that Michael and I are on...something that has emerged over the past year.

Currently, he is teaching at the Institute for Environmental Education. He instructs and certifies contractors, business owners and workers in Lead-Safe Renovators Certification. Along with instructing, he is a consultant, a provisional lead inspector and a painting contractor. Frequently, the feedback after his classes includes comments that regulation compliance and documentation is tedious and time consuming. It has been our efforts over the past year to design and create an app that contractors, business owners and workers could use to make this part of their job easier. We think we're there. And it's about to be released. It's actually going to be kind of cool! Stay tuned...(pass it on if you know anyone in the field...)

It's All Too Much At Once

It's hard to explain. You know, the way it is when you are trying to retell a joke or convey the details of an event or describe something you recently saw. Failing in the effort to convince anyone of the validity of your story, you end the attempt by saying, "you just had to be there." As humorous as it may be, in many cases, you really do wish the person could have been there, sharing the moment with you, consuming the same experience that would give you hours of conversation late into the night. Your life was impacted so much by the events or details, that you wish that same thing for everyone you know. If you had the ability to arrange cosmic events to move in someone else’s favor, you would not even hesitate.

This feeling I had earlier was just one of those times. I can try to explain it, but in my attempt, the weight and significance of the story could get lost. But it’s a risk worth taking. Today, I felt the love of God so strong, that through tears I had to ask Him to release the cloak of sheer goodness and blessing so I could catch my breath. It was literally too much for me to physically or emotionally handle.

Now that the moment has passed, I’m doubting myself for asking for a reprieve. Coward isn’t the descriptor I would prefer for myself. Was I indeed a coward by the request? I’ve only had this happen a few times that I can remember over the past 15 or so years. It truly is a difficult thing to explain. The reality of the goodness of God, His love for us, the sheer volume of blessing He has rained down on us is crushing in a physical sense, and can be suffocating in an emotional sense. But at the same time it created this overwhelming admiration you might have for someone you deeply love and respect; this attachment that could only compare to a mother seeing her newborn for the first time or the swell you feel in your heart when you embrace someone you love and they embrace you with the same intensity. This emotional feeling creates a pain in your chest, a sort of heartache, but in a good way.

In Luke 10:27 (and other places), it says to love God with all your heart, all your soul and all your strength. And even if that were humanly possible, it would not equal even a fraction of the love God has for us. It’s the same way that we can only take a sliver of the energy and warmth from the sun, the full strength of it would evaporate us before we were even aware. I sometimes wonder if what Christ felt on the cross, as well as before, was proportionate to the love He felt from His Father, knowing that ultimately it was His Fathers love that was saving the world. Was it pain from the burden, the hardship, the sacrifice or was it sheer weight and volume of love He had for the creation He had made, knowing that all could be made right by what He was about to do? I would rather believe, based on what I felt today, that God’s love is so overwhelming that from time to time, He chooses to remind us of it, He allows us to feel it deeply which does nothing more or nothing less than affirm who He really is.

In my thinking, love is the cell adhesive molecule, the “laminen,” as Louis Giglio describes it, shaped like a cross. It’s what’s holding the entire universe together. And if it’s strong enough to do that, I shouldn’t be surprised that a microscopic sliver of this love would overwhelm me. In asking for God to “lighten up” on the love, of course I don’t mean it literally. I want to be connected to that love, receive all the blessings and feel that I matter to God. And I desperately want this for everyone I know. I want to be changed by it; I want to be moved by it and I want to keep being overwhelmed by it. So, I’ll hold on to the episode today as a reminder that there are more important things going on in the universe and that in the end…love wins.

Nature's Way

I've known for a while that in the thick, expansive woods behind our house lived a rafter, or flock, of turkeys. Don’t have an accurate count, but there are a few. We've seen them journey on their path many times, with just small glimpses of their silhouettes as they are confidently but cautiously crossing the back woods. I’ve also known since last week that at least one of these turkeys has a little gang, all their own, comprised of about 8-10 little chicks. Having seen them cross the street up the hill last week, I was surprised, and my anticipation grew hoping that one day they would cross over my yard since we seem to be in their migration path.

Well, today was that day. I literally had a thought that it would be really amazing to see them walk through the back yard. So real was the thought that I readied my camera, left it on the bar in the kitchen, and proceeded to get my work done. This was all at 5:30 this morning. Only about 5-10 minutes later, walking past the back French door, which I had previously left open with only the screen closed, I saw a tall turkey walking out of the woods. Reached over, picked up my camera and thought about taking pics as it crossed the yard. As I moved to the door, immediately I saw the little gang of chicks following along. Omg…this was my earlier thought coming true. Sending up a little prayer of thanks, I proceeded to focus the camera to get the shot. Instead, the crazy screen door was interfering with the auto-focus because it was water logged from the storm last night.

So, being the stealthy person I am, I carefully and quietly slid open the door, took a couple of shots, only to be disappointed because the mother turkey was well aware of my presence and scurried with her little ones back into the woods. This was so not fair. My one moment came and went, with nothing more than out of focus, not very well composed pics to prove it. Deep regret set in, while thinking to myself that I should have been more patient. I could have seen them farther into the yard with more sun, a better angle and more time to get some good shots. What was the hurry??

So, putting the camera back on the bar, I thought my picture taking adventure was over. I then turned around to face the door, only to see a small fox come across the yard. Wow….another big opportunity!! Yes! I can redeem myself here totally, get some great shots of nature and feel like I’ve accomplished something creative. This was all before 6am. I clearly needed to slow down. Burning out before noon was not an option. The fox, however, wasn’t there for a photo shoot. He was on the hunt. He came to the exact location the little group of chicks had wandered around in, put his nose to the ground and ran in circles until he could pick up the trail back into the woods. Now, a couple things went through my mind. The fox was going to eat the chicks! OMG…I need to stop this. My second thought was if I hadn’t frightened the chicks back into the woods, I might have witnessed the fox attacking them in my yard. That would equally not be fair! It would have been a bad start to the morning if I had seen that. Instead, I saw the fox trot off into the woods looking for the turkey chicks and there was nothing I could do.

Well, yes, there was something. Still in my pajamas, I grabbed a coat, my shoes and my camera and turned to head off into the woods. Before I could get out the door, I heard a commotion in the woods, obviously the fox found the turkey and her babies, but I mostly heard the turkey making really loud noises. I assumed this was to scare off the predator and protect the little ones. Not sure of the real outcome, but I was hot on the trail of this live event, happening right in our back woods. So, entering the woods I see nothing. No fox, not a single turkey. I did see the sunbeam shining through the trees like a spotlight. How beautiful. The objects it illuminated stood out as if framed by the dark shadows around it. I hadn’t been in the woods this early in the morning since we moved here. Clearly I was missing some silent beauty.

Walking farther along the edge of the woods, I heard the protective chirping of the momma turkey. At first she was hidden in the low brush that fills the woods. Then all of a sudden she took off up into the trees. The expansive wings flapping startled me and I was shocked to see this turkey actually climbing the tree by flying higher up along the branches. Where were the little chicks?? Certainly they didn’t follow her. No, no they didn’t. I was assuming she left them in a safe place on the ground and was drawing me away from them. The closer I got to the trees where she perched, the farther from the edge of the woods she flew. It was a very strange scenario to say the least, seeing a turkey up in the trees.

I never did see the fox again, never saw the chicks again, didn’t hear even a peep from them. I have a feeling though that I will see them again since they were quite small. Surely they’ll pass through a number of times before going on their way. Turning to walk back out of the woods, I caught a glimpse of a tiny pine tree shining in the light. It was so cute; so little. It seemed to be supported by a branch that had fallen sometime earlier. Snapping a few last minute pics, I ended the photo journey for this morning.

I did learn some things though. One, be patient while photographing nature or anything in it. It’s not going anywhere, unless you frighten it away. Clearly I need to work on my “stealthi-ness” skills. Two, nature is going to do what it’s going to do. It’s not to any advantage that I try to change that. I didn’t want to see the little chicks get eaten, and I’m not sure if any did, but I can’t guard them all day. Three, even through the disappointment of not taking advantage of the original opportunity to shoot (with the camera) the flock of turkeys, I realized that beyond that moment was another one. That’s when the fox entered unexpectedly. Till today, I didn’t know they ran through the woods. Now my awareness is awakened and I can add a fox to the list of guests in our yard. It also makes me realize that I can’t leave Maxx, our 4-lb Maltese, out on the leash by himself. Otherwise he might be breakfast for the fox. And finally, that grace allowed me to be connected to nature in this segment of time that I could easily have been sleeping, taking a shower, working at my desk already, having breakfast. Instead, I enjoyed the ever so small adventure of our back woods. It was pretty cool. Oh, note to self….under no circumstances should I wander into the woods without bug repellent. The itching will be a distraction all day, or should I say, a reminder? Yeah, a reminder sounds better.

The Business of Doing Business

Simply stated, I’m at a crossroad, again. It's not a place with an actual stop light, clearly readable street signs, billboards or directional arrows telling me what to find in any direction. It’s not an intersection where I might find a police officer directing traffic and depending on which lane I’m in, he tells which way to turn. It’s not even an intersection where someone is handing out tracks that say ‘this is the way, walk (drive) you in it.” This one is in the middle of nowhere, with no signs or arrows, as if I had come to the end of the map and beyond it was blank. We, Michael and I, stop and look at each other, our glances suggesting that perhaps a wrong turn has been made somewhere on this journey. But clearly we know we haven’t, that’s one thing we know for sure. Clearly we know we have followed the path, mile by mile, and yet, seem to be in a place, whether real or perceived, that we didn’t anticipate. Over the years, there have been times when directions were crystal clear. Some have been hazy, but yet once the fog clears out, they are well visible. Right now, I would give anything for fog, knowing that eventually it will be gone, once the sun comes out. How did we get here is a huge, pressing question. Right on its heels is an even bigger question, certain to be more difficult to answer. That question: why?

Since about 2004, part of what I’ve done for employment is consulting, for churches, non-profits, and small businesses. It has been some of the most rewarding work I’ve ever done. Part of me wants to see others be successful, see others thrive and become the best they can be, and realize that I’ve somehow made a difference. This has been the case with most of the consultations that I’ve done. There have been significant wins with each organization. And I love that! How awesome to see a group of people, whether in a church or a small business, be able to maneuver past being stuck, take the next steps necessary to move forward and begin to gain momentum in the right direction. What that does for me pales in comparison to what I’ve seen it do for these individuals. Once the light bulb goes on, there’s no turning it off. People are energized, they find a resurgence of productivity within themselves, begin to see they are making a difference, and a broader purpose has emerged. All good things, all great things. Many times this starts by just giving them a glimpse of what is possible; a glimpse of what else can be done, what direction can be taken that perhaps they didn’t think of, what other lens they can look through to see their future. Once that vision becomes clear, motivation and momentum begin to change the steps each one takes, and pretty soon, the entire organization has shifted from neutral or parked, into at least first gear, all the while pushing the pedal to the metal, building speed for the team. Each person on the team feels wanted, needed, valuable, respected, listened to and challenged. From the depths of each of them comes a volcano of activity. The end results are amazing, and often times quite measureable.

What doesn’t often get measured is the change that happens within that person. They go from feeling as if nothing is working, to all things are working. The move from feelings of despair from not being productive to hitting their pillow exhausted, in a good way, from the avalanche of work that has crossed their desk. They go from not being valued on the team, to feeling that their contribution has made all the difference, which essentially motivates them to show up one more day. They benefit, the organization benefits, everyone who comes in contact with that group, business or church, benefits in a positive way. The outcome should be the preferred scenario. The difficulty comes when a manager, leader or owner doesn’t know or have a vision for that preferred scenario. They have lost their vision for the future of the organization. They have become complacent in the day to day tasks, see employees as a problem or liability. The overall culture of the organization is weakened because the leader doesn’t lead, they simply react.

Some of the troubling instances have been when an organization reaches that place where the next steps are not well defined, the leader has had vision leaks or simply doesn’t want to be there any longer and doesn’t have an exit strategy, and employees find themselves wondering why they are there. Thus begins the infighting, the nit-picking, the micro-management, the gossiping, the tattling, the score-keeping, the lack of respect for others, the process of de-valuing the contribution a team member could make, the seemingly isolating and judgmental commentary and a whole host of other cultural and social issues. My guess is no one means to do these things; they are just a byproduct of the lack of leadership, lack of vision and lack of respect for the team and the organization. Hurting people hurt people. How many times have we heard that? Well, to carry on the example, lost people lose connectivity with the team, disgruntled people begin to level the playing field to help themselves feel better, immature team members begin to revert to where they are stuck emotionally and lash out at others from that vantage point, and the pink elephant in the room goes un-talked about, still. This can only force the prediction of the future of the organization: FAIL!

Putting on my consultant hat again, it troubles me to see these things happen. It goes against the grain to see teams perform this way, realizing that not only is the organization hurting, but the team members are hurting more. Ultimately, the leader has to take responsibility. No down-shifting the blame, no pointing out the faults of everyone else, no deflating the spirit of those around you. As well known business authors/speakers have said, everything rises and falls on leadership. Everything. But as long as leaders don’t see the need for change, there’s no need for consultants like me. I’m very effective at pointing out the obvious, reflecting on the state of the organization right now, showing what’s not there that should be, creating clarity where there is none, cleaning up the mess, rewriting the challenges, helping them take the next steps, but ONLY if the leadership desires such. People, who are desperate for change, welcome change. They can be helped; their organization can turn around and they will ultimately succeed.

Getting back to the crossroads: trying to decide if this is what I’m called to do. It truly is what I do well and can get into the fundamental state of thinking over. These days, it seems there is more resistance to making changes than ever before. Preservation of the way things have always been seems to be the norm. The reality is - preserving the wrong things will never lead to the right change required to move forward. It’s difficult for me when I can clearly see what’s not there, what needs to be changed and not be allowed to have some part in the process or input. I guess it all comes back to asking and answering the question of “why do we do what we do?” I have to figure out why I have this propensity to want to do this, to make changes in what I can see is not working. That might take some time. But I have a feeling that it has to do with wanting others to succeed, wanting organizations to thrive and impact others around them, wanting that good feeling of having made a significant contribution to something very worthwhile. Knowing what I want to do and can do seems easy. Knowing where to do it…that’s the challenge. That’s the crossroad.

Grandparenting: A Role Like No Other

One of the most significant things you are giving to your children and grandchildren, no matter the age, is memories. Thinking about your own growing up years, it’s easy to think of times, events, and people that impacted your life. Each day there were incidents that shaped your thinking, piqued your curiosity, inspired your dreams, and captured your spirit. We don't remember each day, but we do remember those that were special in some way. Many times it was because these events were repeated, becoming a habit for the family. Many times it was because the activity took us by surprise and left an indelible imprint. Sometimes it was because in the moment, love was exchanged, changing our hearts and connecting us to another individual in an unforgettable way. Given the choice, the preferred impact would be a genuinely positive one, where that mark can be made and the memory can be captured. Negative memories have different impact on their lives altogether. But for the sake of this article, we’re going to emphasize the positive.

You may not realize this, but your grandchildren are expecting certain things from you. Yes, that’s right. They have expectations about what a grandparent’s role is in their life. It’s almost inherent in them to define the role so much easier that we can. It’s easy to know they have expectations, simply by how they react to you.

One of the very first expectations is that they want you to be excited to see them. Does your voice go up a few octaves as you shout their name from across the parking lot or driveway? Do you open your arms out wide, hoping, like in the movies, they will come running towards you and leap into your arms? Do your eyes light up when they enter the room and in return theirs light up even brighter? Can they tell on the phone that you are happy and can’t stop smiling simply because you are talking to them? I have seen my husband toss his inhibitions out the window as his excitement to see our granddaughter grows in just the few seconds he lays eyes on her. He screams her name as if seeing a long, lost friend for the first time in decades. She responds in almost the exact same way, with her “cute-ish” little grin and her high pitched chuckle as she tries to contain her excitement. But his enthusiasm is so contagious, it’s not long before she’s running down the sidewalk, jumps into his arms and they both twirl around in love-soaked passion that only a grandfather can have for a granddaughter. It’s a beautiful thing to watch! Then, when they catch their breath, she realizes that I’m right behind them and the whole thing starts over again. We scream, we twirl, and we hug. And it feels so good to be loved. She feels it, you feel it, there’s nothing like it. Let yourself go, don’t care about what the world thinks, at that moment, there’s only one person who cares how your face shines simply because you are in their presence.

Another thing your grandchild expects is that you will have boundaries and rules at your house. Of course, they would never say this, but the reality is they are much happier if you do. Do you value what’s yours enough to provide direction and instruction for them, knowing that accidents do happen? I mean, letting them play on your computer is ok, with supervision. But left alone, there are just too many keys to press that do cool stuff! Next thing you know, nothing is in its right place and your email doesn’t receive mail any longer. Do you have a special place chosen for them to keep their toys when they are all finished playing? Do you encourage them to be the ones to pick them up? At our age, we are a lot farther from the floor than they are, and it hurts a lot more to pick them all up! Do you allow them to jump on the sofa or the bed? Do you have rules about what and when to eat? All of these rules, and plenty of others, are important because at their own home, there are rules, schedules, boundaries that are put into place for a reason. Be respectful of this fact by discussing with the parents, before a grandchild stays over, what a normal day/night looks like for that child. Some children can stay up late, some need to hit the bed early. Wouldn’t you rather have them at their best by giving them the routine that works best for them already? And this includes their food choices. Sure, treats are special, but they aren’t on the regular daily menu.

Probably the most significant expectation is that you will spend time with them. You might have seen Cinderella or Toy Story a million times, but this one time is so special to them. Just the fact that you would be with them, doing something of their choosing, really gives significance and value to that grandchild in so many ways. You value their choice, you value their company, you value the experience together and they know it. And truthfully, your life together is built around these choices and experiences. Do you have any activities that you can do repeatedly with your grandchild? Bake cookies and let them help you, work in the yard and let them rake or plant flowers, engage in working on a craft and allow them to work alongside you, go to the park and always go on the swings. These are not out-of-the-ordinary things, these don’t cost a lot of money, and they don’t take a lot of planning. Allow the grandchildren to join you in whatever you love doing, whatever was planned for the day, whatever two people can do together in a shared experience. This is what they will remember about your time with them. Discuss with them ahead of time what it is they can anticipate when you are together. Hear the excitement in their voice, see their eyes light up, and inevitably, in their little bodies, the adrenaline is already flowing. They can’t wait to be with you and get to that list of things to do.

The alternative is a sad reality for some children. Their grandparents never call, they don’t seem excited to see them, the make the grandchildren feel like they are in the way or are an imposition on their day. Some think that child’s play is beneath them. I’ve witnessed the broken spirit in a child simply because a grandparent didn’t show up when they were expected or a grandparent chose not to spend time with the grandchild simply because they weren’t really “into” a particular activity in which the child wanted to engage. The sadness, the feeling disconnected, the disappointment and wondering of “why?” can be read on a child’s face if you look closely. If you are willing to feel for just a second the way that child feels, perhaps a different choice might be made. Choosing to care about what is interesting to them is choosing to love. Choosing to do nothing in particular over spending time with them is not choosing love. Choosing to let them sit on your lap for a story is choosing love. Choosing not to attend special, significant events in their life, for no particular reason, is not choosing love. Love is what the child learns from the experience. Love is what the child sees on your face. Love is what the child will remember.

As you walk with your children and grandchildren through their growing up years and share experiences, capture them in photos or in a journal in order to have memories to talk about in later years. Just a sentence or two will be enough to allow the feelings of the moment to surface long enough to explore the value of each one. Being able to pass on stories about your child will prove to be a priceless treasure as they grow up and have families of their own. They will see themselves then and now and realize how precious they are and the significance of their life. At the same time, while your child is still small, help them cultivate their dreams about the future by modeling values and actions that will enrich their life. Along the way, highlight these events and articulate the significance. The more your child has to draw from their past, the more confidently they will walk into their future. And one day, it will all come back to you, a thousand times over.

Don't forget to get your copy of my newest book...written especially for grandparents and grandchildren.

It's Finally Here!!

Wow! I never thought this day would arrive. It's kind of like waiting for a baby to be born. The first few months are very exciting, you begin to redecorate a special room in your home, buy blankets, bottles and pacifiers. The family begins to guess about names, whether it's a boy or girl and predict the exact date and time the baby will be born. Through the baby showers and special parties and lunches, you begin to realize this is really happening. As the months go by, it seems as though forever will come before the baby does! Then all of a sudden, there it is. And you wonder what all the fuss of waiting was about. The long wait is over and you have your new little treasure in your hands.

No, I didn't have a baby. But, I do have a brand new book out entitled, "As I Grow Up and You Grow Down." It's my very first children's book and while it certainly doesn't resemble the birth of a baby, the time passed just the same. But it was worth it. :) Currently, there are more books planned for this series, but this is the first. I wrote this from the perspective of grandchildren with their Grandmother. Being a grandmother now, and loving it, the idea for the book seemed to take on a whole new meaning. Here's some thoughts about it and some of the inspiration.

While many are known to spoil their grandchildren rotten, grandmothers represent a nurturing and influential force in the lives of their children’s children. This book highlights special memories between a grandmother and her two grandchildren, a boy and a girl. (Umm, yeah, need I remind you that I have one of each as well!) This uncomplicated tale follows two children, a boy and girl, as they share a number of simple, yet memory-making activities with their adored grandmother. When the children are small, they follow diligently as Grandma leads the way, gently instructing them as they bake cookies, plant flowers, and learn to sing their favorite songs. During their time together, the children talk of the day, and Grandma dreams of the day, when they will be big enough to emulate Grandma’s patience and compassion. As the children grow up and become more and more capable, they take joy in returning their grandmother’s kindness. Each precious memory enriches their lives for the future, molding them into more confident, thoughtful adults who are sold out on compassion and love. Or at least that's the hope.

As grandchildren grow up, they begin to notice that Grandma seems to be growing down relative to their perspective. The experiences with their Grandma illustrate to small children the values of love, sharing, compassion and kindness, and how emulating their grandmother’s values will most certainly lead to kind behavior later in life.

I was inspired by my relationship with my own grandmothers and the relationship I hope to have with my grandchildren, as well as research on grandparenting relationships in general. Also, I drew on Kathe Levenson’s book entitled, “When I Grow Up and You Grow Down.” Yes, very similar, but totally different storyline. It was my hope to partner with her to rewrite the original book with a subsequent series to follow; however, Kathe granted me permission and her blessing because she was undergoing hospital care at the time. Little did I know how serious it was. A few months later, she passed away. In part, I have dedicated this book to her.

I want the experience of reading this book to plant seeds in the minds of children that relationships are special, and that children have it within themselves to return the kindness they see in others as they are growing up. It is my hope that readers, even at the youngest of ages, will realize the preciousness of relationships with their grandparents. Creating lasting memories together will model and shape grandchildren to become loving parents and grandparents themselves later on down the road.

Simply stated, I had hoped to capture the wonder and beauty of the multi-generational relationship and its role in the development of a child’s character, as well as foster dialogues between little children and their parents or grandparents about the importance of relationships. It should also spark conversations about their own experiences, providing an avenue to share about their life when they were young.

I’m hoping that you will partner with me in sharing this book with all of your friends, family, coworkers, etc. Please feel free to share this link to my website, where there is more information about the book and ways to order specially signed hardcover copies.

Business of Life

One of my earlier posts this year was about The Wave. I described to you that we miraculously saw God's hand wave in front of us as we were navigating our way into this new home. That was the end of December when we saw detail after detail just melt into permission that we were supposed to live here and nowhere else. We still look back, totally amazed, get a little teary eyed, thank God for His blessing to us and breathe a sigh of complete peacefulness as we know we are finally home.

Having people help us move made it so much easier, and of course, we were completely grateful and thankful for each one of them. But that only lasts for just one day. After the movers are gone, the avalanche of boxes, the misplaced furniture and the bags of who-knows-what cause a severe case of claustrophobia and the job of migrating them from room to room really takes a toll on our physical well-being. A visit from four of our five children, and a grand-daughter, only two weeks after we arrived here, provided a huge burst of adrenaline, excitement and anticipation that helped us "get-er-done” in preparation for their visit. But now, even that burst is gone. The month of February seemed to drag by with all the organization we still had to do.

Typically, most of our work gets done in an office setting. Well, for two months the office looked like at least an F2 tornado ripped through it. Trying to sit at the make-shift desk and get anything done was quite like walking in knee-deep mud. The stacks of everything, from papers to folders to magazines to books, were constantly in the way and we couldn’t find anything. This led to further stress and anxiety as we knew we were behind in bill-paying, letter writing, phone calls, mail sorting and tax preparation. April would be here before we knew it. The clock was ticking. Pulling out hair at this point seemed appropriate.

Enter March. We felt the tide turn as we began to see the older empty boxes go out the door and the newer ones to the attic. We saw less and less of everything in our way. Some of this was facilitated by finally getting our office furniture in place, hanging file drawers filled, book shelves populated with books and the floor began to serve as a place to walk rather than a place to stack things.

Over the course of a few weeks, we have created a sophisticated, warm, organized space that will generate a measure of creative energy just because we walk into it. Part of us feels totally exhausted, the other part feels exhilarated just knowing the work that will get done here in the next weeks and months. And because this is home for a while, we envision years of being productive and creative while things we love surround us, motivate us and allows for a spirit of being completely uninhibited.

First of all, I look forward to working on and completing my upcoming children’s book, titled As I Grow up and You Grow Down. It really has been a fun project so far. There are several other books in the series that I hope will follow, all with a similar theme, but a variation in the content. That would keep me busy for quite a while. It will depend on the success of this first book. More details will follow.

I also look forward to finishing work on a book of essays that expound and express the intense complexity, the heartache, and the bittersweet moments of the past five years. Already underway, as anyone could imagine, it’s difficult to sit with the details of some of those days without processing again the actions of some, the emotions of all of us involved and grieving some of the outcomes that none of us expected. In the midst of it all, there were undercurrents so strong and so sure that gave us the strength, resilience and fortitude to make it through another day. This story isn’t being told just to promote us and what we’ve endured. Instead it is a “God story” that we’ve been told to write, more times than I can count. So many of our dear friends and family have shared with us that what they saw from the outside looking in was nothing less than motivating and inspiring to them, giving them strength to navigate through impending events in their own life. We can’t thank them enough for their affirmations, support and love through this time. Giving them space in the book to share their stories will only give testimony to what God can do in and through even people like us.

I also look forward to the ministry that will get done. Already, we sense God is leading us in several directions. We wait with baited breath for the green light to proceed ahead in any one of those directions. We have recently learned that many opportunities exist here in New Hampshire while some even reach back to Maine and elsewhere. But wherever God leads us…we’re so excited to roll up our sleeves and get to work. We’ll be looking for serving opportunities, finding ways to impact our communities and our neighbors. The same needs that exist in other parts of the states, exist right here in New England. There is work overflowing when it comes to helping the poor and under-resourced, and those who are hurting. We know and are confident, as we know the sun will come up, that God brought us here for a reason.

I look forward to the gatherings and celebrations that we’re going to have all year long. Family and friends for holidays, birthdays, reunions, small groups, you name it. There can’t be enough traffic through our doors, but please, don’t all come at once! We are creating a space that is warm, inviting, and relaxing. The kind of place where you know you can take your shoes off, put on a sweatshirt and kick back. Soon thereafter, you’ll be served a meal fit for any dignitary, tempted by an oven fresh dessert and engaged in loving, light, real conversation. You will feel like you are home, just like we do.

So, we’re basically done with the unpacking and organizing, thankful to see the light at the end of the tunnel. We'll take each day as it comes, being fully present and aware of the gift we were given and always anticipate tomorrow. Projects will get done as the creative genius tells us we’ve done enough and it’s time to stop.  And then, and then….we can get on with the business of life. It feels fresh once again, there is space to move about, it feels challenging always, but it feels “pinch-me-am-I-really-living –this-life” exciting each and every day. What an amazing feeling to know we’re home. I. Love. It. We can’t wait to share it with you.

Guest Blogger Contributor

In place of my usual blog, I'm giving the space to Michael Daniele, sharing an article he wrote at work. Besides being my gifted, talented, smart husband (among other things), he is also a key component to helping others learn about lead safety guidelines that are instituted by the EPA. We didn't know how important a message this was until he began researching, learning about the potential dangers to anyone who comes in contact with lead. It's quite astounding. Many of our health problems today are as a direct result of coming into contact with lead during our lifetime. This isn't a theory, it's a fact. The largest segment of the population that is affected: babies and small children. It is for them that the message is so important. Awareness has brought about a significant reduction in the number of reported cases, but even one person being unknowingly exposed is too many. And there is no lead level in the body that is safe. Check out the links at the end of the article for more information.

Jesus and the Lead Law

Over the years I have pastored small, medium and large churches in one capacity or another. When I first cut my teeth on the front of a pulpit in a small church it was with a meager salary and I often got paid in groceries. The notion of meeting my family of five’s needs was something that we had to pray for and trust that the bills would be covered. Thankfully, God always came through even when the cupboards were bare. In order to generate enough income to feed those bottomless pits, I remembered the house and dorm painting lessons I received from the college painting department at Moody and working under Dan Mockler, an independent contractor. He taught me the fine art of prepping surfaces, scraping walls and applying final coats. This was way back in the late seventies and early eighties when I spent a good number of weeks painting first and then preparing sermons on Saturday nights. These were long and sometimes sleepless nights. Either way both jobs were satisfying and both left me with a sense of continuity with Jesus.

Jesus was a contractor. As the most famous carpenter in the world He left a legacy greater than any cabinet He built or any rough construction He may have done. In fact, He was in the renovating business. However, He reconstructed with His hands and His heart. Imagine what it would have been like to own a bench, chair, or to have an addition built by Jesus: The Carpenter. Always in code, no bent nails, perfectly plumb and using material that kept people safe and secure.

Unlike today, when unknowing or unscrupulous contractors might cut corners, drywall over their mistakes, or use hazardous materials to create what is perceived to be a safe and secure environment, when the reality is that those who live in those homes may be in imminent danger. Take lead poisoning for example. This insidious disease has become a nemesis for children, pregnant women and contractors. For children, it contributes to lower IQ’s, failure in school, hyperactivity, higher crime rate, infant mortality, and so many other issues that challenge our children and their parents. For pregnant women, lead poisoning has been named as the culprit behind many premature births and miscarriages. Adults, especially contractors who do not practice lead-safe methods in their renovations, are in danger of high blood pressure, lack of sex drive, fatigue and kidney failure just to name a few.

In spite of research and statistics there are still contractors, building associations and industry watch dogs who think that the effects of lead are sensationalized; that the laws surrounding lead practices are cumbersome and the governing authorities need to retract the methodology to ease the financial burden on the homeowner and the contractor. Now that the EPA and other authorized states levy fines (to the tune of up to $37,500 per violation) against contractors and landlords for not complying, why try lead safe practices? After all, if you think about how much more money it will cost to renovate an older home, it might be easier for homeowners to let their properties fall into disrepair then fix them up.

Antiquity reveals that lead has been around a while and was used for all kinds of things among them drinking vessels. In fact, it is thought that lead was behind the fall of the Roman Empire.

Lead as a substance is mentioned in Numbers 31:22 “Only the gold, the silver, the bronze, the iron, the tin and the lead; everything that can endure fire…” (There is some question as to whether this is a reference to lead the metal or another type of metal)

It references the weight of lead in Exodus 15: 10 “…they sank like lead in the mighty waters…” referring to the enemies of the Lord.

It was thought to be used for writing on ancient rocks (a bit like graffiti) in Job 19:24. “Oh that my words were written…that they were engraved on a rock with an iron pen and lead, forever!”

In a prophetic voice an angel speaks to Zechariah in chapter 5 and tells the prophet “here is a lead disc lifted up, and this is a woman sitting inside the basket…this is wickedness…and he thrust her down into the basket and threw the lead cover over its mouth.” Note the link that the angel makes between lead and wickedness. It may have been known even before Jesus day how devastating the effects of lead had on people.

Jesus must have encountered lead poisoning in His renovations. Knowing its harmful effects, what would He do? Let me quote the Master Himself:

“Let the little children come to Me and forbid them not, for such is the kingdom of God.”
“He that knows what is right to do and does it not to him it is sin.”

He not only knew about the lead problems, but, as a contractor, He put himself at the forefront of protecting the children. If this is true then we can surmise that Jesus practiced lead-safety. What about the government’s intrusive laws? We know from the Scriptures that His character was a perfect example of dealing with issues related to His work and ministry. For instance, He told the disciples to “render to Caesar the things that are Caesar’s and render to God the things that are God’s” He spoke of paying taxes, even though he was in “ministry” He still abided by the law of the land.

Good contractors don’t cut corners and recognize the need to keep lead safe. By following lead-safety you also follow the example of Jesus.

Michael Daniele
Copyright 2011

The Way of Love

It's Valentines Day. Hearts, flowers, candy, champagne,  kisses and love. Does it get any better than this?! I could write hundreds of pages about love and how I feel about it, what changes it has brought to my heart, how it has affected so many around me, and how it's wrecked my life completely. I could write about my deep, unconditional, never changing love for my children. I could write about my deep, abiding, rich, fulfilling, unbelievable love with Michael. But I won't. The incredible articulation and expounding about love has already been written about in another book, chapter 13 of I Corinthians. I cannot improve on the best. 

This is how God feels about love...

"If I speak with human eloquence and angelic ecstasy but don't love, I'm nothing but the creaking of a rusty gate. If I speak God's Word with power, revealing all his mysteries and making everything plain as day, and if I have faith that says to a mountain, "Jump," and it jumps, but I don't love, I'm nothing. If I give everything I own to the poor and even go to the stake to be burned as a martyr, but I don't love, I've gotten nowhere. So, no matter what I say, what I believe, and what I do, I'm bankrupt without love.

Love never gives up.
Love cares more for others than for self.
Love doesn't want what it doesn't have.
Love doesn't strut,
doesn't have a swelled head,
doesn't force itself on others,
Isn't always "me first,"
Doesn't fly off the handle,
Doesn't keep score of the sins of others,
Doesn't revel when others grovel,
Takes pleasure in the flowering of truth,
Puts up with anything,
Trusts God always,
Always looks for the best,
Never looks back,
But keeps going to the end.
Love never dies.

Inspired speech will be over some day; understanding will reach its limit. We know only a portion of the truth, and what we say about God is always incomplete. But when the Complete arrives, our incompletes will be canceled. We don't yet see things clearly. We're squinting in a fog, peering through a mist. But it won't be long before the weather clears and the sun shines bright! We'll see it all then, see it all as clearly as God sees us, knowing him directly just as he knows us! But for right now, until that completeness, we have three things to do to lead us toward that consummation:

Trust steadily in God,

Hope unswervingly

Love extravagantly.

And the best of the three is l-o-v-e."

The Wave

We have been in our home for two weeks already. In between shovelling out of snowstorms that have been pounding the area, there are boxes in each room that need to still be unpacked, window coverings that need to be hung, books that need to be put on the shelves and clothes that need to be put away. Just as we were getting enough done to be somewhat functional, four of our five children came to visit, along with our granddaughter, Lily. We have been overwhelmed and blown away by their presence, energy, laughter and joy. We didn't even notice or remember that we still have lots to do to be organized and efficient in our new space. Our plans to have a place for each one to sleep were successful, we had ample transportation and the menu selections worked out great. We ate out a couple too many times, but it didn't matter, we were together.

As much as we marveled at the fact that we were together as a family, we still marvel at the absolute miracle that we are in this house at all. If there was ever a point to belabor, it would be the one about how God is just amazingly God and lately we've been reassured that we still matter to Him. Throughout the process for this home, it was as if we had stepped aside and watched Him manage the entire process, down to the last detail.

The last half of the year, we had scoured the countryside and the internet, looking for a home in this area. We discovered that there was more for the money in New Hampshire, so our focus was somewhere just north of the border. We looked at homes in many different price ranges, several different styles and many locations. We even made offers on several of them, only to have our offer be turned down for one reason or another. Usually it was because someone else had a better one. It just didn't seem to go our way, and it was frustrating looking at house after house, making offers and giving a little of our emotion and heart to the possibility of being able to live there. We would leave from a visit and almost immediately begin to imagine where all of our furniture would go, how we could use the space, and what we liked or didn't like about it the most. Only to have our dreams dashed after making the offer. So, after months of that process, I make a conscience decision to NOT look at anymore homes, any internet listings or emails regarding any homes anywhere. It was not worth the emotional effort. I was too exhausted from the process.

Of course, we started the process in prayer, making sure that we wanted to stay in this area, but really wanting to be guided to our next destination. I decided that if God wanted us to have a home, He was going to have to make that clear, show us and practically hand it to us on a platter. It was incredibly freeing to not be looking. I was, after all, content with where we were, realizing that it would be temporary and that someday we would find something.One night while Michael and I were working at our desks in the office, he wanted me to take a look at a listing that he had received for a home. I said, "Hmmm, no thanks" and kept working. Didn't even faze me, especially since that was what he did many nights. But he scheduled with the listing realtor to see the house just a few days later. I was willing, but emotionally removed.

As we drove up into the neighborhood, I began to realize this was no ordinary listing. As we pulled into the driveway, I was totally blown away. He had chosen this one for us? Wow. I liked it! Still cautiously optimistic, we walked through the front door and both said oh my gosh! We hurriedly looked through the house and somewhere halfway down the stairs back to the main floor, we both said, "This is it." We told the realtor we wanted to make the offer.

What was interesting about this house is that it was a foreclosure. We had looked at many in the past, only to be discouraged about the amount of destruction that happens when a family has to move out of their home because of a foreclosure situation. Some homes we walked through we could feel the anger, pain and sadness of the family as they realized they had to give the house over to the bank. Everything that could be removed from the house was, including toilets, light fixtures, doors, etc. It was really sad. We respected the history but weren't sure they were for us in that condition. This home however, the complete opposite. You would never know it was a foreclosure situation. The house was immaculate. Not even a grain of sand on the floor or a smudge on the window. Everything worked, all the fixtures were there, no holes in the wall - it looked great. We felt such a positive energy and spirit in the home and that was refreshing.

Over the course of a week or so, going through the financing process, we felt stronger and stronger that God wanted us to have this house, because of how we saw things playing out. The first things that were reviewed in this process were our credit scores. We've always had great credit scores but this time around, things had become "attached" that we were unaware of. Through the course of the investigation, our anxiety started to rise knowing these things could affect our ability to make this purchase. As we dug deeper into the information we found some real surprises and some mistakes. This is where we saw God just wave his hand and remove these as an obstacle. It would have been easy to let this stop the process, but persistence paid off and this list of “negatives” on our credit report were washed away.

We initially started the process with one finance company from a referral. After working with this individual for about 10 days, we were convinced that he wasn’t going to get this done for us. The stipulation in the purchase was that we must close by the end of December, 2010. If we couldn’t make that happen, thousands of dollars of incentives from the seller would just disappear from the deal and we would be stuck paying much more than we did. We worked tirelessly with this first company, only to realize that we weren’t going to make it. Through our first realtor, we came in contact with a branch manager from another finance company. Luckily, I had kept her contact information in the same folder, so on a whim, I gave her a call, explained the situation and she reassured me that they could get it done within our time frame. In their words, “this is where we shine.” That’s all I needed to hear.

This was about the middle of December. We had two weeks to get it done. What usually takes about 30-45 days, they accomplished in less than two weeks. Through the speed and efficiency of emails, all of the proper paperwork they needed was sent to them in one day. I had saved everything in a file from working with the first financial guy. The appraiser, who typically would be scheduled for two weeks later, was able to go out the next day. The home inspector, same response, almost immediately. The complete package getting to the underwriter, done without a glitch. The loan approval, done within days. The homeowners insurance policy, done in the same day. It seemed that whatever we needed, God provided with lightening speed. Even down to the day of closing, December 30th, the last detail of whether there was actual funding on that day for the loan, done by mid day. Our closing was on time. The team I worked with was absolutely stellar in their performance to get this done for us. We will never forget them, or the grace and mercy we received. Others around us were amazed at the efficiency and our ability to close within two weeks. Actually only 8 days, two of those were bank holidays. We walked away believing the only reason all this happened was that God wanted us to have this house. There was no other reason for absolutely everything to go so smoothly.

We feel blessed. Our prayers for stability and a place to land have been answered. I have to admit, it feels great! Once again, it’s amazing to see God work. With a wave of His hand, things can disappear or appear, be created or torn down, or be put into the exact place at the exact right moment. Only He has the power to move and control circumstances. When God wants something for our lives, there’s no stopping it. Through all that movement and chaos, clarity happens. I’ve learned the best place to watch is from a comfortable chair, with a cup of hot tea in hand, waiting to see what He’s going to do next.

So, as I pick up the toys from Lily’s adventures throughout the house, take the sheets off the beds and wash a bundle of towels, memories we’ve already made in this house, float around with me, and it feels good. As I begin to pick up where we left off with the unpacking a couple weeks ago, even though I’m tired, there is still energy to get organized. The office needs to be put together; my clothes still need to be unpacked from the closet, but no big rush. It’ll get done. We still need to discuss paint colors, where we want pictures hung, and replacing the kitchen faucet for one I like better. But we’re here, and there’s no rush. That is a gift.