Linger.

linger

The older, retired man stops in our office frequently this time of year. He is a longtime volunteer at our largest event–which he LOVES. A few years ago, he drafted his son to join him and now they spend every Father’s Day together, volunteering for our Festival.

The other 364 days of the year? I think he’s lonely. He’s looking for someone to talk with him when he stops in to our office. And, at this time of year especially, we’re so inundated with event details and daily to-do’s that we don’t often make time to spend with him.

One of my co-workers recently retired. She is one of those people that makes time to listen to anyone—and gives them her full attention. I think our volunteer guy really misses her. It’s clear he’s feeling her absence. And her compassion.

When he stopped in our office this past week, our staff was buzzing around … firing on all cylinders … in complete GSD mode (or “Getting Shxx Done,” as we say). He asked me if I had a minute for a few questions. I invited him in my office, answered his event questions, then grabbed some of the materials he asked for and walked him toward the door.

We were standing in the hallway chatting. Then he paused. He told me that he has “two cancers” and was diagnosed last week with sciatica. He didn’t know how much longer he could volunteer.

Suddenly, the to-do list in my head disappeared. I noticed the glacier blue of his eyes. I listened intently (wondering why I just don’t do that all the time).  I told him we’d look forward to seeing him soon in a few weeks, if not before. And we said goodbye.

All day long, I kept thinking of all the small, individually beautiful gifts that each person has—and how sad it is that we’ve become so busy and self-absorbed that we don’t notice them. Once he’s gone, the world will be a sadder place without his glacier blue eyes and extremely gentle soul.  But will we be too busy to notice this shift?

I don’t want to be.

I’m adopting the word (and, hopefully, the action to) Linger“to stay in a place longer than necessary because of a reluctance to leave.” I want to pursue a life of noticing, paying attention, listening and lingering. And feel blessed for every single moment of it.

What’s the Cost?

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Is it just me or does it seem like everyone is unhappy about something at every given moment, anymore?  The weather. What someone else said. Or what they didn’t say. Or how they didn’t meet our expectations for them.

Whoa. Did you catch that last one?  How they didn’t meet OUR expectations for them! (That’s a biggie, huh?!) When was the last time you were p.o’d at someone because they didn’t do what you expected them to do? (Nevermind that you didn’t TELL them what you expected. They should just KNOW! Am I Right?!)

In my family, we often invoke Dr. Phil’s famous adage: “There’s something about that guy I don’t like about myself.”  Ouch. We’re all guilty of that, huh?  Let me point out that splinter in your eye. Nevermind that massive 2×4 plank in mine. We’re talking about what’s wrong with YOU!   <LOL>

Lately, I’ve been feeling my life-clock. It’s running low on battery juice most days. And it drains quickly when I watch the news, read sad stories on the Internet, hear toxic comments about others. And that battery doesn’t hold the charge like it used to.  I’m starting to think A LOT about how my days, hours and minutes are being spent. If I spend half-a-day angry at something or someone, that’s COSTING me precious life that I could’ve been enjoying.

That’s minutes or hours I could’ve been appreciating today’s moody gray/white skies … or how my Corgi’s natural eyeliner is better than anything I can draw on my eyelid. (You are a rad artist, God!) Or maybe I could’ve spend those minutes laughing with someone I love. Because … at the end of this life … I can’t imagine that I’ll be laying there gnashing my teeth over how my hubby infuriated me by not reading my mind about taking the trash out that one day. Or how I deserved to be a speaker at some long forgotten conference. Or how disappointing life is because of some fly-by-night political figure.

Seriously. All. Small. Stuff.

And that’s all WAYYYYYY too expensive in my book. How about you? What are you spending your life on?

 

Dreams of a Warrior

sword

Weird dream last night. I was photographing a PR event and ran into one of my PR/ Influencer friends who just happened to be there … representing Joanna Gaines. (If you know me, you know I’m sort of obsessed with Fixer Upper and the Gaines family. But not in a freaky fan kind-of-way. More like, I’m pretty sure Jo and I would be friends. Lol. )

Anyhoo, I asked Joanna if I could capture her photo with my PR friend.  Then, I was hugging Jo and talking to her about her kids, and my PR friend asked, “Why don’t you let me take a photo of you two?” And I said what I always say when someone asks me if I want my photo taken, “No. That’s okay.”

I was recalling this dream as I was driving to work today. And I started thinking … why do I do that? Why do I always think of myself as a second-class citizen … not attractive enough to be photographed or not confident enough to take the lead? Why do I only focus on my flaws and how I’m not good enough? Why do I think that I’m somehow a child of a lesser God?

So, I asked God. Right at that moment.

And He answered me …  in a way that only I would understand.

*****

Now before I explain, I need to tell you another quick story.  (Bear with me. This diversion thing is in my DNA. It might be related to the Irish-storytelling-gene.)

There is a holy place in Bosnia/ Herzegovina called Medjugorje.  Millions of people from all over the world take pilgrimages to this Holy Place every year … to the spot where Mary, the Mother of God, appeared to a group of teenagers on a small hill in June, 1981. It is difficult to explain how this is a place of healing and transformation—even today. They say that you are not meant to go “until she invites you.”

About 6 years ago, my Mom invited me and my sister to join her on a pilgrimage to Medjugorje with a group tour—that just happened to have had 2 cancellations. All my expenses would be covered. Yet, I wasn’t sure.  To be honest, I was nervous about traveling overseas and leaving my family. And then there was that lack-of-worthiness thing that lives in my head.

With the registration window quickly closing, I had just 24 hours to decide. I’d cleared the time off at  work (just in case). I’d received my family’s loving support, but I still wasn’t sure. So I slept on it. Still, I vacillated.  I was driving into work that morning thinking to myself, “But I never received HER invitation.”  Then, I saw it. An out-of-place dining room chair sitting by itself in a large stand of trees, with just one single sunbeam shining onto the seat.  And I heard in my heart, “Here’s your invitation.”

So I said yes.

*****

Flash forward to this morning, after that odd thought-provoking dream.

I was driving along asking God, “Why do I always consider myself unworthy? Why do I act like a second-class citizen?  And there it was.

A dining room chair. By itself. In a field.

Another invitation.

This time … He was asking me to STOP.

STOP the toxic thinking.

STOP mentally punishing myself for the things that I label as my flaws … my weight … the scar over my eye … being introverted … screwing up past relationships … etc.

STOP accepting man’s idea of “perfection” as what’s ultimately most important—and START seeing these things as battle wounds along MY path to the ONE True King.

START wearing those imperfections like a warrior.

And, then, just as I did with that first invitation …

I said yes.

*****

How about you? Ready to give up that critic in your head and become a warrior against self-criticism? YOU are a child of the ONE True God. (For real.)

 

Camelot, a Gold Ring and an Unforgettable Uncle

guinevere

I need to tell you something. I’m a hopeless romantic. I think I was REALLY hooked early on when I watched Cinderella with Lesley Ann Warren.  (Pretty sure I was an infant then, for those of you doing the math.)  My obsession with love stories just grew from there. Happy endings are my addiction.

I recently watched a sweet movie: Letters to Juliet.  I’m sure you’ve guessed by now that this is a love story … or, really, two love stories.  The movie follows a young couple (who doesn’t realize they are falling in love at first)—while they are trying to help an older woman (Vanessa Redgrave) find the man (Franco Nero) she fell in love with when she was 15. The one she couldn’t forget.

As I watching the movie, I realized that the two senior actors starred in Camelot—a film that had a huge impact on me when I was a teenager … for reasons beyond being just a classic love story.

In the late 70s, our family of 6 traveled from Ohio to Albuquerque to see my Dad’s brothers, their wives and to meet our cousins.  We left at midnight on Christmas and drove several hours to a tiny train station somewhere upstate —where we embarked on a cross-country journey by passenger train.

I don’t remember how long we stayed in New Mexico, but I recall lots of laughing, eating out, shopping and enjoying the company of the wonderful family that I was just getting to know.

True to my introvert personality even then—at 16—I needed a little daily quiet, private time to recharge.  I remember disconnecting from the chaos one evening during that trip, by sitting on the floor about 18” from the television being captivated by Camelot.  I’d never seen the movie—but discovered, early on, that it had all the ingredients of a perfect love story.  And then some.  I was so absorbed in the movie, I tuned out everything and everyone else in the room. Completely.  I must’ve been that way for well over an hour, when my Uncle Paul knelt down quietly beside me.  He pointed to a simple gold ring unusually placed on the upper part of Guinevere’s ring finger. “Isn’t that beautiful?,” he said quietly.

His comment instantly got my attention. I’d just been thinking that very same thing.  Such a tiny detail, yet it spoke to her character. It was one of the small, otherwise insignificant things that set her apart from other women. I saw Guinevere as an independent thinker. A free spirit. A rule-breaker. She led with her heart. For me–a 16-year-old girl trying to figure out why I kept failing at fitting into the popular cultural templates of the time—she was unique, all the way down to that tiny gold band.

My uncle sat and watched the movie in silence with me for a few minutes, then got up and returned to the family. I was quietly dumbfounded that he, too, had noticed something as simple as that ring. That he even cared.

Decades later, what I remember most from that day was that encounter with my uncle. I think about that 16-year-old-me, absorbed in my private little world—and how he found a way to connect with that girl through his simple, gentle ways.  By paying attention.

It may come as no surprise when I tell you that my Uncle Paul and his beautiful wife, Carrie, have spent their lives doing mission work—impacting those difficult-to-reach souls in countless communities.   Not long ago, my uncle was in a terrible car accident, with the other driver at fault. He nearly lost his life. As we prayed for him, Auntie Carrie and their family—they asked that we pray for the other driver and his family.  I don’t know about you, but I don’t know many people today with that kind of grace.

And that’s the real point of this story: God’s grace—manifested in us.  Manifested in a man who met a withdrawn, awkward teenager in her private world of Camelot and gave her affirmation that it’s okay to be different.

I’m sure you’ve guessed by now that this is a love story … a thank you to a loving God for placing those people in our lives who genuinely and authentically LIVE His word.

“My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.”
~2 Corinthians 12:9

Who We Are

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This one hit hard. And so close to home. Because it is the community where my husband grew up, where our extended family still lives.  Because our son is an officer in an adjacent community. And our nephew (soon to become an officer) trained in the junior academy with the same department … the same band of brothers who lost those two seasoned officers last Saturday. They were just doing what they do every day, responded to a 911 call. Serving the public.

Then they were ambushed.  And so were our hearts.

Hate-filled crime is senseless. Paralyzing.

I can’t even look at the photo of the killer.  I’m battling so much anger.

Every day since Saturday, our hearts break a little more.

I can’t sleep, thinking of those wives left behind. And their babies. Who will take them to daddy/daughter dances? Who will walk them down the aisle on their wedding day?

*****

I’ve worked in tourism in Ohio for 18 years now.  And this may anger some of my tourism colleagues when I say this, but Ohio has struggled with a brand.  We don’t have Florida’s sunny beaches or the-land-of-the-mouse. We’re not Vegas. We don’t have any Grand Canyons. There’s no “New York Minutes” happening here.

That’s not to say we don’t have wonderful attractions and attributes. Some recognize Ohio for its amusement parks, the Rock Hall of Fame, our Amish country or the breathtaking Hocking Hills region. Central Ohio doesn’t have those landmarks. We are home to Ohio’s capital, but you’ll get different perceptions about Columbus–depending on who you ask across the country. Many just don’t know who we are.

My New York relatives once joked that the show, “The Middle,” must’ve been modeled after our family. In their view, we’re the middle class, living in the middle of the Midwest. Not cosmopolitan. Not big-city-savvy.  Average. Forgettable. Ouch.

I was thinking about that this week.

I was thinking about it when I watched complete strangers standing in front of the Westerville Police Department crying for those lost policemen. Bringing flowers. Lighting candles. Leaving signs of love.

I was thinking about it when I watched the Go Fund Me account (set up by the FOP for the officers families) quadruple its original goal within 72 hours.

I was thinking about it as I watched the local, regional, then national news media cover the story … and the outpouring of love and support for those officers—and all emergency personnel.

And I was thinking about it today as I heard about the funeral home procession of those brave men that stopped traffic for miles on our major freeways—as travelers chose to pull over, get out of their cars, stand and honor those fallen officers.

This is who we are in Central Ohio. Far from forgettable.

When tragedy strikes, we’ll be the first ones to show up and cry with you. We’ll pray with you and for you (and not worry if it’s politically correct to do so).  We’ll show up with flowers, candles and too much food. We’ll reach deep into our middle-class pockets to donate what we can to that Go Fund Me account, and put our names with our donations. Because we stand behind those who serve us, and we won’t tolerate hate-fueled crimes and those who commit them.

This is who we are.  We’ve got you.

 

 

Hope.

hopeWe were waiting in the doctor’s office (again), sitting behind the check-in desk. It’s not a happy place, this center. It’s a frightening place.

An extremely distraught elderly man poured out his story to the insurance clerk. We sat directly behind him waiting, not intending to overhear his words. He went in for a diabetes check last fall and they discovered advanced pancreatic cancer. He apologized to her for not filling out the paper work in advance, but the chemo cocktail he was on left his vision blurred. He struggled to drive himself there. He was alone. He was doubled over in pain. He began to cry. He told her that he had served in the military–and he had been flying since he was 18.

Then the nurse called his name.

Every day I pray the same prayer: asking God to make me an instrument of His peace. Most days I don’t hear him. But, when they called this elderly gentleman’s name, I heard mine too – in my heart. I grabbed a tiny crucifix from my purse, tapped him on the shoulder and pressed it into his palm. I want you to have this. I want you to know that I’m praying for you.

He sobbed.

I asked his first name.

David.   (Derived from the Hebrew word meaning, “beloved.”)

The nurse motioned for him to go back to see the doctor. He leaned toward me for a hug – this stranger. God is good, I whispered to him. Remember that. He loves you. 

But as much as I wanted to, as much as I prayed that day, I couldn’t will his pain away.

And so it has gone each day since that day. So many beloved friends and family are carrying loads too heavy to bear. And so I pray my same prayer — that God will make me an instrument of His peace. And I stand, listening, loving and praying … but I’m helpless. Speechless. Or my words come out all wrong, sounding trite.

My sister reminded me that it is not our Potter’s Wheel to work.  As much we spin it around and around in our minds trying to solve their problems, worrying over them, we can’t fix these precious souls. It’s not our job.  It’s not our plan.

But letting go seems impossible most days.

So this week feels heavy.  The worrying kicks in first thing in the morning. And I have to try – again and again – to let go. Let God. But my mind is everywhere – and so it’s nowhere. How can I be an instrument of anyone’s peace if I can’t find it myself? Yet I know what I need to do. Find Him in the silence. Be grateful for the blessings I have, instead of tallying up the things that are wrong.

Help me get started? What are you grateful for today?

The 10 Best Things That Happened Today

sunflowers3If you’re like me, you probably hit the floor this morning racing around to get ready for your day. Your brain likely kicks into overdrive once the alarm goes off. You look in the mirror, hone-in on what’s wrong with you, then start mentally listing the problems and challenges you’ll have to tackle during the day ahead.  And that’s all before 9 am … AmIRight?

At some point during my day today, I started realizing that there were loads of things going RIGHT. You know, those things you overlook most days … and even some unexpected surprises. So, by the time I was on my drive home, I decided to make a mental list of the 10 BEST Things That Happened to Me Today … to thumb my nose at Chronic Negativity. (Take that, you soul-sucking-vampire-like-energy-thief!)  I’m thinking this is gonna become a THING with me. Who knows, maybe in time, I’ll start my day by thinking only about the awesomeness that lies before me! So, here we go (in no particular order):

  • $5 Sunflower bunch at Whole Foods. (Need I say more?!)
  • A ray of Amazing Grace, via a text from a friend. He’s been missing God in his life and has decided to take his family back to church … for all of them. He wants to focus on what’s most important. AND, He chose ME to share this with!  I mean … how blessed am I?!!!  (#VERYBLESSED)
  • Sunshine, gentle breezes and spring flowers in bloom. It. Simply. Doesn’t. Get. Any. Better.
  • Catching up with my sister (where we both talk too fast and too much because we have tons of catching up to do and never enough time!)
  • Surprise gifts from my sister from my favorite store! (#Anthropologie)
    gifts
  • A really inspiring digital marketing webinar with creative thinkers (completely re-energized my right brain!)
  • Discovering that Whole Foods has freshly brewed iced tea on tap, all of the time, for $1.49! (OMG! If you know me, this is pretty huge! <insert angels singing> )
  • Setting up my new night stand that I ordered online. I saved my pennies for this baby for quite a while, so it was pretty sweet to tuck all my books and DVDs into it.
  • It’s my Fri-YAY today! (Working from home tomorrow.)
  • This song. Playing over and over in my car, because of these words:

No matter the bumps
No matter the bruises
No matter the scars
Still the truth is
The cross has made
The cross has made you flawless
No matter the hurt
Or how deep the wound is
No matter the pain
Still the truth is
The cross has made
The cross has made you flawless.

Good night, precious peeps! Remember — God is good all the time. xo

Mercy Remains.

IMG_3313We lost one this week, making this  Holy Week even harder. Making Good Friday all the more difficult to bear.

She was only 23 and leaves behind two little ones, a four-year-old daughter who adores her and a little guy, only months old, that won’t know her … except through stories he hears from his grandparents, aunts and uncles.

Even saying the word overdose angers me. And, for all of us, it comes with the Whys. Then we start to make ourselves insane by questioning … what could I have done to prevent this? I should’ve …. I could’ve … If only I would’ve …

We have to choose. How will we honor her? Do we live in a place of guilt? Anger? Blame? Or do we humble ourselves and accept God’s mercies that surround us on even these worst of days?

The one nugget I’ve been holding onto this week?  That God said He will make beauty from these ashes. No, He promised.

“… and provide for those who grieve in Zion– to bestow on them a crown of beauty instead of ashes, the oil of joy instead of mourning, and a garment of praise instead of a spirit of despair. They will be called oaks of righteousness, a planting of the LORD for the display of his splendor.”  ~Isaiah 61:3

Today, I’m choosing to live in hope. And tomorrow, on Easter, we’ll be reminded of the definition of Hope–and how very much God adores each of us. So much that He sacrificed His only son so that our sins might be forgiven. So that we can spend eternity wrapped in His love.

Rest in that merciful love, pretty girl. ;(

 

bouquet

“I make myself rich by making my wants few.” ~Henry David Thoreau 

Sometimes, in the darkness, a little ray of light feels like such a gift.  Being sick, housebound, broke, facing taxes, pinching pennies and suffering through Ohio’s gray season … I’ve been feeling low lately. Then my honey walked in with a $5 bouquet of grocery store flowers and it’s like someone turned on a light. I put the big bunch in my antique white ironstone pitcher and created a mini-bouquet for my kitchen windowsill bud vase. There now. #Happy