His Last Mile

His Last Mile

It was a day that began like all of the others, for my Grandpa. I imagine he turned back the covers, and slowly put his feet to the floor. Without thinking, he put one step in front of the other…. down the short hall to the kitchen. He may have checked on a load of laundry he accidentally left in the dryer. Grandma would never go for that! He had better turn it back on to fluff the clothes again.

Taking a few more steps, he is in the kitchen where so many memories come to mind. He can almost hear the laughter of the grandkids at Christmas as they run through, on their way out the door for some football in the snow. He smiles as he looks at the table and remembers it set for the perfect breakfast.

For some reason, everything seems nostalgic today. Then he looks at the clock and realizes, he had better hurry and get ready. He wants to pick Grandma up at the nursing home a few minutes early today.

You see, today is a bit special because he has been asked to speak at church. He makes sure his notes are in his Bible. A few minutes later, he is out the door, and starting the van. He stops by his favorite donut shop, and says hi to everyone there, and as he leaves, says a prayer under his breath for the man sitting alone at the counter, and for the weary cashier who is learning to be a single mom.

He arrives to pick up my Grandma and she gives him a kiss on the cheek while patting his other cheek and somehow today….it reminds him of the first time she kissed him. She asked him to check the back of her hair, and he fumbles around with the pins and the flower, and puts everything in its place. There, pretty as a picture!

He places his weary hands on the wheelchair, and with one foot in front of the other…he pushes his wife of almost 60 years down the long hall. He says Good Morning to a few people…asks them how they are doing. He smiles at the nurse behind the desk and says “I am going to take Betty out for lunch today, so we’ll be back later this afternoon.” With a quick wave, he rolls my Grandma out the door and onto the waiting lift to put her in the van.

On the way to church, they talk a little bit, but he is already thinking about how he is going to say some of the things that God has put on his heart to talk about. Just a simple life testimony, which is what he has decided to do. But, he wants to make it count. It has to touch someone…that is his prayer.

They turn in to the parking lot, he shuts off the engine and gets Grandma, and begins his walk up the ramp….one foot in front of the other, he prays as he walks…wondering who will be there today that needs to hear his testimony?

The door opens, and his friend of many years is there to welcome them in. He finds his way to their seat, gets settled in and then takes a seat, just to rest and think for a few minutes before church starts. He looks around and his mind wanders. He can recall like it was yesterday…laying the carpet in this beloved church. His eyes look up and he wishes he could maybe pull his banjo out today. So many good time were had, playing his banjo with the worship band.

The church starts to fill up, the service begins. He is soon lost in the words to one of his favorite songs. Today is a good day. He can feel it from somewhere deep inside. After a few more songs, it’s time for him to speak. The Pastor calls his name.

He takes a deep breath, grabs his notes and puts one foot in front of the other…and makes his way to the front. As he rests his hands on the pulpit, it’s like he felt God’s hands resting on his shoulders. He begins to speak, and Oh, does he speak. Gentle, with love, with humor, he tells his story.

About half way through, the Hands he felt on his shoulders, now are taking his own hands, and are leading him one foot in front of the other….. to a place that he has dreamed of for so long. Wasn’t he just singing “Oh, I Want To See Him?”

He wishes he could tell his family and friends goodbye, but then he smiles and remembers…his notes. They will tell everyone goodbye….they will finish his story.

And so….he takes the Hand of His Maker, and puts one foot in front of the other…..he is home.

A week or so later, his pastor read the rest of Grandpas notes at his homecoming service. It was one of my most cherished times in God’s presence. One of my Grandpa’s favorite songs was The Last Mile, and I have often thought of his last mile…and decided to share how I imagine his day went. It makes me realize that every day, every decision, every word, and every step we take should be for the good of others.

We often let the cares, stresses or even busyness of life take over, and we forget just why we are here. It may be to fluff some clothes in a dryer, it may be cooking dinner, it may be saying hello to the clerk at the dry cleaners, it may be punching a clock, it may be dispensing medicine, it may be sending the kids off to school in time.

When your feet hit the floor tomorrow, and you put one foot in front of the other, and are off to your busy day…may you touch the lives of all those whose paths you cross.

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Crossing Oceans

A few weeks ago, after a particularly frustrating day and situation, I ran across this quote.
“There comes a time when you have to stop crossing oceans for people who won’t jump puddles for you.”

Immediately I had this momentary desire to post this on Facebook. In perfect passive aggressive vague-booking style. 🙂
Then I hit “discard post”.

I understand and am sympathetic to the meaning behind this quote, but for some reason, I decided not to post it.
A few days later I would begin to see why.

This past Sunday during church I saw my phone light up with a call from my brother.
He was calling to let me know that our childhood friend Mike has suddenly passed away.

I felt like I was hit in the gut.

I still had his text messages on my phone from a few days earlier. This can’t be real. Please God….

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Over the next few days the memories of all the years spun round and round in my head. I re-read our conversations, I hummed the first song I ever remembered him writing, I prayed for his sweet Momma, who I have always called my second Mom, for his Dad, his fiancé Alli, and his brothers who adore and love him like crazy!
Within a day or so, I began to see this huge outpouring of love to Mikes family. I mean huge.

People were calling, texting, opening their homes, traveling, taking off work and school, volunteering, saying “I love you”, and sharing memory after memory via social media, phone calls and texts.

It was during one of my trips down memory lane that I thought to myself…if only Mike could see how loved he is.

Did he even realize how much he influenced people?

Did he know that hearts would physically ache because he wasn’t sitting across the table?

Did he know ears would try their best to remember the last time they heard the strings of his new Martin being played by his hands?

Did he know when we said we were proud of him, we really meant it?

Did he know that we would cross oceans for one more conversation, one more laugh, one more hug?

Did he know that last night there would be standing room only as we said farewell?

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I realized last night that it matters not what someone will do or not do for me. Its true, they may never even jump a puddle.

That’s ok.

I decided I will do my best to always cross the ocean.

It may be an ocean of unforgiveness.

It may be an ocean of pain and regret.

It may be an ocean of low self worth.

It may be an ocean of selfishness.

It may be an ocean of loneliness.

Why will I cross it?

Because of love.

Because of a perfect love that crossed a great divide for me and for you.

Because of love that promises to never fail. Even when we do.

Because of the love I saw last night in a little white country church that sat on top of a hill.

“Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres. Love never fails.”
1 Corinthians 13:7-8

Beautiful America

Beautiful America

A few days ago, while at the grocery store, these 3 little firecrackers broke out in a random full version of the Pledge Of Allegiance.
They were loud.
Unashamed.
Beautifully unaware of the pride in their voices and their posture. But it was there.

Today I am thankful for our America. The one my sweet girls call home.
The America that gives them the freedom to sing out loud in public.
The freedom to read their Bible in the morning with a biscuit.
The freedom to jump up at the crack of dawn on Sunday’s, put on their best dress and ask every 10 minutes if it’s time to go to church.
The freedom to disagree. The freedom to lock arms on a bridge in solidarity to silently say we love you.
The freedom to stand tall against injustice.
The freedom to say bedtime prayers.
Thankful that God is still blessing America.
Sometimes when the news is dreary and hearts are worried, all it takes is to look into the eyes of little ones belting out the pledge to see how beautiful America still is. image

Change

DSC00780Today, one of my littles walked in the house and I saw it. Her eyes. They spoke words her lips would not form.

I have seen that look before…in a strangers eyes, a new co-workers eyes, and even my own as the mirror dared just a passing glance.

Change. A simple word with so many complexities.

It is often wrapped in beautiful papers, words have been scripted on the finest parchment, and the bow has been meticulously looped and tied with care. But with the precious gift of change there are usually moments, days and for some…. long seasons of wistfulness and reflection.

I called it a gift because of my own frame of reference. I will be the first to proclaim that I do NOT covet change! Quite the contrary. J There is true comfort in using the same coffee cup each day, sitting in the same chair, with the same blanket, and quietly contemplating life, reading the words of the One who loves me and triple checking my calendar. Yet, I have found the gift of change has brought new friendships, strengthened old ones, stretched me out of my comfort zone, and opened unexpected doors.

Back to my little munchkin. You see, we moved to a new house this past week. The kiddos were part of the house hunting process all along and they were so excited and filled with anticipation. The first couple of nights they stayed up way too late. Full of giggles and silliness. They adore their new rooms, love riding bikes in the cul-de-sac and have thoroughly enjoyed playing with some of their classmates and new friends in the neighborhood. We have met many of our neighbors and have felt welcomed.

Yet tonight, she missed the familiar. The back yard gate she knew she could walk through at any time, the little friend who was always ready to play, the boundaries she had been used to, the friend who is like a big sister, the lights and sounds of the house she has known since a toddler.

I saw the look. We talked. We laughed. We hugged. I reassured her that those things were not lost, just different.

She took a deep breath and jumped up to play some more. What teachers these sweet girls are to me.

I sat in the dark quiet of my new living room for a long time after they were all sound asleep. I wondered about all of the many people who, even tonight…. saw the look in a mirror as they walked by. I pray that they know that what they had is not lost. It may be different, but not lost.

I made myself go buy a few coffee cups at a second hand store the other day. The one I happen to be using now has this scripture on it. “The God of hope fill you with all joy and peace”. Romans 15:13

Change. There will be good days and not so good days but God can and WILL fill you with all joy and peace. And one day very soon…the new of today with be the comfort and familiar of yesterday.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

A Beautiful Crimson

Yesterday I found myself at the ER again because I hadn’t been able to eat or drink since Sunday, and I had these 2 pesky bruises around my eyes that was concerning me.
The staff was so kind and said their job that day was to get me feeling better and on my way.

The doctor was one of the nicest I have met in a long time. He interrupted me towards the end of my chief complaint to….get this….validate what I was saying and then took time to explain.

The dehydration I knew about. I needed IV fluids. Like yesterday.
Then he started to explain about the eye bruising. First of all, it’s common with a head injury. He even had a fancy name for it. Whew. I wasn’t leaking brain fluid into my eyelids as I had thought!

He went on to say that some of my symptoms of headache/nausea may last just a few more days or several weeks. Then he said this…which has stuck with me. “Blood inside the vessel is a beautiful thing, but when even a drop gets outside the vessel it becomes an irritant”.

That is so true!!! Except at Calvary. The blood became even more beautiful outside of “the vessel”. It looked at the ugliness of sin, sickness, disease, hatred, evil and then it covered all of that in pure beautiful crimson.

I didn’t deserve it. He gave his life for me because He loved me. You may not feel like you deserve it, but guess what….He loves YOU so much. You may think your life is an ugly mess. He sees beautiful…..
John 3:16

Nothing But Blue Skies

This is from a Caring Bridge update that I did in September after our family had returned from a retreat for families facing pediatric cancer. I happen to be wearing my Blue Skies t-shirt today and was just thinking again what an awesome ministry it is. If you have the opprtunity to do something like this, I encourage you to do so! You will be blessed as a volunteer, and if you are a guest as we were, you will be cared for beyond your belief!

Last night we got home from a 4 day retreat for families facing pediatric cancer. I knew it sounded good when I first read about it, but I had no idea that “good” wouldn’t even begin to describe it! 🙂
As most of you know, we have had a lot of changes in the past few years. We became pastors of a church 5 years ago, I quit my profession of 22 years 3 years ago, and a few months later, we became parents for the first time through foster care. A year ago this month, adoptions were final on our 3 baby girls, and 2 months later began the journey we are now on with Charlie’s LCH. 

Charlie just completed 13 weeks of chemo and we were given the ok to go to maintenance which is chemo every 3 weeks, with a daily chemo pill added. About this same time, we made the decision to resign from our church.  Transitions are usually bittersweet, as is this one. 🙂

Needless to say, we have a lot of major life changes going on! So, when we pulled in to the resort Thursday night, we were hoping for a few days of a change of scenery, maybe meet some new people, and let our girls just have fun. We did not expect to be greeted by a sweet teenager with a smile, whose first words to us were “Are you the McCoy’s? YAY, the McCoy’s are here!” I thought I recognized her, and then realized it was from a video in which she had talked about how much Blue Skies had meant to their family as her 3 year old sister fights cancer.  She was at this retreat as a volunteer. That was my first clue as to the heart behind this ministry.

We were soon introduced to our host family. I didn’t even know we would have a host family! 🙂 Jennifer and her precious daughter Waverly showed us to our beautiful “room”.  It reminded me of a penthouse apartment. There were several people that just appeared from everywhere, helping to unload the van, get us settled, blow up mattresses, give us welcome gifts, hand us a gift card to Piggly Wiggly for breakfast food, offer to go the store for us, etc. I was told that our laundry would be done each day, and they would clean up for us. Ok, so I was getting a little choked up by now.  Ummm…wow.

The next morning, we made our way down to the beach for morning devotions that had already started. I saw another familiar face, a smile, and a wave, as Dixie motioned for us to sit on her blanket.  Dixie is mom to precious Bayleigh, who is still in treatment. Dixie was at this retreat to serve. Wow again, and more tears. There were already people getting up to go run after the girls so we could sit and just breath. Listen. Breath. Relax. Bask in the peacefulness of the sound of the ocean, God’s word, and His presence.

After that, a bunch of other kind souls took our girls for the rest of the morning, to play in the pool and playground while we went to our first Kindred Journeys. What a perfect name for this group. While the 11 other families there all have different stories from each other, we all have a common bond of facing childhood cancer or life threatening illness. We heard the painful stories of diagnosis, the shock, the loneliness, the treatments, the chemo, the isolation, the relapse, the weariness, the faith, the loss of faith, the fight, the resilience, and most of all the perspective of what is really important in life.

We shared stories, our hearts, and tears, and were led by Pastor Brad and his wife Amanda who also had been in the seat that we all sat in that morning. By the time our session was over, and it was time to head to lunch, I had already begun to relax. Jennifer had told me that while we went to lunch , she would bring our girls up to the room and put them down for a nap. Ok, now I am thinking….. how I can get her to come home with us???!!

After a wonderful seafood lunch waterfront, we made our way back to walk into a clean condo, humming from the dryer, and our babies all asleep on the bed. We were told on the way back that our host family is known as “The Baby Whisperers”. Indeed!! 🙂

We ended the day with steak dinners by the pool, games, and chocolate shakes, and thoughtful little gifts and notes left in our room for the girls, by our host family. Sigh….. 🙂

The next 2 days were just as amazing. We felt like we were and instant family with the other guests and volunteers.

We learned that it’s ok to cry in front of 20 other adults. It’s ok to say what we really want to say but have been storing away in our heart…some for months, some for years. It’s ok to let our kids run wild in the rain.

We learned that “God has your back, even when you don’t feel Him.” We learned that one of the most beautiful things is when a girl who has lost her sight to a brain tumor stands and dances without abandon to the crowd singing “I’ll Fly Away”. 

We learned to not say goodbye, but instead “see you later”. To all those who made it possible for our family to be on the receiving end of this retreat, we cannot thank you enough. Charlie is doing great, and her, Dakota and Addison had a ball! Our hearts are so full.  You were the hands and feet of Jesus. To our new friends, moms, dads, sisters, brothers, on this journey with us, you are in our thoughts and prayers!

To all of the brave kids that are still in this fight, you are our heroes. We loved laughing with you, hugging you, walking on the beach and getting to know you. You are loved by so many people. Nothin’ but blue skies from now on, sweet ones……:-)

Comments in the Aisles of Target, Wal-Mart and other establishments with 3 seated carts!

Have you ever had one of those days where you have so much to do, that you don’t know where to begin? For some, that can result in a spontaneous shopping trip, or worse, just staring at the TV in a zombie like state, with one hand in a bag of Doritos and another in the Oreo’s bag.

That’s kind of how my brain feels right now! 🙂 It seems there are a lot of heavy, serious, life-issue things that are weighing on it now, and I am too tired to think.  So… I am going to grab a cupcake, a cup of coffee, and share with you all about some recent events that just make me laugh.

Since we first got our girls, let me just say that something as simple as going to the store has completely changed for me! I used to go to Target, get my Iced Coffee, and stroll through, browsing, with occasional eye contact, but rarely any conversation.  Ok, now my trip to the store, is first of all, making sure the store has a 3 -seater cart. Park close to the cart return. Find six shoes, socks a hair bow or two, put them back on my little angels, load them up in my monster cart, and off we go.

Walking through the doors, and bam, we are usually approached within the first 20 seconds. Well, partly it’s because Dakota is waving “Hi Morning!!”, or Charlie is yelling “Hi”, or Addison is just doing the Miss America wave at everyone! Who taught them this? Don’t they know their mama is quiet by nature, a bit of a loner?? Girls, shhhhhhhh…..

No, I really don’t say that. I smile and answer all the questions that big people give to little people but really intending for big people to answer! You know the kind. (Looking at Charlie Grace)…”Well, hi there, cutie. What’s your name? How old are you?”  And so…I answer and thus begins one of my many conversations while at my local superstore.

As you can probably imagine, these simple little interactions have led to some interesting questions, and paths of conversation.  I decided to put together a few of real, honest to goodness comments that I have heard. Hope you enjoy….

Disclaimer: If anyone sincerely asks me questions regarding adoption, fostering, infertility, etc…I am more than happy to talk about it. I love it, actually! These are just some highlights that have made me chuckle. 🙂

Comments in the Aisles of Target, Wal-Mart and other establishments with 3 seated carts!

(comments in italics are what I would have liked to say…..) 🙂

  1. “They are so cute! Do you have any children of your own?” No, I don’t have any biological children. (Ummm, you are looking at them! I bathed them, changed their diapers, I feed them 3 meals a day, stay up all night when they are sick, they call us mommy and daddy, and from the looks of our bank account, they are ours!!)
  2. “That one (referring to Addison) looks like she could be yours!” oh yeah….. (REALLY???? You think so???? Most people say that the other 2 do. You should have seen my baby pictures…spitting image of Dakota!!!)
  3. “Wowwww….they are all 7 months apart? You have your hands full. (pause) So, did you plan to have them so close together? Oh no, they are all adopted! (Yes, it was very careful planning. We mangaged to do 3 back to back pregnancies in which we coordinated for each baby to be born at 30 weeks.  Don’t I look great!!!??????)
  4. “Ohhhhh, they are adopted. So, were you and your husband unable to have children?” yes, but we always wanted to foster and adopt. (Are you, a perfect stranger asking my about infertility issues as I am standing here in the produce section of Wal-Mart??? And NO, we were not unable to have children, since we have 3 that are presently trying to climb out of this cart as we speak.)
  5. “Oh, they are adorable! Are they triplets?” Silence on my part, along with a stare…then noooo. (I have no alternative as to what I would have said as this one still leaves me baffled!)
  6. My favorite was when my friend had my oldest girl Dakota at Wal-Mart with her one day. A lady stops her and asks the usual about Dakota, and then says “So, is your husband black? My friend replied with a quick-wit that I wish I had “NO!! He’s white! We are still in shock!”

Hope you all have a wonderful day, and if you see a frazzled Swedish, German, Irish, French, American Indian girl with a northern accent and 3 of the most beautiful children on God’s green earth all together at your nearest Target or Walmart, come on over and say hello!!

The Tuesday I Will Never Forget

“I expect to pass through this world but once. Any good thing therefore that I can do, or any kindness that I can show to any fellow creature, let me do it now, for I shall not pass this way again.”  Etienne De Grellett 

It was about 9:50 AM on a beautiful clear September morning. We had just passed through 10,000 feet and I was getting comfortably settled in with my book and anticipating my first cup of coffee. We had a bit of a delay in leaving Washington Dulles Airport that morning, but all was fine now and we were on our way. 

 It was then that the Captain’s somber voice came over the intercom. He told us that there had been a hijacking of two commercial airliners and they had hit the World Trade Center. All of the airports were being shut down and we would possibly be re-routed to land. My heart was pounding from the news and my mind was trying to figure it out. I looked out of my window and saw the usual patterns of fields, the roads, the houses, the cars, the lakes, and I cried for the lives that I knew had just ended all too soon.

I began to pray for families and friends of all of the people in the buildings, on the ground, and that had been in the planes. I looked across the aisle, and saw a business man in his polished shoes and tailored suit with his hands folded in prayer. We locked eyes a couple of times, but no words were necessary. Our lives would be changed forever. 

 I thought for just a moment about the flight I was on, and if we would be ok. I was sitting in the first row, and took a quick glance over my shoulder, and just saw a lot of people crying softly or praying or staring into space. I closed my eyes and leaned my head against the window, and asked God for peace.

 As if in a dream, I heard the prayers of family and friends who knew I had been flying today. I experienced for the first time, true genuine peace. It broke my heart to think of the many people that would be dealing with grief and pain in a way that they never would have imagined in their lifetime. 

We landed safely at our original destination, and as I made my way to the car rental counter, I realized what this meant to all of us that were still here. We need to really see each other when we pass along the way. We need to look the other person in the eye and give them a smile. We need to say a prayer when we sense someone is going through a bad time. We need to be a light when darkness seems to want to overtake our world. 

All at once, what was once so important now seemed trivial and meaningless. What truly mattered was making a difference in the life of whoever I ran into that day and in the days, weeks, and months to come.

The next week, as I boarded a plane to Chicago, I handed a card to the crew just thanking them for all that they do for us business travelers and that they were in my thoughts and prayers.

Little did I know that this crew had just come from a memorial service for their colleagues that morning. Many of the flight attendants came to my row in tears and said that was just what they needed for this day. The pilot then read the words of the card to all of the passengers. 

I was again comforted knowing that although we were all still scared and hurting, a simple gesture, a few words in a greeting card, a smile, a whispered prayer still had the power to wrap our hearts in blankets of peace and strength.

The human spirit could be wounded, but we would fly on wings of healing.

We are brave. We are compassionate. We are strength.