The song of angry men

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Do you hear the people sing
Singing the song of angry men
It is the music of a people
Who will not be slaves again

When the beating of your heart
Echoes the beating of the drums
There is a life about to start
When tomorrow comes

Anger makes me nervous. The power we hold in our angry hands is very often underrated. It can fuel us to make big moves, creating waves of actions and reactions that can ripple through our lives for years. We’ve seen angry people kill, steal, and destroy. Yesterday, we saw the effects of anger as bombs ripped through groups of people gathered together to celebrate the incredible accomplishments of the Boston Marathon athletes.

But history tells us that angry people can also do some good. Because no matter if it was one person or a thousand people that orchestrated yesterday’s horror, what I saw in response to the terrorists was people all over the world pouring out love. We felt anger first, no doubt. I read articles and facebook posts and scrolled through the pictures on Instagram that all told the story of a people angry at what was happening. We shook our fists in the air at the turmoil that we can’t even begin to understand. Why would someone do something so awful? What is wrong with our world? How is this happening…AGAIN?!?!

But then the anger of the people did something magical, spiritual even. Our anger and outrage at the events in Boston became a fuel for us and we realized that someone, somewhere had lit a match and we are at once ignited with love and support. So we started to lower our shaking fists and extend our hands to the person standing beside us. We embraced each other. We offered words of hope and comfort. We stepped forward in love. Love for those that are hurting. Love for people we do not know. Love for a city that woke up in hope and went to sleep in fear.

However you are choosing to show love in the wake of yesterday’s events, let it continue. Let the anger you felt at this horror continue to fuel the love you extend as a way to say I’m here, Boston. I’m here, World.

One of the saddest things that will happen in the coming weeks is that we will forget. We will forget the feeling we had watching the news yesterday. We will go about our lives and the anger will dissipate. I beg and pray that the love will not. That someway, somehow, we can see the stranger standing beside us as a person and offer a smile. A person worthy of love and grace. A person that was once a child celebrating something happy and spectacular and at some point his world view changed because someone got angry. At some point we’ve all experienced the realization that bad things happen. But here’s the thing, when bad things happen, there are good people nearby. Always. Look for the good people. Be the good people.

“When I was a boy and I would see scary things in the news, my mother would say to me, ‘Look for the helpers. You will always find people who are helping’.” ~ Fred Rogers

So get angry. Shake your fist in the air and scream. And then let that anger be the fuel for love. A love that stands strong and brave and collectively shines brighter than any harm that could ever come our way.

Will you join in our crusade
Who will be strong and stand with me
Beyond the barricade
Is there a world you long to see

Then join in the fight
That will give you the right to be free

Do you hear the people sing
Singing the song of angry men
It is the music of a people
Who will not be slaves again

When the beating of your heart
Echoes the beating of the drums
There is a life about to start
When tomorrow comes

Song credit: Les Miserables – “The Song of Angry Men”

Forgiving Lance

Forgiveness is a funny thing. We all need it, no question about that. But sometimes it’s pretty hard to get, and often even harder to give. I walked into Vaughn’s room today to find the contents from his dresser drawers on the floor of his room. Every drawer was empty. And I knew if I told him to put all his clothes back in the dresser, he’d never get it right and we’d end up with t-shirts in the shorts drawer, pajamas in the sock drawer and the underwear would probably end up on the fan. So I sat down on the floor, made a bunch of unnecessary huffing noises and muttered on about why can’t I have that one 4 year old that beats the odds and acts like an adult while Vaughn, very wisely, stood just out of arms reach explaining that he was trying to find his Scooby dooby doo pajamas. Which, by the way, were sitting on his bed. The whole time.

So, I spent the next twenty minutes refolding his clothes and putting them all back in the drawers from whence they came. When I was done I went in to Ellie’s room to find her being instructed by Vaughn on how to make her Minnie and Mickey dance together. “He takes her by the hand and twirls her like this. They dance for a while, then she says, ‘Why thank you, kind sir’. Then he leaves her and they go home to their mommies”. Instant forgiveness. What pile of clothes? He’s going to leave his Minnie and come home to his mommy! Wanna go empty your dresser drawers again? I’ll help!

I wish forgiving people was always that easy. I’ve had times in my life when I needed big-time forgiveness from people. I’ve done some pretty stupid and reckless things without thought of consequence and then expected forgiveness to flow as easily as my actions had. Of course, there have been times when forgiveness was withheld, grace denied. But I’m thankful those times have been few. For the most part, I’ve felt the love of a forgiving heart and know all too well the power of a grace-filled touch. Yet, when I’m the one that was hurt, I have, at times, found myself questioning whether the one that wronged me is worthy of forgiveness. I’ve been the one denying grace and in the process have denied myself relief from anger and bitterness, somehow convincing myself that I was proving a point and giving them what they deserve by hanging on to the hurt, the resentment, the betrayal. Which, obviously, didn’t help me. It didn’t help the person that did me wrong. And, it certainly didn’t fix the situation.

There’s been a lot of anger floating around the media this week at Lance Armstrong. We all know by now that he finally came clean to years of performance-enhancing drug use, which fuelled him to victory seven times in a row in the Tour de France. And, not only did he cheat himself to these wins, he bullied others on his team into doing the same and fought hard, nasty battles against anyone that dared tell the truth about his drug use. His years-long, arrogant fight to maintain his “clean” stance ended up shattering lives, ruining reputations, betraying his family and friends, and cost him his stake in the Livestrong foundation he created and held as dear to his heart as he did his own children. He’s finally come out with the truth, and has taken the first steps on a very long journey of reconciliation.

There are great, heavy consequences coming his way. He likely will not make peace with many of the people he hurt. The US Anti-Doping Agency has banned him for life from all elite competitions, which means he can’t even run in a 5k race if it is a sanctioned sporting event, a big blow for a sportsman like Lance Armstrong. He’ll never carry a multi-million dollar endorsement deal again, and anything noteworthy that he does from here on out will be questioned by everyone around him, including his family. The guy has fallen and he’s fallen hard. But I can’t wrap my head around why he shouldn’t be worthy of the same forgiveness and grace that the rest of us receive daily. What he did was wrong on so many levels and there is no doubt in anyone’s mind that he failed a lot of people in big ways. But, he has stepped forward and admitted with great candor and openness what he did, why he did it, how he is working to better himself, and has said that he is sorry. Who are we to judge what he is sorry for? Sorry he got caught? Of course, aren’t we all sorry we got caught when we are found to have done something wrong? Sorry he cheated, lied, betrayed, bullied? I truly hope that he is. However, it’s not up to me to judge that. What is up to me is to be a giver of grace. Easy to say about a guy that I have no personal connection to, and whose actions never affected me directly. But this whole debacle has brought me to a moment of pause and reflection for forgiveness in my own life. The times I’ve needed it and the times I’ve needed to give it. And it’s helped me to realize that I withhold it far too often. I speak of forgiveness and grace like both flow freely to whomever crosses me but the truth is I can hold a grudge with the best of them if the mood strikes.

I wish we could all let it go. Throw a little grace in the ring to Lance and leave him alone. He’s got a ton of heavy stuff to deal with. Believe me, a little grace from the world isn’t going to make his life full of sunshine and rainbows but maybe, just maybe, it will help the dawn to begin to break for him and his family. Maybe if he didn’t have to read all these articles filled with disgust and retribution and how he “needs to pay” and “deserves every ounce of hard times coming his way” he’d be able to see the punishments that have been handed out (we do remember that he has already been punished, right?) as opportunities to better himself. And maybe if his children didn’t have to read all the nasty comments and hate-filled posts flying around the magazines and internet they could focus on a father that is taking steps to measure up to the man they deserve him to be.

Every action we take has a consequence. Some of these consequences are rewarding, while others are punishing. All are a result of what we’ve done; they are not a reflection of who we are. Lance Armstrong has made many mistakes in his life, as have I. And as a result of my mistakes, I have had many opportunities to show the people around me that what I did is not who I am and I am choosing to offer that same opportunity to him. Grace. Forgiveness. It’s not only what we need to receive; it’s, more importantly, what we need to give.

Take Joy this Christmas

We are so close to Christmas now and it’s always this time, just days before Christmas day, that I start to feel like I just want it to be over with. And I can’t find the energy to go to the store to pick up the missing ingredients so I scratch that dish completely and make something else to take to dinner. Will anyone care that I’m bringing scalloped sweet potatoes instead of potatoes au gratin with white potatoes? Will they think I’ve done something fancy and love it? Or will they see right through me and know I’ve taken the easy route? And why do I let stress take over just days before this wonderful celebration and allow “easy routes” to appear on this map to the manger?

I love this season of giving so much that I had the house decorated and Christmas music playing days before Thanksgiving. And yet here I am. Too much time spent on work instead of family. Too much energy spent on the list instead of the recipient. Too much focus spent on the one day on the 25th of this month to just get through instead of the rest our days, this current one included, as the true gift given to embrace.

Too much spent. Period. That sums me up. But I found this poem today and it couldn’t have come at a better time to remind us all that whatever we need this Christmas, we already have it.

As the inevitable stress creeps in in these last days before Christmas, and we find ourselves looking forward to it just being over, my wish is that we can take a step back, take a deep breath in, and take hold of the joy that lies waiting, within our reach. Merry Christmas.

Take Joy

There is nothing I can give you which you have not;
but there is much,
that, while I cannot give,
you can take.

No heaven can come to us unless our hearts find rest in it today.
Take Heaven.

No peace lies in the future which is not hidden in this present instant.
Take Peace.

The gloom of the world is but a shadow; behind it, yet, within our reach,
is joy.
Take Joy.

And so, at this Christmas time, I greet you, with the prayer that for you,
now and forever,
the day breaks
and
the shadows flee away.

-Fra Gio

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Meet Them Where They Are

Newtown

As the first of twenty-six funerals commence today in Newtown, I am giving myself a visual reminder for every minute of this day to keep my heart pointed in their direction. I am hoping with everything inside of me that in some unfathomable way, those precious families are feeling the hands of love, peace, comfort, hope that are being extended to them from around the world.

There are times in life when God is needed near but there is no part of us that wants to look for Him. There is no light in our darkness. All joy, all hope, all feeling has been sucked right out of us and if we are to feel any part of God’s goodness it’s because He has gone searching through our forest of grief to find us.

I will not pretend to know one ounce of what the Sandy Hook families are feeling in the days following their unimaginable horror. I have begun to pray a thousand prayers since Friday morning and each one has stopped short in my throat. God, give them peace. How in this heart-wrenching hell can any mother, father, sister, brother feel peace? God, be their comfort. How does one even think of comfort in the middle of mind-blowing pain? It goes on. Asks of God and every time I start I stop because I have no idea what these families need or want from God. Some may have lost all belief in Him last Friday. Some may have lost belief in Him a long time ago. Some may have never believed at all. And others may be trying to hold on to some thread of belief but the agony of what is in front of them makes stepping towards Him too difficult, impossible even.

And so I stopped asking God to be something for them. I stopped petitioning Him to deliver, to restore, to renew. And I’m simply asking God to find them. Wherever they are, whatever they are feeling, whenever they are ready, just meet them where they are.

Those that just 4 days ago were living in the thickness of joy and dreams and laughter and normal life are now living in the margins, so close to the edge, at any moment waiting for the slightest of winds to blow them right off the cliff. Meet them where they are. That jagged cliff is her home in this moment. Meet her there.

As they clench their fists and scream.

As they sit in silence and remember.

As they accept an embrace.

As they turn away.

As they comfort a sibling.

As they inhale every piece of clothing in their lost baby’s room.

As they memorialize through stories.

As they take a step forward.

As they begin to feel again.

As they allow joy in.

As they throw it all back and get lost in the grief once more.

As they

As they

As they

Meet them there. And I have no asks of you other than that. Because you, God, in all of your great glory have known the agonizing pain of losing a son. You, God, share the pain that these families now carry. And only you can know what they need. As you welcomed their children home, you also took a step forward to where these families would need you to find them. And so, as I sit here helpless, wanting to do something, say something, pray something, I have only one ask able to spring forth. Meet them where they are, sweet Jesus.

I have an Aunt

I have an Aunt Ellen that sends me a card every holiday. All the big ones—Christmas, birthdays, Easter—and the little ones, too—Halloween, 4th of July, anniversaries, and all those in between. She is 90 years old and still takes time to send us love. Her notes are personal and her love is endless. She is a Great Aunt, my grandmother’s twin sister, and she deserves every bit of that capitol “G”. When I visit, there is a fresh Texas Sheet Cake waiting for me and I cook often with a cast iron skillet that she gave me recently. The skillet is over 100 years old and seasoned to perfection. She received it as a wedding gift from her mother. I love to think of all the meals that were prepared for her family throughout these 100 plus years as I use it to prepare meals for my family now. What an honor to have it in my hands and to have her in my life. She makes me so proud to say, “I have an Aunt,” in Ellen Marie Randall.

I have another Aunt Ellen—my mother’s sister—who has a heart filled with so much grace for those around her, I wonder sometimes if she remembers to keep some grace in reserve for herself. I hope she does. We all need a little grace-for-self in reserve. My Aunt makes me feel special in only the way an Aunt can. She is an amazing artist and has allowed me to hold one of her paintings hostage on a wall in my home. I mentioned that I loved it and it showed up in a package on my doorstep a week later. I didn’t intend for her to send it to me but that’s what she does. She sends out love, and it comes in many forms. I wrote a post about hanging on and letting go in October and mentioned Fall leaves in that post. I had a box of her Virginia, Fall-colored leaves on my table that week. She gets me and I love being able to call her Aunt and Friend. I’m eternally grateful that because of Ellen Diane Taylor, I can say, “I have an Aunt.”

My father’s sister, my Aunt Betty Jo, lives in Ohio and I haven’t seen her in at least 20 years. But as a child, she was one of my favorite people in the world. When we visited my dad’s family in West Virginia, I always wanted to stay with Aunt Betty Jo across the river in Ohio. She lived in a tiny house and raised dogs. I can’t tell you what kind of dogs, I just remember that as a young child I would walk beside this woman that could throw a 40-pound bag of dog food over her shoulder like it was full of feathers and watch with joy as she let me get dirty right alongside of her cleaning the dog cages and holding the new puppies. They also raised Emu’s and my uncle was small enough to be able to ride these big birds. My cousin and I would laugh and laugh, telling each other stories of him being on the Swiss Family Robinson beach racing these birds for fun. My Aunt Betty Jo taught me that being a woman didn’t mean being weak. Mother used to tell me I looked like my Aunt Betty Jo and that gave me pride. She was one of the first truly funny ladies I can remember being around and she makes the world’s best chocolate gravy. A little bit for the gravy, but a whole lot for the strong, funny lady she is, I love being able to say, “I have an Aunt,” in Betty Jo Goss.

I have an Aunt Monty that feels like a kindred spirit. Her house has always been warm and welcoming. She is a country lady in every sense of the word and I love her for every bit of country she has exposed me to. Food is meant to be fried and milk is meant to be chocolate. I have many childhood memories of the woods around their house. We spent a lot of time there when it was safe for kids to roam the woods until mom whistled us home. Aunt Monty has an infectious laugh and a compassionate heart. She is sister-in-law to my mother but they share a friendship that really takes the in-law out of the equation. Monty Ellis is beloved in my family and it’s a privilege to see her and say, “I have an Aunt.”

My Aunt Sunday is one of the sweetest women I know. I’ve never heard her raise her voice, though I’m sure one of her four daughters just might be able to say that they have once or twice. She has shown me that patience and love aren’t always easy to maintain firm grips on but when you turn around and look back at the journey you’ve made, you’ll be so glad for the determination you had to just hang on. She’s raised four girls that share a bond only sisters can understand. She married my mother’s brother, so she’s technically an Aunt by marriage but God brought her into our family and there she will always remain. I’m thankful that in Sunday Graham I can say, “I have an Aunt.”

These women in my life that I am blessed to call my Aunts have left permanent marks upon my life. They’ve been the source of wide-eyed wonder as a child, taught me and my sister what the laughter of women can really do for the soul, and have shown me how an awkward girl can grow into a graceful lady. Each one has given me a picture of the kind of Aunt I want to be. I’ve never taken the time to give them these words of how they’ve touched my soul, but I want them all to know that they have each played a part in making me the woman I am today. A woman I hope makes them proud to say, “I have a niece.”

Changed for Good

I hate rejection. I hate how pitiful I feel when I’ve been snubbed, forgotten, pushed aside. I hate how all I want to do is tell the person who wronged me all the ways in which they did so. But no amount of eloquence makes the words sound any less desperate to be wanted than the heartbroken lover on her knees begging to be taken back.

The sight of a beggar makes me cringe. Someone hanging on the edge of misery and desperation, the ledge their fingers grip requiring them to let go of all pride in order to hang on to what once was. What they so desperately want to be once more.

And yet, I’ve found myself there. Here.

I’ve been the girl once included in the game only to be left looking on from the sidelines.

I sat in on the secrets, the planning, the excitement, and then had to watch it all play out from afar.

I walked with them, talked with them, rejoiced with them, and in the end had to hear about them through the broken lines of a telephone game.

The love, the friendship, the togetherness we shared is now but a fleeting memory of what once was.

And now, as I allow the freshness of hurt to seep out from its dark, hidden place and let it be seen in the light by someone other than myself I feel the desperation clinging to me yet again.

Why must honesty about hurt and pain come across as desperate and pitiful? As if the person standing beside me has never felt the disillusionment of a relationship ended, a heart betrayed.

Why must we continue silently through the sting of rejection and disappointment as if we never really cared at all? As if the shrug of the shoulders is enough to shake off the heavy hurt that weighs us down.

The truth is I did care.

The truth is I did give it my all.

The truth is I did get hurt in the end.

But the bigger truth is this: that love? that passion? that person that caused the hurt? It was never all for nothing unless I allow it to be so. Pain needs our permission to cripple us.

The cut may have been deep enough to leave a scar but that scar represents healing and doesn’t that permanent mark upon the skin also tell of its even bigger mark upon the soul?

I’m choosing to learn the lesson set before me from the pain that is behind me. I’ve learned the true meaning of Grace and Kindness, both capitalized here because they should be capital actions in our lives. I’ve learned to see the good, especially when seeing it requires so much searching for it.

When it is oh so easy to see the bad and distasteful, I’ve learned to taste and see that the Lord is good.

He has given me a taste of His love and compassion and I’m left with the wonder of how I ever lived beside people without really seeing them. Not for how I could make them better but for how He has already made them best.

And so, in the end, there is no other choice for me but to be thankful for the hurt, for the pain. It’s the shaking of the fault lines in my heart that becomes the quaking of my soul. Shaking me awake to that which brings breath to my lungs and blood to my veins. To that which brings me life.

As i move on from situations of hurt and pain, I take the lessons in love that I’ve been gifted, for they are great and they are many, and I continue on, letting go of the bad that has changed me for good.

The Hanging On

Summer is still hanging on in Florida. Knuckles white with the grip, nails deep in the flesh as she longs to hold us in her heat for a little bit longer. You can feel Summer’s grip loosening each morning and evening as a cool breeze teases us, but then disappears in mid-day when her hands of heat tighten once more.

We never really get a season of Fall the way our neighbors to the north do. Our days will simply become bearable over the next few weeks when we will finally be able to say goodbye to the Summer heat, but the real beauty that comes with Fall in the north is all but missed in our Pine tree-filled neck of the woods. And all this hanging on of Summer reminds me of the hanging on I do every day. To the good and the bad, I hang on for dear life.

I’m hanging on to grace when I fail, in constant need for continued forgiveness.

Hanging on to compassion when I’m face to face with someone that needs it.

Hanging on to grief when I know I should let go and move on but somehow the pain of what was lost is more pleasurable in this moment than the joy promised in the morning.

Hanging on to a child’s laughter when all I want to give in to is anger.

Hanging on to a promise forgotten, a friendship ended, a love lost, all because I  just can’t. let. go.

Hanging on with desperation to my husband’s love and trying to let go of the time when we weren’t so loving.

Hanging on to hurt and pain because I have no grace in me for the person that wronged me like she did.

Hanging on to dance parties in the kitchen and hide-and-seek in the park.

Hanging on to memories of a brother loved, a grandfather treasured, a friend cherished, all taken from this world and now living in the next.

Hanging on to the words of beauty given to me by my mother and hoping with all hope that I can impart beauty and self-worth to my own children.

Hanging on to the women I count as sisters, finding solace in the love of an unconditional friend.

We hang on to so much. And we find that some things are worth every effort that the hanging on requires. Yet others are begging to be let go and the more we fight to hang on (to the pain, the hurt, the grief), the more we are robbed of the comfort, joy and peace that could be in their place if we would only let it go.

But the letting go is much harder than the hanging on. Like Summer’s heat letting go of our days and giving way to cooler weather, it seems we hang on far too long to that which does nothing more than burn blisters on our fairing skin. To all that keeps us sweating, miserable, and begging for relief. And yet we tighten our grip and hang on for dear life.

Like it’s the letting go that will kill us when it’s actually the only thing that can save us.

I’m finally feeling a turn in our weather and can tell that Summer is getting ready to wave her flag and release her grip. And so am I. This girl, who tends to hold on a little too long to hurt and confusion, who has allowed her hands to callous and blister under the pressure that the hanging brings, is going to follow Summer’s suit and let go.

If only I had a pile of beautiful Fall-colored leaves to break my fall…

When “Jesus Rules!” turns into a list of Jesus rules

I grew up one of those kids that could buy into any hype. I’m still that way, actually. Don’t even come near me with your MonaVie, Pampered Chef, or Thirty-One sales pitch. I’ve bought into all of that, only to fizzle out and be left with the rules of how to keep the pyramid growing. And that’s a little how my spiritual life was as an impressionable teen.

As soon as I turned twelve and could count myself an official member of the church youth group I wanted to be at every event. Whether it was a party or a church service, I was there. Jesus freak and jean skirts. DC Talk and Carman. Loud and proud. Count me in. And then when I was 15 I went on my first out of town church trip to a national youth conference. There were over 10,000 like-minded young people in attendance and I was in awe. In awe of the common Jesus-thread that ran among us. In awe of the way I was able to walk through throngs of young people and feel like we were one in our love for God. In awe of the worship that poured out of these 10,000 plus souls packed in to that arena.

On our first day in Little Rock, walking from our hotel to the arena, I was admiring two girls walking ahead of us. Dressed to the nines. Hair curled to perfection. Teeth gleaming as they laughed. I didn’t know them but I envied them. They were beautiful. And as we walked, one of the girls in my group, one that was in a position of leadership over us, began dissecting all of the ways these girls I was admiring were wrong. Anything she could see—one girl’s skirt was too short, the other’s was too tight, they both had on too much makeup, and the list went on of all the “rules” these girls were breaking. Jesus rules. How had I missed this? I knew there were things we did and didn’t do as Christians, but I was now seeing that if I ever went against the grain, there were people waiting by the sidelines to tear me down. It wasn’t long after returning from this trip that my awe of worship turned into a fear of judgement.

Everything I once saw as Biblical principles to follow had, in my mind, become a list of rules to be enforced and I started to push back. I spent the next several years pushing against the church flow. I wanted answers to my questions of why we did this and didn’t do that. And it was pretty rare that a question was met with a scriptural answer to back it up. I’m not saying scripture wasn’t there to reinforce the rule in some way, but the explanations given were more often than not based on man’s instruction rather than God’s. The focus seemed to be on the rule, not the guiding principle behind it. Instead of getting answers, I heard more rules, experienced more judgement, and, ultimately, fostered more resentment. My “Jesus Rules!” attitude changed drastically when I saw all the Jesus rules I had to follow in order to somehow earn my place in the Kingdom.

It took a long time to reconcile my genuine love for God with the Biblical principles (they are no longer “rules” for me) He has given us for living this life. It took years to be able to separate the people that judged me from the people that loved me. And it is still an ongoing challenge not to care what the “judgers” are saying. But the fact of the matter is that God’s word does have principles for us to live by as Christians. He does ask certain things of us. But they aren’t “rules” sent down by an angry God waiting for us to stumble and fall so that someone else can laugh and judge. All that He asks of us starts and ends with Love.

It’s been 16 years since that moment of discovering the righteous judgement around me. Lots of soul-searching and God-grasping has happened to bring me back to a place of “Jesus Rules!” and, in a twisted turn of events, I am now in a position of leadership in our church. Erick and I have led the youth group for seven years and if there is one thing we have fought for our young people to grasp is that God never intended us to be so hung up on the law that we fail to see the love. It’s not ever our place to extend judgment to anyone. For anything. Period. If I feel sure about the “right and wrong” of something, then it is my responsibility to live out that truth for me. But I have to trust that the person standing beside me is in the midst of their own searching and is living out their truth the best they know how. Even when—especially when—their truth looks different than mine. Isn’t that what we are all doing? Just the best we know how?

Why not put the judgement aside and practice the art of truly loving your neighbour? No agenda. No sales pitch. No Jesus rules. Only Jesus love.

Because of You

Stanley Loe
March 20, 1921 – September 28, 2012

Because of you…

We know that the strength of a man goes beyond his physical capabilities and truly lies in his ability to lift up the ones he holds dear, letting them rest in the strength of his love.

Because of you…

We’ve seen that sacrifice comes on the battlefield and the home front. That a commitment to serve is a commitment to be honored, whether beside a soldier or a son, you stood tall with loyalty and respect and make us want to do the same.

Because of you…

Your children have a heart to serve and hands to help and they’ve taught their children to do the same. We’ve seen those less fortunate have their needs met and their spirits lifted. We’ve watched you be a friend, a confidant, a leader, and a pillar of strength and grace when those around you needed it most. We’ve learned how to trust, protect, provide, and love…all because of you.

Because of you…

We know the warmth of Mexican blankets and the sweetness of Texas jelly beans.

We know that strategy counts, whether playing cards or carving a turkey.

We know the joy of laughing till we cry and hugging till it counts.

We know the comfort of a protective father and the sweetness of a nurturing grandfather.

We know that it’s ok to take two desserts and it’s a “dirty bum” that would say otherwise.

We know there is a time and a place for everything, even a good ole “Jimeny Christmas!” and “Holy Mackeral!”

We know how to feed fish from the dock and eat oysters from the half-shell.

We know that camping is fun in a tent but really should be done in an RV.

We know how to organize a garage and manicure a lawn with the best of them.

For all the joy, the love, the strength, and devotion this family has…we have it all because of you.

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First Sentence

I thought my story was over the day I lost my leg, but I realized it was only just beginning when my dad brought home a new horse with a prosthetic leg just like mine.

My 10 year old niece wrote that last week for a “First Sentence” writing contest. The winner of the contest will be invited to write the rest of their story, to be printed in a national children’s magazine. I’m trying to get her to finish the story anyway. Tell me how it ends. How the little girl and her horse start their new journey together. Tell the world how there were so many obstacles, fears, unknowns that they both had to face to get to a place of trust in each other. She, trusting the horse to hold her, protect her, not stumble beneath her weight. The horse, trusting her to be gentle, know her limits, moving forward only when both are ready.

And I can’t help but wonder how many of us have these “first sentences” hanging out there with the rest of the story just begging to be written.  Isn’t it true that we look at a sentence like, “I lost my job today and I have nothing to fall back on” and we let it just sit there, sad, depressed, alone.

“My mother has cancer.”

“My husband cheated.”

“My son is failing all of his classes.”

“I lost my best friend.”

Whatever it is that tells you “I thought my story was over the day I…” needs more from you. Our lives  are begging for us to keep writing. There is ALWAYS an “until I” waiting to finish that first sentence. But too often I feel like I’m waiting for someone else to invite me to write the rest of my story. Someone to inspire me. Tell me I won the contest. When all I really need to do is pick up the pen and start writing it on my own. No invitation. No wins or losses. My story.

There have been several times in my life when I felt like the story was over. The story of love. The story of health. The story of spirit. But every time, no matter how long it took for me to find that pen and paper, I just kept writing. Just kept showing up. Some days the words flowed and I could feel the love creeping back in. Some days I sat in silence feeling like I was staring at a blank piece of paper that would never see words again. But I kept showing up with faith that something would happen. And something eventually did. Love found its way back. Peace came. Faith flowed.

It’s true that our stories don’t always feel like they have happy endings but I don’t think that’s the point of writing out our lives. We aren’t meant to live in this world always seeing rainbows and butterflies. We are meant to just keep going. Living out our stories so that others can have the courage to live out theirs. It’s an ebb and flow. Lows and highs. The tides of our lives coming in and out. But, like ocean waves that follow every receding tide with an incoming wave, so must we look at a situation of loss, hurt, fear, and allow it to be followed by peace, forgiveness, grace.

If you need a friend’s hands to help you get started, grab them. Trust them. Allow them to help you find your footing and start moving forward when you are ready. Grab the pen and just start writing. Maybe you have to cross a few lines out and start again. So what? Just keep going. Every one of us deserves to see our full story written out. Those first sentences are desperate for a second and third and before you know it you’ll have a paragraph, a chapter, a full circle story to call your own.

And they rode off into the blazing sunset, her horse finally trusting the leg that was not his own, allowing it to carry the weight of the girl that now carried his heart.