Friday, March 20, 2015

The Storm

During a walk in the woods, we came around a corner and saw this tree.
I was awestruck when I first saw it. Standing tall, 
with so many roots exposed. 
It had not died from the wind and the storms that had obviously ravaged it. 
Instead, it dug deeper, finding the life giving water that 
would continue to help it grow. 

I knew there were lessons in this tree.
One of those lessons is in the words I added below it.
Not my words, just a simple quote that seemed to fit.

So often, the storms of life toss us back and forth,
and they leave us uprooted, broken, damaged, defeated,
and sometimes we even feel dead inside. 

Christians aren't given a pass on this. We go through the storms too.
Sometimes we are stoic, while really thinking we should be stronger than we are.
Sometimes we break under the pain and pressure,
and forget that there is living water, that will never run dry.

And other times, we call out to the One who calms the storm.

Last week I heard a man by the name of Mark Hall speak about this.
He's the lead singer of a band called "Casting Crowns."

He's in a storm. 
He recently found out he has a cancerous tumor on his kidney. 
He's a husband, a father, a musician, and a minister.
He is also remembering WHO is in control of this. 
I was moved by his words.

You see, one of Casting Crowns biggest hits, cowritten by Mark Hall, is called:

"Praise You in This Storm"
"I was sure by now
God You would have reached down
And wiped our tears away
Stepped in and saved the day
But once again, I say "Amen", and it's still raining

As the thunder rolls
I barely hear Your whisper through the rain
"I'm with you"
And as Your mercy falls
I raise my hands and praise the God who gives
And takes away

And I'll praise You in this storm
And I will lift my hands
For You are who You are
No matter where I am
And every tear I've cried
You hold in Your hand
You never left my side
And though my heart is torn
I will praise You in this storm

I remember when
I stumbled in the wind
You heard my cry to you
And you raised me up again
My strength is almost gone
How can I carry on
If I can't find You

But as the thunder rolls
I barely hear You whisper through the rain
"I'm with you"
And as Your mercy falls
I raise my hands and praise the God who gives
And takes away"

There's a little more too.
Here's the link for this beautiful song, with Mark Hall singing the words.
I hope you have a few minutes to listen.

Maybe some of you have a friend or loved one 
going through a similar storm, like I do. 
Or maybe you're going through a storm yourself. 
I frequently fail during trials and storms. 
I forget WHO'S got this.
Or if I remember, I ask Him WHY He doesn't do it MY way.
He's all powerful, He can fix this. He can make it go away.
That's MY way.

And He just says
"Rest in Me. Can't you get that? I'm with you."

But all too often, I don't rest in Him. I forget to. I rest in fear.
I rest in self-pity. I rest in others. I rest in sadness. I rest in anger. I rest in shame. 
I rest in....(fill in the blank, there are so many others).

That's not rest. 
None of those things feel like rest. They feel like...What?

They feel like...I'm stuck in something I can't get myself out of,
and I'm spinning out of control.
Then He gently reminds me that HE has this,
Whatever "this" may be. 
And I can rest in Him.

The last words of the song are straight out of scripture:
"I lift my eyes up to the hills,
Where does my help come from?
My help comes from the Lord
The Maker of Heaven and Earth.
Ps. 121: 1-2

Oh, that I could remember these words every time a storm comes!

A couple of days ago Mark Hall had surgery, and now he's recovering.
His family is praising God that they caught it early.
I believe they'd be praising Him if they didn't, too.
"For You are who You are, no matter where I am"
is a line from the song.

One of my favorite "storm" verses is Luke 22: 31-32, although it doesn't 
use the word "storm" at all.
"Simon, Simon, behold, Satan has demanded permission to sift you like wheat,
but I have prayed for you, that your faith may not fail; and you,
when once you have turned again, strengthen your brothers."

That is Christ talking to Simon Peter. 
He's telling him that Satan is going to sift him like wheat.
(Think about the process of "sifting"'s "storm like" stuff!)
Then he's telling him that Satan had to ask His permission first.
(God is in control, remember that Satan
had to ask for permission to "sift" Job, too).
He's also telling him that He didn't tell Satan "No"
(that would be my choice!)
but instead, He (Christ) prayed for Peter.
He Intervened...
on Peter's behalf. 
(Just like He intervenes on our behalf).
And then He tells Peter that He prayed that his faith wouldn't fail,
and that when his (Peter's) faith is strong again,
he should use what he's learned to strengthen others.

I love that :) 
It's not always easy to share our storms,
they're painful, they show our vulnerability, they expose the real us,
but they can also help someone who is facing a similar storm.
I'm thankful that Mark Hall was willing to expose his.
He reminds us that storms hit everyone,
but we never have to be alone in the midst of one.
"and every tear I've cried,
You hold in your hand
You never left my side"

Btw, here's a photo of Casting Crowns newest album cover.

Thrive :)
and a tree showing it's deep roots.

 I hadn't seen this until after I started writing this post.
After, I'd chosen that old, deep rooted tree for the photo :)

Share the song with someone who's going through a storm,
because I'm pretty sure it will strengthen them too :)

Wednesday, February 25, 2015

To Russia With Love

I have a thing about pier shots. 
I guess it's because I spent many summers with this as my view. Sitting with my friends, next to the pier, bodysurfing, watching the boys surf, and laying out, working on our tans. 
It's still one of my favorite views. 

Which brings me to views. 
Blog views...
Oh wait, I'll backtrack a little first.
I'll start by saying that I'm not on here very often anymore. I know that's stating the obvious, lol. Like many other bloggers, I had moved on to other things and this blog seemed to take a backseat in my life. I've never been much of a writer anyway. I can remember sitting down to write a story for a school assignment, and thinking, "No, let me draw a picture instead." 
Art was my easy "A" class, not English. 

In fact, the only thing I remember writing that didn't stump me was poetry, which is kind of a written form of "Art" class. I guess that photography is now my "Art" of choice, hiding behind the lens of a camera instead of using pencils, pens or paint, sitting in the shadow of a pier, or waiting for the sun to pass just below the horizon to get the most vivid colors of a sunset. 

However, I come from a long line of storytellers. My mom's side of the family has always told stories. True stories. Oral history though, not the written word. My kids have heard my stories so many times they can tell them for me. I've written a few of them here on the blog, but my strength is not in the writing, it's in the telling. When I tell someone about the day I was held up, you will probably laugh about the ineptness of both myself and the robber. My next job was working for lie. I can tell you that one with a whole slew of websites to back me up :) I then worked for an actress, and I think a sitcom could be created from all of the stories I tell about that job. 

So what does pier views, storytelling and blog views have to do with one another? Well, the "pier views" comment was really just because I wanted to include a photo. I always want to include a photo. (Btw, that's my hubby on the surfboard. I'm still watching the boys surf, lol). The "storytelling" is because I haven't been telling any, and the "blog views" is because I'm always surprised when I check in here and see the stats on my blog.

First of all, I'm surprised that anyone is still checking. You are all wonderful to keep doing that. Secondly though, I'm surprised at the amount of visits coming from places like Russia...and Iran. Blogging has broadened my world, or shrunk it, depending on how you look at it. When I was blogging regularly, I "met" people from many countries who have come to be my friends.  So I started thinking, "If Russia is my second biggest viewing audience, what could I give them that would be meaningful?" 

I didn't know the answer. I wasn't even blogging anymore. The last post about my mom was going to be it. I'd lost the desire to share online. I'd lost my biggest cheerleader. I didn't know how much life could hurt without your mom in it. I didn't have any idea what this change was going to look like. My family has been very supportive, and I realize that people lose loved ones everyday. It just looks different when you're the one saying goodbye, doesn't it? 
So I've been learning to grieve. 
Hard stuff.

My mom was never one to let her kids wallow in their problems. Give them to God, she always said. Count your blessings. I can still hear her singing that song while she worked in the kitchen. I began to think about how I have it so easy. My goodness, I have it so easy! I have a roof over my head, food in my cupboards, and clothes on my back along with many more in my closet. My kids have never gone hungry, my husband has always had a job...
and I'm free to worship my God.

So I've decided that's what I'll share. I don't have the gift of writing, but oh, how I love the written word. My musical background is 'forced piano lessons for 5 years, and singing in a praise band."
I know enough to know how little I know. 

But I know what speaks to me. So I'm going to share that. The photos I hide behind. 
The stories that glorify Him. The songs and the lyrics that teach me, that inspire me, 
that remind me there is another view. 
An aerial view. 
His view.

"Lord I'm Ready Now
All the walls are down,
Time is running out
And I want to make this count."

Listen to the rest of this song if you have a couple of minutes. It's beautiful.

Monday, August 25, 2014

A Mother's Last Words

I write funny letters to my kids on Facebook. They start "Dear Adult Child", "Dear Teenage Son", (there are quite a few of those!)...etc., etc., and go on to state something they have taught me, or some way they have "affected" my life. 

Here's an example:

and another:

Here's the one that really had an effect :

No, he didn't want to "see" that! The belt is now part of his daily attire :) Perhaps I should've said they were notes that threaten my children with public embarrassment, lol! Yeah, I'm a snarky mom, but remember, I've raised a small tribe, and we ARE a large, loud, Italian family (well, my kids like to remind me that I'm NOT Italian, that comes from my husband, lol) :)

I know that I haven't been on here in months. In that time, my life has changed. It is different than it has ever been. You see, this month, I lost the most influential woman in my life. I lost my mom. Yet, God, in His mercy, gave us over a year to prepare for this, over a year to say "Until, we meet you again." Not everyone gets that opportunity. Not everyone gets to have their mom as long as I did. Not everyone gets to feel wanted the way my brother and I did. Not everyone gets to see their parents celebrate 66 years of marriage before saying goodbye to one of them. 
We've been blessed.

My mother lost her mom before my brother and I were born. She was never able to call and ask her mom for advice when raising her own children like I was. Yet, my grandmother's influence has affected my life in many ways. In this past year, my mom spoke often of seeing her again. There was a longing to see her mother. 
I understand it now.

My grandmother wrote a letter to my mom right before she died. She was in the hospital in Missouri, facing surgery the next morning, and wrote a letter to her daughter in California. She didn't survive the surgery. My mom and dad were called, and flew back to be with family. After attending her mother's funeral, she returned home to California and the letter that had arrived while she was gone.

In this letter, my grandmother spoke of general things about her life, this and that, things about my grandfather, just simple things about their simple life....and then she added this:

"I don't have any dread of surgery. I feel if it's my time to be promoted, I'm ready to go. You know, to the Christian, death is "Just Promotion". If the Lord spares me, I feel I'll be beneficial. If not, I'm ready."

The last words of her mother. Could she ever ask for a better gift?

 My mother often spoke of how this letter comforted her. The words of her mother gave her hope that still remained 58 years after she lost her. I found this letter in some of her things. The letter was written on April 12, 1956, the day before she died. Until I saw it, I never knew that the letter that had meant so much to her was written on April 12th. 

That is my anniversary. I was married on April 12th, 1986. Thirty years after the letter was written. My husband and I didn't choose that date for any other reason than convenience. It worked out for us. Yet seeing that date, written in my grandmother's handwriting was special in it's own way. Coincidence? I suppose, but it's a comforting coincidence, nonetheless.

The last few weeks of my mom's life were the hardest for her. She had a stroke and was unable to speak. I had visited her a few days before that last stroke. I'd gone over to 'visit', but actually I'd wanted to get away for a little while from my own 13yo twin boys, who were getting on my last nerve that day. 

I didn't know it would be the last time my mom would be able to speak to me. I didn't know how much her words would mean. I actually lamented to her a little, telling her about how my boys were giving me 'fits', and, being identical, when they wrestled, no one could win, so their wrestling matches went on and on and on, (amongst other things). Her speech had been affected for months by a previous stroke, but she sat up on her bed and she listened, and when she finally spoke, this is what she said:

"You've still got a lot to learn".  

(Um, excuse me mom, but I've got 6 kids. I've been through this with 4 others. You only raised two, and you never had twin boys!)
No, I didn't say that, but I thought it. Yeah, I was a little indignant. I think she saw this. 
She just smiled and said it again.

"You've still got a lot to learn". 

Wow. You know what? She's right. 
I don't even know enough to know how little I know, lol. 

Our lives can be forever affected by words, forever changed by what we say and what is said to us. We are always changing, always learning. My words to my children aren't always what I want them to be. Sometimes they're too harsh, sometimes too thoughtless, sometimes too snarky. I want to convey love, but I fail at times. 
Yes, I still have a lot to learn.

As I turned to leave that day, I kissed her forehead, and said "Mom, I love you."
She replied:
"I know you do...
and I love you too."
Those were the last words ever spoken to me by my mom.
Could I ever ask for a better gift?

I spent many hours with her after that last stroke, when she was unable to speak. She was still imparting lessons to me. She was teaching me how to have grace in adversity.
Without words.
My father taught us all how to love your spouse unconditionally during those weeks and months leading up to her passing. My mother taught us how to gracefully accept that love and help. Their devotion to each other inspired everyone at the assisted living facility. A local article about them, about their devotion to each other, and their marriage of 66 years, written on their anniversary and just days before her passing, received hundreds of responses.

Yes Mom, I still have a lot to learn :)

Thank you for all that you tried to teach me...
and especially for your comfort and your love.

Sunday, March 9, 2014


Meet Addison Renee...
One of the reasons I've been a little preoccupied the past few months :)

It is so fun being Nona to this lovely little girl,
she has captured my heart!
There are a lot of guys in our family,
but we ladies are adding to our ranks :)

I also thought I'd share a photo of my daughter Serena, from a recent modeling shoot :)

Yes, I'm a proud mama :)
You can find more of Casey's wonderful photos here.

Thank you to everyone who has written to check on me.
I'm doing well. My parents are stable and have adjusted well
to assisted living. Also, Jordan and his family have moved into their new home,
provided for them by Homes for Our Troops! What a blessing!!

I'd love to get back to blogging and visiting all of you.
I hope to write again soon :)
Thank you again!

Tuesday, October 8, 2013

Together...we are blessed :)

So thankful to God for the many blessings in my life,
and for my wonderful husband
who walks beside me through the ups and downs,
~ holding my hand every step of the way ~

We are blessed. 
This year, the lives of my parents have changed drastically.
We are all learning through this. Even with their many health issues and the fading memories that are a part of dementia, they have continued to teach us so much about love and devotion that comes from years of commitment to each other.

We are blessed.
My husband and I both realize that our marriage shouldn't have lasted. We were that couple people bet against. The "they won't last a year", or "I'll give it 6 months" kind of bet. We did struggle. He was an addict; I was foolish and very naive. Yet, even with all of the outside influences and all of the attacks, we survived. It was by the grace of God, and the prayers of godly parents. Now we love each other more than we ever thought possible.  

We are blessed.
God has never abandoned us, and He never will. With my parents needing us more and more, we are learning to rely on Him in a whole new way, but even in the midst of this season of life, He shows us His love in a very special way. My son Randy and his wife Sarah, are expecting a baby girl next month :)) We are all looking forward to meeting her. She's a sweet gift from God, a reminder of His constant goodness.

God is good.
I'm so thankful He's allowed me to do life with this incredible, loving man :)

Therefore, what God has joined together, let no one separate...Mark 10:9