okI was up and baking early on Thanksgiving Day morning. Over the years it’s been tradition for me to make sticky buns from scratch every Thanksgiving holiday. My kids would always help when they were smaller, as they got their little hands in the flour to knead the dough and help roll it out as we added the butter, cinnamon and sugar and rolled it up like a jelly roll. So as I was elbow deep in the flour the other morning, I was remembering past Thanksgiving celebrations as a little girl spent at my grandparents house. I was thinking about my grandma’s cooking and thought about one of her special dishes, home made cranberry orange relish which was part of the plate of condiments that was served up at our Thanksgiving table. And, I thought about not having any of her special relish since the last Thanksgiving meal that our grandma prepared for us, so many years ago. Anyway as I continued to work on the sticky buns the other morning, I received a text from Izabela, one of my newest acquaintances from Hearts of Hope. She wished me a Happy Thanksgiving. I responded with a similar greeting and followed it up by asking her if she had a signature favorite Thanksgiving recipe. The words that she replied put a smile on my face. She said this: “cranberry-orange relish. It was Dominque’s favorite. We would make it together”.
Izabela and Dominique
Izabela’s son Dominque died 14 months ago due to a drug overdose. She and I were recently connected by attending Hearts of Hope, a grief support group for moms who have lost a child. So I started to believe that her unusual response to my recipe question was a very intentional Godwink; not only for me but also for Izabela! I explained to her that I had just been thinking about my grandma’s cranberry orange relish. I said to her: ” I wonder if Kenzie and Dominique have met”. Her reply: “I think that they did…I think our roads met because of their magical love”. My thought was that we were meant to meet and through God’s hands we received this treasure of a Godwink!. Perhaps God was sending his reassurance to us that Dominique and Kenzie were with him. This thought always brings me joy in the journey. To think that I had randomly purchased a bag of cranberries the day before and stored them away with plans to later try a Cranberry pie recipe for Christmas. Izabela commented that those cranberries that I had bought were for my special cranberry-orange relish, no coincidence!
Izabela stayed with me as we texted back and forth as I went about preparing her cranberry orange relish recipe. It turned out wonderful and was delicious.
So I thought about using this blog post to talk about the holidays. I decided to share again my post regarding that first Christmas just eleven months following Makenzie’s death. Many have read it but, I will share for those who have not. It’s called:
“The Christmas Tree of Life”.
As I read posts on social media about loss, especially recent loss and about sadness around the holidays, it makes me think of that first Christmas without Kenz. I recall words from a well meaning friend “you will just have to find your new normal”. At the time, the words stung! I did not want a new normal. I had made up my mind that I was not going to have a Christmas tree. After all, Makenzie was such an intricate part of the tradition of putting the tree up . I am for the most part a procrastinator. I have to feel inspired to do things that matter; but, Kenz always wanted the tree up immediately following Thanksgiving. I could usually delay this with my own reasoning for a couple of weeks but then she would haul off and pull the decorations out of storage and get everything going. With Christmas music blaring, she would get the tree situated with lights wrapped on it and a few precious handmade ornaments from kindergarten placed strategically front and center ( she knew that I would move these sweet little gems to the back to accommodate my own need for synchronicity and perfection). And then she would ditch me! Opened boxes spread all over the living room floor she would find something else to suit her fancy and leave me to finish the job.
Anyway that first Christmas season I was shopping and as I waited in line, a box of purple ornaments summoned me. I actually got out of a very long line at a cash register to retrieve that single box of ornaments and then went to the back of the line to purchase them.
Kenzie and I on Christmas Day 2008.
So that first December, Kenzie’s friends Nicole and Ashley, came and helped me decorate the most meaningful and precious Christmas tree. In some sense, I considered it my Tree of Life that first Christmas without her. During their visit, I also told Nicole and Ashley about Kenzie’s gift of life. It was a very long and tearful afternoon as I shared with them the pages of the correspondence that I had exchanged with the recipients. I think we used a full box of tissues on that day.
Once word got out about the purple ornaments that adorned our Christmas tree, ornaments were gifted me from many sweet friends. Purple, zebra, and butterfly ornaments; so amazing and special! I was mesmerized by the white lights shining on each decoration and would sit for hours in the evening transfixed in my own thoughts and place of serenity. Perhaps only a tree Kenzie’s mom could love? That first Christmas I kept that tree up until Valentine’s Day when my husband finally coaxed me, begged me, to put it away.
Each person ‘s process of experiencing those first holidays without their loved one is unique. A new normal is unimaginable and even seemingly insurmountable for most of us. Be gentle and patient and kind to yourself and allow the gift; the greatest gift of all to embrace you, love on you, and allow your heart to find peace and comfort. Maybe even joy will be discovered in something as unassuming as a box of purple ornaments.
Even after seven years have passed since my daughter’s accident and death, I experienced this unsettling, ill feeling in the center of my soul when this month of November arrived. It is an impending feeling of sadness and emptiness that I fear will be experienced during the holidays without Makenzie. When she entered a room, she had a spark and was a light so bright it could outshine our Christmas tree.
I have caught myself more times than I want to admit, telling others about my dislike of the holidays, both Thanksgiving and Christmas. The holidays cause me stress and pain. But do they have to? Christmas is the celebration of God’s gift, the greatest gift to the world in a precious child, Jesus. Our God of the universe gave us the ultimate gift in His son, who came to be among us; to live humbly, teach us peace and give us undeserved grace and His perfect abiding love.
So as I read and re-read that sentence, I thought how can I dislike Christmas, our Savior’s birthday? And I had this epiphany that it is me and my attitude at Christmas time that I dislike. I don’t like the funk that I allow in my persona. So I have an appreciation and understanding now, that it is up to me how I decide to approach and celebrate the holidays. Why not with a self-less, Christ-like attitude? Perhaps, with God’s help, I can walk humbly, share the peace of Christ, and give undeserved grace in circumstances that might dictate otherwise. I can slow down and with deliberate purpose decide how and where I will spend the moments, hours and days of Christmas time as I relish the holidays; the true meaning of Christmas. I can be intentional as I extend the hand of peace to others and share the greatest gift of all. I WILL lose the junk in my funk ! My daughter would expect this of me … I will do this to honor her happy memory.
How great is His love for you and for me, as we celebrate the birth of Christ. As believers and followers of Jesus, we have this hope and security in the knowledge that He is with us in every day and every circumstance. And as we meet other believers we can find joy in the sharing of His God winks. God’s affirmations are both larger than life as in the miracle of Christmas and as small as a mustard seed and even a bag of cranberries and a shared recipe from a new friend. Relish the holidays my friends, it is the greatest time of year.
I woke up this morning excited about what the day ahead held in store for me. Continuing to find joy in the journey, as I cast my cares on Him. I had an appointment with an artist, Betty, who was drawing a charcoal portrait of Makenzie, for me. I met Betty last weekend at a church fair, as I watched her sketch in charcoal, a portrait of the woman who was seated opposite her. I thought the likeness was uncanny. After we chatted, Betty agreed to do a charcoal drawing of Kenzie using still photos, although she explained to me that she preferred to draw from live subjects. She was trying to capture Makenzie’s likeness in the drawing and we exchanged several emails as I sent her more pictures to assist her. She was having a bit of a challenge portraying Kenzie’s eyes. I think that I can understand where it could be more difficult not knowing your subject nor being able to interact with them by witnessing their mannerisms during the process. So Betty invited me to her home as she finished up the sketch this past Saturday.
Here is Betty finishing up her sketch of Kenzie
As I stepped into this new friend’s home, her paintings on the walls instantly struck a chord in my heart. Africa! Beautiful paintings adorned her walls of a distant place in Liberia. She explained to me that she and her husband and their six children had lived there for eleven years as her husband served as a doctor and missionary. He first went there as a general practitioner and then eventually obtained additional training back in the states and became a surgeon.
This painting is of a blind mother and her daughter. They are beating rice in a wooden mortar.
I wanted to know more and so we chatted as she worked on the portrait that she had been sketching of Makenzie. I remember in the early part of our conversation asking her if she had one extraordinary memory of her time in Liberia. I was surprised by what she told me, ( I was half expecting some sort of tale about the wildlife there or perhaps about the village people where she resided). She shared however, that she had suffered often from panic attacks and at times was uneasy when her husband would need to leave her and the children in the village where they were living as he accompanied a patient to the hospital for medical treatment. Betty recalled this one particular time when she was having a panic attack and she prayed to God “Help!” She told me that she soon felt an immense peace come over her and from within her, and that from that day on hasn’t experienced the severity of those panic attacks. God was with her as he sent the Holy Spirit to help her. It was sweet that she shared that experience with me and I found myself opening up to her about Kenzie and the accident.
Pictured is Betty and her children attending church in their village
My new friend told me that she too was writing a book of her memoirs and she read to me from a few of the letters that she wrote while living in that foreign land that brought her joy. I talked with her about God’s faithfulness in my own life, and even when writing what became “Wish You A Goode Journey”. God had introduced me to a pastor who would help me get the book off the ground and my Godwink then was first learning that that pastor had a granddaughter named MacKenzie. Pastor Rick affectionately called me his joy project as he helped me put my journals together in the form of a manuscript, and then eventually a book; Kenzie’s story! I shared with Betty that when I became anxious about how I would end the book, I prayerfully asked God for my ending. God was faithful and connected the dots for me with my “chance” encounter with the family who would lead me to Brian, the man who had found our daughter moments after her automobile crash. It was so emotional for me to share what Brian had told me as he recounted that time sitting with Kenzie in her crashed vehicle, as he tried to comfort her lifeless body. I believe that Brian was hand picked by God to be the last person on earth to spend time with our beautiful daughter before she escaped to a better place, which is Heaven. Brian told me that he knew while sitting there with Makenzie waiting for rescue, that he was meant to be there. No, there are no chance meetings, only God-winks. God shows us by gifting us understanding; by fitting together the pieces of the puzzle in our lives. Betty shared with me that she too has a granddaughter named Mackenzie. And there it was, my Godwink.
Betty with the finished piece. There is something special about our friends in Christ
As some of you know me or have learned from reading the book, I have an affinity for Africa. I sponsor a child who lives in Kenya and have for about fourteen years now. My daughter Kenzie and I chose a little five year old girl named Naeku from the Compassion International website. Our little girl is now nineteen years old. My heart’s desire is to meet her in Africa one day, but the cost is prohibitive for me right now. Naeku has invited me many times to come see her. She calls me her second mama, and I think how amazing it would be to meet her to get a glimpse of her heritage and to simply give her a hug. I will prayerfully ask God for His timing and provision if it is His will that I travel there and meet my other daughter. My friend Betty has also asked me to pray for the people of Liberia as there is division and unrest. I will pray.
Saw this hanging on the wall in Betty’s office, so nice.
So in finishing up my post today, I wanted to share yet another Godwink story which brings me joy. Last evening my friend Pam called me from Rhode Island, as she was attending a conference there over the weekend. Pam explained that the hotel room that she had booked for her sleeping accommodations had turned out to be too far away from the conference that she was attending. On Friday night it was extremely late when she headed to her hotel room some thirty miles away. So she decided to give up the hotel room for Saturday night with hope and trust that she would find accommodations closer to her meeting. She called the hotel that was hosting the conference and there were no rooms left, only suites available at the price of $170.00 per night. Pam told me that she thought it was too much to spend on herself for one night and turned the suite down. She explained that she was going to wait and trust and I reminded her of the importance of prayer for her need. I promised to pray to Christ for His provision for her and I prayed. I reassured Pam that it would work out and that I was almost excited to hear back from her on how things turned out. So I received an excited voice mail from Pam this morning. She explained to me that when she returned to her conference last evening for their banquet she was told that her ticket had been pulled as the winning ticket of a 50/50 raffle that she had purchased a ticket for earlier in the day. The amount of her winnings was $170.00, and so Pam took the suite for the night.
Our God is an amazing God. If we cast our cares on Him, his answers and provisions will always exceed our expectations. We just need to trust and wait on Him for His timing and His perfect plan.
I found joy in the morning, I found love afternoon, I found hope in the evening and I found peace the whole day through.
Venturing out to find my office space today, the road led me here. Such wonderful memories I have of this place sitting out in a bass boat with my husband. As he trolled the waters and cast for the next big daddy fish, I inhaled the beauty, listened to the quiet and dwelled on the peace that this place brings to me. Little islands dot this body of water and in mid summertime the blueberries fill the many bushes that surround the tiny islands. I recall one summer outing where the bushes were heavy laden with blueberries but we hadn’t planned and thus had nothing to collect the berries. Bob swam out to one of the bushes and loaded up his swim trunk pockets with the berries. I still recall in my mind’s eye him swimming back, pockets weighing him down, as he carefully got back into the boat without losing any of them. Ha Ha, it was quite the sight.
So as I escaped here with stolen moments, I savored the time to write.
This week my two friends Sylvia and Mary along with myself started a group in our community called Hearts of Hope; a grief group for moms and grandmas who have experienced the ultimate loss, the death of their child / grandchild. I have to wonder how it is that I am at a place where God is using my deepest hurt to use it for good? But then I remember that our God is an awesome God, a God of restoration, hope and complete love. The women who attended our meeting came from different places, physically and emotionally. All have suffered immeasurably in their losses, whether it’s been fifteen years or two months, we found ourselves in the same place as we grapple to find our way, at our own pace. We are surrounded by new friends who understand exactly how and what we feel. I have to wonder if our children are together in heaven and have somehow orchestrated through God’s hands our new connections with one another. I like to think that our kids are cheering us on as we conquer this almost insurmountable “Mt. Kilimanjaro ” in our lives.
As I found the above picture to share here, it brought to mind a memory of Kenzie’s friend Adria and her climb up Mt. Kilamanjaro the summer after her graduation. To hear Adria explain her physical and mental hardships as she climbed, I think on the obstacles that we as moms have encountered in the aftermath of our children’s deaths. Friends and family expect us to move on or to let go, but as a mom who loves deeply, grief is not something that you can extrapolate yourself from and just start over. Grief changes its face with time, but it is there. Adria told me about a dream that she had the night before she reached Kilamanjaro’s summit.
Adria: “On the night before I summited Kilimanjaro, I was secretly doubting myself; my physical ability to continue the climb. We were expected to wake up at midnight to start our climb to the top. Previous hours had me fighting with myself to fall asleep. I had to remember to have my Makenzie Goode T-shirt ready to show off at the summit. That was my priority. So I fell asleep with it next to me anxiously. In my dream, I unexpectedly was experiencing Kenzie dancing wildly in a white room with a couple of other friends. I remember feeling really confused about the scenario because I knew it couldn’t possibly be real. But I wanted so badly to be a part of it. Kenzie was beautiful and happily dancing to no music. I remember feeling less anxious as the dream went on. Makenzie’s smile has always inspired me. And this time she looked directly at me, and without a word, I knew she was laughing at me that I even had a slight doubt in myself. I woke up at midnight, pitch black and freezing, feeling so whole and inspired. Makenzie had reignited my energy and self-belief, as I believe she does for most people who have had her in their lives. I thank her every day for that experience”.
With her heart of Hope, Adria, with Kenzie’s Traveling T-shirt, made it to the summit of Mt. Kilimanjaro.
So as we moms and grandmothers conquer our “Kilamanjaro “, we’ll discover the biggest lesson that is there for us, as we finally grasp our greater purpose and use it to better ourselves and even the world around us.
I found joy in the morning, I found love afternoon, I found hope in the evening and I found peace the whole day through.
My husband surprised me by suggesting that we get away for our anniversary weekend and go back to the Bed & Breakfast where we were married twelve years ago. I adored the idea and so off we went to Wells, ME the place where we use to play hooky, where we got engaged and then eventually were married. An Inn for the win! Originally we had wanted to be married on the jetty at Wells, as for me it’s possibly the most wonderful place in the world. Torrential rains on that day changed our plans and we wound up exchanging our vows in front of the fireplace at the B &B. The Innkeepers at that time told us to use the Inn as if it were our home. Here are some pictures of the sweet place where we were married to include our wedding picture from 2005. When we arrived in our room, Happy Anniversary wishes greeted us along with strawberries dipped in chocolate. Yum!
The first morning of our anniversary weekend we were greeted at breakfast time by Brian, one of the owners. He served us juice and coffee and explained that each of the owners took turns with the various kitchen responsibilities. Our breakfast had been prepared by Lynn, his mother-in-law. I instantly liked her as she served us her amazing quiche. She was warm and welcoming and a great cook too! Next we met her husband who was named Bob. I handed him my camera and asked him to take our picture in front of the fireplace for posterity. I asked him about the t-shirt that he was wearing as it stated a funny expression. He explained that his t-shirt was from a previous business owned by Brian, his son-in-law,. I decided that I should have a picture of it. If you are from Boston you will understand, as it’s all about dropping the Rs in our dialect. My husband and I met some other guests during breakfast including some Canadian friends who were heading off to a Red Sox game. I believe they came to the Inn for a Win!
( Red Sox won…. 10-2 over the Astros).
Bob with his quirky t-shirt
Our weekend was filled with some amazing scenery and a few important Godwinks too. After visiting Kennebunkport and taking some pictures oceanside near the Bush compound, we headed back to our car. As we walked my husband noticed something and he told me to look down. There it was! My daughter’s calling card. Number 10 lives on as she goes where I go. I love you Kenzie.
So I wanted to share in this post, part of a story that is included in my book, “Wish You A Goode Journey”. It’s about my friend Hallie who suffered great loss from the death of her son, CJ Twomey. Hallie and I met in 2014 at the Transplant Games of America in Houston. The Transplant Games were created to be like the Olympics but for organ recipients who participate in a variety of events. As volunteers for Donate Life, Hallie and I were invited to carry the Donate Life banner for Team New England as the team paraded around the stadium in the opening games. As Hallie and I waited in the tunnel with the team for our turn to march out, we introduced ourselves to one another and made conversation. As she shared about her son and I about my daughter, it was evident that she was not a “believer” and was having a tough time accepting CJ’s death. It seems to me that God gave me those thirty minutes perhaps to share with her my belief in heaven and of a loving God who is available to help us. I certainly can understand her line of questioning wanting to know where was that loving God when CJ took his own life? My answer was and will always remain that I believe that God was right there in the midst of it with outstretched arms ready to help her. My faith has carried me in the most troubling times including the accident of my own sweet daughter. But Hallie has come a long way from our first meeting in that football stadium tunnel. Like me she has figured out a way to propel herself forward by finding endeavors to stay focused on anything and everything positive. I am glad to call her my friend and I believe that she is Inn for the Win! Good for you, Hallie , and we will get through this and God willing we will see our children again! One very meaningful endeavor was that Hallie and her husband invited people to spread a tiny amount of her son CJ’s ashes to places near and far in honor of CJ’s adventurous spirit. I was also allowed the chance to partake in this journey by taking CJ to a very sacred place. ( You will have to read my book to learn of the amazing Godwink that I received during this beautiful experience).
Here I am Scattering CJ’s Ashes on My Daughter Kenzie’s Angel Rock-
As my husband and I began day two of our stay at the B & B, we had more time to get to know Brian the owner. As we talked and I mentioned my volunteer work with New England Donor Services he asked if I knew a person by the name of Hallie. He mentioned that he knew that she had donated CJ’s organs. He explained that he and Hallie had graduated from high school together. It was an amazing Godwink for me as Brian shared with me his story of hiking up Mt. Washington to scatter CJ’s ashes. He told of his passion for hiking up to the top of Mt.Washington many times when he was younger. Following a car accident Brian could no longer do it as he had tried a time or two and always fell short of reaching the summit due to his pain and physical limitations. But he decided to ask Hallie if he could scatter some of CJ’s ashes and he attempted the climb. Brian got very emotional as he shared with us how the pain in his legs was debilitating as he climbed and that he felt at one point that he was not going to make it to the top. He felt it essential that he press through the pain to honor Hallie’s son’s memory. Brian made it to the summit and it was apparent that the experience was so meaningful to him. Wow! What a Godwink! This amazes me,my re-connection with Hallie through a chance meeting with Brian, considering the fact that Brian is a different owner of the Inn from when my Bob and I were married twelve years ago. It makes me entertain the idea that my Kenzie and Hallie’s CJ have somehow met in Heaven and through God’s miraculous hand, God orchestrated our initial meeting at the Transplant Games in Houston and then most recently through a chance encounter at a B & B in Maine. God isnt finished with us yet, Hallie. God is great!
As my husband and I continued to visit with Brian, he also shared with us that his father-in-law Bob ( pictured above) , was diagnosed with stage four cancer . We were told by Lynn (Bob’s wife) to be sure and ask him about his t-shirt that he was wearing on that second day.
Our host and owner of the Beach Farm Inn, Brian, made it to the summit to honor the memory of CJ Twomey.
And so we asked Bob about his t-shirt of the day. The back said “WHAT’S YOMO”?
Abbreviated for “what’s your moment”. And the front had Bob’s significant date:
06-12-17. Bob explained that 06-12-17 was his moment that was driving him as he battled cancer because that was the date of his grandson’s graduation. He was so grateful that he lived to see his grandson graduate! Beautiful! I encouraged this very nice man to never give up and I feel quite confident that he is Inn For the Win! May God continue to bless you and your family, Bob.
As we packed up to leave the B & B, I decided to share my Godwink from the other day with these sweet folks. We left the dime as a sign (of the power of hope and love). I am so grateful for the Godwinks.
Pictured: Bob, Lynn, Janine and Brian of Beach Farm Inn
As I headed out of town on that crisp autumn morning I breathed deep as I approached Kenzie’s accident site. I pass by it perhaps a minimum of four times daily as it’s on the way and back from most every place that I travel. For some reason as I passed by it the other morning, the beauty that surrounded the area transfixed me and even caused me to actually turn around and go back to take pictures. Who takes pictures of a place that has caused them so much sadness? The mom of a beautiful daughter, who searches for hope and understanding in the circle of life; me!
A field of Milkweed provided new inspiration as I started to think about milkweed and its purpose in the circle of life. How intriguing to me the knowledge that Monarchs cannot survive without milkweed; their caterpillars only eat milkweed plants and monarch butterflies need milkweed to lay their eggs. As most of you know if you have been following my posts, what a positive Godwink the monarch butterfly has been for myself and others in honoring the memory of our amazing girl. So it seems fitting that there is an abundance of milkweed here at the place where Kenzie took her last true breath.
When I write I try to find the common thread or theme if you will and then pick a title for my piece. The title Circle of Life kept coming back to me. I thought of the song and a wonderful trip that I took with Makenzie to attend the Lion King performance in 2009. It was her first and only Broadway musical that she attended. We were both awestruck by the performance with the fantastic costumes and deep rich music accompanied by the live orchestra. Kenzie asked me several times later on if we could go again. How blessed I am to have had that beautiful experience with her.
In the circle of life It’s the wheel of fortune It’s the leap of faith It’s the band of hope Till we find our place On the path unwinding In the circle, the circle of life Some of us fall by the wayside And some of us soar to the stars And some of us sail through our troubles And some have to live with the scars There’s far too much to take in here More to find than can ever be found But the Sun rolling high through the sapphire sky Keeps great and small on the endless round – “Circle of Life”, Elton John
Today I was surprised with a visit from my sweet friend Pam. She came by to ask permission to plant daffodil bulbs at Makenzie’s accident site. Pam and Kenzie’s teacher Clare decided it was time. It brings to me again the thought of The Circle of Life and how the spot will be given new life after death by being transformed with God’s handiwork which will offer joy and hope to those who remember as they pass by.
As Pam and I visited, we looked at my scrapbooks together and we came upon one of Kenzie’s graded papers which I had saved. It was a sonnet that was her assignment in her English Lit class. The date that Kenzie turned her assignment in was January 28, 2010, the day before her fatal accident. Here is the sonnet:
Remember me when I am gone away. Gone Nor I half turn to go yet turning stay. Remember me when no more day by day
You tell me of our future that you planned: Only remember me; you understand
It will be late to counsel then or pray. Yet if you should forget me for awhile
And afterwards remember,do not grieve: For if the darkness and corruption leave
A vestige of the thoughts that once I had, Better by far you should forget and smile
Then that you remember and be sad. Christina Rossetti (1830-1894)
I think of this as a gift or a Godwink as I once again consider the notion of the circle of life and how Godly perspective can change so much for a believer.
This, one of my favorite verses from Phillipians 4:8
Leaving you with this courtesy of YouTube, a link to Broadway’s amazing Lion King and its performance of Circle of Life .
When you hear this song, I hope you will remember the lyrics:
In the circle of life It’s the wheel of fortune It’s the leap of faith It’s the band of hope Till we find our place On the path unwinding,
Remembering as far back as a young girl, I always loved solo walks in the woods. It was a time of reflection and maybe even at a young age the beginning of some soul searching as I began private conversations with God. On my walks in the woods near my childhood home there was a babbling brook, and in the middle of the brook, a large flat rock that my sister named Mermaid Rock. Navigating over smaller rocks to get there, I would sit, sometimes write, even nap a little in this special place which gave me a sense of peace and belonging.
What are conversations with God ? Some would say prayer, others contemplation and reflection and for me I would simply say the dialogue of my heart connecting with His. I think of the delight that our God of the universe must have when His children take time out of their lives to give thanks, to make heart-felt pleas, and to simply be quiet and listen to His voice. I am forever grateful for these moments spent.
We have beautiful meadows and fields next to our home and my children and I would hike through the fields and woods with our English Springer Sam, on late autumn afternoons after school. So, I decided to take a bike ride and hike today through the deep fields and meadows to a favorite spot that we use to go. There was a little bridge crossing over a babbling brook with a tiny waterfall. This place gives me peace of mind, solitude and an amazing natural spiritual connection to God. I decided to spend some time, have a conversation with God, and write my blog. I am forever grateful for this spot.
IMG_1337 click on this link to have a moment at the tiny waterfall at the bridge.
There is another place where I connect with God. Sitting, standing, and even kneeling in front of a beautiful picture that I have of Christ which hangs on our bedroom wall. I have found myself in front of it while having tear-filled heart-felt dialogue with my creator. The creator who blessed me with two beautiful children, with love to last a life-time but, who also allowed me gigantic parenting struggles and deepest wounds as I suffered through some of the toughest days of my life. I believe that God desires for us to need Him. I would gaze at the picture of Christ and contemplate what it must have been like for God, our Father to see His own son suffer in the manner in which he did. And following Kenzie’s death I could imagine her sitting in heaven with God looking down pained as they watched me suffer as I tried to make sense of it all. I do believe that it’s why I’ve been gifted with Godwinks. Kenzie inspired and as God provided small tokens to keep me focused on healing and in finding joy even in the unfathomable. I am forever grateful.
I wanted to share my Godwink from this past week. I had finally after seven years emptied and remodeled our daughter’s room. A very big and long process. I sensed my daughter was inspiring me to get the job done. She liked the color yellow and I felt drawn to a bright happy shade for my new office space and yet still and always will be Kenzie’s room. It is now painted a sun/fun filled shade of yellow and decorated with art that has been a part of this journey. Makenzie’s senior portrait with her car hangs on the wall. Anyway, last week I found a couple of straggler paper bags filled with Kenzie’s schoolwork that I had labeled ” BURN ” . My thought was that I could not have any of my daughter’s things ending up in the landfill. I remember talking with God and imploring Him of what to do? I simply could not keep everything. So, I decided to take one last look over her academic work, her silly doodles and such and ended up with her English composition book in my hands. As I thumbed through it I stopped at a page with a title ” The Queen of Warwick”. This made me laugh as it was the title that I gave myself when my children were small. There was a time when my son would only answer to the name Sonic for a cartoon character “Sonic Hedgehog” and a time when Makenzie would not respond to anything except “Pocahontas”! You can imagine being a mom at a park or in a store calling out these unusual names to get the attention of my children. The only rule was that I too would be called something different and would only answer to the name “Queen of Warwick”. So there in that English composition book I found an essay that my daughter had written about me, her mom. As I read it I got that oh so familar lump in my throat and the tears, happy tears flooded my eyes. I am forever grateful for happy tears.
Here is her handwritten essay: (also typed below)… I love finding her hand writing!
The Queen of Warwick” by: Makenzie Goode – English/History-
People in history have done things to change and impact other people’s lives. Bono for example raises millions of dollars to help fight AIDS in Africa. If we go back a couple of years, other famous people have impacted lives such as Ghandi and Martin Luther King, Jr. They wanted peace and equality for all races, religions, and people. Although these people inspire me to change, there are people everywhere making changes that don’t get enough recognition for it. One of these people is my mother.
My mom has done so much for me and my brother, and loves us more than anything. She wants us to be the best we can. My mom teaches us right from wrong and raised us in the church. What my mother does that I think is so special is how she donates so much of her paycheck to the church. She will spend about $1,000 dollars a summer, for me to go to a Christian summer camp, to become an amazing person. We also sponsor a young girl from Kenya. Her name is Naeku and she lives in an HIV/AIDS infected area. My mom donates money to an organization called “Compassion” and the money goes to Naeku’s family. Naeku is five years old and has five brothers and sisters so I imagine things are hard for her family. I’m proud of my mom for going out of her way to help this family in need.
My mom is the most patient and easy-going woman that I know. I would like to be like her when I grow up because she is so close to God and has faith in Him. I feel happy knowing that we’re doing something to help even one person.
I too, have helped students in Africa with my sixth grade class. We created hand-made greeting card packages and sold them raising $1,050.00. After that a lady from my town (Pat Lemon) doubled it, helping us to donate about $2,000.00. This money went to buying school supplies and was used to build a well for good healthy drinking water. I feel like my mom in that sense, because we chose to help by donating.
I hope that when I’m older, greed doesn’t overcome me, and I can give back to the world just as much as she does. My mother is quite an amazing person and she inspires me to change every time I see Naeku’s picture on the refrigerator.
Wow! What an amazing discovery for me! This sweet Godwink gifted just before I randomly tossed her school papers out. I was led to read that paper that Kenzie wrote as she honored me, her mom. I never knew she had those thoughts, and relieved to know she truly understood how much I loved her and her brother. Thank you Kenzie, and thank you my father in heaven, for always knowing exactly what I need; in helping me to find the joy in the journey.
How blessed I am to have conversations with God the creator of the universe who knows me simply as his own.
But the water that I give to them becomes a perpetual spring within them, watering them forever with eternal life.
As we waited in line for one of our favorite restaurants to open, I glanced back at a man standing in line alone behind us. My eyes were drawn to a colorful bracelet that the man was wearing but immediately he saw me and commented “yes that is a back brace that I am wearing” ( he had a back brace which could be seen secured to his waistline), so I hesitated at first but then decided to just trust and go as I explained to him that I was actually looking at his bracelet and inquired about it. The man, I learned was also a veteran soldier and introduced himself as Phil as he shook my hand. As we talked he showed me his bracelet and allowed me to take pictures. Square charms made up the bracelet, each of which he received while attending therapy support group meetings. He commented that he attended the meetings for his post traumatic stress stemming from his service in the U..S. Coastguard. He explained that the support group is compiled of other military service men and women from all five branches who suffer from similar disorders. They relate to one another having an understanding of what each may have been subjected to in their line of military service.
Pictured is the military bracelet with the charms.
I asked Phil about where he had served and he told me about his three years of active service in the Middle East working in various security positions including the guarding of seaports. His work took him to distant places to thwart off the advancement of pirates. He expressed that what he saw and experienced was very disturbing. So I thanked him for his service; my husband thanked him too! His response was that it was his honor and privilege to serve. After sensing a nudge, I decided to trust and go! I gave to Phil my Godwink business card thinking that perhaps something that is shared here on my blog, might strike a chord in his heart if he stops by to read a little. Sharing my faith in Christ who strengthens me, who gives me joy and new life is my privilege.
That exchange got me to thinking about the fact that we all have a story. If he and I had not struck up conversation with one another, I never would have learned a bit of his story nor been able to thank him for his service. So, I thought I would pose this question: how are you personally engaging with others in the world? Do you ever sense an urge to do something to help someone or simply reach out, but then pass if off as too out of the ordinary or just decide not to make the effort for fear of how your action or words might be received?
Stepping out of our comfort zone is good for us as it develops our character,while building self confidence. As we get more comfortable in speaking to others,it becomes easier to share ourselves, and our gifts, as we reflect Christ’s image from within us. He’s there in you and in me just waiting to be given a bigger role in our lives. When we invite God to present us with opportunities to serve, we better not be surprised at what He may have up His God sleeve. Oh, but what a complete blessing it can be if we just trust and go as we serve.
So, just thought that I would close this post with an idea. Given the many sad circumstances that surround us whether it’s in our families, communities and world at large, why not make it a goal to step out and bless one person or situation daily by offering up yourself. And, when you sense a nudge, don’t hesitate, don’t stop just trust and go!
So I heard a song on the radio just now and felt the nudge to share a few of the lines here.
THESE ARE ESPECIALLY FOR YOU, PHIL ! My U.S. Coastguard friend…
“Eye Of The Storm” by: Ryan Stevanson
In the eye of the storm, You remain in control
And in the middle of the war, You guard my soul
You alone are the anchor, when my sails are torn
Your love surrounds me in the eye of the storm
When the solid ground is falling out from underneath my feet
Between the black skies, and my red eyes, I can barely see
When I realize I’ve been sold out by my friends and my family
I can feel the rain reminding me
In the eye of the storm, You remain in control
In the middle of the war, You guard my soul
You alone are the anchor, when my sails are torn
Your love surrounds me in the eye of the storm
Mmm, when my hopes and dreams are far from me, and I’m runnin’ out of faith
I see the future I picture slowly fade away
And when the tears of pain and heartache are pouring down my face
I find my peace in Jesus’ name
Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves have received from God. 2 Corinthians 1:3-4
Last week I wandered into an art gallery to look around. I saw inspiration in the watercolors, charcoal paintings, and photography. In viewing the art one could sense an array of sentiments, including bittersweet emotion; that one emotion my heart knows too well.
The curator of the gallery greeted me and we started up conversation as it was just he and I in the gallery. I asked the man if his art was displayed and would he share it with me and he immediately walked over to his published books of his stunning photography. In one of his books he aligned his photography with poetry that had been written by his grandmother years earlier. Such a treasure. I commented that I enjoyed writing myself and had also published a book of my own and explained a little of its content. Recognition and sadness could be found in the eyes of the man as my words left my lips. The pain painted across his face was obvious as he shared that he had lost his son to a drug overdose. That dad was hurting and as we chatted I could sense the anger frustration and resentment in his dialogue. There was absolutely no joy nor bittersweet emotion to.be noted in that dad. It came to me that my happenstance into this gallery had been divinely orchestrated.
Of late I’ve been introduced to several people who are suffering from the same circumstance. They’ve lost their children to addiction and drug overdose. It brings such hurt to my heart. It brings me back to the day I lost my roommate who died from her own drug overdose on New Years Day back in the 80’s. It was at that time, the most painful death that I had encountered in my young life and I don’t believe I’ve ever truly processed it. To learn now of so many young lives being robbed due to addiction is hopeless and tragic. For weeks now I have sensed a tug at my heartstrings to write about this very subject and yesterday it became evident that it’s what I next needed to address in my blog posting.
As I sat on the beach yesterday, with my notebook and began to write, my husband shouted: “look out”! With that, a large beautiful monarch butterfly flew at my face and then circled and landed on my back. My husband took pictures as this gave me such joy. For those who have not read my book nor have knowledge of our story, butterflies have been outstanding Godwinks for myself and Kenzie’s friends. We had a butterfly launch at her would be high school graduation and Kenzie’s “besties” released seventy-seven monarch butterflies following graduation. Butterflies seem to appear as a sign that God is with me and the spirit of Makenzie, as well. The butterfly in this picture allowed me to hold it and then after it detached I left it sitting on the cooler next to my beach chair. It actually stayed there on the cooler next to us for over ten minutes. This was my Godwink; affirmation that what I was inspired to write was His intention.
Another recent occurrence was that one of Makenzie’s childhood friends shared her story on social media about her addiction and journey back. I had absolutely no idea! I connected with her and asked if I could share her story and she agreed.
Here is her testimony:
“Four years ago today I made a choice to change. Four years ago today I went to the emergency room thinking that I was dying. I knew telling the truth and admitting defeat would be my only option. I was puking and shitting (TMI) my brains out, shaking like a leaf, couldn’t sit still, my skin itching like there was a million ants crawling all over me. Staring at the ceiling I was deciding if I should tell the truth or lie. The ER doctor came in and I told him I was going through withdrawals. I hadn’t had any pain medication in over forty-eight hours and asked him to please give me something to stop that feeling. From that day forward my road to recovery started. It wasn’t easy. My doctor called me every two hours on the dot for two weeks! I had to take a survey with her on the phone to see how I was doing. She never gave up on me and so I didn’t give up on myself either. Even though I felt like I was being stabbed on every place of my body I knew I only had to get through the next two hours. Time felt like it stood still. It was miserable! I’m four years sober. I’ve not once relapsed. I’ve not been tempted in anyway to go back. Why? Because I can’t even explain to you what those withdrawals felt like and I NEVER want to go through that again EVER! My life has been so much better not constantly worrying about where I could get them ( pain meds), messaging everyone that I knew. I had a problem that was ruining my life, my relationships, everything. I’m so much better now! I’ve barely had ANY issues with my kidneys anymore ( my debilitating illness being the initial reason for my drug use). Flare-ups here and there but nothing extremely bad. I will NEVER put another pain medication in my body unless I’m seriously injured and have no choice but to do so! I’m so thankful for my doctor who took two weeks out of her life, her schedule, her sleep to make sure she called me every two hours twenty-four hours a day! I am grateful for Leo for pushing me into getting help for not him nor Tristan ( our son) but for myself. I am thankful for my parents for their help in supporting my detox. I feel bad as well for everyone who had to see me go through that time and I am sorry to everyone that I ever hurt while being clouded by my drug of choice! I’m happy and sober and I will forever be thankful that I stopped before it got completely out of control! I am just thankful for my life!!! I don’t want this to seem like I’m bragging or judging anyone who has been down this road and it may not have been as easy for them. I’m not bragging that I’m not an addict anymore because I am. I am an addict and I will be an addict for the rest of my life, that’s not something that will ever change! But now I’m In control, not a drug! Me!” ❤️❤️
So my message to Elizabeth was this:
“Your post sooo brave!! Thank God you had a doctor who chose to really serve you. Thank God you did not give up on you. You were given a second chance (by God) and you grabbed it. Elizabeth will you allow me to use your narrative in my blog piece? My blog is read all over the world.. perhaps it (your story) can help someone or many.
This my sweet friend, I believe is your purpose.. to share your story to help others “?
And I heard the voice of the Lord saying, “Whom shall I send, and who will go for us?” Then I said, “Here I am! Send me.”
So I’ve been thinking about our God of second chances and wanted to share a portion of the devotional email that I received today:
Nothing that is not God’s will can come into the life of one who trusts and obeys God. This fact is enough to make our life one of ceaseless thanksgiving and joy. For “God’s will is the one hopeful, glad, and glorious thing in the world”; and it is working in the omnipotence for us all the time, with nothing to prevent it if we are surrendered and believing.
In the center of the circle of the will of God I stand. There can come no second causes, All must come from His dear hand. All is well! for ’tis my Father who my life hath planned.
Shall I pass through waves of sorrow? Then I know it will be best; Though I cannot tell the reason, I can trust, and so am blest.
God is Love, and God is faithful, So in perfect peace I rest, with the shade and with the sunshine, with the joy and with the pain, Lord, I trust Thee, both are needed, each Thy wayward child to train,
Earthly loss, did we but know it, Often means our heavenly gain. –I. G. W.
From Crosswalks.com (Aug. 14, 2017)
My visit that day at the art gallery lasted longer than I had expected. I figured that I needed to share my story as well as my faith with that very bitter dad. He told me that he wasn’t religious and that he and God had an understanding. I shared with him how my faith in Christ carried me through the dark times and blessed me with even joy above and beyond the bittersweet. I asked the dad how he was using his son’s tragedy to help others. He told me that he had shared his son’s story years earlier at a few speaking engagements but had done nothing for a long time. And so I encouraged him to get back to it as it could help him with the healing even now, eleven years later, as it serves others in his son’s memory for a bigger purpose.
God will use us in His own pre-designed capacity if we say a resounding yes Lord, send me! What if we said: “Send me out to listen, Lord, send me out to share; send me to reach others with your loving care”? Perhaps by serving one another even when we are suffering in our own despair, He will transform us; change our bitter into bittersweet.
Sitting oceanside on this exquisite Sunday morning, it almost feels like I am attending church in this beautiful place. In my estimation it is prettier than any cathedral. Today there are no distractions. No cute little babies sitting in the pew in front of me, no standing, kneeling, sitting in repetition. Just me in my beach chair with my open Bible app on my phone and a receptive heart seeking all that He has for me.
So Ecclesiastes came to mind and I decided to look it up. This well known verse from chapter 3 came up (verses 2-8 ) and it seems so fitting for my blog post this week. Ecclesiastes 3:2-8. NIV 2 There is a time for everything, and a season for every activity under the heavens: a time to be born and a time to die, a time to plant and a time to uproot, 3 a time to kill and a time to heal, a time to tear down and a time to build, 4 a time to weep and a time to laugh, a time to mourn and a time to dance, 5 a time to scatter stones and a time to gather them, a time to embrace and a time to refrain from embracing, 6 a time to search and a time to give up, a time to keep and a time to throw away, 7 a time to tear and a time to mend, a time to be silent and a time to speak, 8 a time to love and a time to hate, a time for war and a time for peace.
A couple of days ago we took our grandson to the beach for some fun in the hot sun. As we set up our beach umbrella and all of our gear I noticed a woman sitting in a beach chair near us. Her lavender bathing suit caught my eye and I paid her a compliment. She smiled. So later on I struck up conversation ( I always do.. ha ha) and asked her about the paperback book that she was reading. She was reading some military themed fiction and although she told me it was pretty good, she wasn’t too convincing. So out of the blue I told her that I had written and published a book. ( Geeze, I’m so bold with whom and what I share, but I guess that it’s just part of who I’ve become). So as she asked me what the book was about and I told her, she shared with me that she had suddenly lost her husband a week ago. It was certainly a time for a hug. Even though we were random strangers we were both members of a greater family as part of God’s family as descendants of Adam and Eve. We both understood significant sorrow. My new acquaintance seemed not to mind my hug. As we chatted we discovered that we knew some of the same people even though she resides in Florida and me in Western Mass. I actually knew her brother who lives a few doors down from the place where we vacation. It is amazing to see how we truly all are connected.
Anyway, I decided to gift my new friend a copy of “Wish You A Goode Journey” and I headed to my car to get it. As I flip flopped through the hot sand something caught my eye. A fluttering monarch just beyond my reach. This, my Godwink, followed me as I treked through the sand. Really…A monarch on the beach? A blessed reminder that my girl is always with me as is God.
Anne, my newest friend thanked me for the book and told me that she was an artist. She mentioned that she was thinking it might be a time for painting. Yes! I thought, a perfect time for painting! I find when emotionally charged, creativity is at its best! . Anne went to her car and retrieved her water colors while we watched her stuff.
The day played out and we fed the meter several times as we stayed later than Bob and I had originally planned. Our grandson was a fish in that frigid ocean water! It was just a time for relaxation and rejuvenation. The ocean always does that for us.
A few hours later, my new friend appeared at our umbrella and presented me with one of her sweet paintings.
Please check out her website to see all her beautiful work.
Below is the watercolor she created while we were at the beach.
“Low tide ” by Anne Sands
Decided to share this piece (below) , in memory and honor of Anne’s husband Billl and my dear ole dad “Moe” who was a sailor for the U.S. Navy. It just seemed fitting to add this to my seashore blog post.
Gone From My Sight by: Henry VanDyke
I am standing upon the seashore. A ship, at my side,
spreads her white sails to the moving breeze and starts
for the blue ocean. She is an object of beauty and strength.
I stand and watch her until, at length, she hangs like a speck
of white cloud just where the sea and sky come to mingle with each other.
Then, someone at my side says, “There, she is gone.”
Gone from my sight. That is all. She is just as large in mast, hull and spar as she was when she left my side. And, she is just as able to bear her load of living freight to her destined port. Her diminished size is in me — not in her.
And, just at the moment when someone says, “There, she is gone,” there are other eyes watching her coming, and other voices ready to take up the glad shout, “Here she comes!”
And that is dying...
There is most definitely a time for every season under heaven. Thank God we have been given the blessing of this perspective and that beautiful verse from Ecclesiastes.
Throughout my faith journey, I have asked God to show me signs to let me know He is near, as I ask for guidance through my prayers of supplication. What does that mean? It means that I humbly ask God for His help through what I now fondly refer to as Godwinks. Sometimes it is a simple conversation with my creator that says, “Help, Give me a sign”!
I remember the anxiety that I felt when purchasing my first car, a used 1969 Volkswagon beetle bug. I lived in Houston, TX at the time, and had no one there like my dad to give it a good look over. I had saved up $1000.00 of my hard earned money to make this purchase and couldn’t afford to buy a lemon. There were no lemon laws in Houston, TX. So, I went to the seller’s house, an elderly gentlemen, to see his beetle bug. He was from Poland and spoke with a polish accent and I found it difficult to understand him as we conversed. Also, to my dismay I learned that the car was a standard transmission so I would need to learn to drive it as well. The man took me for a ride in the car and showed me the ins and outs of it. It was very plain and in thinking retrospectively probably not the best choice for city driving on the super highways, but I chose it as it would be conservative on gas. I asked the man for a minute and he walked away to give me time and space. I prayed. I was so very nervous about this purchase and asked God to give me a sign. I remember standing there under a big pecan tree in that back yard and looking up could see the sun streaming through the leaves of the tree. While looking at the leaves I could see an image and I remember that It looked like the face of Christ to me and I felt an immense peace come over me. My anxiety was suddenly gone. I will never forget that experience. And so I decided to purchase the car as I negotiated a lower price ( it’s what we New Englanders do) and the elderly gentleman and I finally shook hands. I was young, 19 years old, but the lesson of prayer that my parents instilled in me at a young age has proved to help me find solace in every situation.
Living in Houston was a time of growth. Although I didn’t realize it at the time, I can see now how God used the trials in my life to mold and strengthen my faith. As a young adult I lived superficially worrying about outward appearances and about joining friends at the next happy hour. Yes, we partied in excess! Because of this, I eventually experienced a deep emptiness and a real drought in my spiritual life. On December 31st, (New Year’s Eve) I lost my young 19 year old friend and room-mate Lesa, to a drug overdose. This was a life altering experience for me. To say it woke me up would be an understatement. Following Lesa’s funeral I took a little trip alone to Corpus Christi,TX to sort things out for myself and I remember inviting Jesus back into my life amidst my thoughts. As I stared out at the vast ocean I just knew that He had bigger plans for my life.
But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me. That is why, for Christ’s sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong.
2 Corinthians 2:9-11
When we relinquish control of our lives to God amazing things happen.
I googled Corpus Christie to learn how it got its ‘name and found this:
In 1519, on the Roman Catholic Feast Day of Corpus Christi, Spanish explorer Alonzo Alvarez de Pineda discovered a lush semi-tropical bay on what is now the southern coast of Texas. The bay, and the city that later sprung up there, took the name of the feast day celebrating the “Body of Christ.”
So I thought it intriguing that Corpus Christi was the place where I gave my heart to Christ
A song played on my livestream today and as I paid attention to the lyrics it gave me a smile and I wanted to share a few of the lines here:
The song “Keep Your Eyes Open”, by: Need to Breathe
Cause if you never leave home, never let go
You’ll never make it to the great unknown
Open up your eyes, keep your eyes open
So tell me you’re strong, tell me you see
I need to hear it, can you promise me
To keep your eyes… Open, my love
So show me your fire, show me your heart
You know I’ll never let you fall apart
If you keep your eyes… Open, my love
Keep your eyes…open
So grateful my God has given me an open heart to receive all that He has for my life. His plans are so much better than mine, I will wait patiently and when He Gives Me A Sign I will give thanks.