Enjoying The Holidays If You Have An Estranged Child

  The holidays can be the most wonderful time of the year but they can also be a challenging time for families, especially when there is an estranged child involved. It's easy to feel the weight of the situation and let it consume you, but it's important to remember that you can still enjoy the holidays and make the most of this special time of year.
  One of the most important things to keep in mind is to focus on the positive aspects of the holidays. Spend time with loved ones who are supportive and care about you. Surround yourself with people who bring you joy and make you feel good. Whether it’s friends or extended family, allow yourself to enjoy their company and be in the moment.
  If you’re missing the traditions of years past, allow yourself to create new traditions. Start a new holiday tradition that's special to you and those who are sharing life with you. This can be anything from a special holiday meal to a fun activity that you do every year. Creating new traditions can help you focus on the present and create positive memories.
  It's also important to take care of yourself during the holidays. Make sure to do things that make you happy. This can be anything from taking a relaxing bath to going for a walk or get in touch with someone and have a cup of tea. Taking care of yourself can help you feel more grounded and centered during a challenging time.
  Finally, it's important to remember that healing takes time. Don't put too much pressure on yourself to have everything figured out. Take things one day at a time and be patient with yourself. With time, you may find that your relationship with your estranged child improves, but even if it doesn't, you can still find joy and happiness during the holidays.


   Hey there!  How is it possible that it’s been more than a year since I’ve posted on my blog?!  It’s not that I haven’t been writing – it’s that once again, I allowed fear to win.  One of the dangers of sharing your thoughts on any public platform is that others share theirs, and when their thoughts are conveyed in an unkind manner or those thoughts make me question myself – it also makes me become that insecure little girl of my past.  Ridiculous to some – but my reality. 

   I’ve been incredibly blessed to work with some amazing people over the past year and have enjoyed every moment spent coaching them.  I’m also really excited to see their continued growth as we move towards new goals.  That “continued growth” is the reason for this post.  As I was asking questions during a recent session, I realized the questions I was asking – the gentle guidance for my client to go a bit deeper, were questions I needed to ask of myself; and quite honestly, I didn’t like it.  Not because the questions weren’t relevant; but because they were.

   I’ve recently had the wonderful opportunity to be on the other side of coaching and although it’s only been a short time, I’m already beginning to gain some insight.  Insight into how to continue to grow and how growing into the person God created me to be is a goal worth pursuing…even when it makes me go deeper than I want to go.  After all, it’s in the deep water that we realize we can swim, right?  Sure, some may say “it’s in the deep water that you realize you can’t swim”; but I’m choosing to focus on the positive.  I think that was my mistake in the first place, NOT focusing on the positive. 

   How easy it is, especially now, to see nothing but negativity and fear.  What we knew as normal, the things we took for granted just a few months ago, and the things we complained about, are now things we long to do. 

    One of my boys is a photographer and another is in the Army National Guard.  The photographer focuses on lighting, subject placement, and getting the perfect shot.  The Army Man focuses on safety, procedures, and getting the job done.  Both, although entirely different circumstances focus on every detail along the way.   It’s in managing the details that the plan is executed and the goal achieved.

    It is my prayer that I manage the details well and never miss an opportunity to move one step closer to completing the plan.

“Commit to the Lord whatever you do, and he will establish your plans.”
— Proverbs 16:3

Do You Know?

     I knew you were “heading out” at 7 am; but I wasn’t quite prepared for what I saw as I watched you walk across the patio and down the steps to your car. 

     You see I know you’re Commissioned.  I know I’ve told everyone who’s questioned why I’m “allowing” you to do this Army thing that you’ve wanted to be involved in “protecting and serving” since you were in Kindergarten.  

     I know you’ve gone to Africa and Alaska to learn even more about ways to do your job well.  I know you slept on a glacier and had to get an IV because you climbed too high and too long and got dehydrated, but you did it so you wouldn’t be disqualified.  I know you rope climbed over a ravine with a full pack and thought it was great. 

     I know you’ve read more books than the average librarian, and you strive for excellence in everything you do. 

     I know those things and yet, when I saw you take one last moment to straighten your hat to make sure it was “just right” before leaving the house, I realized the name on the back of that Army hat was my last name too, and I couldn’t help but wonder what you know?

     Do you know when you walked across the patio I didn’t see a man in full gear, I saw the little boy who walked that same patio in army shorts holding a plastic gun telling his little brother to follow the path? 

     Do you know I saw the Hardy Boys books and the way you searched until your collection was complete reading every single one? 

     Do you know I saw the mischievous smile when I caught you doing something that you were being sneaky about - like convincing your toddler brother to get the cookies and when asked about it you said, “What? he got them, I’m just eating them”?

     Do you know as you descended the steps at the end of the patio, I saw you taking your first steps across the living room floor and remembered how independent you became once you knew you could get somewhere on your own? 

     Do you know as you walked just out of my sight I heard the words “I, Noah Hartzell, do solemnly swear that I will support and defend the Constitution of the United States and the State of Pennsylvania against all enemies, foreign and domestic; that I will bear true faith and allegiance to the same; and that I will obey the orders of the President of the United States and the Governor of Pennsylvania and the orders of the officers appointed over me, according to law and regulations. So help me God.”

     Do you know those words are the reason people say, “Thank you for your service”?  Do you know it hurts a little when I see that look on your face thinking you don’t feel you deserve it because you haven’t been deployed yet?   You see the thing is…when you said those words, “I do solemnly swear” - you signed up to go if they call.  You’ve made the commitment … not knowing where you will go or what you will be asked to do.  You’ve sworn to defend the United States wherever and whenever, and you continue to train to do that very thing.  THAT is why we say thank you for your service – because training to do those things, knowing someday you WILL be doing those things, deserves thanks.

     Do you know how very proud your Dad and I are?

     Do you know that the flag proudly displayed in front of our home not only represents our love for our Country, but the gratitude for the men and women who’ve sworn to protect it…including you?

     In case you didn’t know, you do now. 

     #armystrong #proudmomma

“So be strong and courageous! Do not be afraid and do not panic before them. For the Lord your God will personally go ahead of you. He will neither fail you nor abandon you.”
— Deuteronomy 31:6


     His eyes made sure to examine every person in the line in front of him yet, he never made eye contact with one of them; he gathered his cup of steaming goodness and left.  She stood in the line and couldn’t stop pulling her coat down, first in the back then the front, making sure she glanced at others; but never once lifting her eyes high enough to look into another’s.  His order wasn’t correct and although he didn’t raise his voice, those around him could see his displeasure and as he passed the woman trying desperately to order from this menu that clearly had too many choices for her, his shaking head and roll of his eyes was a clear indicator that his morning was not going well. 

     There was one man in a blue jacket and darker blue beenie that actually reached out in an attempt to have connection with those around him waiting for their orders.  Sadly, not one person was aware of his searching eyes as he quietly waited until his name was called.  He grabbed his cup and looked at each person, one more time as if willing them to see him.  They did not. 

     I couldn’t help but wonder how many times I didn’t see searching eyes just hoping to connect with someone as I waited in a line waiting for my name to be called?  How many interactions had I missed because my eyes were searching my phone instead of being aware of the living beings who surrounded me?  How many times have I been unaware? 

     I wanted so badly for him to look my way so I could give him a big smile and say “Hi”; but I wasn’t in line.  I was sitting at a table in another part of the coffee shop, and just happened to have a clear view of him by the counter. 

      I’ve recently begun scheduling time for social media and this was a confirmation that it was a good idea.    I realized I was wasting a lot of time being a spectator to other people's life and not living my own.  Don't get me wrong, I love seeing what my friends are doing; but I realized it was also a reason I wasn't getting my own things done.  I also decided I want more a "facetime" instead of facebook.  Nothing beats the real laughs, real conversation and real people getting together.

     So Mr. Blue Jacket, who got his coffee at the shop on the corner in Center City Philly this morning, please know you may not have had interaction with those around you; but you most definitely made an impact. 

“Keep on loving each other as brothers and sisters. Remember to welcome strangers, because some who have done this have welcomed angels without knowing it.”
— Hebrews 13:1-2


     I had lunch with one of my boys.  It cracks me up that I say “boy” as if he’s a toddler, when in fact he’s in his twenties.  We went to his favorite sushi place in town.  A place that he’s eaten so much that the waitress says, “The usual?” prior to him ordering and when she left the table, I’m told she’s making a birthday cake for her son tonight.  Personal service really is still the best!  As we sat chatting, I couldn’t help but think about how wonderful it is that although I love this person sitting across from me at the table, I also like him. 

     I’ve eaten sushi before and I like anything that doesn’t include raw fish (which really makes me wonder if technically it can be called sushi at all).  Ha

     I was told that I would be using chopsticks to eat and with a straight face said “okay”, but on the inside I cracked up thinking there was no way that was going to happen.  We spent a few minutes practicing and it didn’t go as bad as I thought it would.  He was patient as he told me several times how to hold it and then decided that I needed to mimic his holding the chopstick and once again, after a few times – I got it. 

     The soup arrived first, and thankfully – there’s a spoon for that.  It is however, very difficult to use a spoon with sides without making a slurping noise – he was quick to tell me “Don’t worry, everyone slurps when they use it.”  I’m not quite sure how I feel about that. 

     Our rolls arrived and the games began.  It wasn’t as difficult as I thought it would be to get the food in the chopsticks.  The difficult part was dipping in the sauce and getting it into my mouth without wearing it.  I didn’t even attempt to look at the bottom of the roll as that would have required skill I clearly do not have yet.  I don’t think I’ve concentrated that much to eat lunch – ever.

     This fun, learning something I had never done before lunchtime, reminded me that it’s so important to be open-minded and saying “Yes” when we have the opportunity to be adventurous – okay, maybe sushi with chopsticks isn’t exactly “adventurous”; but it does require an open mind and willingness to make a fool of yourself while learning.  The best part – I spent an hour with one of my boys just talking about life and it doesn’t get much better than that. 

“Wise people can also listen and learn; even they can find good advice in these words.”
— Proverbs 1:5


     I wasn’t quite sure what to expect as I entered the home of a woman I had never met before.  I was invited by two women whom I have newly become acquainted with, but who I already know are sure to become friends.  We have similar interests as not only are they involved with the same Company that I have recently joined; but they have a love for others and a love for Jesus that they aren’t afraid to share.  I was thrilled when asked to attend the meeting in hopes to learn more about growing my business.   Greeted warmly by the hostess and quickly told to grab some snacks, we waited for others to join.  There were six women in the room and five joined via computer from various parts of the country – I love that technology can connect us in so many ways!  The highlight of the meeting was listening as each woman shared what had happened in their lives this past year and what goals they had for 2018.  I learned quite a bit in a very short amount of time, and realized what a blessing these women are to so many.  Successes were applauded, struggles discussed, and burdens shared.  I truly felt thankful for the time spent together. 

     It was however, two children who made the biggest impression on me.  Although both were under the age of 11 (a sweet girl who's 10 and an incredibly well spoken boy of 6), they were not only well behaved, they each contributed to the success of my evening. 

     As each adult shared, this 10-year-old girl, clearly going on 20 (in a good way), applauded the successes and took opportunities to interject when she could.  She listened intently and as she looked at her mother with both admiration and pride, she shared that she’s been working on an idea for a business of her own.  Trust me – I’ll be sharing it with you when she’s ready to launch and have no doubt this young entrepreneur will succeed in whatever it is she puts her mind to.  When the adults finished, she was asked what her goals were for 2018 and my heart melted when she said, “I want to help my mom more”.  She elaborated on what that looked like; and even shared a few family secrets (not really secrets, more like fun facts) … oh, out of the mouths of babes! 

     Her brother, who was full of energy but able to stay content with his action figures and drawing, surprised each of us with a colored picture at the end of the evening.  Being the momma of four boys – the youngest now almost ready to drive – I can assure you, there is something special when a child gives you a piece of their creativity.  I will also tell you that the refrigerator looks quite empty without those masterpieces. 

     These children reminded me of the importance of being engaged with those around you, no matter how old or where you happen to be; whether it’s stuck in a line at the grocery store, waiting impatiently in the waiting room of a doctor’s office, or if you've been taken to a business meeting by your mom.  We can all benefit from listening to one another; and we can certainly make a difference in the lives of the children we’re around by encouraging their strengths and helping them realize their dreams.  Children need to know they’re important; that what they think and feel really does matter.  If we would try to remember, our children really are the future;  we can most certainly be a positive influence on who they become, simply by interacting and believing in them.

“Be careful. Don’t think these little children are worth nothing. I tell you that they have angels in heaven who are always with my Father in heaven.”
— Matthew 18:10

Not Quite Sure What She Meant

    I had to get gas in my car this morning.  I will admit that I absolutely despise getting gas on chilly mornings.  I will also admit that the only reason I had to go this morning, was because I didn’t want to get out of my car and pump the gas last night after getting Ben from basketball practice because it was too chilly - clearly, I don't like being chilly.  It's okay tho' because had I gotten it last night, I would have missed one of the most interesting things anyone has ever said to me.

     I drove to the station and realized that it was not yet opened.  Apparently it opens at 6:30 a.m. and it was only 6:20 a.m.   Why was I out at 6:20 a.m. getting gas you may wonder?  Well, because this morning was one of the mornings I was meeting my BFF because we haven’t been able to find evenings that work for us to chat and I needed to see her face.  So that’s what we do – we meet for breakfast.  I then drove another ½ mile to go to a station that was open and proceeded to pump the gas.  A woman, clearly dressed for work and chewing gum at a speed that must have hurt her jaw, was staring at me.  I’m not saying she was looking at me because we were the only two women pumping gas at 6:20 a.m., I’m saying she was full blown, made me wonder if I had something smudged on my face kind of staring at me.  When it finally became clear that she was freaking me out a bit, she looked at me with the most matter-of-fact face and said, “You know, I’ve often thought of just throwing my messy hair up on the top of my head ... I may just do that one day.”

    Seriously, I didn’t know what to say.  I wasn’t sure if I should be offended or flattered.  Was that an insult or a compliment?  I still haven’t quite figured it out.  What I do know is that my friend told me my hair looked far from messy, (another reason I love her), and I’ve been able to chuckle a few times today because of those words said at the pump.    

     I couldn’t help but think that I could have been offended; and yet, what good would that have done?  This early morning encounter reminded me that we all have the choice to use our words to build each other up or destroy, to bless or curse, and to spread hope or hate.  It might also be a good idea to make sure that what you’re saying to a complete stranger comes out the way you want it to be received.

     So, Miss cream-colored SUV who pumped gas on Route 248 this morning at 6:20 a.m., I hope someday you DO decide to just throw your messy hair on the top of your head and go meet one of your girlfriends for breakfast; and I also hope she stares at you for just a few moments before she tells you your hair doesn’t look messy at all.


“Let your conversation be gracious and attractive so that you will have the right response for everyone.”
— Colossians 4:6

Point of Sail

     I’ve always wanted to go on a sailboat.  I think there’s a beauty to them and am amazed at how fast they’re able to go.  I’ve also always wanted to yell, “All hands on deck!” and I may or may not secretly hope to find pirate treasure someday! ;)

     I’ve watched sailing contests and am fascinated at how a team has to work so hard to be sure the sails go up at just the right time.  I’ve also seen the defeat of teams who haven’t quite gotten it right and the sails either don’t get up quickly; or even worse, don’t get up at all.  I often wonder why one is successful and the other fails.  Could it be that one has practiced the art of the perfect release, over and over again?  Maybe that same one learns what type of fabric will be the best to use for speed.  Maybe they’ve taken the time to learn everything they possibly can to be successful.  The interesting thing is, although every one of those things are important, it’s the wind that powers the sail; and the wind can be unpredictable. 

     Two Skippers can have the same boat and the same type of sail; but it’s how the Skipper chooses to set the sail that is the deciding factor between success or failure. 

     This weekend I attended a conference and learned more than I ever imagined I could.  One of the quotes I loved was, “It’s not just what happens to you in life, it’s what you do with what happens.”  -Joseph Valenzuela

     The wind blows on us all, it’s how we set the sails during the journey that determines our destination. 

“But if any of you needs wisdom, you should ask God for it. He is generous to everyone and will give you wisdom without criticizing you. But when you ask God, you must believe and not doubt. Anyone who doubts is like a wave in the sea, blown up and down by the wind. Such doubters are thinking two different things at the same time, and they cannot decide about anything they do. They should not think they will receive anything from the Lord.”
— James 1:5-8


It's interesting the things I overhear while waiting in lines; bits and pieces of people's conversations.  Sometimes funny, sometimes so intellectually superior that I have no idea what any of it means, and every once in awhile I hear something that really makes me think.  That happened today and I thought I'd share it.  "Negative thoughts have no power on their own, we choose how much power they have by how long we hold on to them." 

It's so true isn't it?  I can't tell you how many conversations I have had in my head when something has happened or something has been said that I'm upset about.  98% of the time, the conversation never actually happens and yet, I spent a lot of time trying to prove my point - to myself.   So from now on, I'm going to be intentional about either tackling the issue head on or letting go of the negative thought. 

We may not have control of what others say and do; but we certainly can make our part of the world a little brighter by choosing joy and spreading hope.   

“Brothers and sisters, think about the things that are good and worthy of praise. Think about the things that are true and honorable and right and pure and beautiful and respected. ”
— Philippians 4:8

Mirror, Mirror

          Our laughter causes almost every person in the restaurant at one time or another to glance our way; and we know they’re wondering what one table of women could possibly find so funny.

          What they don’t know is it can be anything from the latest shenanigans of one of our children, a work story, the hysterical comments made by the comedian of the bunch, the husband stories, the boyfriend drama or just the pure joy of being together sharing life.  I listen to each of them intently.  I watch as their expressions change when they share words of heartbreak or concern, and want so badly to have the right words to say. 

          Each of us in our own season and yet so perfectly connected.

          These women.  These funny, articulate, adventurous, sometimes crazy, sometimes irritated, sometimes searching for words themselves … are all absolutely beautiful and yet, they don’t know it.  They see the gray hair, the age spots, the extra weight, the wishing there was more weight in one place or another!  They see the negative and yet, it’s the positives that make us want to schedule the next dinner before we leave because we can’t wait to do it again.

          Why is it we can’t see our own beauty when it’s so easy to assure another of theirs? 

          Take the time to share what you see and help them understand they are beautiful and loved.  We all need it.

“He has made everything beautiful in its time.”
— Ecclesiasties 3:11a


Did you ever read someone’s story and although you understood, there were things written that totally stuck out to you? Something you just wish you could talk to them to find out the reason they included it?  I read about a man who was in prison and literally chained so he couldn’t escape.  At one time he was terribly cruel to many people; but now he no longer agreed with the government that he used to be part of.  What struck me was the fact that even though he was in prison, his letters were always in one way or another, encouraging those who he wrote to. 

He talked about not only what was happening in his life, but about the importance of being unified as a people and the importance of faith.  He wrote about love and how being involved in community is essential to thrive as a person.  He talked about hardships, being beaten to sometimes near death; yet, through it all, he had hope.    In one of his letters he wrote, “Remember my chains. Grace be with you.”  I don’t think he wrote “remember my chains” for me to be focusing on all the horrible things that were happening to him in prison.  I believe he wrote those three words to remind me that even though he was in chains, he still had hope.  He knew that the reason he was in prison would someday be the very thing that would set him free.

This person was Paul – the writer of many books of the Bible.  I can relate to his story to a very, very small degree, as I had been in chains at one point in my life.  Not physical chains; but I was bound nonetheless.  Emotional chains that were extremely difficult to get free from.  I can also relate because the very same thing that released his chains, released mine – faith in Jesus.  It’s my prayer that as I write,  I’m honest and real about what life is like, and yet I want to be encouraging, always pointing others to the hope they too can have in Jesus.

““I, Paul, write this greeting in my own hand. Remember my chains. Grace be with you.””
— Colossians 4:18

Just Him

     I watched as he stood beside the casket viewing the second of two brothers who had died within 43 days of one another; and in true Grandpa fashion, when he’s not quite sure of himself, he didn’t speak.  He just lowered his head and slightly shook it from side to side; sighing heavily as he walked away.  I couldn’t help but wonder what he was thinking as his parents and siblings have all passed away and now, it’s just him. 

     Looking at the photos taped on poster board documenting the life of this Uncle, I was once again reminded that NOW is the time; because no matter how long I live, I want the pictures to be of sharing life in places I visited and adventures I participated in – outside of my comfortable little town and maybe just a little bit outside of my comfort zone.   

     Honestly, I’m not sure of the “point” of this post.  Maybe I needed to write it down…to find a place to put the sad mental picture that was created in my mind. 

     So my friends, take what you can from these words; but remember this…to everything there is a season - they aren’t unlimited, so make the most of them!

“Teach us to realize the brevity of life,
so that we may grow in wisdom.”
— Psalm 90:12

At Your Age

     “At Your Age."  Isn’t it interesting no matter what our age, when we hear those words, it tends to be a negative thing and that it starts when we’re very young?

     As a child you want to do something fun with your older siblings and are told, “You can’t at your age, you have to wait until you’re older.”

     In the teen years we’re told, “You don’t know what you want at your age – you have to wait until you live a little, then you’ll understand.”

     When you’ve “lived a little” you hear things like, “I wish I were your age, from both those younger than you and older!

     When you’ve lived a lot, they say “You can’t know what I’m going through”, as if they forget that we were once the age they are now. 

     Could it be, that not only are we hearing the words; but also believing the lies those words hold?  Words like, “Only the young are beautiful”, or “Only the old have wisdom”, or “Only those with the most “likes” are important”, or “You’ve made to many mistakes to change now”, or “You can’t do that, you’re too ________(fill in the blank)”. 

     There is a generation of young people who are so involved with technology they’re missing real live connection, a generation who is moving so quickly they’re passing so many beautiful things without seeing them, and a generation who’ve just stopped because they feel like they can’t keep up. 

     What if we decided our age is truly just a number?  What if you decided right now that you want life to change – not saying that life is “bad”; but recognizing that maybe there’s something you want to do and haven’t yet, maybe there is a hobby you’d like to begin, maybe a place you want to visit, or maybe you know you want to do something but just aren’t sure what – talk with your spouse or a friend and let them help you figure out what it is. 

The important thing is ... DO SOMETHING.

“The lazy will not get what they want,
but those who work hard will.”
— Proverbs 13:4

I Know

     While walking our dog, I was thinking about the two most significant holidays I celebrate - Christmas and Easter.  Don’t get me wrong, Independence Day, Veteran’s Day, Memorial Day, and Thanksgiving Day all hold special meaning and are important…the others are certainly fun; but not nearly as significant as Christmas and Easter.

     Christmas represents when God gave us His Son; and Easter represents when His son gave His life…for me (and you).  I’ve been asked how I can say that with such certainty…how can I believe that there’s a god in heaven, who sent his son; and then his son died and came back to life, to go back to heaven and wait for us.  My response was something like this…

     I don’t believe there is a god in heaven.  I know, that THE God of Heaven, sent His Son and His son willingly came to die the most horrific death to save us.  Then that son - the Son of God, rose again; and after being seen by many, ascended back into Heaven.  I know this for two reasons in particular.  One – historical accounts.  Not just rumors or stories that are handed down from generation to generation; but actual documentation, recorded eye witness accounts of Jesus’ life, His ministry, His death AND His resurrection.  Two – because my life is living proof of someone who has been changed by the relationship I have with THE God of Heaven and His Son.   I could give countless examples of the ways I’ve seen God work in my life and if you want to know, let’s grab tea sometime. 

     If you’re still on the fence whether you believe, or if you adamantly disagree with what I’m saying, I would encourage you to check the facts – read some books, a suggestion would be, "The Case for Christ" by Lee Stroble (who, by the way, was an atheist when he began his journey to see if the stories of Jesus were real or not).  Come to our church sometime or reach out to our Pastor to chat.  (www.forkscommunitychurch.org)   You can also just talk to Him….God that is.  He’s always available.  It could start with a very simple, “God, I’m not sure you exist – can you show yourself in a way that there is no denying it’s you?”  Believe me, if you ask - He will answer; and when He does, and if you decide to listen and believe, you too will know THE God of Heaven and all the joy that comes with knowing Him.  Ask today…you’re eternity depends on it.

““Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you. ”
— Matthew 7:7

I Didn't See It

     The words, “Your eyes show the strength of your soul” came to my mind and although I know I read it in a book, which one I cannot recall. 

     I’ve been feeling out of touch lately and realize two things I miss.  One - face to face interaction and two - phone calls.   I’m not sure when it happened, but texting has become the “norm”.  For some reason, I actually feel bad about making a phone call to a friend or family member.  Why is that?  Years ago, I spent hours on the phone talking with friends.

     Don’t get me wrong, texting is great – especially when a quick answer to a question is all that’s needed.  There is however, something genuine about seeing a person’s face when having a conversation, hearing the fluctuation in that person’s voice, or the silence that allows you to recognize their sadness or need for a listening ear.  Maybe I’m just getting old, or maybe I’m willing to say what other people are feeling but aren’t willing to express themselves.  I tend to be asked to be the “voice” when others want something conveyed – this is both a blessing and a curse, trust me. 

     I’m not having a pity party, I promise; but I am working through why I haven’t felt quite right and am taking steps to fix it.   I guess I’m sharing this because I still feel we are very connected, disconnected society; and maybe if we start making true, real life connections, we’ll all be better off.  Maybe the eyes we see across from us will show strength; or maybe we’ll see a weakness that by being in that moment together, we can help strengthen.  Maybe we all need to spend more time together "doing life" instead of seeing pictures of what everyone's life appears to be. 

     This week I dropped something off at a friend's house and it happened to be during bath-time of their little ones.  It's been a long time since I helped with jammies or bedtime routines; and I found great joy in the simple task of brushing a little girl's hair.  I also remember the nights of more water on the floor than in the tub, and joy wasn't quite my reaction.  I was apologized to because the laundry basket wasn't put away and assured that "straightening up" was the goal before I got there but it hadn't happened; and yet, I didn't see the laundry basket until it was pointed out, nor did I see a messy home.  What I saw was the controlled chaos of a busy family, children who squealed in delight when water splashed out of the tub, and sweet moments of well-loved blankets being held close. 

     Another evening, another family, and just forty minutes were able to lift my spirits as we chatted about upcoming adventures, laughed at the wit of a 12-year old, and listened to a few moments of piano music being played!  The funny thing, once again, I didn't see anything other than the smiles of friends.  Ordinary moments and yet, they reminded me how special everyday moments truly are.  I left each of these homes feeling refreshed and looking forward to "sharing life together" again, and hopefully soon.


“This is the day that the Lord has made. Let us be full of joy and be glad in it. ”
— Psalm 118:24


“I know someone who would love you.”  This said years ago by a guy I dated a few times, but quickly realized we would be nothing more than friends.

“Uh, no.  You are not setting me up with one of your buddies.”  A few weeks later I would in fact, be meeting the guy who was “sure to love me”.  You see, my friend brought him to one of my volleyball games.  Apparently he thought that the best possible place to introduce us would be a gym, after I’d been playing volleyball.  Seriously-who does that?!  I will say I was quite impressed as, this guy was not only cute but had the best biceps I had ever seen.  (True story).  We were married many years ago today; and today has been filled with countless memories from over the years.  I can say I love him more now than I ever thought I could and it’s not just the, “really great arms” kind of love. 

It’s the, “rocky start, but stick with it”; the, “I don’t know why, but I’ll try to change”; it’s, up all night with babies crying and bills left over with no money left.  It’s the, “I want this and you want that”; the, “I don’t know what to say and the saying too much”. 

It’s, “I’m sorry, and forgive me”; the, rolling eyes and “you crack me up”.  It’s, car accidents and hernia surgeries, the late night talks and sleepless nights.  It’s medical issues and “it’ll be ok”; the, “you need to sit down so I can say this” and “here we go” and “what a mess.” 

It’s Christmas Eve at 2AM and hockey tables across the yard; it’s 6 foot Santa’s and little elves.  It’s milk bottles and big wooden wheels.  It’s letter H’s and decking the halls. 

It’s the, lay on the couch and watch TV.  The, fall asleep on your chest as your arm falls asleep.  It’s the, “I had garlic so you need to, too” and the, “You said you only wanted one bite, didn’t you?”  It’s, home renovation and broken sinks; it’s roof icicles and pipes that leak.  It’s cold hot water and second shift.  It’s minivans and a truck with a 5-inch lift. 

It’s family time and beach vacations; it’s watching our boys as they grow.  It’s giving advice and holding our tongues; and realizing we’ve taught them enough to know.

It’s, “Pray for me, I’ll pray for you”; it’s watching how we make it through.  It’s all these things and so much more, and even things we didn’t ask for.

It’s funny those arms that I noticed first, have held me close for many years; and it’s my prayer that for many more, those arms will greet me when I walk through the door.

You are my always, and I love you so.

Happy Anniversary Tommy Lee Hartzell.

“I am my beloved’s and my beloved is mine.”
— Song of Solomon 6:3

Observe or Look?

     One of our boys is a Photographer / Videographer.  He’s quite talented, and that’s not just a Momma boasting, really he is.  Throughout the years I have learned a bit about his craft, a tiny morsel of his knowledge.  That knowledge has been helpful in several areas of life, not just with taking pictures.  I remember one particular time when I wanted to take a photo of another one of the boys and he said, “Mom, move over a little.  If you don’t you’ll get that guy in the shot.”  I was so focused on what I wanted to see that I didn’t really see that if I took that picture, I would have had some random man in a photo that I might want to display in our home.  Another thing I’ve learned is that I enjoyed being oblivious to “continuity errors”, he pointed one out and now I seem to observe them quite often, I also point them out to others-much to their dismay.  In case you don’t know, a continuity error is the inconsistency of people, objects, and places seen by the viewer of a video/movie/tv show.  It’s when in one scene you see the windshield smashed on a car, but in the next scene it is whole again – it’s an error in editing. 

     It’s amazing what we take in when we choose to observe instead of just look.  Observing requires careful viewing and study of a person/object/situation in order to gain knowledge of what’s going on. Observing gives a clear picture and then allows for a knowledgeable response instead of just reacting.  How different our world would be if we all observed, and better still, if we realized our reactions are not only seen by others but we impact their world by those reactions.  Our children are especially impacted, and one day will have to choose if they will respond or react…we must all ask ourselves, “What kind of example am I setting"?

“I thought about what I had seen;
I learned this lesson from what I saw.”
— Proverbs 24:32

What a Gift!

     This time of year people seem just a little kinder, songs announcing the birth of Jesus are heard in stores, the baking of the cookies - too many cookies, and then there’s the presents and shopping for the perfect gift for everyone on your list.  I’m sure if you took some time to think about it, there are some gifts that stand out more than others.  I have a few of those; my Raggedy Ann doll that my Dad bought me when I was about five.  To this day in my jewelry box is a heart shaped necklace, a Christmas tree pin, and two adjustable rings.  One pink and one, that my then 5 year old assured me was a real diamond, each purchased by one of my boys during their elementary school years.  Collectively that jewelry probably didn’t cost $2.00 and yet, I treasure them.  Years ago when I owned a childcare center one of my employees gave me a picture holder.  It’s a high heel shoe and has a piece of wire that you put a picture in - it still sits on a table in my living room and every now and then while dusting, I’m reminded how sweet that gift is.  It cost her a dollar.  I know this because I saw it while grabbing supplies one day at the dollar store.  That shoe is precious to me because at the time, she was a single mom and that dollar could have purchased a pound of pasta that would have fed her and her son for a couple of meals; but instead, she chose to buy something for me. 

     More recently, I got a food processor.  I was so excited!  I told everyone about it.  You know you’re getting old when you’re actually excited about a kitchen appliance. I heard wonderful things about them and knew it would save me a lot of time in the kitchen.  Of course, it was a busy time of year so I didn’t actually unpack it – it sat in the box for a couple of weeks and my husband asked me if I was ever going to find a home for it in one of the cabinets, so I made room – there was a lot more in the box than I thought so I piled everything on top of the base.  Several more weeks went by and after finishing canning salsa, my husband asked me why I didn’t use my food processor and I rolled my eyes and shook my head because, believe it or not, I forgot I had it!  So when it was time to make eggplant meatless balls, I decided to get it out.  I washed everything off, got the multi-purpose blade and assembled it.  Once I got the ingredients together, I put them in the food processor and pressed the button and ... nothing, it didn’t turn on.  I made sure I plugged it in, unlocked and locked the lid and still nothing.  My husband came over and tried a few things – but nothing we did made it turn on.  I grabbed my iPad, went on Utube and watched someone assemble hers and I had done everything exactly the way she did and yet, hers worked and mine didn’t.  This went on for a good 20 minutes, then I looked at the picture in the manual, looked at the food processor, and really, there was no reason this thing shouldn’t work.  So I took a deep breath, and read word for word how to assemble it and each step I looked at mine on the counter.  Sure enough, although the lid locked – I had the lid on backwards – the handle had to align with a certain part of the lid.  I turned it around, locked the lid in place again and sure enough – it started.  Using it, cut the time it took me to make those meatballs almost in half.  It has now become one of my go to gifts because not only did I get the basic food processor but it came with the dicing AND slicing blades.

     It’s fun to recall the gifts we’ve received over the years; but when was the last time you really thought about the gift of Jesus?  We say things like “You can’t have Christmas without Christ”, we sing about his birth in beautiful Christmas carols, we talk about the sweet baby Jesus in the manger, but He’s so much more than that!

     Jesus’ birth was prophesied in the Old Testament - Isaiah 7:14 says “Look! The virgin will conceive a child!  She will give birth to a son and will call him Immanuel (which means ‘God with us’).  And then years later – just as it was told – he was born in a stable, in the little town of Bethlehem and was called Immanuel.  If that were the end of the story it would still be wonderful, but the beauty is, it didn’t stop there.  Jesus grew up, he healed the sick, he made the blind to see, he made the lame walk and then he willingly died so that we could spend eternity in Heaven.  That’s quite the gift.

     But guess what?  It doesn’t stop there either!

     Let’s just think about Immanuel for a moment.  “God with us.”   It doesn’t say, “God’s with us only when things are going good.”  It doesn’t say, “He’s around only when I can feel his presence.”  It’s a statement, “God with us” period.  The moment we accept Jesus into our lives, God is with us.  Even when we getcaught up in life - In the midst of dealing with that challenging child, in the midst of facing tough decisions, In the midst of missing a loved one; or when we think everyone else’s life is so much more exciting than ours.  His presence doesn’t depend on our devotion to him.…He loves us, so he’s with us. 

     He still heals the sick – sometimes that healing comes in the form of a physical ailment being taken away; and sometimes the sickness is our heart hurting because of a situation we have no control over.  He still makes the blind see – it can be restoring actual sight; and sometimes it’s showing us something in our lives that is holding us back and not allowing us to live the life we should be living.  He still makes the lame walk – that may be a doctor correcting a broken bone; or it might be gently guiding us towards stepping out of our comfort zone to tell others what a difference he’s made in our life.

     I realized for a really long time, I treated Jesus a lot like that food processor.  I had him the moment I accepted Him.   I told people I had him. I’d think about him on Sunday mornings and talk about Him with my church friends.  Then I started watching my Christian friends and doing things they did, I learned “church talk”, and I got involved with various ministries.  I was doing and saying all the right things – but having Jesus in my life, wasn’t really making too much of a difference.  I realized I looked like a good Christian, but I wasn’t really doing anything with him; nor did I do anything to get to know him better.   I wasn’t going to the source for my knowledge, I wasn’t taking time to open the manual to see what God wanted to show ME –because that’s another beautiful thing about this gift – it’s personalized. 

     We each have unique situations.  What is a struggle for me, someone else might think is ridiculous; and just as we each have our own struggles, we also have individual strengths.  Sometimes we know what those strengths are, and sometimes we need a little help finding them; but one thing is certain – we were each made for a purpose. 

     There are a lot of hurting people in this world.  I would guess, some of them may be reading this blog right now.  That’s the beauty of really getting to know the Man who grew up from being a baby in the manger.  He meets us right where we are.  Maybe right where you are is trying to make a really difficult decision and you just don’t know what to do.  Maybe right where you are is struggling with a stronghold that you desperately want to be free of.  Maybe right where you are is, you know him but it’s been a long time since you’ve marveled at who he really is.  In the middle of whatever it is we are going through, He meets us there and says, “Here, let me help you with that.” 

The Bible tells us He’s the author and perfector of our faith – Hebrews 12:2 that means he already knows the outcome and if we turn to him it will work out perfectly for our good.

He’s the Bread of Life – John 6:35…He can sustain us even when we feel like the world is crashing down around us.

He’s Faithful and true – Revelation 19:11 – when we’re feeling everyone is too busy and we don’t have anyone – He’s still there.

He’s the light of the world – John 8:12 – His presence brings a new perspective and allows us to see what we couldn’t see alone.

He’s the good shepherd – John 10:11 – Like an actual shepherd that makes sure his sheep are with him at all times – he loves us enough to come and find us if we get lost, and gently brings us back and loves us still.

He is Lord of all – Phillipians 2:9 – so no matter what is happening around us – He’s got it, and we don’t have to worry because at the end of the day – He is still on the throne.

He’s our indescribable gift – 2 Corinthians 9:15 – I could spend hours telling you the difference His presence has made in my life…but this post would turn into a novel.  Talk about a gift that keeps on giving!

     It’s a relationship we get when we say yes to the gift of Jesus.

    Trust me when I tell you…He’s my comforter when I’m lonely. He’s my strength when I don’t think I can make it through. He listens when I whine to Him; and then there are times when he shows me that I’m the problem and need to change something I’m doing.  I’m learning that no matter how old I get, there are still things I want that I don’t need; but he loves me enough to help me let go of those things – my stubbornness chooses how long that learning process takes. 

     In the past several months there have been some significant changes in my life...and with each thing that has happened, I’ve asked why.  “Why couldn’t that have happened before I left?” or “Why is this taking so long?”

     I’ve learned answers to some of those questions.

     If that thing would have happened before I left, maybe I wouldn’t have ended up where I know God wants me to be; and I think it took a little longer, because I was getting wrapped up in wanting to do the things I KNEW how to do, instead of learning to trust Him and do the things he wants me doing. 

     You see , there is nothing more precious than the gift of Jesus, we just have make time to get to know the true value of the gift.

     Absolutely adore the baby in the manger, but don’t stop there.  Take the time to get to know Jesus.  He will take what you thought you wanted and give you things you never expected, nor knew you desperately needed; and at the end of the day you will realize, Immanual – God with us - is all you really need.

“Therefore the Lord Himself will give you a sign: Behold, a virgin will be with child and bear a son, and she will call His name Immanuel. ”
— Isaiah 7:14

Nice Dress

     She smiled as I entered the elevator and as the doors closed, I noted she began at my head and looked down all the way to my shoes.  It was odd.  Ok, I’ll admit I do this sometimes; but I think I do it in such a way that the person has no idea.  I can assure you after this encounter, I will totally be sure I do it that they have no idea.  We stood in silence as the elevator ascended to our floor and just before the doors opened she said, “I really like your dress.”

     It took me a moment but I replied, “Oh, thanks!” and then we exited the elevator.  Prior to her voicing her opinion, I was wondering what the deal was – did I put another run in my stockings or was static cling a problem again?

     I can tell you this totally made my day, and also made me realize how often I’ve thought someone’s dress was nice or wanted to say how fabulous a pair of shoes were, but didn’t.  I know what a nice little “pick me up” it was for someone who didn’t love me to give me a compliment, and decided that I would begin telling others when I liked something.  I’ve learned a few things since starting this habit…

#1 Don’t take too long to offer the compliment – it’s a little creepy if you’ve just looked someone up and down and say nothing – trust me….I’ve been on the receiving end.

#2  If you are a married woman and don’t want a man to think you’re hitting on him, be sure to follow “Hey that’s a great suit,” with “I’ll have to suggest that color to my husband.” 

#3    Be sure the person you’re complimenting doesn’t think you’re making fun of him/her.  I once told someone I liked her tote and she responded with (in the most annoyed voice ever), “Really – because it’s my mother’s (insert eye roll here) and I’m so sure you really like it.”   My response of “Actually, I do”, caused her to roll her eyes once again and sigh in disgust.   It was either a cute bag or I’ve begun the transition into liking things without regard to fashion or trendiness – probably the latter as I tend to stick with what I like – whether it’s “in” or not. 

I’d like to suggest, if you notice someone is clearly having a bad day, find something-anything to allow you to shed some light into their darkness.  We really don’t know what others are going through; and maybe what they need is a kind word to turn the focus away from the negative.  For those people, who no matter what you say, are still miserable…maybe today will be the day they realize, someone notices and maybe they need to know that someone cares.   

Be the one who cares.

“Anxiety in a man’s heart weighs it down,
But a good word makes it glad.”
— Proverbs 12:25

A Terrible Picture

     My phone alerted me to a text message and after opening it, all I said was, “I look terrible in that picture,” I then exited out of the message.  It wasn’t until I received another message a few days later with another picture that I caught myself saying the same thing and then I realized something… I have spent quite a bit of time – way too much time actually – not taking pictures with friends and family because I’m not happy with my weight… and pictures seem to show it all don’t they?  The really funny thing is, I received three pictures within four days and in each one, I look either 10 pounds heavier or 10 pounds lighter – amazing the difference camera angles make!  I shared this with a co-worker and she told me she had been discussing something similar with her husband and he said something to the effect of, “You look the same in person…what’s the big deal?”  And guess what?  He is so right! 

     How many moments have I failed to document because I was worried about what the photo would look like?  I then took some time to look through the pictures on my phone.  This time however, I didn’t notice the fact that my bangs curved in a weird way – I saw my best friend supporting me on a night that my nerves were going crazy;  I didn’t notice the unflattering angle of the camera– I saw my sweet friend sharing in the celebration of my latest book being published; I didn’t notice the glare on my glasses but a fun night at the movies where a friend may or may not have brought towels for the back of the seats because she’s aware of the danger of lice, (so sorry if I’ve ruined movie going for you – just take a little towel along and it will be fine).  :)  I wasn’t seeing my shirt “crooked,” but the smiling faces of my boys squeezed together with me in the middle; nor was I seeing my new sunglasses; OK…actually, that one I had texted MJ because they are quite fabulous! 

     My point is, I’m no longer going to spend my time worrying about what I look like in photos. I’m going to enjoy the moment and take pictures so that down the road I’m able to look back and recall how wonderful I felt spending those moments with my friends and family. 

     May I suggest that we all take a bit more time to create our own memories and a little less time thinking everyone else is having much more fun than we are….I will apologize now for the amount of pictures my family and friends may get from me.  ;)

Celebrate the moments because after all, those moments are our life!

“So teach us to number our days,
That we may gain a heart of wisdom.”
— Psalm 90:12

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