Match Point

The world lost a good man last night. Les Phipps, you were a gem. You had a very crazy, dry sense of humor that made many of us laugh. I have memories of you from my childhood that I will never forget and I’m glad you were a part of my life.

Tennis. What a sport. You taught me to love the game, and you even gave me my very first racquet when I was 14 years old… yes, I still have it. I have always held it dear, but now it means even more.

I write these words with tears because you are missed already. I look forward to meeting with you again someday on the other side of Heaven. My heart hurts for your dear Mary Lou, but I know she holds the same hope as I do. We will see you again.

You were a good man, Les Phipps. I am grateful to have known you.

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And So It Unraveled

It all happened in the course of one small year – January 4, 2016 to January 7, 2017. However, that one year and three days was the complete unraveling of my married life. Something that had actually been falling apart for years, but I never had the strength, or felt that I actually had the right, to do anything about. For you see, I was a good kid from the Midwest who grew up in church and once I got married, I was supposed to stay married. You don’t change the game and mess with the path you always thought was given to you.

And then it happened, we grew apart. We grew apart so much that someone else became more important to him, and I fell to the wayside. My heart was crushed, but I was supposed to stay married. That was my path. But there was something inside of me that said, “You don’t have to be treated like this. You’re worth fighting for.” And it was January 4, 2016, when I stood up for myself for the very first time and said, “I don’t know where you’ve been, but I’m not comfortable with her, and I won’t be pushed aside again for your career and definitely not for her.” The deep unraveling began.

I look back at the past 9 years that we’ve lived here in New York City, and I look back at the 6 years we lived in Ohio and I look back at the 5 years we lived in Michigan – I can see much clearer now. I gave up a lot for nothing in return. I gave up desires of my heart for nothing in return. I kept fighting and grasping, but was never given what I needed. Was I loved to the level that I needed to be? I don’t believe so, but my God I loved with everything I had; and again, for nothing in return. I gave my time and effort, I moved to new places and worked and gave up motherhood all for someone else; I never received what I needed or wanted in return.

January 7, 2017, after months of heart ache and tears and fear of tearing my daughter’s world apart, I said enough was enough. There was a new path that I needed to take, and after 20 years of being married to a man who really never had my best interest in mind, I made the decision to be done. I was done being pushed aside. I was done being told that my desires weren’t important. I was done enabling someone to be everything he wanted to be and not getting anything in return. I was done living with an empty heart; a heart that had been giving for literally decades all to be told that I didn’t matter enough. Done.

Onward to a new path. So new. So scary. So refreshing. So confusing. Who am I? Who am I supposed to be? Am I really the person I always thought I was? What’s out there for me? Who will cross my path and who will love me for me? Twenty years is a long time to be with one person, being comfortable in your own skin. Now it’s a new ballgame. New path. Although scary, my heart hasn’t felt this much joy in years – literally years. Happy. Oppression gone. Empowered to be… to just be.

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Mrs. Forbes

Heard word today that a beloved woman from my childhood passed away last night after a fierce battle with cancer. Her name was Carol Forbes. I’ve known Carol since before I could remember. She played the piano for our church, taught my Sunday School class when I was in elementary, and introduced me to the amazing hymns of Fanny J. Crosby. My friend Marti posted beautiful thoughts about this woman, and so many people from my childhood have responded with their memories. It was a beautiful time of reflection with people from across the miles who had a common bond in that this one woman cared for each of these people in one way, shape or form at some point in their lives; be it childhood, teenage years, or adulthood. She invested a great amount of time and heart into peoples’ lives. What an amazing woman.

When I was 9 years old, I sang my first solo at church – Saviour Like a Shepherd Lead Us and Carol played the piano for me. Quite an appropriate song as she’s the one who taught so many of us kids to memorize Psalm 23 – “The Lord is my Shepherd, I shall not want. He makes me lie down in green pastures. He restores my soul…..”

Carol was one of those women that invested time into peoples’ lives, and I know that when folks will gather around to say their good-byes in a few days, countless stories will be told by each person as to how Carol touched their lives. Countless stories. She was an amazing human being with a heart as big as the great outdoors, and had a love for her Saviour that was precious and contagious.

Carol, you were a huge part of my growing up days in church, and I thank you for the sweet role you played in my life. I saw you at mom and dad’s 50th anniversary party a few years ago. What a lovely reunion it was, for I hadn’t seen you in years. I hope I said thank you for everything; I fear I may not have because as a dear friend said so perfectly today – “she was just one of those people you took for granted would always be around.”

You’re with your Saviour now, completely whole. No more pain, no more sadness, no more tears. Your beloved Skip I’m sure misses you like crazy, but he knows he will see you again. For that is the hope that we all hold onto dearly. We will meet again, and what a lovely reunion that will be. Until then, I will cry tears with our friends here who love you and miss you very much. Rest in peace, sweet lady. Until Jesus returns, or calls us home….. you are in my heart, Mrs. Forbes.

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First Steps

Sitting here in my tent as the rain falls and it’s pitch black except for random waves of flashlights amid the campsites. I haven’t been camping in over a decade; the man I was married to didn’t like camping -it was my friends who I went camping with when I went rock climbing in Kentucky. I love camping. I love the freedom of just being out in the midst of non-organizational anything. Just gotta eat, play, sleep and be. I love that.

Bummed about the rain, but kind of love having the tap, tap, tap of the drops on my tent (please stay on and not come in) and just be free.

My friends gave me my own tent this weekend for privacy. My girl is with her dad this weekend. It’s going to be a quiet weekend of me and God and my friends. I look forward to tomorrow when I get to explore and think by myself.

A new journey has begun. First steps. 

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Onward

I stood watching the typical Times Square shenanigans tonight, all while spending time with good friends in the comfort of our 2-family house on this side of the river in a quiet neighborhood. I was wearing my cozy pajamas and slippers; that’s what I call a new year’s celebration. I stood there as the ball dropped and found myself saying good-bye to a year that was one of the hardest of my life. I was teary, but it was a different type of tears than the new year’s usual. I didn’t spend time reflecting and wishing I could have done some things differently. Instead, I spent the last few moments of 2016 saying good riddance, and moving on toward 2017 with my head held high.  I have no idea what this year holds. I never knew what last year held. The roller coaster began on January 4. Where am I a year later? Still on a roller coaster, but not as intense. Sitting in a holding pattern as I wait for the next move; will the move be mine or his? I will not miss the heartache, the pain, the tears, the anxiety, the fear, the frustration that I felt this past year. Battles fought, words hurled. I won’t miss any of that. However, I wouldn’t trade anything for the closeness I felt to Jesus through all of this. Time and again I felt His faithfulness shine through on my cold dank heart like a refreshing ray of light. He got me through it all the while saying, “I love you. I have plans for you. I see you fit to stand this test.” I am thankful for His goodness, His grace, His mercy.

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First Grade

I was 7 years old. I was in first grade at Leesburg Elementary School in northern Indiana. I had one of the most remarkable teachers on the planet. Her name was Judy Frank. There was something about her. She was amazing. She was caring, she was sweet, she was no nonsense. Even after I left first grade, I still visited her classroom to say hello. There was something about her. Even after leaving elementary school, I visited her classroom to say hello. We talked on the phone, sent letters and cards to each other. She was funny, caring, a great listener, and that adult that God places in your life when you’re in junior high and high school and you think your parents make no sense at all. All the while she said the very same things they did. She knew what she needed to say. She was a parent after all; had two sons of her very own. She came to my high school graduation open house and wouldn’t sign my guest book until the very last. She said to me, “I was there at the beginning of your education and I will be there at the end.” Yep – she was the last person to sign my guest book. I hold it dear.

It was that Christmas back in first grade when we had a Christmas convocation in the gymnasium and Mrs. Allen our librarian led all the songs. We sang everything from Frosty the Snowman to the First Noel, and Mrs. Allen would solo Let There Be Peace on Earth, and then bring us all in to sing through the song with her again. I still love that song. The last song we sang was Silent Night. We got through a verse or two with Mrs. Allen, and then as we were dismissed, she had us sing as we were walking back to our classrooms. I was 7, but I have not forgotten that voice. I looked to my right and there she was, singing with a voice that rang sweetly in my ears, and to this day it rings sweetly in my memory. Mrs. Frank – I have not forgotten. In 35 years I have not forgotten that moment in first grade. Silent Night has never been the same.

I hold that moment especially dear since my dear friend left this earth nearly 23 years ago. While I sing that song today, I think back in time to that little town of Leesburg, in a little school on a cold December day, and I smile. My heart is tender and I find myself thankful for the person God sweetly placed in my life so many years ago.

Merry Christmas, Mrs. Frank.

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The day after…..

I wore black to work today. I had to. My heart hurts.

I’m trying to make sense of it. All I know how to feel is sadness. I never in my life thought I would vote for Hillary Clinton, but I knew I could never vote for Donald Trump. I couldn’t vote for a man who made very dear people in my life fear for their very own lives. I live in a city of such diversity that I come across people of different religion, race, life-style choice every single day and some of them are very dear friends of mine. These are the people in my daily life, not to mention the people on my social media pages who live in different parts of the country. They’re all reeling today because of fear. Why should we live in a country filled with fear? How is that ok? How is that possibly ok? How can I raise my sweet daughter in a country that has people who believe that it’s ok to vote for a man who speaks words of hate and division. A man who treats women with utter disrespect and bullies people because he feels that he can. And it’s all made ok because he’s on a certain side of a ticket? Or because he’s “lesser of the two evils”?  I’m not saying Hillary’s perfect, but my goodness. I know this world is broken, but my goodness. We’ve elected a man to be the leader of our country who has blatantly shown utter disrespect for people because of who they are. We want to teach our children that? We do? Really? It’s ok to be a bully? It’s ok to not like someone because they’re different? My heart hurts.

A good friend said something to me today – “I envy you for your faith today.” I was moved. I didn’t know how to respond, but eventually I said, “My faith is not shaken in my God whom I trust, but my heart is broken nonetheless and I am thankful for His gracious understanding as to why it is.” It doesn’t even begin to make sense to me. Several people I know reading this blog will say, “But it’s God’s will that he got elected.” I know this. I know He has a plan, but my finite human mind cannot fathom this mess. So please let me grieve. Let me mourn the mess.

My mind has gone to the words spoken 53 years ago by a man on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial in Washington DC. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. said something very profound. Please don’t let us take a step back decades after we have made such progress to make this country a safe place. A place of refuge, a place of peace – a place we sing about being “the land of the free and the home of the brave.” Please. I’m going to close my post with the last words of his speech from that August day when people traveled from everywhere because they believed that there was actually good that could overcome evil:

I have a dream today!

I have a dream that one day every valley shall be exalted, and every hill and mountain shall be made low, the rough places will be made plain, and the crooked places will be made straight; “and the glory of the Lord shall be revealed and all flesh shall see it together.” (Isaiah 40:4-5) This is our hope, and this is the faith that I go back to the South with. With this faith, we will be able to hew out of the mountain of despair a stone of hope. With this faith, we will be able to transform the jangling discords of our nation into a beautiful symphony of brotherhood. With this faith, we will be able to work together, to pray together, to struggle together, to go to jail together, to stand up for freedom together, knowing that we will be free one day. And this will be the day — this will be the day when all of God’s children will be able to sing with new meaning:

My country ’tis of thee, sweet land of liberty, of thee I sing.
Land where my fathers died, land of the Pilgrim’s pride,
From every mountainside, let freedom ring!

And if America is to be a great nation, this must become true.
And so let freedom ring from the prodigious hilltops of New Hampshire.
Let freedom ring from the mighty mountains of New York.
Let freedom ring from the heightening Alleghenies of Pennsylvania.
Let freedom ring from the snow-capped Rockies of Colorado.
Let freedom ring from the curvaceous slopes of California.

But not only that:
Let freedom ring from Stone Mountain of Georgia.
Let freedom ring from Lookout Mountain of Tennessee.
Let freedom ring from every hill and molehill of Mississippi.
From every mountainside, let freedom ring.

And when this happens, and when we allow freedom ring, when we let it ring from every village and every hamlet, from every state and every city, we will be able to speed up that day when all of God’s children, black men and white men, Jews and Gentiles, Protestants and Catholics, will be able to join hands and sing in the words of the old Negro spiritual: Free at last! Free at last! Thank God Almighty, we are free at last!

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Onward in love, grace and peace.

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