O is for Opportunity

Chris and I will forever be on pursuit chasing the best taco in town – it’s what we do as empty nesters – We love it and we do it well. We met Adolfo during our first time at Los Compadres, a Mexican restaurant in Roanoke, TX. This place is a gem and now one of our favorite spots. Adolfo was our server and after we left, we could not stop talking about him. There was something special about this man, our new friend. He exuded joy and by his smile and service, he glorified the job of waiting tables. We continued to visit this restaurant every few weeks and got to know Adolfo a little more. Yes, the tacos are great, but mostly we went to see our new friend.

This man loves his Mama as deep as the ocean is wide. She has dementia and he helps take care of her, in the most precious ways. We learned about their small hometown in Mexico, his siblings, how he loves Las Vegas and lottery tickets, and anything that makes Mama happy. At each visit we learned more about Mama too. Sometimes he let’s Mama scratch the tickets even after scanning the losing bar code, just so she can find joy in the anticipation. She gets new flowers for her garden, the big ones with the big blooms. As she poses for all the photos, you can see her smile is infectious and she is loved well. It was her birthday, and she wanted a party with a clown piñata. An easy “yes” to the clown, and she had a blast swinging in circles, as the roar from a crowd of family cheers her on in a video. He takes her to the favorite lunch spot and they go grab donuts for breakfast. She has a photo of her and Adolfo in a silly black and white antique photo session, that’s only moved once – from the wall to her bedside – she always wants it near. She loves it when Adolfo gives her dollars to spend, but don’t try and fool her with pesos.

Adolfo posted on Facebook, a photo of Mama in her “flower garden”. She stood from her front porch, behind the flowers, so proud and so tall, the face of satisfaction looking over the creation that was born from a collection of mismatched flowerpots to a beautiful oasis. It almost took my breath away, as I knew this image needed to be more than just a Facebook post. Everything about it was nostalgic, unique, and a memory that deserved a frame and a place on the wall, somewhere. It needed to be cherished. In my mind I can see, even 100 years from now, each time it’s dusted or straightened where it resides, the image of Mama’s Garden will live on. I commented, “you should make this into a watercolor painting”. He agreed and said yes, he may just have to do that.

I kept thinking about this image, and we kept visiting Adolfo. O is for Opportunity.

I searched online for a company that could turn this photo into a painting. Most didn’t capture the quality I wanted or had some quirky website adding this and that for more fees. Ironically, Amazon had a painting option with raving reviews, and the paintings were beautiful! I placed the order and my only request was, “make the flowers as vibrant and beautiful as Mama”. Delivery was several weeks out and I refreshed the tracking a few times each day, anticipating Adolfo’s face as we handed it to him. The seller replied to my comments in Chinese and the shipping status was “cleared customs” for more than a week – so I knew it was far, far, far away. Again, I contacted the seller and asked for a refund, so I could find another venue – as this one was clearly stuck at customs.

The painting went from “cleared customs” to my front doorstep in one day. Like a kid on Christmas morning, I unrolled the painting and felt the texture of the canvas, touched the blobs of paint from the paintbrush, and noticed the tiny pin holes in each corner where it had been attached to an easel – I was stunned at this creation in my hands and visualized the artist sitting and carefully creating such a treasure, all the way from China to Texas. O is for Opportunity.

We sat near his section and offered him to pull up a chair when he had a break. He sat down and after a quaint greeting I showed him my phone with a screenshot of the photo from Facebook. He shook his head, “yes, I remember that photo”. I handed him the cardboard tube and he just started shaking his head side to side, “No, you didn’t. You didn’t.”

Tears were forming before he even laid eyes on the painting. As he took time to adore each brush stroke and sweet Mama in the portrait, you could see a glow on his face and the deepest of love spilled from his eyes. A treasure from two people in a small Texas town, who crossed paths over a taco.

You meet people in life that have a purpose in yours, for reasons only God knows. He’ll show us opportunities to love on others, and if we don’t jump on them, we’re missing out on some of the most joyous and precious nectar in life. Create the painting, eat the taco, and don’t wait because these opportunities are only here now, for tomorrow is not promised. O is for Opportunity.

Garden Church

Sometimes life is messy, loud, painful, confusing, and chaotic. Sometimes, it is none of those things and just simply beautiful. Taking a pause, to find the beauty is a gift we all have but sometimes we fail to untie the bow and peek at what’s inside.

My husband and I have a gardening hobby, and each year we can hardly wait for the Easter time stamp, to start planting into our blank canvas that has been sitting empty all winter. We have a large flower bed area around the pool, and there is a whimsical feeling when it’s all in bloom. Hearing the pool water splash as it wets the rocks, feeling the sun bright in my eyes and warm on my skin, seeing the wall of greenery move with the wind, is truly a slice of Heaven. We’ve watched the sun rise on this oasis and watched it fall again at Sunset Hill while dancing in the gravel under a cotton candy sky. These moments are the marrow in my life. This morning, I was in awe of the flower garden, and God spoke to me through this beautiful mass of foliage.

We plant these flowers as tiny babies, just a little wound-up ball of roots, soil, leaves, and maybe one bloom. Itty bitty chunks of nothing, but with such massive potential. We nurture them and watch them grow. It gets hot, we get busy, they get ignored, but we know they are still there and still growing. This morning, as God spoke to me through this oasis, I was filled with gratitude and walked away from Garden Church with a renewed soul.

The definition of a weed is “a wild plant growing where it is not wanted and in competition with cultivated plants”. As I looked at this unique sprig of greenery that had popped up between random mounds of color, I knew I needed to remove it because it was a “weed” and would create disorder in our masterpiece, or that’s what the experts say. I quickly disagreed. It was beautiful, and I decided it would not be a weed, because now it is wanted. No competition here. It found the perfect space to come alive, and peek into a place it would never be normally welcome. It brings a different texture to the garden and even has tiny white clusters of blooms. It drapes ever so perfectly over the neighbor it encroached upon, and it is thriving. It will stay here for all its life because I like it and I want it here. Lord, please always show me to love those who may seem unlovable and remind me they have purpose and a place here. Please always let me be brave and show up in places that may not always feel welcoming.

Glancing across our perfectly, methodically placed plantings, I notice the ones who volunteered to come back this year, in the same place they had been last year. These are not ones that are expected to come back, nor were they invited back – They were not part of our plan this season. These are annuals which mean they live for one season only. Seeds were thriving in the soil all winter and came back to life in a season where they did not belong. These volunteer flowers have the thickest stalks, greenest leaves, and are thriving today, when we thought their life was over. Lord, please always give me strength when I feel hopeless. Thank you for allowing us to bloom where we’re planted, even during chaos and fear of feeling unwanted and unloved. We belong where you lead us.

Looking down past the volunteers are the mounding flowers which I love. I cannot comprehend how each stem grows individually and over time they create a sphere of blooms, as if they had been trimmed and carefully groomed to grow at a perfect pace and length, creating this rounded mass. When the mound gets too big, it becomes heavy and falls over creating an empty space inside of the mound that looks dead, ugly, and empty inside. When the mound falls over, it does not end there. The split mound starts to bloom from inside the gaping hole and a new mound comes to life, in the same spot that once was dead, ugly, and empty – It’s now filled with delicate new shoots of color and will soon fill the space that we thought was broken. Lord, when I fall, I am thankful my story is not over there. With grace, you turn death to beauty during times we thought our brokenness was the end of our story, but only You know it does not end there.

The next lesson came from noticing the different needs of each gem. In Texas, of course we favor drought tolerant plants. We plant in the spring and are a little disappointed when these careful selections don’t thrive like we know they are capable of. We know what to expect – Lavish blankets of bold color that take the heat like a champ, but where is this brilliance we know to expect? Spring ends, the temperatures rise – and now, it’s go time. They bust out of their pods and turn into unstoppable superstars, that will own the stage from now until the first freeze. These gems also don’t like a lot of water. Perhaps they can’t endure their mission if they’re too heavy. Lord, thank you for knowing my seasons of growth and guiding me there in a perfectly orchestrated timeline, step by step. You also know when I’m thirsty for truth, and when I need to rest in a place of dryness, as you prep me to walk out of the valley to stand atop a mountain.

As the burden of heat continues to weigh down on this glorious creation, some of the gems don’t survive the battle. They put up a good fight, but their time is up. Once carefully removed from their once home, a clean and empty space is revealed, a new beginning. The newbie clump of potential arrives with hopes to become part of the show. Soon, a new, fresh look comes to life where death once sat. The space is no longer empty, and it lives once again. Lord, thank you for filling emptiness with hope and life at just the right time. You bring us to our knees so that we can rise and fill spaces with purpose and order, for your Kingdom.

Garden church continues and the bees make an appearance. Without them, this creation would not exist. These tiny critters have a bad reputation, it’s too bad only a painful sting comes to mind. Actually, they are the life line behind this portrait. They keep on working and completing their job, even though most people fear them and run away. Lord, please always remind me that you are the only judge and we are all your people. Even clothed in a weary cloth, a light lives inside all of us who know your name, and our works are to be your hands and feet.

The gems have been planted for several months now, and the roots have become lengthened, strong, hearty and healthy. We treat the soil with nutrients to encourage this growth in the roots, so that the plants can perform their best and live out the season to the fullest. Last week, as I was making a selection to fill an empty space, I brought home a heat tolerant plant and filled the gap. Of course it was an itty bitty coming straight from the nursery shelf, like all the others had in the spring. I planted it next to it’s elders, and sadly over the next couple of days it’s life was over. The roots were not strong enough to handle the heat combat. It turned into a crisp chip, and never even had a chance. Roots are a precious commodity and need to be strong before facing a time of despair. Lord, please always give me a strong foothold, to face giants and fight battles with your truth planted deep in my roots. I would dry up into dust without your cultivating.

The final takeaway from Garden Church, came in perfect time, like closing the hymnbook, and hearing the choir harmonizing to the highest note. The garden, composed all of different species, needs, colors, tolerances, growth speeds, bloom times and life cycles – They all share the same soil and thrive together in one space. They are careful to encroach on and around each other, stretch out where there is space and lay down on others when they feel heavy. Some lift each other up and others cover to protect their neighbor. They grow into each other like a puzzle we designed in the spring, without even knowing how perfectly it would fit together, bloom by bloom. It was created from seeds planted long ago. With cultivation, hope and wisdom, it has become the greatest gift and taught me a lot about this one life we’re given, and church finishes up without a word ever spoken. Lord, thank you for Garden Church.

Oh, the depths of our Love

I hated history in school, and I think politics mimic a good Broadway show. I don’t pretend to be highly informed on either topic – I take in the highlights, follow the rules and keep my opinions secure in my bubble, to avoid conversations I cannot confidently defend. The war on Ukraine has sparked a hunger in me to learn more, listen longer and recalculate my priorities. I never thought I would witness anything like the devastation unfolding.

Presley and Nick

My daughter just celebrated a very special Valentine’s Day, getting engaged to her boyfriend, who is from Ukraine. Now, they watch together as he clings to every phone call, news clip, bomb launched, missile fired, and braces himself wondering if his family has been hit. The Russian soldiers are in his home town now, as I type. The agony is not something I can pretend to know. It’s truly unfathomable and bone chilling. This young couple will start a life together experiencing strength, faith, pain and loyalty at the roots. Oh, the depths of our love.

Olena Gnes

This morning, the cries from a mother hit my soul, hidden in a bomb shelter with her 3 kids, pleading on the national news, to please help Ukraine. I saw the desperation in her eyes, as her baby slept in her arms, and it was not about politics, religion, or war – it was a humanitarian plea, to simply survive. As my eyes filled with tears, I came unraveled listening to her cry for help, in my warm bed, in my safe home – almost guilty. I am not experiencing the same fear as she, but my heart is bleeding for her, and all the Ukrainian families. Oh, the depths of our love.

The father leaving his wife and child on the train, to protect them while he stays to defend their country, “at all costs”, and a sacrifice at its finest. Saying a final goodbye to my spouse and children, with breath still in my lungs, is a place my mind has never traveled. I cannot imagine searching for the strength to take those steps. Gut wrenching and so undeserving. Oh, the depths of our love.

Dan and Eldon

Today, my stepfather will speak at his lifetime-best friend’s funeral, not due to a political war, but a war against sickness and time. The years of friendship, memories, and stories are irreplaceable. Looking back, I am sure he will consider it an honor to speak about and celebrate his friend’s life, but today I know his heart is broken. Oh, the depths of our love.

Heidi and John

My sweet neighbor across the street, lost her husband during the holidays in 2020 – a sudden heart attack with no warning. A love and life gone too soon, while she also battles cancer and cares for her twin sisters. Recently, the cancer treatments targeting her brain, have caused strokes. Today, she is now home resting, on Hospice. A family so deserving of all good things, is fighting and hurting. Oh, the depths of our love.

Goldie

My husband has a cat at work that he loves. The cat was wild and after months of love and attention, she became somewhat tame and his new best friend. He takes her food on days off and makes sure she has a warm place to sleep in the cold. This week, she was missing for a while and came back with an injured leg. She ran as he tried to catch her and care for her. This morning, as he prepared to go visit “Goldie”, I noticed he is cooking a piece of fish in the oven. He said, “she is hurting, and deserves a warm piece of fish”. As simple as a stray cat, it was a refreshing act of kindness, and a front row seat to pure love with no boundaries. Even if it’s just a cat. Oh, the depths of our love.

Driving in to work this morning, my mind is spinning with images of Dan speaking at the funeral, Nick pacing the floor waiting on updates from his family taking shelter in the basement, the Ukrainian mother crying to the world for help, the father leaving his wife and child on the train, my own children witnessing this disgusting war on innocent people, my neighbor fighting for her life, and the injured cat that will get warm fish. The radio is playing “Cornerstone”, and my heart flees to that safe space, that God is with us and will not leave us. He is our Cornerstone, in ALL things. We cling to this hope in chapters of pain and loss, but let’s also cling here in between the pain. Oh, the depths of our love.

As we lay our heads down and wake again, be reminded that Love is Love. We all bleed red, and breathe the same air. Hug a jerk, pay it forward, help a neighbor, feed the stray cat, smile for no reason, listen even if the story is boring, forgive with gratitude, go in early, stay late, speak more life and less doubt, love on others whom are different from you, talk to God even when things are not tragic, and be a LIGHT in this very DARK world.

As I try and soothe this heavy heart, I ask – If we could reorganize our priorities to reflect on the depths of our love, what would that look like? We might think twice before getting twisted over something meaningless. Will it really matter, when we are facing the end of the flame? Love deep and hurt deep, from the inside out. Spread it everywhere, as deep as the oceans are wide, as tall as the mountains can peak. This difficult week looks different for all of us. My hope is placed in the Cornerstone, and my prayer is we stay focused there, for all the days of our lives. We get one chance. I pray for all the broken hearts, as we press on and cling to the One where Hope is found.

Lord, hold us close.

Isaiah 28:16, “See, I lay a stone in Zion, a tested stone, a precious cornerstone for a sure foundation; the one who relies on it will never be stricken with panic.”

Just Maybe…

I am so thankful for my Mom.

Her heart and wisdom impact every one who crosses her path. She wrote her thoughts about this pandemic and it’s definitely worth sharing. The next time we’re able to all be together is going to look and feel much different… thank you mom. ~ Laura

The Pandemic

After about 6 weeks of sheltering in place and social distancing for this Covid-19 virus…. reading and seeing it take over our local and national news and social media every single day…. seeing how people react – from “yes, I’ll do my part and all I can to help in this effort” – all the way to “This is a Chinese conspiracy” or “I’ll take my chances, and need to be working. If more people die, so be it.” And, of course, the politics.

The FB group “View From My Window” has given me a whole new perspective.  First of all, this is a GLOBAL event.  Our entire planet Earth is dealing with the same issues – the pandemic, separation, death, unemployment, parents having to school their kids (and put up with their disrespect, bad manners, and entitled attitudes – with no one to blame but themselves), not being able to see loved ones in nursing homes and hospitals, missing our families and friends, the brave front-line workers making huge sacrifices for their communities, no eating out or a simple day of shopping…not to mention the economic effects of it all. Did all the leaders in every other country screw up, too?…  Even though we now know it was spreading everywhere before anyone had a clue (except maybe China?).

But, in any case, here we are in the midst of it all…. and what are we learning?  How is our world going to change?  Will we come out of this as a new and improved human race, or will it eventually pass as we get on with our usual lives?

Maybe there are huge lessons to be learned here. Not only in the medical field, but in every aspect of human life.

Maybe Mother Earth needed a rest to restore our rivers, oceans, the air we breathe, our cities that never sleep, the ozone layer, our wildlife… and our very souls.

Maybe huge companies needed to realize that people can be responsible and productive enough to work from home with all the wonderful technology we’ve developed – instead of jamming the freeways in a mad rush to and from a huge building every single day, and therefore needing more freeways, more buildings and more cars.

Maybe we needed to realize that we can actually do without expensive designer clothes and accessories and plastic surgery to look “perfect.”  We can go a little longer between hair and nail appointments – actually even do our own nails sometimes, and not worry about being made-up all the time. Maybe we needed to learn that we can get by with less – and to appreciate when we have more.

Maybe families needed a break from the rush and hustle of getting kids up and out the door to school every morning, to all their activities, and finally back home just in time for a fast-food dinner, homework & bedtime.  Maybe some parents needed to actually have to face the consequences of not teaching their kids respect, manners, and a decent work-ethic – because they have to put up with them all day, and they can’t blame the teacher or the school any more. 

Maybe we all just needed to slow down, take time to enjoy the “view from our window” and count our blessings, enjoy the simple things in life… instead of missing out on the “now” because we’re constantly thinking of “what’s next?”

Maybe we just needed a wake-up call to really appreciate the people we depend on every day and take for granted like medical  personnel, first responders, teachers, truck drivers, grocery workers,  fitness instructors, day-care providers, restaurant workers, farmers, hair stylists, manicurists, cleaning services, and small business owners,  many of whom barely make a living, even in good times. Maybe we also needed to realize how much our folks in nursing homes need us, our presence, our personal touch.  And our extended family and friends… how much we need that contact… and hugs!

Maybe we needed to be reminded how important it is to live within your means…and have some funds stashed away for an emergency (or a pandemic).

Maybe we all needed to learn how important cleanliness is… and personal space,  raising kids to be good people, and caring enough about each other to make some personal sacrifice for the greater good.

Maybe the whole world just needed to stop, take a deep breath, and remember to be thankful.

Namaste

~ Pam McGregor

Andrea McClain | Photographer

Expecting a tiny miracle soon? This gal is the baby whisperer with a camera-in-hand! She just became a Mommy herself and has her own little model, to dress up and create albums upon albums of chubby-cheek bliss!

As you can imagine, it takes a lot of time, patience, perfect props, soft hands and gentle nudging to capture those oh-so-precious moments. From bundled up newborn toes, to the first spring in the tulips – she knows exactly how to freeze these moments in time that we get to experience just once. They always say “don’t blink” – that phrase couldn’t be more true.

I have known Andrea McClain for several years now and have watched her bloom into such an amazing, creative, self-taught artist. As if babies are not adored enough already, she has the magic touch to create the treasured images that you’ve been thinking about since the day you saw the pregnancy test was positive. You know it’s true. Peek at her website for more “oohs” & “awwes”….

http://www.andreamcclainphoto.com

Granny’s Fork

She had a remarkable spirit about her, that demanded your attention just by sharing the same oxygen in a room. Her laugh was the absolute best – boisterous, contagious and traveled straight to your heart. Flaming red hair, the best storyteller, full of wisdom but always with a few choice words. She stood as our rock and fearless leader, the place to turn when there wasn’t anywhere else to go, or even when there was. Everybody has one. She was ours and we called her Granny.

Sorting through the memories burned in my mind – First, I’m in her closet trying on her heels. She always caught me. As a small child if I went missing you could always find me near the shoes. She dressed sharp and heels were the finishing touch – and they ruined her feet is what I think she always said.

Her condo was orderly and put together. It contained all the things a “Granny’s” home should have. The velour autumn scenic couch, and the large buffet against the wall was where the plastic apples always lived. Good grief those apples have been through hell and back, but are still just as pretty. The drawing paper was inside the buffet drawers – fresh new legal pads, always ready for a masterpiece. I can see the round, brown table – It was near the bay window covered in white gauze curtains. Under that table is where we created the best Barbie showdowns and endless wardrobe changes. On Sundays she took care of her manicure at that table and that could have been my favorite part of us visiting.  You must trim your cuticles, and always buff after filing.

I remember she was always put together so sharp. Her makeup routine was very serious and meticulous. When she came to visit, she had the hard suitcase, and the black rectangle makeup box. It lived in the bathroom during her stay and I would peek inside to see what all was in this magical beauty box she carried. It even had a distinct smell. Maybe it was the fragrance from the makeup, or maybe even the musty age of the box – it just smelled like Granny’s makeup box to me.

Her visits to us during the holidays were mostly full of creating the nostalgic recipes and sharing the techniques so one day we could handle it on our own. We still have not figured out how much sage goes in the dressing or how much miracle whip to put on the bread for a leftover turkey sandwich. Ever made yourself that same dang sandwich but strangely it tastes so much better when Mama makes it? Some things just can’t be recreated no matter how hard we try.

As the years did what they do to the ones we love, Granny’s duties became lighter and eventually we just asked her to make the pies and show up. I think that’s the year my mom, my sisters and I whipped the meringue all day but never got that stuff to rise. Granny burned the pies but sure enough she did show up with a few from Kroger. Oh, if you want the peaks on the meringue those eggs need to be room temperature and for heavens sake don’t use a plastic bowl.

She passed her antics down to all of us. We inherited the love for Days of our Lives with Hope, Bo and Stefano. That man must have died a hundred times or more but we kept watching anyway. We inherited two stepping and honky-tonking – all of us that came after her have danced a million miles at the Reo Palm Isle in Longview Texas. We might have a nickname as “Hound Dogs” but we can talk about that part later. Further than the antics, we also share diamonds from Aunt Sue’s ring, but most importantly she passed down a love that never knew boundaries.

Granny’s days have ended and my goodness I wish we’d kept more of her “stuff”. I don’t know where the makeup box landed but I wish I had it. Mom has always had the buffet, plastic apples, and – the fork.

Yes, a fork. It’s an old fork. It’s silver but tarnished and has a specific engraving that makes it Granny’s fork. We don’t serve a dish at Thanksgiving before stirring it with Granny’s fork. It means she is with us. When I see the fork it takes me back to the little girl hiding in the closet trying on heels. I see her huge smile and that laugh.

Sure, pass down the big heavy stuff like buffets, and furniture, or timeless items like plastic apples and quilts. Don’t overlook the little trinkets from the past that take you back to a special place and face.

Through the years of traveling with the fork, it lives with me now. This morning after breakfast, washing the fork took me back there and led me to share my thoughts here. What will your fork remind your tribe of?

XOXO,

Stepping Stones

Irony? Coincidence? Luck?

What do you think?

How many times have you looked back on chapters of your life to see the “ah-ha” moments, where the stars aligned to make sense? You finally see the purpose in the valley you were in, which is much easier to see from the mountain top, right? Actually, it’s the only place you’ll see it! There is a peaceful comfort, when looking back to see how God strategically joined pieces of my life, where I jumped from one stone to the next, in perfect rhythm. One stone could not happen without the one before it, and on and on. Sometimes one stone was about to sink in the sand, just when the next one popped up. Some painful, some pleasant – they each have purpose.

The same way I’ve wanted to be a runner, a morning person, have the confidence and bravery of a public speaker – I’ve also always wanted to be one of those “readers”.

I want to love books. Well, I actually do love them. I buy them, but I don’t read them. I just look at them and think about reading them one day. I’ve even got the cutest magnetic bookmarks ready to do their job, and a few special shelves at home where these books live, just waiting on the breakthrough. I feel terrible for the books, just wasting space and collecting dust. My mom always feels awful for the last green bean in the can that gets tossed into the trash – same level of sadness here. We all want a purpose – even the last green bean and the dusty books!

I’m in a Facebook fitness group with some amazing women. We’re a community of chicks just encouraging each other, sharing recipes, workouts, and life stuff – in a safe place. You must admit, big Facebook world can be scary. Some of the chicks are “readers’ who share their personal development books – then of course I buy the books they talk about, to add to my dusty collection. Our fitness coach tossed out a challenge a few months ago, to drink a gallon of water in a day – I gladly accepted. While drinking a gallon of water that also means a gallon of going to the bathroom. While out running errands, the nearest potty was at Barnes & Noble. As I was leaving the book store bathroom I passed by the end cap where all the best sellers are displayed, and stopped to scan for more books that I will never read. I picked one up, read the back, sounded great, and put it under my arm to hold onto. Picked up the next one by the same author, sounded great so I grabbed it too. The potty break at the book store ended up costing me about 30 life-changing-bucks.

I decided to give these books a chance. The first one was Love Does by Bob Goff. The next morning I got up early, flipped on the fireplace, grabbed the book, “Bruther” (sweet-mean-dog), our favorite fuzzy blanket and actually started to read. It was a surreal moment, “who am I”? It was almost comical – kind of felt like playing dress up – at 43 instead of 4, it was still kind of fun, but so weird. I was reading, on purpose, early in the morning, and it wasn’t a book about Sales from my boss.

Side note: Before this particular day, the only other book I had ever finished (sorry boss!) was The Notebook, in 2004, on an exercise bike with tears streaming down my face. I kept peddling because I could easily disguise the tears as sweat, and it was just-that-good! Anyway, as I began to read Love Does by the fire – I could not put the book down. My dreadful mornings of lying in bed with lists swarming in my head, had turned into being excited to get out of bed and read this book. I finished Love Does, and went straight into the next one, Everybody Always. Same connection. Same love. Same Bob.

One quick second…Who is Bob Goff anyway? Glad you asked….

“Bob Goff is the New York Times Best-Selling Author of Love Does, as well as an attorney who founded Love Does, a nonprofit human rights organization operating in Uganda, India, Nepal, Iraq and Somalia. Bob is a sought after speaker for leadership, church and university events, inspiring current and future influencers to get to the “do” part of life. Choosing to live audaciously, Bob connects to audiences in a powerfully inspirational, yet down to earth manner. Love Does has now been translated into ten languages!” (bio from PremierSpeakers.com)

Bob’s books are stories of his own experiences in life, of everyday normal things – that turn extraordinary when the view finder is flipped. He writes to express how simple it is to find Jesus, in everyday junk – showing love in ways that Jesus did, and loving types of people like Jesus did. I crave true stories, true struggles, and true victories. I want to fill the space in my head with things of real value where I’ll grow, learn, become better and maybe even pass it on to others who come behind me. Iron sharpens Iron – and this is where I find the magic in reading books about life stuff that genuinely matters. Bob Goff’s plain cover, no frills, simply written books – were the perfect gift I never knew I needed, all from that gallon of water challenge from my “stepping stone” friend, the fitness coach from Facebook.

Once I had finished Bob’s 2 books, I then read Sweet Maria’s book (Bob’s wife), Love Lives Here – which was equally amazing. What’s next? Aside from Bob needing to write more, I was now very intrigued with this early morning stuff. I had shocked myself to say the least… Girlfriend, let’s keep going! Next I started reading Miracle Morning by Hal Elrod – another game changer! I’m now realizing at this age how many great books and a wealth of information I’ve missed out on. I simply can’t get enough.

Being a new super-Bob Goff fan, with red cape and all, I’d find myself scrolling on social media seeing his speaking events and conferences all over the country, day dreaming of when and how I could attend. I had a thought to contact our pastor at church, and plant the seed about this Bob guy and how he’d be a great speaker for one of our services. Nah, there is no way. Bob is a really big deal, probably too big for Argyle, TX. Fast forward a few weeks – I’m scrolling and see that Facebook has suggested an event that I might be interested in, “Bob Goff, at Cross Timbers Church in Argyle, TX”. WHAT? Yes. It’s true. I didn’t’ take another breath before I had recruited my family for attendance, made our dinner plans for the night of the event, had husband committed to arrive early for front row seats, and planned my outfit. I couldn’t contain how excited I was – we talked about it each day leading up to the event, I even emailed Bob – yes I said I emailed Bob. He wrote back….

“Hi Laura!
What a beautiful note. You’ve got a knack for words. I wonder if there’s words inside you that needs to get out of you? Honest. Give it some thought. I’m so honored to be part of this adventure you’re on. Keep loving people the way Jesus did. I can tell you’re good at it! ….Bob Goff, Chief Balloon Inflator”

That’s one of many, really cool stepping stone stories. I don’t know what your trials are, and you don’t know mine (well, you might soon), but I do know that God knows what he’s doing and it’s always His plan not ours. This is a silly story about an author who touched my heart, but the story has a purpose, way bigger than me. Keep moving forward, one stepping stone at a time. It will change your life, even in the valleys. Oh yeah, read the books, and drink more water, a gallon if you can.

XOXO,

For what is in a Name?

I remember it like it was yesterday. I was 13, on a van full of tweens headed to church camp. It was hot, the boys smelled awful but they sure were cute. I had my eyes on one of the smelly boys and was dying inside just wondering if he was going to sit by me, touch my elbow or maybe even make eye contact on the van.

It was 1990 and – you guessed it – More Than Words was just released by the band Extreme, and we sang it from the top of our lungs all the way there, and all the way back – probably from a cassette single on a Sony Walkman. That was 30 years ago, and the song still stirs my heart every time I hear it. Today it means much more than it did on that smelly church van in 1990.

We’ve played this song quite a bit over the years and it’s always just stuck around, with the kids too. I’d always talk about why I love it, what it means, and I hoped me sharing it with them was stitching the same meaning on their hearts.

Fast forward to March 1st 2019 – the baby girl turned 18. The best idea we could come up with was “tattoo shop”. When your kids ask to get matching tattoos with mom, you just do it – or at least I did. It’s not the first time we’ve had multiple generations at the tattoo shop and I’m sure it won’t be the last.

For our tattoo field trip, we had bounced around several ideas on what to get. So many options, and truly meaningful ones! When I said “more than words” – we all took a nano second to agree and that’s all she wrote – pun intended. We permanently inked this on our bodies, because it means so much. It’s a reminder to live life out loud, with actions and not just words. If my children want to carry this torch into their adult lives, and wear it proudly matching their Mama, I’m all in.

“More than words is all you have to do to make it real,
Then you wouldn’t have to say that you love me…
‘Cause I’d already know…”

Welcome to my Blog | More Than Words | live life out loud

XOXO,

I’d like to Introduce Myself…

Hey there, I’m Laura – nice to meet you. Isn’t that the obligatory introduction for a brand-new blog? Ok great, I got that part right! As you keep reading, here is the full disclaimer – I have no idea what I’m doing. Ha! – It’s a billion percent true! I have a passion for writing and that’s where all of this started. I decided, for my family’s sake, I’d put the writing to better use. I am a master at creating beautifully written emails and texts, on how this-or-that went down, and how to fix it, and then how to prevent it from happening again, or maybe even a “how deep is thy love” novel. If it’s that good, you can bet it’s getting sent! This blog will be a great outlet. The family is probably fist bumping now….

I’m just going to keep typing and see where this thing goes. No goals here on becoming a Rachel Hollis, it’s just going to be a hobby and FUN! I love life, all the lessons, all the growing, all the love and all the craziness in between. I love deep and I hurt deep. Writing makes me feel warm and fuzzy, and if my words can make a sweet connection with another soul, we’ll build our own community, write about it, join arms and get through this life together.

I’ve lived in Texas all my life, (but ya’ll I’m gonna get to traveling)! I am married to the most selfless man on the planet, with two amazing kiddos, who are both doing their own thing at 19 and 21 – figuring out which path to take, which is so very cool to watch (and scary!). We’re new at empty nesting so that’s very wonderful and awful at the same time.

I have the greatest day job ever – I sell new construction homes in Denton, TX for Trendmaker Homes. It’s a career I never expected would be in front of me and has been the most amazing blessing sent straight from Heaven.

Speaking of Heaven, I love Jesus. I don’t know all the Bible stories, can’t quote all the verses, and sometimes I skip church – but I love Jesus. I’m always learning, growing and digging deeper in faith. The empty nesting chapter has a way of making that faith a lot stronger. I need Him and I trust Him.

Guys – thanks for reading this far! I’m just going to type and see what happens… It would be an honor having you along for the ride….

XOXO,