2019 was a whopper of a year…very tough to say the least. Lots of losses in so many ways. Many deaths and good-byes, broken relationships, mental/emotional battles…depression, anxiety like I’ve never experienced in my life. Health battles of both old and new, attacks from others, major fear, brokenness…completely at the end of myself, on my knees, no will to fight- brokenness. That is hard for me to admit. I’m often the person smiling and cracking jokes, it’s just easier that way. Smiling on the outside because I don’t want to face what’s on the inside.
That’s when God stepped in more real and ready to save me than ever before. I don’t mean salvation as in from my sins…he has already taken care of that, but I mean salvation from myself. From misery, hopelessness, a black cloud that wouldn’t budge, fear that was paralyzing, chaos, confusion, others treating me outright ugly. Exhaustion. Complete exhaustion because I was trying to do everything and make it all work, on my own strength. It was like being stuck in this horrible dream that I couldn’t wake up from. I felt so helpless
Yep…but God, in all of his glory, infinite wisdom and overwhelming, reckless Love, reached down and grabbed my hand. He pulled me out of the mirk and quick-sand, like that of a drowning victim and he set my feet on a rock. He reminded me not only WHO I am, but WHOSE I am. He showed me that I am worthy of love. Worthy of happiness. Worthy of kindness and good things. He blew the dust off of me, like an old item that has been up on a shelf. He woke me up from a state of numbness and sleeping because it was just more comfortable and easier to be in that state than to have to feel. He gave my heart a new song. He breathed new life into me and filled me with the new light of hope and joy. Joy to give me a new strength. Hope and expectancy that I don’t have to stay stuck in despair. That hearts can heal from loss. He has and continues to use others to do this. He used every source possible because he is God and he has every resource at his fingertips to use and he just does things like that because he loves us so much. He wants us!
He set my feet on a new path. One that shows promise and good up ahead. One that makes me want to get out of bed and see what he has for me that day. One that makes me feel like I have purpose and value and worth again. He showed me how to DREAM once again. Like truly, child-like dreaming about the future!
Is it perfect? Nope. Do I still have days when I struggle? Yep. It takes time. I’m not fully there yet. Are we ever? I still have hard days. I just know that I am seeing the light at the end of the tunnel; like I’m coming out of the fire. Refiner’s fire. It hurt while being in the fire. It is not a place that I would want to return to, yet looking back with hindsight, it is not a place that I would avoid if I had to do it all over again. Refiner’s fire makes us more like Jesus. It cuts off the dead branches and chisels away at the muck, destroys the infestations and polishes us up so that we can be like new again; whole, prepared and ready for the next step that God has for us.
So again, I ask my self…would I do it all over again? The answer is “yes.” A thousand times, “yes.”
But…um…for now God, for now, please lead me to green pastures where I can sit beside still waters. Let me be refreshed and renewed. Give me peace and rest so that I can be ready for whatever waits up ahead.
Hello 2020. I’m ready to see what God has in store for this year. For all of us, may it be a year of blessing and peace!
1 Cor. 13:13 And now these three remain: faith, hope, and love. But the greatest of these is love.
I’ve always been a hopeless romantic. Or maybe more positively put, a “hopeful romantic?” Like many little girls, I dreamed about my wedding day at a very young age. I just celebrated my 16 year anniversary. Naturally, celebrating such a mile mark causes one to reflect:
I planned out my wedding long before I knew Jeff and then again after we were dating and then yet again after we were engaged. A friend/coworker of mine was engaged before I was, so we spent a lot of time looking through wedding magazines and discussing ideas. I was uncertain of Jeff’s intentions for our relationship at the time. I would tear pages out of the magazines that had ideas and pictures of things that I liked. That is how I found my wedding dress. As soon as I saw the dress, I knew it was the one for me. I saved the picture for whenever the time came to buy a wedding dress. It was like someone had made it from my imagination.
After I got engaged and the time did come for me to buy a dress, I took the picture down to a local wedding dress shop. I told them that that was the dress I wanted. They found the exact one for me in their catalog and had to order it. It was $400 on sale. Score! I had to buy it without trying it on and the purchase was final. It was a gamble but I took it because I was certain that it was the right dress for me! How about that for a “Say Yes To The Dress” episode?!
My dress was my biggest expense for the wedding. To this day, I would not have chosen anything different! I chose it because it reminded me of the pictures of my Grandma Mildred’s wedding dress; a classic 1940’s look. Very simple and slim-cut, with a deep-V opening in the back. A long, slim train and some simple pearl and sequin beading. I borrowed the veil that belonged to one of my good friends, she was one of my bridesmaids. It was long and very classic. I wore a necklace that belonged to my mom; a simple, thin gold chain with a single, real pearl as well as her pearl-drop earings. The look was timeless. I would not have done anything different to this day.
The wedding ceremony was simple but beautiful and very classic. It was held in a church full of candles, white Christmas lights, red berries, and evergreen. The ceremony was held at 4:00 p.m. The sky was a pretty, wintry dusk blue. Heavy snow had started around noon that day and turned into a full-blown blizzard by the time the ceremony was ready to start. Many people were not able to travel, and guests later told us that they had started out and had to turn around. So the wedding turned out to be an even smaller gathering than planned, but still really beautiful. My dream wedding never took place in the winter, but it really turned out nicely other than bad weather. We didn’t want a long engagement and so the Christmas season is what we chose. Also for the ease of family who travels “home” for Christmas, they were already around for the holiday.
I can still see the huge, fluffy snowflakes swirling around outside the window that was located at the front of the church. We could see our reflections in the window during the ceremony. Thinking back to all of this, it is a reminder to me of how God cares about every detail of our life and the desires of our hearts. I had seen his hand in the smoothness of how plans fell into place. He brought along the right family members and friends to help and used their talents. The ideas I had pictured in my head were all unfolding before my eyes on this day. It seemed surreal. God is good!
My parents had given us a set amount that we could spend on our wedding. They said that it could all be spent on the wedding ceremony or we could have a simple wedding and use the rest to pay for our honeymoon. My dad encouraged us to elope and just take the cash to start our life out together as a married couple. Looking back, that probably would have not been such a bad thing to do. We both wanted a ceremony and since I love to travel, I wanted a nice honeymoon. Since I’m pretty frugal we found a way to do both. I was able to accomplish my “dream wedding” at right around $1500 and the remaining ($2000) covered most of our travels. I know this sounds impossible, and today that amount would be unheard of but God provided everything we needed and it was done nicely. It really was a pretty wedding!
We had a relaxing honeymoon at Sanibel Island, Florida, one of the world’s top shelling beaches. We were both really tired from the months of planning, me finishing up college and graduating, the holidays, and then I was still adjusting to my new diagnosis of an autoimmune condition and battling the symptoms and medication side effects. A relaxing vacation was much needed! We spent most of the time either sleeping or picking up seashells.
I share all of these details because not only is it fun for me to reminisce, but a major point I want to bring across is that it’s not the size of the wedding or the amount of money spent on it that makes for a successful marriage! I need to add about 16 exclamation marks after that sentence. The amount of money spent and debt accumulated on weddings these days is, in my opinion, absolutely ridiculous! It does not make for a successful or lifelong relationship!
I recall sitting through sermon messages when I was a teenager (and yes, I was listening)! My pastor would talk to the youth about marriage and he would say, “there will be times when you don’t like each other. There will be times when you don’t feel in love. The glue that holds you together is commitment.”
Commitment. Loyalty. I think our culture is forgetting what these words mean, or perhaps not learning how to walk it out for starters. Is it yet another dying art? In my mind, commitment, loyalty, and perseverance all go hand-in-hand.
I will be the first to admit that marriage is hard. Really, really hard! My husband and I are opposites in so many ways. It’s pretty amazing that we have found a way to cohabitate and find some middle ground in many areas. I speak for both of us when I say that there are probably a handful of times over the years when one or both of us wanted to quit. I look at all that my husband has had to face regarding my medical battles and the stress and strain that it has put on our relationship from the very early days. He very easily could have thrown in the towel; said: “This isn’t what I signed up for,” and walked away. Sadly, many men would have done that.
The struggles we have faced right out of our first months of marriage are things that most people don’t expect to face until they are elderly and in their very last years of marriage. We were just 22 and 23 years old when we got married. We really did not have much of a “honeymoon phase” because of the physical battles I went through. That makes me sad. I feel that we lost that and it’s not something we can get back. Commitment is what has held us together when we wanted to quit. It is what has caused us to move forward and to find our rhythm together once again. I would also say, a healthy dose of humor! I encourage couples who are facing difficult times to seek counseling. Or even if things are going pretty well and you just want a little “tune-up.” This has taken some pride-swallowing for us, but been beneficial. There are still wrinkles to work out after nearly 2 decades together. That is a long time!
1 Corinthians 13. The “Love” chapter in the Bible repeatedly read at weddings. Verses 1-3 speak about if you do not know how to love, no matter what amazing things you do accomplish…you are nothing. Wow! Without love…we are nothing! That is a big statement. To me, that shows the significance God places on love. Verses 4-8 break it down for us and describe what love looks like. How to love:
4 Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. 5 It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. 6 Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. 7 It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.8 Love never fails.
Love has so many faces. There is the love between a couple, ultimately a married couple because they have vowed before each other, God, and witnesses to stick together no matter what. There is the love between a parent and child. There is the love between friends, which I put on the same playing field as the love between family members. God even tells us, not once but twice, to love our neighbors in the same way we love ourselves (Mark 12:31 & Matt. 22:39). Then, the ultimate love, God’s love for mankind:
Live a life filled with love (some versions say “walk in love”), following the example of Christ. He loved us and offered himself as a sacrifice for us, a pleasing aroma to God. Ephesians 5:2 (New Living Translation)
Christ set the ultimate example, he gave his very life so that we could experience salvation (redemption from a life of eternal damnation and reconciliation in a relationship with God). So that we can experience a life of freedom from the bondage of sin and new life in Christ! What a gift!
The Bible speaks of God’s love for us as being so great that he will go to any great length to seek us out and draw us to him. The Parable of the Lost Sheep appears in Matthew 18:12–14 and Luke 15:3–7. It is about a shepherd who leaves his flock of ninety-nine sheep in order to find the one which is lost. Following this story are two other parables with the same concept; the Lost Coin and the Prodigal Son.
I enjoy the song lyrics to Reckless Love by Cory Asbury. They paint a beautiful picture of God’s unfailing, unlimited, neverending, pure and unadulterated love for each one of us:
Before I spoke a word, You were singing over me You have been so, so good to me Before I took a breath, You breathed Your life in me You have been so, so kind to me
Oh, the overwhelming, never-ending, reckless love of God Oh, it chases me down, fights ’til I’m found, leaves the ninety-nine I couldn’t earn it, and I don’t deserve it, still, You give Yourself away Oh, the overwhelming, never-ending, reckless love of God, yeah
When I was Your foe, still Your love fought for me You have been so, so good to me When I felt no worth, You paid it all for me You have been so, so kind to me
And oh, the overwhelming, never-ending, reckless love of God Oh, it chases me down, fights ’til I’m found, leaves the ninety-nine And I couldn’t earn it. I don’t deserve it…
I don’t know about you, but I feel so undeserving of this kind of love. It’s hard for me to accept it. Who am I? What have I done? That’s the beauty of God’s love…there is nothing that we can do to earn it. His love is already there in full-force. It’s the same for the Mother Theresa’s of this world as it is for the Hitler’s. That is mind-boggling to me! You mean there is nothing I can do to cause God to love me anymore than he already does? Nope! Absolutely nothing! He is sold-out for you and willing to do whatever he has to, to draw you to him. The book of Song of Songs (also called Song of Solomon) is a romantic love story between a man and woman and his tender and adoring pursuit of her. It is also a picture of God’s tender and loving pursuit of us, for our salvation.
As a parent, I can most easily identify to a sliver of what God must feel for us. Personally, there is nothing I would not do to save one of my children. I would give a kidney. I would give my very own life. Now love others, those who are not so easy to love, even sometimes my own spouse…that can be a little bit harder. That requires a little more of God’s grace, his love through us.
At a recent women’s conference that I attended, a speaker was talking about God’s grace. She said, ” Grace means love. If someone loves you, it’s because of God’s grace. If someone has favor on you, it’s because of God’s grace.” What a concept! Grace and love go together!
Because of God’s grace (love), he pursued me. He wanted me back! Lavish people with God’s grace (love)! 1 Peter 4:10 says that each of us should use our gifts, which are trophies of God’s grace (his love). I don’t know about you, but the times when someone has gone out of their way for me; shown me grace, kindness and ultimately love, when I did nothing to earn it. I have felt so undeserving. That is the ultimate picture of love and God’s love towards us. God, loving us through others and loving others through us. What a mystery! What a beautiful picture of the greatest of all that remains! In the end, above all else, is love.
Mama, I see you. Yes, you. You’re brand new at this, aren’t you? You’re driving that sweet bundle home from the hospital. Wide-eyed. You are in awe and amazement. Those tiny fingers and little lips. You can’t believe that just days ago…hours really, that little person was living inside of you, feeling her kick. You gave that tiny being life. You brought that perfect little human into this world. There is also another part of you that is silently terrified. “What have I done? You mean…I’m 100% responsible for this little person?”
I see you, Mama. Yep. You. You’ve been up all night with a sick child. Rocking her. Telling her that everything is going to be alright. Your body aches from exhaustion. You can see the first glimmer of daylight starting to peek through the curtains. You know that in just a short period of time the other kids will be waking up for the day. If only you could catch a few minutes of sleep. Perhaps extra coffee can help you make it through the coming day.
And you, Mama…you’re a single mama. You have the weight of the world on your shoulders. Everything your kids need is all on you. You’re working two jobs, trying to provide. It’s hard to find much time where you can recharge your own battery, let alone stay on top of all the housework, help with homework and be everything to everyone. There is no back-up or extra hand to give you assistance at night when you’re putting the kids to bed or having to discipline behavior that you have had to deal with umpteen times. You’re trying to make decisions and navigate your little family through this world on your own. I see you too.
Mama, I see you. Your child has special needs. You’re doing the best you can. Learning and planning and adjusting life to help both you and your child; to make the days go just a little bit smoother. You call ahead to a location before your first visit in attempt to plan for anything that could “throw him off.” You know…loud sounds, long lines…simple stuff. All those over stimulants. You ask about a bathroom that can accommodate his specific needs. Every part of your day seems to revolve around this child. The slightest thing can make a good day turn bad. The public tantrums that make you want to run and hide. You watch other parents and their kids play. They move through life with such ease. They play and interact with their children in what appears to be so care-free in comparison to you.
What would it be like to simply have your child be able to carry on a conversation or reciprocate love back to you? What is going on inside of that child’s head? You know there are thoughts. How can you draw them out? Every once in awhile, there is a glimmer of hope. A smile or eye contact. You love your child so much. You don’t want to change your child yet sometimes you just wish that he could be…well…”normal.” Yet, you realize and are strangely thankful for the great lessons in life this pure, innocent little person has taught you. Lessons such as kindness, compassion, enjoying the simple things, loving others with nothing but pure, unadulterated love. Inclusion, “not judging a book by its cover.” The list goes on.
It can be easy for dark thoughts to loom. What will it be like when he gets older? Will he make friends? Will he be able to care for himself and live on his own as an adult? What about college? Is a career at all possible? You push the questions aside and resolve not to entertain them for now.
And Mama. Stay-at-home Mama. I see you too. You’re feeling a little lost in the piles of laundry and dishes and the endless messes. Every time you finish a job you turn around and it’s already undone. It’s the simple things that you desire: to use the bathroom without an audience. To sit and eat a hot meal all the way through or drink a cup of coffee without having to microwave it 17 times before it’s gone. To go to an appointment without juggling and entertaining a child by your side. If only there was a reason to fix your hair and dress nicely. You know…an outfit that doesn’t work boogers and spit-up into the dress code. Those days you long for adult conversation. Days at home with little ones often leave you feeling lonely, unappreciated, depleted and questioning if you have a “greater purpose.” Oh, you know deep in your heart that your job is a high-calling; that you are molding and shaping little lives and not just any lives, but those of your own children. Those judging comments from the world that leave you feeling less-than. Remarks that conclude the misperception about what your day entails. “Do you work or just stay at home with your kids?” You do not sit and eat bonbons and watch soap operas all day! You work hard at your “job!” I see you too, Mama. Your work is valuable.
Then there is you, Mama…you put in well over 40 hours of work per week at that career you’ve spent years aspiring to achieve. Years of school. Piles of student loans. You’ve moved up the ladder to a head position. You have worked and worked and it feels good. There is a sense of accomplishment and satisfaction. You’re doing what you love, right? But you’re also tired. Very, very tired. You’re trying to do it all and you are spread so thin. There is so much “mom guilt” resting on your shoulders. How can you be everything to everyone? You had to miss your daughter’s softball game last weekend. She still hasn’t forgiven you for missing her dance recital last spring because you had to travel out of town for a conference. No matter how hard you try, you still feel like you’re coming up short. Cutting back hours on the job doesn’t feel like an option. You feel torn. Many days you feel like you have to pick a team. Career or family?
Mama, I see you. You are trying to just have a fun outing with your kids. You know, be “fun mom.” But the oldest won’t stop picking on the youngest. Every time you blink, middle child turns up missing. Getting everyone safely from point A to point Z feels like an ultra-marathon. That walk across the parking lot, purchasing passes, the summer heat, the toddler meltdowns. Is anyone having any fun? What? Baby just blew out her diaper and your package of wipes is almost empty? Who came up with this bright idea anyway? Next time you all will just stay home and take a walk around the neighborhood.
And you Mama. You’re just trying to take a walk around the neighborhood. You’re pushing that big ol’ double stroller with two crying little ones while big brother is following behind, army crawling across every yard. I see you too, Mama! I’m cheering you on! Go! Go! You can do it! Uh-oh…brother just army crawled through dog doo-doo. You got this Mama! I’ve been in those shoes too!
I see you, Mama. You’re the one down the grocery store aisle. It’s been a long day. Everyone is tired, but your fridge is empty and your cupboards are bare. You just need a few things to give you something to eat for a few more days before payday. I hear your kids arguing and crying. You lose your cool. It has been a hard day. Actually a hard year. All eyes are on you. One lady makes a sharp remark towards your child and gives you some unsolicited parenting tips. You about come unglued. Hang in there, Mama. They don’t know what you’re going through. It will get better. The pendulum has to swing to the other side at some point, right?
And over there. You. Mama. You are sick and tired. And so tired of being sick and tired! Trying to care for your babies when you yourself need someone to care for you. You spend your days pouring into others from what is oftentimes an already empty cup. You don’t feel well. At all. You’re so used to not feeling well that you wouldn’t know what it felt like to feel healthy. To have energy. To smile and love life and feel blessed by all of these great blessings because there is constantly a weight on your shoulders and a dark cloud hovering over your mind’s eye. Mama, I see you and you are doing the very best that you can! Hang in there! Don’t be afraid to ask for help.
And you, Mama. Yes, you truly have earned the right to be called “Mama.” I know it may not feel like it to you, but truly, you have! You’ve tossed out more “negative” at-home pregnancy tests than you can count. Each month brings you new hope and added disappointment. And the positive tests? Well, you’ve seen those too. Each one makes you want to hold your breath and brace yourself for what may lie ahead. The letters D & C have brought on a whole new meaning to you over the past few years. Dashed hopes and dreams. You feel your heart becoming calloused. Can it take any more loss, hurt and pain?
And that one time…remember…you knew your baby’s gender. You had a name all picked out; a closet full of infant clothes. You thought this time…THIS was going to be it! Holding that baby in your arms felt so real, you could just taste life as a Mama, that life was so close. Now your baby…well, never did you imagine that you would be picking out a coffin and paying for funeral expenses. Your baby was born early and stillborn. How can a good God allow this to happen? Where did you go wrong? What did you do to deserve all of this? Mama…I see you. Despite not having those babies to hold and rock in your arms…you too are a Mama! God’s shoulders are big enough to handle your hurt and anger. He feels your pain. He catches every tear that you cry. He desires to wrap his big arms around you and hold you. We live in a fallen, imperfect world. Death is just as sure of a thing as life. God sees the desires of your heart. Don’t lose hope!
Then there is you, pretty Mama. Oh, I think I may hurt most of all for you. Your life looks perfect on the outside. You have it all, or so it seems. The big, beautiful house, the nice vehicles, closets full of name brand clothing; your hair and makeup and kids always look so put together. You are the president of the PTA and first to volunteer in your child’s classroom. Make cookies for the bake sale? No problem! Your kids all get straight A’s and excel in every, extracurricular anything, that they pursue. And your husband, he has that high-paying, prestigious career. You get invited to all of the fancy parties by everybody who is anybody. Yep, you’ve got it all together and life is perfect. Right?
The truth is…inside those walls…behind closed doors…you are crumbling. Not just you, but your entire family. You have turned a blind eye to all of those “late nights” and “out-of-towns” your husband has “career obligations.” Your kids…well, you give them anything they want so that they will see you as the “cool mom” and “favorite parent.” It’s often so much easier to just give them things instead of saying “no” and hearing their snarky comments, back-talk and teenage tantrums. Your Ladie’s Night Outs are just another opportunity to compare and compete and downsize anyone who may closely “measure up.” Mama, I see you. You are hurting and not ready to see your life for what it really is. Healing and change cannot come until you are ready to be honest with yourself and those you love.
Mamas. I see you. All of you. If there is one thing that I can say that I want you to walk away with is this…You are NOT a failure. You were chosen to be that baby’s Mama. It was no accident. God gave you that child or those beautiful children because he sees you as fit…able…capable for the job! He hears those guilty thoughts that so easily get stored up inside. The questions that ask, “am I able? Am I good enough? Will my babies somehow turn out lacking in some way?”
Mama, I see you. For many of you, I have walked in the same shoes. If only I could give you a hug. Tell you that everything is going to be alright. Tell you that you…just being you; being present and loving on those babies every chance that you get…speaks volumes to their hearts. Your actions say to them “You matter. I’m here for you.”
Mama, when God placed that tiny little baby into your arms, He…the Creator of the universe. The One who spoke, “let there be light” and established day and night. The same God who hung stars and galaxies and told oceans where to start and stop; that same God wove your child’s figure together in your womb (or into your heart, adoptive mamas). Those perfect toes and nose and tiny little fingers, He had it all planned out even before time began. He knew that child would be yours! He breathed the breath of life into your baby’s lungs and set her rhythmic heartbeat. This is the same God who ever so gently cradles your face, Mama. He wipes every tear and gently lifts your chin so that He can stare into your beautiful eyes. The ones that He too created.
He says, “Mama. Precious Mama. I love you. And…you…
Teach us to number our days aright, so that we may gain a heart of wisdom. Psalm 90:12
Time. You’ve been on my mind…
One of my favorite pass-time entertainments is looking through antique shops. I often don’t have extra time in my days to do this, but sometimes I take a few minutes between errands and scheduled events, to briefly stop and browse. This is relaxing and enjoyable to me. Standing in one spot, I find numerous items to study. Questions fill my mind about each item: Who was the previous owner? What was that person’s story? What is the story behind each object? So much history in such a small space!
Recently, I visited a shop that was new to me. I came across a little Baby Ben alarm clock, identical to the one I had while growing up. I stood there holding the clock, turning it over and over in my hand. Checking out all of the little gears and wind-up knobs. I was taken back in time in my own life: Waking up for school to my alarm clock. The nights I got home late and tired after traveling and cheering at out-of-town ballgames, looking at my clock before collapsing into bed. The times I looked at that clock while getting ready for a special event. So many times I looked at the same clock over that particular season of my life. A season that was completely foreign from the one I’m in now.
Now years later, there I was, looking at that same clock. So many of life’s questions from back then, I now have the answers: Where would I live when I grew up? Who would I marry? How many kids would I have? What would they look like? What would their names be? What would I be doing for work? Those questions now have answers, at least for this stage in my life. That clock also reminds me of how unpredictable the future can be…how quickly life can change.
There is a place that I enjoy riding my bike to, a few miles from where I live, just outside of town. The spot is alongside a big creek that runs through my town. This particular spot holds the foundation remnants of what used to be someone’s home. A home that once held a family. That sheltered them. Walls that contained holiday celebrations and memories, milestones…babies brought home from the hospital or possibly even birthed there. First steps, lost teeth, birthdays, anniversaries…a home that was a large financial investment. It represented hard work and money saved for that family to be able to live there.
Alongside the foundation remnants also remains an outdoor patio space that faces the creek. I imagine peaceful summer nights, crickets singing, a family sitting outdoors soaking in the night sounds. Children laughing and playing. The tranquil sound of the creek flowing in the background; never dreaming of the event to later take place.
On the evening of June 9, 1972, heavy thunderstorms caused flash floods from this very creek, resulting in the death of 238 lives that night. Homes, businesses and personal property were washed away; completely destroyed in this flood including the one that once sat there. I’m sure that the family who lived in this home never could have imagined such a tragedy taking place; for those blissful summer nights to come to an end. Perhaps even the loss of a family member (or members) in the midst of this event; leaving permanent scars of loss and trauma. I will probably never know the story behind this home or family, but visiting this spot brings me back to the subject of time and its importance and value.
Riding out to these foundation remnants reminds me that life is short. It’s unpredictable. No one is promised a tomorrow. No one is promised that, in an instant, the things we have today, will remain. The consciousness of time makes me strive to appreciate what I have today; to live in the present moment as much as possible. To care for and be true to those who are in my life, right now. My tomorrow could look completely different than my today.
Time is the one resource that we can never get back once it’s gone. This concept makes me want to make the most of every minute, of every hour, of every day. Daily praying Psalm 90:12 that says, “Teach me to number my days aright, so that I may gain a heart of wisdom.” I am definitely not perfect in this area. Often days pass by where I don’t make the most of every opportunity and I’m not always wise with how I spend my time. I have missed the mark when it comes to cherishing a moment with a loved one that I will never be able to get back. There are times I have passed on an opportunity to experience something that I never again will have that same opportunity again. I want to live with no regrets, at least as few as possible.
Having lost many loved ones over the years, and knowing several people who have passed in recent months or friends who have lost loved ones; it causes me to evaluate and reevaluate my life. I strive to make the most of each day. To let those who I care about, know how much I care. To give that extra hug or snuggle to a child who is just needing me a little bit more that day. To take those few extra minutes to listen to someone who simply needs to talk and have someone listen. All of these simple acts show that I care, especially when there are other things on my agenda. Giving someone your time tells them that you care. Giving God your time expresses the condition of your heart.
Throughout my days, I have my own idea of how my day should go. How I want to spend my time. Like anyone, those plans get “interrupted” with the unexpected. Maybe I get a phone call from someone who needs to talk or I run into a person at the grocery store who I haven’t seen in a long time. I call these “God divine interruptions.” These are the people and events that HE has planned out for me that day. These “interruptions” could be seen as annoyances if I was not seeking God and His will for my life; if I was not looking at these events as opportunities. From interruptions to opportunities; the whole perspective shifts depending on our mindset.
God’s timing is perfect. Never too early or too late; always right on time. His timing is not always our timing. (Isaiah 55:8-9 says, “For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways,” declares the LORD). Still, I must trust that He is in control. There are times when I have been late as a result of being held up in traffic, a child’s tantrum, or a baby’s “blow-out” diaper. These unexpected events can cause stress for sure! Still, I try to look at these as”God’s perfect timing.” Perhaps, I am being delayed for a reason. God can see what we cannot. Maybe that slow car in front of me or the train holding up traffic is actually saving me or someone else from a car accident or something else that is unforeseen.
I recall when I was about 7 months pregnant with my firstborn child, I was driving to a restaurant with my mom. God spared us that night from would most likely have been a fatal, head-on car accident. We were literally, seconds from being hit by a car that we didn’t see coming, it was going the wrong way…coming up the interstate off-ramp we were getting ready to take. I’m thankful for God’s timing and placement of a large semi-truck that I happened to be following directly behind. The truck took the impact instead of us. The driver of the truck walked away unharmed. Unfortunately, the driver of the wrong-way car was killed on impact. God spared and protected me and my family and the truck driver that night.
I could list example after example, the multiple times God has shown himself faithful with His timing in my life and the lives of others. There are also times I realize that He has placed me at a specific location and time to witness an event that needs immediate prayer. I stop everything that I’m doing and pray for whatever the crisis is: an accident, a building lockdown, bomb threats or a shooting. Often times, a “code blue” or call for the “crash cart” while I’m at the hospital receiving my own medical treatments. There are so many times when I stop and pray and then the code blue is canceled a few minutes later. Or I see that bike rider who was hit by a car, walk away from the scene of the accident. Or that shooter is arrested before anyone is harmed or that lockdown turns out to have been nothing more than a threat. Seeing prayers answered builds my faith!
Each day when I get up, I say “ok God, what do you have for me today?” I pause and I listen. Often, He speaks to my heart and simply says, “I love you.” Sometimes He puts someone particular on my mind that I need to pray for or reach out to; or maybe a particular task to accomplish for that day. I then go about my day as I have planned, adding to it what He has shown me to do. I trust Him to lead me and guide the events of my day according to His perfect plan and timing.
If you know me then you know that I often arrive “fashionably late” or in the “nick of time.” Being on-time is important to me and I strive for it, but I often seem to fail miserably. I started having trouble with running late after visiting Maui for the first time, back in 2001. I recall seeing a bumper sticker that said, “Slow Down…This Ain’t The Mainland.” I’ve never forgotten it! I love the slower, laid-back pace of the Islands! We mainland American’s should take some lessons!
I claim to be part Hawaiian even though I can’t find a trace of it in my bloodline. I love the true Hawaiian people and culture! They are some of the most loving, friendly, warm people on earth. Aloha is more than a greeting. It means love, affection, peace, compassion, and mercy. The heart of Hawaiians! I believe that Hawaiians have learned the art of living in the moment and savoring time. Showing their love towards others by giving their time to all who they meet. This is how I want to live!
There are times when I have to choose between being “on time” or taking care of a person and situation that is directly in front of me; who need my immediate time and attention. In most cases, I choose the person (I pray for wisdom with each situation as it comes along). I believe that is what God would want us to do. I see in the Bible that this is how Jesus lived. Relationship over meeting a particular standard or expectation.
As for being on time, I really do try hard and am getting somewhat better. God has shown me how even in my humanity and imperfection of running late, He still can use that for His perfect timing!
I like reading Ecclesiastes chapter 3: For everything, there is a season…
I’m reminded of how there truly is a season and reason for each phase and event that takes place in our lives. I’m also reminded of just how quickly life can change. Few things remain the same with time. Take a look at photographs of people and how different they look with time. Or the weather or anything in nature, all changing with each passing season. One can easily see how the seasons in life are very brief. Even the hard seasons in pass and change. God makes everything beautiful in His time!
As for those foundational remains that lie outside of town, just along the Creek bed; perhaps someday another home will be built in its place. For now, it is a beautiful, peaceful spot for me to sit along the creek and think. It also serves as a good reminder to make the most out of each day and to savor every opportunity and moment with each person who God places along my path. We never know what tomorrow will hold. Make the most out of your today!
My family history intrigues me! I enjoy learning about my roots and seeing bits and pieces of myself in those who came before me. Trying to imagine what life was like a century ago…two centuries ago…
Having lived almost my entire life in the Black Hills of South Dakota, I have a love for this state and my local area. I’m a total history buff and have taken several classes on Black Hills History. I have thoroughly enjoyed every single one! I like thinking of my ancestors and their journey to America. What must that journey have been like? The harsh conditions. Survival. TRUE survival. The adventure. The risk. Their dreams. Their will to endure in hopes of creating a better life for themselves and their future family members. I like hearing stories about past family members from the older generations. All of my grandparents are gone, but I enjoy thinking back to the stories that they did share with me.
Here’s a little snapshot of what I know about my family heritage:
My great-grandparents on my dad’s side of the family were all immigrants and came to the area from different countries. My dad’s maternal grandparents, Louis and Anna Karinen, were both from Finland. They came to the U.S. in 1880. They didn’t meet until living in this local area. They were homesteaders; sheepherders in the Fruitdale and Sonoma, SD area. My great-grandma, Anna, worked as a maid in 1908 at the historical Adam’s House in Deadwood, SD (prior to marrying Louis). She and her husband, Louis, later bought land outside of Spearfish, SD so that my grandma and her siblings could go to high school. I recall my grandma talking about riding her horse to school. That land later became home to my dad’s parents and today is known as “the farm” in our family. Anna and Louis are buried in Rose Hill Cemetery in Spearfish. Other relatives are buried in the tiny, rural, Sonoma Cemetery.
Side note: The farm is about 100 acres, west of Spearfish. In one section, there is a meadow on top of a hill. It has a 360-degree view that includes Crow Peak, Spearfish Mountain and Lookout Mountain (the “jewels” of what is also known as “Queen City”). Someday I hope to own this small portion of land and build a house. I would love to continue on as a fourth-generation owner of this property. And perhaps I will finally get to have my very own horse and use my grandma’s saddles and equipment. I would even be content with a tiny house, as long as there was a nice porch where I could sip my coffee in the morning, wine in the evening and room for my large rescue dog to lay next to me. It’s always good to dream! So many good memories at the farm. I will have to save it for another post.
My paternal great-grandparents, Mary and Joseph Auer, both lived in the historic town of Deadwood, SD and are buried high up on a hill in the old Catholic Cemetery, up Burnham Avenue. Joseph Auer, born in 1846, was a blacksmith in Tyrol, Austria. He immigrated to Deadwood sometime in the late 1800s, a few decades past Gold Discovery days. His name is listed on the Ellis Island registry. He worked at the Golden Reward Mine in Deadwood.
Upon moving to Deadwood, Joseph bought two placer mining claims (10 acres each) in what is today known as land at Terrace Hotel. The mineral survey shows that his land extended from First Gold Hotel up to Cadillac Jack’s. Having an entrepreneur mindset, he built what became the historical Deadwood Toll Booths since the main road going through Deadwood crossed his land. He put a tollbooth on both ends of his plats. Anyone entering or exiting Deadwood had to pay a toll fee to cross his land. Pretty smart if you ask me! A picture of one of the toll booths is seen in the Historic Preservation Office inside Deadwood City Hall. One of the tollbooths was later moved to behind the Auer Service Station that my grandpa and his brothers owned and operated. The booth was used as a back-office for the station. Sadly, the toll booths were not adequately preserved. I’m not sure what happened to the first one. The second toll booth that had been used at the service station, collapsed during a snowstorm in the mid-1900s.
I love Deadwood history, especially during the Gold Rush era. I just think that it’s so fun my ancestors were around and a part of the hustle and bustle of that fascinating little town! A little side note on Deadwood history for anyone who enjoys this sort of thing too: Theodore (Teddy) Roosevelt, our country’s 26th president, also loved this area! He was actually very good friends with Wild Bill Hickock. Such an unlikely friendship of two seemingly opposite characters. In fact, they were such good friends, that Mt. Roosevelt Monument has a tower that Teddy had built, called Friendship Tower. It’s located up on a hill across from Mt. Moriah (where Wild Bill was buried). It is said that even upon death, Teddy Roosevelt remained a true friend and wanted to be able to look out after his good friend, Hickock. Also, the rumors of Wild Bill and Calamity Jane ever being in a relationship are not true. Calamity always loved Wild Bill and wished that he loved her back in the same way. It is thought that she started those rumors. They were somewhat of friends, however, Calamity was a bit of a menace to Hickock.
Back to my family history…
Joseph also had a patent on something he made having to do with a horse-drawn wagon. Something with the reins or hitch, my dad could not remember exactly. It sounds like he was a busy man! He was 66 when my grandpa was born and he died at the age of 78.
My great-grandma, Mary, was 35 years younger than Joseph and from Russia. They met after immigration. Together, they had 9 children, my grandpa being the youngest of this large Catholic family. Both of his parents had passed away by the time he was a teenager and he was looked after by his older siblings.
My grandpa, Albert Auer, born in 1912, had only an 8th-grade education. This was not too uncommon for his time period. He owned and operated a gas station, along with his brothers, in Deadwood called Auer Service Station. The station had the first automated pumps in town. Grandpa built a house in 1938, located on the main road going into Deadwood (CanAm Hwy). The house is white, with a white picket fence in the front and located next to what today is the Deadwood Cottages. My dad grew up in that house and it still stands there in very good condition. In the back of the long driveway is a large garage. My grandpa built an apartment above the garage. I think I recall my dad saying that they would rent the apartment portion out to people. The house is located next to a Big D Mobil gas station today.
While working at the service station, my grandpa drove a large diesel truck to the town of Pactola, to deliver gas. It was a steep, windy road to get down to this little town. The town is no longer there but was flooded and dammed, now at the bottom of Pactola Reservoir. Grandpa had to drive the truck backward up Strawberry Hill because it didn’t have much power. In his adult years, he worked as a miner and retired from what was called Home-stake Mine. He was a master carpenter and mechanic. He could fix or build anything.
For Christmas one year, he built my sister and I the most amazing play kitchen. It had real stove burner knobs. You could turn them and make the burners turn red or back to black like the stove was hot or cold. He also built doll highchairs, cradles and a little kid table for us. I still have a cradle and the little table that my kids use to this day.
My grandpa stayed and fought the Deadwood Fire of 1959, along with other men, while the town evacuated. Grandpa was very strong-willed. He smoked cigarettes for 60 years of his life (age 13 to age 73). One day he decided to quit and gave smoking up, “cold turkey.” He passed away in July 1996 from cancer.
My grandparents Auer met while my grandma was going to nursing school in Deadwood. She graduated from nursing school in 1937. My grandpa and his friends liked to date the nurses. He and Grandma met and the two eloped to California after a little time of dating. They were married on Christmas day, 1937. They lived in Deadwood for many years, all while raising their boys, then later bought my great grandparents’ farm outside of Spearfish. They lived there for many years until they both passed away in 1996, both at the age of 83.
My grandma, Mabel Auer, also born in 1912, was quiet and very kind. She loved gardening, birds, riding horses, listening to music and attending local concerts. She worked as a nurse at Deadwood Hospital while raising their 4 boys. In her later years, she had Parkinson’s Disease and a series of small strokes. I wish I had known her better while she was in her younger years and better health. I am the youngest of all my cousins on the Auer side of the family. My older cousins have a different perspective on Grandma. From their stories, I think grandma was a little bit on the feisty side. Growing up as a ranch girl and raising four boys, a lady has to be a bit that way!
My grandma’s signature meal was stew and bread-sticks. She made it whenever we came to visit. I liked to help roll out the breadsticks. She loved horses. We would go riding and help care for the horses during the years that my grandparents owned them or would board horses for friends. The barn still has my grandma’s old saddles, bridles, and horse equipment. I have always hoped to own my very own horse and am waiting for that dream to come true.
Grandma made doll blankets as a Christmas gift for me one year when I was a child. The quilted blankets were made out of her old shirts and my grandpa’s bib overalls (grandpa almost always had on bibs). I still have those blankets. My girls use them now to play with their dolls. I treasure those blankets because of the clothes from my grandparents and the small hand stitching by my grandma. She passed away in February of 1996, five months before my grandpa. My grandparents were married for 60 years.
I got my middle name (Rae) named after my dad (Ray). He was named after his uncle (Ray Karinen). My youngest daughter and niece also carry on the same middle name. My dad just turned 74 and is an avid outdoorsman. Hunting and fishing are his main hobbies. Growing up in the historic town of Deadwood, SD, he played football and was on the ski team in high school. He has had more broken bones and injuries than the average kid, from all of his boy ventures. It’s a good thing his mom was a nurse!
Dad taught me how to downhill ski when I was three years old. Before learning, I would ride down the slopes on his shoulders. Once I began to ski, I was fearless. I recall skiing right over the tops of another person’s skis on more than one occasion, as I sped straight down the slope.
A Biology major, Dad lived out his college years in Alaska, hunting and exploring the Alaskan wilderness in his free time. After graduating from the University of Alaska, he worked for several years in law enforcement and was also a businessman. From being a real estate broker to house-flipping, owning rentals and owning and operating various businesses (particularly in the tourism industry), he always had projects he was working on or planning to begin. Growing up, I remember him waking me up before sunrise to go hunting along with him; scouting out deer or walking cornfields to stir up a pheasant. I thought it was fun to use the coyote call. We always owned a Labrador Retriever as our family pet and his hunting helper.
My mom (Connie) moved almost constantly in her growing up years. From Michigan, South Dakota, Montana, and other states (I have lost track). She attended Grace College, a private Christian college in Indiana, with a degree in Psychology. She loves traveling, music, books, and children. She worked in schools for most of my life as a teacher’s aid and later, a school librarian. She went back to school for her library media degree when I was a teenager and worked as a school librarian for many years before retiring. She also enjoys gardening, being a kids’ church teacher, leading Bible studies and hosting dinners with friends and family.
My mom is my biggest cheerleader and advocate. Both of my parents have been a huge support to me throughout my adult years as I have faced major medical issues. My mom especially is the main person who I can share my struggles with and she is constantly praying for me. Her faith in God is very strong and she is a great example of a Proverbs 31 woman.
My parents met each other while my dad worked as a highway patrolman officer. My maternal Grandma, Mildred Slaughter, worked with him as a dispatcher for the Sheriff’s office in the small town of Custer. She liked my dad and teased that since he was an “old bachelor” (28 years old) he should meet her daughter. My mom, being right out of college and my dad, six years older, they met and got married within 3 months (not a “shotgun wedding” either). They celebrated their 45th wedding anniversary this month. I’m thankful for the heritage and foundation my parents have set for me.
I’m in the process of learning more about my family history on my mom’s side of the family. There is a long line of war veterans and active military, even to this day. My mom has Civil War discharge papers that belonged to my great-great-great-great-grandpa. Actually, four relatives fought in the Civil War. One died a few years after the war was over, at the age of 40 due to repercussions from war injuries. I have an ancestor who fought in the Revolutionary War. My grandma was a member of “Daughters of the Revolutionary War.” There is information about family members who came over from Europe (to what are now the New England states) before America was even its own country. My mom’s side of the family is made up of German and Scandinavian ancestry. There is even a full-blood Cherokee woman and African man that made it into the bloodline so we are very much a melting pot on my mom’s side. Red hair runs strong in this genetic line, at least five generations. Blondies and blue eyes too.
My grandpa Slaughter (also named Albert) grew up on a farm in Springfield, IL. He had a younger brother who died as a toddler, so Grandpa was raised as an only child. He was a very loving and caring man who loved meeting new people and visiting with them. He always had a dream of owning a little hot dog and t-shirt stand. Grandpa had many different jobs over the years and moved his family several times (over 50). They stayed in their last house for several years, in Belle Fourche, SD, before they both passed away. I think that Grandpa’s pursuit of moving and changing jobs so much often was the thinking that the “grass is greener on the other side of the fence.” He was a veteran and took great pride in his service to our country. It is through my grandpa that I am related to Daniel Boone via his sister, Eleanor Boone.
Grandpa passed away right before Christmas in 2007. His funeral and burial were held on my wedding anniversary, December 27. I recall the taps were played as his casket was carried out of the church. He always was so honored by the time that he spent serving this great country. After his burial in Custer, SD. The flag that had laid over his casket was folded and given to my oldest cousin on the Slaughter side. What a treasure and so deserving, having served in the military for over 30 years and fighting in the Gulf War.
Grandpa was a good writer. I have a few of his handwritten letters. We almost always lived in the same town or close by, yet he would still write me letters and notes. He was always concerned about the well-being of his grandkids and would worry a lot. He looked after us like we were his own kids.
Grandpa was very generous. He liked to buy and give gifts to others on his birthday. The gift to himself was blessing others. He loved to laugh and have fun. He was also very sensitive, often tearing up when sharing a sad story. One year he went sledding with my parents and sister and me on Christmas day. He was a heavy-set man. I will never forget him flying down the hill by our house in Custer, on that old runner-sled!
When I was in high school, I was involved in a lot of activities and had many opportunities and experiences. During my sophomore year of high school, I traveled to Hollywood with my cheerleading squad at the beginning of December and we performed in the Hollywood Christmas parade. It was from that experience, my grandma nicknamed me “Miss Hollywood.” A few weeks later, my family and I went on a trip to Florida over Christmas break. Grandpa would often say to me, “slow down or else there won’t be anything left for you to do when you get older. You will have done it all before you even graduate from high school.” If he only knew how long my Bucket List is, because it grows with time. 🙂
As a soldier, Grandpa met my grandma at a town dance in Sioux Falls, SD and he was smitten. She was a stunning redhead who had many suitors. Looking at pictures from her younger years, she could have been a 1940’s covergirl…a classic American beauty. Grandma said that she would hide at the back of the library so that Grandpa couldn’t find her when he was in pursuit of her. He just wouldn’t leave her alone. Eventually, he won her over and they married at the ages of 17 and 19. They were together for over 60 years.
My grandma (Mildred Slaughter) grew up on a farm in Minnesota (her siblings called her Millie). Her father died when she was very young (Grandma was around age four) and her mom was left to raise four children on her own. They later moved to Sioux Falls, SD. My grandma recalled that they lived in extreme poverty, yet she and her siblings were always loved and cared for. Around Christmas time, as a child, charity boxes would be left on their doorstep. My grandma did not understand why people were doing that for them because she didn’t realize that they were so poor. My great-grandma often worked more than one job in order to try to support herself and her kids. She later remarried. Grandma’s stepdad cared for her and her two sisters and brother as if they were his own.
Grandma Mildred had a fun, witty personality. People were just drawn to her. There was a bit of an “entertainer” in her. She liked to tell jokes and funny stories. She was not intimidated to be in front of a group of people.
Grandma was also a bit of a rebel. She and her siblings were often finding mischief. She told stories of going to the drive-up movie theater. They would pack as many people into a car as they possibly could fit. Even hiding some in the trunk of the car because the cost to get into the theater was by car rather than per person. She also recalled walking across the tracks of a train bridge with her sisters in Sioux Falls. A train came and they didn’t have enough time to get across the bridge so they had to crawl down onto the bridge leg posts and hold on as the train passed overhead. She had so many funny stories about dating more than one guy at a time. Sometimes having a few dates on the same night and having to send one out the back door so he wouldn’t be seen by the next date who was coming to the front door. Her stories were so entertaining! She told them in such a matter-of-fact way!
Grandma was very intelligent and caught on quickly to new skills. She worked a variety of jobs in order to help her family make-ends-meet. My grandma was a survivor and had a ton of wisdom. She developed a personal walk with God when she was in her 30’s. I recall her memorizing and reciting large chunks of scripture. She loved to read the Bible. Grandma was a prayer warrior. She spent her final weeks of life, as she battled cancer, laying in bed and praying for others. She very naturally shared her faith in God wherever she went. People would seek her out, even strangers, to talk with her. She always cared and was willing to listen. At her funeral, there were so many stories and testimonies of people who she had led to Christ. What a legacy!
Grandma Mildred was like a second mom to me. I often went to her seeking advice and to chat as friends. We would have good laughs together and heart-to-heart talks. She was the last of my grandparents to pass away in May 2009. The last time I saw my grandma was on Mother’s day, a week before she passed. I knew in my heart that it was “good-bye for now.” My husband and I sang songs over her and she prayed over us. It was a very special time together! Losing my grandma left a big hole in my life!
Grandma loved animals, particularly dogs. The other week, I was visiting the local Humane Society. I noticed, one of the dogs had a sign on his cage that said “Millie Slaughter: guardian of all the animals.” That meant a lot to me as I have been writing this post and thinking about her. I think God put that sign there just for me to see; to bring comfort and remind me that I am loved.
I have one sibling, an older sister. She is four years older than me. She probably doesn’t want me to share anything about her in my blog, but being a typical little sister, I will do it anyways. I wouldn’t be doing my “job” if I followed by her rules. 🙂
Growing up, people often thought that my sister and I were twins. People would say how much we looked alike and how our voices sounded the same. Sometimes they even got us mixed up, which we found funny. We don’t think that we are that identical. We have a lot of similar interests and hobbies but are pretty different in other areas such as our personalities. She often tells me that I’m too nice and I need to learn how to stand up for myself better. When I was in college, I accidentally gained a stalker by saying “hi” in passing. He would follow me in his car while I was on my bike. Freaked me out! Turns out he was on parole. That is a story for a whole other time!
Growing up, we were always creating. We lived in the country and made little lean-to forts outside in the woods by our house in Custer (our land was backed up by Forest Service land). We would get into my dad’s tools and scrap wood and build furniture for our Barbies. Then get into my mom’s sewing kit and scrap fabric and sew bedspreads and clothes for the Barbies. They were the best-dressed Barbies with the nicest interior designed home!
My sister tells me that when I was a baby, she tried to sell me to an old lady at my grandma’s yard sale. The lady didn’t think that was such a good idea. I recall her punching the neighbor boy at the bus stop one time and making him cry because he wouldn’t stop teasing me. Even though my sister always hoped to find a new home for me…possibly she grew to like me after all.
My husband’s family has received me as their own. They really love me and are good to me. They are always ready to help or support me in whatever way they can.