Enjoying The Journey

31Days

 Always let him lead you, and he will clear the road for you to follow.

Proverbs 3:6 CEV

Welcome to our 31 days of writing!  The month of October will be devoted to digging into the words within Cindi & Hugh McMenamin’s book “When Couples Walk Together: 31 Days to a Closer Connection.”  I will read one chapter a day and summarize what I’ve gotten out of the chapter and how we can all apply this to our lives and our marriages to make them the best that they can be.  Are you ready to put forth your best effort in reconnecting with your spouse to rekindle the intimacy and companionship?
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A New Journey

Can you believe that it is the last day of September?  Time just keeps marching on!  As we have said “Goodbye” to Summer and “Hello” to Fall, we feel it is time for a new journey.

Excitement is building all around the web as bloggers prepare to take part in 31 days of writing.  I first heard of this challenge issued annually by The Nester (more information is available by clicking here), and then our new host for Five Minute Friday, Kate, has added a twist (read about that here).   We hope you will join us as we all embark on a new journey together beginning tomorrow, October 1, 2014.

We are torn as to whether to write for 31 days straight on one particular subject matter, OR whether we would like to write for only five minutes a day to prompt words provided by Kate.  Hmmmm … we may end up doing a mixture of both!

I have this jewel of a book *(and you all know how I love a good book, right?!)* entitled When Couples Walk Together ~31 Days To A Closer Connection by Cindi & Hugh McMenamin.  I have had this little book for a while, and previously I asked my husband to go through the book with me.  The idea is that the couples are supposed to each read one chapter a day and apply it to their marriage and/or relationship.  At the time, though, I could not get my husband to commit to doing this.  It seemed like something always got in the way of staying on track with reading, even though the chapters are not very long at all.  Now, though, after a few hard, trying months (almost six to be exact, but who’s counting, right? ~weak smile~), I brought this little book back out and asked if he would read it with me now to apply it to our marriage.  It’s just 31 days, only a chapter a day.  It claims to provide information to help open our eyes and to help rekindle the intimacy and companionship that first brought us together.  Hugh & Cindi promise to provide simple, creative, and fun ways for us to draw closer together again, so we’re diving into this book and all it has to offer!  What a perfect time, too, since it’s 31 days … and we’re now accepting the challenge here on our blog of writing for 31 days.  Perfect timing with a perfect topic, and no, we did not plan this … but God did!

What marriage doesn’t need improving or a little help every now and then?  If there is someone out there that claims to have the perfect marriage, well, I applaud you.  In my experience, it takes work, lots of hard work and two willing partners striving to make it work daily, hourly even.  It takes devotion, dedication, loyalty, faith, commitment, trust, and a whole bunch of other things rolled together … not just simply love.  We need God in the mist of all of this within our marriages.

While my husband and I have already started reading this book, tomorrow I will begin summarizing what I’ve learned in the chapters … one post a day for 31 days.

We’re all in … will you join us?

A New Journey

Reason, Season, or Lifetime

September 12, 2014 was a day that will live on in my memory forever. It is the day that I got to meet my internet friends of 17 years. These precious ladies entered the Lifetime Lounge all of those years ago, just as I did, not knowing what to expect. Our curiosity turned into frequent visits to relieve the stress in our lives, and the result was something that none of us expected yet all of us are eternally grateful for.

This post is a recap of that weekend of a lifetime!  I will post details of our trip along with pictures of us all together (patience, please, as the pictures will start about halfway through the post … some are with smartphones at the beginning, while the rest are with a regular camera so the quality of the picture will be better on those).

I’m sure you’ve heard the saying that people enter your life for a reason, season, or lifetime. We all came together for a specific reason, and certainly we were not sure if it would last beyond a season. However, we are all proud to say that our friendship will last a lifetime. We are not confident and sure of a lot of things, but of this we ARE sure. Our friendship has seen us through some of the hardest things we’ve had to face in the past 17 years, and we are holding on tightly because of how much we all mean to each other.

I play that day over in my head because I do not want to forget one little detail.

We talked of getting together before now, but this meeting was prompted by one of our dear friends receiving news that greatly concerned us all. When one of us hurts, we all hurt. This lady had just recently been diagnosed with breast cancer. Upon hearing this, our friend that lived further away than all of us started putting plans into place to travel the distance to see her. When she told me of her plans, I did not hesitant at all and immediately started planning to join her. When we asked our friend what she thought about a visit, she grew excited, and then our other friend said she wouldn’t miss this for the world so she, too, was planning on joining us! Words cannot express the excitement we felt when we realized that we were all in!

The weeks began to drag by after our plans were put into place. We all had our GPS systems programmed, hotel reservations confirmed, and then we waited for the day to arrive. I doubt any of us got much sleep the night before as we looked forward to meeting our friends of a lifetime the very next day!

My daughters and I set out that Friday morning, but our friend, Betty, started her journey on Thursday since she was driving all the way from Oklahoma. This would be a 13 hour stretch for her! It was only four hours for us, and then our friend, Sylvia, was coming in from Alabama so it was about a five hour drive for her. We were all coming in to surround our dear friend, Debbie, with so much love and to be able to give her the biggest hug EVER in person!

We all were sure to “check in” with Facebook so everyone would know where we were in our travels along the way. We posted “selfies” of us in the car with our children as the excitement was building!

Georgia Trip Haylie & BettySylvia & Andrew

That was what was so amazing on this trip is that not only were we all meeting, but our children wanted to come along as well as they grew up in pictures together over the past 17 years. Our families knew each other, and it was so special when the children said they wanted to go, too!

My oldest daughter was only six months old when I met these precious ladies in the Lifetime Lounge. Sylvia’s son was only four months old at the time, and Betty’s daughter was three years old. Wow! While we all have other children, these babies grew up in pictures and “knew” each other through us. My daughter, Nicole, is now 17 years old as is Sylvia’s son, Andrew. Betty’s daughter, Haylie, is 20 years old. Debbie was going through the teen years with her children at the time that we met, so she used the Lifetime Lounge as a way to escape the teen drama. (Boy, can I relate to that now!) Now her children are all grown up with families of their own! How in the world did THAT happen?! Our babies seemed to grow up almost overnight! It wasn’t supposed to go THAT fast!

Babies

Back to the trip. We had every detail planned out except for what time we would all be arriving and where we would meet up. I assumed we would meet at the hotel, but that was not what Betty had in mind. When we arrived at 3 p.m., we checked into the hotel and then headed over to the grocery store to get a few items for our room while we waited for the others to arrive. Little did we know, but Betty had already arrived and had been visiting with Debbie at her house since 1:45 that afternoon!

Betty Debbie Haylie

It didn’t take long before Betty called us and asked, “What are you doing?” Quickly followed by, “Get your butt over here!”  *lol*  And so, we did!

As we drove to Debbie’s house, my daughter, Nicole, got the camera ready. She started taking pictures the moment I put the vehicle in park and raced out the door down Debbie’s driveway.  I had my arms up in the air preparing for that hug long before I ever reached her door.  A string of “Oh my gosh … oh my gosh …” followed with lots of squeals and laughter as I reached my dear friend and could put my arms gently around her for the very first time in 17 years of friendship!  I LOVE her facial expression in this picture!

IMG_5772

As we entered the house, my dear friend, Betty, was immediately on my right!  It was like a dream come true.  While all of these ladies are special to me, this young lady is my sister of the heart!  Betty & Shirley

Our daughters were over there having a giggle fest!

Nicole & Haylie

The three amigos together at last!

Debbie, Betty, & Shirley

And then we waited … and waited … and waited … on Sylvia and Andrew to arrive. They got a later start, but we filled the time with LOTS of laughter until they finally arrived!  Sylvia shared with us later that she was getting ready to leave and asked to borrow Andrew’s GPS when he asked where she was going.  She reminded him that this was the weekend she was meeting all of us, and immediately, Andrew’s face lit up as he asked if he could go, too!   That made our whole day when we heard that Andrew WANTED to come along!  What a brave soul … the only male in with all of these women!  Oh, he was in for a real treat that weekend!

When Sylvia and Andrew were near, we went back to the hotel to wait on them.  I remember that we were all sitting in the lobby of the hotel when Betty so calmly said, “There’s Sylvia.”  And … I took off running to her, too!  While this caught us off guard and we did not get pictures of this, I will never forget the look on Sylvia’s face as I rushed toward her.  Then, as we hugged, she pulled back for a minute to ask if this was real and to say that she could not believe that after 17 years she was actually touching me in person!   Ah, but they had touched my soul long before over the course of all of these years of friendship!  The lady at the front desk of the hotel asked if this was a family reunion, to which Debbie responded, “In a way … yes!”  Because we ARE family!

The Gang

 

Laughter

We took off to a local restaurant where we were probably the loudest table in there, but we did not care one little bit!

Dinner

After dinner, we went back to the hotel where we talked until close to 1 a.m.  I thought for sure that Debbie’s husband, Ray, was going to have my head when I drove her home at that hour.  :)

The next morning we set out to explore a gem mine.  We started at the petting zoo and made our way through the old homestead.  Since I am the self proclaimed “Picture Queen,” we just HAD to stop for a few Kodak moments!

IMG_5961The gang

We went for a little hike, and then we saw a wedding party taking pictures.  I thought, “Hey, that would make a great picture …” so away we went when the wedding party was finished to get a picture of our own!  Thanks, wedding people!  We love our awesome picture!   Betty jokingly asked if this meant we were getting married.  I replied, “We are forever committed to each other!”   Absolutely!  In friendship and love!  They are my family of choice!

IMG_6051

We went on a little train ride around the mountain, too, and that was a lot of fun!

Train

Then we got serious and went panning to see what treasures we could find!  The majority of our group decided to go gem mining while Andrew and Sylvia wanted to pan for gold!  There’s gold in them there hills, you know!  And … there was!  After sifting through and sifting through some more, finally Andrew & Sylvia struck it rich!  They were able to take their flakes of gold home in a jar about the size of a thimble.  Sylvia said she was so rich that lunch was on her!   We got a good laugh out of that.

Gold

We left the gem mine and went to get a little bite to eat.  Once again, we were the loudest table in there, but I can guarantee you there was never a dull moment for our waitress!

We spent the entire day together with Debbie showing us around her town and just soaking in all of the laughter!  We truly had a great time together.

After we ate, we went back to the hotel to continue our conversations and to let my little one go swimming.  Haylie watched Haven swim and played with the water guns with her while Debbie and Betty talked up in Betty’s room.  Sylvia, Nicole, and I decided to go get manicures and pedicures!  Andrew was brave enough to escort us there!   That was the most relaxing manicure and pedicure I think I have ever had.  It was a lot of fun sitting there next to Sylvia listening to her tell the Chinese women all about her adult children, two of which are now married!  She was gushing with excitement as she spoke of all four of her children.  She may have thought I was snoozing in the massage chair, but I heard every single word!

We knew that Andrew and Sylvia would need to leave after we returned to the hotel as Sylvia is a pianist at her church and needed to be there the next morning to play for the service.  We could feel our good times and laughter now being replaced with sadness as we were about to part ways.  These ladies were just as they had seemed all of these years, only better in person!   I am so thankful and grateful for the time we shared together.  We made precious memories that weekend!

We held off as long as we could, but the moment had arrived for Sylvia and Andrew to leave.  Before they did, though, I asked if we could all gather around Debbie.  It was my desire for us all to lay hands on Debbie and pray for her.  We do not know what the future holds for our dear friend, but we know Who holds the future … and we know Who holds Debbie in the palm of His hand!

As we gathered around Debbie in that hotel room that evening, something powerful happened.  We were gathered in love and friendship in prayer for this precious lady.  We huddled around her as prayer was lifted up to Heaven from our hearts to God’s as we pleaded with Him on her behalf.  Tears began to stream down our faces as the power of prayer filled that hotel room.  We believe in the bible verse that speaks of where two or three are gathered in His name … and we came together that night believing in the power of prayer and in the healing power of our Great Physician.  We know that Debbie needs a miracle, and we asked that He provide that for her.  If it’s not in His will, though, we asked for the ability to handle what is to come.  We do not know why something like this had to happen to this sweet lady, but we are all going to love her through this.  No matter what comes our way, we are all in this together joined by our heart strings.

It was hard for us to say our goodbyes after all of these years and finally getting to spend this time together.  But, it was precious time spent with people that have touched my heart and life in ways they truly cannot imagine.  There are no words to express how much these people mean to me and how they truly are a part of my family.  I love each and every one so much, and I hope to see them all again soon.

I am thankful for my family of choice … and for friends that weren’t just for a reason or a season … but for a lifetime!

Dear readers, please help lift our precious friend, Debbie, up in prayer.  Thank you from my heart!

Debbie

Because

Because of the love I have in my heart for you, I will hold on a little tighter.

The problems we have been facing lately seem to overwhelm us and break our hearts at the same time. The enemy would love nothing more than to destroy us. He has come to steal, kill, and destroy. We cannot allow him the satisfaction. Because our God is greater, I have faith that we can overcome any obstacle that we may face, as long as we do so together!

We have to be a united front, now more than ever before!

Forces of evil have come against us from all sides, but God is our shield and our protector. He is there ready to fight this battle with us and for us, if we only believe and call on Him!

Oh Lord … hear our cries …

Because you first loved us … because you gave your only son to die on the cross for us … we have been forgiven of our sins. There is no condemnation! Instead, there is unconditional love and eternal life!

Oh God …

We love because you first loved us!

Shield our marriage, protect our family, wrap us securely in your protective love. Drive out the forces of darkness that threaten us. Provide an army of angels to gather around us so the enemy cannot get close to us.

Because … our happily ever after is at stake.

This post was inspired by the prompt word of Because for this edition of Five Minute Friday. Join us for the #fmfparty on Twitter, and link up your post here.

Putting On the Spirit: Ten-Minute Devotions for Busy Moms

Are you looking for a great new devotional? Maybe something that will give you lots to grow on, practical applications for today, and yet be quick enough to fit into your busy schedule? Putting On the Spirit: Ten-Minute Devotions for Busy Moms is the devotional you need!

Here is what others are saying about it:

“As one who has been called “SuperMom” with all of the plates I juggle in my busy and abundant life, I say, “No, I’m not super mom, it’s all supernatural.” Taking these ten minutes a day to Put On the Spirit and to press into that supernatural covering of my Savior makes it possible to press out the wrinkles in my own life and keep flying.” Jen R.

“One of the things I like best about Putting On the Spirit is the way Katie gives a call to action! She does not just write about a bunch of far-off theological ideals. She gives practical suggestions for how we can apply what we learn in the book in our daily lives.” Missy P.

“I thoroughly enjoyed Katie’s devotional book, Putting on the Spirit. The devotions in this book are short enough for any busy mother to fit them into her day and yet thought provoking enough to stay with her all day long!” Jennifer G.

Starting today through September 30, at Paradise Praises you can get Putting On the Spirit along with 13 other home and holiday ebooks, 5 downloads, 1 journal, 1 planner AND over $25 in coupons for just $10! (That’s less than $.50 each!)

Click HERE to visit the sale!

 

Hope

When times are hard in your life and there seems to be trouble all around, please do not lose hope.  It is so easy to feel as if all hope is gone and to allow that hopeless feeling to rush in, but please … hold on, my dear friend.  Help is on the way.  God has given us faith, hope, and love.  He said it in His word.  Cling to it!  Use your faith in God above to pull you through each and every situation that attempts to steal your joy and peace.  Hold on to hope in those trying times and know that God is not going to leave you nor forsake you.  He is right there with you although He may seem silent at times.  Just keep holding on.  His love will see you through!

He did not promise that you would not have heartaches in this life.  Oh, how we all wish it could be smooth sailing ALL of the time, but that just cannot be.  There is sin in the world, and due to this, there is a tremendous amount of suffering.  Bad things happen to good people.  It’s a heartbreaking reality.

I know of a sweet lady that would do anything for anybody that is suffering with cancer at this moment in time.  It is literally eating away at her, and yet, she is full of hope … and she has faith … why?  Because of God’s love!  She is suffering and yet puts on this strong face for us all.  She speaks so matter-of-factly about what is taking place, and she puts plans in place for beating this thing!  She has faith, and she’s full of hope!  WE are full of hope WITH her.  We know that, if it is God’s will, a miracle can happen to turn this thing completely around.  It CAN happen!  We are clinging to hope at this time especially and ask God to comfort this sweet lady as only He can.

If this woman can hold on to her faith and still have hope as she’s relying on God’s love as she’s fighting cancer … what, exactly, is our problem?  If she’s staring this in the face and still continuing to march full speed ahead, what is our excuse?

We have SO much to be thankful for and yet we take so much for granted.  Stop right now and thank God for ALL of the many blessings in your life.  They are there, dear ones.  Recognize them, even in the face of trouble.  Thank Him and praise Him for how He is working in each one of our lives.

In times of trouble, think of this woman that is suffering and yet remains hopeful.  Then realize that your situation is not hopeless either.  Keep fighting the good fight.  You CAN do this.

Please … don’t ever lose hope.  No matter what comes your way, remain hopeful, lean on God’s great love, and keep the faith!

This post was inspired by the prompt word of Hope for Tuesday At Ten.  Link up your post here.

Strangers

Yesterday I ran into someone from my past.  It should have been a wonderful reunion, and yet, it was awkward.  It saddened me greatly to think of what could have been, what should have been, and yet what currently … is.

What hurts is that this person has been kept from us the majority of her life.  The individual that I speak of is my sister’s daughter.  My niece.  If you’ve visited with us before, you know that we lost my sister 13 years ago to suicide.  She took her own life two weeks after having her daughter.  We were devastated by my sister’s passing.  Then we were further devastated when her only child was taken from us.  We were not allowed access to her because my sister’s husband decided that his parents should be the caregivers of their daughter.  We were only allowed a few short weekends with her, and she was taken from us again.  This broke our hearts completely.  Then after several more years passed, they wanted to allow us into this little girl’s life once more.  We did everything we could to be there for this little girl, and yet again, she was taken from us.  I don’t know if they felt threatened or what exactly went through their minds at that point for them to take her away from us again.  That is exactly what they did, though.  This time, however, I did not react the same way that I had in years past.  I did not chase after them, nor did I beg for them to allow us to see my sister’s daughter.  I prayed, I cried, I fell on my face before Jesus, and yet it still did not change the situation we were all in.  I had to deal with not only losing my sister but her daughter as well.  That is the sad reality of the situation.  Although my niece is still here on this earth, we are not allowed access to her … so we have lost her, too.

A year or so ago, my daughter found my niece on Facebook.  We all sent a friend request, and much to our surprise, it was accepted.  However, if I would send her a message or write on her wall, it would be ignored so I finally stopped trying.  She would only respond to my oldest daughter, then she stopped with that as well.

Yesterday we were in the store when she came over to my daughter and slapped her on her arm.  My daughter turned around and was excited to see her … yet there was this awkwardness that lingered.  My daughter quickly came down the aisle saying, “Look who I found …” and upon seeing her, my eyes lit up and a smile spread wide across my lips as I said, “Hey there, darling … ” only to be greeted with steel cold eyes and not a single expression on this little girl’s face.  None.  I stood cemented in my place as the reality slammed into me.  I … don’t … know … her … anymore.  We’re strangers.

My daughter tried to say a few words, and I tried once more asking if she was there alone or with someone.  Her response was still cold as ice as she said, “I’m here with the old man.”  She meant the grandfather that had instigated her isolation from our family.  I just stood there again, only this time, feeling my heart almost leaving my chest the same as it did on occasions in the past when she was slipping from me.  The reality is, she’s already gone.  She is a stranger to me now … and although I have tried to be involved in her life all of those years – 13 years of trying – the harsh reality is that I’m NOT a part of her life … and probably never will be.

It’s sad thinking of how it COULD be … how it SHOULD be … how it WOULD be if only my sister had reached out to someone, anyone that hot July day and let us help her through what she was feeling.  I imagine that our lives would be so much different … if only

It breaks my heart … and yet all I can do is turn to God once more for comfort and for Him to restore peace.

And … He will.

Let Him In

You softly speak trying to hide the tears; yet they run like a waterfall through your words. You feel lost. You feel alone. You feel bound to a fate that locks you within a cage with no hope of escape. No matter how much you smile for the outside world, I can feel the true sadness within your heart.

As I sit and listen as you pour out your heart and soul my heart dies a little with each and every word. I cannot begin to know first-hand the pain you are feeling; but I feel a deep sadness within myself knowing that you are going through this difficult time. I want to reach out to you and take away all the hurt, the sadness, the pain; yet I cannot. I can only give you an ear that listens and a heart that longs to help bring you happiness.

It is not only I that feels your pain, he does too. He is there in your heart feeling all that you feel; knowing all the hurt that wraps around you. He is there to comfort you if you let him in. He is there for you at all times when others cannot be. He grieves with you and he will comfort you. He loves you. Let him in.

Light Love Hope Giveaway Winners

 

We recently held a giveaway in honor and celebration of our one year blog anniversary.  We were giving away five copies of Jim Brickman’s Greatest Hits CD.  Jim’s music has blessed my heart and soul through the years, and we hope the winners will enjoy his music as much as we do.

Before I announce the winner, I would like to express my sincere thanks and appreciation to Gregory C. Johnson, the man behind all of the technical aspects here at Light Love Hope AND our writer for the We Care Wednesdays series.  Greg has been a close friend of the family for 17 years (at the time of this writing).  His love and friendship for my entire family has been an ever present force that has seen us through some very trying times in our lives.  Greg has been through a whole lot in his life, and yet he still puts others first.  He never hesitates to give of himself and do things to brighten someone else’s day.  If there was only ONE face to put with the random acts of kindness, HIS should be the one that you’d find if you looked that phrase up on the internet.

Greg has provided Light Love Hope as an outlet for me, and I use it as my form of therapy at times writing out the words that are in my heart and soul.  Our family has struggled after the loss of my sister to suicide 13 years ago.  I used to write poetry and found a great deal of enjoyment in that, yet I lost my desire to write at all after losing my sister and best friend on that hot July day.  Greg has provided this site to encourage me to write again and to help heal my broken heart by reaching out to others that may be in need to share Light, Love, and Hope with them.

As if all of that wasn’t enough, Greg has gone above and beyond again by purchasing the Jim Brickman CDs for our giveaway.  Greg is the one that introduced me to Jim Brickman’s beautiful piano music years ago, and he provides tickets to see Jim in concert every December.  This has become a family tradition, and we have been blessed to spend the past few “On A Cold Winter’s Night” concert tours with Greg when he has visited with our family around the holidays.  We are looking forward to doing this again at the beginning of December with him as part of our family.

~drum roll, please~

THE WINNERS ARE:

Aimee Ramos Fauci

Alli Rutherford Smith

Rose Powlel

Theresa (no last name provided)

Shirley Cumbie Wood

CONGRATULATIONS, LADIES!!!

It is with great joy and excitement that we celebrate with you all.  Email notifications have been sent to our lucky winners, and they will be receiving their Jim Brickman CDs shortly!

Thank you to everyone that entered!   We will have more opportunities to come to enter future giveaways.  We are so happy to have you as part of Light Love Hope’s family of readers.

Thank you to Gregory C. Johnson for gifting the CDs for our giveaway and for all that he does for me, personally, my family, and Light Love Hope!

Blessings to you all,

Shirley

Hold

Hold me now. Wrap your loving arms around me, and just … hold me. Tight. Hold me … close.

Let me inhale the sweet scent of your skin as I lay my head on your chest. I can hear your heart beating … beating for me.

Do you remember days gone by when we would get swept up in each other and the only thing that mattered was you and I in that moment? Together.

The demands of life can be so overwhelming at times, yet shelter from the storms of life, and peace and comfort are still found in the depths of each other’s arms.

My heart skips a beat every time you rush to me, get down on one knee, and slide your strong arms around my waist as you embrace me with your love. I cradle your head as I run my fingers through your hair and hold you close to me.

Moments spent with you standing by the water’s edge, exchanging soft kisses as the rain began to sprinkle down from Heaven … We pause for a moment, my hand upon your chest, your arms still wrapped around me. There in your arms … I know I am home.

Date Nights1
This post was inspired by the Five Minute Friday prompt word of: Hold. Join us for the #fmfparty on twitter and link up your blog post here.