Do you know the legend of the Cherokee Indian youth's rite of Passage? His father takes him into the forest, blindfolds him and leaves him alone. He is required to sit on a stump the whole night and not remove the blindfold until the rays of the morning sun shine through it. He cannot cry out for help to anyone. Once he survives the night, he is a MAN. He cannot tell the other boys of this experience, because each lad must come into manhood on his own. The boy is naturally terrified. He can hear all kinds of noises. Wild beasts must surely be all around him. Maybe even some human might do him harm. The wind blew the grass and earth, and shook his stump, but he sat stoically, never removing the blindfold. It would be the only way he could become a man! Finally, after a horrific night the sun appeared and he removed his blindfold. It was then that he discovered his father sitting on the stump next to him. He had been at watch the entire night, protecting his son from harm. We, too, are never alone. Even when we don't know it, God is watching over us, sitting on the stump beside us. When trouble comes, all we have to do is reach out to Him.

Let's be more aware of all the choices, situations, twists and turns that brought us to this place right here and now. They May Be Miracles.

Tuesday, March 30, 2010

The Stations of the Cross

Since this is Holy Week I am reminded of the Stations of the Cross presentation that we did with Youth Group for several years in a row.  The church usually provides a reflection on the Stations of the Cross every Friday during Lent, but my Youth Group would prepare a special presentation in addition.  For those who are not familiar with the Stations of the Cross, they are a reflection and meditation on the Passion of Christ - His journey from being condemned, to being layed in the tomb (and some versions include the Ressurrection)...these reflections are broken into 14 (sometimes 15) stations.  You can go here: to look at one version of the stations if you have not heard of or experienced them before and are curious.

In any case my Youth Group used to perform an amazing, spirit-filled, awesome meditation and reflection on the stations.  We used a huge canvas (2 king sized sheets that a friend sewed together for us) and behind it we shined lights on students who acted out the the audience they were shadows of the characters.  It took lots of practice and time to get everyone situated and working in time with the narrator. 

The first year we presented these stations we had a little miracle that left a lasting impression on many people.  The students were presenting the Tenth Station, Jesus Is Crucified.  In our version we read from scripture about his hands and feet being nailed to the cross, then the students had a mallet and an actual cross behind the canvas and would hit the mallet on something (I forget what we used) to make a huge sound that sounded like a large metal nail.  Each time the mallet would hit, the actor playing Jesus would flinch so that the audience could see him laying on the cross in the shadow.  The second night we performed is when our "little miracle" happened.  Each time the mallet would come down and hit the cross,  a church bell would "dong."  NOT planned...just happened to be time for the church bells to "dong."  The dong was in complete unison with the mallet.  Shivers ran up and down everyone's spine.  At the end and for weeks later people would come to me and express their amazement at the church bells "donging" in time to Jesus's crucifixion.  It somehow made the experience even more made us all feel like Jesus was making himself known and present to us. 

When has Jesus made himself "known and present" to you?  Yes, this can happen on a daily basis in reading scripture and in seeing him in others.  But when has he made sure that you absolutely knew without a doubt that he was standing there with you?

Allelulia!!  He has risen and we celebrate this Sunday!!  He is living and present among us all the time!!

Saturday, March 27, 2010

" T H I S B I G ! ! ! ! "

Well, I know this isn't going to be the BIGGEST fish you ever saw somebody catch, but I have to post a picture of one of the biggest fish I ever caught in order to tell my "little miracle" story.   So here is a picture of the barracuda I caught in Ft. Lauderdale one time, oh, maybe 8 years ago or so:

That was me with said fish and "fishing expert" on the charterred boat (my husband took the picture).  I don't think we ever wrote down the actual size, but it was a pretty nice barracuda on a day that nothing else bit.  When I caught this barracuda I found out that they are somewhat dangerous and have been known to attack humans.  Interesting. 

So about a year before this my husband and I were snorkling in Key Largo (I think, or one of the Keys).  It was really an amazing spot that they took us to, and we saw such beautiful and colorful underwater plants and fish.  One of the "coolest" (I thought) things we saw that was swimming around with us was a barracuda!  My husband and I both kept pointing at it as it swam around and about us.  He asked when we got back on the boat if I had seen the barracuda and I had said yes, but I don't recall a conversation about feeling unsafe or anything.  You'll have to excuse my ignorance...I did not grow up near or around an ocean.  How would I have known?  Of course I had heard of barracudas...seen pictures of them...probably at one time had heard they could be dangerous...but anyone who knows me knows that facts usually go in one ear and out the other...I'm not the person you want on your "Trivial Persuit" team. 

So my "little miracle" story today is that although I was ignorant about how dangerous a barracuda could be, my husband and I survived our snorkling adventure that year unscathed.  He is usually pretty good in a stressful situation like that and so didn't do anything crazy to provoke the fish.  However, had I known at the time that it likes to eat humans, I may have done something somewhat perhaps idiotic causing it to attack.
Guess the miracle here being that God gives you the information you need at the time you need it...and not before. 

Incidently, there was another little "coincidence" that occurred during the fishing expedition that I started this post with.  When we went to charter the boat and mentioned that we were from Ohio, one of the owners of the charter company asked us about where in Ohio.  We both explained where each of us was from and after a short discussion I found out that this guy had graduated from the same high school as I had, only a few years before.  We did not know each other (strangely, since it is a private high school with about 30 to 35 people per class), but he remembered my older sister.  Anyway...there was no other significance to that except the coincidence...but I still think it's cool the way the earth is so big...and small.  I do think God has a hand in directing our paths so that we can have those little experiences just to help make us aware of our "connectedness" to one another. 

Have you ever been in a completely different State, Country, or Continent and run into someone you knew - or sometimes just as good - someone who lives near you but you had never met until you struck up a conversation with them while at this vacation spot?  Seems like it happens a lot...just wondering what other peoples' experiences have been.

Enjoy the rest of your weekend and God Bless all those who read here!  :-)

Monday, March 22, 2010

Letting Go

I was on retreat this weekend with a group of teenagers at a beautiful camp.  My sister-in-law who is also a youth minister gave me the opportunity to act as a youth minister once again as I helped her and a planning team create and implement the retreat this weekend.  There were a few profound there always are on a retreat...but there is only one I want to share right now.

Part of Saturday's events included the High Ropes Course.  Now, most people have either heard of, seen, or experienced a high ropes course so I won't go into much detail here.  Basically they had to climb up a pole (there were prongs to climb) until they reached a tight-rope, log, or other obsticle about 20 feet high.  They had harnesses and were attached to a rope which a trained camp staffer held to help control the situation and keep them safe (just like when you climb rock walls).  Then they had to accomplish walking across a tight rope, up a diagonal log, or across a rope with planks, etc.  (When I say "they" I mean just about everyone except me as I have done a high ropes course before and don't care to again...I may write about my experience next or another time).

We later talked about what that experience was like for everyone.  Most people discovered that it was a little scarrier than they thought or how it looked.  Several were proud of themselves for accomplishing the task without much trouble.  Some were glad they at least tried.  Overall I think their sentiments were the same as mine after I had done it...when asked if we should do it again with a group next year they mostly voted "no" -- been there, done that, don't want to do it again.  One student made a statement that really stuck with me.  She said, "The hardest part was letting go of the pole once you reached the top."

Isn't that true of most everything in life?  I mean, the hardest part being the "letting go."  This student said, "Once I let go and just did it I was fine, but I was scared to let go."  It made me think of all those big changes that lie before us...for many these days it means facing unemployment and finding a new job; for some it's facing retirement; for others it's moving to a new town or new house; for some it means letting go of some emotional pain...perhaps a grudge...the letting go means forgiving someone...or even forgiving self for a mistake or a regret; maybe for some it means just letting go of what they THINK should be happening in their lives and just being o.k. with where they are and focusing on their blessings.  The "letting go" can be the hardest part.  And that's exactly where God the letting go.  The longer and harder we hold on to that "pole" the harder the journey becomes, the more anguish we create...the pole becomes a crutch...the pole becomes NOT our safe place, but our obsticle.  God is waiting for us to LET GO and reach out...experience FAITH...embrace what looks impossible...TRUST that He is with us and it will all be fine.  GOD is our "spotter"   -  He's holding our life-line...He's going to make sure that all will turn out just the way it should.  Once we let go of our proverbial poles and just do what we need to do, we too will find that it all looked scarrier than it actually was.  Be aware of your blessings today and trust that you are exactly where should be...for today.  Let go of what you need to let go of and feel God's

Thursday, March 18, 2010

Miracle Marriages

Before Dan and I got married almost 15 years ago we met with a couple in our church who volunteered to meet with engaged couples to just talk about what makes a successful marriage, answer questions, etc.  I'll never forget 3 really important pieces of advice that they offerred us - 3 things that I came to understand as absolutely critical for any couple who hopes to survive.  I dedicate this blog post to several friends who have over the years and especially recently come to me to discuss some of their marriage issues and problems.  My hope is that everyone understands that when you step back and look at any situation from the outside that ANYTHING (bar some forms of abuse - which I am not addressing in this post) can be worked out - if both people are willing. 

One of the first pieces of advice that the married couple gave us was to make friends with other married couples.  As newlyweds many of our friends would still be single.  Of course, we weren't supposed to just throw out the old friends, but they explained to us that it's very dangerous for couples to try and live "married-single" lives.  In other words, if Dan went out with his buddies every Friday or more, and if I went off with my girlfriends to bars or dance clubs as I always did before, then it's not hard for that to transition into others thinking that you're still available...and it's not that much harder for a married person to act as if they are still single as well.  Dangerous territory.  It's important for married couples to have friends who have good marriages and like to do the same things that they like.  (I still love you my single friends!!!)  Actually my single friends have become more a part of my family now - it's not a seperate life - but I do enjoy a girl's night out once or twice a year with both married and single friends!

The second piece of advice we were given was to ALWAYS speak positively of our partner.  Everyone knows that's not always easy.  And I have to admit I always, always, always, had that advice in the back of my head even at moments in our marriage when I wasn't following it.  When I hear other people tear their partner apart to pieces over this thing, and that thing, and every little move he or she takes, and, and, and...I can actually feel their frustration - I wish I could help them to understand that the complaining and frustration only makes it WORSE.  Now, not that people shouldn't be able to vent, but in venting, by the end the rule should be for the one venting to think of 5 great and endearing things about their spouse and SAY THOSE!!  The only way to get over all the frustrating things about a partner is to concentrate your energy on all the GREAT AND ENDEARING things about your partner!!  Not the things you look back on and say "that's what I fell in love with" - NO - the things about him or her NOW that are GREAT!!  Always look for the good things or you will end up feeling like you're going no where...and others will think your marriage is really in trouble!  And you may decide that your marriage is really in's a spiraling effect.  Compliment your spouse on a regular basis...and make it your practice to tell others just how awesome your partner is!!  (I'll tell you right now that my husband ROCKS - and there are so many reasons why...including the fact that he does dishes!!)

The third thing they told us was more a fact than a piece of advice and it was this:  Love is a choice.  How romantic, right??  Give you goosebumps too??  Riiiiiiight!!  Well listen, let me go on to explain here.  In a world where movies, t.v. shows like the Bachelor (I'm sort of a closet watcher - guess I'm out now!), and other media (including the Disney Princesses) try to make us believe that love is your heart skipping, and butterflies in your stomach, and tripping over your words, and candle light on the beach, and long walks at night, and slow sure leaves out the day to day just living and being together.  It leaves out the whole toothpaste tube phenominon, the shoes in the middle of the floor, the cupboard doors always being open, the newspapers flung around, the stacks of papers, the wife or husband who doesn't care about finances, who does which chores, he or she doesn't value me and all the things I do...all those things that people end up letting get under their skin!  As I said before, those things can really spiral into a big messy constant struggle!  And what it all comes down to is this:  LOVE IS A CHOICE!!  I'll say it again, love is a choice.  You need to decide if this is the person you want to love, and if it is, then you need to treat them like you love them.  How do you treat someone like you love them?  You thank them for the things they do (instead of screaming about the things they don't do); You compliment them; You help them with things that they struggle with; You go the extra mile (or inch) for them; If they are the ones causing a problem in your marriage then you honestly discuss it with them without accusing - maybe you have to get a third party to help you (again I'm not addressing abuse in this post); You choose to forgive them and let go of your grudge (or pain you're holding on to inside); You tell them that you love them, respect them, admire them, adore them, think that they are the best, value them.  You choose to do these things because love is a choice - and choosing to love EVERYDAY is how you make a miracle marriage.


Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Kiss Me I'm Irish (But Not Really)

Today everyone gets to be Irish if they want.  Since Celtic Music is probably at the top of my favorite kind of music list I'm taking the opportunity to play some on here today!  I'll remove it eventually...I know a couple of my friends asked that I not play music anymore on my blog since it interferes with the music they're already playing!!  Although it conflicts with the "artsy" side of me to not have music playing (I feel like it somehow completes the effect I want here) - I do understand b/c I often like to play music on my computer as well and have to turn off the music on my blog and other peoples' blogs when I do that. 

Have a very fun St. Patricks's one holiday not about cards...just fun!!  Yes, there's a great Saint behind the holiday too!!  Kiss SOMEBODY...Irish or not!!!

Saturday, March 13, 2010


So I just returned from vacation in Gatlinburg and Pigeon Forge for the past 8 days.  Did not bring a computer so I have a lot of catching up to do.  Just wanted to post this one thing quickly.  CAN YOU BELIEVE that Pigeon Forge has a theater called, "THE MIRACLE THEATER"?!!  Also, CAN YOU BELIEVE that there is a show in that theater called, "THE MIRACLE"?!!  You know, that show was on break during our vacation, but was opening for its 5th season the day we were suppose to leave.  We all discussed it (my husband and I and his parents who also went along) and we decided to pay to stay an extra day at our time-share just so we could see "The Miracle".  WELL WORTH IT!!  Go see it if you get the chance! 

When you start writing about everyday miracles you become more and more aware of miracles going on all the time and everywhere.  I think it's great that I go on vacation to find a "Miracle Theater" and show.   They also had sweatshirts that said "The Miracle" on them.  I almost bought one until my husband said that people would always ask me if I was pregnant again - lol!

They're also showing Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat in that same theater and Melinda Dolittle (from American Idol a few seasons ago) is performing in it until the end of March.  It was one of our favorite shows of the week...well done!!

I'm looking forward to writing more this week and catching up on my reading list!!  See some of you at your blogs!  Enjoy the rest of your weekend!

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

Reaching The Extra Inch...(final post in the trilogy)

I have one final post which falls in the theme of "reaching higher...going the extra mile...reaching out an extra inch..." 
I had wanted to write a bit about this before when I posted my blog "Miracles In The Midst Of Madness," after the death of my dad, but evidently at the time I just needed to write about his death (to read that post click here).  I knew a time would come for me to write more about the MIRACLE OF KINDESS and no time seems more appropriate than NOW - now, when the latest posts have been about reaching an inch higher. 

When my dad was born to eternal life, to me, here on earth, he still died.  Fully understanding and knowing that he is with God and born into eternity is only comforting later...months later...when the shock of him suddenly being gone starts to fade into acceptance.  So, when he suddenly died that early morning on September 20, 2009, my mom and I were in such a state of shock and disbelief that we didn't even know what to say or do.  We asked several times for a priest and it seemed like none could be found.  The chaplain for the hospital spent some time with us but had very few comforting words.  He seemed almost afraid of us.  I kept thinking he felt out of his comfort zone trying to help two very Catholic women...but at the same time I didn't get it because to me a Christian is a Christian no matter the religion and I just needed him to comfort us as Christians.  He kept saying he would try to get us a priest, and finally found one, but when the priest showed up he was from a local monastary and barely knew English.  He had even less words of comfort and did not perform the entire last rights sacrament to the disappointment of my mom.  

I paced and paced and paced the floor in the room where my dad lay dead and my mom sat and held his hand.  I could not sit because I did not want to feel anything.  If I kept pacing I could avoid feeling I thought.  I kept sipping water they had brought us because I needed to keep swallowing. We were in that room for hours because of a miscommunication.  We thought we were waiting for the County Coroner to release his body or for a doctor to sign it off (won't go into details here except that wih his death being sudden sometimes the coroner has to do an autopsy and we preferred that not happening so we were waiting to see if this was ok).  Meanwhile, since they were just up visiting me we had to decide whether we would hold the funeral here where I live or go back to Marion where they were getting ready to move away from.  After about 2 hours in the room I went out to the front desk and asked the nurse if the coroner had called or if a doctor had signed off his body.  She said that they had a long time ago and they were just waiting for us to decide which funeral home would be taking care of the arrangements. 

I had to set up that whole scenerio for you so that you could understand JUST HOW IMPACTFUL these GIFTS, these MIRACLES of kindness were to us.  When speaking about reaching that extra inch I totally think of these people and how much they did for us.

First of all, once we knew we had to call a funeral home, having just moved here I had no idea which one to call.  So I called my sister-in-law, Michelle.  She named two places that she thought would be really good.  THEN, she proceeded to tell me that she would go to my house to watch the kids so that my husband could come and be with us.  This was a Sunday morning and I know she had to get her own family ready for church and I know also that since she's a youth minister that she had a lot of things to do that day.  But everything was set aside that day to come to our aid. I'm eternally grateful to her for going the extra mile, coming to our house with bags full of groceries and snacks for the kids, watching the kids for probably a couple of hours so that my husband could be with us.

Once we got home immediately my mother and father-in-law came over to be with us.  My mother-in-law was still recovering from a colon surgery - but they came!  That was amazing to me...especially since they had a farm to run and it was open to the public that day on top of everything else.  Not only that, they drove all the way to Barberton to pick up buckets of our favorite chicken, then drove all the way back.  This had to be taxing on them knowing she was still recovering from surgery and that the farm was open for business that day.  They reached higher, and went the extra mile and we were so grateful.

My Aunt Mary and my cousin Melissa took time to cook meals and bring them to us...again, it was a long drive for them...Aunt Mary isn't as agile as she once was and Melissa has 4 kids of her own...reaching the extra inch.

Get this one: my sister-in-law's (Traci) step mother (got it?), Sharon, made a TON of food...not really even related...but she spent a day cooking for us...reaching the extra inch.

My friend, Kris, when she called offerred to be here for us however we needed.  She suggested that she could stay with the kids during the funeral.  That never crossed my mind - I thought they would just come.  But once she got here and the more we talked about it it seemed like a good idea for them to come later for the meal.  My oldest came along, but Kris stayed with the kids and brought them to the meal later.  She missed work that day for a non-relative so I know she had to take a vacation day.  Her birthday would be 2 days later (incidently so was Michelle's my sister-in-law).  Kris and Michelle spent 2 days before their birthdays being available for us...reaching the extra inch.

My sister's friend, Mary, who that week had one of her children in surgery(for a broken limb I think?), drove all the way from Buffalo to be here for my sister and our family...reaching the extra inch.

My Aunt Vi (my dad's sister), Uncle Bob (her husband), and several cousins on my dad's side drove over 3 hours to be at the funeral home by 9:00 am that morning.  Uncle Bob has a compromised immune system and was not able to come in to anything - he sat in the car the whole day - and Aunt Vi was torn between caring for him and being present for family - I would say they went several extra inches.

Neighbors and my husband's co-workers and people we barely knew from church since we just moved here...they all came to the funeral home.  George who was our realator and who we came to be friends with while looking for a house here came to the funeral...they were all reaching that extra inch.

The cards, the gifts, the phone calls, the money for masses, the money for my dad's causes...all overwhelming...all grately appreciated...the exta inch.

I stated in my post "Miracles in the Midst of Madness" that I never liked helping others go through their pain.  I know this is because I never really knew WHAT to do.  This is because nothing like this had ever happened in my life - I had nothing to draw from.  If any good can come to me now from all of this it is that I might have an idea of what to do to help someone else.  May we all learn from the examples of kindness that other people give us.  I can not put into words the value of these miracles of KINDNESS...there are no words of appreciation that can ever be enough.  But God knows how thankful we are.  I can only hope to pay it forward to the next person in need.

I'm amazed at the generosity of people - I see how much people are willing to give and help in times of crisis.  The Tsunami victims, Hurricane Katrina victims, the earthquake in Haiti, and now the earthquake in Chile...God gave us all these amazing abilities and capacities to help.  Let us all think of what "the extra inch" is for us...and go there...and do it.