Thursday, December 24, 2020

What I Learned About Scary Santa (originally posted 12/17/2017)

I came across this picture and laughed to myself as I made a connection I’m not sure I had ever made before. You see, I grew up deathly afraid of Santa Clause. I’m not sure if it came from some scary Santa story my brother told me, or maybe it was just the creepiness of a dude showing up in our house in the middle of the night. I would not even walk on the same floor of the mall as Santa! And the one year my Dad borrowed the company Santa suit to surprise me Christmas morning…well, I guess he had to tear the beard off because I lost my mind when I answered the door only to find Satan…I mean Santa…standing in front of our house. I loved the one special gift Santa left each year that was wrapped in some different paper or had my initial painted on it with glitter (because surely it was from him and not my parents…Mom would NEVER glitter paint our packages!) But anytime he made an appearance…forget it…I was not having it!

This is literally the only picture I have of myself as a kid with “Scary” Santa. Looks like I’m nervous…but I’m not crying. And why you may ask? Well, what I do remember about this picture that even my Mom doesn’t remember is what happened before it was taken. That blue overall set with the matching  turtleneck was a little snug. So snug that my pants ripped the moment I jumped on his lap! Now thankfully, nobody else noticed that this happened, and it was close to the end of the day so I’m sure I just tied my jacket around my waist. But perhaps THIS is where my fear of Santa began!

It’s interesting to think that there was fear associated with the first Christmas. I mean, how could the birth of our Savior elicit fear? But a few years ago I watched The Nativity Story, and it was one of the first times I really connected with what Mary and Joseph went through. I mean if anyone had a reason to be fearful, it was Mary, who found herself pregnant as a virgin in a time where her fiancĂ© could execute her for being so. And could you even imagine the amount of emotions that Joseph must have gone through at that time? Both had to believe that they were visited by angels and instructed on what their next steps would be and they had to choose to obey. I am sure that they had heard, or maybe even been witness to, a woman executed for cheating on their betrothed. Yet, instead of connecting that past experience with their current one, they chose to have faith and believe that they did not have to fear. They had to believe they heard from heaven and they had to have faith to endure. What I also love is that heaven knew how they were going to feel…and they weren’t shamed for it. Instead, messengers were sent to remind them, “don’t be afraid.”

The connection I made with my “Scary” Santa incident is that one instance could have been the reason I never wanted anything to do with him. Maybe I wasn’t really afraid of him. Maybe it was just the memory of him and, what could have been, a very humiliating day. Maybe I was more afraid that I’d jump up on his lap again and possibly rip my pants in a way that everyone would notice.

It made me think: Are there areas in my life that I am letting one past experience create fear in a present one? Do I let fear keep me from experiencing life because of that past experience? Have I “walked-the-top-floor-of-the-mall” in hopes that I would not have to face the fear head on?

If I’m honest: yes, yes and all-the-way yes.

Many have said that “fear not” is written 365 times in the Bible. I’m not sure if that’s true (I’ve never counted), but what I do know is that it was said a lot. And it was said by Jesus. And if it was said a lot in the Bible, and said by Jesus, then I know that it’s somewhere I want to be. A place where fear does not paralyze me from living my best life. A place where fear doesn’t stop me from opening up to new people or new situations. A place where fear does not control my decisions based on past heartbreaks or disappointments.

Today’s forecastMemories tell me, " Don't do it, you  might split your pants again."

Silver LiningHeaven tells me “Fear not! We know a pretty good Seamstress.”

Wednesday, November 18, 2020

Always Kiss Me Goodnight

Today is my Mom and Dad’s 59th Wedding Anniversary. I say “is” because it very much still feels like they’re married. I know the vows say ‘til death do us part,’ but if you were in this house, you would sense it…she is still definitely Gene’s bride.

 Most mornings, I wake up and lay in bed for a few minutes thanking God I woke up. It may sound morbid, but if there is one thing I’ve learned in this past few years, tomorrow is not promised. There’s something about waking up early in the morning in a quiet house with the sprinklers on outside and just a hint of the sun coming through the window. It’s like I’m thankful I get another chance to try this thing called life again. The world is my oyster, and for all I know, the day could be a big fat pearl waiting for me! A new chance. A new opportunity. It’s not hard to thank God for that…I mean His Word even says it. Weeping may last for a night, but joy comes in the morning.

 On July 20,2019, as I was lying in bed thinking about the fact I got another day to give it the ol’ college try, I heard a whisper:

 “Always kiss me goodnight.”

 At first, I figured it was due to what I ate before I went to bed, paired with maybe a late night search on Pinterest. I knew I’d seen my share of photos of signs that say that under the “I Do” and “Wedding” boards! But then my mind started going to remembering the night before. I was super anxious for some reason. A lot had happened the day prior that left my mind racing and my nerves a bit frayed. But, before I turned on the house alarm and got into bed, I made sure to kiss my Mom on the cheek and say goodnight.

 It dawned on me, for the first time that morning, I had naturally fallen into the same pattern I had seen between my Mom and Dad my entire life. At the end of the day, whether it was a “good” day or a “bad” day, my Dad would make sure to kiss my Mom goodnight. I knew that was one of the many things my Mom missed in his sudden passing. I couldn’t remember whether I said goodnight to him the last night he was living. I had gotten home really late from work that night, and he was in his office on his computer. I was so exhausted, I’m not even sure if I stopped to say hello.

 I realized that the combination of remembering him in that nightly ritual with my mom, and the regret I had from the last night I saw him, I had taken on the habit. Every night since his passing, I make sure I say good night to my mom and give her a kiss on the cheek because tomorrow isn’t promised. So why this whisper on July 20, 2019? Always kiss me goodnight? I knew it was a God whisper, so I took some time to meditate on it. I started asking myself whether I was as thankful at night with my heavenly Father as I am with him in the morning. Do I “kiss” Him on the cheek before I go to sleep? Do I thank Him for the day, whether it was a day filled with old hurts or new beginnings? Or do I climb into bed, tired, hurt and let down, just wanting to get to another morning that if He allowed me to wake up again, I’d give it another try?

 I did what I always do when I get a word like this…I google all the things. I found myself at an article written for by Nadine Epstein. The article broke down the religious history of “X” and “O” which explained the religious background to why we sign letters with an XO. The article said:

 “Once it was a sacred symbol, the “x” represented “faith and fidelity,” says Marcel Danesi, a professor of linguistic anthropology and semiotics at the University of Toronto. It became the signature of choice in the Middle Ages, when few could write and documents were sealed with an x embossed in wax or lead. This may be when the “x” first became associated with the kiss: It was customary to close books with a kiss, and oaths of fealty to kings were sealed with a kiss.”

That was it. The King of all kings was asking me to seal my day, the day He had given me, with a kiss. No matter what did or did not happen in that day, would I seal the day with a kiss? However much I did or did not perceive Him working in my life, would I kiss Him goodnight? Even though I know that He promised me that joy came in the morning, my Heavenly Father was asking me to stop for a minute before I went to bed, and seal the day with a kiss.

 It’s not a practice I’ve gotten down perfectly. But on days like today, and nights like tonight, I am grateful again that I have another chance to kiss Him goodnight.

Thursday, November 12, 2020


I literally don’t know where to start. That seems to be the “norm” this year, if there could ever be a norm to 2020. At first, I thought I was receiving the tie up to a writing I had started but never finished. Then I thought I was getting some pretty package of what my words for 2020 really reflected. Then I sat and stared at the screen and read something that took me to a place where I could literally feel the “girl shrugging” emoticon rise up from my toes as the overarching gesture to God I’m feeling right now. 

I simply have no title to what is happening right now. 

I was drawn back to that thing I wrote about quicksand a couple years ago. Once again, an overwhelming feeling of being stuck, only to be reminded not to try to scurry out of it. Sure, there will be people who will tell me I’m stuck because I choose to be. Those people don’t know the eternal struggles I have on a daily. They aren’t with me in the midnight hour when all in me wants to run from this place. Those moments I want to pull my way out of a tough situation that seems to be swallowing me whole. The moment when what seems to be the “perfect solution” is placed in front of me…only to have the honest conversation with myself that I placed it in front of me, not God. What I’ve learned about quicksand, and more importantly, those places…the more I fight to escape, the more I am engulfed by the circumstance. 

What God taught me then, and He is ever so gently reminding me this morning…”Lean back into me. What’s the last thing I told you? When you find yourself stuck in the muck and mire of a circumstance? When you feel in your bones you are going under and this time for good? When you are fighting with all of your might to get out of something that you think I did not intend for you? My daughter, what is the last thing I told you?” 

It’s those moments that I’m not only reminded of the last thing He told me, but that also heard Him right. Just like the article said about quicksand, “Lay back and create a bigger footprint by allowing yourself to float. Yes, do the exact thing that sounds absolutely crazy. Lay yourself back and allow your body to float above the very thing trying to suck you in.” 

Fighting back in something He’s told me to release has always ended up with me even deeper into a circumstance I was not supposed to be in. A place I was not supposed to walk into. I was reminded of the last time I said yes to something that seemed like the perfect solution to me. One week in, and I had to make the painful realization that I had taken things into my own hands and walked into a place He had not prepared for me. It was hard to admit, but had I not made the hard decision to say, “This isn’t right, I need to leave,” I would have missed the last 4 years of the people I have met, the experiences I have had, the healing I have experienced, and the full understanding of how much my Father in heaven loves me. Even in circumstances that try to make me feel like I’m unseen and not valued, I have come to a place where I recognize I am fully known, seen and loved by God…and that is enough. 

Today’s Forecast: A story with no title. 
Silver Lining: God’s a better writer than me.

Thursday, October 8, 2020

My Achilles Heel

On July 23rd, I was putting together a donation pick up that I completely forgot I had scheduled. I blame it on being four+ months into a pandemic with a sprinkle of grief. The donation pick up was mostly to handle the cleaning out of my Dad's closet. I'd bagged up most of his belongings a few months prior, but had now been given the green light from my Mom to have the bags taken away. Since the truck was coming, I figured "Why not binge some of the stuff in my own closet?!" As I went through my piles, I found myself wanting to hold onto items I hadn't warn for some time. Items that were too big for me now. As I slowly skipped over the "just in case" pile, I felt a gentle nudge: "You're never going to wear that size again, let it go." 

So I did. 

It's now 77 days from that day, and I have refocused on my health, started a regimented food program and I am now working out regularly. I'm close to hitting my first goal of 25 pounds and am feeling like I could actually do it this time!

One of the blessings that has come from this refocus is actually experiencing the healing that has taken place in my heel. After tearing it two times in the last 4 years, I wondered if I would ever be able to be active again. I wondered if my achilles heel would actually always be my achilles heel! I remember days I sat in chairs crying because I couldn't walk, and the pain of taking the next step was greater than my willingness to even try. What if I tore it again? What I didn't know is that injury and the time of facing a weakness I had no control over, set me up for some future storms that were coming. Just as 2 Corinthians 12:9 says, His grace is sufficient and His power is made PERFECT in my weakness.

I decided to go back and read about that time, and wanted to share it here

Thursday, August 13, 2020

The Rain Is Coming

God brought back into memory two things He taught me in the past 2 years. We obviously find ourselves in a desert season. The heat is quite literally, and figuratively, rising. I woke up this AM in a warm home with the sun beating in and remembered, “Oh yeah, a heat wave starts today.” I’m not a fan of the heat. It has the tendency to feel like it sucks all the life out of me. I wish I were one of those people who thrive in it…but I literally pray for it to go. I pray for the rain.

The silver lining is the Holy Spirit has taught me to not only be comforted in these seasons of intense heat, but to recognize that they are temporary seasons. I'm always comforted by the impending rain, but even the rain can bring things I'm not expecting. Whether the heat and drought bring a superbloom or quicksand after the rain, He has taught me to learn from both.

Friday, February 21, 2020

This Isn't What I Asked For

I have to admit…I was feeling a certain kind of way as I got in the car after my hair appointment.

“Jesus, let it not be as short as it looked in the big mirror.”

” Jesus, let that “bowl cut” I saw staring back at me just be due to the fact that my need for glasses was not just for reading anymore.”

“Jesus, let that sticker I see “objects may appear closer than they are” really mean “your hair may appear shorter than it is.”

No such luck. As I looked at my reflection and then down at the Pinterest picture on my phone that I showed my hairdresser, only one thing was certain:

This isn’t what I asked for.

I had to laugh at myself for a minute because I realized that it was my own darn fault. I’ve been coming to this guy for 20+ years. He cuts and dries my hair in 30 minutes, he’s still only charging $50 for a cut, and I can go at least 10 weeks before I’m tempted to take the scissors to my bangs. That’s like unheard of in Los Angeles! He does straight hair really, really good. And for this curly-haired girl who’s always wanted straight hair, he’s been a blessing. But I’ve been down this road before. I know he’s not good at color, and he’s not good at curls.

It’s funny how life can feel like that more days than others. I’ve written about self-pity before, but now looking back at my life 6 years ago and my life now…I kinda want to go back and slap some sense into myself. Although I recognize there have been times in my life that I’ve been limited to what I could and could not choose to do, this season is so much different.

I realize that my life does have, what appears to be, a few circumstances that have created limits to what I can and can’t do. At times, I imagine it feels like my friends who have kids or are married. Your life and your life choices don’t only affect you. And although I am neither married, or have children, I currently have some life circumstances that carry a different weight of responsibility than that girl who was just feeling overlooked and uninvited to a few shin digs.

Just like my haircut, I used to have a picture of what I wanted my life to look like. By now, I thought I’d be going on 20+ years of marriage. The stretch marks I see on my stomach would have been from having a few kids, not from years of yo-yo dieting and bad health decisions. The house I was living in was supposed to be mine, not the one my Dad passed away in 2 years ago. I wouldn’t have a front row seat in watching my mom navigate widowhood 24/7. Instead, I’d have a front row seat in watching my parents live out their last days in their dream home together, loving on their grandkids and their other daughter, our dog Daisy. I’d actually be longing for the days I had a moment to myself. I would be in that familiar rhythm with a husband who adored me, so it wouldn’t matter how freakin’ short my hair was…he’d be happy on the days I brushed it and put on a little make up, because it would remind him of the girl he fell in love with.

Recently, my pastor preached a sermon he entitled, “The Devil Made Me View It.” It was all about recognizing that although the devil is real and he is a liar, a lot of what happens in my life can’t be blamed on “the devil made me do it,” but rather on how “the devil made me view it.” The devil never told Eve to eat the apple. Instead, he asked the question “Did God really say…” so that she would change her perspective and then actually move out of alignment with God.

Often times, God will allow us to be in a place of discouragement so we can be reminded that He is with us, He is for us and He is faithful. It’s just a matter of a perspective shift. Even Jesus had that moment, and the vulnerability to ask, “Father is there ANY other way?” But Jesus quickly had the perspective shift, “not My will, but Yours.” It brought Him into alignment with the Father’s will and the rest is history!

What my hair mishap reminded me of today on my 48th birthday is that I’m a different girl than that girl who has asked, “Why am I not where I want to be?” And although the last 2 years have been some of the hardest moments of my life thus far, it has also been the biggest perspective shifter in how I view myself and how I view God. I do allow myself that moment, every so once in a while, to look in the mirror and say to God “this isn’t what I asked for.” But the difference now is that He has brought me to a place of quickly getting back into alignment with His will for my life. He has already told me and shown me who I am in Him. He’s put the desires in my heart and He is faithful. I don’t care what it looks like, I now hold onto my heavenly perspective. And this perspective could have never come without experiencing the lowest of low moments, only to be surrounded by His presence, and then reminded of His strength, that lives inside of me.

So, this morning when I woke up and stumbled into the bathroom only to be greeted by a girl one year older with really short hair…I wiped the gunk out of my eyes and took out all my best curling products. I re-washed my hair and styled it as best I could. Even though it’s not what I asked for, it will grow back. I still have a really good head of hair on me. This will be SO much easier to cover the gray, and it literally takes ¼ of the time to get ready.

Today’s Forecast: It may not be what I asked for…

 Silver Lining: …but it is how I see it.

Saturday, January 4, 2020

A Love Letter From Dad

Recently, we were asked to begin to think about what the gospel means to us. I’m on a church staff, so that should be easy, right?  Yet, I have to be honest, I wasn’t sure how to answer that in a cohesive thought. I felt like I was in the front row of an A.R. Bernard sermon about to be asked the “easiest” question and my mind goes blank so I crawl under the pew assuming the fetal position sucking my thumb. Okay, so a little dramatic…but really, I know I should always be prepared to give an answer for this hope that I have. I guess where I get tripped up is thinking that it has to be this really deep thought/sermon that explains the origins of everything with slides to go with it.

So I sat on it for a while.

The first thought that came to mind is me sitting in my catechism class probably in 4th or 5th grade. I remember the “Good News” book being in the front of the class. I don’t remember ever getting to open it until then, and I’m not sure I even realized it was a bible…or portions of it. It couldn’t be the same old black bible with gold pages that was sitting in the small makeshift library of the wall unit in the living room. You know, the room only special guests on holidays get to sit in? I mean, you had to be really careful even touching that book…and I remember having to be oh so careful dusting it.

Wow, how my relationship with that “book” has changed since I started my relationship with Jesus. I still have the first bible someone gave me, and now I have probably about 20 of them in all different colors and translations. There’s usually one in a bag, in a bookcase, in my car, at my desk. I can’t remember the first time I actually wrote in one, but I’m sure I flinched a bit when I did. It wasn’t until I accepted Christ into my life that I learned that I could not only start to have a relationship with Him, but with the Word as well. One of the first verses I was told to memorize in my new relationship was John 1:1, “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.”

The Word was God…the WORD was GOD! I guess I could understand why we were all so concerned with bending the pages! But just as my relationship with my Lord and Savior had changed, my relationship with the Word followed suit. It was no longer a relationship I had through someone else. It was a living and breathing and open to me to read, digest, question, meditate on, and run to. It’s a relationship that continues to develop day by day, the more time I spend with it and meditate on it, like any relationship, the more I learn about what He is saying to me, who I am, and what I believe through the humans He chose to communicate His Word through. The Word is a road map meets character builder meets a poetic love letter.

And that’s when it hit me…the gospels ARE like a love letter from Dad.

I’m not sure how long everything in life will come back to losing my Dad, but I’m grateful that in the midst of such a sad season, my Heavenly Dad reveals a little bit more of Himself to me. For the last month, I had taken some time off from work to get our house in order…the house that seems to have stood still in all its “stuff” for the last 18 months since he left this Earth suddenly. The notes, cards and emails I was finding myself running into from my Earthly Dad were similar to some of the “notes” I have read and learned from in the Bible from my Heavenly Dad.

Love Note #1: I love you.

My earthly Dad was really good at making sure I knew he loved me. He started out showing that to me very early in life by remembering every Valentine’s day, every birthday, every Christmas… I have so many cards that he wrote just to me, even in the awkward teenage years, or the years I wasn’t living at home, just to make sure I knew he loved me. And in turn, any time someone compliments me on my ability to “love well,” I know it’s in part because my Dad showed me how.

Our heavenly Dad says in John 3:16 that He loves us so much, He sacrificed His one and only son. In 1 John 4 He says our ability to love others is because He loved us first. In Matthew 10:30 He says He knows every hair on our heads and in Psalm 139 He says He knows all our ways…and He still loves us! I don’t know about you…but I got a lot of ways…and a lot of those ways are let’s just say…hard to love. So He made sure to let me know…yes…I even love THAT way of yours.

Love Note #2: I know sometimes you might do wrong. I still love you.

I knew when my earthly Dad was upset with me. Most times he was upset with me, he really had reason to be.  Funny enough, I was the “good kid” in the family, meaning I hardly ever got in trouble. There was never a parent meeting to talk about my grades. When he told me I was too young for red lipstick, I took it off immediately. There was never a late night call to pick me up from jail. But there were some emails I came across that he sent after we had a disagreement. Many of those emails would either end in some sort of “funny” or be followed up by an encouraging email chain he had received. I loved when they had to do with faith.

Our heavenly Dad says in Luke 15 that even when we get off track, He’s going to be there when we return. Even when we think we are unworthy, His Word says He loves us just the same and will celebrate our return to Him. In Jeremiah 31, He says He loves us with an everlasting love, and will build us up again.

Love Note #3: I love you so much, I took your pain for you.

My earthly Dad loved music. He loved finding songs that fit every situation. He loved everything from Motown to Country to Pitbull…yes, Pitbull. His all-time favorite was Ray Charles. I remember after a really hard time in my late teens, we were driving home from somewhere and it’s like he knew I was in the backseat feeling sad about a boy. He put on Ray Charles’ rendition of “If I Could.” If you don’t know it, it’s basically a song about a Dad wising he could take the place of his child during the lonely years. I know a lot of times, even when he was upset with decisions we made that put us in the middle of pain, he wished he could take the pain for us.

As Romans 5 says it, our heavenly Dad demonstrated how He loves us by sacrificing His only son when we were still sinners. And in 1 Corinthians 13 He lets us know He hasn’t kept an account of what we have done, but instead believes the best of us. Even in our wrongdoing, His love never fails or leaves.

Love Note #4: I want you to love yourself the way I love you. And I want you to love others the way you love yourself.

One of the things that always blew me away about my earthly Dad is how he loved others. The crazy thing was that he didn’t really have a Dad himself that showed him that kind of love. And maybe it was because of that that my Dad always had an eye for those who had been forgotten. I heard so many stories of the “love notes” my Dad had sprinkled through out his life after he passed away. The single moms who worked for him and said it was his encouragement and words that helped them to now run large corporations. The family members he would drive hours to pick up so they wouldn’t be alone on Christmas. The young men who others disregarded that came forth and said how my Dad taught them everything they knew about management…he even sent one of them to Vegas when they were 21 years old!

Although our heavenly Dad may never send us to Vegas…He does have a way of seeing those who others don’t, and making them feel loved and valued for who they are. In Psalm 65 He reminds us that He is a father to the fatherless. In Psalm 146 He reminds us that he protects strangers and supports the widows. In James 1, He says that pure and undefiled religion in His sight is to visit the orphan and widow in their distress. He has an eye for those people, just like my Dad did…just like we should.

Lastly, Love Note #5: Though we are separated now, we will be together again.

There was no written last note from my earthly Dad. I can’t even remember the last words he said to me, or if I even told him good night before I went to bed on June 18th 2018. So when he passed away suddenly on June 19th, I definitely learned that whole thing about our lives being but a vapor. I still had his Father’s day card that I forgot to write out 2 days prior sitting on the pile of papers in my room. On June 27th, I wrote him my last love note on Earth in that card and placed it in his coffin. I let him know how much I had learned from his life, and that I’d take care of Mom until she joined him in heaven.

My heavenly Dad loves me so much, that He didn’t let the love letters stop there. On July 19th, 10 days before my Dad’s Celebration of life, I found a letter in my parent’s safety deposit box at the bank. My Dad was the only one who had access to it to that point – my Mom had no idea what we would find in there. In the box, along with banking information, my high school diploma, and a couple of pieces of my Grandma Jo’s jewelry was a letter to my Mom and Dad from my Aunt Ann. A portion of the letter was starred and underlined, and read:

"I talked to Aunt Jo and she told me that Gene was at the age of 1 month “Dedicated to God.” That’s how babies are “Blessed before God.” The church was the Italian Christian Church 215 Travis Ave., Trenton, NJ. The pastor was Rev Guido. They don’t baptize babies, they are blessed with oil.”

I stood in the bank in tears. Of all the things my Dad felt that should be in a safety deposit box in a bank…it felt like another love letter from both my earthly Dad and my Heavenly Dad. A love letter letting me know that they were together in the beginning…and they were together again today.

I started writing this in November of 2019, and am just finishing it up today…I knew it was something I needed to write, but I wasn’t sure why it was taking me so long to put words to paper. Now I know it’s because He was still revealing how wide, and long, and high and deep His love is for me. My prayer for 2020 is that my Heavenly Dad would continue to reveal Himself to me in His love letters…that I would continue to abide in His love and that He would continue to abide in me…until we meet again.