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Sunday, May 14, 2017

You make saying Goodbye so hard...

Winnie the Pooh had it right.

Some people make it so hard to say Goodbye...

If you're celebrating this Mother's Day with a hole in your heart, perhaps missing a mom gone too soon or missing the child you never got to hold in your arms, then know that you are not alone.

For the child in us missing our moms,
For the moms in us missing our babies...

Might we lift up hands of gratitude
even as tears fall,

How lucky we are to have had someone
in our lives that made
saying Goodbye so hard!

Missing and Loving 
go hand in hand...

Wishing all the Moms out there
the Happiest of Mother's Days.

May the Laughter be sweet
and the Smiles be tucked forever in our hearts!

My Love, Always,

Tuesday, May 9, 2017

When the Winds of Life Blow...

Life has a way of throwing curves.

Just as we were unwinding from our trip, the phone rang with news that had us packing our bags again and heading north...

Leroy's mom had been admitted to the hospital in serious respiratory distress.  Her bout with lung cancer several years ago and the mega-doses of radiation had severely compromised her lungs and while the cancer is now in remission, the lungs have been left scarred and weak.

And so, the winds of life blow...

While we were walking the beaches in St. Lucia, we came across this beach at Anse Cannelles... a wild, craggy coastline facing the Atlantic Ocean.

The waves crashed and beat against the cliffs, {it was definitely not a swimming beach!}... still, it had a majestic charm that reeled us in...

We hiked down to the slim sandy shore and poked around amongst the driftwood and coconuts...

And on that far off cliff we noticed the tree line...

...beaten down by the relentless wind, but holding on despite all odds.

And it reminded me of the Biosphere 2 project.  You might remember it?

The Biosphere 2 project was created to be a miniature version of our planet.  It is owned by the University of Arizona and was constructed in order for scientists to study how the planet's ecosystems work together.

In this artificial environment, they created 7 unique ecosystem models, like a small ocean, a rain forest, a desert and a savanna grassland.  Then they produced all kinds of weather patterns and studied plant growth.

And in this tightly controlled experimental model they made a surprising discovery.

They learned of the major importance of wind in a plant's growth and maturing.

In the Biosphere, trees grew much faster than they would grow in the wild.  They also began to collapse before they completely matured.  As it turns out, the lack of wind played a huge role.

Scientists discovered that the pressure of the wind is what strengthens the tree trunk and allows them to hold up their own weight.

When plants and trees grow in the wild, constantly exposed to the wind and wind movement, the plant compensates by growing "reaction wood" or stress wood.  This stress is what makes a tree strong enough to sustain the wear and tear it will face later in life.

And this is where I say Ahhhh.... I see it now.  God opens shuttered eyes... Weathering the storms of life builds our strength.

It's true.  The winds of life will blow.  And if we allow, they will strengthen both our faith and our character.

But it hurts.

And that's the truth.  Our hearts ache as we tuck sheets up and hold the frail hand...

Dr. and Nurses hover.  Family rallies around.  Decisions are made.  There is nothing else to do for failing lungs.  The paramount goal is now keeping her comfortable.  Hospice is called.

Tears refuse to fall as she closes her eyes in relieved sleep.  Fighting is hard work.  This warrior is ready to relax and rest as others manage her care.

Determined to give God Thanks for the gifts we are receiving
even in the midst of this howling storm.

Right now our lives are as bent as the trees on that oceanside cliff
but we are choosing to trust His Hand,
for He alone knows what lies ahead on this wind-swept road.

Resting in Grace tonight,
Knowing the Lover of Our Souls holds the Night-Watch,

My Love, Always,

Thursday, May 4, 2017

Adventure on the High Seas!

The S/V Mandalay...

She has been our home for the past week...

We have sailed through seas of Caribbean blue straight into picture-perfect sunsets!  There's nothing like tropical beaches and swaying palm trees to put a smile on your face...

We have thrilled to the sails being raised as strains of Amazig Grace filled the air...

And because this is a modern 21st Century High Sea Adventure Sailing Vessel, we toured the engine room too!

But mostly we spent every day ooohing and aaahhing over the simply breathtaking views and vistas of this tropical paradise... God's most amazing handiwork...

We snorkeled, and swam, and soaked in the sun... We laughed and napped and walked barefoot on decks of teak...

The Captain even let me take a turn at the helm!

You'd never guess we were at anchor... you guessed?!

And then there were sunsets.

And in the midst of all this splendor, we made new friends...

Great friendships... laughing and sharing our stories together all week... and finding that Cancer had stowed away even on this tropical paradise...

One of our new best friends... Sam... the cute blond with the curliest of hair, a halo around her smiling face...

Cancer has called her name... and she has stood up and said 'You don't know who you're messing with'  She is cancer free today and celebrating.

Cancer has a way of bonding even strangers.  It wasn't long before we were sharing stories and smiles and hugs.  Fighting hard against a common enemy... we're in this together.  Rejoicing over a battle won!

And that cute halo of curly hair... she shared her secret.  After chemo had ravaged her body and she lost her hair, she tried ORS Hair Fertilizer.  It has worked well for her and is a tip for the journey.

Cancer may have stowed away, but it did not destroy...

God is good.

We have experienced His masterpiece, His fellowship and His sweet gifts of Grace.  

It has been an Adventure we won't soon forget... 

Saturday, April 22, 2017

Hello from St. Lucia!

We have arrived on the sunny island of St. Lucia to begin our much anticipated vacation here in the Caribbean.  Tomorrow we board the Mandalay for a bucket-list, week-long cruise on an old sailing schooner!

But before we board we have packed in some major sight-seeing... and for the record, the Island does not disappoint!

From flowering abundance:

to lazy waterfalls:

and amazing vistas:  

The peace and beauty have already begun to unravel our tangled nerves!  

And we say that there's no time like the present to start making some great memories...

We're not waiting another second!

Sweet sailing... See you in a week!!

P.S. We've got this self-stick thing down!!

Sunday, April 16, 2017

An Easter Selfie...

Taking a moment to breathe in the blessings of this weekend past...

An empty tomb.

A risen Lord.

A Love so deep it cannot be fathomed.

From the darkness of that Good Friday to the Joy of a Resurrection Sunday.

It is a Celebration of Love and Family and Hope... and we have worshipped together with arms and hearts full...

There was also laughter bubbling over as we practiced with
the selfie-stick our sweet daughter gifted us for an upcoming trip.

No time like the present to try it out!

First attempt was, like, what???

Second try was getting there...

Finally think we've got this!

Love each sweet face!

And this is the beauty of God's Amazing Grace...
No matter how dark our nights,
the struggles, the grief...

He brings Joy and Hope in the morning.

May you feel the Hope of new beginnings this night
no matter how the darkness pulls...

The Son has Risen!

And that makes all the difference in the world.

Friday, April 14, 2017

A Good Word this Holy Friday...

                        ~ graphic courtesty of ibibleverses

Even in the darkest night,
we have Hope.

In Grace Waiting...

Wednesday, April 12, 2017

When a Pancreatic Cancer Diagnosis Becomes Unbearable...

The Jackson men are a strong bunch, but nothing could prepare them for the devastating news that all 3 of them have been diagnosed with pancreatic cancer...

It is a nightmare that few of us could even imagine.

In late 2014, Wayne Jackson was diagnosed with neuroendocrine Pancreatic Cancerous tumors resulting from a rare syndrome called MEN-1.  He underwent surgery to remove 12 tumors in 2014, but has recently seen a rise in his tumor markers...  In early 2016 his 18-year old son, Parker was also diagnosed with the same neuroendocrine pancreatic cancer and a short 6 weeks later his 21-year old son, Preston, was unbelievably diagnosed with the same cancerous tumors.

Unknowingly, the MEN-1 Syndrome was passed down from Wayne to his boys, causing the shattering diagnoses in these young men.

Heartache of unimaginable proportions.

Their story has haunted me... As a parent it is one of our worst fears, that one of our children would suffer such a devastating diagnosis... and for Wayne, he not only is walking his own cancer road, he is also struggling to be there for both of his sons as they too find themselves on a cancer journey...a journey that none of us would wish on even our worst enemy.

How do you handle something this catastrophic?  Who picks up the pieces when the struggle overwhelms?

And yet, Wayne and his boys are moving forward.  There have been tears.  There has been prayer.  There has been sheer determination and grit.  They are standing solidly with each other, walking into the fight together, proving the strength of family and the hope found in God's constant provision can make all the difference.

The Jackson men are so very much in our thoughts this night. Join me in lifting them up as they fight hard. Trusting in God's Amazing Grace to meet each need and bring joy out of the heartache and strength in the midst of pain..,

Kneeling in Grace tonight,