I have met so many wonderful friends through books. Some are fictional, and some are flesh and bone friends...but all have made a difference in my life in one way or another. We all impact each other's lives. Sometimes it is by something you say that makes me think, and other times it is by a gesture or kindness. And yet other times it may be something that dug deeper, hurt my feelings, or made me sad. Still you made a difference. Through this blog I would like to introduce you to some people who have blessed me with their writing...and I hope you will be blessed as well!

Coffee or Tea?

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Who's Your Hero?

Heroes come in all shapes and sizes, for a million different reasons. When kids are little, the Super Hero has special powers and wears capes or leotards in bright cheerful colors. When they get a little older the hero takes on the form of a sports hero or actor, and then later someone in a field they are interested in. I know I am showing my age here but I loved Harriet Nelson and Donna Reed as a young girl.  Reality showed me I would never be fancy enough to be Donna Reed, in her rich house with her perfectly manicured nails...so I began to focus on Dale Evans (because she could ride a horse and help catch the bad guys with her handsome hunk of a man, Roy Rogers!). As I got to know more about this fabulous lady I found more reasons to be impressed...things like her faith, her writing, and her family values.  They raised a passel of kids (both natural and adopted) in a modest Apple Valley, Ca. home without the frills and spoiled lifestyle most people attribute to "movie star families".

I recently received a prayer request for a 4 year old boy diagnosed with stage four cancer.  He wasn't afraid because Jesus and Superman were watching over him. WOW! That's what heroes are for, little man. He also became one of my heroes. As I face my own tests and surgeries, I think of him...

I decided to figure out who my hero is, to inspire me with my fight against this terminal illness the doctors have told me there is no cure for. Who did I look up to as an inspiration? I don't really like people much overall. Today's world has brought out an ugly side, or greediness and hate, that rules out a large percentage of the population.  However, as in any good story, you can find the exceptions and they more than make up for the disappointments. This is the beginning of a series I want to write about my own choices for heroes. The people who have made a difference in my own life...to inspire, encourage, and uplift me; and often the lives of others.

Of course Mother Theresa would be the obvious choice with her unselfish devotion to those who most people wouldn't take the time to give a second look. Her life was devoted to helping the people others refused to touch, and inspiring others by her actions. Clearly she was an exception to the world today...There is no competition that can stand up to her unselfish devotion to making the world a better place.  But I am not talking about the Mother Theresa exceptions in the overall  world of  real people.  I want to tell you about a few people who have real lives and families, who bleed when they are cut and cry when they are hurt. These are people who have found ways to use their experiences to help others, by sharing their joy, their pain, and their laughter. But most of all they are people who have walked through the fire and not given up, people who have found a way to laugh at the tough questions, and people who found ways to challenge us for more that just walking through the park.

See that beautiful face on the top of this page? That is one amazing lady! Her name is Krista Phillips.  Do you remember our beautiful Princess Annabelle? We covered her with prayer and watched her grow into a beautiful little girl from the fragile princess who spent her first months of life in a hospital room, connected to tubes and  monitors. (I remember sitting up all night praying for her when she was awaiting a heart to be donated to save her).  Well Krista is Annabelle's mommy! She is also the writer of an inspiring blog called "One Woman's Dream at reflectionsbykrista.blogspot.com.  


Next week I am going to do my entire blog on this wonderful family.  She has four beautiful girls, a loving husband, just wrote her first published novel called "Sandwich, with a side of Romance", and advocates for heart babies every where. In her spare time she runs the girls to sports, church, doctor's appointments, writes her blog, and is working on her second novel. Although she is half my age, she is twice the woman I could ever hope to be. In all of her trials, and times where she never knew if her treasured  princess would make it through the night, I never heard her discouraged or give up. She is a strong, remarkable woman of God!

  Before I close, I would like to ask you a favor...who is YOUR HERO?  Who inspires you to keep on hanging on when things get tough, or holds your arms up when you are weary? Leave your comments so that we might keep them on our wall of HEROES.  Thanks! ~JJ                                                                          

Monday, October 8, 2012

Do you appreciate the little things?

What does it take for you to appreciate the little things in your life? Did you wake up and thank God for the ability to open your eyes and know where you were; or for the clarity of your mind to remember your name and recognize your family? Were you thankful for the electricity to prepare your breakfast, and light your way?  When you turned on the television to update today's events, did you even give it a second thought? Wasn't it nice to be able to flush the toilet, or take a shower? Did you sleep in a bed last night? Were you warm and safe? 

Millions of people in this world don't have those simple things, and they are thankful for a few spoonfuls of rice. Children are raising their younger siblings in cardboard boxes or mud huts without windows, after the death of their parents. And they wake up thankful for the rags they call clothes that some charity group gave them. All around them death feeds on the people they loved. Slowly  killing off the bodies of the young with AIDS, Hepatitis, Cancer, and diseases we haven't even heard of yet here in America. The median age being 30 years old, an age we would consider the beginning of adulthood. Young girls as little as toddlers are raped and the older ones sold into sex slavery. Few are the ones who haven't seen someone they love murdered. And still you see pictures of the children laughing. They are happy for a few small treasures of candy handed out by a visiting missionary, or a new outfit that is clean. Shoes are a prize no matter what size they are. The highlight of their year is a shoebox full of crayons, coloring books, toys and school supplies they receive at Christmas from the missionaries. (http://www.samaritanspurse.org)

A year ago, my family and I lived in a three bedroom house.  It was old and run down by today's standards, and shared a wall with the half of house next door...leaving little room for privacy. If they sneezed you felt like you should bless them. We had no back yard and the houses in this part of the country are built right on the sidewalk out front, leaving no front yard at all. I sat in my room reflecting all that I didn't have in this life. 
                                                 When I was in my twenties and early thirties we had beautiful homes, antiques that had belonged in my family for years, and new cars. We took cruises for vacations and week end trips every month. We owned a 25 acre farm with a beautiful home that had everything I could ever want. In the fields we had black Angus cattle, show goats, hogs, chickens, horses, and geese to make the picture complete. Our back yard was a lovely garden full of tasty delights we loved to preserve for the winter. We loved to take our golf cart for a ride down by our lake to pick wild blackberries for a sweet dessert. We went camping in 5 star resorts, and stayed in the best of hotels when we traveled. It was a regular treat to eat out in a gourmet restaurant or our favorite home style diner. Then one day all of that ended. My husband of 10 years had found someone else, and sold everything we owned in a one day auction while he took us vacationing in Florida.  I had no idea that while I was riding Mr. Toad's Wild Ride that my personal life was about to take the same twists. 

One day I was saying my life was perfect and Heaven couldn't be much better than my life on earth...then over night it was all gone. My husband disappeared and took all the money he had collected from the auction with him...and my two year old son with him. My life would never be the same. 

Twenty years later, and another husband gone as fast as he came, I sat alone with two babies to care for and a heart full of sadness at my losses. I longed to show these babies the life I lived before, but that was never God's plan. As hard as I worked, the bills always seem to grow faster...never leaving anything for trips or frills; and often never enough to pay the bills. My son reminded me all the time that others had so much more, and why could we have things like that...  

At first I used to cry myself to sleep thinking that someday God would bring me a Christian husband to share my life with and we would take the kids camping, or to see the Grand Canyon, or on that cruise I always promised them. But he never came. Neither did our dreams. 

"I wish we could have gone there" my daughter would cry. 

"It's okay Mom, at least we appreciate what we have." my son would try to comfort me. But I knew it wasn't okay. 

On June 25th of 2012 we lost everything we had worked so hard to acquire. I know I was becoming a horder. I always felt I had to replace my losses, and there was never enough. God knew no U-Hauls would be going to Heaven and needed to lighten our loads.

We were evicted. I thought I had another day before we were to be out of there, so I went to get coffee and some breakfast sandwiches for the kids and we had a truck backed in to load the boxes. At 9 am my son called to tell me they were changing the locks and we had to leave the property. I wasn't even allowed to grab a change of clothes. The constable tried to explain that the property manager had to put everything in storage and allow us to redeem it, but the man refused. He said he was taking everything straight to the incinerator. I felt like someone kicked me in the stomach! And he did as he promised...

For the next week we called and begged to buy our most precious belongings and pictures back from him, but he laughed and refused. Gone were the graduation diplomas the kids worked so hard to earn, my grandmother's pictures, gifts from my children, and books we had collected. All of our clothes, gifts my daughter had saved for her "hope chest", and camera with pictures we can ever replace again. 

We spent the next three months living in a car, or staying in a motel we could rent by the week. Never knowing from one night to the next where we would be. Food was scarce. When we were in the car we worried our pets were going to die from the 90+ degree heat and tried to keep them sprayed down to cool them off. There was no one to turn to. 

My sister writers sent clothes, books and money to help us get through the hardest of days. 

My oldest daughter had decided we were too much drama in her life and turned her back on us. While she relaxed on vacations, or sat watching television in her spacious air conditioned home, we watched our family falling apart. My son couldn't take the stress anymore and he left us to go stay with friends. Now there was just me and Stevie, my 21 year old daughter.

Just when you think life can't get any worse...well you know how that story goes...yep, it did! I went to the emergency room with stomach pains and came home with a projection of 4 to 6 months left to live. I had advanced stage 4 cirrhosis of the liver, kidney disease, a cyst on my kidney, a huge hernia that was draining into my abdominal cavity, blood in my urine, and my back had so much damage I was loosing all feeling in my lower half. I can't lift my legs more than a few inches, or stand or bend...and I walk with a walker.  Every week brings new problems after more and more tests are run.

But remember this blog is about thankfulness. We learned to be thankful! We found a place to live! There are two rooms, a bathroom and a kitchen...and we share it with another person. Okay, so there aren't any closets, but hey...we lost everything anyway. The only real draw back is the bathroom is tiny. Only a shower, no tub to soak in...and I can barely squeeze through to the toilet...but at least we have one! (We didn't in the car!) But we have a kitchen and can cook a real meal now! And it is affordable!

If this had been offered to us a year ago we would have turned up our noses and never given it a second thought. But not today.  Today we love it. It has a big backyard for our dog to run, and the cats have found their hiding places. There are lots of windows for them to look out of, and there is a college for Stevie just three blocks away. We have already found some wonderful churches to choose from, and the people here are very friendly. We have a river in our back yard. The little town is like Mayberry, and we feel like we have stepped back in time. It even has a little restaurant that looks like it was straight out of my childhood.  The music is from the 70's, and the prices match.  Where else could you buy a grilled cheese sandwich for $1.69, french fries for $1.89, and homemade pie for $1.89? It is a tiny town, but we are so thankful for it.  We are two hours from where we started, and we would have never found this place had it not been for our  circumstances. God had to get our hearts ready to accept His plan. 

So when I get up, I thank my Heavenly Father for another day on this Earth to make memories with my daughter.  I thank Him, as I stir my morning coffee, for the coffee to drink and the coffee maker to prepare it. I reflect as I take my shower on how nice it is to have running water for my shower, realizing someday soon we might not have either electricity or running water. As I dress for the day I thank the Lord for friends like Tracy Ruckman who loved me enough to send me clothes. As I sit by the running water of the Juniata River and read my books, I pray over all my writer friends who sent us books to read, and blessed us with scriptures to encourage us. And every minute I thank Him for my daughter, Stevie, who didn't let my complaining scare her away, and always takes care of me through good and bad. And I thank God for giving me 20 wonderful years with my baby boy, Floyd, before he had to spread his wings and fly off to become an adult.

I lift up everyone who sent us books and money, or just lifted us up in prayer...for they bring the love of our Heavenly Father to earth, and gave me the strength not to give up.

My word for today is Thankfulness...because no matter how bad life is there is always a reason to give thanks.

        "Without the rain, we wouldn't have flowers and rainbows..."                                        

Monday, October 1, 2012

Irony, how sharp is thy sting!

I know you have noticed my obvious absence in the past months...but any rumors of my death are only partially true. It has become a fad on twitter and other social media sites to post fake death notices about famous people...but fortunately I am not famous (yet!). However, I have gone through a dramatic change in my life and much has happened to give me pause for reflection.

In my last post I was asking the question "What will your legacy be?" after you depart this world. I had no idea how that was about to become relevant to my next post.  Only God knew how the pieces were about to fit together. Immediately following my post my mother died.  We thought she would live forever; she was too ornery to die. My Mother was one of the strongest women I ever knew.  I was shocked.


A few weeks after that was written my oldest grandson was in a motorcycle accident that easily could have taken his life. He has never been one to fear danger, or shy away from speed.  One of my earliest memories of him was the way he used to love riding his little motorcycle (one of those plastic ones toddlers push around).  He would push it to the top of our driveway then fly down hill with the wind in his long blond curls, until he crashed at the bottom. He would laugh, and pull up his overalls for another run. It came as no surprise when he moved away from home and bought one of those fast sleek looking models in a brilliant yellow.  I had seen him drive, and it was never below the speed limit...so I really didn't want to know  when he launched out on the open highways.  All I could do was pray for a band of angels to travel with him and keep him safe. I praise God and thank the angels on duty that night who kept him safe after being hit and left alongside the road; the pictures came across his facebook with tubes and bandages keeping him medicated and out of pain. He had broken his leg, and collar bone, and left other less vital parts of his body bruised and  scraped. Scars to share as signs of honor in a world of young men who cherish sharing such treasures as dearly as Olympic Medals. While I sat mortified at the reality that I could have lost him, he went out and bought a fancy cane and strutted his stuff for all the world to admire. That was just a test run, there was more to come.
Within weeks of each other we received  notices of other losses that took lives far too soon, leaving families crushed beneath the weight of sorrow.   Then it began to hit closer to home.  My oldest daughter's best friend since childhood was enjoying life to the fullest.  He had a wonderful job as an air traffic controller, had just moved to Colorado, was preparing to get married to the girl of his dreams, and to the friends he knew best he was as happy as anyone could be. He would call my daughter several times a day...sharing exciting events; asking advice; hearing about her family; and talking about friends back home. It came as no surprise when the phone rang after she had gone to sleep that night. They had played phone tag all day back and forth, he must have finally gotten in for the night and was touching base. There was no way to prepare for the sound of sobbing on the other end of the phone.

"He's dead" barely made it out of Amanda's mouth. Amanda was his younger sister, and also my daughter's best friend. She called them her brother and sister.
"Stop! Who's dead?" my daughter tried to clear her head and wake up to what she was hearing.
"Lance!" My daughter knew she had misunderstood. It couldn't be Lance, he was just there days ago. She asked again, "WHO?" but got the same gibberish, something about a motorcycle accident, the driver left the scene of the accident, Lance died instantly.
"NOOOOOO!!!!!!" The nightmare continues now, even months later.  My daughter stays in bed and cries in agony for hours. But he isn't coming back.

She is trying to adjust, reading to learn how to grieve, and is setting up a charity in his name to keep his memory alive.

In the midst of the losses, my younger children and I lost our home and all of our possessions.  My son chose to move out and was staying with friends. Another close friend was living there also.  They shared their thoughts, dreams, regrets, and sorrows;  they shared how growing up was so much harder than they thought it would be. Everyone has their own way of adjusting to changes. They both suffered from mood swings brought on from being bi-polar. A few weeks ago she turned 19.  He argued with her over something private and now unimportant. She went to her family home, and they too argued with her. She had been drinking, whether to celebrate her birthday or to self-medicate I don't know. She threatened her brother and her mother, and the police were called. She was arrested and taken to jail.  In her loneliness she made a drastic choice. When she returned home she slipped the rope over her pretty face and around her neck, tightening it so it wouldn't slip off. With tears running down her face she ended her pain with one final plunge. My son feels the sorrow she left behind, with his own tears flowing like raging water after a flash flood. He never got to say he was sorry.

The news said suicides kill more people every year than automobile accidents. In the next few days following this young girl's death I read of seven more young people who took their own lives, and five parents who decided to take their children with them when they took their last breath. Teenagers that will never get to see their dreams fulfilled; young girls who will never walk down the aisle or give birth to their first born child.


Some died by accident, some took their own lives; many suffered long devastating illnesses, and others died shortly after receiving news they were ill.    I am not sure how many had time to think about the legacy they would be leaving behind. I received word that I have cirrhosis of the liver in an advanced state, a cyst on my kidney and kidney disease, a large hernia the size of a watermelon that is draining fluid and blood into my abdominal cavity, severe sleep apnea, and an assortment of other life threatening illnesses that can take my life within the next 4 to 6 months. I have refused to accept this diagnosis and am claiming a complete healing. The Irony here is that I come from a family with a long history of depression, and spent much of my life falling to sleep at night asking God to take me home in my sleep.  When I finally discovered the value of life, and wanted to enjoy every minute of it to the fullest is when I received my diagnosis. Just as I realized how fragile it is, and how much it is to be cherished like a fine delicate orchid...no, I refuse to think that way! I want to savor every hour I have left, whether it be a few or thousands and thousands. I want to make memories with my daughter doing the things we enjoy, and finishing my books while I am still excited to write. I want to spend time with my kids and grandkids, sharing my favorite memories of my childhood and theirs. And I want to leave a legacy as a prayer warrior; one people think of first when they need prayer that storms Heaven and gets results! It isn't too late for that... What will you do to prepare your legacy? Are you ready if today is your day?