What a difference a year makes…

Last year I got an amazing surprise for Christmas — my dad flew down to spend the holiday with us!  I had no idea.  We had plans to go to Christmas Eve services with my mom & step dad at the church they were going to and to have dinner together afterwards.  I couldn’t figure out when we walked into church why my mom was so overly smiley and giddy and INSISTENT that I sit near the end of the row, until someone tapped me on the shoulder and said “Is this seat taken?”  It was, of course, my dad who should have been 1200 miles away!  Blew-my-mind!  Maybe even more so was how he got there.  My mom and dad had been talking by phone for weeks planning the trip, purchasing the airline tickets, and devising this church service surprise.  And, because the best flight option for him was to arrive several hours before church they picked him up from the airport, took him to lunch and had him spend the day with them at their house.  Not all kids of divorced parents could share this scenario but the fact that I can brings me almost more joy than the surprise visit itself!

My kids were beyond excited and for the first time….ever….we got to spend Christmas with Papa Don.  We all said that this was worth doing again (minus the surprise part, of course!) and that next year we would make it happen and include my step mom who wasn’t able to make the trip.

Fast forward a year….

My mom and step dad who so actively planned this surprise and hosted a wonderful Christmas Eve now spend nearly everyday in a hospital or doctor’s office as my mom is battling stage 4 cancer.  There is almost nothing the same in their household this year.

We planned a trip for my dad and step mom to come celebrate with us and 3 days before the flight my step mom goes in for emergency knee surgery that has her in a cast from ankle to hip and now their trip is canceled.

This isn’t a pity party post but rather a real, transparent snap shot of  the fact that sometime life just stinks.  Period.

But if you know me at all or have gained any insight from previous posts you’ll know I can’t hang there for too long.  I never want to gloss over the ‘suckies’ in life because I have learned that that only makes me fester and stew on the inside.  I’m a bad fester-er.  It’s no good for anyone.  So instead, I state the obvious:  This sucks.  I don’t like it.  I wish it could be like last year.  And then, I make a conscious choice to switch gears.

I am blessed to have divorced parents who give a rip about each other.  Just as last year my mom worked hard to get my dad here for us, he was working hard to get here and see her when she is sick.  Makes my heart swell.  I am on a road with my mom that, though I wouldn’t wish it on anyone, is the path marked out specifically for me.  It is for a purpose and I am growing and finding immeasurable joy along the way.  My faith is growing stronger, my friendships are growing deeper, and my vision of this life has expanded immensely.  Heart swells even more.

The pinnacle?  I am at Walmart and a woman in tattered clothes is buying a handful of staple items in the lane next to me with only a few bills and a change purse.  I was drawn to her like a bug to a light and watched the whole scene play out – not enough money, having to take things out of the bag, final total had her with literally pennies left in her hand.  As discreetly as I possibly could (because my biggest fear was embarrassing her) I folded a bill and tapped her on the arm and slipped it to her.  The reaction from her and both of our young checkers was dramatic and that was when my heart swelled to bursting.  I sat in my car afterward and wept.  What I gave her was NOTHING to me….but the world to her.  But by the grace of God that I don’t have to go to the Walmart with a change purse counting items and pennies!

So even though last year was magical and wonderful and all about me, the more I think about it I am really, really glad that this year is not.  Its a pared down version with focus on what is really important.  Man, am I blessed!


Published in: on December 14, 2011 at 11:03 am  Comments (4)  


Last weekend we had a very neat opportunity to celebrate the holidays with Ritchie’s company in Raleigh, North Carolina.  Because the company originally started as such a small group they flew everyone in (including spouses) for the holiday party.  Last year it was a bigger group but still very intimate and fun.  This year the sales force has nearly doubled in size and yet the tradition continues!!  Another tradition has been giving FaBuLoUs gifts to the top performing sales reps and this year was no exception.  The format was a ‘Let’s Make a Deal’ situation of choosing between 4 doors behind which held your prize.  There were clues which we all put our heads together to try and figure out and though we had 1 totally right, 2 were only slightly close and 1 was absolutely way off!!

It led me to start thinking.  (Probably in the shower, since that is when all my big thoughts seem to take shape)  What about the doors in my life?  How do I know which one to choose?  I think its pretty similar in that I look for clues, talk to all those close to me and see what they think of the clues, line them all up and see what I think is best – and that’s my door!

In the 1st 10 years of our marriage we moved to 7 different homes in 5 different states.  Sometimes it was as simple as ‘you are getting a promotion and moving to XX’.  Sometimes it was a corporate merger that had us putting out our feelers and getting a call to come somewhere else.  Only twice have we picked the place and rolled the dice that it would work.  (Can I just say for the record, those were both Texas!  No one has ever moved us here….WE have moved us here!)

Every one of those moves and job changes were a new door.  Some of those times multiple doors stood in front of us.  We have always had a unique (albeit, Excel spreadsheet) way of sorting our clues, assigning both the pros and cons a perceived value, getting wise counsel, praying for direction, etc.  But in the end what usually has happened is that some doors close and some get thrown wide open.  We have taken that in the past as a sign of what is meant to be, we have felt MUCH peace about it, and we pushed on through our new open door.

But here is my latest shower thought:  Is every open door a ‘yes’?  Are there opportunities that fall into place in front of you that you are still meant to say No to?  Could it be the case that you closing an open door is what would lead to a better door opening??

I don’t know.  This isn’t a post about some great epiphany I had that gave me the answers.  But rather a great epiphany I had that I really don’t have all the answers.

I also don’t believe that ‘bad choices’ on the doors is the end all of all that was prepared for us!  God uses ALL things for good.  Even the wrong doors.  One amazing blessing I have from living all over creation is looking back to see some of the purposes of those moves.  Some were to grow and challenge me.  Some had nothing to do with me but were more an opportunity for me to pour into someone/something else.  One move gave us Sweet Caroline.  Had we not spent 2.5 years in Philly she may never had been.

I just know that I want to be intentional and that I want my priorities and my values to lead my choices.  And, it would be cool if Wayne Brady were there to intro my doors to me.  Just sayin.

Published in: on December 8, 2011 at 9:42 am  Leave a Comment