Saturday, December 20, 2014

Merry Christmas ... Everyone

Merry Christmas

We celebrate Christmas because it is a most notable day to all mankind; it is the day we celebrate the birth of Jesus.

And without Christmas, we would all be doomed.

To grasp and digest that God sent Jesus for me and for you; to reconcile my sin and yours, so they we are no longer tied to a death sentence; To offer a clean slate for me and all of you; and to offer to all of us, no strings attached, his righteousness and peace; his joy and his health, and all things that are Jesus; That is an awesome and unfailing love; there is complete and total forgiveness wrapped up in it. 

And that is a love we can find in no other.

And so for me, Christmas is the prelude to one of the most amazing Love Stories ever told, and I just have never understood anyone who didn't find some peace and love in such a blessed event.

To fathom that God had such an enormous desire to be closer to you and to me, to show us the deep and faithful love he has for us, and to realize that love is what caused him to send Jesus for us, it is overwhelming and I am so thankfulness for it.

Expressing the meaning of that love for me has proved to be a bit of a challenge in itself, but it has been a pleasant one. Living in the realization that Jesus wants to shower us in His love all the days of our lives takes a little practice; it is something we find so hard to comprehend,  but I think I am catching on and beginning to see the results faith produces when we do finally surrender to that love, and the surrender is getting easier for me, and I pray, for all of you too.

So quickly, a small nugget of truth for me, and that is that Jesus was the biggest game changer in my life over 35 years ago; and he has become the most irreplaceable person in my life. His birthday will always be a day for me to celebrate and remember his love and his sacrifice, and weather I am with a crowd of believes, or standing by myself, I will take the time to remember and celebrate the promise of life brought to everyone through Jesus. 

Christmas began with the not so typical birth of Our Savior; in a most unlikely, surely stinky stable surrounded by a cold, dark night in a land very alien to his father and mother. 

A child born who was fully God and fully man, who once and for all came to put an end to sacrifice and the suffering from sin, with God's ultimate sacrifice, his son; that little baby, Jesus.

Cradled by his mother and admired by so many I am sure she knew her baby Jesus would one day go to the Cross willingly, quietly and humbly; for those of us who so often "know not what we do.” 

What an amazing Savior. What an amazing sacrifice.

Could I do it for anyone? I think not, nor could anyone.

And each day I offer my Thanksgiving for the wonderful gift of Salvation, for without Jesus there would simply be no me, because I would have never made it this far without him. There would be no Me, whom he has fearfully and wonderfully made; who's life was planned before I was even conceived and who, with each new day, strive to reveal him through me to others, walking and always looking forward to what has yet to unfold. I do not want to miss out on what God has for me. 

Missing out on Jesus makes life a dull and lonely place. 

So to all of you I say let us celebrate Christmas; with bright lights and laughter and presents. Let us do it lovingly and with forgiveness, forgetting the old and embracing the new. Let's take the time to truly realize just how much Jesus is in love with each of us, in his own special way and that nothing can separate us from him.

I really think Jesus celebrates his birthday right along with us. He counts the days each year and longs for this day of celebration of millions of hearts, all over the 
world who remember Him, who celebrate Him, who love Him and who embrace rejoicing in Him and His promise; He sees us watching and waiting for him to return. 

What a glorious day that will be.

And lastly, unless it happens today, each Christmas Jesus is waiting patiently, obediently, not becoming anxious for the words from our Father God to come get us, so we can go home and forever celebrate the true reason for Christmas.

My savior and yours; Jesus.

That will be the best Christmas present of all. 

Merry Christmas


Wednesday, November 26, 2014

The Best Thanksgiving - 1986

Thanksgiving has always been my favorite holiday. 

I think because it is the day specifically set aside for me (and everyone else celebrating) to really take a look inside of ones-self and reflect on what a blessed life the great majority of us do have, and how many would give their last crumb of bread, or coin, or deepest secret to have what you and I have, even with all of it's flaws.

As a causality of divorce Thanksgiving sometimes ended up being a battle ground for "who's turn is it to have the kids this Thanksgiving."  Luckily, for some odd reason, I remember more Thanksgivings with my Dad's side of the family, with all of my aunt's and uncle's and cousin's and my Step-mother's family, than my step-dad's side.

The food was as plentiful as the Whiskey Sour's at the Grama Lewis Thanksgiving's, and as a close family of a many divorces, we were all happy to get together and spend the whole day catching up on where our lives had taken us, realizing with each word how thankful each of us really were in our lives just in having the chance to be together.

And of all the Thanksgiving's I have had in my life, one stands out, hand over fist, as the most authentic Pilgrim and Indian gathering ever.

It was 1986, my cousin Mj and I lived in a small house together on the Reservation, and as fate would have it her significant other,Ter, is Indian, so having a gathering of diverse people, in our little house situated in Indian Territory was not out of the ordinary.

It was a one-of-a-kind Thanksgiving, never to happen again.

I only have one picture of that day. 

I don't know what happened to the rest of them. I'm guessing someone has them stashed under their bed in a box somewhere.

But this one speaks volumes.

We were having a great time cooking that first dinner, it was a feast.

The house was small and packed full of family, both the Indian and White side. An not one person noticed. It was a blessing to be color blind. The food was so amazing for our first big meal, and I distinctly remember some fry-bread and beans and a some corn soup, along with that turkey and gravy and all the fixings.

The top-notch company, the smell of good food, the thankfulness of being together, it made the day perfect. And today, If we could have everyone back at the table for dinner this afternoon from that day, this Thanksgiving would be complete. 

It would put Normal Rockwell's Thanksgiving painting to shame.

Our Grandma Lewis and her boyfriend Chick would be there, and my Grandma Lockwood on my mom's side, my Great Aunt Grace, (who was everyone's Great Aunt). Wellington with his enormous grin and constant joking and, Carol, Ter's mom, who I am sure brought something sweet to eat, and Ter's sister Diane and my mom, Betzi.

That is the toll life has dealt us since 1986. All of these wonderful, special, funny, smiling people gone; all too soon and much too quickly. 

And that is why I love remembering that Thanksgiving.

It was the one time we were truly all happy together, and we were all in the same house. I think that is why I have protected this picture for all of these years, because, frankly, I need to remember what a wonderful time we had that day.

Though the foggy memory I am sure that we had visitor's all day long, native and white, eating together, laughing together, sharing old memories and the anticipation of times yet to come. 

We soaking up the happy and the thankful all day long. And after it was over it was talked about for weeks to come. It showed that no matter the race, we are all here to live together, harmoniously, peacefully, just like the First Thanksgiving.

So today remember that there is always, always something to be Thankful for; waking up to say thank you should be first on the list. And those past memories of Thanksgiving with those who have left us, they are there for a reason. 

Enjoy and be Thankful in those memories.

Make sure to add the memories of today along with them, anytime with family is worth the effort of holding onto. 

So laugh too loudly, play a few games, tell some jokes, eat too much, drink too much wine and lots of good, hot coffee with that big piece of pie and remember to tell those you love how thankful you are for them; because days of being together braking bread are far and few between and priceless days that should never be forgotten. 

To all of my friends and family reading this, I am Thankful that you are in my life. I appreciate the love you show me though-out the year, and I am looking forward to a new year full of things to be Thankful for, especially with all of you.

Be Thankful. And have an amazing Thanksgiving.
I know I am going to.

Happy Thanksgiving.

Thursday, October 30, 2014

Fare-Well Words To a Stand-Up Guy

When I heard the news of Mark's passing, so many thoughts of him rushed through my mind. 

And I cried a lot of tears. 

And then I wrote this for him. 

Mark was a great friend to so - so many people in Gowanda, and I don't think there is a single person in our whole community who didn't know him. 

We went to school together. I was a few grades behind him and he was the guy SO many girls had a crush on; and lets not forget that HOT car of his. ALWAYS shinny Black with the red interior; WOW, classy just like he was, sitting in that driver's seat. He was as nice and kind as he was classy, with a brilliant smile and the personality to match; Mark was the whole package. Gentleman, joker, friend, and someone you could really have a sit down talk with if you really needed to. I remember he did always listen.

And he always remembered you, no matter how long it had been. The last time I saw him was actually in August at Palm Gardens at separate class reunion parties. We got to say hello and we talked just for a second and gave each other a hug and an "I'll see ya later."  

I got to see that great smile of his; And then he was gone.

That last chance meeting, to me, was not a coincidence, and I believe the Lord gave us that one last memory, for this time right now. It is burned in my mind and will be a favorite memory of him, for me, forever now.

I luckily have had the pleasure of knowing his whole family for longer than I can remember. I am friends with his two sisters Sandy and Sherry, and I know his older brother Randy and his parents. His wife of so many years Sherry, who I also went to school with, and I introduced myself to his daughter Loren yesterday. What a beautiful young lady you are Loren. I know this must be terribly difficult for you. Just know that your dad loved you so very much, unconditionally I am sure, and you can keep that in your heart forever.he

And to the other family members I met yesterday, it was nice to meet you too. 

And, for those of us who were there in the 90's, we all had a blast together at those  "door-burner" parties and the for "no-reason-at-all-parties." We all laughed till we cried and thoroughly enjoyed our time together at those parties. TO THE FULLEST, and sometimes for days on end. They were the best of times!  

I met some of the best friends I have in my life at those parties, and having to see you here for this has been one of the most heart wrenching things I have ever had to experienced in my life. Sharing the loss of such a stand - up guy is not easy.

I do know this; Mark loved the Lord, and enjoyed his church family. I know he enjoyed singing with his mom and dad and his sister Sandy in the choir. 

I do know that he never wavered from the wonderful classy guy I knew in school and later in my adulthood. 

And most of all, I do know he is now where so many of us long to be, in Heaven, and he will be there to greet us as we enter there.  I know he is there with his son Colton and so many others so many of us have lost this year, and what an amazing day it will be when we are all together again. 

As for my tears in my humanness, they are for all of the people I have lost this year and how many I  DID NOT tell that I loved them, or even took the time to spend just one hour with them. It is moments like this, saying so-long to such a wonderful person, a Class-Act like Mark, that made me decide to make changes in my life. If people are in our lives, we need to take the time. God gave us these people for a reason. I think Mark would want us to make sure that the people we love, know it, without a doubt. 

So to close on this day of celebrating Mark's life and those of us who have had the pleasure of sharing parts of that life with him ... tell those you love, that you love them today. Spend time with the one's closest to you today, and be grateful and thankful for the blessings in your life right now; because today is all we have, no one knows what tomorrow will bring. And we cannot afford to leave words of love left unsaid.

I love all of my friends who are here in this room today, and new ones I may make. And I really believe Mark would not want us to be sad, but celebrate what an amazing man, friend, father, son, brother and husband he was, who lived life to the fullest and I believe loved everyone he knew with the greatest love a friend could offer. 

He will be greatly missed here in this town, and in so many lives for a very long time.

Sunday, October 26, 2014

Through the Tears

I am writing tonight through tears, and foggy glasses, because in the last 21 days I have had to make some big changes in my life and accept some losses that I never imagined I would have to reconcile. 

But, as life has it's way with me, these things have brought me to tears, and the realization that even though most times, change is very, very good, I still have to wade through all of the pain and regret of those choices. 

I just sometimes don't understand what is happening, and most times, there is a good reason for that. 

In Ecclesiastes 3:1 it says "there is a time and a PURPOSE for everything under heaven," today I believe that with all of my heart and know God is not a liar, and trust his word, even though I do not understand it.

I thought I was getting better at loosing loved ones in my life. My dog Patch, for instance, who was the apple of my eye and who I thought I would have with me forever, is now living in Vermont and will be living with her new family by the end of the week. I am over joyed with that fact. I am so overwhelmed with the love that the Vermont English Bulldog Rescue has given her, along with a new family in just a week, I know it came directly from God. 

But I will never get to see her "in the flesh" or pet her again. This arrangement is like a closed adoption. No physical contact. No long visit. No walks around the yard. She is no longer mine. She is going to be the amazing Bulldog Patch to a family that will be able to support her physically, emotionally and financially for the rest of her life. I could not ask for more than that, because I couldn't do it. 

But I still can't help but miss her. I still can't help but say "Oh if only I could have done ..." Well, I couldn't or I would have. And what I did for her is what any loving parent of an animal or a child does, gives them a better life, a better chance with more opportunities. 

That is what I did for her. I think I am writing to write away my regret and my guilt because her eyes are in danger and she had an ear infection and a tail pocket infection and I wasn't aware of them. I feel so guilty I couldn't care for her better, but now someone else can and WANTS too ... that is what I can be thankful for. That God provided these amazing women from out of the blue to take her, FLY her to Vermont, and get her into ship shape for her second journey in her Bulldog life. 

That is what makes the sadness go away; that is what makes me know I did the right thing. Seeing new pictures of her with white eyes instead of red and sore. No itchy tail and no sore ears, knowing she is not in pain, anywhere anymore, that makes it worth the loss of her. Within the week she will be in a new loving home where she is going to have a new little girl that will be her friend for the next leg of her journey
. Those are the things that make this all worth it.

That is what makes this pain and the tears OK ... because these people are going to love her just as much as I do. And I can always keep in touch with her through Vermont English Bulldog Rescue. 

I am looking forward to sending her a Christmas package!

And the rest of my tears are for my friend Mark Wing who a whole community lost this past week-end.  I don't think there is a single person in our whole community who didn't know him. 

We went to school together. He was older than me but he was the guy every girl from 9 -12 grade had a crush on. He was a nice guy with a brilliant smile and personality to match; the whole package. Gentleman, joker, and someone you could really have a sit down talk with if you really needed to. I always remember he did listen. And he always remembered you, no matter how long it had been. The last time I saw him was actually in August at our combined class reunion. I got to say hello and we talked just for a second and we got to give each other a hug and an "I'll see ya later." Plus I got to see that smile.

This to me was not a coincidence and I believe the Lord gave us that one last memory, for this time right now. It is burned in my mind, forever.

I ended up, luckily, knowing his whole family. I am friends with his two sisters and I know his older brother too. We enjoyed "door-burner" parties and for "no reason at all parties" and we laughed and enjoyed our time together. I met some of the best friends I have in my life now at some of those parties, and having to see them later on this week at his funeral is going to be heart wrenching to say the least. 

I do know he loved the Lord, and enjoyed his church family and singing with his mom and dad in the Choir. I do know he is now where I know so many of us long to be, and he will be there to greet us as we enter Heaven.  I know he is there with his son Colton and my friend Bonnie and my Mom, and they are going to be waiting for us to get there. What a day to look forward too.

I guess my tears are for all of the people I have lost this year and how many I didn't tell that I loved them, or even took the time to spend just one hour with them, so I am going to make changes to make that different now.  If they are in our lives, we owe it to them and to ourselves to be present, don't you agree?

So to close ... Remember this today ... tell those you love, that you love them today. Spend time with the one's closest to you today, and be grateful and thankful for the blessing in your life right now because today is all we have, no one knows what tomorrow will bring. I love all of you who are reading this, my friends, my readers, my few "fans." Remember to have an amazing day and call someone and tell them you love them ... because we just never know. 

My tears are gone now, I have somehow written them away, and laid on some hearts to make a call or tell that someone how much you do love them. We just never know, and none of us want it to be too late, do we?


Saturday, October 18, 2014

Saying So Long to My Lil' Miss Lucky Patch


Patch was my pick of the litter. 

My chosen Bulldog puppy; the one I waited patiently for for several weeks until on New Years Eve 2008 she arrived, along with the rest of the litter.

There were eight babies all together, all born weak and a little sick, with no guarantee anyone would make it through the night; so we took the news and waited. 

By the end of the week four babies had died, and what remained were three boys and one girl. The little girl, being Patch. She would come home with me at  8 weeks and I was so excited to be getting her time could not go fast enough. 

She came home to me weighting about 5 pounds, fit as a fiddle, and happy and playful as a little lamb, ready to meet her dad, Marshall, who also adored her. And the rest is history so they say. 

She fit right in. 

Patch has been with me ever since; she is my closest and dearest companion. A friend and a part of my family that I thought I would always have with me; but my plans are futile; because there is something greater in the works for both of us now. 

Patch staying warm on this chilly autumn day

Because at noon tomorrow,  Patch will be moving away to Vermont, to live a fun, new adventure with other Bulldogs and homemade food from her new kitchen. For Lil' Miss Lucky Patch ( that is her registered name) her adventure in traveling on an airplane begins.

And together, tomorrow, we start a new adventure.  And getting ready for it has been emotional in ways I haven't felt in a very long time. And the tears have appeared more than once this week.

We will both be starting a new life without each other and that will be a little scary because we have never been without each other. I pray she loves it in Vermont with her new family and keeps eating, she will need to stay strong. I am sure she will love her new menu. Rice, veggies, chicken and fruit. Yea, she will like it.
Waiting at the door 

I pray I find my strength and no fear and keep my appetite as I begin a new life without her; At the end of my bed hogging all the blankets and snoring like a sailor. I pray I can sleep without her? I hope I adjust quickly to not taking her out to run around and do her duty and kick her back feet up in great victory on a job well done!

I guess time will tell. 

She is beautiful and loyal and happy and always loves me and Bethany; and I am making one of the most difficult decisions I have ever had to make concerning one of my animals. But only because I cannot care for her like I should anymore, and she deserves the very best I can provide for her.
Bethany and Patch ... Best Friends

In doing this, I really thought I would be dealing with some regret concerning the move, and frankly, this has been one of the best decisions I have made for her. She will be outside running and playing with other bulldogs in the next 24 to 48 hours. 

I could not ask for more for her. I think she will be in Bulldog heaven.

I did feel a little regret the other day, until my friend told me the only way I could be a trader to her is if I DIDN'T take care of her and get her to someplace that will care for her. So I refuse to look back on this decision, as often as I feel my heart telling me "you don't have to do this." My heart knows I really do. 

This week we celebrated Patch instead. We got her to the vet for shots and had a bit of a photo bomb session in the back seat of the car and at the vet office and I pulled out all the pictures I could find of her and her family and I have put them in this blog post.

I have made a choice that has proven to test my heart, my faith and my love for my dog, and to share it with all of you and show how much we love her and how much I know she will be loved in Vermont.

 I can only say she is one of the LUCKIEST dogs ever.

Beth, Rhee and Patch in the tree

Like I said, I am not happy about letting her go, it is torture for me to do this.

To have had her since she was 6 weeks old, holding her, loving her, letting her sleep around my neck at night and steal my heart with her Bulldog beauty and charm; I am finding myself holding back my tears and chocking on my breath thinking about waking up and having her not at the end of my bed anymore. 

But that will pass ... she on the other hand gets her own NEW bed; How's that for Princess treatment.

Rambo is going to miss his dog, and I hope he gets big enough to take up at least half of her spot on the bed. They are the best of friends. They loved hanging out and eating grass together. Patch was the first animal Rambo bonded too when we found him, and he thinks he is a dog!

Patch and Rambo checking out the bushes

So yes, sending Patch off is causing real pain, physical and emotional. I feel it in my chest. It's the same kind of pain you feel from any loss. The loss of a marriage, the loss of your mother or the sadness you feel when after years of not talking to a friend you find out he has cancer and may only live a few more weeks. Emotions are painful. And even though Patch is on her way to a wonderful new world, I still hurt for me. 

And that is OK.

That is necessary.

It is all going to be OK.

Patch on her couch
I have found myself laying with her and praying for God comfort because His is the only comfort that will ease how I feel right now. It assures me that this is the best. This is the unselfish thing for me to do. And to not do it would be cruel.

I am surrendering Patch in this way because, well, because she is like my child, and she deserve the best with someone who will take her for walks and let her run in the grass and play ball with her.

She deserves, once in her life, to not be at the end of a leash and have the freedom to run and sniff and eat tall grass without me wondering if she is running into the road. 

She deserves to be healthy and free of allergies and eye problems and once she is in Vermont, that will happen for her.

And I am excited for Patch. She will hopefully one day be the bulldog on the end of someone else's bed, hogging their space, snoring like a sailor,  begging for treats and running like crazy in the yard to play ball. And if not, she will stay in Vermont with the Vermont Bulldog Rescue, where Dawna and her fine friends will embrace her and welcome her into their life and who I really know, without a shadow of a doubt, will love her just like I do. 

Bulldog love is a special kind of love; Dawna has that. 

Thank You Dawna ... This whole adventure is courtesy of an awesome God, for without my faith and knowing there was ONE person out there for Patch, I would have never found you. I have no doubt she will thrive with your care.

And So ...

Tomorrow our new adventures begin, without each other.
It will be a day we will not soon forget.
Here's to my girl Patch. I will miss you so very much.
(My heart is breaking).
All my love
Your Mom

Patch asleep on my bed ... one last night.
Sweet Dreams Patch.

Thursday, September 11, 2014

9/11 and Ground Zero ...In My Own Words.

It has been thirteen years since 9/11 and to this very day I don't know where to begin sharing my visit to Ground Zero, so I will just jump in.

Or should I say jump off into memories that come in flashes. The memory of peoples faces cloaked in dread and covered with silt and dirt flash in my mind as I recall that first day at Ground Zero. The only thing I really remember are wide eyes void of all emotion. They were eyes. that after over a month of digging in rubble and seeing those things best left unseen, needed and yearned to see or hear from a loved one, or find some resolve for the "WHY" of the the enemy attack that had turned New York City into a war zone of rubble.

But there was no answer, there was no resolve to the "WHY." There were only more and more questions. And more digging for the unknown. And hour upon hour of searching.

I made the trip with some wonderful woman I met from the Silver Creek, NY VFW. They were making the trip to volunteer at the famous Nino's restaurant for a four hour shift and to deliver 200 dozen Petri cookies. They were cookies for the many volunteers who came into Nino's three times a day to eat and rest, and to forget what they were there for, if only for a little while, before they returned to the wreckage that was right outside the door. 

I wrote for the newspaper then and as a reporter it was the perfect opportunity to get that "BIG" story, the first hand account, the one to sell the papers. But it only branded in my mind an event so horrific that most people only witness it in third world countries, or on the news. I can honestly say that I do know what the people in war torn regions are living in. And I was only there for a weekend. I could never imagine living someplace like that on a daily basis.

In American few know what that would ever be like or look like. 

Thank God for that. 

My friends and I were scheduled to work a lunch shift at Nino's after delivering the cookies. And the majority of the volunteers I saw during that one, four hour day didn't offer smiles. I think their smiles had been stolen from them by the repetition of such grueling, heart wrenching work, so as we served the food, we offered them our smiles. We offered our gentle words of "how are you doin' today,"  and a gentle touch to a tired and weary hand, or to a shaking arm, or a pat on a tired back. They were only there to get their food and slowly walk to a table where they ate in silence. It seemed that even though they had tried to talk about the carnage that was surrounding them they couldn't, or it was going to eat them up from the inside out. It seemed they felt if they gave words to what they were seeing and feeling, it would settle in their soul and that is what they would become, so they didn't talk at all. 

Not about what was going on outside anyway. Small talk was the news of the day.

But it was still noisy there. There was still chatter in the air. There were State Police that we knew from home and firemen and cooks and visitors dropping off donations. It was a busy place considering the reason,it was almost like all was well with the world outside.

My mind is so full of moments, too many for this blog. Each day we were there we saw more unbelievable sites and touched more shattered buildings and said very little.

What could we say?

Some of my most vivid memories are on the tips of my fingers right now so I will get them out and maybe my mind will be satisfied to have finally spilled them.

I took my camera with me and as we walked from our hotel to Nino's the first morning I took many, many pictures. The street was silent and we were the only ones walking in the street. The walls of buildings and telephone poles and every bare spot left open was covered with wanted posters filled with pictures of people who belonged to someone, someone who was waiting to get a phone call from them. And who probably never did. The air was thick and dirty and you could almost see it move, and the echo as we walked down that street was deafening. I never knew quiet could be so loud until I walked that street with my new friends.

I was reminded of a bird that started flying with us and followed one of the women we were with for a very long time. We don't know why he did it, but I think maybe he had lost some friends too, and needed some company.

At Nino's where we volunteered,  we left our belongings in the back room for safe keeping. That included my camera. And my camera was stolen, full of pictures. I believe to this day it is because I had pictures on there no one was supposed to see, faces of missing people and phone numbers and shattered buildings and dust and dirt. What we saw was only for us and some of what we saw was frightening. And I just believe there are somethings that aren't meant to be shared. 

My camera was never found.

It was an exhausting four hours, but rewarding to share some hope and some smiles with those men and women. I don't know how many volunteers we served, hundreds I am sure, and there were just as many empty eyes. We were the lucky ones, we got to leave after four hours; for the rest of the volunteers, they returned to their posts, ready to commence digging. They were dedicated and quite passionate about what they were doing and that, I think, fed their need to help.

That night as we toured the town, we saw Ground Zero from the top of the Empire State building and had no trouble recognizing the site because in November it was still on fire. We could see the big lights and the flames in the middle of that huge, terrible mess, with the huge water hoses spraying water on the heap to keep down any chance of explosions. One long look was enough. We knew from the flames something big was missing from the skyline, even in the dark.

We got a free tour of Ground Zero because we were volunteers, so we got to walk down into the rubble the next day, to the Trinity Church. It was located right by the site, and was one of the only building left standing. That was where the volunteers rested and slept and where the first aid station was. There were white sheets hanging off the fence surrounding the church with hundreds and hundreds of signatures of visitors to the place. Prayers, well wishes, hopes and fears written all over those sheets. Thoughts that went out to over 3000 missing people.

To this day I have no idea where those sheet are?

One of the day tours took us deep down to the bowls of the rubble of Ground Zero were the air was heavy and gray, and filled with filth and dirt and dust. 

And that was when I saw it. 

We saw a building that actually had windows left in it and initials and names etched in the dust. I have to admit I almost did it, I almost put my initials there and then It came to me, or someone may have said to me " don't, those are peoples ashes,"  and I pulled my hand back. It was then I noticed how thick the dust was and how it covered every inch of every window and every building and every wall. And we just kept staring and walking. And I didn't touch another things. 

In November most of the buildings at Ground Zero were still standing. The outer walls of so many of them were missing though, exposing the offices that were once covered to the wind and the weather. Papers hung out of desk drawers and chairs and filing cabinets stood, exposed, in those lifeless offices. Long abandoned from the falling of the Twin towers, they stood waiting to be dismantled by the volunteers who, bucket by bucket removed the mess, day in day out, for months on end. 

Ground Zero seemed to go on for miles. And I think we walked for hours. And then we finally went back to our hotel. We had finally seen enough. I know I had.

For the rest of our time there we had fun. We went to dinner, we watched Chinese men sing a Garth Brooks song at a Chinese Karaoke bar, we toured Macy's and were amazed at the animated Thanksgiving and Christmas scenes they had on display in the lobby windows. We went to see 42nd Street on Broadway and after we just walked around NY City and got to know it a little better. It is the city that never sleeps and it is a whole different world at night.

It was a terrible thing that we had come to see and volunteer our time, but people were still there, lots of people; they were still living, they were still hopeful, they were still excited about life, and so we joined them. We painted our own little part of New York City, and even fell in love with it a little.

I do have pictures, but they are better off left in my closet. I think now, thirteen years later, we need to live in the present. I know no one should ever forget, but we don't have to rekindle the old pictures either. We need to remember the Twin Towers like the picture on this blog. Tall, proud and a symbol of freedom. I know the new one is beautiful, and I hope to get to visit it one day, but the old ones need to be remembered too. They were a symbol of greatness that will now, forever, be gone. The tears in my eyes are a sure indication that I am still mourning that fact. 

And that's all I have on 9/11 and Ground Zero for today. There are more stores of my trip and I am sure I will share one day, but this is long and I know you are tired, and right now I just can't remember anymore. 

When we left NY City it felt like we had become a part of it, or the city became part of us. Either way, we took something there to share; some hope, some joy and some smiles, and hundreds of cookies. And we left with an experience we were fortunate to have been a part of, no matter the terrible circumstance. I am proud to have been able to be part of it. And so were my companions. 

And one thing I know for sure about 9/11/01, I will never forget where I was. I was in my recliner drinking my first cup of coffee when I saw the news reports of the first tower hit by that plane ... and the rest is History. 

Do you remember where you were that day?

God Bless all of you. We are SO lucky to be living in America. Every single day.

New Twin Towers

Sunday, August 24, 2014

Thoughts of my friend Bonnie; and Heaven

This week another member of our church family left us to begin her joyous life in Heaven. 

I take comfort in knowing that when I go to Heaven, she will be one of the many smiling, loving faces waiting to greet me as I enter.

My friend Bonnie was so many things, but one thing that she cherished and shared, and never faltering in sharing, was her love of Jesus. 

He was her Rock and her Savior.

She was spunky and straight forward and never hesitated to remind someone that Jesus had it handled, no matter what it was. She prayed me through some of the most difficult times in my life and when she noticed I was better and feeling more myself, she would remind me that the "thing" was over, and how she always knew things would turn out the way that they did, with a glorious smile on her face the whole time. 

She was good at that, and I will miss her insight and the comfort that smile and her reassurance gave me.

In her pain and her difficulties, and in her adventures in her life, some to crazy for most to believe were true, she was a genuine, solid Christian and always found any opportunity to share HIS good news.

So today as our church family remembered her, the pastor asked, "Does Heaven feel more real to you now, now that Bonnie and R.J. and Ken and other's have left us?"

 And my answer is Yes. 

Yes - Heaven is more real and more of a yearning in my heart than ever before. And to get there is so simple, you just believe and accept Jesus into your heart. 

Asking him into my heart at 15 was the best decision I have ever made in my life, hands down. And now, 34 years later, life is still not perfect, but Jesus and his love is. He took away the sin and the past and the pain being carried by me and replaced it with His peace beyond my earthly understanding. Life become a new life with him, here on earth, and though I still have difficulties, they are never as bad as they could be without Jesus. Without him there is no hope; but having the Hope of the world in my corner, how can I or anyone possibly loose?

And so today as I sat in my seat next to my best friend I felt in my heart what Heaven will be for all of us who believe and I shared it with her, and now with all of you.

To me, it felt that Heaven will be a place where I will be changed in the blink of an eye; the pain and troubles of my life will be gone and myself and everyone else who believes in Jesus will experience the glorified life he promises us in his Word, once and for all.

All of our burden's and worries and sicknesses and diseases, will be gone, instantly. Our minds will be free of a million thoughts and weekly responsibilities and appointments and people and places and "To Do" lists. We won't be plagued with insomnia or arthritis or breathing problems or the anxieties of everyday life. We won't have to remember to feed the cat or take the dog out or make our beds or make sure dinner is ready and that the alarm is set so we get up for work on time tomorrow. Our only responsibility will be to praise the Lord, to embrace him and those waiting for us and our NEW life forever, unburdened. 

I physically felt while I sat there a weightlessness we will have in Heaven, because everything this life on earth gives us will finally be gone. 

It will be a completely new life. There will be nothing to weigh us down, not physically, mentally or otherwise.

We will get to love each other forever ... in complete Freedom. 

We will be free to love Jesus. Free to be near God again. Free to be with our family members and friends. Free to be who we were created to be, to our fullest potential. 

Free in Jesus.

To live in His promise of Heaven is something that I am truly longing for now. And that is so worth sharing. 

There's one more thing I need to say. I know Bonnie is not sad to be with Jesus; And myself and her family and our church family should not be sad either. She is rejoicing to be where she is, she is in the presence of Jesus, I still cannot fathom her joy. 

She was such a special person and being part of her life was a gift from God and I will forever be changed because of her.

She has received the best promotion any Christ loving Christian could ever ask for and that is to finally be at home and in the presence of OUR LORD.

I am looking forward to joining Bonnie and my mom and so many other's there when my time is finally here. Our days are never promised, and the day we wake with is the day we should live in. So if I am gone tomorrow, rest assured where I am. I will be with Bonnie and Jesus, waiting to greet you as you enter.

I hope my readers decided to want to know Jesus too, (if you don't), and join me there when its time. 

I will be looking for you. Until then, may God bless each and everyone of you. 

Saturday, July 5, 2014

My First Road Trip ... Queens NY

Road Trips, they were infused into my Grandmother's DNA, and somehow I got a smidgen of an adventurous spirit myself thanks to her.

She loved road trips, and I don't know if it was out of a simple love for travel or from necessity, but I got to be her traveling companion on more than one occasion.

She started letting me tag along with her when I was just a little girl, and to this day I love to hit the road; sometimes with no destination in mind, I simply love the adventure. 
My Grandma Lockwood. We traveled the miles together

I was probably four or five when I took my first road trip with my Grandmother, and it wasn't just to Buffalo or Albany, no, we were going to Queens NY, where my Aunt and my twin cousins lived. 

I couldn't tell you if I was exited or not I was so little, but my Gram always told me that I sang in her ear the whole way there and all the way home again - so I must have been enjoying the ride. And once in a while when I remember her saying that, I get a glimpse of that ride.

I can actually see myself, my head popped up behind her in the back seat, music playing on the radio singing a favorite song and not missing a single word. I can see her looking at me from the rear-view mirror with a big smile on her face, asking, "How do you remember every single word to every song?" 

That is the scene in my mind. And to answer her question nearly 45 years later, "I have no idea how I remember the words Grandma, no idea."

The Queens trip would be the first time I'd meet my twin cousins. I was maybe four or five and they were a year younger, but for some reason that visit and the specific moments I remember from being there are as vivid as the day they happened.

My first favorite memory, hands down, is the Bat-Man Cave under the stairs in their basement. There was a black curtain draped over the doorway that lead under the stairs into a hidden space. I remember it was a tiny deep room, dimly lit with a light somewhere. I think a small table and chairs took up some of space in that small spot and there may have been a bit more furniture, but all in all it was a perfect hide-out. 

And we each got to be Bat Man or our favorite Super Hero for the day, with capes and masks and gloves and boots and all the bells and whistles that go along with Super Hero status. 

The complete package. 

The memory is like a slow motion, slid by slid picture show, but impressive to me as I write about it. We ran around the basement and flew through the air, lifting our capes up to catch the air, jumping as high as we could, bouncing off couches, and dropping and rolling to avoid collisions with the enemy; seriously damaging and maiming them when we did make contact, ending the encounter with their sure demise. (We of course, NEVER died). And then we would celebrate with our arms out-reached over our heads with loud hoots and howls of victory, jumping up and down in celebration of the conquering of our biggest and deadliest foes.

I can't exactly remember who the bad guys were? Hmm! I guess they never are remembered are they?

It was just simple, care-free, imaginary fun and we saved the world from the bad guys for hours.

And then came dinner and another memory of that Queens trip, it was our spaghetti dinner; And we happily shared it with the walls and the floor and the ceiling. I can remember it sticking and hanging from the ceiling and adhering itself to the walls and finding it hanging off of each of us, sticking to our heads and landing on our shoulders like long, dangling wet hair; and we just roared with laughter. 

It was hilarious! It was the most phenomenal Spaghetti War ever; We were covered in sauce and pasta, who wouldn't find that funny?

And laugh ... we laughed so hard we couldn't talk or breathe deep enough so we could keep laughing, it was that funny. And There is no way to forget something like that.

I remember my Aunt yelling, "QUIT THROWING THE SPAGHETTI!" (But I bet she had a little chuckle and grin behind her shout).  I think the plea for us to quit may have taken a couple more shouts, but we finally stopped, reluctantly, with each of us simultaneously attempting to through that last fist full of pasta. 

We were all winners in that spaghetti war. 

And that's all I remember. Spaghetti flying and us laughing. I don't think we cleaned it up or if we were even asked to help. I don't even remember getting the noodles picked off us and getting cleaned up, I just remember throwing spaghetti covered in sauce at my cousin's who I had just met, and they were tossing it back at me, and it was so much fun, and we didn't even get in trouble for it, not really, and that made it even better.

Moral of the story, chucking food can be fun. I have experienced it. I wonder if adults could find it that much fun? Maybe there would be happier adults in the world if they did have a food fight once in a while?

Who knows, maybe I did get in trouble, but my mind, my amazing mind, didn't remember that part. I would have to say fun trumps trouble and one without the other seems to be the theme for me, at least in my young life. 

Those are the only two things I remember from meeting my cousin's the first time and visiting Queens. I am sure we ate more meals and played more Super Hero games and probably even went to a park and took a few car rides into the City, but those two gems, they will forever live in my memory.

And in no time at all, we were on our way home again, me and my Gram. There I was again, singing in her ear and she was still amazed at how I could sing those songs, effortlessly. Never once did I hear her tell me to stop. She just smiled at me in the rear-view mirror and drove down the road like she owned it.

We never did go back to Queens after that visit; My uncle got transferred with his job and they moved within the next couple of years to Pittsburgh PA., and as you may have guessed, I have stories to share from there too. 

Those stories are for another time.

We shared many more road trips together, and made just as many memories. My Gram shared a love of something with me I don't think many knew about her, and that was that she loved the road and traveling, and in turn so do I. That is a kind of love for something that money cannot buy. 

I am glad she shared it with me.

So as a favor to yourself, go on a Road Trip. Forget the excuses and all the reasons "not to", and find just one "because I can," and go. You will never regret "hitting the road," no matter where "your" road may take you. The destinations are endless, be it to the Grand Canyon or to see a special Aunt you haven't seen in many years. 

You will never regret hitting the road; And the freedom and amazing memories you experience along the way will be priceless.

Safe Travels to all ... Now hit the road. 
(And take a map along for the fun of it).