Wednesday, April 24, 2019

From India to Kosovo With Love

From India to Kosovo With Love
Here is a Picture of My Granddaughter
the Indian Barbie I Bought for Her In Mumbai

Four years ago this month I traveled to India with my daughter. I’ve shared that story before (Click Here to See Pictures and Read That Entry) but some experiences, like a good cup of tea are better when steeped a bit over time. It’s only then we can enjoy the richness of what has been placed before us. 

It was late in November…Tom had been gone barely a month…if that…when Kendall asked me if I wanted to go to India with her to help girls who had been rescued from human trafficking situations. She said the trip was “next year in April.” To a person living in a fog, next year or even April sounded like light years away. I figured I’d probably be dead by then, myself. 

I agreed that evening, though my level of commitment wasn’t very high. I went to bed later that night apologizing to God for not consulting him first. I realized however, that ever since Tom died I had been praying with every breath I drew in. It was how I survived.

The first meeting for those of us signed up for the Go India project was in January. I still must admit I wasn’t “all in.” I prayed that if God didn’t want me to go, he’d get me out of this. Seriously. Sounds horrible to admit now, but that’s where I was in the process. 

One of the requirements for the trip was a valid passport. I took my passport in for inspection knowing that wouldn’t be the stopping point. My passport was valid. One of the team leaders looked it over and told me I needed a new passport. She was something like… maybe twenty years old so I was pretty sure her math skills or reading skills were off. I pointed to the date issued and the date it was to expire.

“Your passport has to be valid for six months after the return date.”

What? That’s ridiculous! Your passport should be good as long as it’s good! (I felt like Tom in that moment, borrowed his attitude and threw a little internal fit.) I studied the date and did the math myself. My passportwas good for five months, three weeks, and four days after our return date. Three days shy.

Reluctantly, I forked over the money for a new passport. I mean, they hadn’t kicked me off the trip because I was too old. Nor had they kicked me out because of funding or the fact I was a widow. To not go because of a passport issue seemed silly. If I didn’t get it renewed at this point, I knew I would likely let it expire and never travel again anyway.

I went to Mumbai, India in April 2015. The experience there was remarkable. I hope I was helpful. I know serving there with my daughter helped me in my grieving. 

Two particular instances stand out for me as I write this today. Both tell me that God intended for me to be on that trip. 

One experience happened at “church.” It was a small gathering of people in what looked to be an apartment. We had been told that a man in our group might be asked to read scripture, speak, or pray. Women weren’t asked to do these things. The men in our group gathered one night to get information on what they should or could do. We women chatted for a bit while they met then headed off to bed. 

The next day, at the end of our church service, the pastor looked directly at me and asked if I would offer the closing prayer. I looked around. I thought he meant the man behind me, but no. I was the one. I walked to the front and prayed a sort of double prayer. I call it that because even as I spoke words audibly I was praying silently for God’s words to be shared. I left the church feeling loved by God…that he would trust me with this honor to pray for these people. 

By the way, I am always praying that no matter what I say people will hear what God wants them to hear. 

The second powerful experience for me happened that same week. It was an affirmation that I was exactly where God wanted me to be at that moment. 

We had completed a floor activity with the girls. My group finished early and I leaned back on my hands, my legs stretched out. A voice…nearly audible washed over me saying, “You are exactly where I want you to be right now.” 
A Relief Map One of My Students Made of Kosovo

It was so close and so real, I turned to see who said it.There was no one there. I knew it was God telling me I was where I needed to be. At the same time I knew he wasn’t suggesting I become a missionary to India. He was telling me I was being obedient.

I know I’ve shared bits and pieces of all of this here and there. I think pulling it all together is important. Our lives are like tapestries. It is important to see the threads that make up not only who we are, but the  plans God has for us as they unfold over time.

The path to eventually serve in Kosovo was paved long ago.
·      They needed a teacher. I prepared for that role first at the University of South Florida and then through my experiences at Fairfield City Schools.
·      Tom and I visited Kosovo in 2005. It wasn’t totally foreign to me.

·      But most importantly, when I was contacted to come to Kosovo, the start of school was a few weeks away. I arrived in time. I had a valid passport. 

Tuesday, April 16, 2019

Ohio: The Magnet State

I’m from Florida.At least that’s what I’ve always said. 
I was born in Ohio, lived in Arizona a while, moved back to Ohio, then to Florida. 

Picture Of a Tree in My Backyard in FL
I understand why I usually say I’m from Florida. I went to high school there. That’s where I got my first driver’s license and where I lived when I started dating. I went to the University of South Florida. I got married in Florida and my first two children were born there. Tom and I bought our first house in Florida.

All of the “rites of passage” pieces from childhood to adulthood took place for me in Florida.

We had just had our second daughter when the research team Tom was a part of decided to move. The choices were Texas or Ohio. Cincinnati, Ohio to be specific. I was born in the neighboring town of Hamilton. I had family in the area. Moving to Cincinnati would also mean Tom could complete his Masters degree at the University of Cincinnati in biomechanical engineering. 

When the team decided Cincinnati was the best place to continue their groundbreaking research in the treatment of spinal cord injury, it was for us, as they say, a no-brainer. But Florida was our home. Our parents and Tom’s siblings lived there. We waved good-bye and promised to return in a year or so after Tom finished his degree. 

That was in 1978.

And except for our retirement when we returned to Florida, Ohio has been “home” for four decades. Ohio is still home. I lived for a while in Europe, but when I returned, it was to Ohio. I’ve decided Ohio is a magnet state. It draws me back time and time again.

A Conch and My UC Turtleneck
Ohio to Arizona, then back to Ohio.
Ohio to Florida, then back to Ohio.
Ohio to Florida again, then back to Ohio.
Ohio to Kosovo, then back to Ohio.

Yep, Ohio is my home. I’m proud of it…even though I am from Florida. 

Where are you from? 

Wednesday, April 10, 2019

Climbing Mountains

When I taught at Cincinnati Christian University, one of my responsibilities was to advise students. Advising usually takes the form of helping map out what courses to take to move toward the goal of graduation. Sometimes it spills over into other areas of life. 

I had a student come to me unsure about finishing her degree and becoming a teacher. She had married and she wasn’t sure she could continue taking classes. 

“I want to be a teacher,” she told me. “But if I can only take only a few classes at a time, it will take me forever to graduate.”

I remember turning to the blank side of her paper and drawing a mountain. I told her there are many ways up the mountain. 

“Some people climb straight up,” I said as I drew a line leading straight to the top. “Others meander along the way and stop now and then.” I drew a line that wound its way back and forth finally reaching the summit. “The point is,” I told her, “the view is just as beautiful from the top no matter how long it takes you to get there.”

Tom Hiking a Trail in the Grand Canyon
These weren’t just words. I live that life. Tom and I married when I was a freshman and he a sophomore in college. We had dreams and goals. We both wanted to graduate. And we did. We took the scenic route, which included having children along the way…to our Bachelor degrees, our Master degrees and our Doctorates. Both of us. 

But that ideology spills over into all areas of life. It’s the notion of starting a task and seeing it through to completion. It is a reminder that finishing a race is more important than winning it. 

It surfaces in my faith walk and means I need to consistently read my Bible and be diligent in connecting with other believers. It is a matter of growing in faith one step at a time.

The same thought is in my writing life. I think it safe to say not one book has been published without being written. And there is great satisfaction in writing “The End.” Writing a book is a different kind of mountain and though many long for the view at the finish of the course, few see the work through to completion.

Tom Finished the Climb and the View is Great!
And this view is evident as I commit to finishing this life on earth without Tom by my side. I know I’ll get there one day and the view will be just as beautiful for me as it is for him now.

My former student finished her education degree. She has children of her own now. A few years ago she told me she still has that map of the mountain. She pulls it out from time-to-time to remind herself to stay the course. 

Perhaps we should all post a trail map of the mountains we face each day on our wall. Every day we would wake up and get ready for the climb. And with each day we’d get a little closer to the top.

Wednesday, April 3, 2019

New Meaning to "Let Go and Let God'

I’ll be up front. I’m not perfect. You knew that but I want you to know I know it. Like the characters in my books, I’m flawed.I may talk a good game, but sometimes that’s all it is…talk. 

Grab a Copy Here 
For example, I believe in turning everything over to God.I really do believe that. I counsel others to turn their problems over to God. But do I do it? Mostly. Not all the time. Remember a couple of weeks ago when I shared that my camper was badly damaged? I prayed about it and turned it over to God. I trusted Him to take care of everything. I felt a sense of peace that all would ultimately work out. 

Then last week I wrote about my books –fifty copies of Libby’s Cuppa Joe coming from my publisher –had not arrived. I knew they would eventually get here, but instead of turning their delivery over to God, I asked Him to give me patience as I waited for them. There’s a difference.

Each day as I prayed to be patient…instead of praying for the books to arrive safely, I found myself becoming ever more anxious. By the end of the week I had the tracking number memorized. 

I found myself so concerned about the books I was practically paralyzed. I couldn’t concentrate on my current writing project. I spent my mornings watching the clock and listening for the mail truck to come my way. I took long walks in my neighborhood and noted boxes on other porches…Could those be my books delivered to the wrong house?

It was a rough week. Then on Saturday, the books arrived. It seems they took a little “vacay” in California. But they’d had a rough journey home and a few were damaged. 

This time I took a different stand. I remembered to truly turn it over to God. I sent an email to my publisher right away even though I knew he likely wouldn’t see it until Monday morning. 

And I let it go. 

My Poor Books Were a Jumbled Mess!
That doesn’t mean I didn’t think about it. I simply let God take care of the worrying about it. My publisher is very supportive and helpful. As soon as he read my email he took over. He got on the phone with the printer and started the process to replace my books. 

Understand, I don’t think it was the publisher’s fault. Maybe not even the printer’s. I blame it on something that happened en route. 

I’ve had so many experiences where God has my back. So many times where I’ve given everything over to Him and let go of the worry or anxious feelings coming with trouble. I know He has my back. I know He’s there for me. I know. 

You’d think with all of that, letting go of my worries would be easy. It should be. But as I said at the start...I’m flawed. Sometimes I simply take everything that is out of my control and put it all on my shoulders... as if my fretting about it will change things.

I’m a work in progress. I may have asked God for patience this week, but what I really should be doing is praising Him for being ever so patient with me.

Wednesday, March 27, 2019

"Please God, Give Me Patience...RIGHT NOW!"

Patience...not always my strong suit.

My second novel, Libby’s Cuppa Joe, released on March 8th. Prior to the release, I began planning a launch for March 16th. If you read last week’s post, “And Then Some” you know the launch was a success. 

A true success. I had ordered books for the event, but ran out quickly.

I'm not worried. I expect a shipment of books from my publisher on Tuesday, March 19th. My team offers people at the book signing to prepay for their copy and I'll hand deliver it to them…or have them over to my house for brunch. 

It’s a plan. 

I have a tracking number for my books. The expected arrival is March 19th.” Just as I was told. Good.

March 19 comes. And goes.
So does March 20th. And the 21st

I check my tracking number again. My books are in a “facility” in Los Angeles!

Los Angeles! That is like a million miles from Ohio. (Sometimes I may exaggerate a bit…but it feels like a million.)

I pray for God to give me patience.

My box of books sits in the LA facility for SEVEN DAYS. (You see how I use capital letters to demonstrate my prayer for patience has not yet been answered?)

Sunday comes and I have no books to deliver at church. 

The plan for Monday is for me to deliver one of the books to a birthday breakfast. One friend has purchased the book for another friend. How sweet is that? I email the gift-giver and tell her the books have not arrived. We make a “Plan B” and I arrive with a cardstock picture of the book with a personalized birthday message on it. 

Tuesday arrives and I have no books to take with me to Bible study.

Instead I pray again for patience and call the post office.


“Your package will arrive later than expected but is still on its way. It is currently in transit to the next facility.”

It’s already late!

I want to scream….but that is neither productive nor ladylike. I wait for the automated assistant to finish and choose the option to have a real person call me back. The wait time is between 58 and 68 minutes! 

I grit my teeth and pray for patience.

A very sweet woman named Lorie calls from the USPS. 

I start the conversation by telling her I am frustrated and will likely sound it, but it is not with her. I tell her I know this is not her fault and I don’t want her to take my frustration personally.

She asks for my tracking number. This has to be good. A person from the post office surely has the inside scoop. I can hear her punching the numbers in her computer.

She offers the same information I already have. “Your package is in transit,” she says. “It will be late but it is on its way.”

I breathe deep, praying as I do. “Yes. I have that information. What I need to know is when my books will arrive. And it says they’re headed to the next facility. How many facilities will they sit in between LA and Cincinnati?”

I hear a few more clicks. “They’re on a truck,” she tells me. She doesn’t know the route. 

“Is it possible they’ll get off the truck and spend another seven days in another facility?” I ask.

“Let’s pray that doesn’t happen,” she tells me.

And I think she means it. I tell her I’m trusting God in this, but I’ve been a bit impatient. “All in His time,” I say. 

“Sometimes that’s all we can do,” she tells me. “Pray.” She then tells me if the books haven’t arrived by the end of the week I need to call back and have an investigation opened. 

We finish our conversation and she asks me about the book. 

“It’s Christian fiction,” I tell her. I give her the title. 

I tell myself I’m learning to be patient…But in the meantime, I may order a few books on Amazon. Just in case. 


Wednesday, March 20, 2019

The "And Then Some" Principle

My youngest daughter lives by the “and then some” principle. Simply put, it is the notion that God loves us so much that He gives us what we need…and then some. We ask for something and He gives it…and then some. 
Oldest Daughter and Youngest Granddaughter
offered total support!

As a parent, I understand reasonable requests and I certainly know there are those times when my own children have been so humble in asking for something, Tom and I wanted to give them more. When we love God and we’re not greedy, He gives us the desires of our hearts…and then some.

I experienced those gifts this past weekend. I planned a launch for my second novel, Libby’s Cuppa Joe. 
It was a difficult time in a sense. It was the first time I would do something like this since Tom died. I prayed to get through it without tears. I prayed for strength. I prayed for people to show up.

This launch wasn’t about me as an author. It wasn’t about the book. It was about taking a step forward. It was about doing God’s will. It was about trust.

My Team: Mom and 2 of My Daughters
But I serve an “and then some God.” 

I prayed to get through it without tears. In fact, the day was filled with laughter. 

I prayed for strength and God gave me a double measure of it. 

I prayed for people to show up. They did. People from all facets of my life: Family, friends, and neighbors. People I knew from schools where I taught, friends from the square dance community, people I know from several churches. Lots of people. 
Early Guests: I sold out of books in minutes!

I wasn’t alone. Not only did guests arrive but my daughters and mother helped me in every area of the event. They worked as a team –a well-oiled machine. You would’ve thought it was their business.

We sold out of Libby’s Cuppa Joe in the first twenty minutes of the two-hour event!

Available on Amazon
Guests paid in advance to receive copies on order. They lingered in the coffee shop. We took pictures and shared stories. And now I am seeing posts on Facebook from those who tell me how much they enjoyed the morning. 

The book is getting great reviews. I’m energized once again to write…To publish… To continue taking those baby steps forward.

And then some.

Wednesday, March 13, 2019

A Time For Everything...Turn, Turn, Turn

When I was young…and that seems like yesterday in some ways…there was a popular song performed by a group called the Byrds. Here are some of the lyrics:

To everything (turn, turn, turn)
There is a season (turn, turn, turn)
And a time to every purpose under heaven 
A time to be born, a time to die
A time to plant, a time to reap
A time to kill, a time to heal
A time to laugh, a time to weep
To everything (turn, turn, turn)
There is a season (turn, turn, turn)
and a time to every purpose under heaven
A time to build up and a tiem to break down
A time to dance, a time to mourn
A time to cast away stones, A time to gather stones together
To everything (turn, turn, turn)
There is a season (turn, turn,turn)
and a time to every purpose under heaven

The song was based on Ecclesiastes 3, verses 1-8. It was a long time before I could read the passage in the Bible without wanting to insert “turn, turn, turn” at the end of each line. 

Longer still before I began to understand the universal and powerful truth in the verses. 

My camper became my writing retreat.
This week I found out that some damage done to my camper is extensive. So extensive it isn’t worth the reapirs. That may not seem like a big thing to most people, but its loss is significant to me in ways most people cannot understand. 

Tom and I bought the camper the summer before he died. We used it three times that summer and the plan was to spend January and February in Naples, Florida during 2015. That much further south than our home in Tampa is warmer that time of year. We’d sold our house in Ohio so we’d be “footloose and fancy free.” It sounded exciting and fun.

We had plans. But as the Bible says…or in this case, as the Byrds sing, there is a time for everything. “A time to be born and a time to die.” Tom’s time to die came in October that same year.

There’s also a time to deal with practical matters. I didn’t know what to do with the camper. I knew I couldn’t haul it anywhere unless I could drive without ever turning right or backing up. I first tried to sell it but that didn’t work out. Then I learned I could have it moved it to a seasonal campground and keep it there, camping in it whenever I wanted.

My "office" at the camper.
So in 2016, my camper was moved to a beautiful campground in Ohio called Pine Cove Campground near Wilmington. I could camp there whenever I liked between April and October. And I did. I could hear Tom’s voice saying, “You should do this! ”Sometimes I camped alone…though in a campground like this one there was always something to do and new friends around. Sometimes my family or friends came to visit. One of my cousins lived near the place where I kept the camper so it turned out to be a wonderful time for us to reconnect. Often, I would go up to the campground that summer and write during the quiet moments when my camping neighbors weren’t there. (Most people use the campground on weekends.) 

That camper served me well. 

I had plans for this summer at the campground. I hadn’t seen many of my fellow campers in a long time. During the second season, I moved into a new house and then turned around and moved to Kosovo. This summer was going to be different. I pictured myself at my little writing retreat churning out new books now that I was writing again.

But then there was damage to the camper. Water got in. Water is not good for campers. The damage was extensive. When the man I called on to make the repairs told me how bad it was, I cried. Right there on the phone. Poor man.

You see, the camper represented a piece of life I’d lost. It represented a connection to Tom and the dreams we shared. But as the song says, “turn, turn, turn.” There is a season for everything and a time I need to turn around and head a different direction. 

My daughter called me on the heels of my learning how extensive the damage was to the camper. She said, ”It served you well during a season of life when you really needed it.”

I halfway expected her to say, “turn, turn, turn” but she didn’t. But I am doing just that. I’m turning a different direction. I’m learning how to make it in this world alone. It’s the season of my life.

Turn, turn, turn…