Birthday Blessings

Seize the Day

I’ve heard people talk about 50 as being “over the hill,” “half of a century old,” “on the downward slide,” etc.

When I woke up this morning, having turned 50 myself, the first thing that came to mind was:

I AM SO BLESSED!

I got out of bed, got dressed and headed out the door for an early morning run. As I ran, I reflected on my life. What a better time than a milestone birthday, right? And as I strolled down memory lane, my heart nearly exploded with gratitude. I am, at 50 years of age, at a place in my life that is the best it’s ever been. The heart breaking moments and tragedies of years past are a direct connection to where I’m at now. If every one of those crises hadn’t happened, my life literally would not be what it is today. I think of all the prayers I’ve prayed, disappointed when they weren’t answered, only to realize that they were answered. Thankfully not the way I had hoped for at the time.

So today, at 50 years old, let me share with you some of what makes me the richest woman in the world.

First of all, the people who have been placed in my life by God, at the exact time and in the exact role that He knew I needed exactly when I did.

  • An amazing husband, Clint, who has given me the marriage, friendship, and partnership in life that I’ve always dreamed of.
  • Two amazing boys, Ben and Alex, who have taught me the true meaning of unconditional love and acceptance.
  • A granddaughter, Zoey, who brings unmatched joy to my life, and a chance to experience part of her father as a little one all over again.
  • A step-daughter, Jennifer, and five step-grandchildren who have accepted me into their lives, my life all the more beautiful because of them.
  • A step-daughter, Becky, who enriched my life with her kindness, sparkle and beauty–inside and out–who has gone ahead to greet me at the gates of heaven when I’m called home.
  • Parents who gave me the gift of life and the foundation of family and faith. It took me a while to catch on, but I eventually got it. 🙂 And while they waited, they taught me patience and perseverance.
  • Sisters, Sandy and Brenda, my best friends chosen by God for me to share life with from beginning to end.
  • My grandma Cielinski and my Uncle Earl who helped carry me through some of the most difficult times of my life.
  • Mr. Rude, my high school English teacher, who made such a difference in the life of this high school student with a love of writing.
  • My “Brighton Group” (you know who you are), who have accepted me exactly as I am, broken and flawed, who have taught me how to live a clean life, honest and true, how to love, and how to be a friend.
  • A Church and Church Family that lifts me up.
  • A blogging community with which I’ve grown as a writer and as a person.

And beyond these angels in my life, I’m blessed with and grateful for:

  • A job in which I’m blessed to serve victims of crime. Since I was a victim of crime at one time, I’ve come full circle, blessed to use my tragedy for good.
  • The ability to sponsor three kiddos from Africa (Togo, Burkina Faso, and Tanzania) through Compassion International, helping to release them from poverty and give them hope. Alex, Amede and Mamounata have taught me compassion, that the gift of giving blesses the giver, and the power of prayer.
  • The ability to be a sponsor to Amazima Ministries in Uganda, furthering the work of Christ as he reaches the unreachable.
  • The ability to be a donor to St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital. I mention these things because it is not me or my money that helps in these areas, it’s all because of an amazing God who has laid these passions upon my heart and has given me the resources to be able to do so. And it’s this giving that has changed my heart as nothing else could ever do.
  • The gift of writing, which brings me so much joy and satisfaction. I published a book last year, The Inheritance, a dream I’ve had as far back as I’ve been able to dream, and another book, Shear Madness, due out next month.

And the blessings just go on and on. Go back to my thirties? Not a chance. Not even my forties. My best days, my best life, is right here, right now.

And as a side note, at the end of my run, still dancing on my pink cloud, I nearly stepped on not one, but two, squished flat as a pancake, messy toads. If that was the enemy’s way of bringing me down from my high, it didn’t work. It simply made me drive more carefully than ever to work. Just in case… 🙂

Carpe Diem

 

 

The Gift of Hope

Birthday Post

This year, as I turn the big “5-0” on June 11th, I look back and see how incredibly blessed I’ve been during my life. I would like to pass on that blessing to the kids of St. Jude children’s Research Hospital, to give them the gift of hope to live the life I’ve been, and continue to be, so fortunate to live.

I’m doing something different for my birthday this year by dedicating it to the kids of St. Jude. I’ve been a donor to St. Jude for over ten years, so it’s safe to say it’s something that’s near and dear to my heart. I know it’s nearly a month early, but that just means there’s more time to celebrate! 🙂

Help me out by giving them a gift this year for my birthday— the gift of another birthday. You can give help by going to this page.

St Jude

Why St. Jude?

Since opening in 1962, treatments invented at St. Jude have helped push the overall childhood cancer survival rate from 20 percent to 80 percent. Families never receive a bill from St. Jude for treatment, travel, housing and food — because all a family should worry about is helping their child live.

That’s right: the best care in the world, for free, because of people like us. Now that’s something worth celebrating.

Let’s get this party started. 🙂

Thank you and God Bless.

St Jude-2

 

 

Living With Compassion

 

Live Simply

If there’s one thing that can turn a bad day into a good one every single time it’s connecting with my Compassion kiddos. I can be having a terrible day at work, but if at the end of that day I come home to find a letter from one of my three kids in the mailbox, it’s like the dawning of a new and better day. I learn so much from them on how to be thankful for the smallest things in life, about praying for one another and asking for prayer for our families, and that less truly is often more.

I look at today’s kids with cell phones in kindergarten, people of all ages texting or otherwise immersed in phone or computer games and social media instead of connecting with one another in person and it makes my heart heavy. Trust me, there is no judging going on here. Me, my children and my grandchildren are all active participants of this movement. But it saddens me, nonetheless, to see that we’re moving away from personal contact with others, from living relationships with others, to cyber relationships.

I watch as we in this country become so obsessed with things, when my Compassion kiddos are simply trying to stay fed and clothed. And yet they’re happier and richer than anyone else I know. One of my kids, Alex Mandari, from Tanzania sent me a letter last week thanking me for his birthday money. With it he bought clothes, shoes and food. Buying all that with the small amount I sent him shows me he’s a master at making the most of a dollar. He tells me what he learns at the Compassion Center on Saturdays, about the goodness of God, how it’s important to listen to Him, and tells me every time he writes that he’s praying for me and my family. He’s a fifteen year old boy going on fifty in terms of wisdom and life lessons.

I began my sponsorship with these three angels wanting to make a difference in the lives of those less fortunate. To share what I have with those who have not. However, what happened is that they are the ones who daily make a difference in my life. They teach me about faith, unconditional love, and the power of prayer. They teach me that giving is a gift to the giver. They give to me of their lives, their worlds, their enthusiasm and zest for life, and the best part of humanity I could ever hope to experience. They aren’t just my sponsor kids, they’re part my family. And I’m so richly blessed!

Alex M. Amede Mamounata

Alex, Tanzania, 15                         Amede, Togo, 8                      Mamounata, Burkina Faso, 10

I have come across criticism a time or two for sponsoring outside of my country when we have so much need here. My answer is that thank goodness there are so many people with so many different interests. My answer is that it doesn’t matter where you give and who you give to, only that we give to each other. My passion lies with these three children and the people who make up their worlds, and also the children of St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital. I’m so fortunate to have these passions laid upon my heart.

I would love to hear how you volunteer your time and support others and to hear how it has enriched your life, the giver of self, time and finances. It has paid me back far beyond what I’ve expended. 🙂

I alone cannot change the world, but I can cast a stone across the waters to create many ripples.” -Mother Teresa

Carpe Diem