Gone Country

Do you guys remember a blog post I did earlier this year about feeling unsettled and not sure what was next? (If not, you can read it here…Visibility) Well, that feeling morphed and changed throughout 2021, but it just wouldn’t go away. I just thought it meant different things. As in – I thought I was going to take on a different job within my current company, then I thought that would only be part of it, that I would be growing and be doing a few different things within my job. Or something that would look like that.

When fall came around, I realized I was pretty unhappy with the way things were going in my life and I kept feeling this pull to get away by myself for a few days and do some soul searching . The feeling became so strong that I finally booked a few days at one of my favorite places in Estes Park over Thanksgiving weekend. I wanted to take advantage of the time I had there so I prepared people – like a total nerd! I shut down social media, I packed food and drinks, and I created entire lists in OneNote of things I wanted to think about and work out.

And guess what? I went up there with a purpose and I held on to it with all that I was. I read through my journal I kept for the year, reviewed notes and ideas and got to work. The list of things I wanted to accomplish over the next five years, my lifetime and some things I’d just really like to have it in my life – all of those things got fleshed out and written down. (Honestly, I was pretty proud of myself.)

Of course, I took a few breaks to go to RMNP and into town. I even ate takeout from a really good Italian pizza joint by Lake Estes one night. I had a blast – even though I was by myself for four days. Soaking up the mountains and smelling the evergreens was definitely on the list and was definitely attained! I even stalked a few elk who tried staying at the resorts. Pretty sure I’ll always remember that weekend.

It was a God thing that whole weekend even happened and now I understand why. The events and conversations of the next few days after I came back set in motion something I didn’t see coming right away. Something big. I sure didn’t see it back when I wrote that blog in May. Or even when I did some soul searching in Pagosa over Labor Day Weekend. But life is funny like that. Sometimes things happen in small doses so we can handle it once it comes – or otherwise we’d be freaking the hell out when it does.

I’m not gonna lie – I did a lot of freaking the hell out over the next few weeks because I was scared to death of what was happening and what it was going to mean. And thanks to those of you who were there for me through those days- you kept me sane in a time I needed some help figuring out what to do.

So, what happened Kim? Why were you freaking out? Well, I have some news! I’m moving again. Yes, leaving my beloved “life in a postcard” Colorado for an opportunity in a new state. Think…Elvis. Music City. Smokey Mountains. Y’all – I’m moving to Tennessee! Yep. I’m taking my guitar and my dreams and faded jeans and moving to Nashville! Sike. I don’t own a guitar. You guys know that. But thankfully my musical skills were not part of my interview so I landed a pretty cool job that I’m really excited about.

The other cool thing? I’ll be in driving distance to all my family so I’m pretty stoked about that. Bob will be the closest to me so he’s thrilled that “we’re practically neighbors”. Nashville will sure be a lot closer to Charlotte than Denver!

However, I am once again moving somewhere where I know no one and not much about where I’m going. I’m less anxious about this than when I moved out West, but it’s still gonna be a thing to meet people and get connected again. So if anyone knows anyone and wants to send me some info, I’d really appreciate it.

Otherwise, if anyone wants to come visit or send me notes, please do! I’m excited at the chance to make a difference at a new company and to see where this one leads. I can’t wait to get out and explore the area and post more cool pictures for you guys to enjoy. Mostly, I’m really looking forward to learning and understanding why this was my “next”. I wrote a lot of cool things down during that week in Estes you guys – can’t wait to see what happens!

And just for the record, I had no idea during that weekend that in a few weeks I would be….Gone Country 😉

Books of 2021 – The Kim Version

As promised, here are some of my favorite books that I read in 2021. Some of them were re-reads, some were published in 2021, and some were ones I finally got around to. Oh, and I have a new frontrunner for best “book boyfriend” and I read that one more than a few times!

In no particular order…

Making good decisions, setting boundaries, the permission to say no

The Best Yes was a good read about setting boundaries and giving yourself the permission to say ‘no’ when you just don’t have the bandwidth to do something or take on a new thing. I had the chance to see Lysa Terkheurst at our women’s event at church and I really liked how real she was.

I will read (and have read) every book Mariana Zapata publishes. This one came out in early 2021 and I read it as soon as it came out and again in December because it was set in Colordo and it really is that good. Zapata is the queen of the slow burn and her books are like “friends” and I read a few of them every year. The Wall of Winnepeg And Me and From Lukov With Love are two really good ones if you want to check her out.

Hint – listen to this one on audio! McConaughey himself reads it and it brings a whole different element to the book. Trust me. I would have never pegged our favorite Texan as a life coach/motivational author but he is money in this book. And mom – he cusses. A lot. So maybe get some earmuffs, ok? 😉 All in all, he’s freaking hilarous. And has the best stories – so check it out!

Honestly, I can’t tell you if I really even liked this book but I have it on this list because I consider myself a history buff and I don’t remember ever hearing about some of the events that happened during this book. This is a really well written book but the characters go through some really rough times.

This chick is partially crazy but she has some really good ideas about simplifying your life and decluttering. She is the one who has the blog about slimming down your wardrobe with Project 333. I can’t say I’m down to 33 items per season, but the goodwill bags have definitely increased this year! She also has some good ideas about simplyfiing your mind and life. This one was an audio as well and I’ll probably listen to it again in 2022.

This was one of the most enlightening books I’ve ever read. Both eye-opening and downright appalling, I had to stop listening every once in awhile. The research Wilkerson put into this manuscript is impressive. She breaks down racial discrimation and redirects to how America is set up as a caste system. It’s just as fascinating as it is terrifying.

This whole series is hiliarous and worth a listen. Definitely a fantasy series, so keep that in mind so you’re not surprised that the mayor of Mystic Bayou is actually a bear-shifter. The characters and the way they are portayed by the narrators MAKE this series. You’ll def be laughing out loud!

One of my favorite books of the year, this is an easy read and kind of a fable about a high-powered lawyer changed his life and came back as a new man. It made me think a lot about my work/life balance and how it can affect your health and general wellness if you let it get out of hand.

One day, one of my coworkers pulled up a chair next to mine at my desk and had me watch two episodes of Uncomfortable Conversations With A Black Man on YouTube and it made a huge impact on me. We watched one with a police station and one with Chip and Johanna Gaines and their family. This coworker was a close friend and he taught me a lot about what it is like to live life as a black man and how he and his wife are raising their sons. When this book came out, I ordered it right away. The day it came in, I picked it up to read while I was eating dinner and finished it that night. It’s that good. And let’s be real – Emmanuel Acho used to play for the Eagles so naturally I’m a fan. The fact that he is one fine looking man doesn’t have anything to do with it. At all. Sike.

So funny story about this book – It made such an impact on me that I told almost everyone about it. I sent the Love Languages test to my whole team at work and they all actually took it! We went over what everyone’s love language was as a team and it showed us a lot. And naturally, we group hugged the two people who scored the lowest on personal touch! A bunch of my friends took it and it was a really great exercise. Those of you who know me well can probably guess my two top love languages. Go ahead. Guess!

I was introduced to Kristen Ashley in November of 2020 by my friend Kellie and I quickly found out why she said she stacked every other author against Kristen Ashley. This can explain why and how I read 40 of her books in 2021. She’s a great author who can paint pictures and connect you with her characters in ways you feel like you actually know them. She also connects characters across series and when one pops up randomly, it’s like a friend just showed up unexpectedly. It’s a lot of fun!

Since I’ve read so many of her books in a short amount of time, I can legit do a blog post just on my favorite books. And, of course, my favorite men! From Luke Stark to Hop Kincaid to Hawk Delgado….I could go on for days. But Deacon Gates stood taller than all the rest to me. This series was full of non-heros and Deacon may scare the heck outta my momma, but hot damn is this man pure fire. He is quiet, he is fierce, he can be intimidating and he’s broken. But he is one hell of a badass who eventually figures his stuff out and comes back to claim his woman.

Pretty sure I’ve read and listened to this book at least four times this year. I love Cassie – the heroine – and how she has a bunch of cabins she rents in the Colorado mountains. And she helped shape a dream for me – one day I’ll be on my porch with a coffee or a beer and my feet up on the railing listening to the creek below me. Hopefully with a man who reminds me of Deacon Gates. Or Luke. Or Hopper. Yum.

Hint: this book has some themes you may not be expecting. Do some research before reading or just drop me a note and I’ll fill you in.

There were plenty more good ones from last year – let me know if you need any recommendations. Thanks for indulging with me and here’s to many more adventures between the pages in 2022!

You Are So Loved

Thanks to @mikaylaljohnsonn for sending the graphic

You know those posts you see about suicide prevention and how you can put it on your page so people can see it? I was one of those ones who see them, feel bad for those people and scroll on.

The thing is – that all changes drastically if it is someone you know. Or knew a long time ago. Or were somehow connected with. And then the meaning behind those posts changes dramatically – because now you see a real face. A life.

One day this last summer, I woke up and smacked my alarm a few times before finally picking my phone up. Those of you who know me know my eyes are terrible and I rarely have my glasses nearby because I mainly wear contacts. Well, as I checked my phone and – squinting one eye to try and see better – I did what most of us do in the morning and checked a few things. Then Facebook.

Sometimes I think we should have a rule – no checking out phones before we’ve had several cups of coffee, fresh contacts installed and are somewhat coherent. But, hey. Probably not going to change that anytime soon.

Anyway, that day the first post was one of those you don’t want to see – one with not good news. One of the girls from my Junior High small group (they’re now 28. 28! Gosh, I’m getting old!) had posted an “In memoriam” post with lots of pictures of one of her really good friends. And – I knew that friend. I knew that face. She was also one of the girls from that group.

The years I spent with the Junior High Ministry at Calvary Philly were some of my favorite ones. I had a blast hanging out with those kids. And I’ll always remember that first group I was with from their 6th to 8th grade years. I don’t remember everything about those girls, but I remember them.

Thanks to Facebook, we can keep in touch with people even when your lives follow different paths. And since I was connected to the one girl, I watched the other grow up. Of sorts.

Back to the post – even though I was squinting and still not awake, this jolted me. A young lady whom I remembered with one of the biggest smiles I’ve ever seen, and infectious laugh and dancing eyes. Knowing that life light was gone out cut me pretty bad.

Then I found out what happened – she had committed suicide. Even seeing those words still makes me still. This is a person who was raising a kid, moved to another state, found work and seemed to be doing well. (But I’m sure there was much more to it than the snippets I saw). She had been dealing with some rough things in her life and it must have been pretty difficult.

It made me remember that we don’t know what everyone is going through – and what they show outwardly is not often the whole story. There have been times when I’ve never wanted to show up to anything and did and was so on. Because I figured if I was overly outgoing, no one would ask any real questions. But that was just a mood – sometimes it’s a life.

That whole day I was distracted. Off. Heartbroken. For her – for her friend. For her kid and her parents. I didn’t really even know what to feel or how I felt.

All in all, it made me think of how we have the opportunity to influence others. To love others. We taught those girls over 15 years ago – heck, I’m grateful they even remember some of us. Who knows what type of influence we had? What influences came after us? What twists and turns their lives made?

The challenge here is to think about those close to you – and not so close to you. Those struggling and those you have no idea are struggling. All of them need to know they have someone around them to talk to. To call when there’s an issue. To love them and pray for them.

Here’s hoping they know they are so loved. That there are people somewhere in their lives who love and care for them. Who can show them their lives matter. And that they are so loved.

Visibility

RT 285 in southern Colorado

You know those people who always have the next goal in sight, their next milestone mapped out and a detailed plan of how to make that all happen? Yep. Guilty. I’m one of them. So what happens when you’re not sure what the next step is? No clue? No? Well, I’ll tell you. At least what happens to me.

Lack of focus. Intermittent laziness. Slight depression. Frustration. No sense of purpose. Questions if I’m in the right place. An inherent desire to find the missing….something.

Let me back up a bit. I’m the oldest child. Pretty bossy. A planner of next steps. And other similar traits. I was always getting ready for something. School. High school. Work. Travel. Back to school – college. Promotion. Better situation with more potential growth. I don’t really remember a time when I didn’t have something in mind. Something lined up. Something I was working towards.

The friggin awesome part of this story is – all the above? Done. Checked off. Accomplished. As outlined in past posts, insert and insert, I had a mountain of help along the way.

But I’m in this kind of a weird place now. I worked really hard, put in way too many hours, took a bunch of crap, but thank God, I was able to accomplish a lot of what I set out to do in this job in Colorado. It was awesome, took a nose dive, got worse, settled out, morphed again and got crazy busy and then finally settled down.

That’s not to say that anything is wrong with what I’m currently doing. Cause it’s not. Not at all. I’m working under 50 hours a week. I have time to think. Take on other projects. All the hard work of the past three years brought me to this point. Everything is good. But….I have no clue what is next. None.

Kim! You may say….there’s a ton of possibilities. Go get a MBA. Look for another opportunity. Go for a promotion. Volunteer. Start a side hustle. Go climb a mountain. Or start training to climb one.

But the funny thing is – I just can’t figure out what’s next. I was really feeling restless a few weeks ago and I went to the mountains on Easter Sunday to talk with God and figure it all out. You guys wanna know what His answer was? To wait. Yep. One of the hardest things ever.

So. I’m waiting and feeling some things out to see if they’ll work and if they’re what I would like to do. Nothing huge and life changing – because I need to wait to see what’s next.

Again, as this planet spins ‘round the sun, things are changing. I started writing this a few weeks ago, and then a few things happened to where I had to work a lot of hours lately. But, no biggie. We can handle that every once in a while right? That’s called life. But there are more changes coming that, while they may not affect me directly, they could change a lot of things.

I’m guessing the lesson here is to identify when you’re feeling restless, ask for guidance in that, and then see what happens next. I for one am pretty excited about the possibilities.

A Legacy of Grace

Intro

Eight years ago, my grandmother passed away – just five days before Christmas. That week was one of the most emotional weeks in my entire life. I’m pretty sure I cried 50% of the tears I’ve ever cried then. A week and a half later, on New Year’s Day, I woke up with this urge to write. It wasn’t like I had a choice, I had to write this story. Mom-Mom was like a force of nature – she affected those around her in a way they would never forget. She showed love and grace to all she came in contact with, and it was a great example for us grandkids. Someone recently asked me about the post I did that day and I found it buried in an old blog. I read it again myself that night and I swear it was like someone else wrote it. And confession – I sat there and bawled all over again. She was a great woman and will always be missed. But I think we can all agree – she sure left a legacy of grace.

Originally posted 1/1/2013 on A Step Beyond

Five days before Christmas a very great lady finished her race and walked into the arms of Jesus.  She was surrounded by her husband of 60+ years and her nine children.  PopPop held her hand and said “I Love You” and she answered him back “I Love You, Too” shortly before she passed away.  This woman, Grace Heilman, left behind a husband, nine children and their spouses, 59 grandchildren and assorted significant others, and 32 great-grandchildren (with two more on the way).  Family, friends, relatives, and acquaintances all came to pay their respects – most of whom mentioned what a great lady she was.  And they were all right.  But the amazing thing?  I don’t think any of us fully comprehend just what an “Amazing Grace” she was.  Speaking of “Amazing Grace”, it really was her favorite song.  PopPop reminded me how one of her favorite lyrics was “When we’ve been there thousand years….we’ve only just begun”.  It’s true, I remember her telling us about it and saying “Can you just imagine?  10,000 years and it’s just like one day!”  Well MomMom, you don’t have to imagine it anymore – you’re living it!

Because MomMom just didn’t leave people behind – she left memories,  lessons, and love behind.  I don’t think one of us grandchildren ever got away from seeing her without a great big hug and a “do you want some ice cream and pretzels?”  She loved us all – and even though our family grew in exponential fashion, she didn’t change.  Her love multiplied right along with the rest of us.  And we are a crazy, awesome, energetic bunch – but she never said a bad word about any of us.  She may have corrected us and tried to help us through things, but I personally never remember anything bad she ever said about me.  Unless you count the time when she said she liked hugging me and my brother best because “we were just like big pillows!”  haha – but what can I say – she was right!

Over the last few weeks a lot of our family has been reminiscing about MomMom and all the wonderful things she did or said, or all of the funny things that happened.  One of my favorite stories is the one PopPop tells about how he knew MomMom was “the one” for him.  They were young and at a church picnic playing softball.  It must have been summertime because they were all in their bathing suits.  MomMom bent over to field a ball and PopPop said she was wearing a red suit so it looked like a big red heart when she bent over. And he was hooked!  I remember when Lynn and Ryan got engaged and I went over to MomMom and PopPops with them when they broke the good news.  PopPop told us that story then and had us all laughing.  MomMom just looked at him with that big smile she always had for him and said “Oh, Niss….”.  There are varying reports of the actual truth to that story – but we like to think its true just the same.  Because we can all see it happening 😉

Momma reminded so many of us of something during the funeral – MomMom had 59 grandchildren and 32 great-grandchildren and she said all of them were grand!  MomMom was like that – she thought the world of each and every one of us and loved us like we were the only ones in the world.

In the midst of all this reminiscing and over a few talks with my mom, I began to realize that MomMom fulfilled some of the scripture she loved so much.  There is a lot of talk about being “good Christian women” and “becoming a P31 (proverbs 31 woman)” in our churches, but there are not a lot of real, live, existing examples for us to follow.  But, not to worry, we found one.  MomMom.  Grace Heilman was a real P31 and I would like to show you how.

Proverbs 31: 10-11
Who can find a virtuous woman? for her price is far above rubies.  The heart of her husband doth safely trust in her, so that he shall have no need of spoil.
Ok, visit PopPop.  Ask him if he thinks MomMom was worth more than rubies.  If she was rare and priceless.  He will vehemently state she was worth more than any of the riches in the world.  Then ask him if he trusted her.  Not only with taking care of his family and house and finances, but with everything.  And fidelity   She would never have even dreamed of cheating on him – their love was true and lasting.  Just ask him.  See what he says.  Ask any one of the aunts and uncles for that matter.  They’ll tell you.  And for those of you who cannot ask – take it from a hopeless romantic grandchild – he loved her above anything else and she loved him right back to overflowing.

Verse 12
She will do him good and not evil all the days of her life.
My notes in my Bible says this is for all seasons of life – and no one can deny she did this.  She served PopPop all through their marriage with love and commitment.   She cooked, cleaned, did 845,687 loads of laundry and took care of the family.  She nursed them when they were sick, helped them through childbirth and raising their kids.  And for the last five years, MomMom was the main caretaker of PopPop.  Due to his health, PopPop was house bound and needed lots of care.  Six or some months ago, he suffered a nasty fall and was flat on his back for about five months.  Although her kids told her to slow down, she selflessly took care of PopPop – even to where it wore her out.  She definitely did him good all the days of her life.

Verse 13
She seeketh wool, and flax, and worketh willingly with her hands. 
MomMom loved to take us to pick berries and peaches and such.  I know she took a lot of us various different places and I remember she took Tammy and I blueberry picking and maybe even strawberry picking.  Berries, peaches, cherries, tomatoes ..she picked them all!  As for her hands, only Jesus knows exactly how many meals they prepared, clothes they folded, tears they dried and hands they clasped.  MomMom’s hands were full of life – literally.  She acted as midwife for almost all of us grandchildren, some of the great-grandchildren, and helped out countless other women give birth.  If the lines in her hands could only speak I’m sure we would be astounded by the things the “right hand hid from the left”

Verse 14
She is like the merchants’ ships; she bringeth her food from afar. 
MomMom was a very generous woman and had a heart for those in need.  She made meals for those who were sick or grieving  helped out at various events, and even used to go grocery shopping for a neighbor who didn’t always appreciate her.  She catered to a lot of peoples’ needs and was often the hands and feet of Jesus to those who needed it.

Verse 15
She riseth also while it is yet night, and giveth meat to her household, and a portion to her maidens.
With a big family, it is almost necessary to rise before the sunrise and start preparing for the day.  I remember being at the house on 70th avenue in the big kitchen and watching MomMom rinse out the boys’ lunchboxes and line them up for the next day.  Momma said that when she was working, she would come home at the end of the day with the rest of the working kids at that time, and PopPop, and MomMom would always have supper ready and waiting for them.

Verse 16 
She considereth a field, and buyeth it, with the fruit of her hand she planteth a vineyard.
MomMom always had some sort of a garden growing with vegetables of all sorts.  She planted flowers and and had a lot of plants in her house.  She loved to help things grow.  She passed that along to some of her children as well.  Momma loves to grow things and has lots of plants everywhere.  I know Uncle Dean has a lot as well.  The others may have some and I just don’t remember – sorry guys 🙂

Verse 17
She girdeth her loins with strength, and strengthened her arms.
I’m not sure MomMom ever out-lifted Hulk Hogan or anything, but she was always trying to “lose 10 lbs or so” and did some walking.  But I think this verse it a little deeper and is speaking about spiritual strength.  MomMom loved many of the Psalms but one of her favorites was Psalm 121.  Here is where she found her strength….
I will lift up mine eyes unto the hills, from whence cometh my help.  My help cometh from the LORD, which made heaven and earth.   Psalm 121: 1-2
Verse 18
She perceiveth that her merchandise is good: her candle goeth not out by night.
I’m not sure how it was in the early years, but MomMom was up late a lot that I can remember.  She loved when people would come to visit (and often told us how long it had been since our last one 😉 and stayed up late talking to us or with PopPop when they were alone.  She also would read her Bible every night and every morning.  Again, MomMom, you’re slaying me here but I promise to do better.

Verse 19
She layeth her hands to the spindle, and her hands hold the distaff.
MomMom always had a sewing machine for as long as I can remember.  She made lots of clothes and helped many people make their own as well – including some wedding dresses.  She also taught my momma to sew.  Mom made lots of our clothes growing up and some of her own as well.  She made a beautiful peach dress for the cruise her and Dad went on, as well as a gorgeous red one for Tammy’s wedding.  Mom also used her sewing prowess to open up her own business – Grace Irene Window Fashions!  (and yes, mom is named after MomMom.  They are both Grace Irene.)
Verse 20
She stretcheth out her hand to the poor; yea, she reacheth forth her hands to the needy.
MomMom and PopPop were always taking care of people.  Whether by showing up and helping someone move, letting people live with them because they had to move, making meals and all sorts of things like that.  They also gave to a lot of charities.  Where do you think the stuffed bear and stuffed buffalo on the living room table came from?  The Indian Youth Association!  I really don’t think we’ll really ever know just how many people they helped through various means, money or otherwise.  It really doesn’t matter.  But what does matter is that we pay it forward.  That we use their example and do good to others.  For personal glory?  Nope.  Because Jesus said to help the poor and the needy and that He loved them just as much as the richest man in the world.  MomMom and PopPop both would tell you that all day long.  So honor them and God and give to those in need.  For HIS glory, not yours.
Verse 21
She is not afraid of the snow for her household: for all her household are clothed with scarlet.
I’m not sure how she did it, but I’m sure she came up with interesting ways to make sure all the kids were clothed well, even in the cold weather.

Verse 22
She maketh herself coverings of tapestry; her clothing is silk and purple.
Do you guys remember MomMom’s long purple winter coat and big purple hat she used to wear to church? They were beautiful!  She really did love purple – and I think that’s why Momma loves it too.  They both wear it well.

Verse 23
Her husband is known in the gates, where he sitteth among the elders of the land.
Whether in business or in the church, PopPop was well known and held many positions of authority.  He worked very hard to provide for MomMom and the rest of the family.  However, I often wondered why this verse is in the virtuous woman passage, but I think I figured it out people!  You know what they say, “Behind every great man is a great woman”!  On a serious note, I did find one of my notes where it says this verse is about how she understands the calling on her life and on that of her husband – and she acts accordingly.  MomMom sure did that.
Verse 24
She maketh fine linen, and selleth it: and delivereth girdles to the merchant.
MomMom sure did make a lot of fine things, but knowing her, she would have given them away instead of selling them.  And I’m pretty sure she didn’t deliver any girdles to the merchant – unless she was taking them back!
Verse 25
Strength and honor are her clothing; and she shall rejoice in time to come.
Character is what makes a person who he or she is.  Let’s not forget her example to us – she did wear strength   I never thought of MomMom as weak.  Even the last few weeks when she was confined to a bed, she didn’t seem weak.  Oh she sure looked weak, but then she would look up and begin to speak and the strength of her years and her faith were behind it.  She was a tiny little thing when she passed away – but with a giant heart that never faded away.   And honor?  Her whole life was an honor – to God.  And that is something we should all strive for.  It would be honoring her and her life example if we did.

Verse 26
She openeth her mouth with wisdom: and in her tongue is the law of kindness.
Almost everything MomMom said had a lesson behind it, whether she was telling a story, passing along news, or just teaching us something.  She never spoke evil of anyone and always searched for the good in others.  In this she slays me – I am so glad for her example of this because I fail miserably at it and I’m glad to have known someone who actually did it. And did it well.  Maybe she can be one of my angels and help me hold my tongue 😉
Verse 27
She looketh well to the ways of her household, and eateth not the bread of idleness.
Cooking, cleaning, scrubbing  loving, nurturing  blessing;  there were many ways she took care of her household.  She was always doing something – even if she was sitting down.  She was exercising her thumbs!!

Verse 28
Her children arise up, and call her blessed; her husband also, and he praiseth her.
Just from the pure fact that all nine of them were surrounding her when she went to heaven, not to mention all the lovely things they did or said about her, all of her children do call her blessed. And PopPop?  He knows it more than anyone else and will praise her to anyone and everyone.

Verse 29
Many daughters have done virtuously, but thou exceedeth them all.
You know what’s funny?  I can almost picture Jesus saying these words to MomMom when He took her into heaven.  And do I believe He personally came to get her Himself?  Absolutely.  Without a doubt.  He was welcoming one of His most virtuous daughters into His home.  I’m bawling here just imagining it, but I truly believe this.  She was Grace.  She was grace.  Personified.
Verse 30
Favor is deceitful, and beauty is vain: but a woman that feareth the LORD, she shall be praised.
Favor is the opinion of man and beauty will fade, but her countenance shined from within.  Her heart shined before others and it shone as beauty.  The secret to her virtue was that she feared God, she really did.  He provided the increase from there.  She did all things to honor God – no matter what earthly person she was actually doing it for.  And she shall indeed be praised for that.

Verse 31
Give her of the fruit of her hands; and let her own works praise her in the gates. 
I think Solomon was talking about earthly fruits and the gates of the city in this verse and its true that MomMom did receive earthly praise for the works of her hands.  But I can only imagine the rejoicing in heaven for one such as she who came through the gates.  That she was proclaimed for her works and that she received a load of rewards at the Bema seat.

Grace Irene Richardson Heilman sure did leave a legacy of grace.  Not just in actual Graces – because there are a lot of people named after her (Grace Irene (mom), Jaclyn Grace, Kathleen Grace, Graceanne and some others I’m not entirely sure of) – but in love.  MomMom did a great many works in her life and they were all to honor the Lord.  Not to get her into heaven, because her faith and acceptance of Jesus did that, but to honor her God and to help those that she loved.

During the last few weeks of her life, MomMom needed a lot of care.  Many of her children pitched in and served her, slept over, fed her and took care of her needs – basic and otherwise.  Every time she asked someone to do something, she said “I’m sorry, I’m sorry”.  She didn’t want to be a burden and she was so used to taking care of things herself, so she felt terrible asking others for help.  But, it wasn’t a chore to them – it was a pleasure.  Melanie and I went to visit MomMom and PopPop one night in early December.  We had a nice little visit with both of them and although she couldn’t talk much, she asked about us and our lives and how we were doing.  She apologized for not getting us snack and wanted to know if we “wanted crackers and cheese or something”.  We were amazed!  This woman who could barely turn over by herself wanted to get us snack.  She truly had a servants heart.

One of the nights my mom slept over she was reading MomMom her Bible.  She was reading John 14 to her as she thought it was something she would like to hear.  She hadn’t made it through too much of “In my father’s house are many mansions” John 14: 2a before MomMom stopped her and asked her to read Psalm 23.  As mom started reading The LORD is my shepherd; I shall not want. Psalms 23:1, it was like MomMom couldn’t wait for her to get to the end.  Mom was a little surprised until she realized what she was waiting for.  MomMom wanted to hear the last verse.  Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life: and I will dwell in the house of the LORD for ever. Psalms 23:6. Mom said MomMom could barely speak but she kept repeating that line: “and I will dwell in the house of the LORD forever”.  When Uncle Mart and Uncle Wayne came up, she repeated the same thing to them: “and I will dwell in the house of the LORD forever”.  You know why?  Because she knew exactly where she was going.  To heaven.  To see her Saviour.

Her legacy is also a challenge – for those of us who have been loved and touched by her and her kindness in some way, we are left with the task of “taking up the mantle”.  Of continuing her work and glorifying God in it.  MomMom gave us a lot of love and a lot of examples of how to really become a Proverbs 31 woman.  She probably never even realized she was one.  She just did it.  She lived her life loving her God, her husband, her family and her fellow man.  So, her daughters, granddaughters, great-granddaughters, and others – let’s do this.  Let’s take her example and attempt to live a life pleasing to God as a Proverbs 31 woman.  Not because the church says so.  Not to gain a husband (in some of our cases) and not for personal glory.  But because it would glorify our father and we can all become virtuous daughters.  And in doing so we would not just be honoring God – we would be lengthening her legacy.  A Legacy of Grace.

Clarity

It’s so funny how life goes round…and things we couldn’t understand before make their way back around and suddenly we see clearly what we couldn’t see before. Usually because the light is shining just a little bit differently.

All of the events of the past few months have entwined themselves into something that I couldn’t see before. Changes are just that – changes. If we could see them coming, they’d be just…events. Things. Stuff. Changes are hard. But if we don’t roll with the punches, we could end up limiting our own growth.

I’m not sure if things will be better or worse, but I can tell you I’m going to learn. And I’m going to grow. Because the other other option is to remain stagnant and I’m just not interested in that. Life is meant to be experienced – and if what we’re going to experience is going to be through a different lens than we had planned, the only option we have is to refocus.

We’re not always going to know what is ahead and we’re not always going to see what’s coming. But if you are confident and secure in your abilities, you’re going to adapt. And you’re gonna be just fine.

Sometimes I’m glad I don’t see what’s up ahead – the less time I have to think about something, the less I’m going to overthink it. And with everything that’s changed in the past eight weeks, I was able to take yet another change in stride. It’s going to be different and it’s going to be challenging, but I’m not afraid.

So at this point, if you have something new coming at you, roll with it. Just see what happens. Prepared or unprepared, you’re going to learn something about life and more importantly, yourself, through it. And you might just be surprised with how well you handle it.

Say Something

What’s going on in America right now hurts my heart. Hurts my mind. And makes me hurt for people. All people. Because this kind of unrest will inevitably touch you, one way or another. I’m not one to speak out publicly on issues of social injustice, but I feel compelled to say something on this one. Because it is real. More real than I ever believed. And it is here. All around us.

Even if we try to ignore it.

Denver is in the midst of the fifth day of protests. I about jumped out of my skin last night when one of those Amber Alert notices went off on my cell phone. Notifying myself and the other fine citizens of Denver that we had 15 minutes until our 8pm curfew. Curfew. And not because of the ‘Rona, but because of the protests. Today, a coworker told me he was going to try and find more ammo because he heard the looters are now targeting predominantly white neighborhoods. And we were told to take precautions today to make sure our buildings and properties were secure. What kind of messed up world do we live in that we need to be concerned about these things? Wake up, people! This is not some story or issue coming out of another country. This is now. This is America.

We need to say something. That is literally what I am doing here. But there is a way to protest, a way to get your voice heard. We have more platforms than ever before. But the “poisoned well that is social media” (credit Dan Le Batard) is one of the main problems. More than enough has been said about the people taking advantage and rioting and breaking the law in the name of protest because it is wrong. Just that. Wrong. I drove through a town yesterday and I noticed a young lady on the sidewalk holding a sign. She was calmly standing there by herself, wearing her mask and holding a sign saying, “Black Lives Matter”. She was brave enough to stand there and make her voice heard. Oh, and another thing. She wasn’t black. She was white.

I grew up in Philadelphia, in a racially diverse school, but in a predominantly white neighborhood and family. Many of our friends were black and we never really saw any difference. We were just all kids. Until other voices made themselves heard and we heard things that were not so pleasant. It changed some people, but not everyone. I learned that racism was real, but it didn’t really affect me. Because I was white. But I liked my black friends and thought they were cool, so I thought that made up for the opinions of others around me. Wrong.

Fast forward years later and I started experiencing prejudice of another kind. And, *gasp*, this was towards me. I was good at my job, and I was going to get promoted. But guess what? I wasn’t going to get the same salary or the same benefits that my peers were getting. Why? Because I was female. Call it entitlement, call it the Boy’s Club, call it whatever. It took years for it to be made right and to become almost equal to those of my male counterparts. And how did it happen? You guessed it. Because I spoke up and said something. No one was going to do it for me, I had to stand up and ask for what I was entitled to, because the people who should have done something, didn’t. They just let it happen. Then it finally started to sink in. This only scratches the surface of what people of color deal with, but it became even more real because it actually happened to me. Conversely, some of the people who made a huge impact on me in my college years were black – they didn’t see me as a white girl, I was a sister. I was a friend. And I was all the better for it.

Some time after that I realized something else that some people have other prejudices – towards those with a different life status than their own. Some because of rich people, some towards those less fortunate than themselves, and some because of relationship status. Even towards single people. And guess what? I had to be all those things before I experienced those types of prejudices that people have. Again, this is totally low-grade, but it made me think deeper of how people treat people and how messed up it could be.

Then, two years ago I moved to Denver and experienced something even more disturbing. There is a lot more racism in this part of the country than I even knew or imagined. Remember I said I’m from Philly, right? There, the white population is 34.9% and the black population is 41.3%. Not Denver. The white population is a whopping 53.6% here and the black population is only 9.2%. I had no idea what I was going to run into. Here, a lot more things were said directly to me about black people in a less than friendly manner. At one point, my team was made up of 16 people and four of them were black. My Philly mind didn’t think anything of it. Then, someone made this comment to me, “You hire a lot of black people, don’t you”? I can’t make this up. I just looked at them and said, “Yes. Why, is that weird?” They kind of sputtered. Others made comments like, “Tell him to pull his pants up” or “tell him not to wear his hoodie up” and various other comments I don’t even want to write. Then there is the Hispanic population prejudice here – black or brown – people see what they want to see.

Obviously, not all white people in Denver are prejudiced. I know plenty of people who are just as upset and saddened by all of this hatred as I am. But the very real fact is that this is not a popular place for black people. I’m not sure why, but I am trying to do my part here and show people that it is not the color of skin, that makes all of us different, it’s the heart. We all bleed the same. The same blood was shed for all of us. It’s our hearts that need to be changed.

So, why did I decide to speak up now? Mainly because I was motivated by people who I listen to often and who I’ve known to make a difference. Most of you know I am a huge sports fan. So I listen to ESPN Radio a lot. This morning driving to work, I heard Stephen A. Smith talking about George Floyd’s death On Get Up and he said this was actually an American issue, not just a George Floyd issue. He also said that part of the issue is the imagery of how black men are depicted and portrayed. He said it was so important that white people speak up. That white silence was compliance. and that is what this is what everything has come down to and why we need to say something. It made such an impact on me and I was thinking about it when I went into work. Where one of my best employees was talking about the riots. He’s black and is one of the ones who taught me what it was like here. Again, being from Philly, I had no idea.

Then, my favorite radio show came on. I faithfully listen to the Dan Le Batard show on ESPN Radio almost every day. Mainly because I am intensely attracted to passionate people and Dan is one of the most passionate sports people I know. He is an award-winning journalist and I have heard him break down on radio more than once. He came on this morning and the passion and the feeling in his voice was palpable. You could feel it through the speakers. Because I cannot even begin to paraphrase his monolog, here is what he said.

“You can’t believe anything you see and read because you see bricks in the street and you don’t know who put them there,” said Le Batard, speaking from his knowledge of life under a communist regime in Cuba to the unrest manifesting itself around America over the previous five days. “You don’t know whether the people protesting really are protesting, or if they just want to start more violence. That’s propaganda. That’s Cuba. You can’t believe the things that you’re watching. You don’t know what’s real and what’s not real. It just… It’s heartbreaking. We’ll play all sorts of sounds for you today from people who are more eloquent than I am, and more qualified to speak on this than I am. Because I’m just an observer. Latin or not, minority or not, I come from privilege… I hope we can just laugh today, that there can be some medicine somewhere in this, because I’m telling you, Stugotz, I have been alive for 51 years and I have not had as heart-breaking a weekend for something that didn’t really directly impact me as I did this weekend. Where my fear kept me in a place, I gotta think it’s happening to a lot of people. I gotta think this bone weariness, this heavy feeling you have in your heart, in your stomach, it feels like a disease.

“America and its vibrant economy had to close down because of a disease that attacked the lungs for a few months. Now that disease has been engulfed and swallowed by a disease that has ravaged the heart for centuries.

See what I mean? The man has passion. Normally, ESPN tries to keep political talk at bay, but this is too big and no one was holding Dan back this time.

Jalen Rose made a comment the other day on ESPN that slapped me in the face, “I wish America loved black people as much as they love black culture”. I have been guilty of this in the past and please God, let me never be guilty of that again.

Think about a mere four months ago – when the whole world, and ALL of America, was mourning the death of Kobe Bryant. Oh, and he was black man. Who played college ball in Philly. And we all loved him. It doesn’t make sense.

So, after hearing and reading things over the weekend, then listening to these two very respected, passionate people talking about what is real, I felt I needed to say something. Even if it is very simply to say that I see black people as real people who think and eat and bleed the same as I do. The same thing with the Mexican people I have come to know and respect. I have never experienced a more loving, sharing culture. These people are people who live and breathe and love just the same as anyone else. And we need to recognize and acknowledge that .

So, don’t think you need to go to a protest, or get a spot on TV or radio, all you need to do is speak up if you see something. Or hear something. What that officer did to George Floyd was inexcusable. But what the other ones standing by did was almost worse. They stood by and did nothing. They didn’t have to do everything, but they had the power to do something.

“The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing.” ― Edmund Burke

So, go do something. Something good. Something that matters. It can make a difference in the life of another human. Even if it is yourself.

Original Painting by Alexa Johnson (my cousin!)

https://instagram.com/alexa.marie.art?igshid=b8zfc6mbwt07

Tonight I Want To Cry

This is a post I wrote several weeks ago and wasn’t going to publish, but it has come up in conversation several times since I originally wrote it.  A coworker came up to me this morning and told me a few things that were going on and how he wished he could just cry and get over being so stressed.  How bad things were and how he just wanted to let the emotion out. So, I ended up reading him this post and when I told him I had held off in publishing this, he said maybe I should share it because  a lot of us feel like this sometimes. So here she is….

Remember that Keith Urban song?  I’m wishing it would help right now.  I’ve been on the verge of tears for about a week (maybe a little more if I’m really honest) and I just. Can’t. Cry.

It’s a weird situation to be in.  I am woman.  Hear me roar.  And all of that.  All of my life I have been learning how to be strong, how to keep up a brave face, how to keep it all together so I can lead those around me.  Oh, I’ve failed.  Plenty of times.  I can remember at least four times in my twenty-year career that I cried at work.  I’m not particularly proud of any of them, but hey, life happens.

There is an image to keep up here as well.  Strong female leader.  Boss Lady. “Successful Single Person”.  Oldest sibling.  First born.  Former self-image sufferer.  Whatever.  You name it and there’s a reason to not be a crier.  And honestly, I really don’t cry all that much.  I get misty-eyed over videos of soldiers coming home and surprising their loved ones or of someone making a huge accomplishment in their life or something.  Oh, and the night Eric Lindros’ jersey was retired.  (Not like I’m surprising anyone there). But for the most part, I don’t often get broken up about stuff and have epic cry fests.

Which brings us to this current situation.  People. I. Need. To. Cry.  Like the worst ugly cry you’ve ever seen.  I have been holding emotion back for days upon days – trying to keep up appearances and show everyone that it is ok.  That we will get through this.  That I will get through this.  Then something happened that will bring about a major change in my professional life.  Something I knew was coming but that was always wayyyyy in the future.  And I honestly thought I could redirect that situation and it wouldn’t happen.  It would happen the way I wanted it to go.  Nope.  It’s happening.  Even in the midst of the plague. Then, to heap flaming piles of poo onto all of this crap, I find out that a major piece of the puzzle isn’t going to be available. Again – in the midst of all this crap.

How does this happen?  How is it okay?  Why is it okay? Yep, I sure don’t have the answers to all of this.  You know what I want to do, though?  Cry.  Ugly epic cry.  And I can’t do it.  Not to save my life.  You girls know what I mean – the kind of healing cry that goes on for awhile and hurts so bad but is also so needed.  Yep.  Not happening.

My friends suggested watching Beaches, or dog movies and my sister told to watch the video for “What Hurts The Most”.  I just may do them all at once.  Maybe that will work.

I may put on my favorite black hoodie, hide in a dark room and listen to Linkin Park’s “My December” on repeat and see if that works.

UPDATE: Thanks to some awesome people in my life, I finally did cry that night.  It was short-lived and oh so ugly, but it happened.  And yep, I felt better for it.

When Life Changes…and you’re not ready

How often is that the case? Life changes and we’re all good – just completely and utterly ready for it? That’s only if we’re even lucky enough to know that it is changing. Most of the time life just smacks us on the face, whether it’s a love tap or a straight up clothesline.

The challenge is how we react to it. How we present ourselves and what experiences we take from it. Will we end up being bitter or will we learn something? Will it move us upward or put us back a few steps? How will we even know if the taking a step back won’t ultimately propel us forward? Here’s a hint: you probably won’t even have a clue. At least not in the beginning.

I recently went through something just like this. Over the past few weeks, events were put in motion at work that I knew would eventually happen. I just thought I’d be so better prepared for when it did. I was even crazy enough to think that I could control it. Or at least change the narrative. It’s a step in the right direction, but it felt horrible. It’s a huge chance for growth, but it felt like a step back. I felt like a failure, but it is really a testament to my success. And the success of others around me. (Notice how many feels were in there? Just needed to get through them.  It wasn’t easy, but so worth it in the end.)

If I’m being honest? My pride was hurt. But how better to learn to be humble? Humbleness is never an easy lesson. Mostly because it’s in our nature to be prideful. We take pride in our success. In our moving onward and upward. But what if that means taking a different set along the way? A breaking apart to build up? What then? Breaking apart anything is just painful. There’s no other way around it. It hurts your heart. It stings your pride.

This isn’t the first time it ever happened to anyone, and it won’t be the last. I know there is a path here – and it is one I’m actually excited to go down.  I had get out of my own damn way and out of my head. Especially during this time when there was way more time to think to myself than normal. You get lost in your own mind and go down rabbit holes you never even imagined. And to be real – that part just sucks. There’s not really any way around that.

This change is a process and will continue to be one for some time. And it’s one of those big ones that makes your brain hurt once you spend enough time on it because you’re trying to process it all. Part of me was mad this happened now – when there is more than enough time on my hands. But part of me recognized the wisdom in doing it now – we have more time to make sure it is done right.

Just in the day since I started this post, things have improved for the better.  I’m actually relieved there is less for me to worry about and ridiculously excited to plan new things and put things in motion I’ve been trying for months to get done. Realizing that it isn’t a step back, it’s just one on a more clearly defined path. Which, duh, makes all of this easier.  (See what I meant about getting out of my own way?)

There were so many people who helped me work through all of this – you guys know who you are and I’m so thankful you’re in my life.  It reminded me of when I was moving and how much people helped.  Pretty sure I wrote about it.  Shameless plug here – It Takes A Village. 

There are a lot of people going through all kinds of change in this world right now. And no one person’s situation is the same and it affects us all in different ways. What I will say is that I know this situation of mine will work out for the better –  as it already has.  There is such an opportunity to learn from it and grow in it.

Our challenge right now is to take a step back from our circumstances, look at them from a different perspective and see what we are supposed to learn from them. My friends and I have been going through Habakkuk and the biggest lesson I’m learning there is that his circumstances didn’t change, he was changed. He complained, then listened and thought, and then ended up praising God for what He was doing. Here, God worked in ways Habakkuk never even imagined.

In essence, change is going to come even when the world is shut down. Change is the only constant – and it will always be there to challenge us in one way or another. My last two weeks have been horrendous, but I’ve grown more than I have in months. My dad told me it was building character – and he is so right.  That’s why it was difficult, but worth it. Sometimes we really do need to backup to move forward. We just need to have the courage to do it.

Photo credit – Bob Rumer Photography

 

Single and Quarantined

This new normal of ours has changed all of our lives – some more drastically than others. Some of us are at home with our spouses and kids, some of us are banned from our offices and then others have minimal change. I was talking to a coworker today who told me – other than not going to the movies – his life really hasn’t changed that much. He’s a homebody and things are weird, but kinda normal. (He’s one of the ones still in the office with us everyday).

But for the rest of us, everything is totally not normal. Kids are home. Supplies are limited. People are working from home. (I’ve heard stories of what UPS drivers had to go through that first week. Apparently thousands of people ordered desks and had them delivered to their homes.) People are doing all they can. To keep themselves and their families safe. And sane.

Then there’s another subset – those of us who live alone. Single or not, living alone in the midst of a pandemic isn’t the most fun thing to do. Even if you’re lucky enough to go to work everyday as part of an essential business, you still go straight home to your empty living quarters where nothing has changed since you left that morning. No one has rearranged the books. Or toys. Or living room. (I’m thinking of rearranging my bedroom, so it’s be nice if someone did that. Lol) No one is cooking dinner or there to listen about your day. No one to do….well, just about anything.

Now – you’ve heard enough from me before to know that there are weeks where it is just rough to be single. But it’s usually easy enough to get out of that funk. Go away for a long weekend. Go hang out in the mountains. Go out for a night on the town with the girls – there are a ton of possible ways to reengage and love life again. Until all those options are replaced by only video chats, phone calls and text messages. And that’s it. A coworker told me to not work too late today – and I said “Why? So I can go home and stare at the walls?”

A single friend said it really well last night – “I know a lot of people are struggling with what to do with their kids, but it would be nice to just have someone to look at.” And isn’t that the truth? Those of us who live alone can do puzzles, listen to audio books, exercise, read real books and cook with the best of them. But – we can’t do any of those things with another human being. We can’t play games or hash out our days with someone. We just – are.

Life is hard for everyone right now. Not one person is not struggling with something through this. But imagine carrying the constant burden of it all…the unknown, the anxiety, the “how do I care for my employees and keep them safe”, the “do I have enough of what I need” to the one we’re all avoiding – “what is going to happen if I get sick”?…by yourself? Not cool.

Every day is a battle mentally. Not to get up and get going, but to deal with issues throughout the day. Policies and protective measures at work are always changing. Coworkers and employees have concerns about health and safety. Customers need everything now and then no one needs a thing for days. Highs and lows – and then what is high and what is low changes every day. Sometimes it even changes throughout the day. All while remembering to spray or wipe down all the surfaces people touch around you. Or that you’ve touched. It’s mentally exhausting.

So be nice to your single friends. Check in on them with a text or a call or a letter. Something to remind them that they are loved and thought of. No matter how strong they make you think they are (or you know they are), I’m sure they’ll appreciate it. I know I do. It’s lonely being alone sometimes. But it’s even lonelier when you are alone all the time with no end in sight. And those people you’re quarantined with? Relish the hugs, the feel of their hand in yours, the pure joy of human contact. I haven’t hugged or been hugged, shaken or held a hand or even touched an arm in weeks. Be thankful for what you do have. Even if you just want to smack it. Ha!

P.S. We’re still okay through this. We are. We’re finding ways just like everyone else to get by. And we will. There will be dinner dates and movies and trips to the mountains and Avs games and life to live again. We just need to get through this part of the show first. Then the band can finally show up and we can get back to living life well.