Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Goodbye operating room, Hello physical therapy.

You can hear everything in cube world . . .well most everything. Walking through the halls you hear bits and pieces of conversations, of stories, of people's lives. It's an interesting place. And one that has started the wheels spinning in my head this morning.

Surgery. Scalpels. Operating Rooms. Physicians. All parts of a conversation I overheard as I waited at the printer for my stack of audits.

As I returned to my desk, to my fabric covered square, those words took me back to the weeks following my Emmaus Walk. In the weeks after, I tried to write and  process my encounter with God that weekend. Blog posts about an operating room, about the need to put myself on the table and let the Great Surgeon do what He does best . . . remove the junk and  make this sinful, broken creature, whole and full of life again, spewed out. I wrote about the importance of Psalm 46:10, in my life. To be still. And I'm sitting here today, just blown away that the nuggets of truth I am gaining in this season of life, and the nuggets of truth that were revealed to me on my walk are starting to mesh together, revealing a God who pays attention and who reveals Himself in the small moments of everyday life.

Lately I have been examining the importance of studying God's Holy Word in my life. I've been able to relive the moments where He used the words of Matthew and 1 John to pierce my heart and to deepen my understanding of who Jesus is and what it means to live as follower of Christ. I have been able to find a passion for new books that I am reading for the first time, like Hosea. And I have had to sit with the convictions, that the discipline of studying the Bible, is one that I am still learning to do well, one that I can be more intentional about practicing daily.

So how does it all come together? Surgery? Operating rooms? Studying the Bible?

I wondered too . . . and as I sat here, thinking about the operating room, and of all the times in my past where I longed for change, sought His face for healing, prayed for the chains of bondage to be broken, I always found myself back in a place of shame, guilt, and failure. Where lasting change really never stuck, where I was still held captive, and where wounds never found complete healing.

The great Physician had been standing there whispering, "Sit still, Sit still" for quite some time, but I never sat still enough for Him to examine me or identify the problem, and I wasn't ever still enough for Him to operate.

So on my walk, I heard that loud and clear, "Be still and know that I am God."

I can just envision the Holy Spirit standing there, all scrubbed in for surgery ready to go, waiting--waiting to do all the healing and removal of bondage that I wanted to be done. And when I finally sat still enough for Him to begin, I realize that I didn't give Him the tool needed to start the procedure.

A scalpel.

His scalpel---the Bible, the Word of God. 

Many of us, myself included, never changed because we never got into the Bible. We never studied the God breathed words of His holy book, which left the Holy Spirit without the tool needed to do what needed to be done.

In Jeremiah 17:9 we learn that we all need surgery . . . major surgery. A heart transplant. "The heart is deceitful above all things and beyond cure." The condition of our hearts can't be cured unless we get a new heart all together.

And in Ezekiel 36:26 we read of God's promise for that new heart. "I'll give you a new heart, I'll put a new spirit in you. I'll cut out your stone, stubborn heart and replace it with a tender, responsive heart."

I have lived 29 years with that old, deceitful, cold, hard, selfish heart, and it did nothing for me, but take a little bit of my life with each and every beat. Until I learned there was another option, another heart waiting, a donor who had laid down His life, so that I could have the heart needed to sustain the life I was intended to lived. A heart that is warm, and pliable and full of grace and love.

I believe His Word is not only the scalpel that allows the Holy Spirit to exchange our hearts, but it's also the key that teaches us how to use our new heart to its full potential.

Perhaps it's out of the operating room, (The surgery is done, an old dying heart for a new life giving one) and into the physical therapy office for me. Where the time to be still and to dive into His Word will strengthen this new heart, and teach me to live, to serve and to love to its utmost capacity. To have a life that beats the heart beat of Jesus with every breath and step that the rest of my journey holds. And gives me the boldness to share that my God can change ANY heart of stone, and that ANYONE is invited into the operating room and can come out on the other side new and full of an abundant life.

What a mighty God we serve!!!

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Tuesday Ramblings!

I wish I didn't take moments like stopping and sitting to eat dinner around the kitchen table, from which, outpours conversations of past hurts, changed lives and God's goodness for granted as much as I do.

Sometimes coming home, turning off phones and disconnecting from the world is good for the soul.

I am heading to October Fest in the small town of Victoria, VA soon. I am excited to visit with my mom and Larry and grandparents, and aunts and uncles and cousins and my little brother! (And I will get to see my dog too!)It’s been too long and I’ve missed these folks!

Stepping out of your comfort zone and encircling a table of women you highly esteem and barely know and sharing in laughter and the questions of getting to you know can be exactly what the doctor ordered.

Pulling out pictures of nieces and nephews and beaming with pride with another proud "auntie" is so much fun.

"But nothing on this earth is guaranteed, when you get right down to it, you know? I've been thinking about that. About how your kids aren't really YOURS, they're just these people that you try to keep an eye on, and hope you'll all grow up someday to like each other and still be in one piece. What I mean is everything you get is really just on loan. Does that make sense?" "Sure," I said, "Like library books. Sooner or later they've all got to go back into the night drop."

There are times when you just have to cut loose and act silly. I am thankful for these moments!!

I am hoping that some dreams don't come true. If so, then I am in trouble and will need help to offer care to the infant, the toddler, and the preschooler boys that will find their way onto our front porch.

The unexpected words and gifts that find their way into your mail box on just the day you needed to hear them and needed the reminder that you are loved, are nothing less than our God sending a big huge hug and wet kiss to show us His amazing love.

Sometimes you just know that you are exactly where God needs you to be. Life isn't perfect or devoid of problems. It is just a place where peace and joy abound like no other.

The 3:30am mornings where you find yourself wide awake and out of bed, leaning into Psalm 46:10 are the most precious moments.

The hotel for my annual NYC trip in January is booked. Super excited!! Now, what shows are a must see???

Sometimes the tough questions and uncomfortable topics are the doorways that lead to belly laughter and open communication. Walk through them.

"Love weighs nothing."

Happy Tuesday Folks!

Thursday, September 20, 2012

"The changes we dread most may contain our salvation."

09/20/2008. A date I will never forget. A day I placed on the pedestal of perfection. A day that was filled with smiles, and friends, and family and excitement. A day that over the past two years has become everything but, that stirs up emotions of failure, sadness, anger, confusion and disappointment.
This morning, when the roads were still quiet, when the sky began to reveal stunning colors of blue and yellow and pink, and the cool crisp air flowed through my cracked windows, from this September 20th morning, Barbara Kingsolver’s words, from her essay collection titled, Small Wonders, came to mind.
"The changes we dread most may contain our salvation.”
From that day of "perfection," change came. Change that was paralyzing. Change that uprooted my life.  Change that broke me. 
It was change that brought me to my knees, to my rock bottom, to a place where I questioned everything, and wrestled with a God who had been pushed to every last corner of my life.
It was change that brought salvation.
Today, 09/20/2008, isn't a day where I remember the smiles or the excitement. And it is a day that no longer holds, bitterness, anger, confusion or hurt. September 20, now stands as an alter in my life. One that will always remind me of the redeeming power and unfathomable love of Jesus Christ. It's an alter that reminds me that He can take a life full of self seeking pleasure, and transform it. He can take a soul that bottles up every emotion until it explodes, and teach it the words to communicate and boldness to work through conflict. He can take the insecurities and feelings of rejection and refill those holes with the loving acceptance of being called His beloved.
The change I dreaded most was the change I needed to become the woman He created me to be. To find the joy He hoped would consume my life. To find the fullness and knowledge that with Him, there is nothing that I lack.
It's been a journey to say the least. One that has been filled of mountain top peaks. One that has been filled with hard lessons. One that has been filled with restoration. One that has been filled with mistakes that caused hurt. One that has lead to head knowledge that moves to the heart. One that has pushed me outside of my comfort zone. One that has broken chains of addiction. One that has led me to my Jesus, to salvation and new life.
During that period of dreaded change, I would have found it very difficult to proclaim that I was happy to be walking that road. But looking back, I couldn't be more thankful to where He has led me, to where my feet are currently planted.
Life with Him in the margins, no matter how fun and exciting it may seem in the moment, it one of the biggest lies, to obtain a satisfying life I ever bought into. It's when He consumes the heart, soul, mind and every moment of every day that I have discovered what it truly means to live.
His mercies are new every morning . . . so here's to a new beautiful Sept. 20th morning. One filled with new life, new joy, new mercies and new love!!

(P.S. Hey You, TTMAB!!!! )

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Come hell or high water . . .

I stole several moments this morning, to quiet my heart. It's been a season of running--running from work to home to church to teaming to family to friends to weekend trips to you name it. The schedule is overflowing and finding that healthy daily rhythm has been challenging. It's been a morning of re-prioritizing, of silencing my heart and mind, and drawing close to Him.

I found myself in Hosea, a book that I admit, I have not read until this year, but a book that has profoundly touched my heart. A book that reminds me that I am Gomer. That I am the prostitute. The one who has been unfaithful. The one who has violated the relationship. The one who, time and time and time again pushes God to the margins of my life. I am the one who is broken. The one who persists in sin even though I am loved perfectly.

We read about Gomer, a prostitute that no one in their right mind would want to take as a wife. But out of nowhere comes this man, a husband who wants to love her, who is jealous for her exclusivity, her purity, her intimacy, who wants her, and yet she continues to returns to the crooks on the street and back to the life of sin that has her so entangled.

No one gives themselves to a life of sin and comes out on top. I am learning that you don't use sin, that sin uses you. We don't use pornography, pornography uses us.  We don't use drugs and alcohol, drugs and alcohol use us. We never get the best of sins like materialism, greed, and gossip, materialism, greed and gossip get the best of us. Sin always appears enticing at the front end, but on the back half it leaves us empty, leaves us destitute, leave us feeling worthless, robbed, defrauded, and feeling as valuable as a crippled slave.

And I believe, that when we embrace the brokenness, in ourselves and in others, that the entangled knots of sin, have the chance to be loosened.

You see, Hosea doesn't go back after Gomer again and again because of her worth or her beauty. He goes back to his wife because of his love. And God is the same. God has this love that refuses to ever give up. It's a redeeming love that declines to surrender.

And it is when His love encounters our seasons of brokenness that He brings us into seasons of restoration.

I once heard the advice from a 75 year old Godly woman. "You keep chasing hard after God, and come hell or high water you get to Him, because there isn't any other place to go."

I know there is a lot in this world I have yet to see and there are a lot of hardships and troubles that are yet to come, but I know that in the 31 years of searching to fill the holes of this life, that in the 31 years of wrestling with the strong holds of sin,  that in the 31 years of my own personal rock bottoms, and that in the 31 years of my brokenness----I know that I know that I know that there is no other place to go, but to Him. I know that in Christ Jesus there is a love that is like nothing I have ever experienced and grace that exceeds all understanding. There is a God who intimately wants to know me, and who has an abundant life set apart for me.

He is the faithful God, the relentless God, who continually woos me into His presence, even though I waiver in my own unfaithfulness.

Hosea is a beautiful reminder of how we serve a God who specializes in the broken, in hopelessness, in grace, in restoration, and in unconditional love. We serve a God who chooses to use the outcast, the shattered, the humble, the lowly, and the nobodies of this world who are willing to let their lives speak to His beauty, His power and to the redemption He offers His beloved.

Denver Moore once said "I'm just a nobody, who's trying to tell everybody about somebody who can change anybody."

In my thirty one years I have learned, am learning and hope that I never forget that no matter how broken, no matter how far gone, God can use our stories to prepare the way for His story.
So, come hell or high water, the good, the bad, the ugly, the joys and sorrow, the blessings and trails may we draw near to Him, seek out His face, because there is no better place to be than in the palm of His hands.

Thursday, September 13, 2012

Philippians 2:13

What if???

It's a question I have been asking myself a lot lately.

I wrote not too long ago about an opportunity to speak and to serve a group of women later this fall. In answering the call to do so and leaning into the truth, that God will provide all that's needed, the "what if questions" still seemed to sneak onto my front porch and have been knocking at my door daily.

"What if I fail?"
"What if I'm not good at it?"
"What if the time is not enough?"
"What if I can't breathe?"
"What if, what if, what if?"

In hopes to find His still small whisper to drown out the knocking, I found myself in the following scriptures this week:

1 Peter 4:10
God has given each of you a gift from His great variety of spiritual gifts. Use them well to serve one another.

In 1 Peter, I was reminded that as Christ followers we are called to serve. To serve others, our friends, our family, our co workers, the guy on the street corner, the lady at the cashier, whoever crosses our path. "What can I do for you?" is a question we must ask to whoever comes in our day. And as I asked God, this week, "what can I do for You?" it has been a question that has gotten me into a position of readiness, for this upcoming talk and for the opportunity to be His hands and feet to others.

Ephesians 2:10
For we are God's masterpiece. He has created us anew in Christ Jesus, so we can do the good things he planned for us long ago.

Ephesians has reminded me that God had this path already marked out for me. He went before me long ago and made this way for me. So, this week, I have found some swag, I am clinging to that promise, that I can walk this road with purpose, confident that God is in it, that God has prepared it, knowing that God has words for it and that He is with me. God already knew He was going to speak to these women, to touch their lives, and He just offered me the choice to walk with Him or to watch from the sidelines.

With that being said, it has been in the light of His Word and in the silent moments of prayer that I discovered, perhaps I have been asking the wrong "what if questions."

"What if God wants to use my story to soften the heart of someone who will be in that room Friday night or Saturday morning?"
"What if God wants to change somebody's life by a simple act of service?"
"What if God has a place in community that is desperately needed on the other side of this act of service?"
"What if God wants to remind you of His faithfulness on the other side of this step of obedience?"
"What if, what if, what if?"

It's so easy to do---to ask the "what if's" on this side of obedience. See 1 Peter 4:10 and Ephesians 2:10 guide us into the calling of being a servant for Christ, but our "what if questions" of the world stop us from focusing on the "God does", the "God can", and the "God will".

And then today,

Philippians 2:13
For God is working in you, giving you the desire and the power to do what pleases Him.

Oh, what peace has filled my heart over giving this talk. It's has been, in getting my perspective corrected, my focus readjusted, that this mysterious excitement to share what He has given me, now resides in my soul. (Don't get me wrong, the nerves haven't vanished, but in comparison, they seem less oppressive) It's Philippians 2:13. He is working, in my life and He is asking to use me (which is another mystery in itself) to reach His beloved. And it's when you get a glimpse of that, how Mysteriously Wonderful our God is, that the desire mentioned in the verse above takes over.

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Dream Analysis

I know that it is said that everybody dreams, but I use to be able to sleep through the night with no realization of visiting this so called "dream land." This past year, it has not necessarily been the case. (I chalk it up to be one more thing that goes downhill when you enter into your thirties.) My past year has been filled with bizarre tales, waking up in complete hysteria, and days where I have to remind myself that I am not really upset with Jane Doe that it was only in my dreams. But last night, there were no nightmares, no laughter, no strange saga to tell of, just a visit from a loved one. I really don't remember any details that overtook my mind as I slept, I just remember seeing her and waking up to my audible call of "Alice."

I remember when Alice passed away, I was 20, and it was the first time in my life that witness someone fight the battle of cancer and the first time in my life that I lost somebody that I had a close relationship with. I remember being there that weekend to visit with her, we all knew she wouldn't be with us much longer, so whatever chance we got, we made the time to gather around her bed. I remember heading home Saturday evening and getting the call the next morning from my mom. I remember her telling me that as Alice took her last few breaths in the wee hours of Sunday morning that the family that remained in town, gathered around her in prayer. I remember feeling relieved that she wasn't in pain anymore, but mourning the hole in our lives that she would leave.

I remember at the funeral and the days surrounding her death telling myself, not to forget. Not to forget the details. Not to forget her. And for quite some time I didn't. I remembered her smell. I could hear her voice. I could see her smile. I could feel her hand in mine.

I can't tell you when, but looking back, at some point along the way, the sound of her voice faded. The aroma of her perfume disappeared. The touch of her hand vanished. And her smile, barely visible.

Alice left such a massive hole in our lives, and even though at the time, we didn't want to move forward without her being a part---life does what it does best, continues to move on.

We've grown up. We have all moved forward, some have moved from under the wing of parents. There have been high school graduations. There has been college, and jobs and careers. There have been weddings, and breakups and babies and babies and more babies, and new relationships. There have been tragedies, and illnesses and funerals. There have been family gathering and birthdays and holidays. There has been laughter and wrapping paper fights and beach vacations. There have been photo albums pulled down and home videos played. There have been new comers entering the houses who will never know the beauty this woman exuded. And despite the fact that life has carried us all forward and in different directions, and even though some of the details and memories have long been gone . . . she is not forgotten.

There could be a book written of what this woman meant to so many. But for me, she will always be a reminder of strength and compassion. I remember sitting by her bed one day, and will never forget her words: "Honey, don't quickly over look the hard things of this life. Because without the downs you can never appreciate the ups." Count it all joy (James 1:2) and in all things give thanks (1 Thess. 5:18) were scriptures I witness in action as Alice fought this battle. I remember over hearing her tell my dad, that she didn't fear leaving this earth--she knew exactly where she was going, but that she was worried about us when it was time for her to go. She faced death head on, and as she did so, she made it a point to let everyone who knelt beside her bed, know that they were loved and very special. She had a knack that was like no other for that. It was impossible to be around this woman and not feel completely loved. (And just in case you didn't know, that present under the Christmas tree, the one with the tag "From somebody who loves you." Yep, that was her!!)

There are so many stories to be shared, to be remembered . . . perhaps another time.

I don't know why we dream about these visits from loved ones who have passed on, but I couldn't be more thankful for her "visit" last night, for the memories this morning and for the reminder of her strength and love. She found strength in the last few moments of her life and never stopped showing love. There have been some tough moments for us all, and finding the strength to fight with the same gusto as she had, sometimes has been a job in itself, but I know she's up there looking down on us---proud that we kept moving forward, that we have kept on loving.

[And Alice, if you can hear me, thank you for having a hand in making me a better woman. Maybe I didn't get it all by the time I was twenty, but I have never forgotten your example, the words of wisdom you shared with me as I laid in your bed, and where you pointed to as the source of your strength and love. I miss you and love you. P.S. And if you aren't tied up this Friday evening, I could use you in my cheering section.]

Thursday, September 6, 2012

Sometimes Change Will Do You Good.

In Mark Batterson's book, The Wild Goose Chase, (a book that explains things in this life that prevent us from following the Holy Spirit's leading) he talks about the cage of routine, how easily we can fall into the comforts of our own routine, that we miss out of growing and moving with the Spirit to the life God desires for us to have. I have never really struggled with being a stickler for routine, I tend to be a free spirit and random. I like to mix things up and keep things spicy. Well . . . .I use to. Lately, I see that I am more of a creature of habit, of routine, of being comfortable than I have ever been. Why is it when years get added to our age we forget how to let our hair down, we forget to go with the flow, we forget to keep moving forward, we forget to chase the Wild Goose, and seek after the best life God has for us. I know that's not the case for all, but sadly it is the case for many, and this past month I have recognized I have climbed back into that boat.

It seems more difficult to mix up routine these days, to begin new habits and to rid my life of poor ones. My routine, my schedule, my life has been comfortable, and I have managed to turn a blind eye to some things that need to change. Sometimes I can hear God's calling and see where the Spirit is leading me to venture, but it's has been too easy to talk myself into staying in the arms of comfort.

God lets us choose that sometimes. Other times we might choose to throw our hands in the air and scream "I don't know where to start, or how to do this, but I want to do something different." Or maybe there is a 2x4 or a doctor's recommendation that helps us along. Sometimes it's the situations of life that come along, and in hindsight we see that it was preparation to find the strength to take that first step, or maybe it's a friend who comes alongside you and links arms and whispers "you're not in this alone."

The point is, there's always the choice to stay, to not change, to stop moving forward, to stay comfortable, (I always seem to need this reminder) but it's a choice that I believe will always leave us lacking, hoping for more, desiring something better. And recently I have come to find that if we look around, we can see that God has gone before us and set the scene, set up support systems, and pit stops along this journey of change, of stepping out of the cages that hold us back. He's there waiting for us to grab His hand and trust that with Him we can overcome.

I have been a new journey for 3 weeks. There has been failures and setbacks. There have been successes and goals meet. There have been moments of just going through the emotions and moments of pure excitement to face the challenge. But just in 3 weeks, I can see that this journey has made me better. Made me stronger.  It has allowed me to encounter intimate moments with my Creator. It has allowed His voice and His thoughts to speak loudly over my life. It's provided the opportunity for me to see yet again that He is faithful, that yes, I have to do my part no matter how challenging that may be at times, but even if I fail----He is there. He is standing by my side reminding me that when I am weak He is strong and together we got this!!!

It's only day 2 of a different "new change" and I know there will be just as many obstacles, just as many voices telling me I can't, just as many disappointments, but I have seen that His strength overcomes my weakness, I know that if I am intentional about doing my part, He will be faithful to do His, and I know if I fall, if I take 2 steps back, His grace will cover me and His love will pick me back up. And if I forget all of that, this blog will serve as a letter to myself, to remind me to keep going, don't be discouraged, because I (you) know that God has great things in store!!!!!

So, here's to mixing things up, to stepping outside of the cage of routine, to stop going with the flow of this stagnant life, and to keep pressing onward, to keep growing, to keep seeking His best, and to chase that Wild Goose wherever He wants to lead me.

Tuesday, September 4, 2012

The gift of Family

I was honored to be a guest at a family reunion this weekend. After indulging in a few extra hours of sleep Saturday morning, the car was packed with fresh warm cinnamon muffins, a cooler filled with ice cold beverages for the hot summer day ahead, corn hole (a personal favorite) and ladder ball to encourage the competitive spirit of this already competitive family, a fishing rod and tackle box in hopes of stealing away moments of peace and quiet off the fishing pier and of course a bag full of must haves for an overnight road trip.

Once the battle over finding a static free station to jam some tunes to was won, the ride was smooth and filled with singing, laughter, and of course a "take no mercy" game of tweetie--I confess, that my bootie got SCHOOLED---even if you minus the points that were obtained by cheating! J We took 301 most of the way, and enjoyed the peacefulness of "the back roads" as the cityscape vanished behind us. The weight of the daily to do's fell to the wayside and the responsibilities of being an adult were forgotten, for the time being.

We pulled into the driveway lined with large trees decked out with white Christmas Lights. It was the middle of the day, so no lights were on, but I could envision the beauty as you passed through the long drive and arrived to the old farm house that over looked Patuxent River. I wished I had thought to take more pictures, because the view was breathtaking.
Whatever nerves I may have had stepping out of that car, where quickly disbanded when I was welcomed with huge smiles and opened arms. Jerry and Janice (for a quick second I thought I was entering into Duggar-ville where everyone would have a “J” name, no worries folks it wasn’t the case) did a great job setting the stage for an environment where I felt more like one of the family vs. an outsider. From then on, I knew I was in for a treat, and this family did not disappoint.
I could write in detail about the amazing food that covered the tables. Or the laughter that continuously embody wherever you went or the smiles that radiated from every face. I could write about the stories that I heard, or how I had to ask sixteen hundred times “now, how does this person connect to the family?” But that is not uncommon at many family reunions and really not what made this weekend stick out for me. (Even though the 36 feet of table lined with the most delicious fresh blue crabs was a close competitor to the point behind this blog.)
Saturday evening, we all walked down to the river's shore. As our feet hit the sand, the sky could not be bluer and held a just a few wispy white clouds. There was a gentle breeze, and the soothing sound of the moving water in the background. We gathered at the water’s edge to remember life. Only days before this family reunion, one of their own, Patricia, lost her battle with cancer. As we stood and spoke the Lord’s Prayer and read Psalms 23, tears fell, hands were placed upon shoulders, embraces were clutched tighter and I was reminded why we are given the gift of family.
It’s easy to be there when laughter is abundant, when smiles come easy, when thoughts and ideas fall on the same page. It tends to get a little messier when opinions differ, when hard times arise and when loss is experienced.
Standing on that beach in the midst of this family---beside the sibling whose tears poured generously from memories of losing his brother, the fun uncle to three remarkable children just a few months prior, standing on the same beach where twin middle schoolers, and their older brother remember the loss of their dad, standing on that beach, hearing the sniffles of a sweet widow and seeing her tears flow over the loss of her husband this past Spring, and standing on that beach among the sisters, and the nephew and nieces who just lost their aunt to the hated C word, was a beautiful reminder of what family is about.
It’s about being there for one another. Setting differences and annoyances aside and uniting under and common purpose and loving each other like nobody’s business. It’s about driving 2.5 hours, or 3 hours, or from Texas, or Maine or North Carolina on Labor Day weekend and spending two days catching up and sharing stories and memories and laughter and good food and fun games, but more importantly it’s about sharing the details of life and remembering loved ones who are no longer there and sharing prayer request and struggles and opening the doors to let one another in and living out forgiveness and kindness and generosity. And I was more than honored to witness that this weekend. To be a part of some of those conversations. To be the “stranger” that the door of vulnerability and struggle was opened to. To see how forgiveness doesn’t change the past but makes a better future. This family’s got it. They are not perfect. And I am sure they have their own set of skeletons in the closest like my family, your family, all families do. But they’ve got love and compassion and grace toward one another despite those skeletons and imperfections . . .and that’s what makes them stand out. That’s what I will remember from this past weekend. And that is why I am privileged to call them friends … to call them family.