Beyond Words

We must read beyond words! When strung together, they can evoke strong emotions or ignite the imagination, creating vivid pictures in the mind. Sometimes, silence speaks louder than words, touch is more powerful, or just being can be the most appropriate of expressions. Then, there are times, when reading or listening, we must look beyond words to discover an inference or a deeper meaning.

For the last five months, while writing the manuscript for my book, I’ve never been more conscious of the power hidden in words, their unique meanings and the impact of connecting the right words into a phrase, a sentence or a paragraph for the most accurate interpretation by the reader.

These past few months have been memorable, and I want to share some thoughts with you about my experiences on this path to publishing my book. I’m having a short break from the completed manuscript to clear my mind and gain a new, or different perspective. I find that distancing myself from something I’ve obsessed over and poured my heart and soul into, is not only healthy but beneficial.

My writing in the manuscript is all but finished. The words are written, re-written, edited, punctuated, checked for grammar, typos, and spelling. I read all 86,000 words myself, five times and just when I thought I’d identified all errors and revisions, I found more. Oh, joy! Must I read this a sixth time, I thought? I could pretty much recite it word for word—yes, the entire book! With that said, it would be so easy to turn it into the never-ending book. One of my discoveries as a novice writer—I could massage the stories, replace words, or move the structure around forever—and still find more to change!

A million thanks to the two people who have read my manuscript, Ann Miner, a published author of children’s books and Don Watts {The Old Woodworker} who is an avid reader and an expert in the English language. Their input and detection of typos and errors in spelling, grammar, and punctuation have been invaluable. I am indebted to them.

The manuscript is currently in the hands of the editor at my publisher and will be there for about six weeks, while each page, line by line, is scrutinized for further revisions. So, I am taking a little break until I see their suggestions. Then I will either accept or reject their input. Next, I will submit my final draft, and the manuscript will go into the book formatting department. At the same time, a designer will help me with the book cover. Finally, it will go into print as a paperback and also a hardcover book. The genre of the book is nonfiction.

Writing a book has challenged me beyond words.

While I love to write, and you all know I pour out my emotions in words, I must confess that is easy compared with authoring a book. I can express my feelings in the written word more readily than I can in the spoken word, but that’s not the same as producing a book that will be published and has the potential to be distributed around the globe.

Let me repeat—I’ve been challenged and tested beyond words.

I am so excited about publishing the book—but I’m also terrified. Eager to fulfill a lifelong dream, yet anxious because I have poured my heart and soul into the storyline. It’s not easy to be vulnerable, but I am called to do so. It’s written now and will be published—what happens after that is in God’s hands, so I am at peace. My part is almost done.

During this process, I’ve felt a full range of emotions. I’ve experienced mountain-top moments and some valleys of despair. Moments when I knew, without a doubt, I was destined to write about a topic—but also moments when I doubted myself. At times I berated my writing and wondered if I had the stamina to see it through to the end. I struggled with specific stories that brought back a flood of emotions that I never wanted to feel again—but then there was God nudging me, so obedience won.

I am learning so much about writing and even more about the process of publishing a book with a Christian Publisher with high content standards. The content evaluation earmarked a few words to replace—words that I thought were fine, descriptive, and acceptable. To comply with the standard, I dug deep to express my meaning in another way, or with a different group of words. This is an area where I was most tested and challenged, but I’m thankful for the high standards and the opportunity to expand my thinking. Not only did I stretch and improve as a writer, but I grew as a person. I was even surprised at my level of patience and the attitude with which I confronted the changes. I viewed the process as a gift to become a better writer and a more open and accepting human being! It’s always good to rise to the occasion when we’re called to stretch.  

On the technical side, I discovered how many grammatical terms I’d forgotten since I majored in English language and literature while in school. I was reminded of hanging participles and the use of en and em dashes. I sometimes stumbled over where to place an ellipsis or a semi-colon. I was used to using the Oxford dictionary as a resource, and I had to familiarize myself with MerriamWebster. I learned so much about the correct way to quote scripture, the proper dash to insert between a set of numbers, the permitted number of lines of poetry I could use in a quote unless I had written authorization from the original poet. A huge learning curve in many ways, including all the required permissions, credits, and acknowledgments for quotes and images. I definitely did not know the correct use of capital letters for LORD in a verse of scripture. It’s not the regular capitals LORD—it’s small caps as written in the previous sentence. These all may seem like little things, but they make a significant difference in the protocol—and quality of the published book.

I am very thankful for the publisher I’ve chosen. They are true professionals who have provided a great deal of guidance at each step of the process. Without their expert support and patience, goodness alone knows what sort of manuscript I’d have churned out into a self-published book. I still have more to do, but I eagerly await the next step in the process.

I do believe I will have a book in print by the end of the year, which has been my goal all along. I’m happy to have come this far and ready to move forward with more to learn. Of one thing I am sure, there is so much more to writing a book than I ever imagined or expected.

So much more—way beyond words.

Oh, that my words were recorded, that they were written on a scroll
Job 19:23

Remembering Don Allen

I had seen Don around town and heard him singing in the choir on Sundays in Church of the Valley, where Chuck and I and Don and Leota were members. It was hard to miss a man of his stature, but what really caught my attention was the joy on his face as he sang his heart out to the Lord, as beautifully as the birds, which he loved and knew by name. His passion and appreciation for music were undeniable.

My first encounter with Don, and where I really got to know him was in the Rotary Club of Apple Valley. We were inducted the same day and soon became good friends. Our time together in Rotary was fun and memorable and during one of the fining sessions, Don suddenly stood up, and in his booming voice we know so well, he pointed at me and, from across the room, blurted out:

“You see that baby girl over there, well she’s going to help me become a smaller, perfect specimen of mankind. I’m going to take her diet stuff and lose 75 pounds of fat! AND I’m going to keep on shaving my head until we’ve done it!”

Notice the ‘WE’ part! I was 100% blindsided and dobbed in. It was then I decided he was incorrigible! My credibility on the line, I became a tough coach and made him keep a food diary and weigh in every week, that’s when he told everyone that being friends with me was like having another wife. He succeeded in losing 100lbs, and as many of his friends will remember he did grow his hair back!

Chuck and I, and Don and Leota enjoyed a 30-year friendship. We did life together. We rejoiced in the mountaintop moments, we encouraged each other in our respective businesses, and we shed tears over the darts and arrows of life. We were family to them and, they to us. Don was like a big brother to me, a confidante and always a shining light. With Don steering at the helm, the Allen home embraced and loved all who crossed their threshold, both with Leota at his side and then later with his second wife, our dear Vicki.

Don loomed larger than life and he lived his life purposefully, utilizing his God-given talents in service to others. He always knew how to uplift and spread joy, laughter, and confidence to those around him. If you wanted a cheerleader, he was your guy! His unique way of presenting himself and expressing his views was sometimes shocking, often humorous but always genuine.

He was generous to a fault and took great delight in giving. He donated his time, talents, worldly goods and his love to others, expecting nothing in return. When you were with Don you could be “yourself,” and you knew without any doubt, you were loved and accepted, no matter what.

Don loved to crack jokes while holding court with friends, but he had another side, a quieter side. He was a philosopher of life and you could often catch him sitting thoughtfully, intently listening to others, observing the scene, sizing up the situation.  Fun and laughter accompanied Don everywhere he went.

He epitomized the scripture from Thessalonians 5:16-18 “Be joyful always, pray at all times, be thankful in all circumstances. This is what God wants from you in your life in union with Christ Jesus.”

When Alzheimer’s hit our dear friend Leota, he cared for her lovingly, sacrificially and later dedicated many years helping others understand the disease. He was a huge comfort and support to me during the 8 years my mother fought dementia. As I walked that path with her, he walked with me and then Don and Vickie attended her Celebration of Life in England. As we sang “How great thou art”, I heard his joyful voice rise above all others. It was calming and reassuring. I was so grateful they were there.

Don lived life positively, always looking for the good when life dealt a bad hand. He was an overcomer. He knew how to turn a disadvantage into an advantage, to use obstacles as stepping stones forward.  He saw humor amid sadness. He taught me to view life through a different lens, to be less intense, saying “Baby girl, don’t get your knickers in a twist!” which is a British idiom. And immediately, I would laugh and lighten up.

He showed us how to live life full out, to conquer challenges, and to believe that all would be well, but he also showed us how to accept death with grace and fortitude. Amazingly, he embraced his transition to heaven, as an exciting new experience.

Thank you, Don Allen of Apple Valley. You are still incorrigible but in a good way!  Just know that to Chuck and me and all our family, you are loved and unforgettable. And to quote from a sermon by Henry Scott-Holland …..

“All is well. Nothing is hurt; nothing is lost. One brief moment and all will be as it was before. How we shall laugh at the trouble of parting when we meet again!”

In some of Don’s favorite words “Everything’s going to be alright!”

Photography credits to Tami Allen

Never forgotten – Always loved.

Reflecting and Projecting

At the end of each calendar year, I do this thing in my head. I ponder the year just ending and dream about the year ahead.

I think back over the past and I imagine the future … in context to today, the present. Keeping it in context to the present is important, because inevitably the past year’s impact has changed me in some way, molding me into who and what I am right now. Maybe not a better or worse “me” … but different. There is no status quo because we’re all constantly morphing as we’re affected not only by circumstances within our control, but also those outside our influence.

I’ll clarify for you. Simply put, I do some in depth soul searching of the immediate past, present and future. This process isn’t written down. It’s not a structured format I follow on paper, though I’m pretty sure there are great books and articles available to guide someone through a similar {and probably better} process, but this works for me and has done for many a year and I’m too seasoned to change now!  Lol! 

My thinking goes something like this ….

Looking back, how was my 2018 year overall? Did I accomplish what I envisioned? What did I learn? How did I grow? What could I have done differently, or better? Was it a good, bad or so-so year? And what was it about last year that has brought me to where I am in this present moment?

Next, I examine where I am and what my thinking is today, right now at this moment in time … and how did this past year impact me and bring me to this point? After answering my own questions, I will have gathered plenty of information about myself, who I am and what I did or didn’t accomplish last year … and most importantly who and where I am today, in relation to my life’s journey.  What did I learn? How can I do better? Do I like who I am? Am I proud of myself? Did I fulfill my purpose?

Keeping those thoughts in mind, it’s time for me to imagine 2019. Hallelujah! It’s a blank page. A fresh start. I can write my own story … or can I?  What do I want to accomplish this year? How will I do that? What actions must I take? What decisions will lead me in the direction I want to go? What do I want my lifestyle to look like during my pursuits? Who do I want to become in pursuit of what I want? What goals align with my dreams for 2019? Am I clear on my purpose?

And thus, I prayerfully consider the future.

This is a fun process in many ways. It’s a definite learning curve and a creative way to measure and evaluate performance under the scrutinous eyes of my own judgment. I’ve also learned that, as the year plays out, it’s rare for things to go exactly as I envision and plan. Life can and does throw unexpected curves. Sideswipes, darts and arrows at times! The straight and narrow path, leading to the envisioned destination, consists of twists and turns, and hidden intersections along the way, all demanding a choice be made. 

Then sometimes God interrupts our plans with His plan. Extenuating circumstances out of our control change the equation. Goodness, there are so many variables and annoying distractions in daily life! Our lives can change course in the blink of an eye, so it helps to be resilient.  Stay focused on your direction but be ready to change gears. Sometimes you must go with the flow.

Knowing all of this, is the reason each year I pick a “word” and a “saying” for the incoming year. It helps to ground me. My saying is usually a scripture {or something really profound} that sticks in my mind and won’t leave. I accept it as a gift from God, who knows the greater plan He has for me in the coming year. A plan which will undoubtedly trump anything I have in mind for myself … every time! I generally have no specific reason for selecting the word or the scripture. I just think deeply about my previous year, where I am and where I want to go in the coming year, and a word comes to mind as a result. Same with the scripture. It pops up and resonates with me. Somehow, the word and scripture are always appropriate for the year ahead.  

Take my choices for this current year of 2018. Last December 2017, I had no idea what I would face this year. I went through the reflecting and projecting process and had exciting big plans in mind. I envisioned I’d seriously start writing my book in early January.  I would also expand my health and wellness business … among other lofty goals. I selected the word “constancy” and my scripture was “Be still and know that I am God”.  I blogged about this last December and published it Jan 2 of this year. This is the title.  My feet, My faith. His will, His grace

Little did I know at the time of choosing how significant that combination would be in my 2018 journey, although I had sensed the year would be different.

I had barely stepped into January 2018 when God interrupted my plans with His plan. A phone call from my Dad on Jan 12th, his 97th birthday stopped me in my tracks. Sometimes you just know without a shadow of doubt you’re called to a particular action. I knew I was called. I felt it in the pit of my stomach and my whole being understood the bidding. When you get that strong of a call from God, obedience is the only choice. On 17th of January I was on a flight to be with my dad. My funeral dress was packed. Like I said, when you know, you know with conviction! After six wonderful days of our togetherness, my dad passed peacefully in his sleep on 24th January.

I buried all my sadness, disappointment, anxiety and fears in those few significant words. Those words of assurance and the unfailing support of my family and friends were instrumental in my making it through the challenges of the year. Only God knew the depth and breadth of how I needed them to get me through an epic year of highs and lows. To carry me through the grief and loss, to encourage me forward with new plans in the face of disappointment, at being unable to execute my original plan. To calm my anxiety for all required of me to settle my dad’s estate. And to embolden me with faith in place of the fears that would often rise to the surface during the months we spent in England, sifting and sorting belongings … almost 100 years of accumulated “stuff” … then shipping some family treasures to the US, readying my parents house for sale and dealing with the necessities of probate.

Each time I looked at what seemed to be insurmountable tasks, I commanded myself to “be still”. Stop fretting Anthea.  God’s got this. And miraculously I remained constant. Constancy. Knowing the power of God kept me sane and my mindset in the right place. Each time I felt myself stressing, I let go and let God. His faithfulness, my family’s unwavering support and encouragement, and with my man by my side, we made it through the year. Lord God, what an amazing ride you gave us this year. All glory to You.  

This Christmas, our family played a game that encourages conversations. We each had to rate the past year on a scale of one to ten. To everyone’s surprise, I rated the year a TEN! It was nothing like the year I had planned, but a memorable year of great magnitude. A year of huge personal growth, spiritual maturity and, although I was late in starting my book, at least I’ve begun. And while our business did not grow at all, and we lost traction, the blessings of the year were so much greater than I ever could have imagined.

It was a meaningful year of epic proportions and abundant blessings. A monumental year on all counts. Not of my own doing in any way, shape or form, but rather a gift from God. His grace. His mercy. His strength. His infinite love. I am your grateful and humbled servant. 

Now 2019 lies ahead. An unknown entity. I’m excited. As my vision unfolds, the associated plans are forming. Our family, our business and writing my book will feature prominently in the picture. I’m smiling as I wonder what God’s plans are. Only He knows for sure. We must wait and see. Meanwhile, I will go forward with my goals and, with great expectancy, I will pursue my dreams for the year.

But I will remain resilient. Watchful. Open and obedient.  I am filled with hope for the future. Here are my words for 2019 ….

Discernment.

For God hath not given us the spirit of fear; but of power, and of love, and of a sound mind.”   2 Timothy 1:7

The Reluctant Participant

I slowly opened the envelope and stared intently at the words on the invitation while a flock of conflicting thoughts flew hither and thither inside my mind.

There was a minute or two of pure mental chaos! My first thought was to accept and go to the party, but ……….

Here it came! The dreaded “but”.  Of course you know the sentiment that follows a “but” usually contradicts what precedes it. The words after “but” seem to be more powerful and they often cancel out what was previously expressed.  Like “I really like holiday parties but ….”.   

In this case, an entire family of “buts” rushed into the white space in my head.

Disguised as excuses and reasons not to attend, these “buts” began to compete for my attention, talking over each other and rudely interrupting one another as they competed for dominance, using my head as their battleground.  Worse still, the clatter from these thoughts began to dull my initial desire, which was to respond in the affirmative!  The “buts” planted seeds of confusion causing me to doubt my positive reaction.  I was already fully booked during this holiday season, should I commit to one more thing?  Should I go, should I not go?  What would you do?

As for me, I took charge of my thoughts and quickly sent the “buts” packing.  I RSVP’d in the affirmative and squeezed one more event into my bulging holiday schedule.

“I can do this! I want to go! Well, don’t I?” I found myself saying.

The day of the party arrived. It was one of those days! I wasn’t exactly sitting around primping, pampering or painting my nails to look pretty for the festivities. My original plan for the day had sadly gone awry and I found myself on mental and physical overload.  Pretty much chasing my tail all day thanks to one or two unexpected side swipes that threw me behind the power curve. So, as I drove away from my last commitment of the day, all I could think about was getting home to sit by the cheery bright Christmas tree. That was a comforting thought on this cold December evening. To slouch on the couch with my honey, staring aimlessly at the flickering fire while sipping some hot mulled wine was an attractive proposition. I was ready to put my feet up, relax and be home!

As I pulled into the garage, I suddenly remembered! The invitation … the party. OMG! Anthea, you’ve got to show up at that party tonight! You accepted the invitation, you can’t bail out now. 

And so, the internal struggle with my racing thoughts began … once again! 

Another tug-of-war rant raged in my head! The battle of the yay and nays was in full force. Yay … go!  Nay … stay! My gut was encouraging me to go, but I was jaded from the demands of the day and not enthusiastic about turning my social switch on when I felt unsociable.  Nor did I relish the thought of braving the cold night air again.  While my instinct was saying “go”, the “buts” tuned in with … “ but your hosts will understand!”.  

The ‘buts’ pressed the point. “With the day you’ve had, it’s justifiable to call in your regrets. There’ll be plenty of other people there, they won’t even notice your absence. It’s a cold windy night, not a good idea to risk your health in this weather. They wouldn’t want you to overextend yourself. It’s okay to stay home.”

Then my conscience weighed in with my gut and the buts! Thanks a bunch for yet another voice in my head.  I really needed one more point of view, didn’t I?  Another opinion! This time a should! The worst kind of guilt accompanies a “should” doesn’t it? Don’t you just hate the parental tone coming at you?

Anthea, you should always do what you say! You should keep your commitments! It’s who you are. You were raised to be responsible! You should step up and go. You should, should … SHOULD!! 

Ugh! I screamed in my head! Okaaaaaaay!!  I’ll go.

“Darn it” I thought. “Goodbye to the tempting vision of tranquility and a night at home”. I took a deep breath and headed to my room to freshen up. I was raised to do what I say I’ll do. If anything is true of me it’s that I am one to keep commitments.  I knew I had to go … so I bucked up, dressed up and showed up.

But, you might say I was the reluctant participant. Sorry to confess, but true.

The chatter in my head continued as I drove to the party. I scolded myself on the way for being so quick to accept the invitation in the first place!  I chided myself for not listening to the “buts” point of view, which provided me with plenty of valid reasons not to go when I first received the invitation. 

I wondered who would be there and where conversations would go. Truthfully, my expectations of enjoying the evening were not that high. Not because of who would be there, or what we’d say to each other, and certainly my low expectation was no reflection on my delightful hosts, whom I dearly love.  No, it was everything to do with my own poor attitude, internal struggle and the infernal reluctance. I took another deep breath as I slowly cruised past their brightly lit home looking for a parking spot.  Too late now Anthea, you’re here, I thought. You must park and go in. 

I got out of my car with the host’s gift in hand, adjusted my attitude, marched up the driveway, rang the door chimes, and was greeted with a warm welcoming hug and a blast of Christmas spirit that smelled of gingerbread, pine cones and hot apple cider all mingled together. I crossed over my friend’s threshold … and stepped into one of the most enjoyable evenings. 

Can you relate to this experience?  Has it ever happened that way for you?

You accept an invitation and then when the time arrives, reluctance sets in for a variety of reasons. You look for excuses not to go, you argue the pros and cons of bailing out. You’re really torn by the argument in your head. You may even succeed in persuading yourself to skip the event.

Human nature can be strange at times. If I’d not gone to the party, I’d have missed a really, special time that included meaningful conversations with friends both old and new. Not just superficial chit-chat but deep conversations that blessed me, while I had opportunity to touch others in a special way. One never knows where one is destined to be … to touch someone’s heart and make a difference, or to receive a blessing that impacts one’s life … long after the party’s over.

The moral of this story is to conquer reluctance and enjoy life full out.  Decide to be the eager participant! Overcome the annoying chatter in your head and force yourself to boldly embrace all of life’s invitations. That opportunity may never come again. You may well discover the most wonderful time, as I did that night a few years ago.  Maybe the best time ever … because you were right where you were destined to be. 

What are your thoughts?

“There is a strange reluctance on the part of most people to admit they enjoy life.”  William Lyon Phelps

And the Dust Returns to the Earth as it Was

And the spirit shall return unto God who gave it.

The three times I’ve experienced death up close and personal, there has been no shadow of doubt in my mind that the spirit, and very essence of life, departs in an instant, leaving its human body, an astoundingly empty and lifeless vessel. As a Christian who believes in a loving, living God, I experienced both sadness and joy at that moment … simultaneously. Extreme sorrow from the loss that was overshadowed by an amazing sense of joy … joy that the spirit of my loved one returned to God.

My parents, who had almost 72 years of marriage, had requested that once they were gone, their ashes be scattered together. They didn’t designate where. They simply specified ‘together’. Since they met in Scotland during WWII, I thought it would be fitting to spread their ashes at the place they met and where my dad proposed marriage to my mother in Broughty Ferry, near Dundee Scotland.  

Their homecoming to Broughty Ferry was the very reason 8 family members joined Chuck and me for a memorable holiday in Scotland … for some a first visit to my country of birth, for others a nostalgic return, and for my cousin and her husband, who reside in Scotland, it was to honor my parents and enjoy a few days of family togetherness.

So here we all stood on the furthermost pier by Broughty Castle.

Photograph credits to David McIntosh

Mum and Dad had arrived from England, hand delivered by courier, the day before the gathering. This was to be a joyful laying to rest of their remains.  And indeed it was. 

Tuesday 9th October, was a cold, wet day and there, out on the jetty by the castle, the waters of the Firth of Tay, where my Dad often landed his seaplane, lapped all around us. The place was completely deserted. We were there alone. Perfect.

The privacy was greatly appreciated and, with the wind chilling us to the bone, we formed a circle around the urns containing our loved ones. Each holding two red roses tied in togetherness, and with the love of my life officiating, we honored my devoted parents with endearing passages, read by their three grandchildren and followed by words of remembrance from those who chose to share. 

With a beautiful acapella rendition of Amazing Grace still ringing in our ears, and a quick check on the wind direction, Chuck and I opened the urns and sprinkled my parent’s ashes into the swirling waters of the Firth of Tay, while roses flew in the breeze, landing with the ashes and floating randomly and beautifully in the current.


A final resting place, their dust returned to the earth, their souls long since abiding with God. Final closure feels wonderful. A few moments of reflection and we left in search of warmth and our celebration dinner. 

One fleeting last glance back over my shoulder as I wondered where the roses would end up, revealed two lone seagulls together, bobbing on the waters just beyond the roses, the only remaining onlookers.

Oh how God delights my heart and fills my soul.

“Then shall the dust return to the earth as it was: and the spirit shall return unto God who gave it.”   Ecclesiastes 12:7

Heartfelt thanks to granddaughter Holly Tripp who captured the video portions of scattering ashes and tossing roses. 

Do Roses Grow in Heaven Dad?

Happy Father’s Day Dad. It’s been 5 months since you left to be with Mum and I rejoice that you’re together for eternity.  I’ve been thinking of you all week and find my mind wandering … and wondering … upward to heaven.

The weeks have flown by and 8:00 a.m. each day has come and gone and the phone sits there … silently. I miss your familiar ring and our daily chats and even though I know full well you’re not here to call me, the habitual phone call of so many years has left an imprint of expectancy … that we’d be talking, so I thought I’d dial you up in heaven and share some thoughts.

I’m so grateful for those last six days we had together before we had to say goodbye. I’ll never forget our little chats … and meaningful glances that spoke loudly of understanding. No words necessary. I’ll always remember the gratitude you expressed for the life you led and how you reminded and assured me of all the good times we’d shared, and then just hours before you passed I mirrored some of those good times back to you. I still bask in the sunshine of the smile that lit up your face momentarily.

Oh Dad, do you now know how God so favored your life? He surely blesses mine.

I’m wondering. Do roses grow in heaven Dad? Do you still love them or have you discovered a more beautiful heavenly flower?  More vivid, more fragrant and more alive? My fanciful mind races with these unanswered questions, yet my heart believes that heaven, by all accounts and promises, is indescribably beautiful, so why wouldn’t roses bloom there … with every other flower known and unknown to us here on earth?

As I write this I have only to turn my head slightly to catch a glimpse of red roses arranged in one of your skillfully-crafted pottery vases, adorning Nannie’s writing bureau. In the past, a bouquet of real flowers would catch my eye in the store, but too often in the busyness of life, I walked on by, or I talked myself out of buying them. No more! While my garden doesn’t produce an abundance of fresh flowers and dozens of roses, as yours did, I shall buy them regularly and keep the vase replenished with the beauty of fresh flowers … including roses.

I’m doing really well Dad … I thought you’d like to know.

Everyone in the family is healthy, busy and happy, and we are so grateful for many blessings. I trust you know how greatly you and Mum are loved and missed by us all. I had intended to create a commemorative video of your life for Father’s Day, but alas, it would not have done you justice {nor lived up to my standard} for lack of time prevailed and I decided to pace myself and place no deadline on its completion. In spare moments, I’m scanning old family photos into files for preservation, some of which I’ll include in the forthcoming video.

I want you to know that the New House sale has completed and although it was sad to let it go, you’ll be relieved to know that a lovely couple are moving in to make a happy life there. Guess what? Like you and Mum, they returned to England after living in Australia. What a coincidence!  Dad you’re smiling now because you know what I’m thinking!  Yes, it’s too coincidental … more likely it’s by design, part of God’s greater plan. Incidentally, the lady remarked on the abundance of rose bushes in the garden … and I shared the reason why there are so many.  So you see, your stories live on!

Everything we packed up and shipped here arrived in good condition. It is like Christmas as we unpack the old familiar paintings, pottery and other meaningful and sentimental family treasures you left for us. We’re so grateful for the memories each item brings and thankful you used your God-given talents and creativity to the fullest.

All is well Dad.  Each day is full and rewarding. My thirst to live life with passion has never been stronger. My faith in God grows daily. I place my hope and strength in Him. When the inevitable arrows of this world hit hard, He is my rock. I’m as happy as I’ve ever been. Gratitude fills my heart and my soul sings … my cup overflows with joy.

Do roses grow in heaven Dad?

If they do, will you gather a bouquet today?  Consider them a gift from me to you … I wish you Happy Father’s Day … and I thank my Heavenly Father that you’re my Dad!  

Sending love to you and Mum from all the family!

As a father has compassion on his children, so the LORD has compassion on those who fear him; Psalm 103:13

It’s Time to Go Back to the Future

There’s no going back – or so the saying goes, but I beg to differ.

I’ve found there are times in life when you must back up in order to free the space required to maneuver from where you’re stuck. I’ve found myself in that very place in recent days … needing the space to maneuver upward and onward.

It’s not so much physical space like a parking spot, but rather that coveted, precious white space in the mind and soul where peace and understanding dwell.

I’ve given a lot of thought to the past since January.  Memories of all kinds have dominated my waking moments, crowding out the present at times and forestalling any thoughts or plans for the future. I’m not saying it’s been bad, or was time wasted … I’m simply stating reality.

When life hits hard, you do what you must to navigate through the maze of challenges and emotions you’ve never experienced before, in order to survive unscathed … and hopefully emerge stronger and wiser than before.

But now it’s time to go back to the future.

I’ve always been a forward thinker and very future driven, while striving to live in the present, but in the aftermath of my Dad’s passing, I was swept backwards into the past … and despite the desire and effort to extract myself, circumstances held me captive and I’ve been helpless to escape the magnetic pull of all that belongs in yesteryear.

I mean how could I free myself? The reminders engulfed me like a shroud. All the artifacts, photographs, books, letters, the old familiar inanimate objects, scents from long ago, and of course a bazillion memories … happy and sad ones … all reached out and sucked me into the vortex of the past.  I finally succumbed.  I decided to let go and see where this sojourn back to bygone days would lead. I let go and let God.

There’s peace in surrender.  

This last visit to my parent’s house to empty the few remaining items in readiness for its new owners was freeing in a way I never expected. I thought it would be hard, that I’d be sad to leave. I even half expected my jangled emotions to lay strewn all over the map in full view, but to my surprise and delight, a few days prior to leaving, I found myself looking eagerly toward this next chapter in the book of life.

I don’t know what changed. Perhaps it was about timing, or maybe I reached a level of acceptance, or something magically released me from the hold of the past. Some things are meant to remain a mystery so it’s not for me to question the how or the why. 

What really matters is I’m thankful for today … for my life. I look back to the past with love and gratitude for my parents … and I will carry forward loving memories of beautiful bygone days. My spirit sings with joyful hope and expectancy. It’s time!

It’s time to go back to the future.

“If we open a quarrel between past and present, we shall find that we have lost the future.” Winston Churchill

A Celebration of My Dad’s Life

John Anthony Shipperlee, whom we all know as “Tony”, was born in Leigh-on-sea, Essex, on 12th January, 1921. He was an only-child with an enthusiastic and adventurous spirit, whose loving parents encouraged him to play the piano, sing in the boy’s choir and join the boy scouts, where he was a drummer in the band and participated in numerous Drumhead parades in the Oxford area. Athletically inclined, his favorite sport at Southfield School was rugby and he was also an avid train spotter, but his artistic talent was undeniable. He loved to draw and he was rarely without a sketch pad, or far from his easel and paints. Continue reading →

Christmas is Here! Breathe Easy.

As so often happens when I express what’s in my head and on my heart, the words take on a life of their own and run away with me … and I’m led into something much deeper {and lengthier} than I first intended. This is a continuation {part 2} of my last post called “The Holidays Are Here! Just Breathe!”

The original post was intended to be a short blog entry not a book, so I decided to turn it into a two-parter. Lol!  Thanks for sticking with me and my random ramblings about the holiday season.  I’m hoping the forthcoming message helps you in some small way.

Continue reading →