Wednesday, November 18, 2015


We can look at the calendar or we can look all around us. There is absolutely no denying what is coming our way.

With the Christmas decorations out as soon as Halloween passed and the Black Friday *specials* being thrown every which way at us one would have to be hiding under a bush to ignore the obvious.

If you haven't guessed what I am talking about by now it's the .....HOLIDAYS!

When you read those words you felt your heart do a jump of excitement, felt your best sarcastic eye roll or ran through your to do list and thought how will you ever get through it all.
I think my attitude has turned into a combination of all three of those emotions (plus a few more here and there) depending on what emotional roller coaster I find myself on. There are the highs and there are the lows and then there are the rides that you just seem to coast along, feel the breeze on your face and just enjoy the scenery.

If there is anything rational about those emotions it is that (for me anyway) I have found that none last for too long. (Or rather, too, too long.)

The entire month of October I think mentally I made a list or reasons as to why I was not going to be able to get into the festivities of the season. From not enough time, to too much time alone, financials, stress, grief, physical and mental ailment to grief (again, it's pretty recurring) I just found myself mentally declaring I would not be able to make it through this time with a peace and contentment.
With this self-fulfilling prophecy already in full swing and a good 2 months before the start of the season I had already fallen into deep sadness and I didn't see too many options out.

 Aaaahhh, but that is where grace comes in. Throw some mercy in with it and a little bit of determination and perseverance and the future can seem a bit brighter. Not much at first, but it can lead us to a new perspective. It can also lead us to try to incorporate new things to help us cope and that my friends is so very important. Learning to cope.

What helps me cope is totally what is different from what may help you in your journey. But through some long and quiet mediations and prayer time I have found a few of my own favorite things (in no particular order) to help me get through these next couple of weeks. They may help you. They may not. You may have your own to add. I am certainly all ears to hear about something that is positive and working in your life.

 1. YOGA - Can I just say that I have recently fall in love with yoga. The art, the technique, the benefits. It has been something enriching to me personally. I have found that I have to get up a little earlier to really get a full session in but it has been so worth it. I kind of just fell into doing it regularly first thing in the morning since I've been dealing with insomnia but now I have implemented it into my regular routine. Try it! And you don't have to go a gym. It can be done right in your own living room. You Tube has tons and tons of videos and you can find the one that fits you and then even customize to what is right for you.

2. Podcasts - I LOVE my podcasts. I have a lot on my playlists but some regularly played ones are: 
  • Timothy Keller - Pastor of Redeemer Presbyterian Church in New York City - He has been referred to as the C.S. Lewis for the 21st Century. Being in full time ministry there is not much time for me to actually make it to the sanctuary to hear the sermon so I am thankful I can have these sermons with me on the go. He also recently came out with a book titled Prayer and you can get a free 14 day devotion here. Friends, it is SO GOOD. I can't say I line up with everything but I soak up the scripture readings and take away so much from his sermons. 
  • First Baptist Church - My own home church and workplace -  I always have these on hand to listen to throughout my week. 
  • Dave Ramsey - If your looking for practical money advice from how to get out of debt to what to do with "extra" monthly income Dave offers everyday principals that can be put into practice and help you to gain financial independence. 
3. Music - (Apple Music, Pandora, Spotify, which one is best comes down to personal choice) - My preference (currently) is Apple Music. I LOVE that I can create my own music radio channel based on what I'm in the mood to listen to. Whether it be a rainy day at home, a love song to go along with a nice evening, a little jazz set in a Paris café, flashback to the 80s or (my favorite) some Dave Matthews I absolutely love to have music fill my house. It is so calming to me and helps me to channel any feelings that may be going through my mind. There is also some great music to go along with #1.

4. Stich Fix - Sometime just the idea of going out to shop for clothes/accessories exhausts me and with so much going on around us I have come to savor the security I find in my own home. I'm also not the most creative when it comes to picking out clothes and I still struggle to find "my style." That's where Stitch Fix comes in. You sign on and tell a little about yourself, link your social media sites so they can get an idea of your look and then a personal stylist steps in and tries to pick out clothing based on the info they have. There is a $20 styling fee per order but, if you make a purchase, you can apply it to your order. Keep what you like and send back, with all postage paid, what you don't. You can set it up to recur monthly, bi-monthly or whatever fits your budget. I still love my local shopping but for those seasons I don't, Stitch Fix can come in mighty handy.

5. Book of Psalms - Friends, I love me some Psalms readings and, lately, I have found myself going back to those verses over and over. There are some beautiful words and truth to be rediscovered or, perhaps, even be discovered for the first time. Try to carve out some time to set and read through and if life is crazy there are several apps that will read your particular Bible selection to you while you do other things.

6. Realize your doing your best (if you really are trying your best.) It is so easy for us to feel pressured and strive constantly for perfection when, in reality, things will be ok if we let some things take a back seat and rearrange our priorities. Some things comes easy for some and, in the social media world we live in now, it is so easy for us to compare ourselves and feel we don't measure up. And, just maybe, there are some areas where you aren't giving all you could. Try and focus meaningful energy on the things that really matter such as keeping our emotions in check, just hanging out with those around us that we like and love and seeing where we can lend a hand to someone who needs us.

7. Rest! I know life is busy, I know there is so much to do. But we must, we absolutely MUST take some time out for rest. Rest for mental, emotion, physical and our spiritual well being. And I mean real rest. A time where we take a meaningful break from what is going on around us. It may not be as long as we need or want but take what you can and apply it to yourself. It will not only benefit you but those around you.

8. Lastly, (and this one is great to couple with #1, certain podcasts from #2, and #3) our devotion and quiet time. It is so important we spend some time with just Him. Clear our minds and our thoughts. Recognize who He is and what He has done for us and then be open about what is on your heart.

Friends, let's be in prayer for each other. There is so much strife and trouble going on in the world. Instead of adding to all the chaos let's see how we can lighten the load for ourselves and those around us.

Thursday, January 15, 2015

Laundy! Laundry! Oh, the laundry.

"I feel like I never get caught up on laundry.  The basket of dirty clothes seem endless!"

All too well I remember these daily feelings from years past and I'm sure they are said a million times a day by busy parents and caregivers not only trying to stay ahead but sometimes just trying to catch up!

Perhaps before one goes too far with their complaints let me tell you about some laundry I have put off...for 2 and a half years now.

There was always the question of what to do with Noah's material things that, just like they say, he couldn't take to heaven with him.  Some have been brought back to our house. Some have been given to a few close and special friends. Some have been donated. And some remained in boxes.

Until now.

Last year it felt like the time to start on a blanket of his t-shirts, a gesture that had been offered to me a few months after Noah died.  It always stayed in the back of my mind but it seemed so daunting to actually go through clothes that would bring back so many memories of a boy who wasn't here anymore. Not only did I not want to see them I couldn't imagine actually having to pick favorites. They were all now my favorites. Everything of his has become my favorite.

Then there was the task of washing them. A task I took for granted with him for 10 years. The simple act of washing, folding and hanging his clothes. But this time...they wouldn't need putting away in anticipation for him.

I actually made the decision last year to go through his clothes but it took the boxes 4 months to move from storage to my car to my garage to my living room. Emotionally I would say this has been one of the hardest parts of his death for me to face.

There is such a finality in washing his clothes for the very last time despite being able to briefly enjoy seeing his things hung up with ours once again.

Friends, don't take the little things you "have to do" get to do for those you love for granted.  That task may not be available for you to do tomorrow.

The only way I could stay focused on getting through Noah's last loads of laundry was to pray my way through it (and have Friends playing on Netflix in the background.) What peace that brought me. If you find yourself dreading a task such as laundry try praying through it. Pray for yourself. Pray for who you are bestowing your gift upon. Pray that your eyes will be open to others that you can help.

And, most importantly, thank the One who (like a dirty load of laundry) can pick us up, sort us out and wash us clean.

Tuesday, December 23, 2014

The Hope of Baby Jesus

Christmas is here and what a special and magical time of the year it can be for many.

For others, however, it can be full of bittersweet emotions and they have just learned to roll with the holiday in front of them and all the feelings that go with it.

Holidays, and especially Christmas, definitely have a different feel to them in my house since Noah died. Gone is his laughter, his anticipation of what was under the tree for him and his excitement of running to see what Santa had surprised him with on Christmas morning.

When Haleigh Raye and Noah were younger they loved the decorations that went along with Christmas. We always did the best to adorn the house (even though I, being very uncrafty and uncreative, usually ((always)) needed assistance.) Not only did they seem to enjoy the house being festive, they LOVED playing with the decorations. I would find the cute little Hallmark ornaments being regifted from one American Girl doll to another and the singing Santas never knew what their daily agenda might entail.

But, now, those are distant memories that only my thoughts and pictures can make come alive again and, oh, how I miss tripping over Barbie's jeep as she and Santa were out on a late night cruise through the living room.

Haleigh Raye has asked for a "magical Christmas" this year and we have aimed to please her in our home but we we also wanted to do more this year at the cemetery. More for us than for Noah.  I wanted to include things he had a part in from our house but didn't want to risk anything being damaged so I was selective in my choosing. We gathered our things, picked up our donated live tree and set off to the cemetery. A Sunday afternoon, filled with Christmas music playing in the background, quickly passed while cleaning the Lego headstones and decorating.

For the tree I chose a cup similar to the one he would make his famous chocolate milk in and also an ornament he and Haleigh Raye purchased for me, as a fundraiser, when our church was in a building campaign for our children's building.

I also brought out one of my kids' most treasured Christmas traditions. The nativity set. They loved to play with it. They would act out the birth of Jesus over and over. The wiseman made the long journey of our hallway more times than I could ever count and Noah had down pat the sound of a donkey. They would play with it so much but their favorite was the baby Jesus. I would find him everywhere. From the shower to under the bed to being hauled around on a Tonka Truck, baby Jesus definitely had his own share of adventures at our house at Christmas. I would be aggravated when baby Jesus would not be put back to his manager scene. I would go, find him and explain to the kids how he needed to be back with Mary and Joseph. Was it really that hard to remember?

All those memories came back to me as I placed the baby Jesus the one place I never thought I would.

 At my son's grave.

And as quickly as a sadness came over me so did a hope. A hope that fills me when I return to the heart of what I believe. Jesus didn't become complacent and stay in the manager. Just as that figurine baby Jesus was all over my house so is the real Jesus. The one whom the grave couldn't hold. Because Noah put his faith and trust in Him, the grave doesn't hold him either.

And that is joy. That is peace. That is God's grace and His mercy that only He can give.

How I will spend this Christmas is a way I never thought I would but there are still blessings to be found, love to be given and hope in an eternal future that can never be taken away. I wish I was still finding ornaments all over my house but I'm thankful I know how the entire story goes and where that baby Jesus and my own baby ended up.

My prayer for you, this Christmas, is for love and peace to find you wherever you are. 
From our family to yours may you have a 
Happy, HAPPY Christmas! 

Friday, August 22, 2014

If I had one more day...

What a busy time it has been....with a really good summer and an overseas trip under our belt....

We have started a new school year....

8th grade for this girl. Like all parents, it is so hard to believe she's 14. A year away from high school, two years away from being driver license elgible and 4 years away from quite possibly moving off to the life of college. 

At 38 I never thought I would be thinking about empty nest syndrome but me, being the planner and worrier I am, I'm already thinking about it and a new whole new set of worries come on. 

Not only did a part of me die when Noah died...a part of our story died. When we have children we have so many grand adventures planned for them. Yes, he lived a decade but he lost the chance at a future...and I feel like I lost a lifetime with him. More times than I care to count I find myself wishing for just one more of anything but especially just one more day.....

If I had one more day 
I would wake up early throw open the windows 
and let the sun in
and excitedly tell you, "it's a new day!"
Or if the forecast was full of rain
I would dig out our rain coats and galoshes
and play outside anyway. 
I'd fly a kite, I'd fly your plane, I would lay and just look at the clouds,
look at the sky and look at you.
If I had just that one more day. 
I would hug you so tight until you probably ran away
I would let you do that one more swim, one more jump, or one more bike ride.
But this time...I would do all that and a thousand other things with you
If I had just one more day. 

Noah Dean,

I miss you more than words could ever convey. Even though your gone I think of you no less than when you were physically here with me. Your name flows with Haleigh Raye as it did for years and I often imagine how you would react to things going in. I've pictured you waving me off as I drop you off for a day at school and I've replayed our reunions when the 3:00 bell rings. I hope you can hear my daily good mornings, my nightly good nights and words in prayers are relayed to you. I can't wait to hear Haleigh Raye's laugh and see her face the only way you could do. You are still so loved and that will never change. 

Until we have that one more day that never ends,


Sunday, June 15, 2014

Tribute Video

Just recently we had an amazing night with Sidewalk Prophets. They were the guests for a fundraiser for a local organization. They also got to come out and see the bench that was dedicated to Noah and Nate at their school at Cornerstone Academy.

I was asked to serve on the committee to help organize the evening. It turned out to be a great evening. We were asked to put together a tribute video to the lives of Noah and Nate and their family. I wanted to share it on my blog for others to see especially for those who didn't know the boys in person to give a glimpse into their lives.

Noah Dean and Nate Act

Often I will get an email through my blog asking questions about Noah and what happened to him and his friend Nate.  I post regularly on my Facebook what is going on with things in our life that I forget there is other people who stumble across my blog so I wanted to put an update about things going on. We've had a busy, busy spring to say the least.

To make a long story short it took me a long time to process what happened to Noah. Once that started sinking in I wanted to learn more especially when I realized this could have been prevented. I became a board member of Electric Shock Drowning Prevention Association.  This put us in touch with another parent who was working on a legislation in their state of West Virginia to help make marinas safer. Once I saw their bill signed into a law I immediately wanted to do something similar in Tennessee.

A lot of people think a wire was hanging in the water and that is what killed Noah and Nate but that is not actually the case. The boat the boys were swimming around was leaking too much electricity from improper wiring. The boat was plugged into the marina which had no grounding and that is one of the basic elements of electricity safety. So, in essence, the problem was with the boat and the responsibility fell to the marina. The marina should have had a GFCI (ground fault circuit interruptor) to shut off the flow of electricity once the level became too high. It didn't. The boat had numerous faults as well.

While it can be hard to educate every single boat owner about proper wiring we started with the marinas to make them safer across the state. Some marinas wanted to participate in this and actually install more safety measures. Some didn't. That is where the legislation became important.

We worked with TVA, TWRA, our local representatives and the Dept of Commerce and drafted a bill. Over a year of negotiations took place with all sides having to compromise. I even had the chance to go speak at the Senate in favor of our bill when I felt we were losing ground due to money.

After a year long effort, we passed the house and the senate. A copy of our bill, along with the votes and videos, can be found here.

Just recently we had our official governor signing of the Noah Dean and Nate Act. It was definitely a bittersweet day.

I am still amazed at how far we came in such a short amount of time but I feel this was a process God was most definitely a part of. There were doors that were opened for us and all we had to do was simply walk through. As scared and as afraid of failure as I was I obeyed His lead and slowly realized I was just a vessel to what He could do.

We hope our bill educates others who are avid lake lovers. It is still our desire to keep educating others about the do's and don't's of lake safety. Most importantly, we hope Noah's and Nate's testimony is shared. Their love of life, their love of family and friends and their childlike faith that secured their eternal future.

If you have any questions about ESD or any other related information please don't hesitate to contact me by clicking on my name on the home page.

Tuesday, May 20, 2014

And we continue on...

It's been almost 2 years since I received the phone call that changed my life, my faith and my focus. 

The days and months that followed were a blur and there were so many times I wanted to give up and give in. But there was something in me that just wasn't quite ready to do that as tempting as it sounded. 

So I decided, despite the circumstances, to continue on.

Maybe it was a desire to preserve even in the face of adversity.

Maybe it was the stubbornness in me to show those that doubted me, as a person and as a mother.

Maybe it was a legal battle I was in the middle of that I was willing to see to the end. 

Quite possibly it was the determination to do something more with Noah and his legacy so that he would not be forgotten and be more than "that boy that was electrocuted on a holiday at the lake."

Perhaps, most importantly, it was my daughter who didn't die and would look at me with questionable eyes wondering if she would lose me next. 

Most assuredly it was a combination of all those. I would love to say my journey was full of faith from day one. But...I can't...because it wasn't.

Oh, there was faith and there was trust but there wasn't the complete willingness to hand over my life to God completely and, without that, there was little God could do with someone like me. 

My faith is still, very much, a work in progress. I'm learning more and more every day and I am AMAZED at the doors God has opened for us. During this time we have had burdens on our hearts that we just couldn't ignore and wouldn't go away. From passing a VERY COMPLICATED PIECE OF LEGISLATION to working with local non profit organization to do a fundraiser and at the same time do a memorial video to Noah and Nate before Sidewalk Prophets took the stage and even bringing them to Cornerstone Academy to meet Noah's and Nate's class who helped with the garden and bench in their memory. 

We've been able to educate boating officers, marinas and I've even went back to do a few things I did pre July 4th, 2012 felt good. Hard, at first, but good. 

When I say AMAZED I mean AMAZED, IN AWE and sometimes I stand with my mouth wide open at what has been accomplished. I know, beyond a shadow of a doubt, we were just a vessel for Him and had I not handed over that control I can't help but wonder where I would be. 

I've got some mighty prayers warriors that I rely on especially when there is something very specific I am praying for. One of them sent me this verse last year and declared it for me on my behalf. 

I laughed at first thinking how in the world can I be used. I'm broken, I'm a sinner and I've fallen such short of the grace that has been doled out to me. 

But if I thought I was anymore than I'd be cutting God short on what He does best. 

Making something out of nothing for His glory. 

There are so many things I don't understand about my life and why I am where I am. But there is now a peace and that is what I rest in. 

This weekend I start a new chapter in my life. I am so excited (a little nervous) but more than anything I am so anxious to see what God is going to do next because I know I will do all I can to pray myself through to stay in the center of His will and, in the end, Noah's there waiting. Just like his headstone says "our puzzled hearts will soon be replaced when we see your big brown eyes and smiling face." I can see and hear him now, "Moooommm! This place is so cool! There is so much to show you!" And all those questions, all those "why's", all those "what if's" won't even matter. There will be a new life to live and "the old world, with all its tumults and troubles, will have passed away."

But for now...we must continue on.