Heart in the Clouds

Sunday, June 22, 2014

Three things...



"He has shown you, O man, what is good;
And what does the Lord require of you
But to do justly,
To love mercy,
And to walk humbly with your God?"



If you look at the top of my blog page, there's a little Scripture reference on the bottom right of the header. Micah 6:8.

My favorite verse has been coming to my mind again. It usually pops up when I start to notice I'm over-complicating my life or my faith, and filling it with too many unimportant things. It's like God's little whisper to remind me that my goal for this year is simplicity.

I'm grateful for this little reminder. Amid the expectations I pile on myself, the obligations I accept from other people and the desires I have for more life and meaning, I can lose the knowledge that simplicity is best. More isn't better.

It's a process. Simple isn't a destination, it's a journey. Gradually peeling off layers of junk from my life is not easy, though. It's a cleansing of the mind, of the spirit and of the emotions. It's a refiner's fire. For me, "simplicity" has meant cutting off toxic relationships and cutting back on bad habits. It has meant throwing out trash and clutter, even some things I had deemed "important." It has meant cutting out the noise of the world and the voices in me and around me. It has meant losing some of the mental and physical weight that had held me back from seeing some of the true potential of my imperfect human body.

When I gradually start to fill up my life again (and the lives of my family) or get religious, I hear a little whisper, "Three things."

Do justly.

Love mercy.

Walk humbly with God.

The rest of the stuff doesn't matter.

It's a big eye-opener when I remind myself. It's the measure for my behavior, my thoughts, my attitude, my spirituality.

I feel like true gratitude brings these three things to the forefront and forces us to see and appreciate what's important--all the little, quiet moments and opportunities we might miss in the noise and clutter of a busy life. It cuts through the messes and the obligations. It separates the meaningful from the irrelevant.

So while you're going about your life, stressing about the expectations put upon you or those you put upon yourself, or you find yourself over-complicating your faith, breathe and remember...three things. Do justly. Love mercy. Walk humbly.



Friday, June 20, 2014

The Change begins...

Remembering to feel and experience and live gratitude is going to be something I have to remind myself to do daily because I've gotten out of practice. But so far I'm off to a good start.

Today was a good day.

I spent time with my older son, just the two of us. I spent time with friends. I finally met (in person) an online friend I've had for years. Lots of moments to smile about!

Today I'm grateful for...

Blue sky. I needed to see it, and it was there.

Wisdom. I needed to use it, and it was there.

Confidence. I'm learning to live in it and to help bring it out in other people.

Knowing when to keep my mouth shut. Sometimes maturity is about knowing when to keep thoughts, feelings and opinions to oneself, even more than it is about sharing exactly what's on your mind. That's something I've had to learn the hard way, in some cases, but I'm grateful for the many opportunities I have to put it into practice.

Imperfection. We all have our faults and issues. We all have our insecurities and fears. But we are beautiful in our imperfection. In our weakness, His strength is perfected.

Firsts. My younger son had a big first today--his first day at Cub Scout day camp. He was nervous about being without his big brother, but I have wanted him to have opportunities to find himself and have fun outside the family bubble. He loved it and can't wait for tomorrow. He's taking more steps into the world and growing more confident each time. I love him and can't wait to see the man he becomes...even though I'd sometimes love for him to stay my little boy a little bit longer.



Waiting for his ride on the first day of camp...



Thursday, June 19, 2014

I woke up this morning...

and I immediately thought to myself, "I need a change." Do you ever get the feeling that you're stuck in a rut, it may be a happy, mellow rut, but it's a rut nevertheless? No big highs or lows, and you're just happily putzing along?

There are times when I'm stuck in a rut and I don't notice it, usually meaning things are moving along fine, but I'm not really connected with my life. Yesterday, I noticed the days are flying by. Before I know it, a week has gone by and I have nothing I can say that has really moved me or made me think or put me in awe.

Part of it, I'm sure, is my medication. I am SO happy to be on meds...oh, you have no idea! They're not for everyone, but they have turned me around. My anxiety was overwhelming, which was causing me to be depressed. That has turned around for sure. But medication also has the ability to mellow me out to the point where I get comfortable and I coast. 

If you know me at all, you know I don't just like to coast. I want to feel. I want to move. I want to know that what I'm doing and how I'm living has meaning, and I want to give off a positive light in the world. My light has been pretty weak lately, if I'm honest with myself. Not much fuel in the fire. I'm just "here." A comfortable lump. While I love my comfort zone and would probably stay in it forever if I could, I need to give myself a swift kick in the hindquarters now and then.

So this week the training period for my second marathon is beginning (Columbus in October--woo hoo!). I'm already a few days in, and will be making physical changes, obviously, and eating less sugar, drinking more water, and sleeping more. But along with that, I am wanting to make some other changes, emotionally and spiritually.

Gratitude has long been a theme in my life. It's obvious to me that when I'm recognizing the people and circumstances that God has put in my path and the little things that I often don't take time to notice, I am more connected with this journey I'm on, I'm more "in the moment" and I find joy in the small things. I'm able to pay attention to what people are saying with their hearts, more so than what they're saying with their mouths. I'm able to have compassion when I would have only had judgment. I'm able to speak blessings, where I might have only spoken curses. I'm more focused on what I truly desire (God), and I'm not brought down easily.

So I've decided to reconnect with my gratitude. Not sure how it'll look, but I'm going to do it, as part of training for my life, not just my next marathon. 

If you look at your life, what is a change you'd like to make? Something positive you can incorporate into your daily routine that will connect you more? I encourage you to think about it. It's easy to be negative or just coast along. Being a positive light is a lot harder if you don't have the emotional and spiritual fuel to keep it bright. 



Wednesday, December 4, 2013

On gossip and the power of words

"A good man brings good things out of the good stored up in his heart, 
and an evil man brings evil things out of the evil stored up in his heart. 
For the mouth speaks what the heart is full of."
Luke 6:45




Recently, there was a little thing going around on Facebook where a person would write a certain number of things about himself that people probably didn't know, and he would then challenge whomever "liked" his post to write a number of things about themselves. One of my friends challenged me to write 14 things about myself, so I did.

One of the things I wrote about was my hatred of gossip and about how I automatically don't trust people who constantly gossip about others. And that's true. But I don't hate it because I'm somehow above everyone else and never gossip myself. I do. I sometimes gossip when I'm feeling hurt or attacked, or I feel the urge to lash out or belittle someone in the eyes of other people. 

I think the real reason I hate it so much is because when I gossip it exposes something dark in me that I despise. Plus, it also exposes my massive insecurities.

For me, personally, recognizing that darkness in myself makes me want to avoid situations and topics where I'm prone to gossip. Not everyone feels the way I do about it, and that's totally okay because it's a personal thing. In my own journey, though, I have come to realize the hard way how powerful the spoken and written word can be.

Things people (even friends) have said about me have often gotten back to me without their knowledge, so it stands to reason that things I say about someone else could easily get back to them. It really hurts when you realize people you thought cared about you have said mean, sarcastic or belittling things behind your back. It's a big trust-breaker for me. In my heart, I know I don't want to cause lasting hurt over my momentary feelings, so I have decided to try my hardest to avoid gossip. Like I said, it's a personal thing.

There are things I've said about people in the past that I truly wish I could take back, but we all know that words can't really be taken back. Once they're out there, they're out there. I seem to put my foot in it fairly often and I've offended more people than I know, I'm sure, with the overflow of my heart coming out of my mouth (or out of my written words).

I've begun to try to really take the above Scripture to heart--not just in the area of gossip, but also in every other area where my words can have an effect. I have stopped posting about politics (because I generally don't have good things to say about anyone in that arena), and generally about most of my negative feelings. Taking the overflow of my heart seriously also makes me more aware of what I say to my kids and my husband out of my frustration, too. 

In the coming year, as part of my "resolutions" (hate that word), I really want to work on what's in my heart and having as much love and kindness in there as I can, so that whatever flows out of it will be as anger-free or hurt-free as possible. Words are powerful. We've all experienced their power in positive and negative ways. Positive definitely feels a lot nicer, though, don't you think?


"The tongue can bring death or life; those who love to talk will reap the consequences."
Proverbs 18:21

Tuesday, September 17, 2013

Divas Half Marathon--DC's Wine Country (My long, in-depth review)

I was really looking forward to this race because not only was it my first half marathon, but it was also going to be girl time, centered around running. My kind of fun! It was going to be the Divas organization's first race in the DC area, as well, so it sounded awesome.

After about a four hour drive, we arrived at our hotel, met up with a friend and drove together to the Divas race expo that was held at nearby Lansdowne Resort to pick up our packets. The resort didn't have enough parking for all the Divas, though, so we had to park on the street. The expo itself was around the size I expected, but the race had a lot fewer sponsors than most races that size do, so it didn't have a lot of shopping or selection available unless you really liked headbands. What they had was decent enough, though. The "stores" there didn't have much selection, though, and we had gotten there in the afternoon. I wonder what was available for those who came in the evening!




Picking up the bags that contained our shirts and bibs was pretty easy and straight-forward, but I was really surprised at how few freebies came in the bag. I've been in many other races half that size (and half that price--we payed $97, including the price and all fees) that have at least some samples--a bottle of water, an energy bar and a lip balm. Something! What did we get? Our bib, the race shirt and...safety pins? For just under $100? Boo. Thumbs down.

After we explored what there was of the expo, we went to dinner and hung out at the hotel. We had a great time together and we laughed a lot!

The next morning, we woke up before 5am to the sound of elephants stomping overhead (probably fellow Diva racers getting up and ready), so we got up. Once we were dressed, we realized that the hotel fridge was broken, so all of our expensive food that we were going to eat before the race had spoiled. Thankfully, Chick-fil-a was open, so we grabbed something quick and headed to the winery. The Divas coordinators had said that getting to the winery early would be a good thing because of traffic, so we left more than an hour to get the 8 miles to the winery. However, we sat in traffic FOREVER and we barely made it there for what would have been the 7:30 start. And there was still a massive line of traffic from both directions waiting to get into the winery. The winery is surrounded by tiny two-lane roads, so it would have been impossible to get all the 3,500 runners and the spectators into the parking area in enough time. Poor planning on the organizers' parts, but they've vowed to rectify that problem next year.

After parking in the field, we made our way quickly toward the entrance. There were four port-a-johns there, but there was also a long line of ladies waiting to use them. There were ladies running into the woods near the parking field because the race was supposed to start about 10 minutes after we arrived. However, someone told us there were more johns down by the starting line, so we headed there. When we got down the hill to the starting line area, there were a lot more bathrooms available, but there were also a lot more ladies waiting to use them. The number of bathrooms wasn't enough to handle the flow (no pun intended) of runners who were arriving late (because of the ridiculous traffic) and needed to use them.

After we finally used the bathrooms and quickly got to our time corrals for the start of the race, there was an announcement saying that the start would be delayed about 20 minutes to allow for more runners to arrive. However, the announcer implied that it was the runners' faults for not heeding the warnings by the coordinators to arrive early...pardon us for thinking an hour was enough time to get 8 miles! The roads around the winery were part of the race course, so they couldn't start until all the cars were gone. Meanwhile, the bathroom lines were backing up again because the start time was pushed back once again. Ladies were getting out of the lines, going behind the potties to squat behind trees or running up the hill into the woods again.



The start time kept getting pushed back until it was announced that the race would begin AN HOUR AND A HALF AFTER IT WAS SCHEDULED TO START! Great. Whatever. At least more runners had the opportunity to arrive. The race started and we finally got going.

Most of the course was made up of country roads that wound around big fields and it was a beautiful view of the local countryside. Plus, the weather was gorgeous, cool and dry, so it made the whole thing even prettier.



The organizers also directed the race through a few neighborhoods, which was nice, but I kind of felt badly for the people living along the route because they'd have to wait an extra hour and a half to get out of their driveways than they had already planned to. But people in the neighborhoods were out cheering for us...and some letting people use their bathrooms, apparently.

I will say that there were a fair number of EMTs in golf carts (and a couple of ambulances) patrolling the route, so it seemed that the ladies who needed medical attention actually got it. Two things that were definitely lacking on the route were extra bathrooms and food/fuel options. I, for one, had to pee in the bushes in someone's front yard around mile 7 because there weren't bathrooms close enough and I was in pain. Because the race was delayed so long, a lot of runners had to "go" again once the race started and they were already hungry again because the food they'd fueled up with had already digested. I, personally, was starving by around mile 6-7...I mean, my stomach was literally growling.

Now I've heard a number of runners who felt underprepared because there were a lot more big hills in the course than were advertised. I believe they advertised it as "some rolling hills with a big hill near the end" but it was a lot more than that. I, personally, didn't feel upset about it because I didn't even pay attention to the map on the website. (Actually I very rarely do that for any race anymore. I made the mistake of worrying about the hill in one particular race that everyone was ended up not being bad at all...after that, I decided not to look anymore and just take each hill in each race as it comes.) But I DO understand why people were upset! If I would have expected one type of race course and gotten another, I'd be pretty ticked, too, especially if I were trying to use my time for this race to qualify for another race. Again, the Divas organization has vowed to rectify this issue, as well, by changing the course.

By the time I reached the end of the race, there were already runners leaving, but because there weren't many routes out of the finish area they had to walk ON the course. So runners were having to run around the people who were walking out. Not great. The finish line area was a little confusing, too, and they didn't end up giving out the champagne they had promised when people first signed up. (They did mention that before the race, but I still didn't like that. Don't advertise something if you're not going to deliver.) Also, I think the tiaras/boas could have been passed out AFTER runners crossed the finish line. That caused a little clogging in the course near the end. But I know lots of ladies were happy with the muscle men at the finish line who handed out the medals.

Overall, aside from a few major annoyances, the race was decent. The weather was beautiful and I was running with a bunch of other chicks, so I was happy. I was also running injured, though, so I wasn't in it to break any land speed records or get any PRs and I'm okay with my time. Will I be running a Divas race again? Probably not. I don't like the fact that you have to pay so much for so little. If I'm going to travel again for a race, I'm going to make sure I get my money's worth.

I give it 3 stars out of 5.

The roomies! (I'm in pink.)

Saturday, August 31, 2013

Thursday, July 18, 2013

Thoughts from a gurney...

While I was lying in the ER earlier this week, waiting for the doctor to figure out what manner of incredibly painful craziness was occurring in my kidneys, the person in the curtained room next to mine died. Over the next hour or so, I watched the person's loved ones file in. I heard sobbing. I heard praying. I heard laughter. I saw people hugging each other, smiling while wiping tears. I saw a woman on her knees on the floor, unable to stand in her grief. It made me wonder who this person was and what had caused their death. But less than 15 minutes after their loved ones left, the room had been cleared and cleaned, and there was a new person in the room, with an emergency of his own, waiting to be seen by the doctor. Life moves on, and how quickly its direction can change!



As I lay there after watching this situation unfold, I thought about the odd mixture of circumstances that have recently been visited on my life and the lives of people I care about. I thought about the ways I've seen God's hand working and the ways I may not have even looked for His hand, and it occurred to me that I generally seem to trust God pretty well except in a couple of specific areas.

Many of us have areas where we don't really trust that God is on our side. Maybe it's finances. Maybe it's relationships. Maybe it's a career. Maybe it's more vague or more specific, but everyone has something. If a person says they fully trust God in everything, they're lying.

The most faith-filled people I know have had many of their own moments of fear, anxiety and doubt.

That thought helps give me peace. None of us is "there" yet. I'm not less of a Christian because I have doubts or fears. Denying your doubt is the first step to becoming religious, and not in a good way (if there IS a good way). A real relationship with God means asking questions like a child. There's one question our little ones (and sometimes bigger ones) ask more often than any other...Why?

That's the human condition. We need to have a WHY behind everything. Why is the sky blue? Why are the clouds white? Why do innocent children die of starvation every day? Why do bad things happen to good people?

In Matthew 5, right after Jesus tells us to love our enemies and pray for those who persecute us (yeah, I know), He says that the sun rises on the evil and the good, and the rain falls on the righteous and unrighteous. Great things happen to good and bad people. Terrible things happen to good and bad people. It's part of being human. In many ways, we are subject to our humanity. We are subject to the laws and desires of other people. There isn't always a WHY.

There are corrupt governments that withhold resources, funds and medical care from their people, causing widespread starvation and disease. There are people who plan to hijack airplanes and use them to kill as many people as they can. There are cells in our bodies that have the possibility of mutation and the ability to kill us. Being subject to all of those things is part of being human.

God doesn't promise us an easy path. The fact that we have faith doesn't make us exempt from life's ills. But having God means we have a hand to hold through the struggle--the hand of Someone bigger, stronger and so far beyond our timeline of mortality that we can have a peace that makes no sense. But He's not only far beyond our mortality, He's closer than our next breath. That's the comfort of knowing a loving God. He's here. Right here. He's behind us and in front of us and above us and below us.

I know He's here, even when I don't feel Him. I'm one of those people who can't look at the world and all the beauty and the creativity expressed in it and believe that it just "happened." I can't. I've tried. 

Life moves quickly and things can turn on a dime. One minute you're alive in the hospital, waiting to see an expert to tell you what's happening to you. The next minute your body shuts down and your loved ones come and go and grieve. The next minute your room is cleared and another person is lying in your bed, waiting for help. But the unconditional love of God is the blessed assurance that adds a layer of peace and permanence under all the craziness and the sense of impermanence.

Why did God send Jesus? He sent Jesus to be the answer to our questions and our fears. He came to show us that we are fully loved and accepted by our Creator, and all we have to do is believe that He is who He says He is. Jesus endured rejection, love, anxiety, joy, loneliness, persecution, pain and death so that you and I would have no reason to say that God hasn't been where we are or felt our pain. He has, and more. He endured all of those things, taking on humanity, because He loves US! Using John Mark McMillan's words, Jesus is God's way of giving us a "sloppy, wet kiss" and of breaking the barrier that lay between God and man. The curtain that separated us from God was torn, allowing us to see His LOVE face-to-face in Jesus, the One who traded His life for ours. The fact that He destroyed all of those constraints on our humanity by his death is what gives us hope for a future. There are moments in life where all you can do is "wholly lean on Jesus' name," and you can do so with the confidence that comes from knowing you're loved and that He'll never let go.

So lying there on my gurney, I thought about all of these things, and I felt a sense of peace because I looked for it. For once, I looked for it.

If you're going through craziness right now, whether you're lying on a gurney or not, realize that there's a layer of God's peace somewhere under all of it. Look for it because it's there. Dig it up and drink it in. God is with you and you're not alone. Life is fleeting and it's hard, but God is good and there's hope beyond what we see now!

---------------------------------

One of my favorite hymns was written by a man named Horatio Spafford who lost his daughters in a shipwreck. He wrote the lyrics as his ship was sailing over the spot where theirs had gone down. If you read the lyrics (below the video), you'll understand why it's one of my favorites. For a person who suffers with random bouts of anxiety, it's a good reminder that no matter what happens, God is with me and "it is well with my soul."





  1. When peace, like a river, attendeth my way,
  2. When sorrows like sea billows roll;
    Whatever my lot, Thou has taught me to say,
    It is well, it is well, with my soul.
    • Refrain:
      It is well, with my soul,
      It is well, it is well, with my soul.
  3. Though Satan should buffet, though trials should come,
    Let this blest assurance control,
    That Christ has regarded my helpless estate,
    And hath shed His own blood for my soul.
  4. My sin, oh, the bliss of this glorious thought!
    My sin, not in part but the whole,
    Is nailed to the cross, and I bear it no more,
    Praise the Lord, praise the Lord, O my soul!
  5. For me, be it Christ, be it Christ hence to live:
    If Jordan above me shall roll,
    No pang shall be mine, for in death as in life
    Thou wilt whisper Thy peace to my soul.
  6. But, Lord, ’tis for Thee, for Thy coming we wait,
    The sky, not the grave, is our goal;
    Oh, trump of the angel! Oh, voice of the Lord!
    Blessed hope, blessed rest of my soul!
  7. And Lord, haste the day when my faith shall be sight,
    The clouds be rolled back as a scroll;
    The trump shall resound, and the Lord shall descend,
    Even so, it is well with my soul.

Sunday, June 16, 2013

Father's Day

I'm thankful for the blessing of the good men in my life--my husband, my dad, my brother, my father-in-law and my brother-in-law, and the many friends with whom I have had the opportunity to share a lot of laughs and great life experiences. You're all such a blessing and I'm thankful for all of you!


Bono on Jesus

I've seen this interview with Bono circulating on the Interwebz for the past few days and I really connected with it, so I thought I'd share it. In fact, it was a big part of our discussion at church this past Saturday (in our church we sit together and have discussions instead of having sermons), and it made for some good food for thought and gave me some things to chew on for a while.

I've seen the interview in a few different places, so I'm just going to post the link from the most recent place I've seen it.

http://www.patheos.com/blogs/frankviola/bono-on-jesus/

While I don't really look to rock stars for opinions on faith, I have to say I wholeheartedly agree with Bono's feelings on grace and whole point of Christ and the cross. Check it out and see what you think of it. In some ways the things he says remind me of some of the teachings and writings of the late Brennan Manning. I'm interested in what you think after reading it, so please feel free to comment.

------------------------------------------

Bono on Jesus

From the Amazon page:
“Bono’s career is unlike any other in rock history. As the lead singer of U2, Bono has sold 130 million albums, won fourteen Grammys, and played numerous sold-out world tours, but he has also lobbied and worked with world leaders from Bill Clinton and George W. Bush to Nelson Mandela on debt relief, AIDS, and other critical global issues. He has collaborated with the same musicians for nearly three decades and has been married to his childhood sweetheart since 1982. His life, at all turns, resists the rock star clich├ęs.
In a series of intimate conversations with his friend Michka Assayas, a music journalist who has been with the band since the very beginning, Bono reflects on his transformation from the extrovert singer of a small Irish post-punk band into one of the most famous individuals in the world; and from an international celebrity to an influential spokesperson for the Third World. He speaks candidly about his faith, family, commitment, influences, service, and passion. Bono: A Self-Portrait in Conversation is the closest we will come, for now, to a memoir from the iconic frontman of U2.”
What follows is an excerpt from the book where Bono talks about Jesus Christ:
Bono: My understanding of the Scriptures has been made simple by the person of Christ. Christ teaches that God is love. What does that mean? What it means for me: a study of the life of Christ. Love here describes itself as a child born in straw poverty, the most vulnerable situation of all, without honor. I don’t let my religious world get too complicated. I just kind of go: Well, I think I know what God is. God is love, and as much as I respond [sighs] in allowing myself to be transformed by that love and acting in that love, that’s my religion. Where things get complicated for me, is when I try to live this love. Now that’s not so easy.
Michka: What about the God of the Old Testament? He wasn’t so “peace and love”?
Bono: There’s nothing hippie about my picture of Christ. The Gospels paint a picture of a very demanding, sometimes divisive love, but love it is. I accept the Old Testament as more of an action movie: blood, car chases, evacuations, a lot of special effects, seas dividing, mass murder, adultery. The children of God are running amok, wayward. Maybe that’s why they’re so relatable. But the way we would see it, those of us who are trying to figure out our Christian conundrum, is that the God of the Old Testament is like the journey from stern father to friend. When you’re a child, you need clear directions and some strict rules. But with Christ, we have access in a one-to-one relationship, for, as in the Old Testament, it was more one of worship and awe, a vertical relationship. The New Testament, on the other hand, we look across at a Jesus who looks familiar, horizontal. The combination is what makes the Cross.
Michka: Speaking of bloody action movies, we were talking about South and Central America last time. The Jesuit priests arrived there with the gospel in one hand and a rifle in the other.
Bono: I know, I know. Religion can be the enemy of God. It’s often what happens when God, like Elvis, has left the building. [laughs] A list of instructions where there was once conviction; dogma where once people just did it; a congregation led by a man where once they were led by the Holy Spirit. Discipline replacing discipleship. Why are you chuckling?
Michka: I was wondering if you said all of that to the Pope the day you met him.
Bono: Let’s not get too hard on the Holy Roman Church here. The Church has its problems, but the older I get, the more comfort I find there. The physical experience of being in a crowd of largely humble people, heads bowed, murmuring prayers, stories told in stained-glass windows
Michka: So you won’t be critical.
Bono: No, I can be critical, especially on the topic of contraception. But when I meet someone like Sister Benedicta and see her work with AIDS orphans in Addis Ababa, or Sister Ann doing the same in Malawi, or Father Jack Fenukan and his group Concern all over Africa, when I meet priests and nuns tending to the sick and the poor and giving up much easier lives to do so, I surrender a little easier.
Michka: But you met the man himself. Was it a great experience?
Bono: [W]e all knew why we were there. The Pontiff was about to make an important statement about the inhumanity and injustice of poor countries spending so much of their national income paying back old loans to rich countries. Serious business. He was fighting hard against his Parkinson’s. It was clearly an act of will for him to be there. I was oddly moved by his humility, and then by the incredible speech he made, even if it was in whispers. During the preamble, he seemed to be staring at me. I wondered. Was it the fact that I was wearing my blue fly-shades? So I took them off in case I was causing some offense. When I was introduced to him, he was still staring at them. He kept looking at them in my hand, so I offered them to him as a gift in return for the rosary he had just given me.
Michka: Didn’t he put them on?
Bono: Not only did he put them on, he smiled the wickedest grin you could ever imagine. He was a comedian. His sense of humor was completely intact. Flashbulbs popped, and I thought: “Wow! The Drop the Debt campaign will have the Pope in my glasses on the front page of every newspaper.”
Michka: I don’t remember seeing that photograph anywhere, though.
Bono: Nor did we. It seems his courtiers did not have the same sense of humor. Fair enough. I guess they could see the T-shirts.
Michka: I think I am beginning to understand religion because I have started acting and thinking like a father. What do you make of that?
Bono: Yes, I think that’s normal. It’s a mind-blowing concept that the God who created the universe might be looking for company, a real relationship with people, but the thing that keeps me on my knees is the difference between Grace and Karma.
Michka: I haven’t heard you talk about that.
Bono: I really believe we’ve moved out of the realm of Karma into one of Grace.
Michka: Well, that doesn’t make it clearer for me.
Bono: You see, at the center of all religions is the idea of Karma. You know, what you put out comes back to you: an eye for an eye, a tooth for a tooth, or in physics; in physical laws every action is met by an equal or an opposite one. It’s clear to me that Karma is at the very heart of the universe. I’m absolutely sure of it. And yet, along comes this idea called Grace to upend all that “as you reap, so you will sow” stuff. Grace defies reason and logic. Love interrupts, if you like, the consequences of your actions, which in my case is very good news indeed, because I’ve done a lot of stupid stuff.
Michka: I’d be interested to hear that.
Bono: That’s between me and God. But I’d be in big trouble if Karma was going to finally be my judge. I’d be in deep s—. It doesn’t excuse my mistakes, but I’m holding out for Grace. I’m holding out that Jesus took my sins onto the Cross, because I know who I am, and I hope I don’t have to depend on my own religiosity.
Michka: The Son of God who takes away the sins of the world. I wish I could believe in that.
Bono: But I love the idea of the Sacrificial Lamb. I love the idea that God says: Look, you cretins, there are certain results to the way we are, to selfishness, and there’s a mortality as part of your very sinful nature, and, let’s face it, you’re not living a very good life, are you? There are consequences to actions. The point of the death of Christ is that Christ took on the sins of the world, so that what we put out did not come back to us, and that our sinful nature does not reap the obvious death. That’s the point. It should keep us humbled . It’s not our own good works that get us through the gates of heaven.
Michka: That’s a great idea, no denying it. Such great hope is wonderful, even though it’s close to lunacy, in my view. Christ has his rank among the world’s great thinkers. But Son of God, isn’t that farfetched?
Bono: No, it’s not farfetched to me. Look, the secular response to the Christ story always goes like this: he was a great prophet, obviously a very interesting guy, had a lot to say along the lines of other great prophets, be they Elijah, Muhammad, Buddha, or Confucius. But actually Christ doesn’t allow you that. He doesn’t let you off that hook. Christ says: No. I’m not saying I’m a teacher, don’t call me teacher. I’m not saying I’m a prophet. I’m saying: “I’m the Messiah.” I’m saying: “I am God incarnate.” And people say: No, no, please, just be a prophet. A prophet, we can take. You’re a bit eccentric. We’ve had John the Baptist eating locusts and wild honey, we can handle that. But don’t mention the “M” word! Because, you know, we’re gonna have to crucify you.
And he goes: No, no. I know you’re expecting me to come back with an army, and set you free from these creeps, but actually I am the Messiah. At this point, everyone starts staring at their shoes, and says: Oh, my God, he’s gonna keep saying this. So what you’re left with is: either Christ was who He said He was the Messiah or a complete nutcase. I mean, we’re talking nutcase on the level of Charles Manson. This man was like some of the people we’ve been talking about earlier. This man was strapping himself to a bomb, and had “King of the Jews” on his head, and, as they were putting him up on the Cross, was going: OK, martyrdom, here we go. Bring on the pain! I can take it. I’m not joking here. The idea that the entire course of civilization for over half of the globe could have its fate changed and turned upside-down by a nutcase, for me, that’s farfetched
Bono later says it all comes down to how we regard Jesus:
Bono: If only we could be a bit more like Him, the world would be transformed. When I look at the Cross of Christ, what I see up there is all my s— and everybody else’s. So I ask myself a question a lot of people have asked: Who is this man? And was He who He said He was, or was He just a religious nut? And there it is, and that’s the question. And no one can talk you into it or out of it.

Thursday, March 7, 2013

I can't believe it.



There are days when I'm a couple of miles into a run and I think to myself, "I cannot believe I'm running." Because I can't. I can't believe it. I can't believe that I can get past my block without getting winded, and it completely blows my mind that I can run miles at a time without stopping.

If you would have told me two years ago that I'd be out running in races with thousands of people, wearing fluorescent short shorts and multi-colored shoes, I'd have told you you were nuts. If you'd have told me I'd actually enjoy running in a rain storm or a snow squall or planning my schedule around running, I would have laughed it off. But here I am, doing web searches for the closest 10Ks and half marathons and trying to fill my calendar for the next year.

Running was something I HATED. Just the thought of it used to make me tired, and, even though I had played sports in high school and college, I figured people who ran all the time were suffering from some form of insanity. It was understood that running was something I would just never be interested in.

But one day I was out for one of my long walks and I decided to try jogging for a bit. So I ran a short distance at a fairly slow speed. Then, I looked back (between my heaving breaths) at all the ground I had covered in that short period and thought, "Wow. I could do this." So I gradually built more and more jogging into my long walks, and then I slowly began to extend the jogging time and cut back on the walking. Eventually, I was running more than I was walking, until I was running all the time. It took a while, but I did it gradually.

I liked the feeling of the wind in my face. I liked covering more ground faster and burning more calories. I liked lacing up my bright yellow shoes and heading out into the fresh air. After a run, I felt like I had accomplished something. I gained some lean muscle. I lost some fat. And I had the sense that I was breaking a cycle in my life.

Until the point where I started running, I never really thought about the idea of food as fuel--what you put in your body determines your energy level. Yeah, it's all common sense, I know, but I just never applied it to myself. I never equated my afternoon blood sugar drops (shaking, sweating, couldn't think straight, etc.) and sleepiness with the fact that I was only eating sugar or carbs for breakfast. I never took into account that I actually needed to burn what I was taking in, and that I needed protein AND good carbs at every meal to be able to burn efficiently. (An aside: I still like some sugar and carbs and I eat them on an almost daily basis, but I eat them more moderately than I used to because I have to think about what it takes to burn them.)

When you grow up with an amazing metabolism, you take it for granted that it'll always be that way. But somewhere around 25-30, your metabolism decides it's not going to do all the work for you. I was in denial, I guess, so I ended up at 36, about 25 lbs overweight and feeling exhausted all day long, but not knowing why.

My decision to start running really had nothing to do with my weight. I just decided one day that I'd try it and see what my body could do. From there, it just became a daily decision to try again because I realized it was fun and it gave me time to think. But over time, I truly saw the many benefits of vigorous exercise and the flood of endorphins and dopamine that comes with pushing yourself.

I've seen myself grow in so many other ways because of running. I have become a little more organized--maybe because I have the energy to do it. I've become more conscious of how I spend (and to whom I devote) my time. I've grown in my faith. I've become more able to fight for myself--maybe that's because, in a small way, I realize what I'm capable of and what I'm worth. I've experienced object lessons out the wazoo...so many running metaphors, so little time. I've met some amazing, inspiring people. I've stepped out of my comfort zone. I've become less moody and more even. I've seen hundreds of beautiful sunrises and sunsets that I never would have seen sitting at home on my couch.

Even injury has taught me a lot. I was sidelined for a few months because I injured my knee. Coming back from that has reminded me of the simple joy of running and that competition isn't important. Personal bests aren't important. PRs don't matter. If you're not an Olympian, who cares?

What's important to me now is creating a legacy of health (mind, body and spirit) for myself and my children and living by example. I want to keep my body healthy for my whole life because heart disease, high blood pressure, diabetes and other diseases run in my family. I feel the desire to take care of the body God has given me because it's the only body I have. I have a long-term goal in mind. If I decide down the road that running isn't for me anymore, I'll just do something else.

So I want to encourage you. You don't necessarily need to start running, but start making daily choices that will build you up and benefit you in the long run (mind, body and spirit). Keep your eyes on your future. Don't go for quick-fix diets. It's not something I used to think about, but I've decided I want to be a spry, healthy, happy 90 year old. There are things in the future I won't be able to control, but I can do my part.

Running has changed my life.









Thursday, February 14, 2013

A Valentine Letter


Dear Myself,

I know I don't usually participate in Valentine's Day happenings very often, but I wanted to write you a little letter to tell you how I feel about you.

Every day I'm learning to love you more and more. Not just for who I think you should be, but for who you really are. I'm learning that you need love from me just as much as you need love from everyone else, and I want to learn to give it.

Sometimes when I catch a glimpse of you in the mirror, I don't immediately see the beauty God put there. I see wrinkles and ripples and stretch marks and sags. But what I need to stop and really see is the true beauty of a heart that is full and open. I need to see you for the dreamer, the writer, the runner, the singer, the traveler, the loving wife and mother and friend that you are. You are lovely just as you are.

You are becoming whom you were meant to be and you are letting go of the things that have held you back. I know there are times I've hated you and called you names. I know there are times when I've let other people do the same and I haven't stopped them. I regret those moments that I didn't stand up for you. But I want to change that...

I promise that every day I will look at you in the mirror and tell you that God thinks you're beautiful, and I promise to do all I can to make you remember that. I promise to love you, even when I don't want to, just because God made you, fearfully and wonderfully. I promise not to hold you to an impossible standard, and make you feel worse when you don't meet it. I promise not to expect perfection. I promise to forgive you. I promise to remind you to take time for yourself and recharge. I promise that I will do everything I can to keep you positive and proactive.

I'm grateful for you. 

You are loved. You are who you are for a reason. There are gifts in your heart for the world that only you can give. You are worthy of real love. You are worthy of great friendships. You are worthy of the unconditional love of your children, though you don't always feel you deserve it. You are strong. You are capable. You are valuable.

I want you to remember the words in this letter, especially on days when you don't want to.

Love, 
Me







Monday, December 31, 2012

Happy New Year!


(Sunrise on the last morning of 2012)


I found this quote this morning as I was searching for thoughts about the new year. Words to ponder:

"We spend January 1 walking through our lives, room by room, drawing up a list of work to be done, cracks to be patched. Maybe this year, to balance the list, we ought to walk through the rooms of our lives...not looking for flaws, but for potential."
- Ellen Goodman

Earlier this month, I wrote down some of my resolutions for 2013. Because I know that most typical resolutions fail miserably, I am resolving to do things like laugh more and spend more time with my family.

So many people use New Years Eve to look at themselves and think,

"This year, I need to lose this weight and THEN I'll be happy with myself."

"This year, I need to stop spending so much money and THEN I'll be satisfied."

"This year, I need to stop blah blah blah..."

While many resolutions are good goals, and they are readily achievable with the right mindset, there will always be the post-achievement letdown where we realize that happiness is a choice, not necessarily a list of achievements.

I am changing my view on what I want to see in my life and making it positive. Instead of thinking about all the things I need to take out of my life, I'm thinking about all the things I want to add into my life.

Instead of wasting my time imagining more ways to lose more weight, it's healthier to think about how I can add more smart practices INTO my life. Things that can make me a happier and healthier person all around, rather than just making me into a weight loss "after" photo. Instead of eating a burger and fries for lunch, maybe today I'll make a yummy spinach omelette with garlic hot sauce, or instead of taking the elevator up only two flights of stairs, I'll walk. Individual healthy choices and substitutions add up. If it becomes about denying yourself for an extended period of time, statistically, you will eventually fail. Human nature.

Learn to love who you are as you are now, and think of ways to add to the wonderful person you already are. Balance.

Instead of just thinking, "I need to get better at time management," I'm thinking about how I can add more positive, joyful and peaceful experiences INTO my life. How can I add in more opportunities for using my creative energy or chances to spend quality time with friends? Maybe I can actually do a few more of those things I've pinned on Pinterest. Maybe I can focus on creating more time to see the people I care about, and laughing with them and enjoying their company. Maybe I can help someone else achieve a dream.

This time next year, I want to be able to say I'm becoming a better version of myself. What are the areas where I want to grow and develop? What do I have in me that I can share with other people? What are the gifts I have that I can give?

This year, make resolutions that will add value to your life and the lives of those around you. As humans, we are generally happiest when we feel like our lives have value and depth.

Spiritual simplicity, health and value. That's what I want in my life this year and it's what I wish for all of you.



Sunday, December 23, 2012

Christmas Eve Eve

What Christmas is all about...



This is the first Christmas in a few years where I've truly felt the "Christmas Spirit"...last year felt like nothing to me, and I think I completely missed the whole thing, emotionally. I was hyper-focused on all the things that made me anxious, and I wasn't myself. 

This year, I'm reveling in all the things that make up Christmas for me. I'm loving the baking. I'm loving the present wrapping. I'm loving every minute of our time off school. I'm loving the Christmas lights and the cheesy Christmas movies. I'm loving the excitement of my kids. I'm loving the feeling that everything is going to be okay in the end and that God is the focus.  

The tragedy of last week reminded me that I really can't prepare for every eventuality. I can't do anything about putting off my last day or that of anyone I love. I likely won't wake up on my last day and know that it's my last. The mother of the killer and all the other victims of his senseless crime had no idea that they'd be waking up to their last day.

Surrendering to the unknown and giving up control of my life is hard for me. But I know that the idea of control is really only in my mind. There are so many variables I'll never be able to corral or make manageable. 

So I'm going to wring every bit of Christmas spirit and New Year newness out of this holiday season. I'm going to try my best to savor all the moments I missed emotionally last year. I'm going to show kindness and try to be understanding. I want my heart to be full and not empty and the only way I can do that is to keep from wasting precious energy and time on negativity and toxic people. 

I can surrender myself to this season and to the God who gave a part of Himself for me. I can open my heart to the knowledge that my life is in His hands. I can remember to savor life because it is fleeting. I can remind myself to hug my kids a little longer and kiss their cheeks a few more times a day than I normally do.

I'm not going to miss it this time around. I have goals for the coming year, but they all are part of the idea of learning to really live in simplicity. In this new phase, I want to go deeper. I feel that that desire is something I have gained by enduring such a difficult time in the last couple of years. 

It's time to move forward, keeping my eyes on the things that are unchangeable. I've begun to learn what it means to die to myself and yet to learn to love myself. I've also learned how important it is to stand up for the things I value. My life is in God and I'm setting my heart on things above, on the place where I belong. This life isn't my end, but knowing that makes me want to experience the richness of what life can be.

Set your minds on things above, not on earthly things. For you died, and your life is now hidden with Christ in God.--Colossians 3:2-3

My prayer for all of you is that you can let go of the hindrances in your way, and be open to the newness of life and the feeling of turning a new page in your existence. Every day is an opportunity to make a new start. Don't worry about pleasing people, but seek to be kind. Don't be afraid to rock the boat, but keep a tender heart. I'm gradually becoming my true, contended self, and I wish that for all of you, too. 


Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Resolution

I've been thinking the last few days about the things I had resolved to do this year--which things I lived out, and which I didn't. I'm thinking now about what I want for myself for the coming year.

First, though, let me explain something.

This year has been an incredibly difficult one for me. In fact, the last year and a half have been the hardest and most emotionally tumultuous of my entire life thus far. I have been low. Very, very low. What David Gray calls "way down." http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RHNC_9jNnG0

Storm cloud (iPhone photo)


I had long stretches of time where I questioned my faith daily, even hourly. I was anxious and fearful and sad and dark. I had entire days where I was anxious (to the point of actually trembling in a cold sweat) about things that were likely never to happen. I felt the cloud when I went to bed, and I felt it as soon as I opened my eyes in the morning. I had bouts of insomnia, and the whole thing was like I was in a maze at a dead end. 

I hid most of it from people, but inside of me it felt like quicksand and it was threatening to take me under if I moved. I was stuck in a constant sense of impending doom. It probably sounds a bit dramatic, but it's exactly how I felt. In many ways, I experienced the feeling that I was no longer myself, and I was afraid that I would never be "me" again.

About two months ago, though, the cloud lifted. With no warning and for no apparent reason, I was fine. The anxiety was gone. I felt like myself again, and I could not believe the lightness.

So I have, in some ways, lost this whole past year and a half to anxiety. I tried medication, but it made things worse. I tried reading my Bible and praying. I tried thinking of my gratitudes. I tried talking it out with people I trusted. I tried distracting myself with fitness and running and exercise. Nothing worked to ease it.

When the cloud lifted, though, this Scripture sprang to my mind:

"I will repay you for the years the locusts have eaten..."
Joel 2:25

Sunrise from my back porch (iPhone photo)

What does that mean? I'm still trying to figure out what I have gained from this desert experience. But I can now relate to people who struggle with anxiety and I have a deep compassion for them. I know that it's not something they can just control. I appreciate waking up in the morning and taking a deep breath, and not experiencing a flood of irrational fears. I am so thankful that I photographed so many things, family and friends, because I barely remember half of it.

So I'm going to resolve a few things for 2013. They may not be your typical "New Years Resolutions," but I need simple and I need to get back to the basics.

1. I'm going to laugh more. Laughter truly is the best medicine and I appreciate a good laugh more now than I ever have. Feel free to make me laugh...it's a dare.

2. I'm going to learn all I can about everything I can. I have to say, going through 4th grade again with my son in cyber school, I am learning a lot of things I had forgotten! 

3. I'm going to practice living and loving with my whole heart, spiritually and otherwise.

4. I'm going to think less about calories and weight, and focus myself on being the healthiest and happiest ME that I can be. I want to still be here, healthy enough to see my great-grandchildren. If that means being a little fluffier, so be it. You can be fit AND a little fluffy. I want to have a healthy, happy heart--physically and emotionally.

5. I'm going to travel more with my husband and kids when we can. This year, we bought a little camper and we set out for Arizona, pulling the camper behind us. It's a trip that all of us will remember. Did the kids bicker with each other on an almost-hourly basis? Yes. Did we lose our patience on an almost-hourly basis? Yes. But it's one of the best things we've done as a family, and I want to do it again. 

From one of our hikes in Sedona, AZ (iPhone photo)

So there you have it. My 5 resolutions for the coming year. I'm praying that God will direct me in all the things I need to do to reach these "goals"...they're not really goals, I guess, though, because none of them has an end point. There will be no real measure of success. But that's okay. I'm going to roll with it.

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This woman, Brene Brown, is a researcher 
who talks about the keys to living "wholeheartedly."
I enjoyed hearing what she had to say. She is part of the TED Talks lectures.




-------------------------------------------------------------

A couple of recommendations for those who have Netflix
or an equivalent:


This documentary, "America the Beautiful 2", 
is a great one about what "healthy" is and what it's not. It's also about
the North American obsession with being thin.
Here's the trailer:



I LOOOOVED this documentary. 
It's called "How to Live Forever: Results May Vary." In it, elderly people, 
some of them over 100 years old, share their secrets for living a long life. It also
talks about people's obsession with aging. I smiled many times.

Sunday, December 9, 2012

10 years. I can't believe it.



On the eve of my son, Liam's, 10th birthday, the day he forever leaves the single digits behind, I have found the blog post I wrote about him on his 7th. I realized I can't say it better than I did that day. 
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Liam had an AWESOME birthday. He was happy all day. He felt special. He felt remembered and loved. That's all a parent wants when celebrating their child's birthday. He's a great kid. He doesn't ask for much. He doesn't expect attention every five seconds, but I love to give it to him because he is such a wonderful kid. He's incredibly bright, he's animated, he's curious, he's sweet and genuinely cares about others. I'm so proud of him, and I pray every day that I can be as good a Mama as he always tells me I am.

I sometimes get flashes or little glimpses of the man he's going to be someday, and I get chills because I see the potential in him. I didn't know what to expect when he was born. I had no idea that that little baby would make ME a better person. I didn't realize that he was a tool that God would use to teach me patience, gentleness and how to receive love. No one on earth has ever loved me as unconditionally as Liam has. Kids don't know at this point that they "shouldn't" still like you when you're impatient or when you say discouraging things. He has loved me from Day One and has never stopped. I want to deserve that love, but I always feel like I fall short. God is showing me through Liam that I am deserving of love and that I am worthy.

God is teaching me that HE loves me unconditionally, just like Liam does. God is teaching me through Liam to see the world the way it should be sometimes, instead of through my pessimistic filter of what I think the world is. Liam has taught me to keep my eyes open and keep my hope alive. Liam has reminded me to pray on so many occasions where it wouldn't have been my first instinct. Liam has taught me that it's okay to show that I'm not perfect, and not to apologize for it. Kids don't apologize for what the world might see as their shortcomings...they learn from them and move on to the next thing. I want that.

I'm grateful that God has put Liam in our hands, but hasn't left us alone to raise him. He belongs to God, but I'm so thankful that I get to keep him for a time. The years are flying by. I feel like he was just 3 years old yesterday. I am so blessed to have him because God knew exactly what I needed to learn.

My hope for you is that you remember where you came from and look at how far God has brought you. You are you for a reason. God didn't make a mistake when he made you. He feels even more pride when he looks at you than I do when I look at Liam...it doesn't seem possible to me, but I know that what I experience in the way of parental love is only a tiny glimpse at what God feels for us. I hope you know you're loved.

We had no idea what a blessing we had just received.

He loved to be swaddled and held. He has always loved to be loved.

I can't even explain how much I love this photo. hee hee...
I love this photo of us. So cute. Nicole reminded me of it and I had to add it in.
He has always had smiley eyes and a love of laughter.
So curious and always in awe of tiny things that nobody else would likely notice.
Has loved Brendan since the moment he met him...in this photo he's singing "Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas", the only lullaby he could think of.
I like to think that he's a mixture of the best things about me and Sean.
He is always asking questions and has been asking them since he could talk...in this photo, he is actually asking a question. I wish I could remember what it was.
He is full of joy.
I hope he never loses his excitement for life.
He likes to dress "fancy", but he likes to look fancy on his own terms. I hope he keeps that ability to march to the beat of his own drummer.

Sunday, December 2, 2012

I'm on fire.

This song came on "Acoustic Sunrise" this morning (Sunday mornings on 100.7 in Pittsburgh). I've always loved the original because I love Springsteen, but this version by John Mayer was kind of elegant.

Ladies and gentlemen, enjoy.





Stuff.

So I'm a lapsed blogger. So what?

I post sporadically when I feel the urge to write. I wish I could be one of those committed bloggers, like my friends Beth and Joe, but I'm usually either feeling blocked or lazy...more often than not, lazy.

I have a lot to say. Often it's in the form of inspirational things I've read or thoughts that have run across my mind, but by the time I actually sit down to craft something out of those fleeting thoughts, they've already escaped me or I talk myself out of voicing them. I tell myself, "Nobody will read this anyway, so why bother?" or "That's not really important enough to put out there for people to read."...you know, that kind of crap.

Recently, Frank Viola put up some information about an upcoming workshop for bloggers and writers and it stirred something in me. I feel like there's a writer still in me somewhere, but I guess I just have to take notice of what it is that inspires her to spring out of her shell.

If you've read any of my more discussion-sparking posts (for instance, this one or this other one), you'll notice that I have a heart for social justice. I have a heart to send out good news rather than negativity. So I suppose I DO know what reaches me, I just don't always think what reaches me will reach other people.

I guess it comes down to making the decision to write down my thoughts whether other people read them or not. I blog for myself, sometimes as a way of venting. The act of writing things out is a great catharsis for my soul.

So the mission I've put myself on for 2013 is to write what my heart is speaking. It will likely be nothing profound. Sometimes it may be a snooze-fest. I don't know. I'm kind of excited about the prospects, though. I feel like there's a buildup of "stuff" in my brain and in my heart and one way to get the dam to break is to take a sledgehammer to it.

Now, to find a sledgehammer...






Me and my little fellas



Tuesday, November 6, 2012

Traveling east...

Instead of just writing a post about every single thing I was grateful for in the last few days, 
I will share my iPhone/Instagram photo diary of my trip to NY/NJ this past weekend. 
_______________________________________

Even though it was planned months ahead, I wasn't 
even sure I'd be going after the mess of the hurricane, 
but at the last minute it worked out. 
So I hopped the Megabus...$10 for a round trip ticket to NYC. 






Coming into NJ, it was obvious that the hurricane has caused a lot of hassle for millions of people. 
Every open gas station had a mile-long line of cars and a long line of people waiting to fill their gas cans. There were a lot of people along the shore who lost everything. Very sad.


People wait in line to fill their gas cans.


The far right lane was a gas lineup.

NYC in the distance.


Below is a tree right next to my brother's first-floor condo. 
Trees are still down all over the area, which is a reason 
there are so many people still without power.


I was there was to hang out with my brother and his family. 
Who wouldn't be happy seeing these faces in the morning?

(Mollie eating her apples and Caroline, my sister-in-law, in the background.)

(Bill, my brother, getting morning cuddles from my nephew, Ben.)


A while back, Bill was able to get tickets to the Steelers/Giants game, 
so we had been planning this trip around football for months. 
Despite the train/traffic issues related to the aftermath of the hurricane, 
it worked out for us to head to the Meadowlands. 
Brother/sister time is always good, especially if it includes the Steelers!

Bill pretending to be pensive on the train.


Sidenote: Kudos to the NY Giants organization for providing 
shuttle buses for all fans coming from the train station. 
Train schedules were limited, but the shuttle buses were 
quick to board and get moving.It was obvious that the 
bus pickups and dropoffs were well thought out.
Thank you, NY Football Giants!


On the shuttle to the game, we met some fellow Steelers fans 
who had come all the way from the UK. 
They love American football and they consider the Steelers their team. 
They come to the US every year to see the Steelers play in different cities.


Tailgating at MetLife Stadium. 
We got heckled by Giants fans and cheered by Steelers fans.



We got there early enough to see the Steelers warm up. 
Pretty cool that the team decided to come in on the day of the game 
and give up their hotel rooms for people who had nowhere to go after the storm.



And below is the view from the $200 (free to us) seats. A-mazing. 






Great view...AND WE WON! Boy, did that feel good.


The next morning, I spent some time with my brother and his family 
before I headed into the city for a few hours before 
I hopped back on the Megabus for the long ride home.

Here are a few random shots from my time alone in Manhattan, mostly Times Square.



I kind of liked this photo of the guy alone in a crowded city.


 I made it on the big screen. I knew it would happen someday!

Me, on the Times Square steps.


The Fashion District

The Javits Center...across the street from the Megabus pickup location.

The view coming out of the Lincoln Tunnel into New Jersey.


It was a great trip. I had fun seeing family and enjoying another Steelers football experience.
I'm grateful for every moment of this weekend and I'm so thankful that it happened, 
especially because it almost didn't.
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Please keep praying for those who will continue to live with the effects of the hurricane, and find a way to help out if you can. There are blanket drives, blood drives, food drives and many other ways to lend a hand, even if you can't be there in person. 

Be a blessing, and be thankful for the love you have around you.