Monday, December 26, 2016

My Best Decade

When I was in my teens.

I looked and felt.


A mouth full of braces.

And a house full of brothers.

Never self confident.

Very shy.

Always uncertain of myself.

And life around me.

My twenties seemed an eternity away.

But I dreamed about them.

I would be such an adult then.

And I would be better.

My twenties would definitely be my best decade.

Of that.....I was very sure.

My twenties came.

And I followed the expected route.

College first.

An art career that never took wings.

Not talented enough.

Or so I believed.

I finished Clemson on another career path.

And married my high school sweetheart.

We struck out on our own.

And moved away.

Very little money.

But crazy about each other.

And best friends.

Scott sewed love.

And trust.

And encouragement into my life.

And I grew.

Even flourished.

He convinced me I could do anything.

And I grew to believe him.

At twenty-seven.

I became a mom.


She changed me even more.


My capacity to love.

We became parents.

And started our own family.

My twenties.....I thought.

Would definitely my best decade.

But I was wrong.

Then came my thirties.

My career got underway.

More responsibilities.

And more people who depended on me.

I grew more sure of myself.

And what I could do.

Looking back.

My life was marked by independence.

I grew more confident in my abilities.

And what I thought I could control.

I eliminated a lot of risk from my life.

Thinking that was a good and responsible thing to do.

My marriage remained strong.

Scott & I tackled everything together.

Our family grew.

Taylor came when I turned 34.

She brought joy.

And laughter into our lives.

Those were demanding, but satisfying years.

My life as a working mom.

In my thirties.

We bought our first home.

It was love at first sight.

We made lots of good memories here.




In my 30's.

Our lives were marked by...... busy.

Busy raising my daughters.

Busy running my home,

Busy at work.

Busy getting stuff done.

Time flew by.

In my thirties.

And I felt sure.

That would be my best decade.

But I was wrong.

Soon came my forties.

Those were good years.

And also hard.

I came to a better understanding of who I was in my 40's.

And what I believed to be true.

I could stand toe to toe with any challenge.

And did.

But learned.

It was not so much under my own strength as a woman.


I learned better.

Through hardship and challenges.

I learned some valuable lessons.

Taught by my own bout with cancer.

Scott's battle with depression.

Losing loved ones.

Raising teenagers.

Demanding responsibilities at work.

Walking through life.

And all the hard things that come from living.

Those experiences brought me.

Less self-sufficiency.

But, mostly, more humility.

My 40's forced me to take a hard look at my own mortality.

That can be......a very good thing.

As was giving up what was never mine to hold.


Those were wonderful years.

And very hard ones.

I was sure that my 40's would be my best decade.

But I was wrong.

Then came my fifties.

My girls went to college.

And left home.

First one.

Then the other.

Kate got married.

And moved far away.

My role in their lives was changing.

Not in a bad way.

Just a different way.

And that was okay.

That lesson I learned in my forties.

Served me well in my fifties.

I learned to adapt.

And accept change.

I learned to hold my hands open.

To receive.

And while this decade has been marked by "letting go."

Other things have been generously added back in.

Things I didn't have time for before.

Or others I laid down for no particular reason.

I've now been able to pick back up.

Wonderful things I love.

I began writing this blog.

And starting "creating" again.

Mosaic Windows.

And painting.

Even renovating an old house.

Serving in Africa became my passion in my 50's.

And I had more time to invest in friends.

I became more seasoned & experienced at work.

That's a good place to be.

I still make mistakes.

I still have plenty to learn.

But, there's a peacefulness that came in my fifties.

And a strength from knowing who I am and what I believe.

I didn't find that so much until my 50's.

Scott and I have embraced our empty nest.

After years of putting our kids first.

And considering them in all of our plans.

We're doing just what we want to do.

Our 50's have become.

The best years of our marriage.

And now.

Another big change.


Our first grandchild.

It's amazing.

How this little guy has already altered our family.

As we've opened up our hearts to take him in.

It has been a circle of life experience.

With Amos.

And I feel sure.

My fifties will be my very best decade.

But I may be wrong again.

Because my 60's are just ahead.

And I'm looking forward to what they will bring.

There may be loss.

And likely hardships.

I still have a lot to learn.

But whatever decades I may have ahead of me.

I pray they are always better than the last.

Hope is a powerful thing.

And a life that's full of meaning and purpose.

Marked by love and kindness.

And making a difference.

Will always be my best decade.

As the new year approaches.

I pray that for you as well.

And thank you for letting me share my life.

Make it your best decade.

Whatever decade it may be.

"...The closer to Me you grow, the more fully you become your true self ---the one I designed
     you to be,,,"       Sarah Young  "Jesus Calling"

Thursday, November 24, 2016

A Woman of True Grit

She was an extraordinary woman.

By anyone's definition.

Born in 1919.

Raised in a small country town.

She graduated from Lander College.

Not a common path for women at that time.

She boarded a train at the age of 19.

Bound for a job in Washington, DC.

At the National Archives office.

I imagine that took guts.

She stood on Pennsylvania Avenue.

And watched FDR's motorcade go by.

Carrying him to Capital Hill.

Where he made his case for declaring war against Japan.

It was 1941.

And Martha was in Washington.

It was an uncertain and exciting time in our country.

And she had a front row seat.

She eventually returned home to Ninety Six.

Where she had a patient and persistent sweetheart.

She married Chevis.

Three kids came along.

As they built their lives around the family farm.

She was always strong.

No nonsense.

Hard working.

Those traits were soon called to task.

She was made a very young widow.

Her Chevis dropped dead one day on their farm.

A young man in his 40's.

And Martha's life forever changed.

I met her in 1985.

She was already 66 years old.

I was just 26.

We worked together for the next 25 years.

She became part of my family.

And I loved her.

We worked side by side as my girls came along.

Sharing life.

For all those years.

Martha was a force of nature.

She became my measuring stick and example.

For what it meant to grow older.

Martha kept the family farm running.

For all those years after her husband's sudden death.

She put her kids through college.

And worked various jobs.

Her last one was with me.

In her 70's she was still tending to her cows.

And caring for the family farm.

I remember being amazed at stories about "Preacher."

That's what she named her bull.

Preacher would occasionally get out of the fence.

Ending up on the country road by her home.

It wasn't unusual for her to get a call in the night.

That Preacher was out again.

Off she'd go in her night gown & coat.

No matter the hour.

A flashlight in one hand.

A rope in another.

Jumping ditches and steering Preacher back where he belonged.

There was a honky -tonk.

That was what Martha called it.

Around the corner from her driveway.

A small establishment where drinks were served.

On one occasion a customer had indulged a little too much.

And made the unfortunate decision to make his way to Martha's front porch.

Needless to say.

She handled her loaded shotgun.

With the same ease she tended her cows.

After a brief communication through the closed door with her firearm.

I believe some mention was made of the local undertaker.

And "your sorry carcass."

The inebriated customer came to his senses.

And removed himself from Martha's property.

Before she made good on her promise.

She flew across the country.

Many times.

To visit a daughter in Alaska.

After slipping and falling one day in the mountains of North Carolina.

And she politely put herself back in her car.

And drove herself home.

Two hours away.

Only to discover once she saw a doctor.

Her leg was broken.

Heart trouble in her 80's.

Led to open heart surgery.

I thought she wouldn't come back to work at that point.

She recuperated for months at home.

She told me exactly how many laps she had to walk.

Inside her house.

To get in a full mile of walking every day.

And she did it.

She pushed.

She found her motivation and drive.

Even in her 80's.

To recover.

And surprising everybody -- including me.

She returned to work.

Until she retired some years later at the age of 92.

When Martha took her last breath on Saturday.

She was 97 years old.

I put my arms around her kids at the funeral.

Mamie and Pat and Raymond.

I couldn't hold back the tears.

What a woman.

Their mother.

My friend.

They knew even better than me.


And grit.

She had it.

And we were sure blessed to share life with her.

Until we meet again, Martha.

I love you!

Wednesday, November 16, 2016

I Don't Know What Too Far Down the Road Looks Like

I have a half hour commute into work each day.

Country roads much of the way.

On early mornings.

When the sun is just coming up.

A fog often settles on the pastures and fields I pass.

I love the way it looks.

A wispy.

Light blanket.

Sunlight streaming through.

Just above the grass.


I drew on that image.

The one I've seen many mornings.

As I read my devotion today.

November 16.

"As you look at the day before you,

you see a twisted, complicated path,

with branches

going off in all directions."

"As you look again at the path ahead,

you notice a peaceful fog

has settled over it,

obscuring your view."

"You can see only a few steps

in front of you,

so you turn your attention

more fully to Me..."

and begin to enjoy My presence."

"The fog is a protection for you,

calling you back

into the present moment."


I inhabit all

of space and time,


communicate with Me

only here and now.

...on the path just ahead of you."

It caught my attention today.

I'm the worst about trying to look too far down the road.

There's plenty to be anxious about there.

But not when there's a fog.

Lightly settling over my life.


I can only see what's right in front of me.

It's there.

In the present.

Where I need to stay.

Not too far down the road.


"Then you remember the One

who is with you always,

holding you by your right hand."

"keep your focus on Me

and on the path just ahead of you."*

Sarah Young, "Jesus Calling"

Sunday, October 30, 2016

Facing Obstacles

I've been known to complicate the most simple thing.


I recognize that tendency in myself.

(.....I'm working on it.)

As my life goes on.

I am appreciating simplicity.

More and more.

It's hard for simplicity to exist.

When I'm complicating things.

Especially true.

When that comes to facing obstacles.

I read recently.

"sometimes the way before you seems blocked."

      "if you focus on the obstacle or search for a way around it, 
you will probably go off course."

"Instead....focus on Me."

"....who is leading you along your life journey."

"before you know it,
the obstacle is behind you."

"and you will hardly know you passed through it."  *

I thought about the obstacles I've faced.

Even in the last year.

Doubt that something I was praying for would actually happen.

A hard conversation I wasn't sure would go well.

My own lack of discipline in a area of my life.

Forgiving somebody that hurt me.

Even climbing a mountain out in Wyoming I hadn't climbed in five years.

In all of those things.

My tendency is to complicate.

Make excuses.


See if I can get around it an easier way.




Or overlook.


All that is needed.

Is one thing.

"...focus on Me.."

"...focus on Me..."

"...focus on Me..."

"...before you know it....the obstacle will be behind you.

..........and you will hardly know you passed through it..."

I have to tell you.

When I've been able to do that.

Focus on Him.

While facing an obstacle in my life.

It's true.

I've seen it myself.

I'm on the other side of it.

Before I realize that it's happened.

Not by obsessing or focusing on the obstacle.

But by focusing on Him.

Try it next time.

I'll do the same.

* Sarah Young "Jesus Calling"

Saturday, October 15, 2016

In the Boat With Depression

Some of you will have no idea how to relate to what I'm about to share.

I'm glad for you.

But, I also know.


Many of you.

Will not only understand.

But totally relate to this post.

I heard someone describe once.

That when you're married to someone.

You're in the same boat.

What happens in the boat.

Impacts the both of you.

The boat gets rocked.

You both get rocked.

That's true with love and marriage and partnership.

It's especially true when your spouse battles depression.

I'm writing this post.

With Scott's blessing.

He's battled depression on and off for over twenty years.

For us.

Depression is in our boat.

Every few years or so.

And thankfully, not more frequently.

It comes creeping back into our lives.

We're getting good at recognizing the signs.

Scott has triggers for his depression.

If he goes through a tough season of stress.

Without the benefit of exercise or working it off in healthy ways.

He's vulnerable to depression.

If he stays physically worn out over an extended period of time.

He's at risk.

We watch for the signs like we do most things in our marriage.


I learned in the last year.

That the very hard things in my life.

Can serve a purpose.

And can have meaning.

If I allow God to use them.

This has been an open topic for us.

And because we've shared it with others.

God's put countless people in our path.


That struggle with depression too.

Just last week.

I came face to face with a reminder.

Of my own experience.

As I saw this unfolding in someone else.

That God put in my path.

What it's like.

When someone you love has depression.

How do you walk through it yourself?

When you're in the boat with depression.

1.   I've learned to watch for it.

I know the triggers for Scott.
I pay attention.
And stay alert.
 For the signs.

If he grows quiet.
Loses interest in doing the things he normally enjoys.
If his outlook grows dark.
I know it's close by.
We're rarely blindsided by it anyway.
Being watchful.
Helps us react more quickly.

2.   Don't hide it.

We learned a long time ago.
That depression grows bigger when it's hidden.
And the best way to prevent that from happening.
Is to throw light on it.
There's no benefit to hiding it.
And pretending it's not there.
It only looms more ferocious.
Number one:  is see a doctor for the proper care.
Get the help you need.
Depression is a serious foe.
You can't fight it alone.

Don't hide it.

3.  Be Pro-active

I'm a fixer.
When something is broken around me.
I try to fix it.
Depression is no different.
When it hits.
I'm pro-active.
I become Scott's biggest advocate.
His protector.
For him, that means.
More rest.
More balance.
Maybe time off from work.
Eliminating as much stress from his life as I can.
I make sure.
 He's eating well.
Getting vigorous exercise.
Getting outside.
And taking his medicine.
Be as opinionated as you like about anti-depressants.
They are essential for many people who fight depression.
This would be a battle we'd likely lose.
Without them.

3.   Circle the Wagons.

It's been about two years.
Since Scott's last serious bout of depression.
And when the going got tough.
We circled the wagons.
We called on our friends.
And asked for prayer.

Not for an unspoken prayer request.

We told about thirty people.
Exactly where we were.
And exactly what we were facing.
People we know we could count on.
On a very dark day,
It made a huge difference.
We felt immediate relief.
Not from a change in our immediate circumstances.
But in carrying the weight of it
We felt lighter.
Knowing that people were praying specifically for us.
Made a tremendous difference in those coming days.

4.    Depend on your faith.

How crazy.
That some people reading this post.
Have a hard time time accepting.
That people who follow Jesus.
Might also struggle with depression.
I know that's not true.
Everybody struggles in this life.
What makes a difference for us.
And thankfully gives meaning to the hard times we experience.
Is that He can use.
What happens to us for good.
And does.
Scott & I have both seen it happen.
Time and time again.
I can't image being in the boat with depression.
Or being in this life.
Without my faith.
It's only through my own relationship with Him.
That my life has meaning and purpose.
And I know.
That whatever comes my way.
Or otherwise.
He'll be with me in it.

5.   Hold on to balance.

The older I get.
The more important.
Is to my well being.
Healthy Relationships.
The better the balance.
The less vulnerable we are to depression.

6.    Protect yourself

Being in the boat with depression can be brutal.
Some of the hardest seasons of our marriage.
Took place during Scott's bouts of depression.

During those very tough days.
I've had to be the voice and the reminder.
It's going to get better.
Hang on.
It won't stay like this forever.
Don't give up.
We've got better days ahead.
I promise.

I've learned that during those times.
While I'm being his advocate and protector.
I also have to protect myself.
It's easy to get discouraged.
Because the person who always pours into me.
Is in a place where he can't.
My expectations.
Have to change in his depression.
It's during these times.
His reserves are dry.
He may be doing everything he can.
Just to keep his head above water.
There's a shifting that has to happen for me during those days.
less dependence on Scott.
And more dependence on my faith.
Keeping greater balance in my own life.
Taking care of myself physically and emotionally.
It's never for long.
But for as long as necessary.

If this is also your path and your journey.
I pray that sharing our experience.
Serves a purpose.
Because of what you take from it.
Be encouraged.
Good is coming from our walk through depression.
Good can also come from yours. 

Friday, September 16, 2016

Meaningful Art

It changed the way I look at the art I create.

This picture.

It was unexpected.

And generous.

The faces and hand written notes.

From this group of nurses and medical staff.

From the Outpatient Infusion Center of

Penn State - Hershey.

My friend, Amy.

Is right in the middle of the photo.

She reached out to me back in January of this year.

Would you consider doing a mosaic in memory of our co-worker?

His name was Josh.

And he was an oncology nurse in that unit.

Josh lost a recent battle with leukemia.

And his co-workers.

Were hit very hard by his death.

They were looking for a way to honor his life.

Amy remembered seeing my glass.

She didn't know my cancer story at that point.

But, as I shared it and we messaged.

It became clear.

I had to be part of this project.

I learned a few things about Josh.

He was funny.



He loved traveling.

And loved his horses.

I searched online for photographs and graphics.

Looking for just the right inspiration.

Once I saw this photograph.

I knew immediately.

I had it.

Amy gave me a specific request.

Incorporate a cardinal in the design.

At Josh's memorial service.

As the chaplain began to speak.

A bright red cardinal flew into the healing garden where the service was held.

Amy shared:

" we all got a good laugh and thought that would be just like Josh."

" not want to miss a thing...."


The cardinal was a must.

I worked on an initial sketch.

And presented it to Amy and her co-workers for approval.

They gave the okay.

And I got to work.

It was a labor of love.

In every sense of the word.

And I poured heart and soul.

Into every detail.

And once all the glass was cracked and down.

And once the mosaic was grouted.

I made a few finishing touches.

And it was done.

Amy and I met in Greenville back in May.

And I handed off the memorial mosaic for the long ride back to Pennsylvania.

It's always a little hard for me to let my work go.

A few months later.

At the center where this crew works.

The memorial mosaic was hung.

Facing out toward the healing garden of the hospital.

Where cancer patients and families come every day.

All I can say is wow.

This has meant a lot to me.

My art was used.

And I love that.

In the best possible way.

I won't look at it the same way again.

Saturday, September 10, 2016

What I'd Say To Me As A New Mother

Our family had a wonderful addition in the last few weeks.

Amos Wyatt Deese.

It's been a surreal experience.

Having this creature come into our lives.


And bringing with him.


Heart capturing love.

A complete stranger.

Pulling emotions and care out of us.

Just by his entry into this world.

I have so many young friends right now.

Including my Kate.

That are first time moms.

There's a whole crop of them.









I love these young women.

And I know.

They're finding their way.

Just as I'm watching Kate find hers.

Into motherhood.

It's made me think about my own start.

All those years ago.

I had no idea what I was doing.

A universal reality, I'm sure.

But what would it be like for me now?

If I could.

Sit across the table.

With a younger me.

What would I say?

What have I learned about mothering?

It takes guts.

Be strong.
Your kid is counting on you.
Even if you have insecurities and doubt.
Woman up.
Let your legacy be courage.

Slow down.

I'm stunned.
At how quickly it's gone by.
Newborn to kindergarten.
Middle school to college.
You hear this all your life.
But it's SO TRUE.
Hold on to the experiences.
And the moments.
They go quickly.

Aside from being the very best mother you can be.
Be the very best person you can be.

It will make a difference.
That you are interesting.
As an individual.
That you're leaving this world better.
Because you are here.
It will matter.
That they see you be kind.
And giving.
And at peace.
Be someone they can look up to.
Be the very best person you can be.

Cover your kid in prayer.

Every single day.
It's a tough world.
A praying mother.
Is a fierce thing.
Do it without fail.

Encourage them to see the world.

There's nothing wrong with Disney World.
But let them see Africa.
Or Haiti.
Or India.
Lessen your focus on material things.
Let them see need.
Let them see the world.

Always provide them a safe place to land.

Your home.
Wherever it might be.
Should always, always, always.
Be a place of comfort.
And rest.

Let them make their own mistakes.

And yes, age does matter.
You'll know when it's appropriate.
When they're older.
To let them fall.
Don't always jump in.
Ahead of them.
To work it all out.

Don't pass on a legacy of fear.

Oh, my gosh!
I see this so much.
Deal with your own stuff.
But, don't pass it on to your kid.

Be genuine.

Be the real deal.
Be who you really are.
Not caught up in appearances.
Do what you say you will do.
Be genuine.
Be real!

Do a good job of handing off your faith.

This can be tricky.
But your kids will know it when they see it.
Of Jesus in your life.
Start now.
Your kid has a front row seat.