Best of All Involved

I want my life and family to be like this photograph that I took.

The dune grass has a different texture than the sand dune.

The sand dune is sculpted into forms that the wind has shaped.

The driftwood is shaped by the sand and the wind.

The waves may hide the sand and the life that lies beneath,

but the beauty still remains.

In our family, we have different abilities.

We have different moments of being in the “spotlight” with our talents and gifts.

We have and will continue to go through times when we are pelted by flying sand and harsh winds.

As we live life together through it all,

my hope for the New Year is that we will lovingly support each other.

In the photo, the dune grass, sand dunes, waves and driftwood

each contribute to the breathtaking reminder

that

the unseen wind

shapes and molds in ways that we can

enjoy

with a breathless awe.

My prayer for you is that 2015 will display

“The Best of All Involved”

"best of all involved" (c)Gracie K Harold 2014

“best of all involved” (c)Gracie K Harold 2014

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Raw Love

Grief had ripped through his soul, leaving his heart jagged and exposed.  He determined in that moment of pain that no one would ever again be allowed close enough to cause him harm.  Over the years, his determination only faltered once.  She was a beauty, one who captured his heart and imagination.  He fell for her, hopelessly and madly.  He left for his job on the railroad, promising to return at week’s end.  He kept his promise and was full of hope as he approached her door. The sickening kick-to-the-gut that betrayal and cheating always bring is what greeted him. Her flippancy is what ripped his heart into tatters, as she purred, “You were gone for a week, what did you expect me to do? Wait?”

He vowed to never let anyone get close to him again.  He took a vow of bachelorhood, buried himself in his work, accrued a savings account; and he determined to simply live a good life.  It all changed after his nephew and niece-in-law had a baby girl.  This little wisp of a youngster smiled at him and melted the icy fortress that he had carefully constructed around his heart.  To his surprise, the icy defenses now served to usher in a tenderness as the ice transformed into rivulets of love.  He was tickled to be her great uncle, and he took to calling her “wisp-girl” under his breath.

When she was just a toddler, the wisp-girl introduced him to the comingling of sweet with the bitter.  His brother-in-law (the child’s grandpa), was a former boxing champ who numbed his pain with the sedative of alcohol.  It caught up to him, and he was now dying of cancer.   The family had gathered together, saddened by the declining health and resolve of their patriarch.  That’s when the wisp-girl began twirling in the center of the living room.  She stopped breathlessly, and grinned winningly at her grandpa.  He laughed mirthfully, and the pattern repeated over and over until the room was filled with the peals of silver laughter.  Silver laughter is only heard when it’s offered from a heart that is heavy with affliction, yet somehow the soul breaks free from the pain and heaviness as it dances triumphantly in a joyful defiance. That day, the family embraced their silver laughter as they watched the antics of the wisp-girl and her dying grandfather.

That was the last weekend of the grandpa’s life, and the bachelor great-uncle resolved that the wisp-girl needed him to step up and into the void.  So, he did.  His sister accompanied him, and they moved in with their grief-stricken widow-sister (the wisp-girl’s granny). Grief is a jealous companion.  If it goes unchecked, it will soon push away everyone who seeks closeness with you.  That’s the unfortunate truth of what happened, and soon the grief-stricken granny widow demanded that her siblings move out.

The little wisp-girl came over to visit the new house of her great aunt and uncle a few times, and she lit up their hearts like a holiday tree.  Eventually, though, family loyalties were exploited, politics were bitterly played, and a division ensued.  The wisp-girl’s father determined to show loyalty to his widowed-mother; and the visits ended.

The wisp-girl sent secret letters to her beloved great-aunt and great-uncle, begging them to correspond.  The great-uncle sought to reply, but his sister was afraid of the repercussions that it would bring on the wisp-girl.  Her intent was to protect the wisp-girl, but instead, years of love and companionship were lost.  At the funeral for the beloved great-aunt, the bachelor great-uncle embraced his wisp-girl in a fierce hug.  They wept openly as he confessed, “I tried my damnedest to get her to respond to your letters, but she was so afraid of causing distance between you and your granny.  I thought of you every night and every day, and memorized every word of your letters.”

The wisp-girl’s father was so moved by the tender pain of his uncle and the deep sorrow of his daughter that he relented and the visits began again.  What an unlikely pair they were.  The wisp-girl shared her beloved great-uncle’s stubborn determination and strength; but she was akin to a bald eagle.  One moment, she could be gracefully soaring with a majestic air about her and the next, her talons would be exposed as she defended the ones that she loved.  They would sit side by side, close enough to let their elbows rub as they talked.  She would prattle on about life, boys, inner city injustice, her love of kids, and her desire to attend college and make a difference in the world.  He would smile at her enthusiasm, and wonder at the seemingly endless stores of energy that she possessed.  He would speak of his memories made on the railroad, of the Detroit Tigers roster, and eventually of his life growing up in rural Michigan.  Her words were often faster than an express train, his were peppered with “damn”s and “dammit”s.

She called him with the news of her acceptance into the private college of her choice, her squeals eliciting his words of, “I am damned proud of you, girl!” She called to sing him “Happy birthday” from her dorm room, and they would talk about life, boys, and The Tigers.  On summer breaks, she would weave her arm through his as they sat basking in the sunlight on his front stoop while her brother mowed his lawn.  One day, she told him of her desire to work with people who were poverty-stricken and he said, “You be careful.  It’s not work that I would have picked out for you, but I’ll be damned if I let anyone stop you from it.”

He checked himself into a nursing home the week before spring break of her Senior Year in college.  She found him in his room, basking in the sunlight, with his face uplifted towards the window.  Peace and joy radiated from him.  She kissed his cheek, and they said their goodbyes; both knowing that his 90+ years on earth were ending soon.

Days later, she stood tearfully at his funeral.

A while later, she burst into tears of gratefulness and love as realization sunk in.  He had paid her school bills out of his estate.  All those stolen years when they could not see each other, he was saving and making money and investing money.  He didn’t just do it for her, but there were kids from his neighborhood who had also managed to wiggle their way into his heart.  Despite the pain of losses that he had endured, despite his jagged heart, he learned the art of raw love.  No walls, no refinements, simply love for the ones that were placed in his life when his heart was raw.

The wisp-girl strives to embrace the lessons of her beloved great-uncle as she continually resists the fear-filled temptations to pull back into a fortress of pain from her past; instead opening up her jagged heart for those who have been placed into her life.

May we all be graced with raw love.

Waterplay (c)Gracie K Harold 2014

Waterplay (c)Gracie K Harold 2014

Thankful Thursday –

2014-08-22 19.49.21

(c)Gracie K. Harold 2014

Today I’m thankful for the adventure we had with four of our kiddos!  We had emailed the Detroit Tigers months ago, inquiring about a Peanut-Free suite.  Despite numerous attempts, we never heard back.  We took the Kids to a Lion’s Pre-Season Game instead, after securing an incredible deal on tickets.  David is anaphylaxic to airborne peanut allergens, so he used a face mask recommended by our allergist.

lions done

Allergy Mask (c)Gracie K. Harold 2014

The mask was on when we were about two blocks downwind from the stadium, and he wore it through the entire game until we had walked a few blocks away. The staff at the Lion’s Game were incredibly kind, professional and helpful!  The kids were completely amazed that we were there in real life!

James and I had packed snacks and make-your-own sandwiches, and that made our last “hurrah” of the summer affordable.

Even though the injured list is long, we will still devotedly watch our team!

After all, once a Lion’s fan, always a Lion’s fan!

What are you thankful for?   #ThankfulThursday

An Unfortunate (but Funny) Oops!

Yesterday, I wrote my post, “R.I.P. Ovary”.  

I wanted a realistic “tombstone”, so I set about creating one from card stock, a marker, and coffee grounds.  James had the idea to use our dying flowers and flower pot as the background.  I uploaded the photo, brought the prop into the house, and had to use the restroom.  I laid the card stock tombstone prop on the dining room table, and went about my business.  I walked into the kitchen, and we realized that we had errands to run before the kids arrived home from school.

We left the house in a flurry, and were in the car before I realized that we had never left a note for the kids.

James had left his phone behind, so I tried to call it; but the kids did not hear the ringer.

We pulled into the driveway a bit later, and saw two little faces on the window. 

They anxiously ran out to help us unload groceries, and said, “Mommy!  We are so glad that you didn’t die!”

James and I looked at them quizzically. 

“We saw the tombstone on the table, and at first we thought you had died, but your name’s not ‘Ovary’, and daddy would have told us in person.  Then we were sad for you since your friend ‘Ovary’ died.  Mommy, who was ‘Ovary’ anyways?  Did we meet her?”

Yup. Rock Star mother of the Year Award goes right here!  😉

Those poor kids!  I re-explained an age appropriate anatomy lesson.

 Realization dawned, and Ruby stomped her foot. “You mean we were sad for your body part? Mo-ther!”

Next time, I think I need to put my props away…

R.I.P. Ovary (c)Gracie K. Harold 2014

R.I.P. Ovary (c)Gracie K. Harold 2014

Shadow Steps

Yesterday’s post spoke about some of the new boundaries that we have established in our home.

Another adjustment has been for James and I to find the balance in spending time together but also to have time with our friends alone.

One of the challenges has been that I grew up with over 10 male cousins.  I am kind of a tomboy at heart.

When James and I became engaged, we agreed that we would hang out together with my guy friends, but that it just wasn’t wise for me to hang out alone with them.  This was mostly my insistence, not his.

My guy friends are very much like brothers to me, and we live in a world that often construes things exactly as it wishes.  My husband’s reputation, my friends’ reputations, and my reputation matter too much for me to carelessly find myself in a situation which could somehow defame a loved one’s character.

James and I feel a deep compassion to mentor young adults as they transition through college and into professional life.  Spending time with these brilliant young minds constantly stretches us and teaches us so many lessons!

We have decided to be über cautious  in our interactions with the young adults of the opposite sex, not out of fear or prudishness, but out of respect for our marriage, and a desire to demonstrate that out of every single person in the whole wide world, he picked me to be his best friend and lover; and I did the same.

When we are out with a group, we typically stay in close proximity to each other.  If a member of the opposite sex playfully reaches for James’ arm, he’ll typically excuse himself or call me over to join the conversation.

This isn’t because we are terrified of other people, it’s not our attempt at “looking religious”; it’s merely the way that we continue to communicate to each other that we are happy with the choice we made.

Sometimes, in communicating our preferences to others, I am sure that feelings have been hurt, egos may have been bruised, and occasionally, people have become ticked off at us.

My apologies for unintentional harm, but this is our preference.

This is our way of conveying our love to each other.

I understand that this may look like steps that lead through shadows to others; but to us, the shadows won’t hinder us as we continue to walk forward in our declaration of love for one another.

Shadow Steps (c)Gracie K. Harold 2014

Shadow Steps (c)Gracie K. Harold 2014

We are not asking for universal agreement, we are merely asking for mutual respect of our preferences.

If you’re looking  to discuss this with us, chances are you’ll find us together. 😉

Ornate Elegance

Ornate Elegance (c)Gracie K. Harold 2014

Ornate Elegance (c)Gracie K. Harold 2014

Ornate artistry speaks viscerally to my soul.

Beauty resonates with me in a way that fills me to overflowing.

I realized today that once upon a time, creative expression was poured into designing restraints and limitations.

The photograph above is part of an intricate railing that provides a delicate yet strong boundary in a turn-of-the-century hotel.

James and I have recently been debating and discussing what boundaries are going to look like for us as we go forward.  I balked when I was first told to “take it easy” as I heal and prepare for surgery.  I’ve been learning though that limitations can be beautiful if I use them as a tool that promotes safety and health.

We’ve also been deliberately and intentionally establishing boundaries within our marriage and our family.  They are not intended to be a barrier, but instead, our boundaries are designed to promote safety and beauty in our lives.

When I was younger, close friends of mine shared that they marked two black Xes on the calendar each week.  One X was the couple’s date night.  No kids, no business meetings, no distractions, simply being alone for at least 2 hours together.  The other X  was a time slot devoted exclusively to family time, the couple and their kids; uninterrupted, no distractions,  for at least 2 hours together.  I was told that sometimes the X gets moved due to a scheduling conflict, but the point is, that time was intentionally blocked off every single week.

James and I started doing this about 6 weeks ago, only he insisted that we have two nights a week for us alone, and also one X a week for us to spend with the kids.

It has radically changed our relationship and our family dynamics for the better.

Our dates range from super cheap to nominal, depending on the amount of money that we have on hand.  We’ve gone out for moderately priced appetizers, gone through a fast food drive-through, packed a meal, simply escaped for an ice cream cone, gone for walks, window shopped, driven through the country, gone to peruse paint color chips at the hardware store, rented a movie and ate supper in bed when I was too ill to leave the house, gone to a coffee shop, escaped to the beach, played mini-golf, played real golf,  gone to a book store, and looked through magazines over a cup of coffee.

The point is that we have been together, in a time block that is devoted simply for us and the growth of our relationship.

Security and trust are multiplied when you are shown that in all the world, time with you matters most.

What X do you need to mark on the calendar?

You can do it!  Add a little “ornate elegance”, or even, some “simple elegance” to your relationship. 😉

Simple Elegance (c)Gracie K. Harold 2014

Simple Elegance (c)Gracie K. Harold 2014

Sesame and Sunday

Coffee

Our son, Rex, is anaphylaxic to sesame.  In the past, he has needed an Epi-pen® Jr. injection after accidentally eating some sesame chips.  This past weekend, James and I cooked hot dogs and hamburgers for the kids.  We have bought the same hot dog buns for months.  This weekend, we were in a frenzy due to a busy schedule and the fact that I am still tired and not quite up to 100% health yet.

We ate hot dogs Saturday night, and again Sunday afternoon.  Immediately after eating, we drove Rex and Ruby out to their grandparents’ home for a sleepover.  We noticed upon arrival that Rex had quite a few red marks on his neck.  He commented that they were bug bites from the bonfire we were at the night before.

We dismissed it, since he was exuberant and giddy.  We made plans for the two kids to stay in with an extra cell phone while grandma and grandpa went out for a bit, just around the corner.  We hugged our goodbyes and left for home.  20 minutes later, James picked up the hot dog bun bag and yelled, “Gracie! The buns list sesame as an ingredient now!”  I bolted over to him to inspect the bag as David said, “Mom!  Maybe those weren’t bug bites!”

I picked up my phone and frantically dialed the number for the cell phone that the kids had.  No answer…three times.  I texted. No response.

I texted my mom, and told her to call immediately.

She left her husband’s side to call me, and took off for home without even telling him what happened.

I asked if we needed to call an ambulance or not.  She said she would call back when she saw Rex.

Meanwhile, I called the allergist, who called the Emergency Room at the hospital.

Mom called back and spoke to James while I spoke to the Dr.

After I hung up, James and I hopped in our vehicle and took off for the hospital.  We packed caffeine as we assumed that we would be there for a long time.

We were at the hospital first, and I preregistered Rex before pacing and watching for the car that had my son in it.

They arrived, I rushed out and swooped him into a wheelchair, and marveled at the way he was giggling.

We pulled up to registration, and the nurse asked how many hot dog buns Rex had eaten.

I leaned over and asked him.

“None, mommy!  I didn’t eat any hot dogs. I had hamburgers!  A little voice in my head told me NOT to eat any hot dogs, so I didn’t.  Not yesterday either!”

We stared incredulously.  Thank God that this little man listened to that voice of warning!

The doctor checked him over just to be certain that the secondhand exposure hadn’t triggered his asthma, and he passed with flying colors.

James started laughing first, then Ruby snickered, my mom chortled, Rex giggled, and I shook my head as I laughed at our failure to ask the most obvious of questions.

The doctor assured us that we did the right thing, and that we could rest assured knowing that we knew what to do if there had been an actual reaction.  He did join us in snickering over the craziness of our Sunday.

We hugged our two kids goodbye again, and mom said, “Oh, shoot!  I never told my husband where I was going or that I was leaving!”

I quickly sent a text message of explanation so that once he walked home, he could retrieve the phone which he had left for the kids.

James shook his head and snickered every half hour for the rest of the night, as we sat up watching movies (we both had downed more than our share of caffeine!)

So we forgot to ask a crucial question, and made an assumption, and drove in two separate frenzies to the hospital…but at the end of the day, we laughed.

We laughed because Rex is alive.  We laughed because we care so much about him that we would not hesitate to do it all again to keep him safe.  We laughed because perfection is not a prerequisite for parenting.  We laughed because we were together, flaws and all…and we.are.loved.

‘Roids, unfiltered.

Four rounds of antibiotics later.

My body had enough.

Hives emerged and multiplied  like “Gremlins” that got wet.

I saw my Dr. and she ordered a *mild burst of steroids.

I am going to the bathroom every 2 hours at the most.

I am drinking (8) 16 oz. water bottles filled plus coffee plus juice plus smoothies plus Vitamin Water in a day…

and I am still thirsty.

I am eating every 90 minutes, and desperately trying to mix in “healthy fillers” with the chocolate that

I.am.craving.

Last night, I laid in bed for 1 very long  hour, too tired to move yet unable to sleep.

I fell asleep for 2 hours, would wake to use the bathroom,

and would lie awake for the next hour.

This continued ALL NIGHT LONG IN A 

MIND-NUMBING PATTERN:

LAY DOWN-TRY TO CALM YOUR BRAIN – FALL ASLEEP- WAKE UP-PEE-REPEAT.

I woke with James’ alarm in the wee small hours this morning, and despite exhaustion, could not fall back asleep.

I did manage to spill water on the bed, the power cords, and myself when I gagged on my multivitamin.

Through it all, though, we still have our humor.

I am grateful that my family understands that I am really trying to have and demonstrate self-control through my clenched teeth

and tight lips, really I am.

My skin is crawling.

It feels like I am trying to molt; as if my skin needs to crumble off of me…like this:

molted creepy steroid skin (c)Gracie K. Harold 2014

molted creepy steroid skin (c)Gracie K. Harold 2014

I am tired.

I will probably cry at the drop of a hat, and then maybe I’ll laugh about crying.

I am healing, and eating…and trying to rest.

On the bright side, maybe, just maybe, I will lose some extra water weight…

since I am spending the majority of the day and night in the bathroom.

😉

 

Unfiltered Truth (c)Gracie K. Harold 2014

Unfiltered Truth (c)Gracie K. Harold 2014

Performance v. Service

Bright Lights (c)Gracie K. Harold 2014

Bright Lights (c)Gracie K. Harold 2014

Bright Lights, Dim Shadows (c)Gracie K. Harold 2014

Bright Lights, Dim Shadows (c)Gracie K. Harold 2014

 Sometimes, my morning study is too close for comfort.  Today was one of those days.  The question was raised, “Do you do things for others with a focus on perfection, waiting for their approval; or do you do things with the heart of a humble servant who simply wishes to serve?” Ouch.

Nine times out of ten, I get frustrated with my family and friends if I feel that they don’t see me, or even if they fail to acknowledge the “great things that I have done to show them my love.”

A small side step is the same thing as not being fully on the original path.

Light Movement (c)Gracie K. Harold 2014

Light Movement (c)Gracie K. Harold 2014

My desire for hearing their praise and accolades has taken over my focus.  I have been so enthralled by hearing their “encouragement” that I have failed to direct my heartfelt deeds for God’s glory.

That’s the rub, though. All of my righteous deeds are “as filthy rags” in His sight, because they are still coming from my sin-covered heart.  Unless,  of course, I claim no goodness apart from Him.  Then, when He sees me, He sees the perfection of Jesus Christ.

Ironic, isn’t it?  When I seek the applause and accolades, I couldn’t be further away from the purpose that I was created for. Instead, when I open my arms and heart, admitting that I have no hope, no goodness, no unselfishness in me by myself; that’s when His love pours in like a waterfall.

Perspective (c)Gracie K. Harold 2014

Perspective (c)Gracie K. Harold 2014

 

 My heart is deluged, my soul is fulfilled, and the love inside overflows.  I can’t help but be grateful. Words escape me, so I simply reach out in love to others…for the One who loves me so tenderly and accepts me as is.

From Ruby

Ruby's Letter

Ruby’s Letter (c)Gracie K. Harold 2014

Translation: “Dear Mom,

My reading program says to [write] and send a letter to my favorite author. (That’s you).

I love you. Your book is a good book (well, the parts I’ve read, that is).

-Ruby”

Happy Tuesday!  This made my day!  🙂

The link to my book is here: “Across the Street From Normal”.

I have absolutely no regrets about leaving the abusive situation that we were in all those years ago.  Instead of seeing her mother as a victim, Ruby sees me as an author, an income earner, a society contributor, and a confident woman who is loved by God and her husband.  That’s all I ever wanted.

Today, I feel like I have what I wanted.

Love, faith, family, friends, and confidence.