Monday, April 30, 2012

gratitude from Pinterest...


This was floating around on facebook this weekend.  I think it originated on Pinterest but I don't know where... I don't know who gets the credit for this, I only know that I like it!


gratitude unlocks
the fullness of life
it turns what we have into 
enough and more!
it turns
denial into acceptance
chaos into clarity
problems into gifts
failures into success
the unexpected into perfect timing
and mistakes into important events
gratitude makes
sense of our past... brings peace
for today and creates a vision 
for tomorrow

Two years ago, I started following Ann... I started joining in on Multitude Monday.  I started counting gifts to change the way my heart saw things.  I took Ann's challenge to find 1000 gifts in the everyday and I was overwhelmed.  I thought that there would be NO WAY I would ever be able to count 1000 things for which I was grateful.  Instead, I was thrilled to find 100.  

I was wrong.  So wrong.  As my heart began to change, I discovered more and more gifts.  I've counted to 1000 a couple of times and I continue to count... because my heart needs to continue to change and I need to be more grateful.

~*~

On this rainy Monday morning, I'm sitting in a bowling alley with fifty jr/sr high students.  They're having a blast bowling for a fundraiser.  I watch my girl.  The one that won a year's tuition at this private school.  She's having a blast!  ... and my heart is full of gratitude to the one that provided this year for her.

...so my list continues....

...for gifts that include school
...for new friends
...for a day of fun with old friends
...for the privilege to help the ones who have helped her this year

...for a week with the one I love the most
...for all the stories from their trip to Guatemala
...for no more nights sleeping alone

...for the laughter and fun around me
...for the one who is still homeschooled
...for wisdom gifted as we continue to seek His face with their education

...for his new job
...for the thrill it gives him
...for the privilege to watch him grow up

...for this life that looks nothing like I imagined
...for the fact that it is so much better
...for dreams that are being fulfilled

...for rain
...for refreshment
...for the sound of storms in the middle of the night

...for the rain of His grace on my parched heart
...for His faithfulness in spite of my failures
...for the fact that His love is boundless and endless


Saturday, April 28, 2012

gainfully employed...

This mama's heart is happy...
after a great interview...
he's gainfully employed!
Do you suppose this
will help my grocery budget?

Friday, April 27, 2012

clique or community... five minute Friday

It's Friday... the day when we gather at Lisa Jo's to write on one common topic for five minutes.  We write simply to write... no worries, no critiques.


I'm finding myself looking forward to Friday and to what the common theme will be.  Today our theme is...


community

GO

I think we have all been created for community.  Most of us long for it and some of us pine for it.  In the Christian women circles I've seen, it seems as if the longing for or pining for is exasperated.

For instance... how many times have you heard the word "clique" in Christian women circles?  In my world, I'm not sure I can count that high.  However, have you ever heard Christian men complain about cliques in their church, school world, and social world?  Not likely.

I'm generalizing here but there are many, many Christian women who complain about cliques.  I've noticed that they only complain when they perceive there is a community of friends and they are not included.   IKR?

What if, instead of complaining about cliques, we started working towards community?  What if instead of complaining about the cliques in our worlds, we, instead, developed community of like-minded friends who meet together, encourage one another and develop deep roots?  What if instead of complaining, we act?

Not all of us will fit in the same community.  I think thirty years ago, someone should have said "THAT'S OKAY!!"  It's okay that we don't fit in with a particular community... it's even okay that they don't want us...  

because....

you can start your own community!!!  (not quite rocket science but close...)  Seriously, ladies, let's all stop blaming our insecurities on this perceived clique or that one and instead start investing in community with one another.  

Find like-minded women and invest in a community.... trust me, it's way better than complaining about the community that you perceive is an exclusive clique. 

STOP


...forgive me... obviously this is brewing deep within... and has been for a very long time.  


Once upon a time, the young, teenage me complained to my mom that all the "cool kids" were doing their own thing after youth group.  I was appalled that I had not been invited and immediately assumed I was purposely excluded.  With hardly an acknowledgement of my perceived predicament, my mother wisely said, "so start your own cool kids group and do your own cool things.  Cool is only a perception of yours.  Overcome it!"


Ladies... I venture to say that your perceived cliques and your own perceived exclusion is just that... your perception.  And, if I'm wrong, why would you want to be with those people anyway?


...I'm done now...



Monday, April 23, 2012

when someone believed in me...

My heart is full of gratitude because someone believes in me... 

...and in this pipe dream I have.

Sometimes we go through life chasing shadows and pipe dreams... sometimes we share those dreams with others and other times we chase them alone.  

When a dream is a group effort we spur one another on... encouraging and exhorting, praying and praising... a community dream becomes a community effort, and no one person takes all the credit or all the blame.  

Then, there are the times we go it alone... and the road gets lonely... there's no traffic in sight.  Those are the times it's easiest to give up on the dream... we convince ourselves its time to grow up, give up the dream and return to reality.

What happens though when someone else believes in the dream?  I wonder... how many pipe dreams could have become the new reality if someone else would have met the dreamer where they were and walked a bit of the journey with them?  Would they have encouraged them enough to stay in the chase?  To not give up?  To not give in?

This journey of authorship didn't begin when my fingers typed words on the computer screen, nor did it end when I clicked "publish."  Instead, it's an ongoing journey... one that I feel as if I'm forging as I go... so often in over my head and gurgling as the waves wash over me.  I know it's a God-sized dream and I desperately lack the God-size faith to see it through.

...then He moves.

He brings along someone who says "because I believe in you, I want to invest in you" handing me money to move forward with printed copies of The Secret of Counting Gifts.  Print-on-demand copies available through major retailers... a real-live-hold-in-your-hands-and-turn-the-pages kind of book... with my name on it...

...because someone believed in me.

And... all I can do is say "THANK YOU! THANK YOU!! THANK YOU!!!" and continue chasing the dream.

~*~


18 years of gratitude...

He came home from 8 days of surgeries in Guatemala just in time to celebrate 18 years with me.  There could be no greater anniversary gift than his presence to fill the void of last week.


Eighteen years together... and I look back and think "how many minutes and days that added up to months and years have I wasted in anger, jealousy, envy, strife and discontent? Would it add up to years of un-gratitude for the gift of him?"  Probably.


Eighteen years ago, I woke up at my grandparent's lake house and smiled.  It felt like Christmas morning to my heart.  I couldn't capture all the gifts of that day... I simply did my best to live in the moment.  To this day, April 23, 1994 was the BEST day of my life... all because my best friend covenanted to love me, honor me, cherish me and put up with me for the rest of his life!  


I was young and stupid.  There was much my heart didn't know or understand.  I didn't know there would be days that he wouldn't like me and that there would be times I had to work hard to remember that I loved him.  I didn't know that I would find ways to fling words that cut deeper than a knife at his heart.... or that both of us would invent ways to maim.  I didn't know that marriage is harder than anyone ever mentions... and on that day, everyone let me live in my fairytale world as I said "I do."


I also didn't know that you cannot undo.  Instead, you move on.  Redemption, forgiveness, grace, mercy and gratitude...those are the things that makes a good marriage into a great marriage.  You celebrate the good times and commit them to your heart memory.  Equally, you cling to each other in the bad and choose to forget and remember them no more.


Nine days ago, I sent him to Guatemala with hurtful words still ringing loud in my heart... and in his.  Last night, he came home and I marveled at how his heart could forget and forgive and move on.  I marveled more at the deep bond of companionship that simply picked up where it left off... forgetting and forgiving what lies in the past and moving forward in love and in gratitude.


I'm joining in with the gratitude community at Ann's again... this time counting eighteen ways I am deeply grateful for that gift eighteen years ago... the gift of Chad...


... for the ways he loves me
... for the ways he forgives me
... for the ways he makes me laugh
... for the ways he provides
... for the way he holds my heart


... for the way he takes care of the little things so that I don't have  to
... for his sense of adventure
... for his leadership


... for the ways we have grown together
... for the memories we have made
... for the fact that I can't sleep without him


... for the way he makes up games with our children
... for the way he makes them laugh
... for the way he disciplines with love
... for the ways he understands their hearts


... for his unwavering commitment to me
... for the fact that he loves Jesus more than me
... for his spiritual leadership in this house





Thursday, April 19, 2012

growth spurt...

The doctor told him, last week, that he was probably done growing.  At 6'2" and 15 years of age, he may only get one more inch of height.  


He was disappointed.


What he doesn't know, is that, really... the doctor doesn't know.  While it is true that this doctor has seen the inside (quite literally) of Eric's elbow and knows from first hand experience that there is no growth plate left... it is equally true that this doctor is making an educated guess.  Much more educated than my guess, I might add.


I tried to tell Eric this... 
I highly doubt that he believes me.  


I should have told him that he would grow in other ways... 
but, maybe he already knew that.



While he may be close to finished growing physically, he's doing an amazing amount of spiritual growing lately...  just about the time that this mom thought he had settled comfortably in a stagnant pond of mediocrity.


This one... that 6'2" 15 year old I mentioned... he shot up a few spiritual inches this week.  I've been praying for years that my children would experience God in ways that they recognize Him for Who He is.  I've prayed that God would be gracious and merciful and reveal Himself to them in ways that their own individual maturity could recognize.  I've prayed that He would move in their hearts and they would know Him.


Though he has known Jesus for most of his life...

he now knows Him deeper...
he knows what it's like to feel the Spirit move within...
he's felt the Wind stir...
he's obeyed the Voice, wondering...
and he's experienced the tears of joy that bubble up...
when you know you're part of something much greater than you

...just when this mom thought he was comfortably floating along, he gave his Bible away... to a friend in need.

...a spiritual growth spurt
of a tall 15 year old
and an answer 
to this mom's prayers.

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

grateful for Guatemala...



I miss her... this almost 13 year old of mine... and I miss then one she is with more.  I miss them with my whole heart... this heart of mine that is tied up in knots this week.  


I know that she will return on Sunday full of smiles and stories and joy.  She will tell me about surgeries she watched and patients she helped for pre-op or post-op.  She will tell me of her love of Guatemala and its people... and of her love for all things medicine.  She will return and I will hold on to her for a little while longer.


This picture... its the future of Emme.  There will be a day when she will go... and stay.  I am confident of this... for I know her heart.  I know that her heart was made to serve in this way.  My mother's brain knows this... my mother's heart ties up in a new knot... and I pray.


I pray much this week.  I think I pray for me more than for them.  I pray that somehow I will make it through.  I count the days (5 1/2 more...) as I lie awake at night.  Then I do what my heart is being conditioned to do... I count gifts.  


I give thanks.


I thank Him for Guatemala and for this opportunity.  
I thank Him that Guatemala has stolen her heart and his.  
I thank Him for what she will see and what she will do.  
I thank Him for His work... started last year at this time in an 11 year-old heart.  
I thank Him that she loves what she is doing this week.  
I thank Him for modern technology that I could even get this picture across the miles
and across a continent.

...because the honest answer is I wasn't grateful and I wasn't giving thanks last week.  I sent them off with a heart full of resentment.  I told him so.  I spewed venomous words in my anger.  He took those words with him when I dropped them off.  I brought the resentful heart home with me.

God's been working on the resentment.  He's showing me that gratitude is the cure for a good many things... discontentment, jealousy, pride, anger, self-righteousness... and resentment.  It's a lesson I hate learning, but one I need!

...so I look at this picture of this girl I love and I thank Him for Guatemala.




Monday, April 16, 2012

blown-in blessings

Happy Winds-day!
It's windy... a hold-on-to-your-hat day or a Pooh-hold-on-to-Piglet Winds-day... around these parts.  


Sometimes I feel God's presence much in the same manner than Piglet felt the wind of Winds-day.  I feel as if I am holding on for dear life as He swirls above and below me... rocking my world.  I think I fear the wind less as I experience it.  I'm learning that He has me and He is trustworthy.  He will never let go!


I also think I'm finally learning to look around in the wind to see the blessings blowing in. Just as He never lets go... He never stops blessing!


Joining in with Ann and the gratitude community to count blessings... grace gifts... again this week.


~*~
My gratitude list continues..


... for conversation with the one who rarely opens up
... for long car rides
... for a day visit to Mama and Papa
... for special one on one time with each
... for a dad who takes a son alongside to teach


... for a safe journey to Guatemala
... for modern technology that keeps us in touch
... for another trip for these two that I love deeply
... for the opportunity to use their gifts


... for a chance to be part of something greater yesterday
... for friends who loan things like tablecloths and cake plates
... for other friends who come alongside
... for the privilege of seeing those I've prayed for smile again


... for providence and protection through the storms
... for rain that renews
... for wind that reminds


... for wisdom shared by my sister
... and long phone conversations
... for laughter


... for He who blows through my life
... for His protection
... for His provision
... for His blessings





Sunday, April 15, 2012

Beautiful Me... the conclusion



On Wednesday, I posted about an incredible opportunity I had today to be part of a local fashion show for our area cancer care fund.  




I have the world's greatest friends!!  Rachelle (on left) and Ginger (on right) spent their Sunday afternoon with me passing out approximately 90 coupons for a free copy of The Secret of Counting Gifts...




We passed out some chocolate too... because chocolate makes every day better, right?




It was a blessing to see three women I have prayed for model for the fashion show.  They are truly beautiful!


... and, the two incredible young women who organized this event helped raise over $1000 for our local community cancer fund.  A beautiful afternoon at Beautiful Me!

Saturday, April 14, 2012

let's party!


They're leaving ... on a jet plane... and I've decided to party while they're gone (my RN husband and 12 year old daughter are traveling to Guatemala today for a week long medical missions trip.  This is their second trip and I now understand that my heart will be in a knot for 8 days). 


 It's been a few years since I've joined the Ultimate Blog Party.   So, I figure there is no better way to make time go faster than to party, right?


Thanks to Janice and Susan at 5 Minutes for Mom for hosting the Ultimate Blog Party.  Join in!  




I'm Heidi... and, honestly, sometimes this is what being a mom to 3 feels like for me.  Crazy, out of control fun... and often my peripheral vision is blurry and unclear!  I never know what's coming next.  


I am mom to 4 Es (if you count the dog).  Eric is 15, Emily is almost 13, Ellen is 8, and Ebony, our lab/chow mix is 3.  For many years I described myself as a homeschool mom.  I found my identity in the homeschool community and started to dig deep roots there... thinking I would be the quintessential homeschool mother who graduates her brilliant children with high honors. 


The greatest lesson I'm learning these days is to not get very comfortable with life.  This place... this earth... this life, it's not my home.  God has taught me this lesson by uprooting me a few times.  Last year, he uprooted Eric and he went to public school and loves it!  He's a dynamite athlete and is excelling above our expectations with his academics and with his athletic ability.


So... I redefined myself as a homeschool mom of two girls and thought I could be happy letting Eric do his thing and I would graduate my two girls.  Wrong again.  In mid August of last year, God allowed Emily to win a one-year scholarship to our local Christian academy for 7-12 grades.  She loves it there and in her own right is excelling in sports and classes above our expectations.  She's clearly where God wants her... and I'm down to one at home.


I no longer have visions of grandeur and after ten years of homeschooling, I'm learning to redefine myself.   I'm realizing that I am uniquely made by my Creator to accomplish great things for Him.  I am not defined by one aspect of my life, whether good or bad.  Instead, there is a grander scheme and I have been made for more.


 I am a homeschool mom but I am also many other things...
I am child of the King, seeking to live for Him
I am a wife, of almost 18 years, who still struggles to put her husband first
I am a mother, to three incredible individuals
I am a home maker, whose home is constantly being unmade
I am a sister, who maybe is finally figuring out that sisters are your best friends for life
I am an aunt, I have 11 nieces and nephews who I adore
I am a friend, who is blessed beyond measure
I am an elders wife, though I often fail to embrace my role in ministry
I am an author, who, now that 2 kids are in school, is pursuing a life-long dream

So... you see, that funny iPhoto picture of Ellen and I.  I think it's an accurate portrayal of myself.  I'm learning to let go... to have fun but to not get comfy.  This life... my life... it's fleeing and maybe that is why the edges are blurry and unclear.  I don't need to see what is in the edges, I just need to keep my eyes on Jesus.


Friday, April 13, 2012

five minute Friday... goodbye

Linking up with the writing community at gypsy mama again for five minute Friday... that time when we write just to write...  we write on one common theme for five minutes without worry of syntax, grammar, verb tense, spelling, punctuation, and the like.  Care to join in?


Today's topic?  ... goodbye.  


GO


A timely topic, to be sure.  In approximately 16.5 hours, I drop them off, kiss them goodbye, and drive away.  They will get on a bus and drive 3 hours the other way... to the airport... to fly to Guatemala.


I woke up this morning with my heart in a knot, again.  This time I recognize the angst for what it is.  Last year, when they left, I couldn't articulate how I felt deep inside.  I didn't know the words for the thrill that my man and my girl were going to serve others and the deep loneliness without them.  


Someday I will go and there will be no goodbye.  I think sooner than later, we will all go... five of us getting on a bus in the middle of the night to spend 20 hours traveling.  We will do this as a family.  


Until then, though, tonight I will kiss my man and my girl goodbye and send them on... on to serve and I will remain and pray...


... and count the days until they return eight days later.


STOP



Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Beautiful Me...

I have the incredible opportunity to be part of something so much bigger than any of us individually... and I can't wait!


On Sunday, there will be an over-the-top cancer benefit in our community... Beautiful Me Fashion Show.  Two incredible young ladies have organized a community-wide fashion show and fundraiser.  Twenty local cancer survivors and/or family members will be modeling fashions from our local stores.  In addition, there will be booths of sponsors set up with ongoing fun fundraisers, and other goodies.  All proceeds go to our local community cancer care fund to help care for local families who need financial assistance while undergoing cancer treatment.




The Secret of Counting Gifts will be there!!  I've seen the ravishes that cancer can do to a family.  I've witnessed friends struggle to find enough money to pay for the gas to get to the treatment.  And, I've watched friends help each other through the often dark and lonely journey of cancer.  Because of this, I believe in what Sarah and Emily are doing on Sunday and I feel blessed to be able to support them in this endeavor.


Some are asking... why use your book to sponsor such an event?  I wrote a novel about two lifetime friends and the struggles of life, including breast cancer.  I have had many friends struggle through this devastating disease... and some have gone on to enjoy their eternal reward with Jesus.  This is an opportunity to give back to my community and to help, in a small way, those currently in the battle by offering them a free book.


If you are in Northern Indiana, would you consider joining me?  Cost is $15 or $25 for VIP seat.  We will spend a fun filled afternoon together supporting a great cause.  I'll introduce you to my friends, Kim and Cindy, who are models for the day and amazing women.  I promise it will be worth it!  If you would like ticket information... please email me... kreidermom {at} yahoo {dot} com.


In honor of this event, the price of the book is $.99 again.  Get it while it's hot or come to the show and get it FREE!


... at Amazon for kindle
... at Smashwords for Nook, iPad and .pdf

Monday, April 09, 2012

thoughts from Emmaus....

Then he said to them, "So thick-headed! So slow-hearted! 
Why can't you simply believe all that the prophets said? 
Don't you see that these things had to happen, that the Messiah 
had to suffer and only then enter into his glory?" Then he started at the beginning, with the Books of Moses, and went on through all the Prophets, pointing out everything in the Scriptures that referred to him.
Luke 24:25-27

I've read the account of the followers of Jesus on the road to Emmaus many times.  I thought I knew it... I really did.  Until yesterday.

Yesterday, Resurrection Sunday 2012, I realized that I could have easily been one of those travelers... we think along similar lines... we doubt.

On the very same day that Jesus defied death FOREVER and rose again, 
those followers of Him doubted...
we thought He was the One...

On the very same day that Peter saw the empty tomb, 
those followers of Him doubted...
it's been three days...

On the very same day that Jesus revealed Himself 
and His risen body to Mary in the garden, 
those followers of HIM doubted...
not our Jesus...

So often... I doubt.

On the very same day that a miracle happens,
I doubt...
it's just a coincidence...

On the very same day that I see something empty,
I doubt..
but I've prayed for 3 days.. or 5 days... or forever...

On the very same day that He shows Himself to me...
I doubt...
it couldn't be Him

Yesterday... on the very same day we celebrate a risen King... I doubted and then I heard Him...

So thick-headed
so slow-hearted!

I don't want to be like those followers of Him who walked to Emmaus in doubt and disbelief... I want to be like the women at the tomb who ran and told everyone HE IS RISEN!

Counting gifts again with the gratitude community at Ann's because one of the best ways to announce HE IS RISEN is to shout all the ways He shows Himself to me and to list all the ways He blesses...in gratitude there is no room for doubt.

~*~

... for the privilege to serve a risen King!
... for the freedom to worship 
... for the privilege to honor and celebrate Resurrection Sunday
... for early mornings and remembering the women who ran to the tomb


... for sunrises services
... and church brunches
... for worship
... and laughter with a church family


... for a friend filled week
... and friends who traveled to be with us
... for conversations that pick up where you leave off
... for great cousin time


... for sunrises
... and sunsets
... and friends who for a campfire that ends a great spring break


... for the opportunity to tell my story again
... for the Author who pens a story that brings Him glory


... for modern medicine
... for a long-time doctor who understands
... for another antibiotic


... for a Savior who reaches down in the middle of a church service to speak directly to this  slow-hearted, thick-headed follower.




Saturday, April 07, 2012

a Spring Break recap...

Spending Spring Break with those you love is never a waste of time...
...so we started our spring break with grandparents and cousins and cousin love...
in never ceases to amaze me how much my children miss their cousins when cousin time comes to an end.
On the very middle day of our Spring Break, my friend, Rachelle, returned the favor and took me and six others to Pickles for a belated birthday celebration....
where I managed to spill my plum iced tea and laugh until I thought my sides would seriously split wide open.
And, the end of our week brought a visit from dear Ohio friends, my college roommate and her family... 
beautiful weather, beautiful conversation and lots of fun as we celebrated friendships that have stood the test of time... the kind that you just pick up where you left off a year and a half ago...
and we watched in amazement as the man-cub finished off not one, but two, "Big Mike's" at our favorite deli.
there is no greater spending of time than spending it with those you love.

Monday, April 02, 2012

The Secret of Counting Gifts... chapter 1




The Secret of Counting Gifts

by
Heidi Kreider

copyright 2012

~*~

dedicated to my warrior friends,
those who have battled breast cancer and won
and those who are currently in the fight

also

to the memory of those
who have gone on ahead...
save a place for me,
I'll be there soon!

~*~

chapter 1

       “Can I get you anything else, friend?” I ask, offering her the straw to her ice water.
No,” Liz replies, taking a small sip. She can hardly swallow. Years of battling cancer have taken their toll on my long time friend.
Time for gifts?” she rasped. “Here, now?”
For you, I have all the time in the world. And, yes, your gifts are on their way,” I reply, with a small smile. Liz's time, though, is running out.
Twenty-eight years ago, I met Liz for the first time. Eighteen years young and full of life, we thought we could conquer the world as college freshmen. From the first time we, literally, bumped into each other in the hall of the Williams Dormitory, we have been inseparable. Blissfully, we thought we had forever to live life together. We rented our first apartment together, stood up for each other at our weddings and held each other's babies. She held my hand when I buried my father and I stood with her when her husband walked out. It was I who encouraged Liz to pursue her dream of song writing when she lacked purpose, and it was I who found her agent. When my son was deployed, it was Liz who framed his Army portrait and put it on her mantle. I think Luke is as much her son, as he is mine. And, it was Liz who threw the party when Luke returned from Afghanistan. No one throws a party like Liz. The boundaries of our lives blurred long ago.
You?” she quietly asks me. Even in her death, she still looks out for me... asking me how I am.
We both know where we stand. Twenty-eight years have not been enough. Yet twenty-eight years will be all we will have. She will soon go and I will be the one left. Weeks ago, she began the process of letting go. We talked about her last days. She insisted that I gather her “living gifts” as she calls us. She wants her family around her for her last breath. I spent the earlier part of today gathering. Her gifts are on their way. Much to my chagrin, she also made me executor of her estate. It will fall on me to be sure that her funeral is what she has requested... “please don't wear black, no hats and for goodness sake, have a party...with balloons!” And, it will be my responsibility to finish the plans for her daughter, Jenny's, wedding. Jenny has already asked me if I would walk her down the aisle in place of her mother. It's funny that I would even object. As she said... “who else could do it?”
I don't answer Liz's question, of how I'm doing, right away. Silence is our companion. I look at her frail body lying in her big queen bed here at the Estate and I memorize the laugh lines around her eyes. Much is spoken in the quiet. I want to savor this moment because I cannot stop time. Seconds, minutes, hours have blended into weeks, days and years. Together all of those blur into sweet memories and forgotten stresses that make up a life long friendship.
I'm okay. The list is long today,” I answer.
An understanding passes between us. She knows my list, for she has one, too. Together we count the things for which we are grateful. It was her idea to count. As her sickness progresses, Liz's list gets longer. She has become the most grateful person I know. The days when our lists intersect are my favorite days. I feel, as if, for a moment, I am as grateful as she is. Although, we both know this is hardly true.
Tell me first,” she wheezes. I cringe at her labored breathing. I hate being here with her. Yet, my love for Liz is greater than my hate of her disease.
I chuckle. This is a game we play. Liz first came up with the idea of counting our gratitude gifts together. As the IV dripped the chemo poison, yet again, last spring, she read a brilliant book aloud to me. The book spoke to both of us. From that day forth, we began keeping a gratitude journal, and sharing our lists of thanksgiving with each other. Of course, she soon learned not to tell me her gratitude list until I gave her mine. Apparently, I cheat. I didn't realize it was cheating to say, “Oh, I'm grateful for the sunshine, too!” when she said it. She never believed me when I told her that I honestly hadn't thought of it before she mentioned it. Not only is Liz much more grateful than I am, she is also more thoughtful.
Ok,” I say. “Today, November 10, my list is this... you.”
What?” she groans. “Cheater!”
Well, since I've previously been called a cheater, I figured I might as well behave as one and list you again. Besides, if you would stop interrupting me, I will tell you why I'm listing you twice.”
Go on” she whispers, closing her eyes.
I'm touched anew at how much this dreaded disease has changed my friend. Though still witty and feisty, she no longer has the strength for long banter or conversation. My heart constricts. For a moment, I close my eyes as well. What will I do without her?
Well, Ms. Elizabeth Renee Ashley-Bower,” I begin taking a deep breath, “I am deeply and truly grateful for all you've taught me and all you've been to me. Shall I refresh your memory?”
Again?” came the moan from the bed next to my chair.
Yes, again! And, again and again and again,” I laugh. “I will tell you this for as long as your ears are willing to listen to it.”
They're listening,” she looks and attempts a smile. My eyes fill with tears.
Ours is a friendship filled with tradition. We have Christmas traditions, birthday traditions, Easter and Mother's Day traditions. We revel in tradition and have been known to break out singing “Tradition! Tradition!” from Fiddler on the Roof, which, of course, embarrasses our children immensely. Liz and I have a habit of developing traditions around just about everything. Now our traditions are coming to an end. Our first Friday pizza tradition started in our early college days and ended last month when Liz could no longer chew well. Counting our gifts has become a tradition, just as telling this story has. When Hospice moved in, ten days ago, we started our last tradition. Each and every night, I tell her our story, these details that we still remember. Together we count all the gifts of gratitude that came along the way. And, as is true to our relationship, we rarely agree on what constitutes a gift.
Love you, friend,” her voice hardly above a whisper. “Find the secret.”
Secret?” I question, holding her hand. “What secret?”
Secret of counting gifts,” she whispers, closing her eyes again.
~*~
There you go. You're all finished with your freshman registration. We're so glad you chose to come here. If you step over to that table there, you will get your dormitory assignment and you can move in,” the student hired as the university's welcoming committee pointed to a table a few feet away. “Good luck!”
Can I help you?” an older woman asked, as I approached the table labeled “housing.”
Ah... yeah... um... my name is Kristen Murphy.”
Murphy, Kristen... you are in Williams Dorm, 3rd floor North, room 312,” she read off the master list in front of her. “You should find your resident assistant in the lobby of Williams. Her name is Julie. Here is your key. Replacement cost is $7. Good luck this year!”
I carried my key, my student ID and the registration packet to my parents' car. My brain felt mushy with information overload. I wondered how I would find my classes, remember all the information that I was just given, and not lose my key. A small part of me wanted to turn around and go home. Instead, my Army chaplain father drove us across campus to Williams Dormitory and to Julie.
Feels like just yesterday that I went off to college,” my mother rambled. “Isn't this exciting for you, Kris? I just know you are going to have such a great time here!”
Fortunately, before I was required to give an answer, my dad found a parking place in front of Williams Dormitory, my new home away from home... or so they say. Home is a concept I had never understood. Because of my father's Army career, our little family moved regularly. We never lived in one house long enough to make it a home, or to even really memorize the address. I lived in many houses. I had never been home.
Welcome! My name is Julie and I am your RA. That's short for Resident Assistant. Are you ready to get moved in?” A small girl, with a name tag identifying her as 'Julie', cheerfully asked, as we walked through the open lobby doors.
Oh, great!” I muttered to myself. Perky little Julie belonged on the pep squad as a cheerleader not on the dormitory staff as a resident assistant. She wasn't big enough to be anyone's RA.
Pardon?” Julie asked.
Please don't mind our daughter, Julie. She's just tired.” Although “being tired” was my mom's excuse for everyone's negative behavior, I was thankful for the excuse and took it.
Yes, I'm ready,” I replied, faking a smile.
~*~

the remainder of the book is available at Amazon for Kindle  or Smashwords for Nook, iPad, and .pdf