Saturday, February 21, 2015

On Friendship: My wedding gift to Susan and Rick

It's not a surprise or newsflash to say that friends are important in life.
I've been blessed with amazing, faith-filled friendships throughout my lifetime already.  A few friendships going back 30 years or more include those with whom I went to grade school and graduated with in high school.  After almost thirty years, some of these people are still my friends because we have chosen to continue our simple friendships begun "back in the day".  Of course, Facebook and other technology helps us stay in touch.  Some of my friends have been people I started to connect with while in college.  Commiserating over common situations like roommates, classes, tests, (and in many cases) recitals allowed us to share more of ourselves with those we choose.  Church and other faith groups provide incredible opportunities for friendships.  Due to the nature of some jobs, coworkers can become friends when responsibilities are shared and time is spent together.
One of my friends is getting married today.  Susan is a friend I first met during my first year teaching.  If I remember back correctly, I was the only new teacher hired the year I started at my first job, so all the other teachers knew each other already since most of them had taught together for many years. As is the case in most schools (and other job situations, I've come to realize), birds of a feather flock together, so the elementary teachers worked very well together, specialized staff members connected, and of course, coaches just "clicked".  After one of the home football games that fall, several teachers got together after the game, and they invited me.  Susan was there, and although we had greeted each other at school and such, she always ate with "the coaches", so in my mind, I had her pegged as one of those athletic-y people who probably wouldn't chat much with a new music teacher.  Wow, was I wrong.
During the course of the past twenty-some years, Susan has become one of my most treasured friends.  As I've been thinking about her this morning, knowing she is preparing for such a happy, joyous day, so many memories have been coming to mind.  Good times and other times....oh my.  So many fun, funny, silly moments: road tripping to Farm Aid, creating a song-and-dance to "Mack the Knife" when we couldn't afford a gift for a friend, our inside story of "She'll be comin' 'round the mountain when she comes" (which still cracks US up anytime we tell it, even though others just kind of smile and nod), concerts, programs, shopping trips including our much-loved annual "weekend o'fun" with our friends Carol and Linda, house-sitting for Jim and Julie in St. Augustine, sharing recipes.....all those things of friends.
Our families have created connections as well:  me being blessed and fortunate to travel to Charleston on vacation and meeting her beautiful mother and her cherished Dad, spending time with her siblings and their families, travelling from Charleston to Florida in the backseat of the car between her kids, us staying with my aunt and uncle on a different trip to Florida (where we discovered the rare but dangerous bird "swooptisaurusgitanticus"), holidays, weddings, graduations, receptions, and funerals.
One of the most difficult things I've experienced was when Susan's previous husband Jim was going through cancer.  Susan and Jim were not married long when his diagnosis came.  Seeing their faith, their commitment, their love not just endure that painful journey, but grow and be deepened, touched me greatly.  I remember, with sadness and tears coming to my eyes even now, what a privilege it was to observe that, and to help her through those difficult days following his death.  Although a strong soul, my friend needed me, and I am grateful I was able to be there for her, and so humbled to honor her late husband in that way.
As things go, life moves on. Life has happened. Through different situations, I've moved a couple times since then, she's moved as well.  I've had different jobs.  She's been blessed with gorgeous sons-in-law and daughters-in-law, and is so taken by her adorable grandbabies.  I've gotten married, and have had (yet) another new job.
Life has gotten busy, but we've stayed connected.
So I was so happy for, wait....happy's not right....I was thrilled, ecstatic, elated when I found out she and Rick had gotten engaged. I was happy when I knew she had found someone special, but since then, and with this big event?  Thrilled, ecstatic, elated are closer to what I felt.  And what I feel knowing today is their special day.
Susan is the kind of person who puts people at ease, she has blessed so many people with her smile, her warmth, her friendship. Scores of people call Susan their friend. Today there will be many people celebrating the love that Susan and Rick share. Knowing the road she has traveled to get to this day makes the celebration that much sweeter.  I am glad that I will get to hug her kids, her sisters, her friends as we all enjoy each other's company, and the goodness of God that surrounds us.
Susan and Rick: On this, your special day, I am sending up simple prayers of praise and thanksgiving to our Lord for his blessing over your life you begin as one today.  I know I join with many, many, many other friends and family members in rejoicing in God's abundance and goodness for you.  I know there is a great celebration of your loved ones in Heaven today, and our hearts here on earth join with theirs in wishing you all happiness, riches, and love as you celebrate today and begin to live together as husband and wife.  
All my love, congratulations, and best wishes --- 

Monday, February 16, 2015

The Beauty of Grace (A book review)

I received a copy of this book from Revell, a division of Baker Publishing Group in exchange for my opinion.  Affiliate links are present.   

For the past few years, I've been following several bloggers and bloggers whose words tend to resonate within my heart.  A new book has just been released which features several of these writers.  Dawn Camp has created a collection of writing from some of my favorite contemporary women.  "The Beauty of Grace" is this recent release, and you can get to know Dawn here.
I love me some good girlfriend time.  Time to get together, kick off your shoes, grab a cup of coffee or a glass of tea, and get real.  This book is like girlfriend time in print.  If I could collect up some of the most loving, generous, real writing going on today, there's no way I could have done better than the amazing job Dawn did putting this book together.  These ladies?  They're the real deal.  Their stories are honest, encouraging, forward, real.  Although I have never met any of these women in real life, their writing helps me imagine that if I were to, in fact, meet them some day, an easy friendship would develop, based on the openness and vulnerability they share in their writing.
The topics these ladies write on? Topics with which I believe every woman is challenged. I mean, who hasn't (or doesn't) struggle with purpose, surrender, trust, encouragement at some time?
As a compilation book, each entry is relatively brief.  (Think "Chicken Soup for the Soul" here.) This feature makes it really easy to pick the book up during those few free minutes we may find here and there.  While I was reading each entry and would come to the end of it, I found myself thinking, "Oh, that was my favorite one."  Then, sure enough, I'd read another entry, and the same thought would come to mind.  And on, and on, and on.
This book is a great choice for any woman needing to be encouraged.  Or challenged.  Or assured.  Or needing girlfriend time.
Like I said, this is the best example of girlfriend time in print I've ever seen.  I have a feeling I will be ordering additional copies to have as gifts for my girlfriends when we can't be face to face.

Sunday, February 15, 2015

It's Not Who You Know (A book review)

I received a copy of this book from Revell, a division of the Baker Publishing Group, in exchange for my opinion of the book.

Everyone has a different idea of success. For some, success means having a fat bank account.  For some, success means people recognize your name.  For some, success means earning a particular title or position at their place of work. Finally, for some, success means being surrounded by a happy, healthy family.
Pat Williams, with Jim Denney, explores all these ideas and more, in his book "It's Not Who You Know, It's Who You Are".  Subtitled "Life Lessons from Winners", this book contains five major subject areas: success, leadership, family and friends, impact and influence, and becoming a person of influence.
This is a great book that is made up of brief lessons to be learned from many people.  Drawing from the examples and wisdom of individuals such as Walt Disney, Paul Simon, Martin Luther King Jr., Rudy Giuliani, and Tony Dungy, this is absolutely a delightful and insightful read.
What I appreciated about this book is the fact that I could easily share it with students in my Leadership class at school. The lessons discussed are brief and concise, with most between one and three pages.  This fact will make adding it to my teaching library a logical choice.  Additionally, I appreciate how strong character and right choices are emphasized, regardless of what area of expertise is being discussed.  For instance, I may not always fully understand what's being discussed from an NFL coach's perspective when discussing football plays, but I can easily grasp the wisdom of life lessons that are taught and learned on the football field.
I am grateful to have had the opportunity to read this book. I don't know that I would have picked it up otherwise, but I am glad to now recommend it to others!