Tag Archives: Celebrate

Shout Out to Michele: Five Years Strong and Counting!

7 Nov

“Friendship is unnecessary, like philosophy, like art… It has no survival value; rather it is one of those things that give value to survival.”  – C.S. Lewis

Today’s blog is dedicated to good friends, and one in particular. We all have friends—people we love and enjoy being with, but we should also have one or two best friends (spouses aside), who stand above the rest. Those are people we connect with on a deeper level, and for whom we’d go through fire if they needed us to. God has blessed me with two such friends.

The first is Lisa, who lives in Boston, my friend since we the 6th grade (nearly 40 years ago). I could write volumes about the trouble we got into (well, mostly me while she watched) when we were young and foolish (well, mostly me again).  Lisa and I can, and often do, go months without hearing from each other, but when we get together, it’s as if we never parted. I don’t see Lisa often, but she knows if she were to call me tonight and ask me to come to Boston, I’d be packed and on the road within the hour.

The other is Michele, the reason for today’s musings. If Michele and I were fighting in a battle, we’d be the ones standing back-to-back, each watching out for the other the Jonathan and David battled in the Bible. I’ve only known her for about 12 years, but whenever I read about how David was “knit to Jonathan’s soul,” I get it, because that’s how I feel about Michele. And I know she feels the same way about me because she volunteered to (and actually DID) drive me to the airport last month during a Friday afternoon rush hour. Not Dulles; Ronald Reagan. In the city. Knowing that after dropping us off she’d have to merge with the homeward-bound masses on I-95. That’s a friend.

Michele, my friend

My friend, my hero.

Michele is one of the kindest people I know. She has put others before herself all her life. As long as I’ve known her, she’s never stood in the spotlight. In fact, when she sees this, her first reaction will likely be “This is ridiculous. I’m not special.”

But she is. This is a woman who has endured more than the rest of us would consider a fair share of trials and heartwrenchingly wrong turns, and nobody who knows her entire story would have faulted her if she’d turned bitter. Yet she continues to laugh, to encourage others, and give every ounce of herself away.

Michele’s capacity to love is so great, she’s practically a professional worrier because she can’t bear the thought of those she cares about to be hurt. She thinks I’m the strong one because I tend not to be a worrier, but I want to take this opportunity to say, Michele, it’s your strength, your generosity, and your courage that inspires me most.

A little over five years ago, cancer and a series of other potentially debilitating medical issues came crashing into Michele’s life. Do you know what this single mom’s biggest worry was?  That OTHER people’s lives might be impacted. Sure, she went through some serious woe-is-me times, and there were many tears, but except for those incredibly horrible down-for-the-count chemo days, she fought hard throughout those years to ensure her two teenagers’ daily routines went on as unimpeded as possible. Think about those years: weekend college visits, driving lessons, prom dresses, high school graduation, and angst and drama out the wazoo. She mommed with a vengeance and got them both off to college.

Now, thanks to her faith, her stubbornness, her many friends, and some rather outstanding medical practitioners, Michele is celebrating being more than five years out from cancer. She wanted to throw a party, but, as you might have guessed, other people and commitments came first.

So today we’re putting Michele first. Some of her friends and I hijacked her selflessness, and we’re throwing her party. We’ll practically have to tie her hands to a chair to do so, but we’re going to sit her down and make her laugh and eat carrot cake and be waited on until she knows, without a doubt, how special and how inspirational she is to all of us.

Now, if we’d invited ALL her friends and ALL the people she’s helped and ALL the people who love her, we’d have had to rent a stadium. But all we have is a private home, so we’re celebrating with those people she leaned on through the toughest years. However, if you know Michele, or if you don’t know her but can relate to what she’s been through, you can celebrate with us and really make her day all the more special if you leave a WOOT! Or a Way to Go! Or any other words of congratulations on this page for her to read during the party. Yes, I’ll make sure she reads it.

After all, she’ll need something to do while she’s tied to that chair.


“Two are better than one, because they have a good return for their work: If one falls down, his friend can help him up. But pity the man who falls and has no one to help him up!” — Ecclesiastes 4:9-10

The Christmas Tree of Thanksgiving: Bring on the joy!

17 Dec Gus-Gus the Christmas Mouse

Every year there seems to be at least one well-meaning individual who feels it necessary to remind me that the Christmas tree concept stems from pagan traditions. They insist Jeremiah 10 forbids cutting a tree and adorning it with silver and gold. Actually, this verse refers to chiseling idols from wood, and worshipping them, like the Asherah poles in the Old Testament. Nobody should worship a tree.

However, if you want to show your Christmas joy by decorating a tree, do it in good conscience. Our family enjoys this tradition immensely. In fact, I’m going to dedicate this week’s blog to our tree, because I can think of no better way to celebrate the days leading to Christmas than by reviewing some of the greatest blessings of my life and praising God for making them possible.

Decorated Christmas Tree

Deck the heck outa that thing!

Our Christmas tree has become a three-dimensional Thanksgiving prayer, taking longer to decorate every year, because every year there’s more to be thankful for.

My husband and I started a tradition when we were newly married, when we acquired an “Our First Christmas Together” ornament. Over the years, whenever we travel or reach a milestone of any type, we purchase an ornament to commemorate the event. Among the joyful hodge-podge on our tree is a blue Niagara Falls “Maid of the Mist” globe, a Mayberry Police Department sheriff’s star, and a blown-glass whale from the New Bedford Whaling Museum in Massachusetts.

In addition to this travel log, our tree also chronicles the lives of our children, from the pictures taken in their first years and the hand-made kindergarten projects, through their Blues Clues and Elmo phases, and on to young adult-hood. The ship in-a-bottle was a gift from my oldest, who, at 12 or so, spied on me as I admired it in a Mystic, Connecticut store, and then ran back to purchase it when I wasn’t looking. His Hylton High School Bulldogs ornament reminds me of his years with the band, and his curled up cat figurine keeps Kris Kringle in our hearts despite the more than 10 Christmases we’ve spent without him.

TARDIS ornament

Angels, check; green canoe with oars, check; time lord transport vehicle, check.

The youngest has his own story splayed throughout the greenery, thanks in great part to a thoughtful Sacramento grandmother. His ornaments include a miniature keyboard, which depicts the joy he receives through music; a canoe that commemorates ten days of lake-hoping in the Canadian wilderness (and Mom & Dad’s prayers morning, noon, and night for safe return); and a fish-shaped Egyptian Mau photo that marks the arrival of his cat, Aslan. (“Marks” is a good term for this cat, considering his household contribution…) The lad’s latest acquisition, a hand-painted TARDIS, shows his interest of the day. (If you’re not familiar with the TARDIS, I’m sorry, but there isn’t enough blog space available here to explain Dr. Who.)

One look at our tree will tell anyone who we are as a family. Bronco fans, surely (although Mom tends to place the Bronco ornaments to the side, because, well…orange?) We’re also hikers, fans of the baked goods, Marines, and patriots. When we place our camouflaged and Stars & Stripes ornaments on the tree, we say a prayer of safe-keeping for all who serve in our nation’s military this Christmas, and appreciation for their sacrifices and those who have gone before them.

Thirty years of ornaments now adorn the tree, to include our 30th anniversary mementos from this year’s trip to Charleston, S.C.—a wine cork in a wire heart, and a red “Moon Pie” ornament, because apparently you can’t go to Charleston and not visit the Moon Pie store.

Shepherd with lost lamb

The shepherd will leave his entire flock to search for one lost sheep, praise God.

Interspersed among this memorabilia, of course, is a story of Jesus. Angels herald the coming of the King, birds nestle in the top branches to cry praises for His creation, and Mary & Joseph look with awe upon their newborn babe. My favorite ornament, though, is a shepherd with a small lamb draped over his neck. This one was added nearly 10 years ago, when my wonderful husband, who had grown up outside the church, saw an amazing and transforming light, which led to his being baptized and declaring the Lord as his savior. I still cry when I hang this one.

Another annual tree-trimming tradition is in the Official Order of Ornament Placement. Breakables go on top (yes, the boys are grown, but there are still paws to be concerned about), and soft, “bat-ables” on the bottom. Then, Mom’s rocking horses must be spaced just so, and the plastic decorations from the early years are given prominence because they remind us how little we once had. After that, it’s a free-for all. Each ornament pulled from the box sparks a memory and a prayer of thanksgiving.

Gus-Gus the Christmas Mouse

Gus-Gus, not just a Cinderella classic, but a Christmas favorite

When the tree is complete, and the 30-year-old wobbly macramé angel placed on top, we stand back and just remember. We’ve been able to see, and do, and be so much over the years, it’s impossible not to be grateful. God is so good!

I hope your tree brings you the same joy and thanksgiving that ours does. I’d love to hear about your favorite ornaments. What’s your story?

Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of the heavenly lights, who does not change like shifting shadows. – James 1:17