The Darkest Days Reflect the Brightest Light

I have years worth of warm and wonderful Christmas memories. But one particular Christmas stands in my heart as when the true meaning of the season shone the brightest.

I was a daddy’s girl. I never doubted my father’s love for me. His patience and quiet confidence were a constant presence in our home. His deep love of music was just one of the many gifts he gave me.

As Christmas approached in 1990, we knew that the cancer dad had fought so valiantly was soon going to take his life. I was brokenhearted. I argued with God saying, “But he’s MY DAD!” And the Lord quietly spoke, “Yes, and he’s My son.” I would say to dad, “It’s not time – I need you! Our children need to know you!” And dad would patiently ask, “When do you think a good time will be? Will you ever be ready?”

When the phone call came that it was time to come without delay, I wasn’t ready. The heavy weight of grief had slowed me as I tried to prepare a special Christmas for our three young children. It was Dec. 15, and we dropped everything and went to my dad’s side.

Dad wanted to be home for his last days. He wanted to hear our preparations for Christmas and hear the children playing. He was in a lot of pain, so the hospice nurse taught me how to give him shots of morphine. One long night, he seemed to only find rest when I sang to him. I sang my way through the entire hymn book that night and was hoarse when morning dawned.

“The people walking in darkness have seen a great light; on those living in the land of the shadow of death a light has dawned…For unto us a child is born, to us a child is given, and the government shall be upon His shoulders. And He will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.” Isaiah 9: 2 and 6

Emmanuel, God With Us. The truth of that was a blanket of comfort through the sorrow and the weariness of that Christmas.

My daddy slipped from this earth into the brilliance of heaven on the day after Christmas, 1990. I knew that the gift of his love would always live within me. I don’t miss him any less with the passage of time.

Dad’s last gift to me was the lesson that even if the shopping, baking, wrapping and festivities of Christmas are muted, Jesus will still come. That’s the heart of the matter. Everything else is just details.

About Beverly Lewis

Beverly Lewis is the Chief Encouragement Officer (CEO) at and co-founder of She works with business leaders and entrepreneurs as an executive trainer and coach, teaching innovative strategies to take the “dys” out of dysfunctional businesses and put the “fun” back in. She has three children and three grandchildren, and lives in northwest Florida.

Formula For Success: A True Inspiration

Among the hundreds of runners and para-athletes in this year’s New York City Marathon, Alessandro Zanardi won the handcycle division. You may or may not have paid attention, and you may or may not recognize the name.

I took note as Alex — as he is best known — is one of my heroes.

Alex Zanardi, a native of Italy, began to train for racing as a young teenager. Motor racing, that is. After rising through feeder series, he entered Formula 1 in 1991. After four years he switched to the CART (Champ Car) arena where his two world championships caught the attention of Frank Williams, owner of Formula 1’s Williams team, and Alex was invited to give Formula 1 another go. Sadly it was for only one season. After numerous retirements from races mixed with lackluster finishes, Alex found himself out of Formula 1 once again.

The 2000 season came and went without Alex. He began to consider re-entering CART and landed a seat for 2001. Once again, results were mixed. Then it happened: On a competitive pace in a September 2001 race, Alex was seriously injured in a violent crash and, as a result, lost both of his legs.

Alex’s open wheel racing career was over. And, as you might think, any type of racing career.

You do not know Alex.

Fitted with standard prosthetic limbs, Alex found them cumbersome and limiting as he began to plan a return to auto racing. Nothing was going to hold him back. He designed his own limbs and feet to allow him needed flexibility. By 2003 Alex was racing again, using hand controls, ultimately landing a drive in an international touring car series that became known as the WTCC. He even considered Formula 1 once again — testing a special car fitted with hand controls in 2006.

In 2007, Alex switched from motor vehicles to a self-propelled one: the handcycle. After only a few weeks of training, he placed fourth in the New York City Marathon. Alex began to steadily rise to world-class status as a handcyclist and has become a strong contender to represent Italy in the 2012 Summer Paralympic Games. Then came the other Sunday as Alex showed his championship form, taking the handcycle title in a down-to-the-wire finish — nothing less for Alex! — managing to win even after encountering problems with the chain on his cycle toward the end of the race.

So now you understand why Alex Zanardi is my hero. There’s much to learn from his resolve to pursue his passions and dreams even after a tremendous setback. There’s much to learn from his resolve, his attitude … and his championship approach to life.

He’s written two books, Alex Zanardi: My Story and Alex Zanardi: My Sweetest Victory. They should be a part of your library.

Now, are you inspired to go out and make it a great day? You should be!

About Lois Martin

Lois Martin lives in Atlanta and is a marketing and public relations advisor. In addition to having her own blog,, she is a contributing editor for, one of the most popular sites for Formula 1 racing news and opinion. In addition to Formula 1, Lois enjoys Georgia Bulldog football, cooking, painting and gardening.

Where Did the Gratitude Go?

I wonder how many of us really focus on the people and blessings we’re grateful for at Thanksgiving? I would hope that most people think more about being grateful than not, but as Thanksgiving rolled to a close and the shopping frenzy began, I wondered where the gratitude went? 

Last night and this morning, the news reports rolled in about the people who used pepper spray to get to the merchandise they were after and the people who were shot by people trying to rob them of their purchases. What happened? Do you think these people shared Thanksgiving dinner with family and/or friends in gratitude? 

I cannot fathom wanting any material goods that would cause me to harm someone. I don’t understand this mindset or how things have gone so wrong in the season that is supposed to revolve around love, peace, joy and gratitude.

How do we turn back to a simpler holiday season when shopping and gifts took a backseat to what was really important: family, friends and time together? How did we allow retailers to twist our priorities and change our focus as a society?

As we approach Christmas and the New Year, I pray we can carry the gratitude of Thanksgiving forward. I pray we can remember the magnificence of our Lord and Savior’s birth, and keep our priorities straight. I pray that we take time daily to think about and spend time with the people in our lives who matter and what we can do to help, support and encourage them, rather than stressing and overspending on gifts that don’t really matter in the end.

I am not some humbug person who is against giving gifts. I love to be able to give gifts to those I love and see a smile, but to be completely honest I would much rather receive time with those I love than anything that can be wrapped in a box. If you also feel your family and friends are more important than something under the tree, really take the time in the next few weeks to make gratitude the focus. Share with those less fortunate, offer assistance and time to a loved one and give yourself permission to be released from the retail pressure, and you will experience the best holiday season ever.

About the Author

Angil Tarach-Ritchey RN, GCM is a national expert in senior care. With more than 30 years experience in senior care and advocacy, Angil is very passionate about eldercare and is well respected in her field.

Since 2002, Angil has owned Visiting Angels, a private duty homecare agency in Ann Arbor, Michigan.

For my readers

What are you most thankful for this holiday season?

How do you show your gratitude toward those who mean the most to you?

Have you fallen into the trap of being one of the shoppers at the mall on Black Friday?

What do the holidays mean to you and your family?

E-mail me at and share your holiday memories, and I may just use them for a blog post!! 🙂

A National Thanksgiving

A National Day of Thanksgiving – A Proclamation by George Washington


Whereas it is the duty of all nations to acknowledge the providence of Almighty God, to obey His will, to be grateful for His benefits, and humbly to implore His protection and favor; and

Whereas both Houses of Congress have, by their joint committee, requested me “to recommend to the people of the United States a day of public thanksgiving and prayer, to be observed by acknowledging with grateful hearts the many and signal favors of Almighty God, especially by affording them an opportunity peaceably to establish a form of government for their safety and happiness,”

Now, therefore, I do recommend and assign Thursday, the 26th day of November next, to be devoted by the people of these States to the service of that great and glorious Being who is the Beneficent Author of all the good that was, that is, or that will be; that we may then all unite in rendering unto Him our sincere and humble thanks for His kind care and protection of the people of this country previous to their becoming a nation; for the signal and manifold mercies and the favorable interpositions of His providence in the course and conclusion of the late war; for the great degree of tranquility, union, and plenty which we have since enjoyed; for the peaceable and rational manner in which we have enabled do establish constitutions of government for our safety and happiness, and particularly the national one now lately instituted; for the civil and religious liberty with which we are blessed, and the means we have of acquiring and diffusing useful knowledge; and, in general, for the great and various favors which He has been please to confer upon us.

And also that we may then unite in most humbly offering our prayers and supplications to the great Lord and Ruler of Nations, and beseech Him to pardon our national and other transgressions; to enable us all, whether in public or private stations, to perform our several and relative duties properly and punctually; to render our national government a blessing to all the people by constantly being a government of wise, just, and constitutional laws, discreetly and faithfully executed and obeyed; to protect and guide all sovereigns and nations (especially such as have shown kindness to us), and to bless them with good governments, peace, and concord; to promote the knowledge and practice of true religion and virtue, and the increase of science among them and us; and, generally, to grant unto all mankind such a degree of temporal prosperity as He alone knows to be best.

Given under my hand, at the city of New York, the 3rd day of October, AD 1789

George Washington

Why Are Traditions Important?

Re-published with permission from Shara Lawrence-Weiss (owner of Mommy Perks)

Many times, people think of “traditions” (or rituals) as a religious topic. It certainly can be but traditions don’t need to be religiously based at all. In fact, most of us have traditions of some kind whether we credit faith, religion, media or ourselves (even vowing NOT to embrace traditions can become a tradition, of course).

Traditions can be part of a religious/faith-based ritual or they can simply be rooted in family values and a desire to build memories.

While I was growing up, some of our family traditions were very faith-based while others were not. We attended church functions, sing-alongs, musicals, plays, charity events, food banks, soup kitchens and more. We did these things because we wanted to help others, give of our time and resources, and help the needy. My parents would say, “Although we do this during the holidays we need to carry it on year round. Charity should never be a seasonal experience.”

Traditions have numerous benefits

  • They instill a sense of belonging and love
  • They instill a sense of trust
  • They offer a chance to bond and enjoy each other
  • Traditions form memories
  • Traditions give us something to hope for, long for, anticipate
  • They offer a sense of family unity
  • They become a part of your family legacy

My husband and I attempt to keep traditions going with our family now. Here are some ideas you might like:

Volunteering at a shelter or soup kitchen

Although they need help year round, the holidays are a great time to get involved. Homeless shelters, especially, need assistance during the winter time: blanket and shoe drives, diaper drives, money for holiday meals, service volunteers, meal servers and more.

“The Nutcracker” or “Swan Lake”

Does “The Nutcracker” or “Swan Lake” come to your town each year? As a kid my parents took us to one play or ballet every holiday season. For a family of six that wasn’t cheap so this only happened once, annually. We loved it and now know that it helped to build a better understanding of culture and the arts.

Giving Trees

I have mixed feelings about the trees at the mall. Double-check which organization is running the program. Years ago I had a friend sign up once even though she didn’t really need the assistance. The group she signed up with didn’t do any financial background check. Her child received a slew of gifts from the program even though they were not considered “needy.” Personally, I like the prison program where gifts are taken to the children of incarcerated men/women. Those children are typically in the low-income realm and need coats, socks, shoes and a toy/book. In the past, we have given to this program through our local church. It’s a wonderful tradition to get involved in and to explain to your kids, “There are children with very little, and we are going to help them every Christmas so they know that someone cares.”

Samaritan’s Purse

One of the most well-known and well-respected charity organizations in the faith-based community, Samaritan’s Purse/Operation Christmas Child takes shoe boxes full of needed items (toothpaste, toothbrushes, combs, soap, paper, pencils and more) to children in other nations. It doesn’t cost much to help and would certainly leave you with enough money to help children in our own nation, also (if this is a political issue for you, as it is for some people). If you feel drawn to helping children in other nations, you may enjoy adding Samaritan’s Purse to your annual tradition list.

Cards or cookies to seniors

There are so many seniors living through the holidays without a spouse, loved one or family. Consider making cards or cookies for a senior center or for a lonely neighbor (even the grumpy one who says she/he hates the holidays – it’s likely such a person received little love growing up and never grew out of the need for it – even if they don’t know how to verbalize that). Your thoughtful gift or card may be the only one they receive each year. You might not even get a thank you, but that’s okay. Your kindness won’t be forgotten – I promise you.

Letter to a pen pal

This is a lost art now-a-days (although there are still pen pal websites around that are dedicated to hand-written correspondence). Your family (or child) could write a letter each year to someone in the family – perhaps a far-away relative who loves to receive snail mail. This is a nice tradition that encourages thoughtfulness, penmanship and fine motor skills.


Don’t like the idea of writing a hand-written note? How about sitting down with your child(ren) and sending e-cards to people in your community, church, school or charity groups? An e-card around the holidays is sure to cheer up the folks whose inboxes often sit empty.

Making crafts

Of course! Kids love to make crafts, and the benefits are nearly endless. Make gift toppers, gift wrap, ornaments and more. Do this every year and you’ll have a tradition that your own children will carry on with their’s. I bought numerous craft kits this year from Freckles Crafts (snowflakes, reindeer, candy canes and more). After working with children for 23+ years I can tell you this – they ALL love to make crafts during early childhood. It’s a terrific self-esteem booster.

Christmas lights tour, by car

Every year we drive around looking at Christmas lights on the homes and office buildings. We take along blankets, drinks and a snack bag each: popcorn, pretzels, gummy snacks, crackers, cheese, fruit roll-up, nuts, etc. Sometimes our kids will also carry a camera with them to take photos (the pics never work out but that’s okay – they have fun trying).

Church musical or singalong

Most local churches put on a musical or sing-along during the holidays. Depending on your style, you could choose to annually attend a choir, concert, play, audience sing-along (carols), etc. I remember these events from my own youth and think back on them very fondly. The entire family together – having fun, laughing, smiling, relaxed and happy. You can’t buy memories like that later on. You must make them now.

Whatever you choose, if anything, remember: You are building long-term trust with your children. Traditions offer a sense of self, a basis for trust and a special time to bond. Children who come from homes where traditions are valued tend to have a deeper sense of belonging. They quickly realize that their parent(s) value routine, time together and various cultural activities. These are lasting lessons that will provide them a true sense of self during adolescence and into adulthood.

Happy Holidays to you and yours!

About Shara Lawrence-Weiss

Shara Lawrence-Weiss is the owner of Mommy Perks, Kids Perks, Personal Child Stories, Reliable Bloggers, Early Childhood News and Resources and the co-owner of Pine Media. She and her husband work from home, run 12 websites and are expecting their fourth child. Shara has a background in education, early childhood, nanny work, marketing, PR, freelance and special needs. She and her husband run three businesses from home offering custom children’s books, web design, development, graphics, hosting, programming, social media campaigns, marketing and branding assistance, and more. Rick has been in business for more than 23 years. Shara has owned her own businesses since 2007.

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That’s What Christmas (and Thanksgiving) Is All About, Charlie Brown

If you ask anybody what their two favorite holidays are, chances are that either Thanksgiving or Christmas will be the first words out of their mouths. I have to admit that Thanksgiving and Christmas are my absolute favorite holidays, followed closely by the college football season… Hey, I know the season is four and a half months long, but ask any red-blooded SEC football fan, and they’ll tell you the same thing, after they pick your butt off the floor for asking such a STUPID question.

Some of my fondest, most cherished memories growing up were spent at home or at mom or dad’s parents (my grandparents) houses, on the floor around the Christmas tree, wrapping paper flying across the room smacking my uncles or dad in the head, the sound of my cousins, aunts, uncles, grandparents, sisters and parents laughing at all the hysteria that comes with Christmas morning. I still remember sitting around that HUGE white Christmas tree at my dad’s parents’ house in Marietta all those years, with about 25 people crammed in the living room, or at my mom’s parents’ house playing a game where everybody has to either roll a “1” or a “6” to get a gift, then opens it, and somebody else who rolls a “1” or “6” can either choose another gift or “steal” the gift somebody already opened…Or those Thanksgiving days at our house or my dad’s parents’, watching an entire day of football, screaming at the television set if Georgia and Georgia Tech are playing… Wait, we still do that, nevermind… some traditions NEVER die!!! 🙂

I’ll never, ever forget those memories, and they will last a lifetime, but as I have gotten older and understand what Thanksgiving and Christmas should really be about, it breaks my heart to see and hear everybody standing in line at the mall on the Friday after Thanksgiving waiting to get that perfect gift for their kids or that perfect $500 watch or necklace for their spouse. Hell, just the other night after my mom got home, I was standing there and while mom and dad were talking, the subject of money came up. Mom said something like “Well, we don’t even have the money for Christmas presents.” Let me tell you right now, you may not agree with it, but I am so damn SICK and TIRED of hearing my parents arguing about money it makes me want to PUKE!!! Damn, can’t everybody just be thankful you have a roof over your head, food to put on the table, a warm bed to sleep in and a family to come home to every night?

See, that’s what’s wrong with this society. Everybody’s so caught up in the almighty DOLLAR, that we’ve forgotten what’s important in life. Sometimes I wish we didn’t even have news channels because everywhere you look, some big millionnaire is flaunting his or her money or somebody’s bitching because they went bankrupt and lost everything. Sometimes I wish we could travel back in time to the Andy Griffith Show or Little House on the Prairie, when folks got by with very little and were happy with just a tin cup, a copper penny or the ability to go outside and shoot marbles in the driveway or take a walk to the fishing hole with your dad…

Some of you who are new to the blog may not know this, but my dad’s mom passed away from leukemia in 2005, although it had gone into remission. She and my aunt went shopping one day and after they got back home, my grandmother went back in her bedroom to take a nap and woke up because she was having trouble breathing. The ambulance came and rushed her to the emergency room, but doctors think she passed away on the way to the hospital. Not a day goes by that I don’t think about my grandmother and pray that she was still with us to this day, celebrating all the wonderful things that have happened to our family, like the birth of my cousins, birthdays, Christmases, Thanksgivings and me getting a job with the city of Marietta. Damn, she would have been so proud of everything her family has done. I can just see her face now. I miss you so much grandma and love you more with each passing day. God bless you!!!

On a couple of occasions I’ve talked about my grandpa and his valiant, courageous fight with Alzheimer’s disease. He was diagnosed abour three or four years ago and is getting worse every day. I remember when we went to eat with him and my granny (mom’s mom) about a month ago, we were getting ready to leave, and he asked whose car we were getting into… He didn’t even remember we drove up in mom’s suburban about an hour earlier. On a couple of occasions he hasn’t even remembered my name or my sisters’ names, and seeing him suffering just tears me apart inside. I feel like a part of me is dying with him. I want to remember him the way he was, when we went on a picnic at the lake for my eighth birthday, on the porch shelling peas or shucking corn with him and my granny, or eating watermelon on a hot summer day. I want to remember him putting a blade of grass between his fingers and “whistling” or making the sound of a train whistle, blowing in his fists.

THESE memories to me are what Thanksgiving and Christmas are all about. You may think I am the biggest, most selfish idiot on the planet, but the greatest gift I could receive this Thanksgiving and Christmas is to be able to just go to see my grandpa, give him and my granny a big hug and just fall to my knees and thank my GOD that He has given my grandpa one more day to spend with his family… or to visit my dad’s family and see my cousins, aunts and uncles, grandfather and grammi and catch up on what everyone has been doing since the last time we saw each other. I just want to be able to spend Thanksgiving and Christmas with the people who mean the most to me, praising and worshipping my Heavenly Father for all the blessings and grace He has shown to me the past year. I want everyone to remember the TRUE REASON FOR THE SEASON: Our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ!!!

Luke 2

1 And it came to pass in those days, that there went out a decree from Caesar Augustus that all the world should be taxed.

2 (And this taxing was first made when Cyrenius was governor of Syria.)

3 And all went to be taxed, every one into his own city.

4 And Joseph also went up from Galilee, out of the city of Nazareth, into Judaea, unto the city of David, which is called Bethlehem; (because he was of the house and lineage of David:)

5 To be taxed with Mary his espoused wife, being great with child.

6 And so it was, that, while they were there, the days were accomplished that she should be delivered.

7 And she brought forth her firstborn son, and wrapped him in swaddling clothes, and laid him in a manger; because there was no room for them in the inn.

8 And there were in the same country shepherds abiding in the field, keeping watch over their flock by night.

9 And, lo, the angel of the Lord came upon them, and the glory of the Lord shone round about them: and they were sore afraid.

10 And the angel said unto them, Fear not: for, behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy, which shall be to all people.

11 For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Saviour, which is Christ the Lord.

12 And this shall be a sign unto you; Ye shall find the babe wrapped in swaddling clothes, lying in a manger.

13 And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God, and saying,

14 Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good will toward men.

15 And it came to pass, as the angels were gone away from them into heaven, the shepherds said one to another, Let us now go even unto Bethlehem, and see this thing which is come to pass, which the Lord hath made known unto us.

16 And they came with haste, and found Mary, and Joseph, and the babe lying in a manger.

17 And when they had seen it, they made known abroad the saying which was told them concerning this child.

18 And all they that heard it wondered at those things which were told them by the shepherds.

19 But Mary kept all these things and pondered them in her heart.

20 And the shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all the things that they had heard and seen, as it was told unto them.

That’s what Christmas is all about, Charlie Brown.

A God Who Doesn’t Care?

This article reflects the personal viewpoint of Awe in Autism cofounder and president Deborah French, and not necessarily that of the Awe in Autism administration or Board. Awe in Autism is a not-for-profit organization aimed at supporting and promoting individuals on the autism spectrum and those who care for them, particularly emphasizing artistic endeavors worthy of recognition. The organization welcomes submissions from people of all views, backgrounds and perspectives.

A God Who Doesn’t Care?

If God cared about people, he wouldn’t allow suffering.

I’ve heard this logic from many good friends in the course of my life. A God who lets babies die, lets wars rage, lets disease spread, lets poverty continue, cannot be a God who cares about people.

I believe the opposite is true: that the very presence of suffering in our lives is evidence of God’s goodness.

Have you ever eaten so much chocolate that (for just a brief moment in time) you thought you’d never want to eat it again? It’s what we call “too much of a good thing,” right? We all know it’s possible to overindulge in sweets or rich foods – but is it also possible to overindulge in, say, good health, or peace, or happiness? I believe it is.

Why? Imagine that every person on earth were in good health, had sufficient food and water and never had to experience the horrors of war. What would that scenario look like?

At first, it seems that everything would be lovely. People would go around with their iPods singing and dancing, eating and drinking to satisfaction and lounging peacefully as they pleased. Not a bad way to pass the days. Oh, but wait. Our scenario assumes that all people are also kind, loving and unselfish. Otherwise, pretty soon someone’s going to get the idea of taking a little more food or water from someone else who has more…and that idea could catch on quickly. Uh-oh…I smell a war coming on. And with all those people having their food and water taken away, someone’s going to get sick. And mad. Bigger war coming. This isn’t looking so good. It’s also kind of beginning to look like people are the culprits, rather than God.

In all of this mess, of course, there will also be some people who care about being good to others. They are the ones who give up their own food and water to share it with the others whose supplies have been taken away, who tend to the ones getting sick, and who try to make peace. While this takes a lot out of them, since it is hard and requires sacrifice, they experience an unusual sense of fulfillment because they are helping others. And they discover that despite their tiredness and frustration, they’re serving a valuable purpose… much more satisfying, really, than listening to XM radio all day and eating too much chocolate.

Yes, the suffering around us in the world we do live in is discouraging, often almost unbearable at times. But those who suffer, and those who care for them, are the exceptional ones. These are the people whom God has blessed.

As a Christian, I see a picture of Christ on the cross — the epitome of suffering, and also the epitome of giving. I believe in a God who will end all suffering one day, when those who have been afflicted will be free from pain, and will dance with joy. I believe that then, those in His presence will indeed be made perfectly kind, perfectly loving and perfectly unselfish. Until then, though, the people who most need our care and attention are serving a tremendously valuable purpose in the world – and the world is unquestionably a better place for their existence. 

About Deborah H. French

Deborah French is co-founder and president of Awe in Autism, a not-for-profit organization created to provide inspiration and encouragement to those impacted by autism. The organization’s website features a gallery of original works of art, music, literature, poetry, photography and video created or inspired by individuals with autism. In addition, Awe in Autism sponsors live arts exhibitions featuring works of many of these artists and performers. Deborah’s partner, Awe in Autism co-founder/vice president Kim Covell, is the parent of a child on the autism spectrum. Along with Kim, Deborah has served as a volunteer for the Cody Center for Autism and Developmental Disabilities at Stony Brook University. She has four years of study toward her Ph.D. at Fielding Graduate University in Santa Barbara, where her research has concentrated heavily on autism in the context of media psychology.

Deborah’s background includes teaching English at New York Institute of Technology in Old Westbury, New York and, for the past 16 years, working for the public relations firm Zimmerman/Edelson, Inc., where she serves as creative director for publications and new media. She enjoys writing songs and has performed as a vocalist in various locations across the country. She is the proud mom of three young men and recently became a grandmother.

Grandma’s Hands

Grandma, more than ninety years old, sat feebly on the patio bench. She didn’t move, just sat with her head down staring at her hands.

When I sat down beside her she didn’t acknowledge my presence, and the longer I sat I wondered if she was OK.

Finally, not really wanting to disturb her but wanting to check on her at the same time, I asked her if she was OK. She raised her head and looked at me and smiled. “Yes, I’m fine. Thank you for asking,” she said in a clear voice strong.

“I didn’t mean to disturb you, Grandma, but you were just sitting here staring at your hands, and I wanted to make sure you were OK,” I explained to her.

“Have you ever looked at your hands?” she asked. “I mean really looked at your hands?”

I slowly opened my hands and stared down at them. I turned them over, palms up and then palms down. No, I guess I had never really looked at my hands as I tried to figure out the point she was making.

Grandma smiled and related this story:

“Stop and think for a moment about the hands you have, how they have served you well throughout your years. These hands, though wrinkled shriveled and weak have been the tools I have used all my life to reach out and grab and embrace life.

“They braced and caught my fall when as a toddler I crashed upon the floor. They put food in my mouth and clothes on my back. As a child, my mother taught me to fold them in prayer. They tied my shoes and pulled on my boots. They held my husband and wiped my tears when he went off to war.

“They have been dirty, scraped and raw , swollen and bent. They were uneasy and clumsy when I tried to hold my newborn son. Decorated with my wedding band they showed the world that I was married and loved someone special.

“They wrote my letters to him and trembled and shook when I buried my parents and spouse. They have held my children and grandchildren, consoled neighbors, and shook in fists of anger when I didn’t understand.

“They have covered my face, combed my hair, and washed and cleansed the rest of my body. They have been sticky and wet, bent and broken, dried and raw. And to this day when not much of anything else of me works real well these hands hold me up, lay me down, and again continue to fold in prayer.

“These hands are the mark of where I’ve been and the ruggedness of life. But more importantly it will be these hands that God will reach out and take when He leads me home. And with my hands He will lift me to His side, and there I will use these hands to touch the face of Christ.”

I will never look at my hands the same again. But I remember God reached out and took my Grandma’s hands and led her home.

When my hands are hurt or sore or when I stroke the face of my children and husband I think of Grandma. I know she has been stroked and caressed and held by the hands of God.

I, too, want to touch the face of God and feel His hands upon my face.

True Duck Story

This is a true story that we can all identify with. Seems there are some very nice people in SAN ANTONIO.

A True Duck Story from San Antonio, Texas

Something really cute happened in downtown San Antonio this week. Michael R. is an accounting clerk at Frost Bank and works there in a second story office. Several weeks ago, he watched a mother duck choose the concrete awning outside his window as the unlikely place to build a nest above the sidewalk. The mallard laid ten eggs in a nest in the corner of the planter that is perched over 10 feet in the air. She  dutifully kept the eggs warm for weeks, and Monday afternoon all of her ten ducklings hatched.

Michael worried all night how the momma duck was going to get those babies safely off their perch in a busy, downtown, urban environment to take to water, which typically happens in the first 48 hours of a duck hatching.  Tuesday morning, Michael watched the mother duck encourage her babies to the edge of the perch with the intent to show them how to jump off. Office work came to a standstill as everyone gathered to watch.

The mother flew down below and started quacking to her babies above. In disbelief Michael watched as the first fuzzy newborn trustingly toddled to the edge and astonishingly leapt into thin air, crashing onto the cement below. Michael couldn’t stand to watch this risky effort nine more times! He dashed out of his office and ran down the stairs to the sidewalk where the first obedient duckling, near its mother, was resting in a stupor after the near-fatal fall. Michael stood out of sight under the awning-planter, ready to help.

As the second one took the plunge, Michael jumped forward and caught it with his bare hands before it hit the concrete. Safe and sound, he set it down it by its momma and the other stunned sibling, still recovering from that painful leap. (The momma must have sensed that Michael was trying to help her babies.)

One by one the babies continued to jump. Each time Michael hid under the awning just to reach out in the nick of time as the duckling made its free fall. At the scene the busy downtown sidewalk traffic came to a standstill. Time after time, Michael was able to catch the remaining eight and set them by their approving mother.

At this point Michael realized the duck family had only made part of its dangerous journey. They had two full blocks to walk across traffic, crosswalks, curbs and past pedestrians to get to the closest open water, the San Antonio River, site of the famed “River Walk.” The onlooking office secretaries and several  San Antonio police officers joined in. An empty copy-paper box was brought to collect the babies. They carefully corralled them, with the mother’s approval, and loaded them in the container. Michael held the box low enough for the mom to see her brood. He then slowly navigated through the downtown streets toward the San Antonio River. The mother waddled behind and kept her babies in sight, all the way.

As they reached the river, the mother took over and passed him, jumping in the river and quacking loudly. At the water’s edge, Michael tipped the box and helped shepherd the babies toward the water and to the waiting mother after their adventurous ride.

All ten darling ducklings safely made it into the water and paddled up snugly to momma. Michael said the mom swam in circles, looking back toward the beaming bank bookkeeper, and proudly quacking.

At last, all present and accounted for: “We’re all together again. We’re here! We’re here!”

Like all of us in the big times of our life, they never could have made it alone without lots of helping hands. I think it gives the name of San Antonio’s famous “River Walk” a whole new meaning! Maybe you will want to share this story with others.  Doctor York told me she had forwarded it to 20 people. It’s too good to lose!

Sister Mary-Joanna Huegle

Live honestly, love generously, care deeply, speak kindly and Leave the rest to God.