Living simply, loving deeply!

Archive for the tag “family”

Dark Night of the Soul Part 2: My Journey to Physical Fitness

Tomorrow is a year since I embarked on my physical fitness journey. Since August 24, 2016, I have lost 65 pounds, gone from a size 16/18 to a size 4/6. I have a resting heart rate of 57. I am off blood pressure medicine and a whole host of other health benefits. I can run nine miles without stopping. I am actually training for a half-marathon that I will be running in the fall. I did it by completely changing the way I eat. I have cut out all processed sugar and grains. My doctor is the one who suggested this way of living to me. Sounds harder than it really is. I have never felt nor looked as healthy as I do now. I wrote about my struggle with losing weight and the “why” in a previous blog.


August 24, 2016, through August 24, 2017


Yet these past couple of weeks have been the hardest of the whole journey. I don’t know why…scratch that….yes, yes, I do. God has gotten to the very heart of my stuff. And it has been painful. I have had the choice of facing it or ignoring it. There have been numerous times, especially these past few weeks, that I have wanted to ignore my stuff, put hands over my ears, tightly shut my eyes, and pretend everything was okay. l recently blogged about this difficult part of my journey in the Dark Night of the Soul.

I am daily amazed at the response I have received from that blog. It is my most viewed blog ever, times 600. My dark night of the soul resonated with so many people. The texts, e-mails, phone calls, and messages have been overwhelming and humbling. When I wrote it, I was simply processing where I was. But my honesty gave others permission to be honest. And that is where healing begins, in the acknowledgment of who we are and where we are.  I knew that as the responses poured in, that I would need to do a follow-up blog. I have gone back and re-read it numerous times, trying to understand the impact. This is the follow-up. It is not coincidental that it coincides with the anniversary of taking control of my physical health. This decision to becoming physically fit was birthed spiritually.

I wish I could say that I have come through the night…I am still walking through it but I am beginning to hear the birds chirp and know that dawn will soon be here.

But back to my choice on whether to face it or ignore it.

Deep down, I know I won’t ignore or pretend. Not this time. I can’t go around this mountain one more time. I can’t. I won’t.

I will not accept this as normal. I will not coast through the rest of my life saying, “Well this is how it has always been and will always be.” When you stop growing and transforming, you start dying.

I want to be the best version of me I can be.

I want to fulfill all the good works God has for me (Ephesians 2:10).

I want my life to express the wonderful grace of God (Acts 20:22)

The only way to overcome in a HEALTHY way, in a way that promotes healthy growth, is to face it. As painful as it is.

It is so important to me that the way that I LIVE first and foremost demonstrates the wonderful grace of God. I am not striving for perfection or to please people but I genuinely want to live the abundant life Jesus offers and wring out every purpose and plan He has for me. I want to do it authentically. Who I am on the inside needs to match the person everyone sees. That is called integrated living. Integrity is living out your beliefs. And I want my life to be an invitation to others to see how good God really is.

Last Monday night, I was hosting a family night. I started family nights a few years back. Normally we get together on a Sunday night and eat and play cards and celebrate birthdays. I always get an ice-cream cake from Dairy Queen and get sparkling grape juice. Everyone gets a glass and we have to say why we are glad the person we are celebrating was born. My family moans and groans about it but I know they secretly love it. Why wait until someone is dead to let them know why they are important to you? Once everyone is done, we lift our glasses and toast to them. I say something to the effect, “May this year be their best yet, full of love, happiness, joy and God’s blessings”. This particular one, we were celebrating my sister’s 50th and my goddaughter’s 28th. Sidenote: The best family night we ever had was last August when my god-daughter and husband used the toast and cake to announce they were expecting their first baby. So this year, having baby Luke with us, was absolutely perfect!!!



Baby Luke with his parents!

And the family that comes is not all blood family. It says in the Bible that God puts the lonely in families. I love the family God has created for me over the years. (And how many boyfriends have my nieces brought to family night? 😉 That’s how you know it may be serious. Once, one of my nieces brought a boyfriend and they broke up not long after family night. We are loud, obnoxious and a little overwhelming and we all hate to lose. It has been known to happen that when someone wins, they run up and down my street barefoot in the middle of winter…not mentioning any names Mckinley. 🙂



Family Night Pic



During family night on Monday, I commented on how my house is a little tacky as I was plugging in my palm tree. 😉 My house is decorated with flip-flops, palm trees, and pink flamingos on the outside as well as the inside. My niece, McKinley, said “Your house is perfect. The inside looks exactly like you would expect it to look based on the outside.” I don’t know if she was saying I was tacky or what 😉 …but God really used that comment to drive a point home.  That comment demonstrates authentic living to me…the inside of my life, my inner life matching the outside.



My beautiful niece, McKinley and me.



So striving to be the authentic person I long to be, here are some things I have learned about myself in this year-long journey towards physical fitness:

  1. I can do anything I set my mind to do. I am stronger and way more powerful than I ever thought I was.
  2. Eating healthy is expensive. I have had to completely re-adjust my budget. Real food should not be more expensive than processed food. Poor nutrition and obesity will continue to be higher among poverty-stricken populations. This should not be.
  3. I don’t need Ben and Jerry’s or Romp’s or Reese Cups to deal with my emotions. I can now eat all those things without feeling guilty…I just choose not to do so as often.
  4. Counting calories gives food control over me. It makes me fixate on something that has bound me for years. I broke that. In this past year, I have not counted one single calorie or fat gram or carb. NOT ONE. And it is glorious.
  5. The worst reason to exercise is to lose weight. You exercise to strengthen your heart, build endurance, handle stress, etc. Once I really understood that exercise became my friend. I actually love going to the gym and running now (thanks, Vinnie – my NSNG guru).
  6. My self-esteem is not as strong as I thought it was. The insecure, 15-year-old teenager is still inside me. There’s some positive to that but a lot of negative as well.
  7. Jesus is not enough. (Shocking statement from a follower of Jesus but hear me out). Jesus never meant for us to live this life alone.I started experiencing true freedom when I found a tribe to confess my real thoughts, my real fears, my real struggles, my real sins, and my real wins.

    There are seasons we need to learn to trust God but isolation is never His intent. The world Jesus walked in – discipleship, growth, and life happened in community. When I went to Israel a few years back, I learned the importance of having a “haverim” which is a group of friends. In the Jewish world, it is a group you learned, studied, and lived life with. Our culture teaches that we mainly encounter God through solitary times of prayer and study. Jesus seems to imply in Scripture that His presence is most often felt in a community.

    I strongly believe that community is a spiritual discipline we neglect. We need friends.

    I read a book that having a “haverim” is like having a training partner. They help you train harder than you thought you could, go faster than you thought possible, and go further than you thought you could ever go. They also make it more fun.

    We need each other. (The night my last blog came out, I went to dinner with three friends and that night was so healing and cathartic to me…just as much as writing that blog was so thanks, Liz, Tonya, and Carey. And thanks to Cristi who has continually been real with me and allowed me to be real).

  1. Eating real food is actually enjoyable.
  2. I love clothes. I love shopping.
  3. The SAD (standard American diet) is killing us as a nation. White sugar will one day be identified as the nicotine of our generation. Our health care system is not collapsing from the Affordable Health Care Act but from the weight of our obesity.
  4. Though I am a size 4/6 now, I still see fat Heidi in the mirror.
  5. Being overweight was a protection for me. When I finally lost the weight and had more confidence and the boy still did not ask me out, I thought, “The problem must be me. There’s something inherently wrong with me. I am not enough. I will never be enough.” I completely spiraled out of control emotionally.  (How’s that for honesty?) And honestly, that is the crux of my issue. Dealing with my addiction to food stripped away my coping mechanism. It made me deal with the stuff. The painful stuff. Due to circumstances that happened when I was younger, I never felt like I was enough. I never felt like I mattered or was worth fighting for. And you know what? I really didn’t like the boy that much, I just wanted to be asked, to be validated. (Seriously, he dodged a bullet!) It reminded me of how crazy I could be and that there was still much in me that needs to die and be healed.
  6. I want to get married. Up until three years ago, I was happy and content being single. I don’t know what changed but something has. I have come to understand that it is not a sign of weakness to desire it. Marriage is a good thing (I have not always felt that way).
  7. I love Brussel sprouts. And hamburgers. And dark chocolate.
  8. There are other areas of my life that need to be addressed as I continue to follow Jesus (hear that financial fitness…we are coming after you next! 😉 )
  9. I love Jesus so much more than I did a year ago and am so grateful for His presence in my life. He has been there every step of the way, guiding and protecting me; especially from myself and my own self-destructive ways. In Him, I am truly finding who I am.

It is important to me that those who have followed this journey of mine, especially since that last blog, understand that as I have dealt with all this crap, I have never stopped living. I have never stopped loving and serving people. I have never blamed God. We so often want to take a time-out while we “re-group”. Life is too short to take a time-out. Serve God, serve people, live life with your limp. With your stuff. Healing comes along the way.

I am not through this darkness yet. I am still wrestling. But I am still going to Niger, Africa in November. I am still calling that homebound lady from our church that needs to know she is not forgotten. I am still helping plan a huge church/family celebration this weekend for our church. I am still praying for people and sending encouraging cards. I am still serving my community. I am still having family night.

I am still living. With tears streaming down my face sometimes. Limping. But I am still living. And following Jesus.


Baseball & Believeland

If you live in Northeast Ohio, you know that the Cleveland Indians are in the World Series…the first time since 1997.

My love for the Cleveland Indians stems from my childhood. Cleveland Indians baseball playing in the background was the soundtrack of my childhood summers. My mom would sit on the back picnic table listening to the game on the radio, drink Pepsi, chain smoke while keeping box scores of EVERY. SINGLE. GAME. Every year she would say, “This is the year the Indians win the pennant.” And she believed it.

The names Herb Score, Andre Thornton, Joe Charboneau (remember the song, “Go, go Charboneau…he’s Cleveland’s rookie of the year”), Mike Hargrove (the human rain delay), Len Barker, Joe Carter, Julio Franco, Toby Harrah, Brook Jacoby, Duane Kuiper, Rick Manning, Pat Tabler just to name a few were common names heard in my house. Buddy Bell was her all-time favorite player.

She passed away the summer of 1987.


Scan 1

Me and my mom a month before she passed away.


I fell more in love with Cleveland baseball in the 90s. This was the era of Sandy Alomar Jr., Albert Belle, Jim Thome, Manny Ramirez (he made me laugh with his antics), Carlos Baerga , Jose Mesa, Charles Nagy, Kenny Lofton, Eddie Murray and my all-time favorite play, Omar Vizquel. I was able to go to spring training with my sister and brother-in-law when the Indians were in Winter Haven, Florida. So fun.


I still have my Omar Vizquel socks..and t-shirt… ❤ 

In 1995, the Indians made it to the World Series for the first time since 1948. I was a junior in college in Virginia. My sister, Nancy, called me at school and said she had an extra ticket to game 3 of the World Series. My brother-in-law could not go. Did I want to go? DID I WANT TO GO? The game was Tuesday, October 24, 1995. I got up early that Tuesday morning drove 450 miles to my sister’s house. My dad came to her house so I could see him for a couple of hours before we went to the game.

I thought of my mom as they raised the American League pennant at the game. I remember feeling overwhelmed by emotion, wishing she could actually see it happen. The Indians won that night in 11 innings by a score of 7 to 6. When they scored the winning run, I remember the Jake going crazy. The place was electric. Strangers were hugging. It was incredible.




We got back late to my sister’s house. I got up early again the next morning and drove 450 miles back to school. It. Was. Worth. It.

The Indians did not win the World Series that year. The Atlanta Braves did.

Two years later, the Indians returned to the World Series against the Florida Marlins. I had only been in ministry six months. I remember for game 7 I had strep throat but my boss made me go to an appreciation banquet the church was having for us because no one would believe I was really sick. He thought everyone would think I was faking it to stay home and watch the game. I wasn’t. The antibiotics I received the next day were proof. He recently apologized to me for that. Ha! I am still bitter about that series. It went to game 7. The Indians lost in the 11th inning. I cried. I was mad, as well. What frustrated me most about this series was the Marlins assembled a team for a year to simply win a championship. They dismantled the team the following year whereas the Indians had systematically built a strong team through time and their farm system. I am still really bitter. 😉 I have really strong opinions about loyalty and the purity of baseball. That’s what I love about this year’s Cleveland Indians. There are no real superstars. It is a team working together to get the job done.

The Cleveland Indians are the underdogs this year. That’s okay. The Cleveland Cavs came back when they were down 3 – 1 to win the world championship. The Cavs winning did something for Northeast Ohio’s psyche. It broke something. Some people say a curse…I don’t know what it is but it’s tangible and real.

This is our year. There is a pride and solidarity that comes with being from Northeast Ohio. I have not seen it in other parts of the country. A feeling of camaraderie and brotherhood that comes from going through battle together through the leanest of years. Watching Cleveland rebuild itself and rise from the ashes from the time the Cuyahoga River caught on fire and was called the Mistake on the Lake, through our tough sports years (the Drive, the Fumble, the Shot, Art Model taking the Browns out of Cleveland to Baltimore in the cloak of night) until now is inspiring and something we all should be proud of. Downtown is bustling. When the Republican National Convention came to town this summer, Cleveland shined brightly. The friendliness and unity were a beacon. After a few days, the professional protestors from both sides realized they could not get anything started so they moved on to Philadelphia, leaving our city the way they found it…full of pride and peace.

I guess after watching the Indians win game 1 of the World Series, I am feeling nostalgic. A family friend from childhood said to me tonight through Facebook, “your mom is keeping score”. I miss my mom. I am grateful for the love of baseball she instilled in me. And the optimism. She really did believe every year was THE year. I am also grateful for where I grew up. I love where I live (harsh winters and all). I especially love the people. Northeast Ohioans are gritty, tough, outspoken, fun, and optimistic. This is our year, Believeland.

Death: A Reminder to Live Life Fully

I lost my Aunt Wilma this week. She was my dad’s sister and was 97. She was the last of 7. With her passing, I have no parents, aunts, uncles, or grandparents left. It makes me sad. I have lost a lot of family over the past 15 years since I moved back home including my dad and one of my brothers. And I have officiated most of the funerals.



The seven Strickler siblings: Uncle Jake, Uncle Bob, my dad, Aunt Wilma, Aunt Dorothy, Uncle Jerry, Uncle Claude and their Uncle Stub. I officiated 5 of the 7 sibling’s funerals.

These past few  weeks, I have missed my brother, Jerry, terribly. His birthday and death anniversary have both been within the past month.  When I read through my journals from when I was a kid and teen, he was the one I would always talk to about family stuff. He always listened and made me feel like what I felt mattered. And he let me do some crazy things.



My brother Jerry and my dad.

I also lost my mom the summer before my Senior year of high school. She was 46. I just turned 46 this year. I never realized how young 46 was until I was 46. I faced this year with some angst and trepidation. I knew it was irrational but I was relieved when I passed the mark of having lived longer than my mom.

Scan 1

Me and my mom a month before she died.

Death and loss have marked my life. But not in the way you may think.

King Solomon says in the book of Ecclesiastes “Better to spend your time at funerals than at parties. After all, everyone dies–so the living should take this to heart.”

The 23rd Psalm says, “Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death,
I will fear no evil; For You are with me; Your rod and Your staff, they comfort me”. I have walked through the valley of the shadow of death many times. Each time, God walked with me. He never left. Each time, I learned to rely on and trust Him more. And instead of living a life of sadness and depression, it has made me enjoy life to the fullest. It has taught me to be grateful for each day I have because I know how fleeting and precious life is. Living in the shadow of death has pushed me to take risks. Life is too short to wonder “what if?”. Walking through the valley has also taught me to forgive quickly and let go of offenses right away. You have no idea when someone will no longer be with you.

A couple of weeks ago, I stopped to see a man I respect and love deeply in the nursing home. He has only been in a short time. And he knows he is not going home. As I visited with him, he asked me about a certain Scripture in the Bible that talks about Heaven. And he asked what I thought it would be like. And we just talked. And cried. I asked him if he was afraid to die. He said “no but it is not as easy as you think it is when you are younger. When it’s far off, it doesn’t seem real but now…” He didn’t deny he was having a hard time but in the midst of the pain and grief, he honored God. I think that is how we are all supposed to live! Honoring God and people even when it’s hard. He knows he will be with Jesus when he passes and as I prayed for him and said “Amen”, he just continued on praying Psalm 103 “Bless the Lord, o my soul, and all that is within me, bless His holy name.” Death is real. No one gets out alive. Rich, poor, black, white, brown, male, female…no one.

I think King Solomon was onto something in the book of Ecclesiastes. If you live with the end in mind in a healthy, hopeful, purposeful, grateful way, life can be truly enjoyed and savored.

Two weeks ago, there was a Perseid Meteor shower that happens every August. This year was supposed to be exceptionally bright. I probably should have slept but 14 of us laid on the beach until 3 in the morning and saw 150+ meteors!!! It was fantastic! As we laid on the beach and told jokes and pointed out the constellations and the north star and marveled at God’s creation, I was overwhelmed with joy,  contentment, and gratitude.

You rarely regret the things you do…it’s the things you don’t do that you regret!

At the funeral dinner yesterday, a family member and I were talking. I was telling her that I started my Masters at the end of July and how difficult it has been with my schedule. I told her I was second guessing myself because of the cost. And there’s my age. She said to me, “In five years from now, you would regret not doing it because it would have been finished. I tell my boys all the time to think 5 years ahead…and see if you would regret not doing it.” You cannot have too much education. Learning is a good thing.

Each family member whose funeral I have officiated, I have gotten to know them better and in turn gotten to know myself better. They each left a legacy. Some were ordinary people living quiet, extraordinary lives. I say all of this to say this: Enjoy life. Don’t waste this one life you have been given on things that don’t matter.Love God, love people, take risks, and leave a legacy that adds goodness and kindness to the world.






Amazing Days…


Today is my last day of an amazing 8 day stay-cation. I had goals for this week. And every one of them was met. It was the perfect balance of getting projects done, fun, and simply relaxing. As I sit in my back yard on my swing enjoying the birds chirping as the sun sets, I am so thankful. For my life, for my family, for my job, for the people I partner with in ministry, and most importantly for Jesus.

Every night with the exception of one, I would lay on my swing and simply listen to the birds sing and the cricket’s chirp. For hours. I would pray some but for the most part, I would just simply swing. I wouldn’t think about all the things I have to do when I get back to work or worry about my finances or wonder if I am where I should be at this point in my life. I was completely in the moment. This has not always come easy to me. I am the type of person before a big event or project is even over, I’m planning the next. Sometimes in the middle of a conversation with someone, I’m already on to the next (ask my friends and co-workers how many times I don’t finish a sentence). That’s not bad, It’s just who I am and how I’m wired. But I have learned I really must carve time to simply be. So I schedule it in. And it makes all difference in the world. It helps me be more spontaneous and enjoy the summer rain and people and all the things that really matter. It also helps me when tough times do come. I have an emotional reservoir to draw from.

And every night in the midst of my relaxing on the swing, I would listen to a song.  Did you ever have a song you put on repeat and listen to it over and over and over again.? And it never gets old? It just hits you where you are? and what God is doing in you?  Well, my current jam is Coldplay’s Amazing Day, It has been my theme song for the week (actually for the past several months). It hits me in the feels EVERY time.

The lyrics go something like this:


We sat on a roof, named every star
Shared every bruise and showed every scar
Hope has its proof put your hand in mine, saying
“Life has a beautiful, crazy design”

And time seemed to say
“Forget the world and it’s weight”
And here I just want to stay

Amazing day
Amazing day

We sat on a roof, named every star
You showed me a place
Where you can be what you are

And the view, the whole Milky Way
In your eyes, I drifted away
And in your arms I just want to sway

Amazing day
Amazing day

And I asked
Can the Birds in poetry, chime?
Can there be breaks in the chaos sometimes?
Oh, thanks God, must have heard when I prayed
Cause now I always want to feel this way
Amazing day
Amazing day
Yeah, today

I think there are times in all of our lives we need to “forget the world and its weight” and listen to the poetry of the birds. Have you ever prayed “can there be breaks in the chaos sometimes?” I felt my soul had been crying out for this for months now. It is the major reason I chose to take a stay-cation and structure it the way I did.

God did hear when I prayed. This past week has been a break from the chaos. And I am so grateful. I know I will not always feel this way. Nor should I. God has a purpose for me and I want to be in the midst of the battle. I have a job to do. But for a week, I had a break…a time-out.

Life is beautiful and complicated and hard and busy. And can turn on a dime. Heart ache will happen. Disappointment will inevitably come my way. But for a week, a wonderful week I was able to completely forget the world and its weight. And to have a break from the chaos.

May I encourage you this summer to carve time for you and your family to simply relax and be. Go watch a sunset or a sunrise. Sit on your front porch and watch the cars go by. Waste time. Leave the housework and spend the day at the beach. It is so worth it!

Caught this heron.

Caught this heron.

Getting ready for a 7 mile kayak trip that didn't go so well. Ha. Maybe another blog on this one. Maybe not.

Getting ready for a 7 mile kayak trip that didn’t go so well. Ha. Maybe another blog on this one. Maybe not.

After the water balloon fight with the nieces and nephews.

After the water balloon fight with the nieces and nephews.

Relaxing lunch and stroll to the beach with a good friend.

Relaxing lunch and stroll to the beach with a good friend.

Paying homage to one of the best Dr. Who episodes ever. Ha! :)

Paying homage to one of the best Dr. Who episodes ever. Ha! 🙂

My stuff stuck in the middle of the river from my kayak trip.... :(

My stuff stuck in the middle of the river from my kayak trip…. 😦

Spending time with family. And that's my swing :)

Spending time with family. And that’s my swing 🙂

Got up one morning to watch the sunrise (I'm a sunset type of gal)

Got up one morning to watch the sunrise (I’m a sunset type of gal)

Memorial Day family picnic/water balloon fight! enjoying family!

Memorial Day family picnic/water balloon fight! enjoying family!

Spent a day at the Cleveland Art Museum. Such a great museum. Standing in front of my favorite...Van Gogh

Spent a day at the Cleveland Art Museum. Such a great museum. Standing in front of my favorite…Van Gogh

Mouth of the Vermilion River

Mouth of the Vermilion River

Unfiltered. Beautiful dawn.

Unfiltered. Beautiful dawn.

Letter to My Dad

Dear dad,

I cannot believe it has been six years since you passed away and went to be with Jesus. There is so much that has happened since you left us. Harrison graduated from high school, has a good job and is in a union. He is such a hard worker and a good man. You would really be proud of him. He reminds me a lot of you.

Penny’s girls are growing up to be such beautiful young women. They are as beautiful on the inside as they are on the outside. Penny and John have done a great job raising them! I try to have family night often with them. We play cards and eat and yell. A true Strickler tradition minus the 66 and alcohol 😉 . (I sure do miss playing cribbage with you.)

I am cooking a lot more. I actually like it and I think you would love some of the stuff I’m making. I really regret not having you teach me how to can and do some other things around the house. I plan on putting a small garden in this year. I know what I’m doing there. Hard to forget you making me line the rows up with rope in the pouring down rain because the plants had to be in by a certain time and in a certain way.

I got another useless dog. She doesn’t hunt or do anything like that but she scares salesmen away. I get a reminder every month to keep my dog inside so the electric company can read the meter. I don’t understand why….the back yard is fenced in…the meter is on the outside and Woodstock is too fat to jump the fence. You would definitely make fun of Woodstock along with the rest of the family…she is kind of fat.

The Browns still suck. Nancy and Scott miss you being in their football pools. And you still can’t say Pittsburg around Karen without a violent reaction or a penalty flag being thrown. Lebron dumped us on national television but all was forgiven when he came back a few years later. The Indians are still the same.

I am still pastoring at the church. And I love it! God has been so faithful!  I quit Papa Joes a few years back. I’m not on city council anymore but stay involved by being on Planning Commission. I miss talking  city politics with you and having lunch at the Amvets. Election day isn’t the same without you. I dream one day of writing more to supplement my income.

I have been to Jamaica twice and Israel since you’ve been gone. All trips of a lifetime.

Kate, Uncle Jake, and Wayne are no longer with us.

I think often of your stay in the hospital and the day when you told the four of us girls that “we always have family” before you tried to punch the nurse. I take that to heart. You would be so happy because your girls are planning on spending Christmas together down in Florida with Bill. We are renting a beach house and spending the week. I really wish you and Jerry could be there with us. And mom and Kate. I think we have avoided family things because it reminds us of our losses. But we know we can’t do that forever. There are nieces and nephews that need to experience all things Strickler.

I miss our car rides through the Ogontz and hearing the stories of your childhood. I miss the sound of the pressure cooker rocking. I miss how you could never pronounce anyone’s name correctly. I sometimes even miss how you would yell my name when you weren’t happy.

I still don’t miss going to the grocery store with you, though. We went enough for both our lifetimes combined plus eternity. You sure could grocery shop. I really hope there isn’t any grocery shopping in heaven.

I wonder whatever happened to the whistle you would use when telemarketers would call.

The Jehovah Witnesses finally stopped coming to the door. I think she had a crush on you.

Ollie and Pongo are both gone. I think Scott still wonders how he ended up with your crazy dog! You sure could pick ’em.

I have taken up the mantle of warning everyone as they back out of the driveway “to watch out for the fire hydrant and the flag pole.” (Remember the time you were warning me and as you said “fire hydrant”, I hit it? You didn’t let me live that one down).

I’m glad you are no longer in pain and that you are enjoying the presence of Jesus with Jerry. And that both of you are whole and healed and happy. And I know where you are sure is better than here but there are days I wish you and mom and Jerry were here with me.

I write all of this to simply say “I miss you, dad. And I love you and bushel and a peck and a hug around the neck.”

See you soon,


Me and my dad.

Me and my dad.

My dad.

My dad.

One of my favorite pictures of him...on a fishing trip to Canada.

One of my favorite pictures of him…on a fishing trip to Canada.

My brother, Jerry and dad at a family Browns party.

My brother, Jerry and dad at a family Browns party.

My brother, Jerry and my dad.

My brother, Jerry and my dad.

Dreams, Painting, and Prayer

I have taken up painting. And I cannot believe how much I love it! Last fall I went to one of those classes in which friends get together and paint a picture. I had a lot of fun doing it and it was so relaxing. So this year as I was goal setting, I decided I would try painting on my own. I have this driving desire to keep my brain fresh. (And I’m reading a fascinating book on the brain and how you can create new grooves and stimulate different parts of it. I have said it before and will state it again…I am a nerd). I believe you keep your brain fresh by trying and learning new things. So this year it is painting.

My painting from class

My painting from class

Painting last fall in a class.

Painting last fall in a class.


I was a little nervous about making any kind of investment because I was not very good in art class in school. I was one of those who thought they could not draw a straight line. I even singed my hair once with the kiln in middle school art class. I definitely do not have the fondest of memories of art class (except 8th grade art…Mrs. Coton rocked!) It is funny how many of the conclusions we draw about ourselves we make as kids and teenagers and never go back to examine if we really came to the right conclusion or not.

I had drawn the conclusion that I was not very creative. I have come to realize that was a faulty conclusion. How I decorate my house, my love for writing and reading are signs of my creativity. I remember having a conversation with some friends and I made the statement, “I’m not very good at decorating. I don’t have that creative gene.” My good friend, Lesli said, “Yes, you are. You have a theme and it is very unique.” I was comparing myself to Better Homes and Gardens and other home magazines.

On my birthday this year, I went to spend the afternoon with my mentor and some other ministry friends. My plan was once I left there I was going to go to the craft store and purchase the supplies I needed to get started. As I told them about my plans, they were so encouraging. Have you ever had someone in your life that makes you feel like you can do anything? Harriet is that person to me. I am so grateful for her. As the four of them prayed over me a blessing for my birthday, I just knew that God was doing something. It was a holy moment.

This was taken on my birthday at Bill and Harriet's house. A wonderful afternoon!

This was taken on my birthday at Bill and Harriet’s house. A wonderful afternoon!

My first painting I attempted was a picture/vision I had during worship a few years back. I had the vision several times and so one day, I drew it out in my office. I hung the piece of paper on my wall to remind me of what my walk with Jesus should look like. I thought “one day I am going to get someone to paint this for me.” Who knew that person would be me!

My first solo picture!

My first solo picture!

When I started my first painting, I put on worship music and began to paint. I was so nervous that I was going to mess up. As I kept painting, I began to feel free. I realized that I could not mess up. It was my painting, my creation…it could be anything I wanted it to be and any color I wanted it to be. There was no wrong way. One of my favorite Bible verses is Ephesians 2:10 – it says, “We are (I am) God’s workmanship (His poem, His work of art) created in Christ Jesus to do good works so that we would walk in them.” That verse explains my first painting exactly. As God paints the story of my life, I am to walk in the good works He has prepared for me to do, always with the Cross before me. It was such a moving experience for me.

AS I have started a blank canvas and seen it come to life, the pleasure I feel is indescribable. I feel like I have caught a glimpse of the heart of God and how He feels as He is painting the story of my life. As He sees His purposes and plans come to fruition in me, that pleases Him.

My second painting was for niece, Madison. She saw my first one and said she wanted me to do one for her. She loves frogs so I thought I would surprise her and do one. Again, I put on worship music and painted. I spent two hours praying for her. Praying that she would know that she is God’s workmanship, that He has purposes and plans for her, that she would know how much God loves her. When it was done, I signed it and put two Scriptures on it that came to mind as I painted.

My lovely niece with her picture.

My lovely niece with her picture.

My third painting I did was for one of my sisters. One of my favorite things I have is a rock she painted for me when I was 5 or 6. I thought for her birthday I would paint the picture that is on the rock. The time I spent painting it I used to pray for her. I spent the time thanking God for her, praying that He would bless her and that she would continue to grow in the knowledge of how much He loves her. And I signed it and put Scriptures on it. And now I know that I will be painting intercessory prayer paintings for people in my life that I am praying for. All I want to do is paint. I have my 4th one sketched out but I can’t show it on here because the person receiving reads my blogs faithfully. And I want it to be a surprise.

the sketch

the sketch



I love seeing a picture come to life!


The rock from my sister!

The rock from my sister!


The finished picture

The finished picture

I was thinking today what if I would have listened to my childhood/teen-ager self that said I was not artistic or that I couldn’t draw a straight line? What if I had been afraid to try? I would be missing out on something that brings me much joy. I also thought that most of the time we are our own worst dream busters. I would encourage you to try something new and do not let fear keep you from trying!



One of my goals for the New Year is to combine my love for pictures and my love for writing by posting my favorite picture from the previous week on my blog. The first week of 2014 started and ended with a snow storm. Two of my nieces and I made sure we took time to enjoy the winter wonderland. This picture captures so much!

Nothing is Impossible: Part 2

Back in July, I wrote a blog (Nothing is Impossible) about the opportunity to go to Israel in the spring and how God miraculously provided for half the trip. I feel the need to share something else that recently happened in regards to this trip.

About a week ago, I was watching the news. They were showing a segment on how what was going on in Syria and the United State’s response was affecting Israel. In the segment the Israeli government was passing out gas masks to their citizens. Not what I really wanted to see 6 months prior to leaving for the Middle East. I was feeling a little apprehension. And worry about the remaining money for the trip crept in.

Last Wednesday, I went home before Church to let the dog out. In the mailbox was a letter from my cousin Bobbie with the most beautiful letter and a check for $200 for my trip!! She had read my blog. In the letter she told the story on how 30 years ago, she was able to go Israel for three weeks. And her way had been completely paid for by her mother-in-law who accompanied her on the trip. With her permission, I am including excerpts of the letter she wrote me:

We spent our first night in Israel at a kibbutz near the Sea of Galilee. We took communion on the Mount of the Beatitudes. It was awesome! We traveled to Nazareth. We spent more than a week in Jerusalem. Our pastor had his first church in Jerusalem, the Lutheran Church of the Redeemer, which is right across from the Church of the Holy Sepulchre. We to visit lots of his old friends. I loved Jerusalem! It is an exciting and vibrant city!

I have really condensed three weeks into a short narrative, but that trip changed my spiritual life. Just to have walked where Jesus was known to have walked and looked out over the Sea of Galilee  and walked in the Jordan River…what a thrill! And to visit the places where he did his ministry and visit the churches that have been built on the places of importance. I was sitting in a beautiful garden by a small church in Bethlehem, and a group of German tourists began singing “O Little Town of Bethlehem” in German. Several other groups of tourists began singing along in their language, including us in English. It was beautiful.

And now when I read the Bible, to be able to picture the places they are talking about is such a thrill. We spent a day at the Dead Sea, and no, you can’t sink in it. There is too much salt and too many minerals and you can’t sink. It was about 115 degrees the day I went swimming, but it was refreshing. When I came out, I had to take a shower to get all the salt off of me. The water was very blue. afterwards, we went to the top of Masada.

Anyway, I’ve kept you long enough. I feel that it is very important for you to have the opportunity that I had back in 1984. I am enclosing a check for you to help you with your trip expense. I wish it could be more, but hopefully it will help!

Words cannot tell you how much this letter blessed me! Here is an example of someone truly paying it forward! It is obvious that I am supposed to go on this trip! I am continuing to trust that God will provide the rest of what I need!

At our church we have a saying when traveling to camps or conferences: “half the fun is getting there”. After these two gifts, I am convinced that the journey getting to Israel is going to be half the fun, quite the adventure and a wonderful faith builder! God is good!


Encourage one another: Lessons from my Brother

The 80s were known for excess. From drugs to greed to big hair, everything was done to the extreme. The 80s were not known for its moderation. My family did not escape this trend. Some time during the early 80s my family made a disturbing discovery…

They discovered that you could make photos into 16 x 20 posters for a reasonable cost. Thus began “the big picture” era. Pictures would be blown up for birthdays and exchanged as Christmas gifts. My brother Jerry and my dad took it to a whole new level. They began to make pictures frames for these photos. I think they really thought that everyone wanted poster size pictures in their houses. It actually got to the point where a picture was taken of my dad, holding a framed 16 x 20 poster of my brother and his daughter, Tracie. My brother, Jerry, in turn had that picture blown up to poster size and framed for my dad. (And I found this very picture in my closet this week!!!! 🙂 )

A poster of my dad holding a poster of my brother Jerry and my niece Tracie :)

A poster of my dad holding a poster of my brother Jerry and my niece Tracie 🙂

I was reminded of this last weekend when I went to visit my niece, Tracie. I saw the wonderful picture of her and her dad (the one that my dad is holding in the above picture) in her apartment. The photo was taken in the early to mid-80s. It is a treasured possession for her. Both my dad and brother are no longer with us.

Me, my dad, my brother Jerry and my niece Tracie at my high school graduation.

Me, my dad, my brother Jerry and my niece Tracie at my high school graduation.

At breakfast the next morning, we were talking about the picture. She said that after she moved, she was cleaning the glass and its frame and hidden in the back was a note that her dad had hidden. It was a note that he had wanted her to find later. A hand-written note saying how much he loved her. She found it after he passed away. What a precious gift.

It reminded me of a card that my brother Jerry sent me shortly before he died. I still have it in my memory box. When I got home from visiting Tracie last week, I pulled it out and read it again. It never ceases to encourage me and make me tear up and appreciate my brother. And I am reminded of what God did in his life before he died. And that one day, I will be with him and my dad, worshipping Jesus…the One who made us all whole.

The letter from my brother, Jerry.

The letter from my brother, Jerry.

In the book of Hebrews found in the Bible it says “But exhort (encourage) one another every day, as long as it is called “today,” that none of you may be hardened by the deceitfulness of sin.”  We live in a society that is so quick to point out each others sin and faults and things that would disqualify us from being used by God. I do believe that sin is a serious issue and living a holy life is important. But I also believe that it is God’s job to convict and transform people. I want to be someone who sees the good in people and encourage them in their tough times and rejoice with them in their good times. I want to point people to Jesus.

At the end of last year, I purposed that every Tuesday when I got into the office that  I would mail 2 cards to people from my church. I pray and ask God who needs encouraged that week. I also write to a friend that is currently in prison and Jessie, who is in Bible college preparing for ministry. I have also added choosing one family member or friend that is not a part of my church to that list.

This past week was rough. Some personal issues that I was dealing with seemed to be overwhelming. And I didn’t realize how much things were weighing me down until I received a card in the mail and chocolate covered cookies and a note at my door. I also received three texts from people from all over just telling me that I had been on their heart and they were praying for me. It was so encouraging to me. God uses people to let us know that He is there and that He sees us. And that He will take care of us.

My address book and cards I received.

My address book and cards I received.

I believe we can never out bless God. When we practice acts of kindness and encouragement, He will bless us way more than we bless others. It is just how the Kingdom of God works.

I am always surprised and tickled by what God uses to speak to me.  This week, He used my dad and my brother and those obnoxious picture frames! 🙂 This week, look for ways to encourage someone else. Whether it be a note or a text or chocolate covered cookies…

These are a few of my favorite things…

It is no secret to anyone who knows me that I love musicals. I think periodically throughout the week, we should spontaneously break out into song. It would make life much more fun and enriching! One of the best songs from a musical is “My Favorite Things” from the The Sound of Music. A portion of the song says:

When the dog bites, when the bee stings
When I’m feeling sad
I simply remember my favorite things
And then I don’t feel so bad

Today has not been the best of days. It’s one of those days in which nothing is wrong but just general feelings of sadness and inadequacy and self-doubt. I’m assuming everyone has days like these. It is really hard to write when I feel like this but I have this goal of writing a blog a week…

And I received a letter from a friend today who is in a much tougher place than me. And he wrote on how he is beginning to keep a journal of 1,000 gifts. 1,000 gifts in an environment that never seems to change. And He is seeing God’s goodness all around him. It deeply challenged me.

After chewing on that all day, I decided my blog this week would be to remember a few of my favorite things. And hopefully when I’m done, I won’t feel so sad! So here goes: (and no particular order besides #1)

1. My Bible.

God's Word to me. I find Him daily in these pages. And grow to love Him more and more!

God’s Word to me. I find Him daily in these pages. And grow to love Him more and more!

2. My mom’s rose-bush. My mom has been gone 25 1/2 years and this is one of the few things I have of hers besides pictures and memories. And it was my dad’s favorite memory of her. This bush has been transplanted more times than I care to remember. It is a testament to resiliency.



3. Chocolate covered Strawberries. Makes everything better. And hint, hint to any friends or family….Valentine’s Day is coming up! 🙂


4. My Winnie the Pooh rock that my sister Nancy painted for me when I was 4. It is in my Cross treasure box…


5. My Cross Treasure box. A dear man-made it for me when I lived in Virginia. It is hand-made and no nails were used. It reminds me of him and the power of forgiveness. God used me in his life while I was pastoring. I pray for and think about him when I look at it. He is still faithfully serving the Lord.


6. Pedicures!

Brenda, Bethany, and me getting a pedicure during a girl's weekend!

Brenda, Bethany, and me getting a pedicure during a girl’s weekend!


7. Bonfires.


8. Flip flops 🙂

My blog name has come from my love of flip flops!

My blog name has come from my love of flip-flops!

9. Dad’s Bible and dog tags. My dad was a WWII vet. He was given a pocket Bible during the war with a metal cover. It went in the pocket over the heart. It was protection for his heart. The Word of God really does protect the heart!


10. Laughing! I say in every Bible study I lead and class I teach and person that I counsel that God brings healing in two ways…through laughter and through tears. The Bible says that “a joyful heart is good medicine” (Proverbs 17:22).

This is one of my favorite pictures! Long story from a women's retreat...taken by a drunk captures that weekend!

This is one of my favorite pictures! Long story from a women’s retreat…taken by a drunk man…so captures that weekend!

11. Palm Trees. My house is decorated in flip-flops, flamingoes, and palm trees!

This pic was taken laying on a beach in Florida!

This pic was taken laying on a beach in Florida!


12. Tattoos – this surprises most people but I really love tattoos. And I have 2 of them.

One of my tattoos with one of my favorite Scriptures.

One of my tattoos with one of my favorite Scriptures.

13. Practical Jokes.  I will write a blog one day on a couple of the practical jokes that I have done and have been done to me.

One of the most elaborate jokes ever pulled on me. A locksmith, a trip to the junkyard, switching of will have its own blog...

One of the most elaborate jokes ever pulled on me. A locksmith, a trip to the junkyard, switching of hoods…it will have its own blog…

My house after it was saran wrapped and potatoed.

My house after it was Saran wrapped and potatoed.

Jodi and I giving Katie and Randall the big "L" and "W" for punking them after they punked us!

Jodi and I giving Katie and Randall the big “L” and “W” for punking them after they punked us!

14. A note I received from my nephew, Harrison, while I was in college. I still have it. 

Vermilion-20121223-0018715. Preaching. I really do love to communicate God’s Word to people and share all the goodness He has shown me. It has taken me awhile to be comfortable in my own skin and style and not compare myself to others.



This was a gift from my good friend, Connie Hansen, whose parents really believed in me and helped me in college! It's a skinny :) woman preacher!

This was a gift from my good friend, Connie Hansen, whose parents really believed in me and helped me in college! It’s a skinny 🙂 woman preacher!

16. Books.  I love the smell of books. I love getting caught up in a plot of a book and staying up all night to finish. I love buying books….And I always say that “readers are leaders”.

I have books everywhere in my house.

I have books everywhere in my house.

My pile of to read books that is next to my recliner.

My pile of to read books that is next to my recliner.

I have run out of book of my spare rooms has hundreds of books in piles...

I have run out of book cases…one of my spare rooms has hundreds of books in piles…

My all time favorite series...the Chronicles of Narnia...

My all time favorite series…the Chronicles of Narnia…

17. My family. While my dad was in the hospital…shortly before he died…he told us four girls that “remember that you always have family.” This was right before he tried to punch the nurse. 🙂

My favorite picture of some of my nieces and nephew!

My favorite picture of some of my nieces and nephew!

My favorite picture of the 6 of us kids with my dad!

My favorite picture of the 6 of us kids with my dad!

18. Elvis Leg. This one makes me laugh and wonder at the same time. This reminds me of my first youth group that I pastored. Some really great and fruitful times of ministry.


19. Crazy Dresser. This was a grief purchase after my dad died. There is a crazy story that goes with it. My family teases me about it but when I die they will all fight for it 🙂 I think this dresser captures my personality and is proudly displayed in my living room!

Note the face and that it is leaning. Also note the muscle on the left and the hand holding it up on the right! This is hand made.

Note the face and that it is leaning. Also note the muscle on the left and the hand holding it up on the right! This is hand-made.

20. Friendships. I have been blessed with the best friendships throughout my life! God’s endless blessings! Other pictures of my friends are scattered all throughout this blog…most of my favorite things have come from my friends!

Close high school friends, Jen and Jen and me! One of my all time favorite pics!

Close high school friends, Jen and Jen and me! One of my all time favorite pics!

BFF from college Jodi and me making snow angels!

BFF from college Jodi and me making snow angels!

Sonia and me!

Sonia and me!

21. Chocolate. Don’t need to say anything more.

Winner of a chocolate contest! Imagine that! :)

Winner of a chocolate contest! Imagine that! 🙂

22. Porcelain Conch and Seaweed Music box. This has its very own blog. A gift from my brother Bill.


23. Hog hair shearer. This is one of my most treasured possessions. My favorite ministry story stems from this. This will get its very own blog someday!


24. Picture/art work. This picture speaks volumes to me. It captures how I want to live my life. I want to take risks and go down swinging if I ever have to go down! I eventually will get this put on canvas!


25.  All things Beach and water! 

Lake Erie in my kayak on a summer day.

Lake Erie in my kayak on a summer day.

Beach in Florida where my brother lives.

Beach in Florida where my brother lives.

Main Street Beach on Lake Erie. One of the most beautiful spots in the world to me!

Main Street Beach on Lake Erie. One of the most beautiful spots in the world to me!

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