Sunday, August 8, 2010

Bradly Calhoun... thanks for the hugs!

On July 29th, 2010, at approximately 6:30 am, Bradly Calhoun, age 21, got into his car, headed for work, and changed my life forever.

Brad left this world just 19 days before his 22nd birthday. He didn’t make it to work that day. As he traveled up a winding mountain road we’ll never know why his car crossed the center line and ended up under the rear axle of a logging truck making it’s way down the mountain. But instantly he was gone, gone from this world.

Everyone dies. No one escapes it, and our departure has an impact on those we leave behind, you can’t avoid that either. There will be grief. No matter what your beliefs tell you happens when life ends, those you leave behind are left to deal with the loss of you. After a prolonged illness with intense suffering, there may be a sense of relief mingled with the grief. In many instances grief is mixed with greed as everything you once owned in this world is now up for grabs. But of this you can be sure, your leaving changes the world you left behind.

Horrifying phone calls were made and parents, siblings, cousins, aunts, uncles, grandparents and friends were forced to deal with the shock. Suddenly life as they knew it stopped as everyone dropped what they were doing to gather and grieve the loss of Brad. They flew from the East to the West Coast, drove from the North, South and West. As they cried, laughed, ate, slept, sat quietly and even played together, one thing remained… the hugs never stopped.

I experienced my first Calhoun hug seven years earlier when I began spending time with my husband. We’d been friends and were becoming re-aquained after not seeing each other for many years. Leaving the restaurant we gave each other a quick hug at our cars. Well, I thought it would be a quick hug, but he just held onto me, for what seemed like the longest time. Hmmmm I thought, maybe he really likes me? I was eventually to realize that’s the way Calhouns hug. They hold each other as though it may be the last chance they’ll have to say; “you are really special to me.”

To my shame I admit I’ve felt uncomfortable at times when enduring a Calhoun hug. Not because they are inappropriate in any way, but because there is so much warmth, and coming from a family void of affection I didn’t understand them. We’ve had three deaths in my family. Those that could gathered, never making eye contact we talked about things that made no difference to anyone, no one hugged, no one cried, and we all went our separate ways to deal with our grief on our own and never talk about it.

I’ve now spent four days watching and feeling grieving done right! I’ve seen people lean on each other for strength, I’ve heard gut wrenching sobs come from the depths of the pain of loss, I’ve seen the pictures that show a life filled with joy, I’ve heard the testimonies of people that were touched by that life. I’ve watched a family bond together and be a family through one of the most horrendous experiences a family can be asked to go through. This is now my family.

I’m very sorry I never met Bradly Calhoun. I know now that it's my loss. I would have loved to have seen your smile, heard your laugh and especially felt your hugs. But after having spent this last week with our family Brad, I’m inspired to laugh more often, love more deeply, and be ready for any fun that might come my way. Brad was on his way to work, but in his car he had; a change of clothes, fishing poles and a tackle box, his rifle and a box of bullets, his baseball glove and a baseball cap. He was ready for anything that might come his way that day. During the funeral service his youth pastor confirmed he was even ready to meet his Savior. So Brad, because you brought me into our family during a very intimate time I now can say; “I am a Calhoun and I will always give Calhoun hugs!” I’ll be looking for my hug when I get there…. Heck-a-sick dude!

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Are you my neighbor?

Just who is my neighbor? You may think you know, but read on, I think you'll be surprised by the answer.

I know the Bible tells me that I should love my neighbor as myself, Jesus gave that directive as second only to loving God with all your heart.
I’ve heard a lot of teachings throughout the years that taught; “in order to love others we need to first love ourselves.” Funny that Jesus forgot to mention that. Could it be because He knew that we do love ourselves already, maybe more than we should sometimes.

Who, when driving a car doesn’t do everything possible to avoid oncoming disaster, or when pounding a nail doesn’t concentrate, being sure not to smash their fingers. And who when confronted with unexplainable symptoms doesn’t feel relieved when the Dr. declares it to be something simple and hands you a prescription for antibiotics. We love ourselves. We wish ourselves well and always hope for the best for ourselves. That’s the way we are, Jesus knew this and said that we should love our neighbor as ourself. We should always wish the best for them, we should pray for their well being, and we should be happy when good things happen for them.

But, getting back to my original question, just who is my neighbor? I know who lives next door to me, and across the street. My neighbor on one side has a different faith than me, on the other side; that neighbor has no faith. Then there’s the neighbor across the street that seems to be a recluse that I never see, on one side of that neighbor is a couple that seem very self-sufficient and don’t like my dog, and then there’s my new neighbor on the other side. Wow! When I write it out like that it would appear that I have a ministry field surrounding me everywhere I look. And then it hit me…. anyone I can see at any given moment is my neighbor.

I happen to be married to a man that gets that. When we were on our first date, on one of her many trips to our table he asked our waitress; “Do you know the Lord Jesus as your Savior?” She looked at him in shock, a look I would get used to seeing being married to him, and responded with; “Yes I do… but I haven’t been to church in a long time, I usually work on Sundays.” On subsequent visits to our table he told her of churches in our area that meet at varied times, making it easier to accommodate life’s schedules. Then on one of her last trips to serve us (hey, it was our first date, we were there for a long time, actually the whole evening) he asked if he could pray for her, and he prayed that God would help her find the perfect place to fellowship and grow in Him. OK, that was it, I was in love.

But this wasn’t done to impress me, it wasn’t an isolated incident. My husband sees a mom with a child in a supermarket and he asks her; “are you raising up your child to love Jesus?” You know what everyone, and I mean everyone without exception says? “Yes, I am.” Now my synical little self looks at the expression on their face when he asks the question, at the way they are dressed; the tattoos, the face piercing(s), and I think; “No way!” But my wonderful husband doesn’t see that, he just responds with; “Good, I’m so glad to hear that because it’s so important.” Now what do you suppose the Holy Spirit does with that interaction?

I remember one time in particular when we were late for something, and on top of everything else that seemed to go wrong we had to stop for gas. As the attendant was pumping the gas my wonderful husband asked him; “Let me ask you a question, do you have the Lord Jesus living in your heart?” And of course this happened to be the time that he asked it of someone that “had questions.”

Everything in me screamed; “NOT NOW, WE’RE LATE!”

And then I heard myself. What? “Are you crazy?” I asked myself, these two are talking about the most important question in all of existence and you're thinking… not now we’re late?

That was the day that I realized that God had blessed me with a man that knows who is his neighbor. It’s anyone you can see at the moment. The person behind you in line, the checker at the market, the person who pumps your gas, someone you pass by in the street. Whoever you can see at the moment. That is your neighbor. And Jesus has one question for you… are you loving them?

Sunday, March 28, 2010

To Have or Have Not... a Horse

Helloooooowwwwwww! How have you been, all three of you that follow this blog? I’m finally feeling like I’m on the road to recovery. This has been a very interesting 6 weeks…

It started out by bringing two (new to us) horses home. We took them to their new home, at the stables next door, and began enjoying them. I have to admit, I loved everything about it! I loved that my horse needed me, and that she greeted me and seemed to be growing attached to me. I loved her playful nature and everything about getting to know her. I’ve talked to two kinds of horse owners over the last year, those that love everything about caring for horses and those that hate the care and just want to ride them. I found out that I enjoyed cleaning her stall every day, and looked forward to brushing her in the evening before putting her in for the night. That first week was great fun, although we began to learn a few things about our horses that weren’t revealed (maybe not even known) by the previous owner. My horse was herd bound, an insecurity that caused her to grow extremely nervous when she couldn’t see or be near her horsemate. I didn’t realize just how dangerous this would turn out to be.

We took the advise of experienced horse owners and separated them, moving one to the other end of the barn where they couldn’t see each other and stopped turning them out into the same pasture during the day. After a week of working with them on a lunge line the time came to ride. A friend and her granddaughter wanted to bring their horses over and go riding with us for the afternoon. I knew it was too soon, I knew neither she nor I were ready. But even at my age, I gave in to peer pressure and decided to go for it.

It was a gloriously beautiful springlike afternoon, they unloaded their horses and saddled up as I lunged Sierra to get out some of her excess energy. She was acting like she knew something was up and didn’t know what to think of it, but then maybe she was feeding off of my uneasyness with the situation. I saddled her up, put on her briddle and adjusted it to make sure it was a good fit and out we went to the arena. Everyone else was on their horse, I walked her over to the stairs and my friend held the reins as I got on for our wonderful afternoon of enjoying the beautiful day God had given us.

My friend said; “That was great, you got on her just like you knew what you were doing” and then she let go of the reins. The instant she let go, my horse, as though she was just waiting for that moment, raised her head up high in the air and took off toward her horsemate at a full gallop across the arena. I tried to rein her in, but her head was so high it was obvious she was in control and I wasn’t going to be able to stop her by might or by yelling; “Woah Sierra!”

I remembered the advise I’d gotten from quite a few riders, they all agreed that when you have a runaway if you pull as hard as you can on one rein and get their head turned they have to submit, they can’t run forward with their head turned to the side. So I reached out with my left hand and grabbed the rein pulling as hard as I could. As I watched her head come around I thought; “Oh S___, now she’s gonna turn!”

I don’t know how much time had passed, but the next thing I remember; I was laying on the ground in a daze and everyone was gathered around me asking; “Are you ok?” I was probably the last person to ask that of, at that particular moment. I’m told I asked the same questions over and over for the next hour.

We pulled back into our driveway at about 9pm that evening. The beautiful day that God had given us was spent in the emergency room of the hospital. After a multitude of tests I walked out with one broken shoulder and a quite impressive array of bruises, scrapes and abrasions. Considering all that could have happened I felt blessed that the only real injury was a broken shoulder.

Fortunately I haven’t missed any work. I’ve been able to situate myself at my keyboard using my body to move my hands around doing the job my shoulder used to do. I’m praying that one more week of healing and exercises will enable me able to reach my head making it possible to go outside without a hat!

I never saw my horse again, Sierra went back to her owner and we gave the other horse to the stable owner. We’re now out of the horse business. At our age it was probably, well there’s really no probably about it, we weren’t using a whole lot of wisdom to think we could take on something as huge as horses. But, on the other hand, it’s nice to know that no matter how old you get, there’s still room for some foolishness occassionally.

Wednesday, January 6, 2010

I'm Published!

Yes, it's true. I waited and waited and it finally came out. It's just an online magazine, but they wanted me so I love them. You can read my humble offering at

I just heard what I said run through my head; "they wanted me so I love them." Reminds me of a scripture; "We love, because He first loved us." (1John 4:19) Hmmm He wanted me, He wooed me, He accepted me, He led me straight into His arms. He provided a Way for me to come to Him before I even knew that's what I wanted. "In this is love, not that we loved God, but that He loved us and sent His Son to be the propitiation for our sins." (1John 4:10)

I visited a neighbor today. I have a neighbor that has 13 horses, boards some more, has a covered arena, beautiful stables, over 200 acres of incredible riding terrain... it was all there, right next door, I can walk there, and I never even knew it. Wow!

Sometimes things are right under our nose and we don't even see it. Spend some time today listening. When you're very still and quiet, can you hear it? Can you hear God calling to you and saying; "Come closer, I've some things to tell you." Are you listening?

Monday, January 4, 2010

I'm rested and relaxed!

It took a while, but these last two weeks of very little work, lots of sleep, and really not doing a whole lot of anything (I've found I need down time to survive), I'm feeling ready to tackle Carnival Direct Guest Sales. I think it will be fun, helping people plan their vacation. I do think Carnival should send me on a cruise though, just so I know what I'm talking about... in fact it would probably make selling much easier if I went on all of their cruises. That makes sense to me, don't you think? The class starts tomorrow before sun up and I'll be there, coffee in hand and raring to go.

I'd like to take a moment to welcome Joey to my little world. He will be reading this blog from Tokyo, and when he reads it, it will already be tomorrow there. Hey, I've gone international! Well, not really, he's just visiting there, but it's been fun reading his blog and looking at the pictures he posts of his trip. Ya gotta love his reaction when he saw a Krispy Kreme Donut shop.

I found out my neighbor has 16 horses and boards 6 more. Now someone with that many horses has GOT to need some help, so I'm looking forward to getting through my Carnival training, working less hours for more $$ and having time to maybe work out a trade with her. I'll go down there with my "Will muck stalls in trade for riding" sign and see what happens. I heard that she's also interested in finding out about working from home, so maybe something I'm doing will be of interest to her.

I also found out that our church; is having horse camp at the coast this year. Yeeehaaaw! Riding horses on the beach, now that's something I've always dreamed of.

Well, that's about it for now. I need to do a few more things to be ready for class in the morning. You probably won't see me again until the class is over, but this one is only two weeks, piece of cake!

Friday, January 1, 2010

Happy New Year 2010

Wow! Has it really been so long since I've been here? Life got very, very busy. I'm excited about all the changes though, so let me fill you in.

I know you are all wondering where my Twitter following is at... you weren't? Hey, me neither! I've gotten too busy to even give it any thought. But just so you know I'm only a couple of peeps away from 600 followers.

Writing? I haven't had any time for that.

What have I been doing you ask? November 6th I started training for a job as a Customer Service rep for Carnival Cruise Lines. It was a very intense course and consumed all of my time until December 23rd when it finished. Then of course it was time to get ready for Christmas, all of the family was out here Christmas Eve for a big dinner, Christmas Day spent with friends (another big dinner), and activities galore, up until today... New Years Day, 2010.

I promised myself if I made it through the Carnival class I wouldn't take another class... ever! It really did stretch me. But next Tuesday I start another class with Carnival to train for Direct Guest Sales, which is the job I really have wanted ever since I started working from home. If I do well I can make much more money, work many less hours, and maybe, just maybe have time to get my book finished.

I've had a couple more riding lessons. I went for a 3 hour ride with my friend one day, and most recently we rode for about 4 hours at a place called Denman, which she described as magical and I found out, after riding there, it really is. I'm getting much more comfortable on the horse and I've got my signals down now so I'm not sending her conflicting messages... she still messes with me though.

I see I have a new follower. Welcome to my world Erick, I hope you enjoy your visit.

I'll try and get back sooner next time. I'm very excited about my transition to Carnival and will be working hard on that until it becomes more natural for me. Hope to get my book finished in 2010. Want to learn to ride well enough to enter some competitions this year.

I want to wish everyone a Very Happy New Year and hope that it's filled with blessings from above, poured into your life and overflowing, falling onto all those around you. God is Good! All the time!