Home After Irma

It took us 17 hours to drive home from White House Tennessee to Cape Coral Florida and the relief of pulling into our own driveway at 2am last Thursday morning was palatable. Then that strange energy took hold of us all, cat included, and we had to see, check, assess where and how everything was. The obvious damage was to our screens out back and a slight musty smell to our abandoned home. It needed to be aired out. We had power but the water pump would not work. My husband used an extension cord to get it power so we would have water in the morning. What a good man.
Morning came too soon and I dragged myself out of bed to get ready for work. Moments of sheer relief and unbelief at the reality that I was standing in my own bathroom washed over me. I was exhausted but thankful. Felt like a zombie but glad I had a bed even as I had walked by it as I went out the door.
The city had a beat up, blown over, debris-strewn look to it and a strange quietness that permeated as the brutal morning sun baked the land after Irma. There was little to no gas available and most of the stores are still dark.
Remarkably, Cape Coral sustained minor damage compared to other parts of the state. The next community over was devastated and may not have power for weeks.  Convoy of Hope was in the area two days after Irma struck and people from our church helped distribute food and basic necessities to those who needed it most. One of my ministry leaders, had 10 people living with her and some still there until their own homes have power. She is one of many amazing people who have opened their hearts and homes to help others survive this storm.
When I got to work, we began to share our stories. Some stayed to ride out the storm, some thought they would stay but in the wee hours of the morning hit the road to evacuate and others evacuated as soon as Irma was announced. Not one person had an easy time of it. Everyone looked exhausted. Everyone was exhausted. Later when Bobby and I ventured to Sam’s Club later for a couple necessities and I got in line to get a Family Pack Pizza deal, only they were out of pizza.  I stepped out of line, put my phone away and simply took a moment to look at the faces of those around me. What I saw was that we were a store of exhausted people. We are an entire state of exhausted people. Whether in homes, shelters, hotels, with friends or families near or far away, all of us anxiously watched the news stations tell the developing story of a storm that did not behave. Irma did not do what they expected and danced around predictions as she roared over the islands.  She surprised and terrified the experts and held us all enraptured at satellite images of the biggest hurricane ever recorded.  I heard one expert say that Irma was acting like a teenager.
We were at a friends home in Tennessee as we watched Anderson Cooper report from Fort Meyers on Sunday.  My son walked in and said, “Hey, I know where he is at – I think we filmed announcements there”. I looked over at my husband and said,” You know it is bad when Anderson Cooper is in your neighborhood.” I was captivated by the crazy reporter who stood in the hurricane force winds and horizontal rain in Naples. He was a visual representation of our homes, churches, businesses, trees. But when the eye came over Naples and he went down to the street, that was truly remarkable. The sky cleared, the colors heightened, the wind rested and it was quiet for a few minutes. And then Irma continued up the state.
We are in recovery mode now and all working to get life back to normal. Compassion is tactile and everyone I meet is working hard to help those whose recovery is slow going. I am relieved that the storm surge did not overtake 3/4 of Cape Coral’s homes and businesses. I am heartbroken for those whose communities were flooded and ravaged by this massive storm.  I am amazed at the power and awe of nature.
I am blessed to live in such a beautiful place, not just because of the gorgeous beaches but because of the generous hearts of the people that live here.
 And I am glad to be home after Irma.

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My Journey to Motherhood

There I was, sitting in a cool crowded room waiting to start choir practice on a hot Phoenix morning when it hit me and hit me hard. I wasn’t ready for it and wasn’t expecting it. It was like getting punched in the stomach. I lost my breath. A good friend of mine just announced to the room with a blank shocked look on her face that she was pregnant. She didn’t even want to be pregnant – that was obvious. I, on the other hand, had been quietly trying to get pregnant for over two years and nothing. Not a blip on the radar.

I hate that moment – the moment when you can’t control your own emotions. The tears welled up so fast that I couldn’t contain them. How awful would it be to burst into tears while everyone else was congratulating the happy couple? I quickly stood up and tried to make my way out of the room as quickly and quietly as possible. Which felt impossible, of course. I shimmied out of my row, pushed through the crowd in the front and hit those last few steps almost a run. I didn’t want anyone to know. I didn’t want to steal their joy. I didn’t want to be embarrassed. Stupid tears!!!

While the choir room at Phoenix First Assembly was crowded, the massive sanctuary was dark and quiet. A good friend of mine saw me and within seconds was by my side. She must have caught the look on my face (or heaven forbid, everyone else did too) and came after me. She asked the dreaded question,“Are you okay?” and with that the emotional dam broke. All the pain, fear, doubt and disappointment of the previous two years came pouring out in that ugly cry where you can’t hardly talk through the gasps of breath. 

She listened and gently put her arms around me. 

She did the one thing I didn’t know I needed – she just held me. 

With tears streaming down my face, I told her how forgotten I felt.  Like I had become invisible to God as I watched all those around me get pregnant without even trying or within a month of trying. I didn’t even realize how much I had interpreted the inability of getting pregnant as rejection by God until the words tumbled out of my mouth.
I also didn’t realize that I didn’t need to bear it alone.  I know, I can be stubbornly independent like that. I didn’t want everyone to know. I wanted to be strong. I wanted to be okay. 

It was in that moment, sitting in a dark quiet sanctuary, that I realized I  needed a good friend to listen, pray and walk with me through the dark shadows of my journey as well as the sunlight ones. Thank you, Raquel for your arms and ears, your heart of compassion and prayers. My burden become lighter that day because I shared it with someone who cared.

As I celebrate Mother’s Day with my boys today, I am reminded of that moment so many years ago. The emotional pain takes it toll and is real. Infertility can be such a lonely place to be because you don’t want to steal anybody else’s joy.

Statistics show that 2.1 million women are dealing with infertility (have been unable to conceive for 12 months in a row) right now. Fertility problems strike one in three women over 35 and one in six couples are infertile. For a generation that wait to get married well into their late 20’s and early 30’s, infertility becomes a relevant issue and effects all of our lives.

The good news is that God walks with you on your journey, whatever it is. If you are in the midst of infertility, you are not forgotten and join the hall of fame of women who God used to bring a child of promise into the world: Sarah, Hannah, Elizabeth and more. If infertility has not impacted you, you can be the arms, ears, compassionate hearts and prayers for someone who is. I didn’t need Raquel to understand what I was going through, I just needed her love.

After trying for five years, I was surprised to find out that I was pregnant with Justin Ryan Grasso. His name had already been picked out from a dream I had during the first year of trying to conceive and on May 4, 2000 that dream literally came true.  Kyle Robert Grasso followed 22 months later and I was elbow deep in dirty diapers for what felt like decades.

Today I wanted to share with you my journey to Motherhood. I treasure the day now but never forget to whisper a prayer for those who have yet to arrive or have lost a child since.

There is no guarantee that our journey will be easy. We are only promised that we do not journey alone.

The Lord is close to those whose hearts have been broken.  He saves those whose spirits have been crushed.  Psalm 34:18 NIRV

He heals those who have broken hearts. He takes care of their wounds.   Psalm 147:3 NIRV

Laugh with your friends when they are happy; share tears with them when they are down.  Romans 12:0 MSG

Here’s is the picture I used when I posted this blog years ago of my two little miracles, Justin at 12yrs and Kyle at 10 yrs old.


And here is one of us today, Justin is 17 yrs and Kyle is 15 yrs old:

Wherever you are on your journey, my prayer is that you are encouraged today and realize that you don’t have to walk it alone. Share your journey and be the arms that helps someone else through there’s. 

Happy Mom’s Day 

Flying Yet? 


Today’s post will take a bit longer than a minute to read but I didn’t have the heart to cut it down. Somebody out there needs the whole thing as is, so here you go.

On the way home a few years ago from a very quick trip to Vegas to celebrate my birthday with a dear friend, my plane was delayed. When I finally boarded 2 hours after the scheduled time, I made my way through the tight aisle amongst disgruntled passengers to my seat and sat down next to a 5 year old girl and her mom.

After about five minutes of waiting on the new plane, the little girl turned to her mom and asked, “Are we flying yet?”

“Not yet, but soon” her mom said.

Then we had stopped to wait our turn in the runway. Every stop and turn felt like an eternity, and the irrational fear that we were actually going nowhere teased at the very edges of our emotions.

Finally, the plane turned onto “our” runway and began to pick up speed as it prepared to lift off. The little girl looked out the window as the world blurring by and asked again, “Are we flying yet?”

This time, I chimed in, “Not yet, but you will know it when it happens, you won’t miss it”.

Just then, with the plane speeding down runway, that tell tale moment of take off happened: you are pushed into your seat and the plane feels heavy as it leaves the ground, tucks up its wheels and takes off. Then for just a moment you feel lighter than air then heavy again as the nose of the plane points to sky. Now…you are flying.

I turned to the little girl next to me and asked her ”Are we flying yet?”

“Yes!” She said with a big smile on her face, “We are definitely flying!”

As the plane leveled off and I settled down for the ride, I thought about how often I ask God the same kind of question in my life, “Is this it? Am I flying? Am I living in the fullness of Your purpose?”

I looked down at the precious blond headed little girl sitting next to me (who is already over the novelty of flying and now coloring in her book) and I was reminded that “flying”is a part of the journey but not the apex of it.

I am “flying” living passionately and pursuing God daily. Even though it looks different than I thought it would and sometimes it feels frightfully “normal” after things have leveled off, I am flying.

I have faced fears and taken risks. I have failed and succeeded. I have been hurt and been healed. I have seen miracles and cleaned toilets. I am living and indeed “flying”.

So why am I still asking the question, “Am I flying yet?”

I wonder how often I am searching for the “feeling” of lift off and misinterpret that as flying? The take off is just the beginning. And flying is transportation. It is meant to get you somewhere.

You go farther faster and it is terribly exciting, but still it is just a part of the journey.

There are times in your life you have been launched into a new arena or when the speed of life has reached a breaking point where you either take off or turn around. Though they are defining moments to be sure, they are not permanent.

The point is not to spend your life looking for the next take off. By all means- fly! But remember that what matters in the long run is what you do when you land. How you live. Who you love. What you do with what God has given you.

When you are pursuing God’s purpose for your life, it can feel like that departing day in Las Vegas. You are packed and ready to go, checked into the right place and feel more than ready to fly.

You know you are where you are supposed to be and doing what you are supposed to be doing . You are headed in the right direction but instead of going anywhere, you end up feeling like all you are doing is waiting. Starts and stops. Boarding and un- boarding. Waiting for your “turn” to take off.

Frustration and discouragement sets in and you begin to wonder, When will it be my turn to fly?”

Just like that gentle mother who answered her little girls questions, so your Heavenly Father answers yours (and mine):

“For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.” (Jeremiah 29:11 NIV)

And

“For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways,” declares the Lord. “(Isaiah 55:8 NIV)

Instead of looking for the next take off, enjoy the wait, the ride and the journey of life. Trust God. He knows where you are and where you are destined to be.

Remember that life is a journey that has more to do with who you are with than where you go.

Walk with God everyday and enjoy the journey with Him. He will take care of when and where and how of it all.

After about an hour in the air, my plane finally touched down at the Stockton Airport. As the wheels touched the Tarmac, the passengers broke out in applause, myself included. I was so glad to be done with the flying and to get on with the business of living.

May your journey be filled with moments of take offs, flying high and landing right where you are supposed to be.

But most of all, may it be filled with His presence as you get down to business of living fully and passionately within the freedom of God’s great grace where you are right now.

More Than Just A Minute for your Weekend Reading 

 This week I was blessed to write a blog longer than a minute for the Bayside of Citrus Heights website. The title of it is “Who Does God Think You Are” and it delves more into my personal story.

You can read it here, if you have more than a minute to spare today.

Have a good weekend and I’ll see you on Monday with a new J.A.M.

– Cindy G 

One Oblong Rock

I have a small white shadow box sitting in the corner of my bathtub. It holds two rocks, a few broken seashells and one sand dollar. That little box holds some of my most treasured possessions. Not because they hold great monetary value or really any inherent value in of themselves. They are treasured not because of what they are but because who gave them to me– my boys (Bobby included).

In that white shadow box is one dark grey oblong rock. When my boys were in Preschool, they would collect rocks from the playground to bring to me. At the end of the day when I pick them up one of them would reach down into their pockets, dig a rock out and present it to me like it was the most beautiful of flowers. I would accept it in all the love it was given with. Sometimes they would forget to give them to me and I would find them in their pockets when I would do the laundry. This oblong rock was one that Justin brought to me with grubby hands and his own big smile.

I was working full time in an office and I hated every early morning that I had to pull my babies out of bed and stuff them into their car seats to drive half hour away from home to drop them off at preschool. My feet felt like lead walking away from that building and each day was the longest of my life. You do what you have to do and what I had to do at that time was work 8am- 6pm five days a week to make it through. The preschool was on the same property that I worked at and sometimes I would walk down and eat lunch with the boys.

After a hard morning and feeling like a failure in every way, I walked down from my peach colored office to the preschool with tears streaming down my face. I dried my tears and opened the door to go see my boys. I sat down at a tiny brown table on a tiny yellow plastic chair next to Justin. He was about 5 years old at the time and adorable in his little glasses. Kyle had run up, hugged me and then ran away to play with friends. After lunch I gave Justin a big hug and told him that I had to go back to work and that would be back in a few hours to pick him up. He took his little hands and framed my face with them. Then he proceeded to kiss each eyelid, then each cheek and finally my lips. He said “that should hold you over”. It was just what I needed.

When I see that rock in my shadow box, I think of little boy kisses that helped me thru long days. I think of rocks of all shapes and sizes that made me feel cherished. I remember that being a mom isn’t defined by where you work or what you have to do to make it through. It is defined by you. It is a journey that cannot be mapped out ahead of time. It is as unique as you are and it goes by much too fast.

I have a small white shadow box sitting in the corner of my bathtub. It holds one oblong rock and reminds me that I am loved. There is nothing more treasured than that.

Brain Dead Thursday

In the midst of flying glowing frisbees and hundreds of glow sticks taped on students last night, I found myself walking around in the darkness managing crisis, drama and an over exaggerated bloody nose (it was NOT a gusher, in fact- I didn’t actually see any blood although it was dark).

All in all, Game Night at the Hub was a success highlighted by the glow in the dark Tron Disk Wars and topped off with free pizza for everyone at the end.

In a few minutes, I will be entering staff meeting and I am asking myself:

1). Whose idea was it to move staff mtg to Brain Dead Thursdays? Was it my idea?

2). How am I going to contribute anything of value to staff if I am brain dead?

3). Should I be writing this blog in said state?

It is when I am tired and throughly spent that discouragement can easily muscle itself through the unguarded doors of my heart and mind. I more readily agree with it’s obvious negativity and snide underhanded tactics.

I know this. It doesn’t make it easier to deal with. Still, in recognizing this self evident truth, I put in place the much needed “grace clause“.

Which means:
1). Give yourself more grace today.
2). Give more grace to those close to you today as well as anyone you interact with.
3). Don’t make any major decisions today.
4). Move away from discouragement- it is not your friend.
5). Lean not on your own understanding but in all things acknowledge God.
6). Lean on God.
7). Do something that makes you smile and maybe even laugh.

The grace clause changes according to the needs of the day. The grace
doesn’t change but how to apply it may.

May your day not be brain dead and may you shoot up prayers of mercy and grace to be poured out on me whenever I cross your much more alive brain today.