Birth Day

Today is my birthday. 41 years ago in a the city of Los Angeles, only a few miles from the beach, a hop, skip and a jump from the walk of fame and into the loving arms of Donald and Mary Hanson, I was born.

I am the oldest child, the first born. I basked in the sole attention of my parents for three long years (that I have no recollection of) before I was promoted to the role of older sister by my brother, Marc, whom I tortured mercilessly. I made him play dolls, dress up and generally bossed him around until I reached the non tender preteen years. Then I promptly decided that I didn’t want anything to do with him. My sincerest apologies to my brother, Marc. Please forgive me for all former eye rolls, slights, sarcastic remarks and hen pecking that you suffered at my hand. I was a horrid older sibling and am doing penance for the prejudice I harbored (that girls ruled and boys drooled) as I am currently surrounded by the sights, smells and sounds of preteen boys 24/7.

I flew out of the home nest when I was a young 18 years old and married the love of my life when I was an ancient 23 year old. I was made a mother twice, first when I was 28 years and then again 2 months shy of being 30 years old. It is still too soon to offer apologies to my husband and children. It will take a few more years to clearly see all the ways I have fallen short and you are just going to have to wait.

Today, I am celebrating more than my birthday- I am celebrating all the things that have been born since that day. The love, the dreams, the friendships, the adventures, the heartaches, the children, the sorrow, the growing, the doing, the being.

And

Something new is being born in me today. I am filled with a giddy excitement of what is to come. There is a feeling of a release and energizing momentum gathering beneath the surface. Being the contemplative creature I am, I am watching it with eyes of delight and wonder.

Yes, today is a birth day… In more ways than one.
What a happy day indeed.

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Walk

Walking is essentially forward motion. Not staying in the same place. Going somewhere. We are all walking on a unique life path. We might have a hope, an idea, and a vision of what the future may hold but the truth is, we don’t know how it will play out. Life brings us joys and sorrows, struggles and triumphs, great opportunities and closed doors.

But I don’t walk alone.

I don’t simply react to what happens to me. I step out in faith. Take a risk. Make the move. Walk forward, not exactly knowing where the journey will take me but confident in the One who leads me.

So far, my journey has looked vastly different to that which I imagined.

I am not disappointed.

As I step out in new endeavors, pursuing my call and purpose, growing in faith and experience, I do so,not with a certain destination in mind but with a certain relationship in hand. Wherever this great adventure leads, I grasp the Hand of Faith and walk into it.

How freeing it is to let the expectation of destination go and grasp the thrill of the unknown adventure with a known God.

I know and love Him.
I am known and am loved by Him.
And so I walk.

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A Quiet Moment

It is eerily quiet in the Fireworks Booth. Our friends have packed up and left, the boys are clustered around the table in the trailer and Bobby is making T- Shirts on the other end of the parking lot. I am “manning the booth” and not one soul has stopped to buy the exploding wares I sell. The days go like this: a mad rush of customers, crowds of friends and family visiting, kids riding bikes and playing cops and robbers, students holding signs by the street- then then all leave and quiet… quiet…quiet.

I am not going to lie to you (what would be the point in that?) – I am enjoying the reprieve. I am a creature that thrives in the quiet and relishes the cool whispering breeze wafting through the empty booth. The only noise about is the the constant rush of traffic, the chirp of the summer birds and the occasional bark of my dog who is happily enclosed in his nearby kennel.

Of course the paradox of this moment is that I wouldn’t appreciate it so much if I didn’t also have the mad rushes, the visits, the kids, students, the noise and hubbub of it all. I need both. God created each one of us with unique temperaments, personalities and gifts but He made all of us with the need to connect with Him and others. We are made to be interdependent on each other and to flourish in our uniqueness. The challenge is to thrive in both.

For the moment, I will flourish in this quiet moment and be utterly thankful for the bustling ones. What kinds of moments do you flourish in? What moments are you utterly thankful for today?

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Sudden Loss

There are days when your own strength is gone. It has been used and spent, poured out and not refreshed. You are empty and numb. The weight of life, circumstances that you can not control nor put off bear down and become the crossroads you don’t want to approach but do not require permission to appear.

My friend’s dad died unexpectedly yesterday. They were out fulfilling their Fathers Day plans together and fishing in the Bay for salmon when his dad slipped and fell. Within moments it was clear that he was having a hard time breathing and his son started CPR. He continued until the Coast Guard got there and they took over. They were unable to revive him and he slipped into eternity.

Today is one of those days for my friend and his family. Human strength strains under the weight of sudden life changing loss. We can’t understand or comprehend it but there is comfort in knowing that we have an everlasting God who can and does. When we have no strength left, we can lean on a Creator who gives His own strength freely. When we are weary, we can rest because God neither faints nor tires. Why is this comforting? Because we need to know that the world will not completely fall apart when we do. We need to know that there is One whose understanding reaches so wide and is so deep that we could swim in it for a lifetime and not find it’s end.

It is for days like this when a familiar verse becomes like a warm blanket to wrap around and comfort those we love:

“The everlasting God, the Lord, The Creator of the ends of the earth, Neither faints nor is weary. His understanding is unsearchable. He gives power to the weak, And to those who have no might He increases strength. (Isaiah 40:28-29 NKJV)

And includes a promise for the future:

Even the youths shall faint and be weary, And the young men shall utterly fall, But those who wait on the Lord Shall renew their strength; They shall mount up with wings like eagles, They shall run and not be weary, They shall walk and not faint. (Isaiah 40:30, 31 NKJV)

Dear friends, for the crossroads that have been placed before you or journey of grief that life has laid upon your doorstep, I pray that you will lean on God’s strength and rest in His power. I pray that you will find comfort in His everlasting love and inexhaustible understanding. And hope for the future… You will rise up as on eagles wings and soar!

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Shoofly Pie

I was warned by my friend to leave my healthy eating in California and be ready to experience Pennsylvania Dutch deliciousness. I arrived late on Tuesday night and drove through Philly to the burrow of Silverdale where every home looks like a doll house and vast lush green yards surround each one. I woke up late Wednesday morning in my friends homeIt is (a 100 year old farmhouse). I made my way down to the charming country kitchen. I was drawn to the window over the sink that looks out to the red barn garage in the back and small cemetery behind the church next door. I turned around to the kitchen table and was introduced to my breakfast choices: Shoofly Pie, Hard Take Coffee Cake and Funny Cake (with coffee, of course). Which one to choose?

With the echoes of healthy eating ringing in my ears, I choose the most “breakfasty” one- the coffee cake. Pie for breakfast? Long ago, in my teenage years, I must confess that cold apple pie was a favorite breakfast treat (with ice cold milk of course) but now as a full flegded adult the closest thing I get to pie for breakfast is doctoring up steel cut oatmeal with cinnamon apples. Anyway, Angela told me that the hardtack coffee cake was best dipped in coffee and who was I to argue? It was like a soft biscotti and yummy. I can’t remember if I tried the Shoofly Pie that morning or not, but it actually became my favorite of the three.

Shoofly pie is made from flour, butter, molasses, brown sugar, cinnamon,and salt, and sometimes nutmeg. Traditional shoofly pies are made with either a “wet bottom” (soft filling and crumb topping) or “dry bottom” (crumb topping mixed into the filling). Most of the ingredients will keep in the larder for the winter, even without today’s conveniences. Perhaps that’s why its history is such a long and fascinating one, and why folks who abstain from modern conveniences such as electricity – the Amish, for example – still make the pie. Legend says that it was these ingredients that survived the trip from Germany (I read that the term “Dutch” is actually a misnomer, a corruption of the word Deutsch, which means German.) and their ingenuity caused it,s creation. Like the colonists already in America, these settlers ate pie at any time of day. According to food historian and cookbook author William Woys Weaver, shoofly pie is still served for breakfast among today’s Pennsylvania Dutch. It is a credit to the McMcheal kids that any of it was available the second morning. This is good stuff. Wildly unhealthy delicious scrumptious stuff. It is said that the molasses caused the flies to flock to it. Whatever the reason for the name, Shoofly Pie gives us a glimpse into history, a time when fruit and vegetables were not always available from the grocery store and bakers were forced to be creative with their stock. The order of the day was survival.

Survival is important. We wouldn’t be here if the first colonists didn’t survive. Survival gets us through the tough times, the shocking times, the times that change our lives whether we want them or not. Survival is necessary but it is not meant to be the only mode we live in. Sometimes I think we get stuck in survival mode. The funny thing about survival mode is that after the circumstance we need to survive is over, survival mode can become unhealthy one. The same things that caused us survive, don’t necessarily cause us to thrive. Take Shoofly Pie, for example: it was healthy for the colonists because it helped them stay alive during the long lean months. In our current world, Shoofly Pie (although decidedly delicious) does not a healthy breakfast make. Today, we have refrigerators and grocery stores. Today, we can do more than survive – we can choose to thrive.

It is time to thrive. We can choose to eat healthy (unless on vacation), choose a job we love or choose to love the job we have, have healthy relationships with others and certainly have a healthy relationship with ourselves.

You can do more than survive. There are more options than those you know (your past) and those that keep you going (your habits). You were made to thrive. There is more available to you than just surviving your situation. Change is possible. It isn’t easy, but it is possible.

” I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.”
(Phil4:13 NIV)

It is time, my friend, to ask yourself if you need to change modes. To leave behind your “survival tactics” and learn a few new “thrive tactics” instead. It is time to look at what you have available to you and create something new. You have so much more than you realize.

We have the luxury of being healthy in our day and age in every area of our lives. You have a God who is willing and able to move you from one mode to another.

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

What mode are you in? What things need to change?

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On Time

I know, I know… I said I would write every day but a funny thing happened on the way to Philadelphia. Once I arrived I silenced out. Everything became quiet inside and I just soaked it all in.

Now, I am on the last leg of my journey home from Pennsylvania and the time on my iPad says it is 9:10pm. The sun is just now setting or maybe it isn’t because I feel like it has been setting for the last hour without releasing into the night. We are flying west and it seems like we are racing the moon, flying into the sun. As I look out the window of the airplane at the bright sky which I am flying through, I think how relative time is. Time is numbers to count moments, seconds to measure them, a record of the past, a way to plan the future. We fly through time zones and skip hours, set our watches forward and backward once each year. The illusion of time can be a prison or playground, a way to mourn the passing of, a way to grasp the possibility of.

Do I need the clock to tell me time has past?
Can I not look into the mirror or gaze at my child’s face?

Do I need a watch to plan my future?
Can I create a dream not dictated by it’s hands, but solely the hands of my Creator?

Do I need more time or do I need to let go of it all together and launch into the purposes of life without the expectations of how much time it might take?

Do I use the measure of time as a tool to transform reality into destiny or does it use me to mark milestones that are not the true measures of success nor a basis to build the future on?

As I fly into time tonight, I want to unshackle it’s hold upon my ankles. To run forward free from the fear of it, to shake off the shame of it’s trembling finger, to break it’s binding hold on my heart and mind, to see the insincerity of semblance of order and control when truly it is a man made measure and can not contain within it’s measure God’s true purpose.

Will I let that which man created to measure the passing of time sabotage that which God has created me to do? Does God plan with a watch on His wrist? With a ticking clock echoing in halls of heaven? Does He limit His hand to only work within the confines of mankind’s creations of a machine to order the day and the masses?

I think not. His purposes span the width of this palm not the width of the face of a clock. It is not too early nor too late. Let us not limit His desire to time span, let us not fall into a trap of futility by declaring that too much time has past to transform the horizon of our destiny or the course or our journey. Let us neither say that not enough time has past for His purpose to be accomplished. It could be a second or a century. I have no power to make it go slower or rush faster just by measuring it’s moments in words that make me feel in control.

“But do not forget this one thing, dear friends: With the Lord a day is like a thousand years, and a thousand years are like a day.” (2 Peter 3:8 NIV)

Do not forget this one thing…..

Time is but an illusion we have created to judge our age and expectations when God uses neither to establish usefulness or presence of purpose. Place yourself fully within the sovereign hands of God. See the ticking clock on your wall for what it is: a machine.

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Pics from Philly

If a picture is worth a thousand words, here are 10,000 words on the city of Love:

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I loved the city with it’s rich history, and beautiful buildings. There were moments of wonder as I let the spirit of liberty and deep conviction of all our forefathers fought for sink into my heart. The food was delish, the friendship divine and tomorrow we venture into THE city- New York City.

I thought I would do more writing on this trip but I am finding that I don’t want to take a moment away of experiencing it to stop and write about it. I’m just having too much fun. And while I’m frolicking on the east coast my husband took the boys fishing in the mountains on the west coast. They got caught in a freak snowstorm –

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All in all, a wonderful day to be alive.

Dear Diary,

I feel like I lost a day or two as in “Today is Thursday? What happened to Tuesday and Wednesday?” Part of it is the inevitability of not being in my own world and the other deliciousness of being in my friend’s world. We have done what good girlfriends do: talk and talk and talk about everything and nothing as it comes up, then talk some more. We have run errands together, dropped of her children at their respective activities, went to a baseball game and such.

I am drinking in the green green landscape dotted with dollhouse like old farmhouses and English cottages surrounded by long blankets of soft lawn. The humidity is high and the hot day was broken by an afternoon storm of gusting winds, heavy torrents and the sharp crack of thunder directly above the house.

I am missing my boys at home and appreciate my wonderful life in California but right this minute I am so very thankful to be Silverdale, PA hanging out with my girlfriend. It is a rare gift that I happily receive and treasure. An opportunity to see new places, and eat new foods (funny cake, hard take coffee cake, hoagies – this is only the first two days!). To take a few moments to revisit the past, catch up on the present and dream for the future.

And to rest. I think I shall go take a nap….

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Guilty as charged

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I went to traffic court Monday morning. I have never been to traffic court before and hope not to ever have to go again. It was held in a sleek brand new court house that looked like a TV set. The police officers all sat in suits on the back row while us civilians were scattered in the gallery, none of us sitting next to each other and nervously looking around. It was obvious that they were some people in the room who knew what they were doing and the rest of us didn’t.

I got a ticket last November on the way to the Youth Convention. I had checked something on my phone at the light and turned the corner with it in my hand. Within moments a cop car pulled up behind me with it lights blazing. Confused, I pulled over quickly and waited. The spotlight flooded my car with light and I was blinded. My heart started pounding and I began to get worried. What did I do? I didn’t go far enough to speed. The officer came to my passenger side and I was still holding my phone in my hand. He told me that it looked like was was talking into my phone as I turned. I told him I wasn’t. I was holding my phone but not using it. We have Bluetooth in that car and I had no need to use it. Nonetheless, it is breaking the law to hold the phone. For all you smarty pants who already know that California that a “no hands” state and shaking your heads at me, it was that moment that I found out. The officer told me it wasn’t a big ticket and to not worry about it, I could just mail in the money.

So, why, did I go to court you ask? Because I wasn’t guilty. I wasn’t on my phone, I was holding my phone. It made a difference to me and I was being stubborn about it. That and when the penalty arrived it was a $175 ticket. This is not small in my world. This is a big deal. This is worth fighting for!

Not knowing what to expect as i waited for the proceedings to start was nerve racking. It was like being in a TV show but not having the script. I sat on the empty front row half wanting to take pictures, half wishing I would have just mailed in the darn thing and skipped this experience all together.

Role was called. I said, “here” when they said my name, “Cindy Lee Grasso?” and felt like a child all about to get in trouble. I wasn’t the first one called up, which was a relief. I got to watch one very well dressed lady look like a fool after the police officer stated his side first in such a precise and professional manner that it barely sounded like English at all. She was judged guilty.Then I watched a lawyer who reminded me of Dustin Hoffman’s character in Runaway Jury get up, listen to the officer, ask a few futile questions then nod at the judge to humbly receive the forgone conclusion: guilty as charged. My name was called, I stepped up to the mic, raised my right hand to swear to tell the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth, so help me God. Oh help me God, I barely remember the truth now. All my stubbornness vanished and as I listened to the officer tell his side of the story, I almost agreed with him. I felt like a fool for having to bring up my sorry defense: I had my phone records and was not using my phone. The judge said that he is currently writing an affidavit to redefine the terms and my records meant nothing. I was guilty. The power of this man is palatable and I nodded too, and expected as much by that point.

As I left, I thought how quickly my whole perspective changed. Now I wanted to pay the penalty as quickly as possible and get the heck out of there where as before I wanted to prove my innocence. I walked in justified and walked out humbled. What did it matter whether I thought I deserved the ticket or not? My thoughts didn’t make the decision. It was the judge’s thoughts that mattered. His thoughts that counted. He choose whose viewpoint to side with and the policeman had authority and a knowledge of the law that I did not. I was so clearly way out of my depth.

I’m not gonna lie, for a second I thought about asking the short country looking lawyer with a nice but baggy suit for help. He obviously knew the lingo and knew what was going on. But I didn’t ask him for help. I skulked out, hurried to the counter and set up payments. Then I went home.

Spiritually, I am in much of the same situation. I don’t even know the laws I’m breaking. I don’t understand the depth of interaction taking place. The Judge has all the power and I have none. The biggest difference is that I am not alone in the spiritual courtroom. I didn’t even have to ask the Advocate for help. He offered it. He paid the penalties before I broke the laws I did not understand. He stands with me and pleads for me. He offers me forgiveness and freedom though I really don’t deserve either.

It was a short visit to the California Traffic Court but I walked out with a whole new appreciation of “being saved” by Christ. That, and I don’t ever hold my phone in the car anymore.

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 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. I actually think I might have ran outside first but I can’t remember, its all a blur. What I do remember was a good friend of mine who 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 your breath gasping cry.

She listened and so 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 am 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 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 Mother’s Day approaches, I can’t help but think of that moment ao 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. 

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And here is a more recent one. 


Justin just turned 17 & Kyle 15 years 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.