Strong in Every Way

Zionsville Schools in Indiana are led by Dr. Scott Robison superintendent. He has launched a campaign in our community called “Strong in Every Way.” Why?

Before I knew this man, his very presence intimidated me. He was the one who made the tough decisions. The buck stopped with him. Then I had the privilege to get to know him in an unconventional way. In the winter of 2016, I nervously invited him to attend a kindness benefit concert sponsored by my elementary school. I discovered what most people do not know about him. Zionsville Schools’ superintendent is an extremely talented piano player and songwriter. He is very shy about this, and I promised to tell no one. Well, not only did I blab to everyone I know, I coerced him into performing at that concert. He performed a song that he had written for his students years ago as a young classroom teacher. Here I go again telling about his hidden talent. More than the musical talent, I learned under the exterior of leadership that takes hits every day and has to make the difficult, sometimes unpopular decisions, is a man who loves kids. He is a champion for the underdog, and I believe that this is the heart of where the Strong in Every Way initiative was born. I believe that his heart breaks when he hears about any tragedy that involves the youth of our community.

Is “Strong in Every Way” too lofty of a goal? Yes, it is for one person. No one person can be strong in every way. However, if we come together as a community, like pieces of a puzzle, we can fill in the gaps for each other in our time of need.

What I think he is asking us to do right now is to open our eyes. Start looking around us. Be aware of our own strengths and start noticing where we can reach out help those around us.

Strong in Every Way? No, not for one single person, but for a community that cares, yes!

After raising three boys in Zionsville, I can tell you that the support my sons received from teachers, administrators, counselors, coaches, volunteers, neighbors, grandparents, business owners, friends, etc. was priceless.

It is possible for us to come together and be “Strong in Every Way.”
Thanks, Dr. Robison, for taking a chance, starting an initiative, and challenging us all.
……and, Dr. Robison, I’m sorry I broke the promise again and shared with just a few more people about your songwriting talent.

Coming to the Surface

Sometimes reality makes me come to the surface and truly face what is happening in my brain. That is what happened yesterday at my appointment with my neurologist. From the moment he walked in the door, I knew he was analyzing my every move, word, and expression. He was looking for signs of regression, and that makes me have to face for a moment the physical changes that are slowly happening to me. At these times I feel like I can’t tread water or swim fast enough to get away from the raw reality of it.

I knew going into this appointment that I have noticed that my meds were not working as well. I guessed there was some regression, but yesterday I had to face it, grieve it, and feel it. It was a hard day.

This morning the sun is shining. I hear the birds singing, and I plan on living today to the fullest.

…… And I plan to submerge myself in the tranquility of denial, not denial that I have Parkinson’s.Today I will drown myself in the comfort that it does not define me. I will deny this disease any power over me. Today I will push back any fear that has resurfaced and focus on the beautiful routine of the day.

Today I will drift and let the current pull me far away from any negativity and closer to my creator. Today I will trust my God. Today I will quit fighting the undertow of faith and belief in a bigger plan than I can see. There is a bigger and plan than pain and suffering.

That is until July 25, my next neurologist appointment. Then I will have to resurface again, but only for a day!

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A Story I’ve Always Wanted to Share

Believe!

It was a walk I will always remember. My grandmother had just died and I was distraught about her death and my failure to be a witness to her. My grandma who I had never known to go to church and never speak openly of faith, died at age 91. It had always puzzled me, my dad’s side of the family. There could not be more loving, giving, caring people. Growing up I always wanted to ask my grandma about Jesus, but I never could find the courage. The only evidence I ever saw of a faith was a cheap plastic framed picture of Jesus that hung on my grandma’s wall in her small bedroom. I hadn’t been in that room for many years.

The last time I saw my grandma was in a hospital room. She was battling a blood clot in her lung and had an oxygen tube in her nose. At one moment she was with us. Then she would drift off for a minute and wake to say something a bit delusional that indicated for me that I only had one last chance to ask my grandma about Jesus. Did she love Jesus? She had just looked at my aunt and I and expressed her love for us all, so I thought this is my moment. I asked the question. “Grandma do you know Jesus as your Lord and Savior?” She lifted her head and answered, “Jesus, is he the one who stole my purse?” My aunt looked at me mortified with an expression that said “what are you doing?” I left that hospital room humiliated and embarrassed. She died that night.

The next day God and I battled on a long walk. I remember the sky being particularly clear and beautiful, and I looked up and had a conversation with him in my mind. “I can’t do this. I am a shy person. It’s just who I am. I have prayed for her for years. You let me down. Now I will never know. Do not ask me to share my faith with anyone ever again!” Those were some of my rantings and accusations I threw at God on that walk. What I heard in return was “go into her room.” At the time I didn’t have a profound understanding that God had just spoken to me. Now that I look back, I know it was God because– I argued with him. “Oh no, a cheaply framed picture of Jesus on a bedroom wall does not mean you have given your life to Jesus.” “Go into her room” is what I heard. Would that picture hanging on her wall give me peace? I thought not!

A few days later after her funeral, I sat among a gathering of family and friends in my grandma’s living room. I thought maybe I would find comfort in looking at that picture on her wall, but I really doubted it. I was nervous when I asked if it would be ok to go in her room. I didn’t know why.

As I opened the door to her bedroom, my heart was pounding and I looked to the wall in front of me where I remember the picture being. My hope plummeted as I saw a mirror hanging where that picture had been. “See, it’s not even there,” I threw at God in my mind with contempt.

When I spun around to go back out the door, I froze. There it was, the picture I remembered. It was surrounded by three more pictures of Jesus in different settings. There were several crosses on the wall, bible verses stuck in the door frame, an angel pin I had once given her, dried palm leaves that her other grandchildren had brought her after Palm Sunday services, and statues of Jesus. I had to take a second look to make sure that it was not a tribute to Elvis. In that fleeting moment while I stood frozen, I know this sounds crazy, but I felt a flutter, and I know an angel stood behind me whispering in my ear, “Your grandma is fine. This is for you. Your grandma is fine.”

The moment was over when my dad barged in the room. I pointed at the wall and asked, “Why didn’t I know this?” He just laughed and said, “Oh, your grandma always loved Jesus.” I just smiled and took that picture and walked out of the room.

I have always wanted to tell this story even though it makes me sound crazy.
I may never have that kind of experience again, but it had a profound effect on my faith. God has such a sense of humor. I just know that he and my grandma are laughing and loving the moment when she told me that Jesus stole her purse! Believe!

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Sharks

I like a movie with a good happy ending. I saw one awhile ago that had everything but that. It is called Open Water. Now if you plan on watching this movie, stop right now because I am going to tell you the ending.

Basically, a married couple go on a tropical vacation. They go on a scuba diving adventure. They are having a great time diving, but when they surface they find their boat has left without them. The scuba diving guide miscounted and did not realize his mistake for days. The majority of the movie is spent with the two of them bobbing up and down with a few boats that pass too far away to see them. Eventually, the man gets bitten by a shark and dies in her arms. Then she just takes off her life jacket and goes under. I hated it. Where was the redemption? Where was the hope? Where were the rescuers who would risk all to bring them home?

They say it is based on a true story. That makes me shudder as I have been scuba diving about 3 times. This couple placed their trust in their guide, the scuba diving company, their watches, their equipment, their rescuers, and each other. None saved them from their plight.

Sometimes I feel like my life is kind-of like that open water. And it makes me think about where I place my trust. If you are a Christian, you will understand when I claim that I place my faith in Christ alone. There is a familiar song that I have sung often in church. It goes ” in Christ alone, my hope is found. He is my light, my strength, my song.” Yes, I profess that I place my faith in Christ alone. Those of you who are not Christians, to you I I fully admit that I live as a hypocrite most of the time. If I am honest with you and myself, I place my faith in my comfortable home, my job, my husband’s job, my health insurance, my family, my doctors, my food. I could go on and on. Those worldly things are not bad, but they are as fleeting as that negligent boat that left the couple in open water in that movie. There have been times in my life when I have been striped of those worldly things that I mentioned and have felt as vulnerable as those unfortunate scuba divers.

In 2010 when my health the striped away from me is one of those times. I felt panic, despair, and the fear was like sharks nipping constantly. But unlike the movie, I stopped bobbing and trying to battle that fear nipping at me. The words to that song became a reality. I was forced to either keep battling myself or live those words I have sung for years — in Christ alone.  I finally surrendered my plight to him. The rescue chopper did not come. I am not miraculously healed. He could have sent it. Instead, I feel like he has put a shark barrier around me, protecting me, and giving me wave after wave of joy and blessings in my plight. That is real. That is how Christ rescued me. I can without reservation claim “in Christ alone.”

We all live by faith in something.  There is only one I have found who can protect me from the sharks of life. In Christ Alone.

There is a sequel! It’s called Open Water 2. If you plan on watching it, again stop reading. In this movie there is a new set of friends on a sailboat sailing across the ocean. How does it end? Well, let me just say this. It’s all fun and games as you push each other in the ocean until after the last man jumped and you realize that someone forgot to put out the ladder and you can’t get back into the boat. More sharks!

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All My Sisters and Me

img_2310“We are family….. I’ve got all my sisters and me!” Well, actually I just have one younger sister, but she means the world to me. If you take a close look at the picture of the two of us, you can see she was the favorite one. Why else would my mom put that God-awful hat on me and dress her up so cute? We have laughed about that for years. When we were growing up, she had to endure my first born dominance of hogging the bathroom, bossing her around, and can I just admit to all. I did tickle her until she wet her pants. I think that was sort-of a form of torture. She wasn’t laughing. She has forgiven me and has become a treasure in my life. …And I have forgiven my mom for the hat!

I have three boys who I have watched wrestle, tease, and fight over their growing up years. However, I do not believe there was any tickling torture in my home. I have said the prayer countless times as I watch them interact. “Please, Lord, let them be friends as adults. Let them see the gift that they are to each other.”

It warms my heart as I see that happening.

People don’t always stay close to their siblings when they are adults. It takes acceptance, understanding, and a lot of forgiveness. It takes being intentional and reaching beyond oneself. It isn’t easy, but it’s worth it.

I love my many many friends, but I have only one sister. However many you have, value them. Don’t let a gap widen in your relationship. Warm your mama’s heart. Give them a call today.

….. and don’t even get me started on cousins. I adore my cousins!

“We are family…….

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And We Smile On

I was with a friend yesterday. I picked her up and we went together to buy a gift for wedding that we are both attending. We stood at the registry of a local store for about 15 minutes deciding what to buy. Then it took about 20 minutes for the cashier to figure out how to split our bill, order, and ship the item in between waiting on other customers. It is amazing how you can connect with someone through a song.

I only know his name because of his name tag. David started singing to the radio playing in the background Versace on the Floor by Bruno Mars while he waited on us. I have a funny story about that song. You can read it in an earlier blog post of mine called “Sachie on the Floor!” I told him that story, and we shared a laugh. He then proceeded to tell me that he is a writer, too. One thing led to another, and then My friend was telling him about First Punch, the song by Heather Richardson that I cowrote. I thought he would be bored with it, but I played a little of it.  It is far from being Versace on the Floor. But when this young, African American kid got tears in his eyes and said he needed to hear that because of the hard time he is going through right now in his life, I thought, “yes, this is why we wrote it.”

This kid and I have nothing in common, but I got a glimpse of his pain and his struggle through a few seconds of a shared song. I may never see David again, but I will never forget this honest moment when the wall of “put on a smile” came down for just a moment to remind me– we all are struggling with something behind our smiles.

Be kind always because there is pain behind our smiles — and we smile on.

First Punch – Single by Heather Richardson https://itun.es/us/8suEib

Take the Plunge!

Why do they do it? The crazy ones. The crazy ones who wanted their moment of fame and took the plunge over the Niagara Falls. The first one to go over the falls in a barrel was Annie Taylor in 1901. She intrigues me because like me she was an educator. She was close to my age when she did it. Actually, she was just 7 years older than I am. It is documented that she did it for financial reasons, but there had to be something more that motivated her. Maybe not, people will do insane things motivated by money. In the end, she died destitute.
What did she have inside her that made her want to attempt something that had never been done before and risk her life?

That is what I think about now as I drive home from my trip to Niagara Falls on the Canadian side this weekend. As I watched that powerful force of water drive over the edge, I tried to climb into Annie Taylor’s mind and imagine her as the barrel closed over her with no turning back. Was she confident that she would survive or did she have doubts? When she climbed out of that barrel at the end of the ride was she expecting her life to be completely different? What about as she was preparing for her journey over the falls? I can just imagine the talk of the town about the “crazy one.”

Then I started to compare my life to hers. Now I’m in no way saying that I want to risk my life doing something like going over those Horse Shoe Falls. I’m a scaredy squirrel when it comes to heights and roller coasters, so that’s not my thing.
But am I living my dream or just “swimming upstream?”

That is the comparison I think about. Since I was diagnosed with Parkinson’s Disease, I have this desire to be more of a risk taker. Life is no longer routine for me. I do crazy things like write songs, write this blog, enter song and writing contests. I am in the process of cowriting a children’s book. I am more out-going and love to meet new people. I do all of this not because I want to get rich or famous. However, I hope not to end up destitute like Annie Taylor. What motivates me? I think I’m a little bit like Annie Taylor inside. I do not think of the outcome of success or failure. I do not think about those around me who think I’m a little off my rocker. I do not listen to those who question me and say I will never have a hit song or wonder why I invest in this book I believe in.

I wonder if Annie Taylor enjoyed the journey of going over the falls? Yikes! I bet it was both exciting and terrifying at the same time.

That is how I want to live the rest of my life. Living the dreams that God whispers to me, “This is going to be both exciting and terrifying. People are going to think you are crazy. Do it anyway!”

That may be the difference between Annie Taylor and me. I pray that the risks I take and the dreams I follow honor God help me to see his miracles in my life.

Funny, Annie did walk away from that plunge over the falls in a mere wooden barrel! Miracle?

So I ask you. Are you living your dream or just swimming up stream? Do you have a dream for which you need to “take the plunge?” Do it! Life is short. Just don’t tell me that your dream is to go over the Niagara Falls– or life could be a little shorter. Live your dream!

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