Losing a Loved One

Although the calendar now reads the second week of September, in north Texas the daytime temps are still in the 90s. Summer is rolling over into fall and school has resumed, but in this part of the country the air conditioning is still running and it’s not yet time to put away the shorts and sleeveless dresses. That makes it hard to remember that one season has ended and a new season is beginning.

A new season has just begun in my family’s life as well. Late last week, my husband’s mother died suddenly and unexpectedly. My husband, his brother and sister, and their father are still processing her abrupt departure, and our grown children are grieving the loss of their beloved grandmother and trying to explain to their own young children why their great grandmother is no longer with us.

IMG_0237I have nothing profound to say about any of this, but thought I’d share a few random things I’ve pondered as we’re working out way through this experience.

  1. We really never know how long the people we love will be with us. In the busyness of life, it’s easy to let that truth fade from our thinking. Mike's first comment to me after telling me of his mother's death was that it was surreal. The woman who gave him life, a constant in his life literally from his birth, was there and then . . . she wasn't.
  2. Perhaps the hardest thing about the way Mike’s mother died is the fact that no one got to say goodbye. She collapsed almost without warning after supper and was gone long before morning, without ever recovering consciousness. There was no farewell moment at her bedside, no chance to say “I love you” or “thank you” one last time–not for her grown children, and not for her husband. More than fifty years of their life together ended all too abruptly. I can’t even imagine the loss and pain he must be feeling. Every one of us left behind has to deal with the regret of unspoken words.
  3. There is some small comfort in knowing that, as difficult as it is for those left behind, her sudden departure means that she did not suffer a prolonged and pain-filled decline. As I’m approaching my mid–50s, I find myself pondering how my own life will end, and whether there is such a thing as a “better” way to go.193599_1984773097795_658772_o
  4. Like most families these days, our extended family is spread out across the country, so we seldom get to see each other in person. As it happens, though, over the course of this past spring and summer, each of my boys separately had the opportunity to make a trip to western Washington and spend a day or two with Mike’s parents. Our oldest son took his two little boys for their first, and now only, visit to their paternal great-grandparents. Those visits now are cherished memories for which we are all grateful.
  5. This past weekend, when I watched Mike playing his fiddle with the band he joined recently, I felt sad as I realized how much Mike’s mom would have loved to see him play. Like any mother, she was his biggest fan. When he was a kid, she drove him from one bluegrass festival to another in support of his talent, and I think she always regretted that he had “abandoned” the instrument for thirty years in favor of other musical (and non-musical) pursuits. I am thankful that in what turned out to be her last days, through the miracle of technology, she got to see him play his fiddle again after all those years, via videos posted on Facebook.

Like I said, I have nothing profound to say about all this, and certainly nothing new. But pondering the things that have happened over the past week, and the conversations we’ve had about it, I am reminded of the same cliches that often are spoken in the wake of death: Treasure the people you love while you have them with you. Don’t take them for granted, and don’t assume there’ll be time later to speak your heart to them. Celebrate every moment you have together, and take every opportunity to create memories to sustain you when they are gone.

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Greenville, Texas
I Was Just Thinking . . . 
Legal Blog: Real Estate Law Blog
Twitter: @LauraMcMom
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Is Friendship Harder Than It Used to Be?

“If you have one true friend you have more than your share.” Thomas Fuller

When our youngest child was in elementary school, we moved cross country to a new town where we didn't know anybody. Sam came bouncing through the door after his very first day at his new school with a boy we'd never seen before and introduced him as “my friend. We sat on the bus together.”

Mike and I laughed at the fact that for a ten-year-old, that's all it took to be friends: just sitting next to each other on the school bus. Sam and this new friend spent many happy hours together in the three years we lived in that neighborhood.

© Marcelmooij | Dreamstime.com

© Marcelmooij | Dreamstime.com

As you get older, it's a little harder to make friends. Maybe we become a little more wary, a little less open. Maybe we're too busy to spend the time it takes to really get to know someone well enough to call them friend.

“It takes a long time to grow an old friend.” John Leonard

Whatever the reason, it seems that these days I have many acquaintances (people I know and whose company I enjoy) and fewer friends, which makes me treasure even more those true friends–the people who know everything about me and like me anyway. Most of those friends live far from Texas, where I live now, so we rarely get to spend time together, but knowing they're there makes my life better. When we do have those rare opportunities to get together, it seems like time falls away and we just pick up where we left off the last time. These are the people I know I can count on to understand and support me, to be there for me in a time of need. I hope, I believe, they feel the same about me.

What I've been thinking about a lot lately is that most of those people are folks I've known for many years. It seems like it's been a long time since I've found a new friend to add to that category. And I wonder whether the reason is that I've changed. You know the old saying: to have a friend, you must be one. Am I less friendly, less open, less dependable than I was when I was younger? I hope not.

What do you think? Do you stay in touch with friends from your school days, or have you found new friends as you've grown older? How do you define a “true friend,” and has that definition changed?
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Greenville, Texas
I Was Just Thinking . . . 
Legal Blog: Real Estate Law Blog
Twitter: @LauraMcMom
Email me

Only For the Weak

I've been thinking lately about what it means to be a Christian, and what it takes to be a “good” Christian. I've spent a lot of time in church from my childhood, been involved in ministry in one capacity or another for a lot of years, listened to a lot of sermons.

100_1458One of the things I've struggled with over the years is finding the right balance between “works” and grace. I believe we are saved by grace alone, “not of works, lest any man should boast.” (Ephesians 2:9). But I've heard it taught, and I believe, that those who've accepted that grace have an obligation to “live a life worth of the calling . . .” (Ephesians 4:1). And sometimes–maybe not for you, but certainly for me–it's hard to live that worthy life.

When I struggle to be the kind of person that I long to be, I appreciate the lyrics of a song called “Only for the Weak,” recorded by Avalon (click on the title to hear it in YouTube):

“Some say it's rules and regulations, and trying to always be right,
No room for mistakes in the choices we make,
Only the strong survive.
But it's not about perfect performance or resolution of will,
It's all about surrender,
Giving up, being still.

It's only for the weak, for the faint of heart,
Those driven to their knees, those who live with scars.
There's power from beyond, we're certain where it's from,
And that's our source of strength.
Before we follow Christ, we need to be advised
It's only for the weak.”

I guess the point is that while what we do matters, Christianity is based on grace. And grace means that ultimately it's not about what we do, but what He's done.

I am grateful that I don't have to have it all together all the time.

How about you?
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Greenville, Texas
I Was Just Thinking . . .
Legal Blog: Real Estate Law Blog
Twitter: @LauraMcMom
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Summer’s End and a New Adventure

2013-08-06 05.37.49Are you as surprised as I am how fast this summer–this year–is flying by? It's August already! Here in north Texas we're enjoying triple-digit temps this week–the forecasters are promising Dallas highs to hit around 106 degrees in the next day or two! Ikes–I'm glad my day job keeps me indoors!

As the summer winds to its inevitable end, I'm committed to using as much of my “free” time (that is, time when I'm not working at my day job) to finish my novel, so a lot of other things are falling by the wayside for the next few weeks. But there are two quick things I wanted to share with you:

First, as a reminder, I am giving away four books this month. If you haven't yet read my recent post about good summer reads (which didn't go out to my subscribers due to a glitch in the feed), be sure to click over to that post, read the brief summaries of the four novels I recommend there, and leave a comment at that post for your chance to get a free copy of the book of your choice. The list includes really wonderful novels by Beth Vogt, Julie Klassen, Pamela Meyers, and D.M. Webb. You won't want to miss this opportunity!

2013-08-06 05.30.31Second, I'm taking the plunge and starting a podcast! Working on the first episodes now. It's going to be focused on productivity and time management types of topics, helping women find ways to create the lives they dream of and accomplish the things that matter to them. I envision it as being short episodes with practical, useful information–something you can listen to while running errands or cooking dinner or taking a walk. I hope to include interviews with inspiring women about how they manage their busy schedules, etc. I haven't yet set the firm date for the first episode to go live, but it'll be soon, so if you're interested, be sure you're subscribed to this blog, because my blog readers will be the first to hear about it. And if you you have any questions related to organization, managing time, etc., I'd love to hear what they are so I can perhaps address them in coming podcast episodes.

Questions for you–please share your thoughts in the comments. I'll be choosing one commenter to receive a special prize!

  1. Do you listen to any podcasts? (Do you know what a podcast is?!) If so, which ones, and what do you like about them?
  2. What is your biggest challenge when it comes to organizing your life and stuff, or managing your time and tasks?

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Greenville, Texas
I Was Just Thinking . . . 
Legal Blog: Real Estate Law Blog
Twitter: @LauraMcMom
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Is It Ever Too Late?

I've had many conversations with women about the things they wish they had done. And often they lament the fact that it’s too late now.

But when is it really too late to start something you’ve always wanted to do?

Writer and speaker Michael Hyatt offers a response in his book, Platform: Get Noticed in a Noisy World. He asks these questions: When is the best time to plant a tree? Twenty years ago. When is the second best time to plant a tree? Today.

The same is true of our dreams. Maybe the best time to start was five or ten or twenty years ago, but the second best time to start is now. And really, as long as you’re still alive, it’s never too late to start.

I’ve written elsewhere about how my husband and I married at eighteen and had our first child when we were twenty. By the time I was thirty, we had three children, and I was pregnant with our fourth. I was busy homeschooling our children, teaching childbirth classes, and serving in music ministry with Mike at our church. In my mid-thirties I began thinking again about a longtime dream of going back to college (I had taken a few semesters of college classes in my early twenties). With my husband’s encouragement and support, I went back to school to get my bachelor of arts in political science. I still remember the day I walked across campus to attend my first classes. Looking at all those young people, I distinctly remember thinking, “What in the world am I doing here? I don’t belong. I’m too old to be a college student.” But with a pounding heart and shaking hands, I started anyway, and two years later (one month after the birth of our fifth child) I graduated from the University of Nebraska at Omaha. I might have been one of the oldest students graduating that day, but my degree was just as good as those earned by those youngsters–and my husband and children celebrated the milestone with me!

222659_1032295458668_2757_nAs if that wasn’t enough, a few weeks later, I moved with my family from Nebraska to New York, where I started law school at age 35. This was something I’d dreamed of as a teenager, but life intervened and the dream got put aside for decades. Interestingly, I wasn’t the oldest student in my class. One of my classmates was in his late forties! Maybe because I’d waited so long for this opportunity, maybe because I’d lived in the real world before getting there, but I felt like my age actually was an advantage, both in law school and when I started my legal career at age 38.

I could point to any number of people I know who’ve started something new and challenging “later” in life–like my friend who married the summer after she graduated from high school and then many years later went back to school after she’d raised her children. She recently earned her master’s degree with her adult children and their children there to cheer her on. And there's my amazing husband, who just earned his master's in mechanical engineering this spring and started a brand new career–at age 52!

My point, of course, is that it’s never too late to start. If there’s a dream you’ve discarded because you think you’ve missed your chance, please think again. Pull that dream out of the trash, brush it off, and think for moment: what’s one little step you could take today (or tomorrow) to move in the direction of that dream.

What about you? Is there a dream you’ve set aside that maybe deserves a chance? What small step could you take toward making that dream a reality? Perhaps just the small step of saying it out loud? Feel free to share it in the comments below.


**Housekeeping note: I published an “extra” post last Friday, but due to a technical glitch it didn't go out to my subscribers. Bad news, because it included a giveaway of four great novels. If you haven't seen that post, be sure to check it out here (AFTER you leave your comments on this post below) and get your chance to receive a free copy of one of the novels I wrote about.


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Greenville, Texas
I Was Just Thinking . . .
Legal Blog: Real Estate Law Blog
Twitter: @LauraMcMom
Email me