A heart full.

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Today is my brother’s birthday. I like to imagine he is having a piece of cake with Mom and little sister Judy. I wish I could bake him a cake today. I’d try to make the best one ever and let him know how much I love him.

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Happy birthday, Steve.

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Today, I received a package from my daughter. I cannot remember a time when my heart has been so full. Inside was a personalized calendar with everyone’s birthdays, a grateful board to hang on our wall, and a beautiful picture of her family that is now hanging next to my desk. But THIS is what makes my heart overflow with love and gratitude and an overwhelming sense of Mama Bear:


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I am very grateful today for a heart that is full.



Tending to turtle.

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Yesterday morning, Sam and I sat at the dining room table in the quiet of the morning before the day began. I read a devotion, and it sparked a good discussion about the words, “I am sorry.”

When I was a teacher, one of my pet peeves formulated when children would be directed to apologize for something, and immediately, the standard response was, “Sorry.” I would always correct them.

“I’M sorry that I…”

“I’M sorry for…”

Obviously, in those immediate moments, the apology was less than heartfelt, and my insistence was annoying.

Back to our morning:

We talked about those who grow up in homes where those words are rarely if ever uttered, homes where children never witness the example of remorse from their parents, homes where spouses never humble themselves and admit their mistakes and failings in order to offer or receive forgiveness. What would it be like to never hear those words?

I know. I lived it once upon a time, and I raised my children in the same type of environment.  Saying “I’m sorry” is hard. Remorse may be there, but vocalizing it is another class. Now that I am in my post-parenting season, this is a lesson that I wish I could re-teach, or re-learn.

When our children are raised never seeing their role models admit they were wrong or owning up to mistakes, surely this affects how they grow up to view their own mistakes.

It is something that Sam and I do often for each other – he, more so than me. In fact, before we began our devotions, we were discussing a to-do list and we got short with each other.

I tend to “turtle” and hide in a dark, quiet corner of my mind.

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Sam doesn’t allow me to do that any longer. He likes to deal. Right now. And he did. He apologized on the spot, and we worked it out.


“This is how I want you to conduct yourself in these matters. If you enter your place of worship and, about to make an offering, you suddenly remember a grudge a friend has against you, abandon your offering, leave immediately, go to this friend and make things right. Then and only then, come back and work things out with God. – Matthew 5:23-24 (THE MESSAGE)


I am so grateful that I have a husband who says the words “I’m sorry” and “Thank you for…”

I am so grateful that the “silent treatment” is not acceptable in our relationship.

I am so grateful for the times when we take the time to discuss devotions and have heartfelt conversations, appreciating the moments and growing in our relationship to each other and to God.

I am so grateful that confession and remorse are not prerequisites to forgiveness. For all the apologies we have not received in our lives, we daily ask for the graciousness to forgive.

The truth is this: being human allows my loved ones to be human. Getting back up after I fall down gives others courage to do the same. Asking for forgiveness lifts a weight – not only from my shoulders, but also from the shoulders of my beloveds. It gives us a chance to discuss what we wished we would have done differently and how we’ll react in the future. – Rachel Macy Stafford in Only Love Today


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Burrrr, it’s a rainy day and Monday.

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I was walking around this morning, hating the underwear I put on. Man, they were uncomfortable. I shifted and pulled, and nothing seemed to help.

After a fast breakfast of an egg in a cup, I told Sam I had to get to work, which meant walking upstairs to my office with a window on the 2nd floor.

Every step was irritating, thanks to my annoying underwear.

I sat down at my desk, the desk I love at the window I love, AND, it was a rainy day, which is another reason to love my work today. After 10 minutes of not being able to concentrate due to infuriating undies, I decided I had ENOUGH.

They’re comin’ off. And then, THIS fell out.



I am grateful today for underwear that are free of sand burrs.

And since I am focused on underclothes, I am grateful for new socks with good elastic, just because.

I am grateful for rainy days and cooler weather.

And, I am grateful for home office, because this experience would have been much more awkward in the work office.

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I am grateful for the ability to update so many people on Sam’s progress:


I am grateful for a truckload of ginormous mums.

I am grateful for lemonade stands on a hot September Saturday.

And I am grateful for anticipation of rain and cool days in small town USA this coming week.

This is my story on Friday afternoon. This is my song…


…praising my Savior all the day long.

I am grateful on this Friday afternoon to have a chair next to a window on which to sit in this chemo room.

I am grateful that Sam is sleeping through this treatment he so dreaded this time.

I am grateful for his surgeon who knows how to make patients laugh and feel very loved at the same time.

I am grateful for blankets in warming drawers.

I am grateful for dings on a cell phone, indication of a sea of support and encouragement via text messages.

I am grateful for clean socks.

I am grateful for the hymn “I Need Thee Every Hour.” I do.

I am grateful for good news of a sister helping a brother through a crisis, for a high risk pregnancy successful ultrasound, for a grandma’s treat of seeing a granddaughter’s volleyball game during a visit, for friends who share their good news with me.

I am grateful for a scratchy throat, a gentle reminder while I sit in this chair in this particular place, that I am healthy and have been so blessed.

And I am grateful for carbonation.


Friends are friends forever…

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These two beautiful ladies lived in the same neighborhood when I was in high school. One was a year older than me, one was in my class. One shares my first name, one was my bridesmaid. Both share birthdays in the same week, this week.

Both were two of my best friends as I navigated some rough years called teenagerdom.

They know things about me I hope they keep a secret.

They are evidence that while some girls can be catty and mean, other girls can be rock solid friends and forgive the trivial and seasonal. While some girls come and go in our lives, a few remain as lifelong friends and sisters.

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corduroys * Chorale * dragging Main * Def Leppard * big hair * Mr. Yount * french fries at The Hutch * cassette tapes * Ken’s Pizza * E.T. and The Blue Lagoon * writing notes in class * Pac Man and Frogger * Love’s Baby Soft and shiny lip gloss * South Hutch softball games * Trapper Keepers * freezing in that girls’ bathroom * Mrs. Olsen and her scripture singing “I will bless the Lord at all times, His praise shall continually be in my mouth…”  * the pay phone in the corner * Rhonda’s unforgettable laugh and Cindy’s killer legs, two things I wish I had

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Ah, the memories.

Happy birthday to you both.

I love you, Cindy and Rhonda, and I am grateful for you. I am grateful that you have loved me in spite of.

LOTS of in spite of.

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Humbly grateful or grumbly grayteful?


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Some days are just…


Gray in sky, gray in clothing, gray in washed walls, or gray in outlook. This morning, my day was a sunrise pink, promising to be a tired but satisfying sort of day. I woke up grateful. I drove to work grateful. I welcomed the yawns, evidence of a productive yesterday. But I also welcomed the new day, the renewal of work, the pink sunrise that said, “Good morning, Rhonda. Here is His gift.”

I was reflective and counting blessings as the morning chugged along. I was misty-eyed and sentimental, as I sometimes get in my middle-aged emotions.

Those middle-aged emotions. I’ve had them all my life, actually.

Wouldn’t you know it, in the middle of it all today, the pink faded. All it took was one little thing to cloud over the outlook.

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I HATE when that happens.

One word spoken.
Or one glance.
Or a feeling of outcast.

Maybe a simple misunderstanding.
Most often, one overreaction.

And then…

fade to gray.

GAHHH. Why do I do this to myself? Why do I let the actions and the lives of others affect my color? Why can I not just be oblivious to the concrete-colored blanket of cloud and appreciate the panorama of pink rays that peek over the horizon?

As a result, I beat myself up. I must have done or said something wrong. I am unworthy and not good enough. I will forever pay the price. It will never get better.

Two steps forward. One step back.

But, at the coffee pot in the kitchen this morning, Bob Goff said, “I used to think following God required complicated formulas. I thought I needed a big stack of books, so I could figure out exactly where I was all the time. I thought if I constantly measured the distance between me and God, I’d get closer to Him. What I realized, though, is that all I really needed to know when it came down to it was the direction I was pointing and that I was somewhere inside the large circle of God’s love and forgiveness.”

This is a new concept for the one who thought she had it right, all her years of spiritual righteousness.

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Search me, O God, and know my heart; test me and know my anxious thoughts.
Psalm 139:23 NLT

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So if you’re serious about living this new resurrection life with Christ, act like it.
Pursue the things over which Christ presides.
Don’t shuffle along, eyes to the ground, absorbed with the things right in front of you.
Look up, and be alert to what is going on around Christ—that’s where the action is.
See things from HIS perspective.
– Colossians 3:1-2 The Message

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Better to be patient than a warrior, and better to have self-control than to capture a city.
Proverbs 16:32 CEB


Therefore (because I refuse to use the word “so” after my rant yesterday)…

I begin again. I will attempt to smile through hurt feelings and be gracious instead of graycious.

I will be grateful for the blessings I HAVE been given instead of being grayteful while looking across the fence at what I wish I had.

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I will gravitate towards the sunrises and sunsets instead of grayvitating under the cloud.

And I will grade myself with a pencil and eraser instead of grayding myself with a Sharpie, because I am moving in the right direction and I am somewhere inside that large circle of  God’s love and forgiveness. And for THAT, I am grateful.

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Gnawing at gratitude, because I can spell.

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I am grateful for those moments when something strikes me as funny, and it’s not really that funny, but I think it is, and I just can’t quit giggling.

I am grateful for clear ice.

I am grateful for good magnets, because wimpy magnets make me a little irritated.

I am grateful for moments when I type an incredibly long string really fast and make no mistakes.

I am grateful for the few times in a day when I actually bite my tongue, not literally but figuratively, and don’t say what is inside my thought bubble.

I am grateful for that gnawing feeling – I would have lost the spelling bee on that one, friends – that gnawing feeling I have when I get so far behind in writing thank you notes, because I know that sleep will not come tonight until I get it crossed off the list. Now if only I could be sure to remember all the thank you’s I need to write.

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I am grateful for a window behind me in this office, making pretty sunsetting shadows on the wall in front of me this evening.

I am grateful for people who do not begin explanations and responses with the word, “So…” THAT is in the same category as using “like” over and over in a sentence or saying “absolutely” in place of “yes.” These things make me want to gnaw.

And I am a little behind the times, but I am grateful for the wonderful new world of flats, particularly…Rothy’s.

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There ain’t nuthin’ gonna steal my joy.

In the worst season of my life, it was snowing. I came downstairs at 7:30 am to find that someone had scraped the ice and snow from my car windows outside the apartment, and all I had to do was get inside and go to work.

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That someone was my dad.

This morning, I drove for approximately four hours in the rain. When I left for small town USA on Saturday morning, I noticed how clean the vehicle seemed, and mile after mile I hoped the bugs would stay away from my clear view.

For the most part, they did.

Today, as I drove, I was very grateful for the way the water just beaded and raced up the windshield, allowing me to see the road just fine without having to use the windshield wipers.

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It reminded me of the times in the past when my dad would treat the windshield with Rain-X and how fascinated I was that it eliminated any need for windshield wipers.

And then I wondered if my dad had washed the car and Rain-Xed the windshield.

And for a good portion of the four hours in the rain, I thought about my dad, and how he still takes care of me, even in my 50+ years.

It made me very grateful.

Not only grateful for Dad and Rain-X and pretty water beading, but also grateful for…

  • Sam’s employees who give him such joy.
  • a picture my brother sent to me.
  • memories of singing, “I’ve got joy, down in my heart, deep deep down in my heart,” with students and choirs – “and nothing can destroy it, ‘stroy it, ‘stroy it, HYAH!”

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  • a face peeking out of a van, yelling, “You’re the best, Ama!” and then five little ones running across the parking lot to hug my legs one more time before we parted ways.
  • having my family together again.
  • five hours of nothing but my thoughts and conversation with God, serenaded by raindrops on windows.
  • a couple of friends who sent me Monday messages today.

When I recollect the treasure of friendship that has been bestowed upon me, I withdraw all charges against life. If much has been denied me, much, very much, has been given me. So long as the memory of certain beloved friends lives in my heart, I shall say that life is good. – Helen Keller

  • good music on a porch.
  • cards in the mail.
  • the purr of a kitten.
  • the devotion of a dog.
  • sticky fingers and “I love you’s” of granddaughters.
  • soapy water and clean towels.

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  • watching Sam enjoy life.
  • memories of working concession stands with my students.
  • spending one day with Katrina.
  • finally finishing a book.
  • chips and salsa.
  • Lisa and Abbie.
  • KState and Chiefs wins, when they win. Royals, gotta love ya, but turn out the lights, the party’s over.
  • Watching Karissa mama. It’s a verb when your name is Karissa and you have six little ducks.

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  • songs that make me happy and cause revival, like the one at the top.

When you exist in the beautiful state of gratitude, you become a person who only wants to give. You become so grateful that it takes over your life, and you can’t find enough opportunities in a day to give. You give joy, you give love, you give money, you give appreciation, you give compliments, and you give kindness. You give the best of yourself in your job, in your relationships, and to strangers.

You will know when you have really found true gratitude, because you will become a giver. One who is truly grateful cannot be anything else. – From my boss and friend, Karen, torn from a page of one of her daily readings

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Listen more. And be grateful for those who listen to you.


I am grateful this evening for the anticipation of home. It has been a long two weeks – long, but good. Our last flight of the day just left Seattle headed for Kansas City, and home is the next stop.

As the plane left the ground, my head was on Sam’s shoulder and his hands covered mine in a safe grasp. I couldn’t help but thank God for this man who is my best friend in life, who is the best travel partner, who looks out for me and is ever so conscious of my feelings, needs, desires, and happiness.

I am grateful for the diverse people we met in the last two weeks – new friends from Texas and California and Wisconsin and Washington and Michigan and Alaska – and young kids and other adults who are seeing the world and serving vacationers through summer jobs, from Lithuania and Serbia and Yugoslavia and China and Jamaica and Turkey. What a great big wonderful world we live in, and what incredible people God has placed in our path…

I am grateful for housekeeping staff mistakes that made us angry enough to complain last night. Our sheets were “used” when we checked in to our hotel room on Friday and again yesterday. We had to make a few calls in order to get clean sheets. The young lady who finally showed up at our door last night was so apologetic even though it was not her fault. Her name is Bojana from Serbia. She is 19 years old and is in school studying for an IT degree and so very grateful to be in Alaska for her second summer. If it had not been for the mistake of the day shift, we would not have met this adorable young lady who leaves in ten days to drive further into Alaska with a friend to explore “this beautiful country” before heading back home overseas.

Bojana said something quite profound to us as she tucked sheets and stuffed pillows into clean cases. We asked her if she had experienced mostly kindness from Americans or if she had also come across those who were less than gracious. She quietly responded that it was a mix of both, that when some people hear her strong accent, they dismiss her and have even told her to go back to her own country. Sam quickly apologized for the lack of understanding, and she said, “It’s okay. We all can learn from each other. We all need to listen more.”

One thing I love about my best friend is the fact that he listens more than he shares. I think he would love nothing more than to share his thoughts and his journey and appreciates when others inquire, but he knows the value of doing the inquiring – sometimes you don’t learn from others unless you ask. If you don’t open the door for someone to share their story, you miss out on an unforgettable experience.

This morning as we sat in the airport and watched a few service workers cleaning the waiting area, Sam quietly said, “How many people walk by and never acknowledge their service or ask their story?” They are the invisibles who make our world full and amazingly colorful.

We witnessed travelers and vacationers these past two weeks who were content to experience Alaska all by themselves, walled off and solitary, or only open to being amongst their own. Many of them were the ones who complained A LOT and needed to be first in line to get the best seats. Some were either GBS (grouchy but silent), or GAV (grouchy and vocal). But we also witnessed those who took advantage of the opportunities to learn from others and enlarge their circle, and that was probably my favorite part of the trip.

We are going home very tired. We have a long couple of weeks ahead of us, too. As I sit in this middle seat tonight waiting on the drink cart to roll past, I could easily allow myself to become overwhelmed with the details, the schedule and the rest of 2017. That would be my choice, to allow the overwhelm. But instead, I will end this trip of a lifetime by thanking God:

  • For Alaska.
  • For Stefan from Serbia, our waiter at The Pumphouse.
  • For an all day gold panning/transcontinental pipeline/riverboat/Athabaskan excursion yesterday that neither of us wanted to go on, but ended up being a great day and lots of fun. And, we panned $42 worth of gold! Yee haw.
  • For Sam’s shoulder and the back rub he gave to me as we waited to board the plane.
  • For beautiful Alaskan and Washington mountains.
  • For shuttle rides.
  • For pictures of our manicured lawn and for Paul who manicured our lawn in preparation for company this week.
  • For a successful first experience with Lyft, like Uber, but different.
  • For two suitcases that barely made the 50 pound weight limit, AND for some unknown reason, were free of any charges on our return home!
  • For ice cold Alaska water from a faucet.
  • For my dad. I miss him and love him so very much.
  • For smoked and really salty almonds and biscotti crackers for dinner tonight.
  • For guys who are adults but obviously think they are cool young bucks who wear massive headphones in airports and look really really funny. They are similar in comedy to guys who are adults but obviously think they are cool young bucks who wear ball caps backwards or ball caps with straight bills and call their caps “lids.” Puh-leaze.
  • For an email song from soon-to-be-author Linda that made us smile. Softly and tenderly Smith Center is calling, calling for us to come home… Funny thing is, Sam and I had just sung that song in its original form, in one of the hotel rooms this week, harmonizing together, so it was fresh on our minds.
  • For people who travel with dogs, especially little fluffy dogs. The world is a better place when adorable-ness with a wagging tail struts along in a sea of people and bags on wheels.
  • For the privilege of meeting Iditarod winner Susan Butcher’s husband and hearing the story of Granite, her lead dog.
  • For a return to quiet flushing. Seriously, Alaskan toilets are anxiety-inducing and about as effective as defibrillators.
  • For my sister. She makes me so proud.
  • For text messages from a few friends along the way wondering how things are going.
  • For Jen Hatmaker who makes me laugh out loud on an airplane.
  • For airplanes withOUT turbulence, please.
  • For sweet reminiscing on the riverboat cruise about Paul Harvey – “now you know the REST of the story,” and, “…goood DAY!”
  • For the feeling of taking shoes off after wearing them all the day long.
  • For anticipation of seeing six grandchildren in two more days. First time in three years that I will have seen all of my grandchildren within a three week period.
  • For Psalm 121.
  • And for Kansas, home sweet home.