Friday, December 20, 2013

The Art of Listening

What a blessing to spend lots of time with my grandpa over the past 14 months during his hospital stays.  Recently, I learned a lesson that I'll carry forever.  It's one that I think should be shared...

I've been pretty persistent in trying to make sure his faith is solid, and that he knows God is in control.  It's been an increasing sense of urgency to me as his cancer has progressed.  I've talked and talked and talked some more, but still never felt my words were quite right.  In November, I prayed A LOT that God would give me the words I was looking for, and one morning He answered my prayer.  As I walked into the hospital before daylight, I must've repeated 10 times..."God, please let today be the day."

Somewhere in the middle of our conversation, my grandpa asked how my work with the kids of our church was going.  I soon found myself listening to his stories of church from childhood...stories of his mom (a Sunday School teacher)...and stories of his dad, who didn't have much time for "church people".  He shared some verses with me that he remembered from over 70 years ago, including his mom's favorite verse...Matthew 6:33.

As the early morning darkness turned to daylight while I listened, I learned more about his history with religion, church, God, and Jesus than I even knew existed.  I came to understand his reservations...which were centered around religion and church, not around God and Jesus.  I shared very little in return.  And for the first time since the subject of my grandpa's faith had begun weighing on my heart, I felt at ease.  God didn't need me to say anything; what He needed me to do was listen.

Since that day, I haven't felt the burden of saying just the right thing to my grandpa.  We've talked and prayed, and as he gets closer to the end of his time on this earth, I'm filled with joy knowing we'll meet up again in heaven, and there, we'll spend eternity together.

Tonight, on my way to bed, I stopped to take a quick look at my kids' Jesus Calling book on the kitchen table.  What verse should be at the top of the page but Matthew 6:33, the favorite verse of Ann Campbell - the great grandma that I never met.  Since that November talk, I had memorized it and knew it would always be close to my heart, knowing it was also close to my grandpa's.

Seeing the words printed on the page, I coudn't help but think...if God had answered my prayer in my way, I would've rambled on and on that November morning.  Instead, He answered it in His way, teaching me a lesson I'll always remember.  It was a blessing to hear all that my grandpa had to say that morning, and the best ever answer to my prayers as I learned the value in the art of listening.

Saturday, November 9, 2013

Morning Sky Fades Fast

Last week I was driving to town early one morning and staring right into the most beautiful sunrise.  Clouds had formed the coolest pattern over the mountains, and shades of red and orange were everywhere.

I wanted to get to a spot where I knew I could get a good picture.  By the time I pulled off the road...just moments later...the view had changed.  Red and orange were replaced with a darker shade of dawn.  Clouds had moved.  The sun was reflecting off a new spot that I could no longer see.

The morning sky fades so fast.  It changes before our eyes, and even though we can see it, the way it happens leaves us wondering if we really witnessed the transformation after all.  
And so it seems to be with our lives.

Carson, the baby of the family, is 7 and in the first grade.  His first year of full day school.  It's bittersweet to drop him off every morning and know he'll be under the care of someone who isn't me and who isn't grandma for the next six and a half hours.  It makes me thankful for his teacher, whom I love and he loves.  Nonetheless, today there was no school and my day was better because he was home with me.  Just yesterday, Carson was a little tiny guy with a head of curly hair, crying after brothers got out of the car to go to school because he would miss them until pick up time.  And the very moment they were back in his sight, he would do every naughty thing possible in order to get their attention.

Cole, the mellow middle child, is approaching the end of his elementary career.  He wakes up every morning of the week while it's still dark, comes in quietly and whispers, "Good morning, mom."  On school days, he's showered, dressed, and ready to go with his bed made and lunch packed before his brothers are even moving.  Time for a morning hunt is his motivator.  Whatever he is into, he's all in.  These days, he reads alone in bed at night, and I remember just yesterday when he smiled from ear to ear, eyes twinkling, as we sat together at bedtime and he sounded out his first words in Dick and Jane.

Clay, nearing his 14th year, seems to have found the maturity, memory, and responsibility that I lost (or maybe never had).  We're well into our 3rd year of home school together, and I'm daily thankful he talked me into it.  Two weeks ago, we were riding bikes across town when the middle school and high school got out.  I learned I'm not as cool as I once was, as I heard the mutter behind me..."Oh my gosh.  Everyone is going to see me riding bikes with my mom..."  Just yesterday, Clay had my time all to himself.  We sat in the yard with a bag of cherries as I taught him how to spit out the seeds.  The red stains of the fruit ran down the front of his shirt with the little blue truck on it, and thought to myself that I would never, ever forget the details of those days.

The blessing about the morning sky fading is what comes after it.  A new day, filled with beauty of its own.  And again, it's the same in life.

For all the great things my boys were at some time in the past, 
there are new great things today.
And there will be more great things tomorrow.

Carson is an encourager.
Cole is kind hearted.
Clay is dedicated.
 God has gifted them all in perfect and unique ways.

The morning sky can't stay the way it is forever, because if it did, we'd miss all the beauty that lies ahead.  So for now, I'll try to receive every morning sky with gladness...enjoy it while it lasts...and look ahead with joy at what is still to come.

Thursday, September 26, 2013

Birds of a Feather

Birds of a feather flock together.  ...that's how the saying goes.

About a month ago, I was out for a run on a country road in Montana.  My mind was on the upcoming KidMin Conference, taking place in Colombus, Ohio this October.  KidMin is an amazing culmination of folks who love Jesus and serve children.

As I approached a little while farmhouse, I could hear the call of a magpie coming from a tree in the front yard.  Magpies make such a distinct sound...some love it, some hate it...but there is no arguing it is loud.  My mind shifted from the conference to the bird, and I began to think of how I am like a magpie.  Later, I read a little about magpies, and the resemblance is really kind of crazy...

They are opportunistic, social, expressive and willful. 
They have a colorful character.
They have an obsession with shiny things.  Gosh, that's easily distracted.  
They're known for their noisy, chattering sound.

Somehow the magpie and KidMin spun together in my mind and I began to wonder what type of bird my KidMin friends would describe themselves as.


As the list of birds flipped like flashcards from goose to roadrunner in my head, the smile on my face got big. At one point I recall thinking I was glad I was way out in the grasslands deep in this thought all by myself.  Just imagine if I was home...running down the sidewalk in my small town like I often do...giggling and smiling from ear to ear.  People would think I'd lost my mind.  Then again, maybe they already do...

Today I'm in Montana again, and this morning as I ran along the banks of the Madison River, I could hear the call of magpies. 

The KidMin Conference is almost here.  Two weeks from today, I'll set foot in the Buckeye State for the first time in my life.  I'll spend a weekend with thousands of others who are different than me in so many ways, yet who share the same desire for every child on this planet to know God's love.  In that way...and what I believe is the most important way...
we are "birds of a feather".

These people who serve children across the globe - some of them I haven't seen since last year, others I keep in touch with almost daily, and then there are those I will meet for the first time - they inspire me to press on, doing the little bit that I can do in my 
small corner of the world. 

So look out Ohio...we're heading your way.  And in we'll come... 

And we'll leave changed -  having grown closer to Jesus, having built and strengthened friendships, having learned more than we could have imagined - 
ready to fly back to the places we serve and really 
spread our wings.

This bird is just so thankful for KidMin!
tweet tweet :) 

Wednesday, September 18, 2013

An Unlikely Friend

About a year ago, I received a Facebook message from a man I didn't know.  Here's how it read...

Saw the photo of Clay with the tractor. I don't know you however I know photography. Absolutely great shot.

I noticed that we had a mutual friend; I asked how he knew her.  He replied that he couldn't recall, and that it might be through racquetball, but that he didn't friend people on Facebook for no reason.  There had been some common denominator.

I stalked him the best I could and found that he was indeed a photographer...the real deal...and he also worked as a responder in recovery efforts following natural disasters.  "Interesting guy," I thought, so I friended him.  I wanted to see his photography and the type of recovery work he did, and didn't expect our conversation would go any further.  I do believe he expected the same, and a few days later, I got this message from him...

Take care. Keep up the good work. Shoot the things that are important to you. They'll never happen again.

Never underestimate the power of a simple, kind gesture. What seems like nothing to you may have a huge impact on someone else. 

All beautiful words, now that I look back on them.

Over the past year, we haven't kept up much on dialogue, except for the occasional reply to a Facebook picture or status.  It really is fascinating to me how communication in this day has shifted to "likes" and "comments"...
Anyhow, in July, one of our fave spots in Montana was damaged by a flash flood.  Shortly after, I saw my Facebook friend...his name is John...was headed to that area for restoration work.  I told him we'd be vacationing there the following month, and would LOVE to meet him in person. cool would that be?

The trip snuck up on me and I never took the time to contact John.  I planned to do it when we got into town.

The day after we arrived in Dillon, we walked into Murdoch's Ranch and Home Supply.  As I tripped over Cole and Carson into the front door, a man stopped me and asked my name.  Caught off guard and still wiping sweat from my forehead after our bike ride, I told him I was from out of the area.  He paused for a moment, still looking for an actual reply, so I said "Brook."  He smiled and said, "I'm John.  I knew it was you."  And there he Facebook friend in person, standing there in small town Montana!  I gave him a hug, and followed up quickly with an explanation to Keith, who was just now coming in the door and probably wondering...although never surprised...why I was hugging a stranger.  We only talked for a short time; he was in a hurry to return to the work site.  We tried to connect again in person, but it didn't happen.  Still, the momentary meeting in person was priceless to me.

Today I wished John a happy birthday on Facebook.  I thought about our unlikely friendship, and how God has a reason for every person he brings into our life.  I thought about the words John typed out to me last summer...

Never underestimate the power of a simple, kind gesture. What seems like nothing to you may have a huge impact on someone else. 

And that's simply how our unlikely friendship began.  What a great place this world would be if the simple, kind gestures in our minds became actual words each and every time.  Thank you, John. :)

Sunday, September 8, 2013

A Day With God and the Girls...

It's a small miracle no one was in a chocolate coma by now... :)

~My heart is happy tonight~

Today was our women's retreat at church - Cafe' Chocolat - so in addition to lots of time to talk to girls, I also got to enjoy lots of chocolate...a pretty awesome combination.

One of the things I love most about life is that people can experience the same thing and yet have totally different take-aways.  What I got from today wasn't the same as what anyone else there did. God has a reason for each of us to be touched and to learn in unique ways.

So here is a randomly mixed list of cool highlights for me

My grandma's fruit pizza was enjoyed by everyone today.  My grandma passed away 13 years ago, but she was on my mind as I read from her typewriter-typed, food stained recipe.  God brought her to the retreat for me, although she wasn't visibly there...just in my heart. :)

I had the awesome privilege of explaining to someone that Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John are 4 different books, written by 4 different guys, but all about the same thing...Jesus.  That was cool for me.  Why, you ask?  Because I remember not knowing that, and it seems like it was yesterday.  I've now tried to expound on the previous 4 sentences for 30 minutes and I give up.  I'll explain in person if you ever ask me.  And I might confuse you even more... 

I was reminded that there are lots of lonely ladies out there.  
Waiting for an invitation to be part of something.  
I get so caught up in my own self-centered, "I'm too busy" social life, that I forget there are people within my reach who just want SOMETHING to do.
Thank you, God, for showing me that. 

I was reminded that I embarrass myself so often it's become the norm, and that approximately 22 years ago was the last time something mortified me so much I couldn't even laugh about it.  I'm thankful God gives those humiliating situations to me and not someone else.

Who takes friendships for granted?  I do.  Who speaks their mind without considering who's on the receiving end?  I do.  Who doesn't let friends know they are valued?  Me.  And I run off and do my own thing...and walk alone more than I should...and yet my friends are there for me when I return.
I need to give those friendships the love and care they deserve.

Trying to ignore people who make me unhappy isn't exactly extending them grace.  And yet, hmm...Jesus says, "love your enemies."  That's right, Brook, loving them from a far, far distance doesn't count.  I'll work on that...

Chocolate is good. :)

Just like my heart tonight, the Almond Joy candy bar is happy.  I just know it.  And it's the candy bar that I chose to represent me today.  Sometimes I feel like a nut.  Actually, that's all the time... :)

Most of all, God's grace is  Beyond explanation.
Because of His grace, because of His example of grace to me, because His Holy Spirit lives in me and gives me the ability to do things I could never, ever do on my own, I can extend that same grace to my friends, to people I don't know, to people I don't even like...

I'm glad God pulled me into our church today to learn about His grace with these ladies.

Next month, I have the privilege of co-leading this same retreat for a group of women at the KidMin Conference in Ohio.  Although not one of them will take away exactly what I did today, God has different and equally valuable things for them to learn.  And I can't wait to be part of it. :) 

"We praise God for the glorious grace he has poured out on us who belong to his dear Son."
Ephesians 1:6

Thursday, June 20, 2013

Giving Our Best

Three months ago, as I got ready for our first Vacation Bible School meeting of the year, I was digging through my cupboards for canned food.  I had decided that at each of our meetings, we should support a local organization, and so this meeting would include a collection of goods for the food bank.

What I realized as I hunted for the perfect food to bring, was that I really wasn't hunting for the "perfect" food.  I was hunting for the food that we don't eat.  The food my family doesn't like.  The food that was outdated.  In other words, the food that I would otherwise throw away.

Now, that was interesting.  And convicting.  I was about to lead a meeting of volunteers and encourage them to give their best to the kids of our community, and I was hung up on not parting with a can of food unless it was of no value to me.

A while back, I was reading on the topic of generosity within the church.  The writer made the point that people will go to the bank and ask, "How much can I afford?" when it comes to a home mortgage or car payment.  And yet, when they go to church, they ask, "How much do I have to give?"  And isn't that the truth?  We want to know how much we can have for ourselves, and how little we can give away while still feeling like we're being generous.

There I was teetering on the kitchen counter, digging in the very back of the top shelf of the cupboard...doing the same thing.

It's funny how God puts certain things on our heart and He just impresses them there so that we'll pay good attention to what He's telling us.  That's the way I feel about that day.  He hasn't allowed me to stop thinking about it.  And because my memory is awful...and yet those thoughts are still on my mind...I REALLY know He is telling me to listen up.  I don't need to hold tight to "things"; I need to let them go and let Him provide.

We all have "things" we don't want to sacrifice.  Time, money, our's easy to forget they aren't really ours in the first place.  Vacation Bible School starts in 4 days, and because I lead a large group of volunteers, I get to see many who sacrifice for the cause, and also those who don't.  Maybe God is telling me to think about my own lack of sacrifice when I begin to wonder why this person or that person doesn't give more.  We certainly aren't called to look outward and judge what others are giving.  We are called to look inward and evaluate our own generosity.

As our team prepares to teach hundreds of children about God's love for them, I'm hopeful that we will come together to serve with a true & selfless spirit of giving; one where we stop asking how much we have to give and start asking how much we can give.

We're all called to reach into our hearts, and our cupboards, and offer up the good stuff we have.  Because we're not called to give of our junk...our leftovers...those things that are easy to part with.  We're called to give of our best. 

Saturday, March 23, 2013

Bringing Rad Back

Around our house, I am the worst parent ever about taking time to hang out and play with my kids.  I manage to get so distracted by unfinished laundry, stacks of paperwork, and weeds in the flowerbeds that I can ruin most any opportunity for fun.

When Carson turned 4, I knew what I needed to do to capture the best years of really getting to play with my boys: get out of the house.  We headed to Crystal Mountain one Sunday after church, signed all 3 boys up for ski lessons, and haven't looked back.

This week, I've watched the mountains from our house as over 4 feet of snow have piled up, and I've had this jittery, I NEED to get up there NOW, sort of feeling.  I think most skiers would get that.  It's a total addiction. Trying hard to balance my obligations with the desire to head for the snow and not return until summer...I forced myself to wait until today to ski.  My wonderful husband just looks at me and grins as I make him aware of my awesome use of self control...

Keith and the 2 oldest boys headed for Montana this morning, so I piled Carson and our gear into the car after breakfast and tried hard to do the speed limit despite my eagerness.

I may or may not have given Carson permission...or ordered get his ski gear on before we got entirely there.  But once the car was parked, we were on the lift in no time flat.  We headed for some areas he hasn't skied, and the new snow was as good as I could have imagined.

When I was 9 years old in the 4th grade, the word "rad" became a staple in my vocabulary.  I don't know how my mom didn't go entirely insane in the years to come at my overuse of "awesome", "totally", and "rad", but I don't think I could speak a sentence without using one of them.  After years, rad finally faded out.  When I started hearing it used again these past few years, I told myself I was now too old.  But I guess not...

As I led Carson, and then followed him, I was trying to figure out a description in my mind of how I felt.  I just couldn't do it.  The overwhelming sense of being on a mountain just smack dab in the middle of God's incredible creation...having a ton of fun with my kiddo...face burning from the wind and heart racing from the combination of excitement and fear of exploring some new places...

Finally, I got!  I said it in my head, and then out loud to Carson once I caught up with him...

This is RAD!

So the little guy and I played hard until his legs could take no more.  I was reminded on the last chair lift ride to the top that today was the best day ever (as it is every time), and that I'm the best mom ever.  Okay...I'll take that. :)

I actually have more dirty laundry, more unfinished paperwork, and more weeds in the flowerbeds than ever before.  What I also have are more great hours spent each week with my boys making awesome memories.  And I'll gladly take the mess in exchange for that.  I've got the rest of my life to be clean and organized.  I don't have the rest of my life to spend with my 13, 10, and 6 year olds.

Goodbye for today, Crystal.  Thanks for another rad day with my boy. :)

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

Things That Makes Us Cry

Last week I was asked about my ministry work with Northwest Bible Church, which led into a conversation about Vacation Bible School.  Within moments of I smiled from ear to ear...I could feel giant tears welling up in my eyes.   I couldn't help but feel just a little sorry for the people sitting across from me...most likely distracted by what appeared to be a potential meltdown unfolding right there in front of them.  Before long, I pointed to my eyes, and said, "Don't worry, these are just joyful tears.  It happens all the time."

As a kid, I knew there was a God, and I knew about Jesus, but my thoughts of God were usually centered around the fear I had of Him and not His love for me.  When I did something wrong, nearly my first thought every time was to wonder if I'd just ruined my chances of going to heaven.  It wasn't until I was a teenager that I learned that God's love was unconditional, and that His grace had saved me when Jesus died on the cross to take away my sins.  It was nothing I could undo.

When the statement GOD IS LOVE became bigger for me than the question DOES GOD STILL LOVE ME?, my life changed.  And although, as a younger person, I didn't feel the calling on my life to share that news with others, God had other things in mind as He led me to the unexpected position of being a kid min director and VBS director.  Now when I talk about VBS, the desire I have for every kid on earth to know about God's love for them always surfaces.  And along with that comes tears.  Tears for the children who've come to know that...tears for those who still will...tears for the privilege of getting to be part of it...and tears for so much more.

The whole "eyes filled with tears" bit runs in my family.  My grandpa, who just turned 82, will still tell you with passion about his career through watery eyes.  His story and mine are much the same in that neither of us anticipated the work path God had chosen for us.  My grandpa was a machinist for Boeing when my grandma, a stay at home mom of 3 young kids, became very sick.  After spending lots of time and money seeing traditional doctors, they were led to a chiropractor, whose treatment saved her life.  Within a short time, their family of grandparents, my dad, and his 2 younger sisters...packed up and drove from Washington state to Iowa, where my grandpa enrolled at Palmer Chiropractic College.  He graduated in 1966, when my dad was 11 years old, and began a career that would impact many lives.  

1966 - My proud dad, 11 years old, standing beside his dad at graduation

I still love to listen to my grandpa talk about being a chiropractor.  It feels like just a few days ago, I was a young girl riding along with him in his gigantic Buick Electra, unable to see above the dashboard, hearing him passionately tell about God's creation of the human it is designed to function well, and how he felt honored to be a part of keeping people healthy without the use of drugs or surgeries.  Sometimes, as I looked at his tear-filled eyes, I would smile inside and ask myself why grandpa was crying as he told me about it yet again. But one thing became certain for me: I knew I wanted to have the passion for whatever I was going to spend my life doing, just the same as he had passion for what he did.  

Over 30 years have passed since my first memories of listening to grandpa talk about his work and watching his eyes filled with tears... and here I am, a VBS director who can't talk about that program without looking the same.  I just found a picture of our group of 7 crew leaders from our first VBS in 2004.  They touched the lives of 35 kids that year.  It was amazing!  And then, I saw our volunteer picture from 2012...where 150 volunteers worked together during VBS season to help hundreds of kids and families learn of God's love.  Amazing once again!  

2004 VBS Crew Leaders

2012 VBS Volunteer Team

I'm glad that He gives us things to be a part of that are bigger than ourselves...things that we never expected to do in our lives...and most importantly, things that fill our hearts with so much joy that we just can't help but cry. :)

Monday, February 11, 2013

The Mother In Law...

She's 62 years young today! :)

I just looked at the clock and thought, "Hurry up, Brook!  You can't let February 10th go by without this post!"  So here I go...

What I'm about to ramble on won't be too well written...because I'm racing against my remaining 30 minutes, but it's from the heart, and with as much love as one daughter in law could have toward her "other" mom.
I've known Beth for 18 years this month.  Funny to think that's been almost half my life.  She deserves a dedicated blog post... and so much more.  

How would I have ever known, as I sat at the kitchen table of her little brick farmhouse telling the story of my first 19 years, that she was a woman who would have such a great impact on my faith...
One who I would spend many future years laughing and crying together with...
One who would teach me to beware of snakes hidden in mailboxes by little boys...
And of the value of a good yard sale...
And that back roads, although slower, are always a better choice than main roads...
One who would become one of my best friends?

For our church Valentine's dinner tonight, Beth was one of the game planners.  Her game, to no surprise, included shooting toy bow and a restaurant.  That's Beth.  At 62 years old, her mind is set on finding ways to have the most fun in the most adventurous manner.  

Three short months after we first met, Beth and I, along with our guys, were racing on fast as the horses would go...across the far stretching grasslands of northern Montana.  Hours later, we were gopher hunting from the back of an old pickup truck as it cruised across the wide open spaces.  Our 10 day trip brought us to rodeos, farms, homes of wonderful people we'd never met, small towns, mountains, lakes, and seemingly endless beauty under the Big Sky.  During that time, I realized that Keith was the son of one very cool woman.

On the second year of our Montana trip (1996), Beth had a broken leg.  Not wanting to miss out on the fun, she climbed in the back seat of that gigantic car with her leg in a cast, laid her crutches across the seat, and reloaded guns and laughed the whole way.  That's me...Annie Oakley... ready to shoot more gophers on the back of the car. 

As the years have passed, Beth's love of adventure, and her fearless and courageous spirit have remained the same.  I've seen her cliff jump into lakes with teenagers and ride some pretty wild horses.  Last year, she joined us for a ski day after not having skied for years.  I had a hard time keeping up with her on the first run down.  This past fall, she saddled up her horse and took a last-minute, 15 mile day ride in the Cascade Mountains with our family.  It's so easy to forget that this same woman qualifies for the discount on senior day. :)

She is a "yes" person.  If you ask Beth to give something a try, or invite her to join you in whatever it is you're doing, she doesn't look for an excuse why she can't; she finds a way to make it happen.

Yet more than a woman who is wild, fun, and crazy...Beth loves the Lord with all her heart.  She has a way of loving others and sharing her faith with them, so that even people who don't believe want to know more because of her.  Her smile and courage...her kindness and joy...they make you think, "Where does that come from and how can I get me some of that?"  When I first met her, she had a Post-It note stuck on her bathroom mirror that read: 

"Create in me a clean heart, O God, and renew a right spirit within me." 
Psalm 51:10

That note was there for years.  I memorized it because of seeing it written there in her beautiful handwritingFor me, her house was a little glimpse of her I noticed early on that an open Bible was often within view.  It wasn't stacked on a shelf neatly, and ready to be taken down for Sunday at church.  It was part of everyday life.

One year, Beth wrote something to Keith in a birthday card about being thankful that God had chosen her to be his mom.  I will never forget that, because from that point on, I understood that God loved Keith even more than Beth did.  Which also meant - God loved my children even more than I did.  Knowing that has made my life easier.   

When we believe God's love for our precious kids is even greater than our love for them, it helps us relax and not worry ourselves to death over every little thing.

Beth is a mom of 2 boys, and I'm just sure God placed her directly in my path so that I would watch and learn much about raising my own boys. 

Have fun...
Be brave...
Teach them about God...
Love them with all your heart...
And let them go.

Keith and Beth on our wedding day - 1997
As a daughter-in-law, I've been less than deserving of the grace and patience that Beth has extended to me.  As the wife of her baby boy, I know she has stood quietly to the side and prayed for me while keeping opinions to herself.  As the mother of 3 of her grandsons, my parenting has been flawed, and once again, her  calmness, composure, and prayers have changed me far more than hasty words ever would have.

That brave, gracious, patient, kind, and always-in-prayer woman isn't me by nature.  But for the impact she has made on my life, I know I will be more that way because of her.  At least, I can aspire to be...

I am truly, truly blessed for the "other" mother that God has brought into my life. 

Happy Birthday, Beth!  Your life has changed my life and I'll always be thankful for you. :)