Do You Pause To Reflect on the Reason for Christmas? Here are a couple advent devotionals to get you started...
Today is the last day of November. Can you believe it? At this time last year I was scratching my head, praying and anticipating the release of Where's Heidi? One Sister's Journey on the nineteenth anniversary of my only sister's abduction, April 3, 2013. It has been a whirl-wind of a year and God continues to wow, overwhelm, love, provide, protect, and bless us through the feedback of those who've read the book or heard me share the message God places on my heart at various speaking engagements.
Why do I share all this with you today? I'm glad you asked. Although the "Month of Thanksgiving" is over, this doesn't mean we should stop being thankful or looking for reasons to thank God for what He is doing in our lives. If this month is one of thanks then next month, December, must be a thanksgiving of praise. After all, you can't be thankful if your not also praising the One establishing your list of blessings. Right?
On December 25th, most of the country, and even those across the world will pause to celebrate Christmas and the birth of Jesus. My question for you is this, do you wait until the month is almost over to reflect and praise God for what He has done, is doing, and is yet to do? I hope not. The days leading up to Christmas can be wonderful, inspiring, motivating, and joyful if you spend time each day in "preparation". Some call it "Advent", others might say it's a "Countdown" (one we do with chocolate, lol), and then others like me do both. Where do you fall in this preparation process?
Last year my author friend, Paula, released her first Christmas devotional, Cherish This Christmas: Seeing Christ Amidst the Chaos. I usually sign up for one that is delivered to my inbox each morning yet last year, I decided to prioritize STOPPING, not pausing to remember "the reason for the season" as some say. I plan to use this devotional again this year AND add another to my daily routine.
Another author friend, Terri, released her first Advent devotional this fall, One Clear, Still Night. I'm not sure which I'll read in the morning, and which I'll enjoy before going to bed, but one thing I am sure of is this...both are beautiful and will help keep me focused on WHY we are celebrating Christmas and the reason the school is closed for two weeks.
Will you join me in this adventure, or dare I say, challenge? I hope you will.
If you don't have a favorite Advent/Christmas Devotional to help you stay on course, there are links (below) to both of the books I mentioned above. Let the Christmas season begin!
What is your favorite tradition to help you remember
I share her testimony, with permission.
The private messages I receive are such and encouragement to me. Typically, I keep these private yet as I communicated with this reader the Holy Spirit nudged me. "Just ask..."
She started an amazing journey this week. She shares with you in hopes that her story, may help someone else in a similar situation.
It isn't me, or my book, that changed her heart, only God has that power. I'm thankful God spoke to her through my writing.
One Reader Wrote to say:
Will you join me in praying for this reader?
~ Please leave a note of encouragement for this reader below ~
Be safe this first major shopping weekend of the season.
Thanksgiving post and watch the
video my Dad made. Watch with tissues.*
Have a great and safe Thanksgiving!
My day is starting with a 5K to raise food
Share 1 person and 1 thing you are thankful for...
After one of my speaking engagements this past weekend a woman came up after to share with me. She started with, "I live in Boston but when I heard you would be here, I had to come and meet you in person. Your book..." and her voice trembled a little. Her words on how Where's Heidi? One Sister's Journey touched her heart and encouraged her, was a huge encouragement to me.
BUT, this was only the beginning. With her daughter standing behind her, this woman shared how she watched her an abductor attempt to kidnap her friend before he proceeded to do the same to her. How did she respond? She kicked, bit, screamed, and ran. She ran and beat on ever neighbor's door until one woman scooped her inside and held her while calling the police. This grown woman, with her teen daughter listening in awe, shared some of her fears and the feelings experienced. One of which was the anger she heard in her father's voice, but after reading Where's Heidi? One Sister's Journey, realized it wasn't anger, it was fear that he almost lost his little girl.
She ended our conversation with "With the exception of my husband, I've never told anyone this, but after listening to you speak and reading your book -- I wanted you to know your book is making in impact in ways you probably don't even know." My response...I hugged her, shared some tears, and said, "Thank you for trusting me. May you take this knowledge and help others because you've done the hardest part, shared it."
Isn't this cool? I prayed to touch the heart and life of at least one person, God continues to overwhelm, humble, encourage, inspire, and motivate me through your words. Tomorrow I will share a private message I received from a reader, with her permission, as one more way to model how we encourage each other.
How has someone encouraged you? Did you pass it on?
The common theme "Why God, why?" -- my only positive, at least I kept the communication lines open and upward. I did call my Mom for advice only a mom can give
Prayer, after all, is talking with God.
As we left another doctor "non answers", the Mama Bear of frustration and crank was bubbling over and I had all I could do to get to the car without screaming or breaking down in tears once again.
This weekend I shared at three different times on how it's possible to triumph over tragedy and even though life might come at us - with God it's possible to get THROUGH the valley. And then this morning as I am faced with one of life's valleys, what do I do...cry. But at least as I cried, I was calling out the One who can answer the pleas, prayers, and even hold me while I whine.
Why do I share this on the blog and Facebook for all to read? Not for your pity or attention but instead to put it all out there - I'm as human as you, and some days are simply a challenge BUT with God in my life, the mountains become a mole hill I can handle.
In a nut shell, please know that when you have a bad day...you're not alone.
When life seems to be running you over...you're not alone.
When you start asking questions of why, who, or how...you aren't alone.
God is either walking along side of you or holding you in His arms and carrying you through. No matter how tough the day, remember to look up!
"God never allows pain without a purpose in the lives of His children.
He never allows satan, nor circumstances, nor any ill-intending person
to afflict us unless He uses that affliction for our good.
God never wastes pain.
He always causes it to work together for our ultimate good,
the good of conforming us more to the likeness of His Son
(see Romans 8:28-29)." ~ Jerry Bridges
When you feel like life is beating you down...who do you call?
Mom? A Friend?
Ghostbusters? (sorry, I couldn't resist) or God?
Will you share what helps you get through?
A favorite verse or quote?
This photo was taken a few weeks ago when I shared with the Lowville Public Library and their library family. It was a wonderful, God-inspired weekend.
Today we travel to the Red Creek Public Library. I'll be sharing at 11 a.m. with a Q & A and book signing afterwards. I hope you can make it.
Tomorrow - join me and my family at the Baldwinsville Baptist Church as I share the possibility of "Tragedy over Triumph" after the morning service as part of their Thanksgiving feast. I'll also share a bit during the morning service.
Of course you can also get my books at "The Carriage House Shoppe" located on Route 104 in Mexico, NY on Fridays, Saturdays, and Sundays 12 -5, through the weekend before Christmas. :)
Next Saturday, November 30th - I will be doing a book signing at the Pulaski Kinney's from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m.
I hope you can make it to one of these events. Thank you in advance for sharing with your friends and family too...
Thank you for remembering Heidi and sharing HOPE with others...
While there are similarities, there are differences too. My sister, Heidi M Allen, remains missing nineteen years later. Karen's sister, Kathy, was found murdered within hours of her disappearance. Karen has other siblings, while Heidi was my only sister. It doesn't matter that one sister remains missing and another was found, the connection started at the loss.
As I looked for a book similar to mine, God directed me to Karen. A couple summer's ago, Karen was traveling through New York and she stopped in for dinner so we could meet in person. With a horrific storm raging outside, the warmth and friendship around the dinner table was that of old friends, not two who just met. This is the kind of thing God orchestrates. Regardless of the similarities or differences in our sister's cases, the commonality is this: friendship, a desire to help others, and a joy in sharing where our hope is found and released from.
I released Where's Heidi? One Sister's Journey on April third this year, the nineteenth anniversary of Heidi's abduction. Karen released her design for a beautiful bracelet to help support victims in some way, a mission she revealed to the public on the anniversary of her sister's murder.
Why do we choose to remember our sisters like this, on a day many would say is sad? Just for this reason - the worst day of my life so far is when I lost my sister yet to do something special in her memory on the date we last knew where she was...is a priceless blessing because Heidi wanted to help others. So why not help others on the day she stopped being able to help them? Nothing more precious, here are a few words from Karen about the bracelet.
To learn more about Karen - click on her photograph below.
The justice scale leans heavy on the side of the broken heart. Whether a murder is resolved or not, true justice would be the return of our loved ones. A portion of the proceeds will be donated to organizations that support victims of violent crimes. Kathy continues to impact individuals lives through her testimony. Law enforcement, victim advocates, students and individuals are greatly affected by her story.
The charm is pewter and one inch in diameter. The bracelet is black leather. All items will be shipped on January 1, 2014. Thank you for your support!
I love you Kathy,
The only thing I get from sharing this post is
a smile on my face, warmth in my heart,
and the hope of supporting a friend
as she uses her gifts to help others.
Leave Karen a note of encouragement below.
The most important one of course is the reason for the trip. The Heidi Search Center located in San Antonio invited me to speak at their first H.O.P.E. Campaign Banquet. This is the very same search center who loaned us their director at the time, a search and rescue expert, to join the Oswego County Sheriff's Department to help bring our Heidi, Heidi M. Allen home.
Although we didn't find Heidi and she remains missing today, our thanks to the Heidi Search Center in San Antonio remain in our prayers -- more than nineteen years later.
This summer a relationship began with Crystal, one the Texas Heidi Search Center's staff. Neither of us saw where God was taking this until the summer came to a close and the sound of school bells and returning to school were in the background. Little did Crystal know the first time we spoke that I already knew of her center and the special connection we have. Once I shared this with her, the bond only grew.
Almost twenty years ago Texas traveled to New York, this December -- New York is traveling to Texas. To say it has come "full-circle" doesn't seem correct since our Heidi is still missing yet on the spiritual and emotional level...there is some truth to this.
This is on a couple levels - of course the literal level due to my mode of transport but it is so much more.
“but those who hope in the Lord
will renew their strength.
They will soar on wings like eagles;
they will run and not grow weary,
they will walk and not be faint.” Isaiah 40:31
Am I a little anxious about this? Yes. Is this something I've never done before? Yes.
So why am I doing it? Easy...God's called me to it and opened the door. I continue to prepare, pray, and pray more for the upcoming trip, the speaking, and the people I will meet. This is a speaking engagement across the country, yes, but it is so much more. It is an opportunity to thank the very people who were instrumental in providing the guidance we needed, just when we needed it. God connected us then through Auntie M's Google search and then again this summer, through Crystal's Google search. Who knew God is on Google, even in 1994 when it was still "new"?
If God opens the door and provides the means to be there, then in obedience...I fly in His strength, provision, and protection.
We weren't sure if this would be possible but one of God's angels blessed the Heidi Search Center in Texas to make this trip possible. The only reason I mention this here is so you can join me in lifting a prayer of thanksgiving and blessing on this sponsor. May he or she be blessed in return for their generosity. God is good and still works through others in today's society, we might just have to look a little closer to notice. Spread the word, God is alive and active, blessing you and me still today. Have you thanked Him?
Leave a message below for the Heidi Search Center in San Antonio to encourage them as they move forward in HOPE!
- Section 1 includes essential, digestible info on co-op ingredients such as planning and organization, schedules, teaching, finances, and addressing conflict and burnout.
- Section 2 shares a sampling of co-op games and activities, and
- Section 3 contains five hands-on unit studies. These ready to use studies include lessons on Leonardo da Vinci, Birds of Prey, Public Speaking, Tall Tales, and Creative Writing, and are suitable for co-op or home use. This section also includes unit study guidelines that are easily customized to suit any topic.
- Section 4 offers suggested books, curriculum, and other resources.
Homeschool Co-ops 101 is available at:
~~~Barnes and Noble~~~
~~~Kobo~~~About the Author Karen Lange, her husband, and three children were active in co-ops during their sixteen-year homeschool journey. Her experience includes serving as a local homeschool support group coordinator and consultant for a state homeschool network in New Jersey. Karen’s children have since graduated, and she is now a freelance writer and online writing instructor for homeschooled teens. You can connect with Karen at herBlog, on Twitter, and Facebook. Blog Tour Schedule November 4 ~Ruth Schiffman, http://
~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~The Giveaway Open to US addresses only. One person will receive a $25 Amazon GC and a copy of Homeschool Co-ops 101. Please use the Rafflecopter below to be entered: a Rafflecopter giveaway
Open only to those who can legally enter, receive and use an Amazon.com Gift Code. Winning entry will be verified prior to prize being awarded. No purchase necessary. You must be 18 or older to enter or have your parent enter for you. The winner will be chosen by Rafflecopter and announced here as well as e-mailed, and will have 48 hours to respond or a new winner will be chosen. This giveaway is in no way associated with Facebook, Twitter, Rafflecopter or any other entity unless otherwise specified. The number of eligible entries received determines the odds of winning. Giveaway was organized by Diane at That’s What I’m Here For… and sponsored by the author, Karen Lange. The author provided me with a free copy of Homeschool Co-ops 101 to review, and I was under no obligation to review it if I so chose. Nor was I under any obligation to write a positive review or sponsor a giveaway in return for the free book.VOID WHERE PROHIBITED BY LAW.
What can readers expect to find in the book?The book offers info on how to start a co-op and weighs the pros, cons, and creative options available for homeschool families. One thing I emphasize is that parents have options when it comes to co-oping. Co-ops come in all sizes and sometimes an existing one is not a good fit for a family. Parents shouldn’t feel bad or be intimidated if this is the case; they need to know that it’s okay to either not participate and even start their own co-op if they wish.
Another thing to note is that HC 101's usefulness is not limited to just homeschoolers. The how to section offers helpful setup and structure tips for other K-12 student groups. The activity segment has lessons, games, and hands on projects that suit these groups as well.
Here is a breakdown of each section of the book:
Section 1 includes info on co-op ingredients such as planning and organization, schedules, teaching, finances, and addressing conflict and burnout.
Section 2 has a sampling of co-op games and activities, and Section 3 contains five hands-on unit studies. The topics include lessons on Leonardo da Vinci, Birds of Prey, Public Speaking, Tall Tales, and Creative Writing, and are suitable for co-op or individual home use.
Section 3 also includes unit study guidelines that are easily customized to suit any topic. Section 4 offers suggested books,
curriculum, and other resources.
Tell us a little about your homeschool experience. My husband and I homeschooled our three children (two sons and a daughter) in grades K-12. We chose to homeschool because, among other things, we wanted to personalize our children’s education and felt home was the best place to do that. During this time, we were active with our local homeschool support group’s events such as field trips and science and art fairs. Co-ops played an important role too. These activities helped supplement our studies, provided balanced socialization, fellowship, and fun. They also offered a broader worldview as our children interacted with not just homeschool families, but the surrounding community.
If you happen to be interested in more info about the ups and downs of homeschooling, socialization, higher education, and other related topics, visit this link: http://www.insanitek.net/ink/archives/865
What would you like readers to take away from the book? No one plan fits everyone, so I encourage families, whether they decide to co-op or not, to find the right balance and fit for them. My hope is that they would find ideas and encouragement for their children’s educational journey.
I hope you enjoyed hearing from Karen...Any questions for her?
Leave a comment below
My parents chuckled and gave all the right answers from a parent's perspective: you're organized, you set a goal and didn't let anything get in your way of reaching the April 3, 2013 release date, and it wasn't work -- it was a mission to share hope and Heidi with others.
Aren't my parents wonderful? I think so too. I agreed with them yet it still seemed like there was something more to it but since I couldn't figure out what it was I decided to take a break from the blog and see if I could figure out what was different.
Someone said, "You were serious? I didn't think you could stop blogging and only do it a few times a week, it's in you. I hope you are enjoying your break but I wanted you to know I miss reading your blogs everyday." To say I was touched is an understatement. So is this why I'm blogging now? No.
It's taken a few weeks but I've figured out what is different. In addition to a couple personal issues that need not be on the blog, I've let the exhaustion of life get to me. Instead of getting up a little earlier to enjoy a few moments of quiet time, I'm hitting the snooze until there's barely enough time to make the coffee, do the dishes, and a load of laundry before racing out the door for work.
Once God started to reveal this to me I decided to make some baby step changes in the morning, I didn't get so far removed over night so I can't expect a miracle turn around yet it has to start somewhere. My first change was to read from the coffee devotional instead of playing the bubble popping game. I'm trying (and I'm such a creature of habit this is more of a challenge, lol) to utilize quiet time as it fits our current schedule rather than stressing over missing it in the morning. God doesn't care if I read the Bible at 5 a.m. or 5 p.m. He doesn't care if I journal first thing or later in the day. Do I prefer it first thing in the morning? Yes, but it isn't about the time on the clock - it's just enjoying, embracing, and savoring the "time with God" -- not logging the hours, if that makes sense.
Another aspect of the blog I didn't think about until today when author, and friend, Michelle Weidenbenner posted the following on her Facebook page: "28,677 words written this month. What about my writer friends? Are you on target to reach your goals this month?" I originally planned to gift my parents a book for Christmas so I thought a break from the blog would free up more "writing time"...Not so much. I'm not one to count how many words I write per month but there is one thing I know, since cutting back on the blog -- if I was to count the number of words written in my "break", they've traveled in the opposite direction rather than in the positive direction. Thanks Michelle for this great question today, I needed it. Still not sure I'm setting a monthly writing goal yet to write is a goal.
If you are wondering if the blog is returning to a daily routine, I don't know. Life still feels a bit crazy and out of control but I'm moving in a forward direction and praying God is going to lead, provide, and help us through it. God called me to write and speak. When I do these things for Him I am blessed above and beyond anything I can imagine. So if you would like to join us in prayer, it is appreciated. Pray for God's will, leading, blessing, and for a couple unspoken requests at this time.
Please don't worry, nothing serious as it compares to the grand scheme of life...just some things aren't meant for public posting, if you know what I mean. Thanks again.
What have you been up to? What are your plans for the next week?
What is your bad habit? or maybe, What are your bad habitS?
If you are honest, you have one. Can you pinpoint it? I'm not talking about the quirky idiosyncrasies author, Elaine W. Miller, discusses at the beginning of her book, We All Married Idiots: Three Things You Will Never Change About Your Marriage and Ten Things You Can. Elaine writes, "The dictionary revealed I had 'peculiar habits'. Well, don't we all? Anyone who isn't a little peculiar is probably a lot boring, I rationalized as my boyfriend bid his farewell."
We all have the peculiar habits Elaine writes about, so let's forget about these little nuances for a moment and focus on the bad habits getting in the way of time with family, friends, and most importantly...God.
Earlier this year I had the opportunity to share with the women at Fulton Alliance Church, along with their friends and families. The message was titled, "The Lake Where the Fish Are Always Biting". To demonstrate how we all have areas to change and grow in, I shared one of my bad habits. If you are reading this and remember me confessing my addiction with the game "Bubble Buster" on my Kindle Fire then you will appreciate today's blog more than most because you "saw" my addiction and struggle first hand.
"For I can do everything through Christ, who gives me strength." Philippians 4:13
A couple weeks ago I started to clean off book shelves and box up most the books in the house. We removed a wall of bookshelves to make room for an amazing gift of time, love, and sweet generosity. This may or may not make it to the blog. I'd like to keep it as something private between my parents and I yet the beauty of this gift is a priceless act of love, one that should be shared. Anyway, today's blog isn't about that but instead about a book I found while cleaning. It's titled, "Coffee Break with God".
I placed this book on top of my coffee grounds so in order to make the coffee in the morning I must pick up the book. Instead of popping bubbles and getting frustrated because I can't beat a level (as my second act of the day, next to making the coffee)...you can now find me reading the daily Scripture and devotional and reflecting on it until the coffee is finished.
Is there where I want to be? No, I'd like to be up early enough to crack a Good Book and write in my journal each day but rather than focus on what I'm not doing right, I'm celebrating this battle won. I might not reach the next level before school in the morning but I've earned far more than a new level...I start with peace and joy.
What bad habit will you start to mold into a better habit today?
More than a day of the week...it represents hope and strength.
Heidi was a force to be reckoned with on the court. As I visited with Suz last week I told her about the name for your weekly updates. Not only did she like the name but she reminded me of this newspaper article (posted below with permission from the Palladium Times). My parents and I could not find it in the boxes of memories so the hunt was on.
Mags and I spent over two hours at the Oswego Public Library today going through months and years of microfilm. Side by side, we scrolled and enjoyed the conversation and then it happened, Mags found the article we prayed to find. An answered prayer.
Each Tuesday we will remember Heidi, Bishop Cunningham's "Tower of Power" (T.O.P.) as we move forward in this publishing journey. God is the ultimate Tower of Power for us all but Heidi was her friend's T.O.P. on the court.
Is there a special way you remember a lost loved one?
We Shall Keep the Faith
Oh! you who sleep in Flanders Fields,
Sleep sweet - to rise anew!
We caught the torch you threw
And holding high, we keep the Faith
With All who died.
We cherish, too, the poppy red
That grows on fields where valour led;
It seems to signal to the skies
That blood of heroes never dies,
But lends a lustre to the red
Of the flower that blooms above the dead
In Flanders Fields.
And now the Torch and Poppy Red
We wear in honour of our dead.
Fear not that ye have died for naught;
We'll teach the lesson that ye wrought
In Flanders Fields.
by Moina Michael
When I saw this picture of the child running through the field of poppies
my heart fluttered. The men, women, and children who've give all --
gave so your children may run and play.
Those that continue to sacrifice and risk their lives
do so for the same reason - our future.
Remember the fallen and honor those still here to salute, bless, and thank.
Today's day off came at a cost - it's more than a day to sleep in or get started on your shopping. Today represents freedom fought for and gifted to you by our veterans.
Is there a veteran or two you could encourage and thank today?
How might you show your appreciation to him or her?
Many of you know that in addition to writing, speaking, and keeping up the blog I also work full time as a paraprofessional for the local school district. Yet none of these are my first priority. Can you think of who or what might be?
If you said my family and God, then you are correct. Recently I've felt overwhelmed and out-of-sorts at times. There are a few reasons for this yet one of the main ones I believe is the disconnect between God and myself. In the summer there is ample time to get into the Word, enjoy quiet time daily (if not a couple times a day), and balance the various plates of responsibility. Once the school year starts though, it tends to feel like I'm diving to catch up before something crashes or an obligation is missed. Do you ever feel like this?
1) Set time aside daily for quiet time in the Word, prayer, and with God - helps to keep my focus and clarity
2) Safe at least 1 weekend a month for family only
3) Maintain my lists with my priorities in check
4) Accept help
5) Practice grace, mercy, and thankfulness
6) Seek His face
7) Not let fear set in
So as you reflect on the importance and blessing of tomorrow's holiday, Veteran's Day -- remember to say an extra prayer for the men and women who have, are, and will one day fight for your freedoms. If you are fortunate enough to have the day off, take time to enjoy some quiet time and reflect on the many reasons you have to be thankful.
We all have the day off tomorrow so sleeping in, quiet time, Hallmark Christmas movies, reading, and whatever modes of relaxation we enjoy are on the agenda. What about you?
You have charged us
to keep your commandments carefully.
Oh, that my actions would consistently
reflect your decrees!
Then I will not be ashamed
when I compare my life with your commands.
Psalm 119:4-6 NLT
Will you work or play tomorrow?
Must be time to start the Christmas shopping
New Haven Craft Show
Sat Nov 9th
10 - 4
New Haven Town Hall
In addition to handmade crafts, I will be there with copies of Where's Heidi? one Sister's Journey and When the Waves Subside: There is Hope. I'm currently out of Encourage Others: One Day at a Time but all my books are available online through Amazon.
The Mexico Band Boosters will be at New Haven too with Mexico apparel - gifts your kids and relatives always appreciate. Clothing to wear to different school events that show our school spirit and pride.
Many vendors and much fun today - This is only one of many craft shows today. If you know the location and time of another one - please post it in a comment below. Let's help each other fill our day full of shopping, laughter, fun, and memory making.
List a craft show near you in a comment below
and then call your mom, sisters, friends, daughter,
or whom ever and get out
to enjoy craft who hopping and Christmas shopping!
Have a great day!
I hope you enjoy her post and will check out her book.
“There's no tragedy in life like the death of a child. Things never get back to the way
they were.”-- Dwight D. Eisenhower, American president
We like to pretend that child death is rare. But it isn’t, it’s just more hidden than in the days when parents routinely expected to lose children to scarlet fever or diphtheria. With improved public health and technology, many more child deaths are preventable. But kids still die. Life offers no guarantees.
Lisa asked me to write about surviving this “unthinkable” loss. Before it happens to you or someone you know, or even someone you read about, the death of a child truly is unthinkable. We just don’t expect to bury our children. As parents, we need the protective illusion that our love will keep our children safe.
I was 24-years-old when I became a mother and fell hopelessly in love with my bright, beautiful little girl. I could never have imagined that 19 years later I would be staring down at Maya’s face in a coffin.
Maya’s death demanded that I step into a new level of mothering – radical letting go. At the age of 43, grieving for Maya forced me to mature spiritually and emotionally, and to reach a new understanding of the meaning of love. Love, in my new universe, included the ability to allow my child to have her death, on her own terms.
I can’t sugarcoat this process of letting go. I thought it would kill me. Swimming with Maya shows how day by day I fought to raise my surviving daughter, Meghan, continue my professional life as a writer and editor, and find my balance in the midst of overwhelming sorrow.
Grief recovery is a dance where for every step forward you take two steps back, and yet somehow in the end you begin to spiral upward. Other than mothering, grief was the hardest work I’ve every done. I was fortunate to have a strong inner core, a set of spiritual beliefs, innate resilience, and a host of friends and family. Even so, there were days when I thought I wouldn’t make it.
How do we get back up after life knocks us down? This is the question Swimming with Maya attempts to answer. As a memoir, my book is a very personal account of one woman’s journey. It is not a self-help book, but it is inspirational and motivational because it shows how I became more resilient than I ever thought I could be.
Deciding to donate Maya’s organs and tissues to strangers in need was a huge factor in my recovery, and in the way Meghan dealt with the loss of her sister. We were privileged to have something miraculous came out of something horrific. That gave us hope. Having hope motivated me to keep on keeping on.
In Swimming with Maya I recount our journey in detail. Please enter to win a copy of my book, and thanks to Lisa for hosting me today."
Called “engaging” by Booklist, Swimming with Maya chronicles the life and death of Eleanor’s nineteen-year-old daughter, Maya, who was thrown from a horse and pronounced brain-dead at the hospital. Eleanor donated her daughter’s organs to critically ill patients and poignantly describes her friendship with a middle-aged man who was the recipient of Maya’s heart.
Since the initial publication of Swimming with Maya in 2004, Eleanor has been a national spokesperson on grief recovery and organ donation, appearing on CNN and San Francisco’s Evening Magazine. She has been featured in the San Francisco Chronicle, and been interviewed on radio and television programs around the country.
She was born in Cleveland, Ohio and attended the University of Minnesota School of Journalism and received an MFA in Creative Writing from Mills College, where she occasionally teaches writing workshops on creative nonfiction and memoir.
Her essays appear in the anthologies At the End of Life: True Stories about How we Die(edited by Lee Gutkind); This I Believe: On Motherhood; and Impact: An Anthology of Short Memoirs. They celebrate the unique and complicated bonds between mothers and daughters, making hard decisions as a parent – whether your child is 14 or 40 – and navigating midlife transitions with grace and authenticity.
She lives in Oakland, California.
In a memoir that has been called "heartbreaking and heart-healing," Eleanor Vincent shares an inspiring true story of courage, creativity, faith, and sheer tenacity as she seeks to find balance after unthinkable tragedy.
Previously available only in hardcover, Swimming with Maya demonstrates the remarkable process of healing after the traumatic death of a loved one. Eleanor Vincent raised her two daughters, Maya and Meghan, virtually as a single-parent. Maya, the eldest, was a high-spirited and gifted young woman. As a toddler, Maya was an angelic tow-head, full of life and curiosity. As a teenager, Maya was energetic and independent - and often butted heads with her mother. But Eleanor and Maya were always close and connected, like best friends or sisters, but always also mother and daughter.
Then at age 19, Maya mounts a horse bareback as a dare and, in a crushing cantilever fall, is left in a coma from which she will never recover. Eleanor's life is turned upside down as she struggles to make the painful decision about Maya's fate.
Ultimately Eleanor chooses to donate Maya's organs. Years later, in one of the most poignant moments you will ever read about, Eleanor has the opportunity to hear her daughter's heart beat in the chest of the heart recipient. Along the way, Eleanor re-examines her relationship with her daughter, as well as the experiences that shaped Eleanor as a woman and as a mother to Maya.
An inspirational/motivational true story recommended for anyone who has experienced tragedy, who is grappling
with traumatic experiences of the past, or who wants to better understand the strength and healing power of the human spirit.
Book Hashtag: #SWMaya
Monday, October 14 @ The MuffinStop by for an interview and book giveaway!
Tuesday, October 15 @ The New Book Review Today's Author Spotlight at the New Book Review belongs to none other than Eleanor Vincent author of the insightful, touching, and inspiring memoir Swimming with Maya. Don't miss this tour stop! http://www.thenewbookreview.blogspot.com
Wednesday, October 16@ Books I Think You Should ReadEleanor Vincent offers a giveaway for her parenting memoir Swimming with Maya and Elizabeth provides an honest review of this moving book.
Thursday, October 17 @ Steph the Bookworm Steph reviews the best selling motivational memoir, Swimming with Maya by Eleanor Vincent and offers a giveaway of this touching and inspirational story of loss.
Friday, October 18 @ CMash Reads Join Eleanor Vincent as she gifts readers with her insight on "Parenting a Gifted or Difficult Teen" and offers a giveaway of her memoir Swimming with Maya.
Monday, October 21 @ Mom~E~Centric Eleanor Vincent and her touching inspirational memoir make a tour stop at Mom~E~Centric as Eleanor blogs about "The Challenges of Single Parenthood" and dishes about her highly ranked memoir AND offers a giveaway of Swimming with Maya to readers; you won't want to miss this!
Wednesday, October 23 @ Meryl.Net Eleanor Vincent visits with Meryl Evans and speaks about her experience and offers insights about "Reaching Out to Readers on Social Media" as well as offering a giveaway for her moving memoir Swimming with Maya.
Monday, October 28 @ The Literary Ladies Join memoir writer extraordinaire Eleanor Vincent as she shares insights about "Balancing Writing with Promotional Activities" and offers a giveaway for her incredibly moving memoir Swimming with Maya.
Wednesday, October 30 @ Book Worm Eleanor Vincent shares her insights into "Resilience" as she visits Anjanette Potter at Book Worm. This great stop also offers a giveaway of Eleanor's touching memoir Swimming with Maya - this is a stop you won't want to miss!
Thursday, October 31 @ All Things Audry Eleanor Vincent talks about "Motherhood Then and Now" and offers a giveaway of her memoir Swimming with Maya. Don't miss this blog stop or this unforgettable story of love!
Friday, November 1 @ Memory Writers Network Swimming
with Maya makes a WOW! Blog Stop at Memory Writer's Network. Don't miss this opportunity
to learn more about Eleanor Vincent and her moving memoir.
Thursday, November 7 @ Lisa M. Buske
Join Eleanor Vincent as she shares a guest post "Surviving the Unthinkable Loss of a Child" with Lisa M. Buske and offers a giveaway of her memoir Swimming with Maya.
Monday, November 11 @ Chaos in the Country
Nichole Smith reviews Eleanor Vincent's moving story of a mother's love in the memoir Swimming with Maya and offers not only a giveaway of this unforgettable book but also a guest post by Eleanor about "Organ Donation and Transplantation" (from the perspective of the donor family).
Friday, November 15 @ ChoicesEleanor shares with readers "What Every Memoir Writer Should Know" and offers a giveaway of her touching memoir about loss, love, and moving forward: Swimming with Maya.
The loss of a child changes you forever...there is still hope!
For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son,
that whoever believes in him
should not perish but have eternal life.
John 3:16 ESV
There is a situation in life that is probably one of the most difficult to comprehend and handle when you, or a loved one, is face to face with it. What is the first thing you thought of? The one that always stands out to me is when the relationship between parent and child is interrupted by illness, disease, tragedy, or death.
I remember the words spoken by my Grandmother after my Uncle Tom passed away, "There is no greater pain then to watch your child die, then to lose him." My heart broke for my Gram and then I thought of my parents, she physically buried her son. While my parents "lost" their daughter, and nineteen years later, still live daily without knowledge of her whereabouts. The commonality, my Gram, and my parents were both separated from their child. Each living with a void only understood when you've experienced this pain firsthand.
"God totally understands how the parents of a missing child, or the parents of dying child feel." Okay, before you click the white "x" in the red box in the top right hand corner, please hear me out.
Of course there are more differences than similarities yet when you stop and really think about it, the separation experienced is profound. You know why? God send His Only Son, Jesus, to die on the cross for us - for you - for me.
Unlike the parents of the ill, dying, or missing child though - God had a choice. He could have taken Jesus from the cross and saved Him from the pain and horrific crucifiction, but He didn't. God could of avoided the entire scene so Jesus wasn't even put in the predicament to call out to him, "“Eloi, Eloi, lema sabachthani?” So why? I don't have Biblical proof of this theory I have yet after weeks of thought and prayer on this, I'm going to put it out there. Some may disagree with me, others might be speechless, and if you are the parent still in the anger stage -- you may exit my blog right now because "I don't get it." But I hope you'll hear me out a little bit longer.
“Blessed are those
whose transgressions are forgiven,
whose sins are covered.
Blessed is the one whose
sin the Lord will never count against them.”
If you are this parent, please know you are in my prayers often. I pray for my parents daily and their strength continues to amaze me. I hope you know your strength amazes me too -- the ability to get out of bed each morning, to make coffee, or maybe its the simple task of lifting your head of the pillow at the start of each day. When your child is sick, missing, dying, or sadly passed away -- you must celebrate the little things throughout your day.
So what does this have to do with my theory that God understands where you've been? Let me try to connect some of these dots for you. We, on earth, do not have a choice when faced with the unthinkable.
We can't take away our child's pain, their sickness, or save them from death. Our children can call out to us and ask, "Mommy, Daddy, make me feel better?" or "Make the hurt go away." But no matter how much we would want to say, "Of course, you'll feel better when you wake up.", we can't make this promise. BUT Jesus, the Son of God, did call to his Daddy.
Do you remember how God responded? Check this out...
The Death of Jesus
At noon, darkness came over the whole land until three in the afternoon.
And at three in the afternoon Jesus cried out in a loud voice,
“Eloi, Eloi, lema sabachthani?”
(which means “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?”).
When some of those standing near heard this, they said,
“Listen, he’s calling Elijah. Someone ran, filled a sponge with wine vinegar,
put it on a staff, and offered it to Jesus to drink. “Now leave him alone.
Let’s see if Elijah comes to take him down,” he said.
With a loud cry, Jesus breathed his last.
The curtain of the temple was torn in two from top to bottom.
And when the centurion,
who stood there in front of Jesus,
saw how he died, he said,
“Surely this man was the Son of God!”
We love because he first loved us.
1 John 4:19
There was only one way for God to bridge the distance between earth and heaven (eternity) ~ He watched His Only Son suffer crucifixion - a horrendous death. He heard His Son call out to Him and chose not to respond because God knew this was the only way you and I could have an open relationship with Him.
Prior to Jesus' death, your typical person couldn't communicate (pray) with God - only the elders or priests could - Jesus' death and resurrection released the Holy Spirit here on earth to intervene on our behalf and established a forever bond with God. One we don't have to wait to experience, one that is readily available when we call out to Him.
God had the power to do what every grieving or helpless parent wishes and prays he or she could do - end their child's pain, suffering, or in the case of the missing - bring their child home.
And this is the testimony:
God has given us eternal life, and this life is in his Son.
Whoever has the Son has life;
whoever does not have the Son of God does not have life.
I write these things to you who believe in the name of the Son of God
so that you may know that you have eternal life.
This is the confidence we have in approaching God:
that if we ask anything according to his will, he hears us.
And if we know that he hears us—whatever we ask—we
know that we have what we asked of him.
1 John 5:11-15
If you are grieving the loss of a child or a parent watching your child suffer with cancer, diabetes, an undiagnosed illness, or worse yet - helplessly witnessing him or her take their last breath...know God understands the pain of separation and watching your son or daughter suffer.
The greatest difference is this: God didn't answer Jesus so that you can call out to Him when you felt the similar pain, ever so briefly. I like to think of it this way - God only experienced this loss and distance briefly yet He had one thing we don't - choice.
He chose you and me. Will you choose Him?
In the same way, the Spirit helps us in our weakness.
We do not know what we ought to pray for, but the Spirit
himself intercedes for us through wordless groans.
If you are this parent - is there a way we can pray for you?
Do you find comfort in this blog?
Any thoughts or reflections to add?
If you are familiar with the Mexico, New York, area then this might help you locate it. As a child, Dr. Harter was my dentist. It used to be a red brick building but the newly painted white with black trim might block your memory. Maybe you're not familiar with the dentist office, what about Beck's Hotel? Maybe if I tell you it's a couple houses down from Key Bank? Next to the old lawyer's office? On the corner where you turn to pay respects at the Harter Funeral Home? One of these must have triggered the location.
Once at The Carriage House, walk down the paved driveway to the small porch area and enter through the door to your left. Once inside, the smell of apples, cinnamon, or something yummy greets you and the goodies available are delightful. There is something for everyone.
If you are looking for an autographed copy of Where's Heidi? One Sister's Journey or When the Waves Subside for yourself or a family member this Christmas - then wait no longer. My books are also available here. An added plus to his great establishment. As a thank you to their hospitality I decided to share this blog with all of you. I hope you will stop in, tell all your friends, and support a local business.
Stop in this weekend and the weekends to follow. Browse, shop, or just visit. You will leave refreshed and encouraged. The hometown charm, love, and energy is invigorating.
Not only will you be able to get some Christmas shopping done, your creative juices will be ignited. Tis the season...let it begin.
Did I mention there is fresh and local honey?? Oh yeah!
Keep the store opening in your prayers. Pam, Gail, and Terry are excited for this new venture and the people they will meet. As with any newly opened door, prayers are blessings.
This house itself was built in 1848. Two prominent families lived there. Mike Mowery, Attorney, his grandfather owned the house and Dr. Harter had the dentist office. We are unaware of the families prior at this time.
The Carriage House is a true carriage house built in 1909. The coal bin we removed & that is the area on the left when you enter.
If you know any history of the house, I hope you'll share it below so Terry and Gail can complete the heritage of this beautiful building.
"Carriage House Shoppe: Small town charm, big city variety. Local goods, antiques, primitives, vintage, gifts, all in one convenient location."
Gail said, "We will be extending the shop into the main house next year hopefully. We are
also doing a bed & breakfast for field days & Christmas in Mexico hopefully next year."
3291 Main Street
Mexico, New York 13114
Phone (315) 963-2106
12 p.m. - 5 p.m.
November & December
Terry is a Painting Contractor & Specialty Waterproofing in Ft Lauderdale, Florida. He also plays Jai Alai weekly and has won trophies.
Gail is a writer, in the middle of finishing a journal for Nova Medical University and enjoys photography.
We have 4 grandchildren & 2 daughters.
A Sneak Peak Inside...be sure to stop in and see for yourself!
Fridays, Saturdays, and Sundays 12 - 5 in November & December
Find them on Facebook - "Carriage House Shoppe"
Leave a message here for Gail, Terry, or Pam to encourage them!
P.O. Box 323
A Mother's Monday
Ride For Missing Children
Sewing And Crocheting
The River's End Bookstore