Wednesday, September 8, 2010

People in My Life: #1

People In My Life: #1

I am getting pretty tired of writing about myself, so I thought - Why not write about the people I love most!? I was looking at my current facebook profile picture and saw my beautiful cousin, Holly. Then I looked through more pictures and saw just how many times this blue-eyed blond -who looks NOTHING like me (except our arms... we have the same arms!) - has appeared in photos and who is a part of many of my most favorite memories.

Holly's mom and my mom are sisters. So, I guess you would say we are first cousins. But, really... "first cousin" doesn't quite describe it! Holly is three and a half years younger than me and grew up just "down the road" from my house. We both have older siblings, but they are 15+ years older than us, so we both had very strange "places" in our families. We were both the babies of our families, but we also had nieces and nephews at early ages. In some ways, we were babies... in other ways, we were the oldest... and in most ways, we were the middle children... left to fend for ourselves. :)

Growing up, Holly and I were hysterical. She annoyed me, I bullied her. She smacked her food, I nagged at her for not brushing her hair. She wanted to play school, I only wanted to be the teacher. But, no matter how much we fought or argued or complained about one another, we were really close! One of us would invite the other over to play, and we'd end up begging our parents to let us spend the night with one another. We grew apart some during middle and high school, mainly because of our age difference. But, once we were both in college, we got right back to our old ways... well, minus the food-smacking and spend-the-night parties!

Though Holly and I are bonded through blood, we also share a deep connection through an experience we both have had. Both of us lost our dads at early ages. Holly's father died while she was in middle school, and mine died just four years ago. We both have had to deal with intense grief at early ages and each lost a very important person in our lives. So, when Holly says she understands how I feel, she really does understand how I feel.

So, what else about Holly? She's super smart! She's a nursing student at UA and does scary things like give shots and bathe people and deal with coding patients. I'll complain about how stressful teaching is and then she trumps my story by telling me about how she handled a life-and-death situation (even if it was with a fancy dummy!). And she acts like it's no big deal! Holly also has an awesome boyfriend, Micah. But this post isn't about Micah, but he is pretty funny!

My absolute favorite thing about Holly is that she's honest. She tells it like it is. Yes, that dress looks terrible on you. No, I don't think you need to get the pink flowers. Yes I think it's fine to tell her that. No, I don't think you should let him get away with that! If you ask for Holly's opinion, you'll get Holly's opinion! But, Holly is also super encouraging. She has helped me with wedding plans, lesson plans, and God only knows what else!

I'm really having to edit what I write because this really could go on forever! I have so many funny memories with Holly... school day afternoons, daydreaming about our million dollar mansions, the great snow of 1993, playing favorites with our granddaddy, driving to Orlando... the list could go on!

But, that's Holly in six paragraphs! She's a pretty stellar person and I'm glad that she is in my life.... FOREVER! I'm so thankful that my family members are also my friends!!!

Sunday, September 5, 2010

Drawing Closer

Each year, the change from summer to fall brings excitement, beauty, and relief from the hot Alabama heat. Enthrallment sets in as those first few nippy, crisp mornings slowly turn into cool afternoons and evenings. And, of course, fall brings Alabama football. But, for me and my family, fall also brings memories of my dad and those last weeks and days he was alive.

Each August, I start to reminisce. The last time I saw my dad as a healthy, happy person was my 21st birthday. I had spent a few days with my parents at home before heading back to Montevallo for my birthday party (which they so happily attended!). Looking back, I'm so thankful I spent that time with them.

What I didn't know then was that just a few weeks after my 21st birthday, my whole world would change. I got a phone call on the morning of Tuesday the 19th that Dad was being taken to the E.R. by ambulance. And just past midnight on Thursday the 21st, my dad was gone forever. Though the "anniversary" is still a few weeks away, my heart can't help but begin to remember those last days.

To say I miss my dad is really an understatement. Each time I make a good grade or have a funny story to share, I think about what my dad would say. And when I'm stressed or upset, I can hear my dad calmly telling me that it's all going to be okay. The year ahead is one full of change, and I wonder how my dad would react if he were here. I know he would be so, so, so very proud to see me wearing a cap and gown and receiving my degree, despite the fact that he told me never to go into teaching (because the pay sucks!!). And I can only imagine how delighted he would have been to walk me down the aisle and give me away to a man who, in so many ways, really is just like my dad. :)

Despite the sadness and harsh reality of my dad's death, I have to be sure to say over and over again that God truly has worked all things together for our good (Rom. 8:28). What, at first, seemed like a tragedy has really become God's greatest work in my life. I remember promising myself to the Lord the night my dad died and, though I've taken some twists and turns, God has been faithful to uphold His end of the promise. I trusted myself to the Lord and followed His lead through the loss, mourning, grief, and into a new life. What was meant for evil has truly been used for good (Gen. 50:20). And the biggest lesson of all that I have learned is that time does not heal. Only God heals. And I am so glad that I serve a God who is always, always faithful.