Empty nest, empty heart

empty nestLearning to let go one more time

“It’s my party and I’ll cry if I want to
Cry if I want to, cry if I want to.
You would cry too if it happened to you.”
(A popular song from the 60s by Lesley Gore)

You thought you were ready for this, but you never expected it to be so hard, or that you would cry so much.

You fought back the tears as you hugged tightly, secretly never wanting to let go, trying to be strong, even brave at this momentous moment. The words swelled up in your heart. There was so much you wanted to say,

“Don’t forget to call or text me.
Get enough sleep.
Eat healthy.
Don’t stay out too late.
Choose your friends wisely.
Remember to wash your clothes once a week.
And oh, please be careful-it’s a crazy world out there.”

But you didn’t, at least right now you didn’t. You’ve said it all a hundred times before this day.

You simply whispered, “I love you.”

You were trying hard to act like a grown-up mom to this growing-up child, who was growing-up too fast, too soon. The voice in your head said, “Wasn’t it just yesterday that I rocked you to sleep and held your hand as you took your first step? Now you are taking your first step into college.” You hear this growing-up child that you cheered on in life, now trying to cheer you. “I’ll be fine mom…don’t worry….”

All the way home, you cry uncontrollably, mascara running down your face, snot pouring out your nose. This is not the time to hold back. Let it come. You reach for a sleeve, an arm, a Kleenex – anything to stop the dam that broke. You just left behind your baby – your firstborn, your middle child, or your youngest. It doesn’t matter which one, it still hurts. It’s cutting another umbilical cord, it’s letting go of a part of who you are. It’s facing an empty, clean room with the bed made, no shoes or clothes scattered everywhere, and posters still hanging on the wall. Oh, how you yearn to see that room messy just one more time to have glimpses of life there.

In case you are wondering, I was the “YOU” years ago when I experienced the emotional transition and unexpected adjustment of sending off our oldest, and then our youngest, to college. My head knew all the right things – we raised them for a time such as this. We gave them roots in family and in Christ and wings of confidence to soar and become all they could be. We knew it was time for them to become independent and begin to figure out life on their own. We knew one season of life had ended and another season was about to begin. That being said, it was not easy to emotionally let go or to stop crying for weeks as I grieved the loss of their daily presence in our family circle.

I couldn’t seem to get a grip as I struggled with the emptiness that seemed to consume me. I particularly remember one time when I was laying face-down in our hammock, crying so hard my tears went through the hammock and on the patio. It was one of those messy-slobbery-ugly-cries. I missed tripping over the sports shoes that were always taken off at the bottom of our stairs after school. My refrigerator seemed empty. The house was too quiet. I missed the laughter, chatter, and even the music that had a good beat.

The sadness in my empty heart was eventually filled with happiness and peace as I began to see our growing-up children begin to thrive on their own. I had done my part as a mom, now it was time to leave them in God’s hands and ask Him to protect, guide, and equip them in their new journey. I needed to move forward with faith and trust, knowing God would always be with them. You do have to come full circle with all of this and, at some point, realize that it’s not all about you, it’s about them. You are then taking your first step in letting go.

Remember these things:

  • You will always be their mama and they will always need you.
  • You did a good job raising them. Don’t second guess that.
  • Say often to them, “I believe in you. You can do this.”
  • Let them manage their own lives and figure it out.
  • They will make mistakes and they will learn from them. Don’t short-circuit that.
  • Let them know, no matter what happens, you will be there for them.
  • Pray for them every day.

And, be assured they will come home again – with a suitcase full of dirty clothes, ready to eat a home-cooked meal!

I have dedicated him to the Lord; as long as he lives he is dedicated to the Lord.  I Samuel 1:28

From My Heart to Yours,
Susan Miller

Five hidden treasures from Daddy’s back yard

A friend was standing in my kitchen the other day, chatting away, when her eyes locked in on a picture hanging on the wall behind me. She walked past me and looked closely at the picture. “This is so lovely! I thought it was a painting at first glance.” She paused, then said, “What is written beneath the picture?” I read the simple words out loud, “Daddy’s backyard 1989. After she left, my thoughts slipped back into my daddy’s backyard once again, and I lingered there a while in the sweetness of childhood memories.

Daddy's back yard

 

Our backyard was truly Daddy’s corner of the world. He planted jasmine that wrapped around the trees, hydrangeas in bright purple and blue, a rose bush in hues of red and pink, and a camellia bush in shades of pink and white. He left most of the backyard as nature designed it, and that natural green landscape framed the bright colored flowers near our house.

The view from our kitchen window was serene and peaceful. When I stepped outside the back door, Daddy was usually there working in the yard, either raking, mowing, trimming, or just sitting in his wooden, straight-back chair.

My favorite times in the backyard were when he was sitting in that uncomfortable looking chair. I would go outside, pull up a chair, or sit on the ground, and just be with him. I loved his stories, told with humor and wit, and I loved how he laughed at his corny jokes. He didn’t talk much about serving in World War II and the Korean War. I could tell by his eyes that his emotions couldn’t go there. Many times I sensed the backyard was his haven for far deeper reasons than my own. For me, it was my special one-on-one time to talk, ask questions, listen, and simply be with him.

When you are young, you don’t always realize the hidden treasures you learn from the simple things in life. They become life lessons that can shape your thinking, your attitude, the way you treat others, and how you, in turn, raise your own children.

I looked back and realize how Daddy’s backyard had hidden treasures of life lessons that continue to influence and impact my life today.

Hidden treasure #1: Be intentional.

I didn’t know I was being intentional when I would go out in the yard to be with my daddy, but I’m sure, in his wisdom, he did. He knew when he sat down in his chair that I’d sit with him.

Intentionally spend one-on-one time with your children, or grandchildren, in their corner of the world. My eleven-year-old grandson loves to jump on the trampoline in his backyard. I climb up on the trampoline, sit across from him, and throw a big rubber ball back and forth to see who can keep it in the air the longest. It’s my time to give him undivided attention away from his three siblings as we share “our” time together.

Hidden treasure #2: Look beyond yourself.

I was always in and out of our family kitchen, most of the time oblivious to looking out the window at the backyard. I was there looking for food. It was only when mama said, “Look at how green the yard is and how beautiful the flowers are,” that I would look beyond my mission in the kitchen to take a peek outside.

Wherever you are, the simple gesture of looking at the beauty of God’s creation around you and beyond you, can often help put life and circumstances in perspective. You don’t have to travel the world to see the magnificence of God’s creation; it can be right in your own backyard.

Hidden treasure #3: Balance busyness with rest.

Daddy wore a red bandana tied around his forehead to catch the sweat that came from his physical labor of mowing, weeding, and raking the leaves. He would work awhile, then rest awhile. Sometimes, he would lean against one of the oak trees to catch his breath, or to take a sip of water from a mason jar, or to “sit a spell,” as he would say.

Are you on the go constantly with a full calendar and a busy life? Taking a break to “sit a spell” is not only a healthy balance, but can give you energy and stamina to finish well. It can also renew and refresh your mind and attitude. Try it. 

Hidden treasure #4: Learn by listening, share by talking.

I learned a lot about my daddy’s life when I stopped talking long enough to listen. He was a quiet, soft spoken man, so asking questions was a win-win. He talked, I listened. He shared, I learned.

Over the years, I began to understand that in all relationships there is immeasurable value in the equal balance of both listening, and talking. If you do all the talking to those you love and don’t take the time to listen, what have you learned about them? If they are not talkers, try asking non-threatening questions that say you care.

Hidden treasure #5: Seize the moment and the memories.

To this day, I can close my eyes and be in the backyard cutting hydrangeas when they are in full color to dry and preserve in a vase. In fact, I have a box of them in my garage and use them ever so gently. I can just smell the jasmine wrapped around the tree and see the brilliance of green shrubbery after a summer rain. I have lovely memories tucked in my heart and in pictures to span the years that have passed. I am all the more blessed that I seized the moment to walk out the kitchen door so many times – as a child, a teen, a young adult, and then a married woman – to talk and listen to my beloved daddy, whose memory vividly lives with me. One of the last things I remember was seeing him reading his Bible in that uncomfortable looking chair when he was “sitting a spell”.

Don’t miss the opportunity to discover hidden treasures in your own life, or in the lives of your family. Step out and seize the moment today. Make a memory that will last a lifetime.

Tempted to ignore God’s nudge. Glad I didn’t!

God's nudgeI will confess. I am not very friendly on an airplane. Those travel hours are my down-time before I step off the plane to give my all to the women where I will be speaking.  It is when I switch hats, pray, calm my spirit, and focus my mind and heart.

A smile and a hello is about all you will get if you sit next to me. I’m not looking for a new friend or to start a conversation with anyone. “Please and thank you” for a cup of coffee and peanuts or pretzels is pretty much my verbal communication.

That is, until this tall, young, handsome, muscular African-American man, with arms built like a line-backer, walked down the aisle, stopped at my row, and said, “Excuse me, we have the middle seat.”

He was carrying a little boy, who appeared to be about a year and a half old, along with a diaper bag on his shoulder and a backpack on his back.

Oh.my.goodness, I thought. Why next to me?

I had on the clothes I was going to wear that afternoon for speaking. I envisioned sticky fingers. There was no time to change when I arrived, so I was dressed and ready to go on stage. I was planning to go over my notes during the flight in the solitude of silence.

He quickly placed his backpack under the seat and crammed the diaper bag in next to it. There was no leg room left for him. He then quickly turned his little boy to face him, with his little legs around his daddy’s waist. The child lay his head on his daddy’s chest in total contentment and stared at me with a captivating smile. His daddy gently placed his arms around his son, to keep his little arms and hands from touching me or the man by the window. He maintained this posture during the entire flight. I could only imagine how uncomfortable it was for this man, while his son seemed delighted to have his daddy’s complete attention and to be held so close. There was an obvious bond between them.

Once we were in the air, he pulled out the diaper bag, took out a bottle with apple juice, and gave it to his son. This huge, football-player-looking-man smiled and talked lovingly and quietly to his son as if it were just the two of them with no one else around. He then gave the little boy a pacifier and he slowly drifted off to sleep on his daddy’s chest, with only the sound of his daddy’s heartbeat in his ear. He gave him a cookie when he woke up and then wiped his little hands so they wouldn’t accidentally touch me. They never did.

I was so entranced by how this man was so intentional in keeping his child occupied and contained with his arms circled around him. I could tell that he didn’t want to disturb anyone on either side of them. That middle seat seemed to shrink even smaller with the two of them in it. He got up once to go to the “lounge” in the back of the plane and took the little boy to stretch his legs.

It was when he sat back down, that I turned to him and said, “I just have to tell you what an amazing dad I think you are and your son is so well behaved for his age.”

“Thank you ma’am,”  he said. “He wasn’t this good on our flight from Hawaii. He didn’t sleep at all with the time change, and that five-hour flight was rough.”

Then out of the blue, it hit me. “Are you military?”

It was then that my heart melted for this young man. He smiled and told me proudly that both he and his wife were in the Army, stationed in Hawaii. He had gotten orders to deploy and was on leave to visit his mother and family in Alabama before going to a remote part of the world. He was taking his son to see his grandmother for the first time. He said how anxious he was because this was his first deployment in a dangerous place. He never mentioned where, or what his mission was. I could only imagine.

I told him my name and he introduced himself and his little boy. As we began to talk, I shared that my dad, brother, and husband were military men. He told me about his family and how proud he was to serve his country in the Army. I shared God’s words of encouragement and hope. I reached over my seat, touched his arm, called him by name, and said I would pray for his safety and protection in the months ahead.

I think of this young man quite often and pray for him. I remember his gentle strength and tender heart for his son, how his eyes lit up when he talked about his wife and his family in Alabama. I remember how Army Proud and Army Strong he was. By now he is far away in another land…

I shudder to think what I would have missed that day if he hadn’t sat next to me.  I’m embarrassed to think how preoccupied I was with myself and my “outfit.”

If God hadn’t nudged me to say more than hello, I wouldn’t know his story.

I wouldn’t have shared God’s hope and encouragement, which seemed to soothe his soul. And, I wouldn’t have the privilege of praying for a dedicated and committed husband, father, and Army man.

Nudge me Lord. Use me where I’m needed. When I feel comfortable, make me feel uncomfortable. Take me out of my little world in an aisle seat and stretch my boundaries to the middle seat and beyond…

Susan Miller signaturesusan miller

 

Lessons I learned on the soccer field

1412.soccerI watched my last three soccer games for the season last Saturday. Yes indeed, back-to-back games, carrying my folding chair from one field to another, I sat on the sidelines, waving my pom-poms madly to encourage all the players. My two grandsons and my granddaughter played their hearts out for their grand finale games. One win, one tie, one loss. To me, they were all winning games. It wasn’t the score that impressed me, it was the team attitude, perseverance, and effort that made them all winners. They gave their all; they played their best.

It’s always interesting to observe and listen to the parents around me during the games. One dad’s words were so tender and kind to his young son, who was struggling as a goalie and felt defeated. His dad’s words were just what he needed to instill confidence that he could block that ball—and he did, the next time the ball came at the goal. I know the dad’s words could have as easily crushed the young boy. I’ve seen that happen too.

One single mom never missed a game, even though she had to rearrange her work schedule to be there. She always came right when the game started. I watched her daughter as she spotted her mother on the sidelines every week. She smiled as their eyes met.

Another dad was on his cell phone texting the entire game. I saw his son keep looking over at the sidelines to see if his dad was watching him. His dad missed his son’s winning goal.

A mom sat down and pulled out a book that she read the entire time. Several couples were preoccupied in a conversation with each other.

They missed the moment to cheer a great move, to thumbs-up a winning pass, to soothe a fumble with encouragement, or show compassion with a defeat.

Just watching your children in a sport, a play, a recital—anything they’re involved in– speaks volumes without a word said.

A kind, encouraging, or positive word speaks volumes too.

What I observed on the soccer field, I took home with me for the holidays.

There are times during Christmas that I’m too preoccupied with my own agenda, and my own busy schedule. I’m focused on checking off my gift list, my grocery list, getting my house decorated, getting gifts wrapped…and on and on, so that…

I forget to look up and notice someone who needs a kind word of encouragement.

I miss the sadness in someone’s eyes because I wasn’t watching.

I don’t seize the moment to cheer on someone who feels defeated and needs to feel hope.

I get so self-absorbed that I’m oblivious to what’s going on around me, or right in front of me.

Oh Lord, may I not just watch, but see.

May I not just hear, but listen.

May I not just observe, but speak.

___________________

My friends, may the love of Christ flow in you and through you to permeate others with a fragrance of kindness and encouragement this holiday season.

But thanks be to God..who manifests through us the sweet aroma of the knowledge of Him in every place. For we are a fragrance of Christ….  II Corinthians 2:14-15

Merry Christmas my friends!

Spread the joy of Jesus,

Susan Miller signature

A picture of gratitude

Susan Miller, America's Moving CoachlistI am a list maker. I have lists on my phone, on post notes, and on scratch paper. I confess,  I will even list something I’ve done and draw a line through it just to visually see my accomplishments. I have a pretty notebook for special long-term lists–categorized by subject, of course. I am a very well-organized, well-functioning, obsessive list maker. A list clears my mind, prioritizes my day, keeps me on track, and most of all, helps me to remember what I would normally forget.

My usual list-making for Thanksgiving is a grocery list. I go through all my traditional Thanksgiving recipes and write down all the ingredients that I don’t keep in my cabinet the other 364 days. Going through the family recipes for the holidays is a tradition in itself. It turns back the years of memories, not only in my kitchen, but also in my grandmother’s and my mother’s kitchen, as we assembled and prepared the ingredients, then cooked and baked for Thanksgiving Day. I have to tell you that I actually came across an old, handwritten list my mother had made for ingredients that had been tucked in some of her treasured recipes. One day, I’m sure my daughter will find one of my lists among the recipes too. And so it goes…

Around Thanksgiving, it seems the conversation starters, or question probers, are to make a list of things you are grateful for. It’s a question that’s asked around the Thanksgiving table, when friends gather together, in casual conversation, and on social media. Gratitude lists are shared and commented on in articles, blogs, and newsletters, and are discussed on talk shows, the national news, and commercials.

I love reading, or hearing the list of a grateful heart. You and I should have a long list every day, because God doesn’t give us a short list of blessings. They are bountiful, they overflow with abundance. Even if you don’t list them all on paper, extend the list to ponder in your heart. The spoken and unspoken gratitude list brings us to a place of being humbly aware of God’s grace, mercy and blessings in our life.

Since I am such a visual person, my written gratitude list is going to look a little different this time. I’m going to share some pictures from my phone that have been taken over the past year of people, places, and things. They speak volumes for my grateful heart.

gratitude list in pictures

Happy Thanksgiving y’all! It’s time to gather recipes and a grateful heart…

Susan Miller signature@SusanJustMoved

 

My military heroes, my friends

My heart is still beating with joy from speaking to the Schofield Barracks Army Post military wives at their PWOC Conference in Hawaii. We even had some women there who came from Hickam Air Force Base. The icing on the cake was meeting with the women who attend the Moving On group at the chapel.

Moving On group at Schofield Barracks

After spending time with these incredible women, I had the privilege of seeing God’s word bring hope, comfort, and encouragement to so many lives that have been uprooted by moving. We laughed and cried as we shared our joy and our pain together. We prayed for one another and joined hands in worship. We walked away feeling refreshed and renewed in our spirits as we focused on Christ and not our circumstances.

These precious women are in the trenches of military life, many of whom are holding their families together in the absence of their husbands who are deployed. They face the unknown with brave hearts and a strong faith. Many have just moved and are experiencing the adjustment and transition of being in unfamiliar surroundings and starting all over again. Then there are those who are facing the challenges of yet another move that has become an expected part of military life. They, too, face the unknown with a persevering heart and a strong faith.

My life is never the same after I am in the presence of military women. They touch my heart, strengthen my faith, and keep me humble. They are ordinary women who are called to do extraordinary things as wives and moms. When you stop and pray for the men and women who are serving our country in the Armed Forces, remember to pray for the spouses and families left behind. They, too, are my heroes!

Here are eight ways you can join our Just Moved Ministry Team in praying for our military:

  • Safety and protection for deployed spouses
  • Strong marriages during stressful circumstances
  • Healing of broken relationships
  • Provision for uprooted families
  • Encouragement for uprooted moms
  • Smooth transitions and adjustments for uprooted children
  • Comfort in the midst of the physical and emotional effects of a PCS (transfer)
  • Military families to put their trust and hope in Jesus Christ.

My presence will go with you….  Exodus  33:14

Susan Miller signature

Elvis has left the garage

Elvis costumeI remember going to an Elvis concert in Atlanta years ago. It was an experience I will never forget.

He looked quite spectacular in his tight, white silk bell bottom (now referred to as “boot cut”) pants, with the collar turned up on his matching white silk shirt. Of course, fringe ran all the way down the outside of his pants and the sleeves of the shirt and shimmered as he moved. The outfit was complete with gold chains layered around his neck, a wide belt with a flashy buckle, and big sunglasses that I’m sure he needed in order to see his captivated fans more clearly. He wore his signature Elvis cape and held a silk scarf that he wiped his brow with before he threw it into the audience. We were sitting so close to the stage that I just knew he looked right at me, wiggled those hips in true Elvis fashion, and smiled. Oh me, oh my…how I did sigh!

When Elvis left the stage, the traditional last words spoken in a deep voice from behind the curtain, said, “Elvis has l-e-f-t the building,” and then the lights went out. Sigh again…only the memory was left behind.

For years after that, anytime Bill and I went to a costume party, we always went as Elvis and Priscilla. Bill could not only imitate the Elvis mannerisms, but could sing in that same deep, charismatic voice. I, on the other hand, would be the swooning Priscilla, hanging on to every word in the song, and waiting for the scarf to be thrown to me. To add to our authenticity, friends had fun creating a real Elvis outfit from a resale store, polyester fabric for a cape and scarf, a black wig, oversized sunglasses, a huge macramé belt (formerly a wall hanging), and chains (that were used to hang plants) to wear around his neck. My black bell bottom pants and top, along with plastic jewelry, was also completed with a wig.

As the years went by, “Elvis” was packed away in a box, in our garage, with cherished memories of the fun and laughter Bill and I shared together.

Not long ago when cleaning out the garage, I came across the box marked, “Elvis”. I went through our costumes and recalled every crazy, wonderful memory they held. It was time to pass along the box to another couple who loved costume parties and would carry on the Elvis and Priscilla tradition in grand style.

Why am I telling you this story from the pages of my life? For this very reason:  Don’t miss the moment, my friends. Capture the memories of fun and laugher. Create traditions as a couple, or as a family. It’s never too soon, and it’s never too late, to make memories together. Start now.

One day, you’ll be like me when you’re going through an old box of memories. You’ll look back over the years and smile, and be ever so grateful the memories are left behind.

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Everything I need to know, I learned from my grandchildren

grandchildrenCousin Camp has come to an end for another summer. Every July I look forward to having all six grandchildren, ages eight to fourteen, together for a cousin reunion. I must have fixed 12 gallons of lemonade, made 35 peanut butter and jelly sandwiches, found 12 missing shoes, fixed an overflowing toilet 5 times, took at least 100 pictures to the tune of “Nana, please…n-o  m-o-r-e pictures,” and said “wash your hands,” at least 8 times a day. I do believe my daughter can fix mac n’ cheese and chicken nuggets 10 different ways!

It was reminiscent of my childhood as I watched them enjoy the simple fun of playing hide and seek in the dark, learning how to play the old-fashion game of Jacks, watching the boys play roly-poly races with small, round bugs on the sidewalk, and for everyone to run around in the rain as they squealed with glee. You can imagine the laughter when a Nerf ball was accidently (?) thrown, and hit a plate of pancakes filled with sticky syrup, or when hands were washed in the sink where the spaghetti was draining in the colander, and we all ate “soapy spaghetti.”

I set up the now famous “Nana’s Nail Salon” on our deck, and painted nails for my three granddaughters and their friends for a whole morning. My three grandsons, their friends, and all the girls, played board games on our deck, and played soccer, dodge ball, and capture the flag in the park for hours of fun. Kick-ball was a late afternoon ritual, with a growing number of kids participating every day. Even the parents would gather to watch. I made the world’s largest chocolate chip cookie (on a huge pizza pan), along with a “build your own ice-cream sundae” for a dessert-night treat.  Bunk beds and sleeping bags filled the loft and the sound of giggles and conversations continued until “lights out” echoed up the stairs.

I loved every minute. I watched, participated, listened, and learned. I captured the memories with pictures, and have tucked the tender moments in my heart.

God teaches me life lessons through the world of my grandchildren, and reminds me of things I know, but can easily forget in the busyness of my daily life. I thought it was worth repeating the things God continues to teach me at Cousin Camp each summer.

It’s not about me. I learned to put aside my schedule, my agenda, and my wants. Cousin Camp is just that—it’s all about the cousins.

Have no expectations. The sooner I learned to relax and let go of any expectations of our time together, the smoother the days went, and the more fun we had.  God had to work with me on this one!

Above all, don’t compare. I was reminded that comparing grandsons and granddaughters who are different ages, have different personalities and temperaments, and come from two different family life-styles, is unfair to the child. Accepting their differences allows each one to be who God made them to be, without the pressure of performance to please.

Movies vs. games. There is a huge difference in watching movies and playing board games together. You have to be quiet to listen and watch a movie. Board games encourage conversation and interaction. There is a time for both, but I learned not to defer to movies to keep everyone occupied.

Crafts are good for all ages. I was surprised to learn that everyone from eight to fourteen, both boys and girls, loved doing crafts! It was fun, messy, and an opportunity for them to express their individual creativity. A lot of things happened. They shared ideas and supplies, learned from each other, and complimented each other on what they did.                                                                       

Deck talk is magic. After dinner, we would sit on the deck, with only a few lanterns to give us a glow in the dark. It was amazing how the conversation flowed, when there were no distractions. With a few questions, I learned about what they were thinking, things they were doing, and caught a glimpse of life through their eyes.

A little space is a good thing. Every child needs some time and space to do their own thing. I learned they don’t have to always do everything together, or in a group. 

It’s caught, not taught. Kindness, thoughtfulness, and being considerate of others are best caught through the example of how I treat them and others. Pointing out the error of their ways, in front of everyone else can be embarrassing and humiliating. If I had to resort to correct someone’s behavior, I would do it one-on-one, away from everyone else. We would sit on the floor together, eye level, and talk it through, ending with a hug and a smile that conveyed my unconditional love.

Choose your battles. I learned to ask myself—“Is this a hill high enough to die for? Am I making a mountain out a mole hill? At the end of the day, will it really matter?” 

A sense of humor goes a long way. I learned to lighten up and laugh a lot, and that being silly brings giggles from all ages.

Manners matter.  Please, thank-you, excuse me, I’m sorry, chew with your mouth shut, elbows off the table—have always been a part of “Nana’s Manners,” and manners are not left at the door at Cousin Camp.  My daughter often says in jest, “You don’t want to have to go to “Nana’s Manners School”—it lasts for hours!” I learned that you don’t give up on what matters.

Hold hands, and stick together.  Cousin Camp is all about connecting with each other, building memories, and learning the importance of being a part of something bigger than yourself: your family. I learned that when you encourage them to hold hands and stick together, one day you will have the joy of seeing them do it on their own.

I am also reminded that these are not just lessons learned regarding my grandchildren, but also with my adult children and their spouses, extended family, friendships, and those I serve with in ministry. Lord, keep teaching me, reminding me, and never let me forget.

May Cousin Camp memories live on…

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Run the Race

run the race“I’m going to run in the Pat Tillman race,” she said.

“That sounds great,” he replied.

“It’s only 4.2 miles. I know we could do it,” she continued.

Running had become a bond between a brother and sister as they grew up, and as they got older over the years.

Even though they lived in different states, there was a competitive edge between them when they trained for a race. “I ran 5 miles today,” he would say. “I ran 5 ½ miles,” she would respond with a smile. It was the motivation needed to reach a common goal together. Their claim to fame had been running a half marathon and crossing the finish line side by side.

“I’ll be traveling with my family that weekend, so there’s no way I can be there,” he explained.

“Oh, okay,” she answered, with a hint of disappointment.

On the day of the race, she got up at 5:00am to get ready and quietly slip out of the house while her family was sleeping.

Her phone beeped. It was a text that said, “I’ll be thinking of you this morning. Good luck in the race.”

She smiled. His text was the encouragement she needed as she got in the car and drove to the city to find her place among thousands of runners.

An hour later, she was at the starting point when her phone beeped again with another text.treadmill

The words simply read, “I’m with you this morning. Check out the treadmill. Have fun.” She took a closer look at the picture. The numbers displayed on the treadmill read 4.2 miles.

Tears came to her eyes. He had gotten up when she did, gone down to the hotel workout room, and ran the exact distance of the race!

He had run the distance to encourage her on to victory, and indeed he did.

My daughter, Ginger, finished the race in record time, and my son, Bill, had been right there for his sister,  like so many other times over the years– in spirit and support.

Sometimes all it takes is for someone to “be there” for us, believe in our ability, or come alongside us when we need encouragement to reach a goal, push through circumstances, or take the next hard step in life.

Take a minute and think of who you know that needs an extra measure of kindness and thoughtfulness today. It could be as simple as words in a text or a caring gesture that expresses your support.

It just might spur them on to the victory line.

Susan Miller signature

I always keep pom-poms in my car

pom poms
I always keep pom-poms in my car. You just never know when you might need to cheer someone on, or who might need a wave of encouragement. I’ve shown up with pom-poms at the airport, the hospital, birthday parties, sports events — anywhere I can add a touch of sunshine to someone’s day. I especially love showing up at soccer and basketball games to cheer for my grandchildren and their teams. My family used to give me that look that says, “Oh no, she’s going to do THAT again!” But after all these years, they are used to it, and even expect the pom-poms to appear.

When my son, Bill, told me he was coming to Phoenix to run the P.F. Chang Half Marathon, you can imagine my excitement. He had been training for the thirteen mile run for months, and wanted to break his previous running time. A few years ago, Bill and his sister  ran the race together, and I have a picture on my refrigerator with them crossing the finish line. Of course I was there, along with all six grandchildren, all of us waving pom-poms for their mom and dad. (I have a picture of them too!) So for the race this year, I was ready to cheer him on to victory at the finish line. I was so proud  when he accomplished his goal and beat his own record!

Someone said they couldn’t believe I would get up before daylight to get Bill down town for the race, fight the traffic, find a parking place, and join the crowds of spectators, when he could have done it on his own. But that’s what we do for our children, isn’t it? No matter how young or old they are, we are their cheerleaders through life. Whether it’s with pom-poms, words of praise, an expression of encouragement, or simply by being there for them — the things we do and say have a powerful positive influence on their lives. They don’t ever outgrow the need to be loved, affirmed, valued, and encouraged.

And, by the way, I’ve passed the pom-pom tradition on to the next generation in my family. They are equipped to cheer one another on to run the race of life and become the best they can be.

Susan