Our Gracie Girl

Gracie Haywood

We adopted this little eight year old sweetie one week ago.

We found her at a local rescue shelter laying quietly in a back corner. She was silent and shy as all the other dogs around us barked loudly for our attention.

My husband walked slowly to where she was and as she made eye contact with him she got up and sat obediently.

He reached her caged area and bent down towards her and she stretched up to meet him. As his hand tenderly came up from underneath her chin to touch her face, she hesitated. But then she looked him in the eye and her sweet face leaned into his hand.

Love happened then.

My husband’s voice was quieter than normal, “Oh, she’s so cute…” As he spoke, I could see his heart melting right in front of me. I knew in that moment that she was ours.

In the week since we brought her home, my heart has melted too.

I’ve watched her, interacted with her, loved her, and comforted her. And it may sound funny, but as I have loved her, God has been loving me.

I am reminded that this love He offers to us is no small thing.

Gracie was very timid at first. You could see in her eyes that she was not sure of us. She wanted to be by our sides constantly, and yet she also wanted to run. She had nowhere else to go, and yet she didn’t know how to be at peace where she was.

Sound like anyone else you might know? It sounds more like me than I want to admit.

What kind of love was this? Who is this that is telling me to come and to follow?

Every time Gracie looks up at us with uncertainty and fear, we just want to pour out our love on her more. We don’t want her to be afraid.

God whispered to my heart, “I don’t want you to be afraid either. As you so desperately want Gracie to know how much you love her and that she is safe now, I too, my child, want that for you. I am leaning towards you just as you lean towards her. I am with you.”

Fear not, for I have redeemed you; I have called you by name, you are mine.” (Isaiah 43:1)

In very simple terms, the word redeemed means paying for something to gain possession of it. We paid to take Gracie from the rescue into our home. Jesus paid for us with his death so he could bring us home with him.

Just like we saw the conditions Gracie was living in and couldn’t leave her there because we already loved her, so too a loving God has offered us a different life because He loves us.

And even though many who are reading this would say, yes, I believe that truth that God loves me, we often don’t admit that we are still trying to figure out on a daily basis what that means.

Once we have received God’s love for us, there are so many promises that ours to cling to and yet, we like Gracie often run from the love that is there for us.

He will never leave us or forsake us. He has adopted us and nothing can take us out of his hands. We are called children of God and have been placed in a family that has no end. A family that has no end.

Think about that. Death will have no more say and nothing can separate us from his great love. We will be with him forever. Safe at home in a place he has prepared for us.

It is not easy to believe this. Such a great love is hard to comprehend in a broken and distorted world like the one we endure every day.

Yet, we have a patient God whose love for us is beyond what we can understand. And He won’t give up demonstrating this love to us.

As we continue to walk with Gracie, I am sure I will have more to say about how much I love her, but also more importantly about what God is showing me about His love.

Every time I look into those big brown eyes and feel my heart swell up I feel God giving me a little squeeze.

We love because He first loved us. 1 John 4:19

If you are reading this and you don’t know this kind of love that I’m talking about, I pray now that wherever you are you’d ask God to reveal himself to you. The love of God can seem unbelievable but it’s because it is no small love. He knows you by name dear one. There is nothing in your past that can change the way He is looking at you now. He deeply loves you and wants you to lean into his hand just as Gracie leaned into ours.

Lord Jesus, if there is a precious heart reading this now that wants to understand will you show them who you are? Open the eyes of their heart Lord. Love them O God. Make them your own so they won’t ever be alone or without a family again. Give words to their heart longings God and hear them. In Jesus name, Amen.

For My Auntie Kay

The snow is falling outside and I’m crying.

The warmth of the kitchen stove top and the smell of sausage cooking wraps me up like one of her hugs. She smelled like all the yummy things in life. Onions sauteeing in a pan. Hot fudge sundaes. A great cup of coffee. I’m famous for my deviled eggs, but she is the one that taught me. The first time I made them on my own for a party I took a picture and sent it to my Aunt to show her since she didn’t have her own “picture” phone. “Beautiful” she said! 

Just like on my wedding day. She was the one at the front who took my hand as I walked by on my way to the alter. I paused for her. She saw me, in so many ways. And with tears streaming down her face, she shook her head, patted my hands between hers and said, “Beautiful, just beautiful.”

She was the one who always pinched my cheeks too hard when we’d go to visit as a child. But she always followed the pinching and the smooching on the cheeks with a hot fudge sundae which made me not mind so much.

The night before my wedding when my future husband met her for the first time, he asked her if she was married. She said, “Just once.” Then quickly went on to add that she refused to wash the farts out of another man’s underwear. That was Aunty Kay.

She never let you leave without a full plate. She served hungry people all of her life and I don’t think she ever thought of people any other way. I remember at my brother’s graduation party she helped cook. Paul’s music teacher tried to leave the room with what he wanted on his plate, but she didn’t let him. She knew he needed more. That man left the kitchen dropping food off his plate in a trail behind him,  and she was smiling.

She was the one who I went to the grocery store with and she drove one of the electric carts. When she almost backed up into a teenage girl who then gave her a dirty look she said, “ Girl you move, you got legs.”  Then she sped off to do what she needed to do.

She was the one who prayed for me when I wasn’t sure my life had any hope left in it. She told me that in the moments when she had no one left, God was there for her and he’d be with me too. She was the one who when I married Chris said she had prayed for God to bring that kind of love for me.

She was the one who travelled and knew more people than anyone in the family. She said she wasn’t going to let the grass grow under her feet. And she never did. And she taught me to have fun with this life. To live it well, but enjoy every moment, every meal.

And tonight, tonight I found out that she is probably dying. She turned 102 today. And she was diagnosed with COVID-19, today. I’ve always felt my heart hitch knowing that one day she would be dying and I would be grieving.

But, right now, instead of praying God would let me have her around a little bit longer, I am praying that  Jesus would come and take her hand quickly. I hope he will let her gently fall asleep tonight and wake up in his arms tomorrow. I think he’s going to smile at her and say, Kay, you really lived. And she will say yes, and it was beautiful.

(Update May 16) Just like always this woman’s life defies the odds. She beat Covid!!! I love you Auntie. You are such an inspiration. Check out the video from a news station in Milwaukee on Facebook below.

A bit of my writing….

Our writing prompt in my writer’s group was:

If someone from the future picked up your journal and read about today, what would they read?

This is what I wrote. My writer’s group said I should post it as it might encourage someone right now. I hope it does. ❤️

I went for a walk today.

Dew still clung to the tips of the trees. The mountains still stood just as tall as they were yesterday.

But the quiet of the pathway that I walk, the quiet…it has grown since all the people began hiding away.

I’ve never seen anything like this in my lifetime. The thing is though, no one has. Those who lived through the Depression, or the wars, they’ve all but gone and so the living are left wondering with very few to ask their questions.

I’ve never seen the whole world respond together like this. A rise and fall of fears and faith moving like the ocean across the globe. Like a boat coming to rock along each and every shore. Untethered and unknown. Only to move on to another shore yet we know not where its next destination might be.

Fear has been hovering waiting to drop its talons into each heart that listens too much to its voice. But God also has been speaking and His voice is the one that comforts and silences all the questions for me.

There is so much chatter about what this is, why it’s happening, and yet there is a silence that allows humanity to speak and show itself for what it is. There is evil. There is good. And they show up, side by side, fighting for each of our attentions. One destroying and terrifying, the other truthfully drawing people to something that will stay in their hearts long after this virus has gone with gentle whispers but a strength unmatched.

I was afraid, and it still pokes at the edges of my mind, but I also am brave and have seen the streets empty and carried groceries for those who live near me and have lead those in my care, even though right now it seems there is nowhere we are going.

But we are going somewhere in every little thing we do and say. And everyone is choosing right this very moment where they will end up. Not life or death, that is out of our hands no matter what we do, although we should do whatever it is we can, for ourselves and others. That is loving each other.

God help us. Help each of us to continue to be someone who takes people somewhere, somewhere beautiful.

Beauty can grow in the most difficult of places and the Lord tends to do His most intimate work there. Let us be there too.

I took a deep breath today and reached for a drop of dew on the trees and touched the world to remind me of how much is yet to be known.

Love is still here, speaking in the quiet.

Remodel: Approximately 3 weeks later…

It’s been 3 weeks since my last post.

I’m not going to lie. I lost some of my drive after I got sick. It felt like everything slowed to a snail’s pace and that every little thing seemed to take a really really long time and a lot of effort.

Regardless, we’ve worked here and there but not like we were at the beginning. My parents got sick too, so our family construction crew of 4 has been taking turns being down and out.

So in the midst of being forced to slow down recently, we are now choosing to. We have been leaving a little room to “live the normal”, despite the to-do list. And that’s been really good.

So, here’s a little photo and commentary journal of the last 3 weeks.

I included some funny stories as we moved in 2 weeks ago and there have been some memories made. Enjoy!

When a woman needs a flat surface in her kitchen because her countertops haven’t come yet, she improvises. I used some unused flooring to get a temporary work space.
My love hanging our bedroom drapes.
Mom and Chris taping the final main room underlayment pad.
The dining room floor will be done someday. Someday is not today but that’s ok, it’s coming!
Chris cleaning and prepping the hallway floor for laminate.
Mister at his desk in our new home
First dinner baked in my new range! Yum!
Eating our first dinner on TV trays even though we didn’t have a tv yet and the dining room table is too full of tools to eat on.
Chris laying some hallway floor after dinner but before class.
Chris hanging drapes in the main room
Old fixture in master bath.
Funny story.
Let’s just say you won’t and can’t have a hot shower in this particular bathroom unless the person you love remains in the bathroom and flushes the toilet every 2 minutes while you are bathing. We figured this out by accident but it’s been much more pleasant since. We also discovered our 2nd bath shower is hot without assistance so we use that for now. We will figure out the plumbing in bathroom #1 at some point someday.
If Mister comes out of the bathroom and smiles down on me in just the right spot, his ears glow red. Who knew?
1st beautiful big blizzard at our new home. ❤️
Main room. Starting to look and feel like our home sweet home.
Shawn and Dylan, the Lowe’s delivery guys, bringing in my new washer and dryer and 2 new toilets. Our old toilets are old and have squishy padded seats and are very low to the ground. They show the idea of a squatty potty in a real life demonstration.
Aren’t they pretty? Love them.
This is my face when I found out my brother came down to surprise me.
I love my bro so very much. My heart needed his visit.
Doing a little normal living by going to the annual fly fishing hootenanny with my bro and Daddyo.
Taking a moment to breathe in my very first backyard. I had just chatted with one of my neighbors and she said she loves to sit in her backyard and watch the clouds. I decided to give it a try. She was right, it’s very peaceful and good for the heart to look up every once in awhile.
Yes I did put together a make shift desk for my husband out of the cardboard from the new tv and the two toilet boxes. Remodeling requires creativity. I needed his desk for the tv.
Have you ever seen a happier man with a vacuum? Me neither, I’m one blessed lady.
My nephew Jude made this wooden sign for us and I found the perfect spot for it. God has been so good to us.

We have been meeting our neighbors and taking the time to sit with them, not just wave a quick hello.

We have entertained our first official guests.

Our friend Kamran was our first official guest for spaghetti.

Later in the week one of my dearest friends Lola came for soup and leftover spaghetti. Ha!

We had great food and fellowship with these friends and can’t wait for more of you to join us in the future.

Although I have no kitchen sink or countertop yet so that has made things exciting. But we are making memories and that’s most important.

Until next time…

Day 15: Kitchen Appliances have arrived

I took it slow this morning. Yesterday I over did it after being so sick for a week. Not smart. But this morning I woke up, had coffee, laid around for awhile and then took a nap at 10am. We headed over to the house around 11 and this is what we did.

My sweet Daddy had to make those cabinets just perfect for me. No edges, all smooth and ready for paint!
We decided to try out that green paint I bought without knowing what I was going to do with it. Purpose discovered. We really like it.
Green door, why not? Ha!
Here come our appliances!!! Yay!
Dad excited about how perfectly the dishwasher fits into the base cabinets he installed! Great job Daddyo!
I feel so blessed by this oven! I found an as-is model for over 50% off just because it had a dent on the side. Today, when they brought it the dent was gone and I was like, “Hey guys, did you fix the dent?” They said this was a brand new oven and that’s what was loaded into the truck so enjoy! Can you believe it?! I’m so thankful!!!! 🙏❤️🙏❤️🙏❤️🙏❤️🙏❤️🙏
Sick girl taking a break.
My love…I’m so proud of how hard he’s been working and studying, but it was so great to have him at the house today for hours and hours! Happy me!
Almost there!
Video snippets of this weekend

Day 14: Someday The Floors will be Finished, but today was not that day…

Well I was sick all week, in bed couldn’t do anything kind of sick, but we were back at it today.

More to come tomorrow…

The lighting in this place is crazy cool. The different colors are so obvious at this time of day. Later on they almost look the same.
Painting the kitchen ceiling.
Cleared the dining room to get ready for the laminate floors.

Day 13: Flooring on the way

Well, the day is over and I can barely move.

My Dad finished setting all the kitchen cabinets.

I’m so excited as (you can’t see it in this picture) but I have a small little open shelf area for my cookbooks. Thanks Dad!
Brown marble fireplace bye bye. Isn’t my Mom cute!
Ok, let’s try this again.
Here is a sneak peek….we got about half way.

Oh and guess who might be sick now…I thought I had sawdust in my nose this afternoon, but it might be the cold Chris has had. Pray for me!

Day 12: Discouraging

Well yesterday was discouraging.

My Mom got some more painting done, my Dad got a few more of the base cabinets set, Chris went to work sick and came home and helped for a couple hours despite how he felt.

And me? What did I do?

I swept and vacuumed and swept and vacuumed and swept some more to prepare the floors. Now for those of you who know me, my joy that comes from looking at something with a sense of accomplishment was non-existent yesterday.

When we did finally try to lay some flooring it didn’t work well. I think I know what I did wrong, but the frustration level was high. My Mom reminded me that I’ve never done this before and this is how I learn. So, here’s to learning!

Today is a new day.

My body hurts, my husband is back in bed trying to heal.

And I’m sitting outside Home Depot drinking Dunkin Donuts coffee and eating munchkins for motivation. I only ate 3, ok maybe 4. (That’s equal to 1 donut right?)

I can do this!

It’s a beautiful sunrise and God is still on the throne.

Here is to yesterday and to what is to come today!

We are going to make something with these beautiful legs.

Day 11 and 1/2

I should have posted these pictures last weekend! Here are where things are as of this morning before we get started.

Side note: Pray for my sweet mister as he’s been sick all week and not able to come join in the fun.

Mom getting it done in the laundry room
I made my own saw horses out of the 5 gallon paint buckets to cut some pieces of plywood to raise the subfloor just a tad to the level of the old linoleum.
I started to do some peel and stick tile in the kitchen
I’m liking how it’s turning out. Inexpensive way to just bring a different color scheme to the kitchen quickly. And it sticks good, it will peel your skin off and everything. Just sayin’.
Lazy Susan being rolled into place last weekend
We ended up having a slow drip that wouldn’t stop in the kitchen so had to call a plumber.
Good as new
Went over after a rough day at work and used my evening to slap some second coats on certain walls. It was dark, so I hope I did a good job. We will find out today.
Here’s hoping that this weekend all those blue boxes in the bottom right of this picture turn into a beautiful laminate floor.
I woke up to this at my parent’s house this morning. It’s going to be a beautiful day people!!!

Day 10: Old Appliances and Cabinets be gone!

Today was awesome. Old friends got rid of all our old things…Andy, Erin, Trevor, and Ella, thank you!

I still can’t stop laughing about Andy’s instructions to us when we were lifting the appliances. All I’ll say is CLENCH those cheeks!
A Beautiful sunset to end a beautiful day.