Saturday, October 3, 2009

An anniversary letter to my sweetheart

Dear Johnny,

Today would have been our 34th wedding anniversary.  I don't have the words to say to really tell you how I feel right now.  All I can do is cry.  How do you describe a hole in your heart?  How do you explain the kind of phantom pain one feels for a limb that is gone?  Where are you?  This time last year we were fighting so hard to be strong and to believe we could save you.  I would trade my life for yours if that was what it took.

Now I just lay in bed each night and stare into the darkness listening to Lucky the dog breathe instead of you.  I know you never liked her to sleep on the bed but when you left she just popped up there one night.  Now it is her new sleeping place.   I guess you can see that I lay on your side of the bed now.  Somehow it brings me comfort.  I've packed up all your things and cleaned out all the closets.  But I have kept your pillow.  Every now and then I just bury my face in it so I can smell you.

I still see the blue butterflies every day and it is wonderful but it is not enough.  I want more.  I want you to let me see you again.  I want to feel you and touch you and kiss you.  I want to hear you say you love me.  I want to feel safe again.  Are you still here?  Are you just in another dimension that I can't see?  I would give anything to hear your hearty laugh and see that twinkle in your eye.  Can't you find a way to put your arms around me one more time?

I've been to one FSU football game this year but it wasn't the same without you.  I took a new friend Helen with me - I guess by now you've met her husband Clark who got to heaven a couple months before you.  Helen and I have cried alot together over the two of you.  We both have lost our "kindred spirits."  We miss our soulmates.

Scarlett misses you too.  She needs her Daddy and I try my best to comfort her but it's like the blind leading the blind.  We both are lost.  The "three musketeers" are only two now.  We feel lopsided.

Believe it or not Mom and Dad are moving out of their house and relocating to the panhandle!  They are packing up now while Chip prepares their new house they bought but haven't seen!  They sold their house in 3 days.  I call that a God thing.  I've been running back and forth to Orlando helping them go through their stuff and weed it out.  We came across our plastic bride and groom that was on top of our wedding cake.  Mom had saved it all these years for Scarlett.

I finally decided to start fixing up our house and give it a long overdue facelift.  The fix it list gets bigger everyday.  Right now the upstairs air conditioner is pooped out.  I think God is trying to tell me something.  This was OUR dreamhouse but lately I feel like I don't belong here anymore.  It's not the same without you.

I'm trying to find my focus and new direction in life.  I now realize how you were my rudder that helped me steer through time.  You kept me reeled in when I would get off course.  Sometimes I felt hemmed in by your voice of reality and common sense.  Now I know that it was because of you that I achieved my greatest accomplishments.  I hope you can hear me say "thank you."

You were my great teacher.  I will try to live the rest of my life making you proud.  I still plan on writing the book you wanted me to that I never did about the South.  As God is my witness!  I will keep my promise to you and share the beauty and pride you felt for your home and your heritage.  If you can give me any heavenly help I would appreciate a bolt of inspiration!

Right now I am going to finish something more immediate.  I am going to write an introduction to our blog "Johnny's Journey To Victory" and an ending and try to get it published.  I listened to the interview I did on the "Journeys With Christ" local radio show and realized that our experience could help alot of people in need of hope.  I want to believe that there was good that came from it.  I want to know there was a divine purpose in your suffering.  I want to understand God's will in it all.

I have not been able to read the blog for a long time until now.  But the last few days I picked it up again.  I saw God's hand in it.  I see how He was working through us and with us to refine us and bring us closer to Him.  I saw our faith become strong together and separately.  I saw you roar like a mighty lion in your spirit even though your body became weaker and weaker.  You taught me alot about raw courage.

So cheers to you darling wherever you are.  I believe in heaven on earth,  so I like to think that the  heavenly realm is just a heartbeat away and you are right beside me every moment for eternity.  I don't know what my future brings.  I go for my cancer check up in a few weeks and I always get nervous around this time.  But I know that no matter what I will not be afraid.  I will live my life looking for joy and blue butterflies always.  I will meet you in my dreams.

Happy Anniversary Darling,

Your "baby" Rene

Monday, August 17, 2009

Blue Butterfly #4 - We Are Always In His Mighty Hands

"I will strengthen you, yes I will help you, I will uphold you with My righteous right hand."
- Isaiah 41:10

I love this blue butterfly sent to me by Tara Travis.  It reminds me of my miracle moment during Christmas 2004 when I was on death's doorstep but healed on Christmas day.  I had asked God to send me a bird to let me know He was with me.  I wanted to see a bird fly by my window.  My daughter Scarlett found a picture similar to the one above but the mighty hands were holding a tiny wounded bird.  She wrote me a letter over the picture from the bird to me.  The words reminded me that God always has His hands around us and we must simply trust Him.

I think this is true for each of us.  Our circumstances may be different but we are always facing one trial or another.  God is always in the midst.  It is up to us to surrender to His miracle making power that can work through us if we let it.  We must trust Him that we will always fly again - in His time.  When we take a leap of faith off a cliff we must know that God will either catch us or teach us to fly.  Mother eagles know these truths instinctively.  It is how they teach baby eagles to fly.

Here is a favorite poem I want to share about remembering God is always near.  It reminds us we don't have to shout too loud for help because He is always close:


I need not worry, I need not fear;
The Lord my God is very near.
He holds my hand and makes me glad;
He wipes my tears when I am sad.
He fills my heart with love and peace,
And all my troubles begin to cease.
He points His finger to show the way;
And from His path I will not stray!
                                                                                                 - Vincent Lorenzo

The ending to my miracles story was more beautiful than I could have imagined.  20 minutes before midnight on Christmas day I was healed.  And the day before - God didn't just send one bird flying by my window.  He sent a flock of birds.  He also sent me birds through many family and friends.  Everywhere I looked birds were coming at me.  It was a much bigger miracle than I had asked for.  That's how God works.  After all, He DID create the universe.

I still find blue butterflies each day!  They come from many unexpected places and people.  Joy comes with them.  The only way to capture a miracle is to believe in one.  Do you believe?  If miracles are possible for one they are possible for all.

I wish you all days filled with the miracles YOU are looking for.

Have a heavenly day!


Saturday, August 15, 2009

Blue Butterfly #3 - Let A Smile Be Your Umbrella

"God shall supply all your needs according to His riches in glory."  -  Phillipians 4:19

I love rainy days.  The earth is washed and it gives our souls a chance to be washed also.  On rainy days we are often forced to change plans and to be still.  It is a good time for reflection as we busy ourselves with the tedious "stuff of life" that we easily avoid when we are too busy doing other "stuff."  It started raining this morning so I decided to face some dreaded closets and drawers.  Cleaning out closets actually cleaned out some cobwebs in my mind.  I actually got inspired.  So I headed to my computer to write.

The butterfly picture above was sent to me by my new friend Annie in Nashville, Tennessee.  It arrived on a day I needed to see an extra bit of glory from our Lord.  I was going through a valley at the moment and when I saw this pic I burst into tears.  I was reminded of God's promise to us that when we ask for something he always gives us so much more than we could imagine.  It's funny how God uses other people to bring us angel moments.

Yes, the butterflies continue to come!  The other day I saw my first real live blue butterfly on my back deck.  I rushed inside to grab my I-phone camera and some honey to dab on my hand.  I placed a tiny flower petal next to it hoping it would light on my hand.  It came within inches but flew away as I clicked my camera.  I just knew it was Johnny saying hello.  Also, just an hour ago my TV turned itself on and freaked me out.  I figured that was Johnny too.  After all - it's football season again!  Any day is a good day for a miracle.

What miracle are you looking for today?  Keep your eyes wide open and it will appear - often in the most unexpected places.  Maybe you will be a part of someone else's miracle.  Those are the best of all.

Wednesday, July 8, 2009

Blue Butterfly #2 - We Are More Than Conquerors

Here is  a special blue butterfly perching below one of Johnny's proudest moments ever.  His Campbellton High, Florida basketball team had just won the state basketball championship (Johnny is #11.)  I know Johnny's heart was pounding with the feeling of the glory of winning and the feeling of accomplishment which comes with long hard work.  The trophy was a crowning moment that shaped the rest of his life.  I think we all have crowning moments but each with different names.  These are the moments that define us.  It's all a matter of choices.

In the game of life I have found our decisions determine whether we win or lose.  The basketball team is successful when it understands the team rules, the game rules, the penalties and the importance of good strength training.  The players make the decision to commit to do what it takes to win.  No exceptions.  They understand the goal and the price and just do it.

Sounds simple enough.  So why is this so hard for us to do?  Why do we make life so complicated?  What if we approached life as training for a championship game?  Imagine how different our lives would be.  Imagine  what we each could accomplish if we got beyond all our excuses we create for not doing it and just do it!

God tells us in Romans 8:37 we can conquer anything through His power by doing it His way.  He gives us the "rules book."  It's up to us to play the game.  A friend recently reminded me it's all about taking baby steps.  I understand though that it is easier said than done!  I am struggling to move forward right now - through that feeling of trying to get back up when the wind has been knocked out of you.

I have found there is no better place to pray then when knocked to your knees!  But then we have to get back up at some point and keep fighting for the victory.  Johnny taught me to never give up.  It's all about finishing the race no matter who comes in first.

Today I wish for you the strength and the discipline to make all your dreams come true.  I pray that you finish your own race and press on to the prize when you feel like giving in to frustration or impatience.  Keep your focus positive and on things of good report!

Believe you can do all things through Christ who strengthens you.  We indeed are more than Conquerors!  God designed us to be champions.  When we look at ourselves through God's eyes we should see only winners.  Decide today to just do it.  You can if you think you can.

Have a heavenly day!


Tuesday, July 7, 2009

Blue butterfly#1 - I Believe In Miracles

     Last week was my 56th birthday.  It was my first birthday without Johnny.  This was also my first Father's Day without Johnny.  And it was my first Mother's Day without Johnny.  But yet, I know he was here.  Because the butterflies continue to appear each day since he has left.  Some may call it coincidence.  I call it miracles.

I have always believed that "whatever the question - love is the answer."  Now I see living proof that love can transcend everything, even the veil between heaven and earth.  I understand what God meant now when He promised "where two or more agree in His name - it is done."  There is an extraordinary power in "soulmate love."  What I have come to discover is that what unlocks this power is BELIEVING.  Johnny believed he could send them.  I believe I will find one each day.  Together we believed we could make a miracle.

And so the blue butterflies arrive every day,  in many different forms and often through many people.   I had a revelation the other night in the wee hours of the morning.  I have been struggling through writer's block and trying to find my voice again after finishing the last chapters of "Johnny's Journey To Victory."  I know I have a story to tell but a seismic shift has been taking place inside me as God repositions me to tackle the world alone, while pointing me to my new purpose. Where will blue butterflies lead me?  Lately I've been walking in circles.  Then in "the twinkling of an eye" when I finally got still,  God whispered to my heart.  He told me to follow the butterflies.

I realized that each blue butterfly I find has it's own story which is woven into my day.  I have spent the last few months looking for stories that are right before my eyes.  I was blind but now I see that miracles are always around us.......waiting for us to blink .  Waiting for us to believe.  In the bible, every miracle Jesus performed was done after He asked them "Do you believe?"

And so I got my I-phone out and started snapping all the pictures of blue butterflies that are filling up the house around me.  I got a brainstorm about how I could send them to my blog through the phone.  So now I can't wait to share them with you one by one.

So here is my first butterfly to share with you.  I found it when I went to visit my Sunday school teacher Shirley Howell in the hospital.  It is actually a glass plate that was in the window at the gift shop in Baptist Hospital downtown Jacksonville.  Shirley had just been through a grueling surgery.  

I realized how very precious my sweet teacher is to me.  I am sure each of us has a "Shirley" in our lives.  They are the quiet and faithful ones who love us unconditionally and never give up on us.  Shirley has been a teacher and a friend for over a decade.  She has watched me go through many trials and tribulations.  She has seen me make bad decisions.  She has seen me triumph.  But through it all she has been there for me.  Our special times together have often been afternoon coffees and quick lunches.  During those moments together she has listened to me and offered advice when I asked for it.  And always, she has prayed in that soft , sweet, whispering voice that can only come from a humble spirit.

I always got the sense that she believed in me to always come through victorious.  She has shared her own lessons she has learned and the power of trusting God through everything.  What a wonderful witness she is.  She is a classic example of how to live one's faith.  She teaches without preaching.  Her life is a living prayer.

I pray for her kind of strength in my everyday walk.  I ask God to help me love others in that unconditional way.  Even when I miss Sunday school she is waiting with a big smile and hug each time I return.  She never chides me for being gone.  She is always simply glad when I am back.

If there is a Shirley in your life then take the time today to stop and appreciate her.  Give her a call.  Write her a letter.  Send her a card.  Go visit her.  Don't wait for a crisis to realize how much she has blessed you.  Here is a poem someone gave me that I dedicate to my Shirley.  I hope you will pass it on to YOUR Shirley - whatever her name is:

You Are One of the Strongest Women I Know

Strong women are those who know the road ahead

will be strewn with obstacles, but they still choose

to walk it because it is the right one for them.

Strong women are those who make mistakes, 

who admit to them, learn from those failures,

and then use that knowledge.

Strong women face the daily trials of life,

sometimes with a tear, 

but always with their heads held high

as the new day dawns.

- Brenda Hager

I invite you to join me on my new quest to follow the butterflies.  I am excited about the marvelous people and places and lessons they will lead us to.  I will leave you today with a prayer you can pray for your own journey.  Take a moment to open your bible and look up the verses I include.  This will wash you in the wisdom of His truth as you spend just a quick quiet moment with our Father:

A Butterfly Prayer:

Most gracious and Heavenly Father,  I ask You to be with me today, as always.  You have promised us in Joshua 1:9  that you are with us wherever we go.  You have commanded us to be strong and of good courage - to not be dismayed - to not be afraid.  You have instructed us to read your words day and night so they may be planted in our hearts.  You have told us that this is the secret to our success and prosperity.

Lord, I thank you for loving me and planting strong women in my life, to remind me of your strength that waits inside each of us to be unleashed.  I thank you that through Your power there is nothing that can happen today that You and I can't handle together.

Today I will follow Your light and share the light with others to spread joy, and peace, and love everywhere I go.  Sure goodness and mercy will follow me all the days of my life!

Have a heavenly day!


Tuesday, May 12, 2009

I Carry Your Heart With me

"I would have lost heart, unless I had believed." - Psalm 26:13

i carry your heart with me by E. E. Cummings

i carry your heart with me(i carry it in
my heart)i am never without it(anywhere
i go you go,my dear; and whatever is done
by only me is your doing,my darling)
i fear
no fate(for you are my fate,my sweet)i want
no world(for beautiful you are my world,my true)
and it's you are whatever a moon has always meant
and whatever a sun will always sing is you

here is the deepest secret nobody knows
(here is the root of the root and the bud of the bud
and the sky of the sky of a tree called life;which grows
higher than the soul can hope or mind can hide)
and this is the wonder that's keeping the stars apart

i carry your heart(i carry it in my heart)

How do you mend a broken heart? How do you turn pain into joy? How do you smile when you want to cry? How do you find answers to questions that seem to have no solutions? It is in the stillness that God speaks to me and leads me to the knowing that the answers lie within the heart and all is well all the time.

God has led my soul through a valley of quiet in the last several months. He knows my spirit needed rest after the tumultuous events that led to me letting go of Johnny's hand so God could lift him into heaven. The hardest words I have ever said in my life were the last words I said to Johnny, "It's OK to go."

Those were also the bravest words I ever said. The prospect of traveling alone through the rest of my life without my soul mate was frankly, frightening. Johnny had always been my protector. He always had my back. But I knew the greatest act of our love was to calm his fears of leaving. It was that moment of stillness that e.e. cummings describes "when the dance turns."

This morning I happened upon that quote and went in search of the whole poem. I didn't find it but I found the poem above which had even more significance to me. I realized that the grace of God has taught me how to find a place for my eternal love for Johnny. I have found that love can live on transformed by simply finding a new home - a new place in my heart that I never knew existed. Johnny lies tucked away within every moment of joy I discover, because i carry his heart with me, inside my heart.

This had been the great dilemna. I did not want to leave him behind. I knew I had to move on. But instead I feel like I have been walking in circles. Now I realize even the circles had a purpose. God was slowing me down long enough to understand that true love never dies, and that it can be transformed in the twinkling of an eye. It's ok to keep walking.

The beauty of these moments have been the blue butterflies that continue to delight me with their appearances almost daily. They have kept my heart hopeful that Johnny is still with me and guiding me in different ways. They have reminded me of God's love which manifests to us all in a million different ways - if we just take the time to stop. If we just take a moment to believe in miracles.

I think that God is working inside me to bring me back to a place where I look at the world through the eyes of a child. I gasp with wonder at the simple things that are the greatest treasures. I look for the good in everything and everyone. It is a happy place to be. It is learning to dance in the rain alone because in my heart, I know that I am never really alone.

God and His angels are with me in every moment. And Johnny has never really left me. He is in a different realm that I cannot see with my eyes. But my heart sees him and understands that he is in the best place of all. When I close my eyes I can always find him in my dreams.

When people ask me how I am doing lately, I now tell them, (as I point upward) "I'm doing fine because I know where Johnny is and I know who he is having supper with tonite!"

Thanks to all of you for your love and concern for me and for Scarlett with your cards and letters and phone calls and visits. We appreciate your love. It has lifted us up on wings and helped us to fly through the clouds to the rainbows that wait for us. I know Johnny is smiling down from heaven with a heart full of thanks for watching over us. It delights me that he has sent blue butterflies through all of you in different ways. I know that he would wish each of you the joy of living life with eyes wide open and loving every moment.

Have a heavenly day!


Friday, March 20, 2009

Join me On The Journey!

"Weeping may endure for a night, but JOY comes in the morning." - Psalm 30:5

One month ago today I looked into my soulmate's eyes and kissed him one last time before he left this earth. The path we had shared together for 33 years, came to an end the way it had begun - with gazing into each other's eyes and feeling the fire of love. Now I begin a new journey alone - except for the blue butterflies that accompany me each day, to remind me of the joy to be found in every moment. My sweetheart Johnny had promised me he would send me the butterflies if there was any way possible, to let me know he was watching over me from heaven. I have been finding them almost every day in many different forms.....books, pictures, signs, plaques, keychains, notepads, journals, statues etc.

I think I have found them because I look for them. It is as simple as that. They bring me such delight when I discover them. It occurred to me that such is our quest for joy that each of us seek each day. Joy is always waiting around the corner to be found in the life of every person. Even in the midst of storms that surround us we can always choose to dance in the rain. When we can come to understand that God is with us in every moment, we can have the kind of faith that believes that if we trust Him - everything is always working towards our greater good. Faith always leads us to rainbows after every storm.

I have had to put "feet to my faith" this past month, as I let go of Johnny and released him into God's hands. Now here are major trust issues! How do you trust God when our earthly eyes cannot see the void your beloved has disappeared into? How can you breathe a sigh of relief and believe they are ok? This is especially hard for a nurturer such as myself, who has spent so many years tending to Johnny's every need, and making his happiness my greatest priority. The greater question do I stop missing him?

In these times when no earthly answers are available to me, the only choice I have, is to turn to God. I know the only thing that can sustain me is the joy I find in Him. I put on a happy face in the morning, before I can think about the realities I face during the day. I choose my own reality, which is based in the truths of God's Word. His word tells me that finding joy will be my greatest strength. And so, blue butterflies are the symbol of the joy I seek each day. I live in search of blue butterfly moments and keep my eyes on the Lord so that He can lead me to my purpose I was created for.

I'm not sure how long the butterflies will continue to appear. But I know that joy will always be waiting, and in every moment I find it, I will think of blue butterflies and Johnny.

I invite you all to join me on the new journey in search of everyday ways to find the joy that waits for each of us! We don't have a second to waste. I chose Psalm 30 to begin my new blog journey with because it bears an important message for all of us. It is a song of praise written for all of us who have known the despair of suffering in our own personal pits, who have cried out to God to be rescued, and the joy of being saved by God's grace. It illustrates the importance of living in joy and lighting up the world around us. The last 2 verses are the song my soul now sings:

"You have turned my mourning into dancing; You have put off my sackcloth and clothed me in gladness, to the end that my glory may sing praise to You and not be silent. O Lord my God I will give You thanks forever." - Psalm 30:11-12