Coat of Arms by Zack Mayo

Today I am sharing something Zack wrote.  It was one of his last assignments for fifth grade.  The accompanying picture is the shield he drew to go along with it.  His principle, Robin Hamilton, sent it to us with his report card when he was in critical condition in Chapel Hill.  We desperately needed to see it that day. Zack, on a ventilator, was not able to speak. Doctors were not hopeful. In reading this, his voice was heard loud and clear and gave us strength for the journey ahead. Now, with him gone, it strengthens me even more.

Be blessed.

Coat of Arms

By Zack Mayo

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There are a lot of things you probably do not know about me. You might know that I live in a family of four with my mom, dad and little brother. But, those are just things on the outside. I am going to tell you about things on the inside.

My shield is outlined in blue because I think it is an audacious color and I like to be audacious most of the time. I also used it because it starts with a B. The letter B stands for brave and I am very brave and will help people with the things that you need to be brave to do.

The big M in the middle of my shield represents my last name. My last name means a lot to me because I love my family and care a lot about them. I help them when they’re in need and comfort them in hard times. The “M” is also very important because it represents my loved ones.

The golden cross inside of it represents that I am a Christian and that I love to go to church. It is gold because the color gold is a very bright color and the color of great things. I also like to encourage people to go to church.

The circle on my shield represents that I like my life to keep on going. I like to try new things every day and I want my life to keep going and going forever. That is why I put a circle on my shield.

I put a golden star on my shield because I like to be a shining star in everything. It’s golden because the color gold stands out and I like to stand out and for everything I make to stand out. It also represents that I like to be the star in most everything.

Well, that’s just about everything that makes me the person that I am. Not just on the outside, but the inside too. I plan for my shield to change all throughout my life as I try new things and overcome more and more challenges.

Courage to be Part of a Better Story?

Courage to be Part of a Better Story?
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“These plates may be hot.” she announces as she slides the plates in place.

But, before she rushes off to the next table, we ask the question….the question we always ask.

We explain that we  are going to pray over our food and ask if she has any needs for us to include in our prayer.

Sometimes our particular server may be more surprised than others who have served us. But, our question always interrupts them and causes them to still.

And we always get a prayer request.

Because isn’t everyone is going through something?
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And the size of the something does not matter when it is happening to you or someone you love.

And your something cannot be compared to another.

Because it belongs to you.

Ánd sometimes – sometimes – even the tiniest somethings can break us.

One single mom shares she needs to earn more money to go back to school.

One asks prayer for a mother sick with cancer.

Another asks prayers for a job for a husband.

Another asks for prayer for a marriage.

And they run around a restaurant serving customers and hiding hurts of broken lives. Their stories left untold.

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But, don’t we all have a story?

So – why is our judgment quick and harsh, even when we do not know the story?

Because we think we already know the story?

Or we are so wrapped up in our own story that we so easily forget…

Forget that we are all part of the same story.

Entangled lives connected by moments in time. Good moments. Bad moments. Moments of caring. Moments of ignoring. Moments of love, Moments of hate.

What will we make of these moments that total up to life?

That one moment….that moment you share with another person – another precious soul – that may be may be the very moment that changes the story.

For them.

And for you.

Will I have the courage to be part of a better story?

Will you?

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Things Not to Say to My Friend Sam

cemetaryIt’s ok if people think we’re crazy.

Grief is a solitary journey.

And it changes us and confuses many people around us (mostly because grief is very misunderstood in our society).

And time?

Will passing time every really heal the gaping hole in our hearts?

My friend, Sam, said good-bye to his sister this weekend. She died after a battle with cancer. Her newborn grandchild died just a few short months ago and another grandchild is critically ill after complications from a bone marrow transplant. Sam’s father died nearly a year ago. And while I don’t quite know what to say to him, I absolutely know what NOT to say to my friend, Sam, who has suffered tremendous loss in his family over the past year.

I know because I have learned much from the things people have said to us during our grief journey.

People can and will cause more pain with the things they say after a loss.

When someone you care about is grieving, please don’t minimize that grief by just spouting out words.

Sit quietly with your grieving friend.

Appreciate the silence.

Because silent love is sometimes the very best love.

And words have tremendous power.

And once spoken, they will linger.

Sometimes forever…

If you must speak, I urge you to carefully contemplate your words and pray for guidance.

And never – NEVER – say these things.
(Because people said them to us and it gave us no comfort and sometimes caused more pain.)

1. They are in a better place.
Depending on your beliefs, this may very well be true, but that statement will NOT make them feel better. Grief is about the ones who are left behind mourning the loss of that loved one.

2. They aren’t suffering anymore.
This offers little condolence. Whatever the circumstances of the death, the bereaved person is still suffering

3. It was their time to go
Obviously, it was their time or they would still be here. And just because it is their time does not mean it doesn’t hurt terribly.

4. Everything happens for a reason.
Do not use this cliché!! Really? This is like reading someone’s t-shirt for goodness sake! Speak from your heart and if you don’t know what to say – say I don’t know what to say.

5. God never gives you more than you can handle.
Actually, some people do get a lot more than any one person should ever have to handle and they only get through it with God. Don’t trivialize someone’s grief with a “what doesn’t kill you makes you stronger” mentality.

6. Sometimes God has to get your attention.
We actually had a pastor (not ours) say this to us – as if Zack’s death was caused by something we had done. Grief is sometimes accompanied with much guilt. Don’t cause more guilt by spouting out words to try to explain why something happened.

7. Time will ease your pain.
Time will pass – we all know that. But saying this overused statement or something like “this too shall come to pass”does not bring comfort to the present moment of deep hurt. Just be real. Be you. Don’t grasp some statement out of the air. (But just so you know – the pain is always there because the missing is always there. It just becomes more like a dull ache rather than a fresh, raw cut.)

8. Let me know if you need anything.
Don’t ask! If you REALLY want to help, just show up and do something. Grievers are most likely NOT going to call and ask for help. Encourage your friend to have a list of chores, errands that need to be done so when people ask, they have something concrete to give them. People want to help but often feel helpless and helping your friend compose a list will give others something helpful to do that will make a difference. And DO NOT leave a voice mail or a text saying I’m here if you need me. If you are HERE then be HERE – show up at the front door! Don’t throw messages out and fail to follow through. BE THERE.

9. I know how you feel.
Even if you have experienced a similar loss, you have NO IDEA how someone else feels. And never forget – this moment is not about you and any loss you have suffered – it is about your friend and the deep pain they are feeling at this moment. When we bring the focus to ourselves, we are leaving our friend in a very real way. AND absolutely do not compare their loss to your recent loss of a pet. Pets – I get it – are very much a part of the family, but equating the loss of your pet to the death of a child, mother, father, sister etc. cuts to the core.

10. We may not understand it, but this was God’s will.
Unless you are God, DO NOT use this line.

Grief lasts and has many side effects.

Be a friend.

Be kind.

And be a blessing to all who are grieving this day.

Do you have something to add to my list? Please leave a comment to share so we will all know what NOT to say to those who grieve…

We send our love to the family of Cynthia Hammons. Our hearts hurt with you and we will continue our prayers for all of you.

Go Fish

commercial shrimp boats

commercial shrimp boats

“Shrimping” is one of my favorite things to do.  Being out on the boat, with the smell of salt air and a sea breeze is incredibly peaceful to me.

Shrimping, even on our little skiff, is demanding work.  Our bulky twenty-five foot net is attached with ropes to two heavy trawl doors and a tickler chain.  These doors are pulled along the bottom with the net dragging behind. The tickler chain stretches between “tickling” the bottom causing the shrimp (who live mostly on the bottom) to come up and into our net.

Mayo with the net

Mayo with the net

Our tows only last about a half hour, otherwise the net may get too heavy for us to lift into the boat.  Unlike on commercial shrimp trawlers, we have to set the net and trawl doors and pull it all back in manually.

I am always excited when the net comes back to the boat and wait anxiously to see what we have caught.

Mayo pulls the end rope causing the net to open and release the contents into the “cull tray” – a sort of table/wooden box with a removable end to sort shrimp from all the other creatures and things caught in the net.

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Sometimes we catch debris – old crab pots, cans and bottles, pieces of wood and tree limbs – all of which interferes with catching shrimp in our net.

Once we caught a log so heavy we had to go back to the dock so my Daddy and Mayo could get it out.  Because it was so heavy, they finally had to cut it out and mend the net.  By the time they got the net fixed, we almost decided to give up and go back home but we kept at it and took home a cooler full of headed shrimp (about 50 pounds).

Luke 5:5 “Master, we’ve worked hard all night and haven’t caught anything. But because you say so, I will let down the nets.”

Do I keep letting down my net out – even when it doesn’t seem worth it?

Casting nets for souls can be challenging and sometimes even frustrating work, but it is a work that cannot be ignored.

And he saith unto them, Follow me, and I will make you fishers of men. – Matthew 4:19

Am I excited to cast our net for HIM?

Are you?

Last night our shrimp net was filled with shrimp and jellyfish, crabs of all sizes and numerous fish.  And sorting through our catch can be painful as the jellyfish sting, the crabs pinch and the fish flop around splashing jellyfish on our faces and arms (ouch).

But the prized shrimp we took home made all the obstacles worth it.

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Do I let obstacles stop me from being fishers of men?

HIS word is truth without conditions or exceptions – Jesus didn’t say I may, or I will possibly; He said if we follow Him, He will make us fishers of men. We know Jesus never lied, and His promises are true and sure.

So the challenge is in looking at Jesus’ words in reverse – if we are not fishers of men, we are not following Him.

Be blessed as you cast your net today….a moment at a time.

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A Cup of Joy

My cup ran over with JOY nine years ago today as we welcomed the birth of a precious baby boy.

A baby brother.

Meeting big brother...

Meeting big brother…

Truly, a gift from God.

He is a beacon of light that would draw me from bed in my darkest days of grieving the loss of his older brother.

He is a voice of innocent truth.

He is medicine for a healing heart.

He is a thousand reasons to smile today.

Thank you LORD for this gift. This blessing.

Ps. 23:5b “…my cup runneth over

Happy Birthday Nick!

First Mahi-Mahi he caught 40 miles offshore 6/15/2013

First Mahi-Mahi he caught 40 miles offshore 6/15/2013

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Seeking joy…

This blog entry is a repeat but a hopeful reminder to me as I needed it this week. Be blessed!

this special day was filled with so much joy...

this special day was filled with so much joy…

The secret to joy is to keep seeking God where we doubt He is.  ~ Ann Voskamp

Seeking joy in a world that tears dreams apart.

Seeking joy in a pediatric oncology unit where my child received his death sentence…

Seeking joy in a world that moans and heaves and believes all is lost.

Seeking joy in my grief…

And finding it?

“The LORD is my strength and my shield; my heart trusts in him, and he helps me. My heart leaps for joy, and with my song I praise him.”~ Psalm 28:7

HE is at work in me, when I cannot do it on my own.

And I have learned to take joy in His mighty presence.

Joy is counting my blessings. Big and small.

And sometimes I have to count twice.

Joy overwhelms when my eight-year-old smiles.nick easter 1

Joy overwhelms with his laughter.

Joy overcomes early in the morning when I find my husband on his knees praying.

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Seeing the world through grace-coated glasses…

Joy is an attitude of the heart.

Joy winds its way around scars that will never unknot within me.

We cannot impart to our children what we don’t have.

Joy overwhelms when we teach them to appreciate an extraordinary God in ordinary places.

“You are my hiding place and my shield; I hope in Your word” (Psalm 119:114).

Joy.

Unexplainable Joy._MG_0872_mayofamily

His presence. His touch. The very hugs from my Father have satisfied my desire to know He’s listening. And my appetite is for more of HIM and not just His blessings.

“The joy of the Lord is my strength.” ~ Nehemiah 8:10

It has been, and it will continue to be.

I am praying the same for you as you join us in seeking and finding joy in this world….A Moment at a Time.

We miss him more every day.

We miss him more every day.