Dear Ocean…….



Dear Ocean, thank you once again for making me feel small beside your great waters…for the shells I carried in my hand every single day and the ones I carried back to my home.  Every year I anticipate the serenity that only you can give. I not only anticipate it, I depend on it the other 360 days of the year. The week catapults from Saturday to Saturday and I spend the hours in between cherishing each and every moment – from sunrise  in the mornings, the crashing of the waves during high and low tides, to the sunsets in the evening ended only by yet another walk under the stars.

This is the fifth year by the ocean for us and every single year that planning begins, I have new anticipations and expectations.  Sometimes they come to pass, sometimes they don’t. Regardless of any plans that do not work out the way I had planned? I have yet to leave the sandy shoreline nothing less than thankful, blessed another year to share my happy place with those I love.

Whether it be a day trip or a week-long vacation, the ocean has always been a gathering place for me, a place that beams with laughter and joy just by being in its presence. A place of memories that go back to my teen years with my parents, special times that linger with the present day.  It is also a place that rekindles our ties that get a little frayed during the year.

Family and friends gather with us when they can during our stay. It changes from year to year but the thing that never changes? those that come to be with us… come because they want to spend time with us, the ocean just happens to be an awesome backdrop for our laughter.

This year has been no exception since I have had cousins travel long distances to the same ocean and we were fortunate to live close enough to join them while they were there.  Day trips with our friends and family have been awesome this year too.  Friends that live in neighboring towns, took the time to join us for a day on the beach which always makes our time special every year. This year one of my brothers made a seven hour-long drive from Maryland just to be with us for a couple of days. I had told my brothers how much I wished to see our children enjoy the beach together at least once in my lifetime – preferably before they are all grown up. Another 360 days have come and gone without seeing them gather together again this year. Maybe one day.

As always, vacation week has to be the shortest week of the year, even on Island time. So what do we do? We take lots and lots of pictures, plan our time carefully and try to squeeze as much from it as possible.  Our routine walks on the beach searching for treasure, browsing our favorite gift shops and of course, waiting for that perfect sunrise and sunset.  The ocean never disappoints – not me anyway. I also know that not everyone loves it as much as I do… but I sure do get excited when I am able to share it alongside my friends and family. It may have seemed to others that we had people with us 24/7 on our vacation.. We didn’t. Whether it was meeting us for dinner.. or a day in the sun? Thank you…. for spending time with us. To our new friends we met in the parking lot? What a joy to laugh with you on the beach. It takes them four days of travel, which they have now done for 14 years.. says a lot about the island we have grown to love.

I am already looking forward to our next vacation and I have yet to unpack all of our belongings. There will be lots of sand to shake out of our bags and beach treasures to sort.. but the memories will last so much longer than the sand that I will continue to find for weeks.  I am truly thankful for this past week.  It is my hope that whether you find your place of serenity is at the beach or the mountains, or somewhere in between? find it. cherish it.

Dear Ocean…. I know you miss me already… I miss you too and to my family and friends… I love you as much as the waves in the sea.









Hope Floats


I have always been very fond of the movie “Hope Floats” …. all about returning home and finding that the people who love you, understand you and support you are there just waiting to give you your second wind when you need it – no matter how much time passes.

This week Hope floated nearly 400 miles through the hills of West Virginia and Kentucky all the way to my back door in North Carolina.

I had no idea.

It was a secret kept for over a month despite our chatting online, telephone calls and exchanging snapchats. Even my husband knew…. not a word.

Little did my cousins know how much of a family time deficit I had been in. It helped to talk to them almost daily, yet it was not the same as being with them as I had done in May during our reunion. Just as a child… I always wanted “more time” and leaving them was always more painful than missing them.

I also had no idea that these plans were actually made by my Uncle James, who had made his journey to Heaven only a few months ago. Since I would be celebrating a milestone birthday (the 50th – Sshhhh) He had told his daughter “now you know we have to go down there and surprise neicy for her 50th Birthday in July” so… the promise was made.

And Kept.






Hearing a knock on the back door was odd enough… and Hannah yelling “Mom! you have to come out here”…. okay, to be honest? I had put my shirt on backwards earlier in the day and was in here trying to hurry and fix it before I went to see what all of the racket was about.

Tears. Surprise. SHOCK!

And there they were…an 8 hour drive later.. standing in my back yard with a Birthday Cake and smiles that would light up the darkest of spaces in anyone’s soul.

After we exchanged hugs.. I composed myself. I said “What in the world possessed y’all to take a road trip?!!!!!!

“Well, it was Dad’s idea actually”

There are no words that can describe the love that I felt at that very moment. I cried so hard I could hardly speak…. Hope Floats in tears too. I loved him so… and He always loved me back so good. I just know he had to be smiling.. and probably laughing because they really got one over on me.








And just like that, my week was filled. For the next four days.. my cup ran over. Hope floated in my swimming pool…. laughter and splashing and watching our girls enjoy some cousin time. They have no idea how much we had needed their presence. They were exhausted.. I knew it but they never complained about making that drive for me, and just like the movie quote.. “they’d walk thru fire for me” if it was required. Okay, Mary may have felt a little heat – like fire after she left here looking like a lobster. I am so sorry Mary… I should have watched out for you better.. like I did when you were little! hahhahahha.

I enjoyed them so much… and knew that when I found out they had never watched the Krispy Kreme process or the meaning of “the hot sign is on” I knew exactly where our next adventure would lead us..








When the only thing they could say was “Oh my goodness” I knew it was a success! They will never look at a gas station box of donuts the same. Of course, there had to be coffee involved too. Not a bad way to spend a rainy day.  I think we could have sat there all night, but we had more visiting to do.. after all, we already knew time would pass much too quickly.








My house was full. So was my heart. It’s not that I have been in a depressive state, I haven’t, but I have surely had some loneliness that seemed to loom over this head of mine. I miss my family..every.  single. day. These girls were like lightning bugs twinkling in my darkness. Hope floats in like tiny lights of joy throughout the sunroom and kitchen. I love lots of light and I surely needed some extra! Thank you girls for being my lightning bugs! (or fireflies if you prefer to call them that.

Our children were more like little kids again.. not seniors and juniors and middle schoolers! That alone was pure joy and seemed to give us a little time out from that reality.

There was another goal that week. Rain or shine.. we would take a day trip to the beach. Boy, did it rain and rain.. all the way there. The ride alone was worth it. All of us talking and catching up, loud music and well, I’ll just say it was a whole lot of laughing. (Best medicine for the soul ever!) Did it stop raining when we got there? nope. We set up our spot in the misting rain, I think we all had our own private conversations with God about Him sending us just a little break in the weather. Did I forget to mention He is faithful in all things? Hope Floats in drops of rain. On the beach.






Oh, and just because she was frowning.. Sarah was not mad – the sun was in her eyes.

This was the very first time the three of us gals were on the beach at the same time and we made use of every single moment. We walked on the beach treasure hunting..splashed in the water.. and may or may not have played a few tricks on Jeanette while she was sleeping on her blanket. (beach birds sure do love a trail of cheese crackers!!!!) I could almost hear my Uncle James laughing in the ocean breeze.. I know we made him proud.. If he had been there, He would have been the one to initiate the shenanigans!

I can’t tell you how many times I cried this week.. from laughter or just being full of gratitude, it was countless. I slept very little at night, because I knew they would return from their hotel the next morning and I could hardly wait. We really did make the most of every day we were together, that’s what we do.

I also knew that it was almost over. There would be a time of packing everything up.. getting the sand out of our belongings and them preparing the GPS for the trip back to the mountains. When they were finally loaded into the car and we had said our repeated goodbyes, prayed for a safe trip and just like that..they pulled out of my driveway..Hannah said.. just don’t look back Momma.. don’t watch them drive away and it will be easier. It wasn’t.

I remembered a line from Hope Floats again.. a story about a lovely ant hill that was stepped on and really damaged only to find that all was not lost..the ants had began to rebuild,, get their second wind.. this is the quote that has always stuck with me..

And I said ‘Why do they do it? I’d just give up. I mean, it’s hopeless!’ And my mama said ‘Yeah, you know, if there’s just one of ya. But there’s lots of ants down there. And they’re all relatives. They’re family, just like we are.’ You know? That’s what families are for. That’s why they invented families: so hopeless didn’t get the last word.

That’s right.. hopeless doesn’t get the last word here either. We will continue to encourage one another.. long for more visits.. comfort when needed and laugh when it’s needed even more. Mostly, we will treasure the time and each other.








Our time was fleeting.. just like the sunset leaving the beach, but everyone knows that the sun will come up in the morning… and set in the evening and we will be there for each other in between the two.

Thank you girls for giving me the best early 50th party ever. I love you to the moon and back. Thank you to my dear husband for keeping this a secret for almost an entire month! It has meant so much to me.


“Just give Hope a chance to float up.. and it will”

….. and it may just be waiting at your back door with cake!









The Apron


apronblogThere is never a moment that I cook with this apron that doesn’t bring a warm serving of love. If this particular apron comes out? they know something homemade comes out of my oven. I am not even sure how long I have had this apron? It has to be over 16 years old since I have had it before my daughter was born.

The thing about my apron is that there are many more of them.. scattered throughout my West Virginia hometown. Mine was given to me by my dear Aunt Rosemary (“Moe). I remember when she handed it to me saying… it’s not much, but it’s made with love..tucked down inside a little brown lunch bag. The ladies from her church had made bunches of them to give away and she had saved one for me.

I remember pulling out the apron from that little brown bag and knew in an instant it was special. She was so good at sewing and crafting, I knew it would become one of my treasures. She went on to tell me that my apron was indeed special since it held a little surprise. I searched the pockets – empty. I inspected it carefully and she giggled and said.. “you won’t see the special surprise.. but you will always know it’s in there”. She went on to explain that every one that was made had a prayer cloth carefully sewn into the fabric. Prayers from some of the most loving women on earth I am sure… passed on to other women that will cook for their families and friends.  I have yet to actually figure out the exact placement.. but I can tell you I feel it’s warmth every single time I wear it.

There are trinkets in our lives, and then there are treasures. As I begin preparing our holiday meal, I will proudly wear the apron. I will remember the reason I love it so. Her. and the women that worked so diligently to give something more than cloth. There are many stains now, some of them from mishaps in the kitchen, I am sure there are some tear-stained places.. who knew the apron was good for wiping those too.

I miss her hot rise rolls… her apple crisp and the smell of fresh coffee brewing in her kitchen and her saying “come on in Neicy and sit a spell.” I can only imagine how her family misses her too.

As you count your blessings this year around your own table, I hope you will find a moment to inhale the sweet savor of the things that matter the most to you and never, ever… take one single moment of it for granted.


I’m the Baby… You gotta love me


From the time he could explain? This has been the answer. I was never jealous that he claimed the “Baby” that’s what he was when he entered my life at the age of four. I didn’t really know what his role was other than he was always “too little” to do anything I suggested to our Momma. Can he talk? no, he’s too little. Can he walk? no, he’s too little. Can he play with me? no, he’s too little. My response was.. “then what’s he good for?”  I’m sure Momma giggled at that one. He was always little. He was always “the baby”

Eventually, he did play and toddle along behind me. Always falling down while falling asleep standing up (he fought sleep horribly.. he would give anything for more sleep as an adult!) see… you should have just slept when you could have!

It would become my past time to read to him, big sisters do that right? Only one problem.. I made it a challenge to read everything backwards to him just for fun. “That’s not the way it goes!” he would say. I always replied, “Can you read, no?” just hush and listen to the story. He then proceeded to tattle, to which I always got.. Denise! He is the “Baby” don’t do him that way. (I learned to eye-roll early on)

Things changed somewhat when he became a little older. I was still able to drag him relentlessly through the house by the feet causing carpet burns, put make-up on him when he fell asleep first and always told him that I knew more than he did because I was the oldest and he was still just the “baby.” I will admit that I was a horrible big sister at times… unless anyone else tried to bother him, then I was his bodyguard. I nicknamed him very early from the words “It’s okay Buddy” I can never really bring myself to call him anything else. He was my little Buddy… and I almost always had someone to play with or.. atleast torture.

By the time he was an angry teen LOL … I was almost married off. His time with his friends kept him busy and away from home. I know he was bummed when he learned he had to take some time to be in my wedding. Girl stuff.. who had time for that, but he did and I’m sure he ditched the clothes and sped off as soon as he had the opportunity. Places to go and people to see. Okay, probably trouble to get into for the long weekend.

If I ever mentioned something he had done? It was always the same line with a funny grin.. “I’m the baby.. you gotta love me.” Yeah, Yeah. I used to claim that I could have my head cut off and Momma would assure me that I would re-grow one.. Buddy, on the other hand could stump his toe and she would wonder if he would ever walk again.

In true sibling fashion we always made jokes about who was the favorite, who was the baby (it was always a dumb question, because I already knew) and he never let me forget that I convinced him he was adopted when he was very small, and our parents were just going to wait until he was older to break the news (okay, I still feel a little bad about that one).

I have always given him a hard time about being the “baby”. The truth is… I have taken over Mommas role in that department since she has been gone. Someone has to do it, right? There are days I find myself worrying about mundane things where he is concerned.

Is he getting enough rest to drive that big ole truck…

Is he keeping his head warm in the winter….

Is he safe in the deer stand…

Is he happy….

Is he sad….

Is he taking care of himself….

The list goes on and on.

I am thankful that there are things about being his big sister that I don’t have to worry about..  like.. Is he being a good father to his boys, Is he making his days count with them..or if he is teaching them the important things in a life…

These things I never wonder about.

As we live out our adult lives, there are times that I still feel the need to baby him…and I often do (He can claim the 5th on this one!) There are times that I just get mad at him for the lack of time we get to share together or the weeks that go by without hearing his voice, or texting one word in reply to my paragraph. There are days I wish we could just grab lunch together, or stop by for coffee. It’s funny how that even now if I get on his case too harshly I can still hear the words.. I’m the baby… you gotta love me.

The reason I chose that photo of him and Momma? it  has always been my favorite.. yeah it reeks “look at me! told you I’m still the baby”  It is also her “happy” .. He had made the eight-hour drive to my Uncles for hunting season.. and she made the drive just to see him in between his hours in the woods. Only for the baby! AHA!

lets just see it again.. awe.







Okay.. that was funny.. I”m still a meanie of a big sister at times.

I am sure that the time is just going to speed up even faster as adults.. I”m still going to fuss at him for not calling or texting enough.. or visiting enough…. yep. and I”m sure once we do get together again.. he will just remind me how I have to love him because he is the baby.

I got it.

but I will always be the Big Sister.. the one that will love you unconditionally, pretend that I am the wisest..fuss at you when you need it..step into mommas role and always be your boo!

Sorry.. not much you can do about it.

You are the baby.. and I have to love you.





It was Sophomore year..another first day, and another year of expanding the wings. I find it difficult to blog about school while the year is still in progress. There are so many things to be taught, places to get to and through. In reflection, there is something about looking in the rear view mirror.. seeing the road behind you that gives the wind a chance to push you forward.

It is a new beginning.

The year began with less of a struggle. She was no longer the newbie and at least she had gained some familiarity in her surroundings. There were a few faces recognized from the previous year, but that was not a guarantee that there would be connections.

Be patient.

Be yourself.

Be positive.

The season was soon to change. Fall was upon us. I knew that it would bring Fall sports, bonfires and more involvement than the previous year.

I have often spoke of “lifelines” – those people who enter our lives that appear out of the ashes when we need them most. I prayed for them. (ok maybe I begged a little too?)  I knew that if she could just  focus on the things that interested her, the rest would start to fall into place.

It was a slow start, but joining FFA and getting the Animal Science class she wanted seemed to spark a little more interest than she would even realize. New people. YIKES! The days slowly went from mediocre to – “I look forward to my class.”  Lifeline. YES!   Not only did she enjoy the class but actually became involved in other projects relating to it.

I was encouraged.

So was she.

Finding a little happy in the Sophomore year was major for my Momma heart. The first semester passed by quickly. School was in full swing, busy days and busy evenings.

Then I realized that something else was taking place. The Lifelines I had prayed for were not only academically…but the social aspect was improving.

My high school years were full of friends. I had many great ones and there was always the best friend, so it was something I wanted her to experience. I encouraged her to be friendly.

She doubted.

I prayed.

Sophblog2There were days that we felt we had hit that old familiar slump. Some days we had to remind ourselves that God cared about the smallest of things in our day-to-day. He does not change.

Just as Winter break came and went, so came the next semester. New teachers, new students.

That semester was one of those Lifelines.

She made more friends than the last year and a half. More importantly, I think she learned to “be a good friend” to those around her. The quiet evenings became full of busy chatting and planning the next friend thing.

Her .. with Her Friends.

The Best Friend…..(whose Momma had prayed the same prayer) Yeah.. that was you God! He knows how us girls need a bestie!




So, no the year was not without incidents, hard days and different struggles – every year will bring its own.

We pressed on toward the end… more than ready for Summer!

Lastly……………a picture really does speak a thousand words. There are many photos that tug at my Momma heart… but I think this one has made me smile through happy tears the most. It’s kinda special seeing some of those Lifelines in person.

Sophblog4It reminds us both of these three truths…

God is Good

God is Good to Me

God is Good at Being God.


Jeremiah 29:11New International Version (NIV)

11 For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.





Returning to My Corner



“Ding… Ding” is sometimes the most welcome sound that an exhausted fighter can hear. In the boxing realm – it means time to return to your own corner, catch your breath, listening to your coach and get ready to go into the next round.

Who in the world knew that I would enjoy this heavyweight bag and gloves so much? My husband was not sure it was a real request at first, but.. it was, and I do use it actually. (more so when it is cooler weather)

I grew up around boxing. I watched my little skinny brother in the ring. (I have to mention here, that his first fight was a “TKO” in less than a minute…yeah we were pretty excited.. and my Momma was very relieved) So, yes.. I’m familiar.

Relating to that “TKO” today? I often find myself on the receiving end.. not pretty for anyone that lives in my space. Leaving me dazed and confused for a bit…. I hit the mat, face down…. and I hear the counting knowing full well? I’m out for the entire eight.   In my little world, that usually means a night of no rest and feeling the sucker punch the rest of the next day. The only thing to do? process the bruised pride, shake it off and try to stay on your feet the next time.

I wished I could say that it were that simple. Maybe in some way it is? but it’s still a process that has to be battled.

Ding…. Ding…

I retreat.

From my corner I can faintly hear my coach… His voice is not as loud when I am struggling to hear over my own breathing.

You can do this

Catch your breath

It’s going to be okay

Keep your guard up

I’m right here…………..

I am reminded of my coaches’ word…

Isaiah 40:31

Yet those who wait for the LORD Will gain new strength; They will mount up with wings like eagles, They will run and not get tired, They will walk and not become weary.

For my non-boxing readers? A boxing match is 12 rounds with 3 minutes each… that can seem like a lifetime, and so it does when your heart hurts, your are frustrated and you are dog-tired in dealing with things you want to see change.

One round at a time. 3-minute rounds. and you just dig in to make it to the 12.

Every battle will be different, every opponent will be different, but my Coach will not change. He doesn’t give up on me when I am all of the above and more.

He wraps me in His robe.

He refreshes my soul with life-giving water.

He massages my heart

He works my corner.

Each new day will hold its own battle. It’s life. and it keeps coming until the end of our rounds. I’m not always going to be successful in getting the “knockout” – sometimes it’s going to be  a weary 3 minutes. Sometimes.. that bell is going to ding before I am finished pounding away at the hard stuff.

The bell is there for my own good.


Settle down

Fight a good fight

I wish I could say that I never want an unclean fight…..I am being courageously honest here. I want to punch back. kidney punch and take some low jabs…I want them to feel the pain I feel, until they are sorry…. I tell my Coach this is the strategy I want to take.

He doesn’t disqualify me from the fight.

He coaches me by His word, it is up to me to take the advice.

I really want to finish well. No one finishes well by fighting dirty. I already know this. I want to be able to shake hands in the end and be okay with how I fought.

We all want the TKO… knock out our troubles in a matter of minutes and dance in the ring with the win… who doesn’t love that kind of victory? Maybe we learn more from going the full 12 rounds.

The truth is.. we all get sucker-punched in this life.. and man does it hurt! We must listen for the bell and return to our corners.. listen to our Coach… strategy for a clean win – finish well.

Rhythm is everything in boxing. Every move you make starts with your heart, and that’s in rhythm or you’re in trouble.” – Sugar Ray Robinson

That’s right… the heart.

I really wish I still had that video of my brother’s first fight. I remember the cheer of the crowd..people saying “Did you see that? Did you see that? I also remember how proud I was of him that night… and I am reminded.. if I listen carefully to my coach? maybe I can have a clean fight.. and finish just as well.

I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith. – Timothy 4:7

Teachable Moments by the Sea


BeachBlog3_peThere are always “moments” that I take away from our annual beach vacation, often more than I can write about in one blog. There are more pictures on my cameras than I will ever post, and more photographic moments that I have embedded in my mind other than my camera phone or my Nikon. It is when I reflect and scan through the photos that my memories are enlightened to the simple things that sometimes tugged a little more on my Momma heartstrings.

I think this may have been the first year that my daughter and I spent this much time alone just sitting in the surf. We are busy beachcombers! always looking for treasures.

This year, the treasures were not always in the form of shells or sea glass, or even the endless walks on the shoreline – but a stolen moment that she and I shared together…observing the people around us.

I was content to sit and leisurely talk about the day and the excitement of her having some friends to visit in the next few days. Ahhhh! summer as a teen with your girlfriends laughing, enjoying every possible moment.

Time seemed to stand a little more still on this particular day for the both of us.

Standing on the edge of the surf we watched a Dad and his son, maybe about the age of three, tossing his bright sand bucket into the surf and waiting for its return. The little fellow anxiously ran to the sand bucket, scooped it up and handed it back to his Dad. Every single time the bucket left the little boys hands.. he giggled and clapped his hands. It seemed to be a repetition of the same over and over.. yet, the response was always the same. giggle..laughter.. repeat.

Several times the sand bucket was almost washed out of reach, but no matter – he waited patiently for the return. My daughters’ first reaction was “Aww, Momma look! He is such a happy little boy!

I remembered that we had purchased a “wave runner” ball more than a couple of years ago – I carried it in my beach bag every summer where it became stationary, no one ever actually played with it anymore.

I asked her to go get it from our bag and bring it down to the surf, I figured the little boy was having so much fun with that sand bucket, that he would actually enjoy the ball. The only problem with that idea? I had also asked her to take it over and ask if they would like to have it. It’s not that she didn’t want to give it to them, but that it was out of her comfort zone to approach someone she didn’t know to offer a gift – even if it was just a ball.

She gained some courage and offered the ball. The Dad said thank you, but you know it’s probably going to get lost? She told him it was fine, we no longer used it and thought he would enjoy it.

We watched the little boy play with the ball for a very long time. Same response.. giggles while he scooped up the ball and clapping his hands.

My daughter commented how happy that little boy was just playing with his Dad. No matter how hot it was, and how exhausting the same repeated action had taken place? The one thing that never changed was the child’s excitement over that ball.

We talked about the fact that the ball was just a ball, but the little boy was one of the happiest children we had seen all day. I asked her if she noticed anything “different” about him. She just chatted away about how that he was just happy and having a great time.

She didn’t notice that the child had Downs Syndrome. She saw “happy”.  It’s not that she wasn’t aware, she was.

Happy means different for all of us. It’s in the smallest of things that bring us the biggest joys… chasing a ball in the surf, spending the time with our children – even when we are tired and exhausted. Dealing with obstacles yet focusing on the joy of a moment.

Moments.. that’s all we have sometimes.

The sea has a way of making me feel small in a very large world, calm in the midst of storms swirling around us. Thankful in a world full of so much ungratefulness.

I whispered a prayer for the little family in the surf that day. I petitioned on their behalf for many more moments of giggles and laughter.

Teachable moments by the sea…? I think for that moment, the teacher in this Momma became the student. As for my own child… I witnessed the joy of giving through her eyes.

” It’s not how much we give – but how much Love we put into giving” – Mother Teresa