I threw a good old-fashioned temper tantrum a few weeks ago. It was one of those kinds that involved stomping around, shutting the door (a little hard), throwing myself on the bed, and sobbing. I don’t know what got into me. Maybe it was the sibling rivalry between my oldest son and daughter, or the baby crying, or feeling stressed about work, feeling overwhelmed by what is all going on…any of it.
I laid on my bed with my hands covering my face, crying, and telling the Lord the following:
“I’m done. I give up. I can’t do this. I don’t want to work. I don’t want the kids to yell. I am tired. I know You are in control, but down here, I’m losing my control! It’s Yours, take it!”
I needed to admit that I couldn’t do it all on my own. I’ve been feeling like a circus clown who is juggling way too many things, and trying to do so with a smile. I know that my life is a piece of cake compared to so many, and yet, I needed the world to stop that night. I needed that moment where the Father whispered to me, “It’s okay. You don’t have to do it all on your own.”
Do you feel that way at times?
When I woke up the next morning, I immediately began thinking about the fit I threw. During this time, the following verse came to me:
I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want. – Philippians 4:12
These boldly, beautiful words written by Paul during his imprisonment have stayed with me since that tearful night on my bed. These words serve as a challenging reminder for me to seek peace within contentment, and not perfection.
Perfection and contentment intermingle at times. Perfection seems to linger in the shadows of contentment, and because of this, peace can get lost. To be content all of the time is very challenging, so why do we make it harder on ourselves by expecting perfection as well?
My challenge is to walk each day with the following thoughts:
No one expects perfection.
Each day offers the choice to pursue peace over perfection.
It’s easy to feel overwhelmed, so take steps to prevent this.
Contentment is hard to reach, but worth striving for.
God finds us in our messes so that we can learn from His message.
If I expect my children to be content with what they have, I need to model this as well.
Conversely, if I desire my children to choose peace over perfection, then I should do the same.
Faith is living each day knowing that the Lord is in control.
What are your challenges? How do you handle lack of contentment, perfectionism, and feeling overwhelmed? I’d love to hear your thoughts!
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Last weekend, over 1,000 cyclists converged onto the small farming community of East Prairie, MO (population 3,176) for the annual Tour de Corn cycling event. This was my first time riding in this tour. I’ve been told that if I wanted to complete a century ride (100 miles in one day), then this was the one to start with. The landscape is flat and the ride is well supported.
The town of East Prairie is about 4 1/2 hours away from where I live. My friend and I enjoyed coming up on a bus loaded down with bicycles and cyclists.
This group of riders happens to be from where I live. They travel together, camp out, and ride in the various cycling events. As you can see from the picture, they appeared to be having a very good time on that bus!
The night before the ride, it seems all of the townsfolk were celebrating on the main street with food, music, vendor booths, and carnival games for kids.
I don’t live in a small town, and not even sure I would enjoy it all of the time, but there’s something special about these tiny communities. Everyone seemed to know each other. They all were happy, laughing, and socializing. I could tell how excited they were to have so many riders from various places in their tiny town. The town water tower was quite a neat site against the backdrop of the setting sun.
One vendor I met takes bicycle chains and makes jewelry out of it. Her idea came from the Tour de Corn. She saw a sign stating, “Thank you for the $1,600”. The sign was being held by a woman alongside the road cheering on the riders. She stopped and asked the woman about the sign she was holding, and learned that the $1600 was a portion of the funds raised from the ride, and it helped out children in the community.
She went home with the desire to earn money and donate part of her proceeds to promoting healthy living. She was retired, kids were out of the house, and she had the time and ability to help. While watching her friend take apart a bicycle chain, she thought, “I could make jewelry out of that!” Soon after, she created Chainspirations. The link to her website iswww.chainspirations.com Check it out!
The next morning we got up early, and headed out on the ride. I started off with a quick pace,and felt really good. At the first rest stop, there was even fresh corn to eat, and some live music.
The terrain is quite different from my usual rides. I’m used to hills, valleys, and lots of trees. I enjoy the sights around my area of the state, but I gotta say, this part of Missouri was pretty as well. I especially enjoyed the corn fields, sunflower fields, and a field with buffalo on it!
The first sixty miles felt great. My pace was faster than usual, and I was staying very well hydrated. This all changed as I was entering the last forty miles or so of the ride. The route turned us back towards East Prairie, and straight into a strong headwind. With the high heat index (I later learned that another rider’s Garmin showed it as 102), and the strong wind, I felt as though I had hit a wall.
It was all I could do to keep pedaling. It was during this time that I realized my battle to finish was not about the wind, the heat, loss of feeling in toes, and numb hand, but more about the sheer willpower it took for me to stay on the bike. I’ve never faced that kind of wall before. I’ve gotten frustrated on the bike, but not to the point of wanting to cry, quit, and get off the bike.
During this time, the endless fields of green and yellow that I admired earlier became my annoyance. All I could see were fields; fields upon fields. There was no end in sight. I kept telling myself, “You can do this. You can do this.” My legs felt good, but the rest of my body wanted so badly to stop. Each mile seem to be longer than the one before. Huge trucks would pass me which created wind gusts full of dust, which would in turn just make me mad.
I felt the emotion of anger while out there. I had never felt anger to this level while on the bike, and it was hard work to pull myself out of it. I had to force myself to keep downing the fluids as I knew that at this point in the ride, it was crucial for me to stay hydrated. To say I was miserable is an understatement.
It was also during this time that I began to think about my kids. I would not want them to give up something they have worked for; especially right at the finish line, and they would not want me to do the same. I also thought about Jesus carrying the Cross, and how He did not put it down and walk away. I thought about His strength and began reciting the following verse:
I can do all things in Christ who gives me strength. Philipians 4:13
Soon after reciting this, I started noticing that on every section of electrical wiring between poles above the road, a single Red-winged Blackbird would land and start calling out. It felt as if these birds were cheering me on; as if the Lord sent them to meet me at each section of the road. I thought about how He cares for birds of the air, His eye is on the sparrow, and surely, He cares for His children.
As my friend and I turned the last corner and rode the last few miles into town, my exhaustion and anger dissipated. We even stopped to take a “corny” picture (no pun intended). It was the end of a long day in the saddle. It was the completion of my very first century ride. It was the finale of what ended up being more about mental endurance than physical endurance. It was also the recognition of how amazing it is to have spiritual endurance.
One hundred miles on a bike in one day is hard, but I did it. It was a day spent in recognition of how blessed I am to be physically able to complete this task. It was more than about the corn fields, small towns, miles, bikes, and flat roads. It was one more day of life that I could lean on my God through prayer, recitation of verses, and His sending of some little Red-winged Blackbirds to cheer me on.
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Last weekend I went for a ride with the local cycling club. It was a cool June morning, and although the clouds were a little ominous, they appeared to be far off from where we were. They were majestic and huge; a fantastic site to look at when riding. The group I ride with was about 20 miles or so into our ride when the clouds turned ugly, dark, and started to dispense some raindrops on us.
At first, the rain felt refreshing. I’ve gotten over my fear of riding in the rain, so the fresh cool drops were a welcome guest. Soon the few sprinkles turned into big drops which in-turn turned into buckets of cold rain. Thunder started roaring, and ahead of us great big bolts of lightning started to strike the Earth.
Everyone seemed to increase their speed, and pretty soon, I was being passed by a few other cyclists. I couldn’t help but notice the smiles on the faces of those pedaling by me. It seems storms tend to give way to an adrenaline rush, a slight fear, and the notion that we are all a little crazy for being out there on the road during thunderstorms.
The more we rode, the closer the storm seemed to come. It was all around us. We had to ride into it in order to navigate our way out of it. I know that might not make much sense, but we knew if we turned back, the storm would eventually find us again.
As we drew closer to the flashing lightning, the rush I had been feeling turned to fear. I began to pray, “Lord, we need a hedge of protection around us.” I repeated this prayer for the next six or seven miles. In that moment of darkening skies, rolling thunder, blasting lightning strikes, and pounding cold rain, I realized that without my prayers and the God I believe in, I was nothing. I was nothing but a speck in the middle of a mighty storm. I was vulnerable. I was small. I was clipped onto a bike and all I could do was pedal on until I found shelter or a way out of the storm.
I was at the storm’s mercy, and trust me, it was not a merciful storm.
After figuring out where we believed the storm was heading, we were able to cut out about ten miles of road and head back to where we started. Once out of the storm, I began to relax. The smile came back on my face, and I realized that we were going to be okay. Riding through the storm was frightening, but a little exhilarating. Once back in the cycling group, we began to swap storm stories, and all seemed very thankful to be off the bike.
I needed to ride through that storm. I needed to feel vulnerable, fearful, and in need of mercy. I needed to call out to Him for protection. I needed the reminder that I am very small in context to this mighty world we live in.
I also needed the reminder that storms of life come up suddenly, and without much warning. When in the middle of the crashing sounds of fear, and the strong waves of pain, I need to hang on, ride through it, and call to the Lord in prayer.
When the storms of life are merciless, and bigger than what we feel we can handle, may we embrace the peace that comes from knowing the One who carries us through them.
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Hello there. How are you? No, really…how are you? I’m sure you are tired, worried, overwhelmed, desperately seeking normalcy, and wondering when your child will get better. I hope my words bring you encouragement.
When I was a sick child, I remember being cared for by adults. I remember the adults that surrounded my bedside whispering encouragement into my ears. I remember never waking up alone in my hospital room, never wondering if I would be taken care of, and never imagining that I was not loved.
My memories are mostly like flashes from a movie screen. These moments are frozen in time. I knew I was in an immense amount of pain, but I don’t remember the pain. I don’t remember the struggle to survive. I don’t remember my body being ravaged by infection. I don’t remember these moments at all.
I do, however, remember the love I felt in the room. I remember the gentle rubbing of my arms, the softness of someone holding my hand, the brushing away of my hair from my eyes, and the kisses on my face. I remember these things.
I remember receiving cards, letters, balloons, flowers, stuffed animals, and just about anything else that would bring a smile to me. I remember waking up with my parents there….all of the time. Even when I was in and out of consciousness, I remember them.
I also remember my parents never showing their fear, despite being filled with it. I remember how they showed great strength; even though their bodies wore the trappings of exhaustion. I remember their caring hands, their patience with my recovery, and their filling-in to meet my daily needs. I remember being told I was a “little trooper”, and that my will to live was stronger than any illness. I remember my mother giving me baths in the hospital, and my dad holding my hand as often as he could.
Please, dear parent, please know that your presence is precious to your sick child. Your bravery is beautiful, and your courage is contagious. Don’t stop fighting for your child. Don’t stop asking questions about treatment options. Don’t stop whispering sweet words of hope into your child’s ears. These words will resonate deep down in your child.
Tell your child how much you love them. Tell your child that he or she is the bravest little one you have ever seen. Tell your child stories of healing. Tell your child that he or she is a superhero. Give your child the hope that you are clinging to. Pray for your child; pray over child; and ask others to join in your prayers.
Your child knows you are there. He or she knows it, even if not awake. Don’t forget that. You are the most significant person in his or her life. You matter. Please, dear parent, please know how much you mean to your sickly child.
Hang in there. You are in a situation that you never dreamed you would be in. You would give anything to trade positions with your baby, but you cannot. I know how hard that must be for you.
Dear Parent of a Sick Child, get some sleep. Ask for help. Take care of yourself. You are a superhero. You are a trooper. Your will is strong. Don’t forget these things.
Your child needs you.
Bless you, dear parent, bless you. Thank you for striving for the best care for your child. Thank you for holding his or her hand in the middle of many sleepless nights. Thank you for putting on the bravest face you can during this difficult time.
Dear Parent of a Sick Child, what you are doing matters. Your strength, your wisdom, your love, your hope, your courage, and your presence are the greatest gifts you can give your child. Don’t forget that, and don’t be discouraged.
Your child will remember your presence more than the pain.
Author’s note: I’m reposting this piece that I wrote last year for Father’s Day. My dad is always there for family when they need him to be. He’s a wonderful grandfather to my children. If I call him early in the morning because one of the kids is sick, he’ll hop in car and drive the 40 minutes or so to get to town so that he can help with childcare, transportation, or whatever else needs to be done. He is deeply loved by my children, and for that, we are all blessed.
I have a great father who has turned out to be a wonderful Papa to my children. My dad is really just a big kid in a lot of ways. He works hard, but also plays hard. During my childhood, Dad was a professional fisherman and in the vending machine business. He was often gone before I even got out of bed each morning; however, rarely was Dad gone for Mom’s comforting dinners. Afterward, we would sit, eat ice cream or popcorn, and watch T.V. together. I used to love to sit on his lap, and imitate the goofy commercials that often played in the 70’s.
It was a special treat for me to go with him on his vending machine runs. Sitting in the section between the front seats of his white van, we would blast rock music and sing loudly with the windows open. Most of the time, he would just make up the words to the songs he did not know. His versions always seemed to be a little less poetic but way funnier than the original lyrics.
The kids in my neighborhood also loved my Dad. He would play “shark” in the neighborhood swimming pool with them. I would hear “Beached Whale!” being yelled out and knew to take cover because of Dad’s antics with the diving board. He taught me how to swim at a fairly young age during our many weekends boating, fishing, and swimming at the lake.
Being able to swim was always very important for him as his father drown when I was only nine months old. When I was pretty young, Dad threw me over the boat into the lake, yelled “kick, kick, kick”, and then scooped me out of the water to the relief of my anxious, and angry, mother. His lack of fear spilled over to me, making me bold enough to try just about anything he came up with.
My dad is not perfect. He can be stubborn and quick to give his opinion. I’m sure like most of us, he has said a few things that he regrets. However, I’ve witnessed how incredibly loyal he really is. Even if his heart is broken over situations, he does not stop caring for his family.
When I was sick in the hospital, he fretted over my situation. He worried like any father would about his daughter’s fight for life. He was ever-present for the three plus weeks I laid there struggling to live. He watched and waited for me to start showing signs of recovery. The entire time he would whisper to me “You’re a little trooper Caroline” as if to encourage me to continue fighting the war that was taking place within me.
Perhaps, he saw a bit of himself in my fight for survival. While in Vietnam, he survived two close brushes with death. The first time, during a monsoon, Dad contracted dysentery. The deathly high body temperature that accompanies dysentery took the life of one of his good buddies while they waited for rescue. There he was, 19 years old, with his whole life ahead of him, slowing wasting away due to high fever, and all he could do was lay there and wait…wait…to be rescued and for any sign that things were going to be okay.
The second time during the TET offensive, an armory of weapons near Dad’s bunker exploded. He was rendered unconscious and had shrapnel buried deep within his knee. Because of all the chaos that ensued while quickly trying to pull the living out of the jungle, Dad was actually considered MIA for several weeks until being identified in a military hospital during his recovery.
One of dad’s memories from the war is that of spending Thanksgiving in a “hole”. Barrels of strawberries were dropped onto the muddy ground around him. Even though he and about ten other soldiers were being shot at, Dad bravely belly-crawled to the berries, scooped some in his hands, and then crawled back to the hole that had become his safe harbor from the gritty, life-taking atrocities surrounding him. I wish now that I could have whispered in his ear “You’re a trooper Dad” while he huddled in a hole in the jungle of a war-ravaged foreign land far away from the love and safety of his home and family.
Dad has always been a little outwardly stoic about my surgery and even his time in war. But, I’m sure he has cried more than I will ever know about his own battle and the illness that I battled during my youth. He watched his baby girl go from being a healthy muscular dancer to skin and bones. On top of that, he was put in the position of raising a daughter who would never have biological children. Throughout my growing years, his support never wavered. He was quick to give his opinion if he disagreed with my choices, but after-all, that is what dads are supposed to do. He made sure I had the opportunities to explore my talents, interests, and goals in life.
Okay…now flash forward many years to the year 2006. Dad rushed to my home as quickly as he could to see for the first time the precious baby boy placed in our home as a foster placement. I remember telling Dad “We are just fostering him. We may not be able to adopt him” multiple times so that it would sink in. I think Dad nearly fell in love the minute he looked at him.
Throughout our time fostering my son, Dad grew closer and closer to him. My son kindly referred to him as “Papa”. The two quickly became best buddies. The entire time my Dad knew that he may not be able to hold his “grandson” for life so he wanted to make the time he had with him special. Fostering was difficult on us but at least we understood what was going on with the legal case. Dad did not and could not know due to confidentiality. I am sure he worried about losing the grandson that he had fallen in love with. When the case moved to adoption, Dad was elated. His future fishing buddy would not be going anywhere and he would be able to finally officially introduce him as his grandson.
Dad was also very eager to hold our daughter when she was placed in our home. Her foster care case quickly turned into an adoption, but still Dad had to wait for her to “officially” become his granddaughter. She too loves her Papa. She gets so excited when he arrives at our house, runs to him yelling “Papa!”, and jumps in his arms.
I’ve said it before, but it is worth saying over and over. I love the fact that my children were predestined to be in our family. My Dad was predestined to be their Papa. He loves them, encourages them, and is a big kid when they are around. Dad may be a little heavier than he was in his early years. His sparse hair is grayer than it used to be. He doesn’t get up as quickly as he did before. He still may be a little stubborn at times, but, one thing that hasn’t changed is his heart and his love.
He continues to be the Dad I remember growing up who softly held my hand during times of illness. He is the fun-loving, giggle-making, and toy-buying Papa to my kids that they so deserve to have. He is fiercely protective of them and whole-heartedly in love with them. My Dad’s heart is reflective of a Papa’s love.
Exodus 20:12 “Honor your father and your mother, so that you may live long in the land the LORD your God is giving you.”
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Pssst…Hey momma-in-waiting. Yes, you…. You held your breath when the doctor walked in. You lost his words after you heard, “I’m afraid I have some bad news…” In that moment, you felt the weight of the world collapse onto your shoulders. Your body went limp. You became numb. You had to shake yourself back out of the stupor you were in. You were told that you would never carry a child in your womb, but what you thought was….
“I will never be a mother.”
You’ve gotten good at faking that shy smile when others ask how you are doing. You’ve gotten even better at letting others think you are just fine. “Fine”….that word is meaningless in your world, except for the fact that you are not fine. That word has become the mask you wear. Inside that mask though, you are devastated. You are trying to keep it all together. You are pretending to be okay with the news, so much so, that even those closest to you cannot hear the grief-stricken song your soul is singing.
Pssst…Hey momma-in-waiting. Yes, you….You carry on, and pretty soon days turn to weeks, weeks turn to months, and now, it has been years since you walked into the desert. Out of courtesy, you join in with others while they celebrate the new arrivals of precious ones into their lives. You are on the sidelines, sitting on the bench, and waiting…waiting to be the one who is celebrating a life with children. You feel shame for your jealousy; and yet, you cannot help it. You feel embarrassment for those long, tearful drive homes after baby showers. You are exhausted from crying yourself to sleep. You cannot be comforted, and, you don’t want to be.
You don’t look forward to opening up birth announcements because you know that with each tear of the envelope, a little more of your heart is being torn. It pains you to buy the gifts, wrap them with a pretty bow, and walk through the doors to greet the one who is carrying what you cannot. Anger sits by your side. It has become your friend, but it doesn’t serve you, it doesn’t care about you, and it doesn’t fix your problem. You are a jilted daughter. You have been robbed of the very thing you want more than anything. You are thinking….
“Why Lord? Why can’t I be a mother? What did I do wrong?”
Pssst…Hey momma-in-waiting. Yes, you….Your life is different from what you thought. There is great silence in your world. The longing you feel is so deep that it feels as if it will consume you at any moment. Your child, your baby, your dream….has vanished. You think about your baby. You visualize him. He has your eyes, daddy’s chin, he is perfect, and he is wonderful. He was perfect….He was wonderful….He was yours. You feel haunted by a child who will never be born.
Pssst… Hey momma-in-waiting. Yes, you… You who have longed for years to have and to hold a child of your own, only to be told that it will not, it cannot, ever happen. Your walk in this world feels heavy. You know there are multitudes of others out there going through the same thing, but you feel like the loneliest person in the world. You read the brochures about adoption that are sent to you, and you listen to the advice of others…but…you know this is a battle all to your own. You are a soldier fighting in an army of one.
You are a momma-in-waiting.
Has anyone ever told you that it is okay to feel the way you do? Has anyone told you that they too would be grieving if in your shoes? Has anyone ever given you a true glimpse of hope for the future?
Pssst…Hey momma-in-waiting. Yes, you…The One who created you sat by you when the floor fell out from under your feet while in the doctor’s office. The One who created you sees your half-hearted attempt to be happy for others. He holds your hand when you walk into baby showers, He reads the announcements with you, and He catches the tears that tire out your weakened body. He is in the silence. The One who created you hears the song of your grief-stricken soul.
He sees the baby you dream about. He knows the baby you dream about. He is creating the baby you dream about.
Pssst….Hey momma-in-waiting. Yes, you….Don’t give up. Don’t give in. You are weak from your battle, but the One who created you is standing firm. He did not forsake you as He hung on the cross, and He will not forsake you now. You are thirsty walking through this desert, but He is there to quench your thirst. You feel devoid of life, but He is life.
Has anyone ever told you that there is great worth in the wait? Soon, yes, soon…the wait will be just a memory, the pain will perish, and your soul’s song will be one of joy.
Pssst….Hey momma-in-waiting. Yes, you….Lift your head and dry your eyes.
Soon, yes, soon….You will no longer be a momma-in-waiting.
“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.” – Jeremiah 29:11
**I wrote this piece in hopes of both validating and inspiring women who are struggling with infertility. As I look at the picture taken of me years ago, I can see the hardship of the years in my eyes. If you are not a regular reader of my blog, you may not know that I am a mother through the gift of adoption. I can look back now and see that while I was in the despair of infertility, the Lord was writing the story of my life, and the lives of my children, to include each other. For that I am truly blessed!**
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I rode my first charity training ride of the season this year. It was a 50-mile ride for the local breast cancer foundation. I love this ride, and participate in it every year. It’s always extremely well supported with SAG and with just the right kind of nutrition at rest stops. It also has mix of flats with several hills (okay, maybe I don’t love the hills).
I’m not ashamed to admit that I’m usually one of the slowest of my friends. I usually always finish well behind them, but, I really don’t mind. My goal is to finish what I start in life!
The picture to the left is one I took while riding. I like taking pictures as I can from the road. The mirror attachment helps me to see upcoming cyclists, as well as, cars. I usually don’t like to talk a lot while riding. I sort of prefer to be a lone wolf. It gives me time to think, pray, and process all that is going in life. If I meet someone new on the road, I’m much more interested in listening to them and allowing them to entertain me as we move along the road, than I am in being the one who is talking.
I met up with a gentleman on the road who was 60-years-old and a veteran rider. We talked about the usual things when out riding – hills, pace, “biking stories”, etc. We also talked about prayer (love meeting other Christians out on the road). He told me that his mother-in-law suffered from and survived breast cancer in the 1950’s. She underwent a brutal mastectomy as well. Through the years, he became very close to his mother-in-law. They went on fishing trips together, and when he was a young man, she bought him his first suit. It was clear that he loves his wife and adored his mother-in-law.
In his mother-in-law’s later years, she was able to walk the full distance for a charity event for breast cancer survivors and earned a medal. She is no longer living, but he takes the medal out with him each time he rides a big ride. He has it neatly tucked into the Camelback he carries. He said to me, “When I face a big hill, I say ‘Come on Liz. We can do this!” This made me smile so much.
He went on to tell me that in 1996, when he was in his early 40’s, he underwent an experimental heart surgery. The surgery involved taking out and essentially rebuilding his aorta with other valves from his heart. The other valves were then replaced with donor valves. His heart is essentially held together with a mesh casing. “About a year following my surgery, I did the “Hotter than Hell Ride” in Texas.”, he said. I said, “What?! How did your doctor feel about that?” He said, “He was okay with it as long as I was feeling okay.” For those unfamiliar, the Hotter than Hell Ride takes place in Texas. It is a 100-mile ride, and well, as the name suggests, it is very hot! Well, he felt okay, and has not stopped riding since! I didn’t catch his name, but I sure enjoyed the miles I spent with the gentleman in the lime green jersey.
As I finished up my morning out on the road, packed up my bike, and drove home, my mind kept going back to the man I spent a few miles with. Here’s what I was reminded of today from my experience:
People have incredible stories if you allow them to tell you.
The cycling community is made up of a diverse population of people who I absolutely enjoy spending time with.
One is never too old to take up a sport.
The survivor spirit is strong, and capable of overcoming the greatest of obstacles.
Prayer is powerful.
Oh yeah, and it IS possible to get along with your mother-in-law!
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