This morning I took a trip down memory lane, as I do from time to time.
I try not to dwell in the past, but there are some lessons of life that are good to be reminded of occasionally.
I found this post that I originally wrote in 2010, and decided that it fits well with the Wednesday Wisdom theme here. It is the kind of wisdom that I keep close in my heart, every day.
(Written February 10, 2010)
In the hustle and bustle of the modern day, we tend to rush along in the fast pace of what we call “life”. We hurry from here to there and through this and that. We dream and make plans for the future, and we say “someday”. We wear ourselves out trying to fulfill obligations and get everything done that needs doing. So we take vacations. But then we fill up the vacation with so many things to do in so little time, we end up even more exhausted when it’s over. No wonder life is referred to as a race! But is it a race that we really want to win? After all, when a race is won…it’s over.
When the race is over, how many of us will look back on our life and think “What an awesome race. I’m glad I finished!” How many of us instead will think “I wish I had done more of this and less of that” or “I wish I could have just one more day”.
What if you knew you had just one more day? What would you do with it? Would you spend it getting all your affairs in order? Perhaps you would spend more time with your loved ones, or calling all your friends. Would you spend time in the presence of God? Most of us would probably spend those last few hours on what was most important in our hearts.
The point is that none of us know exactly when our race will be over. We never know when it will be our last chance to tell someone we love them. We don’t know when it’s our last chance to share a kind gesture or word to a friend that’s feeling down. Perhaps it is their last day. Did they know that we cared? How many times are the funeral homes filled with flowers, but the body is unaware? Did they ever receive such adoration while they were still alive to enjoy it? When a parent dies, do they know that they were the greatest inspiration in their children’s lives? When a child dies, do they know that they were the greatest gift to their parents? If the world and people were perfect, they would know.
However, none of us are perfect. We forget. We stumble. We overlook. And at times we need to be reminded of what is truly important. So, ask yourself, what is truly important to you? My personal answer is from the Bible:
“And now abideth faith, hope, love, these three; but the greatest of these is love.” (1Corinthians 13:13)
The majority of my life was spent going here and there and doing this and that. I accomplished many goals and tasks. But I never really thought about what was truly important to me…until I lost it.
On May 24, 2002 I received an email from a friend. She didn’t know when she sent the email, but my oldest son, Jason, had just died the day before. The email contained a poem by Norma Cornett Marek, written after losing her own son, making the words very personal and special to me. It made me realize that the most valuable and important thing in my life is the love I share. And I learned not to take that love for granted. What is here today may be gone tomorrow…in the blink of an eye.
So, think on this question as you read the following poem, “what would you do if you had just one more day?”
“Tomorrow Never Comes”
If I knew it would be the last time
that I’d see you fall asleep,
I would tuck you in more tightly
and pray the Lord, your soul to keep.
If I knew it would be the last time
that I see you walk out the door,
I would give you a hug and kiss
and call you back for one more.
If I knew this would be the last time
I’d hear your voice lifted up in praise,
I would video tape each action and word,
so I could play them back day after day.
If I knew it would be the last time,
I could spare an extra minute or two
to stop and say “I love you,”
instead of assuming you would KNOW I do.
If I knew it would be the last time,
I would be there to share your day,
well, I’m sure you’ll have so many more,
so I can let just this one slip away.
For surely there’s always tomorrow
to make up for an oversight,
and we always get a second chance
to make everything right.
There will always be another day
to say our “I love you’s”,
and certainly there’s another chance
to say our “Anything I can do’s?”
But just in case I might be wrong,
and today is all I get,
I’d like to say how much I love you
and I hope we never forget.
Tomorrow is not promised to anyone,
young or old alike,
and today may be the last chance
you get to hold your loved one tight.
So if tomorrow, why not do it today?
For if tomorrow never comes,
you’ll surely regret the day
that you didn’t take that extra time
for a smile, a hug, or a kiss,
and you were too busy to grant someone,
what turned out to be their one last wish.
So hold your loved ones close today,
whisper in their ear,
tell them how much you love them
and that you’ll always hold them dear.
Take time to say “I’m sorry”, “please forgive me”,
“thank you” or “it’s okay”.
And if tomorrow never comes,
you’ll have no regrets about today.
*Written by Norma Cornett Marek in 1989 as, in her words, “a tribute to a beloved child I lost, in hopes it would cause people to never be careless or too busy to let our loved ones know we love them.” (Reprinted with permission.)
What does success look like to me?
As a mother, one of my goals was to raise my son to be a person of integrity and faith. So, seeing him drop to his knees at the age of 3 ½ and throw his arms in the air and pray for his friend’s mom when he heard she was sick, and then jump up to go play, secure in knowing that his prayer was not only heard, but being answered, to me that was success. Watching him grow up into a teenager and still having that kind of faith was a continual celebration of success in my heart.
When I first adopted the 3 orphaned kittens, they had been without their mother for a few days and in pretty rough shape. Little Mo was so weak, she wouldn’t even try the bottle, and I knew she would die soon if she didn’t eat. So, I held her to keep her warm and used my finger to gently massage and soothe her, like her mother would with her tongue. And every time she opened her mouth, I placed a drop of formula in with an eye dropper. By the end of the second day, she was taking the formula a few drops at a time. On the third day she finally tried the bottle, and from then on, she began to grow and thrive. That was also success to me.
When I published my first book and I heard my mom and dad say, “We are proud of you and the woman you have become. You are a wonderful writer, full of beautiful stories to tell”, I felt like the most successful person on the planet!
And yet, not one single penny was involved in any of those occasions.
Too often we equate success with monetary wealth and possessions. But I’ve seen wealthy folks with great possessions that were completely miserable inside, with no sense of success. And I’ve seen folks with no money or position of power that lived with a purpose and passion that brought them peace and contentment, which was their success.
The definition of success is: The achievement of something desired, planned, or attempted. And each person’s vision of what success looks like is unique and individual, and it can change over time.
For instance, take a person that is overweight and sedimentary overall, and put them on a track to begin walking. When they reach the 1-mile mark, they celebrate a victory. If they continue to walk each day and add a few more steps, eventually they will be celebrating at the 2-mile mark.
Perhaps when they reach the 2-mile mark, they decide to switch to bike riding and start exploring their area. Or they might join a gym and start weight training, or swimming. It’s up to them to decide what they will do, but each achievement, or success, is another step up in their personal journey.
Being patient was not one of my virtues in youth. Quite often I would try to force success, only to blow it and lose any chance of achieving the goal. Of course, this brought a great deal of pain and frustration, at times making me want to give up and quit.
I finally learned something that has been invaluable to me. If you want to be successful and wise, then hang around with people that are more successful and wiser than you, and learn from them. In doing so, I learned that determined effort, being patient, persistent, and watchful, will eventually bring the desired reward or result.
Like planting a tomato seed. If you tend it properly with water and sunlight and good soil, you will eventually have juicy tomatoes ready to enjoy. But if you try to hurry the process, like plant too early or give it too much water, you end up killing the plant and get nothing for your trouble.
At the same time, you must be watchful and ready to take action when necessary. For instance, if you notice signs of bugs eating your plants, you must take steps to get rid of the bugs without destroying the plants.
Above all, don’t procrastinate with your opportunities of harvest, or you may miss out.
One of the best gardens I’ve ever grown was obliterated because I didn’t want to go out in the rain to harvest. But the moose that came through that morning didn’t let the rain stop them from eating my entire garden.
Though I lost the garden that year, I learned some valuable lessons from the experience. And those lessons have helped me in other areas of my life.
Yesterday I had a set back with staying focused on my work. It was just one of those days with distractions that I had no control over. But it led to a quick round of self-doubt and frustration, with feeling inadequate. But in the middle of beating myself up for not completing my work, I realized, not every day is going to go exactly as planned. Sometimes there are going to be detours in life that we can’t avoid. But it doesn’t mean we failed, and it doesn’t mean we can’t still feel accomplishment in whatever we do get done. Every step counts, even the ones we didn’t plan on taking.
Thomas Edison said, “I have not failed. I’ve just found 10,000 ways that won’t work”, as he continued to work on his light bulb.
Imagine, trying something 10,000 times before succeeding. Most folks give up after 2 or 3 attempts.
Mr. Edison learned valuable insight from each attempt, even if only what did not work. And then he moved on to the next attempt. In doing so, he not only eventually succeeded in inventing the light bulb, he also had gained a substantial amount of knowledge along the way.
The only real failure is in giving up, or worse, never trying at all.
I am thankful for the successes in my life because they brought confidence, encouragement, and satisfaction.
I am also thankful for the times when I didn’t succeed, because they gave me knowledge, ideas, and taught me perseverance to keep trying, to think and work harder.
What does success look like to you? How hard are you willing to work for it? Get out there and get started on your dream, even if it’s only a tiny step today. Then take another step tomorrow, and keep going. It’s your dream, your life. Only you can live it.
Have a Happy Tuesday! – Amber
Summers in Alaska are short (like this post) and today I’m beginning the rock work on my house. Since I’m kinda old(er) and not as fast as I used to be, I am taking the rest of the day to get a head start on the project.
With faith (that the little bit of muscle I have will be enough), good fortune (hopefully in the way of money & lots of rocks nearby), and hard work (fueled by copious amounts of strong coffee to keep me going), I hope to have this project completed by the end of the summer.
So wish me luck (or just send lots of money so I can hire someone else to do it) and I’ll be back on Monday (if I still have fingers to write with).
Don’t forget to subscribe to my email list here, to receive the newsletter with the information on being added to my weekly pay-it-forward list.
Have a wonderful weekend! – Amber
Though my body wasn’t born here, I think maybe my heart was.
Even as a small child, I felt a strange attachment to the mountains. I remember trips to West Virginia to visit relatives, and as soon as the mountains came into view, my heart would start to race and my imagination ran wild. I would daydream of living in a cabin with nothing but the rock hills and woods and wild creatures surrounding me.
Then 31 years ago, I came to Alaska to visit a friend. I stepped off the plane and into the frigid cold and snow, and I knew I was home.
When I returned to Texas I began making arrangements, and a few short months later, Alaska became my permanent home.
In the early years I had the opportunity to visit quite a few remote areas here while working as a firefighter with the Division of Forestry. Though the work was hard, the experiences, the gorgeous scenery, and the people I met, were more than worth the effort.
Of all the places I’ve been to, Alaska is the most diversified, not only in it’s varying terrain, but also in it’s people with their assorted cultures, languages, history and unique lifestyles. In many ways, it is like taking a step back in time to when life was simpler and more peaceful.
One of the things I like the most about living here is the atmosphere of artistic minds, and free, independent-minded spirit of the people in general.
Perhaps it is because of living under harsh conditions in rough terrain with unpredictable climates, and in relative isolation, but there is a sense of hardiness in Alaskans that gives an air of an “I can do it by myself” attitude. Though the people are tough and independent by nature, they are mostly friendly and welcoming as well.
The creativity and imagination I’ve seen at work here has inspired me on many occasions, not just in art, but in lifestyle also. And the generosity and helpful nature of the folks hearts has given Alaska the power to keep me here all these years.
Though my body is getting older and slower, and I can no longer do some of the things I used to, my heart is still wild and free here.
Since I am celebrating my life in Alaska, I thought it would be appropriate to use today’s pay-it-forward post to introduce a few of my neighbors. (They don’t actually live next door to me, but in Alaska, we’re all neighbors.)
I’d like to start by introducing Alaska Rooted Creations, LLC (ARC), Alaska Artisan Network from Kasaan, Alaska, located on Prince of Wales Island.
The purpose of the network is supporting Alaskan artisans through sharing information and resources, teaching and learning from one another, along with promoting, and marketing in their village’s open market.
The forum style network categories allow members to select from a wide variety of topics, or suggest new ones. Folks can advertise items, events, ask questions, give advice or tips, etc.
Though this is a brand new venture, I like the community-minded spirit of these young entrepreneurs, and I believe their ideas are worthy of a favorable mention. For more information go to www.akrooted.com/artisannetwork. You can also find them on Facebook here.
AK Cat & Dog Rescue is an organization very dear to my heart. This animal rescue group takes in any animal in need, anywhere in Alaska, including dogs, cats, rabbits, goats, horses, and birds.
Their top notch foster homes provide a safe and loving environment where these animals get the care they need to recover and thrive while getting used to a family atmosphere. From there, the animals are adopted out to their forever homes to enjoy a lifetime of love.
AK Cat & Dog Rescue is based out of Wasilla, Alaska, with foster homes located throughout the Matanuska Valley. They hold several adoptions clinics around the state at different times of the year. For more information you can visit their site at www.akcatanddog.com.
Well, that’s all for today’s pay it forward. Thanks for joining me today!
If you are interested in being added to my weekly pay-it-forward list, or know someone you would like to see promoted, subscribe to my email list here, and receive the newsletter with the information on being added.
Have a fantastic day, and join me tomorrow for Friday Fun! – Amber
#amwriting #Alaska #Pay-It-Forward #artists #neighbors #community
The truth and wisdom of this old Cherokee story speaks volumes in just a few sentences.
We all have positive and negative emotions inside of us, it’s just a part of human nature. But it’s what we focus our thoughts and attention to that influences the choices we make, choices that create the life we live.
As in the story of the 2 wolves, if we put our energy and effort into the evil side, the results we get are darkness. But if we put our energy and effort into the good side, the results we get are positive.
So, why is it such a struggle? Because emotions are a very powerful force, including the negative ones. They are strong motivators to react to our situations.
The side we choose is based on what we value and believe in.
The universal law of cause and effect states that for every effect there is a definite cause, likewise for every cause, there is a definite effect. Your thoughts, behaviors, and actions create specific effects that manifest and create your life as you know it.
We all experience both good and bad thoughts and emotions. The key is in which ones we choose to focus on, allowing them to influence our attitudes and behaviors. Negative thoughts and emotions are going to cause negative results, and positive ones are going to cause positive results.
Let’s look at a quick comparison of a common scenario:
You’re driving in traffic on your way to work, and someone cuts you off.
Not exactly. But we can choose our thoughts and actions, and how we respond to our circumstances. It may take significant and consistent effort, but with practice we can create better results for our lives. We can become better people.
In last Wednesday’s post I shared with you some of the darkest emotions that I’ve ever experienced. And for a time, those emotions led to very negative places and poor choices, eventually manifesting in physical ways that were not so pleasant.
But as I began to focus my thoughts on building a better life, I began making different choices, leading to different and better results. Each day that I make choices to do and become better, I make progress toward the results that I want in my life.
Think about that old Cherokee story. Do you know which wolf you are feeding? Which one do you want to win? What are you going to do about it?
Now go out and make a difference, and have an awesome day! – Amber
P.S. Don’t forget, if you are interested in being added to my weekly pay-it-forward list, or know someone you would like to see promoted, subscribe to my email list here, and receive the newsletter with the information on being added.
The dictionary describes the word motivate as – desire to do; interest or drive.
One of the main reasons I write is motivated by the desire in my heart to help others. And I absolutely love meeting other folks with that same desire!
If you’ve read any of my Friday Fun posts, you already know I’m an avid animal lover. But what you may not know is that I also have a soft spot in my heart for the brave individuals that put their life on the line for the sake of helping and serving others. This includes police officers, both 2 legged and 4 legged.
While ballistic vests (bullet proof vests) are standard issue in police departments for their human officers, it is not standard issue for the K9 partners, leaving them at a higher risk of injury or death.
Though efforts are being made to change this, as it stands right now, most police departments simply do not have funds available to provide the expensive gear for the dogs.
In July of 2016, as I was looking for a way to honor my son Christian’s birthday, I read an article about the lack of this life-saving gear for the K9 units. Knowing Christian’s love for dogs, along with his considering a possible career in law enforcement, I walked into our local police department and made a donation in Christian’s name for their K9 unit.
While it made me feel good to give that gift, I knew that my small contribution by itself would not make a significant difference, perhaps a few bags of dog food would help. But I wanted to do more.
One + One + One etc. adds up in a big way…
While the Pay It Forward posts are usually done on Thursdays, this post is part motivation and part pay it forward, because the young man that I’m going to tell you about touched my heart with his story in more than one way.
Meet Brady Snakovsky from Strongsville, Ohio.
Young Brady is the founder of Brady’s K9 Fund, an organization that raises funds and provides ballistic vests specifically designed for protection, mobility, and comfort for the dogs.
Brady began his quest in 2017 when he learned of the need for more vests for the K9s. In his attempt to raise funds for just 1 vest, with the help of his family and community, he was able to donate 4 vests. With his continued efforts more funds were raised, and more vests donated.
In 2018, with the help of his mom, Leah Tornabene, Brady’s K9 Fund was established. To date the organization has provided 84 specialized vests manufactured by LOF Defense Systems for the canines, quite an accomplishment for such a young person.
While there is still a long waiting list for additional vests, Brady’s organization is making a difference already. And with continued efforts, the impact continues to grow larger.
Be that one…
What starts with one caring heart can grow into something much larger. Whether it is by means of a financial contribution to a specific cause, or a random act of kindness, or volunteering to do something, our efforts can bring about change.
One thing that stood out in my mind about Brady’s story was the fact that he was only 8 years old when he first started his mission to help.
He didn’t have a platform or special interest groups to back him. He didn’t have a large group of lobbyists to plead his cause. He isn’t old enough to vote, or even in high school yet.
Brady simply had a caring heart and wanted to do something to help. And so, he did, starting with one small step.
Because of the power in his heart, the motivation to take that first step, and to keep taking more steps, Brady is creating a positive impact while influencing other hearts by the demonstration of his own love. And that is why others are joining him in his efforts.
It all begins with one person caring enough to start. And every one of us can make a difference, whether in a small way, or on a massive scale. Remember, Brady originally set out to donate only 1 vest.
For more information about Brady’s cause, or to make a donation or request for service, please visit his site at: https://www.bradysk9fund.com/
Well, that’s it for now. So, until tomorrow…Get out and get motivated, and have a Happy Monday! – Amber
P.S. An invitation…
If you are interested in being added to my weekly pay-it-forward list, or know someone you would like to see promoted, subscribe to my email list here, and receive the newsletter with the information on being added.
In June 2017, I adopted these 3 orphans when they were just 2 weeks old. Having been alone for 3 days, they were in rough shape.
After bottle-feeding every 2 hours for a couple of weeks, however, I was in rough shape, but they were beginning to thrive.
These feisty little fur-balls took over my home as well as my heart, but as construction work on my home addition began, it was necessary to keep them confined to certain areas for their own safety.
Keeping them contained proved to be very difficult, especially for Mo, being the little “Houdini” of the bunch. She was always the first to make the great escape, being as nimble as a monkey at climbing everything. Once Mo led the way, Larry and Curly were quick to follow. And they were all fast!
This led me to purchasing a large cat cage, which I furnished with a couple of hammocks, a small cat tree, litter box, and a water bottle. It was their very own little bedroom where they slept at night, and whenever I was not able to supervise them to keep them safe and out of trouble.
As they grew into juveniles, their unique personalities began to emerge. It also became apparent they each had developed little quirks, likely due to losing their mother at such an early age.
Larry developed a habit of trying to nurse on everything while cuddling, and would drool continuously. He would try my clothes, hair, whatever he could get his mouth on, even though he was repeatedly denied.
He eventually settled for a couple of stuffed toys for a pacifier. But these alone will not satisfy him. He insists on being held while he is sucking on them, and then he will fall asleep in total contentment.
Though Larry is a young adult now, it is not likely that he will ever outgrow this quirky habit. But he is loved just the same.
He is quite goofy by nature, always entertaining me with wild antics that often end in hilarious wipeouts. One of his favorites activities is zooming around the house at top speed for no apparent reason. If only he would learn to look where he’s going…He’s not very graceful for a cat, yet he can appear quite regal when he poses.
Curly is more of a loner, though she does enjoy snuggling and being pet, but only when she wants it. If you try to pet her at other times, she dodges and runs away, then gives disgusted looks as if to say, “How dare you touch me”!
Curly began her nefarious claim to fame as a car thief, stealing small cars from an old toy box. She has since graduated on to bigger and better items, such as bags of powdered sugar or coconut flakes from the kitchen cabinets. And each morning is now a game of “find the slipper” for me, as she always hides one.
Curly is, in my opinion, the toughest of the bunch, as she can take a punch as well as deliver one. She not only holds her own in wrestling with Larry, often times whooping him, but she is also more than willing to take on the advances of an 85 pound German Shepherd. (More than once Frodo has come running into the living room with Curly’s claws attached to his neck while she’s hanging by her teeth from his chin.) She reminds me a bit of a fox…smart, sneaky, and beautiful.
Mo may have started life as the weak little runt of the bunch, but her endearing qualities include weaseling her way into whatever nook or cranny she pleases, especially folks hearts.
As a young kitten, Mo developed a fondness for exploring everything, looking for places to hide. One of her favorite places was inside my friend Melissa’s hoodies. Mo would climb up under Melissa’s hoodie and usually pop out from the top. But occasionally she would get lost and take a different path.
Mo is the bossiest and most demanding of the crew and she knows how to get her way. When she wants my attention, she settles for nothing less than 100%. In order to make sure of this, she plants herself right in my face so that I can’t see anything but her. I’m also not allowed to talk to anyone else during her snuggle time or she will (gently) bite or smack me, then walk away in disdain.
Her version of cuddling is to nestle her body on my chest with her face planted hard against my nose, as she kneads my throat with her paws. This, of course, requires keeping her nails trimmed short to prevent removal of my flesh, which by-the-way is very uncomfortable. While she is contentedly busy punching me in the throat, she also drools profusely, soaking both of us.
Mo rules the roost with her sweet and sassy disposition, yet with just enough humble charm to get away with it.
Now that she’s grown up (and outward, which earned her the nickname “Wide load”), she no longer fits into the small spaces she once did. But she still manages to find suitable places to park herself.
If you enjoyed reading these little introductions to my current clan, you might also like Crazy Critters #1 which is the first book in a series of compilations of short stories about the crazy and often hilarious antics of animals, available on Amazon.
Well, that’s it for this week. I hope everyone has a lovely and fun-filled weekend! Be sure to subscribe to my email list to receive the monthly newsletter with more exciting news and special offers. You can subscribe by clicking here.
See you next week! – Amber
Today I’d like to share a few organizations that I think deserve a round of applause. The inspiration, generosity, and compassion expressed by these groups are exactly what the whole pay-it-forward movement is about.
They challenge us as individuals to find even small ways to spread goodwill and joy, while giving our own hearts a smile. When we make the little acts of kindness a regular habit, we create a change in the world around us, making it a better place for us all.
So, here are 3 of my favorites:
Returning the Favor is a video series hosted by Mike Rowe as he travels the country in search of remarkable people making a difference in their communities. Each episode highlights an individual or group being surprised with a reward for their good deeds, giving back to those who pay it forward with humor, heart and surprise. Because one good turn deserves another.
Returning the Favor Effect is the official Facebook Group where members are encouraged to highlight do-gooders in their own communities, inspire one another and discuss how everyday people can make an impact. This is where folks share the stories of those special individuals in their local area, and may be selected for one of the surprise rewards from Mike and his group.
Founded in 2002, Wounded Warrior Project is a nonprofit organization whose mission is to honor and empower Wounded Warriors.
WWP serves to raise awareness and enlist the public’s aid for the needs of severely injured service men and women; help severely injured service members aid and assist each other; and provide unique, direct programs and services to meet their needs.
Their motto: Making the world a little brighter, one story at a time. The mission of InspireMore Magazine is to make a difference through their articles of positive news and uplifting content, and fostering a desire to be inspired and to inspire others with the goal of making the world a better place.
You can check out their articles and information here.
In addition, a portion of their profit goes to a selected charity each month, another “pay-it-forward” gift.
Starting Over: Building a New Life from Scratch
Have you ever heard the saying, “When you hit rock-bottom, there’s no place to go but up”?
Of course, rock-bottom is the loneliest place in the world. It doesn’t matter how many people are around you, even those that love you and want to help, when the suffering is consuming your heart and soul, that is all you know.
It is the deepest, darkest pit of despair, where not even the tiniest spark of life exists, yet your body still has a pulse.
I read something that sums it up pretty well for me personally: “When my child died, I died too. They just forgot to bury me”.
My life ended. For 13 years, everything I did, everything I dreamed of and planned for, everything had included my child. And suddenly, it was all gone.
Yet there I was, still breathing. But for a long time, it was nothing more than a mechanical going-through-the-motions existence. I couldn’t even think of the next 5 minutes, let alone make plans or goals for the future.
Even though I certainly didn’t want to, by the Will and grace of God, I still woke up, and I did whatever needed doing. Somehow, there was something inside of me, pushing me on, if only for the benefit of those around me.
It was like there were 3 separate realms of me. There was the core, which felt dead and empty. But surrounding that core was an awareness of others and a desire to comfort and reassure them. And then, there was the face of me, what others could see. The face that I wore was influenced by the awareness that I did not want to cause more pain, to me or anyone else.
I never expected that a form of healing would begin the following year when I was faced with another death. But in the weeks before my father died, I had an opportunity to give one last act of love, one last gesture to show him I cared. In those precious few weeks, we shared stories and memories, laughter and a few tears, and I will cherish those moments with him.
I learned that my heart was still capable of feeling love, even in spite of the pain and even in the face of more loss. I also found the beginning of a will to live in that love, although I had no idea of what to do with it or where it would lead.
As each day passed, I discovered that the only times that I didn’t feel the full effects of sadness and pain where the times when my mind was occupied with doing something to help someone else. So, every day I prayed for opportunities to be helpful.
I found little ways here and there, but for the most part, my family and friends didn’t seem to want to ask me to do anything. And I began to question my value. What did I really have to offer that would be of much use to anyone?
Then one afternoon a friend said something to me when we were sharing a few memories of my son, Christian. She said, “I prefer to think of his death as another chapter in his story, because his story is not over yet. His love is still alive in your heart, and you will continue writing that story for both of you”.
I thought long and hard about those words. I still didn’t really feel much, but there was something stirring, like a little ember just beginning to glow. But it made me think more about my son, his love of life, and how he lived. Christian lived with exuberant joy and a thirst for knowledge, along with a passion for sharing with others. His faith in God was rock solid and inspiring to the many lives he touched in his short years.
I realized that when I remembered those qualities of his, it did fill my heart with life.
Not long after that conversation, I was asked for help with 3 orphaned kittens. Little did I know that they would be helping me as much as I would them.
I already had 2 dogs and 2 cats, so I really wasn’t planning on taking in more. But they were only about 2 weeks old and in bad shape. So, I decided I would foster them until they were old enough to be weaned and adopted.
However, the moment they arrived, and I picked them up out of the box, I knew they were here to stay. And that is how I came to be a “crazy cat lady”. (Although I guess just plain crazy would be more accurate, since there’s dogs, horses, goats, rabbits, a few birds, and others that have been included along the way.)
In spite of the exhaustion from getting up every 2 hours to bottle feed them, I found my heart being filled with a sense of joy and affection, along with great satisfaction and purpose. It felt good to be needed. But it felt even better to be able to help them, to see them grow and thrive, to make a difference!
One question continuously haunted me. “What am I supposed to do with my life now”? Every time I thought about it, the only answer I found was, “Write”. So, I did, although I never shared much of it.
Wanting to encourage and inspire other people, to help them find hope and fulfillment, and to grow and thrive, like those kittens, has always been a part of who I am.
I found the means to do that through writing.
I’ve shared entertaining stories that made people laugh and lifted spirits in joy. I’ve also written material to share knowledge and insight to help others grow in their writing.
But the greatest satisfaction for me personally, is when I open my heart and it touches another heart, making that connection that encourages and gives hope to someone else. That is what really drives me.
Over the past 18 months, a more clearly defined picture evolved in my heart, igniting an enthusiasm in me that I didn’t think I would ever feel again.
The struggles and despair that have been endured, and the trials that have been overcome, they have not been of my own doing. It is only by the grace and Will of God that I am still here today.
But I am still here, still standing. My old life is gone, but I am creating and building a new life, a new beginning.
In all honesty, it was hard to write this post today because it exposes the raw scars of my heart. But I know that keeping it hidden also keeps it from having any purpose or life. And it prevents those precious connections from being made, which is the main reason I am here.
I once heard Tony Robbins say, “Decisions shape destiny”. I’ve also heard it said, “God uses broken people like you and me, to help broken people like you and me”. I decided that I want to help other people.
There are many hurting hearts in this world, and mine is one. But it’s still beating, just like yours. And it has meaning and a purpose. It has a story to share.
I don’t have the audacity to say, “If I can do it, you can do it”, because, well, I’m not you and I don’t even know your story.
Instead, I’m going to ask you 2 questions:
What is your heart’s greatest desire? And what would it take to help you to achieve it?
Just one last thought for today…your story may be the answer to someone’s prayer, but they’ll never receive it if you don’t share.
Until tomorrow, much love and peace. – Amber
“Live a life worth living, a life of integrity. Be real, kind, helpful and wise, always with an attitude of gratitude. And whatever it is you do, give 110% effort to it, even in the little things”. – Amber
Copyright © 2019 Amber Leggette-Aldrich.