Thursday, October 14, 2010


For Gran

The aroma of vanilla extract and warm sugar filled the kitchen as she made my favorite breakfast, Swedish pancakes. She never balked at the fact that I’d eat about six of them until my stomach couldn’t take anymore.

Set up like a queen at the kitchen Island counter with the placemat already set out, she’d warmed the syrup and filled a glass with ice cold milk.

I was seven.

I could get used to this.


Sitting at a wooden desk with my binder in front, anxiously tapping my pencil until the clock struck 11am and the Field Trip would begin, I kept my eye on the door. The parent volunteers would be arriving soon. Cars would fill-up based on each fourth-graders preference, but I was unfazed. I knew we’d all flock to her car first.

I was ten.

I was used to this.

Because my mom worked full-time, my Gran would fill in as a room mom. I was so proud to have her show up and take that involvement in my life. All my friends loved her. We ran to her.


She was my sparkle girl; my Gran.

Others had Grandmas. I had a Gran. Theirs drove Buicks. Mine rolled a Datsun 280Z with T-tops that she’d take off so the wind blew in our hair as we listened to Neil Diamond.


When we would visit her house for dinners, her garage door would always be open. Its as if the front door wasn’t a big enough welcome for the ones she loved. Nope. The garage door needed to be open as well. It was her way of saying to the neighborhood: My company is coming! Welcome!!! And when we’d leave? She’d walk us out to the driveway and chat some more. We’d put the key in the ignition and she’d wave. Then she’d walk to the street and wave some more. Until our car was out of view. My guess is she still lingered there a minute longer after we were gone.

There was never a birthday she missed. She’d time it so the Hallmark card would arrive in your mailbox perfectly on the day. How did she know? Never a day early. Never a day late. It was slightly annoying.

Id find cards in my mailbox for holidays I didn’t know existed. Just her way of saying hello. She’d underline adjectives and put quotation marks around the words she wanted to enhance. I’d tease her about her improper grammar. She was unfazed.
Her love for all things glitter and gold has somehow skipped a generation (Mom!) and found its way to me. My Gran and I are Nordstrom girls, through and through. They know us by name there. I remember when I told her I was dating Joel back-in-the-day. “He works for Nordstrom, Gran,” and then I whispered, “I’m gonna marry this man. He gets a discount.”

I couldn’t tell if she was proud or jealous. Probably both.


My Gran had her share of a battle over these last seven years as she fought that ovarian cancer. Sometimes I think I gave her too much credit for how well she was doing because she kept up appearances so well. I think that was why I was surprised a few weeks ago to get the call from my mom.

“Sarah, she’s in the hospital. Sweetheart, this time she’s not going to recover.”

It was the phone call I’d been preparing for but was still blindsided by.

As I drove to the hospital, I prayed that God would prepare my heart. I asked him for one last moment to tell her how much I loved her. I’d been so busy these past few years; I hadn’t stopped by enough! I hadn’t done enough for her! Did she know how much she meant to me? How did I let this much time go by without telling her? And now it was too late. So much left to say.

I started talking out loud, through tears, in the car. “Gran! How many childhood memories I have of your laughter! Your cooking! And no one can give a hug like you. I practically get lost in you when you hug me!"

But those hugs are different now. She used to be sorta squishy and bosomy – you know the type – when you’re a little kid and your Grandma comes barreling at you wanting to kiss and hug and you’re just supposed to stand there and let her do it but you secretly like it? Now, with the cancer, her body is no longer what it was. And I’m no longer this tiny granddaughter. Time has this way of marching on; of changing us. And yet, we’re still the same. How did we come to this final moment so quickly? Isn’t she still healthy and vibrant? Aren’t I still eight years old?

At her bedside, I held her hand and kissed her face and snuggled her. I all but crawled into that hospital bed with her.

“Gran. I love you. I’m so sorry I’ve been so busy. I’m not too busy now. I am here now. I love you so much.”

She heard me. She squeezed my hand.


Her memorial is this Sunday. I have a feeling its going to be bigger than we are expecting; she was loved by so many. I will be dressed in a Nordstrom dress with just the right amount of sparkle. The key piece of jewelry will be a sapphire and diamond ring on my right hand which has been my favorite of hers since I was five. She gave it to me last Christmas – she must have known in her soul it would be her last.

For a woman who loved sparkle so much, Gran, you have quite the view now, don’t you? I hear the streets are made of gold.

4 Generations

Friday, August 13, 2010

Joy with a capital J

If you looked up the word joy in the dictionary, you might read something about a feeling of great happiness.

When I hear the word joy, all I see is her face.

Thursday, August 5, 2010

Footprints of a Princess

This morning an email came in from my dad:

"Bugsly, (what he calls me), I suppose you know me better than anyone, so I’ll tell you a little story about how life can change even those who are set in their ways. As you’re aware, I’m sort of a neat freak and like everything clean and organized. I’ve been known to drive others crazy with this behavior, but I guess there can be worse things to be burdened with.

I stopped off at the carwash the other day to get the car cleaned and vacuumed out; with as much driving as I do, the car gets that summer collection of bugs and stuff that really doesn’t look good (again, a bit of an obsession to clean). As I finished vacuuming out the front and moved to the backseat I stopped and noticed the footprints of my beautiful granddaughter from our afternoon adventures Saturday at the park in Bellingham.

I literally stood there with the hose in my hand, the sound of the motor of the commercial vacuum nearly deafening and couldn’t bring myself to clean away the shoeprints. Truthfully, I couldn’t move for another few minutes and just waited for the 50 cent vacuum to stop as I continued to stare at the seat. I now have an immaculately clean car with footprints of a child on the backseat.

This morning, just like yesterday, I put my briefcase and coffee thermos in the back of my car before I go to the office and stare at those same shoeprints and smile; a beautiful reminder that some messes are just too precious to clean away. These were not just ordinary shoe prints. They were left by a princess…


Friday, July 30, 2010

I dont mind being wrong

The other day I made a slight blunder on-air.

I was talking about a new book I'm reading called Humility: True Greatness. Its a risky little book - and I didn't see it coming. It was recommended to me by a friend, so I just picked it up and started reading. Looking back, I should have contemplated the title for more than 2.5 seconds.

Now, about 4 chapters in, I'm thinking: "Why on earth did I start reading this? Now I'm aware! I can't plead ignorance anymore!"

The book (so-far) proposes that we've all learned how to act humble in front of others, but we lack true humility. I can understand this. If someone compliments me, I'm well aware that the appropriate social reaction is to blush and say "aw, shucks" and kick the dirt.

But true humility? The kind that causes me to honestly assess my sinfulness in light of His holiness? The kind that demands I lay down every ounce of my pride and sit still at the foot of the cross? This is a humility I need to learn more about.

Like I said, this book is a little too much right now. Care to read it with me? ;-)

Back to my blunder on-air. I was sharing about this book, and at the end, I remarked that it was by author "C.J. Mahoney."

(insert sound of a game show buzzer) WRONG.

His name is C.J. Mahaney. Do you hear the vowel difference?

Now, I know that doesn't seem like a big deal, but let me share with you a little-known-fact about being on the radio.

People LOVE to correct me.

As in, I honestly believe, some people sit by the radio and wait for me to make a mistake, and then press their speed dial so quickly that the phone literally blinks in the studio before I have a chance to finish a traffic report.

I share this with you with a slight smile on my face, because I've learned to deal with it and it doesn't really bother me.... that much.

So as soon as I said "C.J. Mahoney" and the microphone shut off, Tom looked at me and we both began to giggle and look at the phone lines, waiting for our stampede of correctors to come through with flying colors.

I was especially excited to be corrected about reading a book on humility... especially because that would imply the correcter was familiar with C.J. Mahaney and thus familiar with his work, perhaps even the book on humility. ;-) Do you see my delicious irony?

My point is this: I'm learning to live more and more in grace. More and more in giving the benefit of the doubt. The more I'm corrected, the less I want to correct others.

So, I extend an invitation to you:

Grace Community Church is hosting a Women's Friendship Dessert on Wednesday, August 25th. It begins at 6:30 pm.

The theme is Embrace your Grace, and I've been asked to speak. I'm thrilled - as these type of events are my favorite to do. Because instead of sitting in a studio and talking to you through a microphone, we get to see each other face-to-face.

And I love the theme: Embrace Your Grace. To me, this has always meant embracing my full story; allowing God to use the tougher parts of my life to reveal His love. I'll be sharing a few personal stories as well as how I try to live this out day to day.

Did I mention theres a chocolate fountain there?

And that tickets are only $7.00? And they're available online!

Grab a girlfriend or two. I'll see you there.


"To live by grace means to acknowledge my whole life story, the light side and the dark. In admitting my shadow side I learn who I am and what God's grace means."
— Brennan Manning

Monday, July 19, 2010

I Remember It Well

The following is an actual email that I just sent my parents:

Hey Mom, Hey Kevin...

One upon a time, I was a little girl, probably six.

You guys took me to Baskin Robbins, and I asked to have a sundae in a "helmet cup."

You guys said "No, you wont even remember that plastic cup in a couple of days."

I cried.

Now is your chance to make it up to me... as they have them again. Don't screw up this opportunity.


Thursday, July 1, 2010

Unexpected Company

Ding dong.

I faintly hear the doorbell as I'm upstairs, changing from work clothes to home clothes. Exhausted after another typical day, I can hardly wait to take my contacts out, put my glasses on, and throw my hair into a ponytail.

And sit down.

Ding dong.

Then I vaguely remember Joel saying "....oh hey, my dad might be stopping by."

Don't get me wrong, I'm glad to see him. I love when Kenny visits, we always have a good time. Its just that from the second I heard that doorbell, I was instantly aware of my messy ponytail, my messy clothes, and my messy house.

Down the stairs I flew, opened the front door and invited him in.

"Hey Kenny! Don't mind all these shoes here in the entry way. Just step over them."

In my head, I pictured myself as a flight attendant on the airlines. To our left, you'll notice cereal bowls stacked in the sink. To our right? Fisher-Price has exploded in our living room.

"Granddaddy!" Olivia smiles.

"Hey, Dad." says Joel from the computer.

I shove things out of the way so Kenny can actually take a seat on the couch.

How long has it been since I've cleaned the downstairs bathroom? Man, I hope he doesn't need to use it. Is there even toilet paper in there?

I want to shout out "Kenny, I’m so sorry! This house is a mess! I promise I’m a good wife to your son and a good mother to your granddaughter. Things are just a little chaotic right now!"

Instead, I sheepishly say: "Please excuse our mess."

And then came my favorite part: Kenny paused and smiled at me. So sincerely! He reminded me so much of Joel when he chose his words carefully and lovingly. He said he hardly noticed the clutter. He said it actually made him glad - and reminded him of when all his children were little.

"Really," I asked. "Your house looked like this?"

"For years." And then his face turned a little more serious. "The only reason its clean now is because its just me."

I thought about that for a minute as Kenny and Joel started chatting. Olivia was putting together a puzzle. I fought the urge to start picking things up. Instead, I just sat.

My father-in-law feels welcome in my messy house. He is kind to me amidst my chaos. I honestly believe he doesn't even hold it against me! He knows we have a busy life; he wasn't coming over to check-in on the status of our cleanliness. He's not an inspector, he's my dad. And, lets just call a spade a spade here...He was coming over to see that precious curly haired granddaughter of his. I'm no fool.

As Joel and Kenny kept talking, my mind wandered. I thought about Jesus, and the fact that he feels welcome in my messy life. He is kind to me amidst my chaos. He does not hold it against me. He doesn't check-in on the state of my cleanliness. He is not an inspector. He simply comes (knocks) to spend time with me.

I'm learning to not be afraid of the doorbell.

Thursday, May 13, 2010

I Will Be A Fool For You

Driving down Aurora Avenue, I often see those windsock things in car lots that wiggle around. You know the ones? They look like clowns or aliens or something, and evidently they're supposed to get your attention and make you buy a used car... the air flows up through them and they bounce too-and-fro.... please tell me you know what I'm talking about or this post will make no sense.

Each time I see one of those floppy bobble-head things, I'm reminded of the Holy Spirit.

Stick with me here.

See, when we're filled with Gods Spirit, does that not mean that we move how He wants us to move, and walk where He wants us to walk? No matter how foolish we might look to others?

Thats how I feel sometimes... like a Jesus windsock/bobblehead. When I have the presence of mind to commit my day to him, I usually ask for things like "eyes to see what You see, Lord" or "help me not direct my day by my calendar. Keep me open to what You have in store."

Yesterday, I was listening to the new Jimmy Needham album "Nightlights." (Which comes out Tuesday, by the way.) I'm a big fan of his soulful sound, and theres a song on there called Just a Heartbeat. It has a fabulous groove and the chorus speaks straight to me:

You can do a lot with just a heartbeat
Give it two feet and suddenly you got me
Top it off with ears that listen closely
Then speak into me and put my mouth on repeat

How freaking simple. Perhaps its the sunshine, or the blue sky, or the piece of chocolate I just ate from my desk drawer, but today I just feel a little brighter: Jesus gave me a heartbeat. He gave me two feet. I know whats important to Him and therefore he can put my mouth on repeat. There IS something that He wants to accomplish through me today. And today, I am willing.

I really over complicate it most of the time. I think "I don't know my Bible well enough" or "I was really rude to that person who just called" or insert just about any other sinful, negative, guilt-ridden thought here. Then I get down on myself and it stops all my joy. AND it stops my actions. My windsock/bobblehead deflates to the ground. Its as if I intercepted the Holy Spirit and said "Hold on, You can't work through me yet. I need to get my act together and pray more first. Oh, and lose this last five pounds. Then You can have me."

Not today. Today, I wont put conditions on God. He can have me, just as I am. All the things on my calendar; all the things in my heart.

Sheesh, if this is what Jimmy Needhams music does to me, imagine what it can do for you :-)

I'm giving away a few copies of "Nightlights." But you have to promise me, if you win, you'll pop this uptempo, blue-eyed-soul record into your car and roll the windows down and let the wind blow through your hair.

Its the only way you can listen to his music.

If you're up to the task, leave a comment about a time where you felt like God was asking you to do something a little bit outside of your comfort zone, like my foolish car-lot windsocks.

I'll start:

Spirit 105.3 was out at a grocery store in Woodinville, and I had the presence of mind to pray before we set up the booth and start up the music.

"Lord, this time is Yours."

About an hour into our broadcast, I noticed an older woman walking towards me. She caught my eye because she reminded me of my Gran, who dresses really sparkly. :-) I noticed this woman was probably in her 60s or 70s, and she had gold bracelets and earrings on, and just seemed very "put together." I cant explain this next part further, but all I know is that I felt like she had taken extra time on her appearance that day, and needed someone to notice.

Then I heard a whisper in my mind:

Tell her she looks beautiful.

Now, I know that doesn't seem like a big request. But I'm also not in the habit of just walking around telling people they're beautiful. Perhaps I should. But I don't.

Anyway, as she got closer to our booth, I started to get apprehensive, the way I always do when I feel like maybe God is telling me to do something. Just when I was about to chicken out and keep my mouth shut, I caught her eye and I said "I just have to tell you.... you are beautiful."

She stopped.

She walked towards me slowly.

She put her hand on my hand and slowly said:

"I had a stroke 2 months ago. This is the first time I've left my house. I thought, maybe today I can just go to the grocery store."

Monday, May 3, 2010

I Just Want To Hold The Bag

With a smirk, my husband motions his hand for me to follow him into the kitchen. He shows me an open bag of mini-marshmallows on the shelf and begins to inform me of the afternoons events.

I'd been out of the house, and Olivia had grabbed the bag of marshmallows and wandered into the living room, asking Joel if she could have some.

"Not right now, Honey. Not before dinner."

She hung her head and looked at the ground. Before returning to the pantry, she looked back at him and very confidently said "Ok, well, then I'm just gonna hold the bag."

Lets pause for a moment here.

"I'm just gonna hold the bag."

We all know exactly what this means, do we not? In fact, the minute I heard Joel say that line, I knew what the outcome would be. I laughed out loud with anticipation to hear the story resolve exactly the way I knew it would. I mean, seriously, who among us can "just hold the bag." That's what I thought.

Where would he find her, elbow deep in marshmallow-land?

A few all-to-quiet moments pass, and Joel looks around, with his daughter nowhere to be found.

Then he hears a faint *crinkle, crinkle* of plastic coming from the kitchen pantry.

With the pantry door halfway shut, he finds his little curly-topped girl standing there, still, with the bag clutched to her chest.

One thing you should know about Joel is that he has the kindest, most even-toned voice of any guy I've ever known. Even when he's upset, he never yells. So in this moment, I can just hear him, calm as ever, saying:

"Olivia, did you eat one when I told you not to?"

Her head shakes no.

"You sure about that answer, Sweetheart?"


Now is when Joel gets down on her level and very softly says: "Olivia.... I need you to open your mouth. Show me whats in your mouth, please."

That was all it took. A look from Dad at eye-level and a call to action.

Two little tiny hands moved up towards her mouth and covered it, as if to form a barrier no one could remove. Her eyes welled with tears.

Oh, how well I know this feeling! The guilt! Sure, it starts out as marshmallows in a pantry... but wait until shes in grade school! And high school! And College! Oh...not College! :-) I take that back.

The circumstances change (and heighten) as we get older - and the consequences become much more severe than a tummy-ache from a fist-full of marshmallows... but the underlying issue remains the same. We do the things we are not supposed to do. Our father says one thing, we do another.

Olivia began to cry. She couldn't bear the thought of opening her mouth to show Joel what she'd done.

He scooped her up and hugged her and said something like "If we eat marshmallows when we're not supposed to, we get a stomach ache. And when we eat them after daddy tells us not to, we get in trouble. But today...well, today...we'll let it slide." And he wiped her tears.

Grace. In a kitchen pantry. Between a daddy and a daughter. :-)

I can't imagine a lesson on guilt ending in a better way.

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Smoothing out the edges

We all have non-verbal signs we give off when we're having a rough day. A furrowed brow. Swollen eyes. Absentmindedness. Impatience.

I've been known to show all these things from time to time. But for me, my biggest non-verbal cue can be found in the music I'm listening to. If its gone a little melancholy, thats the warning flag. And if I dust off my Nichole Nordeman CD, then you know I'm really fighting a battle.

Well, this last week, I took five of the Nichole Nordeman CDs from the Spirit 105.3 archives. Just took 'em. As in "these are mine now." Nichole Nordeman lyrics are like my armor when I'm taking on some tough things. Her music goes so deep into my soul that I feel like all thats left are tears and Jesus.

Lately, this one song has been getting me through my days. If you haven't heard it before, you owe it to yourself to pick up her album. Or every album she ever made. Or, better yet, FIND HER (I think she lives in Texas) and BEG her to make more music. Its been years since I've heard new music from her, and I think she took a little time off just to be with her family. But in my secret dreams, she has a little studio in her house with just a piano and she writes music that we will someday hear again. :-)

River God

Rolling River God
Little stones are smooth
Only once the water passes through
So I am a stone
rough and grainy still
Trying to reconcile this river's chill

But when I close my eyes
and feel you rushing by
I know that time brings change
and change takes time

And when the sunset comes
my prayer would be this one
that you might pick me up
and notice that I am
just a little smoother in your hand

Sometimes raging wild
sometimes swollen high
never have I known this river dry

The deepest part of you
is where I want to stay
and feel the sharpest edges wash away

And when I close my eyes
and feel you rushing by
I know that time brings change
and change takes time

And when the sunset comes
my prayer would be just this one
that you might pick me up
and notice that I am
just a little smoother in your hand

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

This Gets The Gold

I love me some Olympics.

Joel and I have been snuggled up on the couch each night - rooting for people we don't even know and tearing up when they win.

And have you noticed how every single commercial is also branded with the Olympics? Heaven forbid we just drink a regular Coca-Cola during the broadcast. :-) I'm not mocking it so much as simply enjoying the fact that I am a marketers dream during this time, and here is my favorite commercial so far:

HOW do they do that? How do some people sit around in a conference room and come up with a marketing strategy that will have my eyes well up in less than a minute and ready to buy Tide and Crest?

I'm such a pushover. :-)