God’s Math—Part 3

Reimagine Peru, June 23-July 2, 2022

Our beautiful Reimagine team– 26 Americans and 14 Peruvians (Christian is behind the camera😁)

Our first day in Peru, we hit the ground running with our first build. We were bussed to a community called Santa Rosita, which is in Lima. The town is one where the American teams with Reimagine have established themselves as regulars in the community. Reimagine teams have been coming here for twenty years and they have relationships with the Peruvian people that run deep and have crossed generations. When “Mama Linda” and her group from America arrive, the entire community comes out to greet them. Kim and I were told to just get ready to be hugged and kissed and high-fived by a bunch of people that will love you before they even meet you. Wow, that was an understatement!

After the hugs and greetings, we learned that our first construction was considered an easy one–it was on the ground level. The foundation cement was already in place and it was to be a community kitchen. All we had to do was assist in holding plywood in place while the two Peruvian construction workers nailed it all together around us. Kim was wanting in on the building action; however, we were obviously not in America anymore. There were no trusses or table saws or even electricity running to the site. The place was erected very quickly and Linda chose two families to dedicate it. The Reimagine cross was placed next to the doorway. (These crosses are actually made by groups at Teen Challenge in Pensacola. What a cool way to mark the connection to home!) A blessing was made over all who would have access to the kitchen and then we returned to the Reimagine church for lunch and to prep for the afternoon’s lessons with the children of Santa Rosita.

The next day, we went back to Santa Rosita. The build was on the top of a mountainside. It wasn’t a long trek, but the incline was rough! Being out of shape made for a lot of huffing and puffing! Once again the Reimagine regulars told us this was “easy” because the foundation was already there and the plywood panels were delivered most of the way. We would just need to pass them up one incline and assist in holding things in place. Since we spent the previous afternoon with the community, we made some friends already. I love how they all joined us–kids and moms, and even the older generation climbed the hill with us.

We learned that today’s building would be a community center for everyone in the area to use. There would be a kitchen and they could have celebratory events there. Apparently it was the largest structure ever built by the Reimagine teams.

It seemed like every person in the town came out to hold these walls in place. We love how well Kim blends in with the Peruvian crowd! Lol!

Like Linda says in this video, it is beautiful to see the Peruvians and Americans working together.

As I mentioned in God’s Math Part 2 (https://loveisthecommonthread.com/2022/07/20/gods-math-part-2/), the plan was to build 5 houses while we were there. I must admit after donating the amount to pay for a house, I was getting ahead of God’s plans (as usual). I was thinking how wonderful it would be if we were chosen to dedicate a home to a single mom since I had shared those same hardships for several years before meeting Kim. I would feel an instant connection to the mom. I thought to myself, “All of those times I was given help as a single mom and now I am able to pay it forward and buy a single mom a home?! Wow, that’d be awesome!” Sounds pretty harmless, right? I thought so too.

But then, Linda asked Kim and I to dedicate this community center alongside another family. Admittedly, I was a little bummed that we weren’t dedicating a home for a single mom. I had a plan–I was supposed to have this grand connection with the recipient. I’m embarrassed to admit that I actually questioned in my mind, “Will it make as good a story and have as great an impact if there is no “single mom” connection for me?” And right about then, God put this zinger in my brain…”Who paid for this?” It struck me like a bolt right through my heart!

Kim and I didn’t pay for this community center or for any of the other houses that were built while we were there–this was God’s doing! “The earth is the Lord’s, and everything in it, the world, and all who live in it…” (Psalms 24:1) HE made it happen. HE made this trip happen. Every single moment of this happened because of HIM! It was a split second thought, but it was a very powerful one! Shame on me for trying to dictate what God did with these funds. I am incredibly thankful that He helped me to recognize this because it was the nudge I needed to get out of the way to let God do His thing–His Math! Once again, His plan was SO much better than any that I could’ve crafted.

During our dedication, I explained our “Peru fund” and the symbolism of the anniversary donation to the crowd. They needed to know though that this was a gift from God for his beloved Peruvian people. After the other family’s beautiful prayer, the person who is considered the president of the area spoke to thank all of us. Here is a shortened video of what was said:

Thanks to Yesi for her effortless translations!

Did you hear that? Did you catch what God did there? I was thinking $1000 + Reimagine = a house for a single mom. God’s Math made $1000 + Reimagine = a community center that will bless more than FOUR HUNDRED AND EIGHTY PEOPLE!! What a fool I was to think that I knew better! I am hugely grateful to have been a part of this lesson and even moreso thankful to be a part of this special Reimagine group.

The next morning, I received an email from American Airlines. I was refunded $106.87 due to a seat change on our flight. I don’t know about you, but I’m thinking our first deposit to Peru fund 2.0 has just been made!! God is so good!

Since it was Sunday, the three communities where Reimagine groups have built homes were brought in to enjoy worshipping together in the church at the Reimagine complex. During the service, each of the Americans was called up and we were presented with a present (a piece of chocolate and clothespin butterfly) that was handmade by a chosen child from one of the communities. The child I was paired with was this cutie, Dayana. During the service, we prayed over our little gift givers and I got to meet her mom and brother as well.

She told me that she lived “in the green house” and pointed out the window to the hill behind the complex where we were staying. Once I figured out which green house she was talking about, I realized that I could see it from the bedroom window where I was sleeping.

On the morning after we arrived, I took this picture out of the big window that I looked at from my bed. During the night prior, I was staring up at the houses on the hill–there were only a few lights to be seen in the distance. The poverty in which these people live is just mindboggling and unsettling. As I lay there in the darkness, looking out the window, I thought of them lying there in the dark. I prayed for the people that lived on that hill. I prayed for their children, for their protection, for their livelihood, and I prayed that they wouldn’t be afraid of the dark. In my opinion, they need so much, and yet, they seemed to be content with so little.

It was crazy to me that out of all the children that they could have chosen from the three communities to pair me up with, that Dayana was the one that was picked for me. Because the night before I even met her, unbeknownst to both of us, I prayed over her and her family.❤

On Monday, we were told that the house we were building was in the community where we were staying, Jicamarca. As we trudged up the mountain right behind the Reimagine complex, we were once again grateful that the foundation was already there and that the plywood was able to be transported via a truck right up to the job site. As we got closer and closer, I saw my little friend, Dayana in the distance. She came running toward us and gave hugs to all. I asked her if her green house was here. She pointed and said yes, and then I spotted her mother. Lo and behold, the home we were building was her next door neighbor’s house! How’s that for a connection?!

Even though Kim drove him a little crazy, after 3 days of hand signals to understand how things are done here, he and his Peruvian construction worker friend were finally in a groove; working hard to get the homes put together. A fellow firefighter and Reimagine teammate, Tim, also assisted and had Kim’s back as needed. Lol!

Some of the moms started cooking lunch and the house’s water tank was filled while we were there. It’s so hard for us to imagine a life like this. I truly don’t know how they do it!

As soon as we finished this house and returned to our rooms, I took a new picture from my window. I was so touched by the fact that Reimagine is literally changing the landscape of Lima, one blessed structure at a time! This picture serves as a reminder to me that we were a part of something special, and something WAY bigger than ourselves that day. What a gift!

The next day we were building in a community called Mano de Dios (The hand of God). Judging by how high up on the mountain this place was, I realized quite quickly why they called it that! This one had a foundation, but there was no way to deliver the wood to the location, so it all had to be passed up…and up…and up. The best way to explain this is to show you the videos. The first one is the passing of the plywood walls from the road to the first, second, maybe third level. The saying, “Many hands make light work” was never more true than in Peru!

Thanks to Mark, Tim, Vicki and Tony for the handoff! And Tammie for having my back!
Still going…and going…and going! (Linda & Missy and Dave waiting on the next round)

By the time I walked up to the location, the house was pretty much built! The contractor’s wave indicates to me that they don’t need my help up there. Thank God! Lol!!

The next day, which we thought would be our last house to build, we finally got to experience the making of a foundation. I’m SO glad they saved this part for last because it was as rough as the veterans said it was! Thankfully, once again the entire community joined in passing the bags of sand up the mountainside to make the cement foundation at the house site. Some bags were heavier than others, but all in all it took a good 30-40 minutes of non-stop passing to get the job done.

This act of teamwork was incredibly impressive and it made me love the Peruvian people even more than I already did. What a blessing that people come together to help each other!

Once again, by the time I make my way, huffing and puffing up all the steps to the foundation, the house is pretty much already built!!

Every afternoon after our house building in Santa Rosita, we would return to our Reimagine home base to have lunch before spending the afternoon with the community.

There was a children’s Bible lesson that we all took part in each day. (Thank you, John Mark and Susanna for your awesome lead in those!) They would play music and dance and we would all act out parts of the lesson. Afterwards the kids would play ball, jump rope, color, use play dough, and/or run around in the playground. It was as much fun for them as it was for us! Kim and I made some special friends that we really hope to see again.

One of which was my sweet friend and Spanish professor, Jair and the other was my buddy, Benjamin. These boys were absolutely precious and despite our language barrier, we hit it off! Thanks to some sidewalk chalk and colored pencils, they taught me the color words in Spanish and then led me around naming different things that were drawn on the pavement. We hung out with them every day that we were in their community. I got to meet both of their beautiful mothers and their siblings as well.

Before we left, Jair gave me this special necklace. It says “Me (Jair) and My Friend.” On the back it says “My friend is pretty.” It is my greatest treasure from the trip! ❤

Jair had surgery on his arm when he was younger so he wasn’t able to use the “passo manos” (monkey bars) without assistance. Upon realizing why he wanted to do it so frequently, Kim was honored to be his constant monkey bar transport. It made both of them SO happy. However, before long, Kim would have a line waiting for a free ride across.

One day, after the children all received candy from one of the Reimagine team members, Kim walked around with a bag to collect their candy wrappers. He asked me how to say garbage in Spanish–I looked it up and we both learned a new word, “basura.” So Kim walked around saying, “Basura” with his bag and for no apparent reason, one child roared at him. Well, if you ever watched Monsters, Inc, you would’ve thought Sully was in Peru as Kim pulled out his inner monster and roared with all he had, “BAAAAA–SUUUUUU–RAHHHHH!!” The kids went absolutely bonkers! They went running around looking for something to throw away in his bag. He followed after them yelling, “Basura!!” They were yelling it back at him.

Even a day or two later, I could hear him walking up the street–the children continued to call out to him…and he would always respond! Lol! Despite the fact that he enjoyed all the construction work he did on this trip, I have no doubt that he will instead be remembered as the Garbage Monster. 😂


I must say though that this right here, is what sets Reimagine apart from other mission trips. The fact that we are returning to these same communities day after day and we get to learn each other’s names and make memories like this one–this is what makes this mission group so special!

As it turns out, our 5th building was not the last one that we would be working on during this trip. While we were passing sandbags up at the last house, a young single mother pulled Linda aside and explained that her house burned down. She was living on the streets with her two children and she had nothing left. Yes, I know exactly what I said–she was a single mother–God has such an interesting way of getting our attention, doesn’t He?!!

The desperate woman begged for help and asked if there was anyway Reimagine could build her a home. The amazing part is that she wasn’t even part of the Santa Rosita community. How did she hear about Reimagine? How did she know we were there at that moment? How did she get there–her community was NOT close to where we were! And finally, how was it that two of the Reimagine team members were given extra monetary donations to be used at their discretion if/when the need arose? They had enough to cover the cost of the woman’s house AND enough to provide her with some furniture/kitchen stuff. Linda and Marisol (the lifeblood of Reimagine in Peru) set it all up so that the contractor and his workers would bring the supplies to her location in the morning. It was truly a miracle in the making!

When we arrived at her community, Juan Pablo, it took a few seconds to realize that this was not like any of our previous builds!! The steps became less like steps and more like partly piled layers of unsteady rock as they rose higher and higher. The people in this area didn’t know who we were because Reimagine never built there before. They didn’t come out to assist us and there weren’t enough of us to stand and pass up the supplies. The location of the slab was up and to the right of the purple structure that is next to the yellow house at the top of this horrifying stairway. This was going to be a treacherous one!

The brave guys carried the supplies up in teams. It was too dangerous to follow closely behind each other and some parts were too narrow to hold the pieces flat, so some waited at the bottom till it was safe to head up. Thankfully there were Peruvian workers who assisted in the climb.

Once again, by the time I made the trek up, the structure was already in place. This sweet mom sobbed with gratitude as her house was dedicated. I must say, I think we all felt as blessed as she did–if not more! So the “single mom” house was meant to be a connection for ALL of us! Once again, God’s plan was WAY better than mine!

“In everything I did, I showed you that by this kind of hard work, we must help the weak, remembering the words the Lord Jesus himself said: ‘It is more blessed to give than to receive.'” (Acts 20:35 NIV)

Speaking of giving, remember when I showed the picture of the donations that I collected to bring to Peru? (https://loveisthecommonthread.com/2022/07/20/gods-math-part-2/) Here it is on the left, in case you forgot… And after the packing party, when combined with all the other’s donations (so we wouldn’t be stopped by customs for carrying too much of one thing); our stash looked like this (on the right).

Well how about God’s Math with this stuff? Absolutely mind blowing! Here’s what those donations of yours turned into…

Video of the donations for Peru and we weren’t finished putting everything out yet!

The people from the three communities who came to church at Reimagine came back at the end of the week to select from different piles. Our Peruvian Reimagine teammates had a wonderful system in place so that everyone got things that they needed. Everybody left with armfuls of clothes and shoes and pharmaceuticals. They were so very appreciative and so was I; knowing that you, my friends and family who donated to this trip did this! You helped provide supplies to build the houses; you gave money to provide a community with a kitchen and you contributed to the Santa Rosita community center. You gave what you could with money, vitamins, and sneakers, and God multiplied it all in His mighty way!

As I wrap this up, I have to tell you, all night I have been praying, “Lord, did I write what I needed to write? Did I give you glory? Was your message conveyed?” This morning, I woke up and saw this magnet on my fridge.

And once again I am reminded, it’s not up to me to feed the 5000, I just have to provide the loaves and fish. The rest is up to God to help people see things how He wants them to be seen.

As our flight from Lima prepared to land in Dallas, the cabin received one last walk through. The voice walking up the aisle behind me was that of the flight attendant with her garbage bag, “Basura?” she asked. Kim and I couldn’t help but smile knowing that although this trip to Peru is over, there will surely be more in our future.

When we got home I withdrew the $107 refund from American Airlines and I put it in a new “Peru fund” envelope. I just hope this time we get to go in less than 6 years—I know, there I go again, making plans ahead of God! Geez! What can I say? I’m a work in progress.

God’s Math—Part 2

Mission Trip to Peru

Before Kim and I had our first date, we spoke on the phone for several hours. One of the many things that we had in common was a yearning to go on a mission trip. At the time, Kim was working as a handyman on his days off from the fire station. He expressed the desire to build homes for people in need. I didn’t know what role I would play on such a mission, but I was open to pitching in wherever I was needed most.

When I first went to Kim’s house (the beginning of 2016), he had a white wipe-off board in his kitchen. Written in the corner of the board were the names Greg & Linda English. He told me that a dental hygienist of his mentioned this group based out of Pensacola that was led by Mr. & Mrs. English. He was told they bring mission groups to build houses in Peru. Kim had a life-long dream to go to Peru to see Machu Picchu. The idea of combining a bucket-list adventure with the desire to build homes for the less fortunate made this a win-win set up for him. At the time, we could have never imagined what God had in store for us!

What Kim didn’t know was that I had a yearning to go to Peru as well. As a matter of fact, while at church one Sunday, my pastor asked us to write down a faith promise on a piece of paper. He said it could be anything that you wish to do for God. It could’ve been to make a weekly donation or to spend more time volunteering or really anything to further God’s love in the world. I wrote down, “Mission trip to Peru.” I’m still not sure why Peru was the place, but in that moment, I decided that any bit of extra money that God provided would be designated as “Peru money.” At the time, however, I was a single mom. Money was tight!! I was barely making ends meet so the idea that there would ever be any extra was doubtful. I had to trust that if God wanted this from me, He would provide a way to make it happen.

Fast forward about 6 months later…my relationship with Kim was gaining momentum. We knew we were God’s pick for each other. Despite the fact that we weren’t married, we jointly put money in the Peru fund. You might be wondering, well where did this money come from? To be honest, it came from God—there was no other explanation for it. Here’s an example… I wrote this in my praise journal on 8/7/16:

Yesterday you surely showered us with a gift and we are abundantly grateful. Kim was told it would be $160 to fix his pressure washer. We were about to forego our plans to paint his house because of this unexpected cost. But when we got to the store to pick up the pressure washer, the employee said that it was Kim’s lucky day. Someone deleted his order from the computer system; there was no record of the parts/labor/cost. He said we couldn’t be charged for it so it’s ours–fixed for free! Kim immediately recognized it as a gift from You and we have praised you for it! In addition, we saved $24 on dinner and got a free movie with a coupon, so it was an awesome day, thank you, Lord! We decided that since the $160 was “found” money that it will go into our Peru fund. This mission trip will happen through your provisions and our faith. 😊 We already have $300 in it (including the money from AT&T’s reduction in my bill)!

Kim and I were married in May of 2017. Our Peru fund continued to grow—the refunded money from Kim’s escrow when we sold his house, refunds from overpaying car insurance—to be honest, my only regret is that I didn’t write down each time it happened. Sometimes we were left scratching our heads with a random check that came in the mail from here or there. It was almost like God was showing off to prove to us that it was from Him! Lol!

Around that time, I went to a Christian Women’s Conference. Compassion International (a humanitarian aid organization) was there handing out packets with information on children who needed to be sponsored. One of the speakers talked about how she had visited her sponsored child and what an impact it made on her life. I took my child’s packet home and after talking to Kim, we decided we would sponsor the child that I was given. However, when I called Compassion, it turns out that they were already able to find a sponsor for the child that I was given. They asked if we’d be willing to sponsor a different child and I said we would. The child that they selected for us was named Jack and his birthday was the day after Kim’s AND, he lived in Peru! Wow! What are the chances of that?! We began to wonder if maybe we could meet him one day–possibly while on our mission trip?!

The months went by and we continued to add to the Peru fund little by little, but the actuality of planning the trip hadn’t happened yet. In 2018, I changed jobs and started working at Berryhill Elementary. One of my co-workers was talking about a mission trip and I told her about our dream to one day go to Peru. It was then that the name Linda English came up again. She told me about Reimagine and about their regular trips to Peru. I told Kim about it and he remembered the name—it was the same one that his dental hygienist mentioned—the one that was written in his kitchen years ago!

Since we were pretty sure God would cover the money for our trip, the next thing we needed was to make the time to go. Kim’s work schedule is VERY difficult when it comes to taking vacation time. He has to request days off a year or more in advance of his trips. Thus in May of 2019, I sent my first email to Linda English through their Reimagine website (https://www.reimagineworldwide.org). Knowing Kim would need to know mission trip dates for summer 2020 by October 2019, I wondered if joining their group was even going to be possible. Linda responded as sweet as could be and said she’d let us know as soon as the dates were set so we could try to join the teams going in 2020. Yay!! It seemed like it was finally happening…or was it?!

Unfortunately, like most others in the world, Covid-19 changed the course of our plans. We were booked to go on the Mission trip with Reimagine in July 2020; we planned to visit Machu Picchu; and we even had a scheduled visit with Jack, our sponsored child—but all of it was cancelled. ☹ And since Peru stayed closed to international travelers for quite awhile, we weren’t able to reschedule for 2021 because the dates weren’t planned far enough in advance for Kim to take off from work. SO, June of 2022 was to finally be our mission trip to Peru–six years in the making!

At this point, we had thousands of dollars in our Peru fund. We had enough to pay for our flights, to stay in the Reimagine complex, for our food, and gifts to be donated to the Peruvian people. We were careful though that the “Peru money” shouldn’t pay for our second part of the trip—to Cusco and Machu Picchu—that part had to be on us. (Kim and I both have a healthy fear of God and we wouldn’t want to mess with using his mission provisions inappropriately! 😊)

The cost to build a home in Peru through Reimagine is $1,000. The plan was to build 5 homes during our 9-day trip. Kim and I celebrated our 5th wedding anniversary on May 7, 2022. As you may know, the customary gift for a 5th anniversary is one made of wood. So for our 5th anniversary, Kim and I donated $1,000 to Reimagine for the purpose of building a wooden home for a family in need while we were there. After all, the money was theirs from God – we were just chosen to collect it and dole it out.

At this point, everything was coming together, the trip was paid for, a house was donated, we were finally doing a mission trip in Peru, and God got all the glory–how silly of me to think that this was the end of the story!! You would think since this trip was only a few weeks after our The Chosen filming experience (God’s Math Part 1–https://loveisthecommonthread.com/2022/07/19/gods-math-part-1/), that I would’ve realized that the Math lessons had only just begun.

A few months before our journey, we sent Facebook posts, emails, and texts asking for donations toward our mission. Thankfully we didn’t need any more money to cover our trip, but we were collecting vitamins and sneakers to take with us and we also requested any additional money to help with building homes. (https://www.reimagineworldwide.org/donate) There are groups that travel to Peru with Reimagine several times a year. The money donated to Reimagine is used as needed for building supplies, filling of water tanks, electricity bills, health care costs, etc. The wonderful thing about this organization though is that the money is going directly to these people–people who have immediate needs and who have become like family to the Reimagine teams.

A couple of weeks before our trip, we had a “packing party.” The teams who were going brought their donations to the English home so that we could each pack an extra suitcase full of donations. The idea is that no one has too much of one thing in their suitcase since customs can be brutal if they think you’re bringing items to sell. The group collected clothes, yarn, books, vitamins, medicine, feminine care products, sunglasses, toys, socks, shoes, jackets, and hats.

Here is a picture of what I collected before the party. Thank you again to all of you who contributed in this way (and also gave monetarily to cover the cost of the extra luggage or to go toward the building of homes). Like I explained in God’s Math Part 1 (https://loveisthecommonthread.com/2022/07/19/gods-math-part-1/), you provided your part to this equation; YOU provided the loaves and fish…wait till you see what God did to your contributions!

God’s Math–Part 1

The Chosen: Feeding of the Five Thousand

It is the only miracle that was written about in all 4 gospels—the Feeding of the Five Thousand. In the simplest form possible, it went down like this: Word had gotten out that Jesus was in town. People came to hear him speak. After awhile the people were getting hangry, but they didn’t want to miss anything that Jesus said so they weren’t leaving. The disciples were thinking Jesus needed to wrap it up so people could go get themselves something to eat. Jesus told the disciples to have the people sit and said the disciples should feed them. Huh? With what? One of the disciples said, “Hey Jesus, this kid has 5 loaves of bread and 2 fish.” Jesus does His thing—blessings and miracles happen–next thing you know, the disciples are serving the masses bread and fish and even had 12 baskets left over once everyone had their fill.

Around seven or so years ago, I read the book, The Grave Robber, by Mark Batterson. It is a wonderful book about miracles and I highly recommend it. One particular quote spoke to me and I wrote it down to remind me about writing for God’s purposes. Batterson said, “I write because I am called by God to write. A book sold = an answered prayer. Each time a new book releases, it feels like giving God my two little fish. All I can do is trust that God will multiply what little I have to offer and feed multitudes with it.”

I was touched by his faith and I was inspired by his purpose for writing. I tried to keep that in mind as I wrote a Bible study (“Joy Cometh”) for people who were going through divorce. I completed the project and brought it to “She Speaks”—a Christian women’s conference which provides opportunities for individuals to meet with publishers and agents to pitch book ideas. So many moments leading up to the conference led me to believe that God was the driving force behind my book. As a single mom, I couldn’t afford to go out of state for a conference. However, the cost of everything–the conference registration, hotel, transportation, and food was paid for entirely by gifts from my family, friends, co-workers, and church family members who encouraged me to go. They each gave a bit and it added up to be A LOT! It was so humbling to know that so many people believed in me and this prayed-over project.

However, despite my best efforts, and meetings with publishers, and attempts to build a platform, and letters from influential supporters, I was never able to find a company that was willing to publish it. I was really really disappointed!! Although I was repeatedly rejected, I tried not to question the “whys” of the book. I became resolved with the fact that God’s plans are not always the same as ours and I had to just leave it at that. I shelved the Bible Study and I folded up the quote by Mark Batterson. I put it in a drawer in my desk and pretty much forgot about it…that is, until a few months ago when I “met” Dallas Jenkins.

Dallas Jenkins is the creator, director, and co-writer of The Chosen—a multi-season series about Jesus that has been the biggest crowd-funded media project in history. I learned about the series from my mom, of course. (Watch “The Chosen is Not Good” ad campaign https://youtu.be/Wo-UzSaWcIA to see why this is kinda funny). This is the most non-cheesy Christian show I’ve ever seen. The portrayal of Jesus is so relatable and I would like to think it’s a close representation of His personality–completely kind and non-judgmental–forgiving in every possible way.

Several years ago (2017), Dallas Jenkins had his life’s huge disappointment—a failed movie. I read that he felt like God had been so present in the whole movie-making process and so he couldn’t understand why it would’ve failed like it did. I completely empathized with that feeling of being let down. At the time, God impressed two things on his wife’s heart—the story of the Feeding of the 5000 and the phrase, “I do impossible Math.” (quote from www.becomingyourbest.com, episode 234). He and his wife didn’t know what these things meant, but they knew they were an integral part of what was going on in their lives. And then on that very day of disappointment, at 4am, Jenkins received a Facebook message from someone named Adam who he never even met. The message was, “Remember, your job is not to feed the 5000. It’s only to provide the loaves and fish.” In that moment, Dallas received the nudge that he needed and realized (just like Mark Batterson did) that we are not responsible for the results of our work for God.

Upon hearing this story, I searched my desk for that piece of paper—the one with Batterson’s quote on it. I needed the reminder that it was time to get back to writing. I need not worry about the results of what I write, only that I do my part, and do it for God.

I figure there is no better opportunity to help me get back into the swing of writing, then with the retelling of my experience at an event that was hosted by Dallas Jenkins himself!

One of my bucket list items has been to be an extra in a film. When I read that The Chosen was offering its fans the opportunity to be an extra in the filming of one of the scenes for Season 3, I talked to my husband and we decided we were all in for the opportunity. We paid it forward (PIF) the required amount so that we could be extras and so that others could continue to watch The Chosen for free. When we learned the scene that we would be a part of was the Feeding of the 5,000, we were beyond excited!

We were responsible for our own travel and costumes. We prayed that the filming dates would coincide with our work schedules so that we wouldn’t have to take too much time off. The filming was set to take place in Midlothian, TX at a Salvation Army Camp that had the large open field needed for this scene. We decided to drive since it would take us about 10 or so hours each way. Apparently over 11,000 people signed up to be extras for the scene. The producers decided to split the group into two days of filming—5,000+ people per day. We were thrilled to learn the dates of filming—June 7th and 8th –the week after my summer break began!

We were provided guidelines on what to wear to be considered “1st century appropriate.” Dressing a 6’6” light-eyed and light-skinned man so that he could blend in during a Middle Eastern event was presenting us with a bit of a challenge. Kim’s costume went through a few variations. He started out looking like a Russian grandma (a.k.a. the babushka, Lol!!) but in the end, he really embraced his role and he especially enjoyed the opportunity to grow in his facial hair! We were so grateful to my parents for their sewing skills and their assistance in helping to make us look the part. We were ready for our film debut!

We selected June 8th as our filming day. The heat was a big challenge that week—the heat index was forecasted to hit 100 degrees. Many of our costumes required multiple-layered clothing and head coverings so heat exhaustion was a huge concern. We also had to jump through the SAG Covid requirements–negative lab PCR tests within 3 days of filming and a negative rapid test the morning of filming. Thankfully we were able to cruise through the hurdles and made it to the set with the intent to witness the reenactment of one of the Bible’s greatest miracles.

They had hundreds of people working the event to try to keep us hydrated in the oppressive heat. They split us into three groups and filmed different parts of the scene before bringing us all together at the end. In the meantime, they provided entertainment and food to keep us occupied during our time off set. We got to meet lots of other fans and were excited when it was finally our turn to walk to the field for filming.

The first scene our group (of about 1000 people) filmed took place AFTER the 5000 were fed. We were told our assignment was to express excitement with the people around us as we all just experienced a miracle. We were able to see a few of the actors in between takes, but to be honest, this wasn’t the most exciting part of the day. It was hard to imagine “after the miracle,” since we weren’t part of the Feeding of the 5,000 scene…yet. They did SEVERAL takes of this scene. Each time they yelled “action,” we became more and more animated and comfortable with the people who were standing around us. By the last take, we were hugging strangers and shaking hands and I think at that point, our group was finally giving a convincing portrayal that we had been through something spectacular together. Dallas Jenkins thanked us for being there and was so genuinely grateful for our part in this life-altering event. We were then instructed to return to the tents where we would wait to be called back for the final filming of the day.

When all of the groups were called back to the field, Dallas wanted to make sure he got all the scenes he needed since this was the last time his group of 5,000+ would be together. We finally got to be a part of the reenactment of the miracle that we were so faithfully yearning to witness. The actors were walking around with their baskets, prepared to hand out the bread and fish. The masses were hoping that they would be lucky enough to be sitting in a spot where they could reach up and grab a piece of bread. (Needless to say, the dried out smelly fish wasn’t as coveted! Lol!) Overall there was a lot of excitement in the air and there was a collective joy that went with being a part of this moment.

Once we were all seated in our places and the restless movement paused in anticipation of filming to begin, I got to look around and take it all in for a moment. Despite the heat which caused our heads to throb, and the hardness of the ground, and the blazing sun on our red-burned faces, there was a realization in that moment that took my breath away….Here I was, with over FIVE THOUSAND people sitting on the grass in a field and the Bible says, “They all ate and were satisfied.” (Matthew 14:20 & Mark 6:42 & Luke 9:17, NIV). Over 5,000 people fed to satisfaction with 2 fish and 5 loaves of bread–it is absolutely positively mind blowing!! The sheer grandeur of this miracle was astounding and for the first time in my life, I could see it. Only with God’s impossible math could 5 + 2 = 5,000 (with a remainder of 12)!

As the sun set and the filming was wrapped, our tired bodies were ready for air conditioning and rest. I can only imagine how the original 5,000+ were feeling after their miraculous event. By the time we were handed our boxed dinners and we were loaded onto the bus to take us back to our cars, it was completely dark.

Our bus drove away from the field for a few minutes and then it stopped. We didn’t know what the hold up could be, but to be honest, we were comfortable and “we were satisfied.” Within moments the lights turned on and I looked up to see Dallas Jenkins charging down the aisle of the bus giving every single person a high five and once again expressing his gratitude. Wow! We later learned he went onto every bus that night and high-fived and thanked all of us!! Quite frankly, that was one of the most impressive parts of the day for me!

Dallas Jenkins’ commitment to his calling for Jesus is truly inspirational. He has set an example that is one of genuine love. He and his beautiful show, The Chosen, have left me with the awesome reminder that with God, the impossible can become possible!! All I have to do is offer up my fish and bread, and the rest…is up to Him.


We Will Never Forget: 9.11.01

The 20th anniversary of 9/11/01 is looming and I just re-read this screenplay that I wrote many years ago. Unfortunately, I never got any bites from the many places where I submitted it in hopes of having it produced. (I know it’s not the greatest where screenplays are concerned, but the historical relevance is why I feel the need to share it; so please be kind with critiques and comments.♥ ) Now that we are at the 20-year mark, I hate to let it sit in my drawer any longer. The whole point of writing it was so that our stories could be told and our future generations would know what happened.

Please read “We Will Never Forget”…and remember!

(Screenplay based on interviews with Dominic Guadagnoli and Donna Spera c. 2009)

Guadagnoli and Spera Photo by Gulnara Samoilova

A Simple Man


His name was Don. I remember it because it sounded like John (my son’s name, Gian, is pronounced the same way). So when the hairdresser at Sports Clips called out his name, Gian started to get up thinking it was his turn. Don shot him a quick glare and called out to her.

“You said Don, right?” The old fellow’s voice was agitated. He waited for her response before expending the energy to stand.

“Yes, Don,” replied the young woman, “right this way.” She lead him to her station for his haircut and that was the last of my interactions with the man. Our time spent together: just over 1 hour, waiting for haircuts. Time spent talking to each other: 15-20 minutes tops. And yet, I will never forget him and the story he shared with me.

I brought Gian in to get his haircut—he HATES getting his haircut. He wants it left long and I like it short. This particular time, I was getting my way because it was 5 or so weeks before my wedding date. I thought if his hair was cut short, it would be grown in perfectly in time for the wedding.

Getting married as a mom is WAY different than when you get married before you have children.  I was concerned about making sure everyone else was ready; so thankfully there wasn’t much time to stress about myself. (Although I stressed a little about getting the wrinkles out of my wedding dress; thankfully my friend’s steamer took care of that. J) I had to pick out clothes for my boys and my fiancé. I needed to make sure everybody had shoes that fit and that they were all “well groomed” before the big day. Lol! My parents were out of town so we had transportation to arrange. Truthfully, the biggest challenge was finding the right bra to wear!

Overall, we kept the day very simple—a beach wedding with a few family members. Our focus wasn’t on our limousines, videographers, bridal party, or flower arrangements (all of which we didn’t have). Our focus was on us—just Kim and I—and our love for each other. Throughout our time together we recognized God’s hand in creating our relationship. At times, I was in awe at how His work in us was seamlessly woven. Therefore it was important to us to have our marriage blessed with a God-centered ceremony. We selected Ephesians 4:2-3 to be our wedding sermon’s themed verse: “Be completely humble and gentle; be patient, bearing with one another in love. Make every effort to keep the unity of the Spirit through the bond of peace.” It turned out to be the most precious day of my life. It was absolutely breath-takingly beautiful in every possible way. And yet, it was simple—so very simple.

So, what does the grumpy old man, Don, have to do with my wedding story? Well, here’s what happened with him…

When we arrived at Sports Clips, I put Gian’s name on the waiting list to get his haircut. We sat down at two of the only available seats in the place. Ugh, I knew the wait was going to be long. Gian kept himself occupied on his phone and so did I for about a half hour. Each time another patron was called up for his haircut, the man sitting next to me would groan. His grunting was a bit bothersome. I started to wonder if the grumbles were because he was mad at the wait time or if they were because he was in pain. Since he was wearing a shoulder sling and was constantly fidgeting with the strap, it definitely could’ve been the latter.

So after one of the huffs, I asked him, “Are you okay?”

He looked at me as if to say, You really don’t want to know.

But he answered, “Yes. I’ve just been waiting here forever. I mean I have to be next! I think the guy they just called came in after me!”

“Well, I know we came in after you. If they call my son’s name before yours, we’ll know something is definitely not right and I’ll make sure that they take care of you first.”

He seemed satisfied with my answer. I figured since I broke the ice with that reply, I might as well make small talk. Regardless of the fact that he didn’t seem like the talkative kind, I figured we had nothing better to do, so why not?

I asked about his shoulder and inquired about his treatment. As it turns out, he broke it. “This is what I get for trying to do the right thing,” he stated and tacked on one of his grunts of disgust.

Wow, how do I respond to that? This was NOT a happy man. I started to feel sorry for him. I didn’t want to be my usual smiley sunshiney and flowery self with him. I felt that he would’ve shut me down quickly had I played the optimist. So instead, I just nodded and listened as he told me about his injury.

A few weeks prior to our meeting, he was driving along and there was a stalled out car blocking traffic at an intersection. My new friend, eighty-something-year-old tough-as-nails, Don, pulled off to the side of the median and helped the car’s driver by pushing his car out of the intersection and off the road. In doing so, the car moved fast out from under him. Don got tripped up and fell onto the pavement. The man whose car it was wanted to call for help, but instead, stubborn old Don said he was fine and he waved the guy off. The guy was concerned as Don laid for a moment on the side of the road in pain.

“Leave me alone!” yelled Don as he sat up and basically dragged himself back to his vehicle.

He drove himself to the hospital with a broken shoulder and he’s been in a sling ever since. He has a friend who checks on him to see if he ever needs any help, but of course he turns down any assistance. He can do it all by himself. He doesn’t need anybody or anything…another grunt. And then, out of nowhere, I noticed a softening to his face. He remembered something.

“You know, cutting a watermelon is really hard to do with one arm!” He even smiled a little as he stared off into space.

“I bet!” I responded. He was obviously proud of his ability to get the job done despite his injury, but the smile was for another reason…it was for her.

“I remember one time, my wife and I were traveling out west…” He went on to tell me about a time when he and his “bride” were out in the middle of nowhere—in the desert—and their car broke down. They were thirsty and miserable. They started trekking it down the road in hopes of finding a nearby gas station.

On their tired journey, his wife said, “You know what would be SOOOOO good right now?”

“What?” he asked, knowing just about anything that was cold and refreshing would do the trick.

“WATERMELON!! Wouldn’t that be sooo good?” she replied, getting excited at the thought of it.

Don knew better than to share in her enthusiasm. I mean after all, they were in the desert!! At this point, they’d be lucky to find a gas station and some sun-heated water from a hose.

After a bit more walking, to their great surprise, they did just that–they found a gas station! Hooray! They weren’t going to die out in the desert. And guess what else they found? Mmhmm, that’s right! In front of the gas station door there was a giant cooler filled with ice and in that cooler there were whole WATERMELONS!

Don couldn’t believe his eyes. His bride was beyond excited. They purchased a watermelon (and some motor oil) and instead of walking back the whole way, they decided to stop for a moment on the side of the road to enjoy their good fortune. But wouldn’t you know it, they had nothing to cut their watermelon with! His wife’s excitement was deflating fast; so Don took the watermelon from her and bashed it open on a rock. He said he was able to pry the thing apart and together they sat there on the side of the road and scooped watermelon out of each half with their hands. They ate it and got messy and sticky, but it was the BEST watermelon that he had ever eaten in his entire life!

“I bet,” I replied again. This time, I couldn’t help my wide-eyed sunshiney smile. My heart beamed at the idea of a much younger Don and his love with their hands full of fruit. But before I could ask for more details, the smile faded from his face and he snapped back to the present day.

“She’s been gone for 8 years now. Cancer took her from me. It took a lot of people from me.” He rattled off the list of all the family members that were stolen from him too soon along with each of their cancer diagnoses. Then the hairdresser called out his name and that was it. I’ve never seen him since then.

I’m certain he has no idea how blessed me that day. He blessed me with his story about a memory that was so precious—a day that was absolutely breath-takingly beautiful in every way. He reminded me that not just for marriage, but for life in general, the most important things are not a wedding reception, or haircuts, or even finding the right bra! The most important things are the simplest things, like spending time with the ones we love…and eating watermelon. 🙂



Match Made in Heaven (Part 2)


“Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of the heavenly lights, who does not change like shifting shadows.” (James 1:17) In my last blog, I wrote about how God fulfilled my prayers for a soulmate. Many naysayers may wonder, How does she know that he is the one? and How can she be so sure that it was a ‘match made in heaven’? After all, they met online! A while ago, I wrote about looking for and recognizing the signs from God. If you haven’t read that one yet, here it is… Anyway, throughout my relationship with Kim, from the very beginning, there has been a series of “Godwinks” that I choose to believe were God’s way of giving each of us confirmation that we were the ones made for each other.

It was this very day last year, the Sunday before January 25th, that I was doing my weekly food shopping at the supermarket. I was wheeling my cart down the frozen foods section. I vividly remember hearing the song, “Haven’t Met You Yet” by Michael Buble playing faintly over the sound system. The lyrics were so appropriate for where I was in my life at the time. “Wherever you are, whenever it’s right; You’ll come out of nowhere and into my life; and I know that we can be so amazing, and baby your love is gonna change me; and now I can see every possibility…” The words stopped me in my tracks. I closed my eyes right there in Publix and prayed, “God, I’m so ready for you to make this happen.” I was alone for 3 years and waiting on God to answer my prayer. Two weeks prior, after feeling like it was time, I created my first online dating site profile. I went on one date a week later. We met at a restaurant and it was obvious there was no attraction between us. He had been at this online dating thing for a while. He told me of the horrors of online dating which made me question this route to finding my match. Could this really be what God wants for me? However, my date also gave me the name of a different dating website. He suggested I try that one. So, I did. I posted a profile on a second site and hoped for the best.

The evening after hearing Michael Buble in the supermarket, I checked out the second dating site. If you’ve never been “lucky enough” to experience online dating, it is really a strange process. You search for people that fit into your criteria of what you are looking for in a mate. You could get as picky as you want, but I generally kept to the basics—age (between 40 and 50 years old), height (taller than me 5’10” or higher), spirituality (as long as it didn’t say none, I could work with it), and location (I hate to drive so I selected “within 25 miles”). Then you peruse through the profiles of people that fit into your criteria. And that night, I came across the photo of my love. He had the sweetest smile and his eyes had a child-like enthusiasm to them. His profile write up wasn’t the best (Lol! Sorry, Kim ;-), but that smile and those eyes just warmed my heart. I was too chicken to send him a message. I wasn’t sure what was worse, not receiving a response or finding out that he wasn’t attracted to my photo (yes, online dating is killer to the self-esteem), so instead I “favorited” his photo by clicking on a star. My first favorite. I knew that he would get a message from the site saying that he was favorited. I left it up to him to decide if he wanted to send me a message. On my profile write-up, I mentioned that I was a morning person and that I was looking for someone who was the same.

The next morning, Kim’s alarm went off as it usually does between 4:30 and 5:30am. He saw that I “favorited” him and wrote me a message thinking, I wonder how much of a “morning person” she really is? My alarm goes off at 5:03am (hey, that 3 minutes makes a big difference! Lol!). By 7:30am on January 25th, we had been communicating via messages back and forth non-stop (outside of getting ready for work and driving to work) for 2 hours. Every night for those first few days, our phone calls lasted 3-4 hours. We were so similar—it was like talking to a male version of myself and apparently our attraction to each other was mutual. In one of his messages he wrote, “I am very flattered that you picked me as a favorite. You are very beautiful and I would have thought out of my league.” We fell in love with each other quickly and admitted it to one another a week after our first date.

So, what else were the signs in those first few months that we were a match made in heaven? We’re obviously both morning people and he’s very tall J. We’re both from NY and we’re Yankees fans (but we both dislike the cold and snow). We’re both technically Episcopalian and now attend a Methodist church together. We love to travel. (I feared meeting someone who would be content not seeing anywhere but here. Thanks to his time in the Air Force, Kim has been to far more places than I and only wants to see more! AND he doesn’t mind always being the driver so I never have to drive. Yay! My perfect traveling buddy!) We’ve both been through divorce. Ironically for two Floridians, but we both enjoy hiking and mountains over the beach. We love to eat and try new restaurants. We are less than 1 year apart in age. (I’m older by 7 months, but WAY wiser.) Since we grew up during the same time period and in the same state, we almost always get each other’s references about TV shows, music lyrics, movie quotes, and pop culture. We have both always wanted to go on a mission trip. We’re both cat lovers.

On our first date while we were in the car on the way home, “Haven’t Met You Yet” played on the radio. On our 1st Valentine’s Day together, after knowing each other for less than a month, we bought each other the same card. We went horseback riding in the Spring. Out of 40 horses to choose from, with different names like Linus and Spartan, they selected our horses for us. Mine was named Chief and his was named Blaze–quite the coincidence for the fireman and his future wife. Together we’ve witnessed more rainbows (a sign of God’s promises) in this year than I’ve seen in the past several years combined.

But probably the coolest of the “meant to be” moments happened just recently with our engagement. In November, I was in the mall with my teenage son. Of course he wanted to shop without his mom, so we parted ways for a bit. Unbeknownst to anyone, I went into one of the mall’s seven jewelry stores to look at engagement rings. The saleslady asked me if I’d like to try anything on. (I was looking at the engagement rings.) I told her that my boyfriend and I were talking about getting married and he asked if I liked any shape of ring over the others. I told her that I told him I liked radiant and emerald cut diamonds, but that I had never tried one on. So she went into the case and pulled out an emerald cut diamond engagement ring. It was my size so I put it on. It was absolutely beautiful. She took out another ring that was a slightly different cut and encouraged me to try it on. I told her that it wasn’t necessary. The ring I had on was exactly what I wanted. She gave me her business card and wrote the ring details on the back. She said, “Here, give this to your boyfriend.” I couldn’t do that! I took the card to be nice, but never gave it to Kim. I never even told him that I went to the store. He knew that I liked emerald cuts—whatever he got for me would be perfect. A month and a half later, you can imagine my shock and excitement on Christmas Eve when he proposed to me. He opened up the box and the ring inside was the ring that I wanted! I later learned that when Kim went to the mall to buy my ring, he went into the nearest of the seven jewelry stores to where he parked. It was the same store that I went into. He showed me the business card of the saleswoman that helped him. It was the same lady that helped me. She showed him several rings, but he said only one ring stood out to him—the same exact ring that I had tried on a couple of weeks prior to his going to the store. Talk about a God-incidence!


Amazingly enough, we’ve lived 7 miles away from each other for the past 13 years. A friend from my church and Bible study group lives across the street from him. A co-worker of mine is good friends with one of his co-workers. We often wish we could watch a side-by-side movie of our lives to see if, or how often, we have crossed paths. We shopped at the same supermarket. We use the same pharmacy to fill our prescriptions. His neighborhood is next to a park where my sons played sports. I attended the Blue Angels air shows and practices while he was working on the air field. And he did, in fact, look at the stars and wonder if the woman he was hoping for was out there, doing the same.

God knew that we would meet and when it happened, it would be life changing for both of us. It had to be at just the right time in both of our lives. So if you are like I was, waiting and waiting and waiting for God to make changes in your life, have faith. Keep praying. Be patient. He has a plan. Trust me—trust Him; it’s worth it. God’s timing is absolutely perfect.

“Wait for the Lord; be strong and take heart and wait for the Lord.” (Psalm 27:14)

Match Made in Heaven (Part 1)


On Christmas Eve, I got engaged to the love of my life. When people hear that you’ve gotten engaged, one of the questions that is asked (after “Did you set a date for your wedding?”) is, “So how did you meet?” Every time the question is posed, my fiancé and I give each other a little smirk. If our minds spoke their thoughts, they’d probably say, Do we have to admit to it? We wish it was a different way. Hopefully they don’t ask which site. This is so embarrassing. But, rather than coming up with a fantastical story, we admit through mumbled breaths, “Online.” Yes, we met through an internet dating website.

While I know that this isn’t the most romantic set up for meeting your future spouse, I’d like to tell you a little back story about how this beautiful relationship came into being.

In 2012, my marriage of 15 years was headed toward divorce. For the first year following our split, I had a difficult time. I was stressed beyond the max. I was returning to full-time work after being a stay-at-home mom for 13 years. I turned 40. I was losing hair at an alarming rate, gaining weight, and feeling just awful. All the while, I was putting on the smiley face to let everybody see my optimism for the future, while behind the scenes I was a mess. I immersed myself in my spirituality. I spent a lot of time praying, reading and studying the Bible, and building on my relationship with God.

In the years that followed, I wondered if I’d ever fall in love again. Despite my deepest hopes, I seriously doubted it. I wrote a Bible Study for people who were going through divorce. One of the chapters was about starting new relationships. At that point in my life, I was talking a good game, but I wasn’t practicing what I preached in the book. I wasn’t praying for a mate. By the beginning of 2014, I decided I was ready to meet someone. But this time, I didn’t want just anyone; I wanted God’s pick for me. I prayed for him every single day. I prayed that God would allow us to meet soon. I was getting lonely. Even my children were asking me when I was going to find myself a boyfriend! As much as I wanted to find a companion, I didn’t want to do anything that was outside of what God wanted for me. So I just prayed and waited.

In April of 2015, I read a book called The Circle Maker by Mark Batterson. In the book, the author talks about praying circles around our hopes and dreams. This book had me write down exactly what I was praying for—the love of my life. As embarrassing as it is to share this with you, I need you to see all that I was hoping for…



Love of my life *Soulmate*: God filled, Spirit driven, optimistic, honorable, loving, trustworthy, intelligent, attractive/tall, respectful, funny, devoted, faithful, kind, generous, friendly, caring, motivated, loves me and I love him, “smitten with each other,” “two peas in a pod,” “friends and lovers,” “partners in crime,” “made for each other”



While this was not the only thing I prayed for, this was at the forefront of my daily prayers. The strange thing is, no matter how much I prayed and hoped and thought about it, I kept feeling like it wasn’t time yet. A few friends asked if I’d like to get set up, I said, “Sure!” I hoped this was God’s way of putting His choice in my path, but for one reason or another, the set-ups never worked out. I was never introduced to any of them. By the Fall of 2015, my kids decided that I had a make-believe boyfriend named Bill. After a weekend at their dad’s they’d ask, “So, did you hang out with ‘Bill’ this weekend?” I repeatedly told them that I wished I had, but “Bill” just never showed up.

I even backed off on my prayer list… My prayers changed, “Lord, it’s okay if he’s not funny. I can love someone who isn’t funny…Dear God, I don’t need him to be motivated. I can love a couch potato…Father, who needs an attractive man anyway? I’ll take one that’s a little goofy looking. That’s fine.” In the end, I pretty much crossed everything off the list. I decided I would stop asking for so much and just pray for him to have two things: I wanted him to be tall and I wanted him to believe in God and that was it. Surely God’s pick for me would have at least that?

By December of 2015, I was so tired of being single. I was desperately lonely. It had been three years since I had been kissed, had my hand held, or even received a hug from someone other than a friend or family member. I longed for a companion. I wanted someone to go to the movies with, someone to share my dreams with, someone to have an adventure with, someone to love and I yearned to be loved in return. My mother called me out on it—it was two days before New Year’s Eve. We were having a heated discussion about my wanting my parents to move near me. (That’s a story for another blog post!) But at one point in our conversation she looked at me with sad eyes and said, “ToniAnn, I can see that you are miserable.” I sobbed and sobbed. I was inconsolable. It hit me like a ton of bricks. She was right. The loneliness had taken over my heart, robbed me of my joy, and I was just so very sad. I got to the point of crying out to God, “Please, Lord! Where is he?!” I would look at the stars and wonder if he was looking at the stars too—maybe he was even pleading for me.

After New Year’s I continued my prayers, but out of nowhere, there seemed to be a change in God’s response. During my prayers instead of feeling like my love was nowhere to be found, I got the distinct notion that it was time! The next day, I prayed again and again I felt like God was nudging me, “It’s time!” So, I acted on it. That day I set up my first profile on a dating website. Two weeks later, I met Kim. On January 29th of 2016, I had my last “first kiss.”


So, if you are like I was at this time last year—painfully alone and waiting for your “one”—pray, have hope, and be patient. “Weeping may endure for a night, but joy cometh in the morning.” (Psalms 30:5b, KJV)

I look back at the list that I wrote so long ago. Kim fulfills every single thing that I prayed for—every one of my heart’s desires. He truly is my match made in heaven. Of course, however, by the time I met him, he only needed to check off two boxes: 1) His faith—Yes, he believes in God. 2) His height—I think God got so tired of my prayers on this that he responded in a big way with this one! “So how’s 6’6”, ToniAnn? Is that tall enough for you?” Why yes, Lord. Yes, it is. Thank you very much! 🙂



For the past couple of months, I have been hearing a lot of talk about “signs.” It has come up so frequently that I keep hearing the 90’s song, “The Sign” by Ace of Base playing in my head (and if I’m being perfectly honest, “Signs” by Tesla has made an appearance on the radio too). So why all this talk of signs? (By the way, I apologize for putting some of this agony on you; now you might hear these songs in your mind for the rest of the day. Sorry about that! J)

Some people just think they are coincidences and some people call them “God”incidences. My friend, Maureen, calls them “Godwinks.” No matter the name for them, I think they are very cool, but what exactly qualifies as one of these “signs”? Could they really be signs from God? And are they Biblical in nature or are we just grasping for validation in the choices we make and directions for the way in which we are to go?

If you ask a person who has suffered the loss of a family member or a friend if there is anything in nature that reminds them of their loved ones, I would not be surprised if they have a story to share with you about a sign that comforted them. Some people are fortunate enough that they’ve gotten to encounter their deceased loved ones in their dreams.  Many have experienced a connection with their loved one through a sign during their waking hours. I’ve heard stories including sightings of specific birds, butterflies, dragonflies, ladybugs, bees, and even the blooming of specific flowers that have brought on a flood of emotion at the possibility that they were signs from God or deceased relatives.  People sometimes smell their signs—be it their grandmother’s perfume or the smell of their grandfather’s pipe. There have even been specific words that people say to bring about the serenity that comes from these “Godwinks.” These experiences help us to feel close to our lost family members and friends, but I wonder, are these just coincidences or could they be signs from God?

Last month, I celebrated Valentine’s Day with my boyfriend. Like many couples on the over-commercialized day, we purchased each other Valentine’s Day cards. Before we opened our respective cards, we just knew that we had purchased each other the same card.

Valentine cards


For some reason, this unusual occurrence further confirmed in our hearts the fact that our connection to each other is a special one.

According to their website, there are 1400 different cards made by just the Hallmark company specifically for Valentine’s Day. I have no idea how many other greeting card companies have their cards available in our local stores. So what are the chances that two people buy each other the same card for Valentine’s Day—from two different stores? I can’t even pretend to be able to know the statistical possibility of this. After hearing comments from friends and family members about it, it got me wondering; is something like this simply a coincidence or is it a God-affirming sign?

Over the past few years I have looked for comforting signs from God—specifically I found hearts and smiles. I felt like they just showed up in random places exactly when I needed them most. They served as a reminder to me that things weren’t all that bad. They gave my spirits a boost and provided me with a weird but comforting sense that I wasn’t alone. Also, I couldn’t help but smile when I saw them!

So could it be possible that God provides us with these various somewhat naturally occurring signs? Well, I didn’t have to look very far into the Bible to find the first instance of a sign from God.

In Genesis 1, God said, “ Let there be lights in the vault of the sky to separate the day from the night and let them serve as signs to mark sacred times and days and years…” (verse 14).

So right from the beginning, God was providing us with signs, specifically the sunrise and sunset. The amazing thing about this most incredible sign is that it constantly changes. The canvas is freshly painted every day by God. What a truly awesome gift from above!

I couldn’t pick just one of these pictures (most were taken by Kim Handley), so I decided to post them all. Aren’t they just breathtaking? What a beautiful way for God to remind us that He loves us and that He is providing for us.

 IMG_1503  IMG_1579
 Sunrise 2  sunrise ship
 sunset cross  sunset cruise

Probably the most well-known of God’s signs is one of my favorites…the rainbow.

Genesis 9:13 states, “I have set my rainbow in the clouds, and it will be the sign of the covenant between me and the earth.”

We only need to sign on the dotted line to seal our contracts. God on the other hand created yet another masterpiece to guarantee His promise. I remember a time in my life when I was needing God to show me some direction. I looked up, and there it was—a sign from God.

 rainbow1jpg  rainbow3jpg  rainbow2jpg

The bottom line is that what may seem like an insignificant coincidence to one person, can feel like a nod to you from God telling you that everything is going to be alright. You can choose to be comforted by these phenomena or you can choose to dismiss them and chalk them up to pure coincidence. As for me, I choose to believe that God shows up when we need Him most. He reminds us that we are special and that we are not alone in this crazy world. And sometimes, when we need to see a sign from Him to help us know that He’s in control, He will make it as plain as day!

I got this

So what about you? Have you seen any signs from God lately? Please feel free to share in the comments section. Click on the comment bubble at the top of this blog. Also, you can sign up to subscribe to receive future emails whenever I write a new piece. Just click the menu on the top right of this page and at the bottom you will see a place to type in your email address. Thanks!

God Will Provide


My grandmother passed away a couple of weeks ago. In a family that has been blessed by longevity, she is the first person in my immediate family to die. Gram was the family matriarch on Mom’s side of the family. Despite the fact that she was born with a handicap, Gram had a zest for life. Her mantra, “God will provide,” allowed her to enjoy every day without worrying about tomorrow.

When I was preparing the eulogy that I would give at her memorial service, I was thinking about the many ways that God provided for her—the ways that He lived up to her trust in Him. The first was before she even knew He was caring for her…I moved to Florida about 13 years ago; so now when I go back to NY, I act like a tourist. Last summer, I took my sons to see the Statue of Liberty and we visited Ellis Island. While I was there, something really powerful struck me. Gram came to America from Italy when she was about 3 years old. That would’ve been around 1923 or 1924. According to the historical records at Ellis Island during that time period, there were doctors who were doing physical and mental exams on all immigrants. If an immigrant was found to have an illness or even a physical deformity, he or she would be sent back to their country of origin. So that left me wondering, How did she do it? Gram was born with one leg shorter than the other. How did she, with her physical handicap, get passed the physical exam? Was the doctor not paying close attention or maybe he was on a break? Was her mother carrying her so they wouldn’t notice her legs? Maybe the doctor who did the examination felt sorry for her and allowed her through? It is something that we will never know. And yet, it is a moment in her life that could’ve changed absolutely everything! I wouldn’t be here if she hadn’t been granted permission to America that day! I’d like to think that it was through the grace of God that she got here and that it was His provisions that allowed her passage to her new life.

Another example of God’s goodness was when she was moved in with her family in Port Chester, NY. Apparently her parents couldn’t afford to keep her with them and they had no room for her where they were living, so they had her live with her aunt and cousins. To most children who would have to live without their parents, this would be an extremely difficult and sad situation, but to Gram, it was a blessing beyond measure! She grew up as an only child and she hated that she was alone because she never had anyone to play with. But then, when she got to live with her cousins, it was like having instant siblings. She had playmates and she loved it there. Once again, God provided for her and turned a difficult situation into a blessing. He added to that blessing ten-fold when she married my grandfather and inherited his family of nine siblings.

She never let her handicap hold her back from living every day to its fullest. She swam, danced, jumped rope, drove, worked, and traveled. She was blessed with children and grandchildren whose company she loved more than life itself. She never passed up the chance to go out to eat or to attend a party. Gram loved going to the beach and soaked in the sun. She was the first to ante up to a game of cards. She enjoyed a glass of wine at happy hour, an occasional cold beer on a hot summer’s day, or even a shot of Goldschlagger if it was offered to her! She was always the perfect companion for a late-night movie, cup of coffee, piece of cake, or even a casino trip. She and Pop weren’t rich by any stretch, and yet they always seemed to have just enough. Especially as they got older, they never fretted about where they would end up. They didn’t like to plan out the steps too far into the future. They didn’t dwell or complain about how they were lacking. Instead they always made the best of what they did have; they were generous with it; and they always said, “Don’t worry, God will provide.”

I don’t remember Gram being an overtly Christian woman. She wasn’t preachy and she didn’t attend church too often. However, the relationship that she had with God when no one was looking was a different story altogether. One time, I went to visit her and my grandfather at their apartment in Peekskill, NY. When I walked in, Gram was sitting in her chair in the corner of the room. She had her eyes closed and her hand was resting on a stack of papers. I assumed that she was sleeping. But when she heard me, she opened her eyes quickly and said, “I’m almost done. Just a minute.” Huh? Almost done with what? Napping? A few moments later, she opened her eyes and said, “Okay. I’m finished.” I asked what she was “finished” with and she opened her hand to show me her stack of papers. I’m finished praying. “Praying? Praying for whom? Here? In the middle of the day?” At this point in my life, I was a “pray the same prayers before bed” kinda girl. I’m not sure why, but the realization that Gram was praying for people mid-day was strange to me. As it turns out, Gram prayed for people everyday—lots of people, by name—maybe even some of you reading this right now! She had a daily routine and it included saying her prayers. She was faithful about that and it made an impression on me that day. It also made me feel good because in my heart I was sure that I was included in her daily chats with God. 

Romans 8:28 says, “And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love Him, who have been called according to His purpose.”

Now when I usually think of this Scripture, I think of someone’s “purpose” as being something that is big and grand, like someone’s job or their life’s conquest or their legacy. Thinking back on Gram’s life, I think that her purpose may have been a bit less glamorous, but no less purposeful or powerful than anyone else’s. Her purpose was carried out in the way that she lived. She showed us by her life that we can do anything by trusting in God. Her life proved to us that He worked all things out for good—no matter how difficult or burdensome they seemed. I for one am grateful to her for fulfilling that purpose, whether she knew she was doing it or not. To see the life of a lonely, poor, handicapped immigrant transformed into one that was filled with laughter, adventure, family, friends, and an abundance of love is quite inspirational. And then to know that she lived that life believing and trusting that “God would provide” and time and time again, He did? Well, that’s enough proof for me to want the same for my life. Thanks for your example, Gram…

Lord, it’s your deal. I trust you and I’m all in.
me and gram

To Everything Turn, Turn, Turn


To everything…turn, turn, turn…
I remember the first time I realized that the song, “Higher Ground,” by the Red Hot Chili Peppers was actually a remake of a song that was originally written and sung by Stevie Wonder. My thoughts were, No way! Stevie Wonder did this first?! I thought this was a Red Hot Chili Peppers’ song!

My thoughts were quite similar several years ago when I came across this little diddy… “There is a time for everything, and a season for every activity under the heavens: a time to be born and a time to die, a time to plant and a time to uproot, a time to kill and a time to heal, a time to tear down and a time to build, a time to weep and a time to laugh…a time to love and a time to hate, a time for war and a time for peace.” (Ecclesiastes 3:1-8 NIV) My thoughts were, No way! This is in the Bible?! I thought this was The Byrds’ song… “To everything—turn, turn, turn. There is a season- turn, turn, turn. And a time to every purpose under heaven… Sometimes we are just more familiar with the remake than we are with the original and this was definitely one of those eye-opening situations for me.

Either way, the message from the Byrds song and the one from its Biblical original is the same: There is a time for everything. The seasons of our lives come and go. We all have that in common—the passage of time. It is one of those rare unifying elements that all of creation experiences. We cannot stop it, slow it down, speed it up, or avoid it. We can usually choose how we utilize it and decide how we are going to spend our precious but fleeting days, hours, minutes, seconds. We hate to waste it, but at the same time; we often make choices that do just that.

The season we are currently in, a.k.a. “the holidays,” gets to be the craziest time of the year. But does it have to be? Do we really have to shop for matching outfits to get professional photos done so we can send 500 Christmas pictures to everyone we’ve ever met? Does our house need to be more decorated with lights than Cinderella’s castle at Disney World? Will my son really love that 6-foot crane that he requested from Santa once January rolls around—how about once I’ve finished paying it off from the credit card bill in the Spring?
I know, I know, I’m starting to sound like a Scrooge. Bah humbug, right? But seriously, what is it all about? We put so much pressure on ourselves to have everything just right—the perfect decorations, the perfect meal, the perfect presents, etc. etc. It is just too much and we are NOT perfect! We need to give ourselves a break!

I grew up in an Italian family. On Christmas Eve, we would gather together and eat the seafood meal of a lifetime. The tradition is that we should have at least seven different fishes represented, and of course, there was always pasta as well. I believe the seven-fish rule represents the seven hills of Rome. I’m not even certain if that’s the reason we had to have seven—hence my point—why? It becomes a little crazy. I think of all the years that I would go through the shopping list and do the count off: 1) shrimp scampi, 2) mussels (to go with the linguine), 3) clams oreganata, 4) scallops wrapped in bacon, 5) baccala (cod salad), 6) stuffed flounder and 7) ? . What should we have for number 7? Oh no! Christmas Eve is ruined! We don’t have a 7th fish! Let’s fry some shrimp; that’s a different dish than shrimp scampi. But would that qualify as the 7th fish?! Um, technically, the flounder and the cod are the only “fish” on the entire list; so I guess we were actually five short of our seven fishes anyway. Haha!
Anyway, you get what I am trying to say. Traditions are wonderful. Presents are fantastic. The decorations look beautiful. We just get so wrapped up (excuse the pun!) in all the season’s “must-haves” that we forget about the purpose of it all. It wasn’t until I spent my first post-divorce Christmas Eve at home, by myself, that I realized how unimportant all of those previous “must-haves” really were.

A few lines down from the Scripture that I quoted earlier it says, “I know that there is nothing better for people than to be happy and to do good while they live. That each of them may eat and drink, and find satisfaction in all their toils—this is the gift of God.” (Ecclesiastes 3:12-14 NIV)
Consequently, I don’t think Jesus’s birth was put on our calendars for the purpose of stressing us out! Like the Scripture says: eat, drink, and be merry; but you can’t do that if you are so stuck on the things that might be lacking from your holiday.

So I invite you to join me in forgiving ourselves this season. We may not have the best Christmas card photo (or we may not get to send cards out at all, sorry!); we may eat off paper plates instead of fine china; we may not be able to afford everything off of the wish list; and we may not even have all seven fishes on Christmas Eve, but we do have each other. Let’s choose to spend our time wisely and decide which “must-haves” are most important. As you already know, our time is limited…turn, turn, turn.