Esther

Esther_Cover_emailHey Guys! You know how much I love Beth Moore! Just finished the Esther Bible study. I love all her Bible studies, but I especially love this one because of the parallels she draws between the story of Esther and current culture. She draws out the theme, it’s tough being a woman, in ways that are applicable to our struggles and build our faith. For example, a couple of the chapter titles: it’s tough being a woman in a world where beauty is a treatment and it’s tough being a woman in the tight fist of fear. That one really spoke to me! Much like the fact that God’s name is “absent” in the book of Esther, Beth focuses on the providence of God and trusting him even when we can’t see Him. . .because He is so close! I think you can see why I want to pay it forward! I want to give away my copy of Beth Moore’s Esther Bible study. SO, I’m looking for a woman who would be willing to find some friends and commit to this Bible study for 10 weeks. If that’s you, register by providing your name and email address in the comments section below this blog post. The guys and I will select a winner by 10:00 this morning! Love you all!

No-Bake Energy Bites

the plate of energy bites my daughter Abbey made

the plate of energy bites my daughter Abbey made

Here’s the recipe I found the other day….Abbey has made them 3 times now! We keep them in the fridge. They are DELISH!

No-Bake Energy Bites
Prep Time: 10 minutes
Yield: About 3 dozen

These delicious little no bake energy bites are the perfect healthy snack!
Ingredients:

• 1 cup (dry) oatmeal (I used old-fashioned oats)
• 2/3 cup toasted coconut flakes
• 1/2 cup peanut butter
• 1/2 cup ground flaxseed or wheat germ
• 1/2 cup chocolate chips (optional)
• 1/3 cup honey or maple syrup
• 1 Tbsp. chia seeds (optional)
• 1 tsp. vanilla extract

Stir all ingredients together in a medium bowl until thoroughly mixed. Let chill in the refrigerator for half an hour. Once chilled, roll into balls of whatever size you would like. (Mine were about 1″ in diameter.) Store in an airtight container and keep refrigerated for up to 1 week.
Makes about 20-25 balls.

Dear God,

 

Pete asked me this morning when I was going to finish my “Dear God” letter or Part 2 of what I was going to share about Chris. My first reaction was “it’s been 2 weeks, it’s probably too late now. I’ve missed my window.”  Clearly, the world has moved on (which is normal), but those of us that knew and loved him are still feeling the gaping hole of his absence. Sharing openly on the show, and here on my blog has made me super sensitive to other’s pain. More than ever before, I am keenly aware that at any given moment, countless numbers of people are experiencing pain, hurt and loss. On the flip side of that, I never want to come across as if our best friends and family are the only ones who’ve ever experienced loss. We are not.

Bottom line is this… Life is hard. And grief in the real world is hard. This particular blog post represents a group of family and friends who are still hurting.  So, I’m writing this more for us. I invite you to read, tho. Especially if you’re interested in seeing how God had to put a huge tropical storm out in the gulf to save me from my plans. – Or better yet – if you want to see Him as a loving Father who hand paints a sunset, takes care of every detail, and is Comforter to all who mourn.

Kellie is actually in Roswell now packing up Chris’s things and moving them out of the condo they lived in for barely a year. It’s been a hard week. Thanks for keeping her in your prayers.

 

A Girl with a bad weather attitude.
Before I write a letter to God, there’s something you need to know about me. I have serious issues with weather. It’s a love/hate relationship with me. And lots of times I base my mood/productivity/and evaluation of the success of an event based on the weather. It’s crazy, I know. I confess it. And it’s really crazy that I live in Florida. I only like the weather about 5 or 6 months of the year. I hate humidity, I hate extreme heat, and I really hate it when it feels like you can drink the moisture in the air. We call it “tropical” and I’m not talking about sunshine and sea breeze. I’m talking a sticky, suffocating, miserable, oppressive outdoor steam room.

I will say tho, we’ve had a BEAUTIFUL 1st quarter of the year. Unlike last year, we’ve had cooler weather with zero humidity. It’s truly been phenomenal!! I can only name 3 ugly weekends. Of course they were the 3 weekends I had something significant happening. It was gorgeous all of February. Until the Princess Run. It was gorgeous all of March. Until we had a Building 429 pre-CD release. And it’s been a gorgeous April. Until we planned Chris’s memorial. Sometimes I feel like my punishment from God is bad weather. Terrible theology, I know. But just being honest. Telling you all of this will make sense shortly.

Rewind to Wednesday, April 10.
I met Kellie at Anna Maria Island at the location where we would have Chris’s party. It was a beautiful afternoon, and right before sunset we launched a wish lantern to see how they’d work for Friday. They worked beautifully. That same evening Kellie told me she wanted to lay Chris’s ashes at sea on Friday, because Chris had said he wanted to do it all in the same day. After burgers on the beach, the plan was to have a friend come around in his boat, and then Kellie, the girls, Kip and our friend Rob, who would preside over Chris’s memorial service, would wade out into the water and get on the boat. They would lay Chris to rest at sea, and once she and the girls said their final goodbye to husband and daddy, I would watch for the signal back onshore, initiating the launch of the 100 wish lanterns in the sunset sky and a memorial to Chris. I could see it in my mind’s eye. It would be moving. It would be tender. It would be respectful. It would be a “moment.” And I was determined to make it happen.

our first attempt!

our first attempt!

it worked beautifully!

it worked beautifully!

Fast forward to Friday, April 12.
Remember when I mentioned earlier we’ve only had 3 bad weekends this year? Well, of the three, Friday, April 12 has been the worse. A huge tropical system was just off the coast that made the day muggy, cloudy, super windy, and just an all around horrible weather day.

I’m not proud of what I’m about to confess to you, but I want to be real. And this is real and raw. I got up on Friday morning, emotions a mixture of sadness and anger. Sad because of what we’d be doing that day. Anger because God had not healed Chris, AND because the weather was so bad. I actually made this comment to God out loud in my bathroom: “God, you took Chris from us; the least you could do is give us good weather to memorialize him the way we are hoping to!” Yep, it’s true. Terrible isn’t it? I’m glad God has a chest big enough to take our temper tantrums. I drove all the way to the church, crying and praying: “God, I don’t want to be mad at you today. Please help me.” I put on Chris Tomlin’s Burning Lights. “Jesus, Son of God” was the song I played on repeat. “At the altar of our praise, let there be no higher name, Jesus, Son of God. You laid down Your perfect life, You are the sacrifice, Jesus, Son of God. You are Jesus, Son of God….” At that moment, I focused on what I knew OVER what I was feeling. God inhabits the praises of His people, and I needed Him to inhabit me! I don’t tell you this to show you how holy I am. I am the furthest thing from it. I tell you this to show you I have a heart blacker ‘n soot sometimes.

I wrote about the Celebration of Life in “Dear Chris,” so if you’ve read that you know what an incredibly special service it really was. Hands-down the most celebratory service I’ve ever attended. Chris lived a life that preached his own funeral. And we all walked away comforted, knowing that it’s never a final goodbye for those who know Jesus. If you haven’t read “Dear Chris,” please scroll back and share the day with us.

Cut to Friday evening.
With the huge storm continuing to brew off the coast (that never made landfall, btw, nor rained on our party), and whitecaps on the water, I soon accepted the fact the “moment” wasn’t happening. At the end of the evening I went to Plan B and planned for a few us to execute the plan on Saturday, albeit on a smaller scale. Kellie was happy it never rained; I was wishing I could model her grateful attitude.

Saturday, April 13.
I went for a run, just to get some fresh air, and I received this text from Kellie: “Jim got us a bigger boat. We’ll all be able to go out. Be here by 6.”

We had never planned on being part of the laying of Chris’s ashes at sea. But in that moment, I knew instantly God was about to give us a precious gift.

Conviction.

Followed by tears.

Gratefulness.

Followed by more tears.

 

Dear God.

Dear God,

I beg your forgiveness. I am so sorry I’m such a spoiled, rotten child who constantly thinks my ways are better than Yours. Specifically, I am sorry for yelling at You yesterday about why You couldn’t give us nice weather. I have such a black heart, Jesus, and such a long way to go. Thank you that You love me in spite of me. Left to my own thoughts and strong will, I am nothing but a wrecking ball waiting to strike again.

You tell us, Lord, that our plans are not Your plans. That our ways are not Your ways. That Your ways and Your plans are better. Will I ever learn this and even more importantly, believe it? I am so so sorry, God, please forgive me. I am a wretch.

I have no words when I think about the afternoon You gave us. I don’t think I’ve ever experienced anything so holy. So sacred. So close to Ecclesiastes 12:7 “…for then the dust will return to earth, and the spirit will return to God who gave it.”

Lord, it’s almost as if you made the day just for us. It was surreal seeing Kip carry the bag to the boat. We all followed quietly behind, still trying to wrap our minds around the fact that we were saying goodbye. It still just doesn’t seem real. Chris is gone. How did this happen?

The view from the boat was breathtaking. In one direction we saw the Skyway Bridge. In the other, we saw Anna Maria Island, and yet another we saw nothing but the sea meeting the horizon. And who could forget the sunset? Your creation truly does declare Your glory.

Scott (in the water) and Pete (on the boat) trying to un-anchor us!

Scott (in the water) and Pete (on the boat) trying to un-anchor us!

God, I’m convinced you have a sense of humor! It was great comedy relief when the anchor got stuck in the sandbar!! Lord, this is SO us! Anything less than Scott having to go in the water to free our anchor wouldn’t have been true to our personalities individually, or as friends. As long as we’ve all known each other, we’ve never NOT had a Lucy or 3 Stooges moment. It actually makes us nervous if things go too smoothly. We all wanna believe that perhaps you gave Chris a quick glance at this sight. We can hear him now saying, “yep, those are my peeps! They’re trying to lay me to rest, and they’re stuck on a sandbar.” It was good to have a cathartic belly laugh in the middle of something so hard. You’ve blessed us with humor throughout the whole ordeal, usually led by Chris, so why would it be any different now?

Rob reading from the Holy Word of God.

Rob reading from the Holy Word of God.

Once unstuck, Kellie let Caroline choose the place. She chose perfectly. Now anchored properly, we all made our way to the bow of the boat. Rob opened the scriptures, and the tears began to flow. He read from Your word, Father, and we felt Your tangible presence. After spending time in Your Word, Kip removed the lid of the box and released Chris’s ashes to sea. I’ll never be able to articulate the hard and the holy in that moment. But for those of us on the boat, it will forever be written on our hearts and minds. It was “The Moment” that was suppose to happen. My moment would’ve been woefully less.

I’ll never forget hearing Kellie say, “I’m sorry girls,” as they sat holding each other, on both sides of their mother. I can hardly think about it now without crying all over again. Jim so respectfully gave us the quiet time that was needed to take in/process/live the moment. Rob read more scripture and we made the boat our altar. As I sang yesterday, “on the altar of our praise, let there be no higher name, Jesus, Son of God….” I don’t know that the ocean has ever been any of our altars. But it was today.

the ocean was our altar

the ocean was our altar

My heart is still sad and glad. Sad for all the obvious reasons. But glad for all the obvious reasons too. No question, God, You knew exactly what You were doing. And I am so sorry I didn’t trust You. Saturday afternoon was perfect. It was intimate. It was sacred. It was a good and perfect gift; an evening only You could orchestrate. Thank you for making it all that it was suppose to be. But most of all, thank you for being near to the broken-hearted.

C.S. Lewis said:

“If we find ourselves with a desire that nothing in this world can satisfy, the most probable explanation is that we were made for another world.”

We weren’t made for this world, Father; we were made to be with You. Chris is home with You now. Kellie and the girls miss him. Cynthia misses him. We miss him. But until we can be where y’all are, Father, be with us, hold us, guide us, stay with us, talk with us, protect us, and on some days, we may even need You to carry us. We are your children, God, in desperate need of Your care.

Your daughter,
carmen

Thank you, John, for capturing all of these pictures.

Kip hugging Kellie after this sacred moment.

Kip hugging Kellie after this sacred moment.

family.

We took a pic of the coordinates. And yes, Chris, we had on The JOY FM. :)

We took a pic of the coordinates. And yes, Chris, we had on The JOY FM. : )

the day that God actually had planned for us.

the day that God actually had planned for us.

and yes, we still lit some lanterns!

and yes, we still lit some lanterns!

Caroline & Kellie

Caroline & Kellie

one more!

one more!

app dumps.

 
I was introduced to The Pioneer Woman by my friend Becca a month of so ago. Since then, Abbey & I have bought both of her cookbooks, and have made the apple dumplings three times! Well, Abbey’s made them, and I’ve eaten them.  Can I just say they are OUT OF THIS WORLD, and I’m so not kidding! Seriously. They are the BEST apple dumplings ever. Or as Josh calls them “app dumps.” I don’t know how The Pioneer Woman will feel about us calling ‘em that, but we mean it with the utmost respect!

I’ve talked about these app dumps so much on the show, and  I just answered my umpteenth email about them, so I thought it might be a good idea to post the recipe here! Here’s the link to The Pioneer Woman’s blog. I’ve not spent a whole lot of time on there, but from what I’ve seen so far, it’s pretty spectacular!  I also see she’s written a book called Black Heels to Tractor Wheels; I’m definitely gonna read it when I’m done with 7.

Recipe for App Dumps

The Pioneer Woman's Apple Dumplings

The Pioneer Woman’s Apple Dumplings

Ingredients:
2 whole Granny Smith Apples
2 cans (8 Oz. Cans) Crescent Rolls
2 sticks Butter
1-1/2 cup Sugar
1 teaspoon Vanilla
Cinnamon, To Taste
1 can (12 Oz.) Mountain Dew Soda

Preparation Instructions:
Peel and core apples. Cut each apple into 8 slices each.
Roll each apple slice in a crescent roll.
Place in a 9 x 13 buttered pan.
Melt butter, then add sugar and barely stir.
Add vanilla, stir, and pour entire mixture over apples.
Pour Mountain Dew around the edges of the pan.
Sprinkle with cinnamon and bake at 350 degrees for 40 minutes.
Serve with ice cream, and spoon some of the sweet sauces from the pan over the top.

WARNING: Prepare this dish at your own risk. It is beyond imaginable.

Oh, and I highly recommend Blue Bell Homestyle Vanilla Ice Cream. Highly. Highly. Highly recommend!

PS…In an unrelated note, I know I still owe a 2nd blog post/letter. I’ve started it. I will finish soon. Thanks so much for all of your prayers, sweet notes, and compassion for my best friend, Kellie and her family. She has surely felt them. Please keep her in your prayers this week, as she packs us the condo in Atlanta. It’s still so very hard.

Dear Chris,

 
I’ve been sitting here staring at a blank screen for the last 2 hours. It’s so hard to express in a few paragraphs all that has been seen and felt in the last 2 days.

To try and sum up the truly celebratory service we had on Friday, with one of the most moving moments I’ve ever experienced in life on Saturday is simply impossible.

So, here’s what I’m gonna do. I’m gonna write 2 letters. One to Chris to tell him about Friday. And one to God to thank Him for the sacred and holy moment He gave us on Saturday.

………………………………………………………………………………………………………………

Dear Chris,

The first thing you need to know is WE MISS YOU!! Yes, we cried. I know you wouldn’t want us to, but you can’t always have your way. But you would’ve been so proud…we laughed too! A. LOT!

Of course your life verse set the tone for the whole Celebration. I think we all know it by heart now. John 10:10…. ”The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full.” I think after Friday, we’re all gonna try even harder to live life more fully. This will honor you best. Thank you for being such a wonderful example to us. So many of our YoungLife kids said at your party “after today, we’re hitting the re-set button to be more present in the moment. To be more active. To be better husbands. Better dads. Better Friends.” You’re still teaching them, Chris.

Chris, Kellie, Caroline, Kip, Hope

Chris, Kellie, Caroline, Kip, Hope

I want you to know your hot brunette was as hot as she always is! She was the picture of strength and grace. She was having a rough morning, but Alex gave her a wonderful gift. He dug up old footage of you from club years ago. I was standing there when she hugged him and said, “thank you for giving me my husband back.” Seeing your silly face on screen comforted her. And even rejuvenated her a bit, as she begins these first steps of this new journey without you. I’m praying specifically that God is merciful to her memory and that slowly the healthy you replaces the images of these last few weeks and months. If God has an expedited folder, would you slip this prayer in there for us? She misses you as her life partner. “Chris & Kellie” rolls off all of our tongues so naturally. I’m not really ready to not say y’alls names together yet. You were each other’s yin and yang. Salt and pepper. Beach and sand. Y’all have done life together for SO long. She loved being your wife. We sat up a long time the other night emphasizing the fact there will never be another you.

Hope and Caroline were strong too. You’ve would’ve been so proud of them! And Kip. Wow. I know you know this already, but Hope chose so well. Everyone was so impressed with Kip. You would’ve been delighted at the way he held up all of your girls. He acknowledged that you would’ve been the one being so strong for all of them. He knows this is now his role, and he willingly accepts it. He also had us laughing! I don’t remember his exact words, but they were something to the affect of how lucky he was to be married to one of YOUR daughters. It’s undeniable. They are beautiful, Chris. Inside and out. I know he will closely and lovingly watch over Caroline and make sure she chooses well also. I’ll never forget us sitting on your bed and you telling us, “It’s not y’all that I’m worried about; y’all will be fine. It’s my girls that I’m concerned for.” With Kip leading the way, we will all surround them and care for them. We promise.

Cynthia honored both you and Jimmy. She is comforted knowing you and Jimmy are now together. But that doesn’t make it hurt any less. She talked about what a great caretaker you were to Jimmy. Both when you were little and through his sickness as well. It’s too much for a sister to have to lose 2 brothers in 10 months. Our hearts are breaking for her, too, and we are holding her closely. Don’t be jealous, but I think Scott and Pete are wanting to both be her brothers now. ☺ Of course, they won’t fill yours and Jimmy’s shoes. She has a Chris and Jimmy sized hole in her heart that only you and Jimmy can fill. But know that we’re gonna keep on loving her. You and Kellie were both blessed with the best brothers and sisters ever.

Jim, Chris, Jimmy, Cynthia

Jim, Chris, Jimmy, Cynthia

Scott told some great, great stories! They were so you! But I think he honored you best when he said this: “Chris lived an Easter Sunday life in a Good Friday world.” None of us were surprised you went home on Easter. We all agree that Easter will be all the more special now. And I can tell you for sure, I’ve never been more grateful that death has been defeated. I didn’t get a chance to tell you this, but Abbey’s best friend Tiffani was baptized on Easter Sunday. Kellie told me right before services that you’d slipped into paradise. So as we stood at the alter with Tiffani on Sunday morning, the thought that ran through my mind was this: “I’m here with one teenage friend who is professing her faith, while my dear friend Chris is perfecting his faith.” I know how much you love teenagers. And how much you wanted them to understand and know the gospel, so this moment was especially meaningful to me on Easter.

Scott & Chris

Scott & Chris

And speaking of teenagers. You would have LOVED this! At your Celebration, Rob brought us words of comfort YoungLife style! He lost it when he first tried to speak. This has been really hard on him. He’s preached a lot of funerals (I hate that word), but I’m surmising this one has been the most difficult. He did pull it together because he said he could hear you say, “Brother Rob, give ‘em a word.” And not only did he give us a word, he gave us a song and dance too! Yep, you guessed it! He resurrected Danny and Joey! He put the picture of y’all on the screen and even donned the same black, curly wig he wore at the Arbor Green Clubhouse all those years ago! We were rolling! He said he hopes when his time comes, you are standing right behind Jesus ready to greet him to C’mon Ride the Train! Yes, we played a portion of that song at the church, and no, we didn’t get kicked out! I’m sure they’re praying for us, though!

Danny & Joey aka Rob & Chris

Danny & Joey
aka Rob & Chris

We ended your Celebration with Our God and 10,000 Reasons. I remembered your eyes lighting up when we talked about having worship songs at your party. I picked these songs in particular because I can still see your hands worshipfully in the air singing Our God to our Heavenly Father. Both pre and post diagnosis.

10,000 Reasons was a pivotal song for me. I’ve heard it 10,000 times (pun intended), but I heard it for the FIRST time on yours and Kellie’s 29th wedding anniversary. I was at Chris Tomlin’s concert, fresh back from Roswell after Pete and I had flown up to say good-bye to you. I was still struggling with anger and here’s the part of the song that broke me:

And on that day when my strength is failing
The end draws near and my time has come
Soon my soul will sing your praise un-ending
10,000 years and then forever more

When I saw these words flash on the screen, I felt the anger leave me, and for the first time in months, I allowed God to comfort me, instead of pushing Him away. 10,000 years is a long time, and when we all get there, we’ll know this life as a vapor, as you now do. One other note on 10,000 Reasons…God being God, continues to take even our selfish decisions and use those too. Kip and Hope both told me after the service how special 10,000 Reasons has been to them. I was thrilled! I’ll let them tell you about the Lazarus thread between their Easter Sunday message and Rob’s message at your Celebration. But for now, let’s just say, I think the message has definitely been punctuated for them. I do love how personal God is with all of us. He takes such care with every detail and knits it all together. Even right down to messages and songs.

one of our last fun days with you! i love this one especially because of the hairnets! and of course, your JOY FM t-shirt.

one of our last fun days with you! i love this one especially because of the hairnets! and of course, your JOY FM t-shirt.

We did have burgers at sunset back at the beach. And yes, everyone had on shorts and flip flops. Well, some of us had on sundresses. Again, you can’t always get everything you want! But we did dress up in our “Friday best”. The Meat Monkeys went ALL OUT! Bill, Ben, Greg, Craig, Brian, Pete and all of your buds were there flipping burgers, baking beans, and doing it up right. They outshine any caterer. But you already know that. They were absolutely honored they got to serve you in this way.

So many folks came to honor you. Your Oakley guys were there! Jim even brought the shorts that he ripped because YOU made him jump off a cliff! Your high school friends, Tampa friends, Bradenton friends, and tons of YoungLife kids from both communities all came to celebrate you. You even made some new friends. The few there that hadn’t had a chance to meet you, were wishing they had!

We’ll probably always have the “WHY” question in the back of our minds. WHY it had to be you, especially when you championed health. But we’re trying to transition from the WHY to the WHO and WHERE. The same WHO that came to give us life, and give it to the full is the same WHO that will comfort Kellie, the girls, Cynthia, Kip and the rest of us who love you so much. Jesus is the WHO that was with you as you closed your eyes here and opened them there. And we know WHERE there is….we know without a shadow of a doubt WHERE you are. And we want to be WHERE you are one day too.

You leaving us at 48 years old has taught us to number our days and to live them fully. “To live like we’re on borrowed time,” as your favorite song goes. And because you were a blogger, and because Scott so eloquently pointed out that you were a fisher of men (btw, he said you weren’t that great of a fisherman, but don’t tell him I told you), I am posting this letter to you. Why? Because I know your greatest desire was for people to know the Giver of Life. You wanted people to know about Jesus. Yes, you’d hate all of this hullabaloo of us celebrating you. You’d be shushing all of us. You’d be pointing heavenward. But you preached your own service on Friday, Christopher John, because of the life you lived. My hope is that if someone stumbles across this letter, they’ll learn from you just as we have.

I’ll never forget our last words as you hugged me. “I love you sister. Take care of my hot brunette.” I promised you that I would and I will.

Tomorrow, I will write a letter to God to thank Him for the sacred and holy moment He gave us on Saturday. We all laughed on the boat on Saturday when Scott had to dive in the water for the anchor. We could hear you telling God, “yep, those are my peeps.”

One last request…as our diplomat, when you see us coming, will you please ride your bike to the gate and just make sure there are no “issues”? Thanks!

Love,
carmen
Your sister in Christ.
and Lucy to your Ethel.

PS…I’m posting the video of you, Chris, because I want everyone to know you the way we did. And also because Alex did a phenomenal job of capturing all sides of you! I know you’d want me to brag on him too!

Celebrating Chris from The Morning Cruise on Vimeo.

Celebrating Chris

 

Chris’s Celebration of LifeChrisBookMarkPROOF

When:
Friday, April 12th at 2 p.m.

Where:
Bayside Community Church
East Bradenton Campus
15800 SR 64 East
Bradenton, FL

Chris’s Party:
Immediately following the Celebration of Life:
102 48th Street
Holmes Beach, FL

Dress Code:
Now that you have the date, time, and location, I need to share with you the most important detail of the day….the DRESS CODE!

Direct quote from Christopher John:

“I want y’all to have a party with burgers, at sunset on the beach. I want everyone to wear shorts and flip flops.”

So, to honor Chris, this IS the attire for his Celebration of Life and Sunset Beach Party immediately following. If you show up in a suit and tie at the service or party, we’ll have big burley YoungLife kids on-hand to escort you out for being overdressed. Kidding! Sort of.

Kellie did, however, make one caveat: The women can wear a sundress if they prefer, but only with flip flops! Now before you say, “that’s not what Chris wanted,” let’s be honest, if the hot brunette (Chris’s affectionate name for Kellie) wanted to wear a sundress, Chris would’ve been totally OK with that! The point being….Chris was the most down to earth, casual, easy-to-be-around, low key guy. He loved the outdoors, and if he wasn’t in workout or biking clothes, he was in shorts and flip flops. He wouldn’t want us showing up in anything else!

In lieu of flowers a donation can be made to:
The JOY FM
6469 Parkland Drive
Sarasota, FL 34243
Or online at www.thejoyfm.com
Please note on check or online: In honor of Chris Hughes

We hope you’ll join us to celebrate Chris next Friday. He was a loving husband to Kellie. A devoted dad to Hope and Caroline. A fantastic father-in-law to Kip. A faithful brother to Cynthia and Jimmy. A cherished son to his parents. He was an uncle, a brother-in-law and a loyal friend to many. But most importantly, He was a child of God. It’s been such a gift to Kellie to hear so many of you share with her how Chris not only impacted your life in a real tangible way, but in eternal ways too. Chris loved kids! He loved people!! And he loved Jesus. We will celebrate all of this next Friday. Kellie and the family look forward to seeing you.

The Meat Monkeys at St. James will be providing the burgers and condiments.
If you would like to help with a side dish, please contact:
Pam Dickinson at sdickin1@tampabay.rr.com.

If you’d like to send Kellie a card you can mail to:

Kellie Hughes
c/o The JOY FM
6469 Parkland Drive
Sarasota, FL 34243

 

Christopher John Hughes

 

Christopher John HughesJune 8, 1964 - March 31, 2013

Christopher John Hughes
June 8, 1964 – March 31, 2013

Today is Easter Sunday. Today is also the day that Christopher John’s faith has become his sight. He is now in paradise. As hard as it is, how fitting that it be on Easter Sunday. Kellie feels so much peace that God called him home on this day. We’re pretty sure he’s already on his bike cruising the streets of gold!  Without question, all of us are so heartbroken, but we are incredibly grateful that we can grieve – and are grieving – with HOPE.  Thank you, Jesus for this gift. We’re clinging to it.  Please hold Kellie, Hope, Caroline, Cynthia, and Chris’ parents tightly in your prayers these next few days and weeks to come.

Kellie has asked me to communicate a few things to everyone. And I thought this might be a good place, in addition to Facebook. The outpouring of love and support is overwhelming to her. She told me several times today she literally can feel your prayers in an inexplicable, supernatural way.

We WILL be throwing a party for Chris! He gave us very explicit instructions, right down to the dress code. {More on that when we confirm all the details.} But, when you hear what he wants, you’ll nod your head and say, “yep, that’s Chris!”

For planning purposes:

Chris’ Memorial Service/Party will be in Bradenton. Kellie has a date in mind, but I need to call the church tomorrow to confirm availability. It will be in a week or so.

Chris requested that in lieu of flowers, he wants folks to make a donation to The JOY FM. The address is 6469 Parkland Drive, Sarasota, FL 34243.  Of course this sounds suspicious coming from me, but I promise you it is true! Chris listened all the time, and via his app when they moved. Kellie said she really doesn’t want people spending money on flowers. She’ll be leaving Atlanta in a few days headed this way.

If you have a favorite picture of you and Chris, please email the pic to carmen@thejoyfm.com.

As soon as we confirm all the details in the next few days, I will post ASAP, so you can make travel plans.

Kellie sends her love and gratitude to each of you. She feels your love and support.

 

 

one month.

 

One month down. Eleven to go. Today’s March 27th, which marks one month that I’m “shopping-free.”  On February 27, I decided to not buy anything for a year. I had 3 categories….clothes, purses and costume jewelry. You can scroll back and read the full post.

Today on the show, I brought up that it’s been a month. I’ve been to the mall maybe twice. I did go to Loft to exchange a pair of jeans I’d bought in January. Colored jeans are in, and I had bought a mint green pair, but the more I tried them on the more I realized the color is too pale for my legs. Darker denim is much more flattering on me. So, I exchanged them for a periwinkle color. Other than exchanging those jeans, I’ve not shopped. But before I give myself a gold star, 3 weeks of March was pretty much consumed with a trip to Atlanta and 2 weeks worth of FriendRaiser. At the moment, I’ll just acknowledge I’m off to a good start.

But now the journey has taken a twist.

7, an experimental mutiny against excess

7, an experimental mutiny against excess

In the course of the conversation today on the show – and because most times I do NOT think before I speak – we (me, Dave, Bill) are now doing a “7 Clothes” challenge for the month of April. In Jen Hatmaker’s book, 7, an experimental mutiny against excess, Jen identifies 7 different areas of excess in her life: clothes. shopping. waste. food. possessions. media. stress. In Chapter 1, she eats only seven different foods for a solid month. In Chapter 2, she identifies seven different clothing items that she’ll wear for a month.

But back to today’s show.

After reading several different excerpts from Jen’s book, The Morning Cruise (TMC) are choosing seven clothing items tonight, to bring to the show tomorrow. At 7:07 (get it?), we’re going to show what 7 garments we will wear from April 1 – 30. Dave didn’t even have to think about it. He was in for the challenge, not stressed, and is ready to start. One listener kidded that he’d probably have to go buy a few pieces just to get to 7. Dave is a minimalist and he prefers and chooses to be this way. On the opposite end of the spectrum resides Bill and me. And I’m not sure who is struggling with it more. No, actually I do know. It’s Bill.

You will find this hard to believe, but Bill packs a bigger suitcase than me. And when we go out of town as a show, he brings more shoes than I do. And no, I am not kidding! If you don’t believe me, ask Dave. True story.

Dave did give us a couple of caveats.

Mine: I am on a panel at a Women in Radio Summit on April 19. I get a free pass that day, and can wear anything I want.

Bill’s: He leads worship on Sundays, so Sunday becomes his “feast” day. He can wear something different each Sunday for the month of April.

Collective:

1) Shoes are one category, but we are choosing only 2 pairs.
2) undergarments don’t count.
3) workout clothes don’t count.
4) pajamas don’t count.
5) coats don’t count.
6) we have a handful of station events in April. Staff shirts don’t count. But we are choosing 1 black shirt.

These are a couple of variations from how Jen did it in her book, but the spirit of this experiment isn’t to do exactly what Jen did, or to be super legalistic. The spirit of this experiment is to choose intentional reduction, and to recognize we can live on – and with – less. We are a consumption society. We are an instant gratification society. We are a wasteful society. We are a spoiled society. And please don’t hear this as me on a soapbox or making indictments against anybody. I’m not here to judge. Nor will I.

What I am here to do is open myself up to allow God to work out some entitlement tendencies in my own heart. I let the words “I need” roll off my tongue as if I’m telling someone what the weather is gonna be like today. And no, it’s not needs. It’s wants! I’ve become so desensitized to wants vs. real needs.

I want to intentionally reduce. Reduce the stuff. Reduce the clutter. Reduce the noise. And REPLACE it with gratitude. Replace it with more time with Jesus. More space for Jesus. When I’m aggravated I only have 7 things to wear this month, I want to stop and count the blessings I do have. I want to pray that God helps me with my critical spirit. I want to pray that He helps me with my cynicism. I want to surrender my ability (and tendency) to rationalize when I want something to go my way. I want to be less selfish. I want to think of others more. I want to be more tolerant. I want to remember that slavery still exists in this country. In this world. I want to remember the ones that truly only have 7 clothing items, and wouldn’t need a challenge to succeed at our challenge, if you get what I’m saying. Oh, I could name a hundred more things…but, as you can see, God has a lot of work to do in me still.

I get this may seem silly/radical/legalistic/fill-in-the-blank to some, but for me, it’s about losing the blurred lines between wants vs. needs. To live gratefully. To live more simply. And with a more healthy perspective.

This scripture passage jumped off the page at me:

1 John 2: 15-17 NLT

15 Do not love this world nor the things it offers you, for when you love the world, you do not have the love of the Father in you. 16 For the world offers only a craving for physical pleasure, a craving for everything we see, and pride in our achievements and possessions. These are not from the Father, but are from this world. 17 And this world is fading away, along with everything that people crave. But anyone who does what pleases God will live forever.

And here’s The Message version:

Don’t love the world’s ways. Don’t love the world’s goods. Love of the world squeezes out love for the Father. Practically everything that goes on in the world—wanting your own way, wanting everything for yourself, wanting to appear important—has nothing to do with the Father. It just isolates you from him. The world and all its wanting, wanting, wanting is on the way out—but whoever does what God wants is set for eternity.

Alrighty, I’m off to pick my 7 items. I’ve talked a good game above. Now let’s see if I can walk my really good talk. No doubt this is gonna be rough. Anybody wanna join us?

 

Chris & Kellie.

 

Lots of times in life we don’t realize we’re living a “moment in time” until after we’ve lived it. And then – every once in a great while – there are days like today, when you are fully aware of the “moment” you’re living.

This was the opening line of my journal entry from last week. The day before, I had gotten the dreaded phone call from Kellie. The one that said, “The doctors have told me it’s time to call hospice.”

No. No. NO!

Our minds (or maybe more appropriately, our hearts) are very weird. Even when we know, short of a miracle, something is coming, it’s still so very hard to hear. Or accept.

Feeling helpless and not knowing what else to do, I flew to Atlanta.

When I got to the cancer center in Newnan last week, I wasn’t ready to see Chris’ physical appearance. The last time I saw him was in November. He was thinner, but he still looked like “Chris.” Now, he looks like he has cancer. He’s frail, and very very thin. Well, all except his belly. This iron man/tri-athlete who has never had anything less than a six pack, now has this protruding belly, one that we all tease – Chris included – makes him look like he’s about to deliver. Because humor gets us through, and because we are all pretty irreverent, I said to Chris: “Are we in a cancer hospital or the maternity ward?” Of course he laughed as best he could. It didn’t take long for him to shoot one back at me… “You know I’m going on ahead as a diplomat, right? To make sure you and Kellie get in.” lololol. Tears. Laughs. Tears.

If I had to name someone in which to compare Chris, I would tell you “think Tony Dungy.” Chris has that same quiet strength. He’s not loud or flashy. He’s a man of integrity and character. He’s silly. He’s an instigator! He’s a good listener. He’s not judgmental. He’s always, always positive. He’s a good friend. And a good man. His family is everything to him. Other than worrying about his girls (all 3 of them), he is ready. He loves and trusts God with a blind faith that leaves me wanting to sit at his bedside and ask him to speak wisdom into my life.

We sat for a bit and talked about what kind of service and music he wants. His words: “I want a party!” I told him we wouldn’t be much in the partying mood. He did tell me the songs he would want played. He even pulled up a YouTube video of one of ‘em on his phone to show me. He did have one mandate: “No sad songs!” I asked him if he was at peace. He said “yes, God’s been preparing me for this, for a while.”  I told him, “Chris, you are SO LOVED. I hope you know how much everybody loves you.” I think he does.

Pete flew up a day later and we were able to spend a few days together. It was a beautiful visit. We did such normal things. Pete & Chris watched the Gator basketball game in between naps (Pete napping too!). Kellie and I went for a walk. Pete treated me and Kel to pedis and manis. All so normal. Yet so abnormal. Chris is in his 40′s. It’s surreal knowing what you’re really doing is saying goodbye. On the positive side, we are so grateful for the gift of being able to leave nothing unsaid. Not everybody gets that. It’s a gift we are holding tightly.

My emotions are still all over the place. I’m tender. I’m raw. I’m disappointed. I’m sad. And I’m mad. All normal, I suppose. The scripture I keep repeating to myself…”even when we are faithless, You remain faithful.” Thank you, Lord; I’m clinging to this promise.

Kellie & Chris

Kellie & Chris…so beautiful! and so handsome!

Today is hard, too…today is Chris & Kellie’s 29th wedding anniversary.  I can’t stop thinking about them. It feels odd to call and say “Happy Anniversary!”  I know she is grateful for the 29 years God has given her with Chris. But I also know she would eagerly sign up for 29 more. I simply can’t imagine there being a time when there’s a Kellie “without a Chris.”  I think about the vows they took all those years ago. When you promise “in sickness and in health,” you really aren’t picturing this. But it’s life, and it’s what we enthusiastically promise. I can’t tell you what a wonderful caregiver she is being to her husband. She’s amazing. I know people go through this every day. And I know she isn’t exempt.  We, as believers, aren’t exempt. I know we aren’t immune to pain. And I know God said, “In this world you WILL have trouble; not IF you have trouble.”  I know God doesn’t owe us any explanations. I know His ways are higher. I know He loves us more than we can imagine. I know He has prepared a place for us. I know we are just passing through. I know this isn’t our home.  I know, I know, I know….

But still.

Spending these last few days with Chris have left me feeling really dwarfed by the magnitude of God; we truly operate in nothing more than an “illusion of control.” But even though I’ve felt really small, I’ve also felt His nearness. I know He sees us. I know He hears us. And I know He catches every single tear. I watched a sermon by Britt Merrick the other day called “When Sparrows Fall.” Britt is a pastor who recently lost his daughter to cancer. He said this: In times like these, we ask the wrong question. The question isn’t “Why?” But rather, “Who?”  It’s not, “God, why is this happening?” But rather, “Who will carry us through?”

I know God will carry Kellie, Hope, Caroline, Cynthia and the rest of Chris’ family through this. I also know their darkest days are still ahead of them. As family and friends, we’re transitioning from praying for a miracle to praying that he not suffer long. And of course, trying to figure out how to say goodbye.

 

Dave’s Mom’s Biscuits

 

Blondie's biscuits

Blondie’s biscuits

OH. MY. WORD! I’ve not had biscuits like my Maw-Maw Brown used to make since she passed away. Well, not until today!!! Dave’s mom, Blondie, shared her family’s biscuit recipe with Dave and he is now sharing it with us!! He and Emilie made these for us last night, and Bill and I are feasting on them this morning!! My record is 17 biscuits in one weekend (not kidding! I had 9 on Saturday and 8 on Sunday when I was 12 and spent the weekend with Maw-Maw & Paw-Paw Brown!) If I didn’t have to share with Bill, I could totally finish off the platter by myself!!

Blondie’s Biscuits:

Pioneer Original or Buttermilk Biscuit & Baking Mix

3 cup Pioneer Original or Buttermilk Biscuit & Baking Mix
1 cup Whole milk (or buttermilk)

Preparation Instructions:

1. Heat oven to 450°F.

2. Mix ingredients just until a dough forms. Do not overmix.

3. Turn dough onto floured surface; shape into a ball. Knead 3 to 4 times.

4. Roll 1/2-inch thick. Hand form biscuits (should be 2 to 3 inches).

5. Place with sides touching on lightly oiled baking sheet. Brush the top of each biscuit with oil

6. Bake 11 to 13 minutes.

7. Brush with melted butter

 

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