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What happened at breakfast

When I travel and speak, telling my favorite message of HOPE, I always leave time at the end to listen to the sweet, precious stories of audience members and well, to just simply hug a whole mess of people.  While my husband says I should come with a warning sign, “Watch out, she’s a hugger!”  I think those times of embracing others fuel me.  But it is in the tender sharing of the very personal stories of loss and God’s amazing love that leave my heart so tenderly touched.  Since I share openly about the ways that God’s beautiful cardinals have touched my life, in those private one-on-one meetings I seem compelled to remind my new friends to keep their eyes and ears open and their hearts receptive for those times and places when heaven touches earth.  It is in those blessed moments when heaven truly doesn’t feel so far away.

For some reason my last few days have been filled with divine appointments and all of them have brought me to humble and tear-filled praise.  While I was definitely longing for one of those interactions (which I will write more about later this week), the one that happened before my dissertation altered both my breakfast and my heart.

A simple change in plans is how it all started.  I decided to grab a quick breakfast at McDonald’s rather than wake up everyone.  The moment I walked in it seemed like a nostalgic trip down memory lane.  The recently remodeled restaurant had a new room divider that reminded me of one of the favorite games we played with our kids that has endured today.  Even though they all know the correct locations of their states, they will still, on occasion, pull out The Scrambled States of America to put the union back togetherThe frosted glass divider has the outlines of the states placed in random locations which brought forth a smile of fond memories.

states

Sitting down to eat a quiet breakfast by myself, I noticed a gentleman who was cleaning the floors.  I watched as he greeted each customer and had genuine conversations with each one.  When he got to me, he asked if I had sprained my wrist.  At first, I was perplexed, but then quickly realized I was already sporting my Wilson wrist band, just like from my high school tennis team days, which protects the scar site from my recent wrist surgery.  We visited briefly before he went on with his work and I with my oatmeal and yogurt.  The sweet man then interacted with a new family who arrived as he congratulated their children on their hard work in school, swiftly learning they had just passed to the next grade level.

Eventually, I decided to refill my iced tea so I could head over to campus.  My new “friend” was mopping in front of the beverage station, so he moved the caution pylon and then asked, “Are you a professor?”.  In our exchange I confirmed that I will be teaching on campus this fall and also back in Minnesota, but that the reason for my trip was to attend a doctoral course.  He then shared about recently finishing his master’s in computer science, and how he was working simply to earn more funds to earn a PhD.  We swapped a few more niceties, and then it was time for me to go.  Before I departed, he made sure to offer his name – Akeem.  Our parting was so sweet – Heal well, Professor Kandy.  Be blessed.

My children could author the next part of this story, because they have learned that I always make sure to talk to a manager whenever I encounter exceptional service.  So often as a society we are quick to complain or to criticize but taking time to speak in gratitude is often taken for granted.  I spoke with the manager and another regular customer overheard our conversation.  Oh, are you talking about Akeem? He’s absolutely the best.

One look at the time and I knew that I needed to get on my way, but as soon as I stepped outside onto the sidewalk tears fell and they continued to pour forth for the ride to campus.  I felt honored. I felt convicted.  I felt inspired. I felt humbled.

How many times in life do we look over the least of these?  He was a man simply mopping the floor and returning trays to the kitchen, yet he was a man taking pride in his job.  He didn’t see it as a lowly position, but rather as gift to which the big opening someday will be to have three extra letters tacked onto his name.  Akeem saw God’s beautiful souls, not just diners in search of a quick bite, and he went out of his way to make them feel special.  Different than many people, Akeem practiced living perfectly in the moment by savoring the preciousness of interacting with others.

In my tear-filled drive to class, I prayed thanking God for the chance to bump into one of his saints. I humbly asked him to help me live like Akeem, not encumbered with any of life’s worries or disappointments.  I asked him to help me remember that no matter what I am doing to do it with pride as if I am working for him.  I sought forgiveness for the times where I was not filled with gratitude for all the many blessings I have received, and I humbly asked for help in remembering to live life in abundant gratitude.

On that day, heaven felt really close because even though I just stopped for breakfast, that morning, I basked in God’s presence all thanks to Akeem .

Live blessed.  Love BIG.

 

A hug from heaven

Hope is the thing with feathers –

That perches in the soul –

And sings the tune without the words –

And never stops – at all –

~Emily Dickinson

Sometimes I marvel at the ways that heaven touches earth.  I sincerely believe that those who seek and search with expectant senses will find glimmers of the divine in ordinary life.  For our family, the cardinal is the thing with feathers that perches in our collective souls. Yet, I am still astounded at the wonder of creation and God’s masterpieces at every turn, but even more so am I am in awe of the way that God fulfills his promises.

Through the trials of grief, I have been drawn to verses that remind me of how God draws close to the brokenhearted (Psalm 34:18 & Psalm 147:13) and collects our tears in his bottle (Psalm 56:8).  But recently my soul has resonated with the imagery of being safely tucked under his wings as a reminder of his promise that those who mourn will be comforted (Matthew 5:4).

Psalm 91-4

graphic credit: designsbyjacqueline

I bristle whenever someone says that time heals all wounds.  It doesn’t.  Grief never goes away, but its intensity ebbs and flows like the tides.  Sometimes it comes crashing down so hard that it sucks all the air out your lungs and other times its presence laps at your toes.  Going into Reed’s birthday recently for the first time in ten years, I woke up feeling peaceful.  My heart was surprised that instead of overwhelming sadness, I awoke content which is another one of those elusive sentiments while grieving.  Content and grief are on opposite ends of a spectrum while longing is truly a part of one end.  Yet on what would have been Reed’s 23rd birthday, I started the day thinking of how he would have loved that we would be sharing “hugs” through our stuff-your-own stuffies small business at our local Relay for Life event.

While we were there, everything about the otherwise ordinary day remembering and celebrating our redheaded wonder morphed into the divine.  During a beautiful remembrance ceremony, I received a text message from a dear friend, wondering if I was at home.  When I divulged my whereabouts, she responded with an “I’m on my way” text which I interpreted as she had some small token for Reed’s birthday.

Only when I met her outside, what occurred was truly orchestrated in heaven.  She arrived sobbing and I was worried something terrible had happened.  Jumping out of her vehicle, she raced up the sidewalk with tears streaming down as she embraced me in the biggest hug I have ever received while attempting to tell me what prompted this embrace.  She had been sitting at home and experienced an overwhelming sense of sadness and she began to sob.  Shortly after, she sensed God telling her to find me and to deliver a message.  My friend is nothing, if not, a lover of Jesus who desires to listen for his voice and his promptings.

As we stood outside on the sidewalk, she whispered in my ear, God is so proud of you.   You have taken your sadness and turned it into something to help others which makes our Father incredibly proud of you.

The tears that didn’t fall in the morning, fell openly as I stood there cradled in her arms almost in shock.  We held each other tight for what seemed like forever.  Eventually I thanked her for the best birthday gift ever.  Her perplexed look told me she had no idea what I meant.

Today is Reed’s birthday and this hug and message felt like getting a celestial embrace from heaven.  She wept openly as she didn’t know the significance of the day and more so, as she recognized she hadn’t missed God’s message of comfort.  As we laughed and basked in God’s love, I looked down and saw the luminary that we happened to be standing next to.

cardinal luminary

I can only imagine that Reed, God and his son, Jesus, looked down and smiled because  tucked safely in my friend’s arms, I knew confidently there is always hope.

 

Unexpected Joy

Dear Reed –

              Well here we are. Last night a few of us were sitting in the hot tub, and unlike usual most lingered.  I was finally brave enough to utter what we were all thinking.  I don’t want to tomorrow to come.  I just want to blink and it be Saturday for Sister’s birthday. Everyone else just nodded, their hearts feeling exactly the same.

Yet, this year’s Saturday will be different for us as we will celebrate Sister but mourn the loss of the double birthday celebration as Uncle Sheldon will be there with you.  Maybe the two of you can start a new tradition of celebrating your birthdays together.  If you did, I think that would soothe Sister’s heart as she is really sad that she doesn’t have him to share a day.

Life has been a continued whirlwind around here, and we have so many things to look forward to and others that have brought us such joy.  Joy – that’s a pretty elusive word when you are grieving, but its very definition has at its core a lesson that I don’t think anyone can full comprehend until you have experienced its antonym – grief.

As we anticipate college graduations, further studies, big leadership roles, a big trip to the opening scene of one of your favorite movies and a couple weddings for our immediate family in the upcoming year, we also celebrate a few other things that we didn’t see clearly in the fog of our grief.  Some of joy’s lessons learned were to love large, to live unexpectedly while hoping expectantly, and to celebrate the little stuff.

Those lessons are how we are choosing to remember and celebrate you and your life today. You have a front row seat to God’s love, but here, here we have to muddle through and wait hopefully, expectantly to see how his love for us unfolds.  One of those moments was at Sawyer’s and Sydney’s engagement party.  The purpose was to introduce Sydney’s family to our created family, those who God brought together by friendship, if not by blood.  As I introduced Josh and his family and Damien and his, I said the words before I even realized it.  God is amazing.  I would give anything to have Reed back but he knows the deep recesses of my heart.  In losing one son, I gained two. 

              They could never truly be you, but they too love LARGE to fill that hole in our lives.  In just a couple weeks, Damien will marry his love and you my sweet boy will be one of the groomsmen in spirit.  You would love her too, as she picked that crazy goat picture to be the one that is carried down the aisle.  Words cannot even begin to tell you how honored we are that their little boy, like your second cousin before him, carries your name.  We are not biased at all, because we think they are perfect in every way.  And Josh’s girls know that every cardinal is a messenger of God even though they never met Uncle Reed.

We still miss those sneaky around the back hugs because they remind us of your zeal for giving and living unexpectedly, leaving a trail of sprinkled joy everywhere you went.  Today rather than be consumed by sadness, we are being intentional in following your lead.  Tonight, we will Squeeze the Stuffins by making stuffies that will bring endless hugs to those fighting cancer, and then out in Washington we sent our love and support to a fundraiser for homeless youth.  God may have given you an ocular condition that could have led to blindness, but he also gave you a heart to see the least of these and to champion them. We also chose to quietly recognize some unsung heroes today and gave them your favorite birthday cake.  Spreading joy unexpected, we are learning is an antidote to deep sadness.

fighting forMore birthdays

Celebrating the little stuff has always been our forte, and today will be no different even though we have a little help from your first best buddy’s family.  They choose to sprinkle unexpected joy today too, delivering a balloon ready to send to heaven along with cupcakes.

So even though we wanted to skip over this day because of the sadness it brings, we are choosing to smile through our tears and are choosing to live like you as our marching orders.  One of my favorite all time sermons is “It’s Friday”.  Today it’s Friday, and we are living with the reality of our hearts missing you.  Yet, we know beyond a shadow of a doubt because of Jesus’ Friday that Sunday’s coming and some day we will be with you again.

With every heartbeat, every cardinal song, every unexpected joy sprinkled in, every belly chuckle giggle, and every blessed sweet memory, we wait with hope, expectant.  No matter how far heaven is away our love transcends the distance. To us, that is God’s greatest superpower.

SD700 IS 050-1

Today we choose to live like you did because someday Sunday’s coming, and we will never stop loving you in all the days in between.

Loving you always,

Momma

 

 

Using the lasso of truth . . .

Over the course of the last year, I have really been doing some soul searching.  Not the existential meaning of life type, but rather pondering what truly brings me joy.  In my time of reflection and rumination (Doesn’t everyone swirl their thoughts over and over, again and again?), I have discovered that while grief and sadness creep into my life, I am often a saboteur of my own joy.

If you are looking for some deep tell-all confessional, you are probably looking in the wrong place.  My life for the most part is an open book.  This is not because I tend to be a social media over-sharer. Rather much of my writing comes from sharing things dear to my heart, but also because I feel God’s hand guiding me to share the gritty stuff beyond the veneer.  Many times I don’t want to share the under layers.  I am content to keep that hidden from the eyes of others, but when I do share my humanness inevitably someone reaches out to tell me they thought they were the only person dealing with whatever is impacting my life at the moment.

Just recently I had one of those experiences.  A dear friend reached out after reading my Facebook post for our 25th wedding anniversary in which I explained that we were choosing to say “I do” everyday despite the fact that we get on each other’s last nerves sometimes.  What she said completely blew me away.  “Thank you for being transparent, because from the outside looking in you are the perfect couple living the perfect life.”  My knee-jerk reaction was to laugh out loud because we are far from perfect.  But her remarks reminded me at how important it is to share that life isn’t always Pinterest pretty.

25 anniversary

Not perfect, but spent a perfect day celebrating together with family!

So here I sit ready to proclaim how I sabotage my own happiness.  In my pursuit for the jaunty chapeau, I have had to learn that no matter how much I or my children play into my fantasy. I am not really Wonder Woman.  By that I mean that I cannot do everything that I desire to do or complete all the requests for my time.

My head understands this, but my heart always seems to respond for assistance in all things that lead to Truth, Justice and the American Way.  

Some of my friends say that I actually exhaust them.  I am a wife, mom, doctoral student, adjunct professor at not one but two universities, author, speaker, advocate, volunteer, and small business owner.  I cannot do all of them with equal time and attention, but I find great strength in being truly multi-dimensional as well as deep seated gratefulness for receiving talents to pursue many different interests and passions.

Yet, every “yes” means a “no” to something else and therein lies the problem.  As I have striven to simplify most every angle of my life, I have learned that while it is easy for me to part with material clutter and electronic overload, for some reason I struggle to simply say “no, but thanks for thinking of me”. Wonder Woman never frets about how she is going to get it all done, but I do on a regular basis.  My inability to say to “no” often robs me of the joy of living simply.

I believe I don’t stand alone.  Even though we don’t don capes and tights, there are many moms, like me who are juggling many different tiaras and who are using their powers to give back to their families, their work places, and their communities.  While we can’t jump in our invisible planes to get away from it all, we can pause before we say “yes” to things that may take us away from the ones and the activities that we love and along the way, learn to discern what God’s plans are compared to our own.

Perhaps, just perhaps, recognizing this is a superpower after all. . .

Whatever is keeping you from living joyfully, I pray that you find away to use your lasso of truth to rope you back in.

 

My newest BIG idea

There is no comforting way to state it, but the rising costs of post-secondary studies is alarming, at best.  Multiply that fact by the real felt truth of three members of Team Stevens pursuing various degrees and those skyrocketing costs daily impact my family. Many sacrifices occur to put three members of the same family through college and graduate school at the same time.  Growing right before our eyes, and sometimes seemingly overnight, is the baby of this clan who is millimeters away from surpassing me in height. It won’t be too much longer and there will be a fourth member attending an institution of higher learning.  Thankfully, the older kiddos worked diligently in high school to earn amazing scholarships which have helped offset costs, and I have no doubt that their little sister will do the same. But still, I do fret about how much a college degree will cost for her.

I am nothing if not a BIG ideas girl, and I think I found the perfect solution.  I am going to start my very own scholarship program and I think I have discovered the foolproof funding structure.  I’m thinking my plan will have a success rate equal to the time I rewrote Meghan Trainor’s song “All About that Bass” to explain that shoes at the front door should touch the baseboard and not be recklessly thrown in the middle of the entryway after nearly dislocating my hip tripping over carelessly strewn shoes.  Seriously, it’s all about that baseboard! Lest you have trouble!

When I declared my desire to finally pursue my dream of earning a doctorate, I was also very clear on the changes that would have on our family.  Mom wouldn’t be able to drop everything to solve everyone else’s problems.  She also would have to miss out on some family things or be forced to take homework with her. Others would need to step in with meals, cleaning and laundry, but the biggest requests were to pare down the assorted clutter in our lives which honestly bogs me and my ability to think straight down.

I would love to tell you that my family did all those things with happy hearts and willing spirits, but if I did I would be lying.  To their defense, they have taken over most of the cooking, cleaning and laundry duties.  No one complains when I drag a backpack full of homework to basketball or volleyball tournaments, family gatherings, and beach vacations.  Honestly that last one I wanted to complain, but a goal is a goal and my professors have deadlines too. But it is the clutter that drives me nuts makes me *bleeping* CRAZY!

After a major momma meltdown, we finally took the plunge and got rid of 75% of what we owned, and while a great start, reducing the physical number of items didn’t remove the clutter mentality for my teammates.  Seriously, you give these people an inch they will take a Sarah Sylvia Cynthia Stout mile.  If one paper is placed on a previously clean surface, the result is something akin to this . . .

So what in the mayonnaise does a rant about clutter in my home have to do with my new scholarship program? Well, hopefully this explains it.

Invoice

Most of the items in today’s invoice are repeat violations; so I will just give a quick pictorial tour of the charges.

invoice pic

Starting in the upper left hand corner and working clockwise.  Nice try with the napkin, but yet the other water marks on the table are from similar efforts to avoid using coasters like civilized people.  While I am all down with decorating like the hipsters, I don’t think McDonald’s smoothie cups and fruit snacks wrappers (look carefully) count as a minimalist’s dream ideal for home decor.  We aim to provide a general atmosphere of love and welcome at our home/headquarters, but last time I checked, reminding us of your most recent pedicure only serves to remind us how much more free time you have than the rest of us.  Finally, we all love Ruby and we don’t want her to meet the fate that one of my college roommate’s puppy (who similarly loved to chew) did when left alone with a live cord.

Now before anyone thinks this is too harsh a penalty, I thought $10 for my maid service for a day was a steal, because honestly there are days where I spend three hours picking up other people’s clutter before I get one minute of teaching or homework done.  So while I am instituting some Coach Carter smack down, I am still a momma with a heart and I gave her a bit of a break on what my time is actually worth.

So there you have it!  My new scholarship program in a nutshell.  Believe me, this was a slim day, and by the time I collect all these fees and future ones, I am pretty sure we can partially fund my remaining year of study and Sal, well, at this rate, she can write her ticket to her dream school!

They tell me a messy room is a sign of problem solving at work, but I am not buying it. So, here’s to great ideas that are going to be kid-tested but are definitely mom-approved.

In all seriousness, hug your kiddos today!

 

 

 

To the girl I’ve prayed for . . .

Dear Sydney –

I am so incredibly excited I don’t know even where to begin.  Probably the best place would be way back at the beginning.  I will spare you all the details of his life, but I will tell you that ever since that special guy of yours was a toddler, I have been praying for you.  My hopes for you started in a MOMS group when the idea was planted that it was super idea to pray for the one who would someday love your kids.

While you were the little blond cutie in South Dakota and Florida, I was praying that someone was loving you fiercely, was telling you how incredible you are, and was introducing you to Jesus and helping you cultivate a relationship with him. I said prayers hoping that you would feel comfortable in your own skin and that you carve an identity that was securely yours before being defined by another. I prayed that you would grow to be woman who developed passions and interests that defined her joy, but also that you would learn that sometimes it is the ordinary moments of life that blow you away.  I prayed for your parents and your family that every moment of your life you would be surrounded by love.

When you did come into my son’s life, you were the new girl who enjoyed golf as much as he did and happened to be in a few classes with him.  Although he doesn’t understand my fear leading up to the big waterpark trip, I knew something was up when he told me who rode in his vehicle.

You were so quiet and shy in the beginning that it took time to really get to know you, but when I was told the story of how your heart broke when others were treating Jesus’ least of these disrespectfully, I knew you were going to be the “one”.  Even with that knowledge when you two left for the same university, I was still clinging to the prayer that you would find your own passions and interests.  I was overjoyed to hear that your parents had essentially the same conversation that we had with both of you. I had prayed for them for years, but it was in that moment that I realized how much I had grown to love two amazing people whom I was just beginning to know.  How could I not love them? They raised you.

There have been defining moments in our times together, but there are two that caused me to catch my breath.  Prior to you, Sawyer has had some incredible friends, and still does. But none have been as close to him as Reed.  Not many would feel comfortable being involved in a family who carry huge holes in their hearts.  But you have shared in intimate moments of remembrance, embracing us through our tears and sharing you wish that you would have had the chance to have met him. You have also joined in the times of living out his legacy, sharing Reed’s joy and love with others.  It was in one of those quiet instants that I realized that of all the girls in the world, our sweet guy had found the one who loves animals, Harry Potter, superheroes, art, and most importantly, Sawyer as much as Reed did.  I know that if he had the chance, he would tell Sawyer to not ever let you slip away.

Then there was that moment last summer on the beach.  I was saddened by Sawyer getting hurt, but that injury allowed me to see what you mean to our family, but especially to me.  While Daniel and I were walking the beach, we stumbled across this scene.

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There you were taking on the role of loving on Sally and making sure she wasn’t some odd 3rd wheel in our merry band of couples.  What you don’t know is that I stood behind you on the beach with tears streaming down my face because it was in that precise moment when I realized how much I truly love you.  In those happy tears, I came to the realization that all my prayers for the girl that God knew would be the one had come true.  Even now writing this, I am tearing up, because it is a pretty amazing to meet the girl from your prayers and know that God has granted far beyond the desires of your heart.

One of my favorite songs is Heartland’s “I loved her first”.  Even though the song is written from a daddy-daughter perspective, the lyrics hold true for mommas and sons too.

I loved him first
I held him first
And a place in my heart will always be his
From the first breath he breathed
When he first smiled at me
I knew the love of a mother runs deep
And I prayed that he’d find you someday

 

But see there was a lesson he taught me too.  He was the second son who showed me just how expandable a mother’s heart truly is.  I don’t see this moment as one where I am losing anything. No, my sweet girl, I see this as the time my heart permanently stretches to make just a little more room to love you even more.

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I could not be happier, more proud, more excited, and more joy-filled that you said “YES” because I know, truly know, that you are his answered prayers too!

Welcome to the Team, Sydney! We all love you!

 

 

 

Squad Goals

Looking back, I don’t know that I was aware of how big  a simple little decision would be in terms of my family’s healing.  As an educator, the number one thing I try to pass on to my students (who will be future teachers) is the necessity to build relationships with their students.  They often hear me say No student will care to learn from you until they know you care. Teachers (and mentors, coaches, and leaders) who provide a culture of belongingness can lead any group, any team, or any squad through anything . . . including tragedy.

Turns out this rings true for moms too.

Ten years ago, when I asked my sister-in-law to have t-shirts made so that we could wear them to Reed’s services, I don’t think I was consciously aware of how that would be one of the single most pivotal decisions in my life.  What I did know is that even though we would be saying an earthly good-bye to our son and brother, what we needed was something to bring us together when it would have been easier to get lost in the chaos.  We needed to belong to something bigger than our individual grief journeys.

That something was the creation of “Team Stevens” and membership was signified by plain red and white raglan tees.  Red not just because it was Reed’s favorite color, but also because that is literally what his name means – red-haired. The name came out of a more profound sense of loss.  Before our darkest day, we had referred to ourselves as the “Stevens Six”, but now six didn’t fit any longer.  Six wasn’t our magic number anymore. There would be an empty seat at the table and an even bigger hole in our hearts.  Being a sports fan, “Team Stevens” just popped into my mind and it stuck.

I have to give it to my sister-in-law, she didn’t even hesitate.  Not so much as a batted eyelash. If I wanted Team Stevens shirts, she was going to make that happen.

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From the moment I put my team shirt on, I felt wrapped in a divine hug that comforted my soul, knowing that we had found our new identity.  In grief circles, the term “new normal” is spoken about often, representing the new way of doing things without a loved one present. Our membership in Team Stevens was and still is just one small part of our bigger identity grounded and rooted in the love of God.  But with those simple tees, our new purpose was to cling to the hope only found in Jesus and to stick together no matter what came next.

It’s a good thing the first one is unshakably true, because we had no idea what hard work the next ten years would be with joy intermingled with grief, pain with peace, and exhaustion with unending love and support. 

As the 10th anniversary of our darkest day approached, I wanted something not to mark what we had lost (because honestly there is never a moment we forget that), but more so to signify how far we had come (using our story to touch the lives of others).  Giving back, not in repayment of all the kindnesses poured out to us, but more so, because through our pain we have learned the power of spiritual ocular clarity.  We now see how much hurt, pain and grief is in the world, and our membership in Team Stevens provides us the perfect platform to shine light in someone else’s darkness.

But in 10 years, the old red and white tees have been stained and outgrown and simply loved to threads.  Much like the request to my sweet Lori ten years ago, I wrote a simple email to a company that I admire and shared our story.  I have learned that after the worst thing that can happen occurs, having someone say “No, we can’t” pales in comparison.  I wrote the message and would have been perfectly comfortable had the response been one to decline my request.

I am somewhat of a fashion enigma.  I feel most comfortable in two different extremes,  either dresses or t-shirts and a pair of jeans. Two crazy ends of a spectrum of personal comfort, and this incredible company fell into the latter category because they have an amazing design team who create really awesome tees.  Although I have to wonder if a little red-head in heaven steered my search in finding them, prior to my crazy message, I had no idea that they were a Christian founded company until I heard back from the owner, Scott, who was touched by our story and offered to work with us on shirts.  From there, I met via phone with the creativity director, Caleb, and the rest was well . . .  t-shirt perfection.

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When the sample artwork arrived, I had wanted to keep it a secret for Christmas but the design exceeded my expectations. The tears welled up and softly fell as I found one thing after another that represented that sense of belonging I had tried so hard to create ten years prior. There was Reed’s art mark, Reed and Huck on the edge of a lake, and our team name all wrapped up with the cardinal that could serve as our Team mascot. One by one the others were equally touched by the design’s aptness.  The !nk team (who little do they know are now members of our Team) took a simple request and gave us so much more than a garment, they gave us continued hope wrapped in a heavenly hug, just like one of  Reed’s crazy sneak up beyond you bear squeezes.

For their talents and kindnesses, I cannot be more thankful, but more so, for their part in helping fulfill our squad goal of living a life filled with hope and gratitude, we are truly blessed.

And somehow I think Reed would be oh so proud!