Love Thy Neighbor...

Proverbs 3:5-6: “Trust in the Lord with all your heart; do not depend on your own understanding. Seek His will in all you do, and He will show you which path to take”

This has been my week of hard life lessons. I've been praying, asking God what He is doing--what He wants me to do--but He has been silent. Though He has been silent, He hasn't been just sitting idly by and watching me tear my hair out. He has been placing a lot of lessons in my path. I've stumbled over every single one of them, fell on my face, ate mud and grass...and got up scratched and bruised. But I found the lessons. That's what matters. 

When I was little, there was a couple my parent's age that went to our church. They didn't have kids, but they were fun and taught a fantastic children's church. Every year, we put on the best Christmas pageant with great costumes and make-up...and I even got to sing with my dad one year. The Great Potentate. It was amazing.

Over the years, as is life, people move away or go to other churches. I got married and moved to California. When I moved home, Roger and I bought a house in our hometown, catercorner to this couple from my childhood. I've always been a bit introverted (well, a lot...until recently), but when I saw him out mowing, I'd say 'hi'. Once I did some photo work for her...and sat and listened to him talk for a long time. It was strange...I thought he had changed so much. Now I realize he wasn't the one who had changed, it was me. He was talking to me as if I was a grown-up. That was the difference.

This man was sick...but Jesus shined from him. He talked and joked about all the things he was going through, the struggle, but his words pointed to the love of Christ. At the time, I was going through struggles of my own, so this struck me.

That was a couple years ago. Then, earlier in the summer...God placed him and his wife on my heart. Every night when I closed the curtains, I saw the house and I began to pray. Warnings for pure oxygen in the home went up on all their doors...and I realized he must have gotten very sick again. The Lord put them on my aunt's heart, as well, and we both began to pray. Then earlier this week, my father (who was good friends with them when I was young) began to miss their friendship. God placed them on his heart, as well. But that very night, the man died. I was outside watering flowers and trying to prune my tree when the funeral service arrived. I went to the porch and cried...

God put him on all of our hearts...but what did we do?

We prayed...

But was that all God wanted?

Obviously, God had gone through lengths to get us praying. One by one, our hearts were just breaking for him and his wife. We were praying, asking each other what we could do...but coming up with nothing. And it was just downright errie that the very same day he entered heaven, my dad was thinking of him...

What in the world was this about? What was God's point?

My first impulse was to run over and wrap my arms around his wife, but that wasn't appropriate. I wanted to run over and help the woman with the heavy end of the gurney. "Be careful with this man," I wanted to say. "He didn't even know how much he meant to me as a child." I wanted to apologize for not being a better neighbor. All these years I had lived a few yards away and I'd only spoken to them a handful of times.

No answer came. Maybe it was simply the prayers. After all, we never know how much work our prayers actually do. My mom says this is one of life's lessons. It's a hard one. And I don't really know what I was supposed to learn. Be a better neighbor?

As I sit here...still trying to sort it all out...I think I was supposed to learn something about the love of Christ. On the outside, it might seem that prayers went unanswered. I don't think so. I watched his online testimony. I heard him say that something changed when he got sick. Something selfless. In this sickness, he began to shine like Christ...the love of the Lord pouring from him. And now...this man knows that it is US that are truly stuck where we're not supposed to be. Maybe it's US that really need the prayers? We are the ones that still have to walk this earth, trying to figure out what to do, trying to figure out how to love on others and be good, respectable, passion-filled people. We still have struggles coming our way--storms that will knock us off our feet. But not him. He is in the presence of his King. His eyes are open...and he is healed. life's lesson is to start living, right now, as my neighbor did when he got sick. Start shining...start living like I might not be able to tell the person in front of me about Christ tomorrow because I might not see them again. I have to start acting now.


It's not about me, right?

It wasn't about my neighbors...

It was about our Heavenly Father...

And what He was/is trying to do.

Reveal Himself.

"Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself. There is none other commandment greater than these." Mark 12:31

That's not just for the neighbors a few yards away, but for every single person that comes across your path.

Lesson learned. I think. I hope.

It's never too late. Never too late. Not even now.



That's a man that I know...will one day welcome my dad into heaven. I know it. It's a promise.

Boy Cows Have Doodles...Girl Cows Do Not

You know those parenting magazines that you hate to read because they feel 'preachy'...and remind you that you are doing NOTHING right? Well, it turns out that you might want to take a look inside. And here's why...

I saw the kids standing by the fence with their grandma, happily watching the black cow that had come up close for a visit. I didn't think anything of it. But as soon as I packed them into the van and started home, my oldest (5 years) started talking a mile a minute. "Grandma said that cow was a boy cow. Did you know it was a boy cow, mommy?"


"Well, it was. How do you think grandma knew it was a boy cow?"

"She's smart," I answer.

"Do you know how to know if a cow is a boy cow, or if it's a girl cow?"


"Really?" She's challenging me now, brows raised with disbelief. "Then how do you tell?"

Without thinking, I answer, "Because boy cows have doodles and girl cows do not."

Now, my daughter knows that a 'doodle' is a 'boy part' because three and a half years ago, she was blessed (or cursed, in her mind) with her baby brother. But she is shocked to know that boy cows could have a doddle, too. "Really?!" she gasps. Suddenly, I realize that, until this moment, Lucy only believed that her baby brother was the only person to have a doodle.

"Lucy, boys have doodles...whether they're animals or people...and girls do not...whether they're animals or people." I am not happy about the direction this conversation is taking.

"Really?" She asks, curious. For a while, she says nothing. I'm hoping this means the awkward questions have faded. "But wait," she pipes up. "Daddy is a boy."

Oh no! I swallow. "Yeah...?"

"Does that mean...he has a doodle?"

Again, I swallow. What in the world is happening to me?! Why can't she be quiet?! "Lucy," I ask, cautiously. "Is daddy a boy?"


"Do boys have doodles?"


"Then there's your answer."


Sigh. That was close.

"But wait," she pipes up again. "Bubby is small...and daddy is big. Does that mean his doodle is Bubby's?"


"Lucy, listen to me. Bubby is small right now, but he is going to grow up big...and when he does, his whole body will grow with him."


I'm almost home by now. Thank the Lord.

"But wait."

Ugh. "What now?"

"If boys have doodles...what are my girl parts called?"

In my mind, I'm picturing that little girl in the Pre-K class I taught years and years ago. She knew the proper names for 'boy parts' and 'girl parts' and she seemed well-rounded and stable. So, I take a deep breath and quickly scream at the Lord for a tiny ounce of wisdom. "Okay...Lucy, here's the thing. It isn't polite to talk about private parts. Now, mommy will try to answer your questions, but you are NOT to speak about these things with your friends or at church."

"Why?" It's an honest question.

"Because it isn't polite. These aren't bad things, or bad words, but they are private matters that aren't polite to speak about."

"Okay," she says...waiting.

Deeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeep breath. And then a long sigh. "Girl's private parts are called...a vagina."

Her eyes light up and she gasps, "Ooooooooooooooooh! That's a pretty name! Why didn't you name me that?"




"Lucy Danielle!" I can hardly form a logical sentence. "It's not a NAME of a person. It's a name of a body part!"

"Well, I like it. I think it's pretty."

I hear my son say the word 'vagina' under his breath. His mispronounces it. Lucy leans over and corrects him. "No, bubby. It's called a 'va-g-i-naaaaaaaaa'. Isn't that pretty?"


Oh for heaven's sake!

"But mommy!" Lucy's voice changes from elated to a bit frightened. "I'm small right now and will grow up one day. Does that mean that when my body grows big, my vagina will grow big too?"

"No!" How did I get to this point?! "It's not like your arms and legs."

Lucy's eyes are exploding from her head. "Doodles grow big like arms and legs?!?!?!?!"

"No!" I think I'm going to run the van off the road. I'm searching my brain, trying to explain that a vagina is...inside...but I'm wishing I could turn the van around and go slaughter the dumb cow with the doodle that started this whole thing!

When we pull into the drive, Lucy is asking me why her parts don't have a funny name like 'doodle'. I figure I might as well let her in on the fact that mommy and daddy are complete idiots and don't have a clue as to what we're doing. "Because it's not called a 'doodle', Lucy. It's called a 'penis'."

Her nose shrivels up. "Oh. I like 'doodle' better."

I park the van and turn around and look at her. How can something so small have me as perplexed and flustered as this little five year-old? She's looking back at me...all innocence. She knows now. She understands, once and for all, that bubby isn't the only boy with a doodle...and that her parts have a real name. She gets it. I think. I hope. I sigh. It's over now. "Lucy, remember...these things are private matters...and we don't talk about them with our friends. I don't want you bringing this up again. Do you understand me?"

"Yes, mommy."

So...if you're sitting in the doctor's office and have a wait ahead of you, please, do yourself a favor and crack open one of those parenting magazines. Maybe someone out there, like me, learned the hard way and decided there had to be an easier way to break the news about doodles and hoohas to their children. At least, for your sake, I hope they have. ;P



Our List For A Rockstar Marriage

Roger and Gia's List of 'Musts' To Make Your Marriage Rock

1. If mama ain't happy, ain't nobody happy.
2. Be willing to start out dirt poor and sleep on an air mattress in a naked apartment.
3. Learn how to make chicken parm with Ramen noodles.
4. Know how to kiss goodbye.
5. Wipe her tears away with your thumb as you cup her face in your hands.
6. Drug her when she doesn't stop crying.
7. Learn to cook an awesome pot of chili...because chili is always good.
8. Discover what SHE likes...and like it.
9. Learn a few lyrics to his favorite songs. At least a few.
10. Change a big chunk of your music tastes to his...because dudes have the best music taste anyway.
11. Watch black and white movies together when the going gets really tough.
12. Pull the mattress into the living room and play video games all night...the kind where you shoot each other.
13. Get an Atari and play Super Breakout. It's vital to happiness.
14. Get kicked out of a night club together. Once or twice.
15. Work on the car when it breaks. It will make her proud of you.
16. Sometimes, men, fold the clothes.
17. Listen.
18. Be willing to fight, but more willing to see the fight through to a peaceful completion.
19. Under promise and over deliver.
20. You can't ever say 'maybe'.
21. Screw date night. (We didn't exactly mean that the way it sounds)
22. Learn to fall in love with coffee.
23. Praying for each other is way more important than praying with each other.
24. Encourage each other's God-given talents. Make it a top priority.
25. Never let the other person give up on their gifts.
26. Be a better version of yourselves with each passing anniversary.
27. Never let bedroom matters become routine and boring. No matter how many anniversaries have gone by.
28. Swing dance.
29. Sext. (Oh come off it. Only to each other...and only when you know no one else will ever see it)
30. For heaven's sake...remember your anniversary. Keep it like you keep Christmas.
31. Jesus might be the best thing that ever happened to you, but your spouse is the second best thing that ever happened to you.
33. Money doesn't begin and end all...and DOES NOT come between the two of you.
34. Fight for each other.
35. Be super heroes in the Wal-Mart parking lot.
36.  Share a cheeseburger and treat it as if it's the grandest meal you've ever had with the most important person you've ever known. And do it again when you're in your 80's.
37. Squeeze each others hand as a sign to say 'I love you' without anyone else knowing.
38. Make mistakes together.
39. Be imperfect together.
40. If you're going to behave in a dreadful manner, make sure it's with your spouse because they might be the only ones to forgive you.
41. Drive with the windows down blasting rock music through the mountains.
42. Learn to be gentle.
43. Snuggle in the recliner and watch dumb TV.
44. Play board games and get competitive about it...WANT to beat them.
45. Fullfill childhood dreams together.
46. When life gives you lemons, ask to speak to life's manager.
47. Go mattress shopping.
48. When you do happen to have date night, be like teenagers about it...which brings me to the next one...
49. Late at night, park and kiss on a deserted country road.
50. Share a vision.
51. Play 'would you ever' with each other.
52. Enjoy new and strange foods together.
53. Have older married couples in your life to set an example.
54. Plan to waste your lives on each other.
55. Respect one another first as an individual.
56. Treat your children how to respect others.
57. Believe that your love with each other shines on those around you.
58. Be Jesus to your wife (and if you don't get it, think about it for a while).
59. And if you still don't get it: Husbands love your wives as Christ loves the Church.
60. Have the same friends.
61. Make it a priority in your relationship to serve others.
62. Set boundaries and stick to them.
63. Don't belittle your spouse, most especially in front of others.
64. Be thankful and tell your spouse you're thankful for what they do.
65. Never...EVER...make the other feel stupid.
66. Make sure to show the other person that you desire them. Don't just say it, but show it. But not just before sex.
67. Live with your wife according to knowledge. Guys says stuff like, "I knew that was going to make her mad." Then why'd you do it? Idiot.
68. Wives, accept the role as 'helpmeet'...because it's powerful and not at all demeaning.
69. Know that you're nothing much without the other.
70. Men, learn how to make the bed.
71. Women, if they can't figure out how to make it 'correctly' just make it anyway. They're guys. They need you.
72. One year of marriage is just as significant as 40 years. Each year brings it's own challenges.
73. If you have children, teach them TOGETHER.
74. Don't compare your marriage to someone else's.
75. James 3:17. Look it up. Oh, and then there's a dirty scripture verse I'd send you to, but my Grandma would kill us.
76. Don't think that anything is too hard to overcome together.
78. Know that storms are blessings in disguise.
80. Hold on tight.
81. Come to understand that the two of you are your OWN family first.
82. Don't be subtle with your affections.
83. Nor stingy with your affections.
84. Don't be afraid to ask for help.
85. It's okay if they play video games.
86. Go to church together...and men, go to church alone when you're wife if out of town. She'll admire you for it.
87. Don't buy her flowers often...but sporadically...and on days that do not require flowers.
88. Men, if you don't like to mow the grass, hire someone. Just make sure it is done once a week.
89. Sweat together. Whatever it takes, sweat together.
90. Let the other person know you're proud of them.
91. Don't ever forget to open the door for her, most especially on those date nights.
92. Make a list like this together.
93. Make fun of other people's lists.
94. Always remember, she's the woman you need and not just the woman you want.
95. Always remember to be the woman he wants and not just the woman he needs.
96. Watch sappy chick flicks together...because he secretly likes it.
97. Divorce? What's that?
98. When you introduce your wife, make sure she blushes because of how you're admiring/praising her.
100. Grow up together. Not old. Just up.

~Gia and Roger

PS: 101 Learn how to wrastle together...amazingly.


The Gates of Heaven

I often judge books by their cover, and it would appear that the same goes for children's books. At the library, I was quickly filing through the bookcases looking for ones that seemed interesting for the children. I had to look quickly, as it was crowded and there were several more errands to complete. This evening, I read one of those books to the children....and it utterly fascinated me.

The book was about a mother and father who are devastated over their only son's illness. With the presence of the Angel of Death hovering so close, the mother begs her husband to go seek the old wise man at the end of the village. This old man is known far and wide to have prayers powerful enough to unlock the gates of heaven, causing miracles to happen. Desperate, the father gathers all the money they have and sets out for the old man's home.

As you can imagine, the sad story of the man's only son tugs at the old man's heart. He promises to pray that night for the little boy. The next morning, however, the prayers have gone unanswered. The old man assures the father that his prayers made it to heaven, but the gates were locked. He promised to pray again that hopes the gates would be open this time.

After the father goes home, the old man sends out his grandson to gather up as many pickpockets and thieves that he can find, of which seven scoundrels return with the boy. The old man asks them to pray for the dying boy with him. The thieves are confused, but recognizing the sincerity in the old man's plea...they drop, one by one, and pray through the night with the old man.

When the little boy wakes up healed the next morning, the old man's grandson asks why the gates of heaven were locked when it was only his grandfather that prayed (his grandfather that is so good and pure) but the gates were unlocked when the wicked thieves prayed.

With a gleam in his eyes, the old man explains:

"You see, the thieves represent the things in us that are bad or wrong or selfish--the parts we need to change to be happy. When we want to make miracles happen, we have to recognize and acknowledge our bad traits. And when we turn away from our naughty behavior and embrace good deeds, as the thieves did with their prayers, we are turning the key and unlocking the gates in heaven. And then, we can receive blessings and good fortune."

As I said, I judged this book by its cover...glimmering gold design around crisp illustrations. I never even bothered to pay attention to the name of the author--as I never really know who they are anyway. But tonight, after reading such a profound book...the words washing more over my soul that my children's...I closed the book...and my eyes rested on the author's name.



Isn't Madonna the poster child for 'naughty behavior'? Is this the Madonna that mocked Jesus in her "Just a Prayer" music video? The woman that sports S and M inspired costumes and dance moves...kissing other female pop stars on live TV...the very definition of shock and awe...?

Yes, that's the woman that spun this story...of something very deep and profound.

At the front of the book, Madonna writes:

"This is a story about how all of us have the ability to unlock the gates of heaven--no matter how unworthy we think we are. For when we go against our selfish natures, we make miracles happen, in our lives and in the lives of others. We must never forget that hidden behind a large amount of darkness is a large amount of light."

Just goes to show you...don't judge a book by its cover.