Valentines and Unconditional Love ❤️

February is known as the month of love. Some people find their true love, some are born on Valentines Day, while others ignore this month altogether. Jesus tells us the most important command of all is to love!

Cronin Ranch Foothills near Cool, CA

“Jesus answered, “The first and most important one is: ‘Hear, O Israel, the Lord our God is one Lord; and you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul (life), and with all your mind (thought, understanding), and with all your strength.’ This is the second: ‘You shall [unselfishly] love your neighbor as yourself.’ There is no other commandment greater than these.” Mark 12:29-32

Quin chasing the Birds at Dillons Beach

So do I really desire this? I surely love the Lord with all my heart, soul and mind, but what about loving my neighbor? And who truly is my neighbor? Could my neighbor be my own family member who I have shunned? Could it be my friend who I don’t call a friend any longer? Or is it just the guy who lives down the street that I wave to every now or then?

Sunset over the North Rim
Dennis Tromberg

I have been thinking a lot about unconditional love. From what I understand, unconditional love is when you love so deeply without any hopes of love in return. I find that so many times, I love, knowing that the person I feel a great connection with is so distant.

Sid with a Broken-Winged Raven

Children, especially teenagers can fall into this category. My grandson is a huge part of my life. Yet, I know that he has his friends, his hopes and desires and they do not include me. Do I love him any less? Gosh no! I love him even more so. That to me, in this period of time and space, is unconditional love. I could never turn my back on him no matter what choices he makes. Whether he is my flesh and blood, or a child I raised from the time he was five, he surely is worthy to love.

Carson Valley Sunrise

Yesterday I was told that because someone is not your flesh and blood, they are not yours. So all these beautiful children that are adopted, my dear friends who are fatherless or motherless, my Dad who married my Mom when I was in my 20’s, are not family? What kind of love is that? Did Jesus tell us to only love who we choose? He loves all of us, whether we love him or not. Even on the cross, he chose to love the ones who crucified him. That is some crazy kind of love!

My Dad with Sister Kari & I

When we become Christians, when we choose the Lord to be our one and only savior, we become family in all the sense of blood, flesh and bones! Our surnames, our earthly parents are an added bonus, but the true gift is our inherited brothers and sisters. The family we marry into, our children we accept as our own-flesh and blood, test us to our wits end. But in the end, when we are called to account for how we lived, I believe our Heavenly Father will be more interested in how we loved!

What a Reunion We Will Have

Unconditional love is the key to living a life that is meaningful and fulfilling. Once we grasp this command, we can truly appreciate all that Jesus desires from us. So no matter who you are, what family you have attached to, the only way you will ever get to know God is when you open your heart, and learn to love unconditionally.

A New Year – New Beginnings & Trusting the Lord

It’s so funny how one day truly does make a difference! January 1st is that day. We set goals, we head back to the gym, we look at all the junk food we have in the house and start purging. Let me tell you, there is nothing wrong with that. I have many plans for 2023 and lifestyle is on the top of the list. But here it is, near the end of January and hmm, did I even remember what my resolution was?

Folsom Lake at Sunset

I look forward to new beginnings. It gives me hope for the future, joy that things can be different and allows me to start anew. Thank you Lord for allowing do overs, for never giving up on me and for always being available, whether it is the beginning of the year or the end.

First Snow 2023 in Truckee

One of my priorities, I do remember is to recommit to blogging. There is something that draws me to writing about my love for the Lord. My relationship with Jesus is my focus. It’s what makes me who I am and keeps me grounded.

Winter at Dillons Beach

Yet life has a way of railroading me to and fro. Why can’t I just focus on being true to my daily devotional’s and time with the Lord? Am I that distracted, did you say squirrel? Or am I just not prioritizing my time? I’m thinking it’s a little bit of all of the above.

Photographer Dennis Tromberg

Blogging for the Lord. That truly is what I want to commit to. Loving Jesus comes natural, but do I really know who he is? I know his character, his compassion, his acceptance, his love for everyone, and his desire to seek and run after me. It boggles my mind just how genuine the love of God is for each and everyone of us.

Martin Valley from Atop of Northstar

So now what? My plan is to keep running after my sweet Jesus and trying not to trip up on being perfect. Because we all know, perfection isn’t possible but I can surely strive to be better than I was yesterday. With that, I will blog and share my thoughts, my joys and heartaches that make me who I am.

Unknown Photographer overlooking Coastal Archway

I pray that you follow your passions and do what God designed you to do. Maybe, just maybe, you too, will sit quietly and ask, what do you have planned for me in this upcoming year? Once you feel a tugging, a calling of sorts, pursue that path and believe that you are being led. It doesn’t need to be grandiose but rather, a true sense that you are feeling guided to do something and to be set apart. Our Heavenly Father, I trust you that you have a plan for each one of us, it’s just a matter of asking, what do you have desired for my life? And then begin.

Who Am I

What a glorious week it has been. Here in NorCal, we were blanketed with five feet of much needed snow. I wish I could tell you that I dusted off my snowshoes and headed to the mountains to hike with God. But this week I skied with our Heavenly Father. My family and I headed to Truckee along with the masses and took to the slopes, looking for our first powder of the season. There is something so special about virgin snow, white crystals with untracked slopes is nothing short of fabulous. Our sweet Lord has brought us the much needed love for our mountains.

I have been reading and listening to the Bible daily since the first of the year. God knew that this was going to be a tough season for me. It always makes me pause when I read scripture and wonder when was that put in the word? How did I miss this the last time I read that verse? In Exodus, Moses is chosen to lead the Israelites out of Egypt and into the promised land. Over 400 years ago God had promised Abraham, Issac and Jacob this land filled with milk and honey to be their land, the resting place for the Jewish nation. Moses was an ordinary guy, under some extraordinary circumstances and God commissioned him to take his people away from Pharaoh. Pharaoh was having no part of this and Moses did not believe that he possessed the qualities, nor the ability to free his people from slavery. He asked God, who am I to lead these people out of Egypt? I wonder oh so often, why me God? Why would you think I can do this or how can I make a difference? Our Father in heaven sees us with such different lenses. He equips us to do the impossible. He created us to be the person He knows we are to be. If only we will allow Him to take the reigns, our abilities are endless!

I have walked through valleys and have climbed mountains not knowing how I would make it another step. Literally, I have fallen down, twisted and bloody wondering who am I to think I can do this? But God knew I was capable of what He sent me to do. He provided the training, the heart, the willpower, the focus and determination it would take to complete the journey He sent me on. Don’t ever think that what you are in the midst of, that there is no possibility of finishing what He has started in you! I have enough faith that even when I cannot continue, I can always lean on my Lord and He will provide me with whatever I need to tackle the next obstacle, to clear the hurdle, to find a way. He never sends me out without knowing that He will be my guiding light and will show me who he needs me to be.

The next time when you ask yourself who am I, remember the one who created you and leap at the opportunity to be who you are!

“Jesus Wept”

Grief, we all have felt it. Whether it is the loss of a loved one, a job that has discontinued, a home that was engulfed in a fire or just today’s events, we all know grief. This past year, 2020 was filled with hope and possibilities. Just the thought of a double digit year seemed awe-inspiring. Spring came, and things were going in a different direction. I remember my grandson and I were skiing in Lake Tahoe and thanking God for the late snowfall. The year had been fairly dismal for snow accumulation, but the week before Easter, we received 3-4’ of fresh powder. We were so excited to be able to ski a bit longer, took our final run of the day, and thought, we would be back tomorrow to enjoy another day. But then, everything changed. Northstar, along with all Epic Ski Areas, and for that matter all ski areas closed for the season! We were crushed. We received an email from school shortly after and they too had closed to on-campus learning, with no definite time of reopening. Flights were cancelled, trips were postponed indefinitely, and people were told to isolate in their homes! One by one, the freedoms we took for granite where being taken away. Grief came upon us and we all knew that times were changing.

There will always be great grief in this life. Last Sunday, my mother was taken away to be with the Lord. I feel a loss that is so profound, one that is too hard to describe. I see my father who is dearly missing his life-partner, his bride, his soulmate, and how that hurts my heart so greatly. Why do we experience such emotions and how do we get through day after day when one person after another, one desire, one hope or one dream is taken away? I find myself asking God a lot of questions these days. He doesn’t always answer but I know he hears me. Lord, what did you say to Mom when she arrived? Is she looking down on me and Dad? Is she dancing and singing like an angel? Sweet Jesus, when do I get to see her again, to hold her, to feel her presence, to laugh with her? And when will this grief stop hurting so bad?

I keep thinking of Jesus when he lost his dear friend Lazarus and John 11:35 says “he wept”. Jesus knew that he would raise Lazarus again so why did he weep? Did he feel the pain and suffering of Mary and Martha? Did he feel the sin of death that Adam and Eve imposed on this world? Did he know that his time was short and he would soon personally know his own death? I believe he felt all the same things that we feel, all the sorrow and pain that we experience. He was human even though he is God. Jesus knows exactly what I am feeling. He knows all the pain that you are experiencing. I wonder if Jesus wept when my mother died and I think he did. I believe that He cried when he saw my father’s pain, and when he saw me and my sister kissing my mom goodbye for the final time here on earth. There is a Swedish proverb that says, “Shared joy is double joy. Shared sorrow is half sorrow.” There are some things in life that are best done alone, but sorrow is undoubtably better shared.

As the days pass by, I have comfort in knowing that our Lord and Savior understands my every emotion. He walked this path, he has felt denial, rejection, and he has felt loss. Each day is made new, every moment and every breath that I have is certainly a gift. Thank you Jesus for walking this journey with me, with my family and surrounding us with people who love and share our grief. There are tears in heaven but I believe they are tears of joy in knowing that we will all be together again. And that gives me incredible hope and solace.

Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our troubles, so that we may comfort those in trouble with the comfort we ourselves receive from God.

2 Corinthians 1:3-4

The Strength of the Lord

This is the hardest trail I have ever encountered. The trail of hardship, of pain and suffering and letting go. The woman who birthed me, who raised me to be the adventurous spirit that I am, lost her fight today. Wanda Mae Gilbert is my mom. She is a spitfire, flaming red hair, tall and strong, and did I mention, drop dead gorgeous! When she was younger, she was a model and sought after seamstress. She even tried out to be a Rockette, but was told she was an inch too short. They truly missed the boat because her legs would’ve made up for any deficiency in height!

Sister Kari, Mom & Kelly

She has been in and out of the hospital for the past couple of weeks. Mom had many underlining conditions which were exasperated by COVID. This is such a cruel virus as some have no idea they even have it, while others are fighting for their lives. Mom came home the night before last. She was quite weak but honestly, we wanted her home instead of sitting in a not-so-sterile hospital. Memorial Hospital has some incredible nurses and doctors but there is “no place like home.” Yesterday, was a good day. She was smiling, trying to eat some Cream of Wheat, and doing the best she could to get through the day.

Mom & Kelly
2 Months ago

Mom is one of those old school gals who never quits. She fights even when she really doesn’t need too any longer. My Dad Jerry, Sister Kari and I have been taking shifts at holding Moms hand, trying to calm her breathing, and just comforting her. Honestly, she is still comforting us as she reaches out to hold our hands in between gulps of air. I had no idea how truly strong this woman is, but I do know the strength of the Lord endures forever.

“But the God of all grace, who called you to his eternal glory in Christ, after you have suffered a little while, he himself restores you, makes you strong, firm and steadfast.” 1 Peter 5:10

Mom has exemplified strength, steadfastness, and pure grit. In life, she raised two awesome women, my sister Kari and myself, and became the first woman, let alone the first business ever to acquire rights from both Walt Disney and Warner Brothers to embroider cartoon characters on her designer jeans, shirts and sweaters. Yes, I was pretty popular in high school between Cartoon Characters of America (CCA) clothing along with all things Sassoon Jeans. I get it. If you are not a product of the 60-70’s, you probably have never heard of Sassoon Jeans but the cool kids all had them! Mom was the designer and purchaser of all fabrics for these Jeans. But truly Mom’s most important role was inducing me to Jesus Christ. She enrolled me to First Baptist Church of Van Nuys for school when I was five years old. I learned many scriptures, memorized Psalms but more important, I had a personal relationship with Jesus, and nothing could stand in my way.

Mom & Sister Kari

Today, my Dad Jerry, my sister Kari, my husband George and I had the pleasure of sending Mom home to live eternally with Jesus Christ. We were so fortunate that Mom was escorted home two nights ago by a fancy limousine called an ambulance. She was too weak to go from the hospital to our private car but she was strong enough to have two wonderful Medical Technicians bring her home. We called Hospice today, who are angels in their own right, and they proceeded to assist us through the next stage of life. Nurse Laurie was the absolute sweetest woman who just knew how to walk us through the final steps of Mom’s life on earth. We didn’t expect that we would be saying goodbye to her earthly existence quite so soon, but our Heavenly Father had already prepared her way. We spent the day praying with Mom, loving her and holding her hand, caressing her and making sure that there were no unspoken words. Why is our amazing God so gracious that he gives us this precious time to say all we needed to say to our loved ones? Mom was laboring and as the meds arrived, Dad crawled in bed with Mom. Shortly afterwards, she breathed her last breath. As Dad left to take a much needed respite, Kari and I felt Mom’s humanly spirit leave her body. It was the most peace we had experienced all day.

Christmas 2020
Kelly, Mom, Daughter Cherisa, Grandsons Sid & Quin
Four Generations

My Mother was and is the one who taught me to love. She had an unconditional love that could only be described as the love of Jesus. She didn’t have a mean bone in her body, never held a grudge and to her last day, had a smile on her face and didn’t complain. I am one amazingly blessed woman with a modern-day example of love. The hope I have is that I will see this beautiful lady again. She is made anew, no pain, no suffering, no dementia, no fractured back, no heart disease, and no COVID. She is whole, singing and dancing and having one heck of a reunion in heaven. Thank you Mom for being the best friend a daughter could ever have. And thank you Jesus for your mercy and taking wondrous Wanda home to be in your loving arms!

Mom and Kelly 1961

Grief is the last act of love we have to give to those we loved. Where there is deep grief, there was great love.

Get Outside

This was a phrase that REI captured many years ago. How they capitalized on something so simple and so natural as spreading our wings and venturing outdoors, is just brilliant. As I spend much of my time with my parents these past weeks, getting outside means more to me now than ever. The simplicity of taking a walk, getting away from these four walls while hearing the absence of the heater running, the television blaring or the simple act of just stepping away from technology, is truly magical. Sometimes I forget what it is like to breathe fresh air, feel the breeze upon my face, or hear my heart race as I climb a mountain. At times I feel those simple acts are miles away, when in fact, they are just outside.

Jesus woke up early every morning to talk with Father God. He would leave his disciples, his comforts and confines and sought time to be with his loving father. He was intentional. Everything he did, had meaning and purpose behind it. “He went up on a mountainside by himself to pray. When evening came he was there alone.” Matthew 14:23-24. This gives me pause as I lean into this scripture. It is only a few words, in between a time and place where Jesus led his disciples to a boat and later rescues them from the roaring seas. I can so easily overlook the importance of seeking God, knowing that I need Him but yet toss to and fro, feeling like I am in the boat with Peter. I wonder how my life would change if I took the time, made a daily appointment to step outside and seek my Lords’ guidance before I started my morning rituals? This is crazy. Of course I must stop every morning, pray for God’s wisdom before I venture into my day. But if I am to be honest, I do not.

Jesus is our ultimate example. He is all-knowing, absolute perfection yet he still required alone time with God. As I walk the trails, it is just me and God walking hand in hand, conversing about the day ahead, seeing his beauty and wonders that he has so brilliantly orchestrated ahead of my steps. There is a rhythm that I get into, something that is so natural and easy. But life off-trail is so much more complex. I feel that I have all these plans, my plans, and its not as simple as packing up my few possessions and walking. There lies the problem. Until I sit and lean into Jesus, my plans are only that. They are ordained by me, but not by God! As I write this, I realize that many of you have this so much better figured out than I. Sometimes, this is me speaking to me and just sharing it with you. I love that vulnerability to be real and know that the only way we truly grow is when we allow others to know who we are.

Today as I walk out my door, I lift up my arms and thank God for all he has done in me. And pray that He will work through me so that I can truly bless others around me. Our relationship with Jesus is one that we build alone but then, we are commanded to share it with others that we meet along the way. Today I will be more intentional and I will be the light that He has created me to be. Once I commit to His ways, then I can truly get outside.

A man plans his course, but the Lord directs his steps. Proverbs 16:9

Fix Your Eyes on Things Unseen

Each day is such a gift. So cliche’, but is it? Yesterday was a glorious day! My family woke to new possibilities. My earthly father was whistling like he had all the breath that God has blessed him with. Just a couple of days ago, he could barely breath! But our wonderful and miraculous Heavenly Father granted him another day. No cliche’ in my mind!

As we went through our day, we received blessing upon blessing. The Doctor from the Pain Management Clinic called and was willing to stay through his lunch break to evaluate my Mother. We have been on a waitlist for the past month, and were not scheduled to see the “sought after doc” until mid-March. Now we have a lunch date with him tomorrow.

Mom and I celebrated by sitting on the patio and soaking up some much needed Vitamin D. The birds were chirping, eating little worms from the ground, the flowers were glistening from the early morning mist and life was as sweet as pie from Blooming Farm Bakery. (Hence the picture above.) Sometimes all you need to walk with God is a step outside your door. Indeed, that’s as far as this dynamic duo made it. That is all God required us to do to experience his countless blessings.

As the evening rolled around, Mom started having her seizures again. These have been off and on since the beginning of last year and after all the hospitalizations, pokes and prods, there hasn’t been much determined. More tests, EEG’s and CT scans but still no answers. We watched our nightly Hallmark movie and retired early to bed.

This morning was going to be the trip to Doctor Pain Management. Yet Mom was not having it. After yesterday’s beautiful, most wonderful day, today was nothing of the same. Wanda, my sweet Mom, continues to endure small seizures this morning and needless to say, we are hunkering down. These are the days when I wonder how strong I really am? Can I get through this with faith alone? And then God reminds me that each day is truly a blessing, an incredible unwrapped gift! As my prayers are heard, God remains true. I need to trust even in the darkness, because I know there is miraculous light just around the next corner. Surely Jesus will show His mercies in the early morning glimmer.

I fix my eyes on things unseen, on days ahead and must believe that better hikes, walks with God, are around the bend. At times it seems like a cliche’ but today it is, truly a gift! And who knows, who will be holding who’s’ hand on that walk? I can only pray that I will be there with my Godly Father, hand in hand, every step of the way. Many prayers for my family as we continue our journey, one step at a time, one continuous walk in faith.

God’s Amazing Grace

Thank you Lord that even though I do not deserve anything, you still shower me with your amazing grace! This is not earned, as we are told. I did nothing to deserve it. This morning I received a phone call from my father’s business partner and second daughter Crystal. Dad was having a hard time breathing and she was sending over her husband Donnie to check on him. Dad has many underlining conditions and yes, without realizing it, I exposed him to this deadly virus. They rushed over to the house to access Dad’s condition as I am about a two hour drive away. Needless to say, I am in the car driving with little more than my toothbrush, vitamins, laptop and Bible! All I can think is…will I see him again?

My Dad, Jerry, is the heart and soul of our family. He is the story teller, the evangelist, the man who has taken care of this family for the past 35 years. Mom and Dad met when they were both in their late 40’s. Needless to say I was born some 20 years prior, but Dad is the only earthly man I call Father. He still owns and operates Pacific Roofing in Modesto as he celebrates his 84th birthday last month. He owned racing cars, sailed to the British Virgin Islands on a custom built sailboat and lived on an island for seven years with Mom. The two of them have shared more adventures, and enjoyed a life that most of us could only dream about. Dad is one-of-a-kind. He takes care of my Mom who is suffering with dementia, and even on his bad days, he is full of love and grace along with the patience of Job, sprinkled in. I know, who is this Patron Saint? He’s just my Dad.

By the time I arrive to their home, Dad is sitting on his favorite recliner watching Hallmark Movies. Yep, that’s who he is. He is on portable oxygen which is from the garage, never to be used except for emergencies, but has been given a pass to crank it up until he can start breathing better. Any of you who are reading this are rolling your eyes, knowing that without a doctors order, he shouldn’t be using bootleg oxygen. And you are absolutely spot on. After talking with a Doc on the phone, I chatted with another Doctor on Video, and both told me to get him in to be evaluated ASAP. Mom still has her pajamas on but they are blue fuzzy jammies from Christmas, and are perfectly appropriate for a car ride to the Urgent Care. Once we arrive, I escort Dad in to the clinic, then head back and work crossword puzzles with Mom. And we wait. And we pray and we wait some more.

After about an hour, we head in and talk with the Dr. Vasi. What a Godsend this man is. He sits with me and tells me Dad will be fine. He has Congested Heart Failure (CHF) which we have been aware of for quite some time. His labs all came out good, no infection and he will be released as soon as he finishes using the bathroom for the up-tenth time. That’s what they do when you have fluid built up, lots of lasix and many trips to the stall! Bathroom trips, I can handle that God.

Why are you so merciful to me, to my Dad, to my mother and to the rest of our family? Just a few hours ago I had painted all these pictures in my head of what was to come. They were not pretty, they were of grief, anguish, sorrow and regret. What if I was the one who gave my Dad COVID? What if I never was able to tell him how much I loved him and how much I love the way he loves my Mom? What if’s are the games my brain plays when I entertain Satan and forget about who our merciful, gracious and loving God truly is!

Once again, God has my undivided attention. He knows how to keep me close, keep me seeking Him, keeps me coming back on my knees! Yesterday I was sitting at the lake talking to God about what He had planned for me this year. Who He wanted me to be and where He wanted me to go? Compassion is all I heard yet He desired me to seek Him at a depth that fills my entire soul and being with His presence. I must have complete trust in what He is doing in me and through me, in all circumstances. I need to know that He has my back, even when I didn’t feel it, deserve it or realize it. And I also must understand that this is nothing that I deserve but yet He gives it freely. Who is this God of ours? I ask myself that daily, hourly and sometimes minute by minute. He is all I need, today, tomorrow and forevermore. Yes Lord, you have my undivided attention once again!

Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. Philippians 4:6

Life After the Colorado Trail

I have been recouping and reacquainting myself with life after the trail. There is something so magical about being in the mountains, away from the nonsense of this daily rhythm of life. Something so simplistic as waking up to a sunrise, packing up your few possessions and walking the thin line. The sometimes not-so straight but ever-so narrow path that God provides for me is all I need. The unseen is what I strive for. Not knowing what will present itself ahead of me, only the anticipation of Gods glorious provisions is all I can dream for. Oh, how truly loved I felt on the trail, how completely protected and cared for as I hiked mile after mile, day upon day, weeks that turned into a month. Even though I was only on the trail for five weeks, 34 days of hiking, it puts you in another mindset. They say a habit forms in 21 days, and hiking with God was a habit I didn’t want to break. My wonderful husband George picked me up from the trail and we have been relaxing and checking out the sights of Park City, Utah. There are ski mountains that surround this town, beautiful rugged peaks that rise up around such a gorgeous place. It just so happens that my 60th birthday and 25th anniversary fall on the same day, August 19th. George asked me how I feel now that I’m 60 years young? Honestly, I feel absolutely blessed. God has provided me this incredible body that is His temple, a shell that allows me to climb mountains, hike trails and enjoy our Lords creation that only a few experience. Life is good but God is better! He is the one and only reason that I am who I am. He created me, ordained my days and put these passions of my heart. All I need to do is take care of myself the best I know how, ask for wisdom to make the right decisions and to live the life that He has given me.

As I look back on the trail, I long to be back out there. It is a selfish desire I have to want to be so close to God, to hear His voice, to feel His breeze upon my face, to know His desires for my steps. I understand that He also wants me in relationship with others, my husband and family, my friends and foes, and my community of believers, and ones who He wants me to share His word with. Hiking is a passion of mine that will never cease, but there must be a balance. Until I hike again, I will love my Lord right where I am. Sitting in my yard, I can hear Gods quiet voice. I can feel His breeze on my face and truly know His love for me. He never leaves me whether I am in the mountains or tilling the soil in my backyard! That is His promise to all of us. Wherever you are, I am with you! Never hold onto to anything tighter than you are holding onto God…