Sunday, March 5, 2017

SECOND WIND.....the story.

I recently saw a statistic that says studies show Americans get their “Second Wind” at age 56.  Well, guess who is turning 56 later this year?  :-) 

I have always been pretty much an “open book” with those around me. My husband sweetly suggests to me often that I might “over-share” a bit, especially on Facebook (HA!), but I pretty much report life as it is around me.  “Marcia, did you really just post that disgusting grey ruined hamburger meat on Facebook?”  Yep.  “Honey, did you really just post a picture of the cat puke?”  Yep. “Honey, did you really just post a video of the dog pooping?”  Yep.  “Wife, I fear I must unfriend you soon.”  Oh well….  I guess my posts aren’t for the faint of heart sometimes!  LoL

But seriously, for those of you who have followed me in life these last few years, you know it’s been a bumpy ride. I gave up writing songs several years ago, for many reasons, but mainly because my parents had gotten to an age where they needed my help and it was clear I needed to enter into a season of “caregiver” mode and my own career needed to take a backseat. I won’t lie and say it was easy, because it was not. But it WAS very rewarding and I wouldn’t change a thing about those last years close by my parent’s side. 

Mom passed first, in Feb. of 2013. Then Dad went to be with her and our sweet Lord in March of 2015. I was beside myself with grief. I had truly never known the deep, dark side of grief that engulfed me, and it stayed with me for many months.  We also lost Mike’s grandmother in the fall of 2013, and both of our beloved dogs, Django and Ellie in the spring of 2014.  We had some friends pass during those years too, and it seemed that we had suddenly entered into a period of keeping our funeral clothes freshly pressed way too often. This was new territory.  A new season of life. I wasn’t sure I was ready for this at all.  I was completely uncomfortable in my own skin and felt lost.  I needed to find myself again somehow. 

My friend Kim knew I wasn’t myself.  As good friends do, she could see what I couldn’t see. That I needed to create.  She gently encouraged me to start writing again.  She thought it would be therapeutic.  Of course I argued with her.  “Nope.  I’m done.  I’m empty.  I really don’t think I will ever write again.  I have written hundreds of songs, and I can’t imagine that there is anything else I need to say.” 

Fast forward to January 2016. My husband Mike and I were meeting Kim and our friend Christopher Cross for dinner in Nashville. I have been touring with Christopher for 3 years now and he has become a treasured colleague and a dear friend.  He has always been a musical mentor and inspiration to me and I still find myself amazed that I get to work with him.  This particular evening Christopher asked if we could stop by a little early so he could show me something before dinner.  When I walked in Kim’s house I could see a little mischievous gleam in her eye and CC had a big smile on his face too.  “What’s going on guys?” I said.  “Wellllll…..”, Kim said, “I told Christopher about our conversation, where you said you weren’t ever going to write again.  And then I told him that I thought if someone were to write you an inspiring piece of music that you could write some beautiful lyrics to, it might be just the thing to get you creating again.”  CC’s smile got bigger and then he blurted out, “So I wrote you something!”.  Let me tell you right now I don’t think I have ever been more stunned in my life.  What did he just say?  Did he just say he wrote something for ME?

Kim took my arm and motioned for me to walk back to the studio. CC immediately pulled up a chair for me to sit perfectly in between the speakers so I could hear the track and then he hit play.  I don’t think it was 2 measures in before tears started flowing down my cheeks!  It was one of the greatest gifts I had ever received. A beautiful piece of music from one of my musical heroes and now I get to write lyrics to it!  Oh wait…. Oh gosh…..Oh CRAP…. I HAVE TO WRITE LYRICS TO THIS!!!!!!!!!   I mean… GOOD LYRICS!!  Can I even DO that anymore??  The high of having this presented to me started sinking in to the reality that I actually had to find my “voice” again.  What if nothing came?  What if I really WAS empty?

The phone rang a couple of days later and it was Christopher.  “Have you worked on the song yet?”, he excitedly asked. “No,” I timidly said.  “You are going to have to give me a little time here.  It’s been awhile. I don’t write prolifically like you do.”  “No worries,” he sweetly said. “When the muse hits, it will come. Take your time.”  C’mon MUSE!  Where ARE you these days???

It was actually about six weeks later when the Muse decided to show up.  And she came at 4:30AM. Boy, that ol Muse picks GREAT times to appear, huh?  LoL  I literally woke up suddenly with lyrics floating around in my head… so I got up, put on a pot of coffee, grabbed my guitar and sat out in the sunroom letting the muse lead me into this lyric.  To be fair, CC had written most of the chorus, and had this wonderful title already.  He generously lead me in the right direction lyrically so I just let the rest flow out.  I typed out the lyrics - put them in an email to CC and hit send.  And then I went back to bed and fell back asleep.  

When I woke up again around 9am, my first thought was panic.  Oh man.. did I really just send Christopher Cross some lyrics at 5:00 in the morning??  What if he hates them?  I checked my email to see if he had responded. Nothing.  Deep breath.  Ok… well, now we just wait and see. Thankfully it he didn’t keep me waiting too long.  His beautiful and supportive email came in and the first three words were, “I love it!”.  I think i burst into tears… again!  (I cry a lot).  We had a song!!!!  I could still write… and create.  And it felt like I had found myself again.  That part of me that I had put away so I could tend to other things was now back in bloom and I knew that I was indeed starting to find my “Second Wind”.

Since then, I slowly started writing regularly again. Soon the beginnings of a new album began to emerge and the last few weeks I’ve been in the studio with amazing musicians, creating a new CD that I am EXTREMELY proud of.  That album, my first faith-based CD, won’t be ready until late spring/early summer of 2017, so while we are finishing that, I decided to release “Second Wind” as a single for a couple of reasons. One, because it is such an important part of my musical journey now, bringing me back full circle into my creative space. And two, because I’m so proud of this special song and I didn’t want to keep it to myself any longer!  

“Second Wind” is now available for download on I-tunes and all online music stores, as well as on Spotify, Apple Music, and all streaming services, featuring Christopher Cross on guitars, Wes Little on drums, Brian Allen on bass, Derek Wells on guitars, and Kim Parent and Britt Savage on background vocals.  Thanks for listening guys!  I hope you enjoy it! 


C. Cross/M. Ramirez

I found my second wind
I think I found my second wind
The dawn is finally breaking
There is a new light in my sky
You know nothing lasts forever
We can get through the darkest night

Life is full of struggles
And everybody gets their share
But every end just means a new beginning
And I’m starting to get there

I take a breath and take a step
Walking my new path with no regrets

CH: I think I’ve found my second wind
Watch out world, here I come again
I think I’ve found my second wind
I got my friends, got my family
and I got my man

There’s nothing like a true love
reminding me to just lean on
The faith that always guides me
And the hope that keeps me strong

CH: I think I’ve found my second wind
Watch out world, here I come again
I think I’ve found my second wind
I got my friends, got my family
and I got my man

I take a breath and take a step
walking my new path with no regrets

CH: I think I’ve found my second wind
Watch out world, here I come again
I think I’ve found my second wind
And I’m playing to win


Saturday, January 14, 2017

Jan 2017 NEWS.....

I hope everyone is having a beautiful start to 2017.  This year is shaping up to be a fun and exciting one for me.  Currently I am deep in the middle of making my new CD, which I hope to have finished this spring and I’m getting SUPER excited about getting some new music out to you all. In the meantime, I have a couple of other fun pieces of music news to share!

 First off, Reba McEntire has a new double CD that is being released on Feb. 3rd and I’m happy to announce that one of my songs, “God and My Girlfriends” is on it!  I wrote “GAMG” with my friends Lisa Hentrich and Patricia Conroy and we immediately felt like it was perfect for Reba and pitched it to her.  Apparently she loved it too, because she quickly put it on “hold”.  Well…that was 8 years ago!   LoL   So yeah, Reba took her time, but in her own time (or maybe in God’s perfect time!), she finally recorded the song and did a beautiful job!  We are happy and very proud to have this song finally coming out!  Although the full CD, “Sing it now - Songs of faith and hope” doesn’t come out until Feb., she chose our song to be released early, so you can download it NOW on iTunes!  There is even a hashtag #GodAndMyGirlfriends, with women all over the country posting pictures and videos on social media with their girlfriends.  Some of them made me cry!  It’s so sweet y’all!  Truly!  I love that the song is empowering women to bond together, because THAT is a beautiful thing!  Ya’ll go download the song… AND the CD when it comes out!  I can’t wait to hear it myself!  

 In equally fun news, I just recorded a new song that I wrote with the great Christopher Cross and I’ll be releasing that later this month on iTunes as a “prelude” to my full-length project.  Yes, CC is my current “boss”, but he is also one of my great musical influences as I spent many, many hours in my youth listening to his music.  It is truly an honor to get to co-write a song with him, and I can’t WAIT to tell you the special circumstances behind the writing of it!   Stay tuned for that…..  :-)

Also, the PBS special, “Christopher Cross and friends”, which features the CC band, Michael McDonald, Mike Love and Eric Johnson should start airing all over the country this year as well. Ya’ll keep your eyes peeled on your local PBS station for air times.  We are super proud of how it turned out and can’t wait for everyone to see it!  

We just finished our first CC show of 2017 in Grand Rapids, MI at the Forest Hills Fine Arts Center. What a beautiful facility!  Everyone there was so great and we had a wonderful time.  We have one more show this month in Lancaster, PA, at The American Music Theatre with the band “America”!  I love those guys!  SO many hits from the 70’s and 80’s.  I just sit and listen to their set and go back in time.  If you are in the Lancaster area, come see us on January, 28th!

 Next week, I’m heading down to Birmingham, AL with my pals, Kim Parent and Rob Harris.  We have convinced Mike Waldron to join us for an evening of stories and songs as part of “The Writer’s Share” songwriter concert series.  If you are near B’ham, come join us for a lovely evening at Workplay, Jan. 19th, at 8:00pm.

That’s about it for now.  I truly hope to see some of you at upcoming shows.  That is one great thing about doing so much travel is getting to run into old friends and meet new ones!  
Ya’ll be good to each other and check my blog now and then for more updates!
 Love, Peace and Blessings,

 In February I do TWO shows in Nashville (a rare thing these days!):
“Kimbros” —- Feb. 19th   

“The Bluebird Cafe” —Feb. 25th  w/Kaci Bolls, Jay Knowles, and Britton Cameron

Tuesday, January 10, 2017

Finding Peace....

Etty Hillsum was a Jewish woman, imprisoned by the Nazis.  She perished on Nov. 30th, 1943 at Auschwitz.  She wrote about peace in one of the least peaceful moments of her life. She made a note in her journal in Sept. 1942 (which was about a year before she died) of Matthew 6:34; "Take therefore no thought for the morrow: for the morrow shall take thought for the things of itself.  Sufficient unto the day is the evil thereof. --- "   

Then she wrote this:  

“We have to fight them daily like fleas, those small worries about tomorrow, for they sap our energies.  We make mental provision for the days to come, and yet everything turns out differently, quite differently.  Sufficient unto the day.  The things that have to be done must be done, and for the rest we must not allow ourselves to become infested with thousands of petty fears and worries, so many motions of no confidence in God. — Ultimately we have just one moral duty; to reclaim large areas of peace in ourselves, more and more peace, and to reflect it towards others.  And the more peace there is in us, the more peace there will be in our troubled world.”  —  Etty Hillesum

Etty lays out her plan for peace quite beautifully.  And it starts with not allowing ourselves to "become infested with thousands of petty fears and worries" about tomorrow, for that will "sap our energies" that we need for today.  We who claim to be Christ-followers must stop the many motions of "no confidence in God", and truly walk the walk.  The world is watching. Are we setting an example of confidence in God, or not?  

Also, I love how she calls "reclaiming peace in ourselves" as a moral duty.  WHOA.  That kind of slapped me in the face!  That means that finding peace isn't just something that is a nice suggestion for better living, but a MORAL DUTY to one another.  Have you ever thought about it like that?  I sure haven't!   But it makes sense to me now.  We live in such a broken and troubled world.  WE are broken and troubled!   I can hardly stand to turn on the news for it breaks my heart to see the evil, sad, lonely, hurting MESS that we live in.  How do we find PEACE in the midst of all THAT???   

Well, we start with finding it in ourselves.  Do you feel like your soul is a peaceful soul?  Are you are peaceful person?  No?  Well, me neither!   But I am working on it these days and I can start to feel progress towards it.  I think THAT is the key.  If everyone started working on finding their own peace, within themselves, then I think it would eventually create the peace in the world that we are all looking for.  How could the world NOT be peaceful if it was inhabited by a bunch of peaceful people, right?   

You know the common phrase, "Be the change that you want to see in the world", right?  Well, I do think that there is truth in that sentence.  Everyone is screaming on social media about how messed up everything is right now, but no one is offering change within themselves in order to fix it.  Everyone has dug in their heels and chosen sides (and chosen enemies).  There is too much of people "taking a stand" and not enough of people "choosing to understand".  You can see that there is very little PEACE in the air these days and it's something I personally feel could be a big part of the solution.  

I love what Jen Hatmaker posted this last week in the midst of some troubling news stories that were haunting:  

"What a weary world. This scrap of earth needs so much hope and love. It is in a hope and love deficit, spending in the red, grief upon grief, loss upon loss. Broken hearts beget broken lives, and we find ourselves at another funeral, another trial, another national tragedy.
I so deeply believe that we have our finger on the thermostat. We can turn it all up: the compassion, the mercy, the practice of presence (so important because people are so lonely), the kindness. We can change the temperature. Jesus already told us this. He told us how to warm up this tired, cold world and He showed us how:
Love God. Love people. Blessed are the peacemakers. Blessed are the merciful. The Good Samaritan-go and do likewise. Touch the outcasts and care for the hurting. Find the most broken, busted up folks, the lonely, sad, suffering ones, the ones everyone hates or bullies and love them like it is a paying job.
And the thermostat slowly inches up. It is all we can do. We can warm up the air around us. You handle your little corner and I'll work on mine.
This is our work and it isn't small. Fingers on the thermostat. Inch it up with all the compassion and empathy and grace we can muster. It matters." - J. Hatmaker

Like she says, "WE can turn up the compassion, the mercy..."  WE can make changes around us that will affect others in turn.  If WE can find some peace within ourselves, maybe it will flow out to others around us.  We can't just sit back and complain about what is happening around us.  We have to DO something.  Starting with our own selves, our own souls. 

One blog post isn't enough about this.  Finding peace can't be conquered and solved in just a few words, but I am on a quest.  It is one of my goals for 2017.  I want to be more peaceful and I hope to spread more peace to those around me.  There have been moments in my life where I have experienced the peace that GOD promises, and it is a truly beautiful place to be.  The peace that passes all understanding.  The peace that comes when it is least likely to make sense.  The peace that can ONLY come from a supernatural place.  

Do you know that peace?  Have you ever experienced it?   I'd love to hear your thoughts....

Blessings, Love and Peace,

Tuesday, January 3, 2017

Finding Balance.....

"Balance. It's like a unicorn; we've heard about it, everyone talks about it and makes airbrushed T-shirts celebrating it, it seems super rad, but we haven't actually seen one. I'm beginning to think it isn't a thing."                      --Jen Hatmaker

Every year about this time, I start making a list of all the things I'm going to do differently this year. You know, the usual realistic goals.  Become a bible scholar, learn to cook like Julia Childs, develop the same exercise discipline as Jillian Michaels, organize my home like Martha Stewart, write a masterpiece, and lose 100 lbs.   And in my spare time, I'll be the perfect wife, the perfect mother, the perfect daughter, sister, neighbor and friend.... aaaannnddd carve out some extra "self-care" time for me!  It sure sounds like I have found the key to a healthy balanced life, doesn't it?  


This year, I'm going to do things much differently.  Yes, I'll set some goals, but I'm going to add a lot more grace in the mix.  My Wednesday Morning Girls Group recently finished reading Lysa Terkeurst's "The Best Yes" and it rocked my world.  Learning how to not only figure out what to say "yes" and "no" to, but how to make room in your life for your "Best Yes's" was truly eye-opening.  We can't just wait around for life to bring us opportunities and then decide which of those opportunities we will say "yes" to.  We need to figure out what bring us JOY in this life and create those experiences for ourselves sometimes.  We need to take time to examine our souls and find out what passions God placed in our hearts.  When we do that, it's so much easier to figure out what we should be spending our time doing.  

Our society definitely puts pressure on us all to GO, GO, GO and DO, DO, DO!  Looking at each other's social media feeds is sure to make us all feel like our lives are lacking somehow.  A couple of weeks ago I saw a good friend who had posted pics from her beautiful family Christmas. I immediately felt like a big Christmas failure.
--- Her tree looked exquisite!  Mine looks like Charlie Brown's.  
--- Her table settings looked like they could have been in a Southern Living magazine!  I don't own fancy Christmas dishes, but I DID send The Hubs down to Dollar General to buy real napkins.  WE CAN BE CLASSY TOO. 
--- Her turkey looked moist and cooked to perfection!  My turkey came out too undercooked... THE THINGY POPPED OUT I SWEAR! after carving it and realizing the pink color of the meat indicated a problem, we put it back in the oven and over cooked it to crunchy perfection.  Think "Christmas Vacation".  The kids told me it was delicious anyway.  My kids are excellent liars.  

Sigh..... #ChristmasFail 

And just like that, I decided it was time to take a social media break for a couple of weeks and it was one of the best things I did in 2016!  Social media breaks will definitely be something I incorporate into my 2017 routine.  I recently read statistics that showed links to constant social media use with depression and anxiety.  More stats show that people who constantly check social media get less sleep, feel less satisfied with their lives, and suffer from mood-swings.  Don't get me wrong, I LOVE many things about social media.  I love that when I'm halfway around the world, I can look on friends and families pages and see what they have been up to. It's a great way to stay connected to people you care about that maybe you don't see often.  But just like anything good, if it's not used well, it can become a bad thing in our lives.  So in an effort to keep my life... ahem... in "balance", I'm definitely going to cut back on my social media time.   Or at least that's the plan.  HA!

When I think back on all the hours I spent cruising around on Facebook in 2016, I don't see a lot of value that it brought into my world.  So I'm hoping to find other things in 2017 that I can do with much of that time that might actually have productivity involved.  Something to show from all that time spent.  Maybe I'll actually get some new songs written and a new CD recorded.  Wouldn't THAT be lovely!  :-)  

SO....instead of making a list of what I'm going to ADD into my life in 2017 to make it more fabulous, I've decided to make a list of what I'm going to DELETE from my already overwhelmed schedule.  Or at least what I'll cut back on!  Social Media time is definitely at the top of that list.  Balance may be as elusive as a unicorn..... but I'm still gonna try my best to find a sliver of it in my crazy world.  And instead of striving to be like Julia, Jillian or Martha, I'll give Marcia much more grace to just be... well... Marcia.

What about you guys?  What is something that you can DELETE from your lives this year that will help you find the elusive unicorn named "Balance"?   Do tell.....

Here we go 2017.  Let's do this!

All the love,

Monday, December 5, 2016

The Gatlinburg Fires.... Pt 2 (Mike's discovery)

He promised he would be careful.  I knew there was no talking him out of turning around and coming home so I didn't even try.  I'm sure he got up at 6am and left without waking me just to make sure I wouldn't either 1) -try to talk him out of going... or 2) -try to go with him.  At this point, I had to just pray that God would protect him.

He called as he got into Sevierville.  He said he had stopped at a Cracker Barrel for some breakfast before trying to get into Gatlinburg.  Made a joke about how slow the waitress was and that G'burg would probably be rebuilt before he got his breakfast. LOL  Sometimes joking around is the only way to get through tough times and I'm always grateful for my husband's sharp wit and sense of humor.  It has certainly gotten me through some dark, dark days.   I always tell the kids, "Marry someone who makes you laugh!"... and I'm not kidding.  Laughter can truly be the best medicine sometimes.

After his breakfast, he started looking for back roads that might take him up to our mountain without going down into G'burg.  Around that time I got a text from my friend Elaine who was in touch with a common friend of ours, Julie who also owns a cabin up there.  I told Elaine to get Julie's address and maybe Mike could check on the status of their cabin too while he was up there.  Elaine sent the address and soon Mike texted back saying he was right there beside the community where Julie's cabin was.  He then sent a video that looked GREAT... all the cabins looked safe and intact and no damage!!   GREAT NEWS!   We now had our hopes up that our cabin too would be in one piece.  Mike said as he was driving closer to our mountain he started having happy thoughts of taking a selfie of himself standing in our cabin kitchen and sending it to me with the caption, "Everything is ok! It's still here!"

But then he turned onto the road leading up to our place and his heart sank.  

As he made the climb up the winding mountain road, he felt disoriented. All the landmarks that we usually use to know where to turn were gone.  Every single cabin along the road was burned to the ground.  Nothing but concrete slabs where beautiful mountain homes had been the day before.  He started snapping pictures as his heart started racing, in fear of what the top of the mountain would show.

One of the cabins below ours. Only a concrete slab and burned out car left.
A beautiful cabin called "Mountain Mist" was on this lot.
This was a whole row of cabins on the mountain behind ours.  All burned to the ground.
Our cabin was literally at the very top of our mountain. As the road winds up to the top the road dead ends into a T.  At that T, you go left to wind around to our cabin driveway, but as you sit at that T, you could always look straight up the hill to see the back of our cabin.  As Mike sat at that T, he looked up, and instead of seeing our cabin, he saw only the basement concrete walls, with smoke still smoldering from the ashes inside. 

He said his heart sank.  

He got out of his car and walked up the road, passing firemen that were still putting out fires in the railroad ties that were built into the mountain to sturdy the embankments.  He said they never even looked at him as he passed..... they knew Mike wasn't supposed to be there, but they obviously knew he was emotional and owned that home that was gone... so they let him pass without stopping him and just looked the other way.  His voice was shaking as he filmed this video. I know he was in shock.  It still breaks my heart to see it.


He waited until he drove back down the mountain to call and tell me.  I'm sure he knew I would be hysterical and needed to be in a safe place himself before making that call.  When my phone rang, I was just SURE he was going to be on the other line saying, "Honey, I made it and everything is ok!  The cabin is still there!", but it was not to be.

I answered, "Hi honey... where are you?".  "I'm at the bottom of our mountain down by the spur.", he said. Before he could say anything else, I anxiously asked, "Did they let you up our mountain?  Could you see anything?" There was a long pause, then he said, "Yes, honey... and honey....",  his voice started cracking with emotion..."honey I'm sorry.  I'm so so sorry honey... it's gone.  It's completely gone... there is nothing left.  I'm sorry honey." I started crying hysterically.  I just couldn't believe it.  How could this be?  "Are you sure Mike?!?   Are you absolutely sure?!?!??  No, Mike, NO."  "Yes, honey I'm sure, I saw it with my own eyes, and I took some pictures, but I'm not going to send them to you.  I'll show you when I get home but I can't send them now.  I just can't."

Our cabin is gone.  The "sister" cabin next door, a mirror image of ours is still standing. Unreal.
 "Ok," I said through my tears.  "Just please be safe and come home. I'm so sorry you had to do that alone honey... I love you... thank you... just come home."  And we hung up.

Our tin roof crumbled in a pile on our property where our cabin used to stand.
I sat on the couch in shock.  This just couldn't be happening, could it?  The elation of knowing the kids were safe had now turned into grief over losing the cabin that I thought was my gift from Dad.  It kind of felt like I was losing him all over again.  I sat alone in my living room and cried... no WAILED for about an hour.  This wasn't something that was supposed to happen.  All my dreams of spending family holidays and special times together in that cabin were gone.  The dreams of passing that little piece of heaven down to my children as a reminder of their Grandpa... gone.  The place I go for respite when I'm weary... gone.  Now what do I do?

I prayed to God... Why Lord?  Why would you gift us this beautiful place only to rip it away from us so violently and tragically only 11 months later?   Why?  Why us??

The next few days showed horrific stories coming out of Gatlinburg.  Family after family running for their lives.  Some of them made it out and some did not.  Even the ones that escaped with their lives had lost everything they own.  EVERYTHING.  Lives lost... lives shattered.... and suddenly my "Why US?" question took on a completely different shape.

"Why US, Lord?  Why were my children spared and others were not?"  The reality of the miracle of Derek and Emily's escaped started getting clearer and clearer.

What if they had just gone to bed early and not stayed up to see the transformer blow?  They had been watching the local news, had their phones on and yet... no emergency alerts had been given.  They thought they were safe up there.  My whole body shakes when I think about how this might have had a completely different ending had they gone to bed earlier as planned.

What if that tree had not fallen on their car?  They would have probably gone down the hill to dinner and NOT been able to get back to their precious pups, Quincy and Harris, who would have perished in that cabin.

What if the tree that fell on the car had not rolled OFF the car and they hadn't been able to drive off the mountain?   They would have been forced to try and walk down the mountain to get away and sadly many of the deaths I have heard of were because of that.  People trying to escape on foot and being overwhelmed by the smoke.

What if they hadn't SEEN the transformer blow out the window and noticed the burning embers?  They might have waited too long before driving down and found no clear routes out by then.

Seriously.... so many things went RIGHT in the midst of all the wrongs that saved my precious son and his new bride.  I have literally been ON MY KNEES in gratitude for the cues that were sent to them to get out when they did.  Whether it was God, an angel... or Daddy... someone was watching over them and I am humbled by that.  I truly truly am.

Why US?  I don't know.  I don't know why our kids were spared and others were not.  I don't know why we lost our cabin so violently.  I don't know why someone would start a fire that would ravage a town and all it's people.  These are all questions I probably will never have answers to... and I will have to be ok with that.

Many are asking if we will rebuild.  We just don't know yet.  Right now we are just taking it one day at a time, dealing with major insurance paperwork and still trying to wrap our brains around it all.  A part of me is still in denial.  But then I look at the pictures and know it's a truth I need to get used to.

One thing I have been reminded of through all this.  We are to hold onto ALL gifts in this life with open hands.  Everything is temporary.  Relationships, buildings, jobs.... all temporary.  When we hold on to anything or anyone with a clinched fist, we lose.  Walking through life holding onto our blessings with open hands enables us to receive.  We can't receive with closed, clinched fists.  Only with the stance of open hands.

So tonight, I stand with open hands.  Our beautiful home was taken from our lives, but we will go on and learn to find different dreams, different hopes, different plans for our future... in time.  Right now, I'm still in grieving mode, but I think that's healthy for a bit.  I need to process, but I won't stay here any longer than I need to.  Writing this all out is helping me process and accept.

I want to say a HUGE THANK YOU to everyone who has been praying for us, reaching out with calls, texts, messages, loving us through this difficult time.  We have truly felt those prayers and know we are being carried by you.... we feel so loved.  And that is the greatest gift of all.

Thanks for the memories sweet cabin... you truly were a gift to us.  A little piece of heaven on earth.
"Edge of Paradise on the left, the "sister" cabin survived.... Heaven's Gift on the right is now gone after the fire."

"Heaven's Gift- 1993-2016"

Sunday, December 4, 2016

The Gatlinburg Fires.....Pt 1 (The Kids Escape)

The title of this post is plural on purpose.  There wasn't just one fire.  There were many fires on the night of Nov. 28th that ravaged the small mountain town of Gatlinburg, TN.  Many fires that took 13 human lives (at last count... still some are missing) and injured many more.  Fires that burned down homes and businesses, killed wildlife, stripped people of their homes and everything they owned.  Over 1000 buildings were destroyed in those fires.  Our cabin, "Heaven's Gift" was one of those buildings.

Of course, to us, "Heaven's Gift" wasn't JUST a building.  It was our beautiful mountain place of respite that we felt lead to purchase with inheritance money from my Father just this last January. My Father loved the mountains.  His last trip before he passed was actually to Gatlinburg.  He was getting pretty frail by then, but he was determined to go up to Newfound Gap on Mt. Leconte once more and see the majestic Smokey's.
Dad - on Mt. Leconte in the Great Smokey Mountains - Nov. 2013

He passed away in March of 2015.  We had never really even considered buying a place up in the Smokey's but about 6 months after he passed, this cabin was literally put in front of us out of the blue and before we knew it, we owned it.  The whole transaction went so smoothly that I was just SURE that Daddy lead us to that special place.  So we named it "Heaven's Gift" because it truly felt like Dad's last gift to us.  That is why I have struggled so hard with losing it.  We didn't even own it a year... and it has now vanished.  Seriously.  Here is a shot of the cabin before.....
"Heaven's Gift" - Gatlinburg, TN  - Feb. 2016

  ... and here it is after the fire had it's way:

"Heaven's Gift" - after the Gatlinburg Fires... Nov. 29th 2016
You can see that nothing is left but the basement walls..... a heartbreaking loss.  But that loss is nothing compared to the true gift that we were given. The gift of LIFE.  

You see, our oldest son, Derek and his brand new wife, Emily (and their shih-tzu pups, Quincy and Harris) were there at the cabin on their honeymoon.  Derek called me on the morning of the 28th and had a concerned tone to his voice.  "Mama", he said, "I'm kind of worried here.  The sky is a weird shade of bright orange and the smoke is getting heavier.  Should we pack up and get out of here?".  "I'm sure everything is fine," I said, "but certainly if you feel in any danger, don't take any chances. Get out of there if you feel uncomfortable."  We talked more and they decided they would just go down the mountain into town and get some breakfast.  They would ask some of the locals if they should be concerned.  He called me after breakfast to tell me that no one seemed concerned down in the town.  He said a waitress told them there was a fire on another mountain about 10 miles away, but that it didn't pose a threat to them.  So we were all relieved and they went back up to the cabin to enjoy their last day on the mountain before coming back to Nashville and starting their lives as husband and wife.  

Around 6pm that evening, Derek called and said they were going to go down the mountain for dinner and asked me for a couple of restaurant recommendations.  All seemed fine at that point, although he mentioned again that the smoke was starting to get pretty thick and it was burning their eyes.  I reminded him to keep their tv's on the local news - just in case there were any warnings to leave.  He called back about 20 mins later and said, "Well, we aren't going to dinner.. and I hate to tell you this but a huge tree just fell on your property and smashed my car.  The windshield is shattered all across and the hood is smashed in."  "NO WAY!", I exclaimed.  "Oh my gosh Derek... what is going on???"  "Mama, the winds have picked up in the last few minutes and it is wicked up here!"

Now I'm getting concerned because their car is messed up and they have no way to get off the mountain should they need to.  "Maybe you should call an Uber or something and go down to a hotel for the night."  Derek laughed nervously and said, "Mama, you don't understand.  There ain't no way an Uber driver is going to come up here right now!"  Then, he tried to reassure me and said they were fine, and had a frozen pizza they would make for dinner and they were going to just hunker down, maybe go to sleep early and just wait out the storm.  "Are you sure Derek?", I said.  "Well," he laughed nervously, "we don't really have a choice."  "Ok," I said, "but please keep an eye on the news."

About an hour later, Derek called again.  This time I knew immediately by the tone of his voice that things had gone from bad to much, much worse.  "Mom!  I just saw a transformer blow down below your cabin.  We've lost power.  We are leaving NOW!", "But Derek, you can't drive your car with the windshield smashed!  It's not safe!".  "MOM. YOU DON'T UNDERSTAND.  I SAW THE SPARKS FROM THE TRANSFORMER LAND ON THE GROUND AND THEY ARE STILL BURNING.  WE DON'T HAVE A CHOICE.  WE HAVE TO DRIVE THE CAR AND TRY TO MAKE IT DOWN THE HILL."  

OMG.  That's when it hit me.  The kids might be in serious danger.  Of course, at this point, they still had no idea that the bottom of their hill was already engulfed in flames from a fire that had started from flying embers in the 87 mile per hr winds that had now entered the area.  But as I sat on my couch praying to our Lord that He would protect our kids as they made their way down the mountain, it wasn't long before my phone alerted me to a new text, with this video in it:


Dear sweet Jesus.... just get them out of there alive.   I was bawling on my couch... a Mother hundreds of miles away, helpless to do anything to help my son and his new bride.  All I could do was pray.  So I prayed and prayed and prayed.... until i got this one word text.


Now I'm crying even harder, overwhelmed with gratefulness that they have gotten off the mountain. But I know they still have to get out of the town and they are driving a smashed up car which can't be good, so I keep praying.  I'm watching news coverage by now and the realization that our favorite little town is literally burning all over is killing me.  

I get another call from Derek, "Mama... we are safe in a shelter now."  He then goes on to tell me about how as they drove down the mountain, the fires started engulfing them on either side.  The initial route they tried to go down was completely blocked by fire and they had to turn around and go another way out.  Then they had a man flag them down to help him and his disabled wife evacuate their home.... so Derek and Emily put them in the car with them and they all drove to the Rocky Top Sports Complex, which was being set up as a shelter for those displaced.   The police were now telling anyone that had enough gas in their car that there was one route out of the area that would take them up to I-40 on the east side of Knoxville.  "Mom, we are going to drive that way out.  We will be fine.. I promise."  "Ok baby.. but PLEASE touch base periodically so I know you are ok."   "Yes ma'am.  I promise I will."   And he kept his promise, touching base with me periodically along the way.

 I stayed up watching news coverage until around 2:30am when I knew they were home....  but I still couldn't sleep... now I was glued to the news from the local Knoxville channel, watching for any sign that maybe, just maybe, our cabin was going to escape unharmed.  Around 4am, I saw that the Gatlinburg Falls area was engulfed.  That was our mountain.  I said a prayer and went to bed to try and sleep, knowing there was absolutely nothing I could do.  

Three hours later, I woke up to realize my husband wasn't in the bed.  I got up and looked around the house.  No sign of him.  Walked out to the garage... his car was gone.  I call him, "Where are you honey?", "I'm on my way to Gatlinburg."  "Mike!  They aren't going to let you anywhere near our cabin!", "Maybe not honey, but I have to go.  I have to try and get there and see if we still have our place.  I have to try."  I knew that tone in his voice and there was no talking him out of going.  So I started praying again now... praying for my husband's safety this time.  I knew the fires were still blazing in parts of the area and now my husband was heading right into them.  I truly felt like I was living a nightmare. 

Now I had to sit on my couch and wait for more news. Wait to hear if he was safe.  Wait to hear if our "Heaven's Gift" was gone.  

...... to be continued.....check tomorrow's post for "The Gatlinburg Fires, Pt. 2"