Friendship Friday – My Brother-in-Christ, Hardin!

Hardin and his family

Hello everyone, and welcome to this week’s Friendship Friday post!  This special series of posts takes a little break from the typical Disney posts that we talk about, and instead focuses on the special people in my life that have helped to shape me into the person that I am today.  Today I would like to talk about my great friend, Hardin!

Hardin is the leader of the small group at my Bible Study.  I mentioned last week that the Bible Study I attend is known as The Men’s Study, and the way it is broken up, each week we meet in what’s known as our small group for discussion, and then after we go over the lesson plan, we meet all together for a lesson by the leader of the group, Russ Andrews.  Hardin is my small group leader, but more importantly, he is a friend, mentor, witness, a person who holds me accountable, and like Monica last week, I feel I can say that Hardin knows God, and God knows him as well.

I first met Hardin about two years ago when I was finding out who my leader would be for my second year of taking the Men’s Study Bible Study course.  The first year I had my friend Clint as my leader, and to be honest, I was a little bummed that I didn’t get Clint for my second year as well because I felt I learned a great deal that first year.  As a rule, I’m not someone that likes change a whole lot! :)

However, I wasn’t about to tell Hardin that I wanted to change leaders, that’s not my style, so I resolved to make the most of it, see what would happen, and let God work His will on me both inside and outside of class.

Well, suffice it to say that Hardin, James, and the whole gang of students had a terrific year, and we all learned together more about our Savior, Jesus.  Along the way I learned that Hardin owns his own business, that Monica (from last week) used to work for him, and that, like me, Hardin is the sole man in his household!  In his case, he has two daughters to go along with his wonderful wife, while we just have one, but Hardin and I are definitely in the minority in our homes!

The primary focus of the Men’s Study, of course is about learning more about Jesus, and walking a path with Him more often, rather then taking your own path.  However, in the midst of all of that great group discussion and fellowship, as I said, I found not only a leader for my Bible Study, but I’ve also discovered how much of a friend Hardin — and all the guys — are.

When I talk about the blessings that God has bestowed upon me in my life, one of the biggest blessings has been my fellowship with the men of the Men’s Study.  I am much better off now then before I started this Bible Study, and it is in many ways because of men like Hardin.

Thank you for stopping by and reading about my Friendship Friday friend, Hardin!  If you live in the Raleigh, NC area and would like to join our Bible Study, please reach out to me and shoot me an email or leave me a comment below!  Now, read about the friend that my good friend Heidi is talking about today on her post!  Just click on the button below, and thanks!

Friendship Friday – My good friend Monica

My good friend Monica, posing with Sophie at the Animal Kingdom Villa

My good friend Monica, posing with Sophie at the Animal Kingdom Villas

Hello everyone, and welcome to another edition of Friendship Friday!  Today I am turning my attention to one of my best friends — our dear friend Monica!  Monica, her husband Doug, and her daughter ML go to the same church we do, and the highest compliment that I can give Monica is that she walks with the Lord, and is a strong Witness to His word!

We first met Monica several years ago at our church, Edenton Street UMC, but we only knew her as “the lady that does the children’s sermon.”  Later on, though, we re-met her when her daughter Madelyne-Lois started taking dance in the same class that Sophie did, and it was then that we remembered where we knew her from.  From that moment on, ML and Sophie became almost sisters, and Cindy and I were blessed to have Monica and her husband Doug in our lives.

Over the years, we’ve laughed together, cried together, prayed together, and counseled together.  Doug and I attend the same Bible Study — it’s called The Mens Study, and it is comprised of about 250 men, learning more about God, Jesus, what it means to be a Christian, what it takes to be a Christian, and reaping the wonderful benefits of being in fellowship with your fellow believers.  I will tell you right now, I don’t think there is anything more powerful that I’ve experienced with regards to my faith then hearing 250 men singing hymns at the top of their lungs in church.  It brings chills down my spine just to think of it!

As I’ve said before, one of the main reasons we bought our DVC membership was so that we could invite our dear family and friends to enjoy all that Walt Disney World has to offer with us, and not have to worry about the hotel costs associated with such a trip.  This past June, Cindy, Sophie and I were able to take our dear friends Kerry and Neal and their kids, my niece Stephanie, her (at the time) boyfriend Shane, his brother Kyle, and Monica and ML with us — and it was a wonderful time.

When I think of the blessings that I’ve received in this life of mine, first and foremost, of course (other then Jesus, of course), is Cindy and Sophie, and all that they mean to me.  Our family is certainly second, and of our friends, Monica is at the top of the list.

As I wrap up this week’s Friendship Friday post, I think the three things that best sum up Monica is this:

  1. She walks with the Lord, she talks with the Lord, and the Holy Spirit is plainly evident at one glance.
  2. Not a day goes by when she isn’t doing something for someone other then herself, whether it be family, friends, co-workers, or a stranger she meets on the street.
  3. Just knowing Monica is a blessing, because she has the kind of spirit that stays around long after she leaves the room.

My whole family is blessed to know Monica, her husband Doug, and their wonderful daughter Madelyne-Lois.  God knew what He was doing when he put that family back into our lives, and we are the better for it.

Thank you so much for joining me this week on my Friendship Friday post!  As you all know, this great idea was the brainchild of my dear friend Heidi from Heidi’s Head!  Click on the button below to see who she is featuring this week, and thanks for stopping by!

Friendship Friday: My sister, Robin

Robin's Family

The Cunningham Clan, from left -> Right: Brett, Stephanie, Leslie, Jim, and Robin.

The older I get, the more I appreciate the simple things in life.  Family, friends, I have have learned that some of the best moments in life happen when we are willing to let God take over, and just “be” in the moment.  Today’s Friendship Friday tribute is in honor of my sister Robin, both the little girl that annoyed the crap out of me, and now the woman that has a very dear place in my heart.

Robin is my only sister, and she is the oldest.  Born a couple of years before me, I don’t remember much about my sister until we all moved to Sterling when my parents bought their first house.  I have a lot of memories of my childhood, and almost all of them are good memories.

Robin was a tom-boy as a girl, always out and about getting into things outside.  Unfortunately for Robin, this came back to bite her on more then one occasion.  For example, Robin lost both of her two front top teeth in separate accidents.  She lost the first one by having a board come loose as she propped up the neighbors sandbox so I and other kids could look for salamanders.  Thinking back on that, it’s kind of amazing that she didn’t have a concussion too as the board slipped out of her hands and hit her square on the chin.  Ouch.

Like all little girls I expect, Robin was a Daddy’s Girl.  She loved it when Dad would come home from work.  If memory serves me correctly, Robin lost the second tooth by running down the hallway to welcome home Dad, and slipping on the tile floor.

Add to those two accidents the time she had to have a tetanus shot because she stepped on a rusty nail in the woods, the teeth she had to have pulled for her braces (I think), and the time she egged me on enough that I put my fist through our storm door glass insert (I’ve still got the scar from that on my thumb!) — and it truly shows that God had a plan for her simply because she made it through childhood in almost one piece!

Robin and Jim were married on May 25, 1985, with Robin being just 19 years old — two months to the day before she would turn 20.  Their first child, Brett, was born in June, 1986, just a month before Robin would celebrate her 21st birthday!  So Robin grew up in a hurry.

Really, it wasn’t until Robin moved out of the house that I began to appreciate her good qualities (yes, I’m a slow learner.)  Robin isn’t afraid to try anything once.  Proof positive is the fact that she has gone back to school, and is *thisclose* to finishing her work to becoming a full-fledged teacher!

The biggest compliment that I can give anyone is the one that I have for Robin.  She knows Jesus, and Jesus knows her.  Robin and Jim have had three children in their almost 28 years of marriage, Brett, Leslie, and Stephanie, and the surest evidence of the success of Jim and Robin lies in their kids.  Brett, Leslie, and Stephanie have been raised into adulthood by two loving parents, and are making their own mark on the world in which they live.  Their success is a direct result of the role that Robin and Jim have played on nurturing, mentoring, and leading them on the path they are meant for.

I hope that I have conveyed in my post what my sister Robin means to me.  It isn’t always easy writing about a loved one, and I wanted to capture as best I could the love I have for my sister.  In the end, I think the last thing I have to say is this:

I love you, Robin.

 

When the World Grieves

A Tearful Mickey Mouse – hand drawn by 11 year old Sophie.

On Friday, December 14th, 2012, the small town of Newtown, Connecticut, was struck with a grief so intense, it has shaken a nation — even a world — to it’s core.  On that morning, as you all likely know by now, a gunman came into Sandy Hook Elementary School and ended the lives of innocent lives.

As a parent of an eleven year old, that news hit home.  Part of me was thinking “How could this happen?” while another part of me was thinking “This was a movie scene, right?  It didn’t really happen, did it?”  Well, you all know that it did happen, and it is in the aftermath of such a tragedy that we struggle mightily to deal with the grief, and to try to explain to our children when they hear about it why such a thing could happen.  When the world grieves, what, as a parent, can you do?

I thought long and hard this weekend about whether or not to write a post — so much so that I haven’t posted anything since Friday to the site.  In the end, though, I decided that, perhaps, if I did write about it, someone, somewhere that is grieving right now might take comfort in knowing that this little blogger and his family are thinking of them.

When tragedy strikes such as this, more then anything it brings me back to my Bible, and it is a reaffirmation of what Jesus tells us in John 16:33:

“I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace.  In this world you will have trouble.  But take heart!  I have overcome the world.”

No one right now is going through as much hurt as those families who have lost loved ones.  But they have one thing going for them, as sad as it is for them to comprehend right now — their loved ones are in the arms of Jesus right now, and while they are left behind, Jesus has not forgotten them, and He is giving them the strength they need right now to get through this, as well as bringing his Peace upon them.

it is far too easy to ask why in cases like this. It is really easy to be angry with God for allowing this to happen, and that is probably happening right now.  I don’t pretend to have the answers about why this has happened, and I don’t think that we will ever really know why this happened.  What I do know, though, is that our God is a loving God, that Jesus has won, even though it may not seem like it is so right now.  It is really easy to let our grief lead us down a road that takes us into sin through anger, and if this is happening to you right now, please, PLEASE, get down on your knees right now, clasp your hands together, and pray to God to give you the Peace you need — the Peace that only Jesus can provide — so that you won’t give in to your anger and do something that could cause more grief.  If you have sinned as a result of your anger, do the same thing — but first ask God to forgive you for your sin.  He will forgive you.  He always forgives those who ask forgiveness with a humble heart.

The grief won’t go away anytime soon, I’m afraid.  I know that it may seem like you want it to go away, that you want to just forget what has happened, but that isn’t what you should be doing, I believe.  Forgetting the grief, blocking it away, will not allow you to heal, and that wouldn’t help.  It is tough, but love always is, and saying goodbye, especially to your children, spouses, or other loved ones is never easy.  Life will go on, though, although I won’t claim that it will be any better for a while, if ever.  Your loved one is still gone, after all.

I doubt that this has been helpful to any of you, but maybe I’m wrong.  If this has helped you deal with your grief, then my objective was met.  At the very least, please know that the entire nation, but especially Newtown, Connecticut, is in my prayers, and in the prayers of my family.  God Bless Us, and God Bless the USA.

Friendship Friday: My Grandpa!

Hello, and welcome to this week’s edition of Friendship Friday.  Today I have another one of the special people in my life — my Grandpa!

Grandpa and I have always been buddies — for as long as I can remember.  Grandpa worked at United Airlines for 41 years, stepping down in 1978.  Gramps was assigned to different airports by United as their Chief Maintenance Manager (or something like that) — so he and Grandma and Mom and Aunt Bette and Uncle Roger were always travelling to different states.

My Grandpa was assigned to work at the United Airlines Hangar for the then unopened Dulles International Airport in Northern Virginia.  It was Grandpa’s job to make sure that the United hangar was ready for business when the airport opened up.  It was while Grandpa and all the family were there that my Mom and Dad met and got married!

When I was born, my Grandma and Grandpa were living in Buffalo, NY, where Grandpa was in charge of the hangar at the airport there.  I don’t remember Buffalo much because I was young, but my Grandma always told the story that I would be off somewhere, and they would find me playing with the toads that I would find over by the cellar windows outside.

After Buffalo, my Grandpa was stationed at the last airport he worked at before retirement — Newark, located in Newark, NJ.  My Grandparents lived in Berkeley Heights, NJ, and I remember our trips north to visit Grandma and Grandpa there.  It was then that Grandpa and I started forging our bond.  We would go to the airport and look at the planes land from the observation deck — back in the days when you could go to the airport, park, and watch planes all day if you wanted to!

Grandpa had so much knowledge about the airplanes.  He would look at one and say — there’s a DC-10, or a 727, or a 737, or, of course, a 747.  It was great to see him in action, and I learned a few things about planes back then.

In October 1978, I believe it was, Grandpa retired, and Grandma and he began their last move — to Port Richey, Florida!  It was there that my fun with Grandma and Grandpa would begin in earnest!

In 1979 My Mom, sister Robin, and I flew down to visit Grandma and Grandpa.  Dad was a self-employed cabinetmaker, so unfortunately he didn’t have much time off, so he stayed behind.

It was during that summer visit that I got my first visit to Walt Disney World and the Magic Kingdom!  I’ve forgotten some of the details, but the one thing that I never forgot was what I wrote about for my friend Donna from DISTherapy for her 40 days to 40 years project in 2011:

As you pass under the railroad tracks, somehow, Walt Disney has magically taken you out of the here and now, and transported you back to a different time, a different place, where small town Americana is alive and well; where Main Street isn’t just the name of a street, but it is a place to hang out with your friends, where you can eat, shop, and even catch a movie.  As you gaze at all of the incredible buildings, you are taken aback at how long Main Street, U.S.A. is.  It seems like it goes on forever!  But you peer at the end of the street, and what do you see?  This magical castle waiting for you, beckoning you to take a look at it, daring you to even go inside of it!  You have heard about that castle, how it is Cinderella Castle, and belongs to her.  You have read about how you can walk all the way through the castle, and come out in Fantasyland.  You have even heard that you can even have a meal at Cinderella’s Royal Table — but that memory is for another trip.

After that first summer, my Grandma and Grandpa started asking if I wanted to visit with them during the summer months when school was out.  Hello!  Of course I said yes!  I remember the first time I drove down with them, and I had been visiting for a while when my Grandpa said, “Mickey, when do you think you want to go back home?”  I thought for a while, then I said something to the affect that school started September 5th, so I guess I needed to be home a couple of days before so I could get school clothes.  I think my Grandpa thought I was homesick, but how could I be?  I had my buddy with me!  And did I mention it was Florida?!

Grandpa and I did so many things together.  We took care of the neighbor’s pool together — so we could swim in it.  We learned how to swim together.  We would go to the library and check out a book on a particular swimming stroke, and we would read a page by the pool, then go check it out in the water to see how it worked.  During that summer, we learned all the major swimming strokes!

We would go to the beach together while Grandma was playing Bridge with the ladies.

My Grandpa was — and is — an inspiration to me to this day.  He and Grandma lived through so many things — the Great Depression, wars, the Cold War, uncertainty, illness — yet they never wavered from who they were, and what they believed.  That is a lesson for all of us in this day and age.

My Mom is the oldest of my Grandma and Grandpa’s three children.  When she was one or two years old, she got bitten by a mosquito and became extremely ill.  My Mom had to learn how to talk again, and she had to learn how to walk again.  Through all of that, my Grandma and Grandpa were there, helping her, guiding her along as she learned the things she needed to learn again.  My Grandpa would work with her when he got home from work — all the patience in the world.  Infinitely more patience then I have, that’s for sure.

We are all miracles, but I think some of us are a little more of a miracle then others.  When I think back on how sick my Mom was as a baby, just the fact that Robin and I were even able to come into this world is a testament to God’s Power and Strength — and his Mercy.  Carry that forward, and it is obvious to me that Sophie is a miracle of her own — so tiny, such a little baby, but now an 11 year old.  None of us are perfect, that is certain, but the blessings we have — in my mind, they outweigh the problems we have so much, if we just choose to see them.

At the end, my Grandpa passed away the way I think we all would like to pass on — at home, in his bed, with his family by his side, singing him Happy Birthday one last time.  My Grandpa was born on September 4, 1913, and he passed away on September 4, 2011, and the tender age of 98.

Gone…but never, EVER, forgotten.  I love you Grandpa.

My friend Heidi is the inspiration behind the Friendship Friday series for me!  She even lets me link up with her site each week!  Click on the image below to see what friend she is highlighting today, and thanks for stopping by!