A Christmas Coffee

Better late than never!

Life has moved me in many ways over the past two months. However, the last few days have presented themselves with a much slower pace. Therefore, allowing me to think, to reflect and then to seize the wonder in my life.

If busyness creates an auto-pilot attitude; relaxation allows space for awareness and contemplation.

As I sit in the stillness, I acknowledge the nudging that I received. First, it came by way of a few lines of text I read from Andy Andrew’s book, The Traveler’s Summit. There Mr. AA The Travelers SummitAndrew expounded upon the responsibility of sharing our stories, so others may be strengthened. Then, in a series of Sunday sermons, Pastor Josh, emphasized the importance of witnessing to others the power of God in our lives. Combining those two outward signals with my internal awareness and I am convinced it is time to write; time to capture in words that special meeting that occurred in a coffee shop that sits on a corner.

The world around me was bustling during December of 2016, the holiday season was in full swing and expectations were high. Gifts to purchase, decorations to put up and out and family gatherings were all on the to -do list. Yes, my body was busy as I pressed in to prepare. However, I wasn’t fully engaged because my mind often wondered to what was planned for the morning of December the 26th.

Melissa and I would meet each other for the first time. Can you imagine, meeting your daughter for the first time after 35 years. (If that statement doesn’t strike a cord with a reader, I don’t know what will.) Only Brooke, David and I knew what the day after Christmas would bring.

Combine the chaos of the season and the crazy twist my life had taken, and you can imagine I had to work hard to maintain my composure. And, the only way it happened was staying in step with My Savior and bouncing and running everything that was happening by Him. As well, I unpacked and used several of the well-honed tools in my spiritual tool kit. Ones, I had perfected while coping with the loss of Samantha.

Honestly, I can remember sitting in the wooden chair with my bottom pressed to the cushion covered wicker seat and my back set straight while passing the rolls at the festively decorated dinner table. To control my thoughts and calm my body, I recited to myself my personal mantra, “Elizabeth, Just Do Today! Today, is Christmas, when we gather together and celebrate Christ’s birth. That is what today is about! However, tomorrow is a new day and that is when I will meet Melissa.” This mindset, given to us by God Himself, has served me well in the past. Christmas Day 2016 was no different. I did the day with joy, gratefulness and a minimum amount of anxiety.

Days before I questioned, ” Brooke, do you want to join me?” “Yes, absolutely, I want to go with you!” she answered.  Brooke embraced the newness of the situation with an obvious affection. Brooke’s longtime friend Kate helped instill this grateful mindset.

During an online chat exchange between the two, at the same time I was bearing my teenage soul to Brooke, Kate typed a life changing response, (in blinking curly-que typeset I imagine) “Brooke, you have a sister, you have a sister now. After Sam died, that is all you ever wanted and now you have one!”

Because of Kate’s encouragement and positive perspective, Brooke’s thoughts were centered on gratitude rather than groveling or judgement. She welcomed the circumstances rather than seeing them as an intrusion.

What a beautiful thing to witness when a friend whispers the words that echo the power of love to a longtime friend.

So, because of a mixture of curiosity, excitement and I pray a tad bit of support Brooke was led to accept my genuine invitation.

Through it all, I didn’t try to figure out how “I” “felt“, but I knew my steps were ordered by The Spirit. So, having learned to level my emotions, because to respond to truth is more sacred, I went to sleep after a busy Christmas Day knowing I would wake to a new chapter of my life. As unsure as I was in my flesh, I was that solid in my Spirit.

The answer to any hesitancy that tried to enter the situation was to not waiver in my humanity, but instead to move forward with my eyes on the cross!

I believed God brought me to this crossroad and I believed that He would carry me through. I trusted in His nature, but it was an inner struggle to maintain my grip on His supernatural presence. The world told me to be afraid, ashamed, unsure and overwhelmed. I’m certain, if I had relied on myself, the mid-morning meeting might never have occurred. And, I knew that was not what Jesus was about.


Instead, Jesus is about redemption and restoration, completion and compassion.

I anchored my entire body weight in this truth to see me through!

“Mom, would you like me to drive?” Brooke asked as we stepped into the garage. “Yes, please, I think that will be a good idea.” I responded appreciatively. By now, I knew it was smart to receive any offer of help or support thrown my way.

The conversation while we crossed the bridge was intense. ” Mom, I would want to know, too if I was Melissa!” Brooke showed her full support and understanding with Melissa’s position. “OK, well I am thankful you are able to consider her position in all of this. I appreciate your sensitivity.” I responded honestly.

The conversation continued to be powerful and honest and endearing. I was grateful for Brooke’s maturity, her external awareness and eagerness. It sure did pave the way for me. I took the humble approach and hung onto Brooke’s coat straps as she boldly swept through the door of the coffee shop.

Brooke and I looked around, starting left we scanned the sparsely seated booths, on over past the checkout counter, scanned across the hallway to the restrooms and then we spotted her. There was no mistaken, who Melissa was. She was anticipating our arrival as much as we were anticipating our own. Willingly, I let Brooke lead the way, as if to fashion my steps in sync with her open heart. As I was becoming slightly unhinged on the inside, Brooke walked with a courageous cadence and made a beeline to the beautiful woman who was tucked into the corner.

Oh, just imagine, the hugs, the tears, the apologies, and the forgiveness that was on public display. It was as epic as you can imagine! And, a sacred time indeed! Eventually, we settled down and the emotional introductions moved to a more formal precautious conversation. Everything was new, and nothing was guaranteed. We all had a lot of skin on the table and no one wanted to come out more scathed and scarred than they went in.

As the Holy Spirit moved among us and our tender hearts began to take over our skeptical heads our dialogue became sweet, compassionate and open, especially, between Brooke and Melissa. At one point, I remember thinking, “Why am I even here?” Melissa and Brooke were so deep in conversation about being DENTISTS,  I thought they had forgotten I was there!

Yes, God’s first confirmation that he had ordained our reunion came in the acknowledgement that Melissa was a practicing dentist in the New Orleans area. By this time, Brooke’s career choice of dentistry was solidly chosen. Yet, Brooke needed to complete the entrance requirements and be accepted into school. The bond between the two was set immediately – they saw themselves- in each others’ eyes and immediately stepped onto common ground. Their conversation was excited, animated and energetic!

On the other hand, as their relationship hit the ground running, I sat in the far-right corner of the booth and realized, I wasn’t there! Emotionally and spiritually I was still deeply wounded by what had happened. It takes time to process and recover from a 35 year secret.  Simply put, I wasn’t ready to fully engage in this new relationship and expect it to work if I didn’t start from a solid foundation. I was disappointed in myself and in my current state of soul. But, I knew it best to backup, be honest with myself about what had happened, get the required help I needed to heal and then begin again.


The mid-morning reunion between Melissa, Brooke and myself continued, when, somewhere in the middle, Brooke abruptly stopped the conversation and stood up. Not knowing what was happening, I narrowed my eyes and watched Brooke’s actions like an eagle.

Honestly, there were a lot of emotions criss crossing across the shiny slick wooden table top. Anything was possible, but all was set straight when Brooke, with LOVE in her eyes asked Melissa, ” Can I hug you?! You need to know I never thought it was possible to have a sister again. After Samantha died, I knew there simply wasn’t a way for that to happen! She was gone and that was that! So, to stand here before you is truly a miracle and I am grateful for that!”

Melissa stood in response and received what Brooke offered; love, acceptance, an abundance of life and a future more blessed than imagined! Melissa, in return, shared how much she longed for and would cherish a relationship with her younger sister.

Oh, the embrace was beautiful between the two!!  The tears started all over again in streams thicker and swifter than before. I was once again the privileged one that sat in the corner seat of the booth and witnessed the immediate connection and affection between the two.

At this point, no matter what I thought, there was no turning back for these two! They were ready to fall in love and to do life.

To acknowledge my unreadiness, I told the girls, “I see for myself what is already at work between you two. I can’t stop it, nor do I want to. But, I am not there yet. I have some work to do with and on myself. Before I can dive in and do life with you guys I need to be the healthiest version of myself.” Both nodded in agreement. They understood I needed time to deal with other issues because I was coming at this from a different angle. Oh, the joy and eagerness where there, but there was no denying that I needed to deal with the voices of destruction that danced in my head.

By now the three of us were emotionally haggared! The ups and downs and emotional upheaval of the morning had taken its toll. We knew it was time say good-bye, so Melissa could return to her family and Brooke and I could reconnect with David. We certainly had a lot to share.

Before we left, Brooke and I were refueled when Melissa extended her hands across the table and offered each of us a Christmas gift – a hand painted cross on a beautifully painted canvas. Oh, how I knew we were being saturated with the Spirit. Then, to close our sacred time together, Melissa asked to pray. My heart melted into her request as the three of us clenched hands together and acknowledge The Heavenly One that had ordained, orchestrated, presided over and protected us and all those involved as we tiptoed through tender ground.

By now our coffee cups were dry, along with our eyes. We were in better shape emotionally and spiritually after asking Jesus to cover our next steps and acknowledging our trust in His providence. Brooke and Melissa agreed they would see each other again. I simply smiled on the inside and outside but knew I wouldn’t be joining them right away. And, we were all OK with that.

Instead, I knew my time needed to be spent with my Savior, so eventually I could receive in full the gift God gave to me during that special Christmas Coffee!


tom family
Sammy, Melissa, Katherine, Samuel and Madalyn Tom





Seeing is Believing

cross in tree in Sedona

I’ve only shared this photo with a handful of people. It’s personal and precious. Holding it close to my heart, I didn’t want its strength to dilute. I didn’t know how others would react; it meant something to me. Opinions and comments might have confused my inner convictions. I snapped it during a season of my life when I was only surviving; not really living. Oh, I was doing daily activities but, by the hardest.  On the outside, I might have looked like I was fully engaged but, in truth I was not. For everything I did, required constant, ongoing, non-stop communication with the spiritual side of myself. Experiencing daily deep, deep grief; nothing that the world had to offer was strong enough to bind my broken heart. My most comforting companion was the Almighty. I can’t provide an explanation for what I saw, nor how it happened. But, I do know it served its purpose.

While hiking on my second trip to Sedona, searching for Sam’s happy face (you can read about that trip at A Sweet Small Voice signs had presented themselves, assuring I wasn’t alone. Oh, I had company but, I’m referring to another sort of companion, a hand reaching from Heaven. The first presented itself when we sat down for dinner. By chance, my chair was positioned alongside a wall of crosses. So many, that they caught my attention. I’m sure often, they were thought of as just decorations. If even, they were noticed by other diners. I tried to tell myself, “My seating situation wasn’t a big deal. It really wasn’t. Many others had sat there. ” That thought process worked for a minute but, really didn’t hold any weight. We signaled the end of our meal, asking for the check, when I listened to my spirit say,  “These aren’t merely wall hangings but, instead they are to serve as a reminder as to who is covering you.”  It was a wink of wisdom, and it worked. The well being of my spirit had been reinforced. I didn’t speak about my thoughts, I only tucked them into my heart. Hanging on the wall, near to where I sat, their symbolism served to connect me to the celestial.

Sedona is a small town with lots of wide open sky space. It doesn’t stretch for many flat straight miles but when there is open pathway between point A and point B, imagine how surprised I was to see a lonely purple balloon attached to a post in the middle of one of these outstretched spaces. Really?, I thought. Is this deserted balloon, in a desert town, tied on a single string  to a small post blowing around for just me to see? Many times, we remembered Samantha with these inflatable floaty items. Purple was the color she claimed as her “favorite”, the same as so many precious pre-teen girls. One time in particular, the community we call our home, attached messages to them and let them soar towards Samantha’s new home. The children in attendance, hopeful she would receive and read their final goodbyes. First the crosses, then the balloon; each of these had heightened my awareness of Heaven.

   Balloon Release 2

As the day begins to unravel and doubt tries to steal the divine, I began to reason away what happened. Laying in bed, I labeled these two occurrences as just triggers. Not in a negative way, as often times triggers are thought of. Instead, I explained them to myself as earthly things encountered that made me think of something spiritual. Talking myself out of the possibility that they were actually placed in my path.

Finally, about the picture I first posted above. For the second time, I had walked on Holy Ground. Not that there was any inherent holiness in the spot of ground where I was, more than in any other. Rather, it was a place for me where I had felt the presence of God. Snapping the picture that so many wanted to see “Sam” with a smiley face . Then, we spent the rest of our trip relaxing and relishing what had just happened. We hiked through different parts of Sedona’s majestic, in my southern mind, I’ll call them “mountains!” I was crossing a creek, looked up, ahead and to my left. Something in the trees caught my eye; it was glistening. Pausing, I saw in those barren scraggly branches, a shiny, shimmering cross. As if, it had been painted upon the branches, but not really. In my eyes, the image was 3D, it was real. It was weird and wonderful, it was awesome and truly, made me uncomfortable. Squinting my eyes, again I was silent as to what I saw. Surreal, almost to the point of unbelief, all I could do was stare, soak it in and based on past experiences, I knew to take a picture.  Allowing the image and it’s environment to confirm I had been “called” back to Sedona. The picture itself telling the story of the cross. In the barren, stripped, scraggly phases of grief, or loss or life, it is our Savior that shines forth and leads the way.  The second scouring of the mountain had indeed, been blessed.

Oh, I had prayed fervently, before booking my return flight, wanting to ensure I was returning for the right reason. I surrendered that hike to Him, begging Him to stop me if it wasn’t His will that I go. Not wanting to snap a picture of  “Sam” with a smiley face just for myself. Rather, I wanted to return the glory to God for his pouring of grace upon me. With the picture in possession, I could share with people the story and the signs; seeing is believing. This was the third time on my second trip that I sensed His Holy Presence with me. I mean, I know He is always with me but, He was placing before me sights that were assuring me.

Something told me not to try and reason away what had happened this last time.  Instead, I chose to look at it and see it for what it was. Interpreting it as a supernatural sign, just for me.

In the future, some scientist might try to explain to me about refractive light bouncing off of a rock formation creating these kind of imaginary images. I won’t listen.

Instead,  I will allow what I saw to strengthen my spirit,  just as we are told to do in the scripture:

“This salvation, which was first announced by the Lord, was confirmed to us by those that heard him. God also testifies to it by signs, wonders and various miracles and gifts of the Holy spirit distributed according to his will

 Hebrews 2:4