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AWAY…I have a LOVE-HATE relationship with this word. Growing up, my family was AWAY from home all the time. We traveled all over the United States of America, and many countries around the world. I was four years old when my father resigned (or was fired? lol) from working as a Minister of Music, in a church in West Texas. He bought an old beater bus and started calling every church in the phonebook. We became musical evangelists, sharing the good news of Jesus Christ, through music, to anybody who would listen. We were The Deweys. From that time on, we were in a different town or city every single day. Eventually, four years later, we would call Nashville, TN our home. Other than the last Monday-Friday of each month, we were AWAY. Eating all our meals at truck-stops and diners, pot-luck dinners after church, with the occasional dinner at a Pastor’s house. Homeschool for my sister and me meant sitting criss-cross on a bed in a hotel room or on our bus ridding down a bumpy backroad in no-man’s-land America. Our clothes smelt like diesel. Anything hanging, had to fit into a 18 inch closet and three draws under the bed for everything else. That was it! We “lived” in Nashville, but three weeks out of every four…we were AWAY! While I never, ever, gave it a second thought or resented it at all, I know that lifestyle shapes who I am today. Currently, I love to travel (for work and play) and I hold tightly to people and things. In my mind...I can make room! I can find a place for everything and everybody. No, I am not a hoarder, buried alive, waiting on a TV show crew to unearth me in a bottomless pit of rubble. However, when “normal” people visit my home and see the bedroom that serves as my closet, they agree I have a lot of clothes. No such thing as having too many clothes, dishes, or friends. Recently, I saw somebody on TikTok say “Not everybody in church is a Christian, not everybody is prison is a criminal, and not everybody in your face is a friend”. If I am honest, that hit me hard! Oh, I agree about the Christian part, and sadly, the prison thing too. Oddly, the “friends not being friends” thing struck me the hardest. I like/…no, I love people! Even the broken ones. I pride myself in recycling old things and finding new uses. EVERYTHING IS BEAUTIFUL (Sing with me Ray Stevens) IN ITS OWN WAY LIKE A STARRY SUMMER NIGHT OR A SNOW COVERED WINTERS DAY EVERYBODY’S BEAUTIFUL IN THEIR OWN WAY UNDER GOD’S HEAVEN THE WORLD’S GONNA FIND A WAY Soon, as a Nation, we will be marking the 1-year anniversary of the Covid 19-lockdown. It has dominated news cycles and altered every area of our lives. Yet, as I write the word Covid, the WORD program in my two-year-old computer has the word Covid underlined in red because it was not a “thing”, wasn’t a word, was not recognized by spellcheck until last year. Think about that! Something non-existent to 99.9% of the world's population in 2019, can still be affecting 100% only two years later. Three profound ways in which the word AWAY, or the concept of AWAY has affected us this year. 1. We have had friends and family PASS AWAY. While some deaths were from complications related to Covid, others were from drug overdose, car accidents, gunshot wounds or other health related illnesses. We still grieve for these losses. Unlike in years past, our loved ones have been hospitalized, died and buried alone. In ever since of the word we have been kept AWAY. That lack of closure and loss of connection has been unconscionable and remains extremely hard to reconcile. 2. We have also had people in our lives simply SLIP AWAY. Many of those losses were unintentional. Co-workers that we stopped seeing daily, businesses that closed, church services and Bible studies switch to online, and on it goes. We lost touch. Out of sight, out of mind. In the beginning of lockdown, we all shared and overshared or thoughts and feelings through Facebook. Too often, pictures of food, kids, cats and dogs were drowned out by the endless barrage of political memes disguised as humor. A lot of my friends, (myself included) grew weary of the ugly stuff and STEPPED AWAY from Facebook. In fact, many of my former Facebook friends will not see this at all…because they are RARELY, or NEVER on Facebook anymore. While I support the Facebook and social media protest, I believe many of us (especially the older folks) are losing connection as a result of this change. 3. If you’re still with me, I’m getting to the last regretful AWAY, and that’s the WALK AWAY. In this Cancel Culture society, I (along with many of you) have experienced someone who has been so dear to your heart, choose to WALK AWAY. Raised with a strong work ethic, I developed a “show must go on” attitude about everything. If we were scheduled to singing somewhere, we did. I’ve taken the stage sick as a dog…and smiled anyway. The only time I can remember missing a call time, was when I was having a miscarriage. I was alone on our bus, in Lake Charles, Louisiana, hemorrhaging blood on an old quilt while the rest of my family played the concert. As soon as it was over, they got me to a hospital, where I finished delivering my unborn baby. I share these details to emphasize how seriously my father (and I) took professional commitment and meeting the expectations of others. At times, I have felt bitterness towards my dad. When it bubbles up in me, I know I can sit down with him and we talk about it again. As a father, he would admittedly handle that situation differently today. He never meant to hurt me or make me feel less important than the concert. On top of that, Mark and I were still so young. We had not been married very long (maybe two years) and he too left me to play base on stage. Nobody realize the danger I was in! Those negative experiences still affect me today. I struggle with feeling I must be strong at all time to avoid disappointing others. I often put unnecessary pressure on myself to put on a stiff upper lip and suck up the pain. As I strive to be open and honest with myself and others, the reality is, that balance of truth in love is the hardest part! As with politics, when people have an opinion or viewpoint, different from yours, it becomes a deal breaker in many relationships. At times, I have expressed my truth in what I thought was coming from a place of love, only to realize it was not received that way at all. Man, that is tough. I would hope that we, as adults, humans, children of God, could find a way to communicate our personal opinions in open honesty. Two people are looking at an object on the ground and one says it is a “6” and the other sees a “9”. Are they both wrong? Are they Right? Is it not acceptable to say what we see, or to feel what we feel? So, what if it’s the absolute opposite? There will surly be floods of emotions. Fear and pain. It might get ugly…but guess what…it is already ugly. Am I the only one who feels like you are begging people to get along! Sadly, some still choose to WALK AWAY. Trust me, I hear myself and am working on it! I realize that I cannot control people! Thankfully, the positive residual from my life experiences are a great balance to the negative ones I’ve worked so hard to overcome. As a result, I have become a strong believer in talking to professional, faith-based Dr’s who teaches healthy life-skills. Wise counsel can certainly come from many different resources. If you do not have access to in-person visits, there are lots of great books and relationship workshops available online. (I’m no expert, but I’m happy to point you in the right direction!) One last, painful WALK AWAY that my family has experienced this year is divorce. Vows were broken, mistakes were made, trust is lost, communication ended, and the result was heartbreaking. Our son and precious daughter-in-law watched their five-year marriage fade AWAY. About the time I think I have cried all my tear over this story, I am hit with a flood of emotions all over again. Like it happened yesterday! So much for TIME HEALS ALL WOUNDS. I am not God, and I know many people get divorced. I can only say, it has been a terrible thing. God can do anything, and I have heard some incredible stories of restoration and reconciliation. I will always love my sweet Summer. Mark and I are like brother and sister with her parents. That will hopefully never change. We can all agree, there is a God in heaven who loves us and wants us healthy and whole. Aman To bring this full circle, and end on a happy note…let me revisit GET AWAY. It is in my blood and I am the happiest when I am planning a trip. As we all know, this past year we have all been in a global lock down. So, Mark and I are figuring out new ways to GET AWAY! Personally, I try to meet up with or talk to at least one great person every day. The easy thing is to limit your associations with those who look like you, act like you or think like you! Well, that is a cop out, so try mixing it up! Seek out somebody who challenges you occasionally! Safe friends are great…but testing your tolerance is amazing too! Who knows, you might learn something you did not know, or see something in a way you had never seen before. GET AWAY from your box! For me, I have been teaching myself to record and edit videos. I figured, if there is something that makes me happy, does not require money (just some equipment and supplies), and helps me connect with others…I should do it! I am combining two things I love, telling stories & makeup. So, I have started producing a mini video podcast series called Cindy Larson Makeup Stories. This inspiration started back in November. I was scrolling YouTube, and I ran across a makeup artist named Bailey Sarian, who produces videos where she does her makeup while telling murder mysteries. She has millions of subscribers and her videos get millions of views. I was so impressed with her talent and the success for her concept showed me that there are lots of people who are entertained by that format. I became obsessed with her and one day my son Daniel, said “mom, you should do this! Pray for people, tell stories, sing songs, and do your makeup. DO YOU in this format! “ Here we are, three months later and I’m having a blast making my videos. Oh, I only have a few followers so far and my videos have not exactly gone viral! However, I am OK with that. I record a video with ONE person in mind! If I reach THIRTY people…then WOW…that is a house full!! I love talking to anybody who cares to watch me. I laugh at myself, I share Biblical insight, I tell all kind of stories! I am doing what I can, in this crazy time in history, to make the most of all my AWAY’s.

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