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Ever have it all figured out? I mean really figured out. Had the world by the tail. Knew what you were doing and what everyone else should be doing and could tell them so?That was me at 24. I pretty much ran the world. And I was good at it.

At 24, I had been out of college for two years, was a highly-regarded young professional at a global communications firm and was engaged to be married to a very handsome guy.

I was, by all accounts, very successful. And I had been successful my whole life. In 24 years, I had suffered very few failures. At least as far as I knew. I was a compliant child, a successful teenager and a forward-progressing young adult. I was perfect. My life was as perfect as it could be. I had orchestrated a perfect life.

What I really was was deceived. I had a bad, bad case of PRIDE —

P — Puffed up. I mean really full of myself. I was perfect. I never said the wrong thing, never did the wrong thing. Ever. As far as I was concerned, anway.

R — Risk averse. I never did anything that could lead to failure, that I didn’t know I would be good at. Because failure doesn’t fit in the picture of the always-successful, the always perfect. Only do the things you’re good at and your perfect record remains in tact.

I — Irritating. Can you imagine living with me? Or being my friend? I mean really, who wants to live with someone who is always right? No one, really. But one person in particular really didn’t.

D — Dead to life. I grew up believing that life was work and work was life. There was no room for fun, for living and it didn’t matter anyway because I didn’t know how to have fun. Who had time for hobbies or interests or real friendships if you were always working?

E — Eternally lost. And I had no concept of what that meant or how the condition of my soul impacted how lived. When you don’t have the peace that salvation brings, you live life in perpetual anxiety, worry and fear. Of everything and everyone, not just death. In hindsight, this made living life exhausting.

Proverbs 16:18 says

First pride, then the crash— the bigger the ego, the harder the fall. (The Message)

I had a big ego.  My fall would be hard.

I did marry the handsome guy when I was 26.  We had a lovely wedding.  Two months after we got married, he told me he wanted a divorce.  Marriage was not what he thought it was going to be.  I was not what he thought I was going to be.  And he was right to think that.  I was the perfect girlfriend.  I was not the perfect wife.  Because he was not the perfect husband.  And I had a hard time dealing with the lack of perfection in other people so needless to say, I didn’t handle his shortcomings too well.  I stayed angry.  And anger always has to be expressed.  When I expressed my anger at my husband, I was not nice.  I raged.  It was a nightmare.  For him and for me.

I was failing.  At marriage.  And I didn’t know how to fail.

Meanwhile, my mom, who had raised me and my sister as a single parent, was dying of cancer.  It was hard to accept her diagnosis.  Even harder to accept that regardless of the fact that we as family were doing everything right — following doctors orders, gutting out grueling chemotherapy treatments, suffering through the horrendous side affects — my mom was not getting better.  As a family, we were not used to this kind of failure.  We did right things right and right things happened.  Cancer was not cooperating with our family approach to life.

Clearly, something had to change.  I’m pretty convinced that the the Lord thought so, too.  He needed to allow circumstances to unfold so I could see that my way of living was not working.  I needed to crash.  To fall.

Six months after I got married, my mother died.  I was devastated.  My mother was gone and marriage was flat-lined.  I was a basket-case.  I didn’t know how to cope with this much loss, with this much failure.  I needed help.

A cousin came along side me and started to share Jesus Christ with me.  She told me that He was the answer to all of my problems.  For now and for my eternity.  I needed to be transformed, she said.  Jesus was in the transformation business.  I started reading the Bible looking for hope, searching for answers.  I began attending an evangelical church. A big switch for a girl who had been raised to be a very good Catholic.  I didn’t care.  I needed answers.

Nine months later, in a hotel room in New York City while on a business trip, I finally broke.  I cried out.  I was in a lot of pain.  And I needed help.  I needed a Savior.  I needed Jesus.

I flew home the next day, crying the entire flight.  The Lord’s spirit began the transformation on the plane.  I cried because I was so convicted. Convicted over how my pride was the root of how horribly I treated my husband.  How I had a big hand in why the marriage was in such trouble.  I needed to be different if things were going to change…

Humble.

Teachable.

At rest and not striving.

Allowing the Lord to do work I was never meant to do.

I got off the plane and committed to being different.

My transformation had begun.

A week later, my husband filed for divorce.  He was done living with me.  Jesus had caught me just in time.  I never would have survived the body blow of the moment if I hadn’t had Him with me, in me and around me.  The work of transformation began in earnest at that point.

The marriage didn’t survive.  But I did.  Or the new me did.  The new creation.  Me.  The Lord’s handiwork, His personal improvement project.  He saved me.  So I would be with Him forever.  To give me a life.  To transform me.  For His glory.

That was over 17 years ago.  I’ve never looked back.  He’s still at work.  Everyday.  To make me a reflection of Him.

What’s your transformation story?

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See that lovely lady on the right? Sitting next to the handsome guy in the Trojan t-shirt?

That’s Marilu Caldwell. And that’s her husband of nearly 64 years, Tommy. They adore each other…there’s nothing sweeter than being in the company of this amazing couple.

Today is Marilu’s birthday!

I have had the blessing of knowing them since I was very young. They have poured themselves into my life all these years, shared their life, their family, their love with me in ways that are too numerous to count. I would not be the person I am today without their support. Marilu, Tommy, I am so grateful for the gift of you.

Today, I want to share some of what makes Marilu so special. Her birthday is the perfect day to tell you (and her!) how much she has taught me, modeled for me and given me.

Marilu is an incredible example of loving faithfulness. Her family, her husband, her friends have all been blessed by her devotion to loving, caring and doing for those she loves. Marilu is a precious mom, grandmother and great-grandmother and there is nothing more wonderful than watching her do the things that make her grown children smile like making sure they get their favorite Christmas cookies or celebrating life’s milestones with her now-grown grandchildren or seeing her face light up with love when she welcomes a new great-grandchild. Whether she’s mom, grandma or grandma Lu, she is always love. Her affection and care and concern for her family are so obvious. Marilu loves and cares deeply and I love watching her enjoy her family and seeing them enjoy her.

She came into my life when she and my mother met when they were both teachers at the same school. They struck up a friendship that became close and warm and supportive over the course of years. Marilu encouraged my mom as she worked hard to move her teaching career along and was a sounding board for her as she raised me and my sister, offering the support that only another mother can. Their friendship set the foundation for the relationship that I have with Marilu now. How grateful I am for that.

When my mother was diagnosed with cancer and struggled for several years through surgeries and treatment, Marilu was her faithful friend. She visited. She called. She sent cards. She waited at hospitals with me and my sister. She made sure people knew how my mom was doing. She believed with us that my mom would get well and return to her old life. When my mom struggled to recover so she could to return to work, Marilu put off her retirement so she could be at school when my mom came back. She wanted to be there to celebrate my mom’s return.

But it wasn’t to be. My mom wouldn’t get better but would go to be with the Lord in Heaven. And through that hard time, Marilu was there. I know it was hard for her, hard to see her friend suffer with illness. Harder still to lose her to the disease. My mother loved Marilu so much. She was so grateful for the friendship, for the love Marilu gave to her and to us and for faithful friendship. Marilu, thank you for loving my mom so much. She loved you and appreciated you more than you will ever know. And thank you so much for helping me keep my mother’s memory alive in my heart.

Marilu is an avid reader and has been part of a book club that I believe has been together for over 30 years. I love hearing about the books her group reads together and about their get-togethers to discuss their reading selections. I’ve heard that Marilu has a reputation for selecting some of the racier titles the club has read over the years! She has been a member of her church since she was a teenager (she and Tommy met at youth group when they were teens!) and she has served her church through the years, giving of herself, her time and talent. Her example of loving and giving and being committed through thick and thin is such an encouragement to me. I hope her example rubs off on me, that day by day, I am becoming woman as faithful as Marilu.

A few things you might be interested to know about Marilu:

— She knits beautifully! One of my childhood memories is watching her knit a complicated afghan that is still on her bed today. I still love looking at it and remembering her working the intricate pattern. She knits a blanket for every new baby that joins the family and for Christmas a few years ago, she knitted me my own Christmas stocking so I would have one like the rest of the kids in the family. It is one of my favorite gifts!

— She LOVES dark chocolate! Dark chocolate candy, bittersweet chocolate sauce on ice cream, dark chocolate anything makes Marilu happy.

— Marilu spent part of her childhood growing up in Hawaii. She does the crossword puzzle in the paper most days and often compares answers with her son Chris. And she and Tommy love to travel. She is their travel director, searching out trips for them to take with their travel group.

— She is a terrific cook and one of my favorite food memories with Marilu is watching her make homemade waffles for dinner. It was years ago when I was a kid. I had never had homemade waffles and never had waffles for dinner! I can still remember how good they tasted!

Didn’t I tell you she was lovely?

Marilu, thank you so much for all you have done to bless my life. You are an incredible example of a woman who loves with devotion and faithfulness. Thank you for stepping into the role of mom for me when I needed it. There is no way to capture in words how much you mean to me. Today, I celebrate you and the gift God has given me in you. Happy Birthday!

With lots of love,
Aurora

The days after learning that Jennifer had died and my grandmother passed away were a whirlwind of a painful numbness. I felt everything and I felt nothing.

My grandmother’s funeral was December 31. I gave her eulogy. It had to be me. It could only be me. No one loved her, knew her like I did. No one loved me, knew me like she did…processing the loss of her was overwhelming.

I told her story to all the people who came to mourn. And there were so many that came. Family. Some who knew her, but not as well as they could have. Or should have. Some who didn’t know her at all but could have. And should have.

And friends. Wonderful friends. Some had met her just a few times. Most had never met her at all. But all of them loved her because I loved her. And I love them for that. Seeing them as I wept through sharing my grandmother’s life that day kept me upright, kept me focused, kept me going. On that day…but like manna from heaven, that focus, that uprightness wouldn’t last longer than the day…what was coming was more than I would be able to ask them to carry…

One person didn’t come at all. My sister. We haven’t spoken in years. She hadn’t seen or spoken to our grandmother in more years than that. But surely, I thought, surely she would come when she knew our precious grandmother was ill. Okay, so she didn’t come when she was sick, but certainly she would come when grandma died…of course she would come to the funeral…right?

But she didn’t. She didn’t call and she didn’t come. She made her position clear in what she wasn’t saying, in what she wasn’t doing. My only sibling. Gone. By choice.

My grief increased. My pain intensified. I prayed the numbness would take over. I screamed out on the inside, praying not to fall apart on the outside…things were not good.

The days moved into weeks…the pain was constant and was getting worse. I was not doing well. But there was lots to do…

A beautiful wedding to coordinate…busy, busy, busy…clients to take care of…busy, busy, busy…a Bible study to teach…busy, busy, busy…a business trip to New York…busy, busy, busy…

Even through all the busy, busy, busy, I was free-falling. I was in trouble. I felt like I was losing my mind.

It was too much. Too much grief. My grandmother and Jennifer. Gone. Too much sadness. My sister. Gone. Too much pain. All at one time. I couldn’t breathe.

I needed help. Sitting in the airport waiting for flight out of New York, I called. To get help. I left a message. And I prayed.

“Lord, please help me…”

“I will,” He said. “Remember, I am doing something…”

I boarded my flight. I came home. And for the first time in more than five months, I had nothing to do. Nothing big on my calendar. No family health crisis to deal with. No social commitments. Nothing.

I exhaled.

And then I got sick. Stay-in-bed sick. Go-to-the-doctor sick. Take-lots-of-medicine sick.

It would mark the end of a very long season. And the beginning of another.

Because change was coming. Help was on its way.

He was doing something.

I learned so much from Jennifer Goodman.

Jennifer was one of my very first Christian friends. We met at work. I was young in the Lord. She had walked God since she was young. I was trying to figure out how life in the Lord worked. She had gone to Bible college and served as a missionary overseas. I was newly single and new to myself in a lot of ways. I didn’t have hobbies or interests. I didn’t know what I liked or didn’t like. But Jennifer was active and busy and was always engaged in living life.

I liked her. I wanted to know what she knew. I wanted a life that was like hers, filled with activity and fun and busyness. She came to work one day with a quilt she had made. It was beautiful.

“How did you make that?” I asked her. “I took a class,” she said.

“Wow, I’d like to learn to do that,” I answered. “I’m taking another class, why don’t you take it with me?” she asked.

From that point on, Jennifer let me tag along to all kinds of things with her. And I learned.

I learned about going to the gym before work and the importance of sleeping in your gym clothes to save time in the morning.

I learned how to make the best rolled sugar cookies. But I could never learn to decorate them as beautifully as she did.

I learned how important it was to have a disciplined church life, to be committed to a church body. I learned that it was critical not to compromise your Christian principles.

I learned that it was 3 1/2 miles around the Rose Bowl and that if you were walking briskly, you could get around in 47 minutes.

I learned that you should never let your season of life, what you did or didn’t have, your hopes, your dreams, your desires keep you from exploring the world the Lord had created.

And I learned that even if you don’t see the friends you love but every once in awhile when you run into them in a Hallmark store, it doesn’t change your affection for them or the connection you share.

That was my relationship with Jennifer over the last several years. More often than not we would run into each other at the card store where we both loved to browse for fun and interesting cards to send to friends.

Jennifer was a faithful card sender.

On December 22, I came home from visiting my grandmother. I was drained. Emotionally. Spiritually. Physically. In every possible way, I was exhausted. Before pulling into the driveway, I stopped to get the mail. The mail would have been delivered hours earlier.

And there it was. Jennifer’s Christmas card, I thought! Her handwriting was unmistakable. Seeing it gave me a lift. We hadn’t talked for awhile and I was glad to hear from my precious friend. To hear that she was well.

Only it wasn’t a Christmas card. And it wasn’t exactly from Jennifer. And all was not well. I opened the envelope and pulled out what was inside. It was an Easter card, covered with fluffy yellow chicks. “Hmmm,” I thought. “That’s interesting.”

Out fell a slip of paper. It was a note from Jennifer’s mom, saying she had found the card in Jennifer’s things and decided to send it.

Jennifer had died. She must have addressed the card in the spring, intended to send it but never did. But now here it was in my hand. But she was gone. I was devastated. I broke down. I cried. Hard. For a long time.

Not because she was gone. I know where she is. She’s with Him, with her Lord, with her Jesus. And as much she loved her life here, lived it to the fullest, she’s living a life now that is beyond description. She’s more than happy. She has joy unspeakable.

But my heart hurt for the lost opportunity to tell my friend how much I appreciated her, appreciated what she did for me all those years ago. Appreciated everything I learned from her. To tell her how much I loved her and how much I loved her spirit. To tell her what an influence she had been on me. How I used her life as an example to others for so many things. I never got to tell her any of those things. The pain of that lost opportunity overwhelms me even now. I can feel the tears rising.

I grieve the loss of my friend. I grieve for her mother who lost her beautiful daughter. For her niece who as a little girl called her Auntie Fer-Fer because she couldn’t say Jennifer. I grieve for her sisters and the rest of her family and her friends that feel her loss so deeply. I grieve…

Three days later, my grandmother died. My grief increased. And my heart cried out louder to the Lord. It screamed out. My pain was blinding.

In the days and weeks that followed, He spoke gently to me…

“Remember, I’m doing something.”


Life changes fast.
Life changes in the instant.
You sit down to dinner and life as you know it ends.

— Joan Didion, “The Year of Magical Thinking”

These words have echoed in my mind over the last few months. Since Thanksgiving Day. Because on that day, in the instant, quickly, my life changed. My life as I had known it ended.

Thanksgiving Day 2009 began like so many had in the past, like it does for people everywhere. Peeling potatoes. For mashed potatoes. For dinner. For a celebration of thanks.

And then my phone rang.

My grandmother had collapsed. And it was the beginning of the end of my life as I had known it. As I had loved it. Because she was with me, a part of my life, one of my constants, one of my anchors. A blessing that gave to me continually, loved me unconditionally. She was sure I hung the moon. No one could convince her that I didn’t. The perfect grandmother.

I was two hours away when the call came. I dropped the potato I was peeling. I sped home. I drove carefully. Trying not to cry. Trying not to think about it, about her. Unable to think about anything but her. I knew this day would come. It had to come. It comes for everyone.

But why now? Why now, Lord? The question echoed in the one quiet place left in my heart.

The Lord answers questions asked in the quiet places.

He answered me.

“I’m doing something,” He said. “I’m doing something.”

He spoke quietly. I sighed deeply. I was comforted and scared at the same time.

My family and I prayed for my grandmother’s salvation, so that as we prepared to let her go from this world, we could have the comfort of knowing we would see her again in the next, that she would have the peace of knowing Jesus here for a brief time and know the joy of life with Him forever.

He did that.

We prayed for her comfort, that she would not hurt, not suffer, not know pain. We prayed for His intervention at a moment of crisis during her illness.

He gave us, her, all of these.

We prayed that when the time came that He was ready to take her to be with Him, that it would not be a hard leaving for her.

And on Christmas Day, He decided the time was right. Jesus wanted her at His birthday celebration. He extended His hand. She took it. And she was gone. Away from me. Away from us. But alive with Him.

Praise the Lord.

I miss her. Terribly. My heart hurts. It’s hard to breathe sometimes.

His promise was true, though. It had to be. He is faithful. He was doing something.

And His promise keeps on giving. He’s still doing something.

He took my precious grandmother home and made her different. She lives now in a way she never could have before, in a way she never could have imagined or dreamed. She has joy unspeakable. She’s with Him.

Now it’s my turn.

He wants me to be different.

Praise the Lord.

My change will come here, in this life. He will use this time, this season, this pain, to make me different.

For Him.

He’s doing something.

And I’m comforted and scared at the same time.

Today is a special day.

It’s Tommy Caldwell’s birthday.

This is Tommy Caldwell and his beautiful wife Marilu.

Tommy and Marilu

I love them both. Very much.

Tommy and Marilu have been a part of my life since I was a young girl. They mean the world to me and I’m so grateful for the love and support they have given to me over the course of my life. Everyone needs champions in their corner and I am so grateful that they have been by my side through so many important life moments.

In honor of Tommy’s birthday, I wanted to tell you about this very special person and what he’s shown me, taught me and given me through the years. Enjoy getting to know him a little bit and join me celebrating his special day!

Tommy is an amazing example of a loving and devoted husband and father. From the time I was young, I can remember marveling at his relationship with Marilu. It’s always been so evident how much he loves her, how committed he is to her. They’ve been married for 63 years and he’s still crazy about her. 🙂 Watching him be Dad, Poppa and Poppa Tommy to his children, grandchildren and great-grandchildren is a beautiful thing to see. I love to sit back and watch him during family gatherings. Whether it’s holding the latest addition to the great-grandbaby crew or listening to him catch-up with one of his grandsons or granddaughters or sharing a joke with one of his three children, one thing is clear — Tommy loves his family and his heart is most full when he his family around him.

About 10 years ago or so, Tommy and Marilu began to see me as an adopted daughter. I can’t tell you how much it means to hear them introduce me to people we meet as an adopted daughter. Tommy tells people that my mother left me to them in her will! I love being a part of his family because it means I get to enjoy the love he pours out to his entire family. He’s an amazing dad and I’m so glad all of his children are willing to share him with me!

Tommy is one of the most dedicated and committed people I know. This is especially true when it comes to serving God and his church. He’s one of the pillars of his church community and for years has been a leader on some of the most important committees at the church he has attended since his youth. Without even realizing it, Tommy has modeled for me what it looks like to serve with commitment. Now that I’m active in my own church, I realize that I watched him for years faithfully support his church family. It made quite an impact on me. I’m really grateful for that example.

No one tells stories like Tommy. He’s had an amazing life, full of rich, interesting experiences and life-long friends that have been a part of his and Marilu’s life journey. And from every step, there’s a great story or wonderful memory to share. Throw in Tommy’s wonderful sense of humor and I could listen to him for hours! And there have been times when I have! There was a day many years ago when my mother was going through a very long surgery that Tommy sat with my sister and me in a hospital waiting room, telling us stories for hours. He kept us entertained and distracted while we waited for my mother. It was one of many times that he did that for us while we worked through my her illness. It was such a gift of love to us. We never would have made it through some of those long hours of waiting and worrying without him. Thank you, Tommy!

Now, there a few “fun facts” about Tommy you might be interested in knowing about:

• He loves to garden and has an amazing yard filled with roses, orchids and all kinds of other flowers and fruit trees. His front yard is so beautiful, it’s the envy of more than a few of his neighbors
• Whenever he goes out to a restaurant and the waiter leaves a stack of paper napkins or if there are paper napkins left over after a fast-food meal, he takes them home with him. It could be said he collects paper napkins…members of the family have given him packages of paper napkins as gifts!
• For the last 30+ years, at Christmas celebrations, Tommy has worn these grey slacks with embroidered holly leaves on them. It’s hard to say what’s holding the pants together after all these years, but it wouldn’t be Christmas without Tommy in those pants 🙂
• He’s a faithful USC Trojan fan…and a Dodger fan…and a Laker fan…and an Alhambra High School Moors fan. Tommy went to Alhambra High. I went to a rival school, Mark Keppel High School. When I was in high school, Tommy (and Marilu) came to Mark Keppel High homecoming football games just to support what I was doing with the half-time show. Now that’s love!

Isn’t he amazing?

Tommy, you have blessed my life in ways you can never imagine. Thank you for being such a wonderful friend and dad to me. You have helped shape me in to the person I am. You have been one of my greatest cheerleaders. Today, on your special day, I’m cheering for you and thanking the Lord for the gift that you have been to me. Happy Birthday!

With lots of love,
Aurora

About Me

I'm Aurora and I'm under transformation! Ever since Jesus Christ took hold of my heart, He's been working on changing me into His image. I'm passionate about growing in my faith and living fully in the freedom Christ paid for me to have. I love hearing about what the Lord is doing in the lives of His people and encouraging them to follow hard after Jesus.

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