During my daughter’s senior year of high school, my husband lost his job. The next 20 months were frustrating, stretching, and sometimes fearful, but that season also provided glimpses of really beautiful things. The impact those months had on our future was huge from an emotional, financial, and spiritual standpoint.
When it came time to plan Hannah’s graduation party, I knew resources were slim, but was still hoping to pull off a celebration that would bless my girl. In preparation, I wanted to freshen up my living room a bit. I decided to enlist the help of my friends, Ginger and Carol, who I knew to be gifted at creating beauty in people’s homes through repurposing decor and adding items they’d found over the years as they shopped through clearance aisles, thrift stores and garage sales. I gave them freedom to utilize anything I already had, showed them a few items I’d collected over the years and stashed in my storage room, and told them I had $100 to spend. It wasn’t much, but it would have to do. I thought it could be enough for a couple second hand items, maybe some pillows, candles, a picture frame, that sort of thing.
We talked through some ideas, then they were off to dig through their collection of decor and shop. I was so blessed and humbled by the excitement they showed at being able to do their thing. A week later, they returned. I was not prepared for what happened next.
First, a delivery truck showed up with new living room furniture. A few minutes later, my friends were unloading their cars, bringing in brand new curtains and curtain rods, pillows, pictures, rugs, bedding, and more. In a matter of minutes, my living room, dining area, bedroom, AND bathroom had been transformed. I was completely blown away. After my friends had put the finishing touches on every room, I stood in awe at the way they had lavished love on our family. I know we aren’t the only ones who have been blessed by these two amazing women over the years as they so beautifully stewarded the ministry God gave them. They would probably both choose to remain anonymous and would hate that I’m singing their praises, but I can’t help it. It's time I shared the story.
Before they left, Ginger and Carol prayed a blessing over our home. They prayed it would be a place of refuge for many. They prayed it would be a place where we would welcome people in, meet their needs, and bring joy to their lives. I hope and pray our home has been that for someone over the years.
Late in 2019, Carol was diagnosed with a brain tumor. She passed away in September of 2020. When I got the news that she was gone, I sat in my living room and wept. I looked around and thought about all the people who had sat on my living room furniture over the years but had no idea how it had come to be there. I thought of the hundreds of pairs of shoes that have been kicked off on the rug in my entryway as teenagers found their way to our house, not ever knowing who put the rug there. Everywhere I turned, there were reminders of how my friends not only blessed our family, but also invested in the lives of the people who have walked through our doors. Carol had left her mark on my home and more importantly, on my life.
Yesterday, I returned home after spending the morning working at school. I was excited about the writing appointment I had planned for the afternoon, but in all honesty, I was a bit weary. This has been a week when I have felt more like Gina, the cancer patient, than Gina, the human. Doctor's appointments and blood tests and scans will do that to a person. I am receiving awesome, compassionate care, so that isn't the issue. It's just the nature of the beast.
Anyway, as I was pulling in the driveway, I noticed something peeking out from behind my screen door. I parked in the garage, put my things on the kitchen counter and went to go see what it was. I bent down and picked up a brightly colored canvas and a handwritten note. The note was from Carol's daughter, Lindsay. She explained how she was dropping off a painting which her mom had gifted to another mutual friend, Marcia, when she was diagnosed with cancer many years ago. The verse on the canvas reads, "She does not fear bad news nor live in dread of what might happen. For she is settled in her mind that Jehovah will take care of her." Psalm 112:7 On the back are words of encouragement and signatures from some pretty incredible women, including Carol.
Lindsay wrote how years later, Marcia gave the painting back to Carol to encourage her on her own cancer journey. Now, she and Marcia wanted me to have it, to remind me of truth and peace that sustains. She also said when I am healed I am to pass it along to the next person who needs it. Their thoughtfulness was exactly what Gina, the human, needed.
As you can imagine, it wrecked me. Partly because of their gesture of kindness, but also because I was overwhelmed seeing how Carol was continuing to impact my life and grace my home with beauty. I don't know if Lindsay and Marcia had any idea that what they were sharing with me would add to a collection of items in my home that are symbols of joy and hospitality, friendship and hope. But for as long as I need it, the painting will be another sweet reminder of how we are comforted in our trials so we can be a comfort to someone else. When the day comes and I pass the painting along to the next person who needs it, Carol will leave her mark on their home too, as her legacy of beauty lives on.
Apparently 2020 wanted to leave one more mark.
When our family left 2019 behind, we already knew this year would have it’s share of troubles. We had moved Perry’s mom into our home on December 31st, and after several weeks on hospice, she passed away on February 11th, 2020. Just a month later, the world turned upside down.
Like everyone else, we learned to navigate the changes and grieve the losses the year would bring. In spite of the tough stuff, I also had more time to write, more time at home, and believe it or not, I found a way to actually enjoy a slower pace of life, which is a huge accomplishment since for most of my life, I’ve really only had one gear - full speed ahead. All in all, we made it through 2020, inconvenienced, but relatively unscathed compared to what so many others have endured.
In an attempt to enter 2021 from the healthiest possible place, I scheduled as many appointments as I could squeeze into the last few weeks of the year: dentist, general physician, physical therapist, gynecologist, colonoscopy, and mammogram. It was the last one that got me.
After several scans and a biopsy, I found out on New Year’s Eve I have breast cancer. I mean, seriously...could 2020 be a bigger jerk?
I’ll know more when I see a surgeon and oncologist next week, but right now we are hopeful it was discovered early and will be very treatable. I would appreciate prayers for a full recovery and for my family as they wade in these waters with me.
I trust in a God who I know to be faithful, and He has shown His kindness to me in countless ways including unexplainable peace. I expect Him to be unchanging in the days ahead - loving, gracious, and so, so good.
Between my faith in an unshakeable God, my access to good medical care, and a mom who prays, (you do not mess with Lois) I am confident this is all going to be okay. So take that, 2020. And 2021, just so you know, I am not afraid of you.
Isaiah 26:3 “The steadfast of mind He will keep in perfect peace, because he trusts in Thee.”
Today seems like a good day to fly.
So, let me introduce to you, What If They Fly? Raising Creative Kids to Believe They Can Soar. This has been a labor of love like no other creative work I've unleashed. I am so excited to share this with you, and as usual, it comes with all the emotions that accompany every release day: joy, exhaustion, anticipation, self-doubt, hope, and relief. Mostly, I'm just happy to finally be able to get it into your hands.
In this book, I've shared a glimpse into our family's life, but there is much more than a gushy mom in these pages. I've worked with kids and parents for years in a variety of capacities so I'm sharing some thoughts from those experiences as well. And, I have some incredibly wise and talented friends who contributed so much to the book. I hope it encourages you, and any kid in your life, to dream, work hard, enjoy the moments, and to recognize the incredible gift of creativity. This is a book for parents, grandparents, teachers, mentors, coaches, and anyone who influences the life of a child. It is also a book to help anyone, regardless of age, rediscover their creative self.
I am over the moon that I was able to enlist the help of two of my kids as well. My oldest son, Hunter, wrote the foreword, and my daughter, Hannah, did the illustrations. I mean, come on. How fun is that?
Writing this work has been incredibly rewarding. I've been able to walk down memory lane a bit in the process, and for the most part, it has been a joy. It's been challenging, too, as I've had to face down the memories of all the moments I completely did a nose dive in my parenting. Lots of crashes and burns for this mom. Thank God for grace. And therapy.
You can find the book on Amazon. Here's a link to WHAT IF THEY FLY?
I'm also releasing three songs that accompany the book and you can find two of them available now. Here are the links to the youtube videos:
WHAT IF YOU FLY?
LEARNING TO LAND
Happy reading, listening, and FLYING! And thank you for your support and encouragement. I appreciate all of you who take the time to stop here and sit with me awhile.
Thirty years ago today my husband and I made vows, exchanged rings, ate cake, and began a journey that has had its share of highs, lows, twists and turns. And here we are! 30 years. Crazy.
We got married on a Saturday morning in September. The Huskers were playing Baylor that night and my parents were long-time season ticket holders. That scenario should make sense to a whole lot of you. If it doesn’t, I’m not going to take time to explain the loyalty of a true Husker fan. We knew what we were doing.
Headed for a honeymoon in the Bahamas, we flew to St. Louis the afternoon of the wedding for a quick overnight stop before a flight to Nassau early the next morning. A honeymoon suite with no bed, a cranky hotel staff, and a forgotten credit card, were early tests to our marriage, but eventually we returned safely to our home in Lincoln, ready to begin our life together.
I’m certain no couple is prepared for marriage, no matter how much pre-marital counseling you’ve had. And we’d had a lot. Pre-engagement AND pre-marital counseling, just so we knew we would be ready for anything. We weren’t, but again, no one is.
Over the past 30 years, there have been apartments and houses, cars, minivans, and pick-up trucks. We have started and closed businesses, lost jobs and celebrated promotions. We’ve traveled the world but stayed settled close to home. We’ve lost three parents and a baby. We’ve raised four incredible children, two of whom have begun their own marital journey. It has been a full and rich life.
I don’t write much about marriage or my husband. I’ve remained pretty determined to keep that part of my life private for many reasons. Party because I have seen too many other couples share about their marriages in ways that make things look pretty perfect, but having witnessed the reality of their relationship, I know it isn’t all it’s portrayed to be. And partly because, in all honesty, as good as our life together has been, it has also been really hard. Maybe someday, with my husband’s blessing, I will write more about us, but for now, nope.
What I can tell you is I’m pretty confident no one has prayed for me more over the past 30 years than my husband. He’s hard-working, funny, and everybody, and I do mean EVERYBODY, likes him. If you come up to me and tell me how much you like my husband, I will probably either smile and nod my head in agreement, or roll my eyes because you’re the 28th person to tell me the same thing that day. It’s such a burden being married to the nicest guy on the planet. :)
I am about to release a book about raising creative kids, knowing full well I have only been able to encourage my kids in that way because my husband has encouraged me to pursue my own creative passions. He’s married to a woman who loves being alone and whose artistic journey has meant many hours and days away from home. Now that I think about it, maybe that’s why he’s so nice. He’s had all that time to himself! Hmmm...
I can also tell you that love doesn’t look like what I thought it would. And I’m glad. Because what I thought love looked like wouldn’t have sustained us through the years. What has gotten us through, is faith, commitment, and choosing to see the good, even when things get difficult. We are a work in progress and while I’m not sure we’ll get another 30 years to figure things out, we’ll keep trying.
So, here’s to us, Perry. I don’t say it enough, but I love you and I love our life. Happy anniversary!
Like most of you, these difficult days have me asking myself, "What is it I am supposed to do in response to what the world is facing?" In moments when I’ve felt most overwhelmed by the enormity of the situation, I have had to remind myself it is not my responsibility to do everything, but I do have a responsibility to do something. I am doing my best to learn what that looks like.
I am well aware that to do anything opens a person up for negativity and criticism, but as I look at the efforts of others, I am trying to assume that most people are acting out of a place of genuine concern, a hope for change, and a desire to do better. I ask for a similar grace as I seek to do my part.
Two years ago, I wrote a song with my dear friend, Joel Lindsey. Unsure of when or where or with whom it would one day find a home, we tucked it away and waited. Fast forward to earlier this year. As the weeks into the pandemic and resulting quarantine progressed, I felt compelled to release the song with an accompanying video. My desire was to use this particular platform to encourage songwriters to steward their gifts well and write songs that give hope to people who so desperately needed it during a time when discouragement, frustration, and fear were mounting.
Also, in light of the concerns being raised regarding the act of singing and the restrictions being imposed on singers everywhere, my own heart was saddened to think of a world without live music, if even for a season. I made plans to record the song and produce the video.
And then, more. More heartache. More tragedy. More injustice. More confusion. More anger. More discouragement, frustration, and fear.
I knew the need was great.
I have come to believe it is even greater.
I don’t think songs solve problems. I do think they have power. Songs engage and inspire people to think and act. Songs move people to express emotion and empathize with the emotions of others. Songs tell our history and dream of a future.
So, if you are a writer of songs, I beg you, please do your part. Write the song you need to hear. Write the song your neighbor needs to hear. Write the hurt and the sorrow and the struggle. Write the joy and the humor and the fun. But most importantly, write the hope.
If you are a singer of songs, thank you for embracing the work of songwriters everywhere and for finishing the work that began when the writing itself was completed. You add life and beauty that is so desperately needed.
And if you are listener of songs, I will do my very best to give voice to your thoughts, tell stories that make you smile, share truth that offers comfort, and above all, shine a light of hope.
This girl. The one with her back turned to the camera, hands on her hips, standing at a bedside. Today is her 24th birthday. And I want you to know more about her.
She is the second of our four children; the only girl. Our girl.
She is a wife, a friend, and a college graduate still trying to figure out the purpose of that particular achievement and what it may lead her to. I keep telling her that's okay seeing as how I'm still figuring that out for myself.
She is the sister to three brothers whose activities and antics often put them in places where they are seen and heard. Her abilities don't always put her in a spotlight. She's more the show-up-to-watch-your-older-brother's-choir-concerts, set-up-chairs-for-your-brother's-EP-release-party, beta-test-your-brother's-new-game kind of person.
While she's genuinely content to cheer others' on, she is also unafraid to be seen. Given the chance, she'll own the spotlight and, most of the time, make you laugh until you cry. She'll even let you see the messy parts of her. The broken pieces. The scars. She lets you see all that because then she can tell you how she's been made whole. Not perfect, but whole.
She extends grace better than most people I know, probably because she has humbly received it. She loves unconditionally, and even when that love isn't reciprocated, she patiently pursues, believing things will get better.
Six weeks ago she put her life on hold to care for her dying grandmother. She served up raisin toast and grapefruit and two toddies a day, just the way Grandma Jan liked them. She juggled morphine doses and oxygen tanks and hospice visits and messes. She truly has been the unsung hero of this journey.
Yesterday morning, her role as caregiver ended as she helped prepare her grandmother's body to be taken away. I told her this may have been Grandma Jan's gift to her, leaving this world the day before her birthday so she wouldn't have to forevermore share this date with a shadow of the memory of saying goodbye. Instead, today is the beginning of a new season for her. It may be an unknown season at this point, but I have no doubt it will be filled with good things.
I chose this picture to share with you on this day because it represents how I have seen her these past six weeks; brave, willing and so much stronger than she even realizes; doing hard things, holy things, even when she thought no one was watching. But I was watching; and seeing her left me in awe.
Hannah, today is your day and I am singing your praises. I celebrate who you are, what you've done, and how you love. Happy birthday, my sweet girl.
I love you...
I'm not sure I can recall a December that has felt so dark and heavy. It seems at every turn, I see heartache, difficulty, loss, and struggle for so many people who are dear to me. And even beyond my own circle, I've heard story after story of many who are just done with 2019.
I had a conversation with God about this the other day. An out-loud conversation in my car. You know the kind. Where you explode a little and wish God was sitting there in human form in the passenger seat so you could look Him in the eye and give Him a piece of your mind. Except He isn't sitting there so you have the conversation anyway and pray no one in the car next to you sees what's happening. But even if they do you just don't care. Because this confrontation with the Big Guy just can't wait.
This conversation came on the heels of one of my kids sharing some of the tough stuff he was currently facing. In one of my more honest mom moments I said, "Well, you kinda need to just get in line, because I'm not sure I have the capacity to deal with one more thing right now." Thankfully, my true confession was met with understanding and even brought a little laughter to the moment as well.
My little chat with God included me yelling, "And it's Christmas! Why the heck do things have to be this way at Christmas!" And then I said the words, "You're just gonna have to DO SOMETHING." I get a little bossy with God sometimes.
Not 30 seconds later, more out of frustration than actually looking for God to respond to my whiny rant, I turned on a podcast. What happened next was cool, funny, humbling, and shouldn't be surprising, but it was. For the next 40 minutes or so, I listened to some pastor from some church talk about why the Advent season should feel so dark. Then, right there in my car, God did something. Not only did He do something in that moment, but He reminded me that He DID SOMETHING long ago. After years of waiting, darkness, sadness, and hardship, He did something. He wrapped Himself in flesh and came to earth. He did it to fulfill His promise. He did it to bring an end to the darkness. And while I still feel the weight of that darkness from time to time, I now live with the promise of light.
That promise makes all the difference for me this December and I hope it does for you too. If you're walking through a difficult Advent season, remember, a weary world will rejoice. Sin and error pining will turn to joy. The night is holy because morning is coming.
O DARK DECEMBER
by Gina Boe
O Dark December, how heavy the weight
Of bitter winds and fleeting days
We brace our souls for such dismay
O Dark December, how heavy the weight
O Dark December, how long is the night
The silent wait for promised light
We cling to hope of worlds aright
O Dark December, how long is the night
And yet within a heart distressed
Remains a sacred confidence
In strong, unwavered faithfulness
Which steadies us to peace and rest
O Dark December, how blessed and kind
Your brutal mercy still reminds
We weep assured of joy we’ll find
O Dark December, how blessed and kind
When my oldest child was around 13 years old I was introduced to the Wizarding World of Harry Potter. Life would never be the same. Since the day Hunter brought home the first book in the series, our family has enjoyed many years of reading, watching, and thoroughly enjoying all things Harry. Yes, we are those people; the ones who actually shed tears walking into a certain theme park in Orlando. I gladly embrace this family obsession.
Think what you want about JK Rowling, but I happen to think she's a genius. She took this midwestern, middle-aged mom on an unexpected adventure with my kids and in the process, taught me a whole lot about life, people, and believe it or not, how to survive a war I wage nearly every day of my life.
One of the more disturbing parts of the HP storyline is the presence of the Dementors. These dark creatures are the guards of the prison, Azkaban. They feed on human happiness and their "kiss" can drain the soul of positive emotion, generating feelings of depression or despair. According to Pottermore, they are the embodiment of what it means to feel utterly hopeless. I know these creatures. Chances are you do too.
For me, I have identified some of the Dementors as those voices of discouragement, both audible and not, that make me feel like I am not qualified, equipped, or deserving enough to see my ideas developed and unleashed. They remind me of my failures and my disappointments. They tell me I don't really have anything worthwhile to say. The most painful thing they tell me is that nothing good or beautiful can grow in a place where thorns and thistles still exist. And of course, the believing me knows life will never be free of thorns and thistles this side of heaven.
In the wizarding world, the secret to fighting a Dementor is the Patronus charm, a spell which casts a Patronus, a silvery-white animal shape, necessary to ward off a Dementor. In my world, I have found my own Patronus charm to wage war against the voices that seek to steal, kill, and destroy. (Before I go any further, let me say to those of you reading this who are concerned about my spiritual well-being and think I've traded the cross for a wand, you're just wrong so don't worry and read on.) Anyway, back to my Patronus. When the Dementors show up, and they really do show up for me on an almost-daily basis, I use my own Patronus charm and cast the one weapon I've found able to defeat the Dementors every, single time - hope.
Seem simple? It isn't. Oh the truth of it might be simple, but the act of choosing it every single day, is not easy. It isn't easy because the Dementors make life dark. Really dark. And reaching for something in the dark seems silly and futile and maddening. So I pray and I beg, sometimes in a whisper and sometimes a scream. Thankfully, hope comes to the dark places when you ask for it. Anne Lamott wrote, "Hope begins in the dark, the stubborn hope that if you just show up and try to do the right thing, the dawn will come. You wait and watch and work. You don't give up." Lamott is specifically addressing writers and their need to persistently pursue their work, but her words ring true for anyone finding themselves in a dark place. They remind me hope is determined and faithful. I need to know that.
I have been summoning hope a lot lately. I think it's because I feel like I'm on the verge of some wonderful things happening, which would be an amazing place to be if not for the Dementors. Thankfully, hope can be loud when it has to be. Loud enough to silence the voices that tell me it would be better for me not to dream, not to be brave, and not to be faithful with what I've been given. The thing about hope though, is that it doesn't answer problems, fix brokenness, or heal wounds before it leads you further on. Sometimes, it only gives you enough light to take a step or two in the right direction. I am trying to be okay with that.
I wrote a song with my friend Joel last year about hope needing an anthem. I don't know whether or not this song will ever have a chance to shine anywhere else, but it does cast just enough light to keep me going back into my writing room. Most days, the Dementors stand just outside my writing room door and tell me I shouldn't be in there. I'm embarrassed to say it, but some days I listen to them and walk away. But there are more days when I cast my Patronus and get to work. I do that because I believe other people are battling their own Dementors and maybe, just maybe, I can write the anthem they'll sing when they choose to keep fighting.
HOPE DESERVES AN ANTHEM
Gina Boe / Joel Lindsey
How can words and melodies
Offer any remedy
To weary souls and breaking hearts
How do verses and refrains
Calm a fear or soothe an ache
Or shine a light into the dark
Well I cannot explain this mystery
But I’ve seen it and I’ve felt it and seems to me (that)
Hope deserves an anthem
‘Cause sometimes it's a song
That keeps someone believing
There’s a reason to go on
And people need reminding
Something good is gonna happen
So we sing, we sing
‘Cause hope deserves an anthem
Seems like everywhere I turn
Shouts of anger, doubt and hurt
Are ringing out for all to hear
(So) How much louder should the sound
Of love and grace and truth resound
’Til echoes of despair soon disappear
It might as well be me who holds the pen
To tell someone that they can breathe again
But if this is music you’re meant to compose
Then I will sing it loud enough so everybody knows
He sat at the piano tonight and it hit me; the quiet is going to be unbearably loud.
Tonight, he will sleep in a bed about 25 feet from where I sit now. Tomorrow, he won't.
And here we go again, launching another kid into his college adventure. We've done it twice before and while the details and logistics seem to get easier, I can't say the same about the emotions. They're different this time, but still raw and overwhelming.
There is more to be said about all this, but I'm tired. We spent our last hours here tonight making grilled cheese and tomato soup at 11:00 p.m., followed by stories, laughter, and music. Those three things give a pretty good description of what life has been like with Harrison the past 18 years.
There will still be plenty of moments filled with those things in the years to come and they will be moments to savor. And oh how I will. Because there will be so, so many quiet moments in between.
So, here we are again. The beginning of summer, and a whole lot of songs, waiting to be written. This is the 3rd year I've embarked on a "Summer of Songs", hoping that what I purpose to do will actually get done. This summer, there is much more to be written than just songs, so the few weeks I have to make it all happen already feel like they won't be enough time.
I guess we'll see.
I officially began last Thursday when I headed 90 minutes west to my friend Lisa's house. Lisa was my college roommate-best friend-maid of honor-and all that stuff, turned sound person-booking agent-new mom buddy. For more than 30 years, she's been just about everything a friend can be, and more. Somewhere along the way we realized we could write songs together. There have been some very fruitful seasons in our writing relationship and some pretty barren ones. It feels like this is going to be a good season.
Our mutual friend and occasional writing partner, Sue, joined us. We only had about a day and a half to spend together so between the need for catch-up conversation and other things necessary for any successful girls' time together, I wasn't sure how the writing would go, especially since the three of us hadn't written together in over a year. Thankfully, we left our time together with two songs completed and one good start on another. A great way to begin SOS2019.
In the past, I've had some "rules" for myself regarding how to approach my days. Things will be different this year. When I looked at the calendar and saw how varied my schedule would be from week to week, I knew it would be almost impossible to maintain a certain amount of structure. And I also knew if I set rules and kept finding myself facing understandable reasons to break them, I would quickly become discouraged and be tempted to scrap the whole thing. So this year, no rules. Just a commitment to myself to keep at it. I will give myself some structure when I can, but also write in the margins when necessary.
I'll give regular updates and hopefully you'll also get to read a lyric or hear a song or two along the way. As always, my hope for sharing this journey with you is that you would be encouraged in your own creative adventure. Our days are numbered, friends, and stewarding the gifts we've been given is important. Don't dismiss that voice in your head telling you to get to work. The world needs you to add to the beauty.