Saturday, May 12, 2018


I haven’t written in awhile. And to be honest, I don’t really feel like writing now. My head has somehow convinced my heart that writing will give my words an exit from the whirlwind they’ve been on lately. 

It’s been a month. 

A month without our morning talks. A month of sorting out paperwork. A month without her Facebook comments. A month wearing her wedding band. 

A month of our new normal. 

The thing is there was nothing normal about being her daughter so it’s incomprehensible figuring out how to live without her. 

I know people often say their mom is their best friend.  I would never say that.  To me, she was so much more.  I had the blessing of a mother who was the greatest human on the planet.  Today, I found something she had written down.  I assume she read it and wanted to remember it.  For me, it summed up her life perfectly.

"May you have enough happiness to make you sweet, enough trials to make you strong, enough sorrow to keep you human and enough hope to make you happy."

I only saw her angry once in my adult life and it was last year. Dad tried to sneak blueberries in her morning smoothie and she was NOT happy about it. She stormed through that living room like there was a bee in her bonnet. Poor daddy didn’t stand a chance. 

I do recall some instances when we were young where her red hair got the best of her. They almost all revolved around her kids and sports. I remember my senior year we played in the sub-sectionals at McAvoy Park. I stole second and slid into a hard tag. My helmet flew off and by the time I came to, mama was standing over me in her heels and suit. Apparently she had bounded down the bleachers and had choice words for the shortstop who, in her opinion, used “excessive tagging”. 

She had a laugh that would fill up a room. It was a head tilted back, mouth wide open, belly laugh that made you feel her joy. I heard it most often in the presence of my brothers. They would say something inappropriate, she would laugh hysterically and then scold them and tell them they were “not right.”  I heard it just last week coming from my daughter while she was FaceTiming a friend. It makes me happy that I can hear mom’s vivacious laugh through my twelve year old. Her spirit is nestled way deep in our Lily Bean. 

I learned my greatest lessons from her.  

She taught me to not only love, but to say it often and love unconditionally.  
She taught me to not only laugh, but to laugh so hard that tears roll down my face.
She taught me to not only play, but to dance whenever I got the chance.
She taught me to not only pray, but to believe in my prayers and trust his hand in my life.

The other day I was driving down the road when one of her favorite songs came on the radio.  It immediately took my breath away.  As I sat in my car sobbing, the final verse came through loud and clear...

"Just remember in the winter, far beneath the bitter snows

Lies the seed, that with the sun's love in the spring becomes the rose."

I miss her. I miss her so much that my heart sometimes feels it will burst out of my chest. And just when I feel the tears well up, I hear her voice “Don’t cry sis. I’m right here.”  

And I know she is. 

Wednesday, October 12, 2016


“I don’t think I can do it, mom.”

“Baby girl.  I know you can.”

And just like that, she amazes me. 

Time after time.

Words are hard to find when it comes to describing a life with my Lily Bean.  Every second with her is like a really deep, cleansing breath.


When she was a baby, I always said we could leave for the weekend and she would be fine, as long as she had food, her blankie “Bay” and her two fingers. It’s actually amazing to think about now.  Something about her was just so calming, even as an infant.  She brought such a balance to our family that was desperately needed. That remains true to this day.

On this past Sunday, her confidence wavered.  She had brought four of her dear friends to a climbing facility to celebrate her birthday.  I don’t think she thought through the fact that she had never been rock climbing before.  Immediately in her first climb, I could see an unfamiliar look in her eyes.

“Mom.  I’m scared.  What do I do?”

“You can’t give up now, girl.  Just take it one step at time. Remember. If you fall, there is something there to catch you.”

The first step was the hardest.  With each reach for the next rock, her pace increased and her strength improved until she finally reached the top.  And then she climbed to the top over and over again.

That girl.  She is something else.

When I think of being the mother of Lily Katherine O’Bryan, I think of lyrics from one of my college favorites:

Feet on ground

Heart in hand

Facing forward
Be yourself

~Jann Arden

Happy Birthday, my sweet Lily Bean.  May you never stop climbing.


Saturday, September 17, 2016

Redemption Ride

I had been looking forward to this specific ride all summer.  If there were ever a year I need to refocus, it was this one.  Partially because I finally took some significant time off  this summer and enjoyed three weeks in New York.  But mostly due to the fact that last year was the most difficult of my professional career.

Every year, I take a long bike ride before the beginning of the school year to clear my head and set goals for the new year.  This year was delayed for a variety of reasons.  After a full week of school, I finally found the time and energy to take a Sunday afternoon ride. 

Earbuds In.
Playlist on.
Eyes to the path.

It started like any other ride.  I started off slow, gaining speed with each push of the pedal.  I pedaled faster hoping to clear my head.  It was quickly evident, the Lord had other plans.


I just couldn’t get it out of my mind and I wasn't exactly sure why.  For some reason, I had a replay of every redemption story I had encountered.  I couldn't help but wonder if the Lord was preparing me for something or settling something.  Either way, he had my attention.

I witnessed my first redemption story at a young age.  I remember watching the story unfold and wondering if I would ever see things the same way again.  Since then, I’ve seen it happen over and over again.


Being a high school principal, I watch the redemption story happen daily.  Let’s face it.  Teenagers screw up.  Over and over and over again.  Just recently, I have watched the most amazing transformation of a student that couldn’t get out of his own way.  Fall after fall after fall, he just couldn’t stand back up.  And then it happened.  He was finally able to claim his redemption story.

The one thing I have learned over the years is that redemption is a journey and it doesn’t happen overnight.  I think that’s the hardest fight we battle as Christians.  We expect that once we accept Christ as our savior, that our struggles should be done.  Wouldn’t that make for a simple story?

A friend of mine once told me, “Forgiveness doesn’t show weakness, it exhibits the greatest of strength.”  I firmly believe if you can’t love through adversity then you never really loved at all.  Redemption is not simple.  Christ’s love for us is just a great example of what he expects from us. I’m thankful he loved first.  I’m thankful he forgave us.  I’m thankful he died for that which he forgave.

Sunday, August 30, 2015

Fall for 45

I finally made it back to the trail.  After a busy few weeks of the start of school, I was anxious to find my way back for a long ride.   My bike would classify in the “oldie but goodie” category.  When I turned 40, I explored the possibility of purchasing a new bike.  I was advised to keep the one I had.  In the words of the bike serviceman, “They don’t make them like this anymore.”  He encouraged me to take good care of it and have it serviced throughout the year.

A few weeks ago, I took my Cannondale into the local bike shop.  I was once again reminded of the character of my bike as I was greeted with, “This is a great bike…a classic.”  I have to admit, it made me smile.  I felt like the guy at the car show with a classic mustang.

As I started my ride, I couldn’t help but notice that something felt different.  I wasn’t sure if it was the new tires or a freshly created playlist.  There were just a few pedestrians and even fewer bikers and it made for a perfect course for speed work.  As the music got faster, my pedals joined the beat.  It was a great day for a ride.

·      Wind in my hair
·      Cool temps
·      No time frame

As motivated as I felt, my mind was cluttered.  I tried to sing along to some of my favorites and pedal faster, but I couldn’t refrain from focusing on the burdens of my people.

·      The friend fighting for their marriage
·      The student running from their homelife
·      The co-worker trying to find their place

What started as a highly motivated time of exercise quickly turned into a place of prayer.  While I didn’t solve any of their problems, I found myself lifting their names up to the one that could. 

As I loaded my bike on the back of my car, I paused.  I am realistic enough to know that those prayers could have just as easily gone up for me at some point in my life.

I was quickly reminded of the words of that young bike serviceman, “Take good care of it and have it serviced often.”

We only have one life.

·      Live it.
·      Love your people.
·      Remember the one that gave it to you.

I have set a goal to ride 45 miles each week throughout the Fall.  While there are definite health benefits, today, I clarified that goal to include spending that time to pray for those around me.  Lord knows I need someone doing the same for me.