How to Leave a Real Deal Legacy

O'NeillFive_ErinCoatsPhotography_016The air carried the crispness of fall when nearly seventeen years ago, my husband and I traversed the middle of the country from where we were living in Ohio to visit our family in Oklahoma. It was a surprise trip – we didn’t tell my parents we were coming. We parked up the lane from my parent’s house just left of the timber, and I hopped out of the car to peek around the rustling trees. Seeing no one in the yard, I high-tailed it in a mad sprint for the house. I made an abrupt halt before reaching the large front windows of the living room.

After approaching the glass, I cupped my hands near my face so I could see into the living room. My dad sat in the beige recliner, head down over a book. He didn’t hear me approach the window, so I quietly tap tap tapped on the glass. His head popped up and then his grin broke out of the gate. He laughed and as he stood up, I heard him say to my mom, “Hey Lou Ann?! Lou Ann!! You’ll never believe who is looking through our front window!”

On this cool fall morning, I find myself cupping my hands up to the glass again looking at reels of memories with my daddy. I look in and see the way he threw me in the air when I was little.

I see the way he usually said yes to a once-a-week stop at the Shamrock gas station for a coke after school.

I see him telling me bedtime stories every single night, even after an exhausting day of hard work at the Conoco refinery.

I see him dancing with me in the kitchen while singing Johnny Cash tunes.

I see him showing me how the fingerprints of God could be found everywhere in the world. . . and in my own insecure, teenagery self.


A long time ago, someone told me my dad is a modern day Will Rogers in that he never met a man he didn’t like. I don’t know if that’s completely true, but I do know that more often than not, most people who know my Dad like him. He is warm and hilarious and instantly puts others at ease.

When I was a teenager, my dad was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis. And while an attack would flair up from time to time, he was by and large able to live life rather normally. More recently, however, things have turned on a hairpin curve. And if I peek through the glass at my daddy today, the image I see is nowhere near that of my memories.

Life moves along, seasons illuminate and fade, and disease that sleeps wakes up and catches up. It’s such a sad, difficult thing to watch, but there are blessings tied into the heartache, too. As much as the MS wears at dad’s mind and body, it hasn’t messed with his heart. The place from which springs his ability to love well remains untouched, and for that I’m so thankful it makes me cry. Because y’all, loving well has always been what my daddy does best. Long after he strolls the hallways of heaven, his legacy here on earth will live because of the way he loves others.

When all the layers of our abilities and talents are peeled back and people’s PhD’s, best-sellers, trophies and first place finishes are shoved in attic corners, all that will remain is how well we loved others. All that will remain is how well we told others about how much Jesus loves them.

We brush shoulders with people everyday, and we all have the choice to make a withdrawal from or a deposit into every soul we meet. With each deposit, we get to pass a bit of us on to live in others. We get to show folks Jesus by letting them know they’re seen, they matter, and they are appreciated. We get to remind them that God sent Jesus to fill our empty places, and only He can fill it to overflowing.

If we want to be great, to really leave our mark in the world and know our life counted, we tap into that overflowing place and deposit Christ’s love into someone else. We encourage them to do the same. We love on and help others live on.


My daddy does this so, so well.

May the same be said for me, his daughter.

If y’all would keep my family in your prayers (especially my mama and baby sister who work so hard to care for my daddy at home), I’d be so grateful. xo

Top two photos taken by the incredibly talented Erin Coats of Erin Coats Photography.

On New Beginnings


Three times in three weeks, I have bit. it.

As in I crash landed so hard on my backside, it made my teeth shake. Three times. 

One fall happened after I leaned on a stool too far left. The other two occurred when I was simply walking – nothing tricky. But apparently for me, walking is tricky.

Sometimes, the tumbles trickiest to recover from are those that follow a new beginning. Of course, a new beginning can soar on wings of glorious success. But sometimes it takes off and crashes, and you are left flat out laid out. And when that happens to me, I want to tear out of town and scurry my red-faced self off to safety rather than shake the embarrassment off my skin and out of my hair.

I am learning just how much courage it takes to trust the process of trying again. Would you join me over here to share what you know about new beginnings, too? And if your new beginning has (literally or figuratively) knocked you on your backside, I offer a special prayer at (in)courage just for you.


The current new beginning that glares neon bright in our family has been our oldest children (twin sons) beginning high school. My friend Stacey Thacker (wonderful writer of her own blog and creator of the Mothers of Daughters blog) is mama to four daughters, and her oldest child started high school as well. While we were both in Dallas for the Declare Conference, we thought it would be fun to get together and talk about this whole high school business. Specifically, about our mama fears and struggles with this parenting stage, as well as how we stay connected with our older kids. (Subscribers: click here to watch video.)

(One note: in the video, I didn’t give the correct title of the book my husband is working through with our boys. The title is actually called Preparing Your Son for Every Man’s Battle: Honest Conversations About Sexual Integrity by Stephen Arterburn and Fred Stoeker. Here is the link to the corresponding book for daughters, too.)

(A second note: this is my first ever video recording of this nature. This is Stacey’s 384th (give or take a few). It won’t take you long to figure out which of us is the knows-what-she’s-doing, professional one.)


I’d love to know: what new beginnings find you in this season?

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