Tuesday, September 08, 2015

A letter of thank you to our community

Dear Friends & Family,
I just wanted to take a few minutes to let you know how truly grateful I am for your prayers and support over the last year. September 9 marks the 1-year anniversary of Ericlee’s graduation to heaven. In many ways, it feels like a lifetime ago for me. Over the last year I have experienced God’s faithfulness and provision in so many areas.
A year ago, I was struggling financially and wondering how I might cover upwards of $75,000 in medical expenses and continue to support my three daughters. Through the help of a local lawyer helping me negotiate many bills and the unbelievable generosity of many of you, we have completely paid off those bills and today I am debt-free. God has provided for me on a monthly basis through social security for all four of us and a part-time job teaching at California State University, Fresno.
The most exciting news is that I just got engaged. Shawn Young and I will be getting married on January 16, 2016. For those who don’t know Shawn, we have been good friends for 15 years now. I met him on my very first mission trip to Haiti with EvFree Church. Ericlee and I became close friends with him at that time, and Shawn has faithfully supported our non-profit work in Haiti through the years. Shawn lived in Maryland for the last 9 years, but through God’s perfect timing he moved back to California in November to be closer to his family and take a job at UCLA. We reconnected at that time and God has woven together our stories in a surprising way! My girls and family adore him and look forward to having him in the family. My mother-in-law, Christene, adopted Shawn as her “second son” years ago. This is truly beauty rising from the ashes.
Shawn recently accepted a full-time job with RB Capital Management in Fresno and plans to move here in the next few months. We appreciate your prayers as we prepare for the wedding!
For His Glory,
with Meilani, Giada & Zayla 
“You have turned for me my mourning into dancing; you have loosed my sackcloth and clothed me with gladness, that my GLORY may sing your praise and not be silent. O LORD, my God, I will give thanks to you forever!”
~Psalm 30:10-11

Sunday, June 21, 2015

A Father to the Fatherless

The rooster crowed. The smell of Haitian coffee wafted through the kitchen. I opened the door to the mission house and there they were – 13 kids-turned-teenagers-overnight buzzing with energy and excitement for the day’s adventure. I smiled at their hiking footwear – some wore gym shoes, others wore Sunday heels, sandals or flip flops, and the smallest boy proudly donned his cowboy boots. I rallied my three girls and my friend Cori, and we all piled in the pickup truck.

Haiti Earthquake Relief

Destination: Mount Pignon.

It was my first trip back to Haiti since my husband’s death in September. After 12 years of traveling to Haiti together and directing a non-profit there, it was a journey we all needed to take. This country, this town, these people were our home away from home. My three girls were longing for time with their friends. My heart longed for healing.

That morning we embarked on a hike with the kids from the Bridge Christian Children’s Home orphanage to the top of Mount Pignon. A few of the young church leaders joined us. The path was dusty, switching back and forth. At times, we had to scale boulders and traipse through sticker bushes. The sun beat down on us. We had to ask for directions more than once. I wondered if I’d made a mistake trekking with all these kids and limited water. I had never taken a trip like this in Haiti without my husband. This was just the kind of challenge he would have loved.
The hike grew especially hard for my 6-year-old and her cowboy-boot-wearing friend James. Yet, they had a surprising determination. Some of the oldest boys helped them along. Their teamwork inspired me to carry on.
I started singing – something my mama would do when my brother and I grew tired hiking through the U.S. national parks. My Haitian friend started echoing the songs I sang in Haitian Kreyol. Some kids joined in. The journey somehow grew easier.
After a few hours, we made it to the top. I kept looking for that perfect lookout or grand vista but there was really none to be found. Our best views of the mountains and the valley below had come along the journey.

In all things there is both something broken and something beautiful, a sliver of lightness on even the darkest of nights.

As we rested, sharing snacks at the top, I was prompted in my spirit to take this chance to reflect with the kids. I asked, “What were the hardest and easiest parts of the hike? Did it remind you of anything you’ve experienced in life?” Perhaps loaded questions to ask these orphans who had endured much suffering and loss in their lifetimes.

My daughter was the first to boldly raise her hand and draw a life connection. She shared how our family had gone through a really hard time this year when her daddy died. Tears pooled in our eyes. As a group we talked about how much Ericlee would have loved this hike. We imagined what he might be doing in Heaven. One of the boys said he thought he would be singing really loudly because Ericlee always sang loud in church. Another boy said he was probably running races on heaven’s golden streets or teaching angels how to work out.

This time was sacred. We cried, we laughed, we remembered. It dawned on me then that my husband had not only been a father to our three girls but a father to these fatherless children. His faith and selfless love for them through the years had affected each of them deeply, and they mourned with us.
We have experienced a lot of “firsts” this year without Daddy. We have waded through Thanksgiving, Christmas, New Years, birthdays, anniversaries, soccer games, school performances and more without him. Some of those firsts were excruciating, others were filled with new memories and surprising joy.

Today we celebrate our first Father’s Day without him. Last Father’s Day the cancer had already begun to course its way through his body. I remember making him a special smoothie and pancake breakfast while he took what turned out to be his last walk around our neighborhood with our girls.

This Father’s Day promises to be bittersweet. We will feel the weight of his absence, but also find strength in his legacy. Author Shauna Niequist writes, “Bittersweet is the idea that in all things there is both something broken and something beautiful, that there is a sliver of lightness on even the darkest of nights, a shadow of hope in every heartbreak, and that rejoicing is no less rich when it contains a splinter of sadness… Bittersweet is courageous, gutsy, earthy.”

I write today for the children and mothers and wives and others who will find Father’s Day bittersweet. Some have lost their fathers to cancer or war or divorce. Some have fathers who live miles or continents away. Some have fathers who are present physically but absent emotionally. Some have been abused or abandoned by their fathers. It’s all hard. It may not feel happy. I urge you to press in to the memories, to dig deep in the bitter soil to uncover the sweetness, the surprising courage that can be found there.

I write today for the children and mothers and wives and others who will find Father’s Day bittersweet.

I also write to encourage dads and men in general: We need you. I challenge you to think about how you can be a father to the fatherless— Is there a friend or cousin or student or neighbor you could reach out to in this season?

I’m deeply grateful for the godly men who stand in the gap now to collectively help father my girls. They are the ones who give out extra hugs and play with them in the swimming pool. They are the ones who ask them about school and admire their artwork. They are the ones who pray over them and have generously helped with our financial needs. They are the brave men willing to tell the girls stories about their daddy. I am humbled by their willingness to enter into the awkward parts of our grief journey. I know my girls are not just surviving today, but thriving because of these acts of love that build their self-esteem and faith. We need you now and we will need you in the future.

I’m also so grateful for the godly men who stepped up to the plate to father my husband through the years. His single mother prayed for men to mentor him, to model respect for him and to mold him into a man of integrity. Ericlee defied the odds and proved to be an amazing husband and father figure to many during his time here on Earth.

Over and over again the Bible exhorts us to defend the fatherless. Isaiah 1:17 says, “Learn to do right; seek justice. Defend the oppressed. Take up the cause of the fatherless; plead the case of the widow.”
This isn’t a suggestion for do-gooders of the faith. This is a mandate throughout God’s Word. It is our privilege and call to take up the cause of the fatherless. Frankly, I never imagined that one day these verses would apply so personally to me and my own children.

Ericlee poses with his missionary grandparents
Oran and Arshaloos Bell in Pignon, Haiti.
On that Good Friday, I stood at the top of Mount Pignon in Northern Haiti with all of my children – some biological, some unofficially adopted by our family years ago. I looked out across the azure skies and dry rugged mountains and thought about the harrowing journey Jesus Christ took to the cross. The views along the way to the top. The sacrifice of a Heavenly Father who allowed His one and only Son to die for us, the fatherless. The bitter and the sweet. The broken and the beautiful.

**The above blog was originally published at Self Talk the Gospel here.

Thursday, April 16, 2015

Worship: learning to change my heart posture

I grew up in a house spilling with music. My dad and brother were trumpet players. My mom played guitar and always sang in the church choir. My brother was the star in lots of school musicals and I devoted years to learning to play the piano. That love for music has also become contagious for my three daughters.

Now I rush to church on Sundays mainly so I can get there in time for the worship music. The strings, the keys, and the voices have a way of ushering me to the throne like nothing else in my week.

For the month of March, I decided to focus on worship as a spiritual discipline.

In college, I was a part of two distinctly different choirs. One was a women’s choir where we spent hours reading sheet music, practicing parts, and listening to the enunciation of each word in romantic languages. My part was only as important as blending my voice with the other women. The other choir I joined was the Gospel choir. Our director wanted us to sing loud and with feeling. My classically-trained voice struggled to free itself, to take flight. I learned to love the energy, the mix of music and the new friends from different backgrounds who gathered to sing. These two choirs taught me to embrace different styles of worship.

The strings, the keys, and the voices have a way of ushering me to the throne like nothing else in my week.

I believe worship can and should be experienced in a variety of ways. I have heard the most amazing ensembles lift their voices a cappella in Haiti. I have worshipped with indigenous friends in the hills of Guatemala using handmade instruments. I have sat on the front row at concerts, raising my hands in praise with thousands of others beneath the lights. I can’t wait to get to heaven one day and experience the diversity of worship God has created playing out all in one place.

In the Old Testament, the Israelites made worship a part of their celebrations and daily rhythm. After passing through the Red Sea, Aaron’s sister Miriam took a timbrel and led the women in song and dance to praise God for rescuing them (Exodus 15: 19-21). David showed how music has the power to speak peace and comfort when he played his lyre over a troubled Saul and the evil spirit left him (1 Samuel 16:23). After the rebuilding of the temple in the book of Ezra, the people took trumpets and cymbals and offered thanksgiving to God as King David prescribed (Ezra 3:10-11). All these serve as examples of how music was used to worship and thank God, and remember His faithfulness.

Changing our posture in everyday tasks

Worship is an opportunity to make our day, our life into a prayer. What I discovered this month is that worship is not limited to formal choirs and Sunday singing. In fact, worship is so much more than music. Worship involves changing our posture to one of kneeling before and pointing toward God in everything we do. As I went through this month I continued to ask myself this question: How can I use my lips and my life to bring God glory?

This question challenged me to find ways to worship even while doing everyday tasks. I can worship Him while taxi driving my kids to school and activities. I can worship Him while I fold laundry. I can worship Him while I cook dinner. I challenged myself to enter into a posture of worship even while doing my least favorite household task: washing dishes. Those who know me well know I despise dishes. As I was growing up it was a rule in my house that if you cooked the meal, you didn’t have to do the dishes. You better believe I learned how to cook.

Ask my former roommates and they will tell you great horror stories about how I used to leave dirty dishes in the sink and the green stuff started to grow. Today, I don’t have the option of leaving the dishes for long. We all know what happens. They stink. I have to walk through the kitchen every time I leave the house. If I leave the dishes, I smell the dishes. Often. I decided to redefine washing dishes as a time of worship. I made myself a playlist of songs on Spotify, and I started to scrub. What I discovered is there is something therapeutic about washing the grime off pots and scrubbing residue off silverware. This became my time to talk to God. I sang praises and thanks to Him with soap and water.

I know that in the same way I have to attend to the dirty dishes, I also have to be intentional about carving out time to worship. I can leave God alone for a few days but after a while my attitude starts to stink. That space between my shoulder blades begins to pull tight when I start running through my to-do list. I have less patience for dealing with my kids. When I give myself space and time to worship, I worry less about my present and my future; my eyes and heart are fixed on Him.

Praising Him in the storm

This past year my family has experienced much suffering and tragedy. When my husband was diagnosed with stage four cancer in May, I had to rethink the purpose of worship. I was reminded again and again that God calls us to worship especially in our suffering and grief. This is the way we enter into His Presence. I am challenged by Job’s response to suffering. As the story reads in Job 1: 13-19, he loses all his oxen, donkeys, sheep, servants, camels, and then a mighty wind sweeps over his home and all his sons and daughters are killed. Job tears his robe in grief but then he immediately falls to the ground in worship: “Naked I came from my mother’s womb, and naked I will depart. The LORD gave and the LORD has taken away; may the name of the LORD be praised” (1:20). This shows me that one way to endure the pain and hard circumstances is to get into a posture of praise.

I cared for my husband for months as the cancer spread throughout his body and he physically endured much pain. Watching him suffer felt like torture to me. The only thing that brought me out of despair in that season, and now while my girls and I grieve the loss of him, is to worship. I have to choose to change my posture to worship in practical ways. I keep a running list of gifts as a way to thank God for the little graces He gives me on the journey, and to trace the glimpses of His glory. I also have learned to seize every moment I can to sing to Him. Whether in the kitchen or the carpool lane, you will find me singing. This is the way I preach truth to myself. This is the way I spend time with my Maker.

Worship involves changing our posture to one of kneeling before and pointing toward God in everything we do.

It’s Friday night and all I can think about is getting in the kitchen to scrub the pots. My week has been long and my shoulders grow weary, but I am actually looking forward to my time of worship with dishcloth in hand. It’s a miracle in me, a discipline now.

Worship has truly changed my heart.

**The original version of this article was published at Self Talk the Gospel.

Monday, January 05, 2015

Glory: How one word changed the way I see


For the last several years, a small group of my friends have gathered just after the turn of the New Year for a “Word Party.” Every year the party looks a little different. We let the kids (12 among the 5 of us) run wild in the yard or jump on the trampoline or play sardines in the bedrooms while the mamas gather around the table. My friend Amy is a tea connoisseur so she’s particular about getting the chai brewed just right, and it’s heavenly. Carla is sure to be in the kitchen cooking up something like a frittata with garden-fresh vegetables. Yasmin typically brings something with brie because we all know that brie makes everything better.

Terry and I are usually given special assignments. She’s the queen of homemade mango salsa and always brings those amazing tortilla chips from the corner store. The mamas text me early to make sure I’ll bring my famous Chicken Salad Wonton Cups – a recipe I created years ago for a contest at The Big Fresno Fair. One year we even incorporated an art project. Terry brought old wood pallets and Amy brought out her treasure box of paints and brushes so we could all create a piece of art for our home with our One Word on it.

Beyond the excuse for delectable food and heavenly chai, our Word parties are a chance to reflect on the past year and to look into the future with eager eyes. We each choose One Word to embody our year. We commit to studying, cradling, following, contemplating, dwelling on that word for the entire 365 days, until we meet again. Some of us journal our discoveries. Others peck out late-night text messages to the group with discoveries throughout the year.

We each choose One Word to embody our year. We commit to studying, cradling, following, contemplating, and dwelling on that word for the entire 365 days.

At the party, we each have the assignment of tracing what God has taught us about that word theme in the past year. With great anticipation, we also reveal our word for the coming year and pray over them together. This gathering has become sacred through the years. When I say “sacred,” I don’t mean quiet and perfect like stepping into an ornate church somewhere in Europe flanked with breathtaking stain-glassed windows. Our “sacred” generally includes a noisily nursing baby, the sounds of Minecraft piping through the living room and a dog barking at the side door. This time is sacred because, in the original sense of the word, it is “set apart,” “holy,” a chance to share our faith stories in community, an opportunity to offer up tearful reflections and spur each other on to greater things.
At the close of 2013, I started thinking about my word. I started thinking and praying and pondering. When the word “Glory” wormed its way into my heart I was surprised. Glory? It didn’t seem to flow with the words from years past. I had already chosen “Thanksgiving,” then “Joy,” and one year I had two words: “Grace” and “Mercy.” My friends were choosing words like “Worship” and “Humility.” How did “Glory” fit there? At first blush, “Glory” conjured up images of war heroes and athletes defying great odds to gain victory. Somehow it didn’t speak of the quiet meditation I’d experienced before.
I tried to dismiss it. Maybe I could choose a nicer word. Love? Peace? Simplicity? Rest? Words I could feel good about plastering on my wall and exploring with my heart. Somehow that crazy word “Glory” just kept coming back to me. Every song, every billboard, every sermon, every movie seemed to incorporate that word somehow. I was surprised, intrigued. I needed to know more. What did it even mean? Why was “Glory” important to the gospel? How was it pertinent to me?
Little did I know that this single, 5-letter word would be the thing God would use to transform me, inspire me, lift me and carry me through the most difficult year of my life. This would be the beginning of tracing His “glory story” in the most unexpected narrative. God has shown me this past year that Glory is the very beginning of the story and also the grand finale. This One Word is used throughout the Bible as another word for His presence, majesty, beauty, creation, and heaven. Many of the heroes of our faith from Moses to Mary, from Isaiah to Paul, come to understand His Glory in profound ways.

Little did I know that this single, 5-letter word would be the thing God would use to transform me, inspire me, lift me and carry me through the most difficult year of my life.

I believe His Glory is a frame, a way for us to view the Bible and, more importantly, our lives. Jesus tells Martha in Luke 11:40, “Have I not told you that if you believe, you will see the glory of God?” I believe this is his way of urging her to seek His Glory. We are to be Glory-chasers. If we tune our hearts daily to the music God is creating in our lives, we will actively seek His Glory in all things. We will discover His presence in the good and the hard gifts. As I focused on Glory in 2014, it was a training of sorts. I had to train myself to see Glory. I had to train myself to seek Glory. I had to train myself to reflect His Glory to others.
Now when I am overwhelmed by the breathtaking colors of a sunset dancing over ocean waves, I count it a picture of His Glory. When I see the intricate beauty of a snowflake, I name it as His Glory. When I am caught up in a heart-talk with a dear friend, I believe the encouragement I find there is just another tangible example of His Glory. When my husband was diagnosed with cancer in May, I had to believe that even that hard gift was going to be for His Glory. When the meals, cards and financial support flooded in from our community, I understood that it was His Glory. When I knelt by the graveside hugging my three young daughters tight, I knew deep in my heart that this was for His Glory. When I read the letters and heard the stories unfolding of lives changed by his life, I knew beyond a shadow of doubt that all of it – the joy and pain dancing right there – was about His Glory.
Glory-chasing has become habit for me. It’s the way I breathe. It’s the way I move forward one step at a time. It’s my new life purpose. I find myself framing everything by these few questions: How can I trace God working for His Glory in my present circumstances? How can I reflect His Glory in my actions and attitude today?

That one word – Glory – has changed me. As I enter a new year, I continue the journey in search of His Glory in unexpected places. I look eagerly to 2015 to see how He will use my new word – REDEEM – to bring new value to my story for His GLORY.

This article was originally posted at Self Talk the Gospel. Read more here.

Wednesday, December 31, 2014

December 2014 Gilmore Gazette: Looking to a New Year with hopeful hearts

Dear Family & Friends,

On this final day of 2014, this New Year’s Eve, I feel compelled to write you. After Ericlee’s graduation to heaven on September 9, 2014, there were many days when I could not bear to sit down and write. To write is to remember, and that felt hard. To write was also a reminder that my greatest coach and cheerleader was no longer there. Now I believe that writing - in a lot of different avenues - may just be my path to healing. At this close of 2014, I stand on the mountaintop with such a different vantage point on all this year meant for us.
Last Sunday we attended Mosaic Church in Hollywood. I’ve always wanted to visit the church, and I was particularly struck by the worship and message that felt like they were designed just for me. The pastor, Hank, was sharing about a debilitating head injury he endured this year. He described how this humbling season was a reminder to him about how important it is to build a strong foundation.

In Luke 6:47, Jesus said, “It is like a person building a house who digs deep and lays the foundation on solid rock. When the floodwaters rise and break against the house, it stands firm because it is well built.”

As Hank was unfolding his story, I was reminded of mine. There were so many days after Ericlee’s cancer diagnosis on May 30 that I felt like I was standing before a giant pit. Every day I felt like God was urging me to walk straight into that pit. I argued and cried and questioned. How could this be? Why would I want to face cancer and sickness and losing my love and all my worst fears? Why would I willingly go there? I kept hearing God’s voice reminding me He had a plan and a purpose even in this for His glory. And when I started to step forward into that seeming abyss, I discovered that God had lined this pit with people who He would use to lift me. I never really had to touch bottom. I never really tasted despair because of all of you, and Christ in me. This was the foundation, the “community life insurance,” Ericlee invested in. I am beyond grateful.

Pastor Hank urged us all to pause on Sunday, to think back over 2014 and all we had experienced. He asked us to think about writing a letter to ourselves on December 31, 2013. What would we say then to prepare ourselves for all that was to come? What encouragement would we send? What would we urge ourselves to do differently? I sat quiet in my seat just pondering that. I came to a quick conclusion: I would not tell myself one single thing. I wouldn’t want to know of a cancer diagnosis. I wouldn’t want to know of a graveside service. I never could have handled those sobering details then.

On January 1, 2014, I was filled with HOPE. Ericlee and I had decided not to buy the kids a bunch of Christmas presents, and instead to head down to San Diego for a family trip to make memories. We surprised the girls and enjoyed a few days exploring Legoland and playing on the beach. We spent New Year’s Eve at our friends’ home, playing games and just dreaming about the year to come. Ericlee shared with me all his goals for his 40th year of life. We penned ideas for the ministry in Haiti, made a list of family and spiritual goals. The quality time was glorious. We did not know what was to come but we TRUSTED our Maker to unfold all things in His time.

I am grateful for the time we had together this year. In January, we vacationed in San Diego and then sent Ericlee off with a team to Haiti. When he returned, he cheered on his two oldest girls in their first season playing basketball. In February, we attended the Justice Conference in Los Angeles and our hearts were stirred for the justice work God is calling His people to around the world. In March, we traveled to the Central Coast and enjoyed a final weekend staying in the family beach house in Arroyo Grande before it was put up for sale. Ericlee also ran in a half marathon with his buddy Steve Ganzenhuber and competed in the CrossFit Open.
In April, we celebrated Ericlee’s 40th birthday with a party - a living memorial of sorts – including dinner and a time of sharing about his life. That month we also went on a wonderful weekend anniversary trip to Sacramento sans kids. Ericlee traveled to Haiti again with a group of guy friends while I took the girls to Seattle/Olympia for Spring break with my sister. In May, Ericlee competed in the Wildflower Triathlon and we cheered him on with my mother-in-law, Christene. In June, we took a week for retreat near Bass Lake with our missionary friends, the Puseys, who were home from Germany. I am grateful to have made these memories without knowledge of the suffering and sorrow and grief that was to come. These were treasured times, great gifts. These were a profound example to me of God’s grace.
We also tasted God's grace in the hard gifts. The Celebration of Life on September 13 proved to be not just a sad day for us, but a day full of stories, connecting and truly celebrating Ericlee's very full life. We found inspiration and encouragement in that time too. That day was a reminder that God does not promise to spare us from trials, but He promises to walk us through them and reveal His glory along the way.
People ask me all the time, “How are you doing?” I’m never sure how to answer that question except to say I’m doing well by God’s grace. This fall I have stepped away from a lot of dreams and rhythms and a life that I have built over the last decade with Ericlee. There certainly has been deep loss and grieving in that separation, but I have found surprising joy at every turn. I have intentionally taken time to care for myself, to feed myself, to exercise, to read, to snuggle in my big bed with my girls and to cry.
I have also stepped into a place where God is “making all things new.” He has set before me new opportunities, new relationships, and new purpose. Clinging to these words in Revelation: “He who was seated on the throne said, ‘I am making everything new!’ Then he said, ‘Write this down, for these words are trustworthy and true.’” As I feel God calling me into a new space, I’m eager to write again. I’ve taken on some new, exciting writing projects with a goal of publishing. I have also invested time in a group for young widows who have young children like me. My girls have attended a play therapy group through Hinds Hospice. We have traveled throughout California, forging new memories with family and our tribe. I believe all of this is a path God has laid before us for healing. He has scattered us in a new direction.

On this New Year’s Eve, I am surprisingly filled with HOPE. After the year I have had, I hold heaven and eternity so close to my heart. I know that I am not promised tomorrow. I know that anything and everything could change in a moment. I have experienced the beauty and horror and glory of that in this past year. The girls and I talk about heaven every day. We have a true confidence in our hearts that we will see Daddy again one day. We have the HOPE of Glory, and hold tightly to that. We step into 2015 without fear because we have faith in a God who sees us, who provides for us, who comes near to us in our time of need. We believe God is in the process of REDEEMING our story and your story too! We wish you all a blessed New Year! Thank you for being such a vital part of our journey and our healing.

For His Glory,

Dorina with Meilani, Giada & Zayla

“After you have suffered for a little while, the God of all grace, who called you to His eternal glory in Christ, will Himself perfect, confirm, strengthen and establish you. To Him be dominion forever and ever. Amen.” ~1 Peter 5:10-11

Wednesday, December 10, 2014

Community Life Insurance: The Greatest Investment You'll Ever Make

This year my family has faced the most beautiful and painful season of our lives. My husband was diagnosed with stage four melanoma cancer in May. The news came like a sucker-punch to the gut, but it was no surprise to God. In the weeks that followed, we experienced God’s presence and provision in the most profound way and I began to understand how critical community is to our lives.

Ericlee invested in what I call “community life insurance.” He was passionate about investing in people and reaching out to others in need. When we were first married, he was a high school teacher and coach and I joined him in that mission. He modeled for me what it means to pour your life into others. Week after week, day after day, he took time to share his passion for God and life with his students and athletes. He listened to students’ problems on the bus, encouraged them on the basketball court, challenged them to work hard in the classroom and cheered them on, whether they were losing or winning a race. We invited those young people into our home for home-cooked dinners and pool parties. Sometimes we were family to them when they struggled to connect with their own families.

Sometimes we were family to them when they struggled to connect with their own families.

My husband was also the kind of guy who befriended strangers. In the grocery store or airport or post office, he loved to read nametags and greet people by name as if they were old friends. In our fast-paced culture buzzing with ATMs, smart phones and high-speed Internet, he would catch people off guard. He would ask them about their day and expect to engage in conversation. He invested the time and often amazing connections resulted.

He also had a passion for reaching out to invisibles. I remember one Saturday he insisted we take a trip downtown with our kids to hand out our surplus of winter clothes to some of the homeless who lived in tents. Admittedly, I was nervous in my heart about taking my young girls into that unknown environment. My husband boldly led us into the streets and offered people a hearty handshake and a sweatshirt. I witnessed how he looked people in the eyes and gifted them with a sense of dignity. I saw the same kind of investment as we traveled countless times to the country of Haiti and he spent time listening to the stories and dreams of people there. He had a heart for community development – not merely giving handouts, but empowering people as leaders and image bearers of God.

In the weeks that followed his cancer diagnosis, I began to understand this investment in community was something God intended to use to show me His daily presence. He already had an amazing provision marked just for us that would come through our community. After all, God’s heart beats for community. He Himself embodies community. He is Father, Son and Holy Spirit – three in one – our model of community working seamlessly. He has designed us to live in relationship, to work out our insecurities and use our gifts in the context of community. We are to bear each other’s burdens as it says in Galatians and lighten each other’s load (Galatians 6:2). We can try to live alone – islands struggling on our own in a stormy ocean – or we can choose to risk and invest in others.

He has designed us to live in relationship, to work out our insecurities and use our gifts in the context of community.

This summer as I watched my husband’s athletic body deteriorate before my eyes, I cried out to God. I stood at the kitchen sink every morning and wept. As his primary caregiver, I slept maybe two hours at a time for weeks and spent the rest of the time serving him juices and encouraging him through the debilitating and excruciating pain. I was physically and emotionally bankrupt but God showed up at just the right times again and again through our community.

One of my amazing friends became our “help administrator,” putting together a Facebook group for the purpose of helping our family. She organized people to provide meals, clean dishes, wash our clothes, deliver groceries and taxi my kids to school and activities. Friends from around the globe sent gifts cards and money for our medical expenses. Our mailbox and inboxes overflowed with messages of encouragement and stories of how my husband had influenced lives. Former students, athletes and friends flocked to our home to pray, sing and read to my husband. In all this, I was lifted, energized, comforted when I needed it most. I knew I was not alone on the journey.

My husband finished his glorious race on earth on September 9, 2014, and nearly three months later, my daughters and I are still reaping the benefits of his investment in community life insurance today. I recognized it when I randomly chose an eye doctor from an insurance list and it turned out to be the father of one of my husband’s former students. That generous eye doctor covered my contact lenses for the year. I recognized it when a woman and her family stopped me in the grocery store and insisted on paying for my groceries. She was a former colleague and longed to help my family. I recognized it when our UPS gal delivered a package one day and couldn’t stop talking about how she knew my husband from the gym, and how inspired she was by his influence.

He made His presence known to me in a very tangible way through the people in our community.

As I continue to bear witness to Ericlee’s incredible investment in people, I can’t help but challenge you (and myself) with these questions: Who are you investing in today? Who is your community? How can you embody God’s presence by reaching out to someone in their place of need?

On the morning before my husband graduated to heaven, I was able to tell him with confidence that the girls and I would be ok. I looked into his hazel eyes and told him God would care for us through our community, and I meant it. You see, I had already experienced the God of Christmas – the baby called Emmanuel, meaning “God with us.” He made His presence known to me in a very tangible way through the people in our community.

Don’t miss out this Christmas season. Be present and intentional with the people around you. This is an investment with amazing long-term returns.

*This article was originally posted on Self Talk the Gospel. Check out the original post here:

Sunday, October 12, 2014

October Gilmore Gazette: A letter to our supporters

Dear Friends & Family,

I have been trying to write this letter to you for the last few weeks.  As you all know by now, Ericlee completed his final race here on earth on September 9, 2014, and today experiences the ultimate glory. This is certainly a journey I never would have predicted or even chosen but I can say with full confidence today that God knew and has walked with us every step of the way.

I am writing to express my deep gratitude for all of your support during this difficult journey. I think back over the last four months and I have truly experienced God as Immanuel, God with us. Many of you wrote cards, letters, emails, Facebook and blog posts. Many of you sent money, gift cards, came to wash our dishes and fold our laundry. Many of you came to the house to pray, sing worship songs and encourage.  Many of you came to sit, cry, hold and “be God” dwelling among us through your presence. I cannot begin to tell you how those gestures have brought healing and bolstered my faith. 

Perhaps the most encouraging part of this journey has been seeing and hearing the stories of all the lives changed because of Ericlee’s influence. I know many have been challenged in their fitness, relationships, faith and call to serve the underprivileged because of the example my man set. Thank you for sharing your stories with me. These stories help his legacy continue. They also remind me that all these things were not some horrible accident. God knew Ericlee would live 40 glorious years. He knew I would enjoy 11 ½ years of marriage to him. He knew Ericlee’s influence would stretch wide and deep. He knew the ultimate healing of his body from cancer would be in heaven. We trust we will see our daddy and husband again one day. 

I have posted links to Ericlee’s “Celebration of Life” service on our blog at www.AlohaGilmores.blogspot.com for those who were not able to attend. Our blog also has several articles written by Ericlee before his death. I encourage you to go there or the “Ericlee Gilmore Memorial” Facebook page and even share your own memories. 

Moving forward, I have decided to take a break from ministry through Christian Friendship Ministries and The Haitian Bead Project. Ericlee appointed Tanner Munro as the new director of CFM in August and I fully support this decision. In September, I asked two friends and board members, Gina Wathen and Kim McCurry, if they would assemble a team to continue the work of the Haitian Bead Project. Admittedly, it is difficult for me to step away from these leadership roles but I strongly believe this is a choice God is leading me to so I can focus on the girls and my own healing. This ministry in Haiti has not just been a service project for our family – it is our life and heart. This transition will be hard but good on many levels. Rest assured, the ministry is in good hands. We have an ambitious and prayerful board of directors and Ericlee’s mom, Christene Karlyn, has chosen to stay involved. Peter Constantin is continuing in his role as the Haitian Director working closely with our board.

Thank you for supporting our family prayerfully and financially these past five years. We know your partnership was vital in helping us fulfill our calling. Many of you have expressed concern about my current financial situation. God has already been providing for the girls and me in miraculous ways. We are still negotiating medical bills, which will not be covered by insurance, but we see that God has already provided for a lot of that. I am teaching one class at California State University, Fresno this semester, and we will be getting social security “Survivor’s Benefits” along with the life insurance plan Ericlee invested in.

If you desire to keep helping our family, you can support us directly by sending gifts to my address: 4711 N. Harrison, Fresno, CA 93704 or by Paypal at dorinakailani@yahoo.com. Any donations given through CFM in the past few months will help toward our medical bills and a trip I hope to take back to Haiti to visit friends in spring 2015 with the girls. For more ways you can personally stay involved with God’s work in Haiti, see www.ChristianFriendshipMinistries.org.


For His Glory,


with Meilani, Giada & Zayla Gilmore

Tuesday, September 30, 2014

VIDEO: Ericlee Gilmore's "Celebration of Life" on September 13, 2014

Many of you have asked if it would be possible to see a recording of "Ericlee's Celebration of Life" Memorial service held on September 13 at People's Church. We are grateful for your interest in sharing this with our family.

Below is a link where you can watch the entire service:

At the reception, we served up Armenian food and had an opportunity for friends and family to share memories through written cards, encouragement written on Jenga tiles for the girls and video. We will treasure these stories of ways Ericlee influenced many individuals in the community. These serve as a legacy for my girls and testimony for the future. We encourage you to share your own memories & stories here on the blog or on the "Ericlee Memorial" Facebook group.

~Dorina Gilmore

Monday, September 29, 2014

Ericlee Gilmore Memorial Row-a-thon hosted Saturday at CrossFit CombatFitness

The following speech I shared Saturday at the Ericlee Memorial Rowathon at CrossFit Combat Fitness in Fresno where Ericlee coached:

I just want to take this opportunity to thank all of you for coming out today to compete and support our family and organization. Thank you to all our sponsors and vendors, and especially to Erik Traeger and CrossFit Combat Fitness for hosting this event and so many others. As you can imagine this has been a difficult several months for us as Ericlee was battling cancer, but today my spirits are truly lifted as I stand at this event and see so many people joining together to make one of my husband’s dreams come alive.

 Ericlee was an athlete his whole life. He played basketball, football and ran track and field. His specialty was the long jump and he even competed in track & field in college and tried out for the Olympics. He eventually went on to coach those sports. He was infamous with his athletes for two things: his oversized straw hat and creating tough conditioning workouts. This, of course, was pre-CrossFit days.

When Ericlee found CrossFit several years ago, I believe he found his sweet spot. He personally loved the challenge of the workouts and the idea that this sport was about all-around fitness. One of my most recent memories of Ericlee in this gym was this past April when he decided to raise money doing a 40th birthday WOD. He put the word out to friends, family and clients that he would let them create a birthday WOD for him if they donated money toward Haiti. I believe it was his Boot Camp crew who created a brutal workout for him. True to form, he went for it. My three girls and I all came out to cheer him on as he went up against that ridiculous workout, which clearly was designed to make him exercise his weaknesses. It was a Courageous moment but that’s what Ericlee was all about. He was not afraid to face the difficult, the unknown, to take a challenge head on, and with that huge signature smile of his! Little did we know, he was fighting an aggressive form of melanoma cancer at the time.

Ericlee was not content to just do CrossFit himself. He wanted to share CrossFit with everyone and anyone who would listen. He coached here at CrossFit Combat Fitness but he also brought CrossFit to his athletes at Fresno Christian High School, the women who were part of our Wednesday Go Mama Workouts, just about any friend who was interested in getting in shape, and even to the people of Haiti.

Ericlee was a man of conviction. He was passionate about sharing his faith and offering a hand up to the people of Haiti. Following the footsteps of his pioneer grandparents who served in Haiti, my husband courageously served as the director of Christian Friendship Ministries. Through the years, he was a catalyst for many projects and partnerships with leaders in Haiti. He also brought Haiti to the CrossFit community. Again, thank you to all of you who have joined us these past five years as part of the Remember Haiti Fitness series. I still remember many late-night conversations with Ericlee about all the details of what this could look like. He built it from the ground up and I am truly awed to see how many people in the community have a heart for Haiti as a result.

Today we are raising awareness and funds for two of Ericlee’s dream projects: the first is for the largest school that is part of our non-profit. If you traveled to Haiti with me today, we would take a bumpy truck ride together into the northern mountains of the country and into the city of Pignon. We would pull in the front gate of the school and our truck would be mobbed by hundreds of school children, sticking their fingers in the windows, flashing crazy smiles for your cameras. Ericlee loved these children. As a teacher, he desired for them to get a solid education. As a coach, he desired for them to have a place to stretch and play and compete. Last year we raised money for a playground for the kids, which stands beautiful and regal today at that school. In fact, it’s the talk of the town because there’s nothing like it for miles around. This year we are raising money to complete the play yard with a smooth, cement top replacing the sharp gravel where they play now. We also are raising funds toward another wild and beautiful dream of Ericlee’s – equipment for a CrossFit-style gym for the city.
As you row and sweat and cheer today, I ask you to envision our friends in Haiti. I challenge you to lean in hard, to push yourself and to hear that booming coaching voice of my husband saying, “You can do it. Dig deep. One more.” I have no doubts that his spirit is here with us in this place.
I’d like to conclude with one of Ericlee’s favorite Bible verses. He was a man who loved to read God’s Word and use it to inspire during any workout. In 2 Timothy 4:7 it says,
I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith.
This is what my man was all about – fighting through the difficult, finishing his race well and all the while keeping his faith. I pray today that you, too, will be challenged by his courageous example.