I Love New Year's!!

For me, Christmas is always a time to reflect -- what were we doing last year at this time, memories of Christmas' past, ways that our lives are different this year -- and New Year's is a time to look forward. If you notice how I said I like to approach puzzles -- lots of preparation towards work, little actual work -- you can imagine why New Year's is a lot of fun for me. Brand new calendar, brand new year, tons of potential for productivity. I love the idea of a fresh start, new plans.

As a general rule, I don't make resolutions. I do frequently make goals. One of my many goals this year is to learn to speak Spanish. Not necessarily fluently -- I realize that my age makes new languages a challenge! -- but anything beyond "grande nachos" would be better than my vocabulary now.

Many New Years' have come when I was SO hungry for a new start, anything to take away the hurt, misery, or challenges of the previous year. And the next set of hurts, miseries, and challenges reminded me that the calendar doesn't make everything new. Some dear people are spending the dawn of 2006 in the hospital with children who are fighting for their lives. Just a reminder to them that the calendar won't take the nightmare of 2005 away. I just can't imagine -- but I can pray.

Please lift up Jack and Baby Ira frequently in prayer -- and for both sets of parents and siblings.


Favorite Christmas Memories, 2005

  • Helping 2nd graders build snowmen out of styrofoam balls at Mrs. Moser's Christmas party
  • Helping 4th graders cover pretzels with chocolate and sprinkles
  • Both of those parties being OVER!
  • Lunch with lots of precious friends and their families a few days before Christmas
  • Riley helping me make the cranberry salad
  • Christmas day -- every minute of it: opening gifts with family, church with my church family, lunch at friends, staying ALL day, more friends coming over, collapsing when it was over.
  • The hug Ashley gave me after painting her room ALL day Tuesday.
  • My family coming in shifts from Louisiana
  • Family time, cousin time
  • Time to simply sit and enjoy it all
  • Time to sit and do nothing at all!



I've always loved to study human nature. I remember in high school, I wanted to do a study on whether your personality type determined whether you dipped your french fries in ketchup or poured ketchup over your fries. Now, as I observe my family tackling a jigsaw puzzle, I wonder the same things.

I have always enjoyed jigsaw puzzles, but generally don't have the tenacity (patience?) to finish a big one. Riley has ALWAYS loved puzzles. Every year we graduate to a more difficult level with his puzzles, and now he has surpassed what I'm willing to tackle. Ashley and Troy don't have much use for puzzles. Around Christmas we always get a new puzzle for something to work on while the kids are out of school. I also like having one set up as family comes in and they can help as they like -- or not!

Today we started our new puzzle. Poor Troy -- he cracked the whip and cleaned the glass and swept the floor in anticipation of family arriving. So, as soon as he went to the gym to work out, I set up a card table in the middle of it all to work the puzzle. We got all the pieces dumped out.

I spend A LOT of time getting ready to put pieces together. First, I have to flip them all over right side up. Then, we need to separate edge pieces from interior pieces. Then, the remaining interior pieces need to be grouped by what part of the puzzle they seem to have on them. Lots of preparation, not much actual work. Riley finds the first piece he sees that resembles something you can make out. In this case, a box of shotgun shells (a hunting dog puzzle). He immediately sits down to dig through all the pieces only for any piece that will go with that one item. He stays hyper-focused on that until he has it mostly completed -- then he moves on to the next thing. Ashley will walk by every once in a while and pick up one piece and search and search and search for where it goes. Generally, she'll eventually lay that one piece down and walk away. Troy will occasionally wander by with his hands in his pockets and glance at the progress. About 3 times in a 1,000 piece puzzle he will walk by, notice the piece in my hand that I have been trying for 30 minutes to place and say, "That piece goes right there." Another set of eyes are always good.

I love that the puzzle gets put together in bits and pieces, everyone doing their own thing in their own way, using their gifts or knowing what their gifts are not.

Stay tuned for puzzle updates -- and painting updates. Tomorrow we start painting Ashley's walls! Christmas/birthday present!


Merry Christmas!!

Praying that, like our family, numbering your blessings this Christmas day is like trying to sweep up the pine needles -- there are simply too many, starting with the birth of our Savior all the way to the precious people that surround me today.

"And the angel said unto them, Fear not: for, behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy, which shall be to all people. For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Saviour, which is Christ the Lord." Luke 2:10,11


Christmas Eve

I think I like Christmas Eve even better than the actual day. Especially today, since Troy doesn't have to work at all. We're all here, MOST of the preparations have been done (making cranberry jell-o salad and wrapping a bajillion gifts constitute "not much left"), the kids are united in their goal of making time pass quickly, and everyone has to stop by the tree on ocassion to shake a gift with their name on it. Tomorrow will prove to be a great day, too, but today just makes me think of how much I love this day. Time with family, time to be together and have fun together.

Have a blessed Christmas Eve AND Christmas Day!


Quote for the Day

I haven't forgotten you, blog-friends, I just have not much to say about too much going on. You're all there, I'm sure. I have a 4th grade Christmas party behind me (Tuesday) where all 100 4th-graders cycled through and chocolate covered pretzels AND me, I have finally finished my work Christmas cards (Wednesday) all 225 of them! I think I am through at the grocery story (today) -- at least until Monday right before family comes in. Today I gave blood, right after I dropped a weight on my toe at the gym. Be looking for Sarah-missing-half-of-her-toenail right around sandal season.

If you are physically able, go give blood. It's not a big deal, you get a free t-shirt, juice, and cookies -- and you just might save a life. Consider it a Christmas gift you can give completely anonymously -- and you can give 6 times in a year so it could be a Christmas gift to 6 different people!

If you have a few minutes, read Mike Cope's post "The Quarter of Remembrance".

Quote for the day:

"How many observe Christ's birthday! How few, his precepts! O!'tis easier to keep holidays than commandments."

-- Benjamin Franklin


Just Desserts

No, no actual desserts will be discussed here. Remember when I griped about Abilene drivers not using their turn signals? Something is wrong with my left rear turn signal. Thought the bulb was burned out, changed the bulb -- still nothing. And, my mechanic that I love so very much -- don't worry, Troy loves him probably more than I do -- is swamped and then out of town until after Christmas. So, it appears to all Abilene drivers that I am driving along and simply slam on my brakes like all of those annoying Abilene drivers. Be careful who/what you gripe about.

About my meeting entry -- no actual meeting was represented, it was simply a fictional conglomeration of all of them. Actual events were represented, but not necessarily all of them happened at the same meeting. If you recognize yourself in any of this entry, check your fly and your buttons, email it when you can, and keep it brief when you can't.


Typical Day Without Drama

7:15 a.m. -- Shoot!! Overslept! That means I'll skip washing a load of clothes and my Bible study time; Try to wake kids up; shower, dress, breakfast, deal with some work on the computer
8:10 a.m. -- kids to school (LATE)
8:20 a.m. -- work to make copies, office not open yet, sit in the parking lot and put my make-up on
8:40 a.m. -- 4th Grade Room Mothers' meeting (LATE)
9:15 a.m. -- Cool! Meeting out earlier than planned! Make phone calls for 4th grade party next week
9:45 a.m. -- 2nd Grade Christmas Party. Man the Snowman-Constructing-Station. Truly, thanks to 2nd Grade Christmas Party Mastermind Kendra Durrington, this is the most peaceful time of my day.
11:00 a.m. -- work at the Food Bank with PALs from Abilene High. REALLY wish the Food Bank had heat.
12:15 p.m. -- local elementary school to interview kids
1:15 p.m. -- home to start dinner, put in Crock-Pot
1:30 p.m. -- "quick trip" to grocery store; too many items for Express, in line behind woman buying all of her meat products for the winter; kid falls out of basket and thuds on the floor at my feet
2:00 p.m. -- work; turn in some applications I've collected; report possible abuse situation
3:15 p.m. -- pick up kids from school
3:30 p.m. -- deal more with work on home computer, catch up on emails and blogs
4:00 p.m. -- finish working on dinner and cleaning kitchen from similar day yesterday, put laundry away
5:15 p.m. -- Leave for Ashley's first basketball game of the season!! work on Christmas cards for work waiting for game to begin
7:25 p.m. -- dinner from Crock-Pot
8:00 p.m. -- clean kitchen, make another batch of toffee for teacher gifts
8:30 p.m. -- put on PJ's, collapse on couch and think of all the things I should be doing:
--iron a shirt
--wrapping gifts
--planning menus for next week
--making more phone calls
--working on Christmas cards for work
--working on Christmas cards for home
Instead -- watch a 'Gilmore Girls' episode from the DVR.
9:45 p.m. -- finally iron shirt, get coffee ready for tomorrow's wake-up call, put out work-out clothes and work clothes for tomorrow
10:15 p.m. -- wander around trying to remember what all I've forgotten and what all I need to do in the morning, eventually fall in bed.


Stream Of Consciousness

(my thoughts in any meeting I am required to be in after 5:30 p.m. - and several that I attend earlier in the day):

Awesome, an agenda. Oh, Jee-hosephat, there are 4 things on here. They've never heard of email? These guys must really love meeting. Newsflash, fellas -- I don't NEED to see your face that badly, and I doubt you need to see mine.

Yes, yes, new committee member. Poor guy. What line did they feed you to twist your arm to get in here: the Lord's will that you join us, this is your spiritual gift, or just plain handwriting on the wall? So, seriously, you've seen a mirror today and you're okay with your hair that way? Alllll-righty. . . Oh, bless him, wonder if he realizes that his button on his shirt -- right at his hairy navel!!-- is unbuttoned. Don't look, Sarah. Those things happen to you, too, you know -- either quit staring or tell the poor -- ewww! ewww!! hairy navel, hairy navel!

Well, that takes care of MY dinner appetite! Wonder if the kids will be hungry. Wonder if Troy would feed them for me. Nah, he'll just drive by Whataburger. What could I make from the pantry? How many times this week have they already had nachos?

Oh, you have GOT to be kidding me. We are beating the dead horse that is THIS agenda item? How many times do we have to discuss this? Shall we poll people on the street to see if they agree with us -- we all still agree on that. Puh-leeeeze move along. . .

"I still think it's a great idea!"

Okay, we're supposed to be out of here by 7. If I really shoot out of here I could be home by 7:08. I could probably get my clothes off before I make it in from the garage. Should I start the water boiling for my tea before or after I put on my pajamas? I simply can't wait to put on my pajamas. I love them so very much. Wonder if anyone would mind if I came to the next meeting IN my pajamas? I would be so much happier -- but not necessarily any more awake. When is the next day I can really sleep in? Is Troy going hunting again on Saturday? Wonder if I need to get gasoline on the way home? I hope not -- that would definitely slow down the whole pajama plan.

Yesssss! Last agenda item. Yes, yes, whatever your plan is must be a fabulous one. Way to chair a committee, chairperson! He really should get the hair on his ears trimmed. That's gotta itch. Wonder if it bothers his wife. I haven't seen her in a while. Didn't she get a new job? Yes, I think she's working at. . . well, somewhere and I know I've heard where. I wonder if Troy will know.

Here it is. Nope I have absolutely no more comments or plans. I am SO good with all that has been discussed here. Get me outta here, get me outta here, get me outta here. . .

"I thought it was a good meeting, too. Thanks for organizing it for us!"

Holy, Please -- Hold the Adventure

by Sarah Stirman
on heartlight

Our church has a precious tradition on "Senior Sunday." On the day that we honor our graduating high school seniors, we also commission our first-graders. The elders present the little guys with a Bible all of their own. The year my now-10-year-old was in first grade, she happened to receive an "Adventure Bible." A regular Bible, but geared towards kids with insights into the "adventures" of following God.

This year, she decided she had outgrown that Bible. "I need a new Bible, Mom." "What's wrong with your Bible?" "I want a 'Holy' one, not the 'Adventure' one."

I hope she understood my huge smile and suppressed laughter to be joy at her interest in reading God's Word. As I repeated the story often, I realized that most of us really want our relationship with God to be like that.

I dearly love my worship times — worship in the Sunday morning assembly, with my family of believers, praising and worshiping together as well as worship alone with my Bible and my God as I recount all of the ways He has blessed me. I do love the Holy moments with God.

I could really do without all the adventures — the adventure of dangling on a ledge wondering if the Lord will rescue me, the adventure of careening into blackness wondering how much further I could possibly fall, the adventure of being alone in a crowd of people that don't understand why I possibly worship a God that demands so much of me.

However, experience tells me I can't REALLY have one without the other. A safe, blissful faith is a faith unchallenged and unchanged. My own adventures on my faith walk have shown me that they aren't just for adventures' sake — not at all like a crazy roller coaster ride where you just end up back where you started, only a little shaken. No, adventures at the foot of His throne are Holy adventures, stretching, molding, and forming me into His more perfect instrument, while constantly reminding me of His faithfulness through it all.

I would probably pass.In 2 Corinthians 11, Paul recounts some grand adventures he experienced:

Five different times the Jews gave me thirty-nine lashes. Three times I was beaten with rods. Once I was stoned. Three times I was shipwrecked. Once I spent a whole night and a day adrift at sea. I have traveled many weary miles. I have faced danger from flooded rivers and from robbers. I have faced danger from my own people, the Jews, as well as from the Gentiles. I have faced danger in the cities, in the deserts, and on the stormy seas. And I have faced danger from men who claim to be Christians but are not. I have lived with weariness and pain and sleepless nights. Often I have been hungry and thirsty and have gone without food. Often I have shivered with cold, without enough clothing to keep me warm. (2 Corinthians 11:24-27 NLT)
If this were on the Christianity recruiting poster, I would probably pass.

What do you think that Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego (Daniel 3:16-30) thought as they marched up to the furnace while the soldiers around them were dropping dead from the heat? I'm sure they thought that wasn't exactly the adventure they had in mind when they awoke that morning. Can you imagine Daniel's thoughts as he was led to the lion's den? (Daniel 6:10-28) Daniel could probably have done without quite so much adventure himself. Yet his testimony of faith rings true with both the holy and the adventure! "Daniel was taken up out of the den, and no kind of hurt was found upon him, because he had trusted in his God." (Daniel 6:23 RSV)

So, when I want to say to God, as my precious daughter said to me, "I want the holy life, not the adventure life!" He will gently reply, "Child, the holiness is IN the adventure. Trust in Me. I promise you the adventure of a lifetime!"


My Christmas Angel

An angel lives at my house. Actually, I'm sure a few live here, but appear at various times.

I've talked about Ashley here -- my sweet almost-10-year-old who gets so little press here because she goes on her way, following each rule religiously. When she was little she had a wild blob of golden curls all over her head. She did look like an angel. A little bossy on occasion, but an angel. I wish I had a picture here of the wild, curly, angel hair.

This year she started in Abilene's ALPS program. I have no idea what ALPS stands for, but it's the off-campus gifted program for 3rd-5th graders in Abilene. One day a week, the ALPS kids leave their home campus and go to an ALPS class on a different campus. Early in the school year, Ashley talked about how annoying a boy I'll call "Jeff" was. We talked about that sometimes annoying people are annoying because they need friends, and just try to be extra patient with him. Several weeks ago, the ALPS teacher told the class that Jeff's dad was real sick and he was going through a tough time at home and try to be kind. Again, we discussed that you never know what people are going through, so still be extra patient with Jeff.

Last week, the teacher (with the family's permission) told the ALPS class that Jeff had just learned that his father was going to die. Ashley told me this on the way home from school. IMMEDIATELY after she got in the car. We talked about how awful it would be to be in 4th grade and know that your Daddy was going to die. She sat quietly for not very long and asked, "Would it be all right if I gave some toffee and peanut brittle (our standard teacher Christmas gifts) to Jeff?" You betcha -- extra toffee and peanut brittle, coming up!

Monday was Riley's PTO Christmas program. I didn't make the connection until Monday morning, but the kid was SICK all day Sunday. Finally, when he woke up Monday morning, he cried that he didn't want to go to school. He didn't want to be embarassed! (We're probably going to have to re-think the whole comedian thing) Between wandering to his room laying down ultimatims for him to get out of bed and then get dressed, I told Ashley not to say ANYTHING about the program to him. She didn't say anything to me or anyone else, but very quietly set about making his breakfast, even pouring his orange juice. Bless her punkin' heart. Then, as I was scrambling to catch up on my morning, she started talking to him about how she felt when she did her program. I came back in the room and they were laughing it up about the program. She made him breakfast, then talked him out of his tree! I never would have been able to, but the sweet thing did it!

This morning was the last ALPS class before Christmas. When we were all eating breakfast together (all _4_ of us -- that NEVER happens; a Christmas miracle in itself!!) Ashley was writing a letter to Jeff to go with his toffee and peanut brittle. She never showed it to me, and it very well may have all those things that you shouldn't say to hurting people, but the heart behind it was pure gold. The first line read, "I'm so sorry your dad is sick." That's all I saw, and that is plenty. What a precious, precious heart that angel has.

If you see my Christmas angel, you'll recognize her right off: she rarely brushes her hair, she enjoys wearing mis-matched socks, and frequently is wearing her lunch on her shirt. But if you look really closely, you can see her halo.


Holiday Conundrum

I have been "strongly encouraged" to send out Christmas cards at work. I really wish that the front-office-powers-that-be would have strongly encouraged me before today, but there you have it. So I set about to include some snappy greeting in the card. Hmmmm. . .most of my contacts are Christians, but not all. So, Happy Holidays should make everyone happy. Well, it did until James Dobson decided I would be attacking Christmas to wish everyone a Happy Holidays. So if I simply wish everyone Happy Holidays, some Christian-on-the-Dobson-bandwagon is going to chew me out for attacking Christmas. Yeeeshks. Listen up -- no one loves Jesus OR Christmas more than I do. So if I don't happen to know FOR SURE what religion you are, don't jump down my throat for wishing you a generic, all-encompassing "Happy Holidays"! All right? All right!

That said, Merry Kwanzaa to all and to all a Happy Ramadan/ Hannukah/ New Year-ish-type time.



If every flat surface of my home is covered in such a manner that one would not be able to set a glass down if the need arose, I don't think we could possibly need one more thing to come into this home for Christmas.

Why is it that the less you are in your house, the messier it becomes? Is it just me?


Observations, Ponderings, Instructions

Saw a sticker on the back of a car today: "Praise the Lowered." I don't get it.

Almost finished with my interviews for work -- about 2 months after I should have been. One 5th grade girl today: lives, basically, with her step-mother who is very kind and nurturing and taking good care of her. Dad sometimes lives there, but is alcoholic (and sounds like a drug user, as well) and comes and goes. She doesn't know where Mom is. She reports that her uncle molested her (as well as other children) but is in prison for it now. My co-worker that conducted the interview asked me if our agency needed to take any action because of the report of abuse and potential neglect. These words came out of my mouth: "I don't think so, because she's in the best possible situation she could be in." Makes you want to weep, doesn't it?

19* is useless unless it comes with snow and therefore shuts the city down.

Notice to Abilene motorists: There is a lever on the left side of the steering column. It is a turn signal. Please use it. I'm really tired so my mind-reading powers are a little fuzzy. When you slam on your brakes in the middle of the street for no apparent reason my SUV just might end up in the back seat of your car. I avoided that 3 times today. My luck or defensive driving skills are bound to wear out at some point!


I've Got Nothin'. . .

No deep insights, no ponderings on life. Just getting really cranked and into the Christmas shopping/ decorating season, as well as basketball season (Ashley). Okay, does everyone except for me just pick up dinner when you have basketball practice from 6-7 or from 5:30 -6:30? We can't do that for several reasons (okay, one reason is we can't, the others are we choose not to).
1) Eating out is a luxury for us.
2) Between basketball practice and Wednesday night church, we have Tues., Wed., and Thurs. when we have to be somewhere by 5:30 or 6 p.m. Who wants to eat out 3 nights in a row? Who can afford to?
3) Eating out is a luxury, so I would like it to actually be a luxury. I choose to spend any money I spend on restaurants (I don't ever spell that word right) at a place that is GOOD that I have time to enjoy.

However, I'm sure the basketball-practice-and-church-meeting-powers-that-be would appreciate it if we would splurge for them. We're rarely on time to anything in the evening for that reason. And it doesn't matter WHAT the recipe says -- dinner takes me an hour to make. Period. Don't know why or how to change it, but one hour, start to table. And I DO NOT feel like starting dinner the instant I get home.

Since I'm short on words and insights, I'll leave you with cute. From Scott Meyer's blog:


I Corinthians 13, Christmas Version

My sister-in-law sent this to me last Christmas via email. I know have it framed and put away with my Christmas decorations. Enjoy:

If I decorate my house perfectly with plaid bows, strands of twinkling lights and shiny balls, but do not show love to my family, I'm just another decorator.
If I slave away in the kitchen, baking dozens of Christmas cookies, prparing gourmet meals and arranging a beautifully adorned table at mealtime, but do not show love to my family, I'm just another cook.
If I work at the soup kitchen, carol in the nursing home, and give all that I have to charity, but do not show love to my family, it profits me nothing.
If I trim the spruce with shimmering angels and crocheted snowflakes, attend a myriad of holiday parties and sing in the choir's cantata, but do not focus on Christ, I have missed the point.
Love stops the cooking to hug the child.
Love sets aside decorating to kiss the husband.
Love is kind, though harried and tired.
Love doesn't envy another's home that has coordinated Christmas china and table linens.
Love doesn't yell at the kids to get out of the way, but is thankful they are there to be in the way.
Love doesn't give only to those who are able to give in return, but rejoices in giving to those who can't.
Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.
Love never fails.
Video games will break, pearl necklaces will be lost, golf clubs will rust.
But giving the gift of love will endure.
---Author Unknown
I Corinthians 13:13 "And now these three remain: faith, hope, and love. But the greatest of these is love."


Vann's Thought for the Day

Vann Conwell, our connecting minister, sends out a "Thought for the Day". I really liked Friday's:

Something tells me the town that inspired U2's song "Where the Streets Have No Name" was also the impetus for "I Still Haven't Found What I'm Looking For."


Ouch! You're Stepping on My Toes

by Sarah Stirman

Now listen, you who say, "Today or tomorrow we will go to this or that city, spend a year there, carry on business and make money." Why, you do not even know what will happen tomorrow. What is your life? You are a mist that appears for a little while and then vanishes. Instead, you ought to say, "If it is the Lord's will, we will live and do this or that." As it is, you boast and brag. All such boasting is evil. Anyone, then, who knows the good he ought to do and doesn't do it, sins. (James 4:13-17 NIV)

I looked up these verses in James 4 to laugh at myself about my week that, by Friday, did not AT ALL look like I thought it would on Monday morning. A day of puttering around the house finishing up some work assignments, punctuated with holiday baking and a leisurely trip to the gym turned into all morning at the doctor's office getting a 9 year old wrist x-rayed, an afternoon of chasing paperwork, and an evening of basketball practice with a grand finale of my 8 year old son and me pushing my disabled SUV out of the middle of the road. My day and week did NOT go as I had planned.

I turned to these verses to remind me that two thousand years ago, James said, "I told you so!" But, I didn't exactly get a warm fuzzy laugh from all of these words. I did laugh at the American Standard Version of verse 15: "For that ye ought to say, If the Lord will, we shall both live, and do this or that." What a nice reminder that not only are we not guaranteed to do what we want on this earth, we aren't even guaranteed to be breathing! Remember, only if the Lord wills it, you will BOTH live AND do what you plan. A double blessing I rarely acknowledge.

Verses 16 and 17 are what really get me, though: "As it is, you boast and brag. All such boasting is evil." My natural reaction is to argue — my parents will tell you that it should not be shocking that I will even argue with scripture: "I am NOT boasting! I'm just planning. I like to be prepared. I like to have my day planned!" But that little voice — that I believe to be the Holy Spirit — whispers to me: "There is no room in your plans for God's will. You have filled your schedule entirely too full to listen to His bidding. Do you really think that YOU are in charge of your schedule? That's boasting."

Verse 17 — what's THAT about? Why is it right there in Scripture? "Anyone, then, who knows the good he ought to do and doesn't do it, sins." Ouch. It's probably right there because God's bidding, that I am too busy to hear or see, is the good that I ought to do and don't take time to do. People cross my mind that I should visit and with whom I should pray, phone calls I should make go unmade, errands for others that I know need to be done are left not done. The good I know I ought to do hasn't been done. This is a bad idea, no doubt, but a sin? Yes, a sin. I must confess.

I looked up this Scripture to smile at God's majesty. He stepped on my toes!

Father, forgive my boasting as if I have control of my day, life, and schedule.
Gently lead me to daily lay my life at your throne and listen to Your direction.
And, Lord, forgive my heart that is intent on my busy-ness, and too distracted
to see the hurting around me. I have become a religious leader on the road to
Samaria, skirting the wounded souls in my path so that I may be about my own
business. Continue to lead me in Your way, simplify my life, and open my eyes to
Your will and Your children.


Christmas Past

We moved to Abilene on Halloween, 2001. We weren't able to get into this house and were put in a house between N. 7th and N. 8th off of Grape street in Abilene. If you're from Abilene this brings to mind drive-by shootings and drug deals. You've got the right place. There were 2 drive-by shootings across the street from us and a meth lab blew up not far from us. Good times. We were only supposed to be there until November 30. November 30, we went to close on this house and found it would be closer to January before we could get in our house.

I was SO depressed. I had no friends in this town, two small children that I wanted to love their new home, and no Christmas decorations, no extra blankets when there was snow on the ground and the heat went out. Everything was in storage. I was not happy.

I took the money that we would have spent on a tree -- yes, we still do real -- and went to Hobby Lobby. I got each child their own 2 foot Christmas tree, a strand of lights, and some things to hang on the tree. I stacked some of the boxes in our house and draped Christmas fabric over them (blankets were in storage, my sewing machine and fabric were with me. Go figure!) to put the trees on top of. Those tiny little trees shone out of the window of our sad little home in our crack-infested neighborhood.

The kids absolutely loved having their own tree. We would go drive around looking at Christmas lights. The kids, 3 and 5 at the time, would say, "How sad!! Those people only have ONE Christmas tree. I bet they wish they had 2 like us." They didn't even notice that the one Christmas tree was a 12-foot tree in the foyer of their mansion in a neighborhood that did not seem to have a meth lab in it.

We made a gingerbread house. From a box. In the past I believed you had to do it all from hand. We slapped together those pre-made walls and stuck some candy on it -- and they were so proud and simply loved it.

I would love to tell you that was my favorite Christmas ever. Nope. I still hate that we were in a horrible house provided by a horrible person who we were still legal wrangling with on December 21 when we moved into this house. I still hate that I had to cover my children with newspapers and towels more than once when the heat went out. But I still remember and appreciate the lesson I learned. The "picturebook Christmas" is rarely worth the hassle, and a happy family together and healthy at Christmas is more valuable than any trinkets I can place in my home.

Put on the hot chocolate and sing your favorite Christmas carol!


Making a list. . .

Tomorrow is December first, Thanksgiving is over, so of course the kids have started on their Christmas lists. (I have told them in the past that any changes and/or additions to the list after December 1 are not guaranteed to make it to Santa's mailbox! Santa REALLY hates last-minute shopping!) A few nights ago the kids were working on their lists.

They have decided to go with Sears' holiday slogan: "Dream Big". They made 2 lists: a "wish list" (which they are well aware probably won't happen) and what Dr. Phil would call a "get-real" list.

Ashley's wish list:
swimming pool (I'll back her up on asking for this!)
baby brother

Riley's wish list:
TV for my room (they are aware that I believe that brain cells can be sucked out by watching TV in the living room just as well as in their own bedroom)
peace in all the world
more pumpkin pie (how sad is that! :-)

When I noticed that their "get-real" list was going on and on and on, I reminded them, "You're only going to get 3 gifts, you know."

Ashley was apalled and outraged, "WHAT?!?! Only _3_ gifts, that's not fair!!"

"Jesus only got 3 for Christmas -- do you think you deserve any better than Jesus?"

Hating my logic, she continued, "No, but that's not fair! Just 3?"

"Are you telling me you're any better than Jesus?"

Riley hasn't looked up from his list and continues to scribble away while he joins the conversation: "I'll take the gold, Mom."


A Day of Thanks. . .

I'm a mess. Let me tell you now, I'm a mess.

I groggily stumbled from bed this morning at 5:45. I always try REAL hard not to check the computer before I start my Bible study, but I just think maybe the world is scheduled to stop turning and my email to warn me came in the night. My email from the church prayer list said that Canon Perkins, a 20-month-old punkin' waiting for a liver transplant, was in surgery (Monday night)!! Hooray!! He has flown to Houston TWICE in the last 4 weeks only to have to return to Lubbock (Amarillo?) first because the liver was too big, and again because he had an ear infection. I linked to Canon's website for an update and read Chandra's (mom's) journal. It was an unbelievable way to start my Bible study time. A must read.

So I read and prayed -- especially for Anne and Nathaniel and baby. More than anything, I wanted Anne and Nathaniel to be at peace.

At about 7:30a.m., my mom called. Dad had been at his usual Tuesday morning elder's meeting. One of the elders was one of my teachers and class sponsors in high school. His wife called in the middle of the meeting to say that their daughter's car had been found in College Station (where she is in school at A&M) with blood in it, and they couldn't find the daughter. Can you even imagine? For the next 3 hours I realized I have seen entirely too much TV -- Law and Order and CSI -- because there was no way I could make this come out okay in my head.

As details filtered to me (and still I have precious little) I learned her car was found behind her work with 2 doors open and blood in it at 4 this morning.

Finally, at about 10:30, I heard that she had been found and was okay. I still don't know anything, and her condition ranges from "injured, but being treated" to "totally fine". I don't know, but I was a wreck. But ready to praise!!

Work was a day of false starts and changed plans, and now the server at work is totally down. So I guess I'm off the hook for working tonight!

This is what my poor dad did this morning after learning of the girl's disappearance:
"I then departed for Monroe Surgical to have an ultrasound to follow
the progress of an aortic aneurysm (sp?) which I didn't even remember I had.
After a longer-than-usual examination the tech went to review past films, and
brought back the senior tech for a re-do. They couldn't see the problem. They
caught the radiologist who ordered a "spiral" CT scan, which also apparently
showed nothing. So, I guess I've been miraculously healed of something I didn't
even remember having!"

So, another praise -- and we didn't even know to be praying!! (do you LOVE a man who can forget he has an aortic aneurism? :-) I DO! ) After that and hearing that she was okay, he said he was wiped out emotionally, as you can imagine! He decided to read my blog for a little inspiration and/or humor. Bless him. Read what I wrote about Anne and Nathaniel. He's probably on Valium by now.

I finally got home and paced and waited until we got this word from Anne:

"Thanks to all of you for your prayers for us! We know God has been
listening.The appointment today went incredibly well, and I am carrying a
healthy baby BOY!
God is so Good!Please continue to pray as we await April and our son's entry into this world! "

She also helped me with details of her story by correcting that the fertility treatments were intrauterine inseminations instead of invitro. I will thank the Good Lord that I don't know the difference between the two and hopefully will never have to spell either again! :-)

Now I am off to carry my praises into the cold Abilene air while Riley complains how cold it is to watch the Christmas parade (we always had Saturday morning parades growing up -- can I get an "amen" for one of those PLEASE!!)

This morning, after I had heard word of Canon's successful surgery and a possible disappearance, I could only turn to song. I had to sing my heart out:

Blessed be your name
In the land that is plentiful
Where the streams of abundance flow
Blessed be your name

Blessed be your name
When I'm found in the desert place
Though I walk through the wilderness
Blessed be your name

Every blessing you pour out,I turn back to praise
When the darkness closes in, Lord
Still I will say...Blessed be the name of the Lord
Blessed be your name
Blessed be the name of the Lord
Blessed be your glorious name

Blessed be your name
When the sun's shining down on me
When the world's all as it should be
Blessed be your name

Blessed be your name
On the road marked with suffering
Oh, There's pain in the offering
Blessed be your name

Every blessing you pour out,
I turn back to praise
When the darkness closes in, Lord
Still I will say...Blessed be the name of the Lord
Blessed be your name
Blessed be the name of the Lord
Blessed be your glorious name

You give and take away
You give and take away
My heart will choose to stay
Blessed be your name


Prayers for Anne

Many of you have seen my friend Anne comment on this blog. What a precious woman. Anne is a soprano with the voice of an angel, and the faith to go with it. I don't know how old she is -- 22? 23? 17? -- but far too young to have been through what she has been through. One of the things I love most about Anne is that she loves to laugh. She even lets me try to make her laugh when it's entirely inappropriate to be laughing -- mainly because I don't know what else to say.

Since I've only known Anne for a few years, there are parts of her story that I don't have down in concrete. I know that before her first anniversary of marriage, she was diagnosed with ovarian cancer. I kind of want to capitalize those two words -- Ovarian Cancer -- for the enormous impact they can have in a life. Doctors removed the cancerous ovary and told Anne and Nathaniel, "If you two are planning on having children, you had better do it now so that we can get the rest of the reproductive organs out of there before more cancer develops."

With one ovary, "hurry up and have kids" is easier said than done! (Anne, when you said it was okay for me to tell your story, I hope that included going into detail about the quantity of your internal organs! :-) Anne and Nathaniel went through fertility treatments and -- this is where I'm fuzzy on the story -- I believe their precious little Natalie is the result of in vitro fertilization. Hoping to have one more child they spent 2004 back and forth to Temple to Scott and White for more fertility treatment and several in vitro attempts. Finally, they were at their financial and emotional end and tried in vitro one last time.

Lo and behold!! Anne was pregnant!! We all rejoiced and were so excited for that tiny little baby to make it here. That tiny little baby didn't make it very long and Anne and Nathaniel lost the baby they named Hope one year ago tomorrow, November 29, 2004. It was a very sad holiday season for them, but the light of their faith continued to shine even on the hardest days. In January Anne whispered a secret to me: she was pregnant -- and only by she and Nathaniel and the Good Lord!! She asked me to pray, and pray I did. But I knew this was their miracle baby. They were so due for this miracle baby.

As winter gave way to spring, we all breathed a little easier that Anne continued to feel well and the baby seemed to be growing and thriving. Okay, Anne maybe didn't feel well, but definitely pregnant. Phil tried not to take it personally when she left church during one of his sermons to go throw up. One evening we were together and Anne was so excited that the next week was the ultrasound and they would finally be able to decide a name when they found out if baby was a boy or girl.

The ultrasound showed the most shattering news of all. I've never heard exactly what the "fluke of nature" was -- kink in the umbilibcal cord, cord around the neck, I'm not sure -- but it showed that the baby didn't make it . May 19, 2005, after laboring for 4 days, Anne delivered precious Carson who would never draw breath here, but join Hope in heaven.

It was too much -- for all of us. I was so proud of Anne and Nathaniel as they allowed others to minister to them in the only ways we know how. I was so proud of Anne and Nathaniel as they continued to grieve and tried so hard not to ask "why" nor demand compensation. I'm still so proud of Anne and Nathaniel.

Anne is pregnant again. We are all thrilled and scared to death for her. So far, so good, if you count throwing up on a regular basis "so good". Anne does. She's well past the first trimester. Tomorrow, on the anniversary of losing baby Hope, Anne will have an ultrasound. An ultrasound that I pray with all of my heart shows a pumping heart, a fully formed brain, and all of the fingers and toes we could hope for.

If you have made it this far in this entry, please just stop and say a brief prayer -- mainly for peace for Anne and Nathaniel as they approach such a scary time and place. And pray for this baby that I can't wait to kiss on his head! :-) If you are so inclined, leave a prayer or message of encouragement to Anne in the comments.

Personal message to Anne -- you have been my hero through all of this. I am so thankful for you and your faith. As I write about and consider the reality of the next 24 hours for you, I pray for peace for you -- but doubt I will be able to sleep myself! I love you dearly and long for good news with you.

Quote for the Day

When you have nothing left but God, then for the first time you become aware that God is enough.

-- Maude Royden


Sweet Sunday

I know, I haven't really told you about our Thanksgiving. I stood in my kitchen all day Wednesday, most of Thursday, and Troy's dad, brother, and nephew all came in on Thursday morning. The meal was finished in about 45 minutes -- isn't that sad? :-) But I was thankful that we all were here and was happy to have family here.

Today was such a precious day to me. Mainly because it was a Sunday with nothing in it besides church and family time. I wish they all could be like that! This morning's worship service was GREAT. We breezed in just as we were starting and I was still standing there holding my purse, Bible, and a fistful of bulletins when we started singing one of my all-time favorites: "My Hope is Built on Nothing Less". I just had to stand there with all my gear in hand and sing my little heart out. I did get tickled when we got to "Dressed in His righteousness alone, faultless to stand before the throne." I was thinking that when I am dressed in His righteousness alone I will not have to worry about how tight my clothes are the Sunday after Thanksgiving -- and Hallelujah!

We also sang "In Christ Alone" -- and I made it through without falling apart laughing only by staring a hole in the pew in front of me. Still a gorgeous song!

Jack needed to sit with us. Crazy morning at his house, for whatever reason, and so his mom told him he got to choose where to sit in church. He chose with Riley Stirman -- or, Jack may say it a little more closely to "Wiley Sthtuhman". So there he sat between me and Riley, with his ever-precious bald chemo head. I literally had to hold my hands together to keep from rubbing on it. It just has the same amount of little fuzz as a tiny baby.

No question, my favorite part of the whole day was standing next to Jack as we all -- precious Jack included -- sang "God has smiled on me". Can you even keep from bawling at the thought of a bald-from-chemo 6 year old singing that? He has indeed smiled on all of us, Jack, and thank you for being a walking, talking, singing testimonial of that!

"God has smiled on me
He has set me free
God has smiled on me
He's been good to me!!!"


Calvin for the Day

Don't you wish there was a free website with Calvin and Hobbes archives? Google will find some for you -- but none of the ones I came across exist anymore. Darn copyright laws!


Quote for the Day

True thanksgiving means that we need to thank God for what He has done for us, and not to tell Him what we have done for Him.
-- George R. Hendrick

May your Thanksgiving day be full of good food, great blessings in the way of family and friends, and a grateful heart.


Some Pics

A bit late, but as promised, some pics of some of the last few weeks and exciting occurences. Riley's birthday was Friday and, I think I've mentioned here, he was going to babysitting co-op for his birthday while Troy and I had our anniversary date night. Until we learned there wasn't any babysitting co-op! Ooops! So, instead, we had Abbie and Kenny over to watch movies and have giant birthday cookie. Notice my pajama-clad arm slicing the cookie -- can't beat a date night in your PJ's!

And, Abbie is just a cutey-tootey and wanted us to take her picture. How could we resist? Santa should know she REALLY liked Ashley's "click-it" purse. . .

And from Halloween -- you just gotta have a 10 foot Frankenstein, right? Ashley wanted to be Troy Aikman, but settled for Jacob Green (a 7th-grader at our church) who happens to play on the Cowboys this year. Riley's wizard outfit is a re-run of last year. I hate that the wizard face scares a lot of kids (I make Riley take his hat off and show them that HE isn't scary) because Riley loves this costume so very much. I lifted his hat for one kid and said, "See, this isn't a scary face?" The kid pointed at Riley's belly and screamed, "But THAT one is!!!!" Good point!

He's just too cute to be scary, isn't he?

I was actually barefoot as the little farm-girl waiting for my handsome cowboy. He's pretty cute, too, huh?

Just to make you laugh. . . is this a hoot?
Stumbled across Elizabeth's blog. The caption for this picture is "When Professional Photographs Go Very Wrong". And do you love the little guy with his face stretched to the back of his head still smiling? Love it! Happy pre-Thanksgiving -- I'm heading to make a pecan pie!


What a Week!

Glorious weather on our Saturday here. Kids are outside playing. Soon I would like to blog about my anniversary date-night that turned into Riley's pseudo-birthday party. We made some great lemonade out of lemons and Riley professed it to be the best birthday ever. Oh, and like all bloggers, I will have to write a tribute to my baby boy that is not a baby any longer. Favorite quote of the day: "I can carry both of these things of milk, Mom. (grunting with the strain of the 2 gallons of milk) I'm a MAN, now! I'm 8 years old!"

Look for my thoughts on James 4 on heartlight this week. That verse really struck me yesterday when I typed it out. God has spoken to me in powerful ways this week and I am praying to be on my knees and listening carefully. I find myself still haunted and convicted by my visits with kids on Tuesday. And I can't say enough of a "Thank you" to Kendra, Lois, Roxanne, and Pat, my blog-commentors-in-the-trenches as public school teachers. Thank you for reminding us that those kids are there. Thank you for being Jesus to them.

As I have pondered that, I find myself very impatient with how I generally am: too near sighted and caught up in my own community to have any idea those people even live within 5 miles of me. I think of how many times I have thought and/or heard: "Everyone I know in Abilene goes to church." Well, that just tells me now that my world is entirely too small. I pray for open eyes and direction that I may get out of my tiny little world and see God's people that are hurting and hopeless all around me.

Saw the following this week on Brandon Scott Thomas' blog. It fit with my week and stepped on my toes all at the same time:

Preston Shipp re-wrote the lyrics to Days of Elijah. It's tongue in cheek and a little sarcastic, but sometimes sarcasm is a good thing. It's a mirror in some ways. I thought this was great...

These are the Days of Indulgence
Of selfishness, apathy, and greed
And these are the days of indifference
Ignoring the millions in need

And though these are days of prosperity
We have more than we'll ever need
Still children in Africa and downtown are hungry
If we love Jesus, His sheep we must feed

Behold He comes
Homeless like before
Eating with addicts
Hanging out with whores
Give away your stuff
It's the year of Jubilee
If we die to ourselves
Salvation comes

These are the days of great comfort
And living in rich neighborhoods
We kneel to the idols placed before us
Like any American would

And though Jesus warned us of riches
We don't think He meant what he said
So rich people put fish on the backs of their cars
But He had no place to lay His head

(Repeat chorus)
I drove up in my Lexus (x 4)
There's no car like my Bimmer (x 4)
There's no watch like my Rolex (x 4)
I hope it tells time in heaven (x 4)

Love that! Love it! Everyone have a fabulous weekend getting your car repaired (sounds like there's a lot of that going around!) and playing outside!

Special thanks to Joe Hays (Baby Ira's dad) for showing us great parenting skills on his blog this week.


Theme Verse for the Week

Now listen, you who say, "Today or tomorrow we will go to this or that city, spend a year there, carry on business and make money." Why, you do not even know what will happen tomorrow. What is your life? You are a mist that appears for a little while and then vanishes. Instead, you ought to say, "If it is the Lord's will, we will live and do this or that." As it is, you boast and brag. All such boasting is evil. Anyone, then, who knows the good he ought to do and doesn't do it, sins.

James 4:13-17


Happy Thursday. . .

Just wondering -- did ANYONE have a good Thursday? My day has been a bit of a mess that has included doctor's offices, waiting rooms, x-rays, car battery cables, jumper cables, topped off with some quality bonding with tomorrow-turning-8-years-old Riley by pushing our Expedition. Nothing major (that I know of -- yet) just lots of annoyances. And everyone that I encountered -- people I knew at the doctor's office, friends bringing me jumper cables or mini-muffin pans -- was having, at best, an annoying day.

Someone PLEASE write in and tell me about your wonderful Thursday full of seeing God in every corner.

I actually enjoyed pieces of my day -- and will enjoy it the most when Troy throws in the towel with the car repair and just comes and sits with me.

Little details if I made you curious:

Ashley fell off her bike last week (darn shoelaces!) and hurt her arm. Last night she mentioned her arm hurt when she brushed her teeth! Buckle fracture, wearing a splint for almost 2 weeks, good as new.

Car -- probably the alternator (if you don't know what that is, just go light 5 $100 bills on fire. That should get you close).

Mini-muffins -- making "thank yous" from Big Brothers Big Sisters for schools to deliver (I guess in my horse and buggy) tomorrow. Does anyone have a recipe for zuchini bread close to Hickory Street Cafe's? My muffins are good, but they're not Hickory Street's!

Everybody have a GREAT Friday!!



Live and Live Well

If you blog-surf (no, I don't have time to, but I do it anyway!) you may have already seen this. I came across it -- NO idea where -- last week and have thought about it once a day (at least) since then. Many of you have heard of the death of Kyle Lake, baptist preacher in Waco, who was electrocuted while baptizing a young lady. For the record -- the last "blog rumor" I have read about is that he was, in fact, using a cordless, battery-operated microphone, but the pump to the baptistry was faulty and as he reached for the metal microphone pole the circuit was complete and that is the shock that killed him. I have read several things about him that make me wonder why in the world a life so passionate for lost souls would be cut so short. I simply must trust God that His will be done.

About a week ago I came across the last sermon he wrote. I don't know if he ever got an opportunity to speak it. But it speaks volumes now:

LIVE. And Live Well.

BREATHE. Breathe in and Breathe deeply.

Be PRESENT. Do not be past. Do not be future. Be now.

On a crystal clear, breezy 70 degree day, roll down the windows and FEEL the wind against your skin. Feel the warmth of the sun.

If you run, then allow those first few breaths on a cool Autumn day to FREEZE your lungs and do not just be alarmed, be ALIVE.

Get knee-deep in a novel and LOSE track of time.

If you bike, pedal HARD… and if you crash then crash well.

Feel the SATISFACTION of a job well done—a paper well-written, a project thoroughly completed, a play well-performed.

If you must wipe the snot from your 3-year old’s nose, don’t be disgusted if the Kleenex didn’t catch it all… because soon he’ll be wiping his own.

If you’ve recently experienced loss, then GRIEVE. And Grieve well.

At the table with friends and family, LAUGH. If you’re eating and laughing at the same time, then might as well laugh until you puke.

And if you eat, then SMELL. The aromas are not impediments to your day. Steak on the grill, coffee beans freshly ground, cookies in the oven.

And TASTE. Taste every ounce of flavor. Taste every ounce of friendship.

Taste every ounce of Life.



Your definition of "normal". . .

My job requires me to interview kids. It's one of the most fun parts of my job -- usually. Kids are a hoot, as you might imagine, and I have fun interviewing them. Today was awful, though. Seemingly straightforward questions illuminated the hell that is these children's lives. "Who lives in your house right now? What would you wish for if you had 3 wishes? Has an adult ever hurt you?" Should be simple questions.

Today "Antonio" broke my heart. A 4th grader too old for his grade, he was so precious and soft spoken. When I asked why he wanted a big brother he said because his own big brother had passed away. Later he explained that his brother (18 at the time) went to go see his uncle, who was drunk. Uncle shot and killed him. It gets better. Antonio lives with other family members because dad lives in Mexico and mom is waiting to go to jail (or in jail -- I couldn't tell). Child Protective Services have removed him and his twin brother -- but couldn't keep them together. There are tons -- 6 or 7 -- of other kids, none living in the same town. 2 siblings currently in jail. And the reality is that Antonio will be there himself unless he finds his own way out of this hell. This is normal for him. Pray for the high school kid that will mentor him.

I love and hate the 3 wishes question: If you could have 3 wishes what would you wish for. I think I need to ask my kids that once a year. It's a cute indicator of their view of life -- and of how materialistic we all can be.

Antonio wanted his brother to come back to life and to be able to see his sister again (in prison in some far-away town, he wasn't even sure where). I was fighting back the tears and anger too much to remember the third wish.

Some of the answers that I remember (from various kids):
  • That mom and dad would get back together
  • That I could get my dog back (mom and dad recently divorced, and little girl couldn't keep her dogs in her new living arrangement)
  • That my mom would find someone who would be nice to her
  • That we didn't move around so much

It's hard for me not to be angry at parents. If people refuse to get their life together, please don't bring other little bodies into your life. I pray to let go of that frustration and anger and be thankful for people that volunteer through our program to hopefully show these kids a different way.

I haven't even mentioned Jamie, whose mom won't really spend time with her, and mom's boyfriend is waiting trial for sexually abusing Jamie. Jamie's dad is in jail. And Ray, whose dad is also in prison, and because he leaves his home campus to go to the gifted program, he is not eligible for my program. (he can get a lunch buddy or something else, but not be in my program) Don't let me forget Amy, who can't even answer, "Is that real mom and real dad that you live with?" because her "first dad" (who I believe to be real dad) told her she couldn't possibly be his kid, then David, her "second dad" was real nice to her. She has no idea who her father is.

I know this post isn't as funny as I like to be, but sometimes things just aren't funny. Kids that think that any of these situations is "normal" is heartbreaking. Our agency's "theme story" (I guess is a good thing to call it) is the story of the boy throwing the starfish back into the ocean. You can only make a difference to one at a time. If you take an hour long lunch once a week, you could very easily be a lunch buddy. Maybe you could change a kid's view of "normal" to actual normal.


Must be Monday

If a 6-pound bucket of Oxi-Clean spills into a laundry basket full of clean clothes, are they still clean? If not, should I add detergent when I wash them?


Just Wondering. . .

Does anyone else find it very sad that this is a common phrase:

"This isn't some preacher story -- it's REALLY true!"



Please grab a child between the ages of 6 and 10. I need their help in communicating with my own children. Okay, I have figured out that the phrases "Go put this in your room", "Put this in your backpack", "Get this off of the counter", and "Put this where it belongs" all translate into "Please lay this down on the nearest flat surface, preferably the kitchen counter." Which words do I use that will translate into "Go put this in your room", "Put this in your backpack", "Get this off of the counter", and "Put this where it belongs"?


This week

Thank you for humoring me to tell me who all is out there and reading. My site counter tells me that I also have occasional readers in Singapore, United Arab Emarates, and the United Kingdom. I would love to know the story behind those readers, but the mystery continues. And don't worry, Donna, Laura, or Karen. I'll never "out" that you're a reader -- your secret is safe with me. Obviously it goes completely against my nature not to have SOMETHING to say on every subject, so I won't say that I understand you.

When you're weary. . .
The next time I am telling you I just don't feel right, and crying that I'm SO tired all the time I don't know how I will make it, and tell you that I am considering seeing a doctor because something MUST be wrong with me -- please phone my home every evening about 6 and tell me to take my iron pill. You'll have to do that for 5 days minimum before I feel like a human again. No, I have no chronic medical malady that requires me to take iron. Doctors say that I am "borderline anemic, but it's nothing to worry about." Well, it's nothing to worry about only if you don't need to be alert, nice, or functioning past 6 p.m., or getting anything accomplished prior to 6 p.m. I love my iron pills so very much and am so thankful for them. Just had a MAJOR 3-day slump until I could get them kicked back in this week.

What do you think it means when all of the knives and spoons are in the dishwasher, but relatively little else? Too many sandwiches and bowls of cereal this week? Truly, a conundrum for the ages -- like the perpetually un-matched socks coming out of the dryer.

This is my kind-of Friday. The kids are off school tomorrow, so I'm off, as well. We are off of school to honor precious men and women who have served our country. If I were a good mom, I would take my kids to the Veteran's Day parade, then to the ceremony full of teachable moments for my kids. I really don't see that happening. I really NEED to get some work done from home (work work, not house work). I really don't see that happening, either. I've got plans to get into the kitchen for some of my holiday cooking!! Memory of those days when we have the WHOLE day to get things done makes me think I should probably have low expectations in that area, as well.

We kicked off our three-day weekend with a bang. Riley heads to the car pronouncing "I BEAT you!!" (to Ashley -- ran more laps than her today). When he saw the crumpled look on her face, he continues, "Well, you told me to beat you (she did) and I DID!" Face continues to crumple and the tears come with the shouting, "Well, you're annoying me!" Riley returns, "Well, you're annoying ME!" So I shout over both of them, "You're both annoying ME so no talking when we get in the car."

Good times.


Who are you and why are you here?

You know me. I don't shop at Wal-Mart, I'm a ridiculous sap when it comes to my husband and children, I occasionally go for a run, and occasionally get in unbelievably grouchy moods that cause me to proclaim all the ways that I don't like you.

But who are you? You've been peeking in and reading all about me, but never comment. Okay -- 4 or 5 of you comment. I average over 40 hits a day on my blog. I don't know your name or email address, sometimes I can tell your city. Leave a comment, tell me where you live and how you found The Cleft of the Rock. And, weigh in if you like -- why do you read? What do you want to hear about? What brings you back (if you come back)? It's your turn. Let me hear from you.

Yes, I am talking to YOU!


Grocery Shopping

Because I am not willing to give up my daily workouts or my Saturday morning sleeping in with my new(ish) job, I have been forced to do my weekly grocery shopping on Saturday afternoons. It is SO ameteur hour at the grocery store. And why is it necessary for the entire family to be there? I'm thinking that if 3 adults and 5 children are gathered in, around, and under a basket, 7 people could go home and de-clutter the aisle where I'm just trying to buy some onion powder.

A few weeks ago I didn't think I could face it, so I clipped my MP3 player onto my waistband (thank you, Mike Stirman, for that most wonderful birthday gift!) and listened to my own happy little music while I shopped. Truly a God-send. I don't have to hear children screaming, nor parents making AWFUL threats to screaming children. Yes, that does make me one of those obnoxious people oblivious to their surroundings, probably standing in the middle of the aisle reading the nutritional information on new low-sugar instant oatmeal as you try to maneuver your cart around me -- but I am far kinder to my family on my return.

Today I was lost in my own little musical world and noticed what eclectic mix of things people buy at grocery stores now. While I've mentioned (SEVERAL times, I know) that I don't shop at Wal-Mart, my own H-E-B grocery store is as large as most regular Wal-Marts, and offer as many services and sundries. What caught my eye first was the lady with the quilt, adult diapers, and bottle of wine. Okay, maybe that's a bad example since with enough wine you really may need the adult diapers especially if you have that new quilt. Then there was the family with the dryer sheets, kitty litter box, and charcoal. I can't quite think of any scenario that would involve all 3 of those -- and I wouldn't even want to consider the smell!

All in all, it was a relatively painless shopping experience. I have started gathering a few things for my Thanksgiving dinner! I can't wait! Next weekend I'll probably start cooking and freezing.


Chances are. . .

I probably don't like you today. You're either too cheerful or too grouchy. I think you're either too self-centered or too nosy. You were driving too fast or too slow. You don't do your share or you make the rest of us look bad. You either refused to talk to me or you interrupted my solitude. You add to the mess or you criticize my housekeeping skills by helping me clean.

Chances are, I don't like you today. Don't take it personally -- I don't like myself too much today, either. But today is almost over (GLORY!) Tomorrow morning I will thank God for the promise of a new day, the coolness of a new season, and the never-ending well of His grace and mercy.

"Because of the LORD's great love we are not consumed, for his compassions
never fail. They are new every morning; great is your faithfulness."
Lamentations 3:22,23


Another quote:

"I don't think of all the misery but of the beauty that still remains. "

"It's really a wonder that I haven't dropped all my ideals, because they seem so absurd and impossible to carry out. Yet I keep them, because in spite of everything I still believe that people are really good at heart. "
--Anne Frank

I think of this quote from time to time. The last part of the last one: "In spite of everything I still believe that people are really good at heart." I generally think of it for the reason that I am thinking of it this morning. Someone disappointed me. My heart breaks for another heart that is breaking, and several lives that may never be the same again. I'm kicking myself for believing in Someone.

Then I think of these words. Childish wonder and optimism -- from a child who saw and experienced unspeakable horrors.

And then I think of these words:
"I tell you the truth, unless you change and become like little children, you
will never enter the kingdom of heaven."

So, in spite of everything, I still believe that people are really good at heart.



I don't know if it was for my job or for one of my ministries, but I went to a church-sponsored Halloween party tonight. You just don't get too many of those, you know? The college kids were the "bigs" for some "littles" that haven't been matched yet. We played some games, then went to our church's "trunk-or-treat". I have some pictures to share, but you will have to wait. . .

In answer to Jeff's comment -- yes I DO feel guilty for not posting! Especially since some of my friends feel it necessary to harass me when I don't. I just need someone I can call from time to time to tell them, "send me an email to remind myself to blog about what i just saw -- it was the funniest thing I've ever seen". Right now the only things on my mind and heart are very personal -- and not just for me. So no blogging allowed on those topics. And the only thing I can think of is that my body thinks it's after 10 p.m. -- which is WAY late for my weary brain. Especially after a day of Halloween frivolity. Yikes.

A lady that helped decorate for our party -- I think she was specifically brought in because of her specialty -- is evidently CRAZY about Halloween. I say "brought in" because she's a member of our church, but not involved in any of the ministries or organizations represented tonight (that i know of). She's just nutty, nutty, nutty about Halloween. So she brought her plastic snake, rat, and spider collection to decorate the tables that had Halloween fabric on them. She also brought her inflatable Frankenstein, spider, and jack-o-lantern. Of course, there was a cauldron and a fog machine. And all the people that know her said, "Oh, you should see her house!" What, it's not all here? There's MORE?!?! I buy a pumpkin for Halloween. Sometimes we carve it.

Troy and I decided at 4 this afternoon to actually dress up, as well. You'll just have to wait for the pictures to see what we were -- I'll give you a hint that it all came straight from our closets. I think that makes Troy the easiest to guess. I think it's the same thing he has dressed up as any time dressing up has been required since we've been married. (people in Abilene are guessing a Jr. Executive! :-) Someone at work suggested we "dress '80's" for Halloween. I have no idea how that would differ from my day-to-day wardrobe.

Did anyone see (or have) a great costume this year? I think (currently bald) Rob Marcelain with his curly mullet wig was my favorite, but I thought the lady who was Cruella that had minimum 5 kids with her all dressed as dalmatians was pretty cute (and brave).


News Flash!!

I'm posting a new blog post!!

That's pretty much all I have the time or energy to write. I've got scads of topics floating through my head, but precious little time to ponder or write about any of it.

Some hints at what MAY come (or maybe just a note to myself not to forget all of this):

  • Things I have learned on my job -- we're all VERY much alike as parents!
  • I'm ready for my children to outgrow dressing up for Halloween
  • Last night when I had cotton candy, popcorn, and Skittles for dinner I felt the worse I have felt in months (I think I really need someone to help me re-word that sentence). Perhaps I have finally gotten used to eating like a grown-up.
  • Women really do need girlfriends. This is a concept I have balked at most of my married life. Lots of reasons -- my pride probably being the biggest. Be on the watch for more about my coffee group.
  • I'm a nicer person when the temperature is below 90*
  • I already miss summer (contradictory to previous statement, it would seem)
  • I love the fall time change -- for about a week. Then I really hate how dark it is so early (someone please remind me that before the time change I really hated how dark it was so LATE in the morning!)

That's all I've got for now -- and I guess there will be the laments of a deer-hunting widow, the excitement of hosting my family for the holidays (I really do like that!), and fishing with 30 little people as part of my job!

Stay tuned and keep stopping by!

It's an Illness

BEAUTIFUL song that we frequently sing at church, "In Christ Alone" contains images of Christ's life on earth and all that it means to me and my eternity. Unfortunately, however, it contains a word that takes my mind in a completely opposite direction. Not lewd or sinful, just definitely not worshipful. There is a phrase that refers to Christ "bursting forth (from the grave) in glorious day". That phrase IMMEDIATELY turns my mind to the movie "City Slickers" in the scene where Billy Crystal has his entire arm inside a cow trying to assist her in delivering a calf. (See? Not at all a reverent image, is it?) Jack Palance becomes even more gruff and yells at Billy Crystal to quit talking and hurry up: "Can't you see she's bursting?" Horrified, Billy Crystal replies, "Bursting? Nobody said there was going to be bursting!!"

Seriously, I have probably heard and/or sung that song 30 times and, try though I might I always end up there in my thoughts. And, just as I am trying to get back to focusing on the song it contains the word "pluck". So my train of thought scoots on over to KFC or a Wallace and Grommet film. It's an illness.

In Christ alone my hope is found
He is my light, my strength, my song
This Cornerstone, this solid ground
Firm through the fiercest drought and storm
What heights of love, what depths of peace
When fears are stilled, when strivings cease
My Comforter, my All in All
Here in the love of Christ I stand

In Christ alone, who took on flesh
Fullness of God in helpless babe
This gift of love and righteousness
Scorned by the ones He came to save
'Till on that cross as Jesus died
The wrath of God was satisfied
For every sin on Him was laid
Here in the death of Christ I live

There in the ground His body lay
Light of the world by darkness slain
Then bursting forth in glorious Day
Up from the grave He rose again
And as He stands in victory
Sin's curse has lost it's grip on me
For I am His and He is mine
Brought with the precious blood of Christ

No guilt in life, no fear in death
This is the power of Christ in me
From life's first cry to final breath
Jesus commands my destiny
No power of hell, no scheme of man
Can ever pluck me from His hand
'Till He returns or calls me home
Here in the power of Christ I'll stand


Missing Sarah

We all have the crazy times. Days that turn into weeks where most conversations are in the car on the way to basketball games or practice or a school activity or a meeting at church. Sometimes after a few days or, heaven forbid, weeks of crazy time at the Stirman house Troy and I will collapse into bed and I will cuddle up entirely too close to Troy and tell him, "I miss you!" His response is always, "I'm right here!" Of course I'm saying that I miss the real him, the him that I can sit in his big green chair with, the him that tells me about his day and the him that listens to my funny stories of my day.

I realized today that I miss me. Most of you aren't even aware that I'm gone! Oh, I'm still here, and you may see me in passing but no one has seen me for long enough lately to realize I'm not the me I used to be. Remember the Sarah that used to write funny things? Remember the Sarah that would ponder the deeper things in life and God's hand in all of it? Was I ever really clever and witty, or was I deceiving myself? (I'm trying to think of spur-of-the-moment kind things I have ever done for people but I'm drawing a big blank on that one). I miss the me I used to be.

I've become the Sarah whose lunch menu has become Tums with an Ibuprofen chaser. I'm the Sarah that is unable to talk to you unless I have it on my day planner. I'm the Sarah that feels guilty no matter where I am or what I'm doing because something else somewhere desperately needs my attention. I've become the working Sarah. She is not a pretty picture.

Recently, however, it was made clear to me this is my current task. I have no idea if this is my life's calling -- but it's my Fall 2005 calling. Because of how I approached accepting this job I feel certain I am where God would have me be. It scares me to think that perhaps God didn't just ALLOW me to be where I am He actually WANTS me where I am. But I feel certain He would have me do my job with a little better perspective on job and life and the precarious balance of the two. For now, that is my prayer.

Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as
working for the Lord, not for men,

Colossians 3:23


Continuing on the Disgusting Train of Thought. . .

Special thanks to Matt Elliott for providing me the link to this Nascar picture. I am almost at a loss for words -- and even if I tried to speak I'm afraid I may be ill. Does anyone have a great caption for this picture?


Things You Really Don't Want to Know

This afternoon:

Riley: "Mom, do you know why my hands stink?"

Let's pause right there, shall we? Anyone who has been a mother for 10 minutes knows better than to engage in this discussion. No good can come from this question. A proper mother answer would have been: "I don't want to know, but you had better wash your hands." I was evidently asleep that day in Motherhood 101.

I was pre-occupied, so I fell for it: "No, why?"

Riley: "Because I touched my socks and I've been wearing the same ones for 3 days."


Was That A Weekend?

We had quite a weekend!! Try to keep up, 'kay?

Friday Night -- ACU Homecoming Carnival

We saw precious little Natalie Jones get her face painted with a wildcat paw. Here she is "saying cheese to daddy" so I could get a picture. We also ran into several old friends and spent a lot of time talking.

Riley was on some crazy backwards-tug-of-war thing. He wore himself out! There was a kid attached to the other end of that rope, trying to do the same thing. He was a smaller kid, so he was kind of hanging by his waist. It was a hoot!!

Riley also climbed on the faux rock wall. I wanted to try, but didn't want to stand in the line! Ashley was in attendance at the carnival, but I never caught up with her long enough to get a picture. We usually go to the chemistry circus which is a blast with lots of smoke, loud explosions, and fun. We missed it this year. We tried to get in bed early because. . .

Saturday Morning -- McMurry 5k

A big goal for each of us. It was Ashley's third 5k, I wanted to run one, and it was Riley's first. We all accomplished our goal -- FINISHING, and without whining or crying! Yeah!! for us! :-)

We each had at least one "running buddy" that we knew was running with us. Laura Ashlock was my running buddy. We didn't stay close together, but I think we finished within 30 seconds of each other. I think it may have been her first 5k. In the last 2 years, Laura has lost 30 pounds and gained all kinds of muscle. I'm really proud of her -- but at the same time I fear she will blow right past me in our next 5k!!

Riley and Nelson Bruce were running buddies at first. Nelson took off so Riley ended up running with Lindy, our next door neighbor who is the same age. Riley (remember Mr. Angst?) had a great time and a great attitude the whole time. I'm so proud!

Ashley and M'Lee (the older girl) are running buddies. M'Lee is a very gifted athlete and came in a few minutes ahead of Ashley. But there are never any hard feelings between them and they are still the best of buddies. We really love all of the Grahams at our house. Sweet, sweet people. M'Lee's little sister, McCall, is also in the picture. McCall was supposed to be MY running buddy, but she left me in the dust. She did great!

This is a picture of the kids from Austin Elementary that ran the McMurry 5k (MOST of them are pictured here -- some had to leave afterwards to still go to soccer, etc.) Mrs. Sanderson (K-2nd PE teacher) and Mr. Graham (3rd-5th PE teacher) are also pictured with them. Obviously, Mrs. Sanderson and Mr. Graham have a fabulous PE program that encourages the kids to develop life-long healthy habits. Mr. Graham is M'Lee and McCall's dad (also Malone, but she is too young to run this year!) Check out little Sam, #40. He's 6 years old! Riley, standing right behind him in maroon, is 7. Sam ran the whole way, though, and his little legs were going about as fast as my little legs! He came in about one minute behind me!

Ashley placed 2nd in her age group! The McMurry PE department was most kind and made 2 age groups for kids since so many ran in the 5k. Ashley placed 2nd in the 9 and under division. That is M'Lee in first! Then McCall in 4th and Abigail Zeller in 5th. Way to go, girls! I don't know the cute little 3rd place finisher, but what a great job!

Moving on. . . while we were running, Troy was eating with old band friends at the Big Purple reunion/ reception! The 3 runners ran right home, then got cleaned up and dressed. We headed to Homecoming chapel -- Troy sang on a praise team in chapel. The weekend also included the football game, the Perkins' visit to our home, a Sunday lunch at ACU and concluded with Seussical, another fabulous production by the ACU drama department. I don't have pictures of any of these things. But now I really need a nap!


Who Are You?

You are Marcie!

Which Peanuts Character are You?
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I really hoped I would be Snoopy or Sally. Don't we all want to be Snoopy? I want to lie on the couch and have someone bring me dinner! But I guess I could be worse than being described as "a great friend through thick and thin!"
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