Traveling Mercies

As you may have read in my earlier posts, I am currently reading 'Traveling Mercies' by Anne Lamott (and may have spelled 'traveling' incorrectly earlier!) I'm really enjoying it. She says that traveling mercies is "what they (the old people at her church) always say when one of us goes off for a while. Traveling mercies: love the journey, God is with you, come home safe and sound." Traveling mercies, indeed. I think that's what I was trying to express as my desire when I wrote "Missing the Forest for the Trees". I long to love the journey, know that God is with me and go Home safe and sound.

There are so many quotes in this book I have loved. Some of them deep and profound and some of them almost painfully irreverent (but so funny).

"I always imagined when I was a kid that adults had some kind of inner toolbox, full of shiny tools: the saw of discernment, the hammer of wisdom, the sandpaper of patience. But then when I grew up I found that life handed you these rusty bent old tools -- friendships, prayer, conscience, honesty -- and said, Do the best you can with these, they will have to do. And mostly, against all odds, they're enough."

"I thought such awful thoughts that I cannot even say them out loud becaue they would make Jesus want to drink gin straight out of the cat dish."

"I was not wearing a cover-up, not even a T-shirt. I had decided I was going to take my thighs and butt with me proudly wherever I went. I decided, in fact, on the way to the beach that I would treat them as if they were beloved elderly aunties, the kind who did embarassing things at the beach, like roll their stockings into tubes around their ankles, but whom I was proud of because they were so great in every real and important way. So we walked along, the three of us, the aunties and I, to meet Sam and our friends in the sand. I imagined that I could feel the aunties beaming, as if they had been held captive in a dark closet too long, like Patty Hearst. Freed finally to stroll on a sandy Mexican beach: what a beautiful story."

Everyone have a beautiful summer day -- traveling mercies.


Happy Birthday, Troy!

Thirty-six years ago today God brought Troy Michael Stirman into the world. Linda would have told you it was quite a long, arduous trip for everyone. My favorite birthday song is from Karyn Henley:

Dear Special Friend,
It is your birthday,
It is the day that Jesus sent you to the earth.
And we rejoice
We come to celebrate
'Cause we love you and we thank Him for the blessing of your birth!

And Troy's birth is, indeed, a blessing. I am so thankful for him in so many ways. To many people we are simply "TroyandSarah" altogether -- a cute little couple that seems to have everything put together. The 'behind the scenes' of that is that we both have worked hard at our marriage, and I have been able to witness how hard Troy is willing to work for our marriage and to show me how valuable I am to him. I could go on and on about all of the things I love about Troy, but that would just show you how whacky I am. But I must touch on some highlights:

Troy is still willing to let God work on him. Troy has come a long way since I've known him (we both have) from believing he has all the answers to listening for God's guidance for the answers. I'm so thankful for how he has allowed God to work on his heart and continues to submit to His will.

Troy is a great daddy. The kids love his mere presence and he plays so hard with them. I'm so thankful for how he loves to be with them. He also is a fair and consistent disciplinarian. Far more than I am. He simply loves them too much to accept bad behavior.

Troy is a little kid when it comes to learning. Everything is exciting and interesting to him. Animals, space, geology, people, horticulture, and most of all, WORLD WAR II are all fascinating topics to him. I think that's why he's good at his job -- he can always find something that interests you that interests him, as well.

I have to stop now, simply for time. I'm so thankful for the man that my husband is, for his parents that raised him to be the man he is, and for God for leading me to him. Troy, I'm so glad you're on my trips around the sun! Happy Birthday!

Added later, as I remembered: Heard today of someone I know in Central Texas who is having to return to working full time now that "the baby" is going to Kindergarten. She REALLY doesn't want to, but her husband says they really need for her to work. Since they have that horse that they have to pay to stable and they have to pay for riding lessons for the oldest and tennis lessons for the youngest. Again -- I make no editorials, only know that I can't make it work for me to work full time. Thank you, Troy, for understanding that, above all, I feel called to make my family's life comfortable and supporting me in that.


Good Reads

June is coming to an end so summer is well underway. I have made quite a dent in my summer reading list, but with so much left to read! But I'll give you a brief review of what I've read so far. I'm debating on giving grades, or stars. I don't think that I can -- I have read such an eclectic mix of things that you can hardly compare one to the other.

The Lovely Bones
by Alice Sebold. I mentioned this earlier. A very dark novel, with a realistic look at what happens to a family after they experience a tragedy.

gods in Alabama by Joshilyn Jackson. One woman's journey home for the first time in years, facing all of the ghosts there. Again -- a little dark, and fairly realistic.

Outlander by Diana Gabaldon. Hard to describe. A woman accidentally 'falls' into 1743 from 1943. Initially about her struggle to get back to 1943, then her struggle about whether or not she WANTS to go back (can you say, 'indoor plumbing'? no question for Sarah!). A good book, but a detailed diary of almost a year of her life. Almost 700 pages. Carve out several weeks for it. It's the first in a series, I plan to tackle the others after I read a few more other things.

Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone by J.K. Rowling (duh!) For Harry Potter novices like myself, it's the first in this series, also. I drug myself to it kicking and screaming, insisting I don't like fantasy fiction. I have enjoyed it far more than I expected to and will finish this series, also (I'm #63 on the list of 'holds' for the new one coming out in July -- I should get it around November!)

The Secret Life of Bees by Sue Monk Kidd. See previous post. Starts off a little dark. You know, I guess as I quit reading Danielle Steele and other fluff, I have to grow up into realistic fiction. And pardon me for pointing out, but real life can be a real downer. This is set in the '60's in South Carolina and a white girl and her black housekeeper run away together. Great book, and should be read slowly and savored, not gobbled up as I tend to do.

Those are the ones I have finished, and have so many more that I can't wait to get to. I'm currently working on "Traveling Mercies" by Anne Lamott and so far it causes me to realize that when God knows that someone can be powerful for His Kingdom, He will pursue them relentlessly. Considering how she grew up, there is no reason for her to be a Christian -- other than the fact that God was pursuing her. I'm enjoying it so far -- to experience a faith awakening in someone who grew up the polar opposite of the family I grew up in.

Side note: Does anyone have any encouragement that my daughter will grow out of this severe 'tomboy' stage? I'm trying to be patient, but the latest fascination is to see who she can convince that she is a boy.

And the news from the home front is that Riley is trying to kill a roach that found it's way into my bathtub with my bath pillow. I'm sure the thought of that will cause me to have a most relaxing bath later.


Missing the Forest for the Trees

I have thought about this phrase several times in the last week. The first time was as I was folding laundry and immediately started to gripe to myself about it. Then I considered the alternative: What if I didn't have anyone to wash clothes for? What if we didn't have too many clothes? What if they were all hospital gowns or sick robes? I began to consider that perhaps I'm missing the family and the blessings for the piles of dirty clothes and dirty dishes. I prayed that I may look at those minor tasks as part of a blessed life, and as a very small price to pay for living it.

Then today I realized that the current book I have been reading ("Secret Life of Bees") has gorgeous writing in it -- and I haven't been paying attention to it simply because I just want to know how the story ends! Some quotes I've loved:

"The month of August had turned into a griddle where the days just lay there and sizzled."

"In the photograph by my bed my mother is perpetually smiling on me. I guess I have forgiven us both, although sometimes in the night my dreams will take me back to the sadness, and I have to wake up and forgive us again."

And, because I love words of wisdom about dealing with people (thank you, Mike Riley), another favorite:
"I'd heard her say more than once, 'If you need something from somebody, always give that person a way to hand it to you.'"

These are all quotes from the last 20 pages. I missed all the other good quotes sprinkled throughout the book trying to find the ANSWER. I missed the good writing because I needed to know how it ended. Well, guess what, it's just like life -- it's not over because the main character is still alive.

I have always considered myself a patient person. Obviously, I have some none-too-stellar moments with my family, but I truly believed myself to be a patient person. I'm thinking now that I was wrong. I always want to be there -- where ever it is I'm going: the end of the book, the bottom of the pile of laundry, the next grade for my kids, a different stage of life. It occurred to me today that I'm missing the forest for the trees. Actually, I'm missing the trip. I've seen somewhere that one of the benefits to life on earth is that it includes a free trip around the sun every 365 days! I pray that I can learn to enjoy each step of the trip and to quit asking, "Am I there yet?"


For Your Morning

I discovered a DVD we had rented from Blockbuster that I thought I had already turned back in. It was due 2 days ago. Then I spilled Diet Coke on some papers I need for swim lessons and some really cute pictures that Mike (Troy's dad) took of Riley's baseball game. This was all before 5:30 a.m.

I saw a guy at my gym circling the parking lot looking for a parking place. He pays 40 bucks a month to work out and won't walk 20 extra feet to the door.

I had a great workout, though, and spent my running time in prayer. I prayed this for you today: Lord, lead my friend to love and embrace this healthy earthly shell you have chosen to wrap around her soul. Forgive us (me especially) when we criticize your workmanship in the form of our bodies. You didn't have to create us as whole and healthy, but you did, and may we always praise you for that.


Happy First Day of Summer!

Did anyone really need a calendar to tell you that summer officially started today? If so, you are spending WAY too much time in your air-conditioned cocoon! Get to the pool! Which is precisely where we spent most of this day. I don't even think it got all the way to 100* today, though, so a fairly mild beginning to a west Texas summer.

Yesterday was Ashley's first day of softball camp. Do you remember the first moment in your life when you figured out that something that you believed yourself to be REALLY good at, there were other people better than you? Hard jolt of reality, no? Ashley is actually a beginner at softball and, according to her, the only one at her camp. There were lots of tears yesterday THEN she ended up dehydrated and sick last night after she spent all morning at camp and all afternoon at the pool. I confess to not being a stellar mother at that moment, after the 4 hours in the sun with no sunscreen fiasco of last week.

Today was a much better day. We all drank plenty of water, Ashley enjoyed her camp, I started a new set of private swim lessons with 2 precious little gals that are going to be so fun. I visited with friends at the pool (missed you, Tammy and Denise! :-( ) got dinner for the fam, then went to a dinner meeting. That was the most frustrating part of the day, but meetings are a necessary evil.

It's late and I will be working out EARLY tomorrow, but soon I need to tell you about our trip to Arlington last weekend to see the Rangers game. For me, the best part of the whole evening was sitting with Slade and Davalyn (sp?) Sullivan. Wonderfully nice people that I only see about twice a year at ACU functions. (It was an ACU Alumni gathering at the ballpark). And I have some precious pictures of their little guys that I need to share with you.

However, my travels did leave me with a new travel philosophy -- TRAVEL CHEAP! We stayed at the Whitten Inn -- they have one in Abilene and one in Arlington. They gave us the "Big Country Friends" discount of $55/ night (I love being a Big Country Friend!) So I have basically no expectations of this place other than hopefully a clean place to lay my head. Hoping there was at least a pool for the kids, we took our suits. Nice little pool in the shade. Wonder if there's a continental breakfast? Only about the best continental breakfast I've ever seen with lots of fresh fruit and healthy choices for me, and lots of waffles and syrup and junk for the kids! If we had stayed at a hotel for $200/night, we wouldn't have been able to get a plate of fruit for cheaper than $8. If you just need a place to put your head, go way cheap, have no expectations, and be pleasantly surprised!


More pondering. . .

This week Ashley is in softball camp. A few weeks ago, Riley was in basebal camp. As I ponder what they may or may not be active in later in school, I have some questions. Mainly -- why is it that a male sports team is the last place you will find a (openly) homosexual and a female sports team is the first place you will find a homosexual? I find that most curious.


Faith of our Fathers

So many precious men have touched my life. One of them is sitting in his big ol' green chair waiting for me to come snuggle with him, but I need to pay honor where honor is due.

I'll start with the family patriarch, Poppa Max. That's my father's father. He has buried two wives, including my grandmother, and is currently married to Mrs. Marion. What a precious, precious man. Poppa Max lost his own father at a very early age and went from taking care of his own mother to his wife. I have always known him as the voice of calm. He's so many things I'm not and can only hope to be (including tall! :-) One of those things is sparing with his words. A deacon at the church where I grew up called him the "E.F. Hutton of Forsythe Avenue. When Max Riley speaks, people listen." He's also incredibly slow to anger. He has love for people so deep in his heart, anger does not come quickly to the surface. But a child at heart like you can't imagine. Not too many Thanksgivings ago -- I'm pretty sure it was within the last 9 years when I have had children -- I was thankful that I finally felt 'old enough' to sit in with the 'adults' and discuss the previous election and cholesterol levels. Poppa Max was nowhere to be found -- he was too busy playing hide and seek with the kids. I'm certain he had more fun than me that day. I could go on, but I'm so thankful for the family God placed me in and for Poppa Max.

My dad -- now known as 'Gran'dad' -- is a whole other ball of wax (and in a good way). He is different from his own father, but the love for other people is a commonality (actually, it all begins with a love of the Father that carries over to loving His children). My father taught me lots of little things about dealing with people. Most of them make good business sense ("The sound of someone's own name is the sweetest sound to their ears") and good people sense as well. My father has lived right there in Monroe, Louisiana for the last 56 of his 60 years. We can't go ANYWHERE in town that we don't see someone we know. I always notice -- people are always glad to run into my father. He'll say their name, remember important (to them) information about them, and wish them the best in their lives. I've been privileged to watch my father grow and mature in his own faith. He is a model for me to never quit growing closer to the Father, always know there is more to learn. One of the things my father said to me that I want to pass on to my children the most is when he verbalized to my brother and me: "There is nothing you can do to make me quit loving you." It made it easier for me to believe that my heavenly Father could say the same. How was I ever so blessed?

Then, there's my Troy. I don't know where to start or stop and perhaps it's the two above models that helped me to know what to look for in a man that would father my children. Troy, I have watched you, also, grow not only in your faith, but in your parenting as well (I certainly hope you can say the same for me -- I was not a model of much of anything in the diaper days). I'm so proud of the man you have allowed God to mold you into, I'm so thankful for your love and consistency with our children, and I love that you enjoy playing with them. If I had to choose all over again -- I would choose you.

I can't finish this without acknowledging the Father of us all. I'm so thankful for the countless blessings He pours into my life, including the 3 men mentioned here. I'm thankful for the unconditional love even though He's seen my ugly heart and knows my selfish wants. And there are no words (I'm doing that again) to thank Him for the blood sacrifice of His son that made it possible for me to look forward to seeing Him one day. Thank you, Lord, for sending your spirit into coaching us all into better parents.

A Father's Day honorable mention to Paul Benjamin, Tony Timms, David Mathews, David Jones, and Micah Harper as men who helped mold and shape my faith "back in the day". I have truly been abundantly blessed in my life with models of Godly men.


Words of Wisdom from Donna Leavelle

I hope you know my friend, Donna Leavelle. She's as much fun as your best girlfriend, dispenses wonderful advice like your mom or sister, and has more love than most grandmas. I've had the honor of knowing her for over 12 years and calling her friend for more than half of that. She does have children my age, so she's fairly free with the advice, and I'm always happy to hear it.

Last week was an irritating week. I started to say 'stressful', but irritating is more appropriate. I've had stressful weeks and this didn't really qualify. All of the irritations built up and piled on -- and Donna's words began to ring in my ears:

"If you have problems that money can solve, then you don't really have problems."

*whew* Good to know my irritations are not actual problems! But she's right. In the past month or two, I have prayed with a friend whose little boy had a tumor inside his head. I have hugged a widow and a young mother (2 different people) both of whom are experiencing grief and loss beyond what I can imagine. It is true -- I do not have real problems. I have irritations and, thank you, Lord, another paycheck or twelve will take care of it. I'm glad Donna is always willing to remind me!

But I'm irritated nonetheless, and fairly grouchy as my family can attest. Which brings me to my 2nd favorite quote of Donnas:

"Well, you've got the same britches to get happy in!"

I really love this one for several reasons. First of all, it always makes me laugh! But, it's really true, as well. The choice is mine. I have irritations in my life. I guess the only people who don't have passed from this life and are enjoying choir practice with the angels. I hope that I can one day learn to 'be happy in my britches' no matter the circumstances or irritations!

Donna, thanks for all of the advice, as well as the love with which it is dispensed! I want to be like you when I grow up!

With Troy out of town, the kids and I are having a 'sleepover'. We've already had our pizza and been to the swim club, so now we're going to watch a movie and pop popcorn. We'll blow up the air mattress and plop it in the middle of the living room (the danger in that is that there is an excellent chance it will still be in the middle of the living room when Troy gets home in 2 days!) It's just a fun thing to free me of being a mean ol' mom when I don't have back-up. Of course, it helps pass the time while he's gone, too.

Oh, and even though I got very little sleep last night, we all had a great day. God is good!


Welcome Back to Me!

Whew! My computer has been most ill with a virus! Special thanks to Jon Paul, our local computer guru! This is just a quick 'check-in' with those of you that actually read this from time to time. I've much running through my brain that I would love to share with you, but it's late, my husband isn't in town to yell at me to go to bed, and I have to be a single mom tomorrow (including working out AND teaching swimming lessons!) Check back with you soon!

To Ponder. . .

I find myself while writing notes, and sometimes even speaking, using phrases like, "words cannot express. . ." or "there are no words to say. . ." yet I keep on writing or keep on talking!


I've Been Sniffed -- AGAIN!!!

If you don't know the original story of me being sniffed, I wrote about it in Aroma of Christ. I have to admit, it's much funnier than this morning, but this morning definitely took me aback!

First, allow me to point out that I have officially become my mother. Not that that's a bad thing. But in just the last year I believe I have officially cried through every worship service I have attended. I keep saying that my goal is to leave church in all of the make-up that I wore TO church, but I think I may as well give up on that. So, this morning I am singing and praising my little heart out, eyes closed, with my hands held out (at this point, Western Hills members and Forsythe members, they were still below my shoulders. Please do not dis-fellowship me! :-) Something that feels like a puppy nose is in my palm -- it's Ashley's nose, deep into my palm taking a long sniff. Then the comment: "Your hands smell like chocolate chip cookies." The moment was definitely over. I guess my Ocean Potion After Sun Aloe Vera lotion also has some vanilla in it, hence the bakery smell.

Thinking of becoming our parents -- one of my favorite lines from the sit-com "Friends" is when Rachel took Joey sailing and yelled at him about everything. When he finally confronted her about it, she was so deflated and replied, "You're right. I have become my father! I was trying so hard not to be my mother, I did not see that coming!"
Let's just all try to look like our Father!


Saturday, June 4

"The secret to loving is living loved."

Max Lucado
A Love Worth Giving

I love this quote. It pretty much sums up what I've learned the hard way the last few years and why I'm probably not currently the most loving person on the planet. It goes with an analogy I read in the book "Tender Mercy for a Mother's Soul" by Angela Thomas Guffey. She talks of learning that as we let God's love fill us, that love can't help but splash and overflow on our families and the people around us. The secret is filling your cup first -- with His love. That's where I'm failing miserably lately. I'm trying to overflow love and peace from an empty cup -- which results in overflowing grouchiness and weariness. That's the hardest part, isn't it? All of my intuition is telling me to keep going, try harder, love harder, work more. The reality is that I need to STOP! Stop and be still. Be still and know. It's completely counter-intuitive (I love that phrase). Gwen Shamblin of "Weigh Down" calls it God's "Opposite World" -- and the first shall be last, etc. Opposite World, indeed, to stop and know His love when I don't feel that I have a molecule of love in me. I found a good spot to start, though -- I knew I HAD to get into His Word to know His love (just call me Captain Obvious). Always love the Psalms and read some of those, then headed to Ephesians. Oh, lots of proclamations of His love there!
1:5 In love he predestined us to be adopted as his sons through Jesus Christ, in accordance with His pleasure and will.

God wanted me all along! He knows I'm grouchy and not loving, but He still wanted me from the beginning!

Paul prays for ME (or I like to think so, anyway) that (1:18,19) the "eyes of your heart may be enlightened in order that you may know the hope to which he has called you, the riches of his glorious inheritance in the saints, and his incomparably great power for us who believe."

And amen and amen! I get to share in a wonderful inheritance -- it's mine for the taking! Glory!

I'll quit preaching for now. (but only for the moment). This all reminds me of something everyone should read, mentioned previously: "Tender Mercy for a Mother's Soul" by Angela Thomas Guffy. I found her website here AND I know what you're thinking -- and it is NOT a 'fluff' book NOR a guilt book. Her write-up about it on her website says it talks about "soul care" (what I was alluding to above). As caregivers, we MUST be sure our soul is filled so that we may overflow with His love! It spoke to me, and if I had any idea who has my copy, I would read it again!


Coach Brady

As you have read about in many previous posts, this was Riley's first year to play baseball. Because God blessed us immensely with an incredible coach to have for Riley's first team sport experience, Riley had Brady Nichols for a coach. Those of you that are parents know that you can't thank or repay someone enough when they have loved and influenced your child. I tried to put into words how much it meant to our family. I'm sure I missed by a mile, but I put this in a frame for a gift for the end of season:

* Coach Brady changed the entire course of my family’s life.

Three months ago, we were your typical family going in too many directions. Baseball was starting, and it was just one more thing on our ‘to do’ list. I was very vocal about the fact that I find baseball as exciting as watching paint dry, and really prefer any sport that is played indoors since Abilene only has “too hot” and “too cold”, no “just right” in the weather department. We signed Riley up, hoping that enduring one season of baseball would convince all of us that it was not the sport for Stirmans. Coach Brady changed all of that.

* Coach Brady showed all of us that baseball is about so much more than baseball.
* Coach Brady showed us how powerful encouraging words can be.
* Coach Brady showed us all the power of applause, which is so much more powerful when critical words are left unspoken.
* Coach Brady showed us that words and actions that stem from God’s love are so much brighter and more powerful on a baseball field (or workplace, or playground) than trapped inside a church building.
* Coach Brady showed us that encouragement makes a player feel good, no matter which team they’re on. And, of course,
* Coach Brady’s precious wife, Mrs. Brooke, showed us all that sharing your family with others is a ministry in itself.

Neither Coach Brady nor any of my family can know where that influence will end. The Stirman family is on their way to being honest-to-goodness baseball fans (if we could fix that weather thing you would have me!) Riley has a love of a team sport, as well as a confidence that can’t be developed by parents alone. At the very least, Coach Brady has convinced one player to play Dixie Little League for next year. But more than likely, a coach is in the making. A little league coach that will pass along all of the “Principles of Coach Brady” to his little leaguers. That little team will know kind words, encouragement, and baseball – in that order. A generation away, children will be thrilled to be on the baseball field because Coach Brady and Mrs. Brooke donated their entire spring to little league.

* Coach Brady changed the entire course of our lives. I couldn’t be more thankful.
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