Give, and Give Abundantly

I have mentioned that I come from a family heritage of generous folk. I am thankful that was instilled in me and I have been able to see the blessing that comes in holding loosely to what God gives you.

I also will openly admit that I really like THINGS and struggle with wanting more things all the time, but I pray to frequently be called to mind that I am blessed beyond measure already and to "give as it has been given to me" (Luke 6:38).

If you are like me, end of year doesn't call to mind "have to give now to help out my taxes" -- end of year calls to mind (like every other end of month) "please let us make it a few more days until the paycheck comes in". But you MAY be thinking of places you would like to give MORE next year. If so, this is a great list of the 10 Most Fiscally Responsible Charities. Several of these hold a very special place in my heart.

Compassion International is a wonderful organization that changes children's lives worldwide. I am pleased to see that they are considered to be fiscally responsible. For the cost of 1 family's meal eating out per month, a child's life could be changed forever. Definitely worth looking into.

International Rescue Committee is an organization that places refugees in safe homes in a new country. I had an opportunity to interview our local office, and my heart really went out to the refugees who are starting completely over. Again, happy to hear that they are fiscally responsible since they do so much good.

World Vision also has opportunities to sponsor children, and does much more beyond that internationally. A great organization to donate to.

Of course, there are many local organizations that deserve your money and may be dearer to your heart. The important thing is to give and give generously!

Give, and it will be given to you. A good measure, pressed down, shaken together and running over, will be poured into your lap. For with the measure you use, it will be measured to you. Luke 6:38


Sportsmanship of the Decade

Last week I stumbled across this list of acts of sportsmanship over the last decade. Many of them I had heard of when they happened -- and they made me cry the first time and this time, as well. Of course, I had to point these out to my athlete-children, and I hope you will to yours, as well. I don't include all of them, here, only my favorites:

April 26, 2008: In the top of the second inning, Western Oregon senior Sara Tucholsky hit a pitch over the left field fence with two runners on against Central Washington, for whom a loss would mean elimination from a possible NCAA Division II playoff berth. But when Tucholsky rounded first base, she accidentally missed the bag. As she doubled back to touch it, her cleats stuck in the ground and she tore the ACL in her right knee.
While Tucholsky writhed on the ground in pain, the umpires consulted the rule book and declared that if any of her teammates aided her around the bases, she would be called out. Central Washington's senior first baseman, Mallory Holtman, her school's career leader in homers who was facing her final collegiate game if her team were to lose, had an idea: She would help her opponent round the bases. Holtman locked eyes with shortstop Liz Wallace and the two of them picked up Tucholsky and carried her, dipping the stricken runner at each base so she could touch the bag and complete the home run that she had rightfully earned.

November 7, 2008: Grapevine Faith, a small Christian school in suburban Dallas-Fort Worth, was hosting an unusual opponent: Gainesville State School, a maximum-security correctional facility for teenaged male felons. Gainesville plays all of its games on the road, and its students, who arrive in handcuffs, use old equipment. Grapevine Faith's coach, Kris Hogan, created a welcoming environment by splitting his school's fans and cheerleaders into nearly equal groups. When Gainesville's players got off their bus, they were greeted with a 40-yard spirit line and a "Go Tornadoes" banner for them to run through at the end. Their designated "fans" even cheered them by name. Faith won, 33-14, but Gainesville's players raved about their treatment. In the postgame prayer circle, one said, "Lord, I don't know how this happened, so I don't know how to say thank you, but I never would've known there was so many people in the world that cared about us."
Extended article here (amazing).

October 15, 2005:
Mount Gilead High sophomore Van Houten shot 144 over two rounds to win the Ohio Division II golf tournament by six strokes. After signing his scorecard, however, Van Houten double-checked his rounds and realized that he had recorded the 10th hole one stroke better than he had actually scored. For Van Houten, this meant that he had had actually defeated the field by five strokes, rather than the six he was credited for. The stroke in question would have no bearing on the competition, only on Van Houten's conscience, so he reported the error even though he knew that a card signed with an incorrect score disqualifies the player. Thus, Van Houten lost the tournament and his state title.

February 7, 2009: The basketball teams at Milwaukee Madison (Wisc.) and DeKalb (Ill.) high schools were scheduled to meet, but earlier that day Madison's senior captain, Johntel Franklin, lost his mother to cancer. Franklin's coach, Aaron Womack Jr., planned to cancel the game, but Franklin insisted that his team play,and appeared at the gym in the second quarter, directly from the hospital. Womack called timeout so his players could greet their grieving teammate. Franklin asked if he could play, but his name and uniform number had not been entered into the scorer's book. Doing so would cost his team a technical foul. DeKalb asked the referees to overlook the rule, but they insisted on following the book. DeKalb's coach, Dave Rohlman, asked for a volunteer to take the free throws. McNeal shot the ball two feet. His second shot didn't go even that far. Madison's players and the crowd stood and applauded. Once the game resumed, Franklin scored 10 points and helped Madison to a 62-47 win. "I did it for the guy who lost his mom," McNeal told the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel. "It was the right thing to do."

Now that we have had to be inundated with Tiger's off-course activities and too many other sports atrocities, it is so nice to see young people in sports acting so honorably on the courts and fields.


Good Things Out There

Why didn't I ever think of this? I've never needed it, but I've heard of so many sad stories of lost cameras at Disney World, on airplanes, etc. This is a great idea to avoid that mishap.

If you would like to add your 'Good Thing' button to your blog, copy the code into an 'HTML' box on your sidebar:


Christmas, Poppa Max Style

As I consider the upcoming holidays, I would love to write an article about slowing down, enjoying this time of year, and remembering the reason for the season. The reality is that by the time this article is published I will be eating Tums as a regular meal, darting from one activity to another as a crazed woman with her hair aflame, and I will probably be on my way to a party that I resent needing to attend and coughing up money for a gift I didn’t exactly agree to give but am expected to contribute to. The rut is too deep, the habits too engrained, and I know myself too well. This will be a season of running and rushing and spending. So, instead of trying to take some things OUT of the season, I have decided to add TO the season.

As my family gathers this year for Christmas, there will be a very large hole. My grandfather, who we referred to as Poppa Max, finished his 90 years on this earth this year and is celebrating around the throne of Him whose birth we celebrate. My grandfather was a big man, in stature as well as personality. His absence this season will be tangible. So, to honor his memory, I have decided to add some things into my holiday season to make it Christmas, Poppa Max style:
1. I will take an active part in spreading some of the magic of the holidays. Not only was my grandfather a physically large man, he had an enormous bass voice. As our family gathered on Christmas Eve, he would make phone calls to some of our pre-school aged friends as Santa Claus. Many were left in speechless wonder. Maybe I will jingle some of Santa’s bells outside a doubting child’s bedroom window; maybe I will give some of my younger friends reindeer food for them to sprinkle on their lawn on Christmas Eve; maybe I will help Santa respond to some of his mail. I will do something to spread the magic of this season this year.
2. I will remember Christmas for “the least of these”. Under my grandparent’s tree, there was always a gift for a Down’s Syndrome gentleman that is my parents’ age that attends the same church. Sometimes a record, sometimes a new coloring book, it was always a very tiny something to let Mitchell know there was a family that loved him. I will look around and see folks that others may not notice and just let them know that there is someone that loves them.
3. I will give and give some more. Giving was not a holiday exercise for my grandfather, it was his attitude and way of life. I will give in secret throughout the year – just a little secret between my Poppa Max and me.
4. I will laugh and laugh loudly. With his enormous voice, Poppa Max also had a grand laugh that filled the room. During the holiday season, it came quite easily, so tickled was he to be surrounded by family. I will put aside spending concerns and scheduling conundrums at least once a day to laugh with my family. I will let them know that my joy in their presence cannot be contained and I must laugh.

I think we all look back at folks who have made Christmas magical and special for us in the past and are no longer with us to celebrate. May you find something in those memories to share with others, spreading the magic and laughing all the way.
(originally posted 12/18/07)


"He Had in Mind to Divorce Her Quietly"

I am part of a faith that for years ignored Christmas. Yes, ignored Christmas. The reasoning was that we celebrated Jesus' birth every day, so we shouldn't make any day more important than the other. I never got that -- the rest of the world is finally talking about the birth of our Savior and we're going to ignore it? Huh?

I actually grew up in a "liberal" church and had a rebel Christmas tree in the building and everything. But only in the last few years have I really been enjoying the true focus of the season. We have had Christmas services -- no, we still don't have service ON Christmas or Christmas Eve, we have to go elsewhere for that, and my family does -- but we have services centered around that blessed event of the birth of our Savior. I'm so glad.

Since I've been a mother, the part about Mary has really gotten to me, and now that my daughter is approximately the age we think Mary was at the time she gave birth (Ashley is almost 14, we think Mary was 14 or 15) I just am haunted by what that must have been like, and think of Mary and her obedience.

This scripture really gave me pause this weekend:

Because Joseph her husband was a righteous man and did not want to expose her to public disgrace, he had in mind to divorce her quietly. But after he had considered this, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream and said, “Joseph son of David, do not be afraid to take Mary home as your wife, because what is conceived in her is from the Holy Spirit. She will give birth to a son, and you are to give him the name Jesus, because he will save his people from their sins.”
All this took place to fulfill what the Lord had said through the prophet:
“The virgin will be with child and will give birth to a son, and they will call him Immanuel”–which means, “God with us.”
When Joseph woke up, he did what the angel of the Lord had commanded him and took Mary home as his wife. Matthew 1:18,19

I don't know how long it was between Joseph making that decision to "divorce" (break the engagement) Mary and the angel showing up, but I would venture a guess that Mary was aware that Joseph wasn't pleased with the situation, and at least had the honor to keep publicly quiet about it.

I wondered how out of control she must have felt, how she must have wondered what crazy road God was dragging her down when nothing was going as she thought it would, and she probably felt very alone.

Of course, all of that is complete speculation. But I do suspect there may be a grain of truth in there somewhere.

And I wonder do we ever feel out of control, wondering what crazy road God is dragging us down, nothing going like we think it should, feeling very alone on this earth -- when the author of creation has The Plan engraved on His palm? When He who loves us more perfectly than we can know has us in His hand?

Yes, I think that must happen all the time. This Christmas, may you know Him and His perfect love for you.


He's a Texas Boy

Waking the kids for a holiday-schedule at church, I pointed out how nice it was that they got to sleep late enough for the sun to be up.

"Isn't that great? The sun is already shining! Riley, you need to wear your long pants."

"What's the weather?"

"It's 32*

"Then the sun isn't shining. It's just for decoration."

I'll take that kind of decoration! If it must be 32*, please let the sun be out! What about you? 32* and cloudy, 32* and sunny, or please don't make me live where it ever gets 32*?


Good Things Out There

This is a very inspiring post about not overindulging during the holidays. Be it food or money issues, this is a great read.

John does a great job of summing up the deal with Facebook and privacy settings. Somewhere along the way, I accidentally got it right. Thanks for this post, John.

If you know me personally just a little bit, you know that I really drag through the winter. I can tell this winter will be rough since it got cold earlier than usual this year here. I came across these tips that I think really hit home. I encourage you to check them out, too.

If you only read one of these, make it this one. Remember that not everyone is having a holly jolly Christmas. And don't forget in our busyness to stop and take a moment to lift up those that are struggling.

If you would like to add your 'Good Thing' button to your blog, copy the code into an 'HTML' box on your sidebar:



Best quote and summation I've seen in a while:

"Hey Facebook users: stop pretending your data is protected from prying eyes. It’s all in the open. You can try to complain, but you can’t fight city hall. Better just to let it go, and embrace Facebook for what it is: the biggest bathroom wall in the world, and one that anyone can write on and that everyone can see."


More Good Things

I don't know if I'm being supremely lazy or thoughtful lately, but there is much out on the internet that I long to share with you! Too much for yesterday's "Good Things" so it has run over. (I guess if I were smart I would save some for next week, but I'm not)

I have mentioned my friend Jana many times before. Love her. A woman whose inner beauty is perfectly reflected on the outside. She had this to say on facebook to new grads (she teaches college, so some graduated this weekend). Feel free to pass it along because it is golden wisdom that is hard to come by:

Message to new grads: Finding God's will is not geography; it's not some dot that you have to get to & if not, your life will be ruined. It is about who you are & about making decisions informed by what pleases God. Do what pleases God, and you will be in His will. Are you taking the "right" job? Are you marrying the "right" person? Take the job, marry the guy/gal, and please God in those choices. I would have been relieved to know that 20 years ago. I thought there might be one "right" job and years later, one "right" person. Looking back, I know that I could have pursued a number of paths. The point was not geography; God's will was honoring him, no matter where the choices led me. And that, my friends, is the very good news for the newest graduates here, and for all of us, really.


The next good thought is too long to copy and paste here. You must go over and read here. If you have had a thought about money in the last week, go read. No, really. I'm not kidding. I'll even let you enter those free giveaways at Dave Ramsey, but you still need to read this if you have had any thoughts about money. Seriously.

And there is much more. But I will try and actually write something for you to think about. Wow. What if I wrote something that someone ELSE said to "go read". Yeah, it's been known to happen, but not lately. 'Cause, see? You have to do some actual writing first! True that.

Happy Monday to all and to all... the happiest of Mondays!


Good Things Out There

I know I have talked much about Dana and Brian. Humor me one more. Whitney, the talented sister-in-law photographer, wrote beautifully about it from her point of view. Check it out.

This is just like my friend Vann and his wife, Susan. Love this story.

This article talks about something I have really wanted to say FOR YEARS but haven't been brave enough. The linked blog also has a lot of good information.

If you drink bottled water because you think it's cleaner than tap, read this. Yikes.

I have seen this written by Mike Cope. He recorded it not too long ago. It still touches my heart. We may have quarters in stockings this year -- for several reasons...

If you would like to add your 'Good Thing' button to your blog, copy the code into an 'HTML' box on your sidebar:


The GiveAways! The Bloggy Giveaways!!

For. The. Love! These bloggy folks are outdoing themselves in the giveaways here at the end of the year and I will confess that I am spending no small amount of time frolicking to and fro flitting from blog to blog entering some contests.

First, I started here to enter to win an HP TouchSmart computer thingy-joober. If I win it, I will be sure to know what the official name is, but it is just WAY COOL!! Check it out!

Also, Dave Ramsey, financial guru extraordinaire, is having various daily giveaways all through the month of December. I feel certain I just missed my phone call that I won the $3,000 cash. But that means I can still enter! You know you want to enter, too!

As I mentioned, I'm having a hard time finding some holiday spirit. I think today may be the day. Maybe. I MIGHT buy a Christmas present today. But I just saw that the UT head coach got his salary bumped from $3 million to $5 million. Maybe I'll just ask him to buy Christmas for my family.

We had a funny discussion at the table this week: worst Christmas gift ever received, and you couldn't mention any given by anyone sitting at the table! :-) I couldn't think of one, honestly, and I can't out the others because, virtually, you are all now sitting at the table...

What about you -- worst Christmas gift ever received? Spill it!


Prayers for the Day

(sighing as I begin...)

Some of you may want to know "how was the funeral" -- it was awful and it was beautiful. It was lovely and amazing and painful and heartwrenching. All that you would expect. If you were there, you know. If you weren't, my apologies, but my words can't do it justice.

I can sum up -- over 700 people attended in a room designed for about 500. Dana, Brian's very brave and beautiful wife, felt called to speak, and did so eloquently and with grace. Most people's reaction is, "...HOW???" The only answer I have to that is, "By the grace of God." The same way she will put one foot in front of the other for many years to come. Dana spoke beautifully of their love for each other and their love for the Lord. She thanked both sets of parents for how much they had helped in their time of need. She didn't say this outright, but alluded to it and made me think -- don't wait until it's too late to honor and appreciate your spouse. Tell them now what s/he means to you.

Pray for Dana, and Rian, and Rhea, and Reid and all of us that are struggling through the pain of losing a dear and precious man.

In my Immanuel book, I came across a prayer that many of you may already be familiar with, that I love dearly. She refers to it as "The Breastplate of St. Patrick". You will find that in many different forms on the internet, but this small portion is a beautiful prayer to pray:

Christ be beside me, Christ be before me,
Christ be behind me, King of my heart;
Christ be within me, Christ be below me,
Christ be above me, never to part.

Christ on my right hand, Christ on my left hand,
Christ all around me, shield in the strife;
Christ in my sleeping, Christ in my sitting,
Christ in my rising, light of my life.

Christ be beside me, Christ be before me,
Christ be behind me, King of my heart;
Christ be within me, Christ be below me,
Christ be above me, never to part.

Then, Vann posted another beautiful prayer on his blog. I think if you pray the one above frequently, it will make the one below easier to pray.

Deliver me, Jesus, from the desire to be praised,
honored, glorified, preferred, consulted, or approved.
Deliver me, Jesus, from the fear of being humiliated,
criticized, forgotten, ridiculed, maltreated, and
from the fear of what others will think.
O Jesus give me the grace to desire: that others
would be loved and esteemed ahead of me,
that in the eyes of the world they would increase
while I decrease, and praised while I pass by
unnoticed; that others would be preferred in all
situations; that others would become more than
myself -- in order that I would be as holy as You
want me to be. -- Charles de Foucauld

And, today, praying that you are blessed beyond measure.

Tomorrow, I promise to LIGHTEN UP around here! I do have some fun things to take care of on the old blog, and some other fun things to talk about. But, I honestly need you to help me find my holiday spirit. What can I do to find some holiday spirit?


Good Things Out There

Leigh is the most fun ever. She is also a precious woman of God. I love this blog. It challenged me on many levels. Thanks, Leigh.

If you would like to add your 'Good Thing' button to your blog, copy the code into an 'HTML' box on your sidebar:

Thank You For Asking!

Needing to get out of town for Brian's funeral, but the kids wanting to stay here for church activities, I started calling around getting my kids squared away with church folks who are neighbors and have kids our kids' ages.

Thankfully, I didn't have to make too many calls -- people were very willing to help. But the second call I made totally blew me away. I told her what I needed: my child to spend the night at her house on a school night, some transportation for both of my children the night before, and some transportation for one of my children on a school morning. A Monday morning, at that.

This precious saint, like the other, said, "Oh, absolutely, I would be happy to help you out." But what she said after that really blew me away. "I'm honored that you would ask me. Thank you so much for asking me."

Um, seriously? Well, you are so welcome to be asked to be inconvenienced.

But on a small scale I know what she means. I hate to hear sometimes that someone needed help and I wasn't aware of it to help. So, indeed, I'm thankful to know when people are willing to let me help -- but to go so far as thanking them for asking me? Well, why wouldn't I?

I will certainly do that from now on. Have YOU ever thanked someone for asking you for help?

I also need your help -- Good Things Out There for tomorrow. Lay it on me. What's the best of the internet this week? Preferably blogs, but any good writing, thinking, or inspiration you can find. What do you think?


Grieving, As One With Hope, Is Still Painful...

These are my friends Brian and Dana. How cute are they?Here is Brian with their three kids. Also precious.
These beautiful pictures were taken by Dana's sister-in-law, Whitney, who has this photography business that captures life stories that make you want to squeeze your family. Thank you, David (Dana's brother/ Whitney's husband), for letting me steal these off of your facebook page without your permission or knowledge. :-)

Brian lost his valiant fight with cancer this morning. I have so much to say about it that I will say very little. Brian was tough as nails and gentle with those babies.

Troy grew up with Dana. I've known her since she was in college and Troy and I first got married. Almost 20 years, I guess. She and Brian were dating then, I think. We all wondered if it would last -- young love, you know. Troy was supposed to sing at their wedding, but came down with the flu, so Riley was my date. Riley was about 5 weeks old, a little butterball of a date that drooled on me through the night.

Dana is my friend that we can not talk for months and when we see each other cut right to the core and talk about real things. When Brian was first diagnosed with cancer and had gone through horrific treatment and was in remission, I was in town for a day or two and Dana came to where I was after she got off work (nurse).

It was late -- 8 or 9 p.m. before she got there. We talked long and hard about what our lives had been like recently -- Brian initially battled cancer the same year Troy and I fought to put our marriage back together. When she finally went to leave, we weren't even all the way talked out, but we both had children to be nice to at some point. She was out on the driveway leaving -- and threw the newspaper back to me. It was 4:30 in the morning and the next day's paper had already come. That's how caught up we were getting. It still makes me smile.

I am so thrilled for where Brian is now, but I have hurt so much to know what life has been like for Dana -- and what it will be like for her from now on.

1 Thessalonians 4:13,14 says:
Brothers, we do not want you to be ignorant about those who fall asleep, or to grieve like the rest of men, who have no hope. We believe that Jesus died and rose again and so we believe that God will bring with Jesus those who have fallen asleep in him.

No, I do not grieve as one with no hope, but I do indeed grieve. My heart hurts and I am very sad. Holding onto hope and praying peace for Dana and all of the family.


Money Saving

Just a quick stop in today to tell you how to save some dollars! Heaven knows we could all use some dollar-saving here at Christmas time!

I have been into couponing out of necessity, as have some of you.

I do subscribe to Grocery Game. It's a pay service and can save you at least as much as your subscription cost. There are pros and cons, and I would be happy to answer any questions about it.

I happened across Couponing 101, which is free and has almost as much information as the pay site. Big thumbs up.

Keeping the Kingdom First is another good blog about living frugally.

If you want to do much online shopping for Christmas, you will want to know about Want Not. Lots of good deals. Updated ... hourly it seems. Crazy deals, she has.

That's all I've got for now. What about you? Julie is over there finding crafty blogs. Are you finding good blogs? Are you finding ways to be frugal? What are you up to these days?


Advent Season/ Conspiracy

Um, well, Happy Thanksgiving and Merry December to you.


I have been a bit absentee. Have you noticed? No, probably not.

I will tell you -- I am heavy hearted. Much going on that is just too much for my heart to carry. So glad that sweet little baby was born over 2,000 years ago and promised he could carry it for me, 'cause I simply can't.

One precious daddy we know is at death's door -- the oldest of his 3 children in first grade. I cannot make it make sense, though I have begged God to do it (I can stand anything, go through anything, as long as it is logical to me). God refuses to have it make sense to me, but he has assured me He is in it -- there with that family holding them close. Please pray for the White and Scott families.

Other situations swirl my head and weigh my heart down, but I am happy to hand them over to the Lord.

As we enter into a time of Advent-- that the dictionary defines as "an arrival or coming, especially one which is awaited" -- I have been studying this book by Ann Spangler. Immanuel: Praying the Names of God Through the Christmas Season. I went through it once a few years ago and simply loved it. It is a precious reminder of what this time of year is for and the One who we worship through it all. I highly recommend it.

And, thanks to our youth minister, I have been reminded of the Advent Conspiracy campaign.
Spend less. Give more. Worship fully. Love all. Now I could get into that.


Good Things Out There

My friend Julie moved to California -- seems like last week to me, but I think it's actually been almost a year ago now. She has been busy, busy, un-wallpapering her house, painting her un-wallpapered walls, and if that weren't enough, making these adorable little guys to sell at a holiday boutique this weekend. Hope it went well for her!

This post kind of hit me squarely between the eyes. It kind of called me on the carpet for what I like to call "lazy compassion" -- what I am FREQUENTLY guilty of practicing. Worth a read. Worth letting it change your heart.

Anybody ever ask you to pray but not give you details what TO pray. Keep praying. Someday you might here an amazing story like this one. Wow.

This made me gasp. And smile. And stop and appreciate my kids instead of doing FOR my kids.

Since Riley's birthday is the week before Thanksgiving, we have made these little handprint turkeys at his birthday party before. Several cute ideas.

One of those clever videos from my church:

If you would like to add your 'Good Thing' button to your blog, copy the code into an 'HTML' box on your sidebar:


Where Does the Time Go?

Y'all, I miss one day blogging, then I miss almost a week! Wow.

Tonight is finally FINALLY the first basketball game for Ashley. We are all so excited. We even picked up a mouth-guard so that the million-dollar orthodontia stays in place.

I don't remind you often about my A Better View gig, but I would encourage you to catch up if you haven't been listening. We have the best time over there. This weekend would be a good time to download to your iPod or onto CD's and listen while you travel for Thanksgiving. Our most recent show has a special guest that was a joy to be with. Stop over here and check us out. We are on iTunes, also (which is the best way to download to your ipod, etc.)

This song has really haunted me lately. I'll try to post lyrics underneath. Very beautiful:

Lyrics | Leeland lyrics - Follow You lyrics

Yes, he has taken care of all of my needs -- how could I not give it away so freely. Truly, may I follow Him into the homes that are broken and meet the needs of the poor and needy.

Have a great Thursday.


Good Things Out There

How cute are these little pilgrim hat Thanksgiving place cards? You'll want to make some of those!

Mary constantly challenges me as a writer, but above that, as a child of God. This hit it on the head for me. Thanks for the challenge, Mary.

Anyone else think this centerpiece is just a little over the top? Don't think I could eat Thanksgiving dinner with him staring at me...

I usually like to show off the video skills of my church here. I had planned to do that, but ran across this video. It's from my church, but not super-great video skills, but some super-great church family. Remember this summer when I showed you the video of the "JK Wedding Entrance Dance" that had its 15 minutes of fame? Well, at our church's summer camp, the counselors relived it for the kids. How fun is this? The guy in the do-rag that somersaults in? Yeah, he was Troy's youth minister when Troy was Ashley's age. We love our church family. I'm so thankful for all of these guys making memories for my kids. It was the hit of camp.

If you would like to add your 'Good Thing' button to your blog, copy the code into an 'HTML' box on your sidebar:


Friday Reminders

Quick check-in.

Busy end of week. Yesterday I substituted in PE. I had a blast playing with kids, but was reminded why I quit teaching by stopping to talk to a first grade teacher. She was grieving over the loss of a student who had moved away. He had only been in her class for 6 days, had been a complete terror the entire time he had been there, but she grieved losing him. Why? Because mom isn't legally to have custody of him, and she fears for his future. She hates not knowing, she hates having to release it and worry about the other 20 kids in her class, equally needy. And she told me all of this with blue glitter stuck to her top lip. All reasons I am thankful I left teaching. I'm not emotionally equipped for it. Thank you, teachers, for continuing to soldier on, fighting for the kids whose parents won't.

Last night was the awards ceremony. Everyone at my house had an awful day on the way to it, yet we made it, looked great, and smiled all the same. By the time I tried to get everyone dressed and happy and sit through all of that, I came home with a migraine, but we are all still very proud, Ashley has now survived missing a sporting event and lived to tell about it, and the weekend is here. God bless us every one.

Today I am substituting in PE again. Precious little ones, stinky big ones all. And God sent me a reminder for my writing, as well. Just a sweet little note from someone I don't keep up with often to say: "Your writing is really making a difference in my life." I am blessed and my cup overflows. Honestly, I have been talking to God recently about just such an affirmation. Just a LITTLE something to let me know to keep going. Should I keep going or get a "real job"? Thank you, Lord, for perfect timing of precious souls.

There is deer hunting and truck hunting and birthday party-ing and Girls Conference-ing this weekend. I, personally, don't have a busy weekend planned, but everyone around me does! What about you? What's going on at your house?


Wait. Ing...

Do you know what you get when you have involved teens that are not quite old enough to drive? You get a LOT of waiting.

It seems to begin to be a major reality in middle school. I'm sure it will reach a crescendo before there is finally a driver's license, but then I will still be waiting... for my car, or for someone to come home.

Now it's waiting for athletics to get out. Or carpool to come home from athletics, or carpool to pick up to go to school, or waiting for it to be time to leave for carpool, or waiting for soccer practice to start or finish or see if it is rained out. This week I have also waited for All-City band auditions to start and then to finish, and for a game to start. At tennis matches you have to wait for a court. Lots and lots of waiting.

Waiting, waiting, waiting. One mom I consider a precious mentor told me that is when she started doing needlepoint -- so that she would feel like she had accomplished something by the time soccer/basketball/ band was finally over. It has definitely helped to have a laptop now. I can work on articles, or jot down thoughts. I may need to throw a journal in the car for times that don't require a laptop, but when my brain is full-to-overflowing, as today.

Some days it is hard to remember that this is simply a passing season of life, just like the diaper days were, just like preschool and elementary. But I shall have to do more waiting to move on to another season. May I remember, too, that this is one of my last seasons of parenting with children in my nest -- the waiting season.

Perhaps I should spend more of it in prayer.


Veteran's Day Lesson

I got this email yesterday for Veteran's Day:

Back in September of 2005, on the first day of school, Martha Cothren, a social studies school teacher at Robinson High School in Little Rock , did something not to be forgotten. On the first day of school, with the permission of the school superintendent, the principal and the building supervisor, she removed all of the desks out of her classroom.

When the first period kids entered the room they discovered that there were no desks.

'Ms. Cothren, where're our desks?'

She replied, 'You can't have a desk until you tell me how you earn the right to sit at a desk.'

They thought, 'Well, maybe it's our grades.'

'No,' she said.

'Maybe it's our behavior.'

She t old them, 'No, it's not even your behavior.'

And so, they came and went, the first period, second period, third period. Still no desks in the classroom.

By early afternoon television news crews had started gathering in Ms.Cothren's classroom to report about this crazy teacher who had taken all the desks out of her room.

The final period of the day came and as the puzzled students found seats on the floor of the deskless classroom, Martha Cothren said, 'Throughout the day no one has been able to tell me just what he/she has done to earn the right to sit at the desks that are ordinarily found in this classroom. Now I am going to tell you.'

At this point, Martha Cothren went over to the door of her classroom and o pened it.

Twenty-seven (27) U.S. Veterans, all in uniforms, walked into that classroom, each one carrying a school desk. The Vets began placing the school desks in rows, and then they would walk over and stand alongside the wall. By the time the last soldier had set the final desk in place those kids started to understand, perhaps for the first time in their lives, just how the right to sit at those desks had been earned..

Martha said, 'You didn't earn the right to sit at these desks. These heroes did it for you. They placed the desks here for you. Now, it's up to you to sit in them. It is your responsibility to learn, to be good students, to be good citizens. They paid the price so that you could have the freedom to get an education. Don't ever forget it.'

In checking snopes.com to see if this was true or not, I read this: "I talked to Martha Cothren about that day also her military history class. This daughter of a World War II POW regularly has veterans visit her classroom -- it's one of the ways she teaches her course on the history of World War II and the Vietnam War. Her class doesn't yet have a textbook (she is busy writing one), so she uses less typical methods of imparting knowledge about those events to her students. Part and parcel of what she teaches is an appreciation for members of the armed forces."

May God bless Martha Cothren with many years of teaching, and God bless the men and women who serve our country in the armed forces.


So Thankful for a Village

My daughter, my beautiful athletic daughter, is being recognized as an "outstanding youth of our city" by one of the local civic clubs this week. Troy and I are, as you might imagine, quite proud.

The outstanding youth, I will confess, is less than amused by the whole ordeal for two main reasons:

a) it appears that she will have to miss her first basketball game of the season for the award ceremony and
b) semi-formal attire suggested.


Missing the basketball game I can deal with. The 'semi-formal attire' strikes as much fear into me as if I were going to be asked to take her place in the basketball game. Y'all, I still need Garanimals for Grown-Ups. I am in no shape to be outfitting another person, ESPECIALLY one who may or may not have a very strong opinion about what she may or may not like to wear.

Because I am so handicapped in this arena, my daughter has been handicapped. Shopping is always an ordeal, I hate it, she hates it, we do as little as possible and move on. We can't communicate AT ALL what works, what doesn't and why it doesn't. It's terrible.

But, the outstanding youth of the city needs semi-formal attire. The Optimist Club has spoken. I can procrastinate no more. I just may need reinforcements.

I called my friend from church knowing that she would know where to go, what was in, what to get, how not to spend an entire fortune. Even better, she said, "Would you like for me to come with you?" Tears welled in my eyes. "Would you? Please?"

This precious woman met us and had the best time "playing dress up" with my daughter. What a God-send for both of us. We had already had one tense argument about who-knows-what. The Fairy Godmother of Fashion came in and smoothed it all out, finding us bargains and fashion, making one and all happy.

That, right there, is why I go to church. Not in its entirety, but that is why I have a church family. I don't have blood family in this town and, even if I did, love ya, mom, but you simply couldn't do what this lady could -- but mom could do math homework like nobody's business! Fashion and putting stuff together was as easy for this woman as breathing.

I don't know how she does it -- let's call it her spiritual gift. Honestly. Because last week, she blessed my socks off by bringing peace (and fashion) into my family. If that isn't a spiritual gift, I don't know what is!

So, seriously, if you think you have NOTHING to offer the Lord, you may have a gift that your sister-in-need does not. Simply be willing to say, "Can I help you do that?" You NEVER know where someone is seriously handicapped. Me? Fashionably handicapped.

So thankful to belong to a body of Christ where we all have strengths and weaknesses and people are willing to treat my family like family. I am blessed.


Marriage Monday: Use Your Words

I have mentioned, a time or fifteen, that Troy has been traveling quite a bit of late. Today? Leaving again...

I also mentioned last week that I called in to 'make sure you received my article' and got a 'no, thank you' -- actually it wasn't even 'no, thank you', but bordering on rude. That was about 2 weeks ago while Troy was, imagine it, traveling.

It's a crummy way to start the day and I was having a hard time getting focused on getting any writing done when Troy sent me a text letting me know what time he would be home that afternoon. I replied with a quick 'this person said 'no' and really didn't try to be polite and I'm a little sad' text. His reply to that still brings tears to my eyes (in a good way... :-)

"You'll have the last laugh..."

He was saying to me, "I believe in what you are doing. I know you will make it. Keep plugging away." I can't put into words how much it meant to me to have those words at that moment.

Let your spouse know that you believe in his/her dreams and goals, as well. Obviously, it doesn't have to be with a long speech or bulleted points, just a "I know you can do it," or something of that nature.

I am blessed beyond measure that even amidst his frantic schedule, my precious husband sees the need to take the time to encourage me and let me know he believes in me. I'll take a lesson from him.


Observing Life

When you do that whole "do the difficult thing first" plan, you have the potential of starting your day by having a "yes, we received your article, no, we aren't interested" phone call. Maybe you should save those for the end of the day.


What a Week and What's for Dinner

It's been quite a week around here, hence the silence.

It started at the end of last week with the death of a dear man from church. He, his wife, and his 7 year old granddaughter that they are raising sat right behind us in church each week. Long story about what happened, but it was very unexpected. Late 50's, worked at my kids school as a speech therapist, sang on the praise team with Troy, precious man of God. He was one of the very few people that could be counted on to read from the Bible as if the words on the page actually spoke to him (reading it otherwise is a bit of a peeve of mine).

His funeral blessed me beyond measure, calling me to walk more closely with Jesus. It was truly inspirational. Troy was blessed to do the music for the funeral and I was, as usual, proud beyond proud of him. I married a good man.

Amongst the funeraling there has also been other snapshots of God's amazing works: his mercies and grace sprinkled throughout relationships and activities all through our lives. Details may sound boring to you, and not all are available for publication, but let me remind you: God is in the details.

If you aren't a facebook friend, you have missed that I am on a quest to get more of my writing published, which I jokingly refer to as "racking up the rejections". It's just a matter of kissing a few frogs before you find your prince, or getting lots of doors slammed in your face. The quest continues. Right now I do not have "the book" in the works, but columns and/ or articles -- magazine or newspaper.

Also, you may have missed that I posed the question on facebook: what do I do with leftover rotisserie chicken? I got a VERY long answer that I posted here on my recipe blog. I went with chicken spaghetti, thank you, Robin.

So my Friday begins. A full, yet relaxing weekend begins here at my house. Deer season starts this weekend -- so long, Troy -- and one of the kids is having a friend over. Life is what it should be. Yet, my heart is heavy. Thursday was already a little sad for me with cancer continuing to ravage too many too young, and others face hard times, but the Fort Hood mess takes my breath away. A few short miles from where I first started teaching, first lived with Troy as his wife, and became a mom, I am as stunned as you are by the horrific violence at Fort Hood. Praying for the hearts that are breaking and struggling to understand.


Accidentally Victorious

originally published in Abilene Families magazine

Ever knocked a fork off the kitchen counter into its correct spot in the dishwasher? What about dropped your keys into the cuff of your pants or a shirt pocket? You think to yourself, perhaps even say out loud, “I couldn’t do that again if I tried!”

One of my greatest successes as a parent happened basically that way. Nothing I set out to do or felt called to do, I have accidentally created some grand memories in my home by eating around the dinner table every night. When I got married, I could cook spaghetti, taco meat, and baked chicken. Period. I tried to make breakfast for Troy our first Valentine’s Day and melted the spatula. Betty Crocker I was not.

When we had a baby I quit my teaching job. Finances required that I figure out what those knobs on the stove did and start cooking. Yes, I wanted that little blue-eyed precious to be healthy along with the parents, but it was mainly finances that made the decision to fire up the stove every night.

Besides simply cooking at home, we made a decision to then eat that meal sitting together as a family every night. If I was going to go to all the trouble of figuring out what in the world ‘julienne’ meant, then actually doing it, by golly we could sit together to eat it or finger paint with it, depending on the age of the diner.

Over the years as lives and schedules changed, I just never put much more money in the budget for eating out. Since my children started elementary school 8 years ago my grocery budget has almost doubled, but our allotted money for eating out is basically the same. I even left it that way for a few brief years that our budget wasn’t quite so tight when I was employed other places.

As basketball and little league practices began to encroach on our evenings, I have changed how or what I cooked for dinner, or what time we eat. Dinner may be anywhere from 5:30 to 8 p.m., but it includes all family members in town at the time, and it is always around the table with the television off. I have used the crock-pot to my advantage, or dinner may be a sandwich (the family thinks it’s big doin’s if you stick the bread under the broiler to melt the cheese and have ‘fancy sandwiches’), and there have been a few desperate times that dinner is Sonic’s 5 hamburgers for $5.95 (Tuesdays after 5 p.m.) but we gather at the table to share the burdens and victories of the day.

I frequently wonder why I torture myself so. Generally about 30 minutes to an hour of prep time for a meal that either no one likes or they scarf down in 6 minutes, then another 15 to 20 minutes of clean up. Really, why bother?

Recently, one child and I were at odds all day. Nothing I said was right, no response that I got was kind. My request for help to get dinner on the table was met with slams of cabinet doors and sighs and, I’m sure, eye rolls, though I refused to look.

By the time dinner was finally on the table I could hardly take a bite my teeth were clenched so tightly. The kids began talking about the day, laughing. Soon, I was included in a shared memory of something funny we saw that day. The pressure of the day was completely diffused and I became part of the family again instead of the meanest mom on the planet.

Creating memories, reconnecting, becoming family again. That is why I bother.


What about you? What have you gotten right as a parent? What is one thing your kids won't bring up in the hours of therapy they will be in for all the other things you got wrong... oh, wait, that's only my kids. Share the victories!


Tips for a Challenge

A few of you are taking me up on my challenge, and I am SO glad you are even considering it! It is also NOT too late to join! Jump on in, the water's fine...!

Some things I have read have said that 10,000 is a less-than-scientific ideal. 10,000 is what makes an adult considered to be 'active'. I still contend it is a good goal to aim for -- yet I will confess that I RARELY make it. Remember that the winner of the challenge (one of them) is for total number of steps.

If you would like some tips on how to improve your numbers for the November Challenge, think about these things:

1) First and foremost: your feet. You MUST wear shoes that you can tolerate all day. That's one of the reasons I have a 'rest day' so that my feet can have a 'cute shoe' day! Tell your co-workers about the challenge and that you may be looking a little sportier than usual through November. Wear your tennis shoes EVERYWHERE. Have your co-workers sign up for the challenge while you're at it.

2) Unload your groceries one bag at a time. Seriously. Put the entire bag away, go back for more. Think about laundry, trash, etc. the same way. Steps won't kill you as long as you are in comfortable shoes.

3) People have been saying for years: park at the far end of the parking lot. This alone will not make you in shape, but it will help.

4) You HAVE to have enough sleep, as well. You will feel so much better and be able to get in your steps much easier when you are well rested.

5) Enlist a buddy. Mindy and Keith are in the challenge together (I think Mindy has an advantage as an elementary school teacher). They will do great as they can go for a walk after dinner together and talk about their day while they add up steps.

6) Do not be discouraged no matter what your first few readings may be on your pedometer. It is a measuring device -- like blood pressure or cholesterol (or, yes, the scale). The best part about a pedometer is it takes just a few changes to make it better the next day -- unlike the scale. Another thing I read said to aim for improving your average number of steps by 500/ week. So, if you are hovering around 3,000/day right now -- aim for 3,500 by the end of the week. By the end of the challenge you should be around 5,000. BIG improvement!

7) If you do other forms of exercise that will not register as 'steps' you can use this chart (though I think it measures EXCESSIVELY high) to convert it to steps. This is for 30 minutes of activity.

I think that's all for now. Any questions? Any more takers?


The Overnight Bag

I hate my husband's overnight bag.

When we first moved here, Troy's job required him to travel a few times a month. Hard on a family with little kids, but, at the time, part of the trade-off for getting out of another job in a difficult environment. For our first Christmas here, a sweet family friend gave him a travel overnight bag -- one that has a hanger on it so you can hang it on door frames or hooks, and has several compartments for razor, toothbrush, medicine, contacts, etc.

He loved and still does love that overnight bag. It is very handy and useful. When he first got it he was traveling so much there was not much point in really unpacking it, so he pretty much lived out of it at home or on the road.

So the overnight bag was either chronically hanging on my shower, reminding me that another leaving was just around the corner, or it was gone, reminding me that he was gone with it. When the overnight bag was here, it made me think of my mom encouraging anyone who may be in her home wearing a coat, "Take off your coat and stay a while." I wanted to say, "Unpack your bag and stay a while..."

Eventually I did. Seriously, I built up so much resentment to that one poor bag (it wasn't just the leaving --it was also that it was in the way of the shower door) that I asked to Troy to please just unpack it when he got home and repack it as he was leaving. By this time his travel had slowed considerably and that wasn't as much of an issue.

Then... glory be! Last year, Troy got an entirely different job, requiring very little travel. The overnight bag was tucked away, only to be drug out for fun vacations, or hunting trips. Much better.

Until...(cue suspense music) now entirely different job can't decide which job it really should be, so maybe all 3? The bag has returned. The travel has returned. He has been gone each of the last 3 weeks (for 2-4 days each week, not all week), Today will begin a brief 10 day respite before another 2 weeks of travel. Color me unamused currently.

I am in the pouting phase. I hate that stupid bag.

Now, you know I can't leave it like that. Mainly because I can already hear you clackety-clacking on your keyboard preaching at me, but I KNOW. The best part is, that my friends who really truly know -- my widow friend with kids younger than mine, my air force wife friend -- never preach at me. Because they know. They know that deep in my soul I am grateful simply for a living, breathing husband whose job is on this side of the ocean. But they also know that a family simply works better as a cohesive unit, and sometimes a mom doing it on her own also needs a release valve. Mine is that stupid overnight bag. That is what I choose to be angry at and loathe. And those who truly know what it's like -- simply let me be mad at the overnight bag, no judgment.

Another thing I will eventually be thankful for is that thus far (I am so jinxing myself) we have had neither house nor health calamities through these travels. A trip out of town usually requires either a trip to the ER or a phone call to the plumber for those left behind. So... that is what I leave you with. Next trip, I will change my attitude and we will have a walk down memory lane, I promise. There is some hilarity of all the goin's on that have happened here in Troy's absence -- few of them funny at the time. I will share soon.

So -- anyone have any good single-parent stories to share while we wait?
UPDATED: Didn't the Lord have fun with this one?? For months after I wrote this he had no job, then he had a job in another town where he really did live out of that overnight bag. Now he still travels for work, but usually on a plane where the overnight bag is too big, so he is full of travel size toiletries.


Just Time for a Laugh

Oh, I have too much to tell you and no time, so I just leave you with this.

It is red ribbon week at my kids' school. DRUGS ARE NOT FUNNY, KIDS!!!!!!!!!


Good Things Out There

Many of you know that one evening a week I spend with 3 wonderful people with A Better View podcast. We have the best time and I generally feel pretty much out of my league all the way around. This post from one of my co-hosts, Amanda, simply confirmed that fact. This is some wonderful cleverness regarding spiritual application of Zombie movies.

I rarely do churchy type things on Good Things Out There, but oh my stars, you need to read this. Then you need to email your preacher, elders, and any other church leader you know and have them read it, too. Have them repeat after me: We will miss you. Love it.
Do not send your church leaders here, but send people you love here, especially those over 50. But go read it first. I literally put my head on my desk and cried -- I was laughing so hard. I know this month is all pink for Breast Cancer Awareness -- but this is about colon cancer which has its own awareness month in March, but I will never remember that, and this is just hysterical and you need to read it anyway. Seriously.
If you would like to add your 'Good Thing' button to your blog, copy the code into an 'HTML' box on your sidebar:


Friday -- Clean Up and Fun Day

Don't forget to look into the November challenge. You know you want to do it. What's stopping you? We'll all have so much more fun doing it together!

Drumroll please...... WINNERS!!!

Here is the official Cleft of the Rock choosing bowl, full of Monday's entries:
At which point, one of my offspring with writing all over her hand even after a shower dug into the bowl and drew this name:

Please trust me that the bowl full of Tuesday's entries looked virtually the same as the bowl full of Monday's entries. A different offspring's hand dove into the bowl and pulled out this name (no writing on the hand, but still dirty fingernails after a shower):
So, congrats to Stephanie and Christy Cate. Thanks to one and all for playing along. More prizes/ give-aways coming up! Start with the November challenge -- Target gift cards...! Woot!

Don't you want to be the voice of this booth?

I get a date tonight! Then volleyball tournament and soccer tomorrow (and the end of both seasons are in sight! Awesome!) and worship with my church family on Sunday.

Who has an awesome weekend ahead? What's going on where you are?


November Challenge

Friends of the Bloggy Kind:

I initially was going to offer this challenge to only my friend Roxanne, but then figured I would let us all in on the fun!

Here's the deal:

I am finding that age is catching up to my rear, as well as my whole "to write I have to spend time sitting my buttocks in the chair" philosophy. So I have invested in the most expensive pedometer I am willing to buy that gets rave reviews, and I have set about aiming for that elusive 10,000 steps per day to help ward off the 'expansion of time', if you will.

It was working, as long as I was getting in my 10,000 steps, then I got lazy and am not getting it. So, how about a challenge? The best part about this challenge is that it is 100% within your control -- it isn't pounds lost or calories consumed or whatever. It is simply steps taken per day. Short of a catastrophic injury over a pecan, you should be able to manage it.

Who would like to join me in logging steps for the month of November? How 'bout a Target gift card for the person who logs the most steps for the month of November? (Yeah, NOW you're paying attention, right?)

How to enter:
A) Secure a pedometer. Seriously, you want a decent one. Here is the one I have that isn't OUTRAGEOUS, and you may be able to have it at your doorstep by next week!
B) Email me at sarah [at] thecoffeegroup.net. Please notice this isn't my usual email address where it could potentially get lost with Kohl's sales and forwards. Also, do not assume you are actually signed up until I have replied with "You are on the list!"
C) Put a link to this post on your blog, facebook, Twitter, etc. so that we can get the whole country walking off their Thanksgiving meal before they ever eat it!

How to play:
A) Starting November 2, wear your pedometer 6 days/ week. Sundays are always my day of rest, you may pick a different day. Your pedometer should come with instructions on where and how to best wear it.
B) Email me your daily total. You can do this how you choose: at the end of every day, morning of next, or keep the total for the week yourself and send in that total, or just wait until the end of the month and send me THAT. Whatever works for you. I assume it would be easier to simply email me the number on the pedometer when you take it off at the end of the day, then punch 'reset' for the next day.
C) The November Challenge will run Nov. 2-30 for 25 days (figuring a day of rest per week). You have through December 1 to send me your totals, and I will figure and announce the WINNER on December 2. TRUMPET FANFARE!! Target gift card, just in time for Christmas shopping!! Woot!! Also -- lotsa walking steps just in time for Thanksgiving!

I will calculate the winner based on total number of steps for the month, so you could potentially only walk 2,000 steps one day and then walk 450,000 steps the next and collapse in a heap in time to claim your card!

Since I do have a philosophy of "Anything is better than nothing" when it comes to exercise, there will also be a category of "Most Improved" or "Most Consistent" or some such of my choosing that I haven't settled on yet. Mainly, I don't want anyone to launch down this path and get discouraged at how far they have to go and give up.

Remember, the goal is 10,000 steps per day.

So... with or without a Target gift card, who would like to try to take a lot of steps throughout November? November Challenge -- are you in?


Middle School Advice

So last week I asked you what you would say to the middle school you (as if you would have listened). (And P.S. -- can anyone else believe that was only last week??? Does it feel like about 6 weeks ago to you, too???)

So, in the name of laziness disguised as simplicity, I am compiling answers here. For one, many of us obviously did not see the value of exercise at the time and do now. Hmmmmm. Makes me thankful my daughter is an athlete. At least she is forced into exercise.

"One thing I would want my 13-year old self to know is why puberty is the way it is,
and that it won't last forever. That was a truly weird time, and I didn't even understand why.

Another would be that God loves me pretty much the way I am, and my friends will just have to learn to do so, too.

Be kind to my parents - they're learning their way through this, too.

Any cigarette smoked in the next few years will come back and bite me 50 years from now.
How much space ya got?"

"Hmmmmm. . .be nicer to your brother. He is just as confused and scared and lost and hormonal as you are, and you two are all you've got. Plus you will recall later, in great detail, the times you were unkind to him and you just can't take 'em back.

Develop good study habits. Just because you're smart enough to "get by" doesn't mean you'll always be able to.
You are not fat. You hang around with girls that weigh 75 pounds dripping wet and are a foot shorter than you. You will someday look at photos and realize that you were fine.

All the pain you are having now--the uncertainty--the doubts, those will mature into wisdom, so pay attention and hold on."

"I like what dad said: "Be kind to my parents - they're learning their way through this, too." I find myself telling my boys this from time to time, along the lines of, we as parents have been there done that, but that doesn't mean we have the answers all the time. Some things you have to figure out on your own.

I also remind them them that oftentimes if their peers taunt or make fun, are probably not feeling that great about themselves.

I also would have told my then-me to get more exercise, and not to be afraid to sweat! Exercise/physical activity is a bigtime cure-all."

"I don't know how to get it across to a 13-year old, but you are better at doing those things -- I would try to help them to see the value of reputation, that it is worth more than all the money they will ever make in a lifetime, that a foolish moment
can damage it, and that when you do or say something that could damage someone else's reputation, you also damage your own." (loved this one -- SS)

You are a great person and it all turns out ok. Study harder and learn to love exercise. God loves you unconditionally and so do your parents. Save sexy for your hubby....."

"1. You will find more success in life than most of the girls who beat you out for cheerleader three years in a row. Doing the splits is not that big an accomplishment.
2. Stick with that journalism thing -- writing is going to make a di
fference in your life.
3. Don't worry about being so tall. It works out quite well in the long run.
4. You may feel insignificant but God knows better, and someday so will you."

"I would say to parents "really listen" what we think is drama is so real to them. When they feel alone , no matter how much we say " oh come on you have friends" it does not help. There really seems to be little we can say . It is a season of life that here in America is so hard. Stay aware of what is going on. Pray pray pray. And listen more than you talk. Give a lot of grace during this time for so many academics takes a back seat to the Drama!"
"1). "8th is better than 7th and 9th is better than 8th". Being able to look ahead & know it will get better, or was better helps.
2). "You are a work in progress, God didn't intend for you to have your full beauty until you were 18 and could handle it." I come from a long line of late bloomers... and the picture albums are proof!
3). "You can't date until you are 16". That keeps the boy/girl pressure off, pair that with "The boys are going to regret being so mean to you when you are older"
and most important:
5). "You know how this works, someone has to be left out for them to feel good about themselves..."Also, Taylor Swift is a real inspiration for these girls. She's open about being left out and how it made her

"I'd say, "How bout we go to McAlisters?" That fixes EVERYTHING!"

"The road ahead is pretty tough, but you're gonna do just fine!! So hold your head up and meet it all head on, an while you're at it, here are a few things you should NOT do.........And always remember that you're worth a whole lot more than some people think you are, so don't let other people's opinions drag you down!!" Then I
think I'd Introduce myself to someone who could have introduced me to the Gospel sooner!!"

"This too shall pass. And one day you will look back on it and it will make a lot more sense. Don't label the whole state for the bad experience you had here."

"BE with them. Affirm what they do somehow, someway. They can smell a lecture 20 miles away. I've watched quite a few broken hearts heal with the unconditional love and companionship of an affirming person. It is THE most beautiful thing I've ever seen. blossom...is the word."
"Oh Jr High was so tough for me-I was 75 lbs soaking wet and already 5'9, I had buck teeth and when I was on Homecoming Court in HS I still thought of all the kids who made fun of me. My mom gave me every example in the Bible of those who were 'different' and how God uses those differences to his glory. She wanted me to embrace my strong willed self and not try to fit in, blend in, when I was made to stand out :-). That helped when I felt so 'unlike'. In the end, the best advice my parents gave me was the same advice God has imprinted on my heart 'my child, this too shall pass'"

Today's prizes have very little to do with middle school, but perhaps are a reward for surviving! To enter, leave a comment telling me either which of this advice you liked best, or maybe giving some more of your own. We're kind of stuck in middle school around here at The Cleft of the Rock! I promise we're graduating soon...


Lowest Common Denominator

originally in Abilene Families magazine

It was a gorgeous fall afternoon, if a bit on the breezy side -- not that fall afternoons come in many other varieties than breezy in West Texas. I had to leave one job early to go claim a child from middle school to shuttle her to the most recent athletic event.

As I drove along, my head swimming with deadlines unmet, emails to return, projects piling up, and family errands that must be done, I noticed what I thought was a neighborhood construction project. With a double-take on the tombstones, I realized it was simply Halloween decorations. Of course. Halloween decorations when it isn’t even October. For the love.

If you have been by or inside my home, you know that my landscaping, interior decorating, and holiday decorating can all be described as ‘minimalist’ at most generous. I’m just so darn happy to get food on the table and clean clothes in the drawers, anything in addition to that is considered extraneous and bordering on obsessively overachieving.

I actually do decorate for the holiday celebrating the birth of our Savior, but every year I get out less and less, and delegate more and more. I figure in a few years I’ll be down to having the kids put out one strand of lights each and call it good.

When the kids were little I would even get out a bunny or two at Easter, but that quickly declined to me crawling through the attic the day before Easter just to find the box with the baskets in it for the egg hunt. My own hunt before the hunt, if you will. Of course this was immediately followed by me crawling back into the attic the day after Easter to toss the baskets back in a random box, making next year’s hunt all the more exciting.

But to decorate for the holiday that is celebrated by going to beg candy off of the neighbors while dressed as a geometrically clad underwater creature? Um, no. Now, I could go down the pious religious road and say that it’s a Pagan holiday, All Hallow’s Eve, blah-dee blah. But the truth is, I simply do not have the wherewithal to decorate for such a short-lived event.

I think the entire reason I am able to decorate at all for Christmas is that school and life comes to a halt around Thanksgiving, allowing for decorating time, and if I am really on top of things I can get decorations thrown back in the attic before school gets too cranked back up in the new year.

With apologies to Halloween die-hards, I just can’t pull it off amongst soccer, band, volleyball, PTA, tennis, Open House, algebra homework, and the million six other things my family is juggling at this point.

So, instead of agreeing to disagree on the whole decorating for Halloween thing, let’s do it this way: if your home, especially your front yard is decorated for Halloween to the point that I mayenjoy it while I drive by, thank you. Thank you for giving my family something to enjoy about the season and the fun and frivolity that comes with Halloween that won’t be taking place at my house.

I, on the other hand, will be the lowest common denominator. I will be the house that the rest of you may look at to say, “Well, I didn’t do much, but at least it isn’t the Stirman’s house. Bless ‘em.”

You’re welcome. We all have our place in this world. I have found mine, and I am claimin’ it.

So, what about you? Decorate for Halloween or no? How extensively? I am actually considering buying a pumpkin...

To enter for today's drawing, leave a comment telling me about Halloween decorations. Anything: memories, a favorite, pro or con. Whatev.

Prizes for today's drawing include these books:

Prizes for today's drawing do not include this dog, who felt the need to hide under the table for some reason:

Who needs Halloween decorations with that under the table?
Design by Deluxe Designs