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:

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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.

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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 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!
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