Christmas Fun


A Little Grinching For the Season

Ever have one of those moments that takes you back -- no matter how briefly -- to your most awkward, rejected middle school feelings?

Yeah, that happened. And, I am callin' her out.

My family depends on me to fill them in on ALLLLLL the details of any situation, no matter if I have ever been there or not.

"How long will this take?"
"Will we know anyone?"
"How many other people are there?"

And on and on it goes. And so it was earlier this week as I drug my family to do a little ministry to others. The project was city-wide, come one, come all, and I had never done it before, either.

I was already feeling a little rattled being there by myself with the kids, answering all of their questions about it, yet trying to maintain my calm through it all. I walked into a very crowded room where we were being herded to receive instructions and ... HEY! There's some people I know... not very well.

There were some people who attend my church... yes, my same church... sitting in one area and one row of chairs had 3 seats left in it. Me, two kids. I make a move to claim said seats.

This woman from my church -- yes, my sister in Christ -- doesn't even make eye contact with me, but SLAMS both of her hands down on the one seat closest to her and is looking about FRANTICALLY for the person that should be occupying the seat.

I have not felt so humiliatingly rejected since 6th grade when I didn't own a pair of Luv-It jeans with the satin lips and lipstick on the pocket.

You know, if she had simply smiled and said, "I'm sorry... I'm waiting for my husband/ friend/ Darth Vader/ bin Laden/ neighborhood leper to sit here... we only have 2 seats." it just wouldn't have been so bad.

I simply smiled, found 3 other seats next to a Dyess B-1 pilot who had manners, and added her to my list of people I simply will not miss once I don't live here.


A Decorating Thought

This one isn't whining about my house not selling, I promise.

In "staging" our house, we are keeping all things minimalist, including Christmas decorations. We got down the pre-lit tree, the stockings and stocking hangers, and that's about it. I didn't want to get down ALL of the ornaments (you know, the precious little handprint ones, the dixie cups rolled in glitter with jingle bells hung with yarn from the inside), but the lights alone were a little... pathetic.

So I checked out who had Christmas ribbon on sale and, lo and behold, when you wait until the middle of December to decorate, EVERYONE has their decorations and ribbon on sale! I went to Michael's and bought several (way too many, it turned out) rolls of wide, wired ribbon that was 60% off, so it was $4/ roll. Turns out, on our tree, 3 rolls was PLENTY, but I'll keep one extra roll just for good measure.

So, my thought for today is: $16 bucks worth of ribbon can make a tree look like a tree. Not bad. (yes, I know we have a strand out. It's not the fuses. We give up.)


For Nothing Is Impossible

As you might imagine, I'm a little single-minded these days, so this 'choose one thought' blog idea may not work out too well. They may seem to all center around the same theme for a while. I will try to vary the idea a bit throughout the week. But today, the idea centers around the same thing I spoke about last time: my house hasn't sold.

I have become very specific in my prayers with the Lord. And bold. My prayer is not that my house will sell "soon" or "quickly". You see, scripture tells me that a day with the Lord is like a thousand years. So, I am being very specific in telling the Lord every time I pray that I would please like my house to sell THIS MONTH. Sure, it's a long shot. Sure it's the holidays. Sure it's the worst economy ever. But He is God and I will boldly ask.

Yesterday, through a series of events that I'll share later God led me to read Luke 1. And in Luke 1, I have a verse highlighted and underlined.

v. 37: "For nothing is impossible with God."

Now, I realize there are 2 ways to take this. Obviously, I could hear it that selling my home this month is not impossible with God. OR me surviving it NOT selling this month is not impossible with God. But God and I (and all of you) know which way I want that to go!

That makes me think of Evan Almighty when God had told Evan there would be a flood on Sept. whatever. And on Sept. whatever Evan is standing there ON HIS ARK that he built and there is nary a cloud in the sky.

Evan's wife says, "Maybe... maybe God didn't mean a literal flood. Maybe He meant a flood of knowledge, or emotion, or awareness."
Evan replies, "Oh, if that's true, I am going to be so ticked."

Yeah. Please Lord.

So we wait, secure in the knowledge that nothing is impossible with God.

And tonight, while we wait, to reframe our minds, the kids and I will be volunteering with a local ministry to inner city children to deliver blankets, food, and gifts for the season. And we will then return to our warm home, that we still own, and be very grateful that we have it and for all that the Lord has given us.

"For nothing is impossible with God."


Just a Thought

Julie inspired my to dip my toe back into blogging ever so lightly.

If you don't want to clicky-click ALLLL the way over to Julie's spot, here is what she says:

"For some reason I find myself flush with ideas as I go about my day that I think would make most interesting blog topics. However, when I finally sit down at the computer they have flown from my mind, like birds seeking warmer places for winter...

It's not that I can't remember anything about my day, it's just that the writing impetus has gone, gone away...

So today I decided that surely for the next few days I could just write one sentence. Or better put, just one thought."

So I shall try to give you just one thought on my blog, but my dream last night was a foreshadowing of trying to catch that thought. I was trying to help a toddler out of water that was up to the top of her head. Her mother had no idea that the water was too deep for her and had left her. For some reason, I was hovering over the water. Let's not analyze, shall we. I would get within arm's reach of the toddler, and she would walk in a circle, trying to figure out how to get out of the water. This went on to a comedic level. I was frantically reaching for this toddler walking in circles in water. No, I never got her. The alarm went off.

Yes, my thoughts to capture are that elusive. Julie's one was about her Christmas lights that she is thankful for. We don't have any up right now. We don't have any Christmas out. My hope was that our house would at this point be "under contract" and we would be frantically packing, buying a new home, etc. Instead we are waiting on God's perfect timing to bring a buyer to our home.

And, if I had to give you one thought, it would be that, since that is the question I get most frequently, "How's the sale of your house going?" And my response is, "About like you would expect during the holidays of the worst economy of my lifetime..."

Most days I am at peace, but the past two nights I have slept like a baby. Meaning -- in 2 hour increments. And in my 2 hour increments, I'm evidently dreaming of near-drownings of toddlers. I'm not well rested which means I'm not in a super great frame of mind.

At one point when I was at peace, God brought to mind a verse I am claiming for our family for 2011. I know that at this point in time, God is taking us to a new town to do something... awesome for Him. I don't know what, but the hard part is waiting to get started.

Stirman family verse for 2011:
Joshua told the people, "Consecrate yourselves, for tomorrow the Lord will do amazing things among you." Joshua 3:5

Let's do this thing!



Today's the day!

Yes, it's a day of craziness and another day of sending Troy off to work at a job far away after he survived, nay, thoroughly enjoyed his first week. Add to it a birthday for a 13 year old complete with Harry Potter film fest, a basketball tournament and an out of town basketball game
and we are a family ON THE GO. Oh... of course today is Open House for the house, so I SHOULD be dusting, scrubbing, sweeping, mopping, straightening, or tossing something, but right now I have to pause to remember.

Eighteen years ago this morning I was waking up for the last time as a single woman. It was a muggy Louisiana morning (there are about 4 per year that aren't). I remember certain vivid details about my wedding day, few of them that you want to hear. I do remember my Poppa Max's booming voice as he prayed over us. I remember poor Roxanne, my maid of honor, had a sinus infection. It POURED on us after we left from our honeymoon. And I thought I loved Troy more than I ever would or could.
Eighteen years later I love him still and I love him more. I have made no secret of the fact that our marriage isn't perfect now and has had its share of trouble... which is why I love him so. We have both fought hard for what we have which makes it that much more precious.

Troy and I both are "out there" folks in our own way -- he is a networking/ making things happen guy, and I am the write about what has happened gal. God taught me years ago that my emotions and happiness don't depend on Troy (that is God's place in my life) but Troy very ably steps in and reminds me of my gifts, points out where I might best use them in God's kingdom, and when Satan tries to convince me it won't work or I can't do it, Troy points out the lie that is. The "being comfortable in my own skin" that has come with age has also come from being married to Troy. My skin is pretty comfortable next to him, too.

So, in the midst of this crazy day, happy anniversary to the love of my life. I hope we get way more than 18 more.

I thought this post, by Matt Hammit of Sanctus Real, was wonderful for today. If you haven't heard of his story, Matt's baby, Bowen, was born about 6 weeks ago with serious heart complications. Following surgery, several scary days, and a LONG stay in the NICU, Bowen FINALLY came home this week... one day before Matt had to leave for a show. He talks about his struggle to find that elusive balance we all look for.

What. A. Day.

As I was opening my eyes this morning, I was thinking, "We should leave the house 'show ready' when we go to church this morning... they gave us such short notice yesterday, and the weekends may be a busy time for house hunters..." Yeah..

Then Troy came back and told me that the dog (our LARGE dog) had a LARGE accident in the laundry room. VERY unlike her, I think I know what happened, but nonetheless, there was machinery that needed to be moved, grout to be cleaned, etc. Troy thought he had cleaned it all up, but he can't smell anything, so off I went scrubbing and mopping and moving the dryer, etc.

That didn't get the morning off to a very peaceful beginning as you might imagine.

The day concluded with trying to coax a hibernating hedgehog out of her cage so that we could clean it out -- we had forgotten to bring her in from the garage when we had someone come to look at the house yesterday. She's fine in cold temperatures, but she goes into hibernation. Good times, good times.

Betwixt and between I sent my husband on his way to a town 180 miles away for his first week of work -- only to send him with my car keys so that he would have to turn around about 30 miles out and come back... --, took a teenage girl clothes shopping (which was actually relatively painless compared to everything else), and helped son prepare for a devo talk.

I'll be honest -- you knew I was going to -- I haven't loved today. But I have been thankful. I have been tempted to gripe (and I have) -- but underneath it all, I am thankful. If nothing else, it's awesome blog material, right?

Yesterday afternoon I was blessed to meet and spend a few minutes talking to the mother of the stinkin' cutest little 4 year old leukemia patient -- still going through one more year of treatment. Also learned of a 5 year old diagnosed with leukemia. Can I really complain because of a few inconveniences due to a new job and life transition? I'm sure I can, but Lord help me if I do.

Today was the first of what will be several challenging days ahead, I'm sure. Mandisa sings it best, "It's only the World", oh, yes, it is.

"For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all. So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen. For what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal." 2 Corinthians 4:17,18

Fixing my eyes on the eternal to get past this temporary mess.


What A Difference 9 Years Makes

We are in the 'staging' phase of selling our house. We hope to get it on the market in the next 48-72 hours. This morning we had a friend come over who stages homes professionally. I THOUGHT I had looked at enough house listings to have a good idea of how to show our house well. This gal had great ideas but it involved some WORK on our end.

Troy and I were BOTH overwhelmed. Still are. But I did realize tonight the difference a few years can make in a move.

Nine years ago it would have gone like so:
She: we need to move that here, this there, and that over there.
Him: I'm not moving that.
She: silent and sullen, pouting and sad that it won't get done, but when asked, she is FINE

She: we need to move that here, this there, and that over there.
Him: I'm not moving that.
She: But what if I really want it that way?
(After two hours of shoving, pulling, rearranging, and vacuuming --- DONE).
And everyone lived happily ever after.


Too Much! Too Much!

It is BEYOND time to get the "Just for Today" post off of there! I have SO many things I want to tell you that I am FROZEN and haven't told you anything. So here I am to tell you something, which is always better than nothing, but it won't be everything. Right? Here we go. May have to hit the high points:

** Hello. We have a job. Y'all, I am not kidding. The very day, nay, the HOUR that I was posting my last little post -- and weeping a little through it -- Troy called me from an interview, "They LOVE me!!" In short, he was "lead candidate" for this job. So we waited. And waited. And waited some more. Then we yelled at each other a lot. I'm not kidding. That's one of the posts I want to write: what healthy marriages do under stress. It isn't pretty, but somehow we make it through. Then FINALLY the actual job offer came in. As of November 15, Troy will be working for the Cox School of Business at SMU in Dallas. Thank you, Lord, for your faithfulness.

** So... if you understand my current zip code, and Troy's job situation, you will figure out that there is a move in my future. I have figured out that to say the word 'move' and hand me a cardboard box, I have a Pavlovian response of elevated blood pressure, increased acid level in my stomach, and a tension headache. And my feet hurt. I don't move well, can you tell? Our move here was stressful, but went fabulously.... until we hit these city limits and the bottom fell out of our life. Then the next 3 years continued to eat our lunch. I do not have the mental wherewithall to do that again.

Most people ask about the kids. They are being good sports and handling it pretty well. They know that we have all prayed that we stay here, and God has led us to the Dallas area. So... can they really argue? :-) Of course, I am tempted to worry since I am mom, but when my brain travels that direction, I pray for just ONE friend for them those first few days and weeks, and that they will have someone to sit with at lunch on their first day of school.

** Race report: I really want to write an actual race report blog post, but if I don't get to it, I need to say that this last weekend was the 'Marathoning for Miracles' half- marathon for Children's Miracle Network. I completed it and truly had a great time.

We often quote an Andy Griffith show around here. Barney had gotten a new car, and all went for a drive, but Gomer was a little prone to motion sickness. The crew was driving through the hills surrounding Mayberry in Barney's new car when Barney thought to ask, "Gomer, how ya' doin'?" Gomer replied, in his characteristic drawl, "I'm sick as a dawg, but I'm havin' the time of m' life!" So... yeah ... I hurt all over, but I had the time of my life. I really did. I got texts from all over the state, I read encouraging facebook messages and tweets from EVERYWHERE. Saturday, I was mentally ready to take on two more a year for the rest of my life, improving my time every race. Today (after a few days' rest and missing running) my brain has already geared away from running and thinking that I don't ever want to run again. Someone please make me run. My brain will need it in the midst of this mess I'm in.

**Various and sundry: I have been blessed to see my boy score touchdowns this year! Big doin's for 7th grade football! Very exciting. Loving being a band parent for Friday games with Ashley, too, but Friday night is supposed to get down to 36*. We aren't even to playoffs yet! Brrrrrrrrrrr! Love to watch my babies in action, using their gifts! We are so blessed.

So... I've got plenty going on over here. What about you? What's up with you?

Just For Today

Just for today... I am so weary of the not knowing.

Last night, like several others recently, I sat through a parent meeting about a sport, wondering how long our family will be living in this town, if my child will have an opportunity to participate in the sport.

Just for today... the tears are closer to the surface than usual.

The constant holding us up wears a momma down, and eventually I collapse physically. I don't feel sad or down as much as I simply feel tired. Tired of the mental jockeying of 'what if/ what now/ which way/ what to do'. Simply tired.

Just for today... I don't have to have it all figured out.

Today I don't have the energy or strength to figure out all the possibilities of goin's on in our lives. It is a day that I will gather my family close, drawing strength and joy from them. Obviously, I will openly confess that this unemployment/ uncertain future isn't always the barrel of laughs it was billed to be.

When I say 'uncertain future'... please hear this: I'm saying I'm not positive what my address will be. I'm a planner and compartmentalizer (not a word... I know). I need the things ahead of me to fit on my calendar and in my address book. Looking into the vast stretch of nothingness in front of me has been a HUGE stretch for me that, for the most part, I have been totally okay with. But... just for today... I am not.

The important things are in my future: my God will be faithful no matter where my feet walk the earth and where my head touches my pillow at night. Which is why under the exhaustion, even under the tears, I have a peace. Peace that a God who loves me more than I can know is holding us all in His hand.

Just for today... I am so grateful.

Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice! Let your gentleness be evident to all. The Lord is near. Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. Philippians 4:4-7

Watching The Kids

I literally have two minutes, but just have a thought in my head ... you know, rolling around because it's otherwise fairly empty except for remnants of a shopping list and some Christmas ideas... and I wanted to put it down.

Yesterday Troy had a phone interview scheduled for mid-morning. Early morning, he got called and could he possibly reschedule it for 5 p.m. "Sure, that won't be a problem." The instant he hung up he smacked his forehead. "Shoot! I spoke too soon! That is RIGHT in the middle of Riley's football game!" He grieved and moaned. He debated about attending the 4:15 game at all, but finally decided to go to the first quarter of it, hating that he had to miss any of it (and, true to form, Riley had an awesome game, as Ashley always does in her sporting events when one of us has to miss any of it!)

I was thinking about how much Troy and I both love watching our kids "in action" and "doing their thing"... basically using the gifts that God has given them, and how out of our way we will go to catch just a few minutes of it. Sometimes it's here in the house, I love to hear the insights they have on a subject because of the gift of their humor or intelligence or compassion, but it also brings us great joy to watch them at play on the court or field of their choice, going all out for a sport that they enjoy, win or lose (and, no doubt, winning is always more fun). We love to see and hear them play in band, and have been amazed to hear the progress as they have gone from fledgling beginners to accomplished honors band members.

As the Lord often does, He spoke to me about how it gives Him great joy to see His children "in action" and "doing their thing", using the gifts that He has given us.

Lord, may I not get so caught up in the every day of this world that I miss what you have for me. May you delight in seeing me use the gifts you have blessed me with. May I purposely unfold and develop those gifts for your glory this day and every day.


Techno-Rant by a Techno-Snob

With my husband looking for work, and precious little of it to be found in our fair town, there is a strong possibility that our family will end up relocating at some point in the next 6-12 months. With relocation, comes starting over with schools, church, doctors, hairdressers, vets, the whole of living.

Here is something I have realized: if you are a church or school in 2010 and your website doesn't reflect that it's 2010, do not expect my family to give you an opportunity to meet our needs otherwise.

And, being a further snob, I'll tell you (as a church) you NEED our family in your midst, oh, yes, you do. Okay, a school does, too, but school families who will be involved are a dime a dozen. Church families who will be involved... not so much. Evidently, they are all too busy being involved at school. Troy is a great administrator in things he gets involved in at church, gorgeous voice for singing, I take my turn teaching Sunday school, and my kids will make your youth ministry look good. They are leaders among their peers and sweet kids, befriending kids of all shapes and sizes. And... yeah, you want to know... of course we give on a regular basis. We are your model church family.

But if I move to my new (undetermined) town and am scouting out churches and pull up your website and it has (only) an article by the preacher, pictures of the staff, and service times and location... pass. That is a 2003 website.

I started thinking about this when a Facebook friend also recently relocated and mentioned that she had placed membership at The Happy Sunshine Church (*not actual name of congregation). Since my friend had relocated in North America, and we will probably relocate somewhere in North America, I thought I would scope out The Happy Sunshine Church. One can never be too prepared.

Um... yeah. Won't be going there. Pulled up the 'youth' page: a gray box with the word: 'testing' in the middle of it. Pulled up the youth calendar: same gray 'testing box'. They did have a super-secret, password-only member-only section, but I wasn't invited into that... My part was gray and 'testing'... And I was becoming 'testy'... Their WORDS said, "We would LOVE to have you visit us and you can find us at this location." Their website said, "You aren't worth the effort."

Yes, I do Facebook and Twitter, too, but I'm not being adamant about that. By the year 2000, once we all figured out that the lights were going to stay on after the Y2K scare, your church should have figured out, "Hey! I think this internet thing is going to stick around. We may need us a world wide internet address for our church."

Granted, MOST churches have seen the need for a website... but that is all. It's time to move past the year 2000, and let your website be an active place of outreach for your congregation, as well as a place to communicate with your members. If you'll notice, people now have the internet on their phone, at their kitchen table, at McDonald's and Starbuck's... they may be wondering where they are going to church on Sunday, and if the children's ministry is any more than coloring pages and 'testing'. What is your church communicating?

I think the church where I worship does a fairly good job of this (and in about 2 more weeks we will be unveiling a new, improved site that will be even better -- SO EXCITED!) I was blessed to work with the team that helped create the new site, and spent some time scouting out other church sites. I saw entirely too many church calendars set at October, 2006, or some other such random date when the website was created. If it isn't current, it's useless.

I think another local church has an awesome website as well.

If you are reading this and nodding and wishing your church had something like this, let me direct you to The Marketing Twins, Randy and Donny Vaughn. Troy and I were in school with Randy and Donny and they could totally hook you up with a website.

I mentioned schools, but I will say that since we are currently a public school family, most school districts do a GREAT job of communicating online, keeping calendars current, having a place to check grades, etc. If we move to a place where I feel that private schools are our best option, the website will be a key indicator as to the academic and technological capability of the school.

So... that is my techno-rant for today. Do you have website peeves? Would love to hear them.


Your Child's Village

originally in Abilene Families

As the initial school bells pealed this year, parents had varying emotions and approached the year with different attitudes, in different vehicles, and from various neighborhoods. However, as the paperwork filtered home, one thing bound us all together in a united brotherhood drowning in felled forestry: our loathing of the forms.

As a former educator, I recognize that (some of) the forms are a necessary evil that must be waded through. I believe that I even read somewhere that this year an effort was made to reduce the number of forms, but once I filled the same one out for athletics, band, drama, chemistry club, and my cashier at the grocery store, the effort was really lost on me.

Some of the questions on the forms stumped me, too. Questions that I know were meant to be easy: “Is Yiddish your primary language at home?” I mutter. I rant. I speak in half sentences. Whatever language that the children answer in, claim that one. I don’t know.

“Is your home a temporary living arrangement?” Well, that’s just a can of worms, isn’t it? First, we have high hopes that these people that require piles and piles of forms will move out and fill out their own forms some day. So, yes, this arrangement is temporary, Lord willin’.

Also, occasionally in church I sing a song about this earth not being my home, I’m just a-passin’ through, though I don’t believe having a heavenly home as a permanent dwelling is what the form is asking. I doubt there is even government assistance for that.

This year there was a new one that really stumped me. Next to all of the student’s contacts, you were to check a box next to the contact name if he or she was a “responsible party”. Hmmmmm. We sometimes eat popcorn for dinner and I have been known to leave my children at school forgetting it was my week for carpool. Can you really call me responsible? I checked my husband’s box.

Then, there were the blanks that make me freeze up every year. You know the ones - especially you military families that move frequently. Those dreaded “Emergency Contacts”. Not having family in town, my mind is as blank as the form before me as I consider who would drop everything to help my child were he or she to need it.

Sometimes I play Russian roulette with my cell phone and land on my dentist and my pizza place and call it good. Giving it a little more thought, I begin to realize how blessed I am.

An African proverb accurately states “It takes a village to raise a child”. While our villages today have more brick and mortar and drive-thru windows, the premise still holds true.

I consider the village that loves my family and have been our extended family here. People who have driven, housed, fed, partied, entertained, hugged, and loved my children are all on standby willing to be emergency contacts.

As a young person, I prided myself on being “fiercely independent”. Now as a not-so-young person, I realize what a handicap independence can be. Seeing myself as a member of my village I recognize the astounding value in the community that surrounds me: people and families each a different puzzle piece to complete the overall picture of my family.

Now the hard part is deciding which one to use as an emergency contact. While I do that, I shall be icing my carpal tunnel syndrome from filling out all those forms.


He's Still The Daddy

I wrote this a few years ago. A little over 3 years ago, it seems, as my girl will soon turn 15 (yes, those were my gray hairs "sproing-ing" straight up as I said that):

Our Ashley is adult-sized. She is not adult shaped, and, at barely 11, isn't an adult, but she is adult sized. Over 5' tall and in ladies clothes that do not fit because she isn't shaped like a lady yet, but the girl that she still is. She is still getting used to those long legs and ginormous feet that she inherited from her mother.

Last night, due to events we will never understand other than the earth's gravity, Ashley's feet came completely out from under her while she was walking into the kitchen. She had both hands full, so the entirity of her adult-sized body landed on her tailbone on our tile floor. As Troy and I stood over her trying to help her and determine what happened it quickly became obvious that even if there WERE something you could do for an injured tailbone, we didn't know what it was, and watching her cry and writhe in pain was heartbreaking.

So Troy squatted down and, without even audibly groaning, scooped up her adult-sized body as if she were still 3 or 4 and carried her to a more comfortable spot
-because she's his baby girl
-because she needed him
-because he's the daddy.

It still kind of makes me cry... because our opportunities to take care of our babies are so few these days. But Troy had one more opportunity to take care of his girl, somewhat like this, a few days ago. I wasn't around, I'm not even sure of the circumstances, but I know they left for a 'I need to be looking somewhat nice' occasion and promptly returned home with her having scraped up knees, and mud all over, due to a difficult to see slick spot in a parking lot. It was so very very sad. I appreciated so much that he knew that to an almost-15 year old girl, he could not say, "Just go rinse off in the bathroom." No, this called for wardrobe and make-up and momma, and they came home. We got her cleaned up and back on track, not too much worse for the wear.

Because he's the daddy. And a darn good one, at that. We are so very very blessed.


Is There A Reason For This?

Last night at small group, someone asked about difficult life situations, mentioning specifically our current unsettled time of unemployment. The man who asked is also in an uncertain time and said that he is trying to figure out the meaning behind it... is there a reason for his struggle?

I, of course, had a little mini-sermon in reply. (If you know me at all this will not surprise you). I think it even had three points, the way a scriptural sermon should.

Let me say that I, to this point, have lived an amazingly blessed life, and would never deem to compare my time of uncertainty to whatever hardship you may be in the midst of. But my thoughts on whether or not a current trial has meaning were this:

a) I am BEYOND hard-headed (again, if you know me at all this will not surprise you). Whether I believe my current situation to be from Satan or discipline from the Lord (I have been in circumstances where it was CLEAR to see which was which, or times like now, I have no idea), I will dig in my heels and say, "I'm in this thing, Lord!" I jokingly said I have been known to be like Captain Dan in Forrest Gump -- remember when he got MAD at God and crawled up on the mast, screaming at the Lord, saying, "Is that the best you've got???" Yeah... I've been through times like that. My determination (nice way to say "hard head"), as well as my own life testimony of God's faithfulness through such times, is what keeps me walking toward the Lord when times get tough.

b) The only reason I will ever claim for why something may have happened in my life I find in John 9:1-3:

As he went along, he saw a man blind from birth. His disciples asked him, “Rabbi, who sinned, this man or his parents, that he was born blind?” “Neither this man nor his parents sinned,” said Jesus, “but this happened so that the work of God might be displayed in his life. (emphasis mine)

I gave up a LONG time ago trying to figure out why things have happened in my life -- I have learned that trials may not be for me. They may be for Troy, or for my kids, even for my next door neighbor, or the little boy who lives down the lane. I will never know. But I know that the work of God may always be displayed in my life by the way I walk through the trials, if I will surrender my will to the Spirit during those times. If I miss letting the work of God be displayed in my life, I have missed the only reason FOR SURE that I know of for that trial being in my life. May I not miss it.

c) A story (summarized that I read from a Chicken Soup for the Soul... I think...): a guy is watching his kid's little cocoon on a stick in the jar. There is violent shaking, blood drops... awful struggle. He watches the struggle for a while and thinks he'll help the little butterfly. He takes a pen knife and makes a tiny slit in cocoon. The wings finally emerge from the slit in the cocoon, and the butterfly walks around on the stick for the rest of the afternoon, but never takes flight.

Guy calls his scientist friend and asks why the butterfly isn't going to fly. When scientist-dude hears the whole story, he replies, "Oh... that's the problem. It is in the struggle to get out of the cocoon that the wings become strong enough to fly."

Again... I will never know why I go through some of the things that I do, but each trial allows my wings opportunity to grow stronger so that I can fly higher with each trial, and you can bet that I will be doing all that I can that the work of God may be displayed in my life.

Is it important for you to have reason in your struggle? How do you get through them?


My Running Community -- and Still Keepin' It Real

Last weekend was one of my long runs -- 10 miles. It was awesome. Seriously. I felt SO great the whole time. Cool weather, and was fueled properly. Just good. (I'm about a month out from my next half marathon).

Today was a shorter "long run" (long runs are on Saturday -- in my head, if they are over 6 miles, they are a long long run, 6 or less is a short long run). Today was 6. And it was awful.

Woke up to GLORIOUS rain, so I slept in, knowing that I was either going to have to wait out the rain or run on the treadmill anyway. When I finally got around to running (about noon) I had only had a bowl of cereal because my stomach was kind of 'iffy'. I waited around to see if the rain would clear up -- nope --.Then I finally took some medicine for my stomach and headed to run (at the gym on the treadmill).

When my meds finally kicked in and my stomach settled, I was STARVING. In a runner, starving = no fuel and I didn't have a protein bar with me. I ran/walked for a while on the treadmill, was BEYOND mad that it didn't have the decency to rain not one little drop on the puddle in the gym parking lot (seriously Troy couldn't believe how mad I was -- but I REALLY hate running on the treadmill. REALLY).

Since it wasn't going to rain I thought I might have a better run outside. Nope. I couldn't really get going, not properly fueled, my stomach still not right, just all the way around not good.

My trainer, Ruthie, reminds me that running is like life: you have good days and bad days. Learn from the bad days, and go on. Before I had a trainer, or even a running community of friends, I would try to be a runner, but after a run like today, I would tell myself, "this just isn't for you. You're a loser at this. I don't know why you think you can do this. You should just give up." And I would.

Now I have a running community. Granted, the majority of it is virtual and online, but I see that people have bad runs... but they keep running. It started as I really got into reading Ruthie's blog. I guess she knew about grace to herself and determination -- or maybe she just liked running more than I did right away -- but I saw that Ruthie kept plugging away after illness and injury.

My running -- or attempts at running -- have been my secret before this year. I basically knew I would fail at some point and didn't want to have to 'fess up when it happened. But having a community has cheered me on and allowed me to see other people stumble, yet start over and succeed. It let me watch how successful runners are successful: by starting over when they have a bad day. "Back in the saddle" or however you want to call it -- it has kept me going.

This really isn't a running post -- it's a community post. I had to be intentional about surrounding myself with people who had the same goals that I did, people that I could see how they handled setbacks and how they achieved goals. That is true for any goal I would want to achieve -- including getting to heaven.

Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles, and let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us. Hebrews 12:1


A Peeve

Ya know, I try to be Suzy Sunshine over here, which is annoying beyond all comprehension I'm sure.

But I read this today and decided to keep it real and share with you one of my peeves. I think I've even decided that the phrase "pet peeve" is one of my peeves, too, so I'm not going to call it that, either. (Seriously -- you have GOT to read that link! FAR more valuable than anything I will put over here!)

So. Facebook affords me far more insight into human nature than I need or want, though I simply cannot. tear. myself. away. (My addiction to social media can be YOUR peeve. I'm totally good with it.)

One thing that I have noticed is someone's proclamation of good news:

"I have awesome concert tickets!"

"Finally booked my cruise!"

"Sitting with my college roomie on the patio of a great restaurant!"

"Vacation starts now!"

Whatever it is - good news! Yay! Invariably, someone will comment with "No fair!" That simply crawls all over me.

One in particular that got me was a young, hard-working mom who got to go on a trip because of her husband's work. When she mentioned she was looking into some tickets for theater productions there, another "friend" of hers pouted in the comments, "No fair!" Pouty friend and her family could buy that trip and tickets to any show twelve times over -- this would likely be the first woman's only opportunity for such a trip. How is that not fair?

Denise mentioned something about leaving for her cruise. A friend I don't know pouted, "No fair!" Denise and her husband both have a job, Denise had been saving her dollars for the trip -- how is that not fair? Because she has something good and you don't? That is life, sister friend. Occasionally friends get good things. Get your happy britches on about it.

"I was jus' kiddin'!" those of you prone to pout "No fair!" may protest. Well, that is part of my peeve, I suppose. As a writer and a "word person", words mean something, and have weight. If you are truly happy for the person, say so. If you aren't, keep it to yourself.

As far as words having weight, while I'm bein' all open and honest here, I'll confess that just one hour ago, I let one little casually tossed phrase in my home hurt someone I love deeply. I didn't intend it the way it was taken, I have (and will continue to) apologize -- but it is impossible to unring that bell. Words have weight. "Oh be careful little mouth what you say."

"Rejoice with those who rejoice; mourn with those who mourn. If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone." Romans 12: 15,18

So. That is my Friday evening confessions. Feel free to share your own peeve or three. I don't want to feel alone over here in my peeves.


Rainy Wednesday

Hurricane Hermine (does ANYONE really know how to pronounce that??? I have heard it 3 different ways...) has brought some rain all the way out here to our desert and it has been nice, though I understand that some of my Central Texas friends got way too much rain. Hate that, 'cause I don't like the whole flooding stuff. Been there, done that, still have mud on some of my furniture to prove it.

The rain has made it be a great inside day. This week Troy and I have formed "Team Stirman" for job searching and that has been a blessing. I do some of the tedious -- and I mean horrifically tedious -- job searching of the online search engines. Since Troy's previous job was helping students locate jobs, he's pretty good at knowing where to look and where to go, but you still have to wade through every posting to see requirements, skills, experience, etc. That stuff I can do to weed out what he's qualified for, send those on to him, then he can apply or not, make contacts, etc. It's great to work together to tackle the tough stuff.

Obviously, I've been major AWOL from blogland -- but love having a daughter in high school. Except the homework! Wow. She and I are really slogging our way through biology and I am REACHING for my geometry knowledge (little known fact about me: I was a math major for 4 semesters). But she is having so much fun in marching band, and finding out just what 5A athletics is like (ouch, by the way).

I wasn't able to see her march in her first ever game (still grieving.... long story... still bitter) but did see her this weekend at an 11 a.m. game that I am now peeling off large portions of my epidermis from viewing. But she is the cutest marcher out of all 200 of them, even though I could barely pick her out, she's adorable. I love it so much. And, I did learn... if the sun, your allergies, your hormones, and weather are all threatening to give you a migraine... do NOT, under any circumstances, go wait on her with the band. They play the fight song several times there at the end. Ouch again. Love watching my kids do stuff! Ooooh... this Saturday? A PARADE!! She's marching in a PARADE!! I love a parade!! Don't you?? I think it will even be less than a zillion degrees, which is so rare! (West Texas Fair and Rodeo Parade)

Then, that afternoon, the Riley-man plays some soccer (I think he's also thinking about running cross country that morning just for grins. Gah!). And Monday will be his first football game as a 7th grader! I am IN my element when I am watching my kids have their fun on fields and such. (And for the record, I didn't make my kids do all of those activities -- they know how I feel about spreading too thin. This is our time to see "what fits" and what doesn't. We are busy -- but truly having some good times along the way.)

Just wanted to do a fast check-in. I've got to get dinner on the table. I miss this ol' blog. I keep wanting to resurrect it. But all of that life keeps edging it out of the way.


Treading (Diving?) into Uncharted Waters

Since there is (STILL) nothing to tell you on the job front (*sigh*) or weather front (it is SO! FLIPPIN'!!! HAWT!!!) I will go back to what I mentioned at one point -- some things God has put on my heart since training for the half-marathon that I completed in July (and am now training for another).

If you know me well, you know that health and fitness have always been important to me. I won't lie, they started being important to me for reasons of my appearance. Exercise and eating right helped keep me at a healthy weight -- and able to fit into my clothes. But, as I've aged, I have 'softened around the edges' (and i don't just mean my rear is bigger, though that may or may not be the case).

My commitment to care for my body has extended from simply "whatever it takes" to fit into my skinny jeans to truly caring for my body. Sometimes it's a delicate balance because I like to set goals for myself (i.e., the half- marathon) to keep me on track with my exercise. When I get injured, I'm tempted to push my body beyond what is reasonable in order to meet my goals, thereby defeating the purpose in the first place.

I am hesitant to talk about this at all. The main reason being -- I am keenly aware that no one wants to hear it. I used to talk about it quite a bit. But several experiences, including one lost friendship, have led me to realize that people just flat don't want to hear about it. I get that. As Troy very gently told me, "No. No one wants to hear about it. Sarah, I lived with you for 17 years and am just now wanting to be healthy. I had to choose for myself."

So, I am diving on in, and saying some things I'm thinking. If you agree with me -- super. If you hate it, feel free to kick a hole in your computer screen or write me nasty, anonymous comments. I can take it. This is just some of the stuff rolling around in my brain I want to process.

One thing I think is that I have become very... disillusioned? disappointed? Saddened, no doubt, as to how little the church will address how important it is to care for our physical bodies. Again, I have learned the hard way that it is a VERY touchy subject, but so are sex and finances, and we seem to conquer those just fine. The body that we have each been given is a precious gift from the Lord-- just like my children, my car, my house, my money. Shouldn't I care for it lovingly? (I was encouraged to see one of our elders broach the subject recently, and Tim Archer had a great series on Christian attitudes toward eating and food.)

I was REALLY struck by this thought this Sunday in small group. This was NOT the topic at all, but Ephesians 5:19 was read: "After all, no one ever hated his own body, but he feeds and cares for it just as Christ does the church." Know anyone that hates her own body? Um, yeah. That was me for TOO many years.

I am so ashamed of how I thought of and treated this body, this creation of God. And the way I would talk to myself?? Oh, mercy. I see myself in someone that I am around on occasion now. Of course, it's always an eating occasion (because, you know, how else do people ever communicate if not over food -- another rant for another day) and this person always mentions that she is STARVING because she hasn't eaten all day.

I nod knowingly to myself, remembering the days. I don't know this person's mindset, but mine would have been: "I'll just skip breakfast. I'm not that hungry anyway. Oh, look at me. I think I can go a little longer. OOooooh, I'm doing GOOD! I can probably make it until I meet friends tonight without eating. Just a little longer." Then, out with friends, I would eat too much, too heavy, be miserable, and say horrible things about myself that night -- then again the next morning when I weighed.

Then I finally figured out: I would NEVER do that to one of my children, or my spouse or parents. Basically, to anyone that I loved. And if I were to love and care for my body, I needed to CARE for it -- and treat it right, and feed it regularly. Hey! Guess what? If you feed your body (and brain) regularly, you can think straight, get yourself off the couch AND not scream at your children for asking a simple question. Who knew? And? Even better? My workouts work when I eat on a regular basis! Wow. There must be a reason that God made our bodies to get hungry every few hours. Bodies require fuel regularly to work right. Simple as that.

Of course, then, over the years, I've had to learn WHAT to feed my body, which has been a whole other journey, perhaps for another day. Refined sugar is just useless to me, so I generally don't eat it. Lysa TerKeurst talked about her journey doing away with sugar today, as well.

Also Ruthie (my trainer for the half) and Jae (just an awesome gal) tell their own stories about sugar. Both of them seem extreme reactions to sugar, but keep in mind, these are women that went off of sugar, then had reactions to small amounts of sugar. Their reactions are similar to what I've noticed in myself now that I don't eat sugar.

Ruthie wants to be a "fitness minister" at a church. I'm rooting for her! I would love to go down the same path -- or write her articles for her.

This summer I read "Women, Food, and God" by Geneen Roth, a look at the emotionality many of us have tied up in our bodies and the way we eat. It reminded me of the bondage I was in for so many years to my outward appearance and diets and food and called me to give thanks to God for setting me free from that way of life. If that is a journey you would like to take, I will tell you that it was a gradual, years-long journey for me, with God leading the way and healing as I was ready. You can't expect to change a lifetime of thinking (a "brain rut", I call it) in any 12 week program or plan. Grace to yourself has to be the overriding theme.

I don't know if I'll talk about this much here or not. Again -- I know none of you want to hear it. But I believe with all of my heart that our bodies that house our spiritual beings should be loved and cared for as much as our spiritual beings. And... I do wish it was addressed more in the body of Christ. Hey -- wonder why we call it the body of Christ anyway? Hmmmmm....

This Ride I'm On

So... Hey!

I have SO much I WANT to tell you, but very little that I am ABLE to tell you right now. (Is that not the most annoying way possible to start a blog post???) Trust me, if you know me well enough to care -- you are welcome to call me and I will tell you the WHOLE story, all the ins and outs and ups and downs and just flat make you sorry that you asked. But there are just some things not quite ready for Internet publication yet. (did you know that Internet should be capitalized? I don't know why, but my writing for the newspaper has made me aware of this fact. Doesn't seem right to me, but it is what it is. Get on board, people.)

We are at the job-search stage that is pretty cool. It is quite obvious that God is at work. Obviously, God is always around and at work in our lives, but we have been through a job search that felt much more like wilderness wandering -- and we needed to be reminded that God was in the wilderness then. There have been parts of this job search that have been a bit of wilderness wandering, but currently, things have been happening that we can't explain other than the hand of God. We don't know where they will lead and what the end result will be, but they all serve as part of our faithful story to ourselves that God will provide all of our needs.

There are other areas that Troy and I just see God moving in mighty ways that is such a blessing -- though crazy-making, as neither of us will admit to being excessively patient!

Last week I was honored to share some of HIStory along with some of my teen missionary partners at the mission reporting meeting. I said that on the way to McAllen, I looked up and found Deuteronomy 4:29:
But if from there you will seek the Lord your God, you will find him if you look for him with all your heart and all your soul.

This is a promise to the Israelites -- but it is so true for all of us. I know I haven't been able to be very specific, and I meant to write other stuff here tonight like what all I'm learning about my own health while training for this half marathon, but that can wait. For now, I just want to encourage you, like me, to seek the Lord your God and look for him with all your heart and soul. He is there, waiting for you to be found by you.

If you CAN be specific, I would love for you to share with me where all you have found God this week.


My Story, HIStory

I do want, at some point, to go back and share more of the HIStory that was made in McAllen, but I am burdened by telling that so thoroughly, and I want to quick tell you about some of "the rest of the story" (that really dates me, doesn't it?)

(SIDETRACKED by the rest of the story...) Did you LOVE Paul Harvey? I especially loved his "The Rest of the Story" series. I guess there has always been storyteller in me...

Back on if there is one...

So... my husband is out of work and has been all summer. It's all good -- he had been employed at a local Christian university and, in short, his position was eliminated. His boss (that goes to our church) made the decision because their department needed more Master's level degrees in their department (Troy doesn't have one) for their accreditation. Hard decisions had to be made, and now God has room to work.

God is faithfully showing himself to us at every turn, giving us just enough light for the next step. We will continue to have amazing God stories.

My baby girl has started marching band practices in preparation for starting high school in a few weeks. (hear me take a deep breath). Today we got her registered, her marching shoes ordered, her uniform fitted, a decal for the car, the whole 9 yards. We are good to go.

The school keeps most of the uniform except the hat and some sort of sash (why would they send home pieces to forget on game day??) When she tried on the hat for us (that, like all band hats, mostly engulfs her head) I teared up for the first time. Grinning out from under the hat was the very same little face of a 2 year old toddler who told me, "I'll be 3, then I'll be 4, then I'll be 5, then I'll go to kindergarten." Only this one has more expensive teeth.

That child has always been ready for "what next?" and "aren't we going somewhere?" She is my on-the-go kid, and FOR THE LOVE she will not be disappointed in marching band season. Lots, lots LOTS for our calendar! Wow.

Soon school will start again and Riley will play football. And soccer. And, Lord willin', Troy will be starting a new job. So we will probably have a busy and active fall. I am SO excited for all that will be going on with the kids and their activities. This may not be the best time of THEIR lives, but it's the best time of MY life -- to watch them using their gifts and talents, and just flat having fun. It will be a busy, glorious time. Praying to see God through it all, and how He would have me serve Him best as band mom, burning up the roads taking kids to different events, etc.

One last thing. Since we aren't busy enough, I'm training for another half marathon at the end of October. It really doesn't add to my life, just makes me much more disciplined in my exercise -- which, honestly, my brain will need in the midst of the nuttiness.

So... catch me up with you. Are you amping up for school? Tell me what's up with you!


HIStory, Day 2

Yeah, yeah... I was gonna finish all of these before I left for vacation, but I didn't quite get to it.


Day 2, we blessedly slept in a little since we had such a late night the night before. I even got up little before our 9 a.m. wake-up call and went for a little walk, still stretching my achy legs and back, and had some quiet time before the armageddon-like volume of the teens crowded into my day. Breakfast was about all the groceries we fully had. I still had much more grocery shopping to be done -- and DON'T forget the mosquito repellent, for heaven's sake. I have seen many moths smaller than these mosquitoes. (outer bands of Hurricane Alex had come through the week prior to our arriving -- HUGE mosquitoes).

It was decided that the guys would work at their site, but the two girl's teams would only have time to view their site since it was about 35 minutes away from the dorm. While all of that was taking place, one of the adult sponsors and I went to Wal-Mart (yeah, if you know me... you know. I have come to call it "Wal-Martin' for Jesus"). Spent a LOT of time and money there, but got the groceries for the rest of the week.

Lunch was sandwiches at the dorm, then we were off to Las Milpas -- the church where we would conduct our VBS for the week. Today would be a set-up and prep day. Of course, on the ride over, I fell asleep, which came to be common for anytime that I sat for longer than 5 minutes (and wasn't driving) which wasn't too terribly often, but I did learn the value of the power nap. GAH -- I have become 112 years old!

We set up for VBS, some folks' stations took longer than others (read: I found time for another nap), then the best part was walking the neighborhood. Some of the local church members came to walk the neighborhood with us -- we went out in teams, each team having about 2 Las Milpas members to our 4-5 people. We walked the neighborhood, inviting people to VBS, telling them when it was, what ages, and that we would love for them and/ or their children to be there. Before we left, we gathered as one multi-cultural team and prayed over our efforts to touch the neighborhood around us.

Not only was that a great way for all of us to see the neighborhood and the families that we would be serving in VBS, it was a wonderful way to get to know the members that walked with us. Language was a barrier for some of the people in the neighborhood, but the people that walked with us were bilingual and able to bless us by helping us communicate with the people in the neighborhood.

One gentleman offered the folks who stopped at his door some cold water -- blessing those who had come to bless him. Other people told stories of how much the church at Las Milpas meant to them, so they knew of it and would be thrilled to send their children to VBS there. The preacher at Las Milpas and his family have spent many years establishing trust with the neighborhood surrounding the church -- and the neighborhood has noticed. I get the sense that Romero and his family are very highly thought of in that area.

We left on this little project at about 5:30 p.m. The temperature wasn't as horrific as it could have been -- probably about 95*? -- but the humidity was about a million. We were all pretty sticky and drippy by the time we returned.

After we were rounded up again, we headed toward DINNER! Mexican food at a yummy place. Muy delicioso! There was an excellent mariachi band, and one funny little guy picked out the most perfect of our young ladies to dance with him. Kindle was a great sport, happy to dance along. Then, as we were leaving, the funniest little guy -- was he the Maitre' d'?-- just ADORED our uber-tall sponsor Tate, and had to hug on Tate, dance with Tate, laugh about how tall Tate was. Again, Tate -- also a good sport.

Back to the ranch (dorm)/ devo... and a fairly early-ish bed time if I remember right.

So... where did God's story fit into all of this. I have to say, this was the toughest day to find that in for me, perhaps for all of the kids. You'll notice I shopped (Wal-martin' for Jesus), lunched, napped off and on (okay, I really VBS prepped amidst my naps), and passed out a few fliers, and had a wonderful Mexican meal.

I simply cannot know, like any other day. I can't know how God would use any of that, though I know God was in all of it. God can use our least sacrifice of a walk down a road, talking to neighbors, to His amazing glory. God may use the silliness of some waiters and waitresses to have an eternal impact on them -- or the teens that they served. I would be blessed beyond measure if the Lord used one of my trips to Wal-Mart to bless one of the people I encountered at Wal-Mart, or one of the recipients of the products I purchased. None of us will know.

That Tuesday was simply a sacrifice of praise, as things finally seemed to fall into place with very few problems for one glorious day.


Favorite Memories

So... you will have to humor me just a LITTLE more about the mission trip business.

Some of the kids are writing their 'top 10' memories of McAllen this year. I have SO many more than 10 (of course) so I will post them here.

* The Nana bag that had everything we could possibly need. Never asked for a fax machine, but it probably had one. Also, Nana taking charge of the work site -- and bringing popsicles for break time. And Nana's aversion to Great Value products. She didn't appreciate my respect of the Youth Ministry budget.

*Ryan -- comes across as 'surfer dude' with his rockin' hair, which makes his awesome work ethic surprising. And the grizzly noise, though it incited a ridonkulous amount of laughter from giggly girls.

*Tyler's prayers: none more beautiful.

*Tate's made up verses to "Down By the River" -- I will write him a grad school referral for creativity for that one. Lasted the length of Conway Ave. Amazing.

*Mark body surfing in the ocean. I honestly had no idea G-daddy had it in him.

*Derek -- whistling while he helped clean up the kitchen. He helped me adjust my attitude about it!

*Ragan -- loved the way she led/ worked with her group at VBS, loved her laugh. Most I've heard her talk in the 5 years I've known her.

*Brittany -- the laugh. The never-ending laugh.

*Carla -- her Memaw rain bonnet, her encouragement of everyone, she was so easy to be around -- and her prayers absolutely touched my soul.


*Ashlee -- loved seeing how much maturity she has gained in a year, loved watching her with her little guys; "I am NOT going to cry!"

*Rob -- making up bumper stickers with him for "the big bus" when we seemed to be driving in circles after swimming, "We know the way to Jesus; it just may take us a while"; "Follow Us to Heaven -- Eventually"

*Jason -- my super snack helper; funny and willing with Tyler, as well. Always awesome.

*Jacy -- "Peter Piper Pizza!!"

*Braden -- leader of his peers, always hard worker, great attitude and happy to help. Just love that guy.

*Jim -- standing up for the guys with Boss-man (way to go!); pouring that choc. milk over bran so he could choke it down, never rattled about anything.

*James -- drama-dude extraordinaire

*Kindle -- dancing with the Poncho's guy (also a favorite memory of Tate -- another story...)

*Dara -- precious laugh, easy spirit, beyond organized, voice of reason and calm -- I want to be her

*Emily -- somehow had a knack for spraying sunscreen/ bug repellent in her eye. Repeatedly. Awesome with her group.

*Leslie -- Wal-Martin' 4 Jesus with Leslie

*Hannah -- working so hard until she was simply too sick. Up on the roof by the wasp's nest -- when the silly girl is allergic to wasps! (That isn't what made her sick!)

*Erin -- precious. Beautiful smile. Unflappable. Loved one, loved all. Sacrificed her toothpaste -- or the rest of the team would have had to smell my dragon breath all week, so let's be thankful, shall we?

*Summer -- love her 'ma'am's to me, so sweet, and SUCH a hard worker. Never willing to take a break until she is absolutely made to.

*Mikayla -- steady, persistent, always happy. I would really want Mikayla as my friend if I were in 8th grade.

*Ricky -- misspelling Jesus once. Or twice. Taking the hits with the van, et. al, as they come. Being the rockstar of VBS.

*Ashley -- (my Ashley) "Thank you for letting me come on your trip." "You would have anyway." Well, yeah... So thrilled to watch the young lady and leader she is among her peers. Proud of the way she refuses to let anyone be left out. I wish I could be like her.

Memories that include all of us:

*The "YAH" or "Dude" game that I FINALLY understood, still can't play...

*Neomi's Mexican food... Ummmmmm (everyone's eyes just rolled back in their heads -- YUM!)

*Worshipping in two languages, one I barely understand, knowing that God understood it all, and being bound to my brothers and sisters in Christ by our love of the same Lord.

*Our little dog in the backyard at our worksite that Ashley named Pancho.

*The children that LOVED coming to VBS. (Umberto!) The little guy who proclaimed "I LOVE snacks!!" :-)

*Playing in the ocean with the teens. Even with a raging headache, I loved to watch them.

*Saturday night devo. I see God in each of you...

HIStory, Day 1

We left Abilene on Monday, July 5.

A few minor points of background info.
a) For last year's trip, we got about 20 miles down the road and had a flat on the bus. Because of the size tires it requires, it was a bit of an ordeal to get it changed in the small town the bus limped into. We made it another 90 miles -- and had another flat. In another small town. So, by 3 p.m. we were about 2 hours into a 10 hour trip. Of course, this year there were MANY jokes about checking the tires, what-not.

b) Personal background: I finished teaching swim lessons on Thursday, went shopping for the trip food and VBS supplies on Friday, then completed my half- marathon on Saturday -- that I pulled a calf muscle about 1.5 miles into. Not only was I exhausted, I could barely walk by the time it was time to leave Monday morning. THEN, reaching for one of the cereal boxes to load on the trailer, my back went completely OUT. My body was DONE with the abuse -- and I was about to go sit on a bus for minimum of 10 hours.

So. We climb aboard the bus, and all goes so well. AND the a/c works AMAZING (read: I am FREEZING) -- another thing that went out last year. Stopped for our scheduled lunch. Carry on. Shortly before we stopped for gas at one point, there's a smell. Like burning rubber. Only we are not peeling out. All the guys get out and look under the hood. (We actually had someone with us who owns a car dealership and he called his service guy). I hear "Blah, blah, belt, blah, blah, tensioner, blah blah bad smell..."

All I know is that they are taking it down the road to some truck repair place. And we're off. And sitting. For about 2 hours. We rock on the front porch of the truck repair place, and the teens play some VERY loud game (first ninja, then "YAH!" or "Dude!" -- don't ask) but we really had a good time. Thankfully, we were in the shade, and above all, the people were VERY gracious to us. AND this gave me much time to stretch my back. Ashley was, of course, quite mortified, but I felt much better.

The most amazing part of this part of the story -- and how God's story comes in, other than keeping us safe when our vehicle was having trouble -- was the owner of the shop and one of his mechanics. I wasn't in on this, but these 2 guys stayed an hour past closing time to fix our bus, yet wouldn't take any money for it. The men with our group that were back there trying to give them money prayed a prayer of blessing over them and continued to thank them -- and we were off. Again. A little delayed, but still about 3 hours ahead of our previous year's schedule.

We continued to charge ahead, hoping to get to McAllen and grab some pizza while we unloaded later than planned. By this time, I had moved to the van, so I seemed to miss the excitement when we were in Alice (about 8 p.m.). But all we saw was the bus pull over into a little parking lot, all the guys checking under the hood again (becoming a common sight) then one of them pulling out a broken belt. Hmmmmm -- I don't know much about vehicles, but I am guessing that was important...

End result of that little escapade was that the bus was dead as a doornail and would need to be towed the remaining 65 miles to McAllen. We hauled the kids across the highway in shifts in the van and one car to get to a place to eat dinner. The guys with the bus began to be swarmed by mosquitoes, and a plan began to take place.

By about 12:30 a.m., we were all where we were supposed to be -- albeit a little beyond exhausted and loopy. Ricky's father-in-law (our elder contact for McAllen) and another man drove 2 vans to Alice to get the rest of our crew, while some of us had gone ahead in our one van to be getting settled in the dorm (which we didn't really, but that's another story).

So... where was God in all of this? How could any of this possibly have affected HIStory? Didn't we pray to have a great trip down? Well, first of all, God never promises us easy passage. But He did deliver us safely, and all of our stops were at safe places for our teens to get off the bus and get out of traffic and rest and relax comfortably. And, the teens later conceded, they really enjoyed the extra time to get to know each other without ipods and not being stuck only 2 to a seat.

And how will we ever radiate God's love to others if our passage is only smooth sailing? We were so blessed by the gentlemen that worked on our bus for free, and the men who left their homes late at night to come get us. But I personally was blessed by each of the adults I was traveling with who simply took the setbacks in stride -- they were what they were, and we could only problem solve and punt. It is truly a joy to serve with people like that.

I don't know how Day 1 changed history for any of us for sure. But seeds were planted. Maybe in teens watching how adults handled minor crises differently than they usually see. Maybe in a convenience store clerk wondering why the kids waiting there weren't tearing up her store like most do. I don't have to know how HIStory will be changed or played out to know that I am a part of it.



If you keep up with me on Facebook/ Twitter, et. al, you know I just returned from a mission trip with my daughter. We went to McAllen, Texas, in the Rio Grande Valley to do construction/ painting work and do a Vacation Bible School for a Hispanic church there.

This is the 2nd year in a row I have been blessed to be able to go on this trip, traveling with the middle schoolers last year, as well. This year, all the youth mission trips had the theme "HIStory" (our entire church is talking about 'God Stories' this year). Not only about 'His Story', but about how we, as His people, can change history by living out His will in our lives.

So... as a writer, I wanted to try to capture a little of each day. How, perhaps, history may have been changed by a little group of teens and adults turning their faces to God and asking, "What today, Lord?"

This is mostly for myself -- to capture HIStory -- and for the folks that went. You are welcome to listen in, and hear the testimony of how God continues to be faithful, in small things and big, allowing us to carry out what we went to do.

The following video is of a song that Ricky (youth minister) played for us and we learned/ sang every day while there.

And thus our prayer was:
I wanna be Your hands & feet.
I wanna be Your voice every time I speak.
I wanna run to the ones in need, in the name of Jesus.
I wanna give my life away, all for Your kingdom’s sake.
Shine a light in the darkest place, in the name of Jesus.

More to come in the days ahead...



Hey, check me out! Two blog posts in two days! What will happen next? Not much... Don't get used to it...

So this morning, if dawn had a furry little hiney crack that resembled a nasty plumber's crack you never wanna see -- yeah, that is when I got up to go do my half-marathon. (REMINDER: I HAD NO INTENTION OF RUNNING THE WHOLE THING) No, it wasn't even the hairy hiney crack of dawn, it truly was just the slap middle of the night.

Because of the nature of our half-marathon, (I hesitate to use the phrase "rag-tag" because we are a serious group of men and women training just as hard as the next group -- but our start time was voted on by our training group, so it wasn't your typical half- marathon) we started SUPER early. No one wants to start a half-marathon at sun-up in July in West Texas.

HOWEVER, the Lord was gracious to us and gave us amazingly cool temperatures for the weekend, and we even were dry for most of the race (I started at 4:30 a.m. wearing a sun visor to keep the mist out of my eyes).

About a mile and a half in, I think I pulled a muscle or something in my calf. I couldn't tell what was going on with it, so I tried to stretch it out, walk it out, stretch some more, etc. Whatever, I was in pain. Thought about quitting. Thought about crying. Did. Kept walking. Stretched again. Did something that resembled running inside my head, maybe shuffling if you were to drive by. Kept walking. Lots of walking. A little shuffling.

So I got to 13.1 miles in such a fashion. It was NOT pretty.

So... where does gratitude come in? I'll be honest... not there. Not for me. Yeah, yeah, I should be grateful I could do it. I should be grateful for all the training I have completed, and I should be grateful for all -- and there are SCADS -- the people who have encouraged me, either by their words, or by their actions of their workouts, etc. But I was annoyed. Today did not go how I wanted and I still hurt.

Gratitude came in the form of my scheduled massage. I'm sure that's a no-brainer, but go with me. First she worked on my calf and that made me want to cry more. But then she worked on my feet. Knowing that I had done the half-marathon, she spent a LOT of time on my feet -- time on each little individual toe. And with each little individual toe, I was more grateful for the healthy body that I do have. With each toe that she rubbed -- oh, yes, ma'am, she got to each little tiny toe, the bones underneath and all the pads, I'm tellin' ya..-- I thought of how many different parts of my body had to work right for me to ever train for this, much less take it on.

Earlier this week my back tightened up on me and I thought I would miss it -- you can't walk 13 miles if you can't walk across the room upright. I stretched and hot tubbed and stretched some more until my back was ready to go. (We shan't discuss right now whether or not I SHOULD have missed it... Oye...)

So, I am still hurting, yet grateful for the opportunity to hurt. Grateful the Lord gave me this healthy body. Grateful that God allows me to plan and scheme different ways to not listen to it. Grateful that He even has a plan for it to heal when I don't listen to it.

And, I continue to be grateful for the community of people that helped train and encourage and cheer and prod. That is truly how it all started and, more importantly, how it all got done.

Now you are the body of Christ, and each one of you is a part of it. 1 Corinthians 12:27


Love Where You Are

Do you know how you can tell that it is mission trip season?

Yes, I am making appearances in Wal-Mart again. This morning, I woke up to rain on my skylights. So I drug myself out of bed and put on my rainboots and happy face and waited for Troy to get home from prayer group. Off we went to the land of (theoretical) lower prices.

We gathered band-aids and water balloons and icing and sugar cookies and Dixie Cups and all manner of various sundry items needed to feed teens and have a VBS for little ones when we travel.

At one point, I put on Facebook that I seemed to have lost my husband in the Wal-Marts on a rainy mornin'... I was the beginning of a bad country song.

We finally got ready to check out but had to wait for the guy with the money. Some story about helping people or maybe the soccer game was really exciting... I dunno, it took a while.

If nothing else, there is plenty-o-people watching to be done in a Wal-Mart, ya know? So we people watched and were entertained, but one guy really caught my attention. He was a Wal-Mart employee. He was cleaning the floors. He had a little cart full of tools -- broom, dust pan, mop, and the most clever contraption EVER!

He stopped to get a scuff mark up. He reached in his cart, gave it a squirt with a squirt bottle. Put the squirt bottle back. Reached in the cart again, drug out a broom handle that had a tennis ball stuck on it and used the tennis ball to scrub the scuff mark. It worked! Drug back out the squirt bottle, squirt! Then mopped heartily and happily.

I'm not kidding about the happily part. Imagine if your job were to clean the floors at Wal-Mart. How would you approach that? This guy was humming LOUDLY. He was so darn happy to have his floor cleaning job. What a great lesson in life. It was a rainy morning. All of us were going to be creating more work for him. Maybe he was extra happy to be using that tennis ball rig of his. Whatever the case, he was happy as he could be.

I'll try to remember that guy next week when I'm on my mission trip scraping paint, standing in mud, or better yet, standing in line at Wal-Mart again.

Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for men, since you know that you will receive an inheritance from the Lord as a reward. It is the Lord Christ you are serving.
Colossians 3:23, 24


Memories Exploding Into My Thoughts

Today I came home from teaching the babies to swim. Since Riley was the only one at home, of course the TV was on (hate the thing, have I mentioned?). And, like any red-blooded male, he had it tuned to Mythbusters where they were, of course, trying to blow stuff up. Because, what good is Mythbusters if they aren't blowing stuff up. Better yet? When I first walked in, they were trying to blow up a bra! ("Epic fail," reported Riley.)

They put a soda can in a kiln (yes, an oven for baking pottery that bakes to thousands of degrees) to see if it would blow up. Guess what? It does! Whoo-Hoo! One for the Mythbuster exploding team!

Which, actually, took me back a little. I actually have a story in my past about exploding soda cans. I told it to Riley, and thought I would share it with you here. I'm inspired by Bob, who frequently writes things on his blog for the grandkids. And, coincidentally enough, the exploding sodas happened at Bob's parents' lake house, where I went with Bob's daughter, Julie. Julie and I were roommates for several years in college.

Have I already told this story on the blog? Oh, well... humor me.

So, as mentioned, Julie and I went out to her grandparent's lake house. I think it may have been Labor Day weekend. Not sure, but I do recall it was HOT. There was boating, there was game-playing, there was eating, there was general frivolity, but there was definitely heat.

I THINK that was the only time I went out to the lake house, so I guess we stayed a night, maybe 2? Julie's parents, Bob and Barbara, brought some "goodies" for Julie from a recent Sam's shopping trip. A few snacks, I'm sure, and a flat of Diet Cokes I definitely remember. Barbara knows how to speak love language: Diet Coke and children's books. Love it.

I don't recall at what point we put the flat of Diet Cokes in the back of Julie's little white Civic hatchback (with the "Howdy Honda" emblem on it that always made me laugh), but evidently long enough before we left for them to warm up considerably.

I guess we put them in, then loaded stuff, maybe ate lunch, said good-byes, took grandad's pulse (it was a family tradition), what-have-you... then climbed into the car for the trek over the bumpy gravel road before we would ever find pavement, sweet pavement.

We probably weren't 100 yards down the gravel road before we heard the absolute loudest POW.shhhhhhhhhhhhhhh you have ever heard. We thought the bumpy road had caused Julie to blow a tire.

"Should we turn around?" (I think we did at this point).

And again. POW.shhhhhhhhhhhhhhh.

"What in the WORLD???"

We were SCARED to death! It sounded like someone was shooting at us. It was SO loud, we had no idea what was going on. Every time there was a pop, we would scream, but since we weren't injured, or the car wasn't broken, we were just trying to get back to the lake house at this point. We were laughing, but quite a bit rattled, too.

I think the third POW.shhhhhhhhhhhhhhh. is when my head was turned enough to see the Diet Coke geyser shooting up from the hatchback making the shhhhhhhhhh sound after the POW.

Ah. It all began to make sense now. But the sound still scared the bejabbers out of us every time it went off.

So, Bob and Barbara, and maybe even Julie's brother Rob, know that they have waved us farewell, sent us on our way, we made it about 1/4 mile away, turned around (at about 15 mph) and burst out of the car screaming and laughing and "get a towel" and "oh, my word!"

They were most bumfoozled by us, I'm sure. But probably no more than usual.

So, there is a little science project for you, boys and girls: soda cans + hot car + bumpy road = GREAT explosion. You have been warned.


One Year Ago Today....

(I received this phone call one year ago today. I can't help but remember, and celebrate the moment my life COULD have changed forever, and praise God that it was not. I'm especially mindful this year of those whose lives are changed in a blink. Hug and love on your family today. SS)

It was an ordinary day. Only it wasn't.

Our schedule was amazingly light. Even for summer, the kids and I have been busy rushing to teach swimming lessons that they also attend, or to basketball camp, or to summer track. This was the first day since school had been out that NONE of that was planned. I was on my way to the gym for the first time in weeks, then we would hit the pool and Ashley had youth group stuff in the evening. Nothing but F-U-N on the calendar (yes, I am one of those sickos that count going to the gym when I want as fun).

It was an ordinary day. Only it wasn't.

The call of 'Mom!' sounded not quite right just as I was on my way out the door to the gym. One look at Riley's face with the greenish tint to it let me know he really wasn't feeling well like he claimed. Was he only dehydrated (it is impossible to get that child to drink water) or was it worse? No gym for me...

It was an ordinary day. Only it wasn't.

It was the first day in at least a month that I was headache-free all day! My migraine battle has become a chronic headache battle. Headache free and at home? What shall I do? Yes, I even cleaned out some cabinets! Definitely NOT an ordinary day!

It was an ordinary day. Only it wasn't.

When it was determined that Riley would survive, I finished my cleaning area, and tried to get started on an article I have in the works. Hmmm. For some reason, no one wants to talk to me at 3:00 on a Friday afternoon. Maybe they have 'fun' on their calendar, too. I left messages all over town for folks to call me back, knowing I would need to actually call THEM back. Ashley, who had been wallowing all over the house telling me how BOOOORRRRRREEEDDDD she was, and I left to go run a few errands. Final stop? The grocery store since the cupboards were bare here.

It was an ordinary day. Only it wasn't.

Walking into the grocery store, my phone rang. It was an unrecognizable local number. Assuming it was a source for the article, and knowing I wasn't planning on conducting an interview in the produce section, I sent the call to voicemail. Ashley and I perused the produce for what was on sale and checked that against our list. We laughed over the twin babies that looked like little balding men. We sampled coffee cake. After about 10 minutes we made our way over to the bread aisle and I thought to check who that phone call was from.

There were 2 calls and 2 messages from that same number and a call and message from home. Hmmmm.... something must be up. I'm quick that way. I listened to the first message: "Sarah, you don't know me, but I'm with your husband. He's been in an accident. I think they are taking him to (name of hospital)." *click*

These thoughts went through my mind in the 3 seconds after I let out the involuntary audible gasp:
--Accident? But he was on his motorcycle today... that means...
--If I throw up right here, who will have to clean it up?
--Should I check out? I hate to leave all this here. But I don't have time to put it away at home...
--Should I take Ashley home? I may be at the hospital all night...
--Should I go get Riley? How bad will he look? Do the kids need to see their dad now?

Gathering my purse and recyclable bags(!) we hustled out of the store while I listened to the other two messages which, blessedly, had a little more information. Troy had been alert and able to dole out phone numbers. Riley manned the phone at home and relayed the info to me and seemed to be super great to stay put, so Ashley and I headed to the hospital.

It was an ordinary day. Only it wasn't.

Pulling into a parking spot at the hospital, a rescue helicopter was directly over my car about to land about 100 yards away. Seeing one of those helicopters always makes me think of my friend Trina. Almost 9 years ago she saw the helicopter carrying her Kelly land at the same hospital, then take right back off headed to a hospital that could potentially tend to his head injuries better. Kelly didn't make it. I always wonder whose life is changing forever when I see that helicopter. Was it my turn? If Troy was alert, he wasn't in that helicopter, was he? Was he? Where had the accident been? How fast would the vehicles have been going? My stomach rolled over again. It was dubious comfort to realize no one needed to clean up the parking lot of the hospital if I threw up there...

Hurrying into the ER I asked the first staff person I could find:
"I'm trying to get some information about my husband who was in a motorcycle accident?" "You'll have to go to registration."

"I'm trying to get some information about my husband who was in a motorcycle accident?" "They are just finishing up his paperwork right there," she said pointing to a paramedic and another registration lady.

"I'm trying to get some information about my husband who was in a motorcycle accident?" The female paramedic who had been working on the paperwork had her back to me and turned in such a way to KEEP her back to me and walked away. HELLO??? Can you just throw me a little information? Please?

Sign papers, get looked at disapprovingly for not having my insurance card, wait as she hustle-bustles back to find out about if we can see him or what and FINALLY takes us back.

Y'all for someone who had been hit by a moving motor vehicle and lay on the road waiting for the ambulance to get there, he looked amazingly good! I was too freaked out to take an iphone pic! He was strapped to the backboard, head taped in place, the whole 9 yards, but only complaining of his ankle hurting.

I could go on and on. The gist of it is this: I'm not sure the helicopter person made it. I saw lots of family shuffle back to a corner room, dazed and weepy. I was there with my husband who was in a motorcycle wreck and was going home that night with a broken ankle. How could we possibly be so blessed?

I'm still quite weepy and humbled to wonder why, in the blink of an eye, everything went right for us when they can go so horribly wrong for some wonderful people. But our hearts and mouths are full of praise for the outcome of what could have been awful.

I didn't sleep well that night. The simple joy of the weight of his arm across my stomach -- like it is every night -- , or the warmth of his chest against my back -- like it is every night -- , or his toes reaching out for my foot -- like they do every night -- were all such simple pleasures that I am so thankful for that I didn't want to miss any of it in slumber, nor could I unwind enough to let the day go.

It was an ordinary day. Only it wasn't.

I will praise you with the harp
for your faithfulness, O my God;
I will sing praise to you with the lyre,
O Holy One of Israel.
My lips will shout for joy
when I sing praise to you—
I, whom you have redeemed.
Psalms 71:22,23
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