Asking the Bloggy Friends: What Smells Make You Happy?

This is one of those questions that floats around on some of those blog memes occasionally, but it's just a drive-by, along with what is in your purse, the middle name of your dog, and the last song played on your iPod.

You know smells trigger memories and emotions more than any other of our senses. Which, if you are my husband, an allergy sufferer, is unfortunate. Wait a minute. I am just now drawing this correlation. Seriously -- the man smells NOTHING. Seriously -- the man remembers NOTHING. Coincidence? I think not...

I was telling a friend that I don't like a particular food because of the way it initially smells. Odd, I know, but if it smells weird, I don't want to taste it, right? Oh -- and if you give me new food to try: I WILL sniff it. (and now, so will my daughter). Rude? Yes. Me? Yes.

So...? Friend asks, What smells DO you like? I honestly couldn't think of any, going through my Scentsy arsenal in my head. Much later the smell I LOVE came to me (it is VERY odd, because it is actually associated with meat, which I'm not a huge fan of, which sparked the initial conversation).

My father and my husband are both what they would call "grilling purists": only grill with charcoal. The way Jesus did, you know? No propane. I remember as a little girl when my dad would grill out I would go outside and play and hang out with him (I also broke my arm once, but I guess I can overlook that) and we frequently had my grandparents over. I would bask in the smell of the charcoal grill with the relaxed evening and family gathering 'round.

Now, we grill out at least twice a month as the weather allows, usually more when it's warmer. Those are my favorite days. A)it's less wear and tear on my kitchen, but the kids are thrilled with the menu selection, even the dog perks up to have Troy outside with her. It is always a precious family time. I truly LOVE to nuzzle into Troy's neck when he has been standing outside next to the grill. Totally whacko? Probably.

So I want to know about you. What smells make you happy? What smells call to mind fun family gatherings or fun times with friends? Whatever you think of... I would love to hear from you!


I've Got Your Back

originally in Abilene Families

“I’ve got your back.”

That has become a popular, if not overused, phrase lately. Spoken truthfully from the heart it is one of my favorites -- conveying a steadfastness to stand by your fellow man.

A coach said this to one of my children during a particularly difficult week -- not that weeks come in many varieties other than difficult in middle school. I was blessed that beyond simply recognizing that my child needed that reminder, the coach would go out of his way to speak these affirming words to my child.

Of course I wasn’t surprised. That is the very thing that has endeared this coach to our family and what makes him good at what he does. He recognizes that in sport and in life it’s never about taking care of yourself first and only, but watching out for your team, especially a player’s weak spot. Leigh Ann Touhy explains this very concept in the opening scene of the movie, “The Blind Side.”Two of my writing assignments this month were about seemingly different subjects, yet came down to the same point: “We couldn’t do it without the community.” I was assigned an article for Abilene’s Project Graduation, which helped seniors party safely for the 25th year in a row this year.

From restaurants to civic organizations to law enforcement to parent volunteers to many other funders and supporters, the Project Graduation board was adamant that Project Graduation would never happen without community support. The entire Abilene community steps in and says to our graduating seniors, “I’ve got your back!”

Assigned the feature story for this month’s Abilene Families, I also was honored to interview Captain Jason Pflug and his wife, Captian Megan Pflug who take turns being a long-term single parent while the other is deployed. From grandparents to babysitters to schedulers, an entire community of supporters steps in and says to this military family, “I’ve got your back!”

Much to the chagrin of my parents, I have always been described as “fiercely independent.” (Don’t worry: I got one just like me as payback.) It has only been in the last few years that I earned enough wrinkles and gray hair to see the blessing of the community around me: other parents, friends, people who adopted my children as local grandchildren, or nieces/ nephews, people who adopted me as a sister/ daughter.

Now that my children are heading deeper into the teen years, I see how much I need other parents to say to me and/ or my children, “I’ve got your back.” One of my dear mentors tells me she can’t get by without the network of parents she has looking out for her own children.

However, an unspoken rule among the parents is that one must never reveal the source of their information. If she tells her kids, “Joe’s mom said you were at Starbuck’s during third period...?” poor Joe has just become a target for the rest of high school, and she has lost a valuable source of information for the future for her kids.

Rather, when pressed, her answer to her kids about her wealth of information is, “Parents talk.” And do we ever. We’ve got each other’s backs. We have to, if we, or our children, are to survive this season of growth. It’s the only way we will truly have those eyes in the backs of our heads.

Settling into this wonderful community is great for that reason. I’ve got so many weak spots as a parent, I need all the community I can get looking out for my blind side.

And, while you’re looking out for me, don’t you worry ‘bout a thing, friend. I’ve got your back.


How-To on Something Overly Simple: Bible Study

I wanted to share how I do my morning Bible Study when I'm not already in a Bible study (and sometimes when I am). You may already have your way, and that's awesome.

This is just one of those things that always was elusive to me. People would talk about their "quiet time" and "being with the Lord" and I needed someone to sit down and tell me: could you explain EXACTLY what you do when you have "quiet time"? Y'all, I'm a recipe person. Give me the recipe!

I actually had someone laugh at me when I mentioned I thought this would be a good topic to speak (briefly) on or write about -- but I stand by my thoughts. I don't think we decide to follow Jesus and automatically know how to spend time with him effectively. And, if you did know, then don't tell me. Let me think it's not just me..
So. My morning quiet time. For starters, I always like to be going through the entire Bible. Some people mention that they like to sometimes slow down and meditate on one or two passages or books a year. I, personally, don't feel like I am familiar enough with all of the Bible to go quite that slowly yet. However, I don't feel it necessary to go through the Bible in a year (guilt!) so I am using THIS awesome plan. (You HAVE to click over -- just to see the title!)

So, I'll do my reading (and/ or Bible study) then write in my prayer journal. My prayer journal is NEVER fancy. It is a 5"x8" 3-subject notebook that I buy in the school supply section of my local grocery store. Because it's mine, sometimes I'll pay a few extra bucks and get the bright colors.

In my prayer journal I start by responding to what I read. This is the main thing I wanted to share with you today. It is 2 sentences long, and has changed my Bible reading/ Bible study time more profoundly than anything else I can remember doing.

I put the date at the top (because I have a calendar brain and like to be able to look back at such things), then I write the passage that I read or the portion of the Bible study that I did. Then, I simply write: "God:____________________" and I write something that God does or did according to what I read. Then on the next line I write: "I:____________________" and write my response to what I read about God.

For instance, on February 15 of this year I evidently read Joshua 11-14. There are MANY things (battles) contained within those chapters, and some of it is horrifically boring (the division of land described by tree and creek and how each tribe received it). I chose just one thing I got out of that passage. It was from the very end of it.

I wrote:
"God keeps his promises, sometimes VERY slowly.
I need PATIENCE as the Lord works."

I wrote patience like that because it is one of my 4 words for the year -- I still pray over those every day.

Research shows that unless you do something to process what you hear or read within 45 seconds, it leaves your brain. This is my way of snagging what I've read, prayerfully hearing what the Lord wants me to absorb from what I've read, and applying it to myself. Of course, if a scripture stops me cold while I'm reading, I do the usual underlining, highlighting, and writing of that, as well.

Then I write out my prayer, being as specific as I have time for. I have my daily pleas and request on that page. At the back of my notebook I put things that will be ongoing requests: SELL THIS HOUSE, for example, someone with a chronic illness. It is also where I write the date of someone who passes away, remembering to pray for the family, and thinking to send them a card and/or Facebook message/ email when the anniversary of the death approaches.

That is how I do my Bible study/ prayer time. I would love to hear from you. What do you do that helps you absorb the Word? What are you working on now? Any tips or tricks?


Marriage Monday: Open Book

First, I have to say this. I have NOTHING to say that Carol didn't say better. If you only have time to read one blog post, read this one. Amazing. Thank you, Carol, for speaking clearly and wisely about marriage. Awesome.

Moving on.

Let me tell you a huge lie today's society will tell you about marriage: it's okay if I don't tell my spouse about _________________. Fill in the blank with: a conversation with an ex, an amount of money you spent that you shouldn't, a stumble into an old sin. You name it.

Society makes it clean and convenient: "I don't want him to worry." "I know what I'm doing." "It's my money anyway."

Dave Ramsey, the financial "stay out of debt" guru who makes no bones about anything, said it quite succinctly like this on his radio program one time: "The only secrets you should have from your spouse is what his or her Christmas present is."

Well, that's pretty extreme, isn't it? Yes. Yes, it is. But coming from someone who has stood at the edge of divorce, I have come to realize that extreme measures are necessary to keep sacred that which God has called to be holy. Yes, your marriage is called to be holy.

If you need to keep a secret from your spouse, ask yourself why. That conversation you had with your ex, maybe not an 'ex' but "just a friend"... no, REALLY, he's just a friend. Maybe it's not you that overreacts but your spouse? Either of those needs to be addressed. Calmly tell your spouse, "I want to be accountable to you for what I do, but your response makes it difficult."

That website you visited just to scope it out? Let your spouse know so he can hold you accountable. That money you spent that was maybe too much? Your spouse needs to know. If you know you're going to have to tell your spouse, maybe you won't spend it in the first place.

The money thing: Troy and I both have our own stash of "fun money": he writes resume's and brings in a few extra bucks and some of my articles bring in some money. Sometimes our "fun money" has to go to pay the bills because, you know, there is nothing more fun than the toilet flushing when it needs to. But sometimes we have a little stash and that is just ours to do with what we want. Troy buys hunting or gun stuff. I buy running gear or get a massage.

But I have been known to spend our grocery money on clothes that the kids don't really need, or a cute pair of shoes for me, and keep it a secret. That's a problem. I have had to learn to curb my spending (novel idea: live within my means) and be upfront with Troy when I mess up and let him help me get out of the mess I made.

I have learned that any secret you are keeping from your spouse is a tiny little crack that Satan can use to place a wedge in your marriage. It then builds to, "He just doesn't understand me," and graduates to, "I think I can start building this entire life over here without him knowing..." and then there are enormous problems.

Satan loves the lies and the dark places, and the lies grow there. Bring them all out into the light. Scripture says again and again that a married couple should be ONE. Can you keep a secret from one side of your own body? No. Nor should you keep a secret from your spouse. Let him/ her be your accountability partner, and bring those lies out into the light where they belong.


Friday... Thoughts

I have posted this video here before (like many that I have posted lately). Like others, it is worth watching again.

This speaks to the value of community, particularly women in community. Women in community have led me to do things I didn't think I could, go places I didn't think I would, and achieve things I dared not even consider without such support.

I love the way this woman (Kelly Corrigan) says it. Beautiful.


The Cleft of The Rock Has a New Look!

Come in! Welcome to my redecorated blog! Take a look around and I'll give you a little tour. Oh, how I long for a fancy little laser pointer to be able to show you around.

So. How 'bout this bloggity blog over here, huh? Not too shabby, huh? First, I have gone and gotten myself my very own blog address! Be sure you change your blog readers, etc. to I think they are updating both right now, but I've already made the switch. So.... if you aren't reading this let me know. :-)

Across the top, under my header, you see several links, like so: Those have actually been there for a while. I may have told you about them, but I have just now completed all of them where you can poke around and see what's what. There is a page simply telling a little about moi', your blog author, a page that has some clips of my writing, a page detailing my speaking topics, and a page listing the most recent top posts for this blog. Of course, most of that information is for folks that will be new to this blog, but feel free to poke around and visit. Oh, and you can always get back here by clicking the 'home' button, of course.

So over there on the right you see some fancy new buttons. They are even shiny. The first one looks like so: I'm sure you recognize the Facebook 'f', of course. That won't take you just to me, but to my blog and speaking ministry page on Facebook.

The little Twitter button takes you to my Twitter home page in case you want to follow me there (I always think of Betty White, "I'm on the Twitter...").

Now, the YouTube button, I confess does go somewhere, but the somewhere is a little... lacking at the moment. It will take you to my YouTube channel that currently has nothing on it. Go ahead and click on it and subscribe and it will let you know when I upload videos. The 'vlog' is becoming popular, but I confess that I am not much of a fan. I catch reading blogs when I can. In the bank line, the carpool line, the waiting room -- rarely someplace that it is conducive to watching a video. However, I have come to see the importance of having some videos out there. Some will be me sitting at my dining room table chatting with you, some may be me at an actual speaking event. Subscribe and see which pops up first!

The last little orange-y rainbow-looking button is an RSS feed subscribe button. If you KNOW what I just said, you are probably already subscribed somewhere. If you think I just said, blah, blah, blah "rainbow", then: click on the button and it will take you to a page where you can choose how they can let you know when my blog updates. (My pic here has little tools next to it. The button in the sidebar should not.)

Then, you can Grab My Button. Yes, my BLOG button! Seriously, how cute is it? If you have a blog, you can use the code underneath it to post onto your sidebar to send me a little linky love. Speaking of linky love, underneath all of THAT in my sidebar is my own blog roll that I desperately need to update. Check it out, be sure your blog is on it. If it isn't, let me know, and I'll be sure to add it.

I know you are SO! TIRED! The tour is almost over. One more tiny little thing I want to make you aware of, though. See these little bitty little buttons at the bottom of each blog post:
Those are social media buttons. They allow you to (in order from left to right) email the post to someone, post it on your blog, tweet it, share it on facebook, or share it GoogleBuzz. Just a little "click economy" for you if you come across a post of mine that you happen to like. This will allow you to share it with others easily.

Whew! Isn't it great? I am so thankful!

All of this beautifulness is many, many thanks to Julie at Deluxe Designs. She is AMAZING to work with. She probably still has a little concrete stuck to her forehead from banging it against a wall after the 437th time we exchanged an email about the yellow in the border with me giving such helpful feedback as, "But... it's just a little too yellow-y, you know?" Yeah, I'm a dream client (not so much). She, however, is awesome and VERY reasonably priced and I obviously just cannot say enough wonderful about Deluxe Designs!! Thank you, Julie!!


You're Doing It Wrong

originally in Abilene Families

A figure emerges, the cheery yellow raincoat and frilly pink umbrella a startling contrast to the blinding downpour surrounding her. She steps up to the car, motioning for the driver to roll down the window. In a drippy sweet voice she exclaims, “Hi, Jack. I’m Annette. You’re doing it wrong.”

So goes my favorite line from the movie “Mr. Mom,” that showcases Michael Keaton portraying an unemployed father of three managing the household as his wife, played by Teri Garr, rejoins corporate America. As this particular scene unfolds, he is unsuccessfully trying to navigate school drop off. Hence, Annette’s chiding:

“You’re doing it wrong!”

While the tone Annette used was so kind, there was no getting around the fact that Jack was going about drop off wrong and must be corrected. Annette was simply doing her job as cross walk guard duty.

Frequently in the course of a day, those words ring in my head:

“You’re doing it wrong!”

Generally it is about parenting. Lately I have noticed that most of my “doing it wrong” seems to be about the first-born child. Since many of our mistakes as parents occur with the first-born child, I have decided we should all agree to call first-borns the beta child.

Just as computer developers will come out with a program that they want you to try so that any bugs or glitches can be discovered and call it a “beta” version, I think we should call the first-borns the beta child.

The difference is that the child isn’t full of bugs and glitches, it’s the parents.

From diapers (disposable? cloth? Genie? service?) to pacifiers to when to call the pediatrician to... well, there are a million six opportunities to second-guess yourself and realize... you’re doing it wrong.
Mistakes are going to happen. That is why the good Lord provides us with erasers and Band-Aids. I just hate for my first-born that all of my parenting mistakes seem to pile up on that child so that I can realize, “Wow. That did not turn out the way I thought it would. I will do so much better with my next kid when we get to this stage.”

Thankfully, the beta child seems to have thrived as we parents have floundered. A responsible, observant, kind-hearted, young adult, first-born is a leader in most situations. Beta child also doesn’t mind leading child 2.0 through all the minefields mom and dad seemed to find.

As first born moves into being a young adult, the weight of these decisions move ever so slightly off of my shoulders and land more onto beta child’s hard drive. As we wade into high school and help first-born navigate AP versus regular versus dual credit classes, driver education choices, extra-curricular decisions, testing decisions, post-high school decisions... we realize every decision seems to be a stack of dominos that may set off a really cool display of artistry, or may simply make a jumbled heap of dominos.

But these decisions are less mine to make than they are now beta child’s. Thankfully first-born still values my input and wants to hear what I have to say, but ultimately the decision is with the child that will live with the decision. Beta child has had to live with plenty of my mistakes and knows that mistakes are survivable, possibly even character building. Live, learn, move on.

And, never, not once, will I approach and say, “Hi, hon. It’s mom. You’re doing it wrong.”


Helpful Tip Re: Dishwashers

You know, I try to stick to just being encouraging us on our daily walk around here, but I came across something last weekend that I have to share. And if clean dishes don't get you closer to Jesus, I don't know what will...

So. I read this VERY helpful blog post. Actually, the post itself was simply a "Ask the Reader" question: have you found that your dishes aren't getting clean in the dishwasher, too? She did mention that due to new regulations, dishwasher detergents no longer have phosphates. Well, evidently phosphates are what get your dishes clean because now I unload cloudy dishes (okay -- truth is my kids unload cloudy dishes) from the dishwasher. We have tried the citric acid, rinse aid, blah, blah, blah.

Oh, and the ONE stinkin' thing that ever got my dishes a little bit clean was those capsule things. Which, of course, dishwasher repair guy (when we called and said, "These dishes are FILTHY!") says, "You really shouldn't use the capsule things. Seems they don't REALLY dissolve all the way and you have residue and what-not and perhaps an even BIGGER repair bill. Like we need that.

So if you don't want to read all 60-odd comments on the helpful post, the most common one was to simply put 1/2 c. to 1 c. vinegar in the bottom of your dishwasher as you start it. We have tried it once -- I had no idea I would ever see glasses that clean again. I am simply astonished.

I am only a blogger, I am not an appliance repair person, and I will not pay for any damages to your appliances incurred should any happen. But... c'mon. It's vinegar. If you're eating/ drinking out of cloudy glasses and dishes, can it really hurt to try? I think not. We are a little bit giddy with our almost new glasses over here!

Do you have any other great household tips for me? Would love to hear!


Jesus, Take the Wheel

originally in Abilene Families

In a soaking wet shirt and thinking words not printable in a family magazine, the little voice behind me startled me, then made me smile.

On a recent family vacation to the coast I tried to keep up with my exercise routine even in the oppressive humidity. Out for a run, my clothes looked as if I had already taken a dip in the ocean and I struggled for every breath leaving my brain with just enough oxygen to allow me to loathe every step, the state I was in, and the very idea of fitness and exercise.

I only had one earphone in so that I could listen for traffic that I was sure was out to run me over. I heard the bike approaching me, and moved over to make room. As it passed, I heard a very tiny, “Hi...”
The bike wasn’t quite a tandem, but had a trailer bike -- a smaller bike attached to the full-sized bike. A man who I assumed to be the dad was pedaling the larger bike, while a young boy about four years old was riding along on his trailer bike. He had a helmet that obscured his eyebrows and threatened to completely camouflage his eyes, causing him to tilt his head up as he passed, waving an awkward wave and grinning after he had spoken his greeting to me.

Drowning as I was in the humidity, I still had to smile at the mini-cyclist and appreciate his friendly salutation and wave. Watching him pedal away, happily taking in the sights while his dad navigated the trail, I realized that seeing him had lightened my mood considerably.

Perhaps simply as a result of my oxygen deprived state, I began to wonder if I would be so happy with someone else pedaling my bicycle, simply enjoying the journey and taking in the sights.

My thoughts tumbled forward to the beginning of school when I have my calendar perfectly color coordinated with each child’s sports and activities, fundraising deadlines, PTA and youth group events. I will plan a menu according to the busy factor of each evening, and grocery shop accordingly. I will approach my fall schedule with bravado and gusto.

Until... life will happen. Someone will get sick. A tire will go flat. An assignment will be forgotten/ take longer than expected/ be due sooner than originally thought. My little bicycle ride will not go the direction I think it should be going. It’s not a matter of ‘if’, but ‘when’. Perhaps life will even throw a huge kink in my plans: major health issues, unemployment, big life crises.

I can choose. I can choose to throw a royal toddler-style tantrum, complete with tears, shouting at those around me, spewing my misery to any and all within reach. Or I can find a way to enjoy the journey, noticing those around me that are making my way easier, those that may need my help even in the midst of my crisis, or those that encourage me along the way.

Maybe, just maybe, with helmet askew and an awkward wave, I can make a middle-aged mom’s day and let her forget for half a second how much she hates running.


Today's a New Day!

I'm going to be honest (not that y'all have every known me to be anything other than PAINFULLY so): yesterday started out pretty crummy. And it was basically my own fault.

I went to bed WAY too late Sunday night, but my body wakes me up at ridiculous hours, so I woke up too tired. And, I didn't get straight into the Word. Two strikes.

So I scrolled through some email, scrolled through some blogs, and came across the announcement for the winner of the scholarship contest that I applied for last week. Yeah... not me. Turned down before I even got all the way out of bed. How's that for Monday morning?

Gray skies. Overall blech. I had planned to get out and go running, but it was 38*, wind chill 29*. What?? Now I am SUPER grouchy! Okay, so it's time to dig into the Word.

That, combined with other things, lightened my mood. We had a showing -- with 35 minutes notice. The kids and I were still in our PJ's, stacks of laundry of the dirty and clean variety, as well as a littering of dishes around the house. You would NOT believe the miracle we can work in 25 minutes. We went and let Ashley get some driving practice, and Riley and I went and lay in a "sunshine patch" on a playground. Perfect.

When I got home I came across something on the Internet that opened up a whole other side of the blogging "community" to me. Whoa. Not even going to detail how I found the rabbit trail that led me to find out that there is a whole segment of blogs that set out to "set straight" popular bloggers and/ or celebrities. Not even going to name them. I think it started as a site about celebrities, especially popular reality moms, perhaps mothers of multiplies (not naming those, either).

Then some folks started finding out discrepancies about popular bloggers (it may just be one blogger) and found a way to throw them under the bus the same way.

Let me give you some examples of what these people are detailing on the (I'll call it the "Setting Things Straight" blog):
*On June, 2007 Pseudo-Mom SAID this: People always gripe at me for flying with a baby in my lap. Seriously? We have 5 kids! They expect me to buy a plane ticket for the baby?
*But in February of 2005 she SAID: We like to check our car seat and if there is an extra seat on the plane put the baby in it to give us a break.
They then chastise her for not being able to make up her mind about how she travels with a baby! The baby in June of 2007 wasn't in existence in Feb. of 2005. Can she not change her mind?

A) Honestly? There are people this despicable and hateful that they will troll and detail one person's blog so that they can point out VERY minor inconsistencies to the blogging world? That is some deep-seated loathing...
B) They are pointing their judgmental fingers at this woman for her "lying, unethical ways" but whatever moral compass they live by doesn't call them to "live and let live."
C) There is seriously a full time moderator of this "Setting Things Straight" blog -- detailing and listing out VERY minor discrepancies, looking for plagarisms all over the internet, and moderating comments. I am simply agog. And my own day didn't seem so crummy.

First, let me say that I started this blog in 2005. I have probably posted some things that I have changed my mind about now, 6 years later. I KNOW I have posted things I wish I hadn't.

But I am so thankful for my moral compass, my One True North, that calls me to do better. Because once I judge those people (most likely women, I'm sorry to say) for their behavior, I am no better than any of them. For the record: they say up front: we are not Christian, this is not a Christian site, do not presume that we are. Oh, don't worry.

And, I'm thankful for His mercy and Grace that allow me to stumble and start over new every morning.


Marriage Monday: Speak Well of Your Spouse

If you tuned in here yesterday, you saw a link I posted to Michael Hyatt's blog about the way you talk about your spouse. I couldn't believe I've never had a Marriage Monday about it (have I? You'll have to tell me -- I don't know!) (Incidentally, or not, Michael Hyatt said that was one of his most frequently shared -- on Facebook -- blog posts. Hmmmm...)

This is HUGE to me. I can't stand to go to a Girl's Night Out and it turn into a "trash talk your man" night. And -- let it be known that it has been YEARS since I have been faced with such a situation. Most of us that are still married at this stage realize what a good thing we've got going.

I have reminded people (including my spouse) many times: I am a writer. Words are my love language. Words have weight. Don't even say something to me or about me and then say, "Oh, I was 'just kiddin'" No. Words ALWAYS mean something. And if you are married to me, honor me with your words (and he does!)

If you are just tuning in via Marriage Monday, Wifey Wednesday, or someplace else, you may not be aware that my husband is temporarily living 200 miles away during the week for work and coming home on the weekend. (Do you hear that, Lord, it's temporary, right? Please pray with me in agreement about this -- we need a house to sell! I digress...) Obviously, this makes communication... fragile, at best.

At one point during this arrangement I let Troy know that I didn't like something he had said in front of other people over a weekend. I felt like it made me sound naggy and domineering.

"Well, why didn't you say something then?" was the reply... (I'm sure this whole convo was via text message like all the deep ones are these days.)

"I didn't want to bring it up in front of those other people, but I wanted to let you know (now) for future reference."

"That's fair. Thank you."

One of the comments on the Michael Hyatt post said something along the lines of "a good spouse and a good leader both will praise in public, correct in private." That is exactly what I was trying to do at that point. There was no point in starting an awkward and uncomfortable conversation about "What did you mean by THAT???" in front of our friends when Troy said what he did, but at the same time, I needed to let him know (in private, gently) so that we could clear the air and start fresh later.

Let me say that this whole arrangement is something I have had to learn from doing it wrong for many, many years. It all takes time and balance. We are headed into 19 years of marriage. We are starting to get the hang of it!

As Michael Hyatt pointed out, affirmation strengthens your spouse's best qualities. Want to see more of that amazing guy you married? Tell all of your friends how amazing he is. Whether he is there or not. It will get back to him. And he will, in turn, treat you like a queen. Trust me on this.

Affirmation also changes your own attitude. I still laugh to myself -- because I have done it, too -- about one friend who was goo-goo over some boy. She told me about this one super-precious thing he always did. After they had been married about 3 years -- it drove her crazy. And, yes, I reminded her. Affirm to remind yourself what a good job you did picking out a spouse.

Words mean things and are powerful. Use yours to tell others and your spouse how thankful you are for your spouse, and what you love about your spouse.

How have words affected relationships of yours (marriage or other) in the past?


Good Things Out There

This precious story is one of the 3,000,437 reasons why I love this little town I live in so much. Have your Kleenex handy. Precious.

I've mentioned here before that in trying to be respectful of my family on my blog, perhaps I give the (false) impression that I have a perfect marriage and perfect children. Well, I don't even know where to go with that. However, Michael Hyatt sums up what I believe about how one should speak/ write of their spouse to others.

From the same blog, but with guest author Mary DeMuth, I love what she has to say about "cheap grace" and what it may mean to your organization (think "church"). Great thoughts in these days when we need to be mindful of those who may have suffered at the hands of abusers.

Anybody ever felt like church was a burden? Anybody ever forgotten that your talents and spiritual gifts come from God? (both of my hands are currently raised) Loved this post and what Jen had to say about making church work with our gifts. Beautiful.

Today is the first day of Spring Break at our house. If you need a little traveling music, plug this fun little diddy into your ipod and hit the road with the wind in your hair. Super fun:

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


Flashback Friday

This is from one of my favorite movies. It has spawned new terminology in my house:
1)Any blankie is a 'wooby'
2)"Can I... have a moment to myself, please?" Don't you feel this way on more than one occasion? Love it:


Keep Them On Their Toes

Just a little funny about our family being in this limbo state. It's kind of funny, but it seems to be happening with increasing frequency that we're beginning to feel... a little invisible.

It seems that my determination to move at Christmas break (that didn't happen) and Troy already living in Dallas during the week, as well as a few other factors (like us pulling out of many activities and commitments at church) has led many people to believe that we have, all of us, already moved. Which is fine, I suppose.

One weekend in February when there were many out-of-town visitors at church anyway, the guy serving communion to us said, "HEY! Welcome back!" Um... thanks? Were we gone? The very same week I heard from one woman that I honestly never see anyway. We have children the same age and they have classes together, but unless she had specifically asked her son if my daughter was still in class, she would have no way of knowing what our status is. She needed to ask me a question on facebook and ended it with, "I hope you guys are doing well in Dallas. We miss you here!" Won't SHE be surprised to see us at the Spring band concert! :-)

It kind of died down a little, but last weekend we threw a few more people for a loop when we went to a different church service. Troy used to sing on the praise team and our family would attend whichever service he was singing for. He finally stopped doing that, too -- when you're only home for about 36 hours, one hour of praise team practice is a lot, and not sitting with your family to worship is a valuable hour you miss. So now we always attend the same worship service. However, last weekend, we needed to attend a different one.

We got several long lost greetings of welcomes and pats on the back. One octogenarian heartily welcomed Ashley back. It stressed her out. You just have to laugh.

I think you people all know, if you've been reading. If nothing else, you saw it here yesterday: I still live in my same old town. Troy lives with my aunt and uncle in our new town until our house sells and definitely until school is out. So, until June -- I'll be seeing you!


Our God is (Always) an Awesome God

Just a thought rolling around my head these days.

I've been around and in proximity and rejoiced with several people recently who, when blessings rained upon them and God moved mightily in their lives, proclaimed, "Oh! Our God is an awesome God!"

Do not think for one moment that I am going to dispute that statement or criticize the praise of another. No, but I just began to think about how rarely you hear that phrase when life isn't going so swimmingly for a believer. Yet our God is always awesome. More than anything, I began examining my own life: will I declare "in good times and bad, you are on your throne, you are God alone" as the song goes? AND that He is awesome? May it be so!

If, for some reason, you are new to my blog and/ or you haven't exactly kept track let me clue you in. In the last 10 months, my family has gone through 6 months of unemployment and now 4 months of my husband working 200 miles away while 2 teens and I are here trying to sell the house and maintain some semblance of normalcy (cue maniacal laughter). At this point in the school year, we will definitely stay another 3 months, for a total of 7 months of dual-city living for my husband, single parent living for me.

Financially, it is not easy to go from unemployment to maintaining 1.5 households. Emotionally, the uncertainty of 2 weeks down the road being an ever-moving target is exhausting, as well as the physical toll the stress takes on each of us.

The above isn't to grinch but to catch you up and to tell you that included in all of that: Our God is an amazingly awesome God. I could start to list out every blessing in this situation, but it would take me all day. Truly, they are immeasurable. Let me start by saying that the first blessing is that I'm not in charge. I have already seen that my unanswered prayers of us moving at Christmas has blessed my children in their activities and relationships.

Let me tell you the most amazing way that our God is an awesome God: the fact that I have one ounce of my sanity left. The real, authentic, honest-to-goodness Sarah has already had a full-body, all-out tantrum and left the building emotionally because this is all too hard and I just can't and won't do this and you people are ON YOUR OWN, DO YOU HEAR ME????

But God.

God drew me in, strengthened me, and promised me:

“My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” (2 Cor. 12:9)

And, oh, I am weak. But our God is an awesome God.

If this is the hardest road I will ever walk, I realize this will be an easy life. Someone please remind me on the difficult days -- at a hospital bedside, after hearing bad news at the doctor's, when my own children are struggling and there is nothing I can do -- that our God is still an awesome God.


Neck Deep in Dreams

She Speaks Conference
The waves lapped over my toes years ago, tickling my senses and awakening a calling. The genie was out of the bottle -- or the pantyhose out of the egg -- never to return.

I stood before a group of women, asked to do a "book review" for a group of young mothers at church. I had never in my life heard someone give a book review, nor knew what components should be in one. So I told how God had used the book to change aspects of my life -- a testimonial of sorts, I guess.

I can still picture the precious faces in front of me: eyes locked on mine, nodding and understanding. Souls connecting, each of us mothers simply trying to make it through this world to get to the foot of the Father's throne. Looking into the eyes filled with tears before me, I felt the refreshing knowledge of doing what I'm called to do -- as stepping into the cool ocean after a trek over the hot beach.

I stood there at the edge of the ocean, the waves barely tickling my toes for years, having no idea how to go any further. God blessed me when he sent me The Coffee Group -- a group of ladies who have traveled together speaking at retreats and ladies' events. I felt that I had waded knee deep into the ocean, speaking 3 or 4 times a year to groups of women. Every trip left me so honored to share God's story in my life, and so HUNGRY to tell it again... and again... and again.

I finally scraped together enough pennies in 2009 to attend She Speaks, but spent weeks agonizing over going as a writer or a speaker (why do some parts of my life feel like a week ago, and some parts feel like decades ago -- that was less than 2 years ago? Really? A lot has happened, I guess). That time, I chose writing. This time, I choose speaking.

I am also applying for a scholarship this year. You can, too, by going here. Because I am soon to be moving away and getting a fresh start in a fresh town, I am ready to move beyond knee deep in this thing. I long to be neck deep in my call, and I know She Speaks has the tools to get me there.

Last year being blind-sided by unemployment was tough. This year, living 200 miles from my husband waiting for a house to sell hasn't been a walk in the park, either. At the beginning of 2011 I claimed Joshua 3:5 for all of my family:
"Then Joshua told the people, "Consecrate yourselves, for tomorrow the Lord will do amazing things among you."

AMAZING things. I'm claiming it. Our family has had a difficult desert season. We will soon be moving to a new town. I've got stories and testimonies of His faithfulness to proclaim. I hope to attend She Speaks to sharpen my tools and be among that godly group of encouraging women again.

I would love to have any of my bloggy friends join me at She Speaks. Anyone else thinking of going? Who's with me?


Marriage Monday: Steal a Kiss Now and Then!

Last week on Facebook I posted that I was behind a young couple in a car that stole a kiss when we stopped at a stoplight. It made me laugh so much. I remember the days.

What I actually put on Facebook was that I remember one particular time that Troy and I -- we were discussing that it was our TWO MONTH wedding anniversary! Whew! Where had the time gone??? We stopped at a red light, I stole a kiss, then looked up to see a lady from church and her elementary daughter in the car in front of us thoroughly enjoying the show.

It also made me long to live in the same town as my husband again. Remember how I posted that the little annoying things aren't so annoying when you only live together 36 hours a week? Well, you also try to fall in love again like you did 18-20 years ago.

Resolve to hold hands a little more. Kiss at stoplights a little more. Make out in the kitchen. My daughter will tell you we already do this far too much for her liking. She told me that she has a friend that covers her eyes when the parents kiss each other -- just a peck. Ashley told friend, "That's nothing. You should see what my parents do in the kitchen." Making it sound as if we were doing this:
When in reality it's more like this:
I'm totally cracking myself up with the pictures.

Of course there is so much more to a marriage than these things, but I think back to 20 years ago when I physically NEEDED him next to me at all times. So much that I would sit through that blowing up movie... Now, I just bring a book to the blowing up movie. We're both happy.

Take a little extra time to smooch your sweetie. When he's headed to work. When he comes home from work. As you tuck in at night. While the spaghetti is boiling. And... at stop lights.


Friday Funny

So, on Monday, I posted my Communication is Very Fragile post. Yesterday, I was looking for something entirely different and saw that years ago I posted this that I had entitled, "Communication is Very, Very Fragile." Still true. And Hilarious.


This reminds me of many conversations I have in my house. I hate to tell them, but communication between the genders is not likely to get any better any time soon.


God Won't Give You More Than You Can Handle...

I (texted) checked in with a friend going through a rough patch this week. Her husband has been struggling with his health and had a minor surgery but ended up back in the hospital this week. She is exhausted, as you can imagine. At one point, via text, she wrote, "I know God doesn't give us more than we can handle, but I think enough is enough." She, of course, included a smiley to let me know that she is fully submitting to the Lord's will and in it for the long haul.

Being a text conversation, I simply let her know she could call on me for anything they needed and I was praying, but I have pondered that oft-used phrase all week long: "God doesn't give us more than we can handle." I have thought it and said it myself.

Several years ago, however, I read a blog that gave me an entirely different perspective on it. And, as is the tragedy with blogs, I have no idea where I saw it, so I can't credit this person or even send you to her and we are all grieving that fact because she said this point far more eloquently than I will.

She had an ill child. Like ... potentially fatally ill. It was scary and she used this same phrase to a pastor that came to minister to her: "I know God doesn't give me more than I can bear, but I just don't think I can do this..."

The pastor encouraged her to look up the scripture that phrase is taken from: 1 Corinthians 10:13. It isn't talking about life struggle situations at all. It's talking about temptation. Perhaps we are using it in the wrong context:

"No temptation has seized you except what is common to man. And God is faithful; he will not let you be tempted beyond what you can bear. But when you are tempted, he will also provide a way out so that you can stand up under it. " 1 Corinthians 10:13

The blogger went on to say (probably in my paraphrase), "God gives us situations all the time that we can't handle. We are to go to Him with them and let him bear them for us."

That has stuck with me through the years. It isn't always the time to correct someone's theology about the matter, but I want to encourage you to consider the point. You may be carrying something that you think you can't handle. Guess what? God may not intend for you to be carrying it alone.

"I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world." John 16:33 (emphasis mine)

See? He promises us that we will have trouble. But he also reminds us that he is bigger than all of it. Oh, I am so grateful. It's only the world.

Matthew 19:26
Mark 10:27 and
Luke 1:37
all have a variation on the theme, "With man this is impossible, but with God all things are possible." (the one in Luke is spoken by the angel Gabriel so I think it's pretty cool!) Those are words I cling to when I am in the pit of time that I see no end in sight or way to break free. Luke 1:37, "For nothing is impossible with God." Nothing.

Whatever road you are walking today, God may have allowed you to have way more than you can handle alone. But NOTHING is impossible with God. Truth. And GLORY!


The Waiting Place

originally in Abilene Families

“...headed, I fear, toward a most useless place.
The Waiting Place...
...for people just waiting.
Waiting for a train to go
or a bus to come, or a plane to go
or the mail to come, or the rain to go
or the phone to ring, or the snow to snow
or the waiting around for a Yes or No
or waiting for their hair to grow.
Everyone is just waiting.”
--excerpt from Dr. Suess’ “Oh, The Places You’ll Go”

I suppose the first clue should be how these little people come into our homes. Whether you find out by the pregnancy test or the adoption agency that your world is about to be turned upside down, the next order of business... is to wait. Waiting for the contractions to start, the phone call that says the birth mother chooses you, the doctor to show up, the baby to show up. Waiting, waiting, waiting.

So I’m not sure why I am surprised that this season of parenting seems to primarily consist of waiting. I wait for it to be time to leave for practice, occasionally I wait at practice or wait for practice to be over. On game day the player needs to be there at least 30 minutes early, so I wait for the game to start. After the game, sometimes I have to wait for the post-game wrap-up.

Waiting in carpool line, outside of friend’s houses, and for the bathroom to be free.

Of course there is the waiting room waiting, which should feel better since I’m in a room designated for waiting, but doesn’t. There is the doctor’s office waiting, where I am imagining all of the coughing germs leaping onto me and my belongings. Then the dentist office waiting, where I am forced to hear horrific dental tool noises, trying to be thankful it isn’t me experiencing said dental tool. Orthodontist waiting room waiting has very nice amenities, but it only makes me wish the services were cheaper.

If I were a productive person I would be able to get things accomplished in these little drips and drops of time, but the procrastinator in me likes to believe that as soon as I get started on something, it’s time to close up shop and move along to wait at the next location.

I am pondering things I could accomplish in 17-minute increments of time. Write the next best seller, disjointed though it may be. Crochet some little bitty socks, perhaps. I suppose I could learn cake decorating on petit fours, one tiny cake at a time.

I confess that I start to lose patience with all of the waiting, waiting, waiting. Friends who have children that can drive tell me that’s still waiting, just on a different level. Then I understand there is the waiting to come home from college. It never ends, I suppose.

In the middle of it I am tempted to forget that it is a sign of an abundantly healthy and blessed life to be able to do such waiting. I know moms who spend their days waiting beside a hospital bed or in one waiting room, then another, wondering what the next test result will bring or if the day will show any improvement.

Then there are the mothers who spend this lifetime waiting: mothers who will not see their children again in this lifetime, waiting for the moment they will be reunited with a child gone too soon from this world.

So I wait. I wait in busy, active, happy places with busy, active, happy children and I am so immensely grateful for this life I have been given, these children that drag me hither and yon, though I have never actually mapped hither or yon.

Too soon, the flurry of activity at this house will migrate to houses where my children will wait for their children and families. My house will grow still and quiet. When the activity from their house comes back to visit, I’ll be waiting. I’ve had plenty of practice.


Top Posts for February

Thanks to some research, I have found a way to find out which of my posts are my top ones. These are my top posts for the month of February (in order of numbers of visits):

Considering Valentines Day

Super Day of Gluttony

Marriage Monday on Tuesday

Parenting Teens

I'm In a Cult, Who Knew?

The interesting thing is that the last one is 5 years old. I knew that it was still consistently being landed on by search engines (I think because I mention cults) but I had no idea that it was quite so popular. Sadly, it is simply a transcript of a news show. It isn't my writing at all. If you like another of my posts, email it to all of your friends and get another post to be on top! :-)
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