Friday Fun

It's been a LOOOOOOOOONG week, y'all.

Yesterday it was summed up thusly: driving the kids to school we got stuck behind a garbage truck. Literally had a plastic bag, milk carton, and lettuce leaf rain on us before I ran over the dead possum. Too fitting.

THEN just this minute I went and stood in the garage over gasoline cans to unpack a box to fish out a USB port that one child "had to have" and I will give it an 87% chance that upon producing it for same child, the response will be, "Oh... never mind. My partner has one." It's just the way the week has gone.

So, I really needed some laughs. And Tim Hawkins ALWAYS delivers. Enjoy!


Praying for the South

Our family had lived in this house (and town) 6 months when a flood hit this area. While we "only" got 8 or 9 inches in our house, if you know anything about flooding, that is total devastation to the construction of the house, as well as MANY belongings.

We would rip out carpet, sheetrock, throw away ruined belongings. When my being and brain couldn't stand it anymore, I would step outside to catch my breath -- and that was equally depressing. For as far as my eyes could see from my front door, people were in the same situation. Neighbors were helping each other haul personal belongings and treasures to the side of the road for the National Guard to come and toss it away, ruined. It looked like a war zone, only with the houses still standing.

We were unable to live in our house for 6 months and when we moved back in we had no kitchen -- NOTHING, no floors anywhere other than the carpet in the bedrooms, and only one functioning toilet, shower and bathtub -- but no sinks. We brushed our teeth and washed our hands in the bathtub.

Of the things I have been through in my life -- unemployment, marriage implosion, etc. -- I cannot walk back through the time of the flood. I testify to a lot of things and tell of God's grace and faithfulness through it all, and of course that is true of the flood as well, but that is SUCH a black time for me that I simply can't talk about it. There are many factors that make that true, but it causes me to just cringe at natural disasters for people.

I think about the fact that many of the people facing the rebuilding after a tornado won't even have a front door to step outside. Many will be facing rebuilding while grieving the loss of a loved one - or more than one. And I imagine that it will be a season of blackness for a very long time for so many people. It will be a years-long process of fighting back and standing together, grieving what was and building what will be.

As for me, far be it from me that I should sin against the Lord by failing to pray for you. 1 Samuel 12:23

John Dobbs has an excellent list of resources and ways to help on his blog.


An Ordinary Spring Day

One of those clear spring perfect temperature days is so rare here in Abilene, but this one was. The blue of the sky seemed to be from a movie set, too brilliant to be real. Grass was coming in emerald green, causing dads to think about mowing and moms to think about pedicures. The day held the promise that not one thing could possibly go wrong.

A TAKS testing day, even the state of Texas agreed: this should be a regular old school day, only quieter. Students should come to school well fed and well rested. The state couldn’t do much about how badly those same students longed to be outside in the glorious weather, if a tad on the windy side. It seemed the only danger of the day would be a wayward toddler, blown away by the stiff West Texas wind.

But then.

Sirens began to sound, phones began to ring, news crews were rounded up. “Officer down.” Officer Rodney Holder, killed in a motorcycle collision on Sayles Boulevard. Abilene took a collective gasp.

The loss of Officer Holder struck my own family to our core, as his family is dear to each of us. Officer Holder was “our officer” at our local elementary school. Tall and imposing in his uniform, Officer Holder was a regular figure on campus.

If you needed an officer to remind you not to do drugs, Officer Holder would come. If you needed a safety vehicle, Officer Holder would bring his motorcycle or a police car. The kids and parents knew him and his wide smile, a regular presence, the very symbol of safety and security.

*Officer Holder, right, with his friend and mine, Officer Ricker.

Things like losing a police officer aren’t supposed to happen on a regular day, are they? It was a TAKS day, for crying out loud. Mrs. Holder, the school counselor, had TAKS tests to distribute and count and sign and keep watch over. No, this day had taken a meteoric leap.

The occasions I have been blessed to be riding in a car while “great with child,” heading to the hospital to deliver the baby, I have been very mindful that the day around me is an ordinary day for those driving past, yet my world was shifting on its axis, never to return.

The same thought occurs riding in a funeral procession, watching people stop to buy gasoline or groceries, or fill up at the drive thru or catch a movie. Life is forever changed, yet somehow it goes on for the rest of the world.

Many phrases can cause a life to turn upside down in an instant: “The doctor called. It’s not good.” “They cut my job.” “Mom...(insert any of a million ways your child’s world could be rocked).” “I’m so sorry. There isn’t anything else we can do.” “There’s been an accident.”

In those moments, the lens of life seems to tighten into sharper focus. What is truly important becomes clear: those that we love, the things in life that will last, and the grievances that are worth getting upset about.

Turns out, there are only a precious few things in life worth taking the time and energy to fuss about when life is so dear. May my ordinary day words to my children be, “Have a great day! I love you!” Turns out, all too often, it’s, “Don’t slam the door!” or “You didn’t forget your lunch AGAIN, did you?”

As the weather continues to warm and we are again blessed with azure skies, emerald grass and just a little too much wind, I remember Officer Holder. I will back my foot off of the gas pedal, as I do tend to drive a little, um, “efficiently” I like to call it. Officer Holder called it speeding and longed for the streets of Abilene to be safe.

I will clutch my babies and my spouse just a little too long every morning, being sure they know I love them before life flies past us.

Thank you, Officer Holder, for continuing to teach the city of Abilene.

Thankful for all of our men and women in uniform, as well as their families, for whom there are no ordinary days.

Officer Rodney Holder, E.O.W.: April 29, 2010.


This Day Ordained

(a variation on an original posting from 10/6/08)

I don't have much time here today, but wanted to share with you just a little of what God is putting on my heart. My time with the Lord has been so precious lately, and it seems that every little piece of scripture speaks right to my heart and where I am now. The ever-changing application of scripture always makes me think of Isaiah 55:10,11:

As the rain and the snow come down from heaven, and do not return to it without watering the earth and making it bud and flourish, so that it yields seed for the sower and bread for the eater, so is my word that goes out from my mouth: It will not return to me empty, but will accomplish what I desire and achieve the purpose for which I sent it.

Indeed, the Lord's word will not return empty! I would also like to HIGHLY recommend this book for praying the scriptures: Kenneth Boa's Face to Face
My mom recommended it to me and I have loved it. For me, it is the best book I have found about consistently praying the scriptures, not just when you need to pray over a certain stronghold. It never fails to bring tears to my eyes.

Today, one of the prayers included a portion of Psalm 139:
13 For you created my inmost being; you knit me together in my mother's womb.
14 I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made; your works are wonderful, I know that full well.
15 My frame was not hidden from you when I was made in the secret place. When I was woven together in the depths of the earth,
16 your eyes saw my unformed body. All the days ordained for me were written in your book before one of them came to be.
Psalm 139:13-16

I had to pause over the last sentence in v. 16: All the days ordained for me were written in your book before one of them came to be.

Ordained: one definition is, "confer holy orders on".

This day. This Tuesday. This Tuesday that has changed plans minimum 15 times and it's barely begun. This Tuesday full of insurance claims, my aging body, boxes to pack, laundry, missed deadlines and looming deadlines, movers to schedule, and 12 other things I feel certain I have forgotten. This day has been ordained for me and written in His book. All of the clutter and dirt and bills and obstacles are all part of the day He ordained for me.

They are blessings and distractions, responsibilities and privileges, all capable of being offered up as a sacrifice of praise. I must have forgotten Beth's encouragement to us to get up every morning, look in the mirror, and say, "I am a PRINCESS! I have an inheritance!" I AM a princess, and today my inheritance is to do the little things with holiness. For today has been ordained for me.

I have become convinced, more than ever, that God's glory is in this day, just like every other. My prayer through all of this craziness in my life is not to miss it. May my eyes be trained to seek out His glory and goodness in this day. This day ordained for me.


Marriage Monday: Invest in Your Marriage

Today on Marriage Monday I will be speaking to all marriages -- in and out of crisis. Because investing in your marriage is something we all need to do. It can be a preventive or reparative measure, depending on where your marriage is, but we all need to invest in our marriage.

"Invest" can mean a whole list of things: time, money, emotion, energy, whatever. We seem to be short on all of those around here, so it would mean a lot to invest that toward a marriage.

Of course, "investing" can be as simple as a date night, or as extensive/ expensive as a week's vacation away, or an extended time in therapy (I'm not joking -- you may need either, and you can decide which you need the most). Therapy can be costly, but, again, it's an investment that is well worth your marriage.

Think about your television and all that goes to it: Netflix, cable, etc. You should spend at least as much time and money on your marriage as you do in front of the television and on the television, I think. You may even think so, too, and wish your spouse would do that. Well, if you have some leeway in your family's budget or money that is yours "for fun", make that your "date money" -- don't resent your spouse for not thinking of it, bless your spouse and think of it for them.

Dates or mini-vacations don't have to be expensive (TRUST me-- I am the queen of going cheap on this) the important thing is that you take the time to go be with your spouse. Swap babysitting with another couple and just go for ice cream if you have to, but have date time for you.

Beyond dates and time for you, I strongly encourage you to also spend time learning. I confess that I spent YEARS thinking that I had heard PLENTY on the subject of marriage (and, no doubt, I was blessed in my early years to hear a LOT on the subject) but God continues to humble me and reveal to me that there is always more to learn or a new way to think about an old adage.

There is no shortage of resources for learning about marriage: workshops, retreats, books, etc. I have several that I, personally, recommend (DISCLAIMER: some of these I recommend based on personal knowledge, and some of these I recommend based on the advice of others).

Lifeway has a marriage retreat weekend in several cities throughout the country. I have not personally attended one, but they seem VERY reasonably priced for the caliber of experts that are speaking -- with lunch included!

If none of this appeals to you, consider a simple book study. Sacred Marriage by Gary Thomas would be first on my list. Gather friends or a small group around you and go through the book together. Or, if you have the opportunity to go to an event where Gary Thomas is speaking, by all means go.

You may be just FIRED UP to go, yet thinking, "Oh, s/he would NEVER go for it... s/he would think it is stupid/ too expensive/ waste of time/ name a reason."

Don't assume your spouse's feelings before you have communicated your own feelings to your spouse.

If you have had conversations in the past that lead you to believe that this conversation may not go well, start by taking your desires before the Lord (Psalm 37:4). After you have prayed about it, tell your spouse: "This event is really important to me to understand you better. Do you have any interest in going?" If yes, then super and start making arrangements. If no, then drop it -- and you have to decide if going alone will build up more resentment for you or you will be able to lay that aside and benefit from the lessons there.

Don't waste time being hurt or resentful that your spouse won't take the lead in any of this. There may be any of a million reasons for that, and if you are a Christian, you are coming at marriage as serving your spouse. How can you serve your spouse? Serve your spouse by taking him/her on a date. Serve your spouse by learning all that you can about how to serve him/ her better. Serve your spouse by knowing and loving God the Father above all so that His love can spill over onto your spouse, also.

Spend your time, money, and energy on your marriage. Invest in your marriage. The dividends are so rewarding.


It's Friday, but Sunday's Coming

For years, the phrase "It's Friday, but Sunday's coming" was one of the most popular searches that brought people to my blog -- especially around this time of year -- because of this post (which means my punkin' little friend Levi turned 5 years old last week! Where does the time go??)

I am currently reading an AMAZING book. No, I'm not exaggerating.


Go. Here.

Order with one-click. Amazing.

So. This morning, this Good Friday morning, I read it briefly as my house came awake. Here are the words I read:

"I awaken to the strange truth that all new life comes out of the dark places, and hasn't it always been? Out of darkness, God spoke forth teeming life. . . . Out of the dark, tender life unfurled. Out of my own inner pitch, six human beings emerged, new life, wet and fresh.
All new life labors out of the very bowels of darkness.
That fullest life itself dawns from nothing but Calvary darkness and tomb - cave black into the radiance of Easter morning.
Out of the darkness of the cross, the world transfigures into new life. And there is no other way.
Then ... yes: It is dark suffering's umbilical cord that alone can untether new life.
It is suffering that has the realest possibility to bear down and deliver grace.
And grace that chooses to bear the cross of suffering overcomes the suffering.
I need to breathe."

Indeed. This is what the cross means to each of us. Grace. Overcoming suffering.

So very thankful.

Here is Tony Campolo with the sermon that started that phrase:


Moving Housekeeping

This post is primarily a way for me to mass distribute information to people that may be interested in the details of our upcoming move. If you have no interest in my move (who can blame you? I am bored to tears with it myself!) and are here looking for some family fun or hilarity, you can go read this post.

This is easier to do in FAQ form, since I know which questions I get asked most frequently. Let's play FAQ about the move! (and, again, you don't have to care AT ALL).

How are things going with the sale?
Which one? The contract on the house I currently live in is beyond option period, so it's a done deal. The Dallas-area house is still in option, inspection next week. There's been some annoying stuff, as with every real estate transaction, but so far all seems well.

When do you close?
We close on this house on May 11 and on the Dallas-area house on May 12. We load the truck here May 10 (same day as Ashley's band concert!) and unload in Dallas-area on May 14.

What will you do about school for the kids?
The kids shouldn't miss any school and will finish out the school year here. We do have to be out of this house when we close, so we will have some temporary living arrangements. Friends have offered, but the first week of back and forth (and band concerts) we may just do hotels.

Where are you living in the Dallas-area?
Email me or message me -- I'll tell you. We chose the area that we did for the schools. Not quality -- there are a LOT of quality schools around -- but for size. This particular district is committed to less than 10 million per graduating class, which some like to boast. The drawback is that it will be QUITE a commute for Troy. We have agreed that this will be our "5 year house": get the kids out of high school, move closer in.

What do you think of your new house?
Haven't seen it in person! Troy SKYPEd it to me last week, I've seen the web pics and a virtual tour. All great. I'm excited to get moved in. It looks great. Troy is nervous that I haven't seen it -- I am not. Technology has allowed me to "virtually see it" VERY well.

How are the kids doing?
Awesome. We're all just READY.

So... I think I'm out of FAQ's about the move. The main one I get is about when everything is happening. So.
May 10: load truck here
May 11: close house here
May 12: close house there
May 14: unload truck there (spend our first night in our new house!)
May 15: kids and I return here for them to finish last 2 weeks of school

We have already committed to being here the weekend of the 22nd for something, so we'll be around. However, once the kids are out of school after finals on the 27th, we'll probably grab one last Sharky's lunch *sniff*... and be gone.

So. That's that. I have LOVED all of the tips I got from my "Ask the Bloggy Friends" about moving tips and tricks. I confess that I initially wanted to lay down and take a nap -- then cry -- because it was all too much, but I am seeing the genius in all of it. LOVED KC's advice to "agree on your approach" -- something I hadn't considered since I am doing so much of this alone.

My favorite is that my husband does not feel the need to label ANYTHING. Unpacking will be Christmas morning for him. I guess he figures since I fussed for 5 years about the time that he and a friend moved us out of our 800 sq ft apartment, dumping everything into boxes marked 'miscellaneous' -- he just figures an unmarked box is better. Bless us everyone...

Anyone have a funny moving story? Loved Scott's story about the mail from the people who had the same last name as them! (Please don't tell me nightmares about missed closings or dishonest movers -- only funny stories allowed today!)


Teaching the Babies To Swim

originally in Abilene Families

One wouldn’t imagine that any outdoor job in a West Texas summer would be enjoyable, but I would venture to say that I have one of the best summer jobs around.

I suit up, and stand in about three feet of cool water and teach little people how to move their bodies through water.

Teaching swim lessons is a delightful glimpse of human nature encapsulated in a child’s body.

Some children come to swim lessons full of bravado: “I am the BEST swimmer ever!”

“You are? Well, would you put your face in the water?”

“Oh, no. I can’t do that...”

Some children come to swim lessons with fears fully realized. There may be tears when asked to do what appears to be a completely nonsensical act, like float on your back.

A swimmer all my life, I trust the water and it makes sense to me. However, to a beginning swimmer, none of it makes sense, especially the part about laying on your back.

As I tried to coax one beginner into floating on his back, he clutched me and finally said, “I am freakin’ out! Get me on land!”

As we move from “freakin’ out” to perhaps trying to get one little body moving through the water, the children who are mystified that they can kick through the water with face in the water and live to tell about it are a joy to teach. Once those swimmers start figuring that process out, there is no stopping them.

Of course, the Mt. Everest of all swim lessons is the diving board (cue ominous music). For the level that I teach, going off the diving board isn’t required but each child is given the opportunity to try each day, always with me floating underneath to catch any child that thinks he or she needs it.

On occasion, a hesitant swimmer will succumb to positive peer pressure and venture out onto the diving board. From the look in his eyes, you can tell he thinks this is not the wisest decision he will make today and perhaps he should consult his inner chakra for a better day to do this. Say... when he’s seventeen, or, you know, never.

But pride overtakes the inner chakra and he can’t just walk off the board. No, there’s no turning back once you are out there. Eyes full of terror, knees literally shaking, he sizes me up. Will I really catch him? How far can he leap and land squarely on my head? It has happened more often than I care to count.

Over the years, I have gotten better at gauging the distance a child can jump and how to get myself out of the way, but I never cease to be amazed at the amount of water a 40 pound child can displace.

I always wish I could capture two pictures: the eyes of the child as he leaps -- the terror, the questioning, the fear mixed with determination -- and the moment his face emerges from the water -- the joy, the pride, the victory mixed with relief.

I suspect I will have that same look in my eyes soon as I pull up to one of the local high schools to take my older child for the first day of high school. The questioning: How did this get here so soon? The determination: We will make it through this, with most of our sanity intact. Let’s roll.

You may be heading to pre-school or kindergarten, middle school or college with the same questions and determination. A few years down the road we will all emerge -- with joy, pride, victory and relief that we have made it through to the other side.

And at the end of it all, there just might be snacks and a warm towel.

Seeing the Future

originally in Abilene Families

WANTED: One lazy, hazy, crazy day of summer. Just one. A day to ignore schedules and deadlines and carpools and packing lists and pick-up times and simply enjoy the season. Our family didn’t find too many of those this summer. Seems as my children get older the cool places to be and time in the car for mom increase exponentially each summer.

We tried to enjoy a few slower days, but we had to leave town to do it. That meant we were paying for it and under the added pressure to really enjoy it! Now the summer whirlwind is screeching to a stop just long enough to throw me onto the school whirlwind.

I look into those faces that house eyes that roll at the sound of my voice and know that this is not a forever state of being. This is a season of life that I should be soaking up and cherishing. And I will, as soon as I find my keys, sign this permission slip, and fire up the crock pot. Yes, I will cherish it to the fullest while I ferry someone to the next must-do outing.

In the midst of my mania, I have a standing lunch date with about a dozen people each Tuesday. My husband doesn’t mind. In fact, he joins me, then he and I have our own private lunch date -- saving the best for last, I suppose. Along with hundreds of other people in this area, we have a Meals on Wheels route. It’s not remarkable about us, but there is plenty remarkable about the people we are privileged to serve each week.

Just like any other random grouping of a dozen people, some are easier to talk to than others, some are more enjoyable than others, and they come in all shapes, sizes, genders, and colors.

After having the same route for almost a year, we have become familiar with most of our regulars, what they would like to talk about, and if they even want to talk at all. One particular woman, probably 30 to 40 years my senior, has been difficult to get to know, simply accepting what is offered with a quiet smile and closing the door. The large dog she keeps for company prohibits much more conversation. Sometimes she appears a little unkempt with hair askew and pajama bottoms on with a blouse.

Not long ago, in making the handoff both of our thumbs were on top of the tray of food simultaneously. I noticed that our thumbnails were filed exactly the same way. As she reached to close the door, I noticed that all of her nails were like mine -- long and without polish. I like to keep mine painted, but a manicure hasn’t exactly been at the top of the agenda lately.

That one simple commonality caused me to see this woman in an entirely new light. She is me. There was a moment in time when she was running children to lessons and practices, darting to the grocery store when she could get the chance, putting on a nice dress to go to a dinner for her husband’s work when it was expected, teaching Sunday school, and all those things that fill my days now.

Gradually, life happened. Time robbed her of her husband, and likely the ability to properly grip a hair brush, or the dexterity required to button or snap pants making pajama bottoms a logical choice. In that brief glimpse of a set of fingernails, I saw how easily my life could evolve into hers over the course of years.

As I turned my back to her house, my husband at my side, a list a mile long of things that needed to be done yesterday tapping its foot at me, kids waiting to be picked up or dropped off, I was reminded of the blessing that is this full season of my life. I don’t have to stop for long --thank goodness, since I don’t have time -- to be grateful for the healthy, active family I’ve been given and the myriad of activities that come with them.

All too soon the nest will be empty, the calendar will grow dusty, and the rest of my life may mirror what a glimpse of a hand showed me. The tray I handed her may have sustained her for the day. May the reminder sustain me for this season of life.


How To Trick Your Body Into Thinking You Are Relaxed

Hey, guess what? Another blog post about relaxation! You would think I am stressed or something!

I am finding that I physically handle an unknown, uncertain future better than a known (overwhelming) checklist of all that must be done before I move out of one house and town to another house and town.

So I am calling on things I know to do to when stress threaten to cause me to feel awful. I find it difficult to breathe, my stomach stays upset, my chest is chronically tight. Not good.

You know many of these things, so in times of high stress, here's a quick checklist of how to un-do the effects it has on your body.

1) Head and Neck: Check that your head is pulled back over your neck, not sticking out. In times of stress, many of us will jut our head out, putting up to 10 pounds of extra pressure on the spine. Pull your head back.

2) Mouth and Jaw: This is one place the body takes on stress (anyone a tooth grinder/ jaw-chewer?) Relax your jaw, being sure that your teeth are slightly open. Relax your tongue. Relaxing your tongue signals to the rest of your body (I am NOT making this up) to relax. It also allows for greater air flow (about to discuss this in greater detail).

3) Shoulders: Roll them to the back, then down. If they are pulled forward (how most of us spend our days even not under stress) our chest cavity is pressing on our lungs, preventing us from taking adequate breaths. The end result is oxygen deprived organs and muscles, creating an overall fatigued feeling, especially if you couple it with high adrenaline throughout the day. If your shoulders are high (around your ears!) then your neck is too tight, eventually leading to cramped muscles.

4) Hands: Many of us also carry stress in our hands, gripping pens and steering wheels entirely too tightly. While you are relaxing those other places, stretch out your hands.

5) Belly breath: As mentioned above, most of us walk around oxygen deprived throughout the day and wonder why we yawn starting at 6 p.m. Take a deep breath, picturing the very bottoms of your lungs filling, so that it causes your belly to poke out. Do this as often as you think of it.

Stress is HARD on a body. If you can't undo whatever is stressing your brain, try to undo the stress on your body first with these quick tips.

Do you have any other ideas of quick things you can do to de-stress your body?


Marriage Monday: Just Joking!

(originally posted 4/19/10)

I really don't enjoy practical jokes. That may baffle you, because I see humor in pretty much every situation, but I really don't like practical jokes, whether they are being played on me or other people. As you might imagine, April 1st really isn't fun for me, either.

I caught a few minutes of America's Funniest Home Videos last night and a few of the videos were of people giving their friends, family, or spouses fake lottery tickets, causing them to believe they had won $10,000. How mean!

It made me think two things:
1) Troy would think that was SO funny to do to someone.
2) He would never do that to me.

Troy used to play jokes on me, but he saw that I don't like them, so he stopped. I have a seen a few mean spirited husbands (and even dads, which makes me really sad) that know that their spouses or children hate jokes like that, but take great joy in continuing to play jokes on their spouse. It just made me appreciate that, though I never once asked Troy to never again do that to me, he saw that I didn't like it, and stopped.

It's not like I asked him to give up his shotgun collection (gasp!!) or to never play a joke on anyone again (he still has his moments).

I wonder if I have been as sensitive to him about not doing something that bugs him (leaving shoes in the MIDDLE of the floor... ugh... not so much). I may have some work to do.

I'm so very thankful for the man I married and the way he takes care of me -- even the little things that matter to me.


Friday Fun

This is fascinating to me -- but I want to know what happens when you spill your Venti Caramel Latte' on that counter top where Grandma is talking on the phone. Bye, Grandma... call you back when we figure out how to repair THAT mess..


Ask the Bloggy Friends: Moving Tips and Tricks

So... if you haven't heard... I'M MOVING! Yay! We are beginning the packing-in-earnest process and looking to the move ahead. It has been a while since I moved and I am not what one would call a pro at this.

So... let's play a game of "Ask the Bloggy Friends," 'kay?
I have received a lot of helpful advice from this post (including the part about hiring professional movers if at all possible)!

Do you have a great tip or trick about packing for a move? (Not packing the truck -- SOOOOoooo not my job!) Most of you have moved more recently or more often than me! Let me know any great thoughts you have!


Riding the Bench...

Originally in Abilene Families

My kids have been blessed to take after their father in athletic abilities. Their mother may or may not have been injured recently by stepping on a pecan. Watching my children grow and develop their skills in sports thrills me. They have been given many opportunities by coaches to learn and play, but sometimes a team simply shapes up where an athlete doesn’t get much time on the court.

One of the athletes in my home had a character building season recently when more time was spent on the bench than the court. The athlete handled it really well. The mom still has room for improvement.

I learned a lot that season about myself and about my athlete. Watching the athlete on the bench afforded me plenty of time to ponder bench sitting. It didn’t take too many games before I realized I knew many people who are currently benched in life.

Some folks have been benched and taken out of the game without warning by unemployment or sudden crisis. Others may have been wounded by a crisis or the stinging words of others and chosen to sit out this season, not quite ready to play at full speed.

Just as in sports, everyone handles being benched differently. Some become angry and want to blame the moment on the coach, the rest of the team, the officials, maybe even the weather. Others, like my athlete, simply take it as part of the game. Part of the game is playing time, part of the game is bench time.

My athlete taught me a lot about how to use time on the bench. It can be used to encourage your fellow teammate, benchmate, or even the coach. Time on the bench can be used to study your opponent and learn their weaknesses.

Occasionally, an injury will force a player to the bench and that time is simply for healing. I consider the wounded people all around me, weighed down by grief for the season. I hope they will simply use this time to heal and not try to hobble through the game of life injured.

During one sporting season I had opportunity to observe another precious athlete who also handled being on the bench with grace and aplomb. A strong athlete but surrounded by others focused on this sport, this was simply not her season. She spent the majority of most games on the bench, but when coach sent her in, she flashed a huge smile, full of gazillions of dollars worth of braces.

This precious athlete played her little heart out, encouraging her teammates through each play. When coach nodded to her to come back out, her shoulders dropped ever so slightly, but she flashed the same huge smile. Back on the bench, she encouraged her teammates there, and cheered on those players still in the game.

Life will occasionally toss me onto the bench. I will try to learn a lesson from some of my young heroes. I will put a smile on my face and try to use my time on the bench to encourage those around me on the bench. Other times on the bench may simply need to be a time of healing and rest, and I will try to simply rest -- though the pecan incident reminded me that I don’t rest very well.

When I am called back into the game, I will also smile, appreciating that I can still play. I will play my heart out encouraging those around me, ever mindful of those on the bench who may also need a little encouragement.

I had no idea I could learn so much from watching young people sit on a bench.


How To Handle Prolonged Periods of Stress

Lord willing, my family will move to the area where my husband has been working at the end of May. That will be almost 7 months of our family living apart, making big decisions about relocation, with times of great uncertainties, that comes on the heels of 5 months of unemployment for my husband.

Yes, when we move it will basically be one full year of some form of stress that we have been living in. So I feel qualified to speak to living in stress. I'm not saying I have been a perfect role model, but I can still formulate a complete sentence most days, so I think I'm hanging in there.

We all have it in some form or another. It may be your job, your family situation, a health condition, financial stress... whatever. Society at large today lives with a certain amount of stress at one time or another.

I have found some things to do to lessen the effect that stress has on you and therefore your home.

**Get enough sleep. I'm a huge hypocrite in this regard. I know to do it, but I don't and it colors my entire world. It's a very simple fix: shut the house/ world down on time and get some sleep. If the stress keeps you from sleeping, talk to your doctor about medication for some short-term.

**Get some exercise. Whether exercise is "your thing" or not, going for a short walk can do all manner of things to release stress. When I interviewed a therapist for an article recently, he told me that the chemical that causes us to feel stress can only be released from the body 2 ways: through sweat or through tears. Go sweat it out. Also, the oxygen to the brain allows for clarity and helps problem solve.

**Spend time in The Word. Being reminded of God's control of my situation brings me immense peace. I include prayer time in this. I try to make it a non-negotiable start to my day -- why would I go into battle without being properly armed? Again, some days I fail. And I can tell...

**Extend grace to yourself. I have had to back way out of activities that I normally like to volunteer for and be involved in, because my first priority is maintaining peace in my home. I can't do that when I am scattered to the four winds. Also, allow yourself to collapse and cry every once in a while. No one is asking you to be SuperMom/ SuperDad. Just collapse, cry, head to bed, call it a day, and start over tomorrow. His mercies are new every morning.

**Extend grace to others. I get a LOT of advice, and it may or may not be in line with my family's plans and ideas. I appreciate that people are wanting to help, and Mike Cope one time offered these wise words, "People are bringing you the best they have to offer." However, I confess there are days that I get my fill and I just have to come home and go to bed.

**Maintain order and routine as much as possible. This one is tough when, in my case for instance, there is a disruption in the "order of the house" -- the daddy is gone during the week. It's hard to maintain regular dinner times and bed times for every one, but it makes the rest of the house go so much more smoothly. I recently saw a study that also mentioned that clutter is also a distraction and can have negative effect on your emotions. For this reason, I am thankful our house has been on the market much of this time -- clutter usually defeats me. A clean house truly is peaceful.

**Draw strength from others. This is a 2-parter for me. First, I am sure to seek out people who are encouraging and speak faith into my situation. Sometimes it's in a face-to-face situation, sometimes it's virtually (Facebook, Twitter, blogs that I read). I also limit myself to people who are demanding of my energy and efforts. Yes, it's selfish, but as God gives me strength, later I will be called to ministry. Now, my ministry is my family. I realize that for people who work outside of the home, you may be forced to be around energy drains -- but you don't have to absorb it.

**Seek out what makes you laugh. For me, I am blessed that my children are pure and utter delights to me. We truly have a great time at dinner and in the evenings most nights. Don't get me wrong -- they are teens and we have royal irritations and HUGE miscommunications (why does my spell check not recognize that word?). But, for the most part, a LOT of laughter. And? We watch a lot of Pixar. Riley and I have an entire Monsters, Inc. diatribe we go through. Love it.

Times of stress come in waves. Some of them giant, overpowering waves. Some of them constant crashing waves. However it comes at you, it helps to have a plan to get through that time.

Would love to hear from you. What would you add? (I know my dad is going to say: "Get on your motorcycle as much as possible." -- Truth. Do what you love when you can.) What about you?


Marriage Monday: Be a Student of Your Spouse

If you missed it, I mentioned yesterday that we finally, FINALLY, FINE-UH-LEE, have a contract on our house (praise pause -- lift your hands)! Of course, I won't tell you all the gory details that went into landing on a happy medium for the contract.

But for Marriage Monday I wanted to talk about something I have figured out the hard way about dealing with stressful situations like that with Troy (husband): be a student of his. No, don't sit at his feet and let him instruct me (if I did, World War II and Remington shotguns would be the subject matter - - yawn...).

I mean study HIM. Know his stressors, anxieties, and what makes him happy. Know what makes him feel as if he's accomplished something. Know when it's okay to have those conversations (oddly enough, Troy never likes me to hit him with the big stuff as we are laying down to go to sleep...)

By way of example, I present to you trying to sell a house. For instance, we got an offer on Friday. Troy was heading into a lunch meeting in Dallas when I told him the details of it. The offer wasn't what we wanted, but I had a counter-offer plan. However, knowing my husband the way I do (I'm a slow student, but I did eventually learn), I knew not to discuss it with him immediately.

So. I waited. I waited for him to drive in from Dallas. I knew he didn't want to discuss it then, or at all Friday evening. It. Was. KILLING!! ME!! But I said NOT a word...

Saturday morning, Troy had to go meet a resume' client, and I simply reminded him that IF we were going to counter, that it would need to be signed papers, big hairy deal, and we should probably get it squared away while he was in town. He, knowing ME the way he does, could feel me vibrating under the surface and KNEW it was killing me. We came to an agreement and agreed on a time to meet the realtor.

We gave a counter offer. The buyers countered THAT offer. It was Saturday evening -- 8-ish, maybe? I knew Troy was NOT going to come to a decision that night. I just zipped my mouth and watched my movie (oooh -- GREAT movie for marriage Monday, BTW: "Why Did I Get Married?") So I waited again (having a plan in my head, but knowing it was NOT time to discuss it).

We countered AGAIN on Sunday morning, and they accepted that. Thank you, Jesus.

You may look at this as manipulation or "playing" my husband. No, this was letting my husband deal with an already stressful situation in the best way he can. He is a VERY thorough and methodical person -- it's one of the things I adore about him, and it's one of the things that drives me kazonkers about him.

I gave him time to look at and explore and think about what was going on. He also had time to just vent to me about the stress the last year has been -- and I would have missed that if I had pushed him to make a decision the minute he walked through the door Friday evening.

It has taken me a LOT of years to learn this. I don't like it any better, but it has helped de-stress already stressful situations for me to let him be himself through these situations. Because I respect his need for time to process, he listens carefully when I tell him, "Okay, that's enough thinking and looking. Time for action."

Realize your spouse won't handle situations like you do. It's one of the greatest blessings the two of you have together -- each other's strengths. Give him/her the opportunity to use those strengths without trying to turn him/ her into you, especially in times of stress.

Good Things Out There

Cleft of the Rock

If you have not heard the news, the BEST thing out there is that I got a contract on my house today. We are celebrating! Now a new and different stress takes over, but it all means we are one step closer to living together as a family! So very happy!

I sent my Facebook friends to this post. If you didn't go, go NOW. Seriously amazing stuff from a Broadway actor. Love hearing from people of faith in "the biz." Crazy good.

Michael Hyatt, a constant fave of mine, talks about how to get out of a funk. Now, it's spring. You shouldn't be in a funk, but file it for the next rainy day/ snow storm.

Dan Pearce writes a moving, poignant post about the blessing and responsibility we have as parents, specifically dads. Powerful.

Chris Gallagher wrote a cool piece about when God closes a door. Good read.

Even before we got the contract I have started packiing up the house. As I empty out one cabinet, I'll find myself humming this song, getting a little weepy. Lots of memories in this house:


Friday Video

Y'all have all seen this. I saw it several times last year with no reaction. Now I can't watch it without throwing myself on the ground weeping as this is what I'm going through with my oldest.

How do the babies grow up so fast?

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