Top Posts for September and Wrapping up the Month

Can you believe that September has come and gone? It truly seems just yesterday I was committing to you to write a blog post every day in September.

And, with the exception of last fun-filled Friday, I did it. I also said I was going to launch an email newsletter for my ministry by tomorrow. That... I didn't so much do.

So, as I look back at September I hit a few goals and missed a few. Way better than any sporting average I may have. I am thankful to be as connected as I am online or I wouldn't know all of this info about myself. In keeping track of my month, I have seen that September for me was:

*over 50 miles run or walk/run (JUST under 55).

*29 blog posts

*4 other articles posted various other places

*Various and sundry other successes such as dinner on the table 5 nights a week, showing up where we're supposed to be when we're supposed to be there (give or take 5-10 minutes...), and usually having the supplies and clean clothes necessary. #WINNING!

I am going to set some goals for October -- some writing, some fitness, some family. I'll be posting those tomorrow. Would love for you to be thinking about some October goals. Because misery loves company I need accountability and we could be accountability partners, right?

The top blog posts for this month are:

Friends in Unlikely Places

Naming Newsletter Help

Friends When You Need Them

Marriage Monday: SURPRISE!

A Blog A Day in September

Be thinking about your goals for October! I can't wait to hear them!


Don't Quit

originally published at Word for Today

I am a wanna-be runner. I will train and run and begin to almost feel like a runner, and life, illness, or an injury will set me back. But for whatever reason, I am determined. I will not release the thought of being a runner, so it’s back on the track... so to speak. At least it’s back to the training plan.

Lately it has been a little easier to get back to my plan as I have a very patient running partner. She is consistently ready for me to get back to it, yet understands my need for a break when illness or injury call for it. She won’t let me get away with “I’m just not feeling it today...” because she knows what my ultimate goal is: to be a runner, with maybe a distance race completed eventually. 

Hebrews calls me to the same single-minded dedication to the hope I have: “Therefore, brothers, since we have confidence to enter the Most Holy Place by the blood of Jesus, by a new and living way opened for us through the curtain, that is, his body, and since we have a great priest over the house of God, let us draw near to God with a sincere heart in full assurance of faith, having our hearts sprinkled to cleanse us from a guilty conscience and having our bodies washed with pure water. Let us hold unswervingly to the hope we profess, for he who promised is faithful. And let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds.” (Hebrews 10:19-24)

Yes, He who promised is faithful, but there are days that I might lose my grip on my hope. These verses give me two remedies for that. First, “draw near to God with a sincere heart.” That is truly some of the best news in the New Testament -- that we don’t have to take our petitions to God through a priest. These scriptures remind us that Christ gave us the confidence to enter the Most Holy Place, cleansed by his very blood. Nothing can prevent us from doing that on a daily, even hourly, basis.

Sometimes I just don’t have it in me to do that, though. When the unemployment seems to drag on longer than I ever dreamed, or the news from the doctor wasn’t what I hoped it would be, when family news is disappointing or hurtful, sometimes my heart is too broken, too fragile, or too wounded to approach the throne of grace.

That’s when I look to my running partner... or those that “spur me on toward love and good deeds.” God placed us here to be in community so that we may do just that. When I have the strength and energy, it is my time to spur others on toward love and good deeds. Other times, I let those that run this race with me encourage me to simply put one foot in front of the other, to approach the throne of grace.

Let’s run victoriously today.


Bloggy Housekeeping on Wednesday

An update on baby Marlie Ruth:

She tolerated her surgery well (can you even IMAGINE being a neonatal neurosurgeon -- confessing I had trouble even SPELLING it!). However the tumor was found to be malignant, so not one more prayer will be wasted on sweet Marlie Ruth, her mom, dad, and brother and sister, and all those in the position of making decisions on her behalf. Lots of prayers. I'm sure everyone is very close to uncharted territory with this (at one point on the carepages, her dad said to find a brain tumor in a fetus, they would have had better odds of being struck by lightning while holding their winning lottery ticket. Very rare, obviously).

Then, it occurred to me -- I never chose my winner! So... drumroll (and hang on a minute) please!

First, here is how I the elaborate process went:

I fully intended to use a random number generator, but I had some offerings of "I'm not saying this for a card, but..." (you people are entered anyway) but, my apologies to completely anonymous entries, I have no way of verifying. And we are ALL ABOUT CONTEST SECURITY around here, people! (and Katherine got special not-even-being-in-the-Western-Hemisphere dispensation allowance and her comment of a few hours late from China was accepted) So.

Random drawing it is. Yes, the names are there. Lo, they are upside down in the pic. Work with me, friends:

Handsome name drawer.

Supervisory canine.

Winning entry.

So, congratulations, Terry! Send me your mailing address and your Amazon card will be on its way!

I learned some things from this contest. The main one being for myself: don't end on a Thursday. 'Cause I don't do Fridays or weekends well. Then I have "last week amnesia." But it was fun! Oh... and do you remember that the point of the whole contest was to name my newsletter that I would launch on October 1? And are you aware that October 1 is Saturday?

Well yes, yes, and no, the newsletter is still very fancy inside my head and quite non-existent anywhere else, thank you for asking. I'm a little stumped about parts of it. I need a newsletter team. I think that is me. My newsletter team needs to get crackin'! Seriously, if you have thoughts and ideas about free email newsletter templates and services --- I would love to hear from you.

Want to pass along something I read earlier that I just can't shake out of my head. I wrote an article about it that will be posted elsewhere that I will share with you when it's published.

This article in Fox News reports that scientists, who have been trying to figure out the structure of one particular retrovirus for over a decade finally had a genius (seriously!) idea to let online gamers try to figure it out. Less than three weeks. It took the gamers less than 3 weeks to figure out the structure of the virus.

The biggest implication of this is that is plays a critical role in the way the HIV virus replicates. New drugs will be able to better target and stop the virus.

The implications for what it means globally/ educationally, etc. are bigger still. I love that scientists were creative and humble enough to step back and think, "We are obviously not getting this. Who would be a good choice to do it?" And found the perfect key for their locked puzzle pieces. Video gamers. That lot that most of us consider to just be upstairs in the bean bag chairs eating all the Funyuns. Or maybe that's just me. Now they have a part in stepping up the fight against AIDS. And that is way cool.

I wonder what they can do with a blogging mama who occasionally OD's on vanilla Diet Coke from Sonic?


Praying for Marlie Ruth

First, I want to keep it real around here.

Yesterday, after I let you know how awesome my husband is - -he's still awesome -- we ended up having a shouting match last night. Over where a watermelon was in the kitchen. Not. Even. Kidding. (It was in plain sight/ tripping pattern -- hence, the problem). Just keepin' it real 'round here. Some days rainbows and lollipops, some days fights over watermelons.

Today I want to use my blog to ask for prayers for a newborn baby girl. I confess I am doing so without specific permission of the family, and that has been known to get me into trouble on more than one occasion.  But I'm going to step out here on faith and trust that asking for prayers from as many people as possible will be okay.

Marlie Ruth is six days old today. And I am writing this at 7:45 CST -- and her surgery should have already started. Before she was even born, she was found to have a brain tumor. She was born gorgeous and perfectly healthy -- except for that pesky little tumor -- last Thursday night.

Her parents, Kevin and Nathalie, are walking in faith.

Kevin writes on Marlie Ruth's carepages:

"The lead surgeon on the case will be Dr. Robert Bollo. Please lift him up in prayer and ask that God guides him to do his best work. We are praying that his surgery on Marlie will be Dr. Bollo's "masterpiece." 

Specifically, we additionally ask for prayers that - 
* Marlie's brain tumor will be removed in a successful surgery and she will complete the surgery and be a healthy baby girl. 
 * Marlie will have complete healing from this infirmity and from her surgery. * Marlie's brain tumor will be benign. 
* Our family will have peace, comfort and strong faith as we accept whatever result fulfills God's will."

Marlie Ruth has a sister and a brother: Maycie and Coleman.

Please say a prayer for this family today. I know they would appreciate every last prayer.


Marriage Mondy: SURPRISE!

Before I get started, let me be the first to point out that yes, yes I did miss a day in my "month of posting every day" in September. Nope, it wasn't yesterday (PLEASE tell me you watched that precious video) or Saturday (Scott, I will NOT pay for your therapy because of that pic). Those I had scheduled to post, but Friday? Y'all -- I was just having too much fun! I won't regale you with all of my fun, but I had a lot of fun with a new friend and my kids. I even got to spend time with Troy, who was home for a few minutes in the morning before his flight out of town.

So I missed a day and I'm just going to be okay with that.

For Marriage Monday I want to tell you about the absolute CUTEST thing my sweet husband did for me while he was out of town.

While I'm bragging on my man I'll go ahead and tell you it made me feel like a big creep because I had planned to set him up a VERY simple little goody box like this one on the Dating Divas site... and I fell into my Pinterest black hole just didn't take the time to do it. :-( So, he is at least 35 points ahead in the spouse rewards points game. You know what that means? Next movie = explosions and blood, next dinner out = major side of beef, and I have lost remote privileges forever.

Saturday afternoon, he sent me a text with a cute little rhyme that launched me into a scavenger hunt in the house. Finally! A scavenger hunt that isn't for my keys or clean socks! Whew! The clues were good and a little tough (he is VERY clever with words!) The last clue really took me a while. I had to go back and back to the clue. He was good... he wouldn't give a hint! :-) He is KILLER at Christmas (of course... he usually doesn't buy my gift until about the 20th, but he doesn't give it away!)

When I finally got it figured out the final clue led me to a sweet card and gift for me -- some shoes (my love language) that he had seen and thought of me. But, after all of that, it could have just been the card or a box of my favorite candy!
The point is that he took the time to come up with the idea -- or even stole or borrowed the idea, I don't care. He actually pulled it off unlike his slacker wife, who only came up with the idea AND bought the supplies.

This kind of thing may not be your "thing" -- but would it thrill your spouse? What would communicate to your spouse "I thought of you and put some effort into communicating that to you"?

I am NOT a creative person when it comes to such things. My gifts fall more in the "burn chicken 12 different ways" category or the "see how long a family can go without sweeping the floor." So, I have been very thankful to find The Dating Divas site. I think that some of their ideas are contributed, and some they dream up, but they are pretty fun.

If you have a great idea for a simple way to let your spouse know you are thinking of them, let me know! I would love to hear it!


Creepiest Picture of Invisible People -- But Not Invisible Teeth

I was looking for pictures of happy couples for this post on encouraging your spouse, and I came across this picture:
Can we all just agree that is simply the creepiest picture ever?
(as I look at it, I realize there is an excellent chance it is from a movie I have never seen since I see about 2 movies per year. If it is, enlighten me. And I will never, ever see it).

Thank you.


Catching Up and Planning Ahead

Y'all. You thought I was not going to make it today, huh?

It's overcast and has even rain a little today. A perfect day for doing some catching up in the house and on my work stuff. Scootch up a chair, I'll pour you a cup, and I'll fill you in on what all's going on.
Don't forget! Today (assuming you are reading this the day it's written) is THE LAST day to enter the contest to win a $10 Amazon gift card. Your entry is your comment giving me a name for my newsletter (there are some good ones there!) but the drawing will be a random drawing, so don't worry that it doesn't sound all clever or word-smith-y. Anyone who will use the word 'word-smith-y' is certainly not one to judge!

Are you following "The Cleft of the Rock" on Facebook? You can click on this link, or you can click my little Facebook button over there. Either way, I have come across some very cool articles and quotes lately about marriage and forever love that have been fun to pass along.

As mentioned (probably 42 times more than you wanted to hear) it's a busy season for our family. Perhaps not the best season for me to be trying to focus on writing from home as a business.

I have applied for several jobs that haven't worked out, so I am sticking to what I know I can do -- writing. But, like any other business you will run yourself, it only works if you do. So, I am trying to settle into a routine. And so far haven't yet.

I think back to what Dave Ramsey says about learning to budget: "You aren't going to get this overnight. You can bank on getting it wrong. That's part of the learning process."

John Bingham says the same thing about running: "When one becomes an athlete, one can exchange criticism for assessment. There are no bad runs or races, only events to be considered."

Yes, as Edison came up with 999 ways not to invent the light bulb, I have at least 8 days under my belt of how not to have the best day writing (I have had 3 or 4 pretty good ones, though -- CLAIMIN' them!) But I refuse to let the crazy voices inside my head (you love those guys -- they're the ones that let me write funny stuff) tell me that means I'll never be a writer. No, I am having Sane Sarah tell all the other voices: "Let's examine the pitfalls here and what exactly is going on and find some solutions."

So this afternoon I had a little ministry business meeting and made a plan. No... I don't have a plan yet. I identified problems and wrote SOME solutions, but "further action is required." Do I sound more official if I toss out business-y phrases? I need to use 'leverage' for good measure. That word honestly makes my blood pressure go up because I am so OVER! it being used.

I get a LOT of my productivity resources and ideas from Michael Hyatt's website. He has many valuable tools and ideas on his blog on a regular basis. If you are in any supervisor or leadership position, have your own business, etc. -- you would do well to start reading his blog on a regular basis. Wise man.

So, I am off to make myself an "action plan" to get those other things done. You go enter that contest!
And have a super evening.


Spinning Plates

(originally in Abilene Families magazine)

The glow of my laptop pierces the darkness like a beacon, beckoning a weary mom come and work. Finally a moment of silence, though I was forced to arise in the 5’s, a ridiculous hour to try to think coherently. I can hear the whir of fans, the hum of a refrigerator. A baby cries out in the room next door.

A speaking engagement has called me away for the weekend to the far reaches of East Texas. So far east I believe that I could throw a rock and have it land in Louisiana, in fact. Pine trees embrace the road, the hills roll by lush green fields until a lake appears. In other words, nothing like the charred, barren dessert I left behind.

This is a remote place, this woodsy escape. If I hold my cell phone in the air reception seems to improve. This is terrifically inconvenient, as between speaking times I have been trying to negotiate a contract to buy a house. So I found a high spot to stand on, called home to talk numbers, dates, closings, and contracts at a volume that frightens wildlife.

Living the dream.

My momma called it spinning plates. I call it juggling knives. Whatever you call it, you know it because you do it too. You are surely in the middle of a season of doing more than seems possible or wise to accomplish at one time.

The fate of mothers is to coordinate a list of appointments, programs, jobs, meetings, repairs, and conferences. It is a blessing and a calling. A temptation and a curse to clutter the life beyond a manageable pace. A way of life I slip into easily, yet chafe against.
Moms become expert plate-spinners/ knife-jugglers out of necessity. If you can change a DVD while starting dinner and putting Barbie’s prom dress on all while on the phone rescheduling a meeting for work, it’s just another day at the office for most moms. Then there is the nagging feeling that it is never enough. We must form the parade to honor the pets, throw the party for our friend’s special birthday, and never forget the whales. Or the hungry. Or to recycle.

Woe when a plate gets dropped: someone gets sick, an appointment runs long, a repair person doesn’t show up on time (okay, that’s a gimme), or a last minute meeting gets scheduled or needs to be rearranged, or... you just need some extra cuddle time and a pajama day.

I try to embrace such interruptions as reminders that life goes on betwixt and between the crazy-making busy-ness, but too often there is huffing and eye-rolling and slamming about the necessity to rearrange my schedule. I’m a slow learner.

It might be that all the plates drop when a major event -- a diagnosis, an accident, news of the good or bad variety -- causes all of the other spinning plates to be inconsequential.

As the sun climbs up the trunks of the pines in this East Texas locale I close my laptop, finished for the moment with the writing part of my job for the day. My mind is already pinballing through my day, my week, and the month ahead to calendars to coordinate, programs to attend, and obstacles to hurdle.

If I am to maintain my SuperMom cape, I have to be ready for anything at a moment’s notice!

Oh... who am I kidding? We all know I’m doing well to make it to the end of the day having fed and hugged everyone. If we show up where we are supposed to be within 15 minutes of the start time it’s an added bonus. Sometimes the wisest thing a mom can do is know her limitations.


A little Girl Talk: Blue Jeans, Pinterest and a Fashion Question

I certainly haven't run out of things to discuss, but this post may only appeal to 50% of my blog readers.

In the last month I have become addicted to interested in Pinterest. You know Pinterest, right?

If not, the Spark notes version (kids these days use Spark notes-- if you're as old as me, you used Cliff notes. Po-tay-to, po-tah-to) is that Pinterest is like an online bulletin board/ file cabinet. You see something cool online that you like, you 'pin it' to your board (and you can have several boards -- hence the file cabinet analogy). You can go browse at Pinterest what other people have pinned to their boards.

You can get great ideas on... EVERYTHING!! House decor, fashion, crafts, recipes, wedding, baby, blah, blah, on and on. And, like most everything else on the Internet, you can sit in front of it for half a second and then look up and an hour is gone.

For those of you that are on Pinterest -- can I grinch for a minute? Pinterest pet peeve -- you click on a pin "Great tutorial of how to upholster a chair" -- and it has been  pinned to the wrong web page! Grrrrrr. Get it right, people! Two most common errors are to pin to a Google image or to pin to the front page of a blog instead of the individual blog post. It isn't hard. Really.

The thing that has been the most helpful for me -- a fashion moron -- has been some fashion helps. I don't know where people originally find them, but I come across what I will call "outfit boards" like so:

I re-pinned this to my board to show myself -- hey, it's not so hard to put together a cute outfit AND people actually DO wear fishing lures as earrings.

I have several of these "boots and jeans" combos on my "My Style" board. I'm sure this causes people to question: "I have NEVER seen Sarah in boots (of the riding-type variety) and jeans."

No. No, you haven't. You know why?

Because God BLESSED me with some uber-sturdy legs that can run or run/walk tremendously great distances and other such things -- but cannot be petite and all and fit inside standard riding boots.

However, boot makers are catching on. A few weeks ago in Nordstrom's I noticed a gorgeous riding boot -- with a stretchy panel in the back for those of us with ample calves. At $100, it was still pricey, but WAY less than some of the costlier riding boots I have seen. Mental note to check back when I scrape together some dollars.

So LAST week I was in Target picking up some stuff for dinner and I see some ruckus over by the shoes. "Oh... yeah. I think this is the day that new line was coming out." Y'all -- that kind of thing is SO not on my radar! I wandered over to see if there were any sandals I may like on sale...

Lo and behold... boots with a stretchy panel. Right there in the Tar-jay. For $34.99. 

And I praised the Lord right there in the shoe department. Not even kidding. So I bought it for the family to give to me for my birthday. Boo to the yah.

So now I have ideas pinned. I have boots.  And I have a question:

If I am going to tuck my jeans into my boots, do they have to be skinny jeans? 

If I'm not wearing skinny jeans, but I do have on pull-on (only -- no zippers) boots with lotsa-leg in there, how do I keep my jeans from crawling back up around my knees? 

These are the burning fashion questions, people...

So. You? Do you Pinterest? Can you help me out with the boots/ jeans conundrum? I'm in need, here, people...


Marriage Monday: Encouraging Words

My thoughts on marriage today are prompted by Trey's post making the amazing claim: "How to Drop the Divorce Rate to 7% in Your Marriage."

Well, I was all about that. I have mentioned about a time or 50 that Troy and I have stared divorce in the face and by the grace of God and prayers of others we came out on the other side. And we are wiser and gentler with each other for it (did you know that most marriages -- like 80%-ish -- that are unhappy report that 5 years later are happier than ever? Because they have found the value in sticking it out).

However, that doesn't mean that we are immune to common pitfalls in marriage. Hyper-aware that they are taking place, maybe, but they still crop up from time-to-time.

Take now, for instance. Let's push aside the fact that the kids and I have only lived in this area for 3 months, so aren't super familiar with neighbors and friends, and certainly don't have a carpool support system. Fall has defaulted to being our crazy-busy season since that includes activities of both of our kids. Marching band practice has one going until late day while football practice gets one up in the wee hours of the morning, football games (for both) are on 2 nights a week, then the schools want us to meet the teacher, party with the band, and do all kinds of other things that take up evenings and time and gasoline.

It is a fun season of life watching our kids do what God has gifted them to do, but it does coincide with a busy season at Troy's work, when they also happen to be short-handed. Today is a fairly typical 13-hour day for him to launch a busy week that concludes with an out-of-town business trip over the weekend. It's our season of life and where God has us now.

So communication is brief. Emails and texts fly about schedules, finances, errands, and home maintenance. By the end of the day, it's "I'm starving," "What's for dinner," and "Who's turn is it to clean up?" That's about all we have left.

When Trey's blog post mentioned to compliment our spouse 5 times for every negative thing we say, I confess I was at a loss.
"Your car looks so shiny as you drive away in the mornings..."
"You spell everything right in your texts to tell me how late you're going to be..."

Once I started paying attention -- that if I wasn't going to compliment, I had to quit being negative, for starters -- I found places to compliment. When you've been married ... as long as we have (a number that we actually disagree on -- we have no idea how long it will be this November ... but I'm pretty sure I'm right... :-) you forget that someone still likes to hear compliments on their appearance.

But of course I lOVE to get compliments -- and Troy is good at that. I'll have to compliment him on  his complimenting me.

If it's really that easy, will you do it? Compliment your spouse 5 times for every negative thing you say? I found myself biting my tongue about ridiculous criticisms (where the soy sauce goes in the pantry, for example) just so I wouldn't have to dream up compliments about someone I'm barely spending any time around currently. Yes, I am being bare bones honest right now.

I married an amazing, godly man and it has been good for me to remember all the reasons why! What about you?


Longing for a Risk-Taking Faith

Hey, y'all!

I don't usually ACTUALLY WRITE a post, even when I post a post on Sunday.

But here I sit. And I'm thinking some. Both dangerous.

One thing I'm thinking is what we talked about at my church this morning. We are going through the Bible chronologically this year, and all Bible classes are discussing what is being discussed in church. This morning was parts of Genesis (Chapters 12-22) that discuss God's covenant promise with Abraham, his obedience, Isaac's birth, and God's testing of Abraham through asking him to sacrifice Isaac (then stopping him short of actually doing it).

Two things that were said (in class) that I keep rolling through my brain about that:

1) God initiated relationship with Abram/ Abraham -- and continues to initiate relationship with us today. He seeks and desires relationship with us. Let's just camp out on that thought. The creator of the universe and all that is in it -- would like to have lunch with me, court me, walk with me, etc. But I'm too busy on Facebook, Pinterest, etc. Hmmmmmm...

2) God asks/ requires a faith of risks (slaughter the son you waited 25 years for). We rarely live a life that allows God to move in such a huge way (delivering Isaac) because we rarely walk in places where only God will deliver. We put our God into a safe box that we can make work (a real-life example was used of a class member who agreed to go on a mission trip, but didn't know where the funding would come from. Funding came in at the last minute, and then some). It was pointed out that most of us wouldn't have agreed to go on the trip until we knew for sure that we had funding in place to the penny. Of course, as someone else pointed out -- is that stewardship, or testing God, or taking risks in faith? Only you can answer any of those questions.

I'm a big talker, -- I think taking risks sounds like a super great idea in theory --  but when it comes down to it, I won't step out in faith until the Lord breaks the branch under my feet and faith is all I have to stand on.

And the Lord has shown me... time and again... that He is enough.

Longing for a deeper faith.

Pondering, pondering...

What about you? What did God speak to you at church today?


Keep Me Laughing for My Birthday!

Okay, I am squeaking in with 69 minutes to spare! But today is MY BIRTHDAY!!

It was way fun and I will tell you all about it when I am not trying to get my weary, older body to bed after a day-o-fun.

Just want to share two of my favorite birthday greetings on Facebook.

The first was from Trina, who had a little trouble with her long fingernails and auto-correct, et. al:

Of course, that kept me and several others laughing quite a while.

Then Steve topped it off at the end of the day:
It's been a great birthday. There was Mexican food, hot air balloons, fireworks, Diet Coke and sleeping late! Now, in 6 hours from this minute I want to be leaving the house for a 4.2 mile run -- .1/mile for every year of life! If I do that, I have to go to bed NOW.

With that, I am off!


Would You Ever: Hot Air Balloon Rides

Y'all I'm about to miss my streak!

Crazy day -- and I'm about to walk out the door for Friday Night Football! WooHoo!

Big doin's around here this weekend, and one of the things I am hoping my family can make it to some of is the Plano Balloon Festival.

I find it so intriguing that my "big city area" is HUGE into hot air balloons. We are just rural enough that hot air balloons have enough space to take off and land. I truly see at least one per week, and usually if you see one you see 4-6. I LOVE them!

This morning, I saw one land in the field behind the Sonic where I was going to get my drink before ladies class! I was going to take a picture as proof, but it was too low by the time I was where I could take a picture. Isn't that crazy?

So... a question for you: would you ever ride in one?

Me -- no way, no how. I don't do heights and the thought of an open basket higher than 20 feet off the ground ... just NO. What about you? Would you? Have you?


Naming Newsletter Help (WITH a Contest!)

Here we are, 15 days into September.

I have done it -- I have written a blog post every single day (with one of them posting a day late due to a disabling migraine).

Lemme confess this: I am tired. Not of writing. (Oh, I'm about to lay a bombshell on you that will cause you to roll your eyes and say, "But I am tired of your writing. Enough...!")

I'm just tired. Maybe it's the cloud cover. Maybe it's the fact that my alarm goes off at 4:45a so that I can meet my running partner at 5:15. Maybe it's that we keep having weekends-o-fun (that I think I pinky-promised you I would tell you all about and I haven't) and I need a weekend-o-rest. Super Bad. I think I have one penciled in for the weekend before Thanksgiving, but I see band directors eyeing it for something that will keep my children out until ridonkulous hours.

So. Today I'm a little bit at a lack of writing material, because heaven knows you don't want me detailing how tired I am. Instead of doing tons of writing I'm planning and working on ministry stuff, planning for the spring, and working on things I should have done a long time ago. One of those things is looking at my calendar to see which dates I have available for speaking in the spring. If your group (conference/ club/ small group/ retreat/ ladies class/ church gathering/ etc.) needs a speaker, I would be honored to visit with you to see if I would be a good fit for your group. (P.S. -- I just looked at my speaking topics. Evidently I could stand to be practicing what I preach -- or something like that...)

One of the things I'm working on today is to create a(n email) newsletter. Yes, this is where you, faithful blog reader, think, "Why in heaven's name would I need to read your newsletter? Pretty sure when I'm reading about how tired you are, we have scraped the bottom of the subject-matter barrel and you have nothing left to say to me..." EXCELLENT point, dear and lovely blog reader...

And while I will be thrilled for you to read my newsletter, it's really not for you, you see. Because you are my faithful. You show up over here when I lament about my dog losing hair, losing my dog, or just generally losing my mind. You rock that way.

Once I get my newsletter up and running (target date: Oct. 1.  Feel free to ask me about it!) it will be for folks that have heard me speak and/ or may be interested in having me speak, but what exactly am I about anyway? It will probably be a once per quarter newsletter, so just 4 times per year in your email inbox.

Here is where you come in. I do articles and words and loquaciousness. Brief and succinct are not my strong points. Can you help me name a newsletter for my speaking ministry? It can be a play on words based on my name: "Sarah's ... Stubborn... Stumping.." (see? I told you I shouldn't do this...) or it can be based on the title of my ministry: "Thoughts from The Cleft of the Rock"

To encourage you to put your thinking caps on, I would like to offer a $10 Amazon gift card to a random entrant/ commenter that gives me an idea. Here's how this will work: Leave one comment on the blog  with your BEST entry for a newsletter title. Only one newsletter title entry per person, please. However, for an additional entry, you can click on my facebook link over there and follow me on facebook. Comment and tell me that you did, or leave me a comment to tell me that you already do. So there should be a maximum of two entries per person.

I will accept entries for a week -- through midnight, September 22. I will choose a winner by a random number generator, so even if you think the best you can come up with is cheesy, toss it out there! For those of you that read my blog on Facebook and generally comment over there, you're going to have to add your comment here ('lest I get REALLY confused). 

So get thinking, and be clever. Ready.... GO!


Losing Myself?

(originally in Abilene Families magazine)

My husband and I think that Super Bowl night is a good time to go to the movies without crowds. We only know sports figures from crime reports, and fantasy football/ baseball/ horseshoes is a time investment we don’t bother to make.

We aren’t sports people at my house. At least we weren’t... before we became parents.

I introduced myself to my son’s first little league coach by saying, “You know... I don’t really care for baseball...” Little did I know this man lived by the “Life is Baseball, The Rest is Just Details” motto and I may as well have insulted his mother. For some reason, Coach still loves me anyway -- but he never lets me forget that I dissed his sport.

Of course the universe laughed and I have children -- especially first-born -- that live and breathe all things sports. ESPN is a favorite channel, if TAKS covered batting averages and shots made “from the paint” of the pros it would be a no-brainer, and first-born is loyal to a fault to one city’s teams: football, baseball, and basketball all have her heart from that area.

And thus it was that I found myself last fall watching Game 6 of the American League Championship: Rangers taking on the Yankees. You might remember it as the game that sent them to the World Series, with Alex Rodriguez’s strike out being the final out of the game. I know enough about sports to know the sweet justice that had to be for the Rangers.

As I shouted and celebrated and wiped the tears from eyes, I looked around to realize that I was alone. Watching baseball. Voluntarily. And crying. What exactly was happening to me?

I wondered the same thing weeks ago as I woke my children at 5:30 on a summer Thursday morning (and they actually got out of bed), boarded crowded public transportation to bump along, then unload to wait in the heat with thousands of our closest friends to celebrate the Dallas Mavericks’ NBA National Championship.

The strangest thing about this scene isn’t that I was there, it’s that I wouldn’t have dreamed of being anywhere else on the planet at that moment.

Our children have made us lose our mind and hair. What’s left of our hair is graying. I am wrinkled and sag in places I can’t discuss on these pages. But bringing these people into my life has changed me. I wonder if I have lost who I am or if I am growing into someone better?

Somewhere between the 3 a.m. feedings and diaper changes and the 7 p.m. volleyball games and PTA programs, an actual person emerged. Someone with his or her own thoughts, ideas, interests, and opinions. How am I ever going to keep up? I have to jump in with both feet, of course.

A friend is adamantly not a dog person married to also-not-a-dog-person. Also victims of the humor of the universe, their third-born has longed for a dog since she knew what a dog was. Recently this family welcomed a puppy into the home.

Those of us that have walked that road know that in no time at all that dog will be an integral part of the family, with heaven and earth moved to keep puppy healthy and happy. Did my friend lose... or grow? I guess that depends on your perspective. I know that the third-born is one happy child.

We bring children into our lives expecting to influence and shape them into who we think they should be. Morals and boundaries are valuable lessons to pass along to our kids. But if we look and listen, occasionally these small people may lead us into a better understanding of the world around us.

And sometimes, they lead us to more fun: a day at the ballpark or a cuddle with a puppy. Not a bad place to be.


Friends When You Need Them

I am WAY overdue in telling you this story!

I told you MONTHS ago about some very close friendships I made in my former town -- when I signed up at they gym. I started telling you that because of something really cool that my gym buddies -- Amy and Laura -- did.

So... this was in July. It was hot. Stinkin' hot. Not that August or September has come to be any different. We were new in our town, hemorrhaging cash the way you do when you move, and it was too hot to do ANYTHING -- honestly too hot to go to the pool. So we sat in the little cave of our new house, watching the TV too loudly, or whatever. A little bit of a depressing existence.

I tried to at least keep the house picked up to help my mental state of being, but with two teenagers that didn't seem interested in picking up behind themselves (they have the classic philosophy about making their bed: "Why? You only get in it 12 hours later...") and a dog that was losing fistfuls of hair due to the summer heat, it was an uphill battle that my weary psyche rarely felt energized enough to fight.

So one Friday my kids are wandering around picking up. Weird? The man-child even swept up some. What in the world? I mean, they are washing dishes, putting things away, and "where does this box go?" "Why?" "Well... it's bugging me here..." "It's been sitting there all summer without bugging you. Why is it bugging you now?" Like... Twilight Zone kind of things.

So, we had our Friday night Domino's and were all settled in doing the boring things we do -- kids messing on computers, Troy and I watching some mindless TV, blah, blah. My cell phone rings. It's Amy. Not horribly odd. We've been texting all summer.

A: "So... what are you doing...?"

"Oh... the usual big Friday night... watching TV with the fam."

"Wanna go to Starbucks? You, me, Laura?"

Snort/ laugh..."Oh. Sure. That would be fun..."

"Well COME ON!! Your sprinklers are on or I would have knocked on your door! Let's go!!"

"WHAT???" So... yes... I throw open my front door. True, my sprinklers around my sidewalk were on. True, Amy and Laura were standing on the other side of them. True I ran THROUGH the sprinklers (soaking my rear) to go hug their beautiful necks. How fun are they?

Yes, my family had been in on this very fun surprise that my friends came to see me. Such a little/ huge thing. Oh, my stars -- to get two women out of town away from their families? Huge. And Amy's husband travels for his work. Turns out, she didn't see him before she left. He was driving in as they were driving out. That is a sacrifice!

So we went to Starbuck's. And caught up. And laughed and shook our head over some things. Like always.

They slept in one of the kids' rooms, we woke up the next morning and went for a walk. Like always.
It was hot -- like always.

Somewhere there was breakfast and showering, then we were OFF! None of us are much into shopping but there are some cute little (overpriced) shops in my town I haven't seen so we scoped those out -- for about 15 minutes. Then we hit the resale shops, which I have LOADS of and they are awesome!

We laughed and talked and scoped out cheap finds for ourselves and our kids. Above all... we just were. We were just there... next to each other. Which was SO much what my weary heart needed at that moment. To laugh over the hideous music at the teen resale shop and to shake our heads at the not-so-bargain hideous find at the more "grown up" resale shop.

Troy grilled us steaks and some chicken, baked us some potatoes for dinner, and eventually they had to leave. *sigh* But my heart was refreshed.

 You can't put into words or sentences what those kind of friends mean -- the ones who don't sit and wish that your heart was in a better place but will leap into action to make it so. I'm rarely that kind of friend to others, I openly admit. These beautiful ladies call me to do better and be better in so many ways.

Nine years ago I walked into a gym to get fit and lose a few inches. I gained two amazing friends and so many more rewards. Even from too many miles away, they're still my dear friends today. Like always.


Better Yet, Remembering September 12th

Yesterday was a great day. Church, brief nap, ballgame with family and firemen, and then home with family.

I missed most of the media coverage of September 11th anniversary, though they were replaying some footage where we went to lunch. That was a good way to talk to the kids about it. They were 3 and 5 when it happened, so they only remember/ know what they have been told about it. I heard some people complain that there was too much media coverage/ dredging up the past. I'm glad I wasn't here to watch it. I can so easily get caught up.

One thing I heard on the radio last week that I do want us all to remember is September 12th. I heard a radio interview -- I think he was the contractor/ architect/ something to do with the memorial plaza being constructed at the site of the World Trade Centers. He said that the feeling they were trying to convey wasn't the awfulness and destruction of September 11, but how we felt on September 12.

He said something along the lines of "On September 12th, people volunteered to find survivors, they made sandwiches for rescue workers, they donated blood, and they flew their flags. We showed that it wasn't over, and that we were in this together."


September 12. THAT is what I want to remember.

Because here's the deal: I frequently thank the Lord for tiny, minuscule things in my life: the ability to walk across the floor with no assistance or prosthetics, that my children, spouse, and myself are all healthy, not requiring regular medication and/or hospital visits, for providing SO much that we need and then some that we have clutter (and on and on...). However, I rarely thank Him for one HUGE thing: the roll of the cosmic lottery that had me born to two parents that a)wanted me and loved me b) still love each other and stayed married and c) live in a country where we are free to make fashion choices as heinous as skinny jeans when we have no business wearing them or Uggs with short shorts, and can post entire blogs, Facebook posts, and whathaveyous about how much we dislike, distrust, and don't care for our current leader.

And all of those fashion and political freedoms make us as a people occasionally an intolerable bunch to live with, but when the rubber meets the road, we are a scrappy people, resilient and strong. This isn't a "my country can beat up your country" post. This is a "I'm very thankful for where I live and the people that live here with me" post. To honor September 12 -- go do something! Volunteer -- give blood, donate to the Texas Wildfire Fund, help out at your local Meals on Wheels, be a Big Brother or Big Sister. Do one of the bazillions of things that makes us a working team in this country.

As for me, I am currently writing from my front porch, my puppy at my feet, deciding which of those things to do. What a great day, September 12.


Honoring the Memory of September 11, 2001

As I mentioned yesterday, I don't have much to add to all the amazing words that have been written about this day.

We all know where we were, what was going on. It was the most amazing, beautiful, clear crisp September morning ever. And then it was a mess and the whole world was wrong. My baby girl was 3 weeks into kindergarten -- and I desperately wanted her home with me.

I was stepping out of the shower trying to get my youngest off to pre-school and the phone was ringing. It was T, telling me to turn on the TV. The TV was on, but youngest was watching Barney or something and was NOT happy when I changed channels.

I sat on the end of my coffee table wrapped in a towel watching the news reports. When Rudy Guiliani gave a press report about how to pick up your kids from school, I wept, wondering how many kids wouldn't have anyone to come get them.

Eventually we learned that day was full of heroes. Some lived to tell the tale. Many did not. I told you yesterday about one, and today I will share many more with you.

Five years ago I wrote a memorial about Brian Bilcher, one of the first responders who lost their lives that day.

There was Rick Rescorla, whose foresight kept literally thousands from losing their lives that day.

Lt. Heather “Lucky” Penney  was given orders to bring down United flight 93, which eventually was crashed into a field in Pennsylvania thanks to heroics of some passengers. Lt. Penney had her F-16, but in a pre-9-11 era, she had no ammunition. She took off, preparing to use her plane as the missile to bring down the plane.

These are just the stories I know of right now. I have others floating around in my brain I wish I could tell you. So many heroes of that day.

Let me tell you how I get to celebrate this day, showing the terrorists that life goes on:

A friend is a captain for the fire department where we used to live. He got tickets (or was given -- I'm unclear) for first responders in that area for the Texas Rangers baseball game. Once they were all spoken for, he had a few left over and invited my family to join them. So, I will be attending a baseball game. Sitting amongst first responders. And I will probably cry at some point due to the normalcy of it all.

May you have a grand day of normalcy.


Wells Crowther -- An Ordinary Hero

I am LOVING the commitment to blog everyday.

It has reminded me that I actually DO have things to say. This 10th anniversary of September 11th has certainly provided a flood of writing material, but I'm not sure I have anything worthwhile to add to the dialog. Memories and moments and emotions that we all had have surfaced again, but it's precisely the same memories, moments, and emotions you had -- only with different scenery maybe. Besides that, this weekend is CHOCK FULL-O-FUN and I don't have much time for writing. I will fill you in on a LOT of things next week. Pinky promise?

Today I have run 4 miles, worked in the yard, pedicured, yoga-ed, and just got out of the shower because our family is on our way to a tailgate party and football game for Troy's work (here, it's evidently called "boulevarding" -- for the love). So. Must run. But first I want to share a video with you. It's lengthy, but it's just one story out of dozens of 9-11-01 of everyday people turned heroes.


Big Day! New Beth Moore Study, Thrift Store Shopping, and a Ballgame!

Y'all, I only have a minute here. My giddiness at this day will tell you what a sad, sad state my life has become. But I am SO! EXCITED! for today!! Truly, it's a big day (for me -- no one else in this house has any idea how excited I am).

First, I signed up for our new church's fall Beth Moore study. They will be studying, "David: Seeking a Heart Like His." Of course, I'm totally pumped to dive into a new study of the word. But... honestly... for THIS day the big news is that I will be putting on ACTUAL clothes (not exercise) AND make-up, hair not ponytailed -- a look previously reserved for Sundays only.

Plus -- and this is HUGE -- there will be PEOPLE. People that might (I don't want to put too much pressure on my new sisters, now) actually speak to me. Say "hello" even. Actually, I had lunch with two of the women two weeks ago and they are quite lovely and I feel certain at least those two ladies will say hello. Generally my days are limited to my children, my dog, and, if I'm really blessed and social, the cashier at Kroger or Walgreen's. Seriously. I'm gonna be on people overload.

THEN while I am out and all dressed and everything I'm going to Goodwill! Yes, go ahead and laugh, but, again, I'm excited. For those of you in my former town, Goodwill is now as far as "all the way across town" is there -- about 10 miles. I have an awesome one about 10 miles north of me and there's one 8 miles south of me that I've never been to. I don't go often, keeping in my little Kroger and Walgreen's circle.

Yes, I will be steps from amazing outlet stores, but I am headed to Goodwill. A) My family is on a Goodwill budget. B) I have some projects I would like to do for the house that Pinterest has me thinking about. I am going to troll for old frames and cookie sheets, but I'll be honest: I'll be scoping out clothes while I'm there, too! Jen at Balancing Beauty and Bedlam has truly shown me the light about thrift store shopping.

Then, as if actually getting dressed, actual people, and an actual thrift store aren't enough?? There is a football game!! (Remember? These people don't get excited about football, but I do because my Sporty Girl is marching in that band!) The temperature is the absolute perfect football watching weather that Texas doesn't usually get until well into October. Honestly, I just don't know what ever I did to deserve this day!


Soooooo... TOP THAT! What do YOU have going on today? HAPPY FRIDAY!


Planning My Day for Success

Hey, y'all! What's up with your Thursday? I have my windows open enjoying a breath of fall before the dog days of summer come back to haunt us. I hope it's beautiful where you are, too, though I know many of you are battling the smoke of nearby fires and all the worry, danger, and heartache that goes with that. My heart is with you!

Just a quick check-in today. I am SO far behind in my day and I have nothing earth-shattering to share with you. We have a gloriously empty calendar tonight, so I would like to get all my things done to welcome all home with dinner (which is going to be a "clean out the fridge" type concoction) at the ready so that we don't fritter our bare evening cooking or cleaning.

I don't know why, but I did NOT sleep well last night. Since having my running partner, I tend to wake up about an hour before my alarm, worried that I will miss hearing it. That's annoying, since my alarm goes off at 4:45 a.m. I usually doze pretty well for the next hour.

Last night, after having a lot of trouble falling asleep I was WIDE AWAKE, tried and tried to go back to sleep, finally caved and looked: 12:55. D'OH! Are you kidding me?? Deep breathing, relaxation, {stomach growling -- SHH!}, dozing... now 3:01. Text running partner. "Not today." Snack (Nilla Wafers!), water, bed, real sleep, alarm too soon. Stagger.

Thankfully, I did something last night that I always THINK ABOUT doing, but figure it can wait until the next day. As someone who is currently in "job-limbo", it's easy to let my day get away from me without getting to all the things I need to do. Whether it be home things, job-hunt things, writing deadline things, etc. I used to be able to wake up in the morning and make myself a to-do list, but even with running and waking up, I just can't quite get my brain in gear in the mornings any more.

My kids have to be at school at two different times by HOURS (6:30 and 9) so I do things in fits and starts and short bursts and do lots of wandering before I remember that I'm even supposed to make myself a list.

Last night I spent 5 minutes planning today. What needed to get done, what  could possibly get done, and what I want to do. Sadly, because I skipped some things and went back to bed after the 6:30 kid got to school, I may not get to what I want to do. But I was able to wake up, walk into the kitchen, see my list, and immediately start in on what needs to get done, which is a far cry from what would usually happen after a night like last night.

I know you're supposed to do that before you leave work every night, but if this is my work right now... it stands to reason. I wonder if I can add: "plan tomorrow" to my nightly routine? Should probably add it to my list right now!

What do you do to make your mornings go smoothly?


My BOGO's Gone Blinky!

(originally in Abilene Families magazine)

The economy may have affected your job situation, paycheck, or status. Gas prices have all of us evaluating our driving habits. One side effect of the economy is that a simple cost-saving measure seems to be bubbling to the top as America’s new favorite past time.

Scraps of paper, specific types of accessories, blogs with excessive! exclamation! points! with corresponding mystery lingo like BOGO, wyb, blinky, peelie, and OOP all characterize one of the money saving techniques known as couponing.

I have attempted to save a few bucks with coupons in the past, but it never goes well. I always end up buried under heaps of newspaper and clippings, looking like an Edward Scissorhand massacre gone awry.

Scanning the Internet, however, the coupon craze is the pastime of the stay at home mom (or, you know, SAHM). I marvel at the blogs devoted to this modern-day sport, soon to be an Olympic event. These women say they turned to coupons as a way to stay home with their family, yet it seems to have become its own full time job.

Never mind the time spent clipping and organizing, these gals are scouting every web site for sales and coupons, every store for clearance items, and every newspaper stand for extra coupons.

Then there is the non-stop blogging. *SALE NOW* *OVERSTOCKS AT THIS SITE* *BOGO ON KRAFT DRESSING* Whew. After they blog and tell us where all the sales are many return home from the shopping trip and take a picture of their haul, receipt, tallying the savings for the year and percentage of money saved vs. gasoline used divided by the numbers of planets in line. Truly... it wears me out.

Am I a lesser person if I just want to be able to feed my family without incorporating a slide rule and abacus to save some money?

Of course, since this is America, couponing has gone (cue fanfare music) “Extreme.” Or, what A&E network likes to call “pre-Hoarders.” Yes, put couponing with rock climbing, skateboarding, sky diving, and BASE jumping as another pastime to go extreme.

Even amateur coupon wielding folks proudly display their stockpile of cabinets, pantries, and garages full of cereal, soap bars, and shaving cream. Extreme couponers have their own bar codes and inventory list. Are these people expecting some sort of disaster that will make them unable to get to a grocery store for 4 years?

I understand wanting to pay the lowest price possible for a product, but are those bug-free boxes in your bug-free garage? How much cereal does your family possibly eat before cereal is on sale again? And will your family eat cereal or pasta that has bugs in it -- even if it did only cost $.07/ box?

I can’t stand to ever be on a bandwagon, but the economy has showed up at my doorstep, too. So I am trying to make another go at this couponing thing. You can tell by the little scraps of paper all over my house and the newspaper strewn hither and yon. You may also recognize me in the grocery store, zig-zagging the store as I chase down $.25 off a tube of Preparation H. This is what the fuss is all about?

Of course the Coupon Czars have convinced me to set up a special notebook. It’s an accessory -- what can I say? Maybe I should market a coupon purse. Of course, no one would ever pay full price for it, so that invention may not be worth the effort.

I don’t have room for the hoarding/ stockpiling portion of couponing, so it may be a bust for me. I have a few things tucked away here and there. I think I do have a back-up box of toothpaste for the next person in the family that runs out. I think it was a blinky. Or BOGO. I’m not sure. I think you have to go extreme to know the lingo. I have openings for sponsors, if you’re interested.


The Land of The Living

This whole blog-a-day-in-September had to take a brief hiatus yesterday (I just now posted yesterday's blog) as I lay in bed with a migraine all day. That was sad, considering it was evidently the nicest weather day we have had since I've lived here.

My regular blog-readers are all-too-aware of my migraines, which have been somewhat well behaved lately. But we traveled to a wedding this weekend. I didn't drink as much water as I should have, being on the road and all, then the weather change knocked me flat on my back. Literally.

At one point I couldn't keep anything down -- no water, no food, and worst of all, no pills. So I could lay with an ice pack on my head, in too much pain to sleep. It's really no way to spend a Labor Day, I tell you.

I totally need one of these things! Found it while  looking for pics of ice packs.
However, it gives me opportunity to practice "give thanks in all circumstances" (1 Thess. 5:18). Too often the first thing to come out of my mouth is a complaint, an "if-only", a "why isn't it that way...?", so laying perfectly still in pain gives me time to practice being grateful. And I realized that I am.

No, I was not grateful to be inside a dark room flat on my back, unable to be medicated on a gorgeous day. Here are things I was grateful for:
*This is not my usual life.
*My family was so amazing and sweet and took good care of me.
*The ice pack.

And on it went. Above all, I went back to being grateful for being generally healthy, so that days like this are rare.

And this morning, when I could keep down half a banana, then a whole pill, it was an amazing day for rejoicing indeed. Look at me! Back in the land of the living. Now if I could figure out how to get one of those ice helmet things...
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