The Courage to Redefine Sucess

"I also learned that my spirit was not as broken as I thought. Through running I was rediscovering courage, in myself and in others. Running was awakening the very feelings that I had tried so hard to bury. Running made me aware that the true difference between success and failure, between winning and losing, is often our willingness to be honest about what success means."

John Bingham,
"The Courage to Start"


How 'Bout a T-Shirt and Logo With Your Ministry?

I have a thought in my head. Dangerous, no?

If you know me very well, you know that these thoughts in my head have the potential to become soapbox diatribes. I figure, if you're going to have an opinion, HAVE AN OPINION. If you're ambivalent -- stay out of it.

I think I'm still in the information-gathering stage of this issue, so I'm reserving my right to get on or off of a soapbox. I would love your input and thoughts.

Keep in mind I have been attending a large church for 10 years now, and a large-ish church for 10 years before that. So if you go to a smaller church you may not have the same experience as I do.

But in my experience, when a church or organization wants to launch a ministry, it goes like so: They gather together a group or committee, or even just a few of the staff members have a great idea to reach out to the community or to encourage their members. Whatever -- some earnest desire to launch the body closer to God or in a better position to serve their community.

In my layperson's humble observation, it seems to me that the first order of business after settling on what the plan will be, is to ... what? You know, right? Is it determine a budget? Decide who needs this ministry the most or will be available to participate? Oh, no. First, before all else, we need a catchy name and LOGO!!
And this logo made me laugh more than anything... *

After we have settled on the name and logo, we have to have it printed on every piece of stationary, banner, and building fixture that doesn't move first. Oh... and T-SHIRTS!! We MUST have t-shirts (t-shirts are really where I'm heading with this...). We can get t-shirts at this great little place for dirt cheap.

For the t-shirts: you cannot get t-shirts free, people. You, as a non-profit ministry entity, have 2 choices regarding the t-shirts.
1) You can count the cost in the budget for the program (if you have one), and order plenty for everyone or...
2) Pass along the (nominal) cost to the participants, asking them to pay the (nominal) fee to offset the cost?

My family signed up recently for a service project that is an annual event. Being new to the area, this will be our first time to participate. With the announcements about the day, I noticed, "Please wear your shirts. If you don't have one, contact (shirt person)." So I emailed shirt person and said that we needed shirts, and here are our sizes. "I'll order those for you. They are $5/ each. We can cover that if it is a hardship."

Dilemma: $20 isn't technically a hardship for my family, no, but I could put $20 to a lot better use than t-shirts that we will literally never wear again, since we don't wear t-shirts. Ever. (Troy and I don't -- and the kids have about 20 apiece from such activities).

So I really started thinking: why? Why do we do this t-shirt thing? Why do we even do the logo thing? And couldn't all of that money for design and printing go to better use? Granted, I am married to a business guy. I understand the need for marketing/ hype about something a church or any entity has going on. But the t-shirts are beginning to get to me.

Partly because of the t-shirt clutter my own family has. It's ridiculous. We are being buried alive by screenprinted cotton fiber here. So I'm examining the usefulness and expense of t-shirts for a program.

If the program is for children or teens, it seems the t-shirt is a given. I get the idea behind that: it is so important for that age to not only have something to be excited about, but also to feel a part of something. Trust me -- we are new here, remember? My kids want to fit in/ belong. A t-shirt like everyone else's (though we have a bajillion like everyone else in a different town) can be a wonderful thing. Honest. As a matter of fact, we had one woman from church hunt us down to meet us because she saw Ashley out in town wearing a t-shirt associated with our new church and she wanted to meet us! Awesome.

Of course that always leaves room for someone that doesn't belong, now doesn't it? Invariably, someone can't go/ can't make it/ can't afford your t-shirt event... and they don't fit in with you. Or they joined your program two weeks after the BEST! OUTING! EVER!! (complete with most awesome t-shirt ever) and are left out.

This is not a cross I am willing to die on and I am CERTAINLY not going to make a stand and say that my teens will not be wearing t-shirts or buying t-shirts. I would love your input about it.

Do you LOVE the t-shirt thing? (Confessing I like a good t-shirt from a race I run while it drives me nuts from a ministry.... but I paid an entry fee to a race) Do you wish we would spend ministry money on ministry instead of clothing ministry participants? Am I looking at the splinter in your eye instead of the plank in my own? Tell it like it is! I'm ready. Speak to me.

Here's what Jesus had to say about if we needed t-shirts to be "in": 
“A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another.
 By this all men will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.”John 13:34, 35

* Got Jesus logo shirt found at Fearless Threads


Please Tell Me You Can Relate

originally in Abilene Families

We each have been given different gifts. Some of you will cure diseases. Some of you turn rooms into places of respite and relaxation. Some of you mold young minds into lifetime learners. My gift? I am the lowest common denominator in every situation. It’s a gift, really.

Some times you read this column and are called to treat your fellow man, perhaps your own family, with kindness and respect. Other times, when I am feeling confessional, you walk away thinking, “Get OUT! You do that, too? You are an even bigger klutz/ slacker/ more disorganized than me!” You’re welcome.

In keeping with this spirit, I would like to offer you a peek into a recent day at this house.  While it wasn’t a typical day, it’s rife with things that typically happen because that’s how I roll.

For this particular evening my calendar showed that Dad had a meeting, one child would be at a school activity, and one child at church activity after we picked up school schedule days before school started. For me, the thought of no one home to cook for was reason enough to celebrate. I planned to dig peanut butter out of the jar with a spoon and call it good. Don’t judge.

Text message from Dad, “Good news! Meeting’s been canceled! I’ll be home in time for dinner!” Oh. Well. Guess he’ll want his peanut butter on the bread.

I discussed the church activity. “Oh, no,” child responded. “I’ve changed my mind. I’m not going to that.” Sigh. These people really know how to kill a peanut butter buzz.

In 2 hours I went from zero home for dinner to most home for dinner. I should probably do something. I shook some seasoning on chicken and threw it in the oven to bake. (FYI: this turned into a yummy, easy meal. I’ll see if I can share the recipe!)

As I rushed to wash raw chicken ook off my hands before we left to pick up school schedule, my liquid soap pump decided now was the time to exact revenge. I watched as a glob of soap hurtled into my eye. Alrighty then.

After 15 minutes of saline rinsing, contact rinsing, and make-up reapplying we were ready to go. Again. Only now it looked as if I had been smacked in my red, swollen, teary eye. Not the first impression I was trying to make at the new school.

No one seemed concerned with my appearance and when we got home it no longer felt like I was pouring kerosene into my eye. All in all, a fairly successful evening, if a bit of a rough start.

Squirting soap into my eye prior to a meeting at a new school turned out not to be the highlight of the week. That came the next night when I gathered all of my supplies to hem the band uniform (last minute, of course) and realized that the sewing machine power cord didn’t make the move to the new house in the same orderly fashion as my sewing machine.

You don’t want to hear the gnashing of teeth that transpired. All is well. I have made you feel better about your homemaking abilities, and you can go about using your gifts beautifying, healing, and teaching. I’ll be rinsing the soap out of my eye.


Not Quite Meeting My Goals

It's way more than halfway through the month, and this isn't really "checking in" about my October goals. This is more like "true confessions" about where I am because I set unrealistic goals for myself.

When I made my October goals, I was making them for the best Sarah there is. Now that I am 80% finished with the month, I have to face reality: Sarah suffers from migraines that knock me out of commission. Sarah still struggles with organization and discipline (which is why goals are a good thing). Sarah's first priority in life right now is taking care of a family that go 15 different directions on any given day.

The best Sarah there is doesn't actually exist. It's okay to try and be her, but most days you won't.

It all came to a head this weekend, in the midst of a crazy-busy time anyway, but I ran a 5k (as mentioned) and had a time goal I wanted to make. Granted, it was a VERY slow time goal, but faster than I have been going (and less walking). I made my goal! Only I didn't... What? Okay, according to MY watch, I made my goal. According to the race timer, no way. There was a 3 minute discrepancy, and this is NOT a huge race. I know it didn't take me 3 minutes to cross the starting line if my chip started with the starting gun and not when I crossed the starting line (which is bogus anyway).

So, truth. I was bummed. Like, really bummed. Bummed WAY out of proportion with the event and life impact. And it just piled up. I had a bit of a drive back from the race, which just left time for me to ponder all of the October goals I'm not meeting: my words/ day -- not. even. close -- , my mileage and exercise, my quiet time (which is why this all bothers me, I'm sure).

Of course, the rest of Saturday, like every other Saturday, I had a bajillion things to do. I woke up early on Sunday for church which was wonderful. After lunch, I did what I was needing most: I crawled into my jammies and slept. For a very long time. And I didn't get back out of my jammies for the rest of the day. Oh, I had places I SHOULD have gone, but I was done with shoulds. As firmly as I believe in goals and aspirations, I believe in rest. And I believe that is much of what was missing from my mental fortitude.

Monday came and I was up, like always, at 4:45 a.m. so I could be out the door at 5:15 to meet my running partner. The further we ran the more the fog rolled in and by the time I took second child to school at 9, I could barely see.

However, being out like I was, I made a right at the light instead of left when it was time to come home. I did this:

I treated myself to a Pumpkin Spice Latte', some oatmeal, Bible study, and blogging at Starbucks waiting for the roads to clear again. I regrouped. I started over. I went someplace away from my usual spot to not have the usual laundry and mess yelling at me about OTHER goals that I'm not meeting. I let Jesus talk to me -- but he kind of had to shout over the espresso machine and the little boy making siren noises -- and remind me that I am to extend grace to everyone... including myself.

Then, later in the day, I read these quotes from John Bingham in The Courage to Start:
"Running made me aware that the true difference between success and failure, between winning and losing, is often our willingness to be honest about what success means."
"(Running) has meant finding a way to fail and not be a failure. It has meant finding a way to experience both the best and the worst that I am and accept them equally."
Redefining success. The best and worst that I am, accepting each equally. Yes. That is what I must do.

 So I'm more rested and I'm re-evaluating and I'm moving on. I'm still working toward my goals.
I'll get back to you. Until soon...


Marriage Monday: When Your Marriage Is In Crisis

Most of my recent Marriage Monday posts have been fairly fluffy: hold hands, be nice, date your spouse, and say nice words.

Those are still awesome things to do, no doubt, but I have encountered several marriages the last week that are way too far gone for those things. Still, hear me say this: even one party willing to do these things can change the course of an empty shell of a marriage.

So, you look up, and realize that your marriage is in crisis. Because I am open about the fact that Troy and I walked for a time through crisis, I have had more than one woman talk to me about their marriage struggles. I don't always advise each of these things, depending on where the woman is, but none of them is a bad idea.

1) Guard your heart: if you are discontent in your marriage, you are a lightning rod for an affair. That sounds harsh, but I had someone say the same thing to me while I was saying how crazy I was about my husband but something just was missing. Then, when I started talking to a man who would actually listen to me and seemed concerned for me, the warning came back to me. "THIS is what I need to guard against!!" Spend time in prayer, and be hyper-vigilant about who you spend your time around (in person and online) and where your mind goes.

If it's too late for this warning emotionally, GET OUT of that relationship. If it's too late for this warning physically, GET OUT of that relationship. It doesn't mean your marriage is over, it does mean you have FAR more clean up to do.

2) Find someone you can trust to confide in and who will be a champion for your marriage. When my marriage was in crisis, I had several people offer to counsel with me. I graciously declined any contact from divorced women. (It's a long story, but I didn't know any of them very well). That wasn't where I wanted to end up. I wanted to stay married, so I sought out married people to pray with me and for me. Now that I know those women better, I know they love my husband and myself and would have encouraged us to stay married, but I couldn't have known that at the time. I still think I was wise to be discerning in who I sought counsel from.

However, I also couldn't have done it alone. To this day, I call my prayer group my Mark 2 friends. Mark 2 tells the story of the crippled man who couldn't get into the house because it was so crowded, so his friends took him up on the roof, dug through the roof, and lowered him to Jesus to be healed. My friends got me to the foot of the cross when I was too broken and wounded to get there myself. You need friends like that. Don't have one you can trust? Pray that God reveal them to you. That is how I found mine.

3) Spend your own time in prayer. Even if you're hurt and angry and not sure what to say. Tell God. Tell God how hurt you are. Tell God that you aren't sure what to pray any more. Tell God that you aren't sure you even have the strength to stay married and be nice one more day, and if you have it, it will have to all come from Him. Because He knows. And it delights Him to hear you come to Him and tell Him. If you have children, you KNOW how it thrills your soul, yet blesses you to no end for your little one to crawl up in your lap, chin quivering, and just let it all out to you, even when you know. Let God have such a delight.

4) Seek professional help. Get counseling. If your spouse won't go, you go. Expensive? Sure. Priced divorces and two households lately? Counseling is cheap in comparison. Many places have a sliding pay scale based on your income. I have said this before and sadly say it again: my own experiences lead me to not give a huge endorsement to pastoral counseling (that which you can generally get for free at a church). If it is a licensed counselor, it would be better than nothing, but if it is your own church, it is usually better to seek counseling elsewhere.

This is obviously not a comprehensive list. Marriages and their bumps and bruises are as individual as the people within them. My personal opinion is that a marriage is NEVER too far gone to be repaired, but both members have to be willing to put on their work clothes and work gloves, and they will need a support system. Come Have a Peace blog has been sharing some AMAZING marriage survivor stories on Mondays (you may have to look through the archives). It's never too late.

If your marriage is in crisis, I truly pray you will seek and find help.

For those of us that have walked through it, who has more, different, and/or better advice? What would you say to a struggling couple?


Me? A Complaining Teenager? Well... Yeah

Originally published at Shoestring Ministries (and when it was still very hot... :-)

“There’s nothing to eat.”

“There’s nothing to do.”

“I don’t have anything to wear.”

“It’s too hot for that.”

As the relentless heat wave over our portion of the nation continues with no end in sight, knowing only our own family due to the recent move, and no routine for people out of school, it seems the teens have opted to make a hobby of voicing discontent.

Being in the same heat wave, with little time away from the grumpy teens I admit my tolerance for the complaining is wearing thin.

I want to lash out at complaining teenagers standing in front of a full pantry or refrigerator declaring that their is nothing to eat.

I want to pitch a tantrum to rival any two-year-old’s as they stand in front of a full closet, next to a full dresser, and on top of a pile of dirty clothes and declare that they have no clothes.

I can feel my right temple threatening to explode as they flick away twelve different forms of electronics and all of the controllers along with memberships to pools to tell me that there is nothing to do.

In the name of family peace I don’t shout, tantrum, or explode. I continue with my day. In a short time, my heart is heavy with conviction. My words to myself and in prayer sound just a little bit like a complaining teenagers.

“I wish I had that house.”

“Ugh. Can’t believe none of these clothes fit. I’ve gained so much weight.”

“Why can’t we ever make the money last through the end of the month?”

“This computer is SO slow. Wish I could get one of those new ones.”

“Wish I could afford some of that patio furniture that’s on sale now.”

I listen to my complaining words, wondering if the Lord has a headache yet from listening to me.

Really? I complain that I have consumed so much food that my ample supply of clothes no longer fit while my ample supply of money is running low.

I cringe that I dare complain about what I do and don’t have when I live in an air conditioned home with clean running water — a basic luxury that many in the world are without.

I bow my head in repentance and gratitude for all that I have. I struggle to be thankful for things I would rather not have.

My achy knees that remind me that they still work. Mostly. This relentless hot weather… thinking… thinking… I am thankful that I have access to cool air and swimming pools.

And for these teens that seem to consume all of my food while complaining that there is none? I am thankful for so many things about them, but today I am thankful for their words that remind me not to sound like a complaining teen to my Father.
Shoestring Ministries is the website for the "What's In It For Him?" tour and program that some of you may have heard about. (If you haven't, go check them out -- way cool!) They will have a "Me Addiction Tour" stop in Abilene next Friday night, October 29. It's at 7p.m. at ACU's Moody Coliseum, features comic Bob Smiley, praise with Phil Joel (formerly of the Newsboys) and Reg Cox will be speaking. Annnnd... it's F-R-E-E!!

What's In It For Him also is on Facebook. They're cool and hip like that...


Heading Into the Weekend, 5k, Soul Care/ Body Care

As you can tell by my run-on title of my blog post this is a "Sweep the Kitchen" clean up blog for the week. (There is an uber-yummy pizza house based out of my home town that has an "everything" pizza that they call "Sweep the Kitchen." Yummy.)

I am draggy today. We had Friday night football on Thursday last night. A pretty fun game. Of course, I barely watched the game, as I was really only there to see halftime. Besides my awesome daughter in the band, Troy was asked to be the announcer for the band. That was fun, and with his beautiful booming voice, of course he did an amazing job.

Tomorrow is a big band competition. They have been practicing long and hard so I hope it turns out well. We will go watch. The weather is supposed to be perfect. Fall is so very fun.

Before that I am running a 5k, Jenny's Run for Hope, in memory of Jenny Bizaillion, to raise money for the Gregg Pearson Foundation. I never had the privilege of meeting Jenny, but I love several people who love her dearly so I am privileged to participate in an event like this.

Awkward segue from running 5k to what is rolling around in my head...:

John posted a review of the book "Hope, Help, and Healing from Eating Disorders" on his blog. I haven't read the book and many of you are going to have to block out of your brain that I used the phrase "eating disorder" at all. To most of you, that brings to mind anorexia or bulimia when that phrase can be a huge umbrella of other disordered eating.

Let's just block that whole thought right now anyway because I simply wanted to talk about the fact that John's post made me start to think that care for our bodies is just something that is, as you know, very near and dear to my heart. You rarely hear people discuss it as a component of your spiritual life. Yet we all know that your physical body and how it feels colors your spiritual walk.

A few years ago I did a regular "Fitness Friday" post here at the ol' blog. I plan to kick back off a type of blog posts along those same lines, but they will go a little deeper than the hows of fitness. It will be Soul Care/ Body Care. I believe that you can't divorce taking care of the body from taking care of the soul. It is all part of the same house that we will live in on this planet. It's definitely a journey that I'm still on and figuring out what is what because heaven knows every day brings new and different information. I would love for you to walk the journey with me. Not running half marathons, just taking care of the body you've been given.

What do you think? Can you take care of your soul (WHY do I keep typing 'sould?') and not the body? Do you have a plan for either? I would love your feedback!


Chosen in Christ

Originally at Word for Today:

A friend has just adopted her second child. With big brother being four (and also adopted), he has been privvy to much of the excitement and goings-on as the family gathered at the hospital to greet the new arrival and welcome her into the family.

While the weary mom has been busy assimilating a precious baby into her home and diapering and feeding, she has obviously been doing a thorough job of answering all of brother’s questions about adoption and what it means to a family. Have you been around a four year old lately? The questions... they are legion.

Big brother was getting it all straight in his head and summed it up:
“Me and Sissy and dad and our pups were adopted. If you're adopted that means someone loves you when you're born. Mom you were not adopted so they left you at the hospital and then you had to find your own home."

Aren’t children so funny, yet speak words straight from the Lord?

What beautiful insight this child has into what is means to be adopted and chosen. I’m so grateful for the family that God picked out for him that is modeling what it means to be adopted by Christ: someone loves you when you’re born.

Someone loves you when you are helpless. Someone loves you when you cannot love back. Someone loves you when you are demanding and loud and cause a ruckus. Someone looks deep into your eyes and says, “Yes! You are EXACTLY what this family has been missing. Welcome, precious one.”

Perhaps those of us not adopted, like myself, that were just left at the hospital to find our own home  may have trouble understanding this concept of adoption. Love on sight. Loving into a family. How the Lord could possibly choose us -- die for us, even -- when we were still sinners (Romans 5:8).  I think big brother is pretty clear about it.

“For he chose us in him before the creation of the world to be holy and blameless in his sight. In love he predestined us to be adopted as his sons through Jesus Christ, in accordance with his pleasure and will– to the praise of his glorious grace, which he has freely given us in the One he loves." Ephesians 1:4-6


Decorating for Halloween? Yay or Nay?

originally in Abilene Families magazine

It was a gorgeous fall afternoon, if a bit on the breezy side -- not that fall afternoons come in many other varieties than breezy in West Texas. I had to leave one job early to go claim a child from middle school to shuttle her to the most recent athletic event.

As I drove along, my head swimming with deadlines unmet, emails to return, projects piling up, and family errands that must be done, I noticed what I thought was a neighborhood construction project. With a double-take on the tombstones, I realized it was simply Halloween decorations. Of course. Halloween decorations when it isn’t even October. For the love.

If you have been by or inside my home, you know that my landscaping, interior decorating, and holiday decorating can all be described as ‘minimalist’ at most generous. I’m just so darn happy to get food on the table and clean clothes in the drawers, anything in addition to that is considered extraneous and bordering on obsessively overachieving.

I actually do decorate for the holiday celebrating the birth of our Savior, but every year I get out less and less, and delegate more and more. I figure in a few years I’ll be down to having the kids put out one strand of lights each and call it good.

When the kids were little I would even get out a bunny or two at Easter, but that quickly declined to me crawling through the attic the day before Easter just to find the box with the baskets in it for the egg hunt. My own hunt before the hunt, if you will. Of course this was immediately followed by me crawling back into the attic the day after Easter to toss the baskets back in a random box, making next year’s hunt all the more exciting.

But to decorate for the holiday that is celebrated by going to beg candy off of the neighbors while dressed as a geometrically clad underwater creature? Um, no. Now, I could go down the pious religious road and say that it’s a Pagan holiday, All Hallow’s Eve, blah-dee blah. But the truth is, I simply do not have the wherewithal to decorate for such a short-lived event.

I think the entire reason I am able to decorate at all for Christmas is that school and life comes to a halt around Thanksgiving, allowing for decorating time, and if I am really on top of things I can get decorations thrown back in the attic before school gets too cranked back up in the new year.

With apologies to Halloween die-hards, I just can’t pull it off amongst soccer, band, volleyball, PTA, tennis, Open House, algebra homework, and the million six other things my family is juggling at this point.

So, instead of agreeing to disagree on the whole decorating for Halloween thing, let’s do it this way: if your home, especially your front yard is decorated for Halloween to the point that I mayenjoy it while I drive by, thank you. Thank you for giving my family something to enjoy about the season and the fun and frivolity that comes with Halloween that won’t be taking place at my house.

I, on the other hand, will be the lowest common denominator. I will be the house that the rest of you may look at to say, “Well, I didn’t do much, but at least it isn’t the Stirman’s house. Bless ‘em.”
You’re welcome. We all have our place in this world. I have found mine, and I am claimin’ it.
So, what about you? Decorate for Halloween or no? How extensively? I am actually considering buying a pumpkin...

Who needs Halloween decorations with that under the table?


Marriage Monday: Be the Cheerleader!!

Yes, I know it's not Monday anymore. Po-tay-to, po-tah-to. I'm still going to talk about marriage, so let's just let me call it what I will, shall we?

I suspect I may start sounding like a broken record in this regard, but it occurs to me that I need the reminder still. Weeks ago I mentioned using encouraging words with your spouse or, at the very least, biting your tongue about things that don't matter.

No. No skirt or gymnastics required.
Today, I want to encourage you to consider yourself your spouse's cheerleader.

Not that kind of cheerleader.

The cheerleader that speaks well of him/ her even when s/he isn't around.  The kind of person that remembers why you got married in the first place -- and tells other people all the great things about him/ her.

Be the person that speaks well of your spouse to your children so that your children honor, love, and respect your spouse as well.

Be the person that tells other people how great your spouse is at... what? My spouse is great at his job. He's a perfect fit for it. Because of that, he got asked to help with a ministry at church that was an extension of what he does. I let other people know how good he would be at that.

Part of what makes him good is that he cares about the people he's working with and for, and NEVER gives less than 100% to any job that he does. He's a pretty amazing guy. You can see how those qualities bless us here at the house, too. Obviously, I could go on.

This Marriage Monday / Tuesday comes with a homework assignment: compliment your spouse 3 times a day for the next week. If you compliment him/ her TO someone else, that counts! Let's check back in next week and see how we did.

Brag Time! Tell me now: my spouse is great at/ or because...? Why?


Twelve by 2012

I'm going to start getting back here more often so that my first line of my blog isn't apologizing for being gone so long. It's been a crazy week in a good way. I've done very little writing of any kind and especially not of the bloggy kind -- as you've noticed.

I came across something that is right up my alley. As you have probably noticed, goal-setting is a big deal for me. Goal-accomplishing? Meh. You win some, you lose some. But if I don't set intentional goals,  I'm likely to live my life in a vortex of Facebook, Pinterest, and a sad workout routine I call "useless." I'm especially liking using this blog as my accountability place. I post it publicly, and now I have to follow through.

Danni at Oh, Hello Friend decided to cut the procrastination and finish the year strong. She made a list of 12 things she wants to get accomplished by 2012.  As she points out, it's a specific amount of time but not too long. Mark Batterson said at the Catalyst conference recently, "A goal without a deadline is dead on arrival."

So I'm joining in. Twelve things to do before 2012:
1. Get the 3 boxes out of my living room that have been sitting there since we moved in in May.

2. (recycled from Danni): Zero out my email inbox (currently at 265).

3. Finish my "Sarah is unavailable" file -- what some call an "in case of death" file. I am one rockin' family manager that keeps the plates spinning, the bills paid, the dog vaccinated, and everyone where they are supposed to be. If I were hospitalized or passed away, I would hate for my family to have an added stress of wondering where to take the dog to the vet or how to get into the online bank account to pay bills. This is something I have been meaning to work on, but the last week has reminded me that anything can happen to anyone at any moment. It's another way for me to love my family. My personal deadline for this one is Nov. 15 (I started last night).

4. Decorate foyer (and change out light fixture), decorate living room, and my bedroom (walls especially -- very barren currently).

5. Register and begin training for the Cowtown Half Marathon.

6. Start to date my husband more regularly (this has to wait until November due to family craziness).

7. Plan for my kids' birthdays. I know they are older, but they are around the holidays and kind of always get overlooked/ rushed over. We have a Sweet 16 this year, so we have to do something special.

8. Submit articles for publication... as in, ask a magazine/ newspaper to reject me. Really don't like this part of my calling.

9. Plan for and decorate for Christmas (someone please just let it come and let me enjoy it -- I don't want to have to get ready for it. Do. Not. Have it in me currently).

10. Deal with pictures on the camera (download to computer/ organize pics).

11. Read 6 books. I have slowed down WAY too much on my reading. You know what Stephen King says? "If you don't have time to read, you don't have time to write." But I bet Stephen King is no fun on Pinterest.

12. Finish up and memorize well my last few scriptures for Beth Moore's Siesta Scripture Memory Team. I've at least logged them in thanks to sweet encouragement from Joelle, but I need to get them inside my head! Because we are going to the celebration in January! See you there?

Join me? You can make a list on paper or on your blog. If you have a blog, link it in the comments of Danni's post. Let's keep each other accountable, 'kay? Finish 2011 strong!


Quick Hello!

Hey, y'all! Wow, let me get away from posting every day and I just totally slack off.

What a FUN season of life I am in, though. I knew that October would be busy and it is -- are we halfway through yet? Not yet, I guess.

Fall is uber-busy for our family, as I mentioned here, so I am hanging on for the ride now. We have been through a few football games and one marching band competition. The best is yet to come. Troy is doing some traveling and we are all surviving.

Of course, one of our family is a HUGE Texas Rangers fan, so we are all watching baseball, too. 

I know that this season is SO busy yet will go SO fast. I see my kids doing wonderful things on their fields, and I hear them discussing amazing things within these walls -- and I want to soak up every drop.

I want to celebrate my kids and who they are and all that God is creating them to be. I continue to see God at work in them daily -- their humor, their missional heart, their compassion. And, of course, I see me in them -- the complaining, the hesitancy to do the hard things, the choosing the easy way. I pray so often for God to capture HIS way in them and use it.

Riley brings me joy in the way he makes me laugh and his dry wit -- but also because he has to help me cook dinner almost every night while I run the band carpool to pick up sister. He's learning some crazy kitchen skillz, y'all. To his future wife: you're welcome... :-)

Ashley makes me smile every day with her passion for her sports teams, and her love of people -- but she also helps me in the house in the morning before school. She loves to menu plan, and every day has a new idea of something to try for me.

Then there's my Troy -- not one of my kids, but just keeping me smiling through it. We see each other so seldom these days, but he is so precious. Today he drove me all over creation because of something that I thought was important to one of the kids. Inside, I know he was thinking, "It will be okay if this doesn't happen..." but he knew that it was a big deal to me. So he kept driving... because he loves me so.

I have been blessed with an amazing family that make me smile and laugh. By God's grace and mercy, He has given me with family (as in so many other things) so much more than I deserve. I just want to pause a minute in the middle of the mayhem to be crazy-thankful for who they are.

This post took WAY too long to write -- we celebrated the Rangers' win tonight, a child got home from football, and we helped with some homework. Typical night stuff -- and why I don't usually write at night.

What about you? What's up in your October?


Walking in Faith

Originally Published on Word for Today

"Now the Lord was gracious to Sarah as He had said, and the Lord did for Sarah what He had promised."  Genesis 21:1

Sighing from the tips of my toes, I leaned my head on the seatback of the car. We were on our way out of town. If ever my family needed to leave town – and the mess and mayhem – it was now.

Less than a year ago, we were so thrilled for my husband to get a job at the university where we met. We couldn’t wait to get our children moved to our new town and start the life that the Lord had for us here. Little did we know that the Lord had us on a path of learning to trust that was hard to walk.

Six months after we moved in, 8 inches of muddy water flooded our home. I tried to ‘keep my chin up’ as my home went into demolition phase.  My belongings that weren’t destroyed by the flood were crammed willy-nilly into various and sundry places.  We moved into an apartment complex across town full of college students thoroughly enjoying summer vacation. 

Granted, we were thankful to have the apartment. There were none to be had in town since so many people were in the same situation. We were able to live in the apartment rent-free for a few weeks to hold it for a college student. She wouldn’t need the apartment for six weeks. Surely we could be back in our house by then, right?

Part of my husband’s job required travel, so many days it was just the three of us. I talked to the Lord often, and prayed to radiate Him through the loneliness and annoying circumstances. Besides annoying, floods can take as much toll on finances as a move. We were heading for financial crisis. I prayed to trust.

Now, we were getting out of town for a previously planned vacation to visit friends. But when we returned from our trip, we would have 4 days to find a place to live and get moved.

I have learned there is a very, very fine line between walking in faith and walking in denial. I was leaning WAY over on the denial side.

The kids were settled with books and music. I was happy for a moment to think of anything other than reality. My 6-year-old, however, found it the perfect opportunity to think of exactly that – and worry.

We had just passed the first red light out of the apartment complex when she spoke up, “We really need to find a place to live.” Oh, boy. I didn’t want to think about it, and I sure didn’t want to talk about, so I dreamed up an answer and tossed it back without opening my eyes, “Yes, we do, and God’s going to take care of it.”

I would love to tell you I believed that.
Brushing that statement away like an annoying mosquito, she continued, "Okay, but we really need a place to live!!"

Now I was exasperated and responded more sharply than necessary, "Did you hear me? Don't you think God will take care of it?"

She couldn't see how God could possibly relate to her immediate and pressing need of a place to live. "Well, no! It's our problem, not His!"

Trying to calm down, I realized how recently in my own faith I thought the same thing. I started again, calmly, to remind her (and myself), "We're God's children. In the same way that your problems are my problems, our problems are His problems. God is going to look out for us."

I wish I could tell you that we immediately pulled the car over to pray and petition God, or that moment a truck drove by that said "follow me to your new place to live." I wish I could even tell you that immediately she got it and was at peace. The truth was she muttered, "Okay" with the tone of "whatever", but I needed to hear my own words: "I am God's child. My problems are His problems. He will take care of my smallest needs."

The conversation dropped. The kids turned to their books and other car toys while my husband and I chatted about anything but the wreck that was our (lack of) living arrangement.

Twenty minutes later we were driving through Small Town, America (pop. 2831) when my husband's cell phone rang. It was one of the elders from our church telling us that a woman at our church was offering her parent's house for anyone who had been flooded and needed a place to live.

To this day, I don't know who that moment had a bigger impact on, me or my daughter. But I am so thankful that in the moment that her young faith needed something concrete and my not-so-young faith needed peace of heart, our loving Father gave us both.


Are You A Seeker... Or Just Seeking the Seekers?

How 'bout a little soapbox for your Tuesday afternoon?

I was recently included in a group of ministers for a discussion of various and sundry topics in an online forum. I was, first of all, amused to be included, then honored and humbled.

Most of the members of this group are men who are currently serving as preachers/ pastors of a congregation. A few are other types of ministers on a church staff in some capacity, then a precious few of us are women in ministry. Missionaries or authors or... just me.

I have mostly been a fly on the wall for the conversations, soaking in the heart of these men who give their lives to tell others about Jesus and all the inherent struggles within. I have my ear tuned in to the "lingo" -- the code words that signify denomination or region or even current buzz words being tossed around (this group is fairly lacking in the buzz words -- for which I am eternally grateful).

Tuning into the lingo made me think of a not-very-recent buzz word/ catch phrase among churches that I think is dying out, by the grace of God. Not too many years ago, many of us were seeking to be "seeker-friendly churches." A quick scan of a few of the over 2.6 million entries that Google will produce for "seeker friendly church" shows that phrase to mean almost 2.6 million things, as well.

I'm not here to debate what YOU think it means and how YOUR church is or isn't doing it. I'm a word person. I was just considering the phrase itself. Back in the phrase's hay-day (hey-day? what kind of hay is a hay-day? I am stumped...) you would hear church leaders tossing around "how to be a seeker-friendly church" or " becoming a seeker-friendly church" or "blah blah blah seeker-friendly church." All the rage.

And I think I know why this phrase is dying out. Or, at least I hope I do... To me, the phrase "seeker-friendly" implies that "we have all the answers here, and if you are looking/ seeking, we want you to be happy finding them here. Here's a cappuccino." Again, I'm not talking about what YOU and/ or your church leaders decided behind locked doors that it meant -- I'm talking about what it sounds like to "the common man" when you post it on your sign out front (you didn't, did you?)

'Cause here's the deal. I'm a seeker. I'm the least of the seekers. I fall flat on my face and mess up and try to get it right just one day out of seven and rarely even get that. I am a regular church attender (seeker) looking for a body full of other seekers and mess-ups like myself. I'm seeking a church full of seekers seeking other seekers to seek beside. Because that is truly the best we can do on a daily basis.

I think to toss about phrases like "seeker-friendly" you would have to have in the back of your mind that you are no longer seeking yourself.  And that is the saddest place of all to be.

My disclaimer to all of the above -- buzz words/ catch phrases/ trite sayings are all fingernails on a chalkboard to me. Words have weight. Words have meaning, and you need to be sure of all of the meanings you are conveying as you start to toss about buzz words and catch phrases.

Let the floodgates open. Comments? Thoughts? Any other buzz words/ catch phrases that bug you? The floor is yours...


Marriage Monday: Get Your Marriage Out of a Rut

I kind of have a mixed bag of stuff I want to talk about for MM. But one thing is weighing heavy on my heart.

A friend -- acquaintance, really -- that I don't know super well, but has given me the honor of hearing some fairly personal information, is really struggling in marriage. I will call that friend, FOGMC (Friend whO is Going to Marriage Counseling!) And, it would mean a lot to both FOGMC and myself if you would pray for FOGMC. I'm being totally serious. God knows who it is, and a marriage is in crisis.

Listening to FOGMC, I realize many things, but it seems to me that the main one is that spouse is pretty much where, in FOGMC's eyes -- can do nothing right. If spouse tries to do right things, it is too little too late and only to keep FOGMC from leaving. If spouse doesn't do right things, well, it's just more of the same. FOGMC openly admitted frustration and was heading to counseling and asked for prayers and a little advice. I have way more in the prayer department than I do advice!

I've been there, haven't you? Okay, maybe YOU are still a gooey newlywed. But what about the grouchy person next to you? Haven't YOU been where your spouse breathing/ helping/ walking/ being upright was annoying to you and you were CONVINCED you married the wrong person?

How did you get out of it? Are you out of it? You should really get out of it. Let me tell you how. When I figure it out.

One thing I thought of while talking with FOGMC was that I try to step back and remember what made me fall head over heels for my cowboy in the first place. Of course, it helped that he was crazy about ME. :-) But I look for those things that I remember from the "gooey love" days that I was crazy about... and if I look around, still am crazy about.

I try to remember to bite my tongue about the stuff that doesn't matter -- and remind myself how much it doesn't matter.

If something is hugely important to me, I calmly make it known. Too often, I do this backwards and fuss and gripe about the little things, yet the really big things I will swallow and stew on for... whatever reason. "Well, he should know!" Uh-- how will he know if I don't tell him??

And, when it all boils down to it, I start to date him again. Not necessarily take him out on a date. That would require us being in the same zip code AND awake for longer than 47 minutes. Our life isn't lending itself to that currently. But remember when you were dating? When you called just because you HAD to hear his voice? Or you sent him funny stuff in the mail? Or left cute stuff in his car? (Yes, I'm making mental notes of all the things I should be doing...)

I have really been enjoying the Dating Divas website for all of their great ideas for dates and other ways to say "I love you".  Here is a list of things that weigh 13 ounces or less, so can be mailed for around a dollar or two. I love that this lady just sticks them in the mail. A flip flop. A playground ball. Whatev. How fun is that? Send some mail to your spouse at work to break up an otherwise blechy week.

What about you? Do you have any thoughts or ideas? When life presses in and you just seem stuck?


October Goals

I mentioned yesterday that I wanted to set October goals. Fitness and writing... and later, sadly, I realized I need to include spiritual goals in there. My time with the Lord has been at sporadic times recently, which comes to mean hit or miss. And that simply won't do. I must make that deposit first in my day if all the other plans will succeed.

Some of the goals I am currently looking at for October:
Spiritual: 21days of quiet time (consistent week days), including Weeks 2 and 3 homework for my Beth Moore Bible study. (on days that I don't do Beth Moore before my prayer time, I read 3-4 chapters out of the Bible from this Bible reading schedule.)

 Physical: Run 60 miles
       Resistance (weights or body weight exercises): 12 times
       Yoga: 8 times

Writing: 31,000 words (1,000/ day)
       15 blog  posts

Family/ Home: Date with Troy
      Fix entry way
      Volunteer at the various band events I've signed up for...
      Attend 8 football games and 4 marching competitions. About all I've got left in me...

It probably looks like my family is getting the short end of the stick. The reality is that they're a little too busy for me right now. With one in high school marching band, the other in middle school band AND football, October is our peak craziness with football games and marching competitions. We will have 2 football games every week and with a marching competition every Saturday and one middle school band concert thrown in there somewhere. My goal is to do the best I can to get dinner on the table and get everyone where they are supposed to be when they are supposed to be with hopefully some clean clothes on their back.

That is also why I can only hope for one date with Troy. Besides our family's crazy schedule, he will be doing quite a bit of come-and-go travel for his work. Honestly, a date is pretty ambitious. I would like to do better about simply appreciating him. A handwritten love letter mailed to his work, maybe? A surprise post-it on his steering wheel. You remember being crazy in love? Those kind of things.

"Fix entry way" is the sad reality that we have been living for 4 months in a half-moved into house. It's time to put things on the walls and pretend that we are really going to live here now. October will be entry way month. I may do a post on that. When it's finished. And looks amazing. Because right now... it does not...

 I can almost guarantee you that I will fail at one or two of these.... But I will get closer than aiming for nothing. I wanted to have it written somewhere to have a place to be accountable. I can also break it down into weekly blocks to check my progress. The one that most intimidates me in that regard is the 31,000 words written for the month. I will let you know how it goes!

Would love to hear from you! Do you make monthly goals? Any you would be willing to share?

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