Annnnnnd... Losing Momentum Again....

I had grand plans to try and get something real on the ol' blog today.

But when I woke up this morning, my phone was exploded with texts and phone calls.

And now, I have to wake up this adorable young lady to tell her that this precious young man -- the flashlight tag champion of her birthday party, and a dear buddy since 3rd grade -- quit breathing yesterday and is now healthy and whole and running the streets of gold in heaven.
 And I just don't know how to do that or much else today.
Hug everyone you love extra tight today.


Momentum: Losing, Finding, and Gaining

I'm a ponderer. An over-thinker, probably.  This week, I'm considering momentum. Too much, I'm sure.

I seem to have lost momentum in many areas of my life. Blogging being the most obvious (to any of you that happen by the ol' COTR).

I've also lost momentum in my running. While we have been enjoying a mild winter here in the 'burbs, the last few weeks have been fits and starts of running for me. The week between Christmas and New Year's was AWESOME -- perfect weather and my running partner and I could both run a little later than usual, so we logged in a consistent 5 miles every day for that week.

Then... weather, migraines, and life got in the way. I was logging about one run a week for the last 3. Most of this week I kept a migraine, it rained all week. Blah!

Then... I remembered: The Freeze Your Thorns Off 5k! Oh, yeah! How could I forget?
Misplaced comma alert. It's actually January 28, 2012. But who would notice?
 Adam  -- unquestionably the funniest running blogger out there -- hosted a virtual 5k today/ this weekend-ish. As you can see by the guidelines, the rules are fairly loose for a virtual 5k. I signed up, knowing that I would likely be out running anyway -- then my running partner and I signed up for the 10k portion Cowtown Marathon race series.

Today we planned to meet quite early (I had a 9 a.m. meeting) and knock out 5 miles to prepare for our race.

Walking to meet her, I was definitely freezing my thorns off -- it was only 42* (we've run MUCH colder) but the stupid wind was about 15 mph. I waited and waited and waited and WAITED -- very unlike my very prompt running partner. I did get to snap this awesome pic while waiting (and many more).
 I waited 10 minutes and took off running. Also unlike me (still forgetting about the virtual 5k). I usually go home and go back to bed when my running partner doesn't show. Yes, I am THAT committed.

Here's the deal: BEST! RUN! EVER!! Okay, I don't know if it was the best run ever, but it's the best 5 miles I have run in at least the last 18 months. Besides eating well this week (I'm discovering different ways to eat quinoa! Go me!) I think the "Tabata" workouts I have thrown in the last two weeks have really helped (sprint intervals workouts explained here).
Halfway through! Freezing my thorns off!
Today was a great day to get out and run -- and find some momentum again. So glad I went.


As For Me, I Will Have Hope

I just have a moment to check in here. I am on my way out of town -- I am FIRED UP excited!

I am headed to Houston to celebrate with a group of ladies -- a year's worth of scripture memory work! The Siesta Scripture Memory Team Celebration is this weekend and I leave in a few short hours and, of course, have a bajillion things to do before I leave (and, guarantee, I WILL forget to pack something important). (If you aren't familiar with Beth Moore's blog and you don't understand what a siesta has to do with scripture -- follow the link and do some reading... it's a long story).

I didn't think I really wanted to go. But I had committed to go with someone. Our budget is very tight (we've recently had a big "destination celebration," you know...) and I'm kind of sloggy... just all of it. However, now that it's here, I am SO excited to go.

One of the HUGE blessings that I am looking forward to: I get to meet a dear friend! I don't mean meet up with -- I mean meet for the first time! Allow me to 'splain. YEARS ago Leigh and I started reading each other's blogs. Then Facebook came along. And Twitter. And she and I both do all of that and keep up with each other there. We are prayer warriors for each other, and laugh at each other. She is a fired up passionate warrior for the Lord. And, guess what?? She will be in Houston this weekend! I finally get to meet my dear friend! It is already the highlight of the weekend for me! :-)

Before I go I wanted to share with you the word the Lord is whispering to me for 2012.
Picture via bles-id blog
Through the last month of 2011 I came to realize what a powerful force 'hope' is. There are many stories of where just a tiny drop of hope came into my day to remind me that God hears, God sees -- and how that tiny drop of hope can truly lift your spirits and make you feel physically better.

Hope. The opposite of despair.

 Then, as I came across Jeremiah 29:11, for probably the gazillionth time, I was struck for perhaps the first time by the word "hope."
This sign can be purchased in WallBling etsy shop
 We look to that verse frequently to be reminded that when our life is spinning, seemingly out of control, God knew it would go this way. And He is in it. And I believe that. (GREAT post about why it's a bad idea to throw this verse at other people whose life is out of control, though).

I was struck that God not only wants to give me a future -- he wants to give me hope, too! He knows what a powerful force hope is, and wants me to have that feeling -- the feeling that is the opposite of despair. The lightness of hoping that something better is to come.

Perhaps I've taken that completely out of context. Perhaps a more scholarly person would tell me I have that verse all wrong. But for now, I have hope. And Psalm 130:5 tells me that's what His word shall provide.
Uploaded by Sue Dudley to Pinterest


Pinspirational: Sweet 16 Party

I'm sure you remember that my girl turned 16 some time ago.

I say it that way because I seem to have lost all track of time. I guess it's been almost two weeks now.

She told me very early on that she wanted to go back to our former town to celebrate her birthday, which didn't surprise me. Sixteen is kind of a big deal to a girl, you know, and you don't celebrate it with people you only have casually known for 4 months. Nope. You go all out with life-long buds. And we did.

A table loaded with candy. And the cake. Awesome.
I think I've mentioned that I'm generally not very good at the party planning. I tried not to break out in hives about a long distance party. I think, overall, I succeeded, but I may or may not have already offered Ashley $5,000 to elope (NOT ANYTIME SOON, MIND YOU).

Since it was a) Sweet 16 and b) Ashley we settled on a theme of CANDY!! Who doesn't love candy? That way, it was a great party for all ages -- Ashley wanted to invite several entire families that have been important to her throughout her life.

Gift table. Faux candy made with plates and cellophane.

 Of course, Pinterest was my best friend and worst enemy throughout all of this.

I found things that I neither a)could afford to do or b) had the time or gumption to do. Remember how I slog through the winter? Remember how this was the week after New Year's?  I just kept telling myself that these kids had never seen my pins on Pinterest, and even if they had, they were too blinded by sugar to know any different.

More candy on the tables. Also, pics of Ashley throughout the years.
 As I was looking for pictures of Ashley to put on the tables, I came across a few pictures of when I was teaching her class Sunday School -- the summer after they finished first grade. About 7 or 8 of the kids that would be at the party were in the pictures, so I brought those, too. I love history with people.

The CandyLand path is simply scrapbook card stock.
Ashley did a great job of figuring out things to do for people of all ages. As you can tell, we had to have it at our former church building. And in January, who knows what the weather would be (it was awesome that day -- but chilly!) so we couldn't count on doing anything outside. So... how about a game of flashlight tag! Flashlight tag is basically hide and seek in the dark where 'it' uses the flashlight to tag someone.
The balloons next to the CandyLand path look JUST like suckers, right? They would if you had time to wrap each of them in cellophane. Which we did not. But it's a great idea if you have time.

Since there were people there who were familiar with the building and people who were not, people could hide in teams of 2 or 3, being sure to partner with someone who knew the building.

The cake is from one I found on Pinterest. Can't find the original link.
 The cake was supposed to have big swirly suckers sticking out of it -- but the lady that made it was nervous about how heavy the suckers were. And I didn't have time to go buy the smaller, spiral suckers which probably would have worked. It didn't originally have the Skittles stuck to each dot on top, but Ashley's former youth minister felt that it was lacking something. Perhaps he had a bit too much sugar, too. The cake tasted great and was precious, to boot.

Besides flashlight tag (who knew the kid in the motorized wheelchair would be so good at hide and seek??) the biggest hit of the evening (that was absolutely not my idea) was the photobooth and the props. Because it was a last minute station/ decision, I didn't have anyone standing there with a camera like I would have liked. So I don't have everyone that was in attendance at the party from the photobooth. However, the kids that were there had a great time with it by themselves, using their cameras on their phones.

The party was so much fun and a grand time was had by all.

I told someone the next day that I honestly can't imagine what a wedding is like -- when people that love your child all gather to honor him/ her AND so many people help and work to pull it off (it took a village to make this happen). I was truly humbled and overwhelmed. You can't say "thank you" enough or  in enough ways to express what it truly means for other people to put forth so much effort to make an event special for your child. I can only pay it forward, I suppose.


Let's Get This Party Started! Two Weeks Later...

Well. Well, hello, there!

Yes, yes this is me. Why in heaven's name would I burst into the blogging scene of 2012? I don't do much bursting in the winter. Slogging is what I do. And oh, how I slog.

But there is so much I want to tell you. And I will. Pinky promise, 'kay?

Like what we did to celebrate a 16th birthday. It was WAY super fun. (We did NOT get a driver's license. Yet. Did you know that out here in the big city/ 'burbs you have to make an APPOINTMENT at your DMV to THEN go wait for hours to take your driving test?? We did not know that until the week before her birthday. Then we did not know until the week OF her birthday that you could make the appointment online. Did you also know that you have to parallel park? Yeah -- if you have any great suggestions on how to teach a 16 year old how to do that, I'm all ears...)

And how I did on my 12 by 2012. Meh. Let's just say that I'm hoping that 50% counts as passing. (I think I may have done a tiny bit better than 50%, but I'm too scared to look right now).

And if I've set any goals for 2012. I did. I even wrote them down. And now I don't remember where I wrote them. Perhaps when I find them I should add "organization" to them. Did you set any goals?

And my word for 2012. I love my word for 2012. God keeps whispering it to me. Ooooh... there's an old hymn by that name, too... I'm not going to tell you now. I hope God is whispering a word to you, too. As a matter of fact, I'm positive that He is. Keep listening.

And... newsflash...! I MADE something from Pinterest! Better still -- it was ADORABLE!!

I know, I know! This post is simply a tease. I shall really write for real later this week.

I'm still applying for jobs right and left. I'm learning that parenting teens is not for the faint (or tender) of heart, but definitely improves your prayer life. And my Christmas present to myself with some Christmas money? This bad boy... Oh, yeah, I got a light therapy box. (and dang, I'm hacked that I linked to that -- now $10 cheaper than I paid for it! Ugh!) I don't winter well (I slog, remember?) and I'm trying to alleviate the slogging through the gray days.

I hear people say all the "you can't appreciate the sunshine if you don't have a little rain" mantras, but some day I shall write and explain the literal fog that comes across my brain after 48 hours of gray. Then the weeping begins. It isn't a dislike -- I dislike the cold. I dislike intense heat. -- this is a physical reaction to a lack of sunlight. And, if you think I'm a whack job that just threw money away on a bright light... I'm totally okay with that, too.

Must run. No license yet means I'm still on carpool duty. Two weeks from today is license test day! Say a prayer for all of us!

Tell me how YOUR 2012 is starting! I've missed all of you!


Happy Birthday to Ashley!

I still vividly remember standing at the kitchen sink, about to leave for the hospital, sixteen years ago this morning. Everything had been done. The house was spotless. My bag was in the car. The car was running. Troy was standing at the door --- it was a BEAUTIFUL day, but cold -- and the sun shone in through the door so brightly I could barely see him. And I cried.

I was terrified of labor, but way more than that, I was terrified of the little life that would come home with me. Did these people know that I was doing good to balance my checkbook? That I liked to eat popcorn for a meal? Should I really be trusted with a real child?

I didn't realize until her brother came along what an easy child she was, but what a ray of sunshine this strawberry blond girl has been. She has talked and sung and laughed her way into all of our hearts. She does not know a stranger and has a ready smile for everyone. People of all ages are drawn to her, and she to them.

Ashley has always had the gift of compassion. She cannot stand for anyone to be left out, or have hurt feelings, not be included, or not be treated the same as anyone else. I frequently look to her as my moral compass -- because she is a quality guide.

Ashley, I am so thankful that you are a walking ministry of grace and mercy. I have needed it at least on a weekly basis as your mom, and you have doled it out by the bucket full. I love being your mom and seeing the joy you bring to so many people -- and me! I am thankful for your heart for other people, while you listen for Jesus to lead you the next step. I won't even talk about how it makes ME feel for you to be 16, but I can't wait to see how God continues to mold you into a beautiful woman for Him.


Duchess on the Run

originally in Abilene Families

“Ugh. Fine. Run, Duchess, Run.”

Why is it that a dog that deems it too cold and drizzly to go out in the back yard (where one would argue large dogs belong) is perfectly okay with bolting out an open door into the front yard where the weather is equally cold and drizzly?

It didn’t matter why, the fact was that my dog was on the lam AGAIN and one child was about to be late for school. I glanced at my dog happily frolicking in the neighbor’s yard, knowing that I had a choice. I could go try to get her back, watching her continue to bolt and run, (a game I don’t enjoy but that she could play for hours). Or I could get my daughter to school and let her run.

Either way, it would be a while before I secured my dog again. Off I went to school, knowing my dog hates yukky weather as much as I do, and that she would likely be waiting for me upon my return, pouting at the wait to get in.

Gone about 20 minutes with no Duchess waiting on my front doorstep when I returned, I went inside to check messages on my machine. I have met at least 50% of my neighborhood starting with a phone call alerting me that a kind person had grabbed my wayward dog and would hold her until I could come get her.

When I saw there were no new messages on the machine, my heart dropped with a new realization: Duchess lost her tags this summer and we never replaced them. I started to get physically ill as I realized that my dog was out playing freely in the neighborhood,  trusting that I had it under control to get her back when she decided she was ready to come home. Misplaced trust equaled misplaced dog, perhaps for good. Very sad me.

All day I periodically walked outside calling her name. I drove the neighborhood, scanning all bushes, allies, and alcoves for my Duchess. I called the pound. Nothing.

My daughter and I left on a previously arranged trip, leaving my husband and son to welcome Duchess home when she found her way back. I held onto that hope, but that didn’t happen. Days went by, and no Duchess. We became very familiar with the personnel at the pound, calling daily to hear, “No, I’m sorry.”

With every passing day, my hopes of recovering our furry family member grew more and more dim. Even the free ‘Lost’ ad in the “Reporter News” classifieds brought no result.

The fifth day, I finally got a different answer at the pound: “Yeah, you may want to come check.” Walking the cages, there were 12 dogs I wanted to take home, 3 that looked just like Duchess, but no Duchess... until... she heard my voice and came inside, jumping and wriggling, ready to be through with Duchess’ Grand Adventure of 2009. Oh, if that muzzle could talk.

With Duchess returned to her rightful throne, I have repented of my irresponsible pet owner ways. I immediately got her a replacement tag. That was only $8, compared to the $20 it cost me to get her out of the pound, not to mention the days of heartache and guilt (and gasoline driving around).

Please learn from my mistake: if your furry family member doesn’t have a tag, please get one today. If s/he hates a collar, consider a micro-chip. Your animal is trusting that you have it all under control. Do you?


Marriage Monday: Five Resolutions for Your Marriage This Year

Happy New Year, one and all, you lovely people!! I hope that the year has started off well for you and you are on your way to a prosperous and successful 2012.

My kids started back to school today -- TODAY!! -- and that is a rude awakening, I tell ya. My running partner and I, after some glorious 5 mile runs basking in the sun the last 2 weeks (she is a school administrator in a nearby district) were back running in 35* cold at 5:15 this morning. *grumble, grumble*

I also don't feel like I've had time to really ponder, plan, and meditate like I like to around the holidays. There was just a lot of noise and goin's on around my house -- which is a sign of a full and wonderful life -- but I like to evaluate the last year (perhaps it's just as well I didn't spend to much time thinking on that one) and plan for the next.

Did you make goals and/ or resolutions? I like to call mine goals. Resolutions sound so... well, resolute. Final. Goals are something to aim for (that I may or may not make). Goals have wiggle room to me.

Bob is making a wonderful resolution -- to be more grateful. Don't we all have room to be more grateful? I definitely do. (and now I will say I am thankful for my running partner so that I will drag my rear out of bed on 35* mornings and go run... gratitude).

It's a good idea to make goals or resolutions for our marriage. I say this, partly because Marriage Monday fell on the 2nd day of the new year (being honest!! :-), but being even more painfully honest, the reality is that while I'm here at The Cleft of the Rock preaching to all you good people about taking time for your spouse and your marriage, I simply have not. 2011 was a tough year for our family, and I did what so many people do: took care of everyone and everything except for my marriage.

Because I am married to a good and wonderful man, I still have a grace period to get back on track. But, like cleaning a dish right after you use it verses four days later (yes, I have experience with both) it would have been much easier to do a long time ago -- now I have much more work to do.

So, some resolutions I shall be making, and you are welcome to join me:

1) Pray for my spouse: No brainer. On the grouchy days, taking my spouse before the Lord is a way to bring all into perspective. God brought me this man, God blessed our union, and God drug our marriage out of the fire at one point. Praying for my spouse will likely have more effect on me than him, and it won't hurt him, either. Stormie O'Martian has a good book about praying for your spouse, but I have also found this set of cards (it's in the middle of the blog post here) that reminds you to pray for something different about your spouse every day -- and to pray for yourself to be a better spouse. Oh, indeed.

2) Make my marriage a priority: This is pretty all-encompassing. The main thing I'm thinking of here is bringing back date nights (I've been saying we are going to do that for, what,  4 months??) but I want to include reading about improving my marriage, going to a workshop or seminar, things that signify to myself, Troy, and the rest of the world: "This is REALLY important, OKAY??" Because it is.

3) Remember the romance: I don't just mean the physical aspect of our relationship, though that is crucial to a healthy marriage. I mean the small, ooey, gooey things it takes to "date" my husband --  some of that will include little touches and stolen kisses. But it will also be phone calls "just because" and cards and notes hidden away for him. Things we did "back in the day."

4) Let it Go: I've known Troy for over 20 years and we've been married for over 19 now. Sadly, I remember a LOT of times that he has hurt my feelings (I have a good memory -- sue me. I also remember some really cool stuff...). I also now have a list in my head of "he ALWAYS does..." of things that are completely inconsequential -- where he puts things in the pantry, how/ where he parks my car when he uses it (I KNOW how this makes me sound -- I'm being confessional!) If, heaven forbid, God does not grant us all of 2012 together, I do NOT want either of our last memories to be of me griping about where he put the peanut butter back in the pantry.

5) Play together: This one is REALLY hard for us. Again... I'm not talking about our physical relationship. Troy and I don't relax in the same way. Date night is often simply food and a movie. Which is fine, but it could be so much better. We do both enjoy the outdoors, just in different ways. We need to find ways that the two of us can relax together, play together. And I'm open to suggestions -- if you know of anything cool (especially free or cheap) to do in the Dallas area, I would love to hear about it.

I could add several here, but this is all I think I can focus on for now. Trey had some great resolutions for the new year, as well.

What about you? Do you plan to make resolutions for your marriage this year?

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