Joy Dare

I’m a little late to the game but I suppose late is better than never. My life has come to a place as of late where I want, no, I need to acknowledge the beauty and grace of my heavenly father. I fear that if I don’t spend time with a focus on his grace I may just be swallowed by my own self absorption.
God is good though and he brings me, in his grace, just what I need at just the right timing. His timing. I started a bible study yesterday based on Ann Voskamp’s book “One Thousand Gifts”. I’ve read the book twice and found it’s beauty beyond measure. The first time I read it I even started a gratitude list that I kept handy on my phone…until that phone crashed before I had backed it up. New phone = new list.
Her challenge in the book and in the study is no small one. 1000 pieces of gratitude in one year. 1000 reasons to look to God. 1000 moments, things, items, etc. that draw my eyes away from me and up to heaven. My past has always been lived in a way that allowed gratitude to come out of joy. I want my future to be one in which joy comes out of gratitude.
So I’m going to take the challenge that you can read about here:
 

 
I’m praying that the gifts of my life become so evident that finding 1000 will be no challenge at all. Ann says, “Joy is a function of gratitude — and gratitude is a function of perspective. So take these prompts to help you see and change perspective — give thanks — and live all His joy!” That’s what I want to do – to live in all of the joy God has for me.

 

 

Decisions, Decisions

Everywhere I turn lately there are big decisions to be faced. I have friends contemplating a change of calling that would move them across the country. I have friends trying to decide if they should sell their house and move. I have a couple of friends looking in the face of divorce while another friend is preparing to walk down the aisle. I have a friend making decisions about starting a family after the devastation of miscarriage as another friend is helping her only baby decide where to go away for college. I tell you, it’s enough to make my co-dependent heart explode!
All of these decisions, just like the piddle of daily decisions in my own life, must be faced head on in prayer and petition. This morning before I even allowed one toe to touch the shaggy carpet of my bedroom I knew I needed to turn it all over to God and beg for his mercy and wisdom. It is my nature to worry a problem into the ground – whether it’s my problem to wrestle or not – and I knew that with all the swirling rumors of contemplation and change I would easily become immersed in decision making that is not my own. So I prayed for my friends, my church and it’s leaders, and my family. I prayed for God to bless my loved ones with answers and a light so bright that the path ahead of them would be clearly illuminated. And then I felt peace in knowing that I serve a God so big that he can totally handle each of the needs of the people in his care and that he does not need my fretting or tears.

Fall Blew In

Fall blew into Houston last night on the tails of a Gulf storm. When it arrived it ran smack dab into the face of a northern front and wallah! Fall. I use the term “Fall” lightly because no matter  how many orange and yellow mum plants you sit on your porch and no matter how many pumpkin spice coffees you drink, fall may mean it’s still going reach 96 again on Monday.
I pulled out all of my fall decorations last week in the hopes of willing it to arrive. I’m always so excited for the days of summer to arrive with their grilling afternoons and lazy pool parties, but by mid-September I am done. I long for the oranges, yellows, and browns that would dance across the trees of my youth. Fall is the only time of year I miss living in the north. For some reason the evergreens of my lush bayou city will not cooperate, which truth be told, I will appreciate again when the woods behind my house are still green in February.
I have always loved fall and, contrary to my husbands belief, it is not because it is the precursor to Christmas. There is something about fall that takes me back to high school football games, borrowing a boyfriend’s letter jacket, the smell of burning leaves, and hot apple cider. Pep rallies, marching bands, hay rides. It all screams of fall and it just doesn’t happen when it’s 92 degrees.
But this morning it feels like fall in my back yard. I may go dry off a chair, take along a good book, and enjoy the chill of the morning.

I’ll Start With a Muffin

I’ve been pondering my kitchen responsibilities lately and have come to the conclusion that it’s high past time for me to step it up on the health front. Not that I’ve been cooking with lard or anything and I don’t keep a tin of bacon grease on the back of the stove. (Although that does bring back some delicious childhood memories!)

I’m trying to choose more natural ingredients and less processed ones. I’m trying to amp up the fiber and cut out some fat. I had some bananas going dark tonight and decided to peruse Pinterest for some new recipes so I could use up the bananas before they started calling in the gnats. I found one I liked, and by “liked” I mean it had ingredients I had on hand. I’m a bit lazy that way. I changed it up a little though because I wanted to add some more fiber.

So here’s what my version looked like:

1 1/2 cup oat flour
1 cup rolled oats
1/2 cup palm coconut sugar
1/4 cup flax seed
2 tsp baking powder
1 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
1 egg
3/4 cup almond milk
1/2 cup apple sauce
1/2 tsp vanilla
1 Tbsp honey
1 cup banana mash

I mixed all of the dry ingredients together in one bowl while my KitchenAid mixed the wet ingredients.  After the wet ingredients looked well mixed I slowly started adding the dry ingredients. I let the mixer stir until everything was just barely mixed. I didn’t want to overwork the oats.
I filled my muffin tin with cute colored paper cups – but you could totally use ugly ones so long as there are twelve. I poured the mixture into the muffin cups and baked for 20 minutes at 400 degrees.

Super yum and super fiber filled for the win!

World Suicide Prevention Day

Today is World Suicide Prevention Day. Did you know that someone somewhere in the world commits suicide every 40 seconds. That’s about 3,000 people every day. More people die from suicide than from murder or war and it’s the 14th leading cause of death in the world. Suicide happens when a person feels hopeless and can’t see past the pain they are facing – either physical or emotional.

I lost my mom to suicide 16 years ago. It seems crazy that it was so long ago when the memory is still so fresh. I participate in World Suicide Prevention Day because I know what it feels like to be a survivor. I know what it feels like to be the one left living. I will never stop reaching out to the hurting and the hopeless with the love of Jesus because I don’t want anyone else to feel the despair of being the one committing the act or the ones left behind.

Today I write love on my arm.

An Ugly, Stinky Start

I’ve been trying really hard to get this school year off to a good start. I’ve made some positive adjustments in my own schedule for the benefit of the rest of my family. One of those adjustments is that I now get up at 5:00 – fifteen minutes after my husband gets up – to prepare coffee for he and I, pack lunches for the whole family, and get in some prayer and bible reading before my own shower. Doing all of this so early means that I can be totally ready for the day when it’s time to wake my kids up. Things just seem to run a bit smoother if Mom isn’t running around like a crazy woman looking for a lost earring and mascara. Granted I am one week in but so far it has worked well for everyone.
Until today. Sometime around 4:15 our Great Dane/Mastiff mix started scratching at our bedroom door. He was whining incessantly but my assumption was that it must be thundering. I didn’t hear thunder but at 4:15 I don’t question my thoughts. I hollered for him to “Hush” and rolled over to go back to sleep.
Somewhere in the moments shortly after 5:00AM I rolled out of bed, smiled a sleepy smile at my husband as he was combing his hair, and headed to the kitchen for coffee. As soon as I opened the door I was almost knocked over by a foul odor. Scratch that. Foul odor does not even begin to describe what invaded my nostrils. It was so awful that if I could’ve bottled the stench I would have. I’d save it for my ugliest of enemies and pop the cork in their faces. It was that bad.The only thing worse than the odor was the sensation of setting my foot down in what was causing the odor. There was diarrhea all over the floor just outside my bedroom door. And all over the wall. And then as I rounded the corner I saw that it was spread across the living room floor. And the kitchen floor. And in front of the back door. And on every single tile in the foyer.
I didn’t scream – although I wanted to. I didn’t cry – although that seemed like a logical next step. I just stood there. I was in total disbelief. I looked at the dog, who was looking back at me as if to say, “I tried to tell you.”
To add to the incredibleness of this scene I realized that the odor invading my nose had now started affecting my taste buds. Gagging ensued, followed by a rush to the kitchen sink to vomit.
I’ll spare you the details of the mishaps of trying to clean all of that but I will say it crossed my mind that maybe we should just burn the house down and start fresh somewhere else. It made complete sense in the moment.
On the bright side though, when I left to take the kids to school and head to work, my house smelled fresh like lavender floor cleaner and my hands smelled like bleach. And everyone gets to buy lunch in the cafeteria today.
It’s just another day…

The Newness is Gone

The newness of school has officially wore off.  Last week the kids bounded out of bed excited to see what each new day had to offer. There were new specials, new teachers, new friends, and new clothes. They excitedly laid out clothes each night and couldn’t wait for showers.
Today, however, when I went to their rooms and gently woke them with a “Good Morning!” I was met with grimaces and faces quickly covered by bedsheets.
“I don’t want to go to school!” my daughter said in an almost angry voice.
“But you had such a great week last week. Aren’t you excited to see you friends again and all of your new teachers?”
She replied with a swift and simple, “No.”
I get it. There’s always a new excitement and slight nervousness that brings fluttering butterflies to the stomach when something new is about to start. After the newness wears off though and routine turns back to repetition then we are left with early bedtimes and early risings that do not shout of fun.
So now my job as mom really kicks into gear. Last week was too easy and although I somehow hoped it would be the new normal this year I knew better deep down in my mothering places. Now I have to work up smiling encouragements each day and offer prayers for energy and sustainability. Now I have to make interesting lunches and fun snacks. I have to invent new multiplication dances and make bath time appear to be a respite and not a chore. Mothering is not for sissies and this is the easy stuff. I better start taking my vitamins.

It’s Time

The kids went back to school this week so it’s time for me to kick it in gear and get back to writing. I took the summer off because I was so burned out on myself after VBS that I couldn’t possible think of anything worthwhile to share.
It occurred to me this week though that I do better processing my thoughts when I’m thinking about blogging so I knew it was time to get back to the discipline.
I started re-reading Beth Moore’s book “So Long Insecurities” this week and it has truly been eye opening. Not just because of what she has to say, which is all good stuff, but because I really have no recollection of a single word on the pages. I know I read this book a year or two ago. I remember downloading it. I remember being excited about it. I remember finishing it and thinking of a few friends I wanted to share it with. Oh wait. That’s probably the hang up. I probably read it thinking more about who I knew that needed to hear what Beth had to say than what I could possible gather from it myself. Hmm.
Anyway, God has been speaking a mighty wonder to me through the pages and I’ve started to reevaluate some of the lies I have been believing about myself. I’m tired of worrying so much about what other people think about me and what their reactions will be to my actions. So now comes the journey of taking those steps and carefully moving forward in a way that please God.
It’s both exciting and exhausting to think about such a journey so I think I better pour myself another cup of coffee for the road.

Summer

I can not think of a particularly exciting summer in my childhood. My family didn’t do a big vacation every summer and I didn’t play a “summer” sport. My parents both worked and so summers were really just a break from school. I’m not complaining, mind you, it is what it is…or was. I don’t think my summer was drastically different from any of my friends. Maybe it’s just how it was in Southern Illinois.
One thing that summer solidified though was who my real friends were. My real friends called. My real friends came around. We had slumber parties and went to the public pool (because none our families had pools) and we rode our bikes down country roads. We all had at least fifty acquaintances at school but summer time was for real friends.
I hope that for my own kids. I hope that they will be able to look around and see people who love them for who they are. I hope that they will have summers of laughter and joy and be able to look back one day and see the difference between who was a true friend and who was convenient. I hope that they will still be able to pick up a phone or computer (or whatever futuristic communication device is handy) and be able to reach out to those friends. And I hope they also make new friends who will spend adult summers grilling out and swimming and enjoying family time with them because, well, that’s what summer is for.

Post VBS Cough

Another year of Vacation Bible School has been placed in the books and, yet again, God showed up in amazing ways. Families came out in great force, dinners were served, songs were sung and danced to, beach balls were tossed, and Mrs. Heather blew a few things up. That list alone equals success but when you add in the parenting class and the moms and dads that are now thinking purposefully about the legacy they are leaving for their kids, well, that’s total win.
One of the shortfalls of VBS is that my own family gets the shaft that week. My husband gets an emotionally and physically exhausted wife and my kids get a mom that is saving her smiles and fun for the crowds that walk through the door each evening. They love VBS, I think, because the great fun is such a great contrast to the crazed mom at home.
Every year I promise them great things after VBS. We’ll go on bike rides and water parks and picnics…as so as VBS is over. Except that Sunday, during the Worship Finale, I started having this ache in my throat. “That’s weird,” I thought, “I hope I’m not coming down with something.” How could I possibly be getting sick? I only hugged or high-fived one hundred plus kids last week. I’m sure none of them had germs, right?
Hmmm. Now it’s Tuesday, my kids are complaining, and I’m fighting a coughing fit. I saw the doctor yesterday who diagnosed a common cold and gave me some syrup that knocks me out cold. We are on week two of summer vacation and no family fun has been had to write about yet. My hopes are high for week three.