Tuesday, December 24, 2013

Finding the Meaning in Blank Christmas Cards

I have never made Christmas cards online before.  Last year I went to a store and made them in the store.  Before that I had a friend who took our pictures and she designed our cards for us and I ordered them from her.  This year was unique as we never found time to have our pictures taken.  My only option was to use pictures we already had.

I went online picked out a card and placed the pictures in the picture spots.  I previewed the card and placed the order.  I then received a phone call from my husband.  Vaughn: "Did you have some trouble with the online program honey?"  Me: "No I don't think so?  It said it would be ready tomorrow."  Vaughn: "Yeah, they are printing now and they are blank." 

Sixty.  That would be the number of example cards that have no pictures and the wrong name that I had printed by mistake. 

What I hadn't done was hit the save button before sending them.  I didn't think I needed to save them as I didn't feel I would need to order more.  No that is the key, you have to hit save, then preview, and then place the order.  Information that would have been helpful the first time around.

Technology is not my friend.  I think this may be proof.  I have one of the blank cards I stuck in my purse to show my friends how brilliant I am.  Just another clip from the Christmas card files. 

All of this got me to thinking about how hard we try to have everything perfect...especially at Christmas.  Christmas cards have been our "thing" for several years.  We even had themes for our cards.  People would look forward to seeing what the theme of the year would be.  It was a lot of pressure. 

The stockings are hung by the chimney with care.  Presents are counted and wrapped.  We search for the perfect gift to give to everyone on our list.  The menu is planned to the last detail.  We set out cookies and milk for Saint Nick.  What does any of it have to do with Christmas?  In a hundred different ways at any time during the course of a year we can show the people we love that we care simply by giving our time.

The spirit of Christmas has nothing to do stockings or trees or menus or cards.  You can write Happy Holidays, Seasons Greetings, or any other salutation you like but Christmas was then, is now, and will always be a celebration of the birth of Jesus our Savior.  What part of that isn't worth keeping in Christmas?  Our Father gave his Son to us to save us and people want to take Christmas and turn it into something else.  Without Jesus there is no reason to celebrate December 25th.  Without Jesus there isn't a a gift.  Jesus IS the gift.  What are you searching for in a store that you have not already been given?

As I think about that blank card, the card without pictures, I realize that I have already been given the best gifts of all.  Jesus gave me a family and a life.  Without those pictures my life is like the blank card...incomplete and empty.  Without Jesus I have no life. 

This Christmas as you set out your milk and cookies and unwrap your gifts, remember the best gift of all.  The gift of Jesus.  Luke 2:10-12 But the angel said to them, "Do not be afraid; for behold, I bring you good news of great joy which will be for all the people; for today in the city of David there has been born for you a Savior, who is Christ the Lord. "This will be a sign for you: you will find a baby wrapped in cloths and lying in a manger." 

This is good news indeed and worthy to be celebrated and honored.  It is a happy holiday.  It is Christmas, the celebration of the birth of Christ. 

Tuesday, November 26, 2013


One word for you...Perimenopause.  I didn't know that was a thing.  That's a thing?!?  I learned of this at church on Sunday.  I was talking to a friend and she told me about perimenopause.  The prequel of the actual event if you will.  It's like I've been waiting for The Lord of the Rings but really should be waiting for The Hobbit instead.  I've never watched The Lord of the Rings but I did see The Hobbit.  I had no clue what was going on. 

Apparently I really don't know what is going on.  Perimenopause is a thing and I could be in it and not even realize it.  No hot flashes yet.  Is there such a thing as cold flashes?  Winter is approaching and I am getting colder and colder.  I have to keep a sweater the weight of a Sherpa blanket at work so I don't freeze to death.  I told the teacher I work with currently that if the blood freezes in my veins I will not be able to get my work done.   I need to work.  I have a kid going to college next year.  Needless to say the heat got turned up.

I am pretty sure that having a kid going to college might be enough to throw you into perimenopause if you aren't already there.  I also have a feeling that I am going to be needing to make more frequent trips to the store for hair color although that wasn't one of the symptoms when I looked it up.  Actually when I looked it up, the symptoms sounded very similar to regular menopause.  Leading me to the conclusion that menopause be it peri or other lasts forever, call it different names if you want.  I feel just like my oldest daughter did when she started her period and asked me how long she was going to have to deal with that.  A bit like I'm being punked actually.

Seriously?  It isn't enough that we have PMS and spend days hemorrhaging every month for decades now this?  Men have it so easy and I think we should investigate this further because I think the serpent that convinced Eve to eat that apple was a male.  Adam ate the apple and men still get to stand up to pee.  Which granted as a busy mother I kind of like that I have an opportunity to sit down a few times a day but still...  PMS, Menstruation, Perimenopause, AND Menopause?  Enough is enough.

According to the symptoms I'm going to get hot, have sore breasts, have irregular periods, need Poise pads and I'm going to get cranky.  That sounds like fun, huh?  

As I sit here and contemplate my "impending doom" it occurs to me how my girls must have felt.  I am also reminded of what I told them, "Even though you can't control what is happening to your body, you can control your reaction to it."  I can choose how I react.  Just as I choose how to spend my day every day, I can choose my mood.  It doesn't matter what is happening or not happening I get to choose.  I can choose to be happy in spite of myself.  Something else I have said to my girls, "How about you try to have a good day in spite of yourself.  You might find you like having them and stick to it."

I'm a react first and think about it early person.  I have questions that I don't have clear-cut answers for but that is ok because I'm also reminded that I don't have to go through this alone.  Just as I haven't gone through anything else in life alone.  God was, is, and always will be there and so I guess bring it on perimenopause.  We've got this covered too.  All I need is a big dose of God and some fans, pads, Ibuprofen, and....

Monday, October 21, 2013

Stress, Stuff, and Finding the Blessings

I've been a bit on edge.  A bit stressed.  Slightly off my game.  I'm getting old.  The realization of that is apparent in the fact that I use enough John Freda products I should own stock.  Medium Chocolate Brown.  That's my color for those keeping track at home. 

Three years ago my husband and I started the Total Money Makeover and from that point on I have been coloring my own hair.  In the process I learned that foam is the way to go.  It is less drippy and way more fun to use.  This however, is not the source of my stress.

My daughter did indeed total her car.  We are now down a car until we can save up enough money to buy her another car outright.  We did have insurance, but the minimum as it was a cash car and my husband believed that Dave would say use the emergency fund to fix the car instead of paying high premiums for a cheap kid car.  Hence the reason we are not paying to fix a car that would cost more to fix than we paid for it. 

I'll admit it.  I had gotten spoiled.  She had been driving herself and her sister to school this year and I liked it.  Don't get me wrong I worried like crazy.  If they didn't text me to tell me they arrived safely I was a mess and prayed all morning not to get a phone call that something horrible had happened to them.  I loved being able to just drive my son and I down the road to go to school.  It was nice.  I also enjoyed having her go pick up food when I didn't feel like cooking too.

The only upside to this is that now that I will be driving them all to school again I won't have to worry about them driving in the winter.  (According to all of  the people who love winter it is supposed to be a bad winter this year.  Well bad for me and good for them with lots of that cold white stuff I hate.)  One more point in the favor of moving to the Sunshine State. 

So that has been going on and my stomach has been a mess for a year.  A year would be correct.  You read that right.  I just don't go to doctors.  They have needles and tests and I have no time for that.  I would, as mentioned before, be the poster child for what not to do in life.  I did go to the doctor and just as I thought,  they wanted to do tests and poke me with needles.  This did not help with my stress or my stomach.  As far as I know I'm going to be fine as long as I am OK with giving up spicy food, greasy food, and caffeine.  All reasons I didn't want to go to the doctor.  I love Mexican food.  I love crinkle cut french fries.  I love coffee drinks that don't taste like coffee.

My day job has been stressful this year.  Lots of changes and adjustments have needed to be made.  I have done a lot of subbing and while I think it may just be helping me overcome my fear of public speaking (at least in front of the five year old sec) I am not a licensed teacher.  I am also having a bit of withdrawals from the lack of copies and laminating that have been a part of this year.  The kids are great and they haven't ganged up on me and tied me up and taken over the school yet so I think maybe I might be doing at least that much right.  Also I have not had to buy a ferret yet but I have had to use my whistle.  (Kindergarten cop references do earn me extra points right?)

My new book is in editing.  With a December release quickly approaching.  While I love all of what goes into this exciting chapter of my life it is hard juggling everything at once.  Also, with the threat of being too transparent, I do want it to be wonderful.  I want you all to love it and get some of what God is teaching me out of it. 

It doesn't seem so bad when you look at it in writing.  It doesn't seem very stressful at all from the outside looking in.  I am very thankful to have all of these stresses in my life.  When I stop and take a deep breath I thank God for each and every one of them.  A wise woman told me recently that it doesn't matter if anyone else thinks what you are going through is stressful or not.  It is stressful to you.  That is what matters.  No one else is going through it, you are. 

We are down a car but we didn't have another driver last year.  My kid is fine and that is all I care about.  It will take a while but the metal box with wheels can be replaced.  Thank you Jesus!

My stomach is a mess and I had to go to the doctor, maybe it is a wake up call to take better care of myself.  Also maybe with the new diet I can lose some weight.  God may just have more in store for me yet.  Thank you Jesus!

Kindergarten is different and a bit stressful this year.  I have a job I love and work with some of the best people I have had the pleasure of meeting and I am learning a lot from them.  I am lucky.  Thank you Jesus!

I have a second book coming out.  How cool is that?  God decided to use my fingers to type his words and allowed me to be a part of something bigger than I could ever have thought possible.  There are no words to describe how thankful I am for that.  I hope my experiences and my life can be used as a witness to further the kingdom.  Thank you Jesus!

We all have stuff.  Big stuff and little stuff and just plain pain in the rear stuff.  I guess what I'm learning is, it is just stuff.  Everything has a season.  The key is to not let our stuff define us but define our stuff.  Look at the stuff and figure out what God is trying to teach us through it.  Only then can we see it for what it really is and only then can we move that mountain out of the way to get to the next step.  God has a plan.  It is time we start moving the stuff out of the way and get to the blessing. 

Sunday, October 6, 2013

When Fears Come True, God is There

On Friday we left a little later than normal for school.  My daughter turned to go to her school and I turned to go to mine.  I went in was getting situated when I realized I left my homework (a.k.a. laminating I took home to cut out) on the coffee table.  I live maybe three minutes from the school I work at so I got back in the car and went to pick it up.  As I was getting out of the car at school for the second time all the sirens started flying passed the school.  Police cars and ambulances flew down the road.  A co-worker who was walking in at the same time as I was informed me that there had been an accident in front of the high school.  She had called her daughter and she was fine and told me to call my girls.

My heart sped up.  When she described where it was located I knew it wouldn't be my kids.  They would be coming from the other direction.  I tried calling both girls' phones...no answer.  I texted both girls....no answer.  The school and my surroundings began to blur.  All reason left me and my heart dropped to the point of not being able to function until I knew they were ok.  I eventually went to the room that co-worker works in and asked her to call and find out if my kids were ok.  Her husband  happens to be the principal at the high school.  It should be noted here that I had tears in my eyes and I may have looked a little crazed.  She called and my kids were fine.  No students were involved in the accident.

Saturday my oldest daughter was up early and out the door going to breakfast with my husband before going to take the SAT.  My husband worked at a flu clinic and was home late morning.  My son left with his cub scout leader to go sell popcorn around 11:30.  A little after 1:00 PM I left with my middle child to head to the next town over to get lunch and look for a book she wanted for a book club at school.  We went to a hamburger place and ordered our food.  We got our drinks and ketchup and sat down to wait for our food.  I checked my phone.  My husband was calling.  I answered the phone and I heard the words I had feared hearing from the moment my daughter started driving.  His words were "Daphne has been in an accident.  You need to call the cub scout leader and ask if Scotty can hang out with them for a little while, then you need to get in the car and drive home."  My stomach turned over.  I called the scout leader, asked for our food, and we got in the car and started driving home.

I was calculating which way to get home.  Deciding which route would get us home the fastest.  I drove without speaking.  Megan didn't speak either.  KLOVE is all I usually ever listen to on the radio and it was on.  I started singing along with the music as I prayed that my child was going to be OK.  I knew she wasn't in the hospital and that was a good sign.  As we got closer to home I called to see if they were home or still at the scene.  They were still at the scene.  We went there.  As we approached we saw lights and a large truck but couldn't make out what kind of truck.  It was a tow truck and my girl's cute little car was on it.  She was standing next to her father.  There were other people there.  I didn't stop to talk and barely noticed they were there.  I blew right past them to grab a hold of my child and pull her close..  Her sister taking in the scene was terrified and looked on.

Shortly after we arrived, we left.  Daphne riding with her father and Megan riding with me.  We got home first and Megan broke down, crying in fear and relief that her sister was OK.  They arrived shortly after. We got the story.   She was turning left and was hit by someone and pushed into another car.  Her airbag deployed.  She is bruised on her chest and neck and her glasses had been knocked off and thrown onto the floor.  Her knee is bruised.  She is stiff and sore.  She is afraid.  She is scared to leave the house.  We made her leave the house with us today and go to church and a festival.

We have told her stories of all the wrecks we have had.  Sometimes deer jump out at you twice in two weeks.  (We eventually moved.  That was a big enough of a sign for me that we should move.)  Sometimes people behind you don't pay attention and they slam into you from behind.  Sometimes accidents just happen.  It is OK to be scared but it isn't OK to stop living out of fear.  We don't own a horse and buggy and besides that horses are just as unpredictable as other crazy drivers.  My grandfather was killed by a horse.  We aren't going to get a horse plus I don't think the cats would like a horse if they don't like other cats.

Her car is out of commission which means I will be driving everyone to and from school for awhile.  I don't know how long she will be without her car.  I don't even know if it can be repaired.  It looks like a lot of damage and her car is an older car.  I don't care about the car.  A car can be replaced.  My child can not and the level of thankfulness that God protected my child and she is here is immeasurable.  I just need my child to be able to release her fear.  I need her to trust that God will protect her just as he did Saturday afternoon.  I need to be able to release my own fears even though I sang praises to God all the way home and there is no limit to the amount of grace and love and protection He has shown, I need to be able to let her get behind the wheel of a car and not be scared.

Be strong and courageous.  Do not be afraid or terrified because of them, for the Lord your God goes with you; he will never leave your nor forsake you.  Deuteronomy 31:6.  God never left her and he has never left me.  Even when we haven't been strong or courageous.  Even when we have been afraid and terrified.  We have been all of those things.  The range of emotions have taken their toll but I am placing my trust in my God who will never leave us.  In the God who will heal us from this just as he has healed us from the trials of our past.  Our God is faithful, we will be too.  If I could, I would ask you to pray with us and for us as we heal and as we help our daughter move pass this and her fear as well as our own.  The next few days we will be finding out what happens next and if her car can be repaired or if we go searching for another one.  Also pray for the person who hit her.  Thank you for your willingness to pray.

Tuesday, October 1, 2013


Accepted.  One word with eight seemingly unassuming letters can mean so much.  As children we want to be accepted by our parents, our friends, our coaches.  As teenagers we want to be accepted by our peer groups.  There are so many variables that go into being accepted.  We want to be accepted by this club or that group.

My daughter is a senior.  We are waiting for acceptance letters.  She is applying for colleges and the idea of being accepted is both exciting and nerve wracking.  What if she doesn't get in to the right school?  What if she doesn't get in at all?  What if she is like Kimmy Gibbler from Full House and gets denied by the entire state?  Those are thoughts she has had.  She has actually said to me "What if I get rejected by the entire state like Kimmy Gibbler?!"  That is what it is like waiting for the mail to arrive.

She is not going to be rejected by the entire state, of this I am sure.  I explained to her that if it was possible for me to get into college then for sure she will get in.  Yesterday a college admissions counselor called to talk to her and as she wasn't home he told me that she has been accepted to their school.  The relief of hearing those words is like coming up for air after being under water with no idea how to surface.  Every day it is a mad dash to get to the mailbox to see if there are any fat envelopes addressed to her.

Accepted.  Such a powerful word.  I think on these things and I wonder how long we wait to be accepted.  In college?  Sorority or Fraternity?  Dream Job?  Spouse?  Our own children?  I think some people wait their entire life to feel accepted and I think they look in all the wrong places.

Matthew 6: 25-34  25 "Therefore I tell you, do not be anxious about your life, what you will eat or what you will drink, nor about your body, what you will put on.  Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothing? 26 Look at the birds of the air; they neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them.  Are you not of more value than they? 27 And which of you by being anxious can add a single hour to his span of life?  28And why are you anxious about clothing?  Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow; they neither toil nor spin,29 yet I tell you, even Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these. 30 But if God so clothes the grass of the field, which today is alive and tomorrow is thrown into the oven, will he not much more clothe you, O you of little faith?  31Therefore do not be anxious, saying, 'What shall we eat:' or 'What shall we drink?' or 'What shall we wear?'  32For the Gentiles seek after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them all. 33 But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you. 34 Therefore do not be anxious about tomorrow, for tomorrow will be anxious for itself.  Sufficient for the day is its own trouble."

Where are you looking to be accepted?  Whose approval are you seeking?  The verses above remind us of how much our heavenly Father loves us and how greatly accepted we are.  What more could you ask for?  It doesn't get any greater than that.  There is no higher level of acceptance.

As we seek acceptance to our earthly dreams and desires, let us not forget to seek God first and acknowledge our acceptance in Christ.  Philippians 4:13  "I can do all things through him who strengthens me."  Even get into college. 

Monday, September 30, 2013

All Systems Go

Last night I had three glasses of tea.  This doesn't seem like a bad idea if you are under forty.  I am NOT under forty.  I found it difficult to fall asleep.  At 5:45 AM the phone rang.  Our window was open and the wind was blowing the sheers which put the sheers in the way of the phone.  My husband sleeps on the side with the phone and spent the entire ringing time fighting the sheers for the phone.  The phone call was the school calling to inform us of a two hour delay.

Now I don't know if you remember two hour delays when you were in school or not.  I can tell you that my children rejoice and I rejoice along with them.  I remember the days when I could just fall back to sleep and have two glorious hours more of rest.  Those days are now apparently behind me.

First I turned off everyone's alarm clocks and reset my oldest daughter's alarm as well as my own.  Then I thought I would get back into bed.  I did attempt it but that was when my bladder realized I had walked, so I went to use the restroom.  I crawled back into bed and tried to get comfortable.  I tried laying on my side.  I tried laying on the other side.  I tried laying on my back.  I couldn't get comfortable.  It was like the iced tea was back.  I kept thinking about those restless leg commercials and wondering if they have restless body meds.

My husband, God bless him, said "just roll over and I'll hold you so you can sleep."  This was not helpful.  It was now 6:00 AM and all of the systems were firing up.  My brain was arguing with every system yelling "No! False Alarm Go Back To Sleep!"  The bladder however said, "Remember the tea?"  And that was when I knew.  Everything else was going to wake up too.  Everything!  NO!  Not EVERYTHING!  Sleep!  I need sleep!

Everything woke up.  It was all systems go.  I went to the restroom and went back to bed.  I lay there praying that I would sleep.  I gave up at 7:30 and got ready for the day.  I even made my bed, loaded the dishwasher and started the laundry.  It didn't end there.  I made scrambled eggs and toast for breakfast.  It was like Christmas morning.  I never cook breakfast.  We have cereal, pop-tarts, bagels, bread for toast sometimes we even splurge on Eggos.  It is a dealers choice really.  Continental breakfast.  Help yourself.  Today however I had more time so I made breakfast.  (On a side note here:  Did you know you can buy hard boiled eggs at the grocery store?  Seriously?  I found them at the store in a bag already peeled and everything.  My mind is blown by this revelation.)

The rest of the day went by without much excitement.  I went to work, did all I could do, picked up the kids, went to piano lessons with two out of three children and came home.  I sliced two of my fingers open on an apple slicer (I am now no longer using anything Pampered Chef that is sharp enough to cause bodily harm) digging through a drawer to find a kitchen tool that has apparently ran away. 

I was sitting on the couch applying pressure to my wounds when the phone rang.  It was for Daphne, who by the way was not home because she was at her very first job interview.  It was a college admissions counselor who informed me that she had been accepted to their school.

My husband brought home pizza (What?  I was injured.).  My daughter was accepted to college, she will hear about the job later this week.  I actually cooked breakfast not at 10 AM on a Saturday.  It was a big day.  Last week my other daughter was informed that she was chosen to go to another honor band.  My son is reading Harry Potter.  I couldn't be prouder.

Apparently getting older means you can't drink iced tea in the evening and expect to fall asleep.  You also cannot let your feet touch the floor or it is all systems go.  I'm getting older, the children are getting older too.  It is an adjustment.  Beauty for ashes.  I can choose to dwell on the aches and pains and inconveniences of aging or I can look at all I accomplished because of the lack of sleep.  I can panic and worry and spend this year in fear of next year or I can savor every moment of this year and let next year worry about itself.  It is exciting, all of the changes.  I suppose with God's help we are all systems go and ready to see the year unfold.

Wednesday, September 25, 2013

It's Not a Beauty Pageant

Last evening I took my daughter to a scholarship meeting.  My husband thought we were going to find out about different scholarships available.  This was not the case.  It was one scholarship that currently there isn’t any money for, but they hope to have some.  And if we win and go to state then if we win that there is scholarship money. 

It gets better.  It is a beauty pageant.  I take that back, they said it wasn’t a beauty pageant it is a scholarship program.  Does this sound familiar?  There are categories: Interview, Fitness, Talent, and Self Expression.  They even said they were hoping to raise enough money to have a Spirit Award also known as a Miss Congeniality award.

Many thoughts passed through my mind during this meeting.  I can only imagine the thoughts that passed through my daughter’s.  I did get a few enlightening looks during the informative meeting.  Of course, I tried to give her all kinds of excited and encouraging looks even though I knew there was no way she would be down with any of it.

My daughter is reserved.  She is pretty and kind and smart and sarcastic and quite humorous but not usually around other people.  Being that she is my daughter we walked out on the same wavelength.  “So you want to do it right?” I said.  She looked at me like I had grown another head and laid an egg while walking out of the building.  She said no that she didn’t want to do it and asked me what her talent would be.  I reminded her that apparently they will find one for her if she didn’t think she had one.  (Sound familiar?  They also offered to provide dresses.) 

This was at the point when I couldn’t hold back anymore.  “Hey I know what you could do!  Ain’t nobody got time for that!  You do the perfect imitation of that.  Or you could do your Kate Winslet impression.”  She does a fantastic Kate Winslet impression from an awards show she saw once.  It is the funniest thing.  She cracks us up every time because she is so good at keeping a straight face.  She didn’t think she could do that in front of a panel of judges.  This would be when I came up with the best idea of all. 

This morning I presented my idea. “I have the perfect idea for the talent portion of that thing you don’t want to do.” I said (Insert annoyed teenage girl look here) “Miss Congeniality.  You do a monologue from the movie all about how it isn’t a beauty pageant it’s a scholarship program.  It’s PERFECT!”  While she did think it was funny she didn’t agree to do it.  I explained to her that the way I see it she would either make them laugh or she would make them annoyed.  It doesn’t compute with me how that wouldn’t be funny. 

I think that if my daughter was less like me and was able to relax and just go with it, there is no way she wouldn’t crush the talent portion of that competition.  The rest of it may take some work.  Interviewing is intimidating in any situation.  (We tend to forget that the interviewers are also human.)  Fitness?  Well…doing a jazzercise routine on a stage is not really our thing.  (We stopped for sundaes at McDonald’s on our way home.)  Self Expression?  Well yeah…we have all sorts of ways of expressing ourselves around here.  Not many of them would be good on stage. 

I don’t know what next year looks like for her.  I don’t know if we will get any scholarships to help with college.  I don’t even know where she will go to college.  There are so many unknowns about this year as well as next.  We are on this adventure together.  I worry about her.  I worry about me.  In acknowledging that I suppose I realize how ridiculous it is to be worried.  Not one ounce of worry will change what the future holds and it will only rob us of our peace for today.  Besides we have the best tour director.  We don’t know, but God already knows His plan for her and for us.  I think we best both get on the boat, it is taking off with or without us.  It’s going to be an adventure.  Maybe not an adventure that includes a beauty pageant but to be sure as far as God and I go, we both think she is a beauty.  

I almost forgot!  If you want to use that Miss Congeniality bit for your own scholarship program?  Yeah that's a freebee so let me know how that works out for you.  I really want to know if the judges would think it was as funny as I do.

Friday, September 20, 2013

Full Moons, Deep Gladness, and Hershey Kisses

From my Daily Guidepost yesterday:  "The place God calls you to be is the place where your deep gladness and the world's great hunger meet."  "Don't be compelled to do what you should do, ought to do, must do, have to do, don't want to do.  Rather, get in touch with your greatest gladness and be free to go do it."  Frederick Buechner wrote those words as quoted by Scott Walker in my Daily Guidepost.

So I have to ask:  What brings you deep gladness?  Do you know?  Have you thought about it?  I suppose I would be remiss if I didn't tell you that what brings me deep gladness is not necessarily something I do or have accomplished, for I may never accomplish it, but more an idea of what I envision.  The idea of bringing joy to others, making someone think, smile, maybe wonder, brings me deep gladness.  The idea that maybe at least one time maybe I said the right thing or did the right thing.

I flail through life.  I mostly go along thinking that I am failing most of the time.  I should have said this or I should have done that.  Did I do what I should have, could have, would have?  Did I really yell at the kids again?  Did I mess up another meal?  Why is it so impossible for me to stay on top of the laundry?  I finally have an oven with a self clean option and I am scared to use it.  How crazy is that?  Why can't I just turn to God when under stress and rest in His arms instead of turning to food?  Am I alone in this?

I don't have any of those answers.  I don't know really what my call is.  I don't know if I am making an impact on the world or if I will come to the end of my life and people will remember me or if I will just fade away not even worthy of a single memory...or at least a memory worth remembering.

When I pray, I pray to be a small light.  I pray that maybe I can be a glimmer of light...a light that shines not on me but through me and others will see Jesus through me. In the morning I pray that I can be a blessing.  That I can do my job well and that I might make someone smile or think or know that I care.  My heart longs to see Jesus and to have others see Jesus through me and yet I know that I am human and sometimes I get overwhelmed in life and I fail to cling to the One that my soul longs for.  Instead of shining a light I hide under a blanket and hope to disappear.

There was a full moon last night and the kids at school were wild and crazy and out of control.  I subbed today and I felt completely overwhelmed and out of my league.  But then at the end of the day as I was in my room talking to a teacher, another teacher walked in to my room and handed me a baggy with Hershey Kisses in it.  On the bag was a note with a reference to a Bible verse.  Proverbs 3:5-6  "Trust in the Lord with all thine heart; and lean not unto thine own understanding.  In all ways acknowledge him, and he shall direct thy paths."

This makes me think maybe even if I don't realize it, God is directing my path, like maybe I am here for a reason and I may not know why God has placed me in this job or given me the family I have or the personality I have or even the opportunity to share with you and maybe I don't have to know.  I just have to trust that He knows and He has a plan for what comes next.  It doesn't really matter what anyone else says or thinks about what we do, only that we are doing what brings us deep gladness and in that gladness we know that we are also bringing God joy because our Father delights in His children.  What brings us deep gladness was placed in us by Him who created everything about us.  So it doesn't matter what we should do, could do, would do, it only matters what we are willing to do for Him and in turn we will find our deep gladness and bring Him joy.  The impact that I may or may not make in this world is only measured by God and if I allow Him to direct my path there is no limit to what He can do.

All of that being said, I began the day completely overwhelmed by the day ahead.  I spent a great deal of my day overwhelmed and I ended my day exhausted, spent, and feeling a bit like I totally bombed the day.  And then I got a reminder that I am loved and I need not worry in the form of some Hershey Kisses and a note from a friend and a reminder from God.

Monday, September 16, 2013

Restroom Mints

When you work in a school you get very little time to go use the restroom.  In our restroom at school there is a small table that holds a basket of mints.  I have always found this completely fascinating.  Mints in the restroom instead of the lounge.  Do you find it interesting as well?

You go to the restroom to take care of your business, you do your business, wash your hands, and the next thought you have is "I think I need a mint."  I just don't think that way.  I don't take care of the downtown and go looking for mints.  I go have lunch in the lounge or grab a snack and think, "I may need a mint."  But never after using the restroom.  Make sure I flush, make sure my hands are super clean, maybe grab some hand lotion, make sure I am zipped, make sure I don't have toilet paper on my shoe.  Mints?  Not so much.  Maybe that's just me.  

Please do not misunderstand me.  I love the mints.  In fact, at the end of last week I noticed that the mints were gone and it made me sad.  The restroom experience seems incomplete if you can't grab a mint on the way out.  I asked who was in charge of mints.  Apparently no one is in charge of mints.  Whoever feels the desire, buys mints and donates them.  It was suggested that I might find it in my heart to fill the basket.  That would require me to go to the store and actually remember the mints.  I can guarantee that I don't usually go to the store and think, "I need some mints for the restroom."  Sometimes I don't even remember to buy bread if I don't have a list.

I have been to the lady's restroom obviously, but I have never been to the men's restroom.  I was curious, so I asked the principal if there were mints in the men's restroom as well.  Apparently fresh breath is exclusive to the women in the building.  He kind of gave me an odd look too.  I must have been the first to wonder.

Quirky is what we are.  Completely and utterly quirky and I love it.  People have different ways of doing things.  At school we keep mints in the restroom.  I love my job and I cannot think of another place where it could be more fun to go to work.  Also I need to remember to go buy some mints because the restroom experience is not quite as fulfilling without them.

Friday, September 13, 2013

Finding Ourselves

This morning I found myself crying while getting ready for work.  It occurred to me that it was Friday.  While I am excited about it being the end of the week, I am also very distraught about it being the end of another week.  The time seems to pass so quickly now.  Time is a funny thing, isn't it?  When we are younger we can't wait to grow up and move on with our lives and as we get older we only wish for more time.

My daughter is a senior.  Yesterday she brought home order forms for graduation invites, thank you cards, and all the other things that apparently we must have in order to graduate.  It was then that I realized that this is really happening.  She was a cute little blonde in pig tails telling me she was a big girl and that she had to get on the bus to go to school.  That was yesterday.  I remember it so clearly and then I blinked and this young lady is preparing to end her time in high school and move on to the next phase of her life.

I asked her this morning if it was OK for me to be excited for her and yet sad for me.  She will be leaving to go to college and her sister won't be far behind her.  Their brother, who was our surprise child, will be all that is left to keep me running around and doing mother things.  Running a kid taxi from this activity to the next.  Going to school functions and helping with homework.  I have no idea how to prepare a meal for only three people.

We were married in May,  my husband and I.  We got pregnant in June and found out in July.  I have been pregnant or caring for children almost from the beginning of our marriage.  We didn't have the time, that people who understand where babies come from and try to prevent them when they are first married get.  We jumped right in full throttle and started our family.  I think I am afraid mostly because I haven't yet figured out what my life is going to look like once they are all gone.  What if once we are alone and have no one else to take care of he decides he doesn't like me?  When we have no one to team up against in a battle between us and the kids is no longer an option, what then?

My husband is very self reliant and so much smarter than I am.  He doesn't need me to do anything for him.  He can survive without me and the realization that my children are no longer going to need me either is terrifying.  If I'm not needed, what is my purpose in life?  What do I do with my time?  The fact of the matter is that perhaps they have never needed me as much as I have needed them.  Is that sad?  It might be.

All of these realizations as I approach these next milestones with my children and myself have been a road to self discovery.  Interesting how we continually search for ourselves long after we are adults and yet what do we really need to know?  How much do we need to know about ourselves that we cannot find out from God?  As I think about all of the changes and the unknown, I hear a whisper of a song from my internal playlist.  Matthew West and his song that says: Hello My Name is Child of the One True King plays in my head and I think maybe that is all I need to know.  Maybe that is the journey.  The journey for all of us is to discover who we are in Christ.  What His purpose is for us and not dwell on the unknown but search for what we ultimately know...that who we are and our purpose is to be His children and lean not on our own understanding but to put our trust in Him who understands.

Monday, September 9, 2013

God is Not in the Bathtub Cleaning Business

The bathtub in the kid's bathroom is pink.  I have no idea how it came to be pink and I don't know how to get the pink to go away.  The only thing I can come up with is that the shower curtain that has pink on it has somehow faded onto the tub.  I cannot get the pink to go way.  I cannot get the few little paint spots on the bottom of the tub to go away from when we painted a room three years ago.  I can use cleaner and scrub and scrub and scrub.  I can get soap scum and hair to go away.  I cannot get pink that I have no definite confirmation of it's source or paint to go away.

It is interesting don't you think?  I don't usually go into the kid's bathroom except to mop.  The rest of the bathroom cleaning  falls on the kids to do.  I happened to go in there because my restroom was occupied the other night and I didn't want to wait.  As I looked around I noticed the tub was pink and there were streaks of yellow on the wall that I just painted last Christmas break.  I still don't know what was on the wall I only know that I was able to get it off of the wall.  As the teenage girls are the ones who have custody of that bathroom I cannot pin that on a little boy with bad aim.

I was flabbergasted and a bit afraid of what else I would find in that restroom and I even told a few friends about it and then as I sat down today it occurred to me how very much that bathroom reflects what we try to do with God.

I have never met anyone besides Jesus who was without sin.  In fact, I am quite ashamed yet confident in the fact that I probably sin daily and sometimes without knowledge of it.  I have a problem.  I tend to turn to food or friends before I turn to God.  I am like a child on a rewards system for my good behavior.  Are you?  Do you ever seek rewards for a job well done?  Have you ever rewarded yourself with something like dessert or a night out for an achievement?

On the flip side of that when you sin do you automatically go to God to seek forgiveness or do you try to hide it and hope it will go way?  You do everything that you can think of to erase it or cover it up and yet there it is a big pink spot on an otherwise white bathtub.  A big X on an otherwise perfect record.  But our records aren't perfect and no amount of covering up or trying to erase it will ever make them that way.  We are perfectly incapable of accomplishing the task....alone.

There is good news for us.  Jesus.  Jesus came to be a light unto the world (John 12:46).  Jesus came to save us from our sins.  With Jesus and only Jesus can we be cleansed of our sins.  John knew this.  In John 1:29 it says, The next day John saw Jesus coming toward him and said, "Look, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world!"  John had been preaching the good news and baptizing with water but he knew that Jesus would come and baptize with the Holy Spirit.

John knew what we need to know.  We need to know we can't do it alone.  We need to know that we need Jesus.  We need to know that Jesus can take away all of our sins and make us white as snow.  His blood paid the price and without Him we can never be truly clean no matter how hard we try.  You haven't done anything that is so bad that God cannot forgive you.  He loves you.  Micah 7:18 says:  Who is a God like you, who pardons sins and forgives the transgression of the remnant of his inheritance?  You do not stay angry forever but delight to show mercy.

God is not human.  He doesn't hold grudges against his children who love him and confess and ask for forgiveness.  I hope you will come to know him more and trust him just as I continue to work on on doing.  I am human and I am a sinner.  God knows this about me but I believe He loves me anyway.

In case you don't know, I just found out that apparently there is a concoction that is sold in stores that will take any stain out of the shower.  I'm not sure it has been tested on pink from unknown sources, but unlike trying to take away our own sins, I think it is worth a try.  While God will clean you from the inside out, He is not in the bathtub cleaning business.

Wednesday, August 14, 2013

Kindergarten, Serving, and The Beginning of the End

This morning my alarm rang at 6:00 a.m. and a part of me sighed with dread.  I pulled my sleepy, creaky, body up and headed for the restroom.  Groggy and not at all prepared for summer's end I started the procedure of getting myself showered and mostly human looking.  After deciding that as usual this was as good as it was going to get; I checked to make sure that teenagers were getting ready, I went into my son's room where he was praying likely for a good day on his first day of school.  I went downstairs and wrote checks for lunches and started getting myself a bagel for breakfast that I gave to daughter number one then started making the last bagel that I gave to daughter number two.  I then made myself toast while my son settled on cereal.

Today was a day that I was not at all mentally and probably not physically prepared for.  I had a fantastic summer with the exception being the continual necessary acceptance of the fact that my birthday is forgotten more times than not at this age.  Our summer was relaxing and yet exciting with anticipation of vacations and the start of this school year that happened to start today.  I had planned on getting in shape, writing a book, starting on another one and having friends over regularly to swim.  The only shape I contributed to was the shape of round.  As far as book writing goes well...it didn't and the swim part I blame mother nature for.  It has been unseasonably cool this year and our pool heater bit the dust.  The number of times I myself got into the pool is equal to a big goose egg.

My oldest is a senior.  This was her last first day of school with the exception being college.  College, that place where she begins the part of her life that does not include me as much as my checkbook.  In just a short year she will venture off and this year is the beginning of the end of her needing me.  There are days when I count down the time because she makes me so crazy.  This morning however, I found myself dragging my feet to this beginning or ending as the case may be.

My middle child is a sophomore and she had just as much anxiety as I did with the one teacher at school that she had bonded with left to teach somewhere else.  My musician was not looking forward to band.  I am hoping that even with the changes she will find a way to focus on her dreams and make the grade.

My youngest child was heading off to another school and starting the adjustment of switching classes.  Hence the morning prayers from his bed.  He was excited but cautiously so.

I was excited to start school in my class today.  I have this thought about work.  Work isn't work when you decide that no matter what the day holds you are going to strive for nothing less than your best.  When I go to work I feel joy.  It makes me happy to serve others.  Perhaps that's the secret.  I don't really think of what I do as work.  For me it isn't really a job, it is an opportunity.  An opportunity to serve others.  I get to work with some fantastic people.  Not only that I get to work with some really cute kids.  Kindergarten is great.  I know for some people it is overwhelming and they wouldn't want to work with that age for anything.  I feel the same way about teenagers.  But kindergarten makes me feel like a rock star or Santa.  I can't even decide which.  It just has so much to offer.  The kids there smile, they are happy to see you, anything you draw they think it's a Picasso, and I can think of nothing more rewarding than hearing them read a full sentence for the first time.  Plus there is my love affair with the copy machine and the laminator.  (Seriously I get excited every time I get to use either machine.  Weird I know.)

Here is where it gets good.  So I get up dragging my feet.  I get to school and I'm anxious about my son taking a bus to get to his school.  I have a bit of jitters about a new class of kids because I loved the kids last year.  I'm a bit sketchy about what I had volunteered to take on in addition to my class and putting on my game face when God steps in.

I was outside in a sea of kids getting off of buses and getting on buses.  Taking care of business in general when God says, I've got this and sends angels...in the form of first graders.  There they were a few of my favorite girls waiting to get on the bus to get to their new school for first grade.  They saw me and I saw them and then they swarmed.  I was surrounded.  As I sit and think about it I can't help but think about how God knows just what we need.  My heart is full to overflowing and I can only think of how thankful I am to be given the opportunity to go to my job.  After all the hugs and everyone was settled and the rush inside began I realized that I wouldn't want it any other way.  It was a crazy day and I'm exhausted but while I was rushing around going here and there helping everyone I could I was content.  It was awesome.

Some people thought I didn't need to take on this job.  Some people would have thought wrong.  I can still write and I can still spend time with family and friends.  I'm pretty sure that I needed this job in order to be a better person.  I have no time to think about myself and what I think I need while I am there.  It is a great way to take me out of the equation.  It is a great way to put others back in the equation.

Maybe the lesson I needed today was a reminder.  I get really sick of me.  In the summer I get about as much me as I can really handle.  I'm here to serve others.  Sometimes that is a hard thing for me.  I like to stick my feet in the sand and I struggle with ideas of what I think I'm supposed to be doing, but it's really hard to be the hands and feet of God if you have your feet firmly stuck in the sand and you tie your own hands because of fear.    I don't know what God has planned for me.  Maybe the things/ ideas that pop into my head are of my own imagination.  We will have to wait and see what comes next.  In the mean time I guess I have to learn to get over myself and get on board.  The best way to do that for me is to plop me in a place where I am continually amazed my others so much that I don't have time to worry about me.  I want to do everything I can to help them to continue to be great.  Greatness doesn't lie in the doing things of your own making.  Greatness lies in doing what you can to further the kingdom and helping others along the way.  Maybe nothing I will ever do will be considered great, but I serve a great God.

Monday, August 12, 2013

Bee Keeper

I have a problem.  OK I may have more than one problem but the one I am referring to is bees.  They are still residing inside my shed.  I have made it my husband's job to get the mower out of the shed so I can mow.  (Yes I mow.  I love mowing.  Notice I said mow and not trim.)  I then will leave it out and wait for him to put it back.  Today he had to go to work while I was mowing.  I left the mower and such out as long as I could, but then I started worrying about rain and do I really want to leave the shed open and the mower out when it rains?  I started weighing the options. Like:  Would the rain kill the bees and if it stormed hard enough would it knock their hives off the inside of the shed door if it is left open?  What are the chances of some crazy person using the gas for the mower to set my shed on fire if they go to steal something and the bees attack?  Those bees are either a nuisance or a really great security system.

After I finished weighing all of the options and asking everyone I knew if they had a bee keeper costume (Is it a costume?  Uniform?  Suit?  No clue.) I could borrow to put my mower away (they didn't), I decided to get creative.  I decided that the best way to get the mower put away without getting stung on the back of the neck (again) was to come up with something to wear for protection.  So...I put on my long winter recess coat with the hood up to protect my head and neck, my tall rain boots to protect my legs and feet and some gloves.

At the moment I finished getting ready to go my son came downstairs.  He took one look at me and said, "Really mom?  What are you doing?"  To which I replied, "Going to put the mower away?"  As if it should be obvious what I am doing dressed like I'm ready for snow and  flood.  Hello?  Bees?  They stung me on the back of the neck not long ago.  "You are going outside like that?" he says.  "Uh yeah I need protection from the bees."  (And as my bee keeper costume is in the shop I decided to use my creativity to get it done. I think to myself.)  He just shook his head and went back upstairs.  I went stomping outside and took care of business.  It worked like a charm.

So the bees may have won the first round, but this time I think I figured out how to get around them.  I have a problem.  That problem currently is a family of bees living on the inside of my shed door.  They need to move or I need to move.  Neither of us seems in a hurry.  Until then I have created my own bee keeper costume for getting in and out of my shed. 

Why I Move

If you look at my personal Facebook page you will find that I tend to live anywhere from Maryland to France.  I tend to change where I live and where I am from every few months or so.  I also never refer to my husband or my children by their real names and I have every protective block I know how to put up on my account.   

You may think that this seems a little bit extreme and you may be right.  Oh I also never “check in” anywhere and I will not be giving a play by play if and when I go on vacation.  I do have what I think to be very good reasons for why I do what I do.  The main reason is that I’m scared of crazy town.  My mother was married to a crazy person for fifteen years and when I got married I couldn’t put in the paper where we would live and I didn’t put it in the paper when I had children.  The reason is crazy town.  My mother’s husband lived there and he may have been the leader.  He has long since passed away but I know there are more like him in the world and I will do everything I can to protect my family.

I don’t state where I went to school and I don’t put where I really live because I don’t want to be found.  The people that I’m friends with know where to find me.  They know where I live.  They also know who I am referring to when I refer to my husband and my children.  I don’t have to spell it out for them.

I don’t “check in” because I don’t think anyone needs to know where I am and I am not going to update you while I’m on vacation because I don’t want to get robbed.  As far as I’m concerned nothing says “please rob me” like announcing on the internet that you are on vacation.  I’m not going to post pictures of the beach when I’m at the beach so you know how far away I am from my house.  That’s asking for a personalized visit from crazy town. 

I’m a writer.  I have a vivid imagination to be sure, but also I have people who think they know me because they have read what I have allowed them to read about my life.  The reason I know this is because I have authors I read and I too feel as though I know them and that we are friends.  I don’t know them and we are not friends.  This was confirmed when I went to another author’s book signing in June.  She told a story of one of her readers showing up at her house.  They had found her and thought they could show up there unannounced and uninvited.  This only confirmed my fears and solidified the ideas of protection that I had set in place.  Stating that I live in the Midwest gives me a few states as a cushion.  Moving anywhere that sounds interesting that day will serve only to confuse those who don’t know and entertain those who do. 

So I move around mostly to ease my mind.  I understand that it may seem odd or even ridiculous.  For me though as I look at my children and the life we have together I know there isn’t anything I wouldn’t do to protect them.  I am greatly blessed by my readers, those known and those unknown, but I don’t want you coming for a visit unless I invite you or you call first. 

To the authors that I love to read and sometimes I think I know; I get it.  I am not going to hunt you down to visit and be best friends.  I’d like to be best friends but I’m not going to show up unannounced at your house.  That’s just creepy.  You can just come visit me...if you can find me.  Just don’t forget to call first.