Sunday, May 26, 2019

Little Things

Today, we dedicated 13 kiddos at church. One was barely a month old (and SO very tiny).  Others were wiggly toddlers.  And a few were a little older and star-struck by being on stage. 

If you know me, you also know that I do not like being on a stage.  I prefer to be in the back of the room or even in the middle.  There are a few things that make the stage so very worth it for me and dedicating babies is one of them. 

Never, in my wildest dreams would I have imagined that I would be back doing this again.  Getting to be a part of watching parents acknowledge that their kiddos are not their own and watching a church agree to partner to help raise them to know and love Jesus just makes me weepy.

My campus pastor said it well when he reminded our parents today to not forget the little things because those are the big things.  Things like baby dedication are small in the big scheme of what I do.  We dedicate kids a couple of times a year and typically have a couple dozen participating.  Compared to a regular Sunday morning, where we see hundreds of kiddos it can seem small. 

But it's not. 

As I was filling out certificates and writing in Bibles this weekend, I spent time praying for each of these kids.  That they would love Jesus while they are still young and grasp just how much he loves them. 

I prayed for their parents--that they would be surrounded by people who would encourage them and love them when they feel like they've failed.  People who would stand up and remind them that this parenting thing IS bigger than them and they can't do it alone.  People who would tell them over and over again that Jesus loves them as much as He loves their kids. 

I very distinctly remember the day we dedicated each of my girls.  I don't remember much about the kid pastors who facilitated it.  Or the class that we took.  Or even how many other parents were on stage with us.  But I DO remember the moment of publicly acknowledging that God gave us this daughter and wanting desperately for others to pour into her (and me). 

Maybe part of my weepy-ness is because school ended last Thursday and I now have a senior.  I've been telling her I was not going to be that emotional parent posting each week about how much I was gonna miss her.  But stinkin baby dedication this morning reminded me that the days are long, but the years are short. 

And gave me one more prayer for the parents who dedicated their babies today...that when their kiddo is a senior, they would look back without regret on the way they led them and loved them and pointed them to Jesus. 

Wednesday, May 15, 2019

I'm a Little Hoarse

Every now and then a thought will cross my mind and I will think, "you should write about that."  But I haven't.  I knew it had been a while, but didn't realize that 2019 was completely blank so far. 

My voice has changed since I started this blog.  In the beginning, it was a little squeaky.  Then it got really loud and confident--sometimes with a bit of a Texas twang in it.  Over the last few years, it's gotten a bit softer.  Part of that is probably because blogging isn't "THE" thing to do anymore.  Another reason is I'm learning I can only share my story and not others' (aka my family)--and I'm seriously the most boring in the Royal house. 

I think the biggest reason is I'm a little bit hoarse.  Back in my high school cheerleader days, I would yell so loudly on Friday, that my voice wound up raspy until Monday.  I kinda feel that way now.  I'm using my voice in other places and my voice is tired when I get home.  And like cheering at a high school football game, my voice is hoarse for good and fun reasons. 

I used to think I would write a book.  Not sure that will happen anymore, but I DO know that I will continue to blog.  My voice might not sound as polished as it once did (ok--who am I kidding--I've never been polished).  It might not ever be as loud as it once once. 

But here's something I've learned.  I don't have to be the loudest or most polished voice in the room to be heard.  I have to speak from my heart and be real.

So that's what I will continue to do. 

Monday, December 31, 2018

Reflections on 2018

What a year!  I've probably said that at some point during the last week of every year.  Sometimes in joy, sometimes in relief that it's almost over.  But, as someone who likes a good do-over, always in anticipation of what's to come.

This has been a bittersweet one for me.  The older I get, the more I use that word--bittersweet.  There just isn't a lot of black and white.  And while it's been one of the most inconsistent blogging years for me, I have had more thoughts than I could find words for.  It's also been a surprising one for me.  As I scroll through my camera roll, there are many more good things than I would have thought based on how my year started.

As you probably know, I had to say goodbye to my dad at the beginning of January. I've had a full year of "firsts" without him.  What I've realized is that the actual day--Father's Day, his birthday (which also fell on Thanksgiving),  Christmas--weren't as bad as I was dreading them to be.  It has actually been the other random days like my daughter's bday when he didn't post on facebook or my niece's graduation where I kept feeling like someone was missing and caught myself looking for him in the crowds--that have been the hard ones.
With his death, I worried it would be a miserable year full of grieving and sadness.  And those emotions have definitely been present more than in years past.  And honestly, it's been one of the hardest parenting years for me.  There are SO MANY things our kids have to deal with today that we didn't have at their age.  When your kids turn into teens, you can't post about the things you struggle with like you could when they were little, so it feels lonely.  One of the biggest surprises for me was hearing so many friends' stories about their own parenting struggles--people I would have never suspected had anything but happy, content kids based on what I see on the outside. It's been reassuring to know there are others navigating the best they can and just praying our kids don't end up in therapy for too long (I've already accepted the fact that mine will sit in an office and tell stories of things their crazy mom said and did that scarred them for life).

Despite the hard, there have been some sweet times too.  Here's a recap of a few of them:

I got to see my brother and his family more this year than I have since they moved to New York several years ago.  I love seeing the beautiful hearts my nieces have and getting to be able to share the joy of their new business venture--from a simple idea last December to a full-blown Mercantile with amazing artists and craftsman that opened up in November.

I spent my birthday picking strawberries at a local farm with a dear friend.  

Another dear friend's daughter was married and we got to take a little road trip to celebrate with her (and I got to see 2 of my favorite people in the world!).

Granny turned 100 and while there was no polka dancing at the party, she still managed to dance on her porch with our family and make sure she had the last word at her party (when you're 100, you pretty much can say whatever you want!).  

I took my first trip to upstate New York for Kalyssa's graduation and not only got to see her walk the stage and be embarrassed by how loud we were, I got to experience cold weather in June--it was freezing outside at night (we barely freeze in December here in Texas).  This was a surprise trip for me that was a gift from my stepmom so it was extra special.

Willow continues to be a source of joy for our whole family.  She's rotten to the core, but her personality has been such a lifesaver for us and lightened the mood on many days.  Brian still calls her his favorite daughter and threatens to get 5 more like her.  I tell him "No way!" but secretly, I  hope we do.  

Tioga--Hope and Caroline's school district--opened up a brand new high school.  There's something so wonderful about a small town where the superintendent prays at the dedication and sits outside the door every day greeting the students that makes me sigh with contentment.  I love that the staff knows my kids and they are not just a number.

We went to the State Fair for the 1st time in forever and I ate myself sick--literally.  I *might* be too old to taste everything and my family did not enjoy the selfies I insisted on taking with all the food (but my dad would have loved it!)

Caroline is now a freshman and we no longer have to deal with middle school--WAHOOO!!! (Plus she made a really cute costume for herself for Halloween!)

Hope got her license and first car!!  This has been a game changer for me as she is now the designated school driver and I don't have to make the trek every day.

I got to work for Lovepacs for a portion of the year and while I always knew the community leaders were amazing, I got to see them in action behind the scenes and was so stinkin proud to call them my friends. Y'all!  Almost every one of them has a full time job and yet they manage to mobilize their communities to feed thousands of students!

 Getting to meet Bob Goff at our staff Christmas party was a huge highlight--my cheeks hurt from smiling so much at the end of that day.

I set a goal to find and record 2018 things to be thankful for in 2018 and I did it!!!  I finished my last one tonight!   I tried this in 2017 and fell short--I had a pretty journal I had bought and had high hopes.  This last year, I used a little notebook that was given to me that didn't even have enough pages in it, so it has several extra pages folded up in the back with the last few hundred things listed.  I can't wait to do this again in 2019!

One of the things that has brought me the most joy this year has been one I don't even think I've posted about.  After an 18 month break from kids ministry, I started serving as a small group leader at my church this past spring for 1st -3rd graders and then moved over to our 4th-5th grade room.  I can't adequately explain how much we love Cross Timbers--we've been there for over 2 years now and I keep waiting for the newness to wear off, but it hasn't yet.  In the midst of serving, God brought something back to life inside me that I truly thought was gone AND He made a way for me to go on staff at Cross Timbers!!!  I've been in my role since Nov. 1st and absolutely love it!  I got to work with some of the very best kids min leaders at Bent Tree so I was a bit worried that I would be disappointed by any others.  It's different, but oh, so good!  Getting to build teams again just makes my heart sing!  This has been one of those "Could God REALLY be this good moments for me this year.

In the midst of grief and depression and struggles, God made something beautiful.  It has been one of the hardest years, but also one of the best. I'm looking forward to diving into 2019 and being a part of where He is at work.

Sunday, November 18, 2018

And if Not, Is He Still Good?

We see the posts on facebook and hear them all the time when good things happen; "God is good!"  And yes, when things go well, it feels like His face is shining down on us.

But what does it mean when things DON'T go the way we want them?  When we lose the game or the the girl or the job?  Or get the diagnosis we prayed against?  Do we believe He is still good?

I know we say we do.

But none of us really want to find out if we would believe that because we don't want to face the hard stuff.

But it DOES come, and when it does, do we take it as a sign that God has forgotten us?  Or that He is punishing us?

Or do we STILL believe that He is good, even if...?

Thursday, September 20, 2018

What's Love(pacs) Got to Do With It?

 It's North Texas Giving Day and all week I've been contemplating what words I could write that would convince my friends to support Lovepacs when they have so many amazing organizations they could choose to give their money and time to. 

If you've been around me at all the past 10 years, you already know how much Lovepacs means to me.  You've probably heard the stories of how Lovepacs started with 6 kids in The Colony and has grown to over 5700 in 10 different cities/communities.  You've probably heard the statistics that 1 in 4 kids in Texas is food-insecure.  You've probably heard my fishes and loves stories of how food has multiplied.  You may have even heard that over 95% of donations have gone directly to food for kids over the past 7 years. 

Here are some of the stories I haven't told:

When we deliver Lovepacs, at least 1 school (usually more) has a parent waiting for the boxes to arrive.  And I will admit that I wish I had extra to give them.  We typically deliver a few days before the break and I worry that their food will be gone and they will still have nothing to eat when school is out.

At a food drive, one of our volunteers was approached by a high schooler who worked at that business.  She was crying and thanking our volunteer for what she was doing.  As they talked for a minute, the student shared that she and her siblings had been recipients of Lovepacs and they had made a difference for them.  This sweet girl worked--not to buy clothes and make-up or pay car payments--but to  help support her family.  The thought that Lovepacs was able to serve her still makes me cry today.

Right now, I am worried about the 1400 kids that were fed in Plano last year because we don't have a leader for that community any more and the need is HUGE. 

As a whole, Lovepacs has not done a great job of marketing.  We know we are behind on this.  Here's why: Lovepacs is almost exclusively volunteer-run.  A few years ago--after opening our 8th community--we hired a bookkeeper.  This past spring, I was hired for a part time role to help support our current leaders.  We have not spent the money marketing that we probably should have, but the need for Lovepacs grows every year. 

Right after Lovepacs began, my daughter noticed a kid with shoes that were duct-taped and stapled to keep them together.  This past year, my other daughter overheard a conversation from a kid asking another kid who worked at a fast food place if he could save some food for them because they were out of money.  My girls probably won't talk about Lovepacs (and they were plenty embarrassed when we turned our dining room into a food pantry and had to explain to all their friends that we were not hoarders), but their eyes have been opened to need around them and I believe they will be better humans because of it.

Since Lovepacs are anonymous and go through the school counselors, I often wonder of the impact.  I think of that scene in The Hunger Games where Peta throws Katniss a loaf of burned bread.  That bread came at a point when she had given up and served to give her hope--which eventually led to entire nations being changed.  Yes, I know it's a fictional story, but I truly believe that a box of food could change a child's trajectory in life.

Just because a city seems wealthy, doesn't mean everyone who lives there is.  Our biggest Lovepacs needs currently come from Frisco and Plano.  This is what hits me the most.  For every 4 kids you know, 1 doesn't have enough food. Food is a basic need.  No child should ever have to wonder if they will eat that day.  And the thought of it happening down the street from me grieves me beyond words. 

Giving to Lovepacs today means that your dollars are matched and go further.  You can donate to an individual community or to the general fund which will be divided among all our communities. Thanks in advance for not only caring about the kids in your community, but for doing something that will tangibly help them.

Monday, September 17, 2018

When our Kids Choose Their Own Way

I remember my brother telling me about a conversation he had with my dad several years ago.  The gist was my dad was disappointed that none of his kids followed in his footsteps because we attended different types of churches than him.  My brother pointed out that we actually HAD followed in his steps--2 of us were on staff at our respective churches at that time.

When Brandon told me about the conversation, I felt disappointed.  The church I worked for had more things in common with the one I grew up in than it had differences and I wished my dad saw that.  Although we never had a direct conversation about it, I think he came to understand this before he died.

We had a similar situation on the other side of the family.  We disappointed a sweet grandmother because we did not have a priest perform our marriage ceremony and we didn't baptize our girls as babies. 

I have 2 high schoolers now.  They have found a spots in small groups--each at different churches--and neither are the one we attend on Sundays.  I won't lie and say I haven't had issues with that and tried to influence them with bribery to attend ours.  Or that I don't get a little bit jealous when I see families all in sync with what they believe and how they express that belief. 

And the ironic thing about these churches?  Both of them are very similar to the one I grew up in.  And both are filled with people who love and pray for my girls.  So when I start the arguments in my head to try to "sell" my church to them, I am reminded of that conversation between Dad and Brandon and Brian and Granny.  And part of me is proud--that I have daughters who know what they want and won't be persuaded to settle for something different.  And another part of me is shocked that I am not quite as flexible as I would like to believe.

And through it all, I can choose to focus on our differences or I can remember that we have more in common than not.

Thursday, September 6, 2018

Memories of a Strawberry Milkshake

Its strange the things that bring back memories.

I took the girls to Sonic tonight for a treat after a loooonnnng week.  I ordered a strawberry shake. 

When I was in middle school, we lived out in a spot that was far from any fast food places.  Even back then, my dad was the best at finding the best desserts.  There was a Sonic that had strawberry shakes that were amazing, but it was 20 minutes away from our house.  The strawberries in them were huge and always clogged our straws.  We didn't go often, but when we did it was a treat.

I couldn't tell you the last time I had a strawberry shake before tonight--I guarantee I've had several since middle school. But for some reason, the last one I remember having was with him.  And I still remember his smile as we got spoons to eat all the strawberries in the bottom after we finished drinking the shake. 

It's the little things that stop me in my tracks. Maybe because I prepare myself for the big ones (his birthday falls on Thanksgiving this year so I'm already gearing myself up for THAT one).

A few weeks ago,  I had to cross his name off the girls school forms as an emergency contact and let's just say I don't want to have to do that again.  There's no words to describe the finality of marking through a name of someone you love and knowing you will never again put him on an emergency contact list. 

A friend posted on FB tonight that they had to call in hospice for her loved one and it took me back to the amazing hospice people we had for Dad. (It also made me giggle because I remembered my dad trying to keep the fact that hospice was called in from us when my sisters were already at the house meeting the people delivering the bed.) It also brought up a fresh wave of grief. 

Just like most everything else in life, it's the little things that affect us the most.  It's the stuff we don't think will matter--the small steps in one direction that end up taking us down a new path or the seemingly inconsequential choices that move us to something we never expected.