Tuesday, August 29, 2017

The Long Road Ahead


I took this picture tonight on my way to pick up Hope at the barn. It's striking to me and almost takes my breath away.

One reason is that I feel like sunrises and sunsets are God's way of kissing us good morning and goodnight.  I don't have to see them to know that He loves me, but they just make me feel extra warm inside.

Another reason is I love the symbolism of the long road in front, but I forget about the length--just a little--when I see that it leads to the sun.

So many times I embark on something that feels like heading into a tunnel with only a pinhole of light visible.  And, because I know it's the way to go, I will trudge through the dark and do my best not to trip and fall too many times onto the ground that I cannot see. But, by the end of the tunnel, after my eyes have adjusted to the blinding light, I see the scrapes and bruises on me.

This pic reminds me that life is not always dark tunnels.  Sometimes it's open roads where I can see all around me.  And I'm in a car, moving at a faster pace.  And I have the S-O-N waiting for me at the end of my adventure.

So, I will soak in the drive and maybe even roll down my windows a little bit and turn the radio up just a tad louder.

And most of all, trust that where I'm headed is where I'm supposed to be.

Wednesday, August 23, 2017

Basil in a Broken Pot


A few months ago I was walking into Sprouts and saw herbs on sale.  Now, I've tried to plant things in the past.  Brian even planted me a salsa bar last year.  But, for the most part, I kill everything.  I just don't have "the touch."

But, the thought of fresh herbs makes me happy, so I put 3 of them into my cart.  (I'm learning to surround myself as much as possible with the simple happys)

I bought plain, inexpensive pots for them--just in case they didn't make it into the next week--and put them on my window sill.

One of my favorite things (and maybe part of the reason I keep trying to plant with my black thumb) is getting to see the physical changes that take place in plants.  When you first put a plant into a bigger pot, it looks so small, but within days, you see how it's "owning" it's space and growing--not only outward, but upward. And even though I can't see the roots, I can only imagine how the tangled mess I buried is now stretching and spreading out of that clump.

I went out of town for a few days and when I came back, the basil pot was cracked and the plant looked dead.  Why?  Because Willow.  Apparently, the flycatcher extraordinaire did not see value in the  fact that my herbs were still alive when she was hunting and knocked my basil to the ground.  My family put it back up but Brian (who DOES) have a green thumb told me it probably wouldn't survive.

Now, I wish I could say I left it on the window sill because I had hope and believed I could nurse it back to heath, but the truth is, I was just too lazy to throw it away (our trash is almost always full--even right after it's emptied and if I put it in there, it would mean I would have to take the trash out.  If I just walk it out to the dumpster, then I might as well take the trash out.  It's tough being in my head).

BUT, I regress!  I continued to water the basil--cracked pot and all--just not as much as the other herbs--it got the last drops of water after I finished with the others.  The thyme and rosemary were both thriving and soaking up the water, but the basil was brown and shriveled and most of the water soaked the soil with no sign of life.

Until one day, I spotted some green in that pot!  So, I started watering it a little bit more intentionally.  And it continued to grow--cracked pot and all!  In fact, I even used some of it for a meatloaf a few weeks ago!

What's ironic is that there are still dead leaves in the pot, but the basil has decided to spring up around the death and not let it choke it and keep it from growing.  I have to water it a little more and in smaller amounts than the other two, but that just makes me more intentional with it. And ironically, that basil is actually taller than the other two beside it!

I can't help but think that many of us are like the basil in the broken pot.  We don't look like we have much to offer, but, God, in His grace, continues to water us and turn us so that we get Son on each part of us, so that we grow.  And those cracks in our pot, while still there, are not the focus and don't limit us.


Brokenness doesn't have to define us.  It sure doesn't that basil in my window sill.


Monday, August 21, 2017

Bittersweet Beginnings



The beginning of a new school year has started at the Royal house, and, once again, there is change in the air!

First of all, the girls decided to transfer to a new school district.  For one daughter, it was a no-brainer, but it was a bit agonizing for the other.  After many lists and conversations of pros and cons, she made the decision to move as well.

As they are getting older, Brian and I have been trying to back off and let them make their decisions. It's hard and we DO have to step in sometimes, but we also want to launch adults in the world who can think for themselves.  We help by doing the homework and asking the hard questions, but leave the final call to them in most cases.  It's a bit frustrating to them at times because they want to be able to blame us if it's not the right one. Sometimes parenting feels like a no-win situation!

What's funny/ironic/sad is the one who didn't have to think twice about moving is the most nervous.  Every few days she's asked another "what if" question.  The hardest was "What if nobody wants to sit with me at lunch?"  We've all heard the stories and seen the yuck that happens with overt bullying, but we don't always talk about the subtle stuff.  I hate that she had to experience that in the past, but am also praying she doesn't forget it--so that she makes sure she is not on the other end of letting someone sit by themselves because she is scared of what her "friends" will think of her.

Along with a new school, another beginning for us is that Hope has started working at a new barn.  She had to say goodbye to her precious Sharay and the trainer who gave her her very 1st real lesson.  Even though it's the right move for her, it's still hard to let go of the familiar for the unknown.

I want to be able to tell both of my girls that it will be easy and fun and that they will never have a regret.  I am hoping and praying that for them, but I know from personal experience that the right decision will not always "feel" right.  They may doubt themselves--and even if they don't, the new adventure won't always be easy.  And there will be people who question them--some aloud and some behind their backs.

At the end of the day, I want them to learn--just as I am learning--that you pray about a decision, do your homework, pray some more, talk to people who love you and pray again.  Then you make the decision that YOU feel is best in light of all of that.  It might be easy.  It might be hard.  But at the end of the day, you have to answer for YOUR actions--not anyone else's thoughts or words. Have courage and be kind.

      

Thursday, July 27, 2017

The Sweet Stench of Victory

Hope has been working at a barn this summer.  And when I say "working," I don't mean just grooming horses.  She mucks stalls, makes feed, cleans water troughs and all the other grunt work that goes into keeping a stable clean.  Needless to say, she works really hard.

She also comes home stinking to high heaven.

We've decided she has to sit on towels when she gets into the car because there is so much grime on her.  And the smell is really horrific.  We tell her it smells like a horse has peed on her. (Aren't we just the best and most supportive parents??)

I know, I know, you may think your kid stinks after a workout or practice, too.  And I get it.  We once drove home from Oklahoma from a soccer tournament in August with Hope's shin guards, socks and cleats in the back, wafting their smell to the front of the car until we made a pit stop to tie them up in a bag so we didn't gag anymore.  Athletics make for stinky kids AND gear.

But I digress...

Since leaving my full time job last year and Brian's subsequent surgery, we have not had a lot of discretionary income.  Horse gear has been one of the many things that has had to fall by the wayside.  While it's been discouraging to her, Hope continues to work hard to find a way around it.

She mucks out stalls in $20 boots from Academy while others are taking their horses out in their $200 boots from Dover and then they change into their $400 riding boots.  And as they push past her, she continues to be gracious and cleans up after their horses.  It's not glamorous and I may get in trouble for writing this because sometimes it's embarrassing to her.  But she continues to do it 5-6 days a week.

She doesn't make much.  Definitely works harder than most people I know who make 3xs what she does.  And while she complains a little (after all--she IS a teenager), she puts in her time and does her job well.

A few weeks ago, she was able to take her paycheck and buy her very own saddle.  It's a used one from a rider at her other barn--where she rides, but it is HERS.

As a parent, I want to be able to give her a saddle and expensive paddock boots and new riding pants.  I don't want her to feel "less-than" because of what she has or doesn't have.  But just like she is reaping the rewards of the hard work, I am watching her and seeing a character develop that might not have if I had given her all the things I want to.

Victory and success don't usually come easily.  It's hard work and you are bound to get a little (or in Hope's case--a LOT) stinky in the process.

But it's always worth it.

Just ask Hope.

Wednesday, July 19, 2017

Unfriended: A Book Review

I love to read.  Sometimes my eyes are bigger than my stomach and I get books that sit on my nightstand for weeks, months, even years before I open them.  I'm fickle and there's really not a rhyme or reason to why I read what I do and when I read it.  I've always just chalked it up to "When I read it, it will be the perfect time."

That's how this book was.  I've had it for a little while.  I bought it on a whim and then figured it would be one of those cheesy "Jesus is your best friend" kind of books. (and yes, I DO believe Jesus is my best friend, but I don't want to read a couple of hundred pages beating that into my head).

This book was a delightful surprise!  It took me a few weeks to read because I wanted to let the words sink in.  So many practical things, so many challenging things and so many hopeful things are packed into this little nugget.  The author wrote also wrote a Bible study called "We Saved You a Seat" that has videos that will be free to watch starting Aug 3rd.  I can't wait to dive into that as well and am praying I can do it with a few people.

I underlined a lot in this book.  Here are the things that hit me the most:

"Being willing to be a neighbor in the heart sense of the word is being willing to connect with the people who God puts in our path...How can I BE a friend?"

"We might have defined friendship our whole lives by what others do to us, but in the end it's what we do for others that will define us as friends or not."

"At the end of the day, we get to choose who will have the final say in our lives and our relationships: fear or love."

"God didnt come to make bad people good.  He came to make dead people alive."

"Forgiveness is making peace with the past so that there is opportunity for relationship in the future.  Not necessarily with the same people who've scarred us."

"There's always room for one more friend and room to know each other more.  Better.  Deeper. Uglier. Weirdere. Funnier.  For better or worse, female friendships take courage to start and courage to maintain."

"The cardinal rule of friendship:  You have to be willing to go first."

"In the beginning, God made us in His image.  It's the only image we're supposed to fit."

"Loving people means loving them the way they need to be loved, not the way you like being loved."

"Anyone is good company at a cocktail party.  But love is born when we misunderstand one another and make it right...If it is real, friendship is usually untidy."

"Latching onto a friend with the hope that they will give us God-sized affirmation will always disappoint...God and only God can give us the words and the lives that fill us up."

"Jesus is never tired of me always needing Him.  Instead, He is deighted by how desperately I need His validation and He never, ever withholds it from me.  Or from you."

"There is no 'done' when it coes to sacrificial love.  There is only more."

"Stop keeping score--who called who last, and who owes an email or a play date or a lunch date--and start initiating.  Friendship isn't something we passively receive.  Friendship is something we actively do.  It's a gift we offer for free, not a demand we make with a stamping foot."

"The shortest distance between strangers and friends is a shared story about our broken places."

"Depression lies and tells you that it's not worth fighting and that you're better off alone."

"It may seem like He's asleep in the boat, but it's not because He doesn't care.  It's because He's so deeply confident the Father is in control."

"No matter how much you clean or remodel or move or rebuild, hospitality will always be more a matter of the heart than the architecture.  And your guests will only feel as comfortable in your house as you feel in your own skin."

"Missing out on community is a kind of dying."

"To become real, friendship more often requires becoming comfortable with the snapshots of life often taken at an unflattering angle."

 "And don't let the fear of getting it wrong stop you.  We all get it wrong."

"Blessings are not for hoarding, they're for forwarding.  Because that is how we reflect God's gory back to Him."

"The best antidote to jealousy is choosing instead to encourage."

"Everyone is on the outside of something.  But that is only half the story.  We are all, each of us, also on the inside of something--often without even realizing it."

"Forget the hundreds you wish would come, the cool or the trending you want to impress; feed the hungry who are already there.  Feed them your best."

"The one seat I need to focus on is the one right next to me.  Not the one across the room or the aisle or even the other end of the table."

"The words we say to ourselves matter because the God who is The Word says we matter.  And it's time we start believing Him."


Sunday, July 16, 2017

A Different Kind of Date Night

Last night I worked an event This Side UP! Family does every month.  It's called I Date My Spouse" and is an opportunity for married couples to take advantage of free childcare while they go on a date--often with a giftcard given to them by TSUF.  It's amazing!  The kids get some quality programming and have a blast while their parents connect.

I wish there had been something like this when my girls were little.

I know of people who are consistent in dating their spouse.  They go to dinner.  They take vacations. They spend time together.  All without their kids.

When my girls were little, we were not good at the dating thing.  Partly because we had so little family time to be all together that we just didn't take the time away from them.  Partly because date night is expensive when you calculate babysitter, dinner and an activity.  And partly because both of us are more practical than romantic.

To this day, we still don't have a set date night, but as the girls have gotten older, we have found some different rhythms that work for us.

When the girls both started elementary school, Brian worked retail hours and I worked for a church, so weekends were not really an option for us and weeknights were hard because the girls needed to be fed, bathed and in bed at a decent hour.  Brian usually worked late on Fridays or was off and that was my day off, so we would either do breakfast or lunch together.  There was a season when I had a pt job on Fridays and he even came up to eat lunch with me there a few times.

During the summer, the girls started staying with my in-laws for a couple of days at a time.  Some nights, we would cook stuff they wouldn't eat (this is how I finally learned to make guacamole and potato salad--not together, of course--that would be soooo YUCK).  Other nights, we'd head out to some local places to eat (it's amazing how much cheaper your bill is when you don't order queso and soft drinks).

For a short season, we had a boat.  This was my favorite kind of date.  Some mornings, we would drop the kids off at school and head to the lake for the day (once, we barely made it back in time and had to bring the boat through the carpool line--eek!).  Sometimes, we'd eat dinner and then head out for a few hours.  It was glorious.  Basically, our date consisted of Brian fishing and me reading.  We seldom talked, except to comment on the size of the fish, but the comraderie we built during that time was the BEST!

Most recently, we've started watching Longmire again together on Netflix.  Every night, we head to the bedroom and shut the door.  Usually, we are interrupted a few times by girls wanting to make the dog play with them (she loves Longmire time because she sleeps between us on the bed).  We watch one episode and then go to sleep.  Again, no talking, but it's time spent together.  We are almost finished with the series and I'm already dreading not having that time together.

Most days I think it would be easier if we didn't have to worry about finances and could do the traditional night out that most other couples do.  But, when I look back on our dates, I don't really regret how we've chosen to do them.  I only regret the seasons where we didn't do anything--when we let fatigue and work and kids' activities keep us too busy to spend time together.

What types of dates work for you?  What's your favorite thing to do with your spouse? Also, I'm taking suggestions on what series we can watch next!

Saturday, July 15, 2017

Gettin Dirty

When was the last time you got dirty?  I'm not talking about your regular every day dirt.  Or even just sweat from working out.  I'm talking about the kind of dirty where there's crud under your nails.  And the dirt is caked on every part of  your shirt, leaving you nowhere to wipe the sweat off your face without rubbing more yuck on in your eye or mouth. And there is so much grime stuck to your legs that you look like you have a tan line when you take your socks off.

That kind of dirty.

I shower every day.  Well, okay, I shower MOST days.  And I don't really think much about it.  If I've gone a day without washing my hair, I feel the clean after lathering it up.  And on the days I shave my legs, they SEEM to be cleaner.

But there's something about a shower after you've gotten really dirty that just feels extra good.  The kind where you look down and see the dirt twirling down the drain.  When your skin feels so much smoother and you swear you've lost several pounds.

Like redemption.