Friday, September 30, 2011

Unwanted Blessings

For years I have wished we were able to hire someone to come clean my house and do my laundry. I have looked at the finances, tried to figure out what we could cut out to be able to swing this. Needless to say, it’s not an option for us unless I tell my girls and hubby they have to give up food for a couple of days—not sure that will go over well.

My house will never be the cleanest on the block—it also won’t be gross, but chances are, if you drop by unexpectedly, you’ll find lots of clutter everywhere you look. I’ve tried to instill it in my girls to pick up their stuff. And that if they choose to use the living room as their dressing room, they need to take their socks and shorts--and whatever other clothing they think looks nice laying on the floor or ottoman-- back to their dirty clothes hamper (do you sense any frustration with this last one?). And as much as I know it would be easier to load the dishwasher after dinner, I still let the dishes sit overnight because I'm too lazy to clean them.

Honestly, we’re messy. I do good to clean the toilets every couple of weeks—let alone scrub the shower scum. Cleaning doesn’t make me feel better. I’ll tell you a secret—as long as I don’t trip on it or smell it, I’m comfortable in an unkempt house. You can imagine how well that goes over with Brian.

As if that’s not enough to make you wonder if you really want to claim to know me, I’m gonna show my shallow side here--I’ve even prayed for God to provide a way for us to pay for someone to clean (some people pray for food for hungry kids in Africa, or shoes for people in India or salvation for those who don’t know Him—Me? A maid).

And I thought His answer was, “No.” Until this week.

Two-three days a week, my mother-in-law picks up my girls from school and stays with them until Brian or I get home from work. And while they are doing homework, she loads my dishwasher, empties my overflowing bathroom trashcans, pulls weeds in the front yard, and scrubs my shower scum. And, when our washing machine worked, she always did a couple loads of laundry (now she just takes a few things home with her every time).

Since your view of me is already pretty low, let me just go ahead and confess something else. Until recently, her doing all that really frustrated me. I felt like it was a reflection on what a bad wife and mom I was (because we all know that we should be able to bring home the bacon, fry it up in a pan, and clean up the mess afterward). My insecurity kept me from seeing the answered prayer and huge blessing God had given me. Instead, I chose to resent her willingness to do these things.

I wonder how many other things I do that with? How many times do I pray for things and think God chose not to give them to me, when the truth is, He gave them to me—just not in the way I expected or even wanted? How many times does He give me blessings that I don’t think I want? How many times do I complain about something that I am not seeing as a blessing?

Some good stuff for me to ponder on this weekend…

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Blurry Pictures

If you’ve read any of my posts that have pictures in them, you have probably realized that I cannot take a picture without it being blurry. I have blamed it on my lack of talent, the camera I have, my inability to hold the camera still, the lighting and many other things. The fact of the matter is, I suck at taking pictures and it makes me incredibly sad.

I swore before I had children that I would document every stage in their life. And I tried with Hope. I have lots of studio pictures of her…before Caroline was born. Once I had my 2nd child, we were doing good to get holidays captured. The last studio pic I have of them was at Easter when Hope was 4 and Caroline was 2 years old. Caroline was sticking her tongue out (for which I caught a lot of flack, but looking at it now, makes me remember why I chose to buy that particular pic and send it to all of our family and friends—it’s priceless).

Anyway, reality quickly set in and I realized a) I couldn’t afford to keep doing studio pics and b) I’m not nearly as good a photographer as I always thought I would be. Then, when I was doing a good job of capturing the “in the moment” shots with my iPhone, I dropped it in the water and the camera no longer worked (and I’m too cheap to replace it until it completely dies—which it has a couple of times, but it keeps coming back).

So I sit here and kick myself. And worry that my girls will grow up resenting the fact that I seldom documented their life and when I did, it was so sporadic that it didn’t make much difference. And I have no picture of them in the same spot every year on their birthday. Or have any beautiful oil canvases of them. And have no yearly Christmas photo of our family that we send out to all our friends.

But the truth of the matter is, I don’t take good photos and don’t have the time or patience or equipment to learn, so my girls are gonna have boxes/cds full of blurry pictures to show their kids.

What did you think you would do really well as a parent that you have found you stink at? Do you worry it will scar your children?

Sunday, September 25, 2011

My Finish Line

Earlier this year, our staff read a book by Bill Hybels called "Axiom." Such a great book and an easy read. It's a bunch of short chapters on things he has learned from doing ministry at Willow Creek Community Church.

One of the chapters talked about having a finish line--that thing that you do to mark the end of a week, or season. As a staff, we talked a little about this. For some it was a margarita, for others, a good work-out. I was stumped for a long time. The nature of my job means that I usually work a little on both of my days off. Even though Thursday is technically my last day of the week, I don't leave the office feeling "finished."

So I finally gave up on figuring out a good finish line. Until I looked at my situation a bit differently. Even though Sunday is the first day of the week, it's the day I work toward all week. It's the culmination of all that I have done the previous week—it’s like Game Day for a football player.

And when it's over, and I leave the church and head to my house, I crash. I typically take an hour long nap (sometimes longer) and spend some time by myself in my room. When I wake up, I am ready to re-engage with my family. We have some fun, family traditions that we do and after the girls and Brian go to bed, I watch some trash TV. Definitely not a spiritual ending to the day, but somehow, it puts me in the mindset to want to get up in the morning and start all over again.

TV and books do the same thing for me. I’ve always been a reader, but I have really learned in the last year the art of balance between reading the books that develop me and the books that make me laugh and get out of my seriousness. Both bring me life.

And that’s ironic to me. The fact that I can grow as a leader by reading a book on “Visioneering” and by reading some other “fluff” that I’m a little embarrassed to post here. One leads me to think about what God is up to, and the other allows me to clear my mind so that I can be ready to listen and have the ability to apply what God is teaching/showing me.

So, I’m off to do a little “mind-clearing” now with some TV. God did invent the DVR, didn’t He?

Do you have a “finish line?” Do you have any weird things you do to unwind/be open to hearing from God?

Thursday, September 22, 2011

Sleeping Naked

One of my children has decided recently that she wants to sleep naked. Naked at our house, is defined as only wearing your underwear. I won’t call her out and name names, but I didn’t just write a blog post about her before this one.

I haven’t quite figured out what to do, so I’ve just ignored it. That’s great parenting there, folks! Seriously, it’s not harming anyone, but it’s just kinda weird to me. She used to go to bed in jammies and by the time I went in to check on her before I went to sleep, she had shed them and was laying there snuggled up under her covers.

She’s not hot—her room is the smallest in the house and between the air conditioner and her ceiling fan, it’s usually the coolest. And she’s not a hot-blooded child, unlike her sister.

But it bugs me. I know, I know—I really need to get a life if I’m staying up worrying about what my daughter wears to bed. There are so many real things I could worry about, but instead, this plagues me constantly.

Sometimes parenting isn’t hard, it’s just weird. What kinds of weird things do your kids do that bug you?

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Useless Keys

I've been parking my car in front of my house. As much as I love the driveway, it's a pain to have to switch places with Brian and neither of us like to park on the side of the driveway (me because it always gets muddy over there and I'm scared I'll hit the neighbor's fence--I am SUCH a horrible parker, and Brian because our driveway is starting to crack and he doesn’t want to park half on/half-off). Brian always has tools to load and unload so it just makes more sense for me to be the one to park out front.

Anyway, parking out front means I have to use my house key to get into the house instead of my handy-dandy garage door opener (which I love and miss using). Doesn’t sound like a big deal except that I have 2 identical keys on my key ring. Originally, the house key had an “H” written on it in black sharpie, but most of it has faded except for a tiny corner.

You’d think I would do something about those identical keys so I wouldn’t have to fumble every time I come home, but I haven’t. In fact, as I started looking at my key ring this morning, I realized that I only use 3 keys on there—my car key, my house key and my mail key. In fact, I’m not sure what any of the other keys go to—including the one that’s identical to my house key.

But I’m scared to throw any of them away. What if I all-of-a-sudden need them? You can’t get on the show “Hoarders” by keeping extra keys, can you?

Not to over-spiritualize a key ring, but the irony of it hit me this morning and I realized I carry around a lot of “useless” things. The comment someone made about my ears sticking out in elementary school still makes me not ever want to wear my hair up or in a hat. The fear that I’m dull, and that nobody will want to be my friend when they realize I’m not witty, hangs with me constantly. And the thought that I’m a bad mom and wife and employee because of a standard I think I need to meet goes with me everywhere—just like those useless keys.

The keys aren’t heavy and most of the time I don’t even notice them. Until I’m in a hurry to get in my house and go to the bathroom—that’s when the inconvenience of sorting through them all reminds me they are there and that I should do something about them.

But I haven’t yet.

Do you have any old keys hanging around? What are you afraid to get rid of, but know you should?

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Some Leaders are Just Born

I wish I could say I was the kind of mom who just oozes love for my kids in everything I do, but I’m kinda mean to them. I get frustrated way too easily. I hate homework almost as much as them (although I do understand the need for it). My temper gets the best of me and I'm seldom as patient as I would like to be.

But there are times, when I am aware of how blessed I am and I take time to appreciate the character in my kiddos. I’ve felt that a lot lately with Hope. Believe me, it has not been an easy month with her (I won’t embarrass her here by telling some of the stories on her), but even in the middle of the chaos, I have become even more aware of what an incredible leader she has the potential to be.
She was born a leader. She learned to talk and walk way too early. She is too smart for her own good most days. And to top it off, she’s really funny. She has no problem making friends. In the past week, she was elected to Student Council by her class and Nat’l Elementary Honor Society by her teachers. She also plays soccer, has joined choir at school and is now on the praise team at church (where she was shaking her hips on stage this past Sunday). Not to mention the 80s party she was invited to last weekend.

All these things are great. But they are also scary. Because of the influence she has over people, we spend a lot of time talking about how we lead. And the fact that she is not only responsible for herself, but for others who follow her. And she doesn’t truly grasp the weight of that yet.

It scares me. I feel a lack of control that makes me want to grab her and make her do exactly what I say when I say it. You can imagine how well that would go over. There’s a part of me that knows she is going to have to learn the hard way—from her own mistakes. And I sooo want to protect her from that, but I can’t. And who’s to say that my choices would be any better than hers?

My job requires me to lead people. And I do it gladly—even though it scares me sometimes. But the stakes seem higher when it comes to Hope. Leading your own kids is even scarier. There’s a verse in 2 Chronicles that I love (I may have even blogged about it). It was when God made Solomon king and He told Solomon He would grant him anything he asked. Here’s what Solomon said:

“Give me wisdom and knowledge, that I may lead this people, for who is able to govern this great people of yours?” 2 Chronicles 1:10

I’ve prayed that for the past few years for my small group leaders, but I’ve recently started praying it for my girls, too. Leading a leader is hard, especially when it’s as cute as this:

Shower Gel Bubble Baths

Last night I decided to take a bath. As I went looking for some good-smelling bubble bath (or bath foam, as it’s now called with some brands), the only thing I could come up with was Caroline’s Tinkerbell bubble bath—which was extremely sweet smelling and made my headache even worse when I opened the top to smell it.

As I pondered what to do—was it really worth it to take a bath in JUST water?—I started feeling sad. I can’t remember the last time I took a bath. Before you start to gag, I take a shower pretty much every morning (jammie days excluded), but that’s to get clean. Taking a bath is to relax. There’s some washing that happens in there, but, for me, it’s really just to unwind and soak.

When I was pregnant with Hope, I used to take a bath 5-6 times a week. When I was single, I took one 3-4 times a week. But , as I started my water last night, I couldn’t remember the last time I took a bath. The thing is, I’m a mom and a wife now. My tub doesn’t get cleaned as often as it used to. I work all day, come home and either cook dinner or clean up (or sometimes both), help with homework, engage with my girls and hubby in conversation and when they are finally in bed, I want to just sit. The thought of cleaning out the tub so I can relax is not worth it.

Another thing about taking a bath that is hard for me is that it forces me to do nothing. Now that I have a Kindle and iPhone, I don’t have many paper books anymore, and if I do, they are borrowed from the library or a friend. My iPhone has had a couple of baths and the outcome has not been good, so I keep my electronics—and borrowed items--as far from water as possible. So, a bath—for me—means that I just sit and soak. This is not something I do well. I’m a “do-er” and when I sit, I think about all the things I should be doing, which causes me to stress that I’m not doing them at that very minute and the “relaxation” time turns into wasted time.

But God calls us to be still.

And I don’t think He begrudges us taking care of ourselves, either. I think back to Elijah. In 1 Kings 19, we see some incredible things God does because of Elijah’s faith in asking for them. Then we see God take care of Elijah through ravens. And we see Him speak to Elijah—not in a powerful wind, not in an earthquake, not in a fire, but in a gentle whisper.

This story tells me 2 things: #1—No matter how much I “do” for God (or others), He still wants me to take care of myself. I still need to eat and rest. #2—I can’t hear His whisper if I’m not still. This one really hits me with my hearing loss—I don’t hear whispers very often and in order for me to do so, I have to get rid of all the white noise around me first.

So, last night, as I was soaking in my tub, listening to my Nora Jones Pandora mix, enjoying the scent of my new mango bodywash I used as my bubble bath, I got still. And I don’t think God spoke any great thing to me. What I do know is that I was weary when I got in the tub. When I got out, I was still tired, but renewed. Hard to describe. I got in my jammies, put on my new aloe-infused socks, and climbed into bed with a book about leading people that I haven’t picked up in a few weeks.

As I am writing this morning and reflecting back to last night, I think God did whisper to me. I don’t know that I was still enough to hear it at the time.

I guess I’ll be taking another bath tonight. Maybe I’ll go to the store and get some real bubble bath this time.

Is it hard for you to "be still and know that He is God?" What things to you do to block out the white noise in your life? Do you own any bubble bath?

Saturday, September 17, 2011

Four Little Lunches all in a Row

Most mornings, I get up early and make 4 different lunches for my family. I pretend that it’s a beat-down. I act like I am put-out by having to do it every day. Which is really just silly.

The truth is, I kinda like making their lunches. I’m not the Suzy-Homemaker kind of mom. I don’t have fresh-baked cookies or freshly-scrubbed bathrooms waiting for them when they get home from school and work. And I don’t think I have ever worn an apron.

But, there is one thing I can do that speaks love to them in the same way. I can make sure their lunches are individualized and not just mass-produced. I’m always in a rush in the morning—no matter how early I get up-- so I’ve thought about making them the night before. I don’t like a hard sandwich and don’t want my family to have to eat one either, so I make ‘em fresh in the morning. And each bag is packed with different items.

Bethca can’t guess which lunchbox is whose—I’ll give you a hint—Brian’s is NOT the hot pink leopard print.

Caroline gets a peanut butter or bologna sandwich (with the crusts cut off)—I switch off which kind each day. She would love white bread, but is stuck with the wheat that I buy. She always gets Cheetos or Fritos, string cheese and either fruit or a Little Debbie snack. She LOVES it when I write a note on her napkin and she never gets tired of lemonade Capri-Suns.

Hope gets a peanut butter sandwich (also with the crusts cut off). I’m not sure why neither of my girls like jelly, but they only want peanut butter (and not to much—they don’t like Brian making their sandwiches because he puts a lot of peanut butter on them). Hope isn’t nearly as picky with what kind of chips so she gets Cool Ranch, Cheetos, Fritos, Doritos or Sun chips—whatever I come up with first (since she’s the only one in the house who likes Cool Ranch, I usually give her those first). I always pack fruit, string cheese, a granola bar and sometimes a snack cake. No Capri-Sun for her—she prefers a bottle of water.

Brian is easy—except that he gets icepacks in his lunch to keep his sandwich cold. I just load up some bread with a lot of sandwich meat, throw in a bag of chips (which doesn’t always get eaten), toss in a banana and some baby oranges and he’s good. Once in a while, I’ll put in some trail mix or peanut butter crackers. The biggest challenge with him is making sure he doesn’t forget it on the kitchen countertop.

I always get the hodge-podge. If there are leftovers from dinner (which means that I actually cooked the night before), I take those or I’ll make a sandwich. I always throw in some snacks to replenish the ones in my desk that the girls devour every time they come into my office.

Maybe one of these days, I’ll tell them how much I love to do this for them—especially since the girls are getting older and like to do things themselves. I look at it as my way of serving them—guess I shouldn’t let them continue to believe it’s a hardship on me.

Then again, a mom’s gotta have a few secrets.

Wednesday, September 14, 2011


I love Survivor. Seriously, I L-O-V-E this show. It’s silly. And I would never go on it. But I tune in almost every season to watch. I’ve missed a few, but those are the years we don’t talk about.

We have a rule at our house that we don’t turn on the TV on school nights. Actually, that’s what Brian says the rule is, but the rule is really that we don’t turn on the TV until the girls are in bed. Then he proceeds to watch all the shows that make me crazy and I wait til he goes to bed and then I watch all the shows that would make him crazy. I digress…

I’m breaking that rule tonight. I have it recorded. And I will watch it again with Brian when he gets home later. But I’ve turned on the TV and will watch it with the girls on a school night. And they’re almost as excited as me.

It’s really not a show that is uplifting or one that I should probably let my girls watch. People cuss. They walk around in their underwear. And they are often mean. But then again, most of that happens in real life, too. I’m not justifying it. And I wouldn’t let them watch it if I wasn’t in the room. But I am the bad mom who allows her kids to watch it.

But it also brings up some great conversations between the girls and me. Tonight’s was the fact that you can’t always judge people on their looks. Being pretty doesn’t make everything ok. Another lesson I hope they get from it is the value of teamwork and cheering each other on. The team that usually fails is the one where everyone turns on each other (but not always).

Brian could so make it on the survival part of Survivor—that man could build a shelter, start a fire and catch his dinner all in the first day on his own; but he’d be the first one voted out because he’s too nice. I would fail at the first challenge where I had to run and climb and crawl and dig; but if I could keep up in the challenges, I think I could make it to the merge before I got my torch snuffed. My mouth would get me in trouble and I would refuse to put up with cocky people (and there’s always a couple of those who make it to the end).

Yes, there are so many better things I could do with my time. But for now, Wednesday nights will be spent watching Survivor.

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Deep Thoughts on Marriage by Hope Royal

“When people get married, they shouldn’t be the same size. The lady should be smaller than the man. And she should always look younger."

I started to try to explain that people age differently depending on their lifestyle, where they live... Then I just stopped. Sometimes it's better to just sit quietly while your 9 year old solves all the problems of the world.

Sunday, September 11, 2011


Today is the 10 year anniversary of 9/11. I think everyone can tell you where they were when they got word that terrorists had attacked our country. While I remember it and think about that day often, I haven’t really shared it with my girls. What do you say? How much do you tell them?

Hope heard most of the story at school. And it made me sad that we hadn’t talked more about it at home first. It’s not that I was hiding it from her; I just didn’t want to scare her. As we were talking the other night (after they had a big discussion in class), I told her a little bit about it. I told her how I was 7 months pregnant with her and had just flown the week before. I told her how quiet it was with no planes flying overhead on their way to DFW Airport that week. I told her how sad our whole country was.

Here’s the other part that I didn’t tell her: it shook me to my core.

I was a sales manager and had been on the phone on my way to Ft Worth so I didn’t even know what happened until I got to my client’s. That was when we still thought it was an accident. We went to look at a job and when I dropped my client back off, we saw the footage from the 2nd plane on a little TV in their shop.

While I knew in my head what had happened, I don’t think it set in until I got home and sat next to Brian on the couch and watched all the reports. When I walked in the door of my house, I will never forget the expression on Brian’s face. It was one of total disbelief. As we sat there, watching the reports, we were stunned. I’ll never forget Brian’s words, “What kind of world are we bringing our child into?” Would she grow up in a time of war? Would the freedom that we had experienced be a thing of the past?

Many questions zoomed through my head as I sat glued to the TV for the next few days. So much anger when I saw the videos of Bin Laden laughing about the full tanks of gas causing even more destruction. Sadness as I saw families holding up pictures of their loved ones. Pride as I heard the phrase, “Let’s roll.” And chills as I saw our politicians gather to sing.

9/11 changed our nation. But we sometimes forget. While I value our freedom, I am sad that it takes an epic tragedy like that to bring us together. I pray often for our leaders—whether I agree with them or not. 9/11 reminded me of the importance of that. It still does.

Saturday, September 10, 2011

The Big Day

Everyone has a day they anticipate—one they look forward to. For some kids, it’s the 1st day of school, for others, it’s the last. For a bride, it’s her wedding day. For a salesperson, it’s the day the commission check comes in. For a football player, it’s game day.

For me, this year, it’s kick-off Sunday. I’ve been excited before. I’ve been really nervous before. This day comes every year. It’s the day when we officially start the new fall year. The day we graduate kiddos and unleash new volunteers. The day when we welcome back seasoned volunteers and get to see the refreshed and excited looks in their eyes from having the summer off. The day we get to see if all the planning that has taken place over the past several months really works.

It’s the day we get a “do-over.” When all things are new and the slate is clean.

And it’s exciting. And a bit scary.

But I can’t wait. I find myself almost giddy when I think about it—you know that feeling that takes over your body and makes you want to just do a little dance? I’m praying it doesn’t overcome me in a public place--that might be a little embarrassing.

Excited, thrilled, happy—all adjectives I’ve used to describe my feelings over the past week. All inadequate.

I can hardly stand it! And it begins in less than 24 hours…

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Being Ignored Sucks

Brian has been walking the girls to school every morning. I say that he’s walking them, but I caught him letting them go at the corner today. Hmmm…still not sure how I feel about that, but they were with a group of kids and the school is right there.

I left for work shortly after they did and had to drive past the school on my way. I saw the girls cross at the cross walk. And they saw me. And they ignored me! Seriously—Caroline kept looking back at me and smiling, but would turn her head every time I waved.

Not only did they ignore me, they started walking faster. It took all I had not to roll down all my windows and yell, “YOU-HOO!!!” at the top of my lungs.

But I was a good mom. Guess its good practice for the teenage years.

Still sucks, though!

Monday, September 5, 2011

Taking It for Granted

I wish Blogger had smell-a-blog. I would add the incredible smell outside to this post. Caroline said it best when she remarked, “It smells like snow.” That was my first thought, too, this morning when I went outside.

Although I wouldn’t ever put anything past Texas weather, snow is a long way off, but a 67 degree morning after months of triple digit temps is sooo appreciated and welcomed.

I'm famous for taking things for granted and not appreciating what I have. As I was sweating at a soccer game a few weeks ago and complaining about how hot it was, I remembered wearing layers of clothes and being wrapped up in a blanket at a game in February, complaining about how cold and miserable it was. Maybe that’s God’s way of telling me my girls need to just do indoor sports, or MAYBE, it was His gentle reminder to enjoy the moment and not always look ahead or behind.

It’s certainly easy to do that today, when the weather is gorgeous and I have a whole day ahead of me in which I plan to stay in my jammies. So, maybe I’ll practice today.

And pray for Him to remind me on those days when it seems much harder to live in the moment.

Friday, September 2, 2011

Just Another Ordinary Life

Today is the end of the 2nd week of school. We are starting to get into a rhythm around here. The girls are used to leaving the TV off during the week now (although they still try to see if we’ll let them turn it on every so often), homework is being completed every night (usually with some prodding) and lunches are made every morning (ugh--'nough said there!).

My girls are still too loud most days and make some strange noises—both intentionally and unintentionally. They still throw fits—even though we don’t waver on the consequences. They still tell us “No!” even though they get themselves in trouble by doing so. I still struggle to remember what I had planned for us to eat for dinner tonigh when I went to the grocery store a few days ago.

Pretty ordinary.

Shouldn’t a Christ-follower’s life be exciting? As I was sitting here this morning thinking about the life of Jesus, I kept thinking of all the great miracles He performed and all the people He taught. And what a non-ordinary life He led.

And then I remembered His first 30 years. The years only referred to a couple of times. And I wonder what those days were about for Him? I wonder if He ever felt they were ordinary (read: boring) or if He was thankful for the basic-ness of them in light of what was coming?

Thankfully, I won’t be dying on a cross for everyone’s sins (seriously, you people would be out of luck, cuz I’d chicken out after the 1st lash of the whip, save myself and tell y’all to figure it out on your own). So I don’t have that to look forward to.

But, there’s much to be said for the times when life just seems to be going along with no huge lessons in it for me. To be totally sacrilegious here, I keep thinking of the Karate Kid “waxing on, and waxing off.”

So, maybe the ordinary times are a time of preparation. Maybe they’re intended to be a time of rest. Maybe there’s no purpose at all. BUT, that doesn’t allow me to turn inward in those times.

After all, wasn’t Simon Peter having an ordinary day of fishing when Jesus called him?