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. 

Tuesday, August 28, 2018

The Time I Thought I was Administrative

Years ago--14 to be exact--I applied for a job at a church.

Let me explain something...I NEVER planned to work at a church.  I was not angry toward God or anything, I wasn't against the church, I just didn't see myself in a role like that.

I had volunteered at this particular church for 7 years before applying for a job.  I had been through a few Kids Pastors and several staff and frankly, was a little frustrated by the direction things were going, so we decided to look for a new church.  Instead, as I started having conversations, I ended up on staff--isn't that the best answer--dive into the deep end?

The role I applied and was hired for was an administrative one, working with the Volunteer Director.  In fact, a huge part of why I wanted the job was because of the lady who would be my boss--Bobbi Miller.  Maybe I should be embarrassed to admit this, but when I met with Bobbi the first time, I was actually more drawn to her than to the role itself.  Not only did she have this amazing vision for what Kids ministry could be, she was a mom who had kids a few years older than me.  My girls were 2 and 4 at the time and I was desperate to find someone who could be a mentor to me since I didn't have a mom.

I was hired and even though there were others more qualified, I was given a chance.

One week later, Bobbi moved into the Kids Pastor role so her previous role--my immediate boss--was now open.  Honestly, that kinda rocked my world.  I signed on to work with Bobbi and even though I would still report up to her, it wouldn't necessarily be side by side.

The next big thing is that we completely changed the way we did ministry.  We switched to a "function" model rather than an age-based one.  What this meant on the practical level to me was that I was "losing" leaders to other parts of the ministry. And even though I understood it and believed it was the right thing to do, I was a little worried about how we were going to find people to serve when we already didn't have enough.

And, if that wasn't enough, we decided to give all of our people who had been serving the entire summer off.  I remember sitting at a forum with other large churches in the area and being told what  a mistake that was and that we would regret it when none of them returned.

This was all within the first month.  Flash forward a few months to summer...

It was my favorite!  My job was to communicate back and forth with people who had said they would serve one Sunday that summer (over 600 of them!!!) and place them in a role.  Most of this was done via email, but it's amazing what you learn about people if you go beyond just a "form" reply.  On Sundays, after they checked in to serve, I found myself giddy.  It was SO fun to put faces with names and be able to comment on little details they had told me. 

And I realized--I think for the very 1st time--how much I loved people.  I loved hearing their story, being included in their lives, but most of all, I loved getting to serve them.  I rolled/folded their serving t-shirts and prayed over them.  I helped to set up a cafe and picked fun snacks that I hoped would make them smile.  I learned their kids' and spouses and pets names. 

And through this whole time, we were still interviewing people to be my boss.  As I voiced my fears to Bobbi, I remember her asking me more than once if I wanted the job.

My answer was an emphatic "NO!"  I was not qualified.  There were parts of the role that were unfamiliar to me.  I'm a behind the scenes person.  I'm not a leader.  And the list of reasons why just snowballed. 

Finally, mid-summer, after an amazing experience with a kid at a camp our church was hosting, I plopped in Bobbi's office and asked, "What if I AM interested?"  We talked and prayed and I cried (bet that part's a surprise) and then walked next door into our executive pastor's office.  She told him what was going on (I was still a mess).  I will forever remember his question to me: "This role is hands on with people--and they are messy.  How does that make you feel?"

I wish I could remember my exact response, but it was something along the lines of, "I know.  Messy gets complicated.  But, is there anything better than getting to be on the front row watching God work in them--and if there were even a slight chance that I would get to be involved in some way in that process, how could I resist that? People are SO WORTH the mess!"

And despite the fact that once again I was not qualified for the role, I was hired in place of others who were. And I can honestly say, I have no regrets about ever stepping into that role--or any of the others it morphed into over the next 10 years. 

I can tell you story after story of individuals I got to know and love and serve during that time...

Shannon and Barb who said YES to coaching when we didn't  really know what that role meant and didn't even have teams to coach yet...

Chris who filled out an app to serve the day he turned 12 (the youngest age we allowed students to serve) and continued to serve until he left for college...

Beth who led a team to pray for a non-believer who served alongside them in one of our baby rooms...

Patty who followed me around one Sunday (in heels) to figure out where she wanted to serve and ended up on staff alongside me...

Jennifer who created a team that served breakfast to our leaders every week...

Barry who went beyond being a small group leader to being a resource for the parents--most of whom were single and doing it on their own--of the boys in his group...

Katherine & Savannah who spent Valentines night creating treats for their humongous small group of kids...

Paul & Mike & Trevor & Jared who made our Sandbox room a place where my own kids loved going (not to mention how their air guitar skills progressed)...

Tasha & Aaron who caught the vision of a room for leaders' kids and brought in bingo and prizes...

Christie and Becca who created the very 1st large group experience for our preschoolers...

I could go on and on here for at least another few pages, but this post has been long enough. 

Sometimes God shows us very clearly what our gifts are.  And sometimes, He surprises us and allows us to step into a place that feels uncomfortable at first so that we can fully trust in Him and allow HIM to do the work instead of doing it ourselves. 

This is what happened to me.  I was allowed to serve beside some of the greatest and can't help but laugh when I think about not stepping into the role because I thought I was too administrative...

Is there something God is whispering to you?  Some place He is asking you to push the boundaries?  A boat He's asking you to step out of?  Or into?  If so, it won't always be easy. And you may cry a few tears.  And hit your head against the wall once in a while. 

But it will be worth it.

I promise. 

Tuesday, August 21, 2018

The Pictures Don't Tell the REAL Story of the First Day of School

I like to plan memorable experiences.  I'm a bit (just a itty bitty tad-ha!) sappy and I like to plan scenarios in my head of meaningful interactions. A great first day of school starts with the night before.  Okay, actually, it should have started a few weeks ago, but the night before would still be good, right?

Here's how I would have liked the night before school to go:
  • Our family would sit down to a dinner that I cooked with everybody's favorites--including a yummy dessert.
  • We would have engaging conversation about what they were looking forward to and what they were nervous about.  
  • We would pray for Jesus to shine through the girls as they start a new year.
  • The girls would have their really cute 1st day of school outfits picked out
  • We'd have a quiet night and everybody would be in bed before 10pm
  • The fridge would already be stocked with all the stuff needed to make their lunches
Needless to say, that is NOT how it went.  

First of all, I work until 8pm on Tuesdays and I didn't cook dinner.  I think they picked up Rosas (but I only know they because I saw the container in the trash--I totally forgot to plan anything for them).  I don't even know if they ate together. I did hear that Hope went to give her boyfriend a piece of cheese from our fridge, but there was mold on it.  So there's that.

And then, Hope went to get some school supplies with her boyfriend because she realized she didn't have any paper.  Or pens and pencils.  And, by the way, the only shoes she has are jandles and riding boots.  Because we didn't order them until Monday night...So they won't  be here until Thursday..  Two days after school starts.  But hey, I did buy lunchboxes a few weeks ago and Mimi bought new backpacks for both girls. So we are winning in that category.

To add some excitement to the evening, my car decided not to start when I got off work.  So Brian came (did I mention it's a 40 min drive from my house to work??) and we went to get a new battery hoping that was the problem (we had already done this 3 nights before,).  Here's a PSA for you...Walmart at 9:30 the night before school starts is probably not gonna make your bucket list.

We finally arrived home @10:30pm with no car and now 2 batteries.  Brian had to work for another hour and I went through the fridge to make sure none of the other items I had planned on using to make lunches were moldy.  Sadly, the strawberries also decided to become a science experiment.  You might ask, "Why didn't you think of checking this earlier in the week?  I DID!  They weren't moldy then!

At this point, I was too tired to head out to the store, so I made my list and went to bed, praying that our 1st day of school traditions would go well.

I'll bet you know where this is headed, huh?

Contrary to what the pictures show, the first day of school was not full of smiles.

I woke up early to head to the store to replace the moldy cheese and strawberries and pick up an extra treat for their lunches.  I made the batter for the pancakes and decided I wouldn't cook the bacon in the microwave like normal.  I would fry it in a skillet on the stove--with the thought that the smell of bacon would put everyone in a good mood.

Let me back up for a minute.  I'm not the pancake maker in the house.  Caroline makes them from scratch (i.e. no Bisquick).  Brian uses Bisquick, but he makes fluffy, yummy pancakes.  They already cut their eyes at each other when I let them know I would pinch hit and make the pancakes this year since Brian was going out of town, so I knew I was fighting an uphill battle, but it was worth it to me.

Why pancakes, you ask?

Because, I am allowed 4 pics of my girls without complaining each year:  Christmas Eve jammies, Easter, 1st day of school and last day of school.  The 1st day of school pic includes one of them holding a plate with pancakes made in the grade #  they are starting that day.  I have very few things I am consistent on, but this is one of them.  I never took the cute pic of my girls with the same stuffed animal every month their first year.  I never took them to get professional pics on their bdays.  (It was all I could do to manage their yearly well-child visit and even those have been several months late at times).  This is my ONE THING, people!!!

Sooooo, back to the first day of school.  I was told I made the pancakes too early.  And they were flat.  And I don't have the skill with the pancake pen that Brian does so it took several tries to get 1s and 9s to be recognizable as such.  So they posed with the deformed #11 and #9, but neither one ate them.  Honestly, I didn't either.

One child was mad at me because I had asked her not to wear sweat pants on the 1st day, so she was wearing jeans and DID NOT CARE how she looked.  I was then told I drove too slow (because 1-2 miles over the speed limit is tortoise-paced) and that I slammed the brakes too hard.

I was "THAT" parent cheering as I zipped out of the parking lot immediately after they shut the car door (and *might* have locked the doors as fast as I could).  I didn't wait to make sure they got inside.  I got out of there as fast as I could and threw up a prayer for the teachers as I drove away.

So, when you see the pics of my girls smiling and holding their pancakes, just know there is much more going on behind the scenes and just because we took a 1st day of school pic in which said teens are smiling, doesn't mean that was the reality of our morning. 

We are all just a hot mess and one step away from disaster.  Some of us just cover it better than others.

Wednesday, August 1, 2018

These are a few of my Favorite Things

I can easily tell you several things that I don't like at any given time.  It's my super power--I'm gifted that way.

BUT, I also have so many things I love.  Here, in no particular order, are a few of my favorite things:

Willow.  If you are my friend on IG of FB, you already know this as I tend to post a "few" pics of her there.  She is just SUCH a delight.  A friend of mine said that dog was God spelled backward.  I'm telling ya--I've seen God's kindness in so many ways through this little dog.  She brings such joy to our family and I cannot imagine life without her.  She makes me happy.

Connecting People.  I have always said that I have a hard time making/keeping good friends, but I can find other people's best friends for them.  I seriously love when someone mentions they are looking for a person who can do X.  This is truly one of the things I do best and it brings me so much joy--whether its successful or not.

Podcasts. I started these to motivate me on my morning walks (I would only allow myself to listen when I was walking so I would have something to make me put on my tennis shoes and head out the door in this stupid oven we call Texas), but they have become so much more!  I bounce between several that I love, depending on my mood.  I even listen to them in the car every time I'm in there now (sidenote--my car is so old that it doesn't have an aux outlet so I had to buy one of those cassette tape things with a cord attached that I plug into my phone so the sound goes through the speakers--whoever invented this is my new best friend!). 

Little Clayland.  Y'all!  I discovered this because she made a figure for a podcast group I listen to.  I eagerly await her IG post each day so I can see what she's made and the ones where she shows a video just fascinate me.  I love seeing people use their gifts to create!  In fact, I had her make one for me to give as a gift for a special occasion coming up.  I received it this week and can't wait to show it to you--it's literally the best money I have spent this year.  Check her out at or on Insta as littleclayland.  You won't be disappointed!

Free Books.  I post about books more than I read, but I just love talking about books.  And let me tell you, on the first day of the month when I get my email for Kindle First "free" books (technically, I pay a fee for Amazon Prime so I know they aren't free, but it feels like it when I don't get a bill for them) make me giddy!  Last month, they even let me get all the suggested books! 

Sweet Blessings.  I don't even know how I discovered this years ago--if you were the one who told me about it--THANK YOU!!!  Each month, she has a theme and assigns a scripture for each day.  The idea is to write it out and claim it.  Since today is August 1st, I just started a new one--God's promises.  If you don't have anything you are reading right now, I think you should do this with me.  It's just the best! You can find her on FB at Sweet Blessings or her website at  Let me know if you do it!

These are a few of the things making me happy today.  What about you?

Friday, June 15, 2018

Reaching Out

I have a friend.

She's not someone I see very often.  In fact, I've seen her less than 5 times in the last 20 years.

And I have talked to her on the phone about as many times.  Typically we text.

I haven't been a very good friend to her over the years.  I went MIA for a majority of the time after college.

But she showed up at my dad's funeral and has continued to send me random texts in the months since.  There's no rhyme or reason to them, but they always come at a time when I need to know that someone knows that grief doesn't end at a funeral. (Actually, that's probably when the real grief starts.)

I received one text on a Sunday that said she was praying for me because going to church after her dad died was hard for her.  Just that morning, I was telling someone how singing songs about death (which we do a lot of in church) made me sad and relieved at the same time.  Sad because death seems so final, but relieved (maybe even joyful) because Jesus overcame it and the power of that overwhelms me.

Here's what I've learned from my friend:

  • When God brings people to mind, I should let them know.  It doesn't need to be a grand gesture, just a simple text or comment on their IG pic or blog post will often suffice.
  • Never think that my grief/challenges are unique to me.  Someone else around me is going through, has gone through or is about to go through the same thing.
  • God speaks to us through friends as much as He does through the Bible and church.  And if we see them as such, life is so much more fun.
  • Even though we don't deserve it, grace abounds.  I can hold grudges or I can give grace to those who don't live up to my expectations.  
What I'm trying to do is to ask myself every morning, "Who do I need to reach out to?"  It might be a co-worker, a friend or even one of my daughters, but there is always a face that comes to mind.  Sometimes I text.  Sometimes I make it a point to have a conversation.  One time, I just ordered a book for her and had it sent.  Every day it looks different.  

And some days, I fail and am too busy looking inside myself to do more than survive my day.  

But, even if I only reached out to 1 person each week, that would be over 50 for the year.  And if YOU reached out to 1 person per week, that would make over 100.  And if we each invited a friend to do it with us, that's over 400.  And we could go on and on here... 

But it all starts with ME being willing to reach out...

Thursday, June 7, 2018

Consistently Consistent

I don't often allow myself to dream and create a bunch of new year's resolutions, but I love the idea of a Word for the Year.  In fact, the last 2 years, I've created a project for other families to come up with their word and it's been a hit.

But it's harder for me to find one of my own.  The word that typically comes up over and over is not the word I want.  There have been years when I've tried to change it to what I wish it was (like the year I wanted whimsy to be my word) and it's been like trying to make a round peg go into a square hole--it will work, but it wobbles around and just doesn't fit (I mean, seriously...whimsy is not a word I would ever even say, let alone model my life after--no matter how cool it is).

The word that kept coming to mind this year was "CONSISTENT."  Blah.  Such a boring word.  I tried to find others in the thesaurus that would mean the same thing and most of them were just as dull: dependable, uniform, steady, expected...

And I argued that this really wasn't my year to be consistent--I mean it started off with my schedule all out of whack and dealing with my dad's death and the grief that comes over me at inconsistent time.  I changed jobs. I have teenage daughters. Brian's job is feast or famine.  There's really not a lot of consistent things in my life.

But the word won't go away (which is why I'm finally posting about it in June).  It's come to mind even more the last few weeks as I've tried to get into a rhythm of exercise.  I want the excitement of boxing or noticeable weight loss, but those are not really part of my program right now.  Putting one foot in front of the other and walking a mile and a half in the morning is.  Convincing myself to get out of bed when the sun is just peaking out and putting on my tennis shoes instead of curling up with a book is.

And I still don't love it.  The exercise or the word.

But, they are both right.

I'd like to think that one day, both will bring me joy, but I'm not confident in that dream.  It may be one that I see down the road in my rearview mirror. I want to have this great "AH HA!" moment that I can share in my memoir of how everything changed.

But I don't think it works like that for most of us. 

I think it's the simple choices we make every day to do the next right thing.  The choices that change us in small, unnoticeable ways.  The ones we make while we're trying to get to the ones we think will make a drastic difference. 

Thursday, May 17, 2018

Do You Feel Loved?

Heavy title for a blog post, huh? 

I turned 46 yesterday--which I was dreading (and not just because I'm now officially closer to 50 than 40).  This is my first birthday without my dad.  I woke up early and looked through my "on this day" on facebook and he was my most consistent birthday-poster.  The last few years he posted a pic of me that I absolutely hated and kept trying to figure out how to tell him that.  While seeing it yesterday in the memories didn't make me sad that it wouldn't be out there this time, it did make me wish I had him speaking into me again--reading the words he wrote over the years made me cry (I KNOW--that's a shocker since I NEVER cry!  Sheesh!).

My dad was always telling me I didn't give myself enough credit.  He would tell me to stand tall and not feel like I need to apologize all the time.  What's ironic is that I always thought he was critical of me and that I never measured up to what he was hoping I'd be. 

Since his death, I've realized those words I heard were not his--they were mine.  I know now that he truly DID mean it when he told me I was kind and beautiful and loving.  He wasn't just saying it to make me feel better about myself because he was disappointed that I wasn't living up to my potential.

I see this same thing in my daughter.  I see her lack of confidence in the amazing-ness of who she is.  I feel the defensiveness as she is looking for the words I'm not saying or reading into my actions because she feels like I'm disappointed. 

Loving ourselves is hard.  I won't get all new-agey on you, but I do feel like we have done a bit a dis-service by insisting we love others first when we don't even know how to do that.  Jesus told us to "love others as we love ourselves."  It's following that command that has gotten our world into the mess it's in with the hate spewing back and forth.   Not the loving others part--the loving them like we love ourselves.  Most of us don't love ourselves.  We feel shame and fear and grief and disappointment when we look at who we are--not love.  If that's how we "love" others, then that's a problem.

I'm not saying we drop everything and only focus on ourselves--that's tipping the scale in the opposite direction.  I'm not even saying go out and buy yourself a new outfit or get a pedicure (ways I've tried to show myself that I love me).  Simply, what words do you believe-- in your head and  in your heart (because we all know, those 2 are often VERY different)?  Do you truly know how to love others?

Do you love you? 

Because until you do, you won't be able to love others well. 

Wednesday, April 11, 2018

It's the weird things that get me--usually they are small and insignificant. 

I worried that Easter would be hard.  Even though we didn't take any pics of the kids on the stairs like we did most years, I made it through without being incredibly sad all day.  For the first 2 months after my dad died, I would cry almost every Sunday at church during worship.  We sing a lot about death.  And dad's death just feels so final--even though I know it's not.  The thought that Jesus overcame that, and created a way for us to eventually do the same, overwhelms me and makes me experience Him in a totally new and different way. 

Yesterday was the 3 month anniversary of Dad's death.  I made it through the day with minimal tears.  And then I saw a pic on facebook that my Uncle Allen posted of him, my dad and my Uncle Terry. And I lost it.  I took that picture and was in denial that the end was so close as I was snapping it.  I knew my dad wasn't feeling well and even had to be the bad guy for him and tell some family he wasn't up to more people in the house. But, he still looked very alive in that picture and it made me miss him so very much.

And then this morning, I went to get a cup for my orange juice and his old Bugs Bunny cup was on the shelf staring at me.  My Grandma Mary gave it to me many years ago and it mostly just sits in the cabinet.  Today, it made me sob and smile at the same time.  I cried for me and my loss.  I smiled because the cup reminds me of both my dad and Grandma Mary and I know they are together again in heaven. Dad feels no more pain from tumors and Grandma can remember every little thing again.

I still can't seem to form the words to write a post to honor my dad.  It has come easy for me to do this for others, but this one escapes me.  Writing has always been how I process so, even though it's been 3 months, I know I have not processed through all I need to yet.  Maybe I never will.  But I DO hope the words will come eventually so that I can share the depth of love and emotion I have/had for my dad.

Until then, I will continue to be thankful for the tears because they mean that there are good memories there and things to miss.  They mean that my dad left a hole from all the good he did for me and others.  They mean that I realize what I had and didn't take it for granted.

Wednesday, March 28, 2018

I cried...Again

We were driving on the way home from church tonight and my daughter said, "You really need to do Lovepacs in my school."  I started in on making my excuses for why that's just not feasible...Yeah, but I still need to find someone to head up our Aubrey community...And I really don't know anyone in your district yet (my kids just moved there this year)...And while I know there is probably a need, I just don't have time to take it on right now.

You get the drift--I was saying all the things I've said before so that I could pretend that it just isn't possible.

And then, she made me cry.

"Mom, there was this kid talking about his fast food job and how they let him take home the excess food at night.  Then this other kid asked him if it would be possible for him to get some of that tomorrow because his family ran out of money this week and he was trying to figure out how to help feed his younger brother and sister because they didn't have any food."

Y'ALL!!!  This kid is a freshman!  Instead of worrying about zits and girls and parties, he's worrying about food--and not only for himself, but for his siblings.

So, what do we do?  We can't save the world, right?  We can't feed every kid, right?  It's really not my responsibility--it's his parents job, right?

I just can't live with that anymore.  I can't take Lovepacs to this school district...YET...but I can do something.  I went to my pantry and pulled out some of the items we typically put in a Lovepacs box.  And guess what?  I had over half of what I needed.  JUST IN EXCESS IN MY OWN PANTRY!

So, tomorrow, I will be making a phone call to the school counselor and explaining what Lovepacs is and does and asking her if she can make sure this kid gets this bag of food to help tide them over.

And I'll pray.

Because I know the need is bigger than these 3 kids.  And now that I've been hit in the face with it, I can't go on my merry way and pretend I don't know about it.  There's no more burying my head in the sand.

THIS is why your newsfeed is full of me talking about Lovepacs.  I know we can't save the world, but what if we each did a little?  What if we made sure that the kids that lived in our community weren't hungry.  What if the statistic that 1 in 5 kids in the US doesn't have enough food changed to all kids in America went to bed with full tummies tonight?

And here's what I CAN happen.  We had a little dream of feeding 6 kids...and other people starting dreaming and doing with us...and 7 years later,over 4500 kids got fed over spring break.

Wednesday, March 7, 2018

What in the World is She Doing Now???

 I've been pinching myself all week to make sure I'm awake.  Have you ever done that?  Something so stinkin good has happened that I've feel like I'm dreaming.

I began a new job this week.  I know, I know, you are probably thinking, "Again? How many different jobs has she had in the last 18 months?"  And you should.  I know I've probably seemed a little flaky--okay, a lot flaky.  And I've really enjoyed every job I've had.    I've had the opportunity to travel, to serve and to create.  AND, I've gotten to meet and work with some absolutely amazing people.

But THIS job, this new job I started is one that is so much a part of me that its just naturally something I should be doing.  Something that just "fits."

As of this past Monday, I work part-time for Lovepacs.  Can you believe it?  This little dream of mine I had over 6 years ago--that maybe one day we would be big enough to hire someone has come true!!! And I GET TO BE THE ONE TO DO IT!!!

I was scared to tell very many people until it actually happened--just in case they found someone better, but now, I want to yell it at the top of my lungs!  Not only do I get to work for Lovepacs, I GET to coach and serve  and encourage leaders.  I GET to put processes in place to equip them to serve more kids in their community.  I GET to work with people I love dearly.  I GET to make a difference--one kid and one community leader at a time.

I will still keep my other part-time job at The Container Store, answering phones and designing closets--something else I've found that I really like. I'm not as good at it as I wish, but I'm making progress every day and I truly enjoy serving the person I'm talking to in the moment.  Selfishly, I love that I have a tangible finish every day I'm there--that's not typically something I've experienced in most of the jobs I've chosen. A closet may not seem world-changing, but really listening to the customer and designing something that makes their life a little easier means they have more time to focus on other things.  And I can pray that those things they choose to focus on will be world-changing. 

As you may know, this year did not start out great for me.  My dad was always proud of my work with Lovepacs and I've caught myself starting to call him a couple times in the last week to tell him about my new job.  But, he already knows.  And I like to to think that his smile is as big as mine has been this week. 

So, please excuse all the giddy posts that will fill your facebook newsfeed.  And if you're not familiar with Lovepacs, let me know and I'll be happy, happy, happy to fill you in on all that God has done and continues to do through amazing people in the communities all around us. 

P.S.  If you realize I really am dreaming, DON'T WAKE ME UP!!!

P.P.S.  Just a few of the hundreds of pics I have from packing and delivery

Sunday, February 18, 2018

Why Parents of Teenagers NEED a Dog

We all see the posts about the parents who "just love spending time with their child" (cue heart-eyes emoji and shiny, happy pics of them together).  And, at one time or another, we have all been there with at least one of our kids.  But that doesn't change the fact that seeing those posts right after we've taken our kids phone away or been told how crazy we are by our teen or cried because we weren't sure what to say/do to help our child make better choices, doesn't make us feel like a failure as a parent.

I can't fix the voices in your (and my) head, but I can give you some great advice:  GET A DOG!

Yep, a dog--or puppy if you have the energy to deal with potty training again--is the best thing you can do for yourself while parenting a teenager.  Here are a few reasons why:

 A dog is ALWAYS happy to see you.  If you leave the room and come back, they wag their tail.  When you walk in from work, they won't even let you put your bags down before smothering you with kisses and wiggling to get as close to you as possible.  The response you get from your teen: What's for dinner?

Dogs don't roll their eyes or slam their door.  In fact, when they do something wrong, they immediately admit their guilt and assume a submissive position.  Not so much with a teenager.

A dog doesn't require you to get their approval before posting their pics on social media.  (This is why you will eventually have more pics of them than your kids.)  They might give you a sigh when you insist they take a selfie with you--not that I've ever tried that--but they will eventually cooperate with you and give you a new profile pic.

A dog doesn't care if she eats the same thing every day, she's just so stinkin grateful that you fed her.  While teens are fine to eat ramen every time they are in charge of getting their own meal, they are not okay with eating chicken more than one night a week or spaghetti every other week.  (They WILL however, never say anything about how often you eat tacos and will probably always ask for them more than you cook them).

Dogs allow you to pet them and will sit as close as possible to you--maybe even snuggle.  Teenagers will tell you they "just need their space" and head to their room.

Dogs wake up happy EVERY morning.  They don't care how early/late you put them in their kennel.  They don't care if you have coffee made or have a busy day planned.  They are just happy to be alive and, going back to #1, are thrilled to see you.  If you have a teenager, I don't have to describe the horror of waking them in the morning--esp. on a school day when they have early practice. I just got chills up my spine thinking of it.

If your kids are still in the preschool or elementary stage, you will think I'm crazy--why would you want a dog and have one more thing to take care of?  If you are a parent of middle or high schoolers, you will understand FULLY why a dog could actually save your life and remind you that you are a sane human being and not a crazy stalker/ATM machine/weird and very uncool old person.

Oh, and a word of caution.  If your husband consistently tells your dog that she's his favorite daughter in front of your teens, they might get a bit upset...again, not that I know anything about this or have experienced it personally.  

In fact, I don't claim to know any of the things I've said in this post from a personal level.  I, like you, have a lot of friends who tell me things...

Do "your friends" have things they would add to the list "my friends" compiled?

Thursday, January 4, 2018

Life Goes On

My dad is dying of cancer. 

We brought him home from the hospital on Christmas Eve and brought in hospice for his final days.

It stucks. 

Until recently, I didn't tell very many people that he was sick.  We found out last year that Dad had prostate cancer and by the time they caught it, it had already invaded his spine.  Dad insisted he could beat it and could have 5 good years. 

And I believed him. 

My dad is the luckiest person I know and if anyone could kick cancer's booty, it was him.  Have I mentioned he's only 64 and is in great shape--or rather--he was in great shape up until a few months ago?  And that medicines and shots and treatments that were thousands of dollars were given to him for free?  If he set his mind to something, it just always happened.

But that isn't the case this time.  Less than 2 weeks ago, I had to face the fact that he is not going to beat this.  His PSA is over 1000 and the ugly, evil tumors are literally popping up all over his body.

Luckily, the office for one of my jobs was closed for the week and I was able to take off on the only day I was scheduled to work at my other job, so I was able to spend most of my time at my dads.  In fact, my girls had to wait until the day after Christmas to celebrate because I wasn't home (and even then, a few of their presents weren't wrapped and I handed them to them in the bags I brought them home from the store in).  Between all my family, the house was full and I liked sleeping on the couch, knowing I was close to my dad if he or my stepmom needed me.

But then this week rolled around and I had to go back to work.  I walked in on Monday and literally thought I was going to lose it.  I felt incredibly guilty that I was there and not with my dad.  And I resented the fact that my co-workers were laughing and joking and oblivious to the fact that my dad was laying at home in a hospital bed with maybe only hours to live.

But, life does go on. 

Even though part of me doesn't want it to. 

And through all of this, a thought that has circulated in my head is "I have failed so many friends who have gone through losing their dads."  In fact, I didn't even attend the funerals of some because I just didn't think it would matter.   And even those I did attend, I don't think I empathized with them enough or offered them the support that so many have given me the past few weeks.  I didn't text them to tell them I was praying for them or pray for them afterward as often as I could have and should have.  So, Courtney and Stacey and Ali and Tonya and the many others I brushed past when you were in my shoes--I'm sorry.  I didn't realize the depth of what you were feeling.  And even if I had, I don't know that I still would have been able to say anything that would have changed your sadness. That will always be a regret I have.

Grieving sucks almost as much as cancer.  And  grieving someone who is still alive is excruciating.  I find myself wondering what Easter and Christmas and birthdays will be like without him.  And don't even get me started on Father's Day and even Mother's Day since he was both for so many years to me.  And while there is comfort in knowing he will be in heaven and able to eat any kind of pie he wants, it's still just so very hard.

But, life does and will go on.

Wednesday, January 3, 2018

The Gift of New Books

Some girls like jewelry and shoes.  Some like to eat out at trendy, new places.  For me, new books and blank journals make me giddy.

At the start of every new year, I love to sit down and figure out what books I want to read.  I know--it's a nerdy thing, but it truly gets me excited about the new year--which sometimes feels daunting to me.  Especially if the last year didn't end on the high note I wish it had.

One of my favorite things to do is to send someone a book after talking to them.  Again, I know it's a bit nerdy, but books can be so personal.  I never send the same one to everyone--each is specifically chosen for that person.  I have several favorites that I often rotate through, but that's just because they are sooo good that I want to share them.  Every one is one I've read and that made an impact on me.

Last night, I decided to start a wish list on Amazon of some of the books I hope to read this year.  I have a list I carry on my phone, but those are more the books I want to get on my kindle.  I like to read my more inspirational things in a physical book that I can write in and highlight.  I figured the wish list would be a good place to start in separating my lists so they weren't jumbled together. 

This morning I woke up to an Amazon gift card in my inbox from a friend who gets me.  And the card was enough to cover 2 books and leave me a quarter toward my next purchase!!  While I am sooo very excited about the new books, I'm equally as excited about the fact that my friend thought of me and picked out a gift specific to me.

Of course, being me, I went deeper with the simple act of kindness.  It reminded me that in this new year, people need to be noticed for who they are. Not who we want them to be or think they should be.  Giving a gift to someone based on what THEY enjoy makes them feel seen.  And in a world where we can hide behind screens so very easily, that is a felt need.

Who was the last person you talked to?  What type of gift do they need?  It might just be more time with you.  Or help with a small project--or even big project.  It might be more phone calls from you or a coffee date.  It could even just be a card in the mail instead of just a text.

Or, it might be a book.  You decide.