Sunday, May 27, 2012


Today's post is extremely personal to me and aimed at someone who is walking alone right now and who can't admit that others love her and want to help.  This is the only way I know to communicate with her anymore.

I hope this helps.

Get out your kleenex.  You'll need it.
To all the girls out there who don't think they are good enough...

I was you.
I found "the" boy.
I fell.
I thought he fell, too.
I was wrong.

Chewed up.  Spit out.  Left for dead.

I wanted to die.

I felt a fool.
I felt weak.
I felt worthless.
He was my world.

Where was God?  Why didn't He care?  How could He let this happen?

I listened to all the lyrics from all the songs that told me how horrible he was and how worthless love is and how it shouldn't be this way.
Those songs taught me to confuse sex for love and love for pain and anger for feeling.

I bought the world's lies on credit.
And they paid me back month after month after month on what seemed like an unending pay cycle.
Of pain.

I wanted revenge.
I wanted him to know how badly he had hurt me.
I wanted him to suffer the way I was.

Falling hard.
Hitting bottom.
Almost giving up.

I bounced.
And landed squarely on my feet.
Very wobbly.
But still able to move.

It took years.
It took lots of heartbreak.

I had to discover some important truths.

God was there all the time.
I was the one running away from Him.

That boy wasn't all that.
He was a pit stop I tried to make into my home.

I tried to make him more than a human could ever be.
He was my God.
I let him try to heal my hurt.
And he just added to the pain.

What I should have been doing was trying to make MYSELF more.
To learn what made a person like him seem so appealing.
Someone who added hurt.
And suffering.
And heaped on the pain, like coals from a red-hot fire.

Instead, I used him to try to mask the pain and cover up the ugliness I felt inside.
I reasoned "If someone is TELLING me he loves me, even if his actions prove otherwise, then I MUST be worth something."


While I was with him, I never got to the root of MY problems.
I never learned what true love looks like.
And feels like.
And I never learned I am WORTH true love.

If I could grab you up and take you to a very long lunch and teach you anything about what life has taught me, I'd tell you these things, girlfriend...

Some friendships are going to be casualties of life.
How you learn to deal with that reality will be a credit to you.
What you choose to DO with what you learn is even more important.

It is OK to be alone.
It is healthy to learn who you are.
It is good to know your faults and what hurts you and what you can change about yourself to be happier.
And it is really good to know how to admit that to other people so you can be proud to be who God made you to be.

There is no rule that says boyfriends are a must in this life.
But there is a rule that says emotionally healthy relationships can only be that way if two people find each other and are committed to honesty and learning to be healthy together.

As you mature and grow and change there will be plenty of people who will remain static in their lives.
And because you are at a different point than they are, you'll be forced, sometimes against your will, to move on.
That isn't sad.  It's life.
Cherish your memories.
But don't let comfort stop you from moving forward.

Cutting losses early is best.
Leaving after it is too late is a breeding ground for the hardest lessons of all.
But, those lessons CAN and WILL be redeemed, if you choose that path.

Some people are never meant to more than brief reminder of what you shouldn't strive to be in life.
Run like Hell when you realize you are connected to people like that.

Inside of you is a person waiting to bloom.
You are a product of what life has thrown at you so far, but you can choose to either crumble in defeat or stand and fight to victory.
You can overcome ANYTHING you choose to:  insecurity, incest, rape, neglect, drug addiction.  ANYTHING.

But, you are going to need to realize you can't do it alone.
And there isn't another human being on this earth who can do it for you.
You have to decide the task is worthwhile.
And you will need to fall squarely into the arms of God and let Him help.
You can't do it alone.
Or, take it from someone who tried a million times over and failed ever.single.time.

Admit you can't.
Admit you want to.
Admit your faults.
Admit that you need His help.
Admit it all.

And let His love wash over you.
And bolster those places that are weak.
And send you peace as you learn to walk alone into scary new adventures.
And fill you with a feeling of being loved that you will never find from that boy.
Or from your parents.
Or your siblings.
Or even from yourself.
As scary as that may be, when you leave that boy and walk to God, you will be walking into a new life that will make your old life seem pale and lethargic and lifeless.
And you'll wonder why you didn't see it sooner.
Just like me.

So, I'll look forward to the call from you saying "I found Him".
I won't say "I told you so".
Instead I'll say "Welcome home!"

Both clinging to the only one who really mattered at all.
Both shaking our heads in wonder that it took us so long to get there.
Both glad we are in that place.

And, for the first time in our lives together, we'll be there together.

Free from those shackles and the bondage and the self-hatred of knowing we were clinging to a boy who couldn't even remotely heal those dark, sad, lonely places inside.

We'll be looking, instead, at the one true God.
The light of the world.
The hope of creation.
The name above all names.

The One who has healed me and who will be healing you.

And we'll laugh.
And cry.
And sit silently.
And admit pain.
And learn to be content.

It will be good.

You just have to believe.
Find that kernel of truth inside of you that KNOWS leaving is the right thing.


To that far, better place.

Let me know when you need a walking mate.
I'm your gal.

Saturday, May 26, 2012

Swimming Anyone?

"After this (a TV show that is about to end), do you guys want to go swimming?"

"Where?"  (Question coming from the room with French Doors that face our backyard pool)

"Out there."  (No doubt, pointing to the backyard.)

"Why?"  (Me thinking:  Um.  It's something crazy like 93 degrees and it is still May...and we own a pool that needs to be used to be worth the money we're dumping into it.)


Literally.  End.of.conversation.  And everyone is heading to their room to get suited up.

That's what I like about guys.  They get right to the point and don't waste a single word.

Friday, May 25, 2012

Thank You!

"Thank you.  No, thank YOU."  If you are as old as I am, don't you remember watching the British-accented "goofy gophers", Mac and Tosh, who were always on the top of their politeness game?

I'm not sure if it was the charming accent, the fact that they were so darn cute, or that they were the only Looney Tunes characters that weren't into blowing up stuff and killing other characters, but I always liked them. In a sea of meanness, they stood out.

And in a world that does its best to be crude, mean, sarcastic and the like, the phrase "thank you" is a balm for the weary soul.

I learned, years ago from a good friend of mine, to say "thank you" to cashiers after they give me a total for my purchases.  It costs me nothing, doesn't hold up the line, and is a way of extending a little joy and gratitude into an otherwise pretty thankless job.

My friend, after being the person behind the register, thought it was the least she could do for others.  And I, thinking this was a pretty awesome way of being kind, adopted her politeness and have used it ever since.  It is amazing to watch the faces of pretty bored, unhappy, ready-to-be-home employees soften, smile, and otherwise change with a simple, unexpected act of gratitude.

That's what "thank you" does.  It changes people.  It reminds them that they've done a service for you that you appreciate.  For the person on the receiving end, it is a reminder that their work isn't in vain.

I am all in favor of thanking other people.  I write thank you notes at the drop of a hat.  But, I realize I don't thank God as quickly as I thank people.

I'm not sure if it is because the world focuses so much on ingratitude and I've adopted that stance.  Or, because God isn't physically present, that it is easier to forget to thank Him.  Or if I just don't take the time.

But, regardless of where I'm at, when was the last time you thanked God for the daily?  For the food in front of you, the hands that prepared it, the farmer who grew it, the person who transported it, for the rain and sun that made the growth possible?

For the clothing we take for granted, in sizes that compliment our body type, in colors that look good against our skin tone?
For the cars that run on roads that are (mostly) smooth and easy to navigate with GPS systems that don't fail?
For children who don't have to worry about gangs in their neighborhood and criminals breaking down doors after midnight and kidnappers who would sell them to evil?

So many of us are afforded all these things by the grace of God.  Yet, so often, we don't find ourselves in a place of gratitude.  We complain when we can't find the perfect little black dress or our cars aren't the latest model or our GPS isn't updated or our children want a birthday party that isn't in the budget.

I challenge you today to find three things that you are thankful for in three different categories:  family, strangers, and God. When you know what those three things are, take the time to use the words "thank you" with an explanation of WHY you are grateful.  If appropriate, let your kids "accidentally" witness you showing your gratitude.  They do, after all, learn by example.

Like giving, thank you has a boomerang effect:  the more you give, the more you get.

So, start today.  And try to find a kernel of gratitude in your everyday.  Rotate around family members and start thanking them, on a daily basis, for their contributions to life.  Even something as simple as your kids brushing your teeth after being told once will leave an impression!

If you are mega-inspired, I would highly suggest the book "One Thousand Gifts" by Ann Voscamp.  Mrs. Voscamp has an uncanny ability to find thankfulness in the ordinary, the painful, and the downright unfair.

But, regardless, get out there and start your thank you now.  I sincerely doubt you will ever regret it.

Thursday, May 24, 2012


I'll just go ahead and tell you that I've been crying, on and off, for the last 30 minutes or so.

I am having a hard time distinguishing what is causing this, but I think...

~some of it has to do with the post below
~some of it with feeling like I AM personally finishing sixth grade and the weight of the world is off my shoulders come tomorrow
~some of it is that my sweet Goddaughter is awaiting her appointment to determine the cause of her episodes
~a bit of it is that my older Goddaughter is graduating from High School next week and I'm basket-casing right along with her Mom, one of my best friends
~and, possibly the biggest reason:  my baby is going to middle school.

So much going on.  And, in the midst of all of it, I hear the most incredible song on the radio, a song I hadn't heard in something like FOREVER.  That is what I love about God:  He knows exactly what you need, exactly when you need it.  And, clearly, I needed a reminder that He is firmly in control.


If I hadn't been driving, I would have been on my knees, throwing my hands Heavenward, singing as best as I could as the tears streamed down my face.

It doesn't matter where you are, what your condition, what your worries, what your fears, GOD REIGNS.

So, as we count down the hours before our final grammar school chapel with Nickels and we gather around him to bless him with what you see below, God has already prepared a path for my almost-teenage-junior-high son.



God bestows blessings on his people throughout the Bible.  That tells us that God thinks of us in favorable terms, with a mental attitude of love, grace, and mercy.  He has done this for all mankind from the beginning of time, when he so carefully crafted the universe to place us in.  

Even up until today, at this very moment, God provides blessings for us as an expression of His love.  You were a blessing from God to us, as Psalm 127:3 says:  Children are a heritage from the LORD, offspring a reward from him.

Therefore we recognize that you are our son because God had a special reason for placing you in our lives and vice versa.  And, as your parents, we want your life to be blessed by the Lord.  

A blessing is “praise” for someone.  It comes from a mental attitude of love and appreciation for that person.  And, today, we bestow blessings on you, Zachary.

In your short life, you have faced adversity head-on.  And you’ve not only survived it, you’ve thrived after it.  It seems your zest for life can’t be quenched by a few ugly people or comments.

You have a gusto for things you enjoy that is unbeatable.  When you plug into something that makes you happy, you are all in, with nothing held back.

We’ve watched you grow into a young man after God’s heart.  You have a passion for loving the Lord that will do you well as you grow, mature, and learn the hard lessons of life. 

These characteristics are blessings from God that He gave directly to you.  Not everyone can thrive under adverse conditions or find passion in life or become connected to God at a young age.

Our blessing wouldn’t be complete if it didn’t include our hopes for you.  The word “hope” means to desire something with an expectation that it will happen.  Therefore, the things we hope for you are things we believe you can achieve in this life.

Not surprisingly, our hopes for you come straight from the Bible.  You will never go wrong if your hope  is placed in the Lord and His mighty Word!

Psalm 25:21…for integrity and uprightness… May integrity and uprightness protect me, because my hope, LORD, is in you.

Psalm 33:20…for the Lord’s protection and assistance… We wait in hope for the LORD; he is our help and our shield.

Psalm 62:5…for your soul to take comfort in God alone… Yes, my soul, find rest in God; my hope comes from him.

Psalm 71:5…for continued confidence in God…For you have been my hope, Sovereign LORD, my confidence since my youth.

Psalm 119:43…for confidence in the word of God… Never take your word of truth from my mouth, for I have put my hope in your laws.

Proverb 24:14…for wisdom from the Lord… Know also that wisdom is like honey for you: If you find it, there is a future hope for you, and your hope will not be cut off.

Jeremiah 29:11…for trust in God to provide for your life… For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the LORD, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.

Romans 12:12…for keeping your priorities straight… Be joyful in hope, patient in affliction, faithful in prayer.

Romans 15:13…for joy and peace… May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.

Ephesians 1:17-19…for wisdom, revelation, and enlightenment … I keep asking that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the glorious Father, may give you the Spirit of wisdom and revelation, so that you may know him better. I pray that the eyes of your heart may be enlightened in order that you may know the hope to which he has called you, the riches of his glorious inheritance in his holy people, and his incomparably great power for us who believe.

1 Thessalonians 5:8…for the protection of God on you… But since we belong to the day, let us be sober, putting on faith and love as a breastplate, and the hope of salvation as a helmet.

1 Timothy 6:17…for right priorities… Command those who are rich in this present world not to be arrogant nor to put their hope in wealth, which is so uncertain, but to put their hope in God, who richly provides us with everything for our enjoyment.

Hebrews 11:1…for faith… Now faith is confidence in what we hope for and assurance about what we do not see.
1 Peter 3:14-16...for standing up for what is right and good… But even if you should suffer for what is right, you are blessed. “Do not fear their threats; do not be frightened.”  But in your hearts revere Christ as Lord. Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect, keeping a clear conscience, so that those who speak maliciously against your good behavior in Christ may be ashamed of their slander.

Our biggest hope for you is for long after you leave Covenant.  It is for your overall life and is found in Psalm 128:

Blessed are all who fear the Lord,
    who walk in obedience to him.
You will eat the fruit of your labor;
    blessings and prosperity will be yours.
Your wife will be like a fruitful vine
    within your house;
your children will be like olive shoots
    around your table.
Yes, this will be the blessing
    for the man who fears the Lord.
May the Lord bless you from Zion;
    may you see the prosperity of Jerusalem
    all the days of your life.
May you live to see your children’s children—
    peace be on Israel.

We love you, we honor you today and always, and we look forward, with hope, to your future.
Mom and Dad

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

M is for the....

Possible Kleenex alert...

So, it is exam week at Nickels school and he has extra time on his hands.  For some really interesting reason he decided to write a poem about dear old Mom in his spare moments today.

This is what he brought home:

M is for the million things she gave me
O means only that she's growing old 
T is for the tears she has shed to save me
H is for the heart of purest gold
E is for her eyes, with love-light shining
R means right, and she'll always be.

Put them all together, they spell MOTHER, A word that means the world to me.

Love, Nickels

Yes, he is a sweetheart a majority of the time.  And, for those of you who don't know him well, this is what Mike and I see in our oldest:  a kind, loving, affectionate boy who is perceived by the outside world (and by us, sometimes) as slightly immature, massively disorganized, and attention-deficit. 

I realize that the kind of affection oozing from this poem is going to become ultra-rare as the days tick on.  The affection he so readily showered on us in the past will be funneled toward himself or people his own age.  He is about to fall into that black hole known as "the teenage years".

Mike and I are already seeing glimpses of the ugliness to come.  We smell it, too.

As we understand it, life with our soon-to-be-teenager will only get worse before it gets better.  And, sometime in his twenties, he will wake up and pronounce "Mom?  Remember that poem I wrote you at the end of my sixth grade year?  I meant it.  And, Dad?  You really DO know something.  You, too, Mom."

But, that's a long.dang.time.away.

We are approaching puberty with our eyes as wide-open as they can get.  We are asking lots of questions of people we trust.  We are praying more than ever before. 

And, because I am already seeing my boy slipping into the no-mans-land of myopia known as puberty, I know that I need to guard this poem with my life.  Some days it will be the only thing that will remind me there is a heart in that body, behind all the yelling and anger and crying that will occur as the hormones overtake all sense of logic.

It's a new phase of child-rearing in our house.  We're seeing the "I want to be alone and independent and make my own decisions" from a child who refuses to shower properly or brush his teeth for more than two seconds.  It is frustrating and exciting and aggravating all in one breath.

And, if I had to write a poem back to him, to express my anxiety about what is to come, I'd have to include the same last line, with a little twist:

"Nickels, come what may, you will always mean the world to me.  Love, Mommy."

Monday, May 21, 2012

What Was She Wearing?

1.  Please/Thank you
2.  I love you
3.  I'm Sorry
4.  Please forgive me
5.  May I?
6.  Amen
7.  You are forgiven
8.  Let me ask my parents
9.  No thank you
10.  Yes/No Ma'am/Sir

Call me old-fashioned.  Call me Southern.  Call me whatever you like. But, I think some of these phrases are sorely missing from our society.  And, I think it is time we brought them back.

I was shocked into writing this when I saw a replay of the American Music Awards on the 6am news.  When Miley Cyrus walked out looking as though she was channeling Sharon Stone from Basic Instinct, less a bra, I thought "What the heck has our society come to?"

I didn't want to see a barely legal girl showing off almost everything God gave her.  That is rude to me and rude to God and rude to her own self.  But, mostly, it shows her lack of maturity in the matter.  And that got me wondering if she had an upbringing that emphasized the basic courtesies.   

Now, this isn't a post about Miley, so let's leave her back on stage wearing next to nothing and focus on the real issue at hand:  the ten phrases above.

These sayings show a maturity on the part of the person speaking, or a degree of respect toward the person spoken to, or deference to a third party.  They demonstrate a good upbringing.  They aren't culturally bound; they are property of people everywhere and should be used liberally.

Over the next few days, I'm going to expound on each of these as the Holy Spirit moves me, starting with please and thank you.

So, if you please, I would thank you to return tomorrow to see what I've written.

Peace out.

Wednesday, May 16, 2012


This played out this afternoon at our house:

I was attempting to get the homework train on the track for Nickels and Hooman.  Much distraction enters our house during the post-school hours, so I am reigning in silly boys who hear my voice as a mosquito they want to shoo away from their head.  Unless, of course, I am offering snackage.

The office phone is ringing, broadcasting the name of the company with which Mike contracts.  Mike isn't answering because he is in Omaha. The Babe finds himself walking through Daddy's office and  inexplicably decides to answer the phone.

And time slows to a crawl as I realize what has just happened.  After all, this is a BUSINESS line.  And it is currently being answered by a kid whose voice sounds like a soprano who just inhaled helium.  Ain't no way that voice is passing for anything near an adult.

TB:  "Hello?"

Older brothers start laughing hysterically.  Of course, they are both in time out for infractions, so this is a no-no.  I am glued to my chair, sizing up this train-wreck-in-the-making, trying to decide how to best get the phone from The Babe while shooting stink-eye at the twin time-outers.

Then it happens again.  TB:  "Hello?"  This time with a bit of questioning, as if to say "Is anyone there?"

Me:  "Aaron.  Bring the phone to me."  He hands it to me and I greet the caller.

Turns out to be the owner of the company.  My heart falls into my butt.  The noise level in the kitchen reaches fever pitch and now three kids are laughing at how bold The Babe acted.

Me:  "Well, Mr. Owner.  What can I say?  He's seven years old and Daddy is in Omaha."

Owner apologizes, through his laughter, for not knowing my honey's whereabouts.  Says he'll send an email and call Mike's cell number. 

You know, something always reaches rock bottom when Mike travels.  Sometimes it is my diet.  Sometimes it is my stress level.  Oftentimes it is my kid's behavior.

The class bully has reared his ugly head almost without fail when Mike is gone.  My kids seem to pick fights with the neighbor kids, too.  Uniform parts go missing, homework levels reach Mt. Everest heights, and things are, generally, kattywampus.

It dawned on me that, when Mike travels, the head of our household is gone.  We are a ship with a missing rudder.  Certainly, the winds sustain us, but we just aren't the same.  I truly believe that is why things always seem to be a bit off.*

Likewise, without the head of our lives, Christ Jesus, being a daily part of the picture, we also find life veering off course.  We make bigger, dumber, more lethal mistakes when we don't follow Christ.

We exist in a world that is waiting for us to fall into the traps of envy and greed and malice and murder and adultery and all sort of sin.  And, if we refuse to acknowledge God's sovereignty or ignore His word or become so prideful we think we can go it alone, we are to blame.  We can't do life without a solid, reliable rudder.

I'm pretty sure we'll land like a cat in regards to Mike's boss.  I think we'll survive the next day with him gone.  And I know that the absence will make all our hearts fonder as a result.

I just pray that this lesson, this decision to daily choose Christ as my rudder, is one that I will take to heart.

*Interestingly, the same reaction occurs when I leave for a while.  Seems that we are both necessary to this venture of raising kids.  Maybe that's why God gave kids two parents?

Monday, May 14, 2012

Post Mother's Day Encouragement

Yesterday was Mother's Day...the day we celebrated YOU!  You who have given life everything you have to raise your kids and do your best to make another generation productive and generous and, dare I say, happy?

Most of you know my Mom has been gone for three Mother's Days now.  This was the first year I could venture down the card aisle and not be bitter.  In fact, it wasn't until Sunday morning, in the shower getting ready for church, that it really dawned on me that she wasn't here for brunch or a card or a spa gift.  And, yes, there was a little pain in thinking that it sure would be nice to have it the other way, but there was mostly happiness in knowing that we can survive, and even thrive, once our Moms are gone.

I tell you that not to ruin your mascara, but so that you know that you are leaving a legacy.  You won't soon be forgotten.  Your memory won't fade like some old Polaroid.  Your death will be painful for your children and they will miss you.  But they will move forward and cherish the memories and miss you with smiles on their faces.

What you do today is important.  Just like yesterday and the day before that and three years from now will be.  You are building the greatest memories for your children just by being you.

And, do you know how I know that?  Because, as I walked that card aisle to purchase cards this year, I saw row after row of cards that proclaimed "You are the best Mom in the history of the world!"  Not one card.  Not two.  But all of them said this.

At that moment I realized that God created ME (and by proxy, you!) to journey down this path called Motherhood with each of the children He graced us with.  We are the best Moms in the history of the world because HE made us specifically for our children, for this time, for a very specific, important reason:  because we, with all our faults, and angry moments, and frustrations, are EXACTLY who our children needed.  No one else could have fulfilled this role as well as we have!  And, to our kids, we are the best gift God could have ever given them.

We ARE the best Moms in the history of our children's worlds!

Now that all the Mother's Day hoopla has come and gone, remember that each and every day you are special.  You are unique.  You are super-duper, pooper-scooper, important to your kids.  Even when they don't show it, are too young to know it, forget to honor you, or even hurt your feelings, you are still an important cog in this wheel of progress called life, all the days you have life, and even after. 


And don't you EVER, EVER forget that.

XOXO.  MommaJ

Sunday, May 13, 2012


So, the story goes that a preacher "assigned" his congregation the task of taking time during the week to ready Mark, chapter 17.  He explained that, the following week, he was going to preach on liars and reading Mark 17 would be helpful to the members' understanding of what he would be sharing.

On the following Sunday, he asked for a show of hands of those who had completed the assignment.  Nearly every hand in the pews went up.

As he surveyed the audience, he declared "You are the VERY people I want to talk to.  Mark only has 16 chapters."

Have you ever found yourself on the back end of a lie, caught, with no way out?

I think we could all respond affirmatively to that.  As far as I can tell, there has only been one man on earth who couldn't and didn't tell a lie.  And living up to his perfection is not possible.

But, still, we are called to be honest with each other.  We are called, by the Bible, to call out sin.  We are called to be truthful, in the name of LOVE, to help those around us who are off the beaten path.

When we choose not to share what we know, we are being liars.  We are hiding the good news.  We are keeping others from finding Christ.  We are not being truthful about who we are and WHOSE we are.

Now, do I think the church and its members do a GOOD job of calling out sin in love?  Sometimes.  Sometimes not.

Do I think that our world is interfering with us doing our job?  Absolutely!  But, if you expect anything different from the world, you fail to recognize the devil prowling around you, waiting for his chance to pounce.  He wants to interfere as much as humanly possible.

But, do I think we back down from our Biblical values because the world wants to call us bigots or old-fashioned or out-of-touch?

Every one of the disciples turned his back on Christ when Christ needed them the most.  Every one.  And, they did so out of fear for their lives.

And, sadly, that legacy is living on.  That legacy of fear.  And, not fear of death, but fear of what others will think if we stand on the word of God in love.

It seems Christians today are cow-towing to the fear of losing their image.  Fear of ostracization if they speak and live Christian beliefs.

But, fear is not of God.  Fear is an emotion Satan loves to provoke.  He uses it to control us.  To take us captive.

Fear never amounts to anything good.  It feeds on itself and convinces us to stand down instead of stand up.  It produces timidity and not strength.

Now, some will argue that there is healthy fear.  And, I would agree.  It is good to be fearful of jumping off the roof of the house.  But, if you are so fearful that the burning roof collapses underneath you because you are more afraid to jump than burn to death, then fear isn't good.

It's time to take fear under control again in this country.  To stand up for what is right, healthy, and good for the masses.  To understand that progress for the sake of moving isn't always good.  In fact, sometimes it is being lead down a primrose path.

It's time to stand up.  Show your true colors.  And not be concerned about how people will feel if what you believe is Biblically correct and it is administered in the spirit of love.

It is time to spread Christ's message and stop worrying that it may not be popular or understood.  It is not up to you to make people understand;  that is the job of the Holy Spirit, working through you. 

It is time for the church to stand ground and stop trying to be current.  And stop bending to the very loud minority who want to trash everything Christ worked to accomplish here on earth.

If you don't want to stand up for yourself, do it for your children.  Or your grandchildren.  Or your grandchildren's children.  Or your neighbor's kids.

What we sow today, they will reap tomorrow.

I for one want to leave them a crop of love, based in Biblical truths, that will grow for generations to come.

How about you?

Saturday, May 12, 2012

Simple Schedules

I am not sure there is anything in this world I like better than a schedule that suddenly is wide-open.  Blank.  Without assignments.

When our Saturday schedule, thanks to the rain, suddenly dumped off a combination of baseball and soccer games, five in total, I could have hugged God silly.  Really, if that man had graced my front door, I might have stood there all day, smiling like a crazy woman attached to his body, thanking him with my squeezes.

Free time allows for creativity.  For unexpected events.  For bursts of energy.

Sure, we could have slept in until late in the morning, but I wanted to embrace the blank.  Seize the day.  Strangle every last second out of it until dusk approached and I could find myself being extra-thankful for time.  Time unscheduled.

So far I've tried a simply sugar syrup recipe to appease our overnight guest.  Two thumbs up.  I've conned young and old to help me get recycle bins filled and garbage to the curb and bring all things dishes to the kitchen so we could start with a fresh, clean area that I will dirty again as the day goes on.  BUT, thanks to the weather, I'll have the time to clean it before we tuck the kids in. 

I've cleaned up after our Friday afternoon birthday party.  I've showered.  Yes, showered.  I even put on make-up.  I've stopped long enough to thank God for the provision of another twenty-four hours.

Yes, this is a good day.

After writing this, I'll engage in closet cleaning for each of the boys, with each of them helping.  Out with the long-sleeves, in with the pad of paper to note what needs to be purchased for summer. 

I hope our day will end with some family event. 

Maybe we'll finally use our indoor rock-climbing passes?
Or take advantage of 50 cent Redbox weekend?
Or play a long, slow game of Monopoly?

The possibilities are truly endless on a day like today.

And, when this day ends, on the cusp of Mother's Day, I'll be thankful for time well-spent.  Time not on a calendar, but time intentionally gobbled up with good things.  With family.  With recycling things we can no longer use but want to use to bless others.  With cooking and cleaning and the things that make the world go round.

Thank you, Lord, for the gift of time.  May we always use it wisely.

Thursday, May 10, 2012


Dear Babe--
In just a few hours, seven years ago, you decided to make your grand entrance into this world.  Or, better put, I FORCED you out in a show of Herculean effort.

Truly, at 9 pounds, 13 ounces, you were massive.  Those in the room tell a tale of thinking the nurse, who put her forearm between the top of my swollen abdomen and breasts and who bore down on you to "assist", was going to crack one of my ribs.

I distinctly remember thinking, in those moments when the contractions were getting harder and longer and I could tell I was in for the fight of my life to get you here, that I was really, really, really glad you were the last baby I was going to birth.  Truly, you were like landing a 100-lb marlin on a kiddy reel.

We dubbed you "The Gentle Giant" in the delivery room.  You were so big yet so sweet that everyone just fell in love with you instantly.  And that charm has stuck.  To this day, people just love you from the moment they lay eyes on you.

I love watching you dance with abandon.  You just give it everything you have, heart body and soul.  Where your moves come from is still a mystery.  But, no matter the genre, no matter if you've seen someone dance the mamba or the fox trot or moon walk, you find the right groove and amaze us with your gift.  If I could give you one piece of advice in life, it would be to keep on dancing, right through everything the world throws at you.  Dancing is your shelter, your happy place.  Don't ever stop!

I am consistently blown away with your LEGO creations.  How you manage to dig around in that big bin and find just the right parts to create something new is astounding.  Like dancing, this is a gift, this instinct to build and imagine new things.  I don't know where it will lead you in life, but I do know that you have a talent.  And, if the only reason God gave you this ability is to use it to play with your own kids some day, that will be reason enough.  But, I suspect there is a career hidden in that love of all things LEGO.

It is so much fun watching you play with your friends and learn about sharing and enjoying other people's company.  I'm glad you have David and Caden and Vienna and Sarah and Jaimee, among others, who are friends that make your face light up.  I look forward to seeing who life brings your way this year and how you grow and change as you find that perfect, best, forever friend.

I couldn't be prouder of your progress in reading this year.  You have made so many strides that I have simply lost count.  When we go see Dr. Bergman this summer, he is going to be blown away by your progress!  There is no sweeter music to my ears than to hear you read "Hog and Dog" or "No, David" at bedtime.  I know the path has been long and the road seems long, but you are well on your way to being a great reader!  Congratulations!  Your hard work is paying off.

I am so glad for your decision that Jesus is important enough to you that you want Him to live in your heart.  By your questions, I can tell that you are curious about how God works and why things are the way they are.  Keep on asking!  Even Mommy and Daddy, who are many years older than you, are still asking questions and listening for God to answer.  And, now that you are starting to read, the Bible can start to be your answer guide, too!

Thank you for letting me know that you know you are loved.  I'm sorry if it took until you were six for this to really sink into your bones, but I want you to know that you've been loved since the moment we knew you were going to be in our family.  And that is now almost eight years ago!

I couldn't be prouder of you as a person, Babe.  You are an amazing seven year old who is growing into a young man that I am so happy to call my son.

Have a wonderful birthday, sweetheart.

Love, Mommy

Sunday, May 6, 2012

More Beautiful You

Today's post is very direct about weight, body image, and young girls.  I'm issuing a kleenex warning partially because I think this might hit nerves in some people.

Plus, I got a smackdown the last time I FORGOT to issue know who you are and I love you!  And, I'm still sorry...
Most of you know by now that I've been working on getting my body in better shape by losing some extra weight I've been carrying around for a few years.  In case you haven't been following my journey, I update every Wednesday on the right side of this blog page.

I don't know how long I will keep giving you the blow by blow on my weight loss because I don't know how long this downward (slightly upward the last two weeks) journey is going to last.  At this point, I'm a couple of weeks away from my online subscription to Weight Watchers expiring.  So, money is coming due.  And I don't know if I am willing to pony up the dough to keep counting points this way.  We'll see.

But, over Lent, and now post-Lent, I've been hyper-focused on food and weight loss, the scale and the mirror.

Now, mind you, this isn't a BAD thing in and of itself.  After all, changing my eating habits to shed a few pounds isn't criminal.  I'm not starving myself, not anorexic, not bulimic.  The scale is still my friend and the mirror is pretty friendly right now, too. 

All-in-all, this has been a worthwhile endeavor.  It has, though, focused my attention on societal views of body image.  And I've recently realized that my life offers a potpourri of body images to draw information from.

I've been it all:
skinny and fat
toned and flabby
in-shape and out-of-shape

I've seen people's opinion change as my weight moved down the scale.  I went from a girl invisible to a girl suddenly vibrant and seen.  Nothing had changed but my weight.  But, apparently in this world, skinny is better.

I've seen my opinion of other people change when my weight went up.  As I attempted to cocoon within my own fat, I suffered the nasty side effects of becoming hyper-sensitive and leery of people.  I became more critical and worried about what others would think.  It made sense, in my mind, that if people were more accepting of me as a skinny girl then they would become less accepting of me if I was fat.  So, if I wanted people to leave me alone?  I could get fat.

I've been the recipient of one of the meanest comments in the history of my world, made by my Great Grandmother, who was a bitter, sometimes spiteful, unhappy woman by the time I was 12 and her welcome statement to me was "My.  Haven't WE gotten fat?"  And though I've been to the foot of the throne hundreds of times reforgiving my offender when that comment returns to haunt me, I still can't understand how someone could be so cruel.

Over the course of my days, I've learned to disconnect from life and people by gaining weight.  Looking back, I didn't do it purposefully, as in "I'm going to gain some weight so people will leave me alone."  No, it has been more of a subconscious decision to take pleasure in food to try to soothe the pain, instead of turning to people and admitting my hurt.  Or, better yet, turning to God and crying out in my anguish.

During times of intense suffering I've found myself loathing the very food I was shoveling into my mouth with reckless abandon.  But, as with any addiction, the devil knows my buttons, the tender area in me that, once pushed, causes me to forget the pain I am inflicting on myself.   

Food has been my siren;  I'm drawn to it with an inexplicable desire.

And because I've been fat and thin, I've observed that there is, most definitely, a bias against weight in this country.  And, though it is more pronounced against those who are really heavy, there is also a bias against those whose bodies are perfectly trim and those who have a naturally high metabolism. 

I want to be average when it comes to weight and size.  Or, better put, to be a size that seems right to me.  I want to stand out for the good things I've done for others and the witness I've been for Christ, not for what the scale does or doesn't say.
But the world has a very different agenda than mine.

And, when I think about the girls being brought up in our society now, I cringe.  It was tough being overweight and freckle-faced and teacher's pet 35 years ago.  But it has gotten exponentially worse on the girls of this world as the years have marched on.

Yet, there are those who are trying to stem this tide of unrelenting emphasis on beauty, to remind us that we are all beautiful in God's eyes, no matter our size or facial shape, skin color or height.   

No matter what century you grow up in, egos are fragile and people care what others think.  And what people say or don't say matters.

I want society to allow our little girls to be carefree.  I don't want them to have to worry about their weight, be it over norms or under them.  And I want them to grow into women who can't be reduced to a pile of mush by someones insensitivity.

I think maybe it is Nirvana or Heaven or a place called Perfection that I desire for our daughters.  But, since those places don't exist right now, we have to remember that so much of these attitudes start at home, where girls determine how well they are loved by their Daddies, which in terms helps them define how well God loves them.  And, if those relationships are intact, then girls stand a fighting chance against the evil in this world.

I'm not personally raising a girl.  That was God's great wisdom.  He knew I still had a little girl inside who needed to be raised.  He knew my attention had to be on myself, on my issues with body image, to conquer the demons of my past, instead of trying to control the demons of a daughter.

At 45, I am aiming to live the Jonny Diaz lyrics from his song "More Beautiful You"

Lord help us all to realize what is REALLY important in this world.  And to see through the perfect vision of a little girl who has not yet been stained by life.

So turn around you're not too far
To back away be who you are
To change your path go another way
It's not too late you can be saved
If you feel depressed with past regrets
The shameful nights hope to forget
Can disappear they can all be washed away
By the one who's strong can right your wrongs
Can rid your fears dry all your tears
And change the way you look at this big world
He will take your dark distorted view
And with His light He will show you truth
And again you'll see through the eyes of a little girl

Friday, May 4, 2012

Birth of a Business

Somewhere, someone told me that the end of the year, end of the grammar school beginning of logic/rhetoric school, trip was a really great way to teach Nickels a bit of responsibility.  Responsibility in earning his own money to finance the event.

And, being one of those Moms who latches onto an idea and runs full speed with it, I took the challenge personally.  And I suggested we finally do something with that latent notion that I should cook, not just for the fun of it or because it is a handy way to keep from starving to death.

Much to my delight, surprise and pleasure, Nickels signed on with glee.

And, thus was born the concept of "MommaJ and Sons Kinda Catering".

We are kinda caterers because we aren't cooking for the general population.  I didn't think we should advertise as though we are professionals who actually have culinary skills, nor do I want people to think we are trying to pull down 50K a month.

In fact, we don't claim to have much more than common sense and good recipes.  We only aspire to cook for our close friends and family.  And, at this point, only for a cause.

Our first cause, of course, is getting Nickels debt-free going into his sixth grade day trip.  And, since he is going on 13 and we've already put a bug in his ear that used cars and insurance aren't cheap, I imagine there may be more pies and cakes for the offering in the future.

The kids have, in their minds, already put out a shingle with our names and the word "restaurant" behind it.  They aren't that far from where I was at their age, imagining a lunch crowd set up on folding tables, being served grilled cheese sandwiches and tomato soup that my Mom would make.  And, when you add to the equation the fact that my biological Dad was a chef, I don't think any of us fell into dreaming about cooking for others by accident.

Tonight we attempted our first gluten-free version of the family carrot cake.  Nickels chopped carrots, The Babe stirred the eggs when he wasn't dancing to Justin Bieber, and I supervised and put all the ingredients together while we waited for Hooman to arrive home from baseball and for Mike to return from the MAVS game.

I honestly can't imagine any place I'd have rather been, anything I'd have rather been doing, or people I would have enjoyed spending time with more.  It was pure joy.  And I said just that and the boys echoed the sentiment back.

Who knows where this will go.  We'll see where we stand once we fill the orders that have already come in. 

But, in the meantime?  It sure is fun to dream.

Thursday, May 3, 2012

Weekend To Remember

I took a gigantic risk and signed us up for a marriage retreat as a birthday gift for Mike.

Thankfully, it didn't fall flat, like the Valentine's gift of a gym membership I received back in the day.  One I asked for because I clearly needed to lose weight.  But one I clearly didn't receive well, as my fit of tears in the moment could attest.

Yup.  I am no stranger to being on the wrong end of a gift that just missed the mark.

In case you are wondering:  that wasn't Mike's "OOPS".

I am also guessing you sense the concern inherent in my writing.  This could have imploded in my face were it not for the fact that my sweet, darling husband took the gift exactly the way I wanted him to, as a supreme compliment that I think we have a great marriage.  That I wanted to make what was great even greater.  That, after almost 15 years of marriage, I think we can still improve that which is amazing.

It was an entire 48 hours to share as a couple, sans kids, for the first time in quite a while.  And a chance to have adult conversation and meals and dates that didn't involve interruption or coordinating or stress. 

In a word:  bliss. I can't highly enough recommend a Weekend to Remember.

It is a chance to be with like-minded folks who want to be reminded what the Bible says about marriage, not what popular culture thinks.

It is an opportunity to really talk with your spouse about stuff that matters, instead of the "drive-by" talking we do most days about the schedule and picking-up kids and when dinner will be ready.

It is a time to reflect on what is good in your marriage, what can be improved upon, and where you want to go together.

It is a space in time when you feel close to your spouse again, like you did when you were dating and newly married.

It is time to recharge your spiritual and sexual batteries and rediscover what made you a great couple to begin with.

It is a place where you will hear what marriage is designed to be, why individual roles in a union matter, and how God intends marriage to look.

Now that I have your excitement level up, let me get down to brass tacks.  Doing something like this can get pricey pretty fast.  And I am not immune to watching pennies and being frugal.  Pretty quickly I realized it was going to take some creativity to make this work within a budget.  So here's what I did:

*I took advantage of a "2 for 1" deal, where the event fee of $318 reduced to $159.  On occasion, Family Life will run these specials;  look out for them.

*I also got creative with hotel accommodations, getting a free room off a new Hilton Honors credit card and using Mike's travel points with Marriott to cover the other night.  Sure, we didn't stay on campus with the conference, but we were within walking distance one day and five minutes the other and it saved us over $250!  Breakfast both Saturday/Sunday morning was courtesy of the hotels, so that saved another chunk of change.

*I put aside a bit of money from our regular budget to cover the cost of food and incidentals.  Even $15 a month for six months will get you a good chunk toward expenses...if you are having trouble envisioning even finding $15 in your budget, serve pasta with red sauce and forgo a pound of burger to save $5.  Do that three times in one month and you have your cash!

*I took advantage of a Groupon for our date night, so we could go to a movie and have a drink for $10 at Studio Movie Grill (most current offers are now at $6/ticket including drink...still a bargain!)

If you are a reader in Dallas, the next chance for a Weekend to Remember is in Las Colinas on the weekend of October 19th.  If you aren't near Dallas, check the website for other locations across the U.S.

(Hint, hint) There are two rather large celebrations coming up for Moms/Dads in the next several weeks.  Maybe you could each forgo that meal/gift that won't be remembered this time next year and save to improve, reinforce, or even save your marriage?!  Just thinking out loud here....

One last thought:  in our audience last weekend was a couple who had been married 13 days and one who had been married 49 years. 

There is never a better time to invest in your marriage than NOW.

Wednesday, May 2, 2012

It's COMING...

Have you noticed that Mother's Day is upon us again?  That wonderful day of the year where we celebrate all things Mom, Mommy and Momma?  That day of the year that strikes terror into the hearts of men in every walk of life, on every continent on the planet?

Yup.  That event is hurtling toward us in T-minus 12 days.  And, you can bet your bottom dollar, we Mommas are counting. 

And, within just a month of celebrating Mom, we get to frolic in the joy of Father's Day.  A holiday for which most women plan copiously.  One that doesn't strike fear in anyone, except maybe florists, who can't expect squat to come from this day on the calendar.

Now, I'm not going to speak to what a guy wants on Father's Day (s.e.x.) because I am no expert on that portion of the program (more s.e.x. would be even better) but I think I can confidently say guys don't want a new tie (unless it is being used as part of the s.e.x.  And, if it is?  Please keep that to yourself.)

But, right here and now I am going to tell you what your wife, the MOTHER OF YOUR CHILDREN, wants for Mother's Day:  to be left alone.

Yes.  That is right.  She wants time.  And not the kind of time she has alone during the week, while you are at work, so she can do the laundry or go to work or get the house in order.

She wants some down time.  And, without sounding offensive, that may or may not include you and/or the kids.

Now, the most generous and loving Moms I know are treated to breakfast in bed, consisting of a meal prepared by toddlers that contains burned bacon, half-raw pancakes, and fully raw eggs.  The remaining portion of the morning is at church wearing a macaroni necklace the preschool teacher thought was a "GREAT GIFT!".  And the afternoon is spent strolling around the zoo, after eating gourmet at McDonald's.

These are the kind of willing, patient, giving Mothers that we all strive to be.  Generally, we ARE those Moms, 364 days of the year.

But, on Mother's Day?  I'm don't strive to be that Mom.  And, believe it or not, your wife probably doesn't, either.

Now, I'm also not one to spit out the toddler breakfast and pronounce it disgusting.  No, I'll feed it to the dogs after everyone leaves the room.  And, I'll darn sure have a breakfast bar in my bedside table that I'll eat on the down low so my stomach doesn't disturb the sermon during church.

I've done my time wearing my share of macaroni necklaces, too.  Even on off occasions like the Monday of Vacation Church Camp, when I received three of them at the same time and was about laughed off the planet by the fine people in the Taco Bell drive-thru.  Wearing one to church on Mother's Day doesn't phase me in the least.

But, if you try to get all cutesy with me and take me to the zoo, which I clearly outgrew, say, THIRTY YEARS AGO?  That's where I draw my personal line in the sand.

On this day, I want to be left the heck alone, preferably on a deserted island.  With a person who graduated summa cum laude from the Massage Institute of Sweden and has the hands to prove it.

Seriously, I want to do my own thing.  I want someone, who has no agenda but to meet my non-sexual needs, to attend to me.

I want the darn day off from everything that looks, tastes, or smells like "Mommy" work.  And, believe it or not, the zoo IS Mommy work.

So, husbands?  If your wife is like me and you are searching for the perfect gift?  After she has "eaten" breakfast, worn her fashionable necklace, and attended church, take the kids on a very long play date outside the house.  Kiss your wife goodbye, tell her you've left her favorite lunch and dessert in the fridge (which you bought on Saturday!), remind her the bath tub has been drawn, the bed is the perfect place to take a nap, and her favorite movie is awaiting a click on the remote.

Then leave with a smile on your face.

When a few hours have passed and you must come back?  Arrive with the dinner you picked up, feed it to the kids, let them go and kiss her sleepy head, and put them to bed.  Maybe, by then, she'll be rested enough to recognize you and the kids and be pumped she is a Mommy again.

And, who knows?  By that point, she might be relaxed enough to forget it is Mother's Day.  She might even forget it is May.  Heck, she might even be so groggy from her relaxing Mother's Day alone that she would buy into the concept that she slept until June.

If that happens?  She might gladly acknowledge that it is late on Father's Day.  And, because she's a planner and knows exactly the gift you know........

(Seriously, dudes.  TALK TO YOUR WIFE TODAY.  Ask her what she wants on Mother's Day.  It may be as simple as some time alone.  It might be a family activity.  It might be you, on discipline duty from sun-up to bedtime, with the kids.  It may be a clean car.  It might just be an afternoon at home playing board games.

Even if I personally know your wife, I don't know what is best for her on this important day, so ASK.  It's not impersonal to inquire, it's downright practical!  Because once you know what she wants, it is virtually impossible to screw it up...unless you don't follow through.  And, I think you are a smart enough guy to know that that would be the end of Father's Day for, say, the rest of your life?)

Tuesday, May 1, 2012


I forgot I had a blog.  No joking.  It just sort of fell out of my head somewhere in the past few days.

It's probably because April has been a blur.  It has reminded me of the photographic method where one guy is standing still and the rest of life is on high-speed and the people move with long, white lines after them, lines indicating their movement compared to the person standing still.

In April I was, simultaneously, the guy standing still taking it all in and the guy with the streaky line following me.

May is shaping up to be blurry, too.  And I'm not a fan of blurry.  I like to look back and say with confidence "That.  THAT is what we did on that day, in that month, during that period of our lives."

I dislike looking backward and realizing, somewhere, the boys have grown again and I missed it happening.  I wish they had some sort of timer in them, like a Thanksgiving turkey has a red button that pops up, that would indicate "YO.  Something big?  About to happen to this boy."  That would be so stinkin' handy.  Then, I could get the camera ready by checking the batteries and getting it focused and waiting on the timer to pop up and announce the change is upon us.  And, I'd catch it in digital glory.

Lately, it seems every comment I hear is "Look how much ___ has grown" or "I can't believe he is almost seven" or "The season is over in one week".  Where did the sands of time go?  It's like the clock has this escape valve that allows time to silently leak out of our realm, unnoticed until a group of people is standing around, scratching their heads, wondering "How did that month just seem to pass by us so quickly?"

So, if time is doing the same thing in your life, it is time we got together.  Because, before we know it, one of us will be using a walker and trying to understand the conversation of the other, spoken through a new set of dentures.

Get that calendar out.  And call me, OK?  Let's get our social on in May so we can put a line in the sand and be able to say "It was directly AFTER we got together over dinner and drinks that that happened."

And maybe.  Just maybe.  We can slow that clock down by a few moments.