See you soon, Kevin. See you soon.

FullSizeRenderThe pastor of my church mentioned Sunday morning about the reality of “survivor’s guilt.”  He told us how he and his wife went through an unexpected emotion after their two year old drowned and was miraculously healed after they had been told there wasn’t hope.  After the overwhelming joy of seeing God breathe life back into their son,  the counter emotion of guilt came that left them asking themselves, “why my child and not theirs?”

This week my family has been on the other side of survivor’s guilt.  Yesterday we lost one of our finest.  After an eight year heroic battle,  millions (no exaggeration) of prayers being sent up by children of God impacted by my cousin Kevin’s life, after being classified as a “survivor” by kicking cancer in the tail more than once. . .the text your heart is never prepared for came, “Kevin is at peace.”

Kevin would have turned 57 this Saturday.  He leaves behind a beautiful wife, who is a cancer survivor herself, four children, three grandchildren, many others like me who had the honor of calling him family, and I would imagine 1000s of other students, players, friends and colleagues that call him Coach or Mr. Weaver from his decades of coaching and teaching.

Kevin was my oldest boy cousin.  He was 17 when I entered the family and for 40 years I have been his “baby cousin.”

My earliest memories of Kevin are sitting in his lap at our “Ma-Ma’s ” house as our family gathered together every holiday to pack out our grandmother’s tiny house in Caddo, Oklahoma.  I can still close my eyes and hear Kevin’s infectious laugh that would echo through Ma-Ma’s house. I was known as the baby cousin that would always tell him “put your shirt on” when he walked around Ma-Ma’s house strutting the handsome temple God had given his spirit to reside in here on earth.

I would say that similar to “survivor’s guilt,” there is an emotion I refer to as “family heritage guilt.”

I count it a privilege to have dear friends whose life stories are very different than mine.    Friends whose parents gave them up for adoption. Friends who experienced childhood physical and emotional abuse.  Friends whose childhoods are marked by unthinkable injustices.  Friends who grew up with a family shackled to sin or shackled to religion.  Friends who weren’t taught the freedom that comes from dying to self and living for Christ.

Often when I hear their childhood stories, I almost don’t want to share mine because I battle feelings of guilt.  “Why did I get to grow up sheltered in not just a immediate family but an extended family, that loved me no matter what, and a family filled with people living out the Gospel of Jesus’s love for the hurting world?”

I’ve watched my family fight life’s battles on their knees.  As the “baby cousin” I have learned through observation the power of  loving people by watching those who have gone before me in life.   Living out the Gospel by loving those the world shuns was normal to me because that’s what I saw happening all around me as a child.   Choosing to forgive those who hurt or disappointed me was just what I did, because it what I had watched my family do.

As with most kids who grow up a bit sheltered as I did, my college years were the time in my life where I grappled with choosing for myself to live out my faith in Jesus.

Faced with the reality of being diagnosed with a physical disability that changed my life’s plans, dealing with injuries that impacted my college basketball career, and having my world rocked by a broken marriage engagement, I remember spending my college holidays at Ma-Ma’s house trying to figure out if I really believed in the same good, loving God that I had watched all my family follow.

The crisis of belief was real one Thanksgiving during these years.  I found myself leading a bible study for my teammates and going through the motions of daily quiet times in the Bible, yet still in the recesses of my heart I wondered if all of this was indeed truth.

Since I was a college basketball player, I was only given about 48 hours to celebrate Thanksgiving with family.

I remember my precious Ma-Ma sitting with me at her huge kitchen table encouraging me with her words of faith.  She had just unexpectedly lost her eye after a minor eye surgery, yet still she was encouraging me to press on.

Amidst the noise of all the second generation of cousins running around that tiny house, I remember sitting with Kevin and his encouraging words to me despite the fact that he was going through an extremely difficult situation in his own life.

I was so touched that when I got back to the dorm the day after Thanksgiving I sent Kevin a card thanking him and encouraging him in his own trial.

A few weeks later, there was a letter in my college mailbox.

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That letter was a life source to me on that day.  Kevin, who was a high school basketball coach at the time, took the time out of his crazy busy day as a teacher and coach to write a letter to encourage me in my struggle.

Last night, I dug through my college box and found that letter.  For the first time in almost two decades, I read through Kevin’s words to me.

I was immediately taken back to the moment I read his words for the first time.

Simple words on paper that truly memorialize the life and legacy of Kevin.  Two pages of hand written words concluded with this…

“But in the valleys, we grow even more if we stay in the Word and allow Christ to carry us.  I think 1996 may be a year I will want to forget, while at the same time a year I have learned more than any other.  I’ll see you at Christmas and will write again soon.  Love, Kevin”

And then my favorite line honestly…because if you know Kevin you know he tends to always leave everyone with a smile on their face.  (remember this is a 38 year old man writing this to his 20 year old girl cousin)

“P.S.  Sorry I don’t have any cute cards like you.”

I will never understand why God allowed me to be a part of a family that includes people like my cousin Kevin.  Where when faced with death and tears, we truly can celebrate a life well lived and rejoice in the hope of an eternity together.

Family heritage guilt can silence me at times.

However, if ever there is a time to shout about the impact of family on my life it is when faced with the reality of death.

I did not think there was a better way to memorialize my cousin Kevin than with words.  Sharing his words to me.  Words were a gift he used to impact the world around him for good.

May we all choose to learn from the life moments we wish we could forget and allow God’s Word to penetrate our hearts as Christ carries us through the valley of the shadow of death.

See you soon, Kevin.  See you soon.

 

And I also wish to pass along Kevin’s desire…for all who can to be a part of the registry at www.bethematch.org.

It is because of stem cell donors, that Kevin’s family was granted more years on earth with him.  A few minutes of your time in signing up to be a donor, could mean granting more years on earth with a loved one for some family somewhere.  My family is forever grateful to the donor’s that granted this to our family.

For those interested in reading more about Kevin’s journey, you can find some of his writings here.

 

To the church that raised me on the last Sunday of me being your Preacher’s Kid–

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I was only six when my parents moved to Marietta where my dad became the pastor of the First Baptist Church. I don’t really have any memories of anyplace else being my home.

One of my earliest childhood memories is pulling up to the church parsonage on Circle Drive and my parents telling us three kids that this was going to be our new home and that we could go in and run through the empty house.

I remember very clearly running through that house and thinking that it seemed like a mansion. I had no idea that that parsonage would be the place that I would call home for the next 15 years and that over the coming years the people who provided that home would become the church family that would raise me and shape me into the woman I am today.

My childhood church family taught me so many things.

The most important thing the church family of my childhood taught me was that the church is not a building.

Church was not a place that my daddy went to work every day. The church that raised me was not a location on Main Street. Church was not confined to a couple of hours on Sunday morning, a service for me to sleep through on Sunday night on my momma’s lap, or Wednesday night full of “fun and fellowship” with my teenage friends in a youth building.

I learned at a young age that the biblical definition of belonging to the church of Jesus Christ is something much more than being in a building three times a week.
The church family that raised me modeled for me that the church is a collection of people who put into action what Jesus taught us were the two greatest commandments of all:

Love the Lord your God with all your heart

And to love your neighbor as yourself.

At the age of 18, I spread my wings and moved off to a small private Christian college in a different state. For the first time, I was faced with the challenge of ‘finding a church home’ on my own. I had no idea that the church I had grown up in was a such a rare treasure until it was too far for me to drive to on a Sunday morning.

During those years I heard many stories from my college friends who like me were pastor’s kids from all over the world. Most of these new college friends had a very different childhood experience growing up in a church than I had known. While I grieved the absence of my church family from home, many of these new college friends were basking in the freedom of not being forced to go to a church building every time the doors were opened.

When I came home on holidays from college, even though I am not a hugger and cringe at being the center of attention, I looked forward to the hugs and smiles and “how’s college” that I would get bombarded with from my hometown church family.

I’ve lived in four different states since I left my hometown at age 18. I’ve lived two decades of life since my childhood years. My life has allowed me to be a part of several different churches in different places.

It is even more clear to me today than it was 22 years ago when I first left the church that raised me, that my childhood church family was a rare gift I had been given. I know that the lessons I learned not just by their words, but by watching them live life as Christ followers have shaped and molded me into the person I am today.

I could fill pages of memories I have of people in my church family who set an example for me as a child and taught me what it means to “be” the church by loving God and loving others.

Here are just of few of the ways my church family shaped me….

My strong desire to love on church staff families is because my church family loved on my family growing up. I regularly take meals, write notes, and give gift cards to church staff during busy seasons of church life because I watched my childhood church family do this for my family.

My childhood church family modeled for me that Christians can disagree lovingly and should be willing to sacrifice personal preferences in order to maintain peace. I honestly didn’t really understand the jokes about deacons and business meetings that I would hear once I was an adult. I had set through many church business meetings in my childhood and I had never heard grown adults cussing in church or throwing punches at each other. The deacons of my childhood were like father figures to me. These men were some of my daddy’s best of friends and advisors.

Now that I myself am becoming one of the older generations, I realize that the reason I think it is normal to sacrifice some of my own traditional preferences for the sake reaching the next generation with the Gospel is because this is what I saw my church family doing for me when I was a child. Long before there was ProPresenter and PowerPoint, my childhood church was cranking out the words to praise songs on the wall from a slide projector each Sunday morning.

My love for going to church camp with my kids and their friends is in part because it brings back a flood of memories of going to camp when I was a child. I now better understand the sacrifices all the adults who went with us made in order to create the weeks of fun I enjoyed as a child and teenager at camp.

I have been married for 17 years. During the first 3 years of my marriage, My husband Joe served on church staff at the church of my childhood. In my first years of learning to be a wife, I remember having days where I could not imagine how in the world people stay married for 10 years, much less 50. And then I would walk into the church building on Sunday morning and see some of the couples in my church family who had persevered in marriage when the days were tough and I would gain hope that maybe Joe and I could make it past year two.

The reason I am passionate about being a voice for the poor and vulnerable and find great fulfillment in my job as the Local Missions director at my current church is because some adults in my childhood church took time off of work to take a group of us teenagers to the inner city to work for a week and that week changed the trajectory of my life path.

I seriously could type out an endless blog post filled with examples like these of how I have been impacted by my childhood church family.

Throughout my adult life I have been asked the question,

“What do you think the secret sauce was in your parent’s parenting? How did they raise three kids in a preacher’s house who grew up to be adults who love and serve the Lord?”

I often snicker if the question comes from someone who does not know my parents. Though my mom and dad were and are incredible parents, they will admit that they made mistakes in their parenting us. Well at least mom will admit it. Of course, dad made many more mistakes than mom did, but those who know daddy know it’s just best if we all let him continue to think he is perfectly awesome at everything he does.

My answer to the question to what my parents did right in their parenting is this:

My parents loved us unconditionally, taught us to love God’s Word, created rules that served as boundaries for our protection, and offered us grace when we made mistakes.

But likely one of the most important things my parents did right was to surround us with a community of believers through our church family.  This church family would echo the things that my parents were teaching us about what it meant to be a Christ follower..The friends I developed within the body of believers in the church of my childhood have been my greatest support during the joys and sorrows of my life.

So dear church family of my childhood. . .

I am only who I am by the grace of God that allowed me to be raised by you.

I will always treasure the memories I have sitting in the pews of that sanctuary with you listening to my daddy preach. However, my greatest memories of you will always be who you were to me outside those walls.

You were the church loving God and loving people. And I am so indebted to you for the love you have given to me over the past 34 years.

I am more than thrilled about what the future holds for Marietta’s First Baptist Church. I truly believe that the best days are ahead. You have a cloud of witnesses surrounding you who have called this place their church home who are cheering you on!

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To my daddy on his last week as a preacher man….

319760_3343107809844_1033195267_3200642_1534257494_nMonday night, I took a deep breath and pushed play on my iPhone. I knew the weight of what I was about to listen to on my phone.

A familiar voice came blasting through the Bluetooth speaker into the sound waves of my kitchen.

“Poppa. I hear Poppa.”

My two and half year old started shouting with excitement from her high chair. Just seconds before she had been throwing a little tantrum as she is not a fan of waiting on me to get her dinner cooked.

In an instant, the sight and sound of her Poppa preaching changed her entire outlook on waiting for the stir fry to finish cooking.

“Three Things Every Christian Can Know for Sure”

That was the title of the sermon I was listening to my daddy preach. His final sermon on a verse by verse study of the book of 1 John, and his final sermon as the pastor of Marietta’s First Baptist Church….the church he has pastored for 34 years of his 45 plus years of being a pastor.

I wish I knew the exact number of my Daddy’s sermons I have listened to over the years. If you count the number that I slept through as a child in my mom’s lap, I’m sure the number is well into the thousands.

I would be lying if I said that I loved sitting through every sermon I heard my daddy preach. But there was a monumental day in my young life when I went from being a “preacher’s kid” having to be at the church every Sunday morning, evening and Wednesday night to being a “child of the Father” who saw my desperate need to be under the teaching of truth.

My search for truth began during my middle school years, as I watched some of my friends start making choices that didn’t line up with what I was being taught about the Bible and Jesus.

I found myself at a sort of crisis of faith. . .going through the motions of my identity as the “good girl” and “preacher’s kid.”

I remember sitting in my room all alone some nights trying to decide for myself if the Bible and Jesus were a big hoax that had deceived my family.

At that point in my life, I really had not faced any true test of my faith. When I describe my childhood, I use words like ‘sheltered’ and ‘glossy’ and ‘fun filled’ and ‘stress-free.’

Why in the world would I want to stray from this life?

I remember the moment that my true crisis of faith began. It happened when I injured my knee my junior year playing basketball. I wrote about that dark time in my life here. Even those closest to me didn’t really know the extent of the crisis in my heart because I was good at going through the motions of being “the good Christian girl.” Coupled with the fact that I lean into my introversion when I am sad or depressed instead of reaching out for help…I sunk deeper into the loneliness of my crisis of faith.

But what I didn’t include in that entry was what happened the Sunday morning following the Friday night that I tore my knee up.

I had spent the better part of Saturday moping around and crying and not wanting to see anyone. I didn’t want to go to church on Sunday morning, because I really hate being the center of attention and …bless Joe’s heart…I come from a long line of women who are not huggers. I knew I would have to endure a lot of hugging when people saw me walk into church on crutches.

And to be honest, at age 17 I knew churchy jargon all too well. I knew I would be forced to say thank you to well intentioned people who would say to me,

“I’m so sorry. I’m praying for you”

“Remember, God works everything out for His good.”

And my least favorite church jargon

“God’s plans are not our plans.”

I’m a child of the 80s so to these things I would scream in my head to myself…
“Gag me with a spoon,” as I smiled and the words, “Thank you.” would be forced out of my mouth and I offer a side hug.

I honestly don’t remember if I made the decision to go to church that morning or if my parent’s even gave me a choice. What I do remember from that day is etched in my memory as a pivotal moment in my teenage years.

I walked on crutches down to sit with my leg propped up on the pew. I pulled my Bible out of my backpack and looked down at the sermon notes inside of the bulletin. And as if indeed all of heaven had orchestrated this moment just for me, I read my daddy’s sermon title.

“When Bad Things Happen to Good People” lessons from the life of Job.

I had heard the story of Job my entire life. I could detail his life to anyone who asked.

But it wasn’t until that moment. In that pew. Listening to my Daddy’s preach that sermon….. that I knew indeed there was a God. I knew for sure that when I had given my life to Jesus as a child that I hadn’t fallen for a hoax.

Like never before, that day I felt the arms of my Heavenly Father wrapped around me in that pew, as I listened to my earthly father preach.

I remember that I avoided eye contact with my daddy during that sermon. Those who know my daddy know he is an emotional man who I have seen cry many more times than I have ever seen my mom cry.

It wasn’t until the end when eye contact could not be avoided. It was as if my Heavenly Father told me to raise my teary eyes up and look at my daddy.

In that single moment, I felt loved as never before. With the arms of my Heavenly Father wrapped around my heart, and the teary eyes of my earthly Father looking straight at me as he closed out his sermon on Job with hope.

It was as if in that sanctuary filled with hundreds of people, that it was just the three of us. Me and my Fathers.

In that moment, as his eyes locked on mine, I think we both knew the significance of that sermon that day. A sermon that had been planned for months, perfectly timed by my Heavenly Father to be preached by my earthly father less than 48 hours after the most disappointing moment in my 17 years.

Now that I am a parent, I understand that moment so much more deeply. I know at some point my own children will know and experience extreme disappointment in life. As a parent I cannot shield them from the bad things that indeed do happen to good people in this world.

You see my daddy’s childhood was very different than mine. He knew his fair share of disappointment throughout his childhood. He never had a earthly father to guide him. He didn’t become a Christ follower until he was 19.

What I understand now as a parent myself is that in that moment of our eyes locking, my daddy knew his limits of being an earthly parent and that my real healing in my heart would have to come from my Heavenly Father. . .just as it did for him when he was a young adult being launched into the world.

I have asked my daddy a few times if he would let me write a biography of his life. He declines. He tells me that no one would want to read it.

I always shake my head in disagreement as he quickly changes the subject.  I’ve learned not to disagree out loud with my daddy….But in my head I scream at him, “Get real, daddy.  A boy who grew up in poverty, without a dad in a small town in Oklahoma, who failed senior English, who never finished seminary….yet has sold well over a million books that he has written about the Bible…people would read it… Believe me.   And boy would that make your momma in heaven proud!”

I have lived a couple decades of life since that moment in that orange pew in the church of my childhood. The years of my life since I was 17 have for sure been filled with many more disappointments. I’ve lived through my share of “bad things happening to good people.”

Last night as I listened to my daddy preach his last sermon from that pulpit, I was filled with all kinds of mixed emotions.

Just as the picture my mom texted me last week caused a thousand memories to flood my head, the sound of my daddy’s voice preaching fills my brain with mountains of childhood stories of being a preacher’s kid.

Someday, I dream of recording all of these on here for my kids to read.

But right now, I am in the throes of parenting a teenager and a preteen and a two year old and there isn’t a lot of “me” time to spend writing childhood memories. I know that in just a few short years, like my daddy did me, I will have to have them ready for a world where they will experience for themselves that bad things indeed do happen to good, good people. . .

So for now I will press on parenting daily putting into practice all these lessons and sermons I learned from my daddy, and maybe one day the stories swirling in my head will make into onto paper.

The past two days I have spent a lot of time reflecting on my dad’s life and his faithfulness to teach and model for his children to lean into God’s Word when life gets hard.

I am reminded of how daddy didn’t use his “growing up without a father” as an excuse.

I can’t help but think when my daddy puts his Bible up on the shelf Sunday and turns in the keys to the pastor’s study that he has used for 34 years, that heaven will be rejoicing and that God will be saying,

“This is my son in whom I am well pleased.”

And to a man who grew up without an earthly father to cheer him on…this is hope for all those who have to live this difficult world without the daily guidance of an earthly father to encourage and support them.

Well done Daddy. Well done. Now hop on that motorcycle and come see us next Sunday morning!  And if you don’t mind…I’ll strap a two year old to the back when you leave and you can return her when she gets over this tantrum stage.  Together you could do what you two do best…travel the world making people smile.

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To my momma on her last week as a preacher’s wife

IMG_0567I’ve become a lazy writer. For the past six months, I have posted pictures to my IG feed and found myself using it as my journal. I started to post a picture today and when I realized how long my “journal” was…I figured it was time to revisit the blog for sharing this tidbit of my heart with you. (I’m not even sure who ‘you’ is…weirdness)

This is an emotional week for the Higle crew. Yesterday, my Dad preached his last sermon from the pulpit where he has preached for the past 34 years. My head is spinning with so many memories and stories that I want to record for my kids about my life as a preacher’s kid.

Someday those stories might make it onto here or into a book…I mean my parent’s own a publishing company…that shouldn’t be that hard right?

This morning as I was doing my Bible reading in 1 Peter, the stories flooding my head were about my mom. . .the life she has lived for the past 40 plus years as a preacher’s wife.

These stories started coming to the forefront of my mind this past week when my mom texted me a picture.

A single photograph can literally cause a thousand memories to come flooding into the brain. The picture was of my mom and some ladies from her church who took my mom to lunch to celebrate her. My mom has been their “pastor’s wife for 34 years.”

My momma and these women used to meet each week to do Bible study. No doubt these ladies prayed me through every up and down since I was 6.

Being a pastor’s wife can be a lonely job. The job requires you to keep people’s words and their stories as treasures…protecting their words as gold.

Pastors’ wives carry a load on their shoulders that many don’t understand. The ladies in that picture have helped my momma carry that load. Not as some do in the world. . .to know the “scoop” of what’s going on in people’s lives or behind the scene at church.

These ladies helped my momma carry the load of being a wife and mom to three headstrong kids and one uber headstrong husband.

As I read the third chapter of 1 Peter this morning, this photograph came to mind and the tears started streaming again.

This will be my momma’s last week to wear the hat of “Preacher’s wife”. . . A hat she has worn for over 40 years. Selfishly, I am more than excited for her to get to take a hat off so she can wear the hat of “Mum” (what we all call her) more.

As I read through these verses in 1 Peter 3 the morning, I went back to many discussions I have had over the past 20 years with people about the “role” of women…in marriage, in the church, in the working world…

I choose to stay out of these conversations these days. It’s such a heated topic. I never was much for debating.

I don’t jump into this boxing ring, not because I don’t think this is a discussion of value…but because I have found most who try to draw me into this “fight” are shocked by my response and they go onto the next person to join their army.

You see I was raised by a woman who lives every day of her life striving to adorn her heart with beauty…all while managing a successful publishing company, raising three kids, ministering to countless college students every Sunday, and wearing the hat of pastor’s wife.

Momma. In a world that pressures me to fight for position and title and a voice … Thank you for teaching me that the strongest and most powerful women adorn their hearts with beauty every day and thus … shatter the world’s definition of powerful and strong.

And if you think about it…isn’t that what Jesus asks of us? Isn’t that what He did for us?

I have no doubt that when my momma puts that “pastor’s wife” hat up on the shelf Sunday afternoon for the last time…that heaven will be applauding and shouting,

“Well done thy good and faithful servant.”

And all of us kids and grandkids will be fighting for who gets “Mum” at their house first the next Sunday.

For any of you who are wanting an idea of something you can do to let my mom know what she means to you (I’ve shared my mom with thousands over the years… no telling how many consider her their second momma and how many thousands of notes she has written to college students over the years), write her a card and mail it to her over the coming weeks. It’s going to be a hard transition, but your cards and stories you share with her will be a light on the emotional days for sure.

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My mom there for support as I finished my master’s degree juggling two toddlers

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Celebrating life while I can….a reflection of my fortieth birthday.

Overwhelmed. Speechless. Grateful.

These are just a few of the words that come to mind when I think of how I spent my fortieth birthday.

As I woke up to kisses from my kiddos. As I enjoyed brunch with my sweet husband. As I scrolled through comments on social media.   As a read texts from people I love. As I sat in a room that night laughing and reminiscing with dear friends and family. And as I sat in bed at the end of the day reading through letters and cards sent from friends and family that have been special to me in my 4 decades of life…

Overwhelmed. Speechless. Grateful. . .

There really are no words to describe the people that I have gotten to call friends and family during my 40 years of life.

When I turned 39, I made a mental bucket list of things I wanted to do before I left my thirties. There were places in my home state that I wanted to see that I had never gone to in all my years of being an “Okie.” There were friends from my past that I hadn’t seen in years that I starting making mental plans of traveling to go see. Friends that I never dreamed I would go an entire ten and surely not twenty years without hugging their necks. My dream bucket list included adventures to go see these special people from my past.

Well. Somehow 365 days passed by quicker than I thought. It is really true what they say…the days are long but the years are short.

I tend to have unrealistic expectations of myself. The bucket list was quite impossible for a mother of three who is a working momma.

I choose not to focus on the places and people who are still not marked off of my bucket list…I can still dream of those adventures, and I am determined that I won’t turn 50 before I mark all of those trips and hugs off that list.

For my “over the hill” birthday, my sweet husband reached out to a girlfriend of mine in town and asked her to help him pull off a scavenger hunt that would end in a girl’s night out. Together, along with the help of my sister and mom, I truly had a 40th birthday to remember.

My husband told me afterwards that he had told those helping him pull off a surprise girl’s night out for me “just something simple.”

Well, we all know the male interpretation of simple and the female definition of simple tend to be quite different.   And…well…if my big sis is involved in the planning, there is never anything simple….

It was not simple. But it was simply perfect.

A scavenger hunt to a couple of my favorite places in town to see faces of some of my sweet family waiting at each place to surprise me.

Cards and gifts to open in the car along the way that were sent by people from my childhood, college, and early adulthood who sent their birthday love.(goodness as I typed that last phrase reality set in that I likely am classified now as ‘midlife’…how is that possible)

So many words.  Sure to be water to my thirsty soul in moments when I begin to believe the lies of the enemy that often try to tell me that I am something other than what the Father above tells me that I am.

A scrapbook from one of my amazing cousins and my aunt. It was creatively documented the people for whom I was named and reminded me of the heritage of faith that I carry with me.

A flower of words that were one of my cousin’s memories of me.

A picture of me on my first birthday and the actual outfit that I wore in the picture.

Pictures drawn by my big kids who were waiting to surprise me at a local park we frequent.

And then what I thought was going to be a quiet, quaint ‘girl’s night out’ dinner with my friend who was my scavenger hunt chauffeur, my mom, and my sweet sisters who had driven up to surprise me…

…..turned into anything but simple, quiet and quaint.

I walked into a room filled with “my people.” Friends that have made Tulsa become “home” over the last 8 years.

On the table was my favorite pound cake made by my mom using my grandmother’s recipe.

Flowers arrangements in the middle of the table sent to me from childhood besties.

Letters and cards from friends of the present and past that hadn’t been able to come.

And purple shirts. Lots of them. I teared up when they told me my college basketball coach had sent them for my family. Sidenote…truth is…Purple was my favorite color in high school, and I thought going to a “purple” college was like a dream come true…until I realized as a collegiate athlete I would soon have a closet full of only purple attire…I seriously have not worn much purple in the past 18 years since graduation. Today as I type this I proudly wear a purple shirt not because of the color or because I am an alumni of the school….but because it symbolizes roommates and teammates who were more like sisters than friends.  The shirt reminds me of coaches and professors who saw me through being diagnosed with a disability that took away my ability to write with a pen and a broken engagement just weeks before the wedding….they were there for me encouraging me with words of wisdom when my parents were five hours away and couldn’t walk me through the daily tears and heartache during these times. For me my time at Ouachita Baptist University was not about the education or a sports team but everything about the amazing people that my life’s path crossed in those years.

Goodness. I have no idea why I have been given the life that I have been given. My family. My friends.

My cup overflows with love from family and friends.

Over the past few weeks I have been thinking about my crazy, impossible 39th year bucket list. I’m still going to chip away at that list.

I decided that I wouldn’t give up on the list, but that there was something else that I wanted to do. Something that is more realistic for my life right now.

After reading all the things that people wrote to me for my 40th birthday, I realized handwritten cards and letters is something that has almost become a faded memory of my childhood years. I teared up thinking that my kids will grow up in a world where a handwritten card is seen as the unusual instead of the norm.

So my birthday wish this year is to spark a revolution.

A revolution to reclaim the lost art of taking 5 to 10 minutes out of my day to handwrite a note to someone.

In an age of social media and quick text messaging, our home and work mailboxes are way too empty of things that matter most. Birthday cards have been replaced with a Facebook comment.

Handwritten letters checking in with friends and family to tell them they have been on our heart and in our prayers have been replaced with the quick text message that often don’t include heartfelt words. These well thought out words have been replaced with fun little dancing bunny eared emojis and abbreivations like ‘lol’. . .which I still always wonder if the person means lots of laughs or lots of love when they type that.

Thank you notes are written in our heads but they never seem to make it on actual cards.

When I lost my ability to write with a writing utensil, my life was forced to change. I had been one who was known to sit down and write several letters a week to friends or family. When it became physically impossible to do this…at the age of 20 I pretty much stopped writing letters and cards. I ceased chronicling my life in handwritten journals.

When I lost the ability to write, I lost a piece of who I had been since I was a young girl whose childhood and teenage years are documented in my own handwriting through the letters I wrote each week to my best friend who moved away in 4th grade.

As I was thinking through committing to writing a letter or card each day this year…my 41st year of life…fear sunk in at first.

“But it’s painful to write.”

“The few sentences I will be able to write may not even be legible to those who I want to read them.”

“Is this another commitment of an overachiever who makes impossible to do lists for herself?”

I started writing this reflection of my birthday celebration the evening of my birthday as I sat in the bed of the hotel room where my mom and my sisters and me were ending the surprise girl’s night out celebration.

I got too tired to finish it up after all the festivities, so I put it aside to finish later. At that time I was not writing out my reflections of the day for anyone else to read. I simply wanted to record the feeling I was having in that moment.

That changed Monday morning. I had just finished up my early morning exercising and I got a call from my mom….early calls aren’t that unusual for us so I really didn’t really think twice when I said ‘Good Morning.’

But this wasn’t one of our usually early morning conversations.

She had called to tell me that my cousin’s husband had suddenly passed away over night.

I collapsed in my chair as I listened to my mom share with me the course of events that had happened in the night. A perfectly healthy 60 year old man being rushed to the hospital and then the unexpected news that no wife or child wants to hear about their husband and father. “He’s gone.”

You see. I had just spent my entire weekend celebrating life. Celebrating my own life and the lives of the people who have journeyed it with me.

One of those people who has been in my life since day one was this cousin. My sweet cousin Traci.

When I got off of the phone, I immediately went to find the card she had sent to be a part of the surprise scavenger hunt. I flipped through the amazing scrapbook she had spent hours creating. It was filled with pictures and words that documented the history of where I got my name…Holly Ann. It was truly one of the gifts that almost sent me into the ugly cry on my birthday scavenger hunt, so I had to put it away to read later when no one was around.

Surreal. Ending a weekend filled with the celebration of life, only to be confronted with the reality of death.

I had planned on finishing up my birthday reflection on the computer Monday morning after I exercised….instead I spent the time thinking about my precious cousin and her family.

As the day passed and I prayed for this sweet family, I knew what I had to do.

I had to follow through with my commitment to write a card every day this year. . .in honor of Traci. . . the cousin who was in high school by the time I came into the world, but always made me feel special by sending me cards and letters in the mail. I still remember the feeling I got as a child when I would find a letter in the mail from cousin Traci. Every card. Every gift I ever received from Traci was filled with such well thought out meaning.

I wasn’t going to tell anyone about my commitment. I really didn’t want “likes” or attention for my new challenge for myself. This commitment was about me.   It was about reclaiming territory of my life that the enemy had stolen from me 20 year ago when I lost the ability to write long handwritten letters and journal entries.

But as I thought through it, I thought….I need accountability.

And “what if there are people who want to join me in this commitment?”

What if instead of brightening the day of 365 people in this world…I had a couple of friends join me and this number turns into over a thousand.

What if together we spark a revolution of taking time each day to tell the people in our lives what they mean to us. . . to let them know that we prayed for them.

In my mind there are words in my heart that I need to write out to childhood friends, college professors, pastor’s wives from my past,

But then there is the coffee shop barista who treats me like family…even though we are quite opposites…she knows exactly what I want before I say it…even if I haven’t been in the store for a while…

And then there is this gal at the pizza shop we frequent. She knows me by name. When I walk in the door she sees me and goes to get my call in order and takes it to the register without me even saying a word. She takes the time to ask about my life and tell me “see you next week Holly.”

Those are the things that we love to watch in shows like Andy Griffith, and we assume are the things of days gone by…especially when you live in a city.  But do they have to be?

Then there are the custodian workers and lunch monitors at my kids schools…and those awesome people that clean the toilets at church….good grief if anyone deserves a thank you note it those people.

So, this is an invitation.

An invitation to hold me accountable. To text me and say “who did you write a note to today Holly?”

An invitation to join me in the commitment. Nothing would bless my heart more than to get pictures on my phone from cards that have been sent to people because you have read this post.

And hey…even if it only turns into one handwritten card or note a week…that’s 52 and still about 5 times as many as I wrote last year.

So here’s to walking each day of my 41st year of life remembering that tomorrow is not promised. Remembering how the impact of all the words written to me to celebrate my birthday made me feel like my life mattered.  And may I use my words to do the same for others.

Stop one of the scavenger hunt included my mom and sister in law. And this. My first birthday outfit. Along with letters and cards from people from my childhood and college years.

Stop one of the scavenger hunt included my mom and sister in law. And this. My first birthday outfit. Along with letters and cards from people from my childhood and college years.

The scrapbook made by my cousin Traci...seriously...it is truly unbelievable.

The scrapbook made by my cousin Traci…seriously…it is truly unbelievable.

I'm named after my two Aunts. . what an honor to carry their names with me everywhere I go.

I’m named after my two Aunts. . what an honor to carry their names with me everywhere I go.

Stop two included these faces. Flowers and cards and pictures drawn. And a sleeping toddler...now that's a birthday gift.

Stop two included these faces. Flowers and cards and pictures drawn. And a sleeping toddler…now that’s a birthday gift.

My big sister was waiting at the final stop...a room filled with people I love waiting to help me celebrate the life I have been given.

My big sister was waiting at the final stop…a room filled with people I love waiting to help me celebrate the life I have been given.

And purple shirts.

And purple shirts.

baby b purple shirt

My struggle to say “Thank you. Why yes, I am an awesome momma.”

Social media overwhelms me.

Maybe it is just because of the weird mix that is my personality…social introvert with the spiritual gift of evangelism who has a tendency to pursue justice at all costs but doesn’t want to hurt the feelings of even my worst enemies.

Goodness. I think they have mental health treatment programs for people with such mixed up psyches as mine. For those of you who have never been able to peg just what is so strange about me…now you know why you couldn’t quite figure me out.

So basically…with my personality social media means I feel overwhelmed that so many people want to be my friend and care about my life at the same time feeling the burden of each person’s eternal destiny.

Because of my personality my heart aches at the injustice I see happening in the lives of all of my ‘friends and followers’ and I want them to know I am by their side fighting for them.  While at the same time, I find myself being somewhat of a social media ‘stalker’. I don’t “like” or comment on things because I am so afraid that I will hurt someone’s feelings by “not liking and commenting” on things…

I almost feel like I should commit myself to a facility after typing all of that out, knowing it is all 100% true.

This week I posted some pictures from my kids first day of school on my InstaGram account. I send pictures from my IG account to my Facebook page because I have many friends and family that are “Facebookers” and I love occasionally hopping on Facebook to see pictures of their sweet families.

Anyone who has been a “Facebooker” knows that you can hop on your page with the good intentions of just browsing through it for a minute or two to catch up on the lives of the loved ones in your life…and two hours later you catch yourself reading an article posted by a friend of a friend of a friend that is about a study on the benefits of owning a cat…did I mention that I am allergic to cats and have a justified hate for them.

Then you look up and dinner is still not planned. The kids are still on the video game that you told them to get off of two hours earlier and your husband will be home in 10 minutes.

Because several years ago I found myself somewhat ‘addicted’ to Facebook, I developed a love/hate relationship with social media. I have inherited an addictive personality and so I can easily become obsessed with almost anything I enjoy.  Social media, exercise, and even my church work can easily turn into something that can control me.

I sat down this morning at my local coffee shop at 6 am on a Saturday morning (another unexplainable thing that makes me a weirdo) to feed my introvert soul. Because if you ever want to have a coffee shop to yourself…try going at 5:30 or 6 on a Saturday morning…Introverts out there…you will thank me….but I am not telling you where I go…that would ruin it for me.

I decided to hop onto Facebook on my laptop. Somewhere along the way I decided that having Facebook on my phone was like a recovering alcoholic carrying a bottle with them everywhere they go, so I deleted it from my phone a long time ago.

So, because I had time and access on my laptop I decided to ‘catch up’ on my Facebook world friends.

As I looked at the names of the couple of hundred people who had liked and commented on a picture I posted on IG and sent over to Facebook land…I found myself in a dilemma about how to respond honestly to people without sounding prideful.

Here’s what I posted…

walmart 1st day of school

First day of school at 5:30 am this is where I find myself. Rushed home last night from a meeting at church to tuck my “babies” in before their first day of school. One of these not so babies (who hasn’t believed in Santa, tooth fairy or other fun make-believe in years)…after a beautiful prayer and pep talk about being a friend to the friendless and a light for Jesus at school said, “you remember when we were little and the backpack fairy used to come on the first day of school and put a surprise in our backpacks…I wonder if she will come tonight. My response, “you are too big for all that!” I truly meant it until they were sound asleep and I started thinking about how time flies. So what were my last words to Joe as a lay my head on my pillow, I’ve got to make a Wal-Mart run in the morning before everyone wakes up because having preteens and a toddler in the same house is a constant reminder that all too soon they won’t ask for such things of their momma…looks like the BackPack fairy has come back to life and likely will be putting treats in suitcases someday when she sends them off to college….now to wipe the tears and go find some “silly childish surprise” for my big “babies” for some silly fairy to get all the credit.

And here is how people responded…

“You’re an awesome mom”

“You’re the best”

“You’re the coolest momma”

As I read through the 30 plus comments like that, I kept thinking…

If these people only knew…

If all the people who liked my pictures or commented on this picture knew the inner struggle I have had with my mothering abilities…

If these people knew how ‘unnatural’ mothering has been to me for most of my 13 years of being called a momma.

If these people knew how social media had added to those struggles.

I am working on writing all of that out in the raw…not sure I will be brave enough to share it to the “world” through social media … introvert struggles…

But I didn’t feel like I could type out a reply on social media without a deeper explanation because it has taken me years to accept compliments on my motherhood.

  • To believe that the good things that others said about me was actually true
  • To simply say “Thank you! Why yes I am an AWESOME and GREAT momma”

My motherhood is a living example of the truth of 2 Corinthians 12:9-10

But He said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me. 10 That is why, for Christ’s sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong.

Indeed in my weakness, Christ has made me strong so that only He can get the glory.

Because of the power living inside of me through the Holy Spirit, I can now let these words roll off my tongue without battling back thoughts of guilt and shame accusing me of being a liar because I get motherhood wrong almost as much as I get it right.

So to all those who gave me compliments I can say and I now believe it…

“Thank you. You are right. I am a good momma. In fact, at times, I am an awesome momma.”

But, what I have come to know more and more as my kids have grown and have a voice of their own in our home…it really doesn’t matter too much to me what my social media friends think about my motherhood.  You guys only see the ‘dos’ of my motherhood.  The parties I throw or the costumes I make or the places I take my kids.

But there are only five opinions that are the true judges of my motherhood: three kiddos, one man here on earth, and one Heavenly father whose comments and “likes” matter the most to me.  The opinions of these five matter most to me because they are the ones who see the true “who I am” behind the “what I do.”

I could get an A+ in the “what I do” in motherhood but still fail in the “who I am” as I mother.

And praise Jesus…His grace defines who I am and the mercies of my Heavenly Father are new every morning.

If I kept a tally…I probably fail at being and doing each day almost as much as I get it right.

So this morning,  as I am getting ready to leave this coffee shop that has gotten way too crowded for my introvert enjoyment….I declare by the mercies of the Father and the grace of my sweet, sweet Jesus….

“Why yes indeed I am a great momma.”

Now…to go put this to the test in the presence of the 5 who get to be my judges.

First day of Kindergarten and 2nd grade

First day of Kindergarten and 2nd grade

1st day of 5th grade and 7th grade

1st day of 5th grade and 7th grade

1st day of school 2010...still trying to find myself in the web of motherhood

1st day of school 2010…still trying to find myself in the web of the “whats” and “whos” motherhood

1st day of school 2015 when I can confidently say

1st day of school 2015 when I can confidently say “I am a great momma”

Make my feet beautiful …

“How beautiful on the mountains are the feet of the messenger who brings good news, the good news of peace and salvation, the news that the God of Israel reigns! (‭Isaiah‬ ‭52‬:‭7‬ NLT).”

I’ve received many compliments in my life but never have any been about my feet. Size 11 and a half, 2nd toe longer than the big one. Cracked toenails. I always feel like I need to apologize when I go for a pedicure or to at least let them know I understand that they are not miracle workers…

I just hugged and kissed my three kids for the last time until July. I’ve been holding the emotion of it all in until I just sat down and found this picture on my phone.

IMG_4567Somehow in the craziness of loading them all up in the car to go to Camp Mimi’s I didn’t notice Big sister took a picture of her feet with my phone.

This is one of the things I love most about my oldest daughter. Her creativity in the way she expresses herself.

You see. We went shopping together yesterday. For a few days we had searched 2nd hand stores for a pair of affordable strappy sandals for her. Our search had come up short. I knew she was disappointed but she is very good at brushing off disappointment.

On a whim yesterday, I said, “Hey, let’s go try one more place.” On the way I said a little prayer that we would find her the perfect pair of sandals. She doesn’t ask for much and since we live on a pretty strict budget my heart was broken that we couldn’t find just the right ones.

I can’t really say that I had strong faith that He would provide for a “want” such as a pair of sandals. My perspective on such things is a little different than some simply because of what my life’s work is…working with people who are living in poverty. American Christians are bit spoiled rotten and sometimes we interpret “God supplying all of our needs…” a little differently than is Biblically accurate. But I dare not get on that soapbox for now…

Back to the sandals…

Wouldn’t you know it? We walk into this store and in the first minute there they were. Hanging from an end cap. I swear I saw a halo of light around them and the “Hallelujah” chorus playing in the background.

I stopped in my tracks and thought (because I didn’t dare want my daughter to sense my disbelief) “There is no stinkin’ way that these sandals are her size.” I looked at the tag…they weren’t her size but just to appease her I said,

“Try them on anyway.”

Low and behold the darn things fit her. She loved them and her face beamed as she expressed her excitement with cool confidence that the Lord would “provide.”

Indeed He did provide. But it wasn’t about the sandals at all.

It was so much more. God was indeed supplying a need of my heart.

A need for peace that He sees my momma’s heart that is filled with nervousness about leaving my babies for half a month.

A need for strength as I leave Joe (my rock) for the longest time and farthest distance in our 17 years together.

A need for assurance that I heard His voice and was obedient to follow Him to Malawi to help teach at a couple of conferences for pastors and church leaders.

We paid for the sandals and headed to the car.

“Honey, will you pray for Momma every time you strap those sandals on while I am gone.”

And with that those sandals became about so much more than a momma wanting to provide for a “want” of her daughter.

I am trusting the God of the universe to transform my homely size 11 and half feet into something beautiful over the coming days. It took a pair of silly sandals and a picture of the beautiful feet of a 10 year old with childlike faith to confirm in my heart that He indeed has the power to do such an impossible task.

Lord, make my feet beautiful.  This is my prayer as I go.

My brush with death…a snake tale

I unintentionally caused a stir amongst my social media friends today. Well, to be honest, at first it was unintentional and then I may have stirred the pot a little.

I think I gave McDreamy (whoever that is) a run for his money as top Facebook story today.

I have a brother-in-law who HATES snakes. He is not on Instagram but my sister is. I thought by posting on Instagram an actual picture of the snake that Keith would know I was telling the truth about finding a snake in my laundry pile (because everything on Instagram is true!). . . I know. I know. I put way too much thought into impressing my brother-in-law with my snake catching skills.

Let me start off by saying that the picture, the story, and my decision to leave the house for the rest of the day are 100% true. My heart rate is still coming down from it all.

But after reading about 10 comments on my Facebook, I may have stirred the pot a little by intentionally keeping one tiny fact and picture to myself. I didn’t even send the the “whole truth” picture to Joe.

No lies were ever told, but the full truth of the story has not been revealed until now.

Here’s a picture of the snake I found.

IMG_3900Here’s a picture of the dead snake.

IMG_3904And here’s the picture that reveals how small the snake actually was.

IMG_3903The size of the snake is what makes the story that much more funny.

So, because I told bits and pieces today on social media…I thought I would record it here for all to enjoy and for me to come back to someday when I forget the horrifyingly hilarious details of my morning.

It was back to normal at our house this morning. Baby B had returned late last night from Camp Mimi’s house. Our family had enjoyed a toddler free fun-filled week of ‘just the four of us.’ But we were all so thankful to wake up this morning to the sight and sound of our 17 month old making demands by pointing her finger, slamming her chest with the sign for please, all while letting out demanding grunts that said anything but ‘please.’

The first two hours of the a normal school day around our house are like an impressive round of tag team wrestling.

Together Joe and I successfully got the big kids off to school and him off to work (successful does not mean I know if teeth were brushed or homework was completed…we have lowered the bar of success around our house these days…that’s realistic life with a toddler and preteens).

I shut the door after kissing Joe goodbye and turned with a smile staring at my toddler who at this point was demanding another ‘nana,’ after having already eaten an entire banana.

“No, nana” which resulted in this. . .

11182262_10206089309372954_8162264191462567127_nI do not always have the perspective I had this morning. I took the above picture of my crying toddler and posted this comment on Instagram (more as a reminder to me to remember when I don’t have good perspective about mothering a toddler than it was advice to anyone else).

“Coming off the mountaintop experience of farm life at Camp Mimi’s is a cruel form of detox for a toddler. I thank God everyday that my kids have grandparents that love on them and spoil them. I always dreamed of having memories with the grandparents I never got to know in person. The detox of spoiling is worth it all. Life and relationship with those you love is a priceless treasure to celebrate and detox of spoiling is a very small price to pay.”

I really felt that way in that moment. With a skip in my step and joy in my heart, I put the toddler in the pack and play and turned on Daniel the Tiger (please do not judge) and with the best of attitude went to go start a load of towels that needed to be washed…

Confession, so that you understand that it is a rare occasion when I am joyful about laundry…I have heard people say that they love washing all their children’s clothing…that it reminds them of the blessing that they are and that someday I will miss doing so much laundry…I do not typically have these feelings when I do laundry…I will miss a lot of things about these days of my life but I’m pretty sure all the laundry is not in the top ten of things I will miss…proof that I need my above Instagram post reminder more than anyone…my big kids already know how to do their own laundry and I am counting down the days until Baby B can chip in too! It is a rare day that I go to the laundry room with joy in my heart for all that God has given to me.

Back to the snake story…

I turned on the water to fill my top loading washer, and then bent down to pick up the pile of towels that had collected on the laundry room floor. As I began pushing the bundle of towels into the machine, I noticed something that I couldn’t identify…a string? a belt? My mind knew those things didn’t make sense…but I didn’t give my mind long enough to tell my hand what to do…

I reached down and grabbed the unidentifiable object and yanked it up long enough for it to look me in the eyes.

Before I had time to even compute what I had just seen, I dropped the slithering creature in my hand back into the water and slammed the lid shut and took off running to call Joe…as if he could do something from an hour away.

After three attempts of calling, he finally answered.

He is a mental health therapist and usually when he doesn’t answer I know he is in a session. We have a deal that if I call more than twice that it deems I am in an emergency. Snake in washing machine=EMERGENGY, right ladies?

When he answered the phone, I know he was sure someone was dead. I was panicking and not making sense even to myself.

Do I let it drown? How long can snakes live in water? Will it go down the drain and live? How do I get it out? Do I kill it if I get it out or let it go alive in the yard (that’s my biology major mind talking not my rational self talking)? You don’t believe me do you? Hang on I’m getting off the phone and gonna take a picture so you believe me.” Click.

Then it was as if it was me against the python in the washing machine, and I was not going to let it win. The moment reminded me of the time I took on Cujo in my driveway. (If you haven’t read about my brush with death in the face of Cujo…you might get a giggle out of that blog, too)

Tongs. I need tongs. I ran to the kitchen and grabbed my salad tongs out of the drawer. Definitely a ‘no.’ They aren’t long enough and could I ever eat salad from tongs that touched a snake?

Joe’s tongs for the grill.  They are long and the high heat of the grill will surely sanitize any snake germs (a real thought that went through my head)!!! I raced to that drawer and grabbed the grill tongs and a small tub and ran back to the laundry room.

I lifted the lid with high hopes that I would find a dead snake.

But as I reached the tongs into the water, the snake was more than alive. He was on race for his life. I finally grabbed a hold of the python and quickly threw it into the tub I had in my other hand.

Now what?

As I looked at the tiny snake coiled up in the tub I was holding, I immediately burst into a belly laugh.

With my heart rate at about 150 beats per minute, I was cracking up at how such a tiny creature was creating such a fear in me.

I carried the tub outside trying to decide what to do with it. Should I go buy a terrarium or release him into the yard (irrational thoughts of a former biology teacher) or should I kill him?

Before I did anything else I knew I needed a picture to take for Joe so he would believe my story.

I took several pictures and it was only when I began attaching a picture to the text that I noticed how HUGE and LIFE THREATENING the thing looked in the picture, because there was no object in the picture to give perspective.

Don’t get me wrong…my heart was still racing and my skin was still crawling as I continued to take pictures. The tiny thing was opening its mouth at me and sticking out its tongue and it might as well have been a huge python. . .

There was not really a decision to make. The thing must die!

So I grabbed a flower pot and raised it above my head to increase the chances of killing it with one blow.

I won.

I have taken on Cujo and won…this poor excuse for a snake did not stand a chance.

So I apologize to all the husbands who will now be doing the family laundry because I posted the snake picture on social media.  My husband got to be my hero simply by entering the “snake room” to finish the laundry.

I apologize to my husband and all my social media friends for withholding the perspective picture all day.  I didn’t intend to carry it on this long, but I was gone for the evening and am just getting a chance to write out the story to remember.

And I apologize to Jesus. I wish I got as fired up about my love for you as I do about my HATE for snakes.

Now to figure out where I can sleep tonight that is snake proof.  And how I can get away with never doing laundry again for the rest of my life.

Good night friends…may you all have snake free dreams.

To my sweet Sarah…

Today was a first for me.

 I held the title of wedding coordinator. For some reason, I’m not the person people think of to ask when the event involves dresses and flowers and etiquette. 

 For the past few months, Joe and I have been helping a happy couple plan a ceremony and prepare for marriage. 

This morning I was up early praying for the soon to be Mr. and Mrs. Krull and trying to hold back emotions as the memory reels of the bride began turning in my mind. 

 My mind rewound 12 years to teaching Sarah in Sunday School as a 5th grader in Cape Girardeau. Then my thoughts fast forwarded to 6 years ago when God moved this sweet girl from St Louis to Tulsa just for me I think….to provide the best babysitter in the world for our big kids when we were new to Tulsa. 

 And then my thoughts skipped to just last year to the day I dropped sweet Baby B off for her first day in childcare at the church where I work. I knew I would survive those 6 hours because Ms. Sarah was there to snuggle her in my absence. 

 After being married 15 years, I have the perspective of knowing that this important day will soon be a distant memory for Stuart and Sarah.

 As Joe and I were walking out of the hotel last night to go practice his officiating and my coordinating the wedding, we had a little disagreement (how appropriate huh?) ..one of the countless opportunities we have had in our marriage to live out the vows we made to each other on December 18th, 1999. 

 A childhood memory verse, Philippians 4:8, and a list I made about Joe years ago at the recommendation of my mom popped in my head as we worked through the disagreement.

I jotted down this verse (not an easy task for me if you know me and my physical disability story) in the journal I gave to Sarah today. A journal to pack in her bag so next week when this day is just a memory she can begin her own list….a list of things she loves and admires about Stuart. 

 Words I pray Sarah will return to in the days and years to come. Words of affirmation to speak over her husband as they learn to love each other in their new relationship of being husband and wife. 

 My goodness today was perfect. 

Simply beautiful. 

And as I watched my own handsome groom marry Sarah and Stuart I smirked as I thought about our little disagreement last night…because on my list is the fact that he is so darn sweet and good-looking. 

 Sarah in 15 years I pray that your heart still flutters when you look into your husband’s eyes just like mine did today. May the moments that he drives you crazy be redeemed with thoughts of all the things that you love about him on this your wedding day. 

What an honor to be a part of your special day… 

         

Top three things food and clothing pantries do not want this giving season….

Yesterday, a friend sent me a link to an article. The article was titled “10 Things Food Banks Need and Won’t Ask For.”

Since I lead the food and clothing ministry at my church, my friend was interested to know if the article rang true to me.

It’s giving season.

Next week we will “give thanks” for what we have and then turn around and spend the next few weeks giving away our time to Christmas celebrations and giving away money to retailers.

And what I have come to learn first-hand from my job…this season spurs people to give to charitable organizations. Some of the donations are a blessing. Some…not so much.

In light of my friend’s question, I was reminded how much I have learned about giving in the past 2 years of leading a food and clothing ministry.

I used to use a phrase when I donated. Now the phrase makes me cringe.

“Well, if someone doesn’t have _______________ they will appreciate this even though it is _____________.”

Here’s the truth.

Just because someone doesn’t have a coat, it doesn’t mean that a coat with a zipper broken is a huge blessing to them.

Just because someone doesn’t have socks, doesn’t mean that socks with holes in them would make their heart smile.

And for goodness sakes…just because someone doesn’t have shoes for their child, doesn’t mean that they would be proud to put my son’s dirty, worn out shoes on their son’s feet.

Here’s a few things I have learned in my short two years of running a food and clothing ministry….

Top 3 donations in the “Thanks, but No Thanks” category:

1. Boxes of leftover garage sale quarter items. If it doesn’t sell for a quarter at a yard sale, it likely has no value to a donation center. Do your donation center a favor. Find something else to do with your leftover garage sale 25 cent box besides dropping them off at a donation site.

Each week our sorting team wastes valuable time sorting out items that should have been thrown away by the person who donated it.  Just last night I filled a trash bag full of used kid’s meals toys, dirty shirts, shoes with holes in them, and a half used candle.

Rule of thumb when donating leftover yard sale items: Your trash is likely trash to other people too.

2. Expired food. Rusted cans of food. Thanks but no thanks. Great donation centers want to be proud of the quality of the things they offer to guests. Rule of thumb for donating: If you wouldn’t want to feed it to your family, it is likely not something that donation centers would want to offer as food to their guests.

3. Broken anything. Every week we throw out chipped dishes, broken toys, and appliances that don’t work.

I grew up in a preacher’s home. As a child my parents hosted many ministers from around the world into our home for dinner. There are stories that are almost universal. One is the broken piano story. It seems that in the 70s and 80s people used to drop out of tune or broken pianos off at churches as a ‘donation.’ From a young age, I was taught that broken donations are not a blessing at all. Often they seem more like a curse than a blessing.

99 percent of the time…broken = trash.

I would love for our generation to be the tide that turns the mentality on donating. Let’s all agree to not use donation centers as a place to dump off our junk and feel good about ourselves for “donating.” Let’s be honest. A lot of the time donating our stuff is more about getting it off of our hands than giving it away to someone in need.

How about let’s all do this….

Let’s all stop buying junk that we don’t need or use that ends up in our garage sales that ends up in donation centers . Instead let’s start buying things to give to donation centers.

I know some of you are thinking…”I wish I could. We are on a tight budget and just don’t have money to purchase items to give regularly.”

I get it. I have been there. I know what it feels like for there to be more month than money.

So, let me bring truth to your heart that desires to be generous.

Find a donation center near you. Ask them if there is an item that they run short of often that would be within your weekly or monthly budget.

If you can spare a dollar a month…you can donate something valuable.

If your kids have a piggy bank with only 4 quarters in it…they can donate something of worth to donation centers. And as a mom, I highly recommend you not just have your child give the dollar to the donation center. Use it as a tangible lesson. Take them to a dollar store. Have them buy a bottle of shampoo. Or a toothbrush. Or a bar of soap.

Do this every month. Can you imagine if all of our kids grow up thinking it is normal to buy a bar of soap to donate each week? It will be normal to them. And how refreshing in 20 years to have our adult kids keeping donation center shelves full of USEFUL donations.

The article my friend sent me has some good ideas of what most donation centers would love to get as regular donations from people. . .

So, as the giving season approaches, my heart longs to see our generation give….and give well.

My favorite volunteers this summer.  Watching seeds of compassion begin to bud in their hearts is worth getting cussed out.

My favorite volunteers.  Praying we raise a generation of kids who give.  And give well.

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