Thursday, April 23, 2015

44 Things I've Learned Along the Way

As I tend to do around milestones, I've been quite reflective this week. Pondering life lessons and future dreams and God winks that have shown me time and again that God is always showing up.

So, on this auspicious occasion of my 44th birthday, I present to you 44 things I've learned along the way.

1. While moving may be hard, it also brings great new opportunities, friends and memories. Make the most of opportunities given to you. You never know how long they will last.

2. While moving across country as a preschooler in your mother's big huge tan car, the Glenn Campbell 8-track leaves an impression. Thus, the song Rhinestone Cowboy will forever remind me of the long stretch of road between California and Rhode Island. Music can mark memories. It's awesome that way.

3. Some grandmas are fun grandmas, while others are more practical. (P.S. when your bubble bath finger paint from one grandma is spilled in the home of the might be a problem).

4. Be the fun one. Or if you are the practical one, take steps out of your comfort zone regularly to make some memories and surprise those around you.

5. Some state school regulations are a collasal waste of time. Like a daily prolonged lesson in speaking English while living on an Army base (with ALL English speakers) in Hawaii. Also relevant to the STARR test in the Lone STARR state.

6. You can learn hard things. Like how to spell your kindergarten teacher's name--Mrs. Fujigama. Or, geometry. Or the capitals of the 50 states. While it may not all be useful, learning hard things proves to yourself that you got what it takes.

7. Haters gonna hate, hate, hate, hate, hate. Shake it off. Shake it off. (WHERE was Taylor Swift when I was teased in grade school?)

8. Some childhood dreams never leave you. So keep chasing them. I may not be a published author and illustrator...but I got this blog. I'm chasing away.

9. Your sister is like a built in best friend. Only maturity and time will prove how right this is. But try to always remember this truth when you are fighting over the red Reebok high tops: When bad things happen and life gets hard, your siblings really do got your back.

10. If you don't have a sibling, then just decide which friend you want to be your "framily."  (Or, even if you do have siblings).  Because family by choice is a most unexpected and wonderful gift in life.

11. Play and use your imagination. A lot. Make time for creativity, even as an adult. 

12. Capture the memories with photos. But not on Polaroid. They won't last and your entire childhood will be lost. And selfies don't count. I mean for real memories--not posed ones. 

(P.S. Purely hypothetically speaking...if you are a thumb sucker way later than you should be, you outta take the dang thing out of your mouth for pictures lest there be photographic evidence of your latent development).

13. Don't hang large creepy paintings of clowns in a child's room. No explanation needed.

14. If you have a chance to pull off a surprise--even a small one--do it. It makes for the best memories for both the surprisor and the surprisee. Say, like giving a sentimental gift. Or showing up unannounced at your aunt and uncle's family camp in Canada.

15. Write letters. By hand. In your handwriting. Even if it's not pretty. Because it will mean so very much to those left behind when you are gone.

16. Never underestimate the power of gaining contact lenses and losing braces and headgear. It makes you feel like a new person.

17. But don't ever buy the lie that your looks determine your value. That's not true. Look to the heart. Just like God does.

18. Don't be a hateful sassy teenager. It reflects poorly on you. And it's no way to treat people. Besides, you never know how long you will have those people in your life.

19. Take time to teach your kids how to show up for their friends when bad things happen. Compassion and kindness are incredibly valuable life skills. And teach them to take a meal with them when they show up. Food is always a good idea.

20. Give. At every opportunity. Just give. Your time. Your talents. Your money. It all belongs to God and you are the merely the steward of it. And the Bible promises that he who refreshes other will himself be refreshed. Besides, you can never outgive God.

21. There is no gold star chart in heaven. God doesn't want our good works or our efforts. He just wants us to know and love him more all the time.

22. Careless words spoken during painful times are hard to forget because the wound is so deep.

23. Kind words and your mere presence during painful times are hard to forget and can make all the difference.

24. If at all possible, show up for family events. It's important. Funerals, weddings, baby showers, holidays. Don't neglect time to connect with extended family. Even when it's hard.

25. When it's really hard, keep the time together short and sweet. Then, make time to be with your framily.

26. God hears your heart cries. And when the unspeakable happens and leaves an awful wake in your life, you can rest assured that you are being held. That may be all you got. But it's enough.

27. Look for divine appointments. They happen all the time. Make the most of them. And be thankful for every last one.

28. Nothing ever takes God by surprise, even when it takes us by surprise.

29. Sometimes, God just plain shows off by giving you way more than you deserve. So never neglect thanking him when you are married to your best friend.

30. Children are the best mirrors of your habits. Learn well. And be patient. Because just like life, parenting is a marathon, not a sprint.

31. In about 3 nanoseconds, those crying infants and tantruming toddlers and finicky preschoolers will be taller than you. And while you used to beg for even a moment alone to go really will someday ask your teenagers if they will just spend some time with you. (Really! Trust me on this one).

32. Dive into the Bible as God's love letters to you...not as a long list of rules and laws. Ask him to even help you understand it and hear his songs that he sings over you.

33. Don't speak ill of people. If you have to preface your comment with, "But don't tell anyone I said that"--then you probably shouldn't tell ANYONE what you were about to say.

34. Junior high can be brutal...but high school is fleeting... and college can be magical. Take the good and bad in stride. Don't live for the applause or approval of man (or women). We are incredibly fickle people.  (See #7).

35. No moment spent seeking the applause of heaven and pleasing God is ever wasted.

36. Learn to recognize cup fillers. Friends who encourage your faith and cheer you on. Make time for them.

37. And be one of them. 

38. The things that stress you out to the max will be but a distant memory someday.  For real. So decide how much of yourself and your sanity you are going to allow to be taken.

39. Parenting is the hardest, most brutal, most wonderful, most frustrating, most endearing, most everything experience. It's beyond words. And in the really bad moments... turn your thoughts to the last really good one. Or imagine the endless and amazing possibilities to come.

40. Take time to reflect. Make your own list of things you've learned along the way. It builds faith.

41. Look at old pictures and videos as you reflect. Even if they are really bad quality polaroids where everyone looks like they have a weird spray tan.

42. Your family are your people. Treat them as a priority. Your husband. And your kids. And even your dog. (But not your cat...I'm a dog person all the way).

43. People come before tasks. All people. People are eternal. It's the best investment of your time. So when possible, show up for them. Take time for them. Laugh with them. Let them know you care.

44. You cannot change your heritage. But you can always change your legacy.

Now, I want to hurry up and age more. Because I got lots more to say.

But for now, be blessed by my list. Consider it my gift to you on this day of my birth. 

You're welcome.

Wednesday, April 22, 2015

Pro Wrestling May be Fake...but Faith Wrestling Isn't

There's a wrestling match going on here. It's pretty intense. On par with the best matches from the Von Erich days. (You Texas children of the 80's know exactly who I'm talking about). It's all back and forth and quite the struggle. It's the stuff of Nacho Libre. Most of the time, I have my face in the mat, barely able to lift a shoulder at about the count of 3.

I'm wrestling against doubt. Wrestling against my circumstances and my dreams and my unfulfilled hopes. The list could go on, but the bottom line, really, is that I'm wrestling against God. 

I've sorta begun clinging to the story of Jacob when he wrestled against God. Because try as I might, I think my faith journey is more a wrestling match than it is some great race that I'm running. And I find it rather comforting that there seems to be a Biblical precedence for this that tells me that it's okay. That God is okay with me wrestling with him. He is okay with me struggling in my faith.

And I'm pretty sure I'm not alone here. I'm pretty sure that many of you bloggy friends are in the same boat. You are wrestling against God or with God and with the idea of trusting him and living out a faith in him. Maybe you wrestle because of something that happened to you. Maybe you wrestle because you just see all the bad in the world and you wonder how there could be a God and how he could possibly be good. Maybe you wrestle because of your intellect and education. And the idea of a having faith in the invisible seems ridiculous.

The Bible is full of stories of men and women who just plain wrestle with God. Yet, since my days of listening to audio tapes of Bible stories as I drifted off to sleep, I've sorta built all the Biblical people up as some superheroes who used to leap tall buildings with a single bound.  

One of the few sermons of my father's that I actually still remember from my teenage days was on Hebrews 11.  He called it the Faith Hall of Fame. The chapter is chock full of impossible plumb lines on living out faith. Going to strange lands, offering up sons for sacrifice, going toe-to-toe with a pharaoh.

You know, the usual.

It's like scrolling through a social media news feed and watching your faith shrink up with your own feelings of inadequacy.  Except, like social media, it doesn't show the whole story.

It doesn't show the wrestling matches.

Hebrews 11:
By faith Noah, when warned about things not yet seen, in holy fear built an ark to save his family
But yet, Genesis describes a shameful time when Noah got drunk and exposed himself.

By faith, Abraham, when called to go to a place he would later receive as his inheritance, obeyed and went.
But yet, Abraham lied to the king not once, but twice, during his journeys about his wife, saying she was his sister out of fear.

By faith, Abraham, even though he was past age -- and Sarah herself was barren-- was enabled to become a father.
But yet, Abraham and Sarah took matters into their own hands and had Abraham sleep with Sarah's maidservant in order to bring forth a son.

By faith, Jacob, when he was dying, blessed each of Joseph's sons.
But yet, Jacob was known as the deceiver as he stole his brother's birth right and he literally wrestled with God one night.

By faith, Moses, when he had grown up, refused to be known as the son of the Pharaoh's daughter.
But yet, Moses also murdered an Egyptian who was mistreating a slave. 

By faith, Moses left Egypt, not fearing the king's anger; he persevered because he saw him who is invisible.
But yet, this is the same Moses who argued with God at the burning bush about how incapable he was for the job of leader.

By faith, the people passed through the Red Sea as on dry land.
But yet, these are the same people who grumbled repeatedly about their "fate" in the desert after being rescued from captivity.

By faith, the walls of Jericho fell, after the people marched around them for seven days.
But yet, these are the same people whose parents worshipped a golden calf when Moses took too long on the mountaintop with God.

By faith, Rahab, because she welcomed the spies, was not killed.
But yet, that would be Rahab the prostitute.

The author of Hebrews says, "I do not have time to tell about David"...Who committed adultery and had a man killed..."or Gideon"...who wrestled repeatedly with God about being called to lead an army..."or Samson"...who lost his strength due to a weakness for a girl named Delilah.


It's pretty mind blowing when you consider the full context of each name listed in this roll call of great faith. Because every last one was also completely human. Every single name mentioned had their fair share of wrestling matches with God and struggles and stumbles.

What a picture of God's grace that this Faith Hall of Fame includes everyday sinners and wrestlers and strugglers who somehow kept pressing forward.

The truth of this list of names is that not a single one of those people were actually legendary or superhuman. The truth is that every last one wrestled with God. Every last one had their fair share of doubts and failures and mess-ups.

No, they are not legendary. 

But their God is.

And I love that God commends these people to us to show us a huge lesson.

A noteworthy faith is not a perfect faith that never waivers or doubts. A noteworthy faith is one that wrestles and struggles and strains and ultimately chooses to walk with faith in spite of our doubts. 

This is where I solidly land. Wrestling. Trying to choose God, in spite of my doubts. Letting him know my doubts. Honestly. Because he knows them anyway. 

So my soul wrestles forward, crying out loudly-- "I do believe! Help my unbelief!" (Mark 9:24).

And there in the middle of my wrestling match, I found a companion verse...a part two for those desperate cries for an ability to trust and choose faith.

The apostles said to the Lord, "Increase our faith!" (Luke 17:5)

The pressure that we can take off ourselves in our wrestling match. When we realize that we can just cry out for him to help our unbelief and increase our faith. We don't have to deny our doubts or put them all to rest or maintain control over them.

But we can just run to him with every last one, and plead for his supernatural assistance.

Because it's not up to us. 

He knows full well how much we struggle. And while we were yet sinners, he sent his Son to die for us.

So he covers all our faults. He fills in all our gaps. He even assists us with the faith and belief that we need in our wrestling matches.

It's rather hard to truly comprehend. 

But, I'm working on it right now. In this season of life, when I have so many questions and doubts and fears and a real issue with unbelief.

And today, I feel called to create my own Hebrews 11. Not one that commends all my incredible moments of faith (that'd be a short list). But to create a list of great moments of his faithfulness. To pause and reflect and remember all the ways he has shown up for me in the past. All the little miracle moments and the big ones.

Because I think that this will increase my faith. I think that remembering will help my unbelief.

What about you? If your hard pressed against the mat in a great wrestling match of faith, then why don't you join me?

Why don't we take 10 from the wrestling and instead stop and remember?

Remember all the great things -- all the little things -- that he has done for us. Asking him to bring them to mind. To give us eyes to see them.

I do believe, Jesus. Help my unbelief! Increase my faith!

That it might be said of me..."by faith, Heather, chose to trust God in spite of her doubts."

Tuesday, April 21, 2015

Swap & Shop:The Why and What

Have you ever been haunted by an image? Have you ever seen or heard something that stuck with you to the point of moving you to action? Perhaps images of the aftermath from a natural disaster. And you knew you needed to donate to relief organizations. Or, for my generation, perhaps images of the twin towers falling that still seem surreal and make your stomach churn.

I've seen such images. About eighteen months ago, I began to see images and read information about a former colleague's efforts through a non-profit that she founded. I was intrigued. She has five children. She is one busy mama. Yet, she still finds time to do something. To make a difference. I saw that she was traveling to Africa and she had founded an organization designed to fund locally run efforts to feed, cloth, and educate orphaned and vulnerable children.

It was the flip side of the entirety of my career. Here, in comfortable America, I sit on the pretty couches of middle to upper class families and help them through the process to become adoptive parents.

She was going to the dirty and barren places to make a difference in the lives of orphaned children who had nothing. Children in rags and shoeless. Children with no family, no hope, no future. Unless she dared to enter their hard lives.

And it screamed at me. It yelled for my attention to move past my tunnel vision. How I had spent 20 years working in adoption but had never really opened my eyes to the plight of children who would never be adopted. I've seen dozens of referral pictures. Still photos of children who will soon be adopted. And yes, they are sad. Some have been hard to see.

But they have always been only filtered images. 

Watching my friend's efforts was like the camera was pulled out to a wide angle and it was playing a video that showed the full story.

I had been doing some reading and praying, and it made me consider the short sightedness of a faith lived in the comfort of my holy huddle. Here in my safe suburban life, with my pretty clothes and lovely house and beautiful neighborhood and a great education readily available for my children.

And I had never paused long enough to see how very rich I am. How very wealthy we are in America. In our safe little bubble where we can easily ignore the plight of the rest of the world.

But my friend's efforts were the final wake up call. So I wondered what to do with it. When you consider the millions of children worldwide who are counted as orphans, what on earth could I contribute to make a difference?

Yet her non-profit is called One Together, Inc. Her vision is that one person at a time can touch one life and create a ripple effect. She sees the millions, but focuses on one at a time. She is moved to action for one, instead of sitting idly by, unmoved, because of the millions. One at a time, uniting efforts together with one other person willing to make a difference.

It's that simple. 

So I prayed some more. What impact could I possibly make? Then, it dawned on me. I need not reinvent the wheel. Just as she does not. But she throws her weight behind organizations already doing great work. And I could throw my weight behind her to increase the momentum.

I had attended a little clothes swap with some friends and it was just about the funnest thing ever. It spoke to me on so many levels. I got to clean out my closet, get together with friends, and shop for some "new-to-me" things. Talk about bargain shopping! It was also an answer to consumerism because it was a fun way to recycle, basically.  

That's how it came together for me. The idea of doing a clothes swap on a community level. Blowing the idea up bigger, on a broader level, and charging a registration fee as a way to raise money. To raise the funds to help children who are vulnerable and orphaned.

Maybe I can't jump on a plane to Africa, but I can use my organization and planning skills and creativity to create not just an event, but an experience. From the very beginning idea of Swap & Shop, I've wanted it to be much more than a fun event. I've wanted participants to enjoy purging and shopping for only a one-time $20 fee. But, I also want them to walk away getting it. Getting the problem and the pain and the suffering of children whom they may never meet. But whose lives they can change.

So, my friend sent me pictures from her latest trip to Ethiopia. I wanted to blow them up into huge posters to tell the story. To paint the picture of the lives these children endure, day in and day out.

It's hard to describe how I felt during that long telephone conversation when she walked me through their stories, one photo at a time.

It was profound. I felt as though I was finally understanding. I was finally seeing the other side of the equation, away from the sterile environment of adoption where I have worked. My eyes were open to the existence and struggles of children with no parents, or with parents who cannot raise them. To kids who live on the street or in a dump or in a government orphanage that is barely a step above other options. These are the children whose photos I will never see as a referral for a waiting adoptive family. These are the children who will never be adopted. And, they make up the majority of children worldwide who fall into that orphan category.

The inhumanity of it. This is the only "working" bathroom at a government orphanage for over 200 boys. I cannot imagine the smell of it. Or how it makes the children feel. That this is the facility set aside for them. Bathing is splashing water from the sink over their hair and bodies. I can't even fathom how the boys manage with other bathroom needs. And it has been in this state for years.

What message does a young orphan boy receive about his worth and his future when THIS is the "best" that his government can offer for his day to day care?

This is a group of boys from that orphanage. I want you to look at the barefeet of the boy in the black shorts and tattered blue shirt. That boy was 8 years old when this picture was taken. He had just come to the government orphanage. He'd just arrived. With the tattered clothes on his back and his bare feet. 

And that is all he will have. Whatever he showed up with and whatever he can scavenge to find. The lucky ones find a way to get shoes. They are on their own as far as clothing goes. By whatever means they can obtain basic items such as shoes and clothing and a pillow...that is their only option.

He is 8 years old.

And he is all alone in the world. 

Yet the photos of his face still show a broad smile.

I know of no greater definition of hope.

This is the "kitchen" of that government orphanage. Where a beautiful Ethiopian woman cooks one meal a day for all 200+ boys. They are served one meal daily. No utensils or cups given, lest disease and sickness be spread. It is generally a meal of rice and a roll, or something along those lines. 

May I never complain about my own kitchen and my desire for remodeling or upgrading my own 20 year old oven.

Remember. These are the lucky ones who live at the orphanage until they age out.

The ones who live here are not so lucky. This is a house. In a local dump. Where 30,000 people live. Amongst the filth and rubbish. And their existence is even bleaker. Their lives are even harder.

Here is the sad reality. I believe with great conviction that an entire generation of children around the globe are being left to this kind of fate. The statistics of the 140 million orphans... this is their life. Some are not actual, true orphans. Their parents just cannot care for them. Or the cycles of abuse and dysfuntion that carry from one generation to the next means that the children need to live elsewhere. 

Let me say it clearly. An entire generation of children around the world will be raised in a filthy or barren institution with limited resources. Or on the streets, raising themselves, or in dumps, or some other horrific circumstance.

An entire generation. 

Y'all, we can do better than that. Lest you feel frozen to make a difference, let me assure you.

It takes so very little. For $50 a month, a street child or a child living in these awful government orphanages can be placed in a private group home, with loving house parents. A clean environment where they are fed, clothed, and educated. For only $50 a month.

In some of the feeding centers, it takes as little as $13 a month to feed and educate a child.

That's about two venti lattes.

That is the WHY of Swap & Shop.

So WHAT is Swap & Shop? 

It's a community clothes swap and here's how it works.

You clean your closet of gently used ladies and junior girls clothes, jewelry, shoes and accessories. You pay a $20 registration fee to participate. Then you can shop for as many items as you donated.

That's it. It's that simple. 

This Saturday morning, at Kidztown at 3000 William D. Tate, in Grapevine, Texas, from 8 - 11 am, you can bring your donated items and entry fee. OR, you can contact me and donate your items during this week.

Then go grab lunch or run an errand. 

Come back between 12 - 5 pm, and shop away.

I don't know of a better bargain. That makes a bigger impact.

There will also be a silent auction and items to purchase and a board of one-time needs that you can cover for the various feeding centers and organizations that One Together, Inc funds. These needs are things such as toothbrushes or backpacks, and their one-time cost starts as low as $20.

So there you have it. 

The WHY of Swap & Shop is the beautiful children. Children you may never meet but whose life you can literally change.

The WHAT of Swap & Shop is a fun clothes swap on a community level for a one-time low fee of $20.

That's all it takes to be a world changer.

So, think about it. Don't miss it. I am passionate about rallying the troops here in our safe little surburban lives so that we can change the world for vulnerable children around the world.

I know of no better way to pass a Saturday.

Monday, April 20, 2015

That Time Walmart was an Answer to Prayer

This past weekend was the long awaited wedding of my husband's cousin. It's a rather long story, but he and his fiancee wife have a long history and we have all been cheering for this day to come for awhile now.

So, we were super excited when they got engaged and wedding preparations began. A ranch was chosen as the wedding location, and we had our family Christmas there to all check it out. By the way, that side of a family is nearing 30 people, so the day is approaching when renting out a location for family get-togethers will be a must.

I was so excited about it all that it became apparent that this ranch wedding meant I HAD to buy a new pair of cowboy boots. Which I've long wanted anyway. But I couldn't justify buying. You see, this Texas girl has been surviving on the kids' size boots from Target that my friend suggested I buy as a cheap place holder until my dreams of real boots came to pass. 

So, I came home from that family Christmas and promptly got online with my Amazon gift card and unexpected Christmas money. Obviously, it was time to pull the trigger on boots. And since I'm the family trend setter, all my people decided they needed boots, too. You know--just for the wedding.

Thankfully, I found an online sale that proved our need for boots and we all carefully selected boots from the website pictures, which is not generally the best approach to purchasing items, in my humble opinion. I also purchased a dress online to wear to the wedding, with the solid fashion advice of my college aged niece, with whom I was frantically texting and sending screen shots. 

I won't go into details. But ultimately, we did all end up with boots after a little hit-and-miss with our online choices (and by the way, I happen to have 3 pairs of never worn men's boots that I need to sell, in case you're interested). We also all ended up with proper attire, and the day finally arrived.

We were in a rush to get out the door and to the wedding, seeings how my husband was the officiant, and I was to be available for any last minute wedding needs. I was on the decorating and behind-the-scenes helping committee. After the drive out to the other side of Dallas, down the long gravel road to the lodge and ranch, I happened to mutter to my husband that I was feeling a little tired and cranky.

Fair warning. And important to keep in mind through the rest of this long winded story that I swear has a point.

So, we all rounded the corner from the little parking lot and the bride suddenly popped out from her bridal suite door. She hugged us and let us know that all was in order and there was nothing she needed from us.

Then, we began to make our way to the reception and wedding site. That's when it happened.  

The worst kind of fashion emergency that I can imagine. Okay, okay, in light of that Janet Jackson wardrobe malfunction, it is at least one of the worst fashion emergencies.

Because as we turned by the covered porch, there was the mother of the groom.

In the exact dress that I had so carefully ordered online four months prior to the wedding.

My heart sank. I looked over every detail of her dress as we approached her. 

Yep. The. Exact. Same. Dress.

I said a cheerful hello to all--or at least attempted to. Okay, well, I failed and muttered a "hey y'all" in their general direction. Then, I saw the groom's sister and made a bee line for her.

Ashley is a wise and discerning woman so I explained the issue about her mom's dress and mine. From the look of horror on her face, I knew she agreed with me.

Something had to be done.

But we were literally in the middle of no where. 

Panic was rising within me as Ashley recommended a quick trip to town to see what could be purchased.

A quick trip to town. Which is about 30 minutes away. And the wedding was starting in 90 minutes. And I needed to be available to help in the final few minutes before the ceremony. My stomach was turning into knots with the stress of it all.

My little family made our way into the reception site, where we were alone with our hangers full of wedding clothes. And then, I loudly led my dilemma be known.

Since the decorations and the ceremony and the reception site did not need any attention, we decided I would indeed go in search of something. Anything. Quickly. Without panic.

Except I was panicking. And stressing. And freaking out a little. Okay, a lot.

But I did still have my cute new boots to wear. 

Which would not look so cute with my cropped jeans and t-shirt that I wore out there.

My fourteen-year-old offered to come with me. Let me tell you, if you are ever in a pinch, he is exactly who you want around. He is a logical and helpful and incredibly resourceful person. I mean, I cannot tell you the times in grade school when we found him working through a problem with customer service or the restaurant manager.

Plus, my heart was touched that my teenage son was choosing to help me through this fashion crisis.

Sometimes, you get to see the fruit of your parenting toils.

So off we went. Grabbing the keys to my husband's car and running like maniacs across the ranch toward the car. We jumped in, in a flash. And then could not get the seat to move.

Listen, I am noticeably shorter than my husband. Meaning, I could not reach the peddles.

It was Murphy's Law at this point. I was in dire need of avoiding a "who wore it best" in real life. I was in the middle of no where with very little time and a really big need.

It was a true fashion 9-1-1.

My son finally got the seat to move (I told you he is resourceful)...but only the seat. The back was still tilted way too far back.

So I could reach the peddles and sorta sit forward in my seat or lean way back against the seat like I was some new teenage driver, trying to be cool, all leaned back in my seat. 

Yi yi yi.

That was the critical moment.

As I peeled out, heading toward town, with my son navigating. My son, the resourceful teenager that he is, also willingly playing the role of stylist.  

I was completely unsure how this was going to turn out.

And then it hit me. The metaphorical fork in the road. The moment of truth. The panic within me and stress that I felt. I had a decision to make.

It was a lot like the time on our honeymoon when I pushed the customs checkpoint bell and the sirens and red light went off loudly. In the one big huge wide open room with all sorts of people. And the customs agent reached for the bag and explained it had to be hand checked. I realized with a sinking feeling that it was the suitcase with all the goods from the lingerie shower my bridesmaids threw me after my rehearsal dinner, the night before the wedding.

And every last person in the Puerto Vallarta airport was about to enjoy a good look at every single item. My face grew hot and I looked to Chris, ahead of me. Who was trying not to laugh. Because he knew my timidity.

Just like that time, I realized I could go with this situation and let it be a good story to tell and choose to laugh. Or, I could let it get the best of me and ruin the special day.

A good story and laughter were my choice.

I threw my phone toward Cooper and asked him to check my Around Me app to see what he could find. He found a promising possibility and called the number.

But it was an online store.

A for effort, though.

It was about ten minutes down the road when I realized there was no way we could get to the bigger town where we were headed. Time would not allow a trip there, shopping, and a trip back. So I desperately asked Cooper to check about options in the tiny little town of Quinlan, Texas.

Around me didn't even register Quinlan.


Yet, I pressed on and said a prayer out loud for an answer to my problem.

As we neared the one traffic light in Quinlan, our eyes were peeled, scanning both sides of the road up ahead.

That's when I saw it.


The only other signs I saw were for an Auto Zone, Dollar Tree, or fast food restaurant.

So I could go for some unconventional challenge like Project Runway, or venture into Walmart.

I screamed out Walmart so loudly that Cooper had a good laugh. 

And just like it always happens when you're in a hurry, people are moving in slow motion.

I tried to turn into the Walmart, but a man was walking his bicycle across the road. Very. Slowly. Like it was in slow motion.

Hurry, hurry, hurry, man. Don't you know? I cannot wear the same dress as the mother of the groom. I have an emergency here. 

We finally were able to turn in. Where approximately four other people seemed to walk quite slowly through the parking lot as I looked for a parking spot.

It seems important to note something here about my relationship with Walmart. We go way back. To when a Walmart finally came to my town in high school and it was like a little piece of heaven come to earth. I love Walmart. I do. Or I did, anyway. Until I became a young mom. And I suddenly had a great need for kindness and efficiency and an annoyance free zone when it came time to shop. That's when I began a love/hate relationship with my nearest Walmart.

Because,y'all listen. There's a reason there is a people of Walmart website. It's really true. For some reason, when you drive into the Walmart parking lot, it's like all common courtesy gets sucked out of you. People are all jockeying for a parking spot and cutting you off or they are grabbing the cart you were about to grab, or they are all reaching over you to get something off the shelf.

So I broke up with Walmart about 8 years ago. I did. I decided my quality of life was more important. I found a local grocery store with my favorite checker (her name is Janet, and her daughter is about to finish college) and the same frozen food stocker and butcher and store manager that I saw every single week. And every Tuesday when I went grocery shopping, they all knew to expect me. It was like the TV show, Cheers, where everyone knows your name. When I walked in, it was like they all yelled, "Norm!"

Thus the irony that I was so enthusiastically embracing a Walmart as an answer to prayer.

And not just ANY Walmart. But the one in Quinlan, Texas. 

"Please let there be a solution here!" I muttered out loud, in between laughing with Cooper at the ridiculousness of this whole situation.

We ran in and scoped out the ladies' section. 

It became apparent that cute little dresses suitable for a ranch wedding and my new boots were in short supply in the Quinlan, Texas, Walmart. I had dreams of a some little lace dress with cute details that would be perfect for the occasion.

Cooper found one, in fact.

Except it was a beach cover-up and it was open in the front like a little robe.

I decided it wouldn't be a good look. Not even with the swimsuit he grabbed to go under it.

So it boiled down to exactly two choices. Both were cotton knit sundresses. One was short, and the other a maxi dress. 

I never even looked at the price tag. We took a third lap around the ladies' clothes, walking very quickly and scanning our eyes back and forth. We must have looked a little crazy, but too bad for the people around us. Surely, we didn't stick out that bad amongst the people of Walmart. 

I tried them both on super quick and decided the maxi dress was the better choice. In fact, I though it rather flattering in the 3 nanoseconds I had it on under the fluorescent lights.

Proud of our efficient use of time, we flew to the jewelry section to find some necklace to dress up the cotton dress.

That's when I saw them.

Cute little statement necklaces. For $1! Yes, people. For a buck. I could nearly hear my cousin Megan's voice saying, "You can't afford NOT TO."

My son says I yelled out very loudly, "Christmas shopping!" 

But I think he's making that up.

I grabbed one or two or ten, and we made a run for the cashier.

But one more detour. Because I suddenly remembered Big Mama's bookstore giveaway contest. She is giving away some great prizes if you post a picture of yourself in a store with her new book, noting which store you found the book.

Walmart was on the list.

Granted I was in the Walmart in a tiny little country town.

But hey--I found a wedding attire solution and $1 statement necklaces, so I decided to press my luck. 

My son pretty much knew I'd lost it as this point and began to offer to drive us back to the ranch. 

Did I mention he's only 14?

We did a quick swoop through the book section, with me yelling out, "Look, Cooper! Look! Look for Nobody's Cuter than You!" 

But four laps through, and there was no Melanie Shankle book to be found. So I snapped a quick pic of the Inspirational book section to prove my efforts as we speed-walked toward check out.

Here's where I remembered reason #467 why I broke up with Walmart. Because there are 38 check out lines and only 3 open.

We did that running from one to the next in search of the shortest line until we ended up at the express lanes. Since I had 11 items, we made a run for it. 

Only to be cut off by an overzealous woman who CLEARLY had way more than the allowed 20 items for the express lane.

I may or may not have loudly made my point to my son about people using the express lane who had more than 20 items.

Hmpf. People of Walmart.

So we jumped two lanes over. And the turtle conspiracy continued. Because Mrs. Cashier had all the time in the world to scan every item. And talk about them. And make small talk. Which made me want to look around for the hidden camera. Because we were obviously being PUNKED. 

The cash register finally finished our transaction and we RAN toward the exit. For a brief moment of panic, we thought our car had been stolen. Until we remembered I had to drive my husband's vehicle with the seat back that wouldn't go all the way up for me.

We high-fived and laughed hysterically and made our way back to the wedding. During our drive, Cooper so kindly removed the tags from the dress and necklace for me, like a very loving and patient son. In between texting our best friends to report on how his mother had lost her mind and chose Walmart to be the answer to her prayers.

All's well that ends well.

Although, I will tell you, that the dress was not nearly as cute or flattering under for-real light and with more than two seconds to evaluate it.

But it was a dress no one else was wearing.

And all night long, our extended family got a kick out of coming up to whisper that they heard about my little adventure.

So, what's the moral to this story? 

First of all, you might want to double check about the attire of the wedding party before you get all excited about a new dress and boots.

And second of all, when life hands you fashion emergencies, make lemonade. Choose to laugh and embrace the situation as a good story to tell when you end up in the Walmart in Quinlan, Texas. 

While you're there, tell Gladys, our cashier, that we said hello. 

But watch out for the lady with 45 items in the express lane.

Friday, April 17, 2015

Where Do I Get Off the Crazy Train?

I'm not even kidding when I cry, "Uncle!" I just simply say enough. I have been taught to choose silence when I am upset as I might say something I regret.

What can I say? I'm a rebel. So I here I am blogging. Really, when you think about it--I'm not SAYING anything. I'm just writing.

And yes. I'm upset.

I'm just unwound. I think my life might be on a souped up version of that Ashton Kutcher show Punked. Gotta be honest... been hit from a lot of sides here lately. And I can handle a punch here or there. But I reached a tipping point today 36 hours ago when I first started this blog post.

I won't even go into details. It's just too ludicrous to repeat. And I made a solemn vow as I was praying in my car about the situation. When all I could say in disbelief was, "Jesus. Jesus. Jesus." Then I said, "I refuse to give this any more life. I refuse to give this any more of my time and energy. I refuse to let it consume one more second of my day." 

For the people driving near me, you can continue to think I was singing out loud in my mini-van. Singing. Talking to God out loud. Making solemn vows. Rebuking the devil to get the heck away from me.


(P.S. I know I said not one more second to be given to this and here I am typing it for all of posterity on this world wide web. But, truly, I am refusing to receive the discouragement from said incident).

There's a crazy train blowing through town. And I'm afraid to say that I'm the conductor. And it's not even one big crazy. It's just a little crazy piled on top of another little crazy.

Anyone else? Can you relate?

You're cruising along through life and some little thing happens. You think bummer.

Then another.

And another.

Technology glitches. Rude people. Solicitors calling at the worst possible moment. Bad hair days. Traffic. Lady Antebellum's tour bus catching fire and shutting down an entire Dallas highway on a bridge for a while.

The usual.

(I was not in that traffic, for all inquiring minds, BTW. But I can empathize).

And at some point, you wanna pull your hair out. Climb under the covers and just hide. Rock in fetal position in the corner. 

Or maybe you feel like this.
Really. Please don't make me adult today. Or tomorrow. 

Can I just have a few days off?

Maybe I can steal Marty McFly's Delorean and go back to 1981.

That was a good year. I spent my afternoons playing with my friends on my street, passing hours playing Barbies or on my neighbor, Beth's, play scape in her backyard. We roamed around until dark and watched the fire flies come out. I spent my evenings in our sweet basement where I watched television shows like Different Strokes or Facts of Life. My biggest concern was learning all the lyrics to my favorite Amy Grant album. Or Hall and Oates. Or Barry Manilow. I may or may not have owned a record of two of his, also. 

We all have our regrets.

And the craziest thing about 1981 was this.

I couldn't wait to be a grown up. 

I couldn't wait to be an adult. Where I could set my OWN bedtime. Because I just knew my parents were doing something fun after I had to go to bed.

I had no idea.

I had no clue that they were actually feeling like the crazy train hit and they just wanted to beg to not have to adult today.

You don't know what you got until it's gone.

And all I can say is this. All the wisdom I can sum up is this.

Thank goodness for friends where you don't have to hide your crazy. But they laugh with you and send funny e-cards via group texts. Thank goodness for friends who are daily praying for you, when maybe you don't have the energy to pray for yourself. Thank goodness for family who share you crazy gene. And wild moments of singing lyrics at the top of our lungs as we clear the dinner table. 

And thank goodness for a God who knows my crazy. Even better than I do. Thank goodness that he knew this day--this week of frustrations and set backs and "near break-throughs" but "not yet's" and angry people and busy days and weird schedules-- he knew it all.

He knew that this day would happen.

And he has this to offer me.

Don’t be afraid.
Dear Zion,
    don’t despair.
Your God is present among you,
    a strong Warrior there to save you.
Happy to have you back, he’ll calm you with his love
    and delight you with his songs.
Zephaniah 3:17 (The Message) 

And that's enough.

If I can't go back to 1981, then Father... can you just calm my crazy with your love?  

Thursday, April 16, 2015

FOMO: The Unintentional Sequel

I had something else to say today. In fact, I closed out my pretty yucky day yesterday by banging away on my keyboard with another blog post about being on a crazy train and needing to get off ASAP.

I'll save it for a later day. I know you will all sit around with bated breath waiting for that one. Who doesn't want to hear about someone else's crazy?

I really didn't intent to extend my exploration of my recently diagnosed FOMO. But, it would seem that I am not alone in my affliction. I may go so far as to say that FOMO may be a rapidly growing epidemic.

(If you aren't sure what FOMO yesterday's blog post)

Based on your comments and feedback, I'd say that YES, the struggle is REAL when it comes to FOMO. And, I am for sure in good company.

I did have a good chuckle at a comment from my cousin's cousin (I don't even know what that makes her to me, but I claim her as my own!). She admitted her own FOMO and questioning and asked how to live with FOMO.


I giggle because this is the adventurous cousin who is living out of the country for a few months with her entire family, including 3 small children. Just because they had an opportunity to pack up and experience another culture for a few months.


Listen, cuz. You aren't missing out. What YOU are doing is what WE are missing out on and we wish we were with you. You are the party. From where I sit, you are grabbing life by the horns and jumping off cliffs in faith and living out dreams while you are still young. 

My FOMO means I wonder where the cool kids are gathering.

You, my dear, ARE the cool kids. Living the dream down there in paradise.

Yet, she did raise a good question.

How do you let God guide you when you have FOMO?

Hmm. That's a good question. I decided to write this unintentional sequel to look into that.

So here's my answer.

I have no idea.

The end.

Just kidding!

Okay, but not really. I really don't know. I really don't have any idea or solid answer. 

Because I haven't figured that out yet. I'm right there with you, World Traveler, because I'm wrestling through that myself.  To be honest, I'm sorta smack dab in the middle of it, in fact.

Since the first step is admitting you have a problem--and I just realized a few months ago that what I struggle with has a name (FOMO)...I'm really only on step two over here.

Step One: Identify and admit you have a problem.

Step Two: Now what?

I've long said that I have more ideas and dreams and big picture things than I have time or money or resources.

And obviously, as my blog said yesterday, this FOMO thing has sorta haunted me since the beginning.

From your responses, I'm not alone.

And we are in really good company.

As I was thinking through Christina's question, King David came to mind.

You know, David and his hot shot sling shot? The shepherd boy turned king. The friend of Jonathan and enemy of King Saul. Daddy to Solomon. 

I think David is a classic case of FOMO.

Just think about it. He is sent to the front lines as the Israelites are toe-to-toe with the Philistines. He can't wait to check it all out. Then, he just has to jump in the game. He can't stand it. He sees the quaking Israelites and the puny giants and his bigger God. And he's gotta go for it. Can't pass up that opportunity.

Now, exhibit B.

Her name was Bathsheba. 

Yep. FOMO. 

He saw her. Had to have her. Couldn't miss out on that.

And couldn't let that be his downfall. So he had to cover it all up so that he didn't miss out on all his glory as king.

How about that Ark of the Covenant thing? He HATED that someone else was being blessed because the ark was with them. So he had to go get it and bring it to the City of David (2  Samuel 6). Couldn't miss out on all that favor of God. And lest any party or ark parade or whatever go full tilt without him, he led the way and danced before the Lord with ALL his might. Such a spectacle was all this FOMO fed celebrating that his wife Michal had something to say about it.

"How the king of Israel has distinguished himself today [ancient sarcasm], going around half-naked in full view of the slave girls of his servants as any vulgar fellow would!" (2 Samuel 16:20).

What an encouraging and affirming wife she was.

Makes you wonder WHY he ever felt the need to pursue Bathsheba?

And last but not least on the evidence of King David as one suffering from FOMO was his desire to build the temple for the Lord. Except it seems, that by this time in his life, David has learned to choose the Lord's plans over his own FOMO.

THIS time, David seems to have learned how to let God guide him when he had FOMO.

He wanted to be the one to build that temple. He spoke to his trusted advisor Nathan about this desire. And God revealed to Nathan that David was NOT the one to build the temple.

That night the word of God came to Nathan saying... "I will raise up one of your offspring to succeed you, one of your own sons, and I will establish his kingdom. He is the one who will build a house for me, and I will estable his throne forever."
1 Chronicles 17:4a, 11-12

So somewhere between David letting his FOMO guide him to that whole mess with Bathsheba and all the consequences and now this late in life picture of David, he seems to have learned how to let God guide him rather than letting his FOMO guide him.

I think a big clue is found in one of my FAVORITE Bible verses:

Then, King David went in and sat before the Lord, and he said, "Who am I, O Lord God, and what is my family that you have brought us this far?"
1 Chronicles 17:16

How do you let God guide you when you have FOMO?

You surrender. You are humble before the Lord, choosing to follow and submit to HIS plans over your own. You recognize where the FOMO wants to take you (building a temple for God, what to do with your afternoon--whatever). And then you take it to God and seek his counsel and submit to what he has for you.

You ask him, on an endless loop, perhaps in a perpetual wrestling match, to guide you. To reveal his plan. To show you his ways. To order your day and your steps and to be the Lord over all-- over all your ideas that FOMO has brought you.

I think we boldly approach him, honestly, and ask him to give us a pillar of fire by night and a cloud by day to guide us, like the Israelites leaving Egypt (Exodus 13:21). 

I think the key to letting God guide us when we live with FOMO is staying in close relationship with God. It's making him big enough in our lives that we are more attuned to his promptings and his leadings. It's learning to discipline ourselves in the art of humble submission through regular prayer (asking and listening) and time in his Word.

It's doing what David did.

Staying in such close connection with God that an intimacy develops. This was a habit first developed in the hours and hours spent watching sheep with God alone as his company.

David was not called a man after God's own heart because of his track record. Remember--this is an adulterer and an accessory to murder whose children ran amok with some pretty awful rebellion.

David was a man after God's own heart because he kept seeking God. He kept talking to him, singing to him, worshipping him, running to him. Every time he stumbled. With every struggle. In the middle of every kind of emotion, with honesty and transparency and no facade. He just kept pursuing God. He kept at the discipline of knowing and loving God more. And in so doing, a humility was born in him. That allowed him to ask God for direction and then to obey when God lead.


I think we have an answer to the burning question of letting God guide when we have FOMO.

We climb outta bed every day and say, "This is your day. Guide me. Direct me. Order my steps. Give me wisdom to know your way and strength to obey." We spend time with him so that we are better equipped to know his voice. We take decisions to him and ask for clarity. 

And that is a sticking point, I tell you. How to make all the decisions in life?

So here's where I lean there.

I bath the decision in prayer. And ask him to give me unrest about any step I'm not to take--to either make me feel really uneasy about a step I shouldn't take or to block that step.

Then, I move forward and ask him to open the door. I ask him to just keep opening the doors that he has for every step I take forward and to slam doors I'm not to enter. I don't sit back and wait it out until an audible voice says, "Go live in a tropical paradise for a few months."

Instead, I take the steps to research it and break it down to what needs to happen first. I see about the logistical details and ask him to make it all come together or to let it fall apart, according to his plans for me.

My FOMO was at an all time high when we were buying a house 7 years ago. I needed to know it was THE right house and THE right move and THE best thing for our family. 

Side note: If we had been more nilly-willy in our decision making--I still think God can move and bless and show up. Sometimes in life, there isn't really ONE RIGHT ANSWER. It's more the seeking him in the middle of our journeys and asking him to bring about his good for his glory where we are.

So anyway, I perused the MLS listings like a mad woman. Daily. Multiple times a day. Because you never know when a house might suddenly come on the market, say between 10 am and noon.

And my husband and I prayed for wisdom and that God would order our steps and make things clear. We went with our instincts and prayerfully considered each option.  We had set up a list of criteria that we also prayed over to help be our guideline. And every tiny step of the way, we prayed as we jumped into the next step. We asked God to slam the doors where he didn't want us and to throw open the doors where he did.

Because for us, all our possessions are his anyway. We are not the owners, just the stewards of them. So we asked him to help us know the best way to steward our money to buy the home that we could steward well to raise our kids and bless and host other people.

Here's what happened. We got an offer with a request to move quickly toward closing. Like really quickly. So, I asked God to help us find our new home if our old one was going to sell that fast. We asked friends to pray with us.

Not even kidding. It's the coolest thing when you break down big decisions by taking one baby step at a time, asking God to open or close doors as you go. Because it makes you so very aware of every tiny detail and how he shows up and cares.

My son and I--on a "whim"-- decided to drive by a house that seemed to have disappeared suddenly off the MLS. I wondered if the sign on it might say sale pending? So we drove down a little cul-de-sac street, less than a mile from our old home...

...and we slowed as we neared the address. The sign was gone, but again--I am not even kidding.

A man was literally hammering a "for sale by owner" sign in his front yard next door.

I said a quick prayer and took a jump forward. 

I slammed on my brakes and quite uncharacteristically, rolled down my window and asked the man if I was the first customer.  He thought I was kidding. With a boldness not my own, I asked how quickly we could see the house and I did not take no for an answer.

Just who did I think I was?

I was a girl with FOMO. Who asked God to guide our big decision. And determined to take little steps forward, asking him to open and close doors on our path.

You guessed it. We looked at the house that night, made an offer in less than 48 hours, and we have never once doubted that this house is our home and a blessing we don't deserve.

When you live with FOMO, you have a choice to make. You can either overthink and overanalyze every little decision and live in a place of discontent and questioning.

Or you can just run to Jesus with it all. You can pursue him more than the things that feed your FOMO. You can go with a gut or instinct or a feeling of where you think you need to go and continually ask him to guide your paths, placing obstacles where you shouldn't go and pouring favor where you should.

And because I believe firmly in the power of God's word to encourage and guide us, I looked up some verses about letting God guide us and lead us and seeking his plans for us. Reading them, memorizing them, and praying them can bring powerful clarity when wrestling with FOMO. It helps us to think on that which is true. It helps us to submit to God in our day. And it reminds us of his faithfulness and promises.

So pray and read away, bloggy friends. Let the Word of God guide you as you battle on against FOMO! 

Jeremiah 29:11
Psalm 33:11
Proverbs 16:3
Proverbs 19:21
Acts 17:26
Psalm 139:16
Matthew 6:33
Exodus 13:21 and Psalm 78:14
Psalm 23:3
Psalm 25: 5, 9
Psalm 31:3
Psalm 48:14
Isaiah 58:11
Psalm 5:8
Psalm 143:10
Proverbs 4:11
2 Corinthians 2:14