Friday, December 27, 2013

It's Worth It

We've been doing some "Spring cleaning" around here.  Yes, I know it's December - Christmas even, but whatever...

We're re-arranging a couple of rooms - from arrangements made for our kids many years ago to make room for all the paraphernalia that comes with active teenagers... bikes, drums, guitars, pianos - the big stuff.  Now we're setting up rooms the way we prefer with all that stuff gone.

This process has required a lot of furniture moving, re-organizing, cleaning -- good-for-the-soul stuff.  It's very therapeutic for this girl.

Anyway.... I keep coming across things like this:

and this...

(Please ignore dust bunnies, dead moths, etc...focus on the round objects, as they're the point of this blog post- some of this furniture hasn't been moved in a loooong time!)

Here's the story, followed by the point I want to make:

Many moons ago, we'd been enduring a looooong winter.  With boys.  Restless, bored, can't-go-outside-enough boys.  If you've got older boys, and you've lived through the winter, you know what this is like.  They really start driving you crazy.  My boys spent most of their waking play time with four other boys - two sets of brothers, right about the same age as mine - they were pretty much inseparable.  Sooo, six boys, between the ages of 10 and 13 - they were always, always, always searching for "boy things" to do (this typically involves dirt, risk, high rates of speed, sharp objects, fire, and lots of "what?! what could happen?!" from them).

One of these especially long winter days, they were all at our house.  It was getting long, and loud, and crazy.  Nerves were frayed (mostly mine).  But, I did have the smarts to realize that it was simply because they needed to get some of this "boyness" out of their systems.  So, in a fit of very uncharacteristic leniency, I decided, without their even asking, that they could play air soft gun wars --- in the house.  I went to my bedroom, shut the door, and let 'em have at it.

It was loud, there was lots of banging and shouting and running and shooting and laughing and...all the stuff that goes with boys being boys.  But I stayed in my room.

That was probably 8 or 9 years ago.  They still remember it.  I still remember it.  Anytime I do any deep cleaning, I still find air soft pellets - they seem to grow out of the woodwork - I just don't get it...places that I can not imagine how a pellet made its way there, they're there.

They had so much fun.  And it took nothing from me, except to relax a little.

Which brings me to my point.

One of the regrets I have with my kids is that I didn't have enough fun with them.  I'm a rule-follower.  I like structure and routine.  I like things to make sense and be predictable.  And I pretty much ran our family that way.

I don't think that's all bad.  Kids needs structure and predictability.  They need a sense of routine and familiarity.  But they also need spontaneity and fun.  I wasn't very good at that.  One of my dearest friends is SO good at this.  She'd let her kids bring dirt in the house - dump it on the dining room table - and play - just play!  (I couldn't even wrap my head around that one.)  Her house would be a war zone on snow days for letting them come in and out 6,000 times.  It was the fun house.  

Mine was not.  I could probably easily count on one hand the times that I was the "fun one".  (Now, Brian's a different story - they got their fun, just from him.)

But I did it that day.  I let go.  I have a few knicks in the woodwork, I've been picking up air soft pellets for 9 years.  But, who cares?

They remember the fun.

So... young moms?  This winter, when you're freaking out and cooped up and they're driving you crazy - every once in a while - loosen up, do something goofy that they'd never imagine you'd let them do.  

It's worth it.

I'm picking up air soft pellets when there aren't even any kids left in my house - 

and it's worth it. 

Wednesday, December 18, 2013

Shut My Mouth


Prov. 18:2 - A fool finds no pleasure in understanding but delights in airing his own opinions.


Close my me to spend much more time listening, trying to understand those that I disagree with - even if we will never agree...

and less time spouting opinions that only those already in agreement will listen to.  

I am so guilty of this.  I want to be right.  I want everyone to believe I am right, see I am right.  Come along with me in my rightness.  

It is pride.

I'm not saying give up my beliefs, my convictions, the things that anchor me - not at all.  

I am saying that I don't always show love - as Jesus did.  

Scripture does not record a single instance of Jesus ranting at the "unchurched".  He spoke with love, he ate with them, drank with them.  I'm guessing that if they continued inviting him again and again, as it appears they did, he was kind, he listened.

No one believes He agreed with the lifestyles of prostitutes, drunks, adulterers, cheats - but He did not rail against them.  We have no record of Him talking about them when he was with "His people".  He spoke with love -- even when He called them to a different life, there was still love.

A fool finds no pleasure in understanding but delights in airing his own opinions.

I don't want to be that person.  Not with people outside the Church, or with those inside the Church that I have disagreements with.  I don't want to spend my time rallying my cause, gathering those that agree and ostracizing those that don't.  I want to learn to shut up more, listen - really listen, understand, pray for a reconciling - a healing.

Without love, I am a loud gong, a clanging cymbal. 

Tuesday, December 10, 2013

This Girl

This girl?

Five and a half years ago, she was graduating from high school.  I was amazed and utterly exhausted that we had gotten her there. From day one, at five years of age, academics has been a battle with this one.  Social is her gig and school really just got in the way of the things that really mattered. 

Five and a half years ago, in her her words, she was NEVER going to college. 

But, time has a way of tempering our "never", turning them into "maybe", then into "Yes".

Four and a half years ago, she was entering her first semester at East Central.  She struggled, she stressed, she threatened to quit on a daily basis.  She was absolutely certain that she would fail - that she could not do this.  She hated most every second.

It was hard - I won't kid you, she worked HARD, studying many, many hours - probably shed more than a few tears. But... each semester she got a little stronger, a little more confident, the threats to quit came further and further apart.  

She moved around a bit, changed her major a couple of times, but she found her nitch - her place. 

And she thrived.

I wouldn't say she ever grew to love it - that would be a lie.  But she found her place and she grew into a much more confident young woman.

I'm so proud of her.

And in four days...

This girl? 

She will be wearing black again.  She will be walking across the stage as an East Central University graduating senior, with a 4.0.

I don't by any stretch think that your gpa defines you, but I am so proud of this girl - this girl that thought she would never succeed, reaching down inside of her and finding the strength to not just to succeed, but to thrive.

She's gotten a glimpse of what she is capable of and I can't wait to see where the next stage takes her.

If you've been a part of this process with Erin, we'd love for you to join us as we celebrate Saturday.  We'll be celebrating at Cornerstone at 2:00.  Join us if you can!

We are all capable of much more than we believe.  

When we find the spot where God means to use us, we can absolutely soar - I believe that.  

What do you not believe about yourself that God means to see through to the end?  

Trust Him - it's a beautiful thing to watch.

Sunday, December 1, 2013

Giving Thanks - Week Four

So, to sum up...

Gratitude is a choice.  Every day there is something beautiful.  Most days there is something difficult.  I can make a choice to focus on the difficult, the hard, the awful, or I can choose to find the beauty.

I'll be honest - there were days in this project that I had to sit and think for a while.  My hormones, or some pain, whether physical or emotional, or difficult people or hard circumstances made it a challenge to not focus on the awful.  It would have been very, very easy to not look for the beauty. There are days I give in to that. 

This month has been good for me and I pray that I will make this a practice - a discipline - to stop every day, maybe several times a day, to reflect on what is beautiful, even in the midst of the mess.

So here's week four:

Day #22 

Today I am thankful that God's goodness is not dependent on my moods, or the way I feel. His faithfulness is not at risk on the days I don't feel well. His compassion is still in tact when I'm just the teensiest bit cranky. His mercies are new every morning. 

Day #23  

Today I am thankful that I was able to spend the entire day in my warm house. Cooked two hot meals and read most of the rest of the day. I can't remember the last time I spent most of the day with a book. Loved it. Ended the day watching a movie that Brian couldn't believe I'd never seen (The Outsiders). A warm house, sweat pants, comfort food and a good book. Thankful.

Day #24 

Today I am thankful that occasionally things completely out of our control (like the weather today, as an example) force us to slow down and enjoy the people closest to us. I loved spending today with Brian, Erin and Jeff. Thankful they were only a couple of miles away and could come over. I wish the boys could have holed up with us too, but it was a good day.

I'm also thankful that it's not always this cold - I don't do cold well.

Day #25 

The small picture...I'm thankful the roads weren't bad for me to get to OKC for work this morning.

The big picture...God is still freaking us out with options for how our life could change dramatically in the next few months. I was reminded again of this today. I'm thankful that I do not have to have all the answers...I don't even have to have any of the answers. He does. I can rest. And I am grateful.

Day #26

Today I'm thankful for this man. Y'all don't want to hear all that I could say about the reasons I'm thankful... Ain't nobody got time for that - but here's a few:

1. He is my biggest cheerleader. He never, ever stops encouraging me. I've never for one second doubted his love for me.

2. He's a great dad. The reason I picked this picture is because it so represents how he fathers. He is always there for them, always has been - yet he always gives them space to be themselves, to learn, to grow, to make their own mistakes, and to shine.

3. He is a good friend.

4. He is loyal to a fault.

5. He is the most forgiving man I know. Being a pastor gives you many, many opportunities to practice forgiveness and I'm constantly amazed at his ability to forgive in the face of painful circumstances.

6. He challenges me with his love for people, his passion to invest and be involved, to take risks and have fun. I fully credit this man that I haven't become a complete hermit, living alone with a bunch of cats.

I'm a way better person than I would be without him and I am thankful.

Day #27

I forgot to take any pictures, but today I am thankful for all the people that show up to make our Thanksgiving meal for the community happen. Those who donate and organize, those who cut and slice and bake, smoke our turkeys and hams, pass out flyers, those who worship at Cornerstone and many who do not -- and all of this before tomorrow even arrives. I'll try and remember to take pictures tomorrow, but the myriad of people that have already stepped up is humbling. It's a beautiful thing.

Day #28

Ten years ago an idea was birthed to serve our community on a day meant for thanks, for giving, for family. This has since become one of our favorite days of the year.

We have learned so much, been blessed beyond measure. We have met some really amazing people just by opening these doors and serving a good, home cooked meal - some of those people have become really good friends. We honestly do spend a day giving thanks, with family - a family that grows larger every year.

This event rapidly grew beyond us. Every year, others outside of Cornerstone jump in and help make this possible. Every year I am able to serve with new people - and our family grows larger.

This family of faith is so much bigger than any of us realize. It is so easy to make it about the people we meet with in the four walls of our "church" each week -- we are so much bigger than that. God has beautiful things for us to do - together.

This day reminds me of that and I am grateful.

Day #29

Tonight goes to family. This is kinda sappy and I've tried to steer clear of the easy picks for what I'm thankful for and really think through each day. But there's just no getting around the sappy on this one. I've spent the last two days with many of them, and I've just gotta say it...

I simply love my family. Family by birth, by marriage, my parents, my in-laws, siblings, kids, my husband. I'm not going to tell you that there aren't ever times that are difficult, but I am going to tell you that these people bless me. Every. Single. Day. I love that even though we can't pick our family, if I could, I would still pick these people.

I recognize that there are many people that cannot say this and I refuse to take for granted the blessing this family is. These are my people. I am grateful.

Day #30 

"Oh, the comfort, the inexpressible comfort of feeling safe with a person; having neither to weigh thoughts nor measure words, but to pour them all out, just as they are, chaff and grain together, knowing that a faithful hand will take and sift them, keep what is worth keeping, and then, with a breath of kindness, blow the rest away.” ― George Eliot

Today, the last "official" Giving Thanks day goes to my friends. The gift of friendship that God gives to women is a beautiful thing. There are so many that I love, identify with, esteem, admire and enjoy. So many that bless me and I pray daily I bless them. Some that are very new and I'm excited to see what the added gift of time will bring to these relationships. Some are sporadic, forced apart by space and circumstance, but easily renew every time we are able to be together. And some are old, comfortable as an old robe...

Today goes to these women - the few that years, joys and trials have forged a special bond. These women hold me up, hold me together. We have laughed, cried, prayed, ranted, raved, counseled, vacationed, birthed and raised kids, served, cooked, cleaned, organized, planned, solved the world's problems many times (if only anyone would listen), laughed and cried some more.

The years of friendship with these women range from the longest (my Mom), being my entire adult life, to the shortest (my daughter), blossoming as we got to transition to friendship in her adult years.

I love the beauty that time has brought to these friendships and these women. When I am with these women, I am at home, no matter where I am. They are my safe place, my refuge, and a gift from God. I am grateful.

So as we end our designated time to give thanks and, traditionally, enter into a time of frenetic insanity all in the name of Christmas - let's slow down.  I want to really commit to remain thankful, and thoughtful.  To look at each day and find the beauty there.  To see Jesus.

Join me?

Saturday, November 23, 2013

Giving Thanks - Week Three

My take away from this week, is seeing God in the beautiful ordinary.  He is working all around us - in the people we interact with, in the ways we relax, in the grocery shopping, in cheap, quiet date nights, in small blessings and great.  Week Three...

Day #15

Okay, you all knew this was tonight's Giving Thanks, right? My baby, my last born. 

Since he was about 18 months old, I have said that, lest we should think we have all the answers, God gave us Dylan. He has kept us hopping ever since and I couldn't be more grateful. 

His passion to pursue his dreams, his transparent honesty throughout some indescribably difficult parts of life, his ability to encourage and lift up others, his desire to use the talents he's been given to glorify God and help others - all of these things inspire me.

I cannot wait to see where this kid is going, but I am certain the journey there is going to be amazing for us all.  Thankful

Day #16 

Today I am thankful for my newest son. This young man has been around since he and Erin were 13 years old. He joined our family officially in 2012, but we counted him long before.

I have discovered in the years we have known Jeff that one of our greatest blessings as parents is seeing our children find a spouse that completes them. Not in the sense that neither was whole alone, because they were. But they fit. Where one is weak, the other gives strength and vice versa.

He is so good for my daughter and, I believe, she for him. He works hard, he lives well. He is loyal and kind, he's quiet, but you should definitely listen when he does speak. (And he's handy to have around when you need someone to reach things that are up too high, or your car breaks down  ). He also, with Erin, loves the youth in our community and has spent countless hours investing in the young men here. And -- he loves my daughter.

As our kids have grown up, one of my best friends and I would often, in describing a new young person to the other that they had not met, would say, "He could marry a daughter," or, "She could marry a son."

This boy? This boy could marry a daughter - and I'm so thankful he did.

Day #17

Today I am thankful that I can run. I cannot run fast, and (at least for now) I cannot run far, but I can run. 

It is my mental health therapy, quite honestly. It is a time between me and God that allows me to pray and meditate and process in ways I don't seem to be able to do anywhere else. 

I can work out my anger, worries, frustrations and stress on bad days. And on the good days, I can glory in the beauty of creation, both around me and in the sheer wonder of our body's ability to keep pushing, growing, accepting challenge.

I am grateful God made us to push ourselves. Not everyone can run, but everyone can find that thing that helps them focus and clears out distractions so they can hear God. That thing that clears their head and allows them to see the beauty around them. That thing that pushes them to be better - physically, emotionally, relationaly, spiritually.

That's running for me, and I'm thankful.

Day #18 

Today I am thankful for the myriad of people that have had an impact on my kids. There is no possible way I can list them all because there have been so many through the years.

- Teachers and older youth when they were much younger. They were beautiful examples of love. They still have sweet memories of babysitters and Sunday school teachers to this day.

- Youth pastors and sponsors in their youth. Even those that had to move on were, and are still are, a huge part of their lives. I love how they love my kids.

- Our friends that have loved my kids like their own and have invested in them in huge ways. They have spent countless hours praying for, teaching, encouraging and loving our kids; being beautiful examples of how imperfect people love and live and forgive in the context of family. Some of my kids' best friends are in these families.

- Super Summer leaders and camp leaders, karate instructors and tumbling coaches, cycling coaches and voice teachers. So, so, many willing to invest beyond what they were paid to do. It was so much more than a job.

- Friends and leaders in the churches that adult life has taken them to that keep loving them when we aren't there all the time anymore.

- Our family. Wow. We just have the greatest family - all the way around. They love us and our kids and have been exactly the grandparents, aunts, uncles, cousins, that my kids need.

The list is so long. My attempts to think of them all will fall freakishly short.

When they were babies, I had this very misguided notion that Brian and I could be enough. I was very, very wrong. These people have added depth and beauty that only community can bring.


Day #19 

Today I am thankful for ordinary days. Quiet early morning, house cleaning, laundry, hair cut, grocery shopping, cooking dinner, quiet evening with popcorn and a movie with my man. I don't want to forget to be thankful for the beautiful ordinary.

Day #20  

Five years ago a lady I admire more than I can say began to dream of using her passion for cooking to help others in our community - single moms; people at the end of their paycheck, but still needing to feed their family; the weary - whoever a warm, nutritious meal would bless. And she did it.

With a little planning, and no idea of what was ahead, she began. The first week, about 60 meals were served and we were beside ourselves with excitement.

Five years later, that precious woman has moved to another community, but her legacy continues. Every Wednesday night. We served 539 meals tonight.

Tonight I am thankful for the people that serve in this ministry. It is one of the most rewarding kinds of tired I know. It cannot be done by just the few of us that cook. I am so thankful for those that give up their time to help pull this off every. single. week.

I am thankful for those we serve. Each week they are a blessing and we have learned much from so many of them.

I am thankful for those that give - many of whom don't go to our church or, with a few, even live in our community. God is using their resources to bless people every week.

We have seen God do amazing things - truly miraculous at times. Our church is small and does not have the bank account for this endeavor. Some weeks, honestly, we know we'll be shutting the doors the next month without a far, we've always had the miracle.

God is good. We are thankful.

Day #21

Okay, tonight is short and silly. I'm thankful for Netflix and figuring out that every episode of Chuck is on there. I've never fully accepted that it ended, so...Tonight? The pilot. Woohoo!

Saturday, November 16, 2013

Giving Thanks - Week Two

This Giving Thanks project has been good for me.  I have tried to not pick easy, fall-back things each day.  But instead, to really look at my day and think about what I'm most thankful for in that 24-hour period.  And each day, even though some of them are really hard days, there is something beautiful that God is doing.  That is something I want to remain mindful of every single day. It's incredibly easy to look at the negative - to dwell on it - to obsess - to entertain "vain imaginations" - especially when one wakes up at 4:30 in the morning, as I often do (and did this morning). It's easy to sit in the dark and think only of what is hard.  But God is working - He is moving and blessing and loving us, even then.  So... here's week two:

Day 8

Day #8 - Today I am thankful for a good God that never, ever stops pursuing us. I'm thankful that He has hounded my youngest and that even in the pain, God is healing. To be brutally honest, part of me doesn't even want to share this link because it is so hard. There is nothing - absolutely nothing - in this world more painful than watching your children go through pain and having no control over the outcome.

But, here is the truth - even in the pain, there is beauty - when we are willing to be found. Jesus asked the lame man, "Do you want to be healed?" I'm thankful he continues to let God find him - that he wants to be healed, and that he has found his Healer.  Here it is:  Dylan Black Blog

Day 9

Thankful for a group of friends we have had for 20+ years. There was something so special about this season of our lives. 

It was in this place we learned the value and beauty of community. We learned to sacrifice for the good of another. We first learned what true, lasting friendship looks like.

The friends we made then are still some of our best. We've gone on to different churches, different cities, different states; we sometimes go years without being able to see some of them in person.

This weekend we've been able to eat, relax, laugh, reminisce, catch up, fellowship, (did I already mention eat?) with one of those families. What a joy.

I am thankful for one of God's most magnificent gifts - friends.

Day 10

Day #10 - I am thankful for the children in my Sunday school class. I have learned so much from them through the many years I've taught. 

I love their honesty - their willingness to tell it like it is (sometimes that is sad as I've seen the pain some have had to face much too young; and it's occasionally pretty darn funny). 

I love to listen to them pray and I love to hear their simple, faith-filled requests.

I am thankful that they keep me consistently looking to God through their simple, childlike eyes.

Jesus let them surround Him and he blessed them. I pray I will always want to do the same.

Day 11

Today, I am thankful for Mondays.

For the last several years, I have worked on Mondays because it was Brian's day off. Because we homeschooled, this allowed the kids to still have a parent around for their school work, but rarely allowed Brian and I to share his day off together.

Since becoming empty nesters I have gradually tried to move myself away from working Mondays as much as possible. I have so enjoyed having a slow, lazy day with him every once in a while. It's something we didn't used to have very often.

So, today I'm thankful for Mondays and thankful I have a man by my side that I still adore spending my days with.

Day 12

Today I am thankful for an evening with a house full people that I love, a home with heat and a mug of hot tea. Simple things.

Day 13

Today I am thankful for my firstborn. She is a joy to me and I just have to say a few words. Her love for children of all ages is inspiring to me. She challenges me, just by watching her live, to invest in their young hearts.

She was the paid youth intern/office assistant for Cornerstone this last year and has spent many, many hours planning events, investing in lives, being a listening ear for our kids. 

She is doing her internship for her degree this semester, so she had to quit at the church. She has continued, (while working 40 hours a week for free for said internship) to invest in their lives, planning events, going to their games, loving these kids, without any pay - because she wants to - simply because she loves them.

I love that this girl is not only my firstborn, but my friend and an inspiration to me. Thankful.

Day #14 

Today I am thankful for my second born. He makes me smile. He makes me crazy. Often, both at the same time.  

He processes like I do. He learns like I do - though he is freaky smart and I am. not. He has the same gift of sarcasm that I have. We often do not agree, but even in our disagreement, he still makes me smile and I still usually "get" him.

He's our scientist - always has been. Though many things about this young man have changed as he's grown up, that is not one of those things. He's a thinker. He loves to learn. He researches scientific journals "for fun". He'll do great things - of this I have no doubt.

He's one of the hardest working college students I know. Working at both his job and some of the hardest classes imaginable. I'm incredibly proud; I love this second born of mine. Thankful.

Saturday, November 9, 2013

Giving Thanks - Week One

I decided to move my Giving Thanks posts that I'm putting on Facebook over here.  For a couple of reasons:

 1. To share with my very, very few readers that aren't on Facebook.

  2. Because knowing my weakness and that I'm prone to forget, I want to preserve them in a place I can easily go back and remember.

So here they are --  Week One:

Day 1

I've never done the November thankfulness challenge, but considering how my day has gone today, I'm going to at least start it --

My Daddy had a cardio arteriogram followed by four stents put in this morning at St. Anthony's. He is recovering beautifully.

So today I am thankful for my Daddy, for medical advancements that allowed this to be discovered before anything life threatening happened, for doctors and nurses that took good care of him and for a God that provides.

I love you, Daddy! Thankful for YOU today!

Day 2

Two things:

1. My sister - she is so amazingly talented and she's sharing her time and talents with me today to make my dining room set beautiful again. Thank you, Stephanie - I love you!

2. My husband found Ding Dongs back on the shelf again and brought some home. Just one more reason he's awesome.

Day 3

 I'm thankful for my pastor. And here's the deal...I'm in the unique position of being married to my pastor. 

We all see the fruit of his study, he is a gifted teacher, he loves the people entrusted to him, he believes and lives out the importance of being light and salt in our community, he's transparent and honest. He's not afraid to take risks and try new approaches. He believes and lives out empowering others rather than being a one man show. We all see those things.

I see the times he is unfairly criticised. I see when he fails and isn't given the same grace most others get in times of failure. I see the hours and hours he invests in prayer and study to be able to faithfully teach. I see the forgiveness and grace he has extended to so many over the years - in measures that only come from the Spirit.

I am thankful for my pastor. If you haven't thanked your pastor recently, consider doing so. Most of them work harder than you'll ever know.

Brian Black - you da man. Thank you for being faithful where God has placed you.

Day 4

Provision. I used to say that pretty thoughtlessly...tack it on in a prayer before we eat and move on. But the places God has placed us to serve have taught me that food on our table is a gift. I am truly thankful and pray daily that I will look for ways to help those that struggle to feed their families.

Day 5

Not sure I even know how to say what I want to say tonight...

As Brian and I search for what God would have us investing in for this next stage of our life, I'm taking some training with CASA (if you don't know what this is, check it here: - even if I don't end up doing it, I can't think of a more worthy way to invest your time); I've been to a fostering/adoption conference, and we're talking to friends that have been active for years in this field.

I am over. whelmed. There is so much pain in this world.

And I am thankful.

Thankful that God lets us be a part of the answer.

I guess that's it. I'm thankful tonight that God let's us be part of the answer.

Day 6

I am thankful for my career. I know very few people that, 28 years after graduating college, still do and love what they trained to do.

It has provided me the flexibility to be a primarily stay-at-home mom and still stay in my field.

It never gets boring and I always feel like I'm making a positive contribution.

It has allowed me to work with and for some of the greatest people on the planet, even as we've moved to different communities throughout the years.

I love the culture, the language, the people. I am grateful.

Day 7

As I'm finally sitting in my house - after four of the last five days requiring a trip to OKC, I'm thankful for a dependable car that gets amazing gas mileage. I'm also incredibly grateful that I don't have to go back for five days. Now, to get that cup of hot tea...