Tuesday, December 31, 2013

A Lesson in Suffering from a Fish

Recently Tim and I got the most amazing gift. We were given an entire day. ALONE. With just each other!! Tim's parents were in town from New York and told us they'd keep the kids.

We ran for the suburban, jumped in and hit the gas. We were at least 20 miles out of town before the hysterical giggling subsided.

When we were a safe distance from College Station, we began to have the first uninterrupted conversation in months.  Normally our conversations go a bit schizophrenically like this:

Tim: "Tara, what if I do this song on Sunday?"
Lockett: "MOMMMMMM Harrison keeps attacking my face!"
Me:  "GAH! You MUST do something with that child you made."
Tim: "ok. Did you know the sink leaks?"
Lockett: "Mom, I am going to donkey kick him if he looks at me again!"
Me: "Since Thanksgiving. Did you call your dad?"
Harrison: "Mom, can zombies survive under water? They don't have to breathe..."
Tim:  "Sort of. When's dinner?"

I mean honestly, people. WE NEVER FINISH A CONVERSATION unless we lock ourselves in a room and ignore the hysterical cries on the other side of the door demanding immediate attention. Because seriously, that lost Lego is a matter of life or death!!

So, as we sped away, we took a breath. I reached over and held my husband's hand. I said, "Honey, I need to tell you something I've been dealing with this week. All alone. I haven't had two minutes alone to share with you something that broke my heart this week."

He looked at me and said, "Ok. Let's do this."

I said, "You are gonna think I've lost it, but here goes: So, about a week ago I noticed Harrison's fish swimming crazy. You know, one of the long skinny ones we bought as a pair? You know how one lives upstairs in the shipwreck and one lives downstairs?..."

He looks at me, He's tracking...

I say, "So, one started swimming crazy and I knew his days were numbered." (this is not new, we are great at flushing fish...) "I watched him and he began to show some spots, breath crazy, etc... He moved from upstairs in the ship to a plant leaf near the top of the tank. And he rested there. Laying on the leaf.... Alive but suffering. When he relocated to the leaf, his partner moved out from downstairs in the ship. His fish-friend moved to laying beside him. He put his body up next to his suffering friend and stayed by his side for three days. Until he died. When the fish died, his friend went back inside the ship. It broke my heart."

I looked at Tim and waited for the laughter, the crazy eyes, letting me know I'd tripped and landed in a pile of crazy.

But he looked at me and said, "I didn't need that!!  Oh good grief! I think I need to pull over and cry for a few minutes."

He was deadly serious. I love him. God made him for me. He gets me. He didn't make fun of me. He teared up.

This led Tim and I to discussing our roll in suffering in this world. Recently, we've walked through some pain and we watched with heavy hearts our friends walk through sorrow upon sorrow. Experiencing the death of someone you love is one of this world's greatest heart breaks.

We talked about how not only to suffer, but to suffer with a friend. To bear one another's burdens and how that looks. How does it look to suffer with someone?

Sometimes it looks like laying beside a broken, hurting friend. Because death is not something we were intended to experience, it is NOT natural at anytime, in anyway. We were made to be eternal with Christ and sin entered and death was the consequence. So, because it is so broken, and foreign, our words will never make it feel any better. Sometimes it means just being there.

And as Tim and I discussed the inevitability of suffering, and how the greatest, wisest people we know have suffered incredible pain, we talked about how Christ came, walked every bit of humanity we would and He suffered. He hurt, he bled, he walked every bit in human flesh. And He has overcome.

Hebrews 2:14-15 tells us "Since therefore the children share in flesh and blood, he himself likewise partook of the same things, that through death he might destroy the one who has the power of death, that is, the devil, and deliver all those who through fear of death were subject to lifelong slavery."

 Ps 31:24 says, "Be strong, and let your heart take courage, all you who wait for the Lord."

I am in love with this song that speaks to exactly this.

"So take heart, let His love lead us through the night. Hold on to hope, and take courage again."

Thursday, December 26, 2013

I Love That Your Crazy is Showing...

If you have known me for all of 5 minutes or read much of what I've been layin' down you know that I live life as an open book. What I am, is what you see. This has been my friend and my enemy on many occasions. It means you can safely know I am being completely real and honest, but it also means I've often wished I'd kept my mouth shut. Oh, the insanity of what I've thrown down in a public arena before would make everyone of you stare in utter shock at the level of asinine.

And if you know me on facebook you know I struggle with the My-World-Is-Perfect facebook syndrome. "Here, take a look at this awesome picture of me and my 4 boys making cookies in perfect harmony with zero mess. While I am homeschooling them. Currently we are working through Latin. Backwards..."

Don't even get me started on Pinterest. Oh, hang on, my 4-D shark cake just came out of the oven perfect.

People, you can find me on Pinterest under "nailed it".

BLAH! It creates a sense of complete failure in each of us. I value, no, I  LOVE, desire, CRAVE, authenticity so deeply that when I see someone being real I want to run up and hug them. I try to post pictures of our struggles, our failures, our tears, our fears all in an effort to keep it real.

When I see the imperfections in people it makes me see them as REAL PEOPLE. People who hurt, struggle, need, love, and give.

My brother-in-law is a great guy. I don't live in the same town as he does and I don't see him often enough for me to know him deeply. (I wish this weren't the case but it is). So, in all openness, I didn't think much about him on a regular basis and when family shared stories I was quick to form an opinion and move on.

Then, oh, but then, my sister told me something about him one day. She and I were giggling about who-knows-what and she mentions, "Oh, David doesn't like comforters or blankets on our bed". I roll my eyes and just says, "Really??! Who doesn't like comforters?? or blankets?"  Roll, roll, roll. I'm awesome at judgy eyes.

So she lays this on me: "No, it's not temperature or style, he doesn't like any weight on his toes. He doesn't know what to do with them when he's on his back. Toes straight up with weight on them hurts, so does he fold them back or forward? It's a toe/blanket battle."

Hold up a sec people. Can I just say, "WHAT??!" and now I love him. I want to put him in my pocket and carry him everywhere around with me. Discuss amongst yourselves my weirdness but oh, how I love him now.

So I discovered that when I find out some quirk about someone it makes them REAL to me. It makes me smile when I think of them. It makes me love them. Weirdness=real=love in my bizarre little mind.

And as I thought about the approaching end of year, I began bracing myself for the onslaught of end of the year lists. And dear reader, I have to tell you, I hate end of the year resolutions. I have never partaken. I don't understand it.

The minute someone starts running down the list of amazing feats they are going to accomplish simply because it is now January, I tune out. I am so sorry, friends. But if you start telling me how you are gonna work out 17 days a week, and eat only organicafied organic food, I retreat to a safe place in my mind. I'm going dark, people. Over and out. Cant. partake. of. this. madness. 

Perhaps it's my deep seeded fear of having a list I won't accomplish. Oh sure, I could write a novel on the resolutions I NEED to accomplish. But actually accomplish?? It won't happen. Then I have derailed for the entire calendar year. All hope will fly out the window and I will walk around lamenting about how I can't cross #2 off the list because I ate a non-organic gummy bear.

So, peace out end of the year baloney. It's a no-go here.

However, I have decided that I will make a list. A very different kind of list. I saw someone else do this list and it made me feel sooooo accepted.  In an effort to promote authenticity and because I LONG with such a ferocious fire to know and love the people around me, I want to know your list. 

Here I give to you,  my list of crazy. In the process of coming up with my crazy list I asked Tim to name 5 things or "quirks" about me. Oh and how he quickly spouted off the top 5. Before I could adamantly defend these quirks, I realized they matched exactly the 5 I came up with. Open book, people. Open book.

So I give you mine but as you read, start thinking of yours. Cause I want to hear them. I NEED TO HEAR THEM. 

Here goes:

1. I cannot under any circumstances drink the last 10 percent of a bottled or canned drink. Won't happen. Sorry. Perhaps it's my tithe to the backwash gods. I don't know and it has driven Tim crazy for years. He used to lecture me about the incredible waste, throwing away all those gallons and gallons of drinks. Sorry. I've tried. I can't. Last 10 percent is going down the drain. Tim has thrown in the towel attempting to reform this weird behavior.

2. I can't walk forward in the dark. If I am walking through a room and someone turns out the lights, I will freeze and stand there until either someone turns the light on, brings me a flashlight, I locate my phone to illuminate the path or I have to turn around and continue backwards. It's possible I am afraid of breaking a toe. This is the best explanation I can come up with.

3. I only drink diet soda and I am PARANOID someone is trying to intentionally slip me the real deal. I always confirm with the waiter or fast food worker that it is DIET. I give them the Tell Me the Truth Big Eye Stare Down then ask them again.  And when they assure me it is DIET SODA, I go, "oh. Ok".  Like it's no big deal. Then as they walk away I make Tim taste it to make sure. He doesn't even bother with this one anymore. He just takes a sip. And confirms it's diet.  Bless him. 

4. I cannot stand to screw things on. Lids, light bulbs, caps.... if I have to screw a top or lid on a bottle or light bulb into a socket, I'm out. I don't know why. I can't stand it. Unscrewing, no problem. Screw it on, BIG PROBLEM. You know, that as a mother, I have not been able to escape all lids that screw. Medicines, vitamins, etc.... So I do have to overcome occasionally but I despise it. I close my eyes, grit my teeth and screw on the lid when I have to. However, number one biggest issue in this house is lost lids. Because I won't put them on. How am I married???!

5. This last one is half normal, half weird. Maybe..... To me anyway. I hate port-a-potties. Not only for the stench and germs, but mostly because I have an incredible, disabling fear that as soon as I latch the door to the port-a-pottie, the company will come to pick it up. WITH ME IN IT. This could stem from one too many YouTube prank videos, whatever the reason, I am terrified. You're probably thinking this is not a huge issue, I mean how often do you encounter a port-a-pottie?? Where I work, twice a year for ten days at a stretch. Freak out, people. That's 20 days of port-a-pottie hell.

So there. There are my 5 top wierds. Your turn. I MUST KNOW THEM. GO.

Saturday, December 14, 2013

Maybe Christmas Doesn't Come from a Store....

The year we had our first child we were rapidly approaching Christmas and we saw a certain reality heading straight for us, mack-truck style. We were about to be hit by a run away train we would be powerless to stop.

So we did the only thing two strong-willed, out-spoken people do. We stood defiantly in front of the train and ticked off everyone on board. Cause that's how we roll. 

Let me explain.  

Christmas was approaching.  And I took a look at my family and our budget. I counted it all up. We had 9 nieces and nephews, 6 adult siblings, and 4 grandparents, each other, and one child to buy for. That equals 22 gifts. Just for the immediate family, never mind great-grandparents, aunts, uncles, teachers, secret santas, etc.... 

If we spent 20-30 bucks per person that's $660 bucks. Realistically we were looking at spending $1000 bucks on toys and junk gifts no one would even want in two weeks. We didn't have a problem spending a thousand bucks (well, we may have shed a few tears) but we had the hardest time swallowing spending so much money on toys doomed for a garage sale that summer.  Especially when there were people in our own back yard starving and homeless.

So we called all the family members and said something like: "Guys, we love y'all. And we love your kids. And we want to celebrate Christ's birth with y'all but we want OUT... We want to opt out. Please understand, we won't buy gifts for anyone. No kids, grandparents, parents, siblings, nada... And DO NOT BUY FOR US. We have calculated what we'd spend and we want to spend it on a family we know who is in dire need.  Please by all means, exchange gifts amongst yourselves, but count us out."

There was an uprising. There was angering and misunderstanding. That first year was the hardest. And being no strangers to awesome family dramas, we took this all in stride. When we all sat down for Christmas the family asked us what we'd done with the money. So we shared our story.

I told them about a family with four kids and the only guardian, a home bound grandparent. I explained that as a teacher one of my students was struggling tremendously in class and when I sat with her to talk about why, I noticed she was of covered in bites. I asked her what they were. She said, "Ants." I said "Ants?? Baby, why are you letting ants bite you??" She teared up and said, "They just keep coming...at night." 

When I closed my mouth and regained my thoughts I gently talked with her. She told me she had to sleep on the floor, she didn't have a bed, and parts of the floor were bare dirt. She said the ants bit her at night.

I had to bite my tongue to keep from shouting, "Come home with me!!! I'll be your new mommy!"

I visited her home and saw that what they lived in was barely standing boards holding up a hole-filled roof. And friends, THIS IS NOT UNCOMMON IN OUR OWN TOWN.

I went home and wept. For hours. I told Tim we had to do something. 

After he talked me out of my very well-planned kidnapping plans, we decided we'd buy them everything they needed for Christmas. The money we'd allocated for gifts bought this family food, housecoats, house shoes, jeans, bikes, shirts, hats, a Christmas tree, bubble bath, everything for a great Christmas. 

Christmas eve we snuck to their house black-op style and, with our home group, we descended. We unloaded suburbans full of gifts. Some were needed items and some to them were luxuries unseen before.

The grandmother wept. I wept. We hugged. And I didn't want to leave. My friends drug me out of the house.

When we shared our story with my family no one spoke. All were silent, all were transfixed. I looked at my dad. He was crying.

We went home, we gave our son one gift. He was perfectly happy. 

The next year approached and we steadied ourselves for reexplaining to our family our stance. But before we could, the phone rang. It was my family. They wanted IN. They wanted to know the ground rules. They were sold. Hook, line and sinker, they wanted it. They were in deep. 

Here as a family, we refined the rules:

1. No gifts exchanged between families. Grandparents can give each grandchild ONE gift. 

2. Parents can give one gift, per child, to only our own children.

3. Each family chooses where to give and how much

4. Stockings are allowed 

5. We give our kids their gifts within our own small families before gathering largely Christmas morning

6. Christmas morning we sit around the tree and exchange STORIES. We each share what we did charitably this Christmas.

We've been doing this now for 8 years. Each year God reveals who we need to help.

My kids know nothing different. They only get three gifts (one from each grandparent set and one from parents- and yes, we geniusly tie this to the three wise men bringing their three gifts) plus stockings.

They've never known any different and they treasure each gift more and love to tell how we helped others each year. They still daily use the one gift Tim and I gave them last Christmas. The gifts are more thought out and appreciated.

I've heard variations of this in other families. One family shared they do three gifts, one thing you want, one thing you need, and one thing to give. 

What family traditions do you have?

Wednesday, December 4, 2013

I Could be a Morning Person if Morning Happened at Noon.

This precious wonderfulness is a plea for mom solidarity. Please friends, tell me, lie to me if you have to, but I must know that there are others out there living the same sort of fresh hell I am each morning.

I am not a morning person. Or a night person. For the love of baby moses, I have three kids under 8 years old. But mornings are especially awesome up in this house.

Let me give you the visual of my morning.

5:07 am, my bed shakes violently. I wake up with a start and lay there wondering, was that one of those weird falling-dream-wake-ups? As I wait for the fog to clear, another earth shaking jolt hits. I lean over and take a look at what on God's green earth is happening.

It's my precious, sweet baby loveliness, middle son. He's standing there, with his head down, backing up slowly from the bed. In confusion I look, squinting, wondering what I am seeing. He backs up and rushes forward again and head butts the side of my mattress. With pure angry confusion I look at this madness and he begins to back up again. Going in for another head butt.

In utter bewilderment and with my 38 year old, vision correcting lense-less eyes I say in a low serious voice, "why are you head-butting our bed??! It is 5:07 IN THE MORNING!  Stop it!!"

He looks at me and says, "But I have a cough."

Oh. Ok. That makes sense. Sure, a cough warrants head-butting my bed at 5:07. A. M.

I tell him, "Go back to bed. It's 5:07 and I can't give you Benadryl at 5 in the morning. You'll be fine. Prop up your head and close your eyes."

This was the most mother-nurturing wisdom I could muster. (feel free to use this pearl anytime)

I close my eyes and begin slipping back to sleep and I begin to feel my covers slipping slowly, steadily off. I jerk them back. They begin sliding off slowly again. I am now aware of a second small human by my bed.

At this moment, I fear my face will split open and an alien will come out and drag these poor babies back to their room when I the two year old say, "Mom, I want juice."

All hope is lost. This sleep is over, the ship is sunk. There is no redeeming the formally peaceful sleep, so I trudge off to the kitchen to serve food to the squalling people who have taken over my house.

I stand in the kitchen with my oldest melting down about how he hates his life because he can't eat granola bars. His life is a miserable sack of poo because he is allergic to nuts. There is no greater misery on planet earth than this. HOW DARE I buy granola bars for the other children to eat and mock him.

I tell him they are not mocking him and begin reciting the offerings I can manage to create at 5:23 in the morning.

cereal? bagel? eggs? poptart? and those fall into the Herculean-effort category.

He sits down pitifully with his bowl of cereal and as all three sit at the counter (because eating anywhere else in this house is forbidden. Don't ask- I'm still recovering from the donut in the couch cushion drama) they launch into a screaming, arguing tirade. Words, insults, and perhaps an object or two are being hurled at each other's faces.

At that moment,  my morning-loving, happy-faced husband walks into the kitchen and I do the most mature, normal, loving thing. I look straight into his face and say, "I'm OUT. I want peace in this house. I NEED peace!"

Tim takes in the scene and tells the children in no uncertain terms, "if you refuse to give us peace in this house, we will sell you on ebay". or some such.

I can threaten, beg, plead, and punish all day long and nothing, nada... Egg thrown into the side of first born's face.

So Tim gets all three into shape and all are crying and sad. I look at him and say, "It makes me sad when they are sad."

Bless him. He can't win. He probably thinks I am straight crazy. And let me tell you, I can lay me down some crazy.

But in the spirit of mom solidarity I want you to know, if your house is anything like mine, it's a daily struggle. I mean some mornings I'd do better facing the rodents of unusual size in the fire swamps.

And if your kids skip arm in arm at 7:30 am to the breakfast table in love and sibling bonding, I'm sorry, we can't be friends. I cannot even begin to relate to your peaceful bliss. I am just trying to make it out of the bog of eternal stench.

Wednesday, October 9, 2013

I will call upon Your name

I have been gone for the last ten days working at Marburger (posts to come!) and I had a great time.  And I had time to reflect over the last several weeks.

I have been wanting to write about this but everytime I begin to type, words escape me. Even now, words inadequately tell the story. How do you put a miracle into words?

On September 21st I was at home taking care of my kids and my husband had left to go for a run. It was a mundane morning, nothing unusual until my phone rang. I picked it up and it was a message from a family member urging me to check my facebook.

I looked and saw a message from my brother-in-law. Tim's only sibling, Chris, lives in Kenya, Africa with his wife, Jamie (one of my favorite people on earth!) and their five kids.
Chris had gotten a message out to the world. It was simple and caused my entire body to go numb.

 "Don't come near Westgate mall two grenades and hundreds of shots fired. We are hiding but safe. Pray! Shots still going on 10 minutes later. "

I stopped everything and frantically began calling family. I tried to get Jamie, Chris, anyone on the phone. 

After a few minutes we were told: Chris, Jamie and the kids were all trapped inside Westgate mall in Nairobi, Kenya. The mall was taken by terrorists. And my precious family was inside hiding from the terrorists. 

I dropped to my knees and heard my voice call out, "LORD!! LORD!! You see them!! Cover them! Cover them with your strong arms. Cover them! Make them invisible!

I called my husband. I NEVER call him when he's running. NEVER. It's understood. Unless there was a tragedy, running is a escape- our alone time. :) 

I called him and choked out, "TIM!! come home now! Chris is in trouble. He's in a mall trapped and there's grenades and guns!!" 

Tim gasped out something unintelligent and hung up. I knew the message was delivered. 

I stayed on my knees and begged God. Spare them. Save them. ALL OF THEM.  

The terrorists were there for them. Targeting anyone really, but westerners were a bonus strike in the terrorists eyes.

Tim ran home and said he couldn't remember a single step all the way back home, just his prayers. He too was pleading before the throne for his only brother. Tim, too, was led to pray they would be invisible to the guns, the terrorists.

My brother and sister and five kids were in the mall for approximately five hours. At the onset they had been separated.  It was a terrifying ordeal. Chris hid with the oldest son in a store and said the terrorists looked directly through the glass doors and never saw them. Jamie hid behind pallets of stacked flour. At one point she heard someone calling them out of hiding saying they were the police. She did not trust the voice and stayed hidden. Others walked out and all she heard after they walked out was a succession of gun fire. Hours later she was able to make her way out.

Photo: Best thing I have seen in a long time. Relief.

This is the first image I received of Jamie and her kids after learning they were out of the mall. The only word that came out of my mouth when I saw her was, "Beautiful." 

It was more than her appearance. It was the Spirit in me seeing her and seeing how God sheltered her. That is beauty.

She was reunited with Chris and her oldest son about an hour later.

My family was spared. God sheltered my family and heard our cries.

I've read many accounts and stories that have come from the mall. Many have stuck with me. There was another western family hiding in the mall. Here is an excerpt from that mother's interview: 

  For the next four hours, the family was trapped in a real-life hell, as blasts reverberated around the    shopping mall where the only other sounds were screams and pop music playing over the mall audio  system.
 "My 2-year-old immediately, she just crawled up in fetal position facing the floor and just stayed in a    ball, with her head kind of covered looking into the ground for hours," she said.
 "She was so still that I kept touching her to check that she was still breathing as it was almost like she  was asleep," despite grenade blasts shaking the floor, she added.
 Katherine believes her group's survival was a miracle.
 "I say God hid us in plain sight, as when I looked at the terrorists, it was almost like they were looking  directly in our direction," and another watching from a floor up could not have missed them, she says.

Anyone who has a two year old knows that this is a miracle. That baby laid still and the mother says God put her into a sleep. The terrorists look directly at them and didn't see them.

My God is strong. He is able. 

This song is on Jamie's play list as she walks through this with the Lord. It is now on mine. And those of you I go to church with, get ready...and know, when we sing this one, my heart is especially praising Him.

Monday, September 2, 2013

Explosion of glory

Yesterday  Brian Fisher talked about Genesis at Grace Bible Church in College Station, Texas.

It was an incredible lesson on the evidence of the existence of God. All of it was riveting but one part really hit home with me.

While Brian talked about proving the existence of God, he noted that every believer at some point has doubts. Doubts creep in and you wonder, "Is there really a God??" or if you're me, it sounds something like, "What if there is no God? What if it's the biggest hoax and you're the most gullible thing in the world to fall for it."

And in that moment it struck me that I've been waging war against this very attack. And in a split second it became clear why at this particular time the battle seems more fierce than ever.

When someone you love dearly, you talk to everyday, you laugh with and share life with suddenly dies, you come face to face with this very question. It starts out with, "where is he? Is he really in Heaven? What's he doing there?" and it's quiet and sneaky. And it turns into "you know there's no Heaven. You know that's not real." And before long you are plunged head first into a battle to hang on to your belief in an eternity with God.

And in that same second, I realized that Satan wages this war because he's mad. It is in the death of a believer that Satan is conquered. It is in that VERY second, when a secure soul leaves this earth and is in the presence of Christ that Satan realizes he lost another soul to Christ.

When my dad was dying, I could feel the brokenness of the situation. I could feel how very wrong it was for a human to die. We were not made to die. We were made to be eternal with God. But when sin entered the world, death entered. And Satan thought he'd won. But when a believer dies, that's the instant Satan is reminded he was conquered. And I believe, when that victory was won, and my dad went to be with his Savior, it was as if Satan turned his attack to the surviving, broken hearted family. He uses this opportunity to attempt to steal, kill, and destroy us.

And yes, it is when I wake up (and sometimes never really go to sleep) that I begin my battle. I hear the voice, I hear the doubt, I dig my heels in for the waves of sadness and fear and my response is the same. We sang it at my dad's funeral and I hear the words coming from my lips when I feel the wind knocked out of me. Even when I doubt, IN my doubt, I will say:

                Still my soul will sing Your praise unending
                       Ten thousand years and then forevermore
                                    Bless the Lord, O my soul
                                     O my soul
                               Worship His holy name
                               Sing like never before
                                    O my soul
                            I'll worship Your holy name

So everyone has had a moment of doubt... it doesn't mean you aren't a Christian. It doesn't mean you don't love God enough. Brian gave us 5 points he reminds himself of when the doubt begins to creep in. They're good and now a part of my arsenal.

I encourage you to check out the sermon HERE for more.. much more. (these notes are from the 9/1 sermon.) follow the series with us.

Thursday, August 8, 2013

High fives and heat strokes

When Tim and I began to try to "shape up" and lose weight I fully embraced the "lose weight" part and thought, either he's joking about the "shape up" or he will forget about that part.

Neither was true.  He began to "shape up". He started doing a workout program called Tap Out at home and then moved to jogging. When he started jogging often, I was all, "ah hecks no! I'm on to this "shape up plan"! It is really the "I have to get healthy so I need to go be alone doing whatever I please for an hour every day" plan. jig is up, dude!

Not to be the only one left home with three crazy kids under 7 yrs old, I started my own "shape up plan". I needed to jog too. Yes. That's it. I mean, just to be fair and all. I stay with the kids while Tim "jogs" and then it's his turn. I wouldn't want to cheat him out of quality time with the kids, so,  I'm going jogging. See you in an hour buddy!

When Tim started jogging, he was like, "wow! I feel great! I could jog for hours. I just loooveee running!"

So when I started with my new running shoes and head phones, I thought I'd feel the exact same way but better. Cause that's how I roll.

But HOLY CRAP. I jogged to the end of the block and laid down. I might have taken a nap. or passed out.

After MONTHS of jogging (read: needing my ALONE time!) I approached a friend who jogs, about how hard it was. She laughed and issued a challenge. 5 miles. She said pretty much in a nice way, "you're a weenie if you can't do 5 miles."

So, I pushed myself that next week. I did 5 miles and had a slight heat stroke. I am sure of it. I swore I'd never run that far again unless there was a zombie closing in on me.

But after a while, I started doing 5.5 miles once a week and weeks later, it's now my every run. I'm not saying it's fast or anything. Don't get me wrong. I certainly wouldn't want to cheat Tim out of his "quality time" with the kids. :)

And guess what?? I still hate jogging. It's still HARD. I just do it. I haven't fallen in love with running. It's hard to get up at 6am to jog before the oppressive Texas heat attempts to take my life. But here comes the point:

Why don't other people encourage joggers? Instead of getting annoyed and trying to run them over at 4 way stops, why don't they cheer folks on? It's HARD, people. I have often found myself giving a thumbs up to a runner who looks like they are swallowing a dead cat. I try to encourage with a wave or a smile. Or even a "you go girl!" or two...

I have been SHOCKED at how very few people see a stranger struggling to better themselves and are annoyed to have to wait for them to run across the cross walk.

But lately, I have been running my route opposite. Not backwards (way too clumsy for that) but in reverse order. And I have been routinely passing an older gentleman out for a walk. I am talking early in the morning, up with the owls, early.

And you know what this gentleman does to EVERY passing jogger/walker/runner? He SMILES, says, "good morning!' and puts his hand out for a high five.

At first I was like, "akkk! Are you trying to hit me??!" and then quickly disguise the flinch/jump/fear overreaction. He just wanted to ENCOURAGE me. not mug me. I awkwardly returned his high five, feeling silly and childish.

But, the next time, I was ready. I high fived him. And now, I can't wait to see him. What an incredible difference his presence makes on my jogs.

Can we all agree to high five each other as we jog/walk/run by other fitness maniacs? If we can do this can you IMAGINE how much more fun we'd have??

I'm in. Operation encourage crazy-work-out-freaks in the 105 degree Texas heat is ON!

Wednesday, July 24, 2013

a royal baby.

You know what's interesting to me? As a person who is, as an adult, witnessing the first "royal birth" I can remember,  I am just amazed that this birth has captivated THE WORLD.

 Oh, I admit, I too, have been excited about the baby's birth. Curious, will it be a boy or a girl??? Oh wow! A boy!! I watched, I waited. And it struck me.

I saw the throngs of people lined up for days to see a glimpse of the baby. I watched them put announcements on golden easels.

Parades, accolades, flags, parties... it was endless the amount of attention this baby's birth has received.

Throughout this I was struck by this thought: and this baby is human. This "royal" baby is a normal, flawed, sinful, human.

Only "royal" because, somewhere in time, someone (another human or more likely humans) deemed it so.

But the actual King of Kings, the true royal, sinless, Son of God, was born in an animal stable. The stars announced His birth, the angels sang of it. The universe declared it, but overall humans (other than three wise men and some shepherds) did not parade, sing, announce, or celebrate the birth of the true Royal baby.

And the Son of God's birth was not announced on a golden easel.

He came humbly and quietly. The One to whom "royals" will bow to. The One to whom kings will bow, came very quietly. Very unassuming.

I find it truly interesting to view this birth through that lens.

Another interesting perspective: http://www.lifenews.com/2013/07/22/royal-baby-for-once-the-entire-world-knows-a-baby-is-a-baby/

Tuesday, July 23, 2013

Bar Harbor, Down East Maine, and whoopie pies.

I have spent the last 15 years going to Maine during the summer. I spend various amounts of time (depending on life circumstances) on Mount Desert Island in Bar Harbor.

The very first time I went, my dad took me. He took our family many times. I began going with my husband, then added my kids, and with friends.

This last visit (June-early July) was the very best trip. It was gorgeous. It was peaceful. I felt myself breathe. I felt like I was closer to my dad up there. Like I was puttering around in his space. It was fantastic.

And I may or may not have sobbed my eyes out when my husband loaded my flailing body into the suburban, begging that he just leave me.

It's ok. I probably recovered my dignity within two or three hours.

I know I've been on a bit of a blogging hiatus, but what brings me back into the blogging world is my passionate love for Maine. And that includes a ridiculous, over the top, love for whoopie pies. It's a Maine thing.
Whoopie pies

I took the challenge and ate as many whoopie pies from every establishment on MDI as I could. (And yes, that's me you see on rock prairie road attempting to jog off the whoopie pie pounds)

But just try to find a good downeast style whoopie pie around here. And no, it's not the same thing as a moon pie!!!

I made it my personal mission to create the perfect Maine whoopie pie in my very hot and humid (wiping my tears) college station, kitchen. It's only 73 degrees in bar harbor right now. Not 101. Just sayin'

Well, after a day in my kitchen I did it. If I do say so myself. Here, my precious friends, is the very perfect Maine style, created in a southern kitchen, whoopie pie recipe. I take checks and cash as thanks...
Whoopie pies

For the cakes:
1/2 cup shortening
1 cup sugar
2 eggs yolks
5 tablespoons of cocoa powder
2 cups sifted flour
1 tsp baking powder
1 tsp baking soda
1 tsp salt
1 cup milk
1 tsp vanilla

Cream together the sugar and the shortening. Add the beaten yolks. Sift together the dry ingredients then add that mixture alternatively with the milk and vanilla. Drop equal spoonfuls onto a greased cookie sheet. (I mound these up as much as possible), leave room for them to spread. Bake in a preheated 375 degree oven for 10 minutes. Remove to wire racks to cool completely. With a spoon, add a good wallop of the filling (recipe below) to half the cakes. Put them together like sandwiches. Wrap individually in Saran Wrap. They get better with time! (Next day is best!!)
Whoopie pies

1 1/2 cups shortening
3 1/2 cups powdered sugar
3 tsp vanilla
3 tablespoons milk
Good dash salt

Cream together shortening and sugar, add the other three ingredients. Beat the heck out of it until lite and fluffy.
Whoopie pies

Now, put three on the counter as peace offerings, eat two, and hide the rest. you're welcome.

Saturday, May 11, 2013

A common ailment no amount of hand sanitizer can protect against

Entitlement. Lord, how I even hate the word.

We struggle and fight and try to smash that ugly entitlement bug that creeps into our every day lives but how very invasive it is in today's world.

I feel like we are standing firm against a wave that reaches five feet above our heads.

Our kids are inundated with a world that spoon feeds them the idea that they "deserve" the newest shoes. and the "everyone else has the new game system"...etc...

When I came across this lady's blog post I did an out loud "AMEN SISTER!" and a air high five. to which I may or may not have promptly returned to myself. :)

Please, take a second and read her post. It was very encouraging in a very overwhelming time to raise kids.

We are not alone in this battle!


Wednesday, April 17, 2013

"An Ambush," said Owl, "is a sort of Surprise."

For a birthday of mine a couple years ago, my husband made me an owl house. I wrote about it here: http://thesuels.blogspot.com/2011/02/owl-take-it.html

Each year, our owl comes back, sets up shop then leaves during the winter. I understand that male owls have to have a home to show a potential female. If she approves, bingo. Owls are pretty smart, huh? :)

Recently a pesky squirrel decided to move in while Mr. Owl was away at his winter home. I warned the squirrel. I even hosed the guy with a water hose to make him move on. He didn't.

Mr. Owl is back. and he dominated.


We have enjoyed watching our owl. The owl house was easy to make,  here are some instructions: http://www.owlcam.com/whatever/boxbuild.htm

 Owls are AWESOME rodent eliminators, screech owls in particular love those big tree roaches (shudder!!) that fact alone makes him my new best friend. And makes we want to set up 78 more owl houses. {{{{still got the willies}}}} tree roaches are demonic. In case you didn't know. Here's a few pictures I snapped this morning. He's been keeping watch over the tile guys comings and goings.....

Tuesday, April 9, 2013

Weird kitkats and bagels.

I know I am weird and this I accept- but recently my husband has been pestering me to post about a particular weirdness of mine.

So, here it is.

I normally work at home surrounded by tiny, needy but lovely, humans-in-training. Not alot of conversing happening. So things I think upon usually just turn out to be a conversation with myself. I often find I don't express where or what or why I am doing things.

But lately, I ditched my lovely family and went to work in Round Top, Texas at Marburger and surrounded myself with intelligent talkative adults. Adults with ALLLL kinds of thought patterns. Interesting. :)

Here are a few of the AWESOME people who tolerate me for a couple weeks twice a year:

The hardworking porters Rodney and Nick:

My boss sits here but wont let me take her picture. So imagine a very pretty, sweet lady sitting across from me here:

The sheriff's officers and Brad's daughter Bailey:

And operations manager Brad. (I adore his entire family!)

One day in the office, my boss' teenage daughter walked by and expressed her love of kitkats. She rummaged through the candy bowl until she found a kitkat. Well, I don't like kitkats. Haven't for YEARS. bleh.

But several weeks, months? ago I decided I STINK at empathy. My son rocks at it and I really really stink. I mean I am really awful with empathy. And a while back as I thought/prayed about my stink empathy abilities I thought about people who use tricks to remember names. Red hair, Reba... etc... I decided to make up an empathy exercise.

Still with me?

So I decided that in order to put myself in someone elses' shoes, I'd try foods they liked. Even if I hated them. Maybe Id discover new likes as well as put my mind in a place to think about a person and why they like that item, etc...

So, boss' daughter liking kitkats, meant, I'd try a kitkat. still bleh. BUT now when I see or smell or taste kitkats, I think about her. And pray for her.

All of this had been just happening in my own head. Until one morning I saw my sister make her coffee and it was what I call a "frufru" coffee. Flavored. yeck.

But, I'm exercising my empathy vein so I try it. and I LOVE IT. weird. but I did. Being that she's a conversable adult and it's my rare opportunity to speak up about things rolling around in my head, I walked in her room and told her I tried her coffee and I liked it. She asked me what made me try it. I explained my new empathy strategy. She smiled. I assumed she thought, WWWWEEEEEIIIIIRDDDDOOOOO... but she's used to me... so nothing new there.

Now, macadamia nut coffee reminds me of my sister and I pray for her when I smell or taste it.

And today, my sister called me and told me that earlier she had to run an errand for a friend and pick up that friend's breakfast.
The friend had ordered a really strange concoction of bagel and peaches and something else. She immediately thought. REALLY?? But then, she ordered the same for herself. To try to put herself in his shoes and see what it was that he liked. and guess what? She liked it. But MORE than that, she said that taste will forever remind her to pray for that friend.

Empathy exercise? maybe? definitely an exercise in getting outside of yourself, trying something new, and remembering to pray for someone.

Wednesday, March 27, 2013


I've spent a lot of time thinking about Heaven lately. And what it will be like.

I recently read, One Minute After You Die. By Erwin Lutzer

I highly recommend it. It was so helpful to me in clearly understanding the biblical truth of what Heaven is and the choice we make.

The other day Tim and I were watching American Idol when the top ten were announced. This year, they did American Idol differently. Only Ryan Seacrest knew who was a finalist. The family and crowds did not know who would be coming through the doors until they walked through. And as they did, the friends, and  family would jump to their feet, throw their hands in the air and just celebrate.

Tim paused the video right as Kree walked out to show the crowd she was a finalist. Tim turned to me and said,"You know, this is what Heaven will be like. Your dad, granddad, friends and family will be there and as you enter, they will be standing and clapping and grinning, throwing their hands in the air and saying, "YES! YES! YES!"  as you see what the Lord has for you."

I was struck with how amazing that analogy is. I can just see Jesus, going over to my dad, nudging him and saying, "Come on. I wanna show you something." and as I walk into Heaven them being there, just beaming.

Let me show you:

Now, hit play

Do you have the assurance that you will be walking through those gates? You can, it's free. Christ died so you can live.
All it takes is accepting that He died for your sins and without him and his death on the cross, you would be eternally separated from Him. Believe that Christ, the Son of God, died on the cross and rose again, and that His death alone paid the price for your sins. Tell him.

If you are still on the fence, check out One Minute After You Die. and The Bible. 1 John 3:16“For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish, but have eternal life. 17“For God did not send the Son into the world to judge the world, but that the world might be saved through Him. 18“He who believes in Him is not judged; he who does not believe has been judged already, because he has not believed in the name of the only begotten Son of God.

Saturday, March 23, 2013

The Bible: viewer discretion is advised.

The Bible.
Have you been watching?
We have. And you know what strikes me EVERY TIME it starts? That there's a statement at the beginning. A warning.
It says, "viewer discretion is advised."
This actually makes me smile. And it reminds me of that line by C.S. Lewis when speaking of Aslan the Lion, ""He's not safe, but He's good".
Our God is powerful, right, good, and dangerous.
We are looking forward to tomorrow's episode.
The mission. This picture is from tomorrow's episode.
As I have become a mother, I have identified more and more with Mary. Look at her face.
That is her baby.
Her boy.
And her God.
What her heart must have been feeling is unimaginable. Remember this scene from The Passion of the Christ?
 My heart stops.
 My heart just stops.
As a follower and disciple of Christ, this Easter season is important.
It's holy. It's beyond words what our Savior did for us.

I love the reminder from Christ, "I am making all things new."

Even as He was being scandalized, beaten, and murdered, He encouraged US.
The ones that put Him on that cross.

I encourage you to watch tomorrow night.

The Mission.8/7 central on The History Channel.

I leave you with the song we will be doing tomorrow at church:

Friday, March 15, 2013

The Vintage Soul

So I've been thinking,

What makes Mumford & Sons stop me in my tracks, cause me to tear up, and celebrate all in one split second?

And what makes Kree Harrison, from this years American Idol, make me sit up and listen? Good vocals, definitely. But it goes beyond that.

What makes me disappear into another world when the Avett Brothers start playing? oh and Patty Griffin. I could go on.

I don't think it's just about vocals, or lyrics.

It's about the life they've lived. Now, I don't know any of these people personally, and for all I know, they may have lived an ice cream and waffles life. but I bet not.

When I see Kree, I see pain and life.

It is the same for all my favorite gut wrenching, soul-ripping, artists. They've lost something dear. They've experienced pain.

Maybe it didn't register so fully with me before I felt  life's deepest wound. Before I felt such an indescribable loss, I didn't realize how it affected you after.

I see it in people. I see the gold vain in the rocks that the pressure of sorrow has created. Yes, Ive also seen the bitterness, that those who suffer and get angry, are embracing.

But for those who don't get bitter and angry, and instead let that sorrow and pressure and pain grow them, have a new feature. It's a vain of gold that God creates in the cracks pain causes.

I see Kree's gold.

And I see the gold in my friends who have been fractured. It's in their eyes, their words, their stance, their posture, their hand motions.

I see it.  Thank you God for turning the fractures into ribbons of gold. And thank you God for letting me see it.

James 1:2-4 Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters,[a] whenever you face trials of many kinds,because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance. Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything.

To hear a few of my favorites: {I dare you to listen- it'll make you close your eyes and feel every word}

Patty Griffin: Up to the Mountain

  Mumford and Sons Timshel Kree Harrison: Stronger

Monday, March 11, 2013

Marburger Farm Antique Show Tshirt Giveaway!!

So, y'all know I work for the greatest antique show on earth, right? Well, if you didn't know, I do.

I work for Marburger Farm Antique Show.

I help in lots of ways and recently I helped with the design of their Spring Show Tshirts. (yikes! its approaching FAST!)

And personally, I LOVE them. That works out well for myself.

  Here they are:
The front has a small logo on the top left, and the back has all the names of the 12 historic buildings that are on our property.

We are so excited about them we are giving one away. Go comment HERE to enter to try to win one! I guarantee, you will LOVE it!

Saturday, March 9, 2013

Baby boy to big boy.

My sweet first born hooligan grew up over night. Literally.

Here he is with his signature long blond hair and curls.

We took him in to get a "new look"


And he came out 3 years older!!

I just cant believe this BOY is my baby. Im too young for this!


Monday, March 4, 2013

How to create a color palette using Photoshop

There are many times I have a photo and need to create a color palette based on the colors in that photo. Here is a photoshop tutorial on how I create this:
First I open my saved photoshop color box. I have a vertical and horizontal version.
When its open it look like this:
Then I go to file->open->and I find and open the picture I need the color palette of. In this case I just chose a image of some vintage barkcloth.
Next I use my mouse and click and drag the top tab of the barckloth down an inch or two so that photoshop has both the palette form and barkcloth photo open.
Then I, using the move arrow, click on the image of the barkcloth and drag it into the center large box of the palette form.
Then I click on the barkcloth and drag it to the top left corner of the large black box.
Then I {Photoshop shortcut} click on the barkcloth image, click ctrl T (which makes it transformable) then holding down the shift key I grab the corner of the barkcloth by clicking and holding left mouse key and drag it until it fills the black box. Be sure to let the mouse key go first then the shift key- this keeps the dimensions correct.
Next on third layer down in the layer section I double click on the tiny black box inside layer 6.
It opens the color picker. Next grab the eye dropper tool and click anywhere on the barkcloth that you want the color to grab.
Continue this process for all the layers. Layer 6 to layer 1. Just double click on the tiny black box inside the layers section, grab the eye dropper and click it anywhere on your image you want the color of.  It'll fill the boxes below with the color you grab.
When you are finish, you will end up with this. Save it as a Jpeg or whatever format you need.
This is so helpful when working on blog layouts, interior design, any thing that needs a color scheme. I love it!
Here is another example using my vertical color palette form.
Here are the vertical and horizontal color palette forms. Feel free to save them and open in photoshop to use.
have fun!

Friday, March 1, 2013

How I make signs

First, let me explain that these are treasures:
 No, they aren't trash even though they came from a trash bin. :)
I make my signs on discarded wood. Doors, windows, cabinet doors, sidings, fences, etc. If I like the way it looks, it'll be painted on.

I start with a word, illustrator, or photoshop document. When I create a new page I put the dimensions of my piece of wood or size I want the sign to be. In this case, my scrap piece of crapped up wood was 16 inches wide by 6 inches tall. I needed a sign for my gate so, here is how I did it.

I used Adobe illustrator and made the document 16x6.

When I create the document of that size it allows me to see how my wording will fit. I choose fonts that I like to make the sign look good.

Here is the document I created for this sign.

Then I drew some guide lines on my crappy wood with a pencil. I had my printed document beside me to help give me guidance.

Then I "emulate" the font. Is that a technical process??! I am not sure. I can pretty much eyeball copy any font. That skill helps in this process but you could always use tracing paper.

Here are photos of this sign progressing.

I had my pencil guidelines to keep my letters exactly the same size
I just penciled in my letters, I used a baby wipe to erase when I made a mistake.
Kept writing until I had it like I liked it.
Then, now, forgive me here, I was being ultra lazy, but I used a sharpie. I just needed a sign dang it! Most of the time I use paint. Whatever kind I have. Craft, wall, left overs, I mix paints for color... etc.
So, here I have outlined the letters in sharpie marker.

Then, get ready for it, I colored them in. with sharpie. {cringe} I DO normally use paint. I suggest paint. High quality paint. Sign paint. -kidding. use whatever you have. the cheaper the better.
So I colored and colored until I have the sign below complete. Took maybe 20 minutes.

Here are a few others I have done. These are just around my house in various places. Most don't stay long. Friends and family have a way of running off with them.
I cannot tell you how lazy- er, I mean, efficient, I am. I am not exact, I make mistakes but it just adds to my "vintage" look. :)
Trust me, you can do this too. 

Good luck, just grab a piece of crappy trash wood and try it out. You may surprise yourself.