Saturday, December 31, 2016

The good, the bad and

It was the best of times, it was the worst of times...but through it all I found joy.

Tonight, 2016 heads off the calendar and we turn a fresh page on a new year.  I have seen so many complaints about what a horrible year 2016 has been, people glad to see it go so they can have a much better year next year.  Let me tell you, I've learned a thing or two about anticipating the's never what you envision it to be.
In our lives it seems we are busy.  Not the "busy" that one is to keep up with the status quo but the busy that comes from being a real family, busy that comes from caring for others.  In the fall, Jessica was wanting us to do something, I can't even remember what it was and her comment was "maybe when it slows down next week..."  Next week never came.

If you think I'm going to continue down the path with what a horrible year it's been and how I'm longing for a better year ahead you are W-R-O-N-G!  Have bad things happened in 2016, yes.  Have friends and family gone on from this life, yes.  Have I had disappointment in 2016, yes.  Have I cried more tears this year than I ever imagined, yes.  Have I seen my kids hurt, yes.  There have been horrible things happen in 2016 but there have been even more joys!

I choose joy.

I choose joy.

I choose to focus on all the good in my life.  

Me-I'm a year older and a year wiser.  I have learned to trust an entire tribe of women, we share our
ups and our downs.  One of these ladies shared yesterday that "a concern or trouble shared is DIVIDED and a joy shared is MULTIPLIED."  This came about because she wanted to buy me a cuppa coffee on my birthday and I accepted.  I know it sounds crazy but it was the first time I had ever done that; I'm usually the giver.  Alzheimer's and Vascular Dementia have both reared their ugly heads in my family and I often feel alone, very-very alone.  Dementia is a real disease but it's a mental disease so society deems it ugly and we're not allowed to talk about it until the person is so far gone they'll never know or they're dead.  The people caring for them are stressed out, often isolated and and losing their loved ones one puzzle piece at a time until they become unrecognizable.  Sounds horrible, doesn't it?  But you know what, I got to spend another year honoring them, loving them and walking with them as they journey toward the end.  I was given a refresher course in F-U-N this year when the above mentioned tribe of women invited me to an evening of crafting.  I wanted something outside the box, an anchor for HOPE. Rob (the husband who cut all our shapes) went above and beyond by drawing & cutting a beautiful wooden anchor for
me to paint, his wife bought some rope to use in the bow and Sis made me a lovely bow.  When I see my anchor I feel the strength and love of my tribe, they have no idea but they make my days a little easier knowing they are there.
Handsome-he is my rock.  He has more pain than any person deserves to endure with a degenerative back disease but he always puts me first and does so much without a complaint.  I have watched him take my Dad to OSU football games when he really should have been icing his back and taking it easy on his day off.  I see his gentle softness when he takes my Mom's arm and walks her down the aisle to communion on Sunday.   I watch him do things with the girls, making things for their rooms or taking them to a movie they want to see that he couldn't care less about.  Going to see Megan Trainor with them so I could stay in the hospital with my Mom. He's grown a tribe of his own, a great group of men who build one another up.  They work on their trucks, do things for others, build things and smoke some of the best meat I've ever had!  He listens to me when I'm hurting and holds me up when I'm feeling defeated.  Crazy blessed doesn't even begin to cover how he makes me feel!

The girls-or should I say ladies?  Have we had sass and attitude, yes.  Have we had arguments, disagreements and disobedience, yes.  Have they not done chores, assignments and things they were asked to do, yes!  But you know what, I've been blessed to watch them mature another year.  I've seen kindness to others-friends, family and strangers.  I've seen sweet Jessica go from no birthday party because I didn't know who to invite to having a hotel room full of little girls who have become "sisters."  I have watched Melissa have the best year in volleyball and be mature enough to decide to walk away so she could be more active in church and 4H.  I saw Anna graduate from college, get a job (actually 3) in the real world as she has blossomed into an incredible adult.

I choose joy.

I was disappointed with so many things in 2016-the election, actors and musicians who passed, violence in the world, construction on the highway.....but all of that is nothing when compared to the joy in my life.

What was your joy in 2016?  I bet you are crazy blessed, too!

PS A special shout out of thanks to my dear, dear friend Angie Klohn-Stieferman who has influenced me to choose joy this year.  We have been friends since the 7th grade at Etta Dale Junior High, like all friendships we've had ups and downs, good and bad but we choose joy, we choose to remember the good and consider the rest "lessons in growing up".  In 2016, she was diagnosed with Stage IV kidney cancer and she IS fighting the good fight.  Her attitude and faith are a shining beacon for me each and every day.  Her strength, her faith, her love and concern for others as she battles while #kickenfesterout is a prime example of exactly all that was good in 2016.

Wednesday, November 30, 2016

Beautiful Blossoms

I'm a realist.  I love to brag on my kids and their accomplishments as much as the next Mom...but I also like to keep it real by sharing the struggles, things they are working to improve on and days that I want to list them on Freecycle.  Having Frick & Frack at home and involved in so many things the accomplishments are often frequent, it's easy to post about a volleyball game, a victory in shooting, a 4H community service or even a game day with the youth group at church!  Things that Anna used to do were very visible when she was younger but when she graduated from college in May, I entered new territory-an adult child.

Anna is now a bonafide adult.  She pays her own rent, buys her own gas and groceries, has THREE real jobs (all relating to her degree-you know she told me she might as well work, she has nothing else to do yet...), a cat, a dog and a boyfriend of two years.  Those things are indeed accomplishments but they aren't really what you share in casual conversation or in a Facebook status.  "I'm so proud of Anna, she paid her rent on time today!!!"  "Woo-hoo, Anna meal planned an bought groceries today!"  "Would you look at that, she's such a good dog-mom, she takes Stella to the dog park at least once a week!" My friends would call me crazy and Anna would quickly encourage me to hit the DELETE button!

When the kids are still at home and it's easy to see their everyday accomplishments I believe the brags are directly due to our "planting seeds and sprinkling" you know the little things we do and say to train up our children.  My philosophy has always been to use a sprinkle technique to water the seeds of learning. I don't often give long lectures, I've never grounded a child. I've never been "ugly mom" aka the one who yells, loses their temper etc. without coming full circle and humbly apologizing for my behavior.  I work hard to give direction, encouragement and lessons by sprinkling just a little bit at a time, my theory is if I "flood" them with too much they'll overload and those precious seeds will just run off and be wasted.  The struggles I have are often because of my own frustrations manifesting themselves through my children.  It seems the days the kids are the most defiant are the days I'm struggling with things of my own.  The days they are arguing, I have usually started my day out with stress and am giving that negative vibe.  Every night when I lay my head on my pillow, I pray that somehow our children will take the sprinklings that have afforded them accomplishments and grow them into something beautiful in their lives.  Sometimes at night, I'm like the mom in "I'll Love You Forever," I sneak into their rooms and pray for them...I've even been so bold as to brush their bangs from their foreheads and plant a kiss while those sweet angel girls were sleeping!

This weekend I realized that beautiful blossom that grows may not be something you can really put your finger on.  It may just be your child becoming a good person themselves.  Anna calls me almost every morning; I enjoy her rambling about hanging out with a friend, going to the dog park or sharing her to-do list for her job that day.  Honestly, sometimes she calls and rants, complains and gripes about one thing or another and I just listen, commiserate and love her.  Our calls always end with her sweet voice proclaiming, "I love you Momma!"  My heart nearly bursts with excitement every time. Every time.  The other day I realized all the things I had hoped for, all the prayers for her becoming something beautiful was readily evident, I only had to look.  The seeds we planted and oh so carefully and lovingly sprinkled for 17 years and 10 months living under our roof had blossomed.  She sprinkled me by giving a mom the gift of planting a seed in her daughter.  I was humbled.

Then she surprised me with this text.  Not only does she work for a church, she met her boyfriend there and traditions mean something because she created her own advent wreath with the thought that it would last for years.

I am indeed one crazy blessed Momma.  One girl raised, two to go.  Just under four years left with Frick and just under six with Frack.  I know those short years will fly by, I'm going to have to make the best of them and continue sprinkling them every day!

Tuesday, November 1, 2016

Returning Pandora to Her Box

I'm afraid Pandora has been released from her box and I don't know if we can ever get her crammed back in there.  Tonight I was crazy blessed to sit on my front porch and pass out candy to the kids.  I saw a boy with horrible headache from a giant knife that ran through his skull-fortunately it missed his brain,  several little girls dressed as their favorite princess,  a couple of cowboys,  some skeletons,  a couple of dinosaurs and even a nerd.   I enjoyed talking to them about their costumes and visiting with their parents about the ability to still vote YES on Issue #7.  The kids this year seemed friendlier and I heard several cries of "thank you" and more than one "Happy Halloween!"  Their smiles were huge and absolutely infectious.

It was fun and laughs until a threesome came up they were:
1. Dressed in scrubs with a "Make America Great Again" ball cap
2.  A clown with a sign that said "Don't Vote for Killery"
3. A kid in regular clothes with a sign that said "Vote for Trump"
I was okay with child 1 & 3 but number 2 made my heart sad.   These were kids who heard their parents talking about politics, heard the news, or read some of the horrible memes and articles floating around the internet.  That's all fine but calling your opponent names is poor sportsmanship no matter how it is packaged.  The name calling, the mudslinging has been prevalent all around the political season this year.  Somehow it seems much worse than in past years.

I disagree with the saying that respect must be earned.  I feel that respect should be given to everyone, but like trust it can be lost and have to be re-earned.  I believe that there are people to whom you give respect simply because of their position, title or age (you can  politely disagree with them or be disappointed in their actions but you still show them respect).  Your grandparents, the older folks in the church who you always called Mr. and Mrs., your teacher at school, the principal and your friends parents.  The respect continued to those you didn't really know but affected your life-the Mayor of your town, store owners and Gary England on channel 9 weather!  The next layer of people were ones we'd likely never meet but we respected them because of their elected position-senators, representatives, the governor and the president.  I was a very politically minded teenager, I read the Wall Street Journal and the Daily Oklahoman almost every day.  I really wanted to major in Political Science (so I thought).  I read about candidates and what they stood for, in high school I found a candidate I really was excited about-it was some state election-I can't even remember what it was for!  I went to a local office and made phone calls encouraging people to get out and vote for my candidate and was invited to come to the watch party at some fancy-schmancy hotel in downtown Oklahoma City.  It was crowded with people, balloons and streamers.  Being a school kid in the 1980's I couldn't stay until the election was called but I remember waking the next morning and rushing to grab my newspaper which told me my candidate lost.  I remember the disappointment that someone I had worked so hard to elect, someone I believed in so much, someone so good could have lost.  My Mom, always the wisest woman I've known, shared something with me that has stuck.  "Dana, it's okay.  Sometimes good candidates lose, they can do good wherever they are.  It's our job to support, help and encourage the person elected to do good.  If they don't then it's our job to get out, campaign and vote for someone else next time."

We are crazy blessed to live in these great United States.  They are great!!!  We have so many freedoms and opportunities.  This year we don't have the candidates with the past we'd like to see, we don't have candidates without skeletons in their closets, crude talk or email scandals.  Unfortunately we don't have candidates we feel we can really trust, it's almost a lesser of two evils. What really breaks my heart and hurts my spirit is how hateful and ugly supporters on both sides have become.  A child, a young child slandering the opponent by calling her "Killery."  I don't care what your political affiliation is or who you support, encouraging kids to call names only fuels the bully fire which is the exact opposite of what we are striving to teach our children.

Please consider how you are talking in front of your kids, remind them that Donald and Hillary have been selected by their respective major political parties to run for the office of president.  Name calling and being a bully to your friends and relatives about this election does nothing but cause hurt and further division.  We're one short week away from the big election day, one week away from knowing who our next president will be.  Even if your candidate is not elected, feel free to be sad or disappointed then get behind the one elected-support them, help them, encourage them....if they don't do a good job-campaign, vote and elect someone else in four years.  Let's put a little piece of Pandora back in the box and show some respect for the office even if we don't like the person.  Live up to your crazy blessed potential and be a positive part of the solution not an ugly part of the problem.

PS This year I have been very active (I'm working to be a positive part of the solution) in the Arkansas for Compassionate Care campaign seeking to legalize Medical Cannabis for 56 illnesses.  I've never smoked pot but I am a HUGE believer in natural medicine and am confident in the benefit of cannabis for a wide variety of illnesses. I was flattered this morning when my oldest daughter told me she thought I was the "purest" supporter of Issue 7.  It filled my heart with joy.  

Tuesday, October 25, 2016

Hashtag Jesus

I find I listen better during the Sunday morning sermons when my hands are busy. I know how to knit but I just can't be the knitter in the church I doodle on my bulletin as I'm taking notes. Sometimes I even bring my colored pencils, experimenting with colors, shapes and fonts. Then I like to pick and choose from my notes attempting to form a cohesive couple of sentences to share with my family and friends via Facebook. I've always thought my intentions were "pure." You know "genuine from the heart sharing because I enjoyed the sermon and learned so much." I never really paid attention to the likes or the comments, sure they were fun to see but I really didn't get excited or care too much-I was just happy that someone else was able to get something from the message I had been so crazy blessed to hear. Then this week came along, I really enjoyed the sermon. I doodled excessively in my bulletin and then excitedly put together my thoughts so that I could share with Facebook world. That evening when I clicked the dreaded Facebook app and saw the notification that the District Superintendent had liked my status I felt like a kid, immediately screenshotted it and sent to our Pastor. Wow, I'm 46 years old and it brought out the goofy teenager inside. He responded with a simple "Thanks" no punctuation, no smiley face...and my stomach sank. Sure I know, I read WA-A-A-AY too much into that one text; that's the trouble with being a middle aged, hormonal, recovering from the crud woman. I thought about it a couple of times yesterday and found myself worrying that he hadn't liked my summary status...did he hate it? Did I get the message completely wrong? Was he irritated that the DS read my summary instead of "really" getting his sermon? Was he thinking, she's so immature? Talk about stress and negative voices in your head, they were on overtime!
This morning at precisely 3:55 a.m. I woke with a start.
All I could think was #Jesus (you have to say that "hashtag Jesus," out loud, quietly in your head so the people around you don't think you're crazy), because a few weeks ago the good Pastor preached a sermon about slowing down like Mary, he tied in the social medias and how some of us spend too much time thinking about clever things to post for the attention it brings-which kind of defeats the purpose of a servant heart when it's doing it for the glory. (There was a really great story about Mary's ability to slow down to listen and how if it had been current day, Martha might have been taking pictures and hashhtagging witty things, with a bit of snarky attitude like #NazareneCuisine #bakingbread4thebreadoflife or maybe even #wishhewouldturnthiswaterintowine.) Right then and there in the middle of the night, I almost sat up but was afraid I'd wake up Ted, I was consumed with guilt:
Was I posting these sermon summaries for the right reasons?
Was I being bossy or pushy, trying to get others to see things from my perspective?
Perhaps on some level I've been posting for the likes and comments?
Then I remembered God knows. God knows my heart, He knows my true intent and I think He's probably even okay with that brief teenage distraction of a like from the district superintendent. I allowed myself to stop the guilt session and mindfully breathed for a little bit, slowly in and out; almost meditating when I remembered the times friends in far away states or of different religions have commented about singing the same song at their church or hearing a message that was similar that morning and I feel connected. It makes my world seem a little closer, a little more intimate to share the Jesus I know and love with my Facebook family. It was then when I was able to see that sometimes forming the "perfect" status really isn't about the likes, it's about being deeply crazy blessed and bold enough to share it with the world! #crazyblessed that is!!
PS In case you're wondering I did share this with my Pastor, he assured me that I was indeed reading way too much into that text. So remember not to read too much into a text, especially when you're a middle aged, hormonal, recovering from the crud woman!

Friday, October 14, 2016

Be Still

Granny Thunder, that's the name of my bicycle.  It was my Mother's Day gift a few years ago, Jessica named it for me.  Her bicycle is "Purple Thunder" obviously it's purple...mine is Granny because it looks like a granny bike!  I ride it almost every day because it's the fastest transportation to my parents house around the curve and three houses down.  It seems I'm always in a hurry or crunched for time, last week I had my first accident because I was in a big hurry!  Let's just say I'll be fashionable with a bandaid on my big toe for a lo-o-ong time.  Being still is the last thing I have time for.

Busy-it seems that we all wear it like some medal we've earned.  We're busy with the house, busy buying groceries and cooking meals, busy with church work, busy volunteering, busy caregiving, busy running the kids, busy with extra curriculars, busy with this, busy with that...we don't even slow down to enjoy a meal because we've got to get to the next place.  We're in a constant state of worrying about or hurrying to our next "thing."

I was crazy blessed to spend a couple of months working on a committee for a ladies retreat on prayer.  It really motivated me to devote more time to my prayer life.  While I've successfully added in dedicated time for prayer, it's almost become yet another "busy."  Now don't get me wrong, my prayer time has enriched my life but I still feel like I need some time for "me."

"Me"ditation--last year I was looking for a devotion book, something to help me with my busy.  Several friends recommended, "Peace is Every Step" by Thich Nhat Hanh, I began reading it exactly one year ago today, I absolutely loved it!  The deep breathing technique, focusing on your breath as you breathe slowly in and out through your nose.  For a couple of months I worked at just breathing, I guess you could call it mediation for a few minutes each day, then I got too busy.  Clearly I missed the entire point of "mindfulness" in the book.

My journey toward "be still" continued when a friend selected the book, "How to
be Here" by Rob Bell for our Thursday morning time.  What a great book encouraging you to really learn to be present in the moment.  His analogy of each day being like a cursor at the beginning of a blank document on your computer, full of potential and possibility just waiting for you to be, up to you to create.  It continued my mindshift toward "me."

Last week our Pastor began a new sermon series on STRESS!!  Along with it, he is offering a bonus class on "Mindfulness Meditation."  He gave us a glimpse by sharing Anderson Cooper's 60 Minutes Special.

Wednesday evening we had our first session.  Almost 20 people showed up on a dark, stormy night, pretty incredible considering just a few short months ago our congregation frequently had less than 40 in attendance on any given Sunday.  Twenty people hungry for help in reducing their stress, looking for a way to lift the dark veil of depression, believing that their bodies could heal from chronic pain...twenty people tired of the busy and ready to give this mindfulness thing a try.

For me, I am so excited to be learning to meditate.  You can read the books but having someone actually share their story of meditation with you, someone who has studied with a Zen Master, someone who has had the dark lifted, someone who has seen the benefits in their health makes a huge difference.  We were challenged to spend just 10 minutes each day in mediation.  Ten short minutes to just breathe, what a gift!  "Me" ditation time coupled with a renewed prayer life, I look forward to seeing what happens in my life.  Be watching...this crazy blessed girl is believing that this time mindfulness will take and I can take a step back from the busy and truly "be here now" for my family.

Tuesday, October 11, 2016

We the People

I know this is a copy of the
Declaration of Independence
not the Constitution
but it hangs proudly in our home.
This particular copy is 140 years old
and was a printed business advertisement
from 1876.  To me it is a symbol of
integrity and freedom.
The real loser in this election will not be the one who doesn't become president of the United States,  the real loser is 
"we the people."

I'm 46 years old.  The very first presidential election I can remember was in 1976, Gerald Ford-incumbent ran against a little known former governor from Georgia, Jimmy Carter.  I had Mrs. Schultz as my teacher in Weatherford, Oklahoma where she was determined to teach her first graders about the election process.  We studied both candidates, I vividly recall that Jimmy Carter liked jelly beans and peanuts!  We were supposed to "register" as either Republican or Democrat and Mrs. Schultz told us to go home and ask our parents how we should register.  That night at the dinner table I asked my parents what we were, they took a long and serious look at one another before my Mom finally answered,

"Dana it doesn't really matter whether we are Republican or Democrat the important thing is you look at both candidates, what they believe in and who they really are to decide if they represent what YOU believe in."

The 70's were a different time and I was crazy blessed to have parents with the wisdom of discernment.  The news back then wasn't instantaneous and the candidates seemed to talk more about the issues and less about the other candidates personal life.  This election season has really got me down.  Both sides have their negatives.  Neither candidate is perfect but guess what????  You're not perfect either.  Today we are live in a society that is over inundated with sound bytes, news clips, Tweets and videos.  It's like society has almost succumbed to the once science fiction life portrayed by Ray Bradbury in Fahrenheit 451!  We get a micro-clip of a candidate and blow things totally out of proportion.  We begin to post things, sending messages and tweets tearing down one candidate while attempting to make the manure our candidate was walking in seem like sweet cream.

I've watched both debates, read countless articles and tried to discern truth from mud slinging.  Unfortunately the sources all seem to be biased to one side or the other.  How do I know what is true?  How do I know what is lies?  One side is horrified that the other has been caught bragging about some unsavory things, who then turns and tries to spin how the other sides husband actually did those unsavory things.  I was searching for the words to write about that very thing when lo and behold I woke yesterday to a very well written blog by my friend Cathie (C.H. Armstrong).  I asked her if it would be okay for me to link to it in my blog so here it is  Sexual Assault, By Any Other Name, Is Still Sexual Assault.  (Please read her blog and pass it really needs to go viral because it is excellent!!!)

The media and the conservative christian crowd are claiming he has apologized that it is was just "locker room banter," the men boys from high school junior high are bragging that's how ALL the men talk in private and if we think our husbands are different we are wrong.  As the mother of three intelligent, beautiful, full of possibility daughters I cannot in good conscience think about voting for a man who thinks that it is okay to talk about women like that in the locker room or anywhere else.  I'm concerned it is encouraging our society to continue going down the tubes.  I don't believe that is the legacy we need to leave our children.

Just so you know, way back in that 1976 election, I cast my vote for Jimmy Carter.  I think the jelly beans may have had something to do with my first grade decision.  I know he was strongly criticized as being a "weak" president but he was a good man.  I am proud that as a child I was on the side of such a good human being.  Look at all the positive he has done in this world since he was president.  I would go so far to say he has done more good, real good, hands on, getting dirty good by working hard than any president in my lifetime.  Countless people have been crazy blessed by his perseverance and dedication to helping others.  From the Habitat for Humanity website:
A tireless champion for social justice 
As president of the United States, Jimmy Carter was deeply committed to social justice and basic human rights. He and his wife Rosalynn left the White House in search of meaningful ways to contribute in these areas.
When I cast my vote next month, I will cast it with the belief that the person I vote for will leave a similar legacy.  Sadly, we the people can't put back in the can the ugly worm that has reared it's head.

We the people
will have to heal from the bitter remarks, the fighting and the bickering.  
We the people
will have to talk to our children and teach  model for them the way they should act.
We the people
will have to live like the crazy blessed nation we really are and 
behave like good, rational people. 
We the people
 may need a few jelly beans to help us find the Jimmy Carter inside-committed
to social justice and basic human rights.  
What legacy will your vote leave?

Wednesday, October 5, 2016

Be Thou My Vision

There is something comforting in hearing a familiar hymn.  One that you've heard over and over through the years.  The other day, I read a blog written about the song "It is Well" it explained how the man who wrote it did so during one of the most tumultuous times a parent can go through. His son caught pneumonia and died then a short 2 years later his four daughters died when the boat they and his wife were traveling on from the U.S. to Europe experienced a collision and sank.  Yet he was still able to write this beautiful hymn that would be a comfort to others on his journey across the ocean to join his wife.

When peace, like a river, attendeth my way,
When sorrows like sea billows roll;
Whatever my lot, Thou hast taught me to say,
It is well, it is well with my soul.
It is well with my soul,
It is well, it is well with my soul.

Though Satan should buffet, though trials should come,
Let this blest assurance control,
That Christ hath regarded my helpless estate,
And hath shed His own blood for my soul.

My sin—oh, the bliss of this glorious thought!—
My sin, not in part but the whole,
Is nailed to the cross, and I bear it no more,
Praise the Lord, praise the Lord, O my soul!

For me, be it Christ, be it Christ hence to live:
If Jordan above me shall roll,
No pang shall be mine, for in death as in life
Thou wilt whisper Thy peace to my soul.

But, Lord, ’tis for Thee, for Thy coming we wait,
The sky, not the grave, is our goal;
Oh, trump of the angel! Oh, voice of the Lord!
Blessed hope, blessed rest of my soul!

And Lord, haste the day when the faith shall be sight,
The clouds be rolled back as a scroll;
The trump shall resound, and the Lord shall descend,
Even so, it is well with my soul.

In May, I found myself the president of our United Methodist Women unit.  Our church had been through some trials.  I wasn't really prepared mentally or emotionally for the task so I began to pray-for guidance, direction, strength and wisdom.  Around the same time I took my first course in the Methodist Lay Servant Ministry and one of the chapters in our required reading was on Leadership.  I learned so much about the Methodist way of leadership, did you know Robert's Rules of Order aren't used?  We come to agreement by consensus, we discuss options and ideas; everyone gets a say and comes away feeling more a part of the decision than in a simple show of hands type of vote.  A couple of more suggestions were to set up a focal point in the room for every meeting-a candle or cross...something and don't have "bookend" prayers.

I continued praying and took it to heart.  At my first meeting I was so nervous, I was honestly afraid that no one would show up.  We had ten ladies that night.  My heart was full.  I had taken to heart the advice of having a focal point by offering a "reflecting point" along with a color page.  We set up a table at the front of the room with candles, the color page and used "Be the Miracle" from Bruce Almighty as our reflection.  It was such a positive and encouraging meeting.

Lately the word "refuge" has been on my heart.  I was led to the scripture Psalm 91:2 for UMW tonight.
I shared it with a friend.  Her response to me was:

HE is my refuge. But Christians get shot, get diseases and come under attack.
HE is their refuge but the disease or bullet still comes.

This shook me.  I ran to my bible and read and reread Psalm 91, all of it.  I did some research and found that it is known as the "Soldiers Prayer," it talks of being safe and not afraid of terrorists.  But bad things still happen.

This morning I saw the sky:
Suddenly I realized I was whistling "Be Thou My Vision" which happens to be one of my favorite hymns.  It's an old Irish hymn dating back to an 8th century monk who wrote it as a tribute to St. Patrick's wholehearted loyalty to God.  He had loyalty to God through the good and the bad, the easy and the difficult.

Our pastor is beginning a new sermon series on STRESS.  Let's face it we all have more than enough to go around.  Today as I was preparing for UMW and working on the bathroom stall calendars, I was focusing on stress, what a negative to focus on stress!  I traditionally use the reflection for that month from UMW on the bathroom stall calendars-this month the reflection is refuge.  Suddenly I felt a calm, a peace that yes while we may have stressful times-we may have diseases, we may have bullets coming at us-but He is our vision and we are crazy blessed that no matter what storms or trials come our way He dwells within us.  We may not understand why bad things happen, God gave up his only and believe.  Our stress can be counterbalanced when we look to Him as our REFUGE.

Monday, September 26, 2016


The word serendipity has always been one of my favorites!  I believe serendipity isn't just coincidence, I believe it is God at work.  In 1996-97, Ted was finishing his Junior year in college at SWOSU.  It was common for Computer Science majors to apply for internships for the summer between junior and senior year.  Ted was no different-we worked on creating a resume that we thought would reflect his willingness to work hard and learn.  He didn't have lots of job experience, like many college students, so we researched ways to round out his resume.  One of the things we learned was that if you had a hobby you were passionate about, it was okay to include it.  So being an "aquarium enthusiast" went on his resume.  Little did we know how those two little words would eventually bring threads together in our tapestry of life.

Ted's resume wound up with a distribution center team at Walmart in Bentonville, Arkansas.  The manager asked if any of his team members wanted an intern.  A guy named Lloyd, being an aquarium hobbyist himself, noticed the words "aquarium enthusiast" and said "I'll take this one!" Soon we packed up and moved to Arkansas for twelve weeks....and the years since then have flown by!

>>>If you'll humor me for a few moments while I shift gears serendipity will weave the threads of this yarn together shortly.<<<

Last year I was searching for the perfect calendar.  A friend showed me her bullet journal created in a beautiful Leuchtturm 1917 dotted notebook and I knew it was the answer to my calendar dreams!  I bought myself some pens and created my perfect calendar/journal/notebook!  I don't only keep dates in this notebook, I use it for doctor notes, meeting notes, things to tell the doctor, the kids community service, etc.  My pink Leuchtturm is hugely important in my life!  At first my doctor, kind of teased me about it but during the year she quickly came to realize how important and effective it was.  I rarely leave the house without it.

>>>Again, humor me while I add another thread to this yarn.<<<

Our sweet Melissa is playing school volleyball for the second year.  What that means to me is that I make one to four trips daily to Bentonville West High School in Centerton.  To help make my life a little easier, I partnered up with two other moms and we established a carpool.  Every third day, I drive three giggling girls early in the morning to practice.  Centerton is kind of a "bedroom" town, a lot of the residents commute into Bentonville or Rogers for work so when I drive carpool I'm going against the flow of traffic.  

A couple of weeks ago I was driving the girls to practice.  When I got to the intersection of Main and Bliss I noticed a notebook in the intersection.  I knew immediately that it was a Leuchtturm 1917 and I gasped, I knew that notebook had to be important to someone.  I had goosebumps...I told Melissa if we hadn't been on our way to practice I would've stopped and had her grab it.  By the time I got to the school I knew I had to turn around and go get the notebook.  The girls thought I was crazy.

By the time I got back to the intersection, traffic had slowed down the notebook was still there.  It was open with pages flapping, I could see the tire marks across the pages.  I hopped out and grabbed the notebook a quick glance told me it was a mowing business and this was the record of receipts.  In the nearby gutter  I could see pieces of paper so I thought I would retrieve them as well.  As I pulled into the apartment complex I could see that there was a check.  I stopped and picked it up, it was made out to a man and woman with "Happy Life" in the memo.  When I approached the gutter I saw there were several checks, gift receipts and a wedding card to the couple from the grooms parents.  I looked through the notebook and noticed the man had used the notebook to write out the vows he said to his bride.  Wow.

There was no name or contact information in the notebook however a couple of the checks did have the last name of the newlyweds.  After I got home I realized the last name was was the same as the maiden name of Lloyd's wife.  Two little words on a resume for an internship led me to find the owner of the notebook. Serendipity.

We never know how the threads of our life will twist together.  Our tapestries are all unique, we get threads and we leave threads in the tapestries of others, we don't know how or when they will impact someone else.  Serendipity = Crazy Blessed Make your thread beautiful, make your thread worthy to stand the test of time, most of all make your thread a reflection of you...crazy blessed child of God.

Tuesday, September 13, 2016

Holding Hearts

In February 1994, I learned I would become a Mom.  Little did I know that almost 22 years later I would feel the way I do about each of our wonderful daughters.  Friday our youngest turned 12.  She's solidly in the double digits and well on her way to becoming a productive young adult.  My little sharp shooter asked for a "hotel sleepover" with her friends.  She doesn't ask for a lot so we worked hard to make it happen!  The possibility of having six "tween-agers" caused me to want an extra adult so I turned to our oldest for help.  She was excited at the chance to be there for her little sister, spend time getting to know her friends and help me out!  The evening was so much fun filled with laughter, crafts, games, movies and of course chocolate!  When it came time for the "adults" to turn in for the night, Anna and I shared the king size bed.  That is when it hit me....

She's an adult.  A real adult.  She has an apartment.  She has a job.  She has a boyfriend.  She has a dog.  Yet somehow when I look at her with my heart I still see the little girl.  

When I finally tumbled into bed, she had already settled in, her breathing was even and steady, she
was nearing sleep. I almost cried.  It's been years since I slept in the same bed with my oldest.  As I listened to her breathe I was transported back to when she was a toddler.....she and I spent large amounts of time together.  I was crazy blessed to be a stay at home mom-we played games, worked puzzles, went for walks, cooked, watched the very first episode of Blues Clues, laughed, and even cried together.  During the day Handsome went to class, did homework and then headed to work.  Many evenings, he was at work until late, if he wasn't at work then he was at the computer lab writing code for class.  At bedtime, I would curl up with Anna in her little twin size bed and we would read-book after book after book after book until she would drift off to sleep.  Often Handsome would arrive home and I would be sound asleep in her Winnie the Pooh wonderland.

Anna has always been my hand holder.  We have so many pictures of just our hands and still at almost 22, she will grab my hand.  The hand holding is a tradition I've continued with the Little's as well.  When something is important or "big" we hold hands to share the news, when we're tired or sad we hold hands, when we walk down the street we hold hands.  A few months ago when a new family visited our church the family had a teenage daughter as we watched them walk across the parking lot the daughter reached over and grabbed her moms hand and Melissa gasped, "Mom!  I can be friends with her, she's holding her moms hand!!!"

I realized the other night there is something intimate and special about listening to your child breathe.  Praying over them as they sleep and trusting them to God.  It made me think about my Mom and all the prayers I know she has offered over me.  During my 20's, 30's and into my 40's when I'd go home for a visit I always looked forward to laying in her bed with the hushed, end of day conversations as we waited for Dad to lock up the house and come to bed.  Those were treasured memories, we weren't holding hands, we were holding hearts.  I knew we weren't just talking, she was praying for me, for my husband, my life.  I didn't quite comprehend the specialness of those times until I was listening to Anna the other night and I realized that with my parents across the street I no longer have that opportunity with my Mom.  I know she still says just as many prayers, we talk every day-usually several times a day but that quiet time is past.

I'm so crazy blessed to have a Mom who taught me the importance of the quiet moments.  Savoring every moment together.  I'm hugging my kids a little closer these last few days, savoring their unique smells, the feel of their hands in mine, the way their voice sounds, the texture of their hair.  I want to remember all those things so when they are grown and these precious moments have passed so I can always hold their hearts when their hands aren't close!

Friday, September 9, 2016

Deal with it!

Anyone who ever talks books with me quickly learns that Nadia Bolz-Weber is one of my favorite authors.  A few years ago a volleyball mom friend recommended the book "Pastrix" to me, I ordered it and finished reading in just a couple of days.  Her way of "speaking," her philosophy, her love of all people was something I readily identified with.  On my bucket list is hearing her speak in person.  She is the only recorded sermon I ever listen to.  On July 7th she posted one that spoke to me more than any sermon has ever spoken to me.  She started off by admitting that about 15 years ago she had a case of hypochondria.  She spoke of numerous trips to the doctor and just hoping he'd find something wrong so maybe if something was really wrong she'd get a "hall pass on life!"  After one of her many visits, her doctor sat her down and said,
"Nadia, nothing is wrong with you. 
You just have to deal with your life!"
 Just let that one sink in for a minute.

 Nothing is wrong with you.  You just have to deal with your life.  
Nothing is wrong with me.   I just have to deal with my life.

Hypochondria-I've been there.  Many days when the alarm sounds, the kids fight, the phone rings, another task is added to my never complete task list, or the dog whimpers and I wish for a hall pass on my life.  My feet hit the floor and I have to deal with my life.  My life isn't bad but I do have stress, sometimes it feels like too much.  When I see friends and they ask how I am, I often struggle with saying I'm fine.  Actually my answer is generally, "I'm FABULOUS!" because I know there is nothing more I can say.  People don't really care how you are, it's just a question one asks to be polite or a way to put a label on you as the tired person, the happy person, the complainer, etc. I'll be the "fabulous" friend everytime!  They don't care to know that your dog pooped in the house twice that morning and you stepped in the middle of it in the utility room.  They may care that your daughter had a wreck but the phone calls helping her keep it together and not feel consumed with guilt, they never know.  The parents who are aging and the siblings who are in denial, unless someone has been here they just expect a response of "great."  Everyone is too consumed with their own "garbage" to care about mine.

Lately I have realized that the stress in my life is creeping out in subconscious ways.  Recently my teeth and jaws have been hurting and I've had a constant headache.  A couple of days ago I saw my dentist and he told me it's classic symptoms of grinding my teeth in my sleep.  When he looked in my mouth, he was shocked at the damage to my teeth in the last six months.

Some of you may have seen my Facebook post which read:
Because I'm honest, here is what I learned at the doctor today:
1. I'm still fat. (I was just as surprised as you!) 
2. My cholesterol is bad. (Same with my parents & grandparents.) 
3. My thyroid is still off. (Thank you surgeon for not monitoring both my TSH & T3 for a year after surgery. Thank you Lauren for trying to fix it!)
4. No more gluten >period < (My doctors research is showing cutting gluten benefits persons with low thyroid and reduces inflammation.) 
5. Eat three meals a day. (Which is funny because #1, she told me to eat more because I often forget.)
6. Prioritize Dana. (Um, wow. She said, "Seriously Dana, you cook for the dog. You put the dog ahead of you. Take care of Dana!")
The other day when I saw my doctor which prompted the above post, we talked about the number of women who are stressed, so stressed it is manifesting in physical problems. (Thanks Lauren for your time, genuine caring for my health and the health of my family-you're a gem!) It may come as a shock but this is absolutely >>not<<< a new problem. Through my years as a mom, my own mom has shared with me stories about how difficult it sometimes was raising us kids in from the 60's - the 80's; during many of those years she was also caring for her aging parents.  Mom has always been a "bath every night whether you need it or not" kind of woman; when we were young she'd literally fall into the tub shed tears and cry.  Tears of exhaustion,  tears of isolation,  tears from being the glue that always held our family together and cries to God for the strength to do it all again tomorrow.

Cries to God
AKA Prayer

At Beer & Hymns with my Anna-girl, she still holds hands with me!
I've always believed in God.  I've always prayed.  Somehow I came up with the bright idea of our United Methodist Women ladies retreat focusing on prayer and I started researching.  I've only scratched the surface of the book "The Circle Maker" but I find myself being bolder with my prayers and more consistent.  I'm working to create a prayer journal and found advice on a blog using a book I remember from my Mom's arsenal for prayer, "The Hour that Changed the World."   I haven't been bold enough to start but I know it is coming, I feel a little afraid of the difference it will make.   As a nod to old number 6 above to Prioritize Dana, prayer is going to be a 
dedicated, focused part of my everyday life.  Here is the blog entry I am patterning my prayer journal after.  I will be personalizing it for three daughters (and a daughters boyfriend), prayers I love and prayers I will write.  I look forward to having it ready to fill.  This will be my daily "power hour."  My life is crazy blessed and so life is full and I'm so crazy blessed.  They go hand in hand because there is not one single element of my life I'd choose to go without-the good, the not so good, the great, the horrible, the ups, the downs, the happy moments, the sad--every one makes me the person I am.  
My friend Mellissa says, "Today is a good day for a good day!"
I found this one and like it too...
"Not every day is a good day but there is good in every day!"

Wednesday, August 17, 2016

A piece of my heart

Family doesn't always share DNA, some family is chosen by your heart.  Today I'd like to share with you a little about a family we are blessed to call our own...

I got my first glimpse at these folks back in the Fall of 2013; I had no idea how important they would become.  Jessica was a whopping 9 years old and really hadn't found her "tribe" of lifelong friends.  We struggled at birthday time because it seemed other than the kids at church there really weren't kids to invite.  For the first time as a homeschool mom, I felt I was failing my child in the "socialization" department and I didn't know what to do.  I'm really not sure why but somehow Jessica and Melissa wound up trying the Ozark Youth Shooting Sports 4H club for their BB season.  Melissa thought it was okay but volleyball was where she had found her "tribe."  Jessica loved it but being 9 wasn't quite ready to compete or participate in their spring season.

We'll flash on forward to fall 2014 when Jessica returned to BB she was invited to a skating birthday
party-she didn't really know the little girl or the other kids well but she went.  She was treated like family by this group of almost strangers.  As the season continued, I saw coaches laying in the floor with her, helping her get just the right position for prone...encouraging her as her little arms struggled to hold the BB gun steady in standing position.  Her confidence began to grow.  By January she was ready to sign on for the BB competition and learning the rest of the season with the club.  By summer she was ready to go with the rest of the club to their state competitions.  Her coaches had encouraged her and helped her so much that even when they realized just a week before a competition that her Muzzleloader needed new sights and they knew she wouldn't score a single point, thanks to encouraging from a senior member-Felicia-she decided to try anyway just to see if she could load and fire the required number of times.  At competition when she came out one of the coaches asked how she'd done and she replied with a smile on her face, "Zero!"

The coach being the caring guy he is responded, "Jessica, it's okay!  You'll get it next time!!"

Jessica excitedly said, "I don't care!!  I did it!  I loaded and fired every time!"

A group of people who educate your child so well they can see the success they have had in their failure.  Let's read that one again...a group of people who educate your child so well they can see the SUCCESS in their FAILURE.  What would life be like if we could all have an attitude like that?  Seeing  the success our failures.  My respect began to really grow for these people.

I really watched and listened.  As I did, I realized this group wasn't just an ordinary collection of people, this group had honestly and truly become a real family.  As an newbie, I was in awe of the way they laughed together, cheered their kids together, when one won a trophy they treated every kid as important to the success.  My little girl who didn't score a single point in muzzleloader and not many more in the other disciplines that year was included in the team picture with all the trophies just like the other kids because they love each other.

Slowly but surely I began to feel like I too was a member of this family.  How can you love a child and cheer them on and the love not extend to the parents?  These moms have a very unique relationship because they have found their family, chosen by their hearts; the village, the tribe, the mom squad, the people they call their own.  When Jess had her last competition in 2015, I found myself missing the "family" time with the club.

When the fall rolled around I was myself eager to attend the parent meeting.  The insecure teenager inside was thrilled when I was greeted with hugs and kind words as a part of this family.  As the season started and new families arrived I watched as this "cluster" of ladies welcomed new families to the fold by sharing tips, suggestions and how the club works with them.  I've never been a part of anything where all the adults work so hard to encourage every child to succeed.  When Team #3 placed third in rifle and Jessica got her very first trophy most of the coaches had their eye on her.  They knew how hard she had worked and how determined she was to make it.

I've seen my girl go from very few friends to sisters...little girls she laughs with, celebrates with, texts with, has sleepovers with and celebrates her birthday with.  My heart is full when I think about this chosen family.  Here's to another season of learning, growing, supporting, laughing and loving each other!

A special thanks to those who crazy bless our family-in no particular order...hoping I didn't miss anyone!  Sarah, Mr. Baker, Cheryl's (each one of you), Tod, Liz, Chad, Mellissa, Benny, Andria, Rob, Robin, Jill, Reed, Tamara, Trafton, Chris, Brian, Will,  Markeeta, Dusty, Doug, James, Bob,  Mr. Joyner, Richard, Kym, Angie, Doc,, Marla, & Andra.  Each one of you has been an influence in our lives, we wouldn't be the family we are today without you!!!!  I love you oodles and gobs!!!

Sunday, August 7, 2016

Don't mend fences!

When you turn something over to God,  you have to remember to let it go.
Once upon a time I had a friend we laughed together, worshiped together,    prayed for one another and our daughters who are the same age were good friends who enjoyed playing together and having sleepovers.  I'm not sure exactly how or when things started going wrong but they did. Some how I morphed into her enemy.   I honestly felt no ill but I felt the pain of rejection as she started avoiding me and looked very uncomfortable when we had to be in the same place; eventually it led to her sharing an obscene gesture directed at me when I waved.  A few weeks later she was spewing vile things in a private email to me.  Other than my husband,  I only shared it with two people as I sought counsel from earthly advice.  I was devastated.   I cried,  I didn't respond to her message because I felt nothing could be solved by an email.
So I gave it to God and I moved on.

I let God have it and I healed.  I let God have it and I healed. 

I'm a believer in the power of prayer.   I have a list that I pray for almost every day (I'm crazy blessed and human sometimes I do miss a day).  Some have been on my list for years,  others are there when they have a specific need.  This friend has been there since before things went awry because I'm that friend who prays for you.   Today I saw her.   My heart leapt because I thought perhaps she had the same healing and we could begin again.   The minister shared an incredible message on how "Jesus reaches across lines to shatter boundaries; Jesus moves fences."  As I listened I thanked God that she had returned,  I thanked Him for working on my heart that I could smile and rejoice.  Today unfortunately was not the day for reconciliation but maybe her fence has come down a little bit,  Today perhaps her heart is beginning to heal.  A wise friend reminded me that fences take time to build and time to come down.

Here I am at the end of the day,  filled with hope that God in the way only He can do will give her healing.   Whatever I have done to hurt her (real or imagined) God knows.  I have submitted to Him and He has given me peace, healing and forgiveness.   My prayer is that soon she too can be crazy blessed by letting go.   Life is too short to have strong  fences, let Jesus help you get rid of them, don't keep mending them!

Wednesday, June 1, 2016

A Good Pruning

So many thoughts are swirling through my head this morning...perhaps it's the coffee, perhaps it's the aquarium in the kitchen that is needing water.  With all the talk on the news about the gorilla, the mother, the little boy, Donald Trump, Veterans, Hillary Clinton, Thunder basketball, bad teachers, good teachers....the truth is really hard to discern.  Who is right?  Who is wrong?  Why do bad things happen to good people?  Why do good things happen to bad people?  Maybe if someone had "raised their kids right" we wouldn't have kids falling into enclosures, scary politicians, bad teachers, etc. but my mind keeps returning to the pink ink pen I was using yesterday taking some notes.  Let me explain...

I've been reading a book along with some good friends.  We are looking forward to meeting the author (Heath Bradley) for he will be our minister come July.  It's handy that he's written a book so we can get a bit of a feel for some of his thoughts and views.  The book is on hell and universal salvation.  Not a subject I'd normally select however I'm finding much more in this book than the title suggests.

Yesterday I was reading chapter 3, "A Hell of a Problem for Biblical Interpretation" and was really impressed by his well thought out arguments for the belief in universal salvation.  But what really struck me was the discussion of Matthew 25:31-46 (simply click and read if you're not familiar or to refresh your memory) he included the following paragraph from Polkinghorne God of Hope:

We are neither wholly sheep nor wholly goat.  Perhaps then, judgement is not simply a retrospective assessment of what we have been but it includes the perspective offer of what we might become.  Perhaps judgement is a process rather than a verdict.  Perhaps its fire in the cleansing fire that burns away the dross of our lives; its sufferings the consequence of the knife wielded by the diving Surgeon who wounds to heal.  Perhaps judgement builds up the sheep and diminishes the goat in each one of us.

I don't know about you but this, this really got me.  I know sometimes the goat in me is, punishment such negative imagery.  Last week I even said to my friends "not punishment, discipline...punishment has such negative connotations."  Then yesterday I backed it up and re-read about punishment in Heath's book where he explains punishment as taken from the Greek word kolasis and I felt a sudden "whoosh" of relief.  My Mom has always been very fond of the imagery in the Bible relating vine, branches, etc. she was one of the first teachers of Grow Your Faith and Give It Away in the late 80's/early 90's!  I love gardening so I was over the moon excited to read that kolasis is an agricultural term which meant "the pruning of trees to make them grow better." (Barclay)  Wow! Can you say epiphany?  Because that gave me a HUGE one!

Those of you who have been reading my blog know that I am a firm believer in garden analogies and comparisons.  Here is an excerpt from Mama's Treasures August 2011

Angel Girl Anna
Those of you who know her can see she is 100% Anna and true to herself every moment of life.  She is strong, confident, well spoken and willing to go that extra mile for those in need.  She has that something and as a Mom, I'm not sure how she got it.  Since she was small, I have sprinkled not with water but with little morsels of wisdom.  Little things that seem so simple and not important when viewed alone but add up to something significant when you stack them all together.  Funny thing is, it is difficult to pinpoint which of those sprinklings could have made the difference in her having something to stand for; I think each and everyone was vital in her becoming the confident Anna who stands for something.  I love the young woman she has become; when I pick her up from class, a 4-H meeting or simply hanging out with friends, she extends her hand anticipating that I will place mine in hers then begins the babble...sharing with me the important things that have happened.  I treasure her in turn sprinkling me :)  I hope one day when I am old, she will visit and continue to hold my hand as she shares her life with me.
So in essence I guess it's the sprinkles that = something!  In the world, God holds the watering can--through Jesus' life, Bible stories and prayer/meditation, He sprinkles us with the bits and pieces that allow us to have something worth standing for.  I hope and pray that as I sprinkle Melissa and Jessica they will develop that something as they grow.  What are you sprinkling on your kids?  Are they growing strong 'spines' to stand for the something you believe in?

So according to Barclay and the Bible  "punishment" or "kolasis" which is meant to make one more productive or bear more fruit is kind of like my sprinkles theory.   I've been blessed to have incredible parents who generously applied sprinkles and I've been crazy blessed to have three awesome kids who understand and respect the importance sprinkles.  Now I have a better understanding the something of sprinkles is we are like a beautiful tree that has a strong trunk and root system that has been grafted with lots of love and tended with kolasis so that we can be more productive and produce wonderful fruit!