Wednesday, April 27, 2016

What I’ve Kept


Jeff gives great gifts.  I am not sure how he does it but his gifts are thoughtful {sigh….}, or it becomes one of the things you don’t know how you functioned without it, or it’s just plain fun— or interesting- though he never likes for me to use that word to describe a gift he’s given me. For me to tell you he gave me a book with 642 ideas of things to write about might not seem very thoughtful to you but it was to me— so very thoughtful.  And here is why.  He’s my biggest fan— in all things, but especially my writing.  And he knows I have struggled as the kids have gotten older— and that I feel like I don’t know what the heck I am doing with these emerging teenagers!!  Anyhow, he saw this book and thought it might spur on new thoughts— something other than children, parenting, disciplining, homework, training, failing {daily}, coaching, school grades, consequences or no consequences, justice or mercy— EVERY. SINGLE. DAY!!  He thought a little frivolity coursing through my brain might be a nice break. And it’s not easy to put that huge chunk of my life aside and think about …….. a few of the 642 suggestions are, “The carpenter who brought candy” {A little creepy if you ask me.} or “Write ten new cheers for a high-school cheerleading squad” {I’d rather clean toilets.} or, “Toto, if we’re not in Kansas anymore, where are we?”  {Oz!!!  Isn’t that what the whole LONG movie was about?!?}  I am just too practical!  I could go on and on with those— things I will NEVER write about, but the book has some good ideas.  I have never used it— until today.

Because I miss writing.  And it’s quiet here today.

So.  If you miss all the parenting stuff— send your kids or grandkids back here in about 15-20 years when I can write about all of the juicy stuff I can’t write about now.  You can learn then from ALL of my mistakes and pitfalls made in the name of parenting to the best of my ability— and all the while trying to learn what it truly means to walk in the Spirit.  The Lord is my helper.

Today, I get to write about “What I’ve Kept”.  Well, I’ve got to start somewhere.  It may not be frivolous but this will come easy to me.  One thing’s for sure.  I’ve kept too much and even I don’t want to think through every little thing.  There are the kept things that we might see often or even use daily but then there are the things no one ever sees— and that we only see when we move— and we wonder, “Do I really need to keep this?”  We have mementos from high school and college. I have some wedding things- dress, guest book, honeymoon things.  I have some things of my grandparents.  I’ve kept some baby clothes, nursery items, and certain toys.  It seems strange to just throw them away so I keep them.  In a box,…  in the attic…in hopes that one day something of it might bring someone some joy— or joggle a memory— or make someone feel treasured because I kept it.  

But I do wonder if I could get it all in a room, laid out so I could see everything at once, what would be the things that drew me in?  Seeing it all out like that, would it be easier to narrow down the true keepers?

The letters.  I come across those often because of where I keep them.  And I even pull some out from time to time.  A few from my parents, a few more from my brother {most recently the one he wrote when I turned 40 and can’t read it again because, well, I just can’t.  Too sweet.  Too gracious.}, from Jeff who stole my heart with words, from mentors who beamed the light of Jesus into my life, from Julia and Brighton with their sweet handwriting and, lastly, friends.  Oh, I have been so blessed with encouraging friends.  I can’t throw heart felt words away.  “Kept”, for sure.

My Bible.  I know.  Sounds like a no-brainer but what else have I kept since I was a teenager that I use almost every day?  Even at 14 I knew I wanted it to be my forever Bible.  I asked for the nicest one— the best binding and I asked my parents NOT to have it monogrammed because I didn’t want my 14 year old initials to be outdated one day.  I know— I was weird then and I am weird now.  No teenager should think like that.  It’s the one I open most mornings.  30 years of living and growing with that treasure I’ve kept.  It’s been rebound, has coffee stains, even a few Pop Tart stains {frosted strawberry} from college, torn pages and random pen marks from young campers and VBS littles.  I have notes in the side margins from those teenage years that hint at beginning stages of faith, things that were of vital importance then, notes from my pastor in college and the pastor Jeff and I served under out first year of marriage and notes from when I had the privilege of sitting under Jeff’s preaching week after week.  There are marker verses throughout— house church, church plants, baby promises, house promises, new ministry promises…. He’s faithful. And this Bible reminds me of our story.  This thing I have kept for almost 32 years.

Photos, I’ve kept.  Of course.  We all have.  I love the old ones and the new ones.  To look at B’s bright, happy face at 2 years old does something to bolster my heart.  And to see Julia’s wide eyed wonder at 4 in a frame on my wall….. it reminds me of the vulnerability still underneath as her outward appearance looks full grown.  Then to see us laughing at the lake or cutting up on the beach— or a picture of mine and Jeff’s first date.  This is our family.  It’s pieces of history that no one truly cares about except us.  They will survive about 2 maybe 3 generations and then discarded and forgotten.  And that’s okay.  They are kept for now and provide much joy.

Newborn clothes.  See?  I can’t NOT write about my kids.  I think we all have a soft spot for those little clothes, reminding us when they were just a little peanut.  And we were so in love— our hearts were full to bursting and we didn’t think we could contain it?  Those clothes remind us of sweetness.  And tiny-ness.  I had waited long.  And 21 months later when Brighton came along, the magic baby dust had NOT worn off.  I was smitten on top of my smitten-ness with Julia.  Those clothes are in the attic— and I don’t open that box when I am up there looking for the camping tote.  Maybe I should from time to time— to remember my heart towards them then-  and how they possibly could use a little MORE of that tenderness now.

I’m grateful I have things to keep-- that there has been the richness and kindness of God throughout my life through people, even things and memories I don’t want to forget.  Those boxes in the attic or that big envelope in my nightstand tell parts of a story I am not living right now.  They speak of seasons God has had me live and seasons that have prepared me for the one I am in now-- and will enter in.  The notes of encouragement remind me I am very loved and supported no matter what happens.  Those tiny clothes remind me of the faithfulness of God and how His purposes and timing are perfect.  The photos remind me of those people who I love and who have loved me and the blessing of even being together for a time for a photo.

Kept things are good things.  Kept things remind me of Who keeps me.

The LORD is your keeper; The LORD is your shade on your right hand. Psalm 121:5

Wednesday, March 30, 2016

Teenagers, Vulnerabilities, and the List You’ve Always Wanted {but didn’t know it}

Only my computer trash knows how many times I have photographed THIS expression.
{Shameless Easter Selfie}
Heads on our pillows the other night, before Jeff slipped into blissful dreamland, he stated, “You haven’t been writing.”  I wanted to say, “And???”  But I knew by the slurred tone in which he’d made the statement, I wouldn’t get an answer before he fell asleep.  So here I sit trying to think of something other than my teenage girl and my 6-months-away-from-teenage boy.  I cannot do it.  It’s consuming, these kids and their methods and their rooms and their hormones and their  clothes and their aromas {maybe one in particular} and their complete vulnerability as they are trying to figure out this growing up thing.  This is what headlines my thoughts.



If you need a refresher on the definition of the word “vulnerability” it is:  capable of or susceptible to being wounded or hurt.  That’s true of all of us but especially true of our teenage kids.  I need to remember this every single day.  I am not excusing them from very foolish decisions, mouths that utter snarky words at the most unfortunate times,  less than ideal work ethics, the inability to remember much of anything ….. but to realize what all is going on within them can help me to take the chaos in a little more stride.

What I see and discover makes me a little concerned for their brains.  I know things happen to our brains all of our lives but this………I think this is unprecedented.  It has to be.  I think you can only live through this once.  The best picture I have for what I think their brains look like at this stage would be B’s back pack.  Or a majority of 12 year old boys’ backpacks.  I refuse to think that B’s is the only one.  Papers………. LOOSE papers………. everywhere.  Paper Palooza!  Paper Party!  Paper Powerhouse!  Wrinkled gobs of papers sprouting from the zipper!  Yours for the taking!  No matter if they are homework due yesterday or four yesterdays ago!  The only plus is that on a hot day, you can reach {with much caution} to the very bottom of the pack and pull out a naturally occurring paper fan and create a small breeze for yourself.  And maybe review your Pre-Algebra simultaneously.  Back to the brain analogy— it’s a mess.  Nothing seems to be where it’s supposed to be or used to be or has completely disappeared altogether.  The only things they seem to remember is if it’s their day to sit in the front seat or it’s NOT their morning to cook breakfast.  New things have appeared but haven’t been put in their place yet where it can actually be helpful when you need it— like a fierce desire for independence.  This seems to backfire on them the most often.  Independence is good when it comes to school or chores, not so good when it comes to abiding by house rules or looking to serve family members.  Add in their insecurities— their questions about who they are, what do they want to become, who is their friend, where is the deodorant and what to wear tomorrow— these kids are vulnerable.  Susceptible to being hurt.  And that causes my compassion to surface.  {And my mother bear instinct which has caused me to offer up many prayers of repentance as I’ve responded to my kids being wounded by kids who are in the same boat—— no, kayak in the rapids.}



So, what can we do about this— all of this maddening misplaced independence, the chunks of information that has seemingly selectively fallen out of their memory, their failure to respond to training and discipline—  and still stay compassionate, patient and loving?!?!  And sane.  Beg Jesus to come back?!?!  NOW!!!!  I’ve said more times than I can count over the last few months, “I thought I knew something about parenting, but I know nothing.”  I know that’s not completely true but it’s completely HOW I FEEL much of the time.  I stand and stare at the kids looking back at me— and I stare because I have no idea what to say.  I am puzzled and I am ignorant.  And for the record, I need to stare more often— stare with eyes open and mouth shut, because when I open my mouth I say things that are followed up with phones calls from the kids to Jeff and I am referred to as “your wife”,  Nice.  {Only one of my children does this…..One out of two ain’t bad.}

I was talking to a friend this morning and the idea came to me how helpful it would be to ME to list out the things I could not control.  This list is obvious but when wired like I am, this is helpful for me to see in black and white.

Scripture—- that’s what I’ve got.  Scripture—- that’s what I know.



The List You’ve Always Wanted {but didn’t know it}

I cannot control their tongues.  By HIs grace, I can control my own.  
Colossians 4:6 Let your conversation be always full of grace, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how to answer everyone.  {No staring mentioned here.}

I cannot carry out their responsibilities.  By His grace, I can carry out mine.  
Ephesians 2:10 For we are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.

I cannot make them serve. By His grace, I can serve.
Ephesians 6:7 Serve wholeheartedly, as if you were serving the Lord, not people. 

I cannot control their work ethic.  By His grace, I can control mine.  
Colossains 3:17 And whatever you do, whether in word or deed, do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him.

I cannot control their level of contentment. By His grace, I can control my own.
Philippians 4:11 I am not saying this because I am in need, for I have learned to be content whatever the circumstances. 

I cannot control their responses.  By His grace, I can control mine.
Ephesians 4:2-3 Be completely humble and gentle; be patient, bearing with one another in love. Make every effort to keep the unity of the Spirit through the bond of peace. 

I cannot control their attitude.  By His grace, I can control my own.
Philippians 2:3-4  Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit. Rather, in humility value others above yourselves, not looking to your own interests but each of you to the interests of the others. 

I cannot control thought patterns that seem to rule them.  By His grace, I can control my own.
Psalm 19:14  Let the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart Be acceptable in Your sight, O LORD, my rock and my Redeemer.
2 Corinthians 10:5  We demolish arguments and every pretension that sets itself up against the knowledge of God, and we take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ.

I cannot, at all times, protect them, their vulnerabilities, but I know who can.  
Psalm 71:3 Be my rock of refuge, to which I can always go; give the command to save me, for you are my rock and my fortress. 
Psalm 61:3  For you have been my refuge, a strong tower against the foe.
Psalm 31:19 How abundant are the good things that you have stored up for those who fear you, that you bestow in the sight of all, on those who take refuge in you.
Psalm 46:1  God is our refuge and strength, an ever-present help in trouble.
Psalm 71:1 In you, LORD, I have taken refuge; let me never be put to shame.

So more and more, God is showing me this parenting thing is really more about Him and me than it is about the kids and me.  Yes, we need to speak into the lives of our children.  We are their primary “disciplers” {not sure that is a word}—the one discipling them in the ways of Christ.  Yes, we need to spend gobs of time with them, engage their hearts and at this age, giving them more and more freedom as they prove they are ready.  But more importantly, we need to model in front of them the ways of Christ- selflessness, graceful words, hard-working, gentleness, humility, patience, peacemaking, contentedness, purity of mind and heart, intentionality— and all the other ways modeled to us by Him.  They need to see us submitting to the Word, giving Christ our wholehearted devotion.  They need this SO MUCH MORE than all my words.  The security my kids could gain from my commitment to His ways could root them deep, protecting some of their vulnerable spots and propel them forward in strength and confidence in the Lord.

Yes, that’s what I’m after.

They will be called oaks of righteousness, a planting of the LORD for the display of His splendor.  Isaiah 61:3




Wednesday, February 24, 2016

Tucking In {Order amidst the Chaos}

Mission in Carmel, California
Embarrassing episodes have a way of cutting to the chase.  Maybe how we RESPOND to embarrassing episodes allow a small peak into our personalities, our character and how we are really doing at the moment.  I can’t say I’ve had many in my life- embarrassing moments.  I play it pretty safe— always have, so I’ve not had much practice at the response, but last week took me by surprise.  Come to think of it, much has taken me by surprise lately.

We had the delight of hosting two dancers from Ballet Magnificat last weekend who were in town for a performance of the ballet, Deliver Us, the story of the Israelites exodus from Egypt.  I was so impressed with these young women, Emily and Sarah.  Their love for Christ glowed in their faces and was evident in their conversation around the dinner table but shone its brightest when they danced Friday evening in the performance.  I was in awe of the company’s giftedness and the way they led us in worship as they danced.  {GO SEE THEM when you get the chance!!}



Okay so, on to the other…

During intermission, I left my seat to sit with Julia a minute who was sitting with friends a section over and a few rows up.  I returned to my seat after a bit and not 15 seconds later, Julia is beside me in Jeff’s seat.  She leans over and says,”Mom, your dress is tucked in your shorts.”  {Shorts being modesty shorts {aka sliding shorts}— my dress was not short but it had been an extremely windy day and like I said earlier, I play it safe.}  Ugh.  I played it pretty cool with Julia— thanked her and wrangled around in my seat to untuck the mess— and she left.  However, the longer I sat there and thought about the route I’d taken AFTER I had been to the bathroom and the moving around during the intermission, the worse I got.  Jeff and Brighton returned and B misses NOTHING.  “What’s wrong, Momma?”  I couldn’t speak.  I was holding back an unexpected pool of waters that had gathered behind my eyes.  Tears?!?  What in the world was wrong with me?  I tried to go the mad route in order to ward off the spillage. However, the more questions, the higher the waters got.  The more kindness shown to me, the lowers the walls became.  Spillage.  It was the longest intermission ever.  I just wanted the lights to go off.  To nurse my misery in darkness.

See, I am not a crier.  For me, anger usually comes before such emotions and so, I knew I was in a mess when I completely skipped the usual route.  As I had unsuccessfully tried to hold back the tears, I knew what my problem was.  I had allowed myself to become so tightly strung, so weary emotionally, so chaotic in my spirit, I could not gather myself up and bring order to my emotions.  I was not surprised.  It was no one’s fault by my own.

I really wanted to blame the kids.  They had made it an extremely difficult few weeks.  No details needed because every parent can relate.  We all have great kids that can make some pretty foolish decisions.  The more mine make now at 12 and 14 I see as little victories so maybe there will be less later when the stakes are higher.  Who really knows but it brings some comfort to me at the present.  We had been experiencing the first part of Hebrews 12:11—“No discipline seems pleasant at the time…” -- in hopes of the “harvest of righteousness and peace.”!!  NO PARENT enjoys placing consequences on their kids.  Okay, well, maybe we relish doling it out in the moment but when it lasts for days and everyone’s heart SEEMS soft, you just want to lift it all and be done with it. Over the last few weeks, I think I had let some fear in— like, “What if this never ends?”  “What if they never learn the lesson?”  “What if we’ve got it all wrong and mess this whole thing up?”  And every day, in the Word or out of it, I was letting it get the best of me and Friday night, the skirt tangled up in the shorts, was the last straw for my emotionally weary self.

And here’s the best part.  Of course, I was studying to teach Women’s Bible Study at my church.  It was Friday and I taught on Wednesday.  I love to study and God has been faithful to TEACH ME from this great book of Exodus.  I am aware of the concept of His teaching me before I get to teach anyone else and even Friday afternoon  -pre-embarrassing moment-  when I was on the phone with Jeff trying to get some parenting confidence and comfort from him, he asked me again to consider what the Lord might be teaching me in all of my studying— what it may have to do with what I was experiencing.

Of course he did. It was an apt challenge.

Though in the moment I didn’t take it.

Of course I didn’t.  It was a foolish refusal.

I did eventually.  As I studied to teach on the tabernacle in the wilderness I learned how it was an earthly representation of a heavenly reality.  It was a refuge of order in the chaos of the wilderness.  His space, His creation was to be a piece of heaven on earth.  Order amidst the chaos of the world.  The tabernacle was the orderly space and the means with which He connected with His people.  Then Jesus came on the earth and as John 1:14 says, “The Word became flesh and made His dwelling among us.”  “Made His dwelling” is derived from the word tabernacle.  Jesus was the piece of heaven on earth, the one to bring order to the chaos, the means by which people were to connect with God.  After the resurrection, how were His people to connect with Him?  He left us Holy Spirit who resides where?

“Do you not know that your bodies are temples of the Holy Spirit, who is in you, whom you have received from God? You are not your own;  you were bought at a price. Therefore honor God with your bodies.”  I Corinthians 6:19-20

Within us.  A most intimate connection.

So even we can reflect a piece of heaven on earth.  Order from the chaos tucked right within us. A sacred space.  An ordered place.  And we all know it— because we’ve all experienced it, when we take the time to pull away and just BE with Him, we feel it.  Him.  Holy Spirit.  Setting all things right again.  Order amidst the chaos.  A beautiful reflection of Him to the chaotic world around us.   A piece of heaven on earth.

Friday night, I was not that reflection.  I was a fragile, weary, foolish girl who had not sat in His Presence long enough for Him to restore the order, to change the perspective.  I was too busy trying to order my tangible circumstances {most of which I had no control} subconsciously thinking that would ease my inner chaos.  {Big fat lie.}  But by His glorious grace, as I’ve seen so many times with the Israelites in the desert, He’s there to hear my repentance, to forgive my sins, give me the humility to set things right with my family and enjoy a sweet connection with Him again.

He’s pursued connection with us since the Garden of Eden— condescending to us until He is as close as possible.  Right within us.  Tuck into the tabernacle within you, the dwelling place of His Spirit.  Allow Him to order your chaos.

Saturday, February 6, 2016

A Letter to a 14 Year Old Girl: Julia’s Birthday Letter 2016


Her letter but my post-- I get to choose my favorite picture.
Dearest Julia,

This birthday letter writing thing can be serious business now that you’re a full fledged teenager.  There are blush worthy things that need to be said, but maybe I’ll save that as a post script— just for you.  There are still things you need to be taught but these are the days for you to be practicing much of what we’ve tried to teach you.  It’s all beginning to count, you know?  The stakes are getting higher.  Mistakes can be bigger.  Bad choices could cost you more.

So, now is the time.

It’s time for your faith to really become your own.  You need to ask all the questions that you have.  Even the ones that you are afraid to ask— even to yourself.  Let’s have those conversations— and it would be very considerate if you’d do it when your Daddy is around— and see where they take us. Face any doubts you have now— is all this for real?  Does this faith my family has really matter for me?  Why exactly do we pray?  Will I really view the Bible as the final authority?  Ask before you leave us.  We will welcome it.   Don’t just assume what you hear is truth and Biblical.  Check it out for yourself.  KNOW YOUR BIBLE.  We hope we gave you your Bible-for-life this birthday— one that will hold memories for you as you filter your very life through the pages of Scripture.  The notes you make will remind you of markers, heart aches you’ve experienced, celebrations you’ve enjoyed, prayers that have been answered, times you have waited on Him, comfort you’ve received…..  You have a life to be lived and I pray His Word will inform you and propel you every step of the way.  {And when you are old, like me, you can look back on ALL HIS FAITHFULNESS to you.}




We’ve been snapping pictures on SGI for 12 years now!!  I love them EVERY year.  The candid ones are my favorite.
If you take that foundation seriously, the rest will fall into place— and if it doesn’t, it won’t rock your world.  Part of me wants to turn the above words into a begging or pleading because I feel so strongly about it.  You’ve heard me say these things so many times but He won’t disappoint you.  He may bewilder you, but NEVER will He not come through for you.  You may hurt in the present but I promise you, give it some time and you will see His goodness.  I’ll stop— but make your faith your own— preferably before you leave our home.  ; )

I love your friends, Julia.  You’ve been so blessed to know and get to know some of the sweetest girls in Fort Worth.  I know you don’t always feel you fit tightly into any one group but sweetheart, I know these girls love you and are blessed to get to call you friend.  I am trusting that God has a creative plan for your friend group and that you are going to have a blast all through high school with them.  But as new ones come, pick them wisely.  Hold close the ones who share your values— and the ones who don’t?  Engage them WITH your friends.  Introduce us to them.  Show them what Christ’s love looks like.  Share His love with them.  And then let them choose.  But always, always stay connected to your close friends.  This is a time in your life when friends really, really matter.  Does this quote from D-Town look familiar? “The friends you ride with determine the course of your life.  Make sure you are riding with people who point you to Jesus.” {Harrison Ross}  He’s absolutely right.



There is another type of friend that is on the horizon…..  and that would be a friend that is a boy….. or a special friend….. or a BOY-FRIEND.  There.  I typed it.  And I know there is one you’ve preferred for a little over a year now and I must say, that has been a very sweet experience.  {And a HUGE learning curve for me— AND his mom!!}  We have navigated some BRAND NEW things this year but I think it has been a lot of fun— and did I say sweet?  One day I can write ALL about it.  But more is coming and like I said at the beginning… more is at stake.  As you gain more freedom, you’re going to have more choices to make.  As a mom, it’s my job to prepare you for that— because, really, you have NO IDEA.  I could go off on a momma rant/talk here but I’ll save that for some face to face.  My prayer is that you will choose boys to spend time with just as you have picked the girls you like to hang out with— ones who share your faith in God, ones who respect you, ones who value who God has created you to be, ones who truly enjoy your personality…..I could go on and on but I just want you to just enjoy these special friendships.  Learn from these young men.  Admire their qualities that are so different from your own.  Pray for them.  {Being a young man is really hard.}  Be an encouraging and honest friend to them.  Inspire them to be better young men.  And make their lives a little easier by continuing to be modest in your dress and your actions.  Again… you have NO IDEA.  {Face time, girl. Later.}

But now is the time.  Remember that.

Would you be shocked if I stopped right there?  I am shocking myself but I think I should stop.  Those are biggies, girl.  I want those to stick with you.

Even with all the groundings and lost privileges, I have SO ENJOYED YOU this year.  We have had a lot of fun together.  I love that we both love a good story and a good bargain. {I may never beat your Old Navy 50 cents shoes… impressive.}

I am proud of you because I see some really great things becoming a part of who you are.  I am not your friend now, but oh, girl, God willing, we are going to the best of friends one day and I simply cannot wait.

I love you,
Momma

You got braces this year!!!
You and your city garden bounty
Concert in the Garden- Journey
I get a LOT of these on my phone! {Where is this shirt/outfit anyway, Julia?  I like this one!}
Our summers at the pool-- sweetest group of kids
Angel in Ballet Concerto’s Holiday Special “O Holy Night"
First day of school
Best day-- picking you up from camp
Easter
Such a fun memory....can we do this tomorrow?

Quite proficient in the kitchen...
Your “oldest” friends in the Fort 
First ride on the Texas Giant!


No matter what you think, he does love you.
Awesome Camp Joy founders and creators

Grateful for long time friends

And these decade long friends...HOW many pictures do I have of THESE THREE?!?

This picture on Disney Day says SO MUCH about you.
Remember.  ONE DAY-- BFFs  LOVE YOU!!

 

Here’s to Homemaking! “Forget Me Not"

{If you just want to get to the point of this whole post, click here.  The many words below just explains how that happened.}


It all began in October.......A neighbor stopped by to introduce herself.  Crafty neighbor.  After we chatted for a few minutes she apologetically asked me if I’d like to have my home on the Christmas tour for the Junior Women’s Club of Fort Worth.  I love all things home so to get to share mine sounded like fun-- no apologies needed for me-- and after I asked a few questions, I told her I was a 95% yes, but to let me run it by Jeff and the kids knowing it would take some effort on their parts too.  After clearing it with Jeff, the details were put in motion.  Once December arrived, my new neighbor friend, Daley, scheduled an evening for the docents to visit with me about our home and to look around so they would be familiar with it as guests came through.  They asked all sorts of questions and my most repeated answers were, “I’ve had that forever.  I don’t remember where we got that.”,  “Oh, Jeff made that.”, and the winner—  “We got that off Craigslist.”  I remember sweating a little as I realized how much I was talking about our home but they asked SO MANY questions and I kept getting these “Ohhs” and “Ahhs” with ladies’ hands over their hearts.  It was all very sweet-- and puzzling.  But it made me sweat.  Later, I learned why they had so many questions… but I’ll come back to that.

The last thing to say about that particular night was the humbling experience of taking them into my kids’ bedrooms.  Oh. My.  And this isn’t the first time I have taken a deep breath and carefully led someone in.  No kidding— the last person I took in turned to me with gaping mouth, speechless.  It’s difficult for me to do— to not take it personally or think it’s a reflection on me — but I figure if I keep doing it, it will do me some good and I’ll get over myself.  As we navigated the piles toward the bathroom with more of the same piles- just a little damp, I assured them I had a Bobcat rented and would have it cleared out in no time.  They must have believed me because they showed up the day of the tour. Once Julia and Brighton cleaned their rooms, I packed up a bunch of their things {and do you know, it’s February and they haven’t even asked for those boxes!}.  Here’s what I kept getting from one of them, “Mom, my room looks like no one lives here.”  My response?  “I promise people don’t want to see “lived in” when they are on a home tour— not your “lived in” anyway.  Why do you enjoy the Pottery Barn Teen catalog?!  Because it’s all cute. Every square-not- lived-in-foot. Cute.”  Or some variation of that…..  Goodness.

Once the kids’ rooms were presentable, the rest was a breeze.  We all left the house and Julia and I decided to tour the rest of the homes in and around our neighborhood before we ran our errands.  My friend, Daley, had her home on the tour and one step into her house, Julia and I looked at each other and I thought- and I bet Julia thought, “What were we thinking?! Why did we say yes to this?!?”  It was jaw dropping stunning.  As we toured the four children’s bedrooms, it became crystal clear to Julia why we cleaned up rooms and even went to the trouble to pack some things away.  These rooms were adorable, playful, and creative with colors rivaling a Mardi Gras parade and an atmosphere hinting to the magic of The Secret Garden.  Her whole home was strikingly beautiful with an eccentric mix of eye candy pieces and family keepsakes.  And I kept telling myself it was okay that I said yes.  Julia wasn’t so sure.

Oh!!  So it wasn’t until we got to this first home did I realize why the women who had come over that night asked me so many questions….  They needed to have some things about our home to tell the people as they came through!!  Duh.  Things like, “This tile was especially handmade in a little village in Italy.”  or “All of their lighting came from Fort Worth Lighting.” or  “This is their great grandmother’s Chinese chicken coop.” or “I don’t even remember but it made their homes sound really fancy.”  I could only imagine right then what the docents were telling people in my house.  “This chandelier was purchased from Craig’s List and her husband sprayed painted it on the porch of their rental when she realized it wouldn’t match anything in her new home.”  So, there you go.

Realizing not knowing what they were saying was better, I survived and truly enjoyed all the people I met in the organization.  Each one was so gracious and friendly.  I was honored to be a part of the tour and to be identified in a small way with the Junior Women’s Club.  {The gift basket rocked.}

Who likes photos of thmeselves?!?  I was glad it was kind of small... Brighton said we both looked “weird and photoshopped.”  Grateful for a dining room which is filled with 10 of Ft. Worth’s finest newlyweds every other week! 

And here’s part 2 of the story— I got an email from Daley a week or so later and she told me the editor of Indulge Magazine {a publication of the Fort Worth Star Telegram} had toured our home that day and wanted to see how I felt about our home being featured in the February edition of the magazine.  This is what tugged my heart— she wrote, “I just loved all the romantic little touches and think they must be really sweet, thoughtful people.”

Aww.

Well.

What do you say to that?  So all the things went through my mind— How cool!  That would be so fun!  Wait, is it okay for us to say yes?  What will people think?  If they interview us, will they print what we say?  What will the article really be about?  Call us crazy but we wanted to pray about it and ask a couple of key people their thoughts.  But when I spoke on the phone to Mary Rogers who would do the interview and heard her vision for the article, it was a no brainer…  And you will see why when you read it.

This room-- lots of life happens around the table.  My Mom and Dad made sure we ate dinner together every night it was possible which was most.  It might be 8:30 but we did it.  Those dinners are among my favorite memories -- especially teenage memories when the conversations meant something.  {Way to go, Mom and Dad!}

Meeting her was just delightful.  Mary Rogers wrote regularly for the Star Telegram for years and is now a freelance writer.  You’ll be able to read all that she found out but I just wanted to say, she was like visiting with a friend.  She jotted down notes in a tiny notepad, engaged my children and asked questions with intentionality— and made the whole process painless.  The time flew by and she was out the door.  Brighton stood with me at the door and said, “She reminds me of Nana.”  And he was right.  It was a very comfortable morning.  {No sweating this go ‘round.}

That dresser- my granddaddy’s painted white by Jeff.  The wall- pictures make my heart happy.  The pantry door- recipes/food are a part of a homemaker’s legacy and Jeff and I come from good ones  
This letter-- Jeff Sanders and his words charmed me in the most genuine way all of our days spent apart.  That song- Jill Sammons Butcher rewrote the music to the amazing words of “All the Way My Savior Leads Me”.  The only way to hear it is to call her up on the phone and have her play it while I listen.  The crosses-- each one representing the good God we serve and His tangible gifts of leading and loving us
Click HERE to read her gracious, poetic writing... though she describes me like my brother would describe a good fishing story-- much exaggeration.  I was humbled by her words about our home-- and honored she used her gift of writing on us.  If you aren’t a fan of the Sanders, I suggest you don’t read it.  If you know our quirks and mess and love us anyway, you might enjoy this.  We didn’t pay her to say these things, though I did drug her tea at the beginning.  {I jest.}  But as you read her kind words, you might think there's something fishy.  I promise there isn’t.

We just fooled her really well.  ; )

Though I don’t think there is any fooling Mrs. Mary Rogers.

Just like there’s no fooling Nana.


Friday, January 22, 2016

I’m Still Here... Along with 2016





I am not giving up on this writing thing.  I need it.  However, at this point, my traffic of thoughts is so backed up, I may never get a coherent thought out.  That’s the way it feels today.

I felt the Christmas season blow my hair back as it whizzed through our home.  It's never long enough.  There were a few moments that seemed to slow its pace but overall, it left me wishing for more.  For the first time in years, I missed my 45 minutes with Andrew Peterson's Behold the Lamb of God CD-- listening from start to finish.  That's a favorite thing for me.  {It’s worth the purchase.} Come to think of it, I should just listen to it now.  Best idea I have had all day.

But I press on because one must start somewhere.  Of all the words typed and posted on the world wide -getting wider every second- web, what could I possibly have to say that is any different?  Don’t I wish I could get my hands on some woman’s journals from, like, the 1800’s?  A few things I think I would find— I’d be challenged to have a different perspective—on many things, that my complaints are ludicrous, my desire for comfort is way out of balance, my idea of hard work is pitiful and so on.  But then, when it came to the heart of what makes us women, I think I’d find some common ground.  Family.  I think any “good” mom — and I can consider myself at least that— desires similar things for her kids- and women with a few soft spots in her heart desires to be loved and cherished by her husband.  All that to say— we wives and moms have SO MUCH in common so we are bound to say much of the same thing from time to time and that’s why I think we like to read.  Did C.S. Lewis really say, “We read to know we are not alone.”  {He did in the movie Shadowlands.  So there.}  Whoever said it, it’s true.  We like to know someone else “gets” where we are.  Not that someone is stuck in the same sin pattern we are, but that someone understands what we are up against or that someone else has already gone through what seems to be an impossible situation but they made it!

Therefore, I keep writing.  As sporadic — and somewhat guarded it has become because of my kids’ ages— I still do it.

A couple of weekends ago, we took the kids to plan and pray for the New Year.  Jeff and I have done this before.... but never with the kids.  One night before we left I was lying in the bed I heard Brighton in the kitchen asking Jeff, “So, what else are we going to do?  We can’t just pray the whole time!!”  {B usually says what everyone else is thinking but won’t say.}  No, we didn’t pray the whole time but we gave it a good Sanders’— with a 14 and 12 year old in a tiny cabin on the coldest weekend of the year— effort!  For the first attempt, I think it went well.  Sure there were moments I wanted to get back in bed and hide my head under the pillow—-.  the kids still fought.  I still said too much.  Jeff never backed down on the agenda— and that meant praying when maybe we didn’t feel like it.  But by the time we’d finish, hearts would be softer and our perspective would be less skewed.  I kept telling myself that time spent praying is NEVER wasted.

The owners of the property were kind enough to take the kids out for a {very cold} ride over their land.  I love the cow photo bomb.  
Though most of the change and fruit will come from praying together, I loved hearing the kids’ thoughts when it came time to talk of their goals, things they wanted to change, places they wanted to go, events they’d like to experience…..  These are easy questions to ask anytime of the year but there’s something about a new beginning that gets their noggins churning.  They were primed to talk and we were not distracted by the responsibilities of home.  A couple of new things I learned about my kids is that one of them is energized by the thought of entrepreneurial type endeavors and the other is determined to set and keep a tough goal if someone joins him/her in it.  Our kids think more than I think they do— about fitness, about eating well, about nurturing friendships, about how they are treating their sibling, how they fit into the family mix, how they engage or don’t engage at times.  They are fascinating to me- these kids in the years spilling into adulthood.  On the brink… of something.

There are times when Jeff and I feel time is running short.  Their time at home with us is ticking away.  Planning seems to need to be more strategic— and this takes time and energy, which honestly some days I am all about it but other days, I am content to let it all drift by and let it be what it is.  Sure there are days for drifting but there is wisdom in putting some plans to paper— after prayer.  And this is one of the lessons with which we want to send them off.



Did this weekend prayer retreat change their lives? My life?  Who knows?  But I am praying for this:
that some things are accomplished this year that wouldn’t have been otherwise, that we will continue to think on the desires and goals we communicated and are challenged personally, that we find more Scripture hidden in our hearts over the year, that as parents, spouses, children and siblings, and that we can all say that we depended on the Lord more to order our steps and words.
 
I hope we can look back on 2016 and feel like we gave it our best shot.  And most importantly, I trust we will see changes in ourselves as a result of time spent praying.  Together.

I’m pretty sure any wife or mom can relate to that.    On the wagon or the white SUV.

Friday, December 25, 2015

Christmas Letter 2015

Merry Christmas from the Orange Family! 
{The hardcopy we sent out had a terrible orange hue.  I could do nothing but embrace it.}



So you must be guessing…. hmmm, are they ALL sunburned….. or I wonder how that all-carrot diet worked out for the Sanders this summer..…or that self-tanner didn’t quite do the trick, did it?  Those are such good, valid guesses but nothing as entertaining as that.  It’s called DIY Christmas cards and printing via an email proof— so, this year, you get the Melon Sanders Family and our gift to you is maybe a little grin.  {Better than green, I say.}

Each year, I print out a book of all the things I’ve written down over the year— with all the pictures— basically my blog, Not By Might— and it has to have a name, something on the cover, one that sums up the year for me. This morning I typed “Never Could I Have Imagined”.  There have been wonderful things that have happened— a year full of blessings, but also things I never expected, like so many inches added to both of my kids, questions I was NOT prepared to answer,  how much they changed from last year’s picture, conversations that I didn’t know we were quite ready for but apparently we were and how my heart could ache with such joy AND as much hurt.  All you parents before me know exactly what I am talking about, but me?  I am just learning it.  And I thank God for all of it because in it, He’s making us all more like Him.  {Just don’t ask me about that at midnight after one of those conversations I wasn’t expecting.}

We have one teenager in the house except that Brighton doesn’t officially count “13” as a “real” teenager.  He says Julia is just pretending or practicing maybe.  We will see if his story changes come October when he hits 13.  He’s the little brother to the nth degree and takes great pride in that role.  And because of that, Julia will have doctoral level training in people skills.  B’s doctorate skill level will be sensing hormonal imbalance in the atmosphere.

Julia and Brighton are in 8th and 6th grade, respectively.  They are both still taking piano. Brighton plays the traditional sport in season.  We just finished up football— Jeff as the line coach— and have just begun basketball season with the school.  Julia continues ballet and decided to be in the Christmas Special with Ballet Concerto this year, so come next weekend, I get to see her be a “pink lady”, a Hallelujah angel and the front half of a cow.  Her “ballet portfolio” is diverse.

Jeff and I are doing great—amazed by how the time is FLY- ING.  Ibuprofen is our friend and my reading glasses are never too far away.  We are having a ball with our kids— except when I am grading math— and are grateful to be a family and have a “partner” with whom to parent.  I would be a heap in the corner without Jeff.

We are so dependent on the One we celebrate this season.  He is our HOPE for every situation in which we find ourselves.  Most of the time I can’t understand what He’s doing, but His track record of FAITHFULNESS in my life makes it a little easier to open up my hands and say, “I trust You because I know You to be good.”

Some of you have received a card since we were married in 1992 and some of you are receiving one for the very first time.  Old friends, new friends— His blessings are so welcome and so appreciated in my life.  I thank Him for your friendship and how the He saw fit for our paths to cross in one capacity or another over the years.  He is the Giver of ALL GOOD GIFTS!!