Wednesday, December 30, 2009

2009 - A Year in Review

It's that time of year again to reflect and ruminate over the year's happenings. Summing up 2009 in one blog post would be impossible, but I'll give you the Reader's Digest version...

January - I resolved to get my groove back in 2009 and I'm happy to report I did. God has done some amazing things in my life and provided me many unexpected blessings. Most importantly, He restored a joy for ministry and loving Him that I'd been lacking for a while. The year also started off with a bang as we were hit with ice storms and snow storms causing citywide power outages and shutdowns. Thankfully, no power outages for me, so the Red Rose Inn was a refuge for some.

February - I made a trip to Robinson Mountain. It's not really a mountain, but a place of hospitality and relaxation in the home of Mark and Sharon. What a timely trip this was as I needed a break from reality and being cooped up during the January storms. They surprised me with tickets to see Selah which was an unbelievable concert. The weekend was full of great discussions, sweet prayer, and Mark's infamous Indoor S'mores at the fireplace.

March - Our annual women's conference at my church was this month with Heather Payne, former Point of Grace member and member of my church, as speaker. I always look forward to these conferences as our women get a chance to really connect with God and others. In 2010, I'll be one of the three speakers at our conference, which humbles me and excites me all at the same time. I never cease to be amazed at how God uses one like me.

April - Although this officially was born in March, Open Arms Fellowship became a true reality in April. Our tagline, "We integrate, not segregate" sets the tone for the experience at our weekly meetings. It's very simple. We meet at Culver's after church on Sunday nights. We have fellowship (hence the name) and great discussions. I provide a pearl of wisdom each week and we always have a good table topic for discussion. Our Head Twit, Ben Sutton, makes sure our OAF Twitter page is live for those who can't be in attendance to follow along with the events. On Sunday nights when we don't have church, we typically plan an "off-site" that takes us to various places to keep the fun going....cookouts....drives to name it. We are official because we have t-shirts, a Facebook Fan Page, and our own Twitter profile. To those who haven't experienced it, this all seems a bit goofy. But for those of us who have, it's created some of the sweetest bonds in our family of friends at church.

May - My friend, Liz, made a visit over Mother's Day weekend which was a nice diversion to a holiday that is always difficult for me. And along with her visit, I was able to do a covert mission and deliver flowers to my friend Rod's mother at the 11th hour to make him look like the stellar son he is. Spring had sprung and after the long winter, I was ready to break free.

June - I broke down and finally got a Smartphone. A beautiful purple Sidekick from T-mobile. I affectionately named her Violet and quickly got addicted to the crack that is mobile technology. As my faithful blog readers know, Violet met her demise in October after a horrible data outage that lasted for three weeks and I now am a proud owner of the T-mobile G1 Google Android phone. She's not purple, but black...and named Pepper in honor of Tony Stark's (aka Ironman's) faithful assistant, Pepper Potts, who I dream of being on a daily basis. I love Pepper even more than Violet. I am one of those people whose phone is now an appendage.

July - My spontaneous friend, Amy, and I headed to the mountains of North Carolina for a weekend getaway. We stayed at this quaint little spot called Lakeview at Fontana and the time we spent together was priceless. Great coffee, great conversations, relaxing was just what we both needed. One of my goals for 2009 was to nurture relationships and the time we spent together on this trip surely met that goal. I am ever so blessed with invaluable friends.

August - Speaking of invaluable friends, my annual trip to Adel with Christie to visit Chad and Tracy happened in August. This year we had an added member to visit, baby Allison. I always love visiting Chad and Tracy. This year we had a good time watching them as parents, which was enjoyable and sweet. And I learned that I'm the best person you'll ever want to play Mario Kart with because you can always win.

September - I had minor eye surgery in September. Zap zap and sparkly eye once again. Another birthday came and went this year and the memory of my Mom's passing was rather vivid. Oh how I wish I could spend just a few glorious hours with her. She was a special lady that I miss and that I rarely make it through a week without someone telling me how much they miss her too. Someone said that very thing to me today. I pray I'm half the lady she was.

October - My OPCs rarely are able to get all five of us in the same room. But in October we made a quick overnighter to Chattanooga. We did nothing spectacular but hang out and spend quality time together, but it was so worth the drive. People may not understand that, but we sure do.

November - In my normal travel fashion, I headed to Viriginia to visit the Roederers in the middle of a Nor'easter. I can travel south and an ice storm comes...I'm like the Grim Reaper of weather when I travel. But, the flight was great and aside from being a bit inhibited due to the flooding of doing some of the things we'd hoped, it was a wonderful trip. I got to love on the sweet boys and spend quality time with a long-time friend that was in dire need of girl time.

December - Aside from holiday festivities and enjoying this special time of year, December has been a time of reflection over the past year. There are many more things I could ruminate about that happened over the course of these short 12 months, but many would take too long or simply seem a bit too unbelievable. But that is what makes this year so special. My number one goal was to fall in love with Jesus more. Through many circumstances, the One that loves me most, wooed me in a way I hadn't planned. For a Type A planner, getting out of the driver's seat has been hard. But once I surrendered and unbuckled myself and got out of the way, God blessed me in many ways. My prayer for 2010 is that my love for Him will grow ever more stronger and when I look back on "Twenty Ten" I'll be able to glorify and praise Him even more.

Friday, December 18, 2009

The Posts of Christmases Past

Recently, my friend, Alisa, wrote a blog post about the man behind Rudolph and linked to a post I wrote three years ago. I'm amazed that she remembered that post because I had long forgotten it. In April 2010, my blog will celebrate its 5-year birthday....which means I've blogged for five Christmases thus far. I'd like to think my blog is like has "rewatchability" (or re-readability) so I've decided to pull some blog posts from the past four Christmases for those that may have missed them, or like me, have long forgotten. Enjoy!

"When the North Pole Meets Bethlehem" - December 2005 - So many people in my life have discussed the challenge of allowing their children to believe in Santa Claus yet still be able to retain the true Reason for the Season. This post explains my life as a child who believed in Santa, but more importantly, believed in Jesus.

"Dating Lessons from a Reindeer" - December 2006 - As a single gal, and a mentor to many young girls, I'm always keen on using anything I can to teach object lessons about relationships and dating. This particular post was born out of my viewing of Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer and my appreciation for Clarice and her ability to be just the doe Rudolph needed in his life.

"All Aboard" - December 2007 - After my first viewing of The Polar Express, I was taken by the basic lessons of belief found weaved within the story. Be forewarned, there are spoilers, but this post focuses on how the movie teaches us to believe in that which we do not see.

"The Best Christmas Pageant Ever" - December 2008 - My OPCs and I went to see the local performance of this wonderful book by Barbara Robinson. It was a great reminder of why this tiny baby came for someone as lowly as me.

As you reflect during this most glorious season, find the true Reason for the Season amidst the chaos and commercialization around you. Let His Voice speak loudly during the hustle and bustle you experience. Have yourself a merry little Christmas!

Friday, December 11, 2009

Tis the Season for Giving

I've worked for the management team at my company for many, many years and with various companies. We've been through the good, the bad, and the buyouts together and I trust them enough to follow them wherever they may roam. One of the things about this team is that for the almost 20 years I've worked with them, we've always done Adopt-a-Family at Christmas. A woman here locally in town finds families in dire need and has various businesses willing to "adopt" them for Christmas.

At every company, the process is the same. Employees are divided up into teams randomly and given the description of the family and their needs and wants....usually there are more needs than wants...and more "wants" for the children expressed by the parents. It's a great way to get to know employees that you don't typically work alongside. In years past, I've had some pretty amazing stories. One year when Rick Pitino was still coach at the University of Kentucky, my team had a family consisting of a grandmother raising her grandson. No details on what happened to the parents, but little Anthony, when asked what his dream gift was, indicated "A Basketball..I'm a UK fan." That melted my heart that all he wanted was a basketball and most likely dreamed of being a Wildcat. At the time, my Dad was traveling a lot throughout the state and was in Lexington. He had heard my story and went to the athletic office to see if he could get some UK paraphenalia to include in the gift. When he recounted the story to the staff, they said, "Hang on one minute." They called down to the floor where Coach was practicing with the team and relayed the story..then asked my Dad the little boy's name. One of the assistants took off to the gym while another one gathered the annual basketball yearbook, stickers and other assorted "fan" fare for my Dad. When the assistant returned from the coach, my Dad had a glossy 8x10 picture of Rick Pitino, personally autographed to Anthony. Wow...what I would have given to see that boy's face when he opened that present.

This year, our family is a soldier who, while in Iraq, was seriously wounded. They have three girls and one baby on the way. The Mom asked for a crock pot. Being the ever practical shopper, I wanted to get her that, knowing with three children and being pregnant, she needs easy cooking options. Because I love online shopping, I quickly ordered one from Target to be shipped to work. In just a few days, it arrived. The very next day the same crock pot was delivered. I was baffled, so I went online to check my order and make sure I didn't err by ordering two...and I hadn't. Great. Now I have a crock pot that if I return, I'll get credited as if I received no crock pot. Or keep it and chalk it up to Target error. But, that too, didn't seem right. So, I decided to call customer service and plead my case. Let's see if Target has a charitable heart...

I spoke to a representative who I would surmise wasn't located in the continental United States since I could barely understand him. I explained my dilemma the best I could and told him about our charitable efforts to help families and asked if they would be willing to let me keep the extra crock pot for one of our other families. After checking and re-checking, the customer service rep said "Sure, that's fine." Yes, Viriginia, there is a Santa Claus...and he's dressed in a red polo shirt and khakis with a bullseye logo on his nametag.

Monday, November 30, 2009

Table Topic - Christmas Movies

Christmas Time is Here...Happiness and Cheer...Fun for all that children call...Their favorite time of year!

One of my favorite parts of Christmas (aside from the Reason for the Season...Jesus) is all the Christmas movies and specials. You have your Christmas movies...and your Christmas television specials. Although I own all the Rankin Bass Christmas specials that I can watch in the heat of July, there is something about watching Rudolph on CBS in prime time with all the commercials that takes me back to childhood. Picking just one favorite of all the annual replays of Christmas classics is tough. So I'll just summarize a few of my favorites...

A Charlie Brown Christmas - I have my very own Charlie Brown Christmas tree that I put up each year at my house in honor of this great production that debuted the year I was born. Some of the scenes from this special are simply priceless. The children at the end singing Hark the Herald Angels Sing ....Lucy's quizzing Schroeder "Can you play Jingle Bells? You know deck them halls and all that stuff? You know Santa Clause and ho-ho-ho, and mistletoe..and presents to pretty girls?" (A woman after my own heart) And the greatest scene of all as Linus says "Lights please..." and recites the Christmas story from Luke 2 ending with "That's what Christmas is all about, Charlie Brown." I still get a tear.

Rudolph, the Red-Nosed Reindeer - Rankin Bass knows how to produce good Christmas specials and it's hard to pick just one. But Frosty made me cry way too much when he melted and I still get choked up during that scene, so Rudolph wins the prize. I think the main reason this is my favorite is the ultimate story of the misfit and underdog saving the day. When I was a little girl, I had this dream of wanting to go to the Island of Misfit Toys so I could play with them all. They seemed lonely and I figured I was just the gal to make them happy. I still have a much softer place in my heart for the uniques of the world, like myself.

Holiday Inn - I get a lot of grief from friends about my love of this movie. This black and white film released in 1942 was where the song White Christmas made its debut. It stars Bing Crosby and Fred Astaire, and in my opinion ranks way above the movie White Christmas. Between Fred's dancing and Bing's heart swoons. And, the movie focuses on every holiday during the year (hence, the name Holiday wasn't named after that hotel chain). Aside from Christmas, my favorite holiday in the movie is Valentine's Day. Jim Hardy (Bing Crosby) writes a song for the woman he is falling in love with (but he hasn't expressed that verbally to her yet) entitled "Be Careful it's My Heart." For the hopeful romantic in me, I melt everytime that song is played. If you haven't seen it, skip the 65th viewing of It's a Wonderful Life and watch this classic.

And now for today's table topic....

What is your favorite Christmas movie and/or special?

Roast those chestnuts and fill you mug with hot chocolate...discuss.

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Four Scoops of Ice Cream, Three Meals at Qdoba, Two Redheads and a Brunette with Very Curly Hair

I'll never forget where I was three years ago in August when I got the call from Regina. She was in Los Angeles, about to board a plane to East Asia to serve on the mission field. I was sitting in a Burger King in Manchester, TN, with Christie, on our way to visit Chad and Tracy for the first time in Adel, GA. I remember getting off the phone and telling Christie "That was Regina. She's on her way." It was bittersweet. During the time Regina spent in Louisville at Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, we became great friends. This redhead from Eastern Kentucky had accepted a call to the mission field and was pursuing her masters. I knew the day would come she would leave, but I dreaded the arrival of that day.

During her time in East Asia, I was blessed to keep constant communication with her through the glories of technology - email, Facebook, Skype - and in June 2007, we began a prayer partner commitment that we have kept ever since. So many of my dear friends are far from me in proximity, but thankfully, like Regina, we work to keep our friendship seem as though we are next-door neighbors. After learning how to code my e-mails with "Daddy", "pr" and "the club" to represent God, prayer, and church, communication was a breeze. We both looked forward to the day she would be able to come home and enjoy a visit in Louisville.

Last week, our day had come. After flying in from Virginia, and having severe PVD (post-vacation depression), it was refreshing to know Regina would be checking in to the Red Rose Inn the next day. Her schedule was packed with people to see, so I was grateful for our late night talks and recaps over the past three years. We didn't have a lot to catch up on, but we were able to talk without the confines of code language or limits of the written word. Saturday was our day...the day we would make a memory with Christie and the pressure was on. Christie and I had discussed a lot of options....something interactive, but something unique....something possibly seasonal, but definitely something to make a memory. Then it hit ..."Lights Under Louisville." Regina had made a couple requests to do some things she missed over the past three years, but this part of the evening was going to be a surprise. And off I went with the two redheads....

Our first stop was Qdoba. Regina had not been able to savor that delectable restaurant since she left three years ago. That almost seems sinful as I'm a believer that there will be Qdoba in Heaven...with fountains of queso and lime-flavored tortilla chip trees. She knew the next leg of the journey was a surprise and she was as giddy as a kid on Christmas Eve.

The next stop was "Lights Under Louisville." This is the first year for this event, and Saturday just happened to be opening night. The Louisville MegaCavern is a large underground cavernous tunnel that runs under the Louisville Zoo and the Watterson Expressway. It currently houses the largest recycling center in the state. During the year, historic tours are given as you ride a tram through the darkness and hear about all the details of how this anomaly came about. Someone had the brilliant idea to illuminate the place with Christmas lights, pipe Christmas music throughout, and charge per car load for the holidays. And, I, for one found it quite enjoyable. At $20 per car load, some would find it a bit pricey, but it's an adventure, people, and where else can you drive through a cavern and look at Christmas lights and Nessy the Christmas Monster? Yes, they even had the Loch Ness Monster with a Santa hat, complete with her own pond. And, thankfully, there was a Nativity Scene...something often excluded from public "holiday" displays. I definitely want to go back...again and again.

The final stop was Graeter's...a regional ice cream shop. Regina had longed for the Chocolate Coconut Almond Fudge and got her wish...along with a second scoop of Buckeye Blitz. I'd love to ship her some to East Asia when she returns, but I think it would take too much dry ice to keep it frozen. She savored every bite knowing her next bite of that ice cream may not happen for another three years.

Regina pulled out on Monday morning to head back to Eastern Kentucky (not Asia) to celebrate Thanksgiving with her family. Another bittersweet good-bye as we hugged and hugged...and I wondered when I might see this precious redhead again. Many times God moves us away from our friends for a time, but oh how sweet each reunion is. I'm already looking forward to the next one...but in the meantime, we'll continue to grow our friendship through the virtual means of technology and our prayers for each other.

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Five People, Five Memories

I recently returned from my latest jaunt...this time to visit the Roederers in Hampton, VA. As always, during my trip, I try and formulate in my mind how I will recap the trip in a blog post. This one was hard because there were so many things I could talk about (and so many things that I can't talk about). So I decided to boil it down in "fives"...the five people I visited, and five of the ka-zillion memories made.

Five People

Rod - The rock of the family. If I had to give him a superhero name, it would be the Silent Giant. That is fitting in so many ways. When the boys get out of hand and drive Julie up a wall, Dad steps in. For you young parents out there, discipline works, because no matter the punishment, those boys always got excited when Dad arrived from work or they hadn't seen him in a while. And, they were proud to show me the chores list from the fridge that Dad put together of all that they do to earn their allowance. Rod also knew, without a word spoken, that his mission during my visit was to be Dad and occupy the boys so Julie could have time with me since she's had limited girl time at Fort Monroe. One of my favorite moments was when Rod proclaimed "All boys report to me" and they marched to the back room, aligned their game plan for the day, and off they went. That is a man who adores his wife and loves his kids. Husbands and Dads...take note.

Julie - It's hard to believe the same girl that was voted most school spirited and was one of my newspaper staff pals...and went to kindergarten with me is now spending her days as an Army wife and Momma. A far cry from her dream of being a local news anchor. But she wears her titles well. I don't believe she could love her husband more or her children...or even her "bonus" son (as she calls Daniel). She cooks like a dream, adores her husband like she just saw his face for the first time and could eat her children up (or "sop them up with a biscuit" as she puts it). She models much of the Proverbs 31 passage, although she'd roll her eyes and say I was smokin' something funny for saying that, but I'll just have to personally show her one day.

Daniel - The hottie 17-year old that looks like a taller version of his Dad when he was in high school, which is freaky to see. Daniel has come a long way and will be following in his Dad's footsteps by heading off to the Army after he graduates high school in June. I'd love to be a fly on the high school hallway walls to watch how the girls react to him. I'm a girl and I'm certain he is the talk of the school. The one thing that truly impressed me was the way he was with the little boys. I overheard him one day telling them to quit being so smart aleck...followed with "Remember what we've talked about guys" indicative of his past discussions on this topic with them. I told him I wanted to approve all girls he dates, to which he responded "I'm not getting married until I'm 30." We'll see how that goes.

Jackson - I can sum him up in one statement - "He wears his 13-year old very well." He's caught between being a kid and being a teenager. And he is just oozing with aspirations of being just like Dad. He spots every Army man he sees out and notes their rank. He is obsessed with discussing all the military acronyms. He "drops and does 10" just to show you he can. In less than five years, he'll be walking in Dad and Daniel's footsteps, I believe...which will make Mom and Dad very proud.

Clayton - If there ever was a boy that could make you feel like the most beautiful woman in the world, it's Clayton. I love that kid. He never went a day without telling me he loved me...telling me how great of a hugger I am...and how he didn't want me to leave. I'll always cherish the night we said prayers melted my heart. He is an artist and is never far from paper and pen to sketch out his ideas. When we went to the Virginia Living Museum, Clayton took his notebook and pencil and stopped at every display to draw the animals there. No one understands us creative types, but I do. One of the hardest parts of leaving was physically letting go of Clayton...he was attached to me like glue my last day there. He sure knows how to woo a woman...look out world.

Five Memories

Nor'easter meets Ida - I flew into Newport News in the midst of the Nor'easter last week. Thankfully my flights were on time and no problems. That was a God thing for sure. I failed to tell Julie that bad weather seems to follow me on trips. I've been to Alabama three times...two of which resulted in ice storms.

Bonding with the Boys - Not being a mother, yet having that strong maternal instinct, I loved being able to be the cool "aunt" but also be motherly. I had conversations saving them from impending wrath to discussing why the story of Esther was important that Clay learned about in Sunday School. We played Army Monopoly and Daniel and I dominated by occupying "death row" as we called it. We owned all the hot properties and filled them with battalions and divisions. Jackson was not happy I owned the US Army and the Pentagon -the Boardwalk and Park Place equivalent. Daniel and I declared ourselves winners. I also was a bit of a bad example...showing them how to do a snake with a straw wrapper...their Mom will kill me for that one.

Girl time with Julie - As I mentioned earlier, Rod was gracious enough to take the bullet and occupy the boys so Julie and I could have time together. From shopping to Starbucks, we had a glorious time. Although I've shopped along with her via phone in the past, it was fun to actually be present. And, we could dance in the store aisles and not make any of the kids embarrassed. And, I could make her laugh so hard she started wheezing. Sometimes you just got to be a girl.

Church on Sunday - I listen to the sermons weekly from their church, Liberty Baptist, and love the pastor, Grant Ethridge. It was awesome to be there live and in person to experience the worship and the sermon. An added bonus for me was to hear Rod teach their Sunday School class. A last minute need for him to fill in made my visit to church a double blessing. A bonus memory...on Saturday night Rod tried to have an inspirational dinner by asking the boys about favoritism. The lesson was on James 2 and how we shouldn't show favoritism to those less fortunate than us. It was like a scene straight from The Cosby Show as the discussion took place...until finally Rod said, "I give up." Never fear, I think something did sink in.

A Charlie Brown Thanksgiving - Prior to my visit, Clayton decided we were going to watch the Charlie Brown Thanksgiving special together and have the meal they had while viewing. If you recall, the meal consisted of pretzels, popcorn, toast and jelly beans. Julie and I went shopping for Jellie Bellies and she made all of us (yes, even Daniel and Rod) plates so we all could watch and eat our "meal" together. When the scene appeared with the characters around the Thanksgiving table, Daniel astutely noticed they each had ice cream sundaes and made sure Julie knew we weren't completely authentic unless she served ice cream. She ignored him. Sometimes you have to have junk food for dinner to make a memory.

I could list a thousand more moments of memories from the trip, but I'll save my readers from the world's longest blog post. It was definitely a memorable trip, one that I'll not soon forget and one that can't be encapsulated in a blog post or even in pictures. But the memory of my time with sweet friends will linger on for many days to come.

Monday, November 09, 2009

Musings for the Week - Trips, Trade-Ins and Twilight

1. I have a month off from book club due to a huge book signing event in December, so this may be the month to dive into Twilight. My sweet girl, Elise, has lent me her copy, complete with dog-eared pages of her favorite parts. I'm always late to the party with phenomenons like this, but given my lack of a focused read this month, it's time. Maybe it's my resistance that, as a hopeless romantic, I don't need to be swooning over a vampire named Edward that apparently knocks the socks off the young ladies. Now, if it was Tony Stark as played by Robert Downey, Jr, I'd swoon all over the place. I'll let you know if I'm captivated by a vampire.

2. Our church has set a goal to pack 300 boxes for Operation Christmas Child. If you haven't heard of this organization, check out the web site. They provide shoe boxes filled with toys, school supplies, candy and toiletries to children around the world that otherwise wouldn't receive anything for Christmas. My Sunday School class hosted a "Build-a-Box" party where we all bought multiples of the same items and packed many more boxes than we would have done individually. Couple that with good food and great conversations and we had a wonderful time. Our class is a quirky bunch and most of the humor that exudes is mostly funny in the moment and far from understood if you aren't present...making us that much more quirky. Thankfully birds of a feather enjoy flocking together.

3. I planned on blogging about the demise of my cell phone, Violet, but life just got too crazy. As many of you techno geeks may have heard, T-Mobile's Sidekick phone suffered a huge hit the first of October when Microsoft servers came crashing down and we were left without data service and all of our information....for three weeks. Long story short, T-Mobile was very good to this 10-year customer and gave me a new phone, a G1 Android, for virtually free (net $5) with no impact to my contract. I almost went with this phone back in June when I purchased Violet, but the purple color captured me. Moral of that story: Never buy a phone based on its color. I absolutely love my G1. It is far superior to the Sidekick...I have touch and a qwerty keypad...and, best of all, Pandora radio streaming! As my normal modus operandi, I named my phone Pepper....for it's color (black) and in honor of Pepper Potts, faithful assistant to Tony Stark aka Ironman. Oh how I'd love to be Pepper. This post is slowly becoming "Musings about RDJ"...

4. Saturday afternoon I was blessed to celebrate my Aunt Goldie's 90th birthday. My Dad had seven siblings, and of those, only three are still of them, his older sister, Goldie. Booth women are stunning. I wish I'd gotten a little more of those genes because even at 90 she looks fabulous. All of my Dad's sisters were strong-willed, beautiful women who dripped with intelligence. Every one of them outlived their husbands...and even husbands two and three in some cases. Aunt Goldie is no exception. I'm thankful I got a slice of those genes. The funniest line of the day was from my Dad's normal dry wit. He leaned over at one point and said "You know, being around all these old people is depressing." Priceless coming from a handsome 84-year old who looks about 65.

5. Thursday I step on a plane and fly east to visit the Roederer family. Yes, my life of living trip to trip continues. I haven't had time to really let the trip sink in just yet with all the busyness of my life, but I know once I get there, the time will pass all too quickly. I can't wait to have uninterrupted face time with is so busy we haven't had time to really talk in ages. I can't wait to see the boys...Clayton, Jackson and Daniel (who hopes I'm cool). And, of course, Rod, the rock of the house. Julie asked me what I wanted to do, and I told her I just wanted to spend quality me, that trumps any activity. Yes, Virginia, I am low maintenance.

Thursday, October 29, 2009

People Think We're Crazy

Last weekend was OPC Getaway Chattanooga style. Before I recap the weekend, I have to address the question everyone asks..."What is an OPC?" That's not really important...the definition of an OPC lies mainly within the relationship we have. It's steeped in a heritage that spans decades. From our parents or grandparents, we all have a thread that binds us together and God made the friendships unite. If you've ever watched Steel Magnolias, I'd say that our friendship mirrors the lives of those southern ladies in some ways. We are there through thick and thin....births, deaths, sickness, tragedies, celebrations, weddings, break ups. You just can't "make" friendships like that...they are born from God's Providential plan. I thank God regularly for the blessings I have in the deep-rooted friendships of Amy, Beth, Christie and Tracy (Listed in alphabetical order so as not to elevate one higher than the other)

Tracy and Chad now live in Georgia with their sweet baby girl, Allison, yet we stay so well connected that I hardly know they aren't here anymore...until we get to see them and spend time with them, then I go through withdrawals. Chattanooga is the perfect point halfway between here and there allowing for an easy way to meet up and have uninterrupted quality time. When we planned this jaunt, I went on the hunt for just the right hotel and found the "sweetest suite" at Staybridge Suites. For $27 per person, we had a luxurious two-bedroom suite, complete with living room, flat screen TVs, kitchenette and two bathrooms. Chad and Tracy had their own bedroom and bathroom making it perfect to bring Allison along.

Recapping the weekend is a tough challenge. It's just one of those things you experience that is hard to put into words...but, since I'm wordy, I'll do my best to summarize a few of my favorite things...
  • The road trip with Amy, Beth and Christie - We hopped into my Bluebelle and took off down the highway. I love a good road trip...full of laughter, singing, and great conversations. Thank goodness my car can't talk.
  • Seeing Alllison Ruth - That baby couldn't have been more loved than she was in the 24 hours or so we were with her. I got to feed her a bottle was like the baby lottery to see who would get to feed her, dress her, hold her. And, we were able to celebrate her six-month birthday!
  • Good food - What is a vacation without good food? We had mexican more than once, an outstanding continental breakfast at the hotel, and a Carol cake. What is a Carol cake? A delectable cake made by Tracy's Mom...a favorite of Chad. She takes very good care of us, sending along plates, forks and napkins to make our party complete.
  • Random OPC groupings - The beauty of a weekend like this is how throughout our various activities we all end up to have time with certain OPCs, changing the dynamic. I'm always fascinated by this. Whether it's while someone is taking a shower, or two of us are out doing something while the rest of the gang is together, the providence of that, coupled with the conversations that take place are priceless. Conversations in shopping center parking lots....late night talks while we're trying to go to sleep...early morning pow wows while we're getting ready...breakfast table topics. All are memorable.
  • Quality, unhindered time with my girls - Even though four of the five OPCs live in the same town, getting us all together can be challenging. I cherish the time I get to share with them...unimpeded, continual time. Time where we laugh, share our hearts and are honest...knowing we'll always love and be there for each other.
  • The Vegas Moments - You know the slogan "What happens in Vegas, stays in Vegas." There are many things that fall into the "What happened in Chattanooga, stays in Chattanooga." And that's all I'll say about that.

People think we're crazy. Why? We drive five hours to spend one night to drive five hours the next day just to spend time together doing nothing noteworthy. Oh, how wrong those people are. We may be crazy...but I'd do it every weekend if I could. If I had to rate this weekend, I'd give it a 9.9...I'd give it a 10 if it never ended.

Tuesday, October 06, 2009

Nine Years Later

It was nine years ago last week, on September 29, that my Mom left this world for her eternal home. Each year this day is always bittersweet as it falls the day after my birthday. This year was a bit more reflective as two sweet ladies passed away last week, one on the anniversary of my Mom's passing. It's always a reminder of how short our lives are and how we should cherish every moment. After reflecting on that last week, and focusing on the wonderful things about my Mom and not the sadness of my loss, I came up with five things I wish I could tell her. Now, those that know me best know I have more than five things I would tell her...but no blog could hold all that has happened the last nine years that I'd love to tell her. These five things sum up a lot and probably are the top five list we'd cover first thing if we were sitting face to face.

1. I wish I knew more about the 18 years of your waiting to have a child. - My Mom told me a lot about that time...the miscarriages, the lost premature child, her prayers for just one child...but now as so many of my friends are dealing with infertility issues, I wish I had her words of wisdom to share. Eighteen years she prayed and a time when there was very little medical advancement to help that along. Most people would have given up. My parents didn't. I'm so thankful they didn't or September 28 would have been just another day in their life and I wouldn't be writing this blog.

2. I have become you, Mom - As much as I may fight it, I am my Mother's daughter. I can talk to anyone, anywhere...the very characteristic that drove me nuts about her as a child. I remember wanting the telephone as a teenager (for you young 'uns, no cell phones in my teen years) and having to wait for her to make all her calls. Now I know where I get that gift of gab. I can make a non-phone talker into Alexander Graham Bell. I love giving meaningful gifts that are specific to the recipient...I love writing notes throughout books when I give them as gifts...I love to read, and am loving it more every day...I cry at the drop of a hat...I'm crafty (both in wit and skill)...I speak my mind, though mostly filtered through tact and eloquence as she taught me. Yes, all those things and more have turned me into my Mom.

3. My love for discipleship and mentoring was a direct result of your passing - This may sound odd, but the passion for discipleship, mentoring and pouring into younger girls and women truly was ignited after my Mom's death. What I realized was how much her life impacted me...not because we sat down and did a Bible study together each week (we didn't) or did any of those things the mentoring books tell you about structured meetings. I watched her live life....I watched her go through tragedies...I saw her flaws and her failures...I saw her successes and strengths....and I saw her walk through the valley of the shadow of death. Those are lessons learned by living life side by side. Mom, you are the inspiration of that calling in my life.

4. One of the greatest lessons you taught me was to make my friends my family - Being an only child, born to older parents, my Mom taught me from a young age that she and my Dad wouldn't be here forever. Thankfully, my Dad is still going strong, but that lesson included her instruction to make lots of close friends who are your "family" until you have a family of your own. Since I'm single, that lesson has been oh so important. I am blessed beyond what I deserve to have great friends who love me like their own family. And, I feel the same about them. I used to listen to that lesson from her and never give it a second thought. Now, it is like gold.

5. The prayers you prayed for me are still being lifted up today - My Mom never ceased to provide humor in most situations. Sitting next to her at just about any function was a hoot to get her colorful commentary whispered in your ear. One of her ongoing comments that carried a bit of humor, but a ton of prayer was "I just want to see you married before I go on to my reward!" Well, obviously that didn't happen, but almost until the day she died, she wanted that, desperately, for me. I think because she knew the blessing my Dad was in her life, not to mention the lifesaver she was for him, and she wanted that same blessing for me. I have an army of people who still pray that prayer for me today...and for that, I'm forever grateful. And, hopefully, if God blesses, I will marry before I go on to my reward. Mom, God is faithful and your prayers are still at work.

I am eternally blessed to have had a Mom that wanted me so badly she waited 18 years to have me and taught me more than I could ever have imagined. "Those who sow in tears, will reap with songs of joy." - Psalm 126:5

Thursday, October 01, 2009

Lessons Learned from Four-Year Olds

I love working in the four-year old Sunday School class. This once-a-month privilege always teaches me so much more than we ever teach them. A couple of weeks ago was no exception and I walked away with a few lessons learned...

1. You can make a fashion statement with purple makeup on your face - A couple of the girls unloaded their purse and the next thing we knew they were covered in purple makeup. They weren't shaken by the Indian war paint look they were sporting, but we figured the Mommies might not be too happy with this emerging trend. Miss Carolyn took them to the bathroom to wash their face. But, I couldn't resist calling one of them "Purple Piper" the rest of the day.

2. A chariot can be pulled by a zebra if a horse isn't available - Mr. Matt was playing with the kids and having them pull a chariot as we prepared to hear the story of the conversion of the Ethiopian. No horse was available to use to pull the Mr. Matt improvised...and we used Marty the Zebra. All the Madagascar characters from Disney Happy Meals are ready to fulfill any biblical role necessary at a moment's notice.

3. Potty time can evoke the best discussions - As crazy as it sounds, I love taking the girls for potty time. They always tell the greatest stories and bonding happens when you do something, so, um, personal, I guess. On this particular Sunday, I had two interesting discussions. One little girl said she had a younger sister, and she was going to have a baby brother, but right now, he was growing in her Mommy's tummy. Sounds reasonable, right? But, her Mommy isn't pregnant. This same girl has told the teachers each week it's her birthday...I think we have a comedic genius on our hands. Another little girl described in detail how her Mommy handles her clothing when she has, um, an accident. I'll save you the gory details. But she implied these "accidents" happen frequently. I've protected the innocent by withholding their names. What happens in the potty, stays in the potty.

4. We all have fears - the only thing that changes is the focus of our fears - Hannah sat with me at the table doing a puzzle and was all snuggly, which I love, but she seemed a bit sleepy. I asked her, "Hannah, are you sleepy?" She said, "Yes, I didn't sleep last night. The storms scared me." I just gave her a hug....and was reminded that I was afraid of storms at her age too. My Mom taught me Psalm 56:3, "What time I am afraid, I will trust in the Lord." to get me through the storms. To little Hannah, that storm may be the scariest thing she encounters. But, for me, I have different storms now. In either case, Psalm 56:3 is the best answer no matter the storm.

Monday, September 21, 2009

Following in the Footsteps

Last week one of our ministers posed a question to his Facebook friends to help him prepare for a class he was teaching at our church for ministers in training. He said "What characteristics do you desire in a boss?" Instead of dwelling on that question like I would normally do and pop out with some elaborate answer after allowing it to swirl around in my head, I responded immediately with the first thing that came to my mind. My response was "Someone who uses their position to not only lead, but mentor, and develop their employees to follow in their footsteps one day."

I'm blessed to have a great boss at my current job and throughout my career have had many a wonderful boss. Of course, with the good comes the bad and the ugly, and I've had my share of ruthless bosses who would fill a blog with stories of their unethical and horrible management style. And, working in leadership roles through my church, I've learned to look at those leaders in my life I long to emulate and apply those good qualities and characteristics to my own style. Anyone that knows me can attest that mentoring others is my passion. My main milieu for that activity is within my church family, but any chance I have to walk life alongside someone and watch them grow and develop thrills my soul. Referring to mentoring in my response to his question wasn't surprising, but after posting it, a visual came to me about the second half of my answer..."following in their footsteps."

Many leaders are intimidated to groom an underling to take over their role. If we were all honest, all of us that are in leadership, we still have a twinge occur when we think there is someone out there that can do our job, and maybe even do it better. But, a true leader sees that our role is for a season and if we don't prime someone to follow in our footsteps, the vision of our work could vanish. This caused me to think of the Ultimate Role Model in leadership....Jesus....and those that would follow in His Footsteps and a specific time when He modeled that in a humbling way.

It was right before the Passover feast and Jesus knew the time had come for Him to leave this world and go to the Father. At an evening meal with His disciples...those that would carry His Work on past the resurrection...He displayed His leadership and humility. Jesus donned a towel around His waist, filled a basin with water, knelt down and began washing His disciples feet. Peter, the ever outspoken one, questioned Jesus' actions. (Oh how bold Peter was, but, hmm, I can sometimes be that bold with my Master too). He did not want Jesus to stoop to that level (literally and figuratively), to which Jesus responded "You do not realize now what I am doing, but later you will understand." And then He spoke this life lesson....

"You call me 'Teacher' and 'Lord,' and rightly so, for that is what I am. Now that I, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also should wash one another's feet. I have set you an example that you should do as I have done for you. I tell you the truth, no servant is greater than his master, nor is a messenger greater than the one who sent him. Now that you know these things, you will be blessed if you do them."

Modeling and mentoring. Service from the Master. Charge from their Leader. Securing the vision will continue after He has ascended from this earth. I'm sure the lesson caused many a quizzical look on the faces of the disciples. But I'm confident that many footsteps down their road, this lesson had taken root and grown and they put it into action themselves. The Ultimate Leader taught us how we should follow in His starting with humbling Himself at our feet.

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Bedside Manner

A couple of weeks ago I had minor laser eye surgery. Anything with "surgery" in the title doesn't seem minor, but the impact of surgery diminishes when the procedure is done at a local surgicenter. Thankfully the surgery went well as my doctor blasted away some membrane tissue that was a result of a previous surgery two years ago and my right eye is all sparkly and superpowered again. When you go for procedures like this, much of the time is spent in prep and waiting, which can try your nerves if the procedure is much more extensive. I brought a book to keep my mind occupied during the waiting and to make the time pass.

When it was time to take me back for actual prep, I was in a holding area along with countless other folks waiting for surgery....anything from other laser procedures to much more extensive operations....but none of which require overnight hospital stays. I'm a student of people. I'm fascinated by watching and listening to complete strangers as I roam this learn so much, and have a few laughs along the way. As I sat between two curtains waiting for my number to come up (um, ok, bad choice of phrases), I overheard a conversation between a surgeon and his patient in the next door curtain. The victim, I mean, um, er, patient, seemed to have a deviated septum. For those non-medical types out there that haven't watched an episode of St Elsewhere, ER, or House, that is a displacement of the nasal cavity. And from their conversation, this deviation was caused from some accident. Here's the lovely conversation I heard between the surgeon and patient...

Surgeon: Hello sir, are you ready to go?
Patient: Yes, I think I am (with extreme hesitation in his voice)
Surgeon: Well, sorry we're running late...that last procedure took an extra hour and a half than I originally planned. It was a mess in there. (I think a HIPAA rule was just broken)
Patient: Oh. (I'm sure this extra information was TMI for someone about to go under)
Surgeon: I see the nurse briefed you on the procedure. We'll be repairing your deviated septum and you'll be on your way.
Patient: I have a question. (In a fearful voice as the surgeon seemed to be distracted and in a hurry....two qualities you don't want in a surgeon)
Surgeon: Sure, shoot.
Patient: How long will the procedure take?
Surgeon: About an hour or so, unless it's like the last one I just did, which is possible. If you had injured your nose a different way, this would be a lot easier. (Yes, ladies and gentlemen, that's what the surgeon said)
Patient: Ok. So, what should I expect post surgery?
Surgeon: You'll be groggy and the pain meds will work for a while, then they'll wear off and you'll be in some pain until your oral meds kick in. (Then the surgeon proceeded to graphically describe how gross his nose would be. I'll spare my blogging audience that visual)
Patient: Ok. (Thinking "Sorry I asked")
Surgeon: Well, I'll see you in the operating room!

I stopped for a moment and thanked God that I've never had a surgeon like that and said a prayer for Mr. Patient. If he hadn't thought I was a complete whacko, I would have gone over there and given him a hug. I wonder if this is what healthcare reform will look like.

Saturday, September 05, 2009

Table Topics - Movie Lines

I love quoting movies. They provide some of the greatest phrases to use in multiple situations and, being a verbatim brain, it challenges my mind to recall them in a moment's notice. This table topic was somewhat inspired by Katrina's post on movie quotes she uses in everyday conversation. I thought I was the only person that used movie quotes on a daily basis. Some of my favorite "everyday" quotes are...."You're killing me Smalls!" from one of my favorite baseball movies, The Sandlot...classic. And, when someone says something crazy, a former boss of mine and I used to say "Ex-squeeze me? Baking Powder?" from that SNL-inspired classic, Wayne's World. There are others....but then there are other quotes that are memorable for other reasons...

My all-time favorite line, the one that I pattern my life after, from Steel Magnolias, "I'd rather have 30 minutes of wonderful than a lifetime of nothing special."

My favorite line that somewhat describes the spirit that is me, from Mona Lisa Smile, "Not all who wander are aimless. Especially not those who seek truth beyond tradition, beyond definition, beyond the image."

My favorite romantic movie line (and this one was tough to pick) from My Big Fat Greek Wedding, "Why? Why do you love me?....Because I came alive when I met you."

My favorite movie soliloquy that sums up my calling in ministry and always brings me to tears, from Mr. Holland's Opus, "Mr. Holland had a profound influence on my life and on a lot of lives I know. But I have a feeling that he considers a great part of his own life misspent. Rumor had it he was always working on this symphony of his. And this was going to make him famous, rich, probably both. But Mr. Holland isn't rich and he isn't famous, at least not outside of our little town. So it might be easy for him to think himself a failure. But he would be wrong, because I think that he's achieved a success far beyond riches and fame. Look around you. There is not a life in this room that you have not touched, and each of us is a better person because of you. We are your symphony Mr. Holland. We are the melodies and the notes of your opus. We are the music of your life."

So, today's table topic....

"What movie lines are your favorites?...define your life?....come up in everyday conversation?"

Please press play, and please be kind and rewind when you are done.

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Arm of Protection

When I was a child, and probably when you were too, and riding along in the passenger seat of the family car, you had more protection than a seat belt. Your Mother's arm of protection. Like an automatic reflex, when she would have to stop quickly, that right arm would swing out to hold me back and protect me from jerking forward. The ironic thing was this reflex happened even in the smallest of stops where no real danger was about to ensue. But Mom's instincts were to protect her precious cargo from any pathway of harm. I thought this reflex developed after becoming a Mom, but not so. After I began driving for a while and began to be a shuttle service to friends and other's children, I realized my own instinctive reflex was there. Yes, I've turned into my Mother. Not a bad thing to morph into.

Last week during one of my devotions, this passage was used....

"Moses answered the people, "Do not be afraid. Stand firm and you will see the deliverance the LORD will bring you today. The Egyptians you see today you will never see again. The LORD will fight for you; you need only to be still." - Exodus 14:13-14

The first part of that passage talks about deliverance and not just that the Lord will bring deliverance, but the very irritant you are being delivered from (for the Israelites, those pesky Egyptians) you will see no more. How many times when I'm in the midst of difficult people or difficult circumstances do I pray for deliverance, or for the Red Sea to swallow them up? This promise to the Israelites is just as true today. The Lord wants to deliver us, we just need not be afraid and stand firm. Easier said than done sometimes.

The second part really spoke to me "The LORD will fight for you; you need only to be still." Sweet! I've got the LORD going to battle for me!! But, oh, wait, I have to be still? Are you kidding? Surely the Lord needs me to sharpen His Sword, load up his slingshot with some sharp rocks, or just scream "Boo!!" at the enemy. I can't just be still, He needs my help! He may need my guidance and instruction. My nature isn't to be still....being still is for when I'm sleeping. And, then the Spirit convicted me...."My child, you need ONLY to be still." Only be still? Really? Yes. The Lord doesn't need my help in the battle; He just asks me to not be afraid, stand firm and be still. Simple instructions, difficult to follow. Until I remembered my earlier visual....

When danger comes, God swings out His Arm of Protection to cover us. No matter how big or small the danger ahead, He simply instinctively swings out that Arm of Protection to guard us, turns to us, gives us a wink and says, "I got this one." And He always does.

Thursday, August 20, 2009

Top Ten Lessons Learned on the Fourth Annual Trip to Adel

For the past four summers, Christie and I have made the trek to the great city of Adel, Georgia, located in sunny and smoldering south Georgia to visit our good friends, Chad and Tracy. This year, we had an addition to our trip, Allison, the newest member of the Todd family. It's hard to sum up the trips, but Tracy always looks forward to my blog post recap. Our first visit I was enamoured by the small town wonder. Being a city girl, the slow pace of a small town for a few days was refreshing. The second trip was like going home again and we began a yearly tradition. Last year, I noted all the funny things overheard during our stay. This year, straight from the home office in Sparks/Lenox/Adel, Georgia....somewhere between Harvey's, Peebles and the Piggly Wiggly is tonight's top ten list...

10. "The best travel days are Wednesdays and Sundays." - Every prior trip had us leaving on Thursday and returning on Monday. Last year we had quite a few traffic challenges. But, this year, due to vacation schedules, we had to shift up a day. Although we hated missing attending FBC Adel on Sunday, the drive was a breeze. I think it was the easiest travel we've ever had heading south.

9. "A large Bearno's Pizza can travel 10 hours in a cooler and still be edible at arrival." - Bearno's is a Louisville delicacy. Chad had asked us if we could surprise Tracy and bring Bearno's pizza. I ordered it the night before, let it cool, then packaged it up for the journey. Christie was able to get it all in a small cooler and insulated bag. Even with the heat of the summer, the pizza was delicious and Tracy was one happy girl.

8. "When acting out in charades and your partner guesses 'Driving Indian', that won't be easily translated as Jeep Cherokee." - Chad and I were partners during the visit for all team games. We played a game called Name Dropper that requires one round of Charades. I thought I was so ingenious to act out an Indian driving a car for a win! Unfortunately, my vibes with Chad were off and we missed that one...and ultimately lost the game. Tracy, of course, being the competitive spirit, was thrilled for her and Christie's victory.

7. "Avent baby bottles are better than Dr. Brown's" - This revelation by new Mom, Tracy. And she can give you three reasons why they are better. First, the Avent spout is wide enough that the formula scoop can easily dump the measurement in without spillage. Second, Dr. Brown's bottles come with way too many moving parts. And, third, the light blue logo and bottle decor of Dr. Brown's bottles clashes with her red kitchen. All valid and logical reasons, don't you think?

6. "Even with a bullet, I still come in 12th when playing Mario Kart." - I love video games. But loving them and being good at them are two very different things. And, I'm so competitive that I would probably play 24 hours by myself to get better to truly win but I'm trying to shake my obsessive tendencies. My favorite part of Mario Kart was when I'd get a "bullet". For you non-Wii players, that's when your vehicle hits a box and unlocks a way to get ahead. Bullets were my favorite because I'd speed past my competition...until I missed that curve in DK Summit and ended up in the red and white snow....or, over a cliff in Mushroom Gorge. Sigh.

5. "Bath time is my favorite time with Allison" - It's hard to pick just one Allison moment, but I loved bath time. Allison loves getting a bath and once she's all clean and cuddly we get to slather her up with that sweet smelling pink Johnson's baby lotion...I love the smell of that stuff! Then we'd get her all diapered up, in her pajamas and snuggle time for her final bottle. She is just too cute for words. I miss her already....and her parents too, of course.

4. "Bidding in Rook would be easier if we just knew what was in the widow." - This was our second year to play Rook. Almost every round, someone would say "I wish I knew what was in there" referring to the 5 cards in the middle of the table that the high bidder gets to achieve their team's bid. There has to be a spiritual application in there....if only we knew what the future held, we would know how to bid exactly right and not have to take that risk. But, in life as in Rook, we must have faith. I'd like to proudly state that Chad and I won the Rook tournament. Tracy would claim it was tainted because of a round we had to toss out due to a missing card...but I called that providential....

3. "When you invest money, it hatches interest!" - One of Tracy's activities with 4-month old Allison is reading to her. Yes, to you that may seem early, but you see, Tracy is raising a genius, so we need to get started early. Allison's favorite book is The Berenstein Bears. But, not "The Berenstein Bears Safe and Sound" or "The Berenstein Bears Give Thanks"...oh no, it's "The Berenstein Bears Trouble with Money." The book teaches the principles of earning money, saving money and...hatching interest. Only Tracy...and that's why I love her and she's a great Mommy. Allison is going to be diagramming sentences at six months.

2. "Never hire a criminal to work at your restaurant or you'll be short a cook." - One night we headed to Valdosta to eat at the Smok'n Pig Barbeque Restaurant. While we were enjoying our dinner, we look out the window and see policemen handcuffing and taking one of the cooks away in the squad car. Thankfully we had our food already. Priceless.

1. "The best of friends can be honest, loving and endure the good, bad and ugly, and come out loving each other even more." - Tracy (and Chad as honorary) is part of my group of friends known as the OPCs. We are like the women from Steel Magnolias...we've been through birth, death, marriages, heartaches, name it. And no matter what we face, we weather the storm. I'm always reminded of that kind of precious friendship when I get to spend uninterrupted time with Chad and Tracy and realize how much I do miss them....but know that we have a friendship that endures the tests of life and time.

Saturday, August 08, 2009

Musings for the Week - Reading, Road Trips, and Retreat

1. When I decided this was the year I was getting my groove back, one of my goals was to read more books. To accomplish that goal, I joined a book club at a local Barnes & Noble in January. I'm certifiably a book worm geek because I just attended my 8th meeting this week and get giddy every time that day rolls around. As of today, I've read 12 books this year, already two ahead of my 2008 total, so the numbers show I've accomplished my goal. But the whole book club experience is hard to describe in words of the fun that I have there. The group of ladies I meet with come from all backgrounds of life and we all share a common bond...we love to read. We talk about current events, other books we're reading, and, oh yeah, the book we chose to read the prior month. My goal of joining this club was two-fold...I wanted to also have an opportunity to expand my influence beyond my church and work to new people and be able to share my faith. I can attest that I have been able to do that while discussing plots of books and stories of characters that mirror our real life issues. I always come home and start the next book that very I sip on the Starbucks I buy when I'm at the Barnes & Noble Cafe'...another book club bonus.

2. Another of my goals for the year was to nurture relationships. This has been a stellar week with the friendships in my life. Words can't express what my friends mean to me. They love me, pray for me, hold me accountable and are there for me at a moment's notice. And, even with all my crazy quirks, they still endure my goofy ways when I know I drive them nuts at times. Even when conflict occurs, I know I can weep and go to them and mend our differences and we can love each other even more than we did before. As an only child, I need my alone time, but without my lifeline of friends, I couldn't survive. Oh so many people live a lifetime without even one or two good friends. I am blessed beyond measure.

3. I've developed a traveling trait this year of breaking free and enjoying life. I feel the need to live from trip to trip. After my recent weekend in the mountains, I'm about to embark on a journey to south Georgia to see Chad, Tracy and, the newest addition, Allison. Christie and I make this annual trek and I not only look forward to spending time with the Todds, but having quality time with my sweet sister, Christie. The 10-hour drive can be brutal, but it's one of the few times that Christie and I get uninterrupted time to bond, and a road trip is one of my favorite ways to deepen a friendship. My car and I have an agreement....I'll fill your tank and take good care of you. You keep your hood shut about all the deep, dark secrets that are shared within the four doors of your frame. As always, a Tracy-approved blog post will appear to recap our visit.

4. We are in the final stages of interviewing for a new member of my Inside Sales team. Interviewing can be a wearing process. Gathering resumes and narrowing down the batch to an acceptable amount to bring in for first interviews is just the first step. Then you go through the process of wasting much of your day interviewing folks that, for lack of a better phrase, we're just not that in to. The perks of this process are the funny stories that ensue from the random personalities that we interview. We had just that guy come in for an interview recently. Picture Dwight Schrute from The Office and you've got the visual. My interview time with him was short because I knew quickly, it just wasn't happening. The other member of my Inside Sales team, Matt, followed me and was privy to the humor that makes this grueling process redeeming. The interviewee recently worked for a local publication that dealt primarily with job listings. Matt asked him "So do you think the popularity of Craig's List is part of the cause of that publication's decline?" Fair question and on the mark. Dwight responded "People who are desperate use Craig's List." Ok, Dwight, thanks for playing. I felt sorry for him because he'll have a tough time finding a job with such a limited insight into reality.

5. The singles at our church are having a retreat over Labor Day weekend entitled, "One Life, One Story." The sessions will revolve around how we tell our story in various settings of how Christ transformed our lives. I was asked to lead a session on how to tell your story in the workplace. I'll be honest, I was humbled at the request because I see myself more as a discipleship girl and and not an evangelistic queen. I've got my outline, but I need to start building the content and I'm at an impasse. Maybe this spewing of a blog post will release some spiritual creativity to start pouring out the details I need. As a planner, I'd rather have things done sooner than later. But, God is teaching me more and more to depend on Him. And so I shall.

Thursday, July 23, 2009

I Will Lift Up Mine Eyes

Sometimes you just have to take a break from reality. When 2009 started, I committed to getting my groove back and the last six plus months have been filled with unexpected blessings and God has done an amazing work in my life. After a long cold winter full of ice storms and snow storms, I was ready to break free. Whenever that urge hits, I know exactly who to adventuresome friend, the Thelma to my Louise...Amy. Her free spirit draws mine out and she is always ready for excitement. She told me "Sometimes, Rose, just getting a massage isn't enough." And the planning began. Through the wonders of search marketing, I found a little rustic resort spa in the North Carolina mountains that looked like a cross between Mamma Mia and Dirty Dancing. And, it was very affordable. Book it, Dano, we are there.

Amy and I go way back...well, our roots do. Her grandparents and my parents were best friends...taught Sunday School together and we have a mutual adoration for those four precious souls. Although I had known her my whole life, our friendship truly began when she went off to college and solicited people to write her. (The old-fashioned way, kids, pen and paper) Because I love writing letters, I took the challenge and it forever changed us both. She will admit now that my letters would sit on her desk at her dorm for days when she knew that reading them would be convicting. Our friendship is loving and honest and one I treasure. Amy is someone that can be goofy one moment and then get serious the next...a quality I love.

Summarizing this trip is almost impossible. Every moment is memorable and I'll just recap a few....

...Goofy discussions and vacation evening we brainstormed on names for churches you'd never want to attend (watch for a future blogpost)...

...Other discussions fell into one of three categories, deep discussions, soul searching, or true confessions (don't look for a blogpost on those)...

...Random stops...for Starbucks...and bookstores we see that have all books under $5!!...

...A resort that fits us to a tee....relaxation....reading....lots of coffee....Scrabble in the cafe....wonderful

....Two trips to Cracker Barrel...that restaurant is just right for traveling...good home cookin' and a gift shop to boot...

...Lunch on the way home with Mark and of those unplanned, unexpected blessings...that couple is oh so precious to me...and Amy got to have a taste of the Robinson wisdom...

I always get wistful and melancholy when trips like this come to a close. I ponder on the fact that we pass this way only once and we must make the most of the moments we have. Amy just read that sentence and groaned. She loathes change and I embrace it and most times find excitement and promise in the changes to come. Oh, she can rest assured that as sisters in Christ we will be eternal friends, but as our seasons of life come and go, the complexion of our friendship may change. Sometimes I have to remind my friends that I may not always be single, footloose, fancy free and at their disposal, but it doesn't change my love. All of our lives morph and evolve and that's why trips like these are treasured memories. And, I know there will be more trips down the road.

The theme for the weekend was Psalm 121..."I will lift up mine eyes to the hills - where does my help come from? My help comes from the Lord." This passage was one of my Mom's favorite verses. She would inscribe it in the front of every Bible she ever gave me. And being in the mountains this weekend reminds me that she would look to those hills and think of her Master and Creator...the Maker of Heaven and Earth. She is with her Creator and I'm thankful that she taught me the beautiful words of Scripture that remind me Who I can give thanks for the moments, friendships, and road trips of my life.

Friday, July 10, 2009

Spiritual Dusting

I hate to dust. Maybe it's because of the knick knack overkill in my house and the long time it takes me to thoroughly dust everything. But, I just think it's the meticulous effort it takes to get rid of all those tiny dust particles. This doesn't bode well when I prefer a non-dusty home...means I have to do it. I can hear my Mom say from my younger years "There's enough dust there that obviously someone must be coming or going!" (For those not getting that humor...Genesis 3:19..."For you are dust, and to dust you will return")

Thankfully technology has invented these electrostatic wonders called Swiffers to help ease the pain of dusting. Using the various dusting contraptions, even the tiniest of particles gets sucked into the web of electrostatic-ity. It still doesn't make me enjoy dusting, but it helps ease the pain of getting into every nook and cranny.

This made me think about my prayer life. When I pray daily, I have a typical process I use to make sure I "cover all my bases" and then I sprinkle in other things as the Spirit leads. But I know, just like when I dust, I don't get into every nook and cranny of my heart. I fail to pick up those lingering sins in the corners of my soul that I just don't want to look at because, well, maybe they'll just go away. Or maybe, there are things floating around in my heart that I can't get my soul around. Like a teeny tiny dust particle my dust rag won't pick up and I resort to that long-handled Swiffer, these soul particles are deep burdens and desires that my lips cannot lift to the Master. I need a Spiritual Swiffer. And, I have one....

"In the same way, the Spirit helps us in our weakness. We do not know what we ought to pray for, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us with groans that words cannot express." - Romans 8:26

When the caverns of my heart are dusty and I've expressed all the energy I have to clean and purify my heart, it is so good to know the Father has provided us the Spirit to help us with that spiritual dusting. My unconfessed sins, burdens, hopes, desires and dreams are all drawn to the Spirit who "swif"-tly takes them to the Father in ways I could never express. What a glorious thought.

Thursday, July 02, 2009

Kickin' it New School

True confessions...I'm analytical. Sometimes too much. But when it comes to major purchases, I typically research until I'm blue in the face, monkey with my budget (which isn't my favorite thing to do) and put everything on paper to see if it makes sense. This time last year I purchased a laptop and a new car out of necessity and it's only by the grace of God I didn't pass out from all that stress. I don't spend large amounts of money easily....small amounts, oh yeah!

Over the past few months, my cell phone of two and a half years had been acting up. I had friends tell me they texted me with no response (yeah, didn't get that text) and my phone would lock up and restart periodically. And one time during that event, all my contacts disappeared, then came back, in duplicate! I knew it was time to get a new phone, I just needed to do my research.

My phone was a simple Nokia. Flip open the top, push some buttons, and voila. I made calls, texts, and took an occasional picture. The fanciest thing about this phone was the ability to use a Bluetooth headset. Since I don't buy phones very often, I decided it was time to enter the geek world of which I'm entrenched and invest in a smartphone. My one holdback....I didn't want to pay for internet service and have to view it on a teeny tiny screen. Off I went to shop and test out phones.

My carrier is T-Mobile. Let the harassment begin. Say what you will about this company branded in pink, but they are top notch. I've been with them for 10 years and have received the best customer service around. I remember sitting in the hospital cafeteria almost 8 years ago with my Dad fresh out of bypass surgery and having billing issues. They not only credited my billing error, but bonused me a ton of minutes because of the stress it was causing in my already stressful situation. I could have kissed that customer service rep!

Aside from the various BlackBerry options, T-Mobile has a phone called the Sidekick, made by Sharp. The newest 3G Model has full keyboard and a nice big, swivel screen. Quite a drastic change from my little Nokia, but I thought it was worth pricing out. Bonus, it comes in one of my favorite colors, Purple! The sales rep priced out the phone, which I had already done the week before. (See my intense research above) Another bonus from T-Mobile customer service...when I called to price out phone options, the customer service rep noticed my long tenure with T-Mobile. She decided to change my plan to unlimited minutes for life at the current rate I was paying. Wow. Now that's what I call sevice. The final decision making move was for the sales rep to calculate my monthly bill. Paying for a phone is one thing, but the ongoing charge is another. As he calculated it, he said, "Who is your car insurance with?" and I replied "State Farm." Another a State Farm customer, I get 15% off my bill each month. So, to have unlimited minutes, unlimited texts and unlimited internet, along with insurance would only cost me $20 more a month. Within my budget....sign me up!

Yes, I love my phone, but I did have some buyer's remorse for a day or two. To get over that, I polled my Facebook friends to enlist help in naming my phone. Giving it a name would help me bond with it quicker. The verdict? Violet. In honor of her color....Violet from Peanuts, who is Lucy Van Pelt's best friend and 'sidekick'....and because the phone rings and alerts are so unintrusive, it reminds me of a shrinking violet, like the daughter on The Incredibles, one of my favorite Pixar movies.

Ladies and gentlemen, I've entered the 21st century.

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Lessons to Learn from Kate Gosselin

Last night, Jon and Kate Gosselin announced their separation and impending divorce. It was somewhat surreal and sad as the world who has watched the miracle of twins and sextuplets be brought to life now watch their lives become transparent and vulnerable on the screen. I have to admit I wasn't surprised at this given what we've watched between Jon and Kate through the seasons. But, lest we forget that for all of us, we could be right where they are in the blink of an eye. I'm not married, but there are a lot of lessons for me to learn from Kate. And, Jon isn't completely absolved I'm sure, but I'll let the men in the crowd speak from that perspective. I see enough from Kate that I'm learning lessons that all us women should take note of....

1. Marriage takes commitment and work - When people get married they are all caught up in the dresses and the decorations and quickly forget what happens after the honeymoon. Every day a wife has to arise and ask God to keep her heart pure and focused on being the wife He's called her to be. Every day won't be romantically glorious, but when you marry for better or worse, marry the one you want to go through the "worse" with because going through the "better" is easy. Going through the "worse" takes commitment. Kate worked a lot to keep her house in order and everything in its place. What if she'd done the same with her relationship with Jon?

2. Follow His Lead - A wife needs to first follow God's leading in her life, then followed by her husband's lead. Submission is a tricky topic for a lot of people to talk about, and as a single woman who has been single a long time, it won't be easy for me one day, if God blesses. But, when a wife sees God as her authority and the way He created marriage as a picture of the gospel, following the lead of a godly husband is easy. Kate was pretty commanding and dictatorial on the show. I don't know if that was better or worse off camera, but it was obvious she didn't respect the role Jon had in the marriage as leader.

3. God first, Husband second, Children third - In our society, sometimes this gets out of order, and I'm not talking about #1 and #2. Even those that put God first will many times put children ahead of their spouse. In Kate's defense, with eight children, that's tough to keep in order. But spouses that make the commitment to spend quality time together, without the children, will benefit from the nurturing aspect that brings to the marriage. Because when the children have grown and gone, you want the marriage to still be flourishing and sparkly.

4. Edify and build up your husband - As I mentioned earlier, Kate wasn't the "gentle, quiet spirit" type, nor did we see much edification or building up of Jon from her. I sound this battle cry to every girl I talk with about relationships. Men are fragile. The way to tear a man down is with your words. Kate did that in the middle of K-Mart, a pumpkin patch, and oh yeah, on national television. As women, we are born with a power over men (see Genesis 3) and we have the ability to take a man to the heights or to the gutter. That is a power we so often abuse, mainly because we don't realize our own strength to do that. If you are married, edify your husband daily. If you aren't married, find ways to build up the men in your life to get good practice for the day you may be filling that role as a wife.

5. Love the Lord Your God with All Your Heart - In past episodes, the Gosselins were touted as Christian examples. I don't know their heart, or what their beliefs are, but somewhere along the line, the focus of loving the Lord with all their heart got put on the back burner, I fear. This should be a stark reminder to all of us, whether married or single, that our first love is the Lord our God. If we keep that as our focus and cling to Him daily, we won't live a life problem-free, but we'll live a life where God will walk us through those problems victoriously.

Friday, June 19, 2009

Top Five Reasons I Heart Elise

I am blessed with so many wonderful people in my life and one of those sweet blessings is Elise. Our paths crossed at church..I've known her since she first came to our church as a child when her Dad came as Minister of Music. I watched her grow and God uniquely connected us while she was still in high school. Providentially, that happened, just a year or so before she lost her Mom and as I have walked that road before, we have shared many tears together. Elise is just one example of the many sweet spiritual daughters I have that God has graciously brought into my life even though I've never, nor probably will ever, bear my own children. I could probably write a blog post on each and every one of them...and maybe I will one day...but let's start with Elise, since we just had some wonderful quality time a couple of weeks ago and I was reminded of these five things that night...

1. She loves old movies and musicals - We are kindred spirits when it comes to movies. Whether it's the old black and whites or the big musical productions, we love them! My favorite Christmas movie is Holiday Inn...not White Christmas....not It's a Wonderful Life. And, Elise is always game to watch that movie, even during the off season. The movie of choice a couple of weeks ago was Mamma Mia!

2. She names inanimate objects - I have this quirk about naming cars, cell phones...making non-human things have a personality. Must have been all those years of talking to my stuffed animals...but I digress. Elise shares in that love and on this recent night, we discussed what she should name her new Nissan during a joy ride we took in her new vehicle. Her former car, a Saturn, was named Sally, so it was very important that she bond with her new car and give it a name. She just told me yesterday she has decided upon Jake...good name!

3. She has no problem being goofy - I'm all about deep, serious conversations, but sometimes, you just gotta cut loose. This night the goal of watching Mamma Mia wasn't just for the beautiful scenery and love story...but so we could sing-a-long! Yep, Dancing Queen...Honey, Honey...The Winner Takes it All....Take a Chance on Me...Waterloo. Laughing, singing,'s a great combination. And even though I can be goofy with her, she finds it uber cool that I graduated high school in the 80s. In fact, I drug out the old yearbooks so she could work on an outfit to wear to an 80s birthday party the next night. It's much more tolerable being old, when you are old AND cool.

4. She gushes about boys - Sometimes with real Moms, girls don't come completely clean on the supposed loves of their life, but with "pseudo Moms" they normally do...and I welcome that. Sometimes it's the harsh reality of a boy who did her wrong...sometimes it's the sparkle of a possibility of a boy being interested....and sometimes it's mere infatuation with an unattainable boy. This night, it was the latter....Robert Pattinson....or "Robbie P" as she affectinately calls him. Edward from the movie Twilight. I refuse to watch the movie with her until I've read the book, but she had to show me the extra scene on the DVD (which she owns, of course) of Robbie P playing the piano....quite an attractive thing for us girls with a love for music. She can have Robbie P....I'll take Robert Downey, Jr....he's more my age...and equally as appealing.

5. She is just the daughter I'd love to have - I love Elise as if she were my own. She's been through a lot in her short little life, but I'm so proud of her and know God has big things in store for her. A few years ago, Elise gave me a sweet wooden angel with an inscription on it of what I mean to her. I have it displayed on my kitchen hutch and my heart melts every time I read it. I know if her Momma were here, she'd be so proud of that sweet girl. Miss Pat, your legacy will live on.

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Table Topics - Senior Predictions

It's that time of year where every kid is chanting, "School's out, school's out...teachers let the monkeys out!" Ok, well, they used to chant it's probably some rap version. For those who are bidding a farewell to their school days and graduating, this time of year is glorious. I'll never forget that Senioritis. It was bittersweet, but I didn't get that then because when you embark on your life after high school, you have no idea how much your life will change and how few of those people you'll ever seen again. I've been blessed to keep up with a few from my Senior class....the most consistent, my friends, Julie and Rod. But, thanks to Facebook, I'm now connected to a lot of those folks and it's refreshing and somewhat surreal to be able to chat and talk with them again.

I was on the newspaper staff in high school and loved it! Most of my fondest memories surround the time we holed away in "The Dungeon" (our underground Newspaper Offices) and ran the paper, goofed off and literally had to lay out the paper with a waxer. (No computer for us) At the end of each year we produced a Senior issue complete with Pet Peeves, Senior Wills and Senior Predictions. The Predictions were my favorite. One of our classmates recently scanned in a copy of that page so we could squint and read the various predictions...hilarious! I credit my friend, Julie, for most of those funny ones...and I think she even crafted mine...which was....

Rose - A traveling comedienne....traveling in search of an audience

Ha ha. Seriously, though, that is probably most accurate. So, today's table topic for my loyal blog readers....

What was your Senior Prediction?

Everybody throw your caps in the air....and discuss.

Wednesday, June 03, 2009


Tonight I meet for the second time with the ladies in our church's weekly Wednesday night Bible study. Last week, we kicked off our study of the book "Surrender: The Heart God Controls" and our conversation was glorious. When I found this study last Fall to add to our lineup of classes for 2009, I knew by just glimpsing at it, my world would be rocked. One of those convicting lessons we all need to hear, but don't want to take the pop between the eyes to listen.

Surrender is defined as "To give up one's self into the power of another." For a control freak, Type A, planner like myself, God sometimes has to pry my fingers off of things to surrender. If I hold that tightly to those things and withhold His Power to lead, am I really walking in complete obedience? Um, that's a negative. If I call Him "Master," then that is how I need to respond to Him, surrendering my entire life to His Hands.

The book's introduction told the story of Japanese Lt. Hiroo Onoda who, in 1944, was sent to a remote island in the Phillipines to conduct guerrilla warfare for World War II. He was never told the war ended so for 29 years he continued to live in the jungle, ready to go back into battle at a moment's notice. Even after hearing the war may have ended, he never heard it from his Commander's mouth, so he pressed on, unwilling to surrender. Finally in 1974, a college dropout, Norio Suzuki, went searching on Lubang Island convinced Onoda was still alive....and found him. Lt. Onoda, like a true soldier, still wouldn't believe the war was over without getting official word from his commander. So Suzuki traveled to Japan to find his commander, Major Taniguchi. Taniguchi went back with Suzuki and read the orders to Onoda. And he surrendered. After 29 years wasted, 30 lives lost at Onoda's hand on the island, and 100 others wounded, Onoda realized the damage of not surrendering.

Even Jesus surrendered. In John 19:30, it says "..Jesus said, "It is finished." With that He bowed His head and gave up His spirit." Read that again..."He bowed His head"....He didn't "slump over" and just die. In Jesus' final moment, the moment where He took on all our sins forevermore, He didn't just die...He surrendered and bowed His head. The ultimate surrender.

After formally surrendering to Philippine President, Ferdinand Marcos, Marcos pardoned Onoda for all the crimes he committed while in hiding. His 30 years of non-surrender was wiped away in one pardon. Just like our lives of non-surrender are washed away by the blood of Christ. If we just are willing to let Him have complete control. This should be a painfully glorious summer as we walk the journey to surrender.