Friday, December 27, 2013

2013: It's Yours, Lord

Last New Year's Eve, I decided upon my phrase for 2013:  It's Yours, Lord.  I had felt the need for reset and focus for 2013, and that is what God laid upon my heart for the new year.  In the blog post I wrote, here was my final words...."I pray that the year ahead is full of blessings.  But no matter, I know that God is planning all for my good. And in that promise is where I rest."

Wow.  How true those words became.  

I love my blog for no other reason then the journal it provides me to reflect upon. I committed my year to the Lord and to get the "I" and "My" out of my plans and put "His" in first place.  I believe that was all ordained from the Lord for me to walk the journey that was 2013.  As I do at this time of year, I'll reflect on the year that was....

After much prayer for about three months, I decided in March to get my MBA.  I still am in awe that I'm truly doing this, but I know beyond a shadow of a doubt it is exactly what the Lord wants me to do.  With three classes behind me, and three A's (yay!), I am thankful for this break at the end of the year to take a breath.  

The Louisville Cardinals won the NCAA Basketball Championship in April.  I'm a Louisville girl and proud of it.  It was an amazing run and my love of college basketball came from my Dad who taught me to love sports....since he didn't have a son.  I was oh so grateful I got to watch many of their games at Dad's side this past season.

Shortly after basketball season ended, Dad had some health problems, and he passed from this life to the next on Derby Day, May 4.  I still find it surreal that he is gone, but there have been so many lessons God has taught me through it all.  I miss him and my Mom terribly now but know they are in a much better place...together....praising our Savior.  Dad was so proud I was getting my MBA and that is one of the kabillion reasons I know the timing of that was perfect.

In June I served in VBS for the first time in years.  I worked in the Preschool craft room (Mom would have been in heaven there), and loved every exhausting minute of it.  I took vacation time and it was my "mission" trip for the year.  To see so many of the children that attended VBS be baptized since then makes my heart sing.  And knowing the seeds we planted in those preschoolers will take root one day and hopefully grow makes me look forward to next year's VBS already.

I visited my Alabama family for the Fourth of July holiday.  I wanted to get away after the loss of my Dad and the Fourth of July was perfect.  It would have been my Mom's 85th birthday.  The rain never stopped on July 4th, and most of my visit there, but it was absolutely wonderful as always.

Our annual trip to see the Todds was delayed until September, but was a wonderful time.  Seeing Allison and Logan and how they've grown was big fun.  And great food and fun with the Gentrys is always some of my favorite times of our visits.  Laughing and hanging out with the Todds is the best part of all.

I traveled to Northern California 3 times this year for work and each time was special.  The first trip out there after my Dad passed was so needed.  I drove out to the coast and ate overlooking the ocean.  It was peaceful and such a great reminder of how the Creator of the universe cares about the smallest of details in my life.  

Speaking of work, I am so grateful for my team.  From the passing of Dad, through helping them through their tough times and changes, I absolutely have the best team on the planet.  Hands down.  I manage 14 people, which may seem daunting, but I love them all.  I have been diligent to pray for each of them this year by name regularly and hope I have been a manager that has set the proper example for them.  To me, managing people is my favorite part of the job....the part that drives most managers crazy.  Realizing that helps me know I'm right where i'm supposed to be.

The last few days of the Christmas holiday have been beyond glorious.  I may never understand why God blesses me with friends that are family (I refer to as "friendily") and love me so.  Christmas Eve was spent with the Roederers and their new puppy, Penny.  I'm an aunt again!  I wish I had live tweeted the event because it's like a Cosby show waiting to happen.  I love this family and how they let me be a part of their family Christmas.  On Christmas, I was able to spend it with the Blackwells.  Beth is a sister from another mister and her husband, Kelly takes good care of me.  Kelly carted Brock and Kaylee over to wash my car one day and I am so thankful for those kind of surprises.  Dad would be so glad I have Kelly (and other Kellys) around to take care of me.  Makes me very thankful I asked Kelly to be a pall bearer for my Dad.  Kaylee was quick to show me all her gifts and even Lexi, her cousin, became my BFF.  Yesterday I got to spend the day with Christie, my NOK (next of kin), and her Mom.  Again, they are family to me and her Mom is one of many who take care of me like a Momma....especially on those days when I miss my Momma so much.  Tonight I get to hang out with the Thelma to my Louise, Amy....eating Thai food and crafting....and catching up on life.  I love her so.   The Lord sovereignly arranged all of these friendships in such a way that He knew who I would need in my life.  Blessed seems so minor to describe how I feel.

When I sat in the church last New Year's Eve, praying about the coming year, I had no idea what God was doing in my heart.  Oh, He did, and He was preparing me for the year ahead.  Reading the words I wrote reminds me how much better it is with God in control.  I look back and see He was planning all for my good.  And the year was full of blessings....even with the loss of my Dad, leaving me without my parents.  His love for me is immeasurable.  Lord, may I always make my life Yours.  

Friday, December 06, 2013

Five Minutes: Reflect

Each week Gypsy Mama chooses a word to write about for five minutes. No editing, stream of consciousness. Today's word is: Reflect.

Ready. Set. Write.

As I sit in my warm house today while snow and sleet is falling outside, I'm reflecting on many blessings....most of which, today, is my job.  It affords me the flexibility to work from home on days such as this.

When my company was acquired almost two and a half years ago, I asked God why He brought me over the line?  I've been to this rodeo before and rarely get "saved" to stick around.  The survivor's guilt and the carnage of molding companies together is brutal.  Yet, I was saved for some reason.  Today, I can't imagine being anywhere else.  Does my job drive me crazy?  Yes, doesn't everyone's job drive you somewhat crazy?  But the perks and benefits are much.

  • I work with some of the most intelligent people around.  My office lacks the back biting gossip most offices endure.  
  • After sitting through a health benefits presentation to understand the impact to a company due to Obamacare, and how my company is handling it makes me more thankful than I can express.
  • The flexibility of working anywhere keeps my job somewhat 24/7, but I'd gladly keep the flexibility to be somewhat always "on call."
As I reflect, I'm understanding more why God kept me in this job.  Surely my mind couldn't have comprehended it more than two years ago.  

Wednesday, December 04, 2013

Top Five Christmas Albums, CDs, EPs or However You Listen

The weather outside is frightful, and the holiday music is delightful.  So since I've no place to go (but work), here I go, here I go, here I go....with the top five Christmas music collections no particular order.

1.  Kenny and Dolly: A Christmas to Remember - This collection only has 9 songs but it is timeless.  One of the greatest songs ever "Once Upon a Christmas" was written by Dolly herself.  The grand duet talents of Kenny Rogers and Dolly Parton (for those of you who were still lost on "who is Kenny and Dolly?"....sigh) are what this album is all about.  This collection also was the creation of an hour-long Christmas special that I get excited when it replays.  The scene of Kelly and Dolly as Mr and Mrs Claus singing "I Believe in Santa Claus" is priceless.  If you haven't listened to this album, or, better yet, seen the special, you haven't lived.

2.  When My Heart Finds Christmas (Harry Connick, Jr.) - I swoon at the very breath from Harry's lips, much less his vocals.  Le Sigh.  This, his first Christmas CD, is amazing.  Fourteen singles and so many to comment upon.  The title track is a touching song, and the soundtrack runs the gamut of genre.  "It Must Have Been Ole Santa Claus" includes my favorite chorus, "Happy Ho Ho Ho to You!" which I drive everyone crazy with during the holidays.  My Christmas ringtone is the song "I Pray on Christmas" which makes me want to dance down the French Quarter.  There may be no other richer version of "Ave Maria" than the one in this collection.  Brilliant and moving.  The final track is "What Are You Doing New Year's Eve?"  Nothing, Harry, so I'm available.

3.  Rose of Bethlehem (Selah) - Selah is by far my favorite Christmas music group.  This Christmas CD stands tall among my choices during the holidays.  I have to admit there is a cover of "Once Upon A Christmas" featuring Dolly Parton that wins me over.  Another favorite is "Mystery" which is theologically rich in explaining the mystery of a Baby born to save the world.  The final track is the title track, "Rose of Bethlehem," and is a beautiful song explaining the True Rose of Bethlehem.

4.  Christmas (Michael Buble) - If I can't have Harry, I'll take Michael all day long.  This collection of 15 tunes are diverse and well done.  I can't say I have a favorite because his smooth voice always delivers a win.  Like Harry, he does a version of "Ave Maria" that is good, and almost (not quite) as good as Harry's.  Michael makes me swoon too.  I wish he'd do a Christmas tour in my area because as a live performer he is second to none.

5.  Duck the Halls (Duck Dynasty Family) - This is the first Christmas season the Robertson Family Christmas album has been around...and it's already made my top five list.  Where to begin?  There are laughter and tears while listening to the entire collection.  The duet of "Baby, It's Cold Outside" between Jase and his wife, Missy, is precious.  I already love Jase, but love him more when he playfully flirts with his wife in this duet.  Missy sings a lot on this album and has a beautiful voice.  It's hard to not love all the songs that feature Si.  I love Si.  "You're a Mean One, Mr. Grinch" and his recitation of a "Duckified" "Twas the Night Before Christmas" make me laugh every time.  And like every episode of Duck Dynasty ends with prayer, so does this Phil leads in prayer pointing us all to the true meaning of Christmas...Jesus.  

Monday, December 02, 2013

The Gospel According to Enriched Flour

It's that time of year when high-caloric recipes are flowing through my Pinterest feed and I get in that baking spirit.  Although I play a career woman on a daily basis, there is a secret side of me that would enjoy meal planning and being able to have the time to cook and bake for more than just me on a regular basis.  With work and school, many times, Cheerio is more than a greeting, but a dinner menu item.  

There are so many flour options these days - whole wheat flour, gluten-free flour, all-purpose flour, enriched flour.  During my devotion this morning, I read this verse:  "That by Him you were enriched in everything--in all speech and all knowledge." (I Corinthians 1:5)  The word "enriched" stuck out to me.  I've been enriched.  Hmm, what does that mean?  To help me understand I go to the process of enriching flour to understand the context. 

The purpose of enriching flour is to replenish the flour with the nutrients it lost from its unrefined flour state.  Clearly this process isn't flawless and there isn't a way to make it completely as nutritional as the pure, unrefined state.  But it is an attempt to restore what's been lost.  Read that line one more time.  It is an attempt to restore what's been lost.  And then the light bulb came on.

The sin in the garden ruined our pure state and we became flawed...missing our valuable "nutrients," if you will.  Jesus came to restore what's been lost.  Like enriched flour, we won't be perfect and sinless like Jesus until we are in Heaven, but as I Corinthians says, "By Him we are enriched in everything."  

My life is still sinful.  Yet, Jesus' righteousness enriches me.  Until that day when I "rise" to meet Him, may I cling to His enrichment every single day.

Friday, November 29, 2013

The Best Chicken Pot Pie

I have made quite a few Chicken Pot Pies in my life and never quite found a recipe I truly loved.  "Loved" would equate to a dish that is as good or better as leftovers, because as a single gal, you gotta love leftovers.

One of my friends posted a picture of a pot pie her husband made (not this picture) on Facebook.  In the comments she listed the recipe - which you know is easy if you can list it in the comments section.  She affectionately calls her husband, Homer, so this is "Homer's Chicken Pot Pie" and I decided to try it.  The photo here is a shot of my version.  Please note the decorative crust art.  That's called "La Cover Le Hole."  For those who might like to try it yourself, the recipe is below.  With Thanksgiving just completed, you can substitute your leftover turkey instead of chicken.  The cheese part was my touch, but the rest is all Homer.  I absolutely love this recipe.  The leftovers are as good as the fresh hot pie.  

You'll need:

Refrigerated pie crust (two for the top and bottom)
2 medium cans of chunk white chicken breast, drained (I used the Wal-Mart brand)
1 can of Veg-All, drained (I also used the Wal-Mart brand)
1 can of cream of chicken soup
1 cup of cubed cheddar cheese
1/2 cup of milk
Salt and Pepper to taste (I just used pepper)

Mix the chicken, veg-all, soup, cheddar cheese and milk together.  Place the pie crust bottom of your pie plate and then fill with your mixture.  Cover with the second pie crust. (And decorate the top as your creativity directs) Bake at 350 degrees for 45 minutes - 1 hour.  Let cool 15 minutes before serving.


Tuesday, November 26, 2013

Why I'm Thankful for Preschoolers

This time last year I was winding down 30 days of blog posts.  This year, it's November 26 and I'm just writing my first one of the month.  Whew.  Time flies when you work full-time, are in school, and trying to have some fun in the meantime.

November is always full of challenges - blog posts, novel writing, and thankfulness.  My Facebook feed is replete daily with what folks are thankful for each day.  I did that for a couple of years a few years ago and it was refreshing, but I like to keep in that thankfulness spirit all year round.  But when I pause to think about the oh so many things I'm thankful for this season, preschoolers come to mind.  We were talking at work today about an upcoming holiday celebration that involves goodies from the Homemade Pie Kitchen when my co-worker jokingly said, "I'm going to leave my two girls here so I can pick up the food."  One of my employees groaned (it was a guy) and I said, "Oh please do! I'd play with them!"  With my cubicle full of toys and even my home sprinkled with toys for those who visit, I am like a kid's favorite person.  Seriously.  I may never grow up.

Why am I thankful for preschoolers?  Here are just three reasons...

Hugs - I love hugs from preschoolers.  They normally are quick to give them and when I work the Preschool Welcome Desk at church, I can always count on Gabe to stop and give me a hug.  Now, his brothers Ethan and Reese stop by to hug me too.  And Reese tells me about his exciting birthday party...that happened two months ago.

Dramatic tendencies - Yes, I know they are all little snotty sinners that can be melodramatic, but they are really just playing out the snotty sinfulness that we adults suppress.  This past Sunday, little Sadie was brought out of the weekly puppet show wailing.  Each week our 3s and 4s get the privilege of preschool worship where they see a puppet show about that week's story.  The creme de la creme is the appearance of Missionary Max.  Missionary Max loves missions. And he loves Pastor Joselito in Ecuador and encourages the preschoolers to bring money for Joselito.  Each week the preschoolers can bring their Missionary Max offering and when they bring it to him, they get to high five with him.  That's a pretty big deal when you are three.  So, back to Sadie.  She came wailing out of the preschool worship time proclaiming "I need my missionary offering money!!"  Literally almost went into convulsions.  Our level-headed Preschool Director, Beth, told her to calm down and she would go get her money from her Mom.  She dropped to her knees wailing that she had to have it.  Now, I'd like to think her heart for missions is huge, but most likely it's that high five with Max that she didn't want to miss.  As soon as Ms Beth gave her money from her Mom, she calmed down.  Was that over dramatic?  Yes, but how many times have you forgotten something and wanted to drop to your knees wailing until Mom came to the rescue?  I thought so.

Every child has a soul that will never die - This phrase is uttered by our Pastor every time ministering to children is mentioned or we have parent dedication.  I love that phrase.  It is so true. This past Sunday while at the Preschool Desk, one of the Moms was there with her little one, Hunter, updating his older brother's allergy record.  Little Hunter was content in his stroller and handsome as ever.  And a miracle.  You see, Hunter was born 20 months ago and due to complications and a blocked airway, he has been on a trach for most of his time on earth.  Just recently he had it removed and the doctors said his airway was miraculously healed.  He still is on a feeding tube, but is beginning to learn to swallow dis-solvable yogurt bites.  And you can hear his little voice.  Something Momma and Daddy didn't hear until just recently.  As we were talking, Hunter reached out to me and I took his hand.  I could have held it forever.  He's been through more in his short life than most people deal with in 20 years, much less 20 months.  That makes him even more precious than he is.  And a miracle.  And has a soul that will never die.  

That, my friends, is why I'm thankful for preschoolers.  

Monday, October 28, 2013

Kissing Booth

Last night was our church's Fall Festival.  Kids were running around dressed like Ninja Turtles, Spiderman and Woody from Toy Story.  We had a cupcake walk, popcorn, face painting, family pictures, and hayrides.  It was fun and mayhem all around.  I suspect many of those dressed up children didn't get to bed at a decent hour, hyped up on sugar.  

The running joke this weekend was two of the ladies in my small group class were going to host a "kissing booth."  Although that didn't come to pass, I was quick to mention that I actually have a "Kissing Booth" outfit.  Yes, those that know my full name know how clever and witty that is.  But a few years ago I made the outfit and it was a hit!  I carried Hershey's kisses with me to pass out....because, really, people, my kisses are pretty amazing, and I just don't give those away for twenty-five cents!

Alas, I didn't don the outfit last night....but maybe someday in the future I will and get my Prince Charming to participate.  But in the meantime, based on this photo, I need to let my Pastor borrow it.  I love the way my Pastor and his wife love each other.  Reason number 641 why I love my credit:  John Fong:

Friday, October 25, 2013

Five Minutes: Together

Each week Gypsy Mama chooses a word to write about for five minutes. No editing, stream of consciousness. Today's word is: Together.

Ready. Set. Write.

Together is such a homey word.  With the weather a brisk 30 degrees this morning, it would have been the perfect day to load up the crock pot with a good slow-cooker recipe, grab a good book, and invite friends over for food and fun.  But, alas, I had to go to work today, bundled up in my coat, and live the life of an adult that supports herself.

As the holidays are approaching, the word "together" is truly a gift.  My favorite part of the holidays is not the gifts or the hustle and bustle of figuring out what to buy someone.  It's planning times to be together.  To just "be" with friends and family (or the friends like family, which I call 'Friendily") and enjoy each other's company.  Laugh, share, love.  So simple, yet so memorable.  I would rather make a memory than spin my wheels looking for the perfect gift.  Because, to me, the perfect gift is making a memory.  

I am so blessed this year, even as bittersweet as the holidays may seem.  This will be the first year I'm not together with either of my parents....yet they are together in Heaven.  It just won't seem the same.  But I'm grateful for those who love me through these times and are here to fill the void of family.  And, I'm encouraged that one day I will be together again with my Mom, Dad, and other family and dear friends that have gone on before.  For then, we will be together for eternity.

Wednesday, October 23, 2013

Moonwalk Marching Band

This recent halftime show by the Ohio State Buckeye Marching Band was amazing.  I'm impressed that a marching band can even stay in step and play an instrument, much less put on a display like this band achieved.  If you love music from the 80s, you'll enjoy this tribute to the infamous Michael Jackson.

Monday, October 21, 2013

Facebook Prayer

Earlier this year, I led a study for our ladies that our entire church participated in called "A Praying Life."  This book by Paul Miller helped break the legalism that often surrounds prayer.  I am guilty of that legalism at times.  Maybe more accurately, I thrive on some kind of structure to be consistent.  (See my lined up Coke Zero cans in my fridge for confirmation.)  That study has helped me pray "differently" and not feel guilty about it.  No, I'm not standing on my head to pray or doing some strange ritual, but I'm changing it up to be more authentic and to develop a stronger relationship with God...which is really the ultimate goal of prayer.

I'm always striving to find new ways to pray.  (No, speaking in tongues does not count.)  I have begun taking one day a week to pray for my small group at church.  I am in a Sunday morning Bible study with a slew of sweet ladies.  We would tell the world that we all aren't where we'd thought we'd be at this point in life, but we bless the Lord no matter our circumstances.  So I spend one day praying over the weekly prayer requests we get via email.  It keeps me connected to my small group and their needs and praises top of my mind.  Another day I pray for various groups in my life that are important - close friends, church leaders, government leaders.  And, I have certain days where I pray for certain people - days I pray for specific ministry folks that I've committed to support weekly in prayer.  All of this keeps my prayer life fresh.

I am starting a new prayer method this week that I developed simply by reading my social media.  Like many, I'm on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and other networks.  With the accessibility on my phone, I can quickly catch up on the go at any time of the day.  Though I try to limit my intake of all that information, I've realized I could put some of it to profitable use.  Of all the social networks, Facebook is the one where I'm *really* connected to people I know.  And, it's also where the majority of the people I know share their requests, praises, and more than "I just had a Starbucks" statuses.  This week, I've decided to work in one day where I simply take my Facebook feed and pray through it.  That could take days, I know, so I'll have to limit it to my normal prayer time.  But, each person that posts - no matter the content - needs prayer.  I have friends who are atheists.  I can pray for their salvation.  I have friends who I don't see regularly, but can pray for them just the same. It's a whole new view on my Facebook feed...and gives me a fresh method of prayer once a week.

If you're my Facebook friend, know that your posts aren't for nothing.  You may just end up on my prayer list at the very moment you need a prayer to be lifted. 

Friday, October 18, 2013

Five Minutes: Laundry

Each week Gypsy Mama chooses a word to write about for five minutes. No editing, stream of consciousness. Today's word is: Laundry.

Ready. Set. Write.

I love doing laundry.  I know, I'm a geek.  I don't love folding clothes or ironing, but the whole process of laundry is something I enjoy.  I suppose since I'm single and laundering for one that makes my job less behemoth.  But even when I was living at home and doing laundry was one of my chores...and there were more people...I still enjoyed it.  
I'll also admit that the laundry aisle at the grocery is my favorite aisle.  There are two reasons for that adoration.  One, it indicates I'm just about halfway through my grocery trip which is cause for hallelujah.  And, two, I love the fresh smell of all the various detergents that waft through the aisle as I peruse all the choices of fabric softener.  

The phrase "doing laundry" has become a code phrase for my married friends when they bow out of social events early to, ahem, "do laundry" so even that phrase can conjure up laughter and giggles.

Doing laundry is a chore, but it comes with a great reward at the end.  You have fresh, clean, wonderful smelling clothes.  Or, even better, fresh, clean aromatic sheets to put on the bed.  Life is full of the dirty.  Our brains are filled with toxins, our life is filled with dirt and dust...and our hearts can be heavy carrying all that around.  Doing laundry seems one way we can refresh.  It doesn't get rid of the dirty and ugly from the world, but it does provide a "fresh start" in a sense.  Maybe I should own a laundromat.  

Tuesday, October 15, 2013

Random Thoughts on Radio, Music, Theology and Buford

On most days I have a kabillion (one of my new favorite words) thoughts going through my head.  This has increased since the beginning of my studies for the MBA.  Given that, today's entry will be a myriad of random thoughts that are in my head right now.  Lest you be concerned, I'm not *that* transparent, so you are safe.  But for those that are still reading, here it goes....

Why do traffic updates on the radio involve the sound effects of horns and sirens?  I literally almost crash (causing yet another traffic incident) when the reports begin because I think it's someone honking and about to run me over.  A nice soothing voice singing "Traffic Update" would be better, don't you think?

As an online student at Campbellsville University, I receive all student email - when the post office will be closed, lost iPhones, road closings due to Homecoming games.  I even get the daily cafeteria menu, which makes me drool every time I read it.  I also get alerted when special musical events occur.  Just last week there was a piano duet recital that I would have loved to attend - all free of charge!  Just today I got an email that The Oak Ridge Boys are coming there on October 28.  Can I get a oom papa mow mow?!  I LOVE the Oak Ridge Boys.  As a student, tickets are half-price.  But since it's a Monday night and too far to travel, alas, I'll have to oom papa mow mow on my own.  

This past Saturday I was shopping at my local Wal-Mart neighborhood market and saw Dr. Denny Burk.  I love the Burk family!  He had just gotten back in town and was shopping for his wife...which makes him earn a kabillion husband points.  I have now deemed that grocery store as the theological destination for groceries.  I have seen Dr. Denny Burk and my pastor, Dr. Bill Cook, there on separate occasions.  This means theological discussions most likely occur in the frozen food section on a regular basis.

About a month ago, my friend, Christie and I were headed to Buford, GA, to see the Todd family.  Just the other night, we noticed a message left on my back car window.  It said "Ted is cool."  Now, that, folks, is hilarious.  Ted (of Ted and Christina fame) obviously wrote that in my car dust at some point and it's made an impression...literally.  My car has been through torrential rainstorms since that time, so clearly until I truly wash my car, it may stay there for eternity.  Once reason never to get my car washed again.  

Tomorrow would have been my Dad's 88th birthday.  I miss him terribly.  Over the past week or so, I've missed he and my Mom more than I have in a long time.  I sure wish I could go get Cracker Barrel and eat with him or watch a ballgame.  Watching college basketball this season just won't be the same.  I know he is living it up in Glory right now, but I sure miss the greatest man of my life.  

Friday, September 27, 2013

Lessons Learned from Buford Trip 2013

Once again, my friend, Christie, and I headed south to visit the Todd family.  As always, good times were had by all and I laughed more than I had in many months.  Laughter, and friends, are good for the soul.  To recap my visit, I've come up with a list of lessons learned.  On the final day of the trip, Tracy said, "I haven't brought up the blog post.  I'm fine with whatever you write."  My, my, she's come a long way. 

Always take the Briley Parkway - For those who travel south from above the Tennessee line, you know the fun that is driving through Nashville.  You time your departures so as to miss the rush hour traffic and, honestly, hit traffic no matter what time it is.  This year, we took a slight detour.  We exited on to Briley Parkway and took the scenic route that parallels the highway through Nashville.  It's a glorious way to miss traffic and catch the sights, such as Opry Mills and the Opryland Hotel.  Of course, Siri had a coronary when we didn't follow her direction, so we turned her off until we got back on her track.  She's such a commanding little voice.  

Tracy has a soft side - Lest you think Tracy is always hardcore, let me assure you, she has a soft side.  And it comes out when Logan is around.  Chad proclaimed she had turned soft and I saw it.  But, how can you not?  Logan with those beautiful eyes and curly would melt anyone's heart.  Especially Momma's.  I love the way she loves him.  Allison is her twin, and Logan, for sure, has her heart.

It's too soon for Disney World - We took the kids to Chuck-e-Cheese on Friday as their surprise.  As we entered the building, we realized Chuck was out and about.  Allison is not a fan of Chuck.  Oh she loves the place, but that rat can stay backstage for all she cares...and wave from a distance.  Chad calmed her down and told her to stay back while he checked things out.  I told her Daddy was going to pop Chuck in the nose so no worries and she giggled.  Giggles are much better than tears.  Daddy came back to report that he was going backstage, which meant we had an hour before his return.  We left with just 4 minutes to spare.  This is proof it's too soon for Disney World.  

Potato Salad is more than just a food - One of the things I love the best is game playing with the Todds. And since their move to Buford, their friends Ted and Christina come and join the party.  It's like having two Chad and Tracys!  We learned a new card game called "Russian Salad."  I won't go into the details here, but it's an amazingly fun game.  To make it interesting, Ted changed up a rule and we decided to call it Potato Salad.  People need to play more games.  It's also good for the soul.

Everyone's last name is Todd - Logan's full name is Logan Robert Todd.  When Tracy asks him his name, he proudly states it in full.  One day she asked him, "what's Daddy's name?"  He said, "Daddy Robert Todd!"  Close, but not really.  She asked him Allison's name, and he said, "Allison Robert Todd"  It's Ruth, so he got the R right.  Allison even sounded out "Ra-ra-ra-" to help him guess Ruth.  Then Tracy asked what Christie's name was, "Christie Todd!"  and my name, according to Logan, is "Rosie Todd!"  We'd like to announce that Christie and I are married to the long lost Todd brothers and now a part of the Todd family.  

Literal Thinking Reigns - Logan's name begins with "L" which stands for Literal.  The kid is a great literal thinker.  He always wanted to play "Red Bowling" which is the power throw bowling game on the Wii.  Why Red Bowling?  Because the kingpin is red.  When he wanted a pretzel (shaped in the form of a football), he said, "Can I have a football pretzel?"  And when he wanted a Ritz cracker, he'd say "Circle cracker please!"  I love a literal thinker.  No nonsense.  And, most of the time, he comes clean and confesses.  When we heard cries from Allison coming from the playroom, Logan came running in and Momma asked what happened.  He proceeded to give her the play-by-play.  I assured her and Chad that I'm convinced when the kid understands his sinfulness, he'll get saved at a young age.  

Love begins at an early age - Ted and Christina have two children - Jack, who is in the second grade, and Kate who is just a bit younger than Logan.  Allison is crazy about Jack.  You'll find her following him around everywhere and when they are coming over, she talks about him non-stop.  You might even catch her cuddling with him on the couch.  Kate, who affectionately calls him "Yogan," does the same to Logan.  She chases him around and wants to do everything Logan does.  In fact, Christina will tell her at home if she doesn't do something, she won't get to play with Logan, and she becomes quickly obedient.  Jack is in love with Carrie Underwood (seriously) and Logan is oblivious, but these girls are whooped. I encouraged a double wedding and save them all the heartache.  

Thursday, September 12, 2013

Top Five Signs You Know You Have First World Problems

Last week, due to equipment issues in my area, my Internet was out at home.  For a whole week.  A.whole.week.  It's sad to say that I rely on Internet almost as much (emphasis on almost) as indoor plumbing.  This dependence is mainly due to the fact I'm now an online student and do a majority of my homework during late night hours.  I've realized over the past week that I experience those "first world problems" everyone talks about.  So, straight from the home office in Cupertino, California, today's top five list....the top five signs you know you have first world problems...

5.  While reading a printed book, when you press on a word you are unfamiliar with, the definition doesn't pop up.

4.  My new Fitbit Flex connected to MyFitnessPal App, all connected via bluetooth is the one way I am able to lose weight.  

3.  I can tether my iPhone hotspot to my MacBook Air in 5 calls or less.

2.  "In Sync" is more than a cool name for a 90s band.

1.  There is no such thing as Free WiFi - you can't sit at Starbucks without buying something.  

Tuesday, September 10, 2013

A Love That's Rare

Long-term committed love is a rarity in this day and age.  With people getting married later in life and then marriages ending in divorce, finding a love between two people that lasts more than 50 years is almost extinct.  My parents were married 53 years when my Mom passed away and their love story was so sweet.  In short, a young Rose writes to a strange sailor stationed in the South Pacific during World War II.  They fall in love and the rest is history.  There was a recent story about a 96-year old man who wrote a song for his sweet bride.  I won't give away the details, but I cried through most of this video. They were good tears.  It reminded me a lot of my Mom and Dad and of a love that is oh so rare....get your kleenex and enjoy.  

Monday, September 09, 2013

Two Tales of Customer Service

Those who know me best, especially from a professional standpoint, know I am a believer of excellence in customer service.  In fact, one of my mantras to my team is "excellence in customer service."  I encountered two recent customer service fails that actually turned out to be a benefit for me.  

Tale #1 - When my Dad passed away, he had pre-arranged his funeral at a local home that is part of a larger corporate network in the area.  It made it much easier for me to take care of things since that was already in place.  But, since my Dad was a long-time Mason and Grand Master of the state of Kentucky, he did a lot (read: hundreds) of Masonic funerals, hence I've been exposed to the funeral business for quite a while.  My Dad could walk into any funeral home in town and everyone knew him...and respected him.  When my Mom passed away, we had her at another funeral home, though also part of this large corporate network.  The service was impeccable.  I don't know if it was because when my Dad walked in, everyone buttoned up or what, but it was painless during a tough time of pain.  

Sadly, I didn't have the same experience this time around.  Oh, it wasn't awful, and they did take care of the main essentials, but dropped on some major issues that I felt were important.  Communication was lacking so when my family arrived for our private visitation, I had to recount all the arrangements again.  My Stepmom hadn't seen my Dad in probably three weeks, and I had no idea her reaction once she saw him. I wanted her to have time to adjust to that before visitors started arriving.  I had to push the funeral director to do this.  Second, many people sent flowers and other things to the funeral home...some I probably missed.  When we came back from the cemetery to collect the flowers and items we wanted to take with us, I noticed the cards were still on everything.  I started retrieving them and realized that there were some arrangements taken to the cemetery.  At Mom's passing, the home collected all the cards and gave them to us upon our arrival back after the service.  Now, I'm not sure everyone who sent something was appropriately thanked.

I was told I'd receive a survey and I did...and was honest.  So shortly after, I got a call to discuss my comments.  I was honest and fair, and told them I was doing this to help future customers.  If I could be a funeral concierge for innocent people who have no idea what to expect, I would.  The best I can do is let the funeral home know how they can have excellent customer service.  A few days later I received a thank you card in the mail from them and two gift cards from Cheesecake Factory.  I love free meals, but I certainly hope that their customer service improves as a result.

Tale #2 - This past Saturday, I met my friend, Christie, for dinner.  I was swimming in homework after a week (and still!) no internet at home and working from my tethered mobile phone hotspot or at Starbucks and needed a break.  Our server was a sweet guy, but didn't seem the sharpest knife in the drawer.  We placed our orders and waited.  And waited.  And waited.  He came to our table and said that something happened and our order disappeared in the system and asked for it again.  He said they'd put a rush on the order and that our meal would be taken care of.  Well, sweet!  Free meal!  So we waited.  And waited.  And waited.  He stopped by to see if the manager had been by and we said no.  And we waited some more.  Then the manager brought us our food.  No "sorry about your wait" or anything.  But it was free, so yummy.  Later the manager came by to see how things were and apologized for the delay and said "Dessert is on us!"  After he walked away, we looked at each other like "huh?"  Later the server came by and declared the same thing....dessert was free.  Still baffled, we just smiled and nodded.  Once we were finished, the server came to see what we wanted for dessert.  We told him we didn't want anything.  But he kept pushing.  We said, "No, but thanks."  Then he brought us our bills.  Hmm.  Being happy we just got food, we put in our cards and just wanted to pay and get out of there.  A discount or comping our beverage might have been good, though.  As we waited for the server to pick up our bills, the manager came by again pushing the free dessert.  We kindly said no.  And he.just.kept.pushing.  That's when I was done.  I said, "Well, quite frankly, your server told us the meal would be free.  Obviously as you can see, we're willing to pay, but we weren't told we'd be paying for the meal and getting a free dessert."  The manager wasn't happy and said to take our cards back and he'd discuss it with the server.  He said the server didn't have the authority to say that.  Ok, well, you got more problems then your server.

Customer service is a dying art.  If I could construct the dream consulting job, it would be working with companies to make them 100% client focused.  Amazingly your revenues improve when that happens.

Friday, September 06, 2013

Five Minutes: Red

Each week Gypsy Mama chooses a word to write about for five minutes. No editing, stream of consciousness. Today's word is: Red.

Ready. Set. Write.

Tonight in Cincinnati, the Reds will face the Dodgers and will honor the great Joe Morgan from the 70s squad known as "the Big Red Machine."  It's the first time all 8 of the players are back together.  I grew up cheering for the Reds and going to the games with my Dad.  Even in recent years, I'd go watch a game on television with my Dad.  I thought earlier this year that I would see if I could get tickets to the Reds and take him to a game.  He would have probably said, "Nah, we can just watch it on TV." because the thought of all that walking would have tuckered him out.  But I so wanted to get him to the new ballpark just one time.  Now he's gone and I suppose he has the best seats ever looking from above.

I sure would love it if the Reds pulled a World Championship this year, in honor of my Dad.  But even if they don't, I still love the Reds and love watching them and thinking of my Dad.  Red is a pretty amazing color.  It's the color of the Cincinnati baseball team.  It's the color of the Louisville Cardinals.  It was my Mom's favorite color.  And, it's the color that represents the blood that was shed so that I can live eternally with my Creator.  

Thursday, September 05, 2013

You Will Face Hell for Eternity

Tuesday night, Ariel Castro, the man who kidnapped and enslaved three young women for a decade, hung himself in his prison cell, just 30 days after his court judgment.  Most of us can never fathom what possessed such acts from a human to other innocent humans.  But apparently, he could not endure just one month of the imprisonment he imposed on his victims for 11 years.  

During his trial, one of the victims, Michelle Knight, faced her captor and read a statement.  I can't imagine her ability to do that, aside from the grace of God.  But she made a very telling statement as part of what she shared.  "I spent 11 years in hell. Now your hell is just beginning. I will overcome all this that happened but you will face hell for eternity."  You will face hell for eternity.  Yes, I am pretty certain that Mr. Castro is being tortured far beyond what we can imagine in hell today.

Thinking about that statement, "You will face hell for eternity" made me realize that although I may not have done the heinous crime Mr. Castro did, apart from my salvation from Christ, I, too would face hell for eternity.  Romans 3:23 says, "For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God."   All.  Not just the monsters like Mr. Castro.  But me.  There is nothing I can do to be 'worthy' of an eternity with my Creator. Only because my Creator sent a Rescuer in Jesus do I have a way to be saved from that everlasting torture.  

No matter how horrible Ariel Castro was, sin is sin.  I'm so thankful my sins are forgiven and I will face my Redeemer for eternity.  

Tuesday, September 03, 2013

And Just Like That, Summer Comes to a Close

The traditional start of Summer has been Memorial Day while the traditional end of Summer has been Labor Day.  Forget all those moon calendars, this is the calendar the world lives by...even when schools start on August 1.  Now that the long Labor Day weekend is over (which I'd love a re-do for more time, please and thank you), I was reflecting on the summer that was.  It's gone by fast, but it's been quite jam packed.

Summer began just three short weeks after my Dad's passing.  I honestly look back over that time and see God's grace so evident.  That is the only explanation for why I endured all that I did.  I often think back over the events of that time and some days it seems like a dream.  But, God, in His awesomeness graciousness, has continued to pour grace in my life.  I kicked off Memorial Day weekend sitting for the GMAT.  I wouldn't say I aced it, but I did well enough to get me into grad school...praise Jesus.

In June I took one of two trips to California this summer.  Just saying that blows my mind - two trips?  In three months?  That trip was so great on so many levels.  I was able to visit my team and work with them for the week, but even greater, I had time away from the world and time to reflect, while overlooking the Pacific, on life and the loss of my Dad...and the greatness of God. I needed that time to get away.  The trip was almost perfect until a baggage truck driver ran in to the engine on my flight home and delayed me to a red eye.  I came back and jumped right into VBS.  A week-long fun fest doing Preschool crafts with some of the cutest preschoolers around.  I was running on west coast time and exhausted by the end of each day, but that week of vacation to be a VBS worker was so worth it.

For the Fourth of July weekend, I headed to visit my Alabama family, Paige and Steve.  Even though it rained non-stop during the weekend, I loved my visit.  It was good to be away during the holiday that is also my Mom's birthday and at a time when I just lost my Dad.  I got to meet some folks I've heard about for years and even prayed for and that made the trip complete.  School started for me July 1 and it's been non-stop ever since.  I may be crazy to admit that I love school.  I don't love the fact that I lack in time management skills, but I love the study.  With MBA, it's topics I can identify with and school is much more exciting when you've worked for decades and have a frame of reference.

In a blink, August was here and gone and included yet another very quick trip out west.  It was a Sales meeting so it was non-stop work and intensity....along with hilarity...the entire time. When I came home, I had to jump right into finishing my first term at school and starting a new one.  Then the month ended with a wedding of two friends on the very last day of August.  

I'd like a day to just sit and take deep breaths, but life marches on.  And so begins the first season of holidays and birthdays without my Dad.  As always, I know God will pour out His Grace.  Instead of wondering how I'll handle this season, I need to just sit in wonder of Him this season.

Friday, August 30, 2013

Five Minutes: Worship

Each week Gypsy Mama chooses a word to write about for five minutes. No editing, stream of consciousness. Today's word is: Worship.

Ready. Set. Write.

Worship seems like such a lofty word, but I've learned through my spiritual journey that worship is not only important, but occurs (or should occur) daily in my life.  When I first was part of a worship team (worship here being through music) my mentor worship pastor sat the eight of us down and said "You are the worship leaders in every service.  You help bring those in the congregation to the throne of God to offer worship."  Wow, talk about the heavy responsibility that put on my heart.  

That worship pastor was Michael Smith (not THE Michael Smith, but in my life, THE Michael Smith).  He still leads worship today at a church near Nashville that I often get to visit, but when I think of worship, and how to do it most effectively, his lessons are the ones I recall.  Worship is an act. It can be through music, through giving of our time and money.  It can be simply giving God glory.  

I long to understand worship even more than I do today.  I think I take my opportunity to worship for granted.  Lest the mountains and hill cry out when I don't.  

Thursday, August 01, 2013

10 Seconds of Pure Happiness

They say happiness is a warm puppy....but this 10 seconds of happiness is a puppy who is lovin' life and knows how to get around...

Wednesday, July 31, 2013

The $15 Complete Beauty Treatment

I've been to more Mary Kay parties than I can count.  I've done Aveda classes to learn about the best skin treatments for my face.  I've used every brand known to man.  Yet, I have a beauty regiment that only costs you $15 and the different products will last for a month or more.

I always get complimented for my young-looking complexion.  I really have to thank my Mom and Dad for great genes.  My Mom had a wonderfully smooth skin texture and I inherited that smoothness.  My Dad had Cherokee Indian blood in him that I inherited and he looked extremely young for his age.  His older sister, my Aunt Goldie, looks about 70 and she's 93.  So most of the credit goes to God for allowing me to come from a great gene pool.  But, if you are looking for a simple, gentle way to cleanse and moisturize your face for a mere $15, you're about to find out.

Follow along for your frugal path to facial freedom...

Step 1 - Product: Huggies Cucumber Green Tea Baby Wipes
Though used for babies, these wipes are gentle and refreshing due to their ingredients.  They are also superb for travel as well.  Use these to remove eye makeup and to prep your face for cleansing.  

Step 2 - Product:  Pond's Cold Cream
This cold cream has been around since the late 1800s (yep you read that right), and it has worked for over 100 years to clean the face of many a woman.  Once you've prepped with your Huggies Wipe, use the cold cream to deep cleanse your face. 

Step 3 - Product:  Curel Moisturizing Lotion
Of all the moisturizers on the market, Curel is by far my favorite.  It's like the Dove of lotions.  It's gentle enough for your face, yet strong enough to moisturize any part of your body.  After the cold cream cleanse, apply the moisturizing lotion to your face. 

That's it!  Three steps, $15.  Simple and effective.  And, you're welcome.

Tuesday, July 30, 2013

Best Wedding Dance Ever

Turn on any news or entertainment show and you'll see the latest wedding dance video going viral on the internet.  This video of a Mother and Son dance is by far my favorite....and probably partly because I know and love this family.  Pippa (the Mom) is the daughter of two of the sweetest people I knew before they went on to their home in Heaven.  They were great friends of my parents and there is something quite comforting knowing all four are now there together having an amazing time.  Pete (the Son) I've know since he was little and is handsome and smart all in the same package.  I'm besties with his sister, Amy, and adore all his other siblings as well.  The family has a love and unity that the world needs more of...and when you watch this dance, you'll see the joy this family has.  They could write a book on 'How to deal when tragedy strikes' but you'd never know it.  Good people. Comfort people.  Love these people.  

Monday, July 29, 2013

Make Way for Geese

I work in an area of town where the Canadian Geese reside.  There are a lot of little lakes and water sources that draw those flying birds to the area.  I've worked in this area for the last 10 years or so and have had a lot of time to observe their behavior.

At one place of employment, we had a lake behind our building.  In front of our building was a circular drive with a large grassy area that housed our flagpoles.  It was there that our geese family resided when it was time to nest in the Spring to welcome in the new gaggle of goslings.  This was exciting and dangerous all at the same time.  Exciting because we got to witness the Momma Goose as she trained her little geese, but dangerous prior to their appearance.  The Poppa Goose would stand guard around that circular drive to ward off anyone who appeared to be a threat to his family.  Of course we were just trying to enter the door to go to work.  I dreaded dodging Poppa Goose everyday, but knew once the babies arrived, things would be better.

Needless to say, over the years, I've learned to co-habitate with these creatures.  And I've learned to appreciate them as well and be respectful when they slowly cross the street or protect their unborn little ones.

The other day I was leaving work and driving down the street where my company is located.  Very often, there are times when you have to stop and allow the geese to cross.  I presume the 25 mph speed limit on this road is partially due to the amount of geese-crossing events that occur.  I saw about 12 geese in the median and slowly making their way to cross the street so I slowed down.  There is something peaceful about letting geese take their own sweet time in crossing the street.  They have not a care in the world.  God provides for all their needs, so they just enjoy life.

As I was sitting there taking in the awesomeness of God's creatures, I realized two geese were slowly making their move.  They were still munching on the grass but realized the rest of their group had moved on.  I knew they'd be making their move to the street, so I waited, knowing if I didn't I might accidentally hit one.  In the lane next to me, those vehicles weren't as patient.  Once the first 10 crossed, the truck moved on, and then, just as the two slow geese started across the road, the car in that lane sped around at a fast speed to get on with his busy life (whatever) before those geese slowed him down.  As I watched this unfold, even I was startled, but those two geese were very startled.  I saw them abruptly stop and the poor things did the equivalent of "peeing in your pants" right in the street.  It made me want to go slug that driver.

Now, I'm not one of those tree huggers or people who care more about animals than humans, but this event taught me a lesson.  We are way too busy for our own good.  I would bet that most accidents happen because people are impatient and self-focused.  I'm certainly guilty of driving too fast and being in a hurry when just a few minutes wouldn't make a huge difference.  It's funny how witnessing two laid-back geese almost get side-swiped was revolutionary for me.  

Friday, July 26, 2013

Five Minutes: Broken

Each week Gypsy Mama chooses a word to write about for five minutes. No editing, stream of consciousness. Today's word is: Broken.

Ready. Set. Write.

My laptop just celebrated it's fifth birthday, which is ancient for a Windows laptop.  After the acquisition of my iPad last Fall, my laptop has been used very little, so having a soon-to-be obsolete laptop wasn't that distressing....until I started school July 1.  

In my MBA program, I have to submit assignments online and although the internet surfing still works (albeit via Safari on a Windows system), using the Office applications and even the USB port is troublesome.  It's broken and I'm in denial.  Microsoft Word crashes every time I save a document...and the other night it simply locked up my laptop to the point of restart.  Even the USB port is getting persnickety.  I save all my work on a flash drive (for the reasons stated earlier) yet even the ports are broken and tired.  My cheap self now needs to invest in a laptop so I can be equipped for this journey of school.

Silly me grieves over broken things like this.  I bought this laptop soon after I bought my last car, Bluebelle, which I love.  It was a tough purchase because it seemed everything was broken and needed replacing.  Now, my car is going strong, and my laptop needs to be put to rest.  Nothing I can do can fix the broken.

I'm so thankful that I can come to my Creator broken and know that He won't give up on me.  I may be broken, battered, scarred and discouraged, but He makes all things new.  When I crash, He protects me.  When I lock up, He surrounds me with his arms and I relax in the comfort of His Love.  And when I simply can't plug in to be recharged, His Holy Spirit intercedes for me in ways and words I can't express.  

Being broken doesn't mean I'm banished.  I'm loved. 

Thursday, July 18, 2013

A Tale of Two Losses

His name was Bill.  On July 13, he woke up preparing to head off for a family vacation and took a bike ride in the early morning prior to departure.  Before he made it home, he collapsed on his bike of heart complications and died.  

Dr. Bill Cutrer was a physician on campus at the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary.  He began his career as an OBGYN and followed after serving as a pastor.  A doctor for the body and the soul.  He previously was Director of A Woman's Choice Pregnancy Center in Louisville, where women came contemplating aborting their unborn children.  He was pivotal in bringing the 4D ultrasound to that clinic and there are countless people alive today, I'm sure, because Dr. Cutrer was able to express to their Mothers the importance and value of every human life.  He also was an advocate of the sanctity of marriage.  Many a couple testified that the counsel they received from Dr. Cutrer, whether on marriage or fertility - will ever be grateful for his impact on their lives and marriage.

Dr. Cutrer's love of Jesus and obedience in following Him will leave a legacy that will forever be felt for generations to come.  The world has lost a great and godly man.  

His name was Cory.  On July 13, he was found dead in his Vancouver, Canada, hotel room of an apparent overdose - heroin and alcohol.  He was 31 years old.

Cory Monteith's parents divorced when he was 7 years old and at age 13 he began using marijuana and alcohol.  After attending many truancy schools and never graduating high school, his Mom and friends had an intervention at age 19 and got him to rehab.  Finally in 2011, he received his high school diploma.  His big break came in 2009 when he was cast as football player, Finn Hudson, on Glee.  Even this success didn't stop Cory's struggle with addiction.  He had continually been in and out of rehab, leaving for his final time in May.  Along the way, his on-screen and off-screen girlfriend, Lea Michele, stood by his side committed to see him through.  

Cory appeared on Inside the Actors' Studio in 2012 where James Lipton posed this question to him, "What would you like to hear God say when you arrive at the Pearly Gates?" Cory's response was, "Uh, sorry I haven't been around.  There's a good explanation."

There appears to be no evidence of a love for or following of Christ.  Cory's life seems absent of the hope of eternal life with Jesus by his actions and words.  The world has lost a Hollywood star that's life was replete with addiction, brokenness and hopelessness.  

The loss of these two men cause me to's the best of griefs and the worst of griefs.  One man I grieve, not for him, for I have no doubt Dr. Cutrer is celebrating at the feet of Jesus.  But I grieve for the loss his family experiences, and the loss our world experiences of such a great man of God.  One man I grieve, also for the loss his family and friends experience, but also that he is most likely not at the feet of Jesus and his suffering of this world is minimal compared to what he may be experiencing at this moment.  

Two men.  Two lives lived.  Two lives lost.  Two types of grief.  

Monday, June 24, 2013

Top Ten List: VBS 2013

This past week I worked in the Preschool Craft room for my church's VBS.  For the last few years I helped prep the crafts for VBS week, but decided this year to take a week's vacation to actually participate, and it was a blast.  In honor of the week of fun and learning, I've compiled the top ten list....straight from the home office of NAOBC at the corner of Breckenridge Lane and Bardstown Road...

10.  The memory verse for the week was Hebrews 13:6 - "God helps me.  I will not be afraid."  Each day we'd review the verse in our Craft time.  We'd get all sorts of responses "God loves me. I will not be afraid."  "God is with me.  I will not be afraid."  "God helps me. Do not be afraid!"  They all communicate the same message...God is there, no fear.  So, I liked calling their versions the "PSV"...the Preschool Standard Version of the Bible.

9.  We also reviewed the story each day in Crafts.  The week was full of stories about the life of Paul. He encountered a lot - being blinded, being dropped in a basket, surviving an earthquake in jail, being shipwrecked.  The first few days every time we'd asked "What did you learn about Paul today?"  They would recount all the details.  Then sweet little Emery would say "And he died."  Poor Paul died everyday.  But, in her defense, when someone goes through everything Paul did, common sense says he's probably close to death.

8.  Day 3 we talked about how Paul was in jail with his friend and they were singing songs to Jesus when an earthquake happened and they told everyone in jail about Jesus.  We'd ask "Who was in jail with Paul?"  Jesus was a popular answer, which isn't really far off since God was there.  But Paul's encouraging friend Barnabas was the one they thought was in jail....not Silas.  Silas just wasn't as memorable as Barnabas, I guess.

7.  When the preschoolers knew their memory verse and could say it, a few of them each day would get some sort of prize.  Day 1, Miss Stephanie had miniature koosh balls.  As soon as the first one was given out, it was amazing how better everyone's memory got in hopes they'd get a koosh ball.  Miss Stephanie told them that they'd have a chance each day.  Day 2 she gave away stickers.  When she gave away the first one, a preschooler said "This is it? A sticker?"  Guess we should have worked up to the koosh balls.

6.  Day 4 the lesson was about Paul preaching about Jesus.  Our craft that day was making a megaphone (which we had to explain what that was to the preschoolers) to proclaim the name of Jesus loud and clear.  We had various colored megaphone patterns cut out and ready to assemble with stickers and glue dots.  Whenever there are multiple color choices, and pink is an option, it never ends well.  At Ms Tessa's table, she had two girls left and only one pink megaphone.  In all her wisdom, Ms. Tessa said, "I only have one pink megaphone left, so I'll need one of you to show grace and let your friend have the pink."  Emery (the sweet one who is sure Paul is dead by now) said "I'll show grace and let my friend have the pink one."  Learning to share may be the hardest lesson to learn sometimes.

5.  Our 4A class was probably our favorite.  With only 8 little sweeties, they were the youngest group.  Most of these dolls were barely 3 (if even 3) and most were VBS worker children.  They were so attentive for their young age and just simply precious.  One of the littlest ones, Mary, would repeat everything Miss Stephanie said "Paul was dropped in a basket"...."Dropped in a basket!!!"  "Paul and Silas was in jail when an earthquake happened."  "An EARTHQUAKE happened!!!"  When this group would leave, Mary never wanted to line up.  I would say to her every day, "Mary, are you going to line up?  If you don't line up you'll get left behind and have to go home with me."  Mary would respond "Go home with you!"  If I thought her Mom and Dad wouldn't miss her, I'd take her home.  

4.  Rice is the new macaroni.  When I was in VBS we always had a craft that involved using macaroni.  But, that is old school.  Now it's rice.  On our last day, our craft was putting colored rice (rice that we dyed with food coloring) in an empty water bottle and dropping in foam ships to re-enact the shipwreck.  We dyed the rice and were ready to go but after one class, we knew we were doomed and didn't have enough rice.  Tessa left and went to the store for 8 more boxes of rice and we dyed the remainder really fast so we'd have enough to finish out the day.  It was truly our only craft faux pas of the week.  This wouldn't have happened with macaroni, folks.

3.  While making the aforementioned rice in a bottle, I was challenged on where to put the preschooler's name. The tape I was using around the bottle cap was dark blue and my Sharpie wouldn't show up the name on the tape.  Stephanie suggested writing it on the bottom but when I did the first one, it didn't work.  I was working on Riley's bottle when she said "Why don't you write it on the cap?"  I looked at her and said, "Riley, that is brilliant.  You are so smart."  She replied, "Yeah, I'm pretty smart most of the time."  She may not be high on humility  but she's high on smarts.  

2.  Kaylee was in our precious 4A class.  She was full of fun this week.  One day she said that Paul was dropped in a basket "because they didn't want him around anymore."  That same day she helped a very sleepy Zach finish his craft.  Kaylee's Mom is one of my best friends, Beth, and is the Preschool Director.  One day when she was at my table she said "You know my Mom is boss of this church."  I looked at her and said "Maybe we should tell Pastor Jeff that and see what he says."  Paster Jeff is Beth's boss, and the real boss of the church.  

1.  The week's lesson can be summed up in one sentence that a preschooler shared on the last day when asked "What did you learn about Paul this week?"  "First his name was Saul, then his heart changed, and his name was Paul."  Amen.