Tuesday, December 30, 2014

2014: Be Intentional

This past year, I chose the phrase "Be Intentional" as my word/phrase for the year.  At the end of 2012, I did this for the first time by choosing "It's Yours, Lord" as my phrase for 2013.  It was so appropriate for that year I've decided to attempt to choose a word or phrase each year to be my theme.  As 2014 comes to a close, I like to reflect on the impact of that phrase this past year.

I have to admit I really didn't know how this would take shape, though I had a few ideas.  Yet, I see how it has shaped my life this past year, and most likely years to come. 

Multiple times this year I did what some call "pay it forward" by paying for the car behind me in the drive-thru.  I did this various times at different places and I felt good when I did it.  Why?  Because nobody knew who I was and giving someone a little blessing for the day, quite unexpected, was just as encouraging to me.  During the year, I was the recipient of the same blessing twice…both times at Starbucks.  My goal of doing this random act of kindness was not to somehow reap the same in return, but to unknowingly bless someone's day…someone God knew needed it.  But experiencing it myself made me realize first hand how great that act can be.  Once the year is over, I plan to still do this at times.  

I've read through the Bible a few times in my life and I decided this past year to do it again.  I stuck with it the whole year (well, I have two more days) and feel accomplished.  But, honestly it didn't spur on a fire to read my Bible more like I was hoping it would do.  Oh, God's Word doesn't return void and I can recall many times the passage I would read fit perfectly into my life.  But, I felt like I was doing it to check off something on my list, which wasn't my desire.  I did this reading every night before I went to bed to focus my mind on things above and off of the temporal to help me turn off my brain to sleep.  And that did work.  Going forward, I think I'll continue this nighttime routine, but with a more directed Scripture devotional time (somewhat like I have in the morning) that doesn't make me feel like I'm doing a task.

With three more classes remaining, this entire year I've balanced a full-time job, classes for my MBA, teaching at church (sometimes twice a week) and maintaining a social life and down time.  Being intentional was a way of life.  I had to manage my time to accomplish everything in my life.  I made a commitment not to give up my service at church or all of my social activities for school.  That took a lot of planning and intentional time management.  By the grace of God, I did it.  And, hopefully at the end of June, I'll possess my MBA and I am simply amazed at God's provision and direction for me to accomplish that task.

As I type this post, I'm reminded of two things.  First, each of the areas I reflected upon my intentionality has caused me to continue that "habit" in the future.  I guess that's what this phrase did for me.  It helped me to remember to be intentional and make it a way of life.  Second, as I sit here and type this post tonight, I am reflecting on the day's events.  I attended the funeral of a friend I've known for more than 20 years who was just two years younger than me and died of cancer.  Ivan lived a life that touched many.  As my friends and I have shared and grieved, the idea of intentionality is buried under the surface….really unknown to us.  We want to be intentional.  Our days are numbered, yet we know not the number of our days.  We need to make each day count and be intentional in every way we can.  

I'm praying over my word for 2015.  I'll be posting a blog in the coming days with the reveal.  In the meantime, I'll reflect on being intentional and continuing to make that part of the fabric of my life.  

Thursday, December 18, 2014

Quin the Elf

Wheels up!
Last Christmas season, I was discussing how I would love to do Elf on a Shelf for my team at work.  For those who reside under a rock, Elf on a Shelf is designed for children.  He comes out at the beginning of December and magically appears different places to let the kids know that he's watching and reporting back to Santa.  Some people find this practice creepy and manipulative, but people, can't we just have some good, clean fun in life?  My intent to bring the Elf to life on the job was to bring joy during the few weeks of work before we all crumble into exhaustion before our annual holiday shutdown.  

My friend, Letha, bought me an Elf last year around mid-December and I decided to redeem the final week before our company shutdown to introduce him to the team and do a few pranks.  It was a hit and I was excited for this season to bring him out again with a whole lot more antics.  I named him "Quin" in honor of our company "QuinStreet" and during the rest of the year he had a cute cupcake outfit to wear to celebrate each worker's birthday.  He donned their desktop until the next birthday, to which he was moved.  So Quin is a part of the team all year long.

Do you wanna build a snowman?
I sat down over the Thanksgiving break and created a calendar for each work day.  I outlined what Quin would do so I could procure the items needed and be sure to bring them in the day before each event.  For those who know me, this would me my OCD side coming out.  Pinterest was a wonderful resource and the more I followed, the more ideas I found.  With my current school term at that time, I was a bit stressed at pulling this off, but I'm also very Type A and determined, so it was happening.  Quin has zip-lined through the office, did an Elfie Selfie (with crayons), went fishin' (for goldfish), went deep into a bag of chocolate and, today, is trapped in a mason jar with "Help!" shining through.  Tomorrow is our last day before our holiday shutdown, and he'll have one more hurrah until next year.

I'm really a kid at heart.  And although I found a lot of joy in doing this for my team, I suspected they'd think I'd lost my marbles.  But, gratefully, they embraced the idea!  (And not just to feel sorry for me).  I don't have children and my team are like my "kids" - sad to say I'm old enough to be some of their Moms.  So since I don't have children to mesmerize with my creative abilities, my team will be my outlet.  Merry Christmas everyone!

Sunday, November 30, 2014

Peach Blueberry Pie

This year for Thanksgiving, one of the dishes I brought to the festivities was a Peach Blueberry Pie.  I don't cook extensively very often.  This is the plight of a single gal with a very busy schedule.  But, for the holiday, I was excited to try out this recipe that I had pinned months ago on Pinterest.  I think it turned out well and is easier than it looks.  Here's the recipe for you to try…

1 cup sugar
1/3 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/8 teaspoon ground allspice
3 cups, sliced, peeled peaches (I used frozen, thawed completely)
1 cup fresh blueberries (I used frozen, thawed completely)
Pastry for double-crust pie (9 inches) (I used pre-made pie crust, found in the dairy section)
1 tablespoon butter
1 tablespoon 2% milk (I used fat-free milk)
Cinnamon Sugar

In a large bowl, combine sugar, flour, cinnamon and allspice.  Add peaches and blueberries, tossing to coat.

Preheat oven to 400 degrees.  Roll out one of the pastries and put into the pie pan.  Trim around the edges, leaving just a half inch from the top of the pie pan rim.  Add filling.  Dot with butter.

For the top of the pie, you can roll out the other 9-inch pastry and either create a lattice top on the pie, or keep the pastry intact as I did (see picture).  I personally like the top covered as it makes the pie more "cobbler-like" and keeps the juices in the pie, avoiding spillover.  If you choose my method, be sure to make four slits in the pie crust to provide breathing room.  After assembling whichever top you choose, seal the edges together and flute around the pie rim.  Brush the top of the pie with milk.  Sprinkle cinnamon sugar on the top.  I used store-bought cinnamon sugar to avoid guessing on mixing the right combination.  

Bake 40-45 minutes or until crust is golden brown and the filling is bubbly (if you used a lattice design).  Let cool and enjoy!

Using the frozen fruit makes these summer fruits come alive during the holiday season.  The flavor of peach and blueberry is really yummy and this can be whipped together in no time, making a homemade pie effortless.  

Monday, November 03, 2014

Bravery and Dignity

This weekend I read the tragic news of Brittany Maynard who took her own life by a fatal dose of barbiturates prescribed by her doctor as part of the Death by Dignity Act in Oregon.  This story grieves me on so many levels.  And I don't want to spend a blog post judging her actions, but reconciling in my own mind why such a decision would be made.  She is being hailed as a woman of bravery and dignity, but I truly grieve for how she came about this decision.  

First off, I can't imagine hearing the news she received, so I'm not going to say I wouldn't be tempted to ponder the same thing.  I've watched people suffer and die from cancer.  It's a painful, very difficult way to die.  I would imagine most all cancer patients have the thought cross their mind, "I wish this would just end."  I've also seen those people be brave and dignified even during their worst of sufferings.  Even with my chronic illness of RA, I deal with pain every moment of every day in some form.  It's not terminally fatal, but there is no cure, just treatment that eases the pain.  Though in my weakest hours, I may ask God why or question the pain I deal with, and even, at very few times, wish it would just end, I couldn't ever see myself asking a doctor to aid me in ending my life.  

There are two things in this world that are beginning to fade into non-existence.  The belief in miracles and the belief in life.  I have seen God do miracles in the most dire of situations and grant life to one that was told "you have no hope."  What if that person had said, "I'm not in control anymore, so I'm dying on my terms."  The beauty of a miracle is murdered.

Our belief in life is also slipping away.  We don't create life, yet, we think we have control over life.  The path of this Death by Dignity Act can take a very wrong turn very quickly.  For Brittany Maynard, the world applauds her choice.  What stops this from going further?  The disabled child who can't see or can't walk may have parents who can make the "brave choice" to end their life since it surely won't be worth much anyway.  We tread on dangerous ground when our control of our destiny overshadows the plans of our Creator.  

I have watched both of my parents die.  One who suffered long and one who suffered a short time.  My Mom suffered long in her battle before death from complications from diabetes.  Six years before her death, she lost part of her leg due to diabetes.  She knew her ultimate outcome would be death, but she did not give up hope until she knew her Creator was ready to take her home.  What if she could have chosen to end her life instead of lose her leg?  She would have lost six years with my Dad and we would have lost six years with her.  Did she want to go through the suffering she did?  Absolutely not.  Did we want to watch her suffer and decline?  Most assuredly no.  But she had hope.  Hope that this life wasn't the end.  Hope that God would relieve her of her suffering in His Time.  And He did.  Though I would never had wanted to watch her decline, I saw in her a bravery and dignity I'd put up against anyone in this world.  I also was witness to what unconditional love between a husband and wife looked like.  My Dad loved her more at her lowest than he seemed to loved her at her highest.  I am thankful I was able to see that love in action.  Her life was in her Creator's Hands...the One that made her and the One that would take her home.  

My grief is for Brittany today.  I don't know anything about her beliefs, or where she was spiritually at the time of her death.  But, unless she had the hope of Christ, she chose a path where her suffering is far more greater than anything she would have experienced in the lowest of lows of cancer.  That grieves me most of all.

Life is precious.  Even in the suffering.  May I be able to say, like Timothy, at the end of my life, whenever my Creator chooses to take me to my eternal home, "I have fought the good fight, I have finished the course, I have kept the faith." (2 Timothy 4:7)

Monday, October 27, 2014

Tis the Season of Spooky

In five short days, it will be Halloween once again.  My favorite part of Halloween is the candy...not the spooky.  I don't like haunted houses. When I went through Disney's Haunted Mansion as a child, I kept a death grip on my Dad's hand all the way through.  I love a good road rally or scavenger hunt, but not ones that force me through haunted houses.  I don't watch Criminal Minds, CSI or any other similar show because I'll have nightmares for sure.  It's the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown, is my speed.  

I will read a scary book, as long as it's not slasher scary.  My imagination is pretty vivid, but I can skip the scary parts and get back to the story.  I don't watch scary movies.  No horror.  No slasher flicks.  Nothing.  My idea of a great movie is one that has a great story line, good character development and can cause me to keep pondering on the movie after I leave.  Or just makes me laugh and forget about life.  This is why I watch more animated movies than most people my age without children.

Reflecting on why I have such a sour taste for the spooky, I've determined where this all started.  The Wizard of Oz.  Yes, that classic movie has forever turned me off the frightening.  When I watched this movie for the first time, I was probably 6 or 7.  I remember it vividly.   I was dressed in my PJs and curled up on the couch in our basement family room with my parents to experience my first viewing.  In preparation for the fun, I had a Twinkie and an Orange Crush.  All was wonderful and lighthearted until the Wicked Witch and her flying monkeys showed up.  Talk about spooky.  Her "I'll get you my pretty!...and your little dog too!!" scared my slippers off.  I enjoyed the movie again once she melted, but that was traumatic for a quiet, little child.  

That night when I went to bed I had my first memorable nightmare.  It involved the Wicked Witch, flying monkeys and whatever else that made me not sleep well.  I would suspect it had as much to do with the Twinkie and Orange Crush as it did the movie, but nonetheless, it has forever kept me from that which is spooky.

The moral of the story: Don't watch scary movies and eat Twinkies and drink Orange Crush.

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

The Gospel According to Find My iPhone

In today's news is a story of a woman who was stuck in a ravine at the foothills in San Jose, California, for 19 hours while rescuers tried to locate her.  She was driving a GM car fully equipped with OnStar and when she careened over the 500-foot ravine, it triggered a call to authorities.  The problem?  OnStar was way off.  When the police went to search for the car, they had no luck locating it at the indicated location.  Two hours later, the OnStar system sent a new alert indicating the car was in downtown San Jose.

Once the search came up null, a very smart detective asked her Mom if she had an iPad.  She did and he was able to crack the iPad code to get in.  Word on the street (or at least the Today Show) is authorities are equipped with ways to crack into mobile devices for emergency purposes.  Once he got into her iPad, he used the Find My iPhone app and was able to find her exact location.  Amazing.  Hate on Apple all you want folks, but this one saved a life.

I recently added an app to my phone, Life360, that puts me in the Blackwell family circle.  My friend, Beth, lives about 10 minutes from her house and if I become unresponsive to calls or texts, she can locate me.  Since I live alone, it's a good safety feature.  But, at times, it is inaccurate.  Not OnStar inaccurate, but not perfect.

When I heard this story this morning, I thought about how this woman depended on that great OnStar add-on to her vehicle for safety purposes, but if that was all she had, it would let her down.  Thankfully, the officers knew other mechanisms that were more precise that would help them find her and her car before it was too late.  Good thing, or this story would not have had a happy ending.

So many times when we are in the ravines of life, we are depending on a faulty backup plan to get us out.  We figure we can handle things in our own strength and have all the resources we need to get out of the pit.  But, that's not the case.  We need the One who always knows exactly where we are...whether we are on the mountaintop or upside down in a ravine.  Though Apple isn't infallible, our God is and we are the apple of His eye.  He can spot us wherever we may find ourselves, wherever we may run to hide.  He will always be our Rescuer. 

Monday, October 13, 2014

Cooking at the Cottage

Every year my company hosts an annual event called "Day Away."  When we were first acquired, this consisted of flying every employee in North America to San Francisco for a one-day event.  We were told that every other year the Day Away would be in Lake Tahoe.  Obviously our mouths were agape at the thought of such a swanky event.  After the first Day Away we participated in, the event changed drastically...and probably for the good of the company.  No more expensive jaunts, but a picnic hosted at headquarters for the office and a budget provided for remote offices to host their own event.

Last year we brought in barbeque and gelato for the day, which food always makes our office happy.  This year, our office VP wanted to do something more "off-site" that everyone would enjoy.  I suggested a cooking class at a local establishment - Cooking at the Cottage - and he began to investigate.  I'd never been to this place, though we had done a similar cooking team building experience at another location prior to our acquisition.  It's a fun time where you get to work with your peers and eat the results.  And, as I said earlier, we always love food.

On Friday, we all headed over for our "Day Away" which was really a "Half-Day Away."  One of our co-workers had organized the teams of two and we were ready to go.  The day began with all of us donning our aprons and it felt like we were stepping on the set of a cooking show to amaze the world with our talents.

Our first course was a Chipotle Sweet Potato Soup.  I love sweet potatoes and I love hot things, so I was excited about trying this recipe.  We mixed up all the goodness in a pot which included spices, brown sugar and the chipotle adobe sauce as our sweet potatoes got nice and mushy.  Then, we pulled the pot off the burner and used an amazing kitchen tool - an immersion blender.  I've seen them before, but never live and in action.  This tool is a must for creamy soups.  As my teammate, Lindsay, blended (because she has one and is a pro), I added the coconut milk.  The chef came over and called our soup beautiful and my day was complete.  A squirt of lime and cilantro on top and this course was in the books...and our stomachs.

The second course was a grilled salmon, pan-crusted with ginger and garlic with grilled veggies.  Salmon (or any fish for that matter) is tricky to cook...or more appropriately, not over cook.  Lindsay and I watched the salmon like a hawk and though it cooked up beautifully, our pan was done.  The recipe allowed for the remaining spices to be used in the same pan while grilling the veggies.  But, since our salmon was REALLY pan-crusted, we had to disband that option and start with a fresh pan.  As we proclaimed, "overachievers unite!"  Our veggies turned out just fine and the chefs provided some white rice to each of us to pair with our salmon and veggies.  It was yummy.

The final course was a poached pear wrapped in phyllo dough and drenched in chocolate sauce.  The chefs had already poached our pears to save time and then demonstrated how to wrap the phyllo dough for maximum performance.  It was the easiest of the courses and involved chocolate, so you can't go wrong there.  It was deliciously delectable and spawned other ideas on ways to poach other fruits and prep for the same kind of dessert. 

Everyone in attendance had a blast.  It was a huge success and I'm sure we'll do it again.  I rarely cook, though I do enjoy it and was not only delectable but educational.  Look out Martha Stewart, here I come!

Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Easy Coffee Cake Recipe

I'm always looking for easy recipes, especially when I need to bring something for a brunch or breakfast.  I'm not the happiest of bears in the morning, so getting up to whip up an eggs-stravaganza is not my idea of how to start a morning.  I found this gem on Pinterest and it turned out absolutely lovely.  This is a picture of my finished product.  Here is the recipe you can try for yourself.  
What you need:

1 pkg of yellow (golden) cake mix
1 instant vanilla pudding mix (the size that serves four)
1 cup of vegetable oil
1 cup of water
4 eggs
4 tbsp of brown sugar
3 tsp of cinnamon

In a large bowl mix (electric mixer) the cake mix, pudding mix, oil and water.  Add one egg at a time into the mix and beat for one minute after adding each egg.  Pour half of the batter into a greased (I used Pam) bundt pan.  Combine the brown sugar and cinnamon.  Sprinkle half of that mixture over the batter in the pan.  Pour the remaining batter in the pan.  Top with the remainder of the sugar/cinnamon mixture.  And, finish by doing my favorite part! Swirl through the batter with a knife.  

Bake at 350 degrees for 55-60 minutes, or until a knife comes out clean.  Wait for 5-10 minutes, then invert and pop out of the pan.

You can use this same recipes with other variations.  Lemon Cake mix and Lemon pudding mix and cover in a powder sugar glaze.  Even a chocolate cake mix with banana pudding mix would be yummy!  Be creative and enjoy!

Monday, September 29, 2014

Word Art Crafts

Fourteen years ago today, my Mom passed from this life to the next.  I miss her every day and look forward to the day I'll see her again.  I expect our first hug to be amazing and her still smelling of Estee Lauder's Pleasure perfume.  One of the many traits I inherited from my Mom was her love for crafts.  We would take classes together, shop in craft stores for hours, and watch all those crafty shows on television.  With the busyness of life and work and school, I needed to find my craft groove again.  In June, I decided to find a craft class that looked appealing and I found one at the local Michael's store.  I ended up being the only student in attendance and had one-to-one attention.  Below are the two products of my class and a brief description of how to do it in case you'd like to try it at home.

You start by determining what phrase you want to use on your canvas.  This one was for a sweet couple who open their home as a wonderful bed and breakfast and I affectionately call their home Robinson Mountain.

Here are the supplies you'll need:

 - 12x12 canvas
 - Scrapbooking page - design of your choice
 - Opaque Mod Podge
 - Alpha Stickers (Be sure that the stickers are at minimum 1/4 inch thick)
 - Acrylic Paint to complement the color scheme of your scrapbook page
 - Fabric Flowers (ones to assemble are more fun!)
 - Bling for your Flower Centers

Dampen your scrapbook page to make it more prepped to accept the Mod Podge.  Spread the Mod Podge on the canvas and then place the scrapbook page on top.  To secure the page, spread another layer of Mod Podge and allow to dry.  Determine the layout of your phrase and position your letters/numbers on the page to see how it looks.  Once you have determined the layout you like, stick the letters on the page.  

After the stickers are placed, paint the complement color over top, covering the entire canvas, even the edges.  Once the paint dries you can peel off the letters.  The beautiful scrapbook design will show through.  The second picture is a phrase to describe my friends' little boy, Levi, and his mission to change the world.  

Once you've removed the stickers, apply another layer of Mod Podge and allow to dry.  The flowers I used were different colors, designs and sizes that allowed for creating a 3D effect.  I used Tacky Glue to create them, and then to attach them to the canvas.  I used some bling brads that were easy to use for centers, but when I ran out of those, I used....drumroll...nail art!  Those fun glittery stickies are just the right size to also play the part of a flower center.  This part of the craft is the most fun as I was able to be creative on making the flowers and placing them on the canvas.  

And voila!  Your project is complete.  This was fairly easy and inexpensive for the supplies.  Other ideas for this technique...using it for wedding gifts, by using the wedding colors and putting "The Smiths - Est. 2014."  Or maybe even for a new baby with the birth date and name.  Instead of flowers for boys, you could use more masculine 3D items, such as scrapbooking cut-outs.  

Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Lessons Learned from Buford 2014

Once again, my friend, Christie and I headed down south to see the Todd family in Buford, Georgia.  This has become an annual trip to wherever their destination may be.  We've been to Adel, Georgia, enough to feel at home there (and know our way around) and this was our third trip to Buford.  We still aren't completely familiar enough to take off without some help from Siri or Tracy, the human GPS, but we're getting there.  Laughter and fun are always a part of the trip.  If I haven't left with sore ribs from laughing, the trip isn't complete.  Mission accomplished.

This year, my recap will include lessons learned from the view of parenting.  I'm not a parent, but I do love me some preschoolers.  Living a few days at Hotel Todd, you learn all sorts of great lessons on raising children and the life they lead on a daily basis. Here are just a few lessons I learned on this year's trip...

Twistable Crayons are the best invention since, well, crayons - Coloring is a daily activity with Allison and Logan.  As we busted out the paper and crayon box, I noticed these intriguing plastic covered crayons.  Tracy enlightened me that they are twistable crayons.  I was in love!  She said they last longer, no paper to tear off or sharpener needed.  Where have these been all my life?  When I returned home, I had to go shopping for some new sunglasses that met their demise while on our trip.  As I perused the aisles at Walgreen's, I noticed they had the twistable crayons and colored pencils buy one get one free.  I may or may not have bought two boxes.

Car rider lines are fascinating - When I was in elementary school, I was a "car rider" but when school was out, my Mom just parked out in the school parking lot and I walked out until I saw her car.  Pretty low tech.  These days, the car rider pickup logistics are amazing.  On Friday, we went with Tracy to pick up Allison from Kindergarten.  When we approached the turn-in to the school, Tracy hung up her number.  One of the school workers was there to text/radio back the number.  As we wound around the parking lot to get to one of five pick-up spots, we could see Allison, all ready to go with her Elsa water bottle and backpack.  We pulled up, she hopped in and off we went.  We were never this organized when I was in school.  The anticipation of seeing your child waiting to be picked up was exciting.  Clearly I need to get out more.  And, if you need your child picked up from school, I'd love that!  

Chick-Fil-A is more kid-friendly than I realized - I'm a Chick-Fil-A fan, but even more so now.  Of course, I knew you could trade in toys in the kid's meal for an ice cream.  And I knew many of their locations had indoor playgrounds, but after a visit at Chick-Fil-A with Allison and Logan, I learned even more goodness!  They provide plastic place mats!  As Tracy was ordering the food, Chad was setting up the seats and pulled out these plastic stick-able place mats for the kids.  How ingenious!  The Twistable Crayon folks must have come up with this one!  Once we were done, we could just peel off the place mat, wrap up all the trash and voila!  Clean!  Actually, I suspect Tracy engineered these.  

Kindergarten is the new First Grade - I'm amazed at the level of learning in Kindergarten now.  When I went to kindergarten, it was a half day and we had nap time during that time.  I remember learning about presidents, and voting for kool-aid flavors.  We had birthday celebrations where we could pick a birthday buddy to sit with us and share a cupcake.  And we learned how to roast pumpkin seeds.  Allison is in a whole new realm of learning.  There is music, PE, art, literacy, along with her regular class.  She goes for a full day and is learning all sorts of things....like 2D and 3D shapes.  Friday was hexagons.  I don't think I knew what a hexagon was until later in elementary school.  Still don't as I quizzed Allison with a stop sign...which is an octagon, not a hexagon.  She even has homework!  After coming home on Friday, Tracy reviewed her backpack to pull out her homework and a newsletter to parents.  Good thing Tracy is organized because there were a ton of things to keep up with - picture day, homework, and teaching Allison how to open her own applesauce and punch in her own Capri Sun straw.  No wonder sweet Allison zonks out on the couch every day.  That's a lot for a little one to soak in.  

Kids hear everything and repeat it - Ok, so I already knew this lesson, but it was even more hilarious during our trip.  On Saturday we decided to go to Chuck E. Cheese.  But as we discussed the other options, we gave it the code name of "Charles E. Cheddar" to keep the children from figuring it out.  One day, they'll figure out the code name, but hopefully that'll be after Chuck E. Cheese has lost its luster.  Anything I said, Logan would repeat.  When playing Guitar Hero, I said "Daddy's guitar is on fire!" to which Logan repeated that phrase.  Logan wanted to play another game on the Wii.  Tracy said no (which is a rarity folks, she's a softie...especially with that long-lashed boy...and, I can't blame her one bit!)  Logan asked Daddy if we could play the game and Chad said, "No Mommy poo-pooed the idea."  Logan replied "Poop?  Who pooped?  Where's the poop?"  He was seriously looking for someone who had poo-pooed.  Hilarious.  

Another fun trip to the Todds has come and gone.  And I miss getting my good night hugs from Allison and Logan and playing games with their parents...and them.  Until next year's lessons, I'll just look at their picture on my desk at work in those moments when I need the right perspective on life.  

Wednesday, August 13, 2014

Gather Ye Rosebuds While Ye May

Though I could write a post about so many tragedies in the world today - persecuted Christians around the world, the Iraq crisis and ISIS travesties - America seems to be consumed this week on the tragic passing of Robin Williams.  His life ended on Monday from suicide.  Sad.  Tragic.  Mind boggling.

The internet is replete with articles written on the topic of suicide and severe clinical depression, which Robin suffered from.  It seems the world is battling each other on the motivations for this and how it could have been prevented.  In the midst of the loss of a precious life, quite frankly, these articles are wearing to me, which is why I've been ruminating on this post for two days.  You won't hear me argue the "whys."  What you will hear, if you continue reading past this point, is what I feel is the overarching problem and why every one of us needs to be aware for our own knowledge and to help someone else in need.  

Suicide hits everyone, just like death.  No one is immune.  Just read the stories from Pastor Rick Warren, pastor of Saddleback Church, on the loss of his son, or Dr. Frank Page, President of the Southern Baptist Convention, on the loss of his daughter, and you'll see that no one, not even the most godly, can escape the touch of how depression and addictions can impact a soul.  Lest we get too haughty and we fall, each one of us must remember that only by the grace of God have many of us not fallen in the same path as Robin or anyone who has committed suicide.  

Depression is real.  It's just as real as the air we breathe, the sun that shines, and Satan who is also very real.  If there has ever been a tactic that Satan can use to torment and control people, it's depression.  Whether you deal with clinical-level severe depression or just normal bouts of depression and sadness, I believe this is a tool of the enemy.  It is the opposite of joy and hope.  Satan is the opposite of God, hence, he would use this all-consuming depression to take anyone down he could.

I'm not here to speculate on Robin Williams' situation.  I'm here to bring hope and context to those who may be in the same tragic state.  I don't understand the level of severe depression he dealt with, but I do understand the world that is hopelessness.

I've lost multiple jobs in my lifetime (not of my choice or for performance). I've lost all of my immediate family to death. I've never been married (a lifetime desire) and, given my age, I will never bear a child.  I live every day with chronic pain due to rheumatoid arthritis.  I could go on, but these are just the highlights of hopelessness in my life.  

In contrast, when I look at my life from the opposite perspective I see things differently.  I have an amazing job that I love.  I have more friends that are family than many people count as a true friend in a lifetime.  My singleness has allowed me to pour into so many people and love on more "children" than I could have ever bore.  Medical advancements allow me to have medicine that helps me manage the pain.  

I've never contemplated suicide.  But I definitely have had many times where I could have.  I count that as the unmatched grace of God.  You see, I don't deal with clinical depression, but I do deal with chronic pain which causes chemical imbalance in my system and I am on medication to control that so I can manage both pain and emotions.  What makes me different from Robin Williams?  For me, it's the power and grace of God, along with God's wisdom in doctors to understand my body.  Is God not enough?  Absolutely He is enough.  He is enough because when I can't see beyond my circumstances, I see God.  I stop and realize the right perspective.  If God was not in my life, the medicine wouldn't be enough.  Oh it might help me physically, but my life would still be hopeless.  What I know is God is enough and His power to equip medical professionals to help me is enough.  And I know that Rick Warren and Frank Page would still say, God is faithful, because they know, and have seen, the enemy at work in their children's lives first hand.  

If you've endured to read this far, and you are without hope, reach out.  Reach out to me or to someone who can help.  I pray that this tragic event - along with every loss of life all over the world - reminds us of our immortality and our need for a Savior.  

"Gather ye rosebuds while ye may, 
Old time is still a-flying: 
And this same flower that smiles to-day 
To-morrow will be dying."

Monday, August 11, 2014

We're Going on a Road Trip!

Well, not today.  But, in a little over a week, Christie and I are making our annual trek to the Todd Mansion in Georgia.  This video makes me laugh out loud (literally) every time I watch it.  And it's a Monday and I figure everyone could use a laugh.  One day, if I ever get a dog, this will be me and my dog on a road trip.  Because I'll be "that" girl with a dog...

Tuesday, August 05, 2014

Why I'm Glad I'm Not God

Last week was one of those weeks.  You know the kind, where it's a never ending rollercoaster of one issue after another.  By the end of the week, I left work on Friday and decided to get a RedBox movie and completely zone out on life.  I zoned so much that I missed a school assignment.  Thankfully, God provided grace through a professor that gave me a makeup assignment.  But, last week is one I hope not to repeat any time soon.

In the past two years I've had a lot of loss in my life, and those times have been tough, but last week was different because prior to the events of last week, I knew what was coming.  Our company suffered a corporate-wide reduction.  Our division was the least impacted because we are the most growing part of our overall business, but we still lost four employees...one of which was on my team...and someone I'd had on my team for 3 years.  When I was told the news in advance of the reduction, I had to begin planning.  How would my team absorb her workload?  How would I manage the remaining team's emotions?  What is the best way to handle this for the departing employee to make a difficult moment as painless as I can possibly make it?  On top of all this, I had to plan this out, still wearing a smile on my face and not showing any indication to my co-workers and team anything was changing.  

The two days before were the toughest.  I didn't sleep much.  Turning my mind off was difficult.  My team is like children I never had.  I hurt when they hurt and they hold me up and are stellar in what they do.  Losing one was going to hurt everyone.  Not just emotionally, but many would carry more workload because of it.  I could barely think of anything else.

The day came and the events went as well as could have been expected.  My remaining team was in shock.  Some were just sad.  Some had survivor's guilt.  All the while, though, they had to jump in and pick up the pieces to keep the business running now that we were a "man down."  They handled it well.  I was very proud.  

In reflecting on this past week's events, I realized how grateful I am that I am not God.  The world lives to be in control.  We question what God is doing and we think we could do things so much better.  As I traversed those few days prior to the event, knowing what would happen, I was part of (or overheard) conversations and knew how that would change in the coming weeks.  In the big picture, management had to make this change for the overall good of the company.  Doesn't mean it was easy or that even they wanted to do it.  But they know the big picture.  And reducing a workforce by a small percentage is better than having a mismanaged company that has to close its doors.  Having that information was brutal.  

When I went through the loss of my Dad, I didn't know that a month after he first had a heart attack in 2013, he would be gone.  I walked a journey that was up and down, and God provided grace at every moment I needed it.  But had I known when his last breath would have been taken, how much more burdened I would have been.  I would have grieved during those days instead of enjoying that time with my Dad.  Thankfully, I was not God.  

You may think you'd be better off knowing what God knows.  But, after spending a week with a little foreknowledge and dealing with the outcome, I'm very glad I am not God.

Wednesday, July 30, 2014

The Gospel According to Robinson Mountain

This past weekend I made a return visit to the place I call Robinson Mountain.  It is the home of Mark and Sharon Robinson in the Nashville area.  If you follow my blog, you've heard the goodness that makes up a visit to this sea of tranquility and true balm for the soul.  I had been way overdue for a visit (the last one being in July 2011) and Sharon wrote on my Christmas card, "We're very proud you are getting your MBA, you need to schedule a visit."  So the planning began and between our busy lives, we landed on this weekend.

When I've tried to communicate in words what going to Robinson Mountain is for me, I fall way short.  It's refreshment for my soul.  It sharpens me in every way and is physically relaxing.  If our souls had a reset button, mine gets pushed when I visit.  It's almost like having a weekend long massage.  I feel more than blessed for such friendship in my life.

As I made my plans for the visit, I explained to Sharon that there was no need to plan anything major.  My life is going 110 mph and I need to take it to about 20 mph…and we had lots to catch up on the past three years.  The weekend fit my requirements as perfectly as a custom leather glove.

The food is always good at the Robinson B&B and conversation even better.  I left full both with food and soul nourishment.  On Saturday, we spent the most leisurely day I've had in a while.  We had a late breakfast (with Mark's famous blueberry pancakes) and spent a few hours at their favorite local coffee shop that would be a favorite of mine if I lived there.  Then we came home to dinner and the movie Planes, because we all love Pixar.  Sunday always starts with church, and we were going to head home and meet up with our mutual friend, Toby, for lunch.  That's when the gospel went into action.

On the way home, Mark said we'd drop off the movie at Redbox.  That required us to drive past the entrance of their complex and head to Redbox.  Not far after we passed their complex, we were driving behind a car that turned off the road and, Sharon noticed, ran right over the curb down the side of a slope.  She immediately thought the driver had a heart attack or seizure and Mark whipped into the parking lot adjoining the embankment where the car had landed.  We got out and Mark went to the car.  It was an older woman by herself and he eased her out of the car being careful it didn't roll and got her over to our car.  Her name was Barbara and she had turned off thinking that was the entrance to Barnes & Noble, but it wasn't, then she just turned the wrong way and over the curb.  She was obviously rattled and about that time another truck pulled up and advised to call the police.  Barbara was fine and the car seemed ok, but it needed to be towed off properly to avoid any further damage.  While they discussed this, I was talking with Barbara and realized she just had spinal surgery 4 weeks ago, so this was a blessing that she wasn't hurt.  

I could write much more about the remainder of that experience, but the short version goes like this.  The police came and didn't ticket her for reckless driving.  Blessing.  The towing company came and the young tow guy seemed nice, but in the midst of getting her car pulled out, he lost her car key.  From the beginning, she refused to call her husband, which caused Sharon to feel there was something amiss here.  Either she wasn't supposed to be driving, or her husband was controlling or, worse, abusive.  When everyone left the scene, the towing company owner had pulled the car out safely and guaranteed young tow guy, Ben, would be paying to create a new key for her.  Sharon got her contact info so she could follow up later.

So how was this the gospel in action?  Aside from attending to her immediate need, Sharon prayed for her.  Sharon and Mark were wearing their "Serve My Church" t-shirts from the service that day, so that opened conversations about church.  Sharon so smoothly and in a very real way explained to Barbara how she would pray and prayed aloud.  Anytime any of us said anything about God in this situation, she teared up.  I sense she isn't in church and so we were not sure of the state of her soul.  It was 100 degrees that day and we spent a good hour or so waiting, praying and ministering to this woman, that if we hadn't been taking the movie back, we wouldn't have had this opportunity.  

The one thing among a kabillion that I love about the Robinsons is they don't just talk about the gospel, they live it.  Sharon is planning to follow up with Barbara and who knows what this incident will bring to pass.  I always leave Robinson Mountain challenged spiritually.  After this trip, the gospel according to Robinson Mountain is to not only soak it in, but to live it out.  

Monday, July 21, 2014

Why You Should Work VBS

My last blog post was on the lessons I learned at VBS, and clearly God is continuing to show me why working VBS brings extra perks.  Let me share an encounter I had last night with one of my preschool crafters...

After our evening service, Leah came over to my row and said "Hi Miss Rose!"  She proceeded to move my purse and hop up next to me to chat.  And here's how that chat went...

Me:  How are you Leah?  Tell me what is going on in your world?  What's new?  
Leah:  Well, hmm, let's see.  We just got back from vacation and I had a Birthday!!!
Me: Oooo, exciting!  How old are you now?
Leah:  I'm FIVE!
Me: Wow!  Five!  That means you'll be starting kindergarten soon!
Leah:  Yes!  And Emma will turn four.  So, she'll go to my VBS class next year and I'll go to the kindergarten class.  What is our theme for VBS next year? 
Me: It's "Journey Off the Map!"
Leah:  Oooo, what does that mean?
Me:  We'll be going a lot of places and learning about Jesus!
Leah:  Oh that sounds fun!  So what will we be making?
Me:  Well, they don't tell us what our crafts will be this early, but I'm sure they'll be great!
Leah: OK!!  See you next July! (and she hops down and off she goes...and I'm sure I'll see her before July.)

Why should you work VBS?  Because moments like this happen and the things a child learns at VBS are indelible.  I had Leah in my class about 20 minutes a day and she can't wait for the crafts at next year's VBS.  What makes this even more monumental?  Leah was adopted.  She came into her family as a foster child and then became forever their daughter.  And so did Emma.  And because of that, they both are learning about Jesus and may someday change the world for the sake of the gospel.  If that doesn't make you want to work VBS, nothing will.

Saturday, June 28, 2014

Lessons Learned from VBS 2014

The past two years I have taken time off from work to serve during Vacation Bible School at my church.  I love VBS.  My Mom worked in VBS for years and any time I do something to carry on her legacy that I also enjoy, it warms my heart.  My position during the week was in Preschool Crafts...two words I love...Preschool and Crafts!  Preschoolers are the best.  They are young enough to still want love and hugs regularly but old enough to carry on some pretty stellar conversations.  Crafts are one of my favorite things to do in life.  It's therapeutic and accomplishing.  Mix the two together and you have a week of exhausting fun.  This year, I'm compiling my lessons learned from the week.  A glorious week.  I truly will miss it next week when I'm back at work.

I'm good with crafts, not so good with room decor - This year's theme was Agency D3 (Discover, Decide, Defend) and we were all agents in training.  The craft room was known as The Lab where we would make exciting things to help tell about Jesus.  Tessa is our leader and does a phenomenal job decorating our room.  I was helping her hang a few test tubes and bubbles coming out of the concoctions when I placed one incorrectly.  You see, it was a pyramid-shaped flask and I hung it upside down.  Picture it.  The flask upside down with bubbles coming out of it.  Tessa was kind enough to point out that I needed to turn it upside down, otherwise it looked like a martini glass.  Whew, close one!  Don't let me decorate a room unsupervised.

Craft ideas are educational - Of course, the point of crafts is to continue the theme of the week and the lesson learned each day.  Day Two we talked about how Jesus wasn't just any man.  He could do things nobody else could do...like walk on water.  On that day we made a Jesus Walked on Water Bottle.  The kids filled their empty water bottles with beads, glitter and sequins and then we filled them with water, a little food coloring and baby oil.  The baby oil made the items float to the top...and "walk" on water.  Who knew?  Not only was that a cool craft, but we all smelled good at the end of the day and had very soft hands.

My co-workers should be required to work VBS every year - These 3-5 year olds were exceptionally good this year.  We had very little whining and most of the issues were minor.  So many of them helped their friends and on the last day when new people came, they befriended them and made sure they weren't left out.  The hardest part of the week was when the little ones were exhausted and just flat tired from the rigorous schedule.  One day when I left I was monitoring my work email for any disasters and saw more than one email that shook me back to reality.  Whining and complaining...throwing blame at others....you would have expected that from preschoolers, not employed adults.  Many of my co-workers would benefit from a week being humbled by preschoolers.  And shown how a person should act and play well with others.

It Takes a Village to Do VBS - We had 4 workers in our craft room.  Each of the five preschool classes that came in had 5-6 workers.  That comes to about 40 workers, just for preschool and the craft room.  You factor in all the other aged rooms, and rotation rooms, like crafts and your number exponentially increases.  One group that gets the award for amazing work was our Snack team.  About 16 people worked tirelessly crammed in our kitchen making tons of wonderful snacks for all the kids and workers.  And not just any snacks.  Their "food replicator" created "disguised" food for everyone.  My favorite snack of the week were the disguised sushi rolls.  A rice krispie treat rolled around a jelly bean and wrapped in a fruit roll-up.  Yummy!  The snack crew not only made the food, but delivered it as well.  They kept the workers' snack room full and for those of us who couldn't break free, they delivered our snacks to us.  Once all of our classes were done at the end of the day, we'd enjoy our plate of snacks.  Beyond those of us that were working all week at VBS, there were countless others who cut out crafts, donated items and prayed for a successful week.  It takes a village for VBS.

Every child has a soul that will never die - This isn't a new lesson for me; our pastor reminds us regularly of this truth.  But after spending a week with preschoolers who soaked up the truth about Jesus and learned their memory verse by the end of the week, it became even more real that this truth is the foundation of why we do VBS.  The seeds planted in the hearts of these little ones, we pray, will grow into having them accept and follow Christ one day.  I haven't heard all of the results of the week that was VBS, but I know of at least two girls who decided to follow Christ.  That is worth all the exhaustion, stickers, messes, paint spills and plaster clean ups we did.  

Wednesday, June 25, 2014

I Used to Enjoy Going to the Dentist

I have always been the only person on the planet who enjoyed going to the dentist.  Aside from all my health challenges, my teeth have been stellar.  Only one cavity my whole life and I have 3 of my 4 wisdom teeth.  Going to the dentist was somewhat of a treat because it was painless and I always got a good report.

Even though I no longer live on the south side of Louisville, I still go back to the original dentist office where I've gone for years.  The dentist has since retired, but the new one that took over serves my purpose.  He comes in, looks at my x-rays, pokes around my mouth and says "no complaints; see you in six months." Plus he's pretty cute.

Today was my six-month checkup and I arrived all smiles with my pearly whites.  I was greeted by a new hygienist and should have known this was trouble.  I went into the exam room and she indicated it was time for my pan x-ray so I followed her to the machine.  I got seated and had my face contorted to bite down on that white stick perfectly when she remembered she hadn't donned me with the iron blanket.  Sigh.  Everything unhooked and un-contorted.  She asked "is there a possibility you are pregnant?"  Um, that's a no, thank you for the reminder of my single, childless life.  After re-contorting and gripping that white stick with my teeth, she took the x-ray.  Off I went back to the exam room.

As I sat down in the exam chair, I almost fell out.  The chair was literally lowered to the floor.  Miss Hygienist replied, "Oh, sorry, my chair is kind of finicky."  Once I composed myself, I laid back and prayed this would be over soon.  She started by explaining how my pre-appointment protocol wasn't needed.  Aside: due to a joint replacement, I have been instructed to take antibiotics prior to the appointment to avoid infection.  I explained to her I understood that, but since I'd been doing it for years, I felt more comfortable continuing.  Next quiz.  She asked if any of my health conditions had changed.  I said no.  Then she asked what medications I took.  I paused and said, "Do you have the list from the last appointment?"  She indicated she did not.  I sighed and said that I confirm each appointment so there should be a list.  She asked if I had a list written down (which today I didn't), so she had me fill out a new patient form.  The exam hadn't started and I was already in pain.

When the procedure started, she explained everything she was doing.  First she was going to use an ultrasonic sprayer to remove my plaque.  She set up a water sucker in my mouth, but wasn't all too sure how to place it, meaning that periodically I would stop and vacuum my own mouth.  Unfortunately, I didn't grab that vacuum fast enough as I had water running down my neck.  Next she used her manual hand tools to clean the rest. And finally she polished my teeth.  After the polishing, she sprayed my mouth to clean out the granules.  This was when I knew she was new to the profession.  I was sprayed on my forehead, cheek, ear and, eventually, my mouth.  I literally needed a towel when she was done.  This poor hygienist had no idea of my angst.  I was as sweet and kind as possible knowing that she probably had a long day with much less patient patients.  

I got the normal "you need to floss more" lecture.  Flossing is of the devil, yet I do it periodically.  This time, Miss Hygienist explained the goodness of an electric toothbrush.  A couple of years ago I contemplated buying one and opted against it but now that she's recommended it, I think I'll take the dive.  If at the next check-up I get the infamous lectures, I may be able to deflect some of it with my wonderful use of my electric toothbrush.

As I left, I got my normal goodie bag, filled with floss, travel toothpaste and a toothbrush.  (Wouldn't replaceable brush heads been better for my new toothbrush purchase?)  I still enjoy the dentist better than most doctors.  Next time I'll just bring my swimsuit and a towel.  

Friday, May 16, 2014

Table Topics: Glorified Body

I've had one of those weeks where, though I am blessed beyond measure here on earth, I'm looking forward to the day when I have that glorified body in Heaven.  You know, no aches, no pain, no more blood sucked by vampire nurses, all the food you feast upon with zero weight gain.  It'll be glorious!  Though I'm not a fashionista, I have given thought to what I'd don on my new glorified body.  Now before the theological gurus come and post hate comments on how that isn't biblical, relax.  However the Lord dresses me will be fantastic.  But a girl can dream this side of Heaven.  Nothing I can fathom here would come close, but it's fun to think about it.  

What would I wear?  Many might think I'd want to be the image of Cinderella.  Or another Disney Princess, such as Belle from Beauty and the Beast.  Or, even Scarlett O'Hara in Gone with the Wind for that Southern Belle charm.  Any of those would be great.  But, if I had to choose a look, it would be Rosemary Clooney in White Christmas.  No, not in that closing red Santa Claus frock, but in that amazing black dress that is just stunning.  She sings the song "Love Didn't Do Right By Me" (sing it sister and amen!) and is just classy in that black velvet number with the sweetheart neckline.  Bing Crosby sat in the audience realizing what a goober he was.  Beautiful.

So, that is today's table topic.  

How would you don your glorified body?  

Go ahead folks, in the words of Tim Gunn...make it work!

Monday, May 12, 2014

The Motherless

Yesterday was the thirteenth year I spent Mother's Day without my Mom.  It was also the first time in 11 years I spent it without my Stepmom.  I remember last Mother's Day so vividly.  My Dad had just passed away and his funeral was the Friday before Mother's Day.  On Mother's Day I spent most of the day with my Stepmom.  I think we were both numb from the loss and I truly grieved more for her.  She had lost her partner in life.  She didn't have children, and though she had nieces and nephews that were like her children, I always spent Mother's Day with her after she and Dad married.  Now Dad was gone and we both were sad.  I didn't fathom that it would be my last Mother's Day with her too.

I have a lot of friends who are 'motherless.' Many I know that spent their first day without their Mom.  Or many, like me, who have spent years without their Mom, but it stings just a little bit more on this day.  I also have many friends who, due to their inability to have children, are not mothers.  The sting is similar.  They 'mother' many in their lives, but never bore (or adopted) their own children.  I fall in this category too.

Lamenting over such things is not my normal modus operandi.  I have so many more blessings than losses in my life and I'm amazed and encouraged how God fills those empty gaps.  A Mother's Day rarely goes by where I don't get at least one message from a sweet sister in Christ who encourages me about how I have impacted their life.  I'd never would have had the time to do so if God had blessed me with a passel of my own kids.  And there are so many "Moms" in my life that look out for me and care for me that even though my Mom, and Stepmom, are gone, I don't feel as 'orphaned' as I could.

Recently I started a new devotional time reading through the book of Esther.  For those that know me best, you know I've probably read Esther no less than a kabillion times.  As I read and studied through it this time, I noticed something new (as I seem to always do with Scripture).  Yes, Esther was motherless.  Well, duh, I knew, that right?  Mordecai raised her, blah blah blah.  But, it hit me this time stronger.  Call it God's Sovereignty and perfect timing.  The mere mention "Esther's parents had both died and Mordecai, her uncle, raised her" struck a chord in me.  You have to love Mordecai.  This man probably asked "what am I to do with raising a girl?"  And yet he did.  And raised her to love God with all her heart.  As I read the story now, I read it through the eyes of one that was motherless yet had a Mordecai.  Scripture doesn't mention Mordecai having any other children, so Esther could have been his only one.  And hit a home run raising her.  God used her to save the Jewish nation, and in turn, the lineage from where our Savior would be born.

Every Esther needs a Mordecai.  And every Mordecai needs an Esther.  God's Plan is so perfect, even if it doesn't fit the normal mold of what we might expect. 

Wednesday, May 07, 2014

Life at the Office

I find humor in most everything.  Especially at work.  I have to on some days just to stay sane.  I've always compared my work life to that of The Office and since that show has gone off the air, here are a few escapades you can enjoy in its absence:

1.  I came into work one morning and parked on the side where our entrance to our office is located.  I had gone to the doctor and was coming in later than usual and had already encountered the slowest wait known to man at the doctor and just wanted to get into the office.  You know it's sad when you are dying to get to work.  I got out of my car and noticed two geese at the door.  They had sauntered up the grassy area and one noticed their reflection and started quacking at her reflection.  The other goose wandered back...probably her husband convincing her it's just her reflection.  They were both still standing there when I walked up, so I shoo'ed them away and they quietly waddled off.  I didn't have time to make room for ducklings.

2.  I had a conference call with one of our clients who is a telecom vendor.  Due to their specialty, they have their own conference call system.  We spent the first 15 minutes trying to hear everyone on the line.  I wanted to giggle so much during that call thinking of the sweet irony of a telecom company who can't construct a workable conference calling solution.

3.  We are blessed to have a stocked break room with snacks and cokes. The downside is the busiest guy at our office is in charge, so the Costco trips keep getting pushed back.  For a week or so now we've been living on old pretzels and Sprite.  One of my team members, Peter, when this phenomenon happens, will go buy a bunch of Tab diet drink to stock the fridge as his way of protest.  He loves it and so do I, so it's a good thing for us.  But, not long after, our coke supply magically appears.  

Monday, April 28, 2014

When Loss is Gain

It's Derby week here in the Ville, which means minimal work will be accomplished and things around the city will be spiffed up.  This year, for me, this is a week of remembrance.  A year ago this week my Dad was living his last week on earth.  What we thought was a drop in blood pressure and medicine that needed regulating was really just his heart slowly giving up.  He passed from this life to the next on May 4...Derby Day last year.

I can hardly fathom that it has been a year since he passed.  I can relive almost every day from the moment he went in to the hospital the very first time in this round of three visits.  I vividly remember driving home late that night of April 11 and pouring my heart out to God to prepare me to let him go if it was time.  No one knew that.  Just me and God.  His diagnosis wasn't ever such that the doctors said "this is it" but I just had a moving in my heart that this could be the end of his life here.  And God knew.  And God ever so graciously prepared me.  

Losing my Mom almost 14 years ago, I'd been down the road of losing a parent before, which can be good and bad.  The good is I knew the drill.  The bad is I knew that over time, memories fade and you cling to them so tightly your knuckles get white because you never want to forget the two people who worked hard to bring you into this world.  

Nine months after my Dad passed, my Stepmom passed.  She had been in poorer health than my Dad when he passed, even being in rehab herself during most of his stays in the hospital.  I knew she wouldn't last years after he passed, but I didn't think she would go quite that fast.  But she did.  And so another loss in this year.  She and my Dad spent every moment together and he took great care of her.  Slowly, I think, she just missed her partner and was tired of the fight.  

I've experienced a lot of loss in my life, and even early in my years.  I knew way too much about the funeral business as a small child.  My Dad did a lot of Masonic funerals and many a night I was at one of the funeral homes in town for some unknown man's service.  But I've lost many love ones - my parents, my Uncle (at 40), Aunts, Uncles, cousins, the only grandparents I knew, dear friends - and know how the pain of loss feels.  I've also lost in other ways - relationships, jobs - and know that loss comes in various forms.

When is loss a gain?  This is a question I'm reflecting on this week.  I may have lost a lot in my life, but I have gained so much.  I have friends that are like family and support me.  Because my Dad remarried, I have an extended "family" that looks out for me.  Through all the job losses I have, I'm doing what I love and even though some days are very long and rough, I have an amazing team to work with.  I could go on.

The greatest loss is for me to die to self.  This is daily and I'm far from perfecting it yet.  When I live in the center of God's Will, and lose my life, I gain so much more.  You see, my plans would be very self-focused and selfish.  Full of what I thought I needed.  God's Plans are so much better.  My sinful nature has to be reminded of that daily (hourly on some days) when I lament over what I've lost.  I know that my Mom, my Dad and my Stepmom lost their life, but they have gained Eternity.  If they could talk to me right now they would never want to come back.  I look forward to the day when I see them again and the loss that I gain will become sight. 

Friday, April 25, 2014

Five Minutes: Friend

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

Ready. Set. Write.

They say before your life is through here on Earth that you will be blessed to have three to four very close friends.  I can say I am blessed to have already had many more than that in my lifetime thus far.  Friends.  The people who know you best and still love you.  To list them all and even give many their due would be nearly impossible in just five minutes.

Today I am thinking of my friend, Regina, who is traveling thousands of miles to return to the mission field after a year of being home stateside and waiting for her next assignment.  No matter the miles that separate us, thanks to technology, we are as close as ever.  We met when she moved to Louisville from the hollers of Eastern Kentucky to go to the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary many moons ago.  Even after nine years or so on the field, we've stayed close.  She is my accountability partner, my friend who sharpens me.  One day, when we are both old and hopefully not still single, we'll be baking cobblers and casseroles together.  

“We'll be Friends Forever, won't we, Pooh?' asked Piglet.
Even longer,' Pooh answered.”

Monday, March 24, 2014

Happy Dance

The song "Happy" by Pharrell Williams that was featured in Despicable Me 2, and nominated for an Oscar, is one of my new favorite songs.  It literally makes me want to dance like a Peanuts character when I hear it.  Given this week is the ultimate in March Madness as the in-state rivalry between Louisville and Kentucky will occur once again this Friday night, everyone is dancing in the streets.  This video is a "Happy" version made at the University of Louisville.  I'm really pushing for an NAOBC "Happy" dance video.  

Friday, March 21, 2014

Veteran Mistake

Last night was the Louisville Cardinals first game, and first victory, of the NCAA Men's Basketball Tournament.  The game got started late due to the previous game's overtime and pitted "Mentor against Student" with a face-off between Coach Rick Pitino and Coach Steve Masiello.  Steve was a former player and assistant for Rick and now coaches the Manhattan Jaspers.  It was some kind of cruel irony for that to happen.  

At the half, Rick was interviewed on the performance of the team that kept them way too close at the break.  Russ Smith, Senior leader on the team, had made some misses the first half that didn't help matters.  When asked about Russ, Rick said, "You can't be a veteran and do that."  I love that.  Boom.  You nailed it.  That is going to be my new motivational quote at work.  Success happens when you take your experience and make the right moves.

I've been a follower of Christ since I was 8, which means I've been a believer longer than some have been alive.  That makes me a veteran.  But I still make mistakes.  I still sin.  I still doubt God's faithfulness.  On the basketball court of life, I'll shoot and miss much more than I'll sink a three pointer.  But when I sit down with my Coach, my Savior, at the end of each day, He doesn't say "You can't be a veteran and do that."  Oh, I'm remorseful of sin; I grieve over it.  But my human nature will commit it even when I long to do otherwise.  

No, you see, my Savior says to me, "You are a veteran, but without Me, you will do that."  He says to me, "I forgive you.  Now go out there and defend my Name."  The best position to play in the game we call life is a child of the King.