Thursday, October 30, 2008

I May Die on My Birthday

It is appointed unto man once to die. I know that and I trust my Maker with whatever day that may be for me. However, I do not live my life in such a way that would bring the end any sooner than is ordained for me. That is why I refrained from this ride at Cedar Point Park this summer:
Yep, 420 feet straight up, straight down...at 120 mph. I could not do it and can't believe that I let the final fruit of my womb ride the thing.

Okay, back to keeping it safe...
My husband and I have been invited to join some friends on their anniversary trip to Maui. Lest you interpret the lack of an exclamation point in the previous sentence as lack of enthusiasm--let me assure you that I have visualized my toes in sand for several months now, may or may not have done the required amount of sit-ups in order to be seen publicly in a swimsuit, and searched every website in the internetty world regarding things to do and see and eat on said island. I have also packed and repacked a dozen times! That could also have something to do with the recent extortion tactics by the airlines to charge for each piece of luggage that you check. Regardless, I am very excited about this trip!!!!

The friends that are letting us tag along on this romantic vacation ARE the adventurous type. Just last year, she organized an all gal trip to hike the Grand Canyon. They hike, snorkel, sky-dive (i made that part up but I bet they would) --you get the idea. My husband's idea of a vacation is a cup of coffee, his laptop, and some serene setting. My idea of vacation is spas and shopping and dining on anything I don't have to cook. This could be interesting for all of us.

This is what they have talked us into doing...on my birthday....for fun. Bicycling down a volcano.

I've read the brochures, reviewed all the safety guidelines, beefed up the life insurance policy and agreed to go. It will be a great birthday...if I live to tell about it.

Getting Ready for Goblins


I'm not sure it's christianly correct (I just made that up) to like Halloween...but I do. Not so much the culture of the holiday--just the candy and costumes. Maybe it's my theater background but I've always loved dressing up in costumes. Once past high school musicals and community theater, I didn't have an outlet for costuming until my children came along. I couldn't wait for the first pre-school Halloween party when I could get creative for the occasion. My lack of sewing skills required me to be creative. I also had my standards--no store bought costumes. If it couldn't be glued, stapled, or pinned--it didn't get made. There was great joy when I discovered the magic of Wonder Under (that tape that you iron on -- still my friend today for quick hems and seam repair).

One year Firstborn son was a dinosaur made from a purple warm up bottoms and top from Walmart (probably the girls department but we won't tell him that 20 years later). I stapled spikes made from felt squares down the back of the shirt and covered one of his ballcaps with material, glued on big scary eyes and made teeth from white felt squares that hung from the bill of his cap. I was so proud..he was so cute (I mean scary). My favorite year for costumes is captured in a sweet picture of all 3 kids on the front porch of our Georgia house. Every year I put it out to remind me of that slice of time in our lives. One pirate, one Peter Pan, and baby Princess was Minnie Mouse--all from things we found around the house!

It's been a couple of years now since The Princess has gone out trick or treating and since I've had the opportunity to create a costume. My Halloween custom now is to buy all our favorite candy (just in case there are leftovers) and relive days gone by as we sugar up the neighborhood kids and stand in the doorway to see what wondrous costumes their creative moms have wrought ...or bought.
Even though she's outgrown the trick or treating thing, The Princess just HAD to make our traditional Halloween cookie.

Here's the recipe:
1 pkg Nutter Butter cookies
1 pkg of Almond bark (white chocolate)
mini chocolate chips


Heat Almond Bark in the microwave
Dip Nutter Butter cookies in Almond Bark (nearly all the way or all the way)
Lay on wax paper
Drop 2 mini chips on for eyes
Let harden & eat. No trick, just treats.

Monday, October 27, 2008

Clutter be gone & Keeping it real


It is finished. The filing cabinet has been conquered. The picture does not do it justice but let me assure you that the color coded file folders and uniform labels are a beauty to behold...okay, well, maybe just to us organization freaks.



I hope it will stay that way. In Julie Morgenstern's book on organization, "Organizing From the Inside Out", the author is dispelling certain myths about being organized (one myth being that once things are organized, they won't stay organized). She writes:
"When we are ready to get organized, it is usually because we have reached the breaking point; the clutter is driving us crazy and we want instant relief. Due to the accumulated stress of being disorganized, our knee-jerk reaction is to attack first, ask questions later-- to just dive in and do whatever we can to gain control quickly. We don't spend time analyzing the situation, and typically we do very little planning--basically putting the cart before the horse.
It's weird sometimes how daily life intersects with lessons God is trying to teach me. Our pastor has been teaching through Romans. As a baptist born and bred girl, I had no problem with the concept of salvation as God's gift of grace and not as a result of my good works. As a first-born, people pleasing, over acheiver, I've struggled through life on how to live out that redeemed life. I thought that once I received that gift, I had to live up to a long set of expectations to prove myself worthy. Our pastor put it this way: We wrongly think that doing fewer bad things + doing more good things= godliness. I had my own list of things (being raised a preacher's kid comes with it's own set of rules) that I thought would please God--all my own efforts. The result? Frustration, failure, feel bad, buck up, try harder next time. It's slowly sinking in...the power to live out that life is from the inside--Christ living in me.

So here's my memory verse for this week:
Romans 7 (The Message)
24
I've tried everything and nothing helps. I'm at the end of my rope. Is there no one who can do anything for me? Isn't that the real question?

25The answer, thank God, is that Jesus Christ can and does. He acted to set things right in this life of contradictions where I want to serve God with all my heart and mind, but am pulled by the influence of sin to do something totally different.

So keep it real...uncluttered.

If you would like to the more eloquent version of this message, go here and listen to Pastor Bob.

Thursday, October 23, 2008

A Not-so-Hopeless Mess

Don't ask about the office project. I got stalled but it will get finished. I'll show you...soon.
Until then, I'd like to share with you a project much larger in scope and impact than my puny office organization.
As I've shared previously, our city was devastated this past summer by flood waters of unprecedented proportions. I live way out of the flood zone and was only inconvenienced by the flood. However, I was not un-affected by it. The impact is still visible 4 months later. And the stories...they will tear at your heart.
Last Saturday I got to be a part of a clothing give-away to benefit women affected by the flood. This coming week, I get to be a part of another endeavor. Much of what I'll do is part of my job but I know that it is a part that also contributes to the greater good.
A ministry group called, Eight Days of Hope is coming to our community to provide skilled workers to help rebuild some 120 homes (all in one week's time--it takes me that long to get my office project done!). It is mind boggling all the elements that have had to come together for this to happen. Our God is big and our prayer is that His name would be glorified through the hands and hearts of His people through this event.
One of our pastors has championed this event in our community and church. He tells about it here. Please take a few minutes to check it out. I invite you to be a part of this as well. You can pray. There are still many details to work out and many needs that are just now surfacing. God is compassionate and tenderhearted to those in need. May He strengthen us for the task ahead.

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Monday, October 20, 2008

Controlling Chaos

Recently for a leadership study I'm a part of, I took the Strength Finder assessment from the book with the same title by Tom Rath. According to the test results , my top 5 strengths are:
1. Communication
2. Woo
3. Empathy
4. Strategic
5. Positivity

I'm not sure how much validity to give these kinds of tests but I can see the reality of some of these strengths revealed in my life.
For the record (and so as not to come across as full of myself), I assure you that right off the top of my strawberry blonde head that for every strength listed above, I could easily give you 2 corresponding faults. And if I go too long thinking I've got it all together, there are other people and situations in my life that remind me that I don't.

Resuming post now...
It made sense to me that if these were identified as "strengths" then I should channel my energies in these areas to be more effective in my life,work and ministry. Strangely enough, my ministry/work requires most of these strengths at any given time of my day. Blogging came as an outcome of the strengths revealed. It also put what I thought was perhaps an obsession into perspective as well...
I like to organize things. I find myself reorganizing rooms, pantrys & shelves, and closets. So far I've confined my urges to my own domain and the occassional request from others who asks for my assistance. According to the Strength Finder list this urge for organizing would relate to the strategic strength. Even before the Strength Finder test, I discovered that I had a "knack" for looking at a situation and breaking it down to manageable parts. What sometimes overwhelms other people, exhilarates me.
Now that it gets dark at 6 o'clock at night and I have alot of alone time while hubby works out of town and The Princess is off at some kind of practice or rehearsal... I need a project. So I've decided to tackle the one zone of my home that seems to remain in a constant state of chaos--our home office. Specifically the filing cabinet! In spite of efforts to live and pay bills paper free, there is still a good amount of documents that need to be kept and filed. So I'm working out my approach and gathering the necessary tools. My goal is to have it "whipped into shape" by the end of the week.
You are my witnesses. Stay tuned.

Saturday, October 18, 2008

Making a difference- one outfit at a time

I've always loved new clothes. I'm not sure when that started for me but for as long as I can remember I have loved the way a new outfit made me feel. Growing up, my mom made many of my clothes until I finally hit junior sizes and could shop the rack. I can remember the anticipation of helping select the fabrics and patterns and then seeing them come together (through my mom's great labor of love) to a new outfit. Some of those outfits are still a clear visual in my mind and I can remember the pride with which I wore it. Some where along the way I thought I was too cool to wear home made clothes and gave into the lure of mass fashion retailers. I have apologized to my mom for my change of heart but I think she was grateful for the reprieve from imitating fashions from the JCPenny catalog.

Today I had the opportunity to see what a new outfit could do for someone else. I have been acquainted with a home show clothing line called Carol Anderson by Invitation (CAbi) for about 3 years. I was hooked right away with the quality and attention to detail of the clothing line and the personal shopping experience the shows provided. Today because of the vision and hard work of a couple of local CAbi consultants, over 400 women in our community were treated to a shopping extravaganza organized specifically for those women who were affected by the floods this past June. It was my pleasure to assist women who may have lost everything to "shop" new clothes (with tags!) to put together an outfit or start to build back their wardrobe. All at no charge...free. In many cases the impact was obvious-- a smile, a tear, a second glance in the mirror, walking away a bit taller than when they came in.

For this day, the new outfit was theirs and the thrill was still mine.

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Sweet sayings from Starbucks

I came to drink coffee late in life. I always loved the smell of it brewing. My dad was the coffee drinker in our home. It was Folgers and he drank it black. I tried his brew a few times over the years but couldn't take the bitter broth.
Trying to be cool some years later on a ladies day out, I ordered an espresso because everyone else was having one (not a line of reasoning I encourage my children to adopt). That drink (delivered in what appeared to be one of my daughter's tiny tea set cups) did things to my resting heart rate that I was not prepared for. I'm already what some would describe as an "active" person. But that afternoon I was hyper to the tenth power! I swore off that black crack right then and there.
It wasn't until I was in my 40's while traveling on a mission trip (peer pressure again) that I was introduced to Starbucks and their coffee concoctions. Now the concoction part was key-- chocolate, caramel, vanilla, cinnamon...all very agreeable to my palate so why not try them mixed in my coffee? This time it took...and I was hooked. I'd probably have a full blown addiction if I hadn't lived 40 miles from the nearest Starbucks stand at the time.
Today I live in a town with a Starbucks on every corner and several other local wannabes and near-enoughs. I pass 4 or 5 stands on my way to work every morning so I must excercise great discipline. I allow myself one drink a week. It's my Friday treat or my Wednesday pick-me-up depending on the kind of week I am having. Today it was the Wednesday pick-me-up because, if you've been reading me the last couple of days then,you know why. It was cinnamon-y and just what I needed on a cool, rainy day. It was yummy. Since I didn't save you a sip, I thought the least I could do is share the sweet saying on from the back of my cup:



I'm not sure it qualifies for words of wisdom or inspiration but after a double shot of espresso, I can embrace it.

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Grace like rain...


Hallelujah, grace like rain falls down on me...
A kind word, a prayer spoken, a treat from my favorite bakery.
God's loving kindness through the actions of His people reminds me that His mercies are new every morning and all my sins are washed away.

Monday, October 13, 2008

A Rough Day with a Satan Cocktail chaser

It was rough. Not a day I want to live over. To err is human...to do it all day is frustrating. I don't like screwing up and I know this side of heaven, nothing and no one is perfect-- so it will happen. I really don't like it when my mistakes cost other people time, money, or inconvenience or worse yet...gasp!...makes them think less of me. Yep, that's really what it comes down to... I will be thought of as less competent, less responsible, less capable, less.....perfect?


And if I'm not already a bit tough on myself, my accuser comes along with one of his "cocktails". You know the pretty glass of lies that he whispers in our ears, whose false accusations burn your throat then work their way down to the pit of your stomach and make you want to throw it all up. He delivers it shaken, not stirred, with an olive topping it off..."What a screw up you are", "can't you get anything right?", "you oughta quit now before they realize how stupid you really are"... They are lies--all lies!
Yep, I messed up. But I 'fessed up and will move on because the Lover of my soul says, You are not perfect but you are Mine and My grace is sufficient for you.
Amen and enough said.

Sunday, October 12, 2008

She has so much to learn

Due to a busy family schedule, the Princess was going to need to cook a few meals for herself. In order to ensure that there was indeed "something" to eat in the pantry, I took her grocery shopping with me to let her pick out things she would eat. Here's what she put in the cart:

Clearly she has a penchant for all things with pasta, tomatoes and cheese!
She has so much to learn...

Here's what I put in the cart:Yes, the candy corn bag is opened because I mixed it with the peanuts to put in my pumpkin candy jar and not because I may or may not could have waited until we left the store parking lot to have a few of the 100% sugar tri-colored treats!

If you haven't tried the Honey Maid Sticks, here's a great dip to serve with them! My first recipe post!
Chocolate Chip Cream Cheese Ball

Beat together:
1 8 oz. package cream cheese
1/2 cup butter (not margarine)
1/4 t. vanilla
Add gradually and beat until mixed:
3/4 cup powdered sugar
2 T brown sugar
Add:
3/4 cup miniature chocolate chips
Refrigerate for 2 hours. Form into a ball. Refrigerate 1 more hour.
Roll in 3/4 cups chopped pecans.
Serve with graham cracker sticks (cinnamon, honey, or chocolate)


Thursday, October 9, 2008

Creating Fall













Have I told you how much I love this season? I love the crispness of the air, the colors of the leaves, the apple harvest, the fragrances- cinnamon, burning leaves, cider warming on the stove. I love the fabrics of the season--corduroy, tweeds, sweaters & light jackets.

I've always loved Fall--as a kid I loved the start of a new school year (back in the day when they waited until after Labor Day to start school)- new clothes, new shoes, new crayons!; the county fair, Halloween costumes, candy-apples, hayrides...

Even now as an adult September feels like the start of a new year. Maybe it's the former teacher in me but my life for the past 25 years has been on a school calendar. Being on the paying end of of the new clothes, new shoes, new school supplies isn't quite as exciting but with college kids and a high school junior, I don't even get to buy school supplies anymore.

Living in the midwest gives me another reason to love the Fall-- because everyday we get of wonderful Fall weather is one less day of Winter! I didn't hate winter until I moved to the frozen tundra (as my friend JoD calls it) but my southern blood has yet to adjust to the sub-zero temps of January & February. So to celebrate the season and maybe stretch it out a few more weeks, I spend some time adorning my porch and various places around the house with touches of the season. I've discovered that other than the mums on the front porch, artificial works best for me. This discovery came after one season as I would walk the outdoor trail near my house, I would stop and collect the acorns along the path. I would bring them home in pocket fulls until I could fill a Pottery Barn knock-off container. How cute they looked--so natural...until they sprouted worms that crawled all around the inside of said Pottery Barn knock-off container. Eeeeewwwwww!

So, what's YOUR favorite season?

Friday, October 3, 2008

Homecoming- Then and Now


When I was in elementary school we lived a beautiful college town in the Ozark mountains and home to the University of Arkansas. It was probably the most idyllic time of my life. One memory is the occasional football games that my parents would attend. Whether it was just this one time or a few, I remember hanging out with the Warren girls while our parents attended the football games. Their dad was a professor at the U of A so they lived just off campus. On this particular memory, they were making some money by charging people to park in their yard. It must have been Homecoming because I remember being enamored by the pretty co-eds in their Pendleton wool plaid blazers or skirts (in Razorback red of course), wth their teased & sprayed bobs or flips (that's a hair style for all you young whipper-snappers), and their cute dates wearing sport coats and ties. I couldn't wait until I was old enough to dress up and go to football games.

Fast forward 10 years...
Homecoming: Circa 1972-1976
It was the 70's and even though life in the coastal suburbs of Houston Texas were decidedly more casual (can you say hippies & surfers?), my high school had a pretty strict dress code. A girl's skirt had to be no shorter than 3" above the knee, a boy's hair could not touch their collars. It wasn't even until my senior year that we could wear pants to school (then only a "pantsuit"). We spent four years avoiding the vice principal and fine tuning ways to break the rules (The movie Footloose was my life). Homecoming was still centered around the game. Homecoming outfits were casual and standard date etiquette required a mum (double if the date was generous) complete with streamers and a pipe cleaner goalpost. Pictures were taken with a Kodak Instamatic camera and the festivities included: Go to ballgame, go to the dance (except as a good baptist girl I was not allowed to do the latter). Home by curfew.

Fast forward 30-something years...

Homecoming: 2008
Homecoming is what prom used to be...Matching corsage & boutineer, special occasion dress, matching shoes, date's shirt and or tie to match the dress; clutch/evening bag to hold cell phone, digital camera, cash or ATM card, student ID and lip gloss. Trip to tanning salon for that special "glow", hair appointment for up-do, nail appointment for french mani & pedi. School pictures, Group Pictures, Dinner at restaurant (reservations made weeks in advance), All of this before the Big Dance- daughter gets to go (mom set free from baptist bonds), change of clothes for the post dance bonfire then a sleepover with friends ending with breakfast the next morning.

What will they think of next?

Thursday, October 2, 2008

Unveiled...almost

I can feel the tension...the anticipation...inquiring minds want to know...
What's the top secret project that has taken me into the aisles of the man mall (hardware store) challenged my creative muscles (and a few physical ones too) and was important enough that I had to DVR 2 nights of the shows I was missing?

A HOMECOMING FLOAT!!!!!!!

The varsity cheer moms put together a float to enter in the Homecoming parade. The final outcome far exceeded my expectations. I should have know better though when the "mom with the plan" also had a garage full of chicken wire, astro turf, and large amounts of heavy duty cardboard in various shapes and forms. Clearly this was a woman who lives to build floats. Well thanks to her vision, guidance, and chicken wire-- our float won 2nd place in the "open" category!

What I had not considered was that participating in the float building caper automatically enrolled you into hiking alongside said float for 10 miles (uphill all the way), tossing candy at children who stood along the parade route with pillowcases in hand waiting to capture the parade bounty, and by cheering as you hiked and tossed candy (thereby displaying where our daughters inherited their lung capacity and projection skills). No stunts, jumps or tumbling was attempted on our part in order to protect the general public as well as our tentative state of physical condition.

I remembered to bring the camera to capture the unveiling of the final product-- however, the camera dial must have been one notch off because what I got was some pretty bad video where a beautiful series of still shots were supposed to be. I will post it non-the-less because I know you are dying to see it and I'm ready to finish this post and go soak my feet! Please note all the various uses of white duct tape you see.



video

Wednesday, October 1, 2008

Geo-caching

Tuesdays are our weekly staff meeting days. On the 5th Tuesday (when there is one), we plan something out of the ordinary that provides a time to get to know each other outside of our jobs and do a little team building. It ALWAYS involves food! This past 5th Tuesday was planned by one of the youth pastors and fortunately did not involve slime, blindfolds, or disgusting things to eat. Instead, after a great potluck meal of soups, salads, and desserts, we headed outdoors to go geo-caching.

For those who don't know what geo-caching is, it involves a hand held GPS unit and coordinates downloaded from a website. You set the coordinates and follow the unit to some hidden "cache" or "treasure". There are various difficulty levels and a whole set of terminology that is associated with this hobby. We were divided up into 3 teams and were each given a list of "finds". We worked at level 1 although one of our finds was a 2 step process...and involved math. Aside from the math, it was a fun outing.

What has been revealed during past 5th Tuesday activities and was reinforced through this one is that SOME people on our staff are intensively COMPETITIVE. From the beginning of this event, it was declared NOT a COMPETITION but some people just can't grasp that concept...

Let it be said that this is not my team and they are not number one because this was not a competition. However........ MY TEAM ROCKED!!!!