The First Adventure of Summer

So. I had the first adventure of summer this week. Now, before you get too excited or jealous, continue reading…

I went with my dad to our camp in East Texas to help mow the grass. The truth is, my parents are just getting to an age where they need a little help with a few things. Things like mowing grass. On a “zero turn mower,” which is almost riding on a 4-wheeler that is stuck in 2nd gear, so, you know, I’m in.

We got to the camp, we mowed, I got a tad dizzy on the mower, everything was going well. In addition to this mowing expedition, we were also on a mission to pick some fresh blackberries. Here’s where things begin to go downhill a bit…

One thing I should mention here is that where I live, in Southeast Texas, it’s hot. No, I mean, HOT, people, tons of humidity and high temperatures. We finished mowing a little after noon, I had my sunscreen on, my cap, Deep Woods Off for the plethora of bugs around, borrowed some rubber boots from my dad that were about, oh, 3-4 sizes too big, and changed into jeans – because picking blackberries is not for the faint of heart, which we will get to in a moment.

So Dad and I start down the dirt road, leading out of our camp. Our big plan was to look for the blackberries, enough for Mom to make a cobbler, then stop at this great little mom-and-pop burger place for lunch on the way home. It was a beautiful plan, it really was…

The fatal flaw in our plan was that Dad moved the truck way over to the right side of the road, so that we could catch a good glimpse of the places where most of the ripe blackberries were. On this side of the road there was also a bunch of sand. Very deep sand. And under this deep sand, was a bunch of mud. Yep. And guess what happened next…

If you guessed the truck got stuck in the sand – bingo! You’re absolutely right! So, I immediately come up with a plan…because, you know, I’ve had SO much experience with trucks getting stuck in the sand and mud. I tell Dad that I’m pretty sure I can dig the back wheel out of the sand. Uh-huh. I get down on my hands and knees and start digging.

“Go, ahead and try it,” I yell.

He does. Not only does the wheel still have no traction, but now I’m COVERED in sand and mud from standing too close to the truck. Covered, I tell you. We finally decide to call a wrecker, which we should have done in the first place. So,  I, because I am not above doing 2 really dumb things on the same day, in the same hour, decide,

“Hey, I’ll walk on down to where I can still pick some blackberries while we wait for the wrecker!

So there I go. Now, here’s the part of the story where it really helps if you create a visual picture of this in your mind…and please hold your applause until the end…

I begin walking down the road, toward where I remember most of the ripe blackberries were. It’s about 12:30pm, hottest part of the day, no shade, I’m wearing jeans, and rubber boots that almost come off every time I take a step and I’m covered in dirt. I also had grabbed a bowl from the cabin to put the blackberries in and – wait for it – it’s an old timey type bowl made of METAL. And, guess what I forgot? Gloves. Not only was this a bad idea for holding the metal bowl in the sun, but picking blackberries is risky business.

See, blackberries grow on bushes with these pretty little green leaves…and STICKERS everywhere! Now, I know many of you reading this are saying to yourself,

“I’ve picked fruit before, no big deal.”

No ma’am. Don’t talk to me about picking fruit until you’ve picked blackberries. The stickers aren’t big, either, like thorns on a rose bush. They are tiny, almost invisible, evil, painful little things and YOU CAN’T ESCAPE THEM!

So. Here I am. No gloves, sweating, covered in mud, trying to pick these berries. Of course, the best berries are toward the middle of the bushes, you know, the bigger, juicier-looking ones. I tried to go for those at first… until my hands and arms started bleeding. When the blood actually started coming through the caked-on mud on my hands, I gave up on those. I thought,

“Obviously, I can’t get to those, if I want to keep any skin on my hands, but you 17 berries here on the side of the road, you are mine.”

Here is also where I began talking to myself:

“I wonder if this enough for a cobbler? No, Sherra, if Mom was here, she would totally say no. This is not even enough for a cobblette, let alone a cobbler. Better keep picking. I wonder if Dad is OK? It’s awfully hot. I’m sure he has the truck going for the AC. What if we run out of gas because he’s keeping the truck going? How would we get out then? Wait, I forgot my phone in the truck. What if Dad needs me? What if he has a heart attack or something? Should I go back and check on him? But I’d have to walk all the way back, then back to the berries. I don’t know what to do. Why am I picking blackberries with no gloves? And, for the love of all that is good and holy, WHERE THE HECK IS THE WRECKER???”

I finally decided that surely if Dad had a heart attack, he would fall forward onto the steering wheel, onto the horn, then I would know he needed help. Yes, I’m sure that’s what would happen. Right?

Finally, after about an hour of picking berries, my hands were covered in black mud, red blood and purple blackberry juice, the wrecker came. I waited a few more minutes while he got the truck unstuck, then Dad came to get me. We got the grass mowed, the truck unstuck AND enough blackberries for Mom’s cobbler.

Now, you might be thinking,

“Oh my word, what a terrible day!”

And, you know, it was a little crazy. But here’s the thing: I did it for my parents and I would do ANYTHING for my parents. They are the absolute best parents a girl could ask for! No one knows me any better, encourages me any more, is more proud of me and loves me more unconditionally than my parents. They have been with me through infertility, a divorce, single parenting, remarriage, and so much more. They had a front row seat to both my biggest successes and worst failures and loved me through it all. They introduced me to God, providing a pathway for me to begin my own relationship with Him. Now, it’s time for me to do what they have always done for me. And, I am so happy to do it!

The Bible tells us to honor our father and mother so that it will go well for us and we will enjoy long life. And, that’s a great perk! But, I choose to honor my parents, because of the honor they have always shown me. I just hope that I have been half of the parent they have been to me.

So, we finally made it home. We stopped by a McDonald’s so that I could, you know, wash the layers and layers of yuck off my hands before heading to the little burger stand for our burgers. All and all it was truly an adventure and time with my dad that I will cherish.

And, we’ll enjoy that blackberry cobbler that I sacrificed several pints of blood for tomorrow for Father’s Day.

Happy Father’s Day to all you dads out there – thanks and know you are loved!

 

Girl Scout Cookies

I’m eating Girl Scout Cookies…and, I really don’t even feel bad about it.

Now, you may eat Girl Scout Cookies all the time, and, if so, I salute you. Me? Well, we BUY lots of Girl Scout Cookies because little people in our family that we love sell them, but I try not to eat that many. You know, sugar and all. But today is different…

Today is a hard day and I’m feeling a little down. You know, one of those days where you just have a hard time not wanting to get back in the bed and pull the covers over your head. What’s going on, you ask? Well, I guess a few things: trying to make some life changes that seem so hard, trying to navigate around obstacles in the way of a new career; but, mostly, I lost a friend.

I lost a friend to cancer last weekend and we laid her to rest today. She was a fighter whose faith never wavered, but was ultimately sold out by her body. Physical death, such terrible business, huh? And so many of us prayed, believed, and prayed some more, for three years, that she would be healed and beat this dreaded disease. And, I guess in the end, she received the ULTIMATE healing, since I believe she is standing in the presence of God as I’m writing this – whole, happy and completely pain-free. I’m honestly a little jealous.

While I am so happy knowing she is free of cancer, I am still sad. And, I have questions. You know what I’m talking about – that “list” you have of all the things you’re going to ask God when you get to heaven, except then, it really won’t matter? Yeah, I’m kinda going over that list today. Ugh.

And, you know, this isn’t the first time I’ve had questions. Nope. Not my first rodeo, as we Texans say, but still as grueling, still as painful, still as disheartening. I mean, healing is such an enigma, such a puzzle. I can’t make heads or tails of it. So, why not my friend? What happened? What didn’t happened?

Here’s the thing: I don’t have these answers. In fact, there are lots of answers about God, Christianity and why bad things happen to Believers, that I have no clue about. But more important are the answers that I DO know about God, about this life I live as a Believer. And, here is what I DO know and believe:

I believe that God is good, that He hears our prayers, that He is concerned with every detail of our lives. And, I believe He heals. Yes, even today, I believe He heals people all the time.

Do I wish things had turned out differently and my friend was still here, well and pain-free? Yes, I do. Do I understand why some are healed and others are not? No, I don’t. Is my heart broken for her husband, children, family and friends? Yes, it is. Am I angry at cancer and beyond TIRED of hearing that word and seeing the devastation it brings? Oh, absolutely.  But, while these questions will most likely be in my mind for the rest of my physical life, the experiences that I have  had with God and the way He has moved in my life, over and over again, trump these questions. Every. Single. Time.

So, I’m choosing to imitate my precious friend. I’m going to keep my eyes on God, even in the midst of the battle and I’m going to be a light in what becomes and a more and more dark world around me. I Corinthians 13:12 says,

Now we see things imperfectly, like puzzling reflections in a mirror, but then we will see everything with perfect clarity. All that I know now is partial and incomplete, but then I will know everything completely, just as God now knows me completely.
That’s where my sweet friend is this very day. She sees it all – the secrets, the treasures, the answers to the puzzles, but most of all, she sees the face of our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ.
Yep, I have questions, but the bottom line is,
What I DO know as a Believer in Christ is enough for me to want to put my faith, my uncertainty and my whole life in the hands of my God.
It’s enough.
So, today I’m gonna eat these Girl Scout Cookies, but tomorrow, I’m gonna work as hard as I can to make my life count. Because that’s what my sweet friend did and she did it well.

It’s February, so I’m Sick

In keeping with my pattern of confirming that December is the most WONDERFUL time of the year, and January is the most DEPRESSING time of the year, I’d like to also confirm that February is the most SICK time of the year…wait, poor grammar there. How about February is the SICKEST time of the year? Not that much better…

Now, when I say that February is the sickest time of the year, you may think that I mean creepiest or most disturbing. But here I’m actually using the word in its most common meaning: sickest meaning illest. Except I’m not sure illest is a word, either?

Anyway, let me just leave the vocabulary lesson for a moment and explain. For the past 4 years, in a row, I’ve gotten sick during the month of February. For 4 years. In February. And, I don’t mean just a little sick, either, I mean REALLY sick. Observe:

3 years ago, in February, I got the flu with strep throat. Wow, what a bummer for me.

2 years ago, in February, I got the flu with strep throat AND bronchitis. What are the odds?

Last year, I got strep throat and bronchitis. At least, I dodged the flu.

Which brings us to THIS February, and to be very prompt, I got bronchitis/walking pneumonia on February 1. Unbelievable? I’d agree, if only it wasn’t happening to ME!

Needless to say, I get a little nervous towards the end of January. And, I know there are some really great things that happen in February, like Punxsutawney Phil making his yearly appearance, (the groundhog, for those who are unfamiliar with his real name), Valentine’s Day, which includes chocolate, date night and LOVE! Then, of course every 4 years in February, we get the winter Olympics! Ice skating, ski jumping, such excitement! And, if that’s not enough reason to love February, 2 of my children’s birthdays are also in February!

Well, then, what’s not to love about February? I’ll tell you what: fever, coughing, excruciatingly sore throat, headache, sleepless nights and an over-production of mucus!

So, here I am, February 2018, sick again. But, hey, I’m not going to let this get me down, no way! 2018 is going to be a great year, full wonderful times with family, laughter over coffee with great friends and the favor and faithfulness of God.

I’m not sure what you’ve got going on today, hopefully it doesn’t involve kleenex, thermometers and fever reducers like what I’ve got going on, but remember this: life may try to knock us down, but, like the old song says,

“I get knocked down, but I get up again, you are never gonna keep me down.”

That song was popular the year my son was born, 21 years ago, so you youngsters may not recognize it…born 21 years ago yesterday, during February, the sickest month of the year, or the illest, or when I’m the illest or, uh, I don’t know, my head’s a little fuzzy.

 

 

 

Conference Adventures

Hello, from yet another conference with the hubs! Now, before you get all worked up with jealousy, we’re just in Dallas. Don’t get me wrong, Dallas is great, but it’s, you know, Dallas. Downtown is beautiful at night, though, as I hope you can tell from the photo above taken from our 17th floor hotel room. I know it’s not the best photo, but try to enjoy it because I almost pulled the curtains down trying to take it.

Those of you who have known me for any length of time may be a little concerned that I am at another conference with R. For those who don’t know me well, you are wondering why anyone would be concerned with me being on a conference with my husband? Well, where to begin…there was the conference to Cancun, where I almost fell off a catamaran, the one to Puerto Rico that I attended with pneumonia, the one to Florida where we flew through what can only be described as a hurricane and I sprained my ankle playing tennis in a ballroom, and let’s not forget everyone’s favorite in Utah, where I fell ice skating, securing a severe concussion. Yep. All at conferences with the hubs. I would also like to say that I don’t truly feel that I am to blame for any of these unfortunate situations, because if you ask me, which no one really has, is it smart to put middle-aged, chubby people on ice skates? I think not.

Now, rest easy, dear ones, I am completely fine, all in one piece, no injuries at all. Just a small stumble while walking to dinner after dark, but I’ll have you know that I did not even hit the ground, let alone roll down the grassy knoll next to the restaurant parking lot…not THAT grassy knoll, just a knoll, that was, you know, grassy. Anyway, I am fine. But in true beautiful mess fashion, I did have a new conference experience this afternoon.

I got up to my room after a nice afternoon with one of our niece’s, swiped my key card across the magnetic thingy, got the green light, tried opening the door, but the door wouldn’t open. Apparently, when the housekeeping staff left our room this morning and closed the door, it moved the latch that you turn when going to bed, you know, the “extra security” measure latch thing, and it was, well, latched. At first, I thought maybe R was already back from his meeting, so I called out for him a couple of times, but he wasn’t there. Then, I thought, “Oh, no! I’m at the wrong room!” so I quickly closed the door, dug around in my purse for the little envelope the key card comes in, to confirm that I was actually at the right room, and, much to my surprise, I was. Hmm. Just for good measure, I tried opening the door one more time. Same problem.

OK, I thought, I’ll just mosey over to the Courtesy Phone and call for someone to come…figure out how I’m going to get into my room. I called the front desk and explained, in my sweetest voice, that I was, in a manner of speaking, locked out of my room, and for once it wasn’t because I’d lost my key card. The woman I talked to actually finished my sentence for me, so apparently this has happened before, and was just about to send someone up to help me, when she discovered that my name wasn’t on our reservation…

Well, that’s not a surprise, I said, my husband is here for some business meetings. She then proceeded to tell me that she couldn’t let me into the room if my name was not on the reservation and that I, and all of the bags I had with me, would need to come back down to the front desk. I then, in a not-so-sweet voice, informed her that it was not strange at all for husbands to bring their wives on business trips, to which she replied, that she was sorry, but she was trying to protect “the guest,” to which I replied, “I AM THE GUEST!”

Needless to say, I got back on the elevator, headed back to the front desk, where I ran into R, because God really does love me, and also because God knew that I might be escorted OUT of the hotel for good had I not run into my “calm down, we’ll get it worked out” husband before I reached the front desk. But, 2 trips from a maintenance man later, we finally got back into our OWN room. That we are paying for. We, the guests.

But, the whole experience got me thinking: do people really break into other people’s hotel rooms? How does that work? I mean, there are hundreds of rooms in this hotel, maybe a thousand. How do these hotel thieves decide which rooms to break into? Do they sit in the lobby and follow the ones who come in with bags from the most expensive stores or just stores they want something from? Do they watch to see what kind of cars people get out of or what clothes they wear? Is this something to add to my “things that could actually happen to me on a trip” list? I really have no idea. But, be warned, hotel thieves: we have a latch thingy on our door, so you’re not getting in! I mean, it sure kept ME out…with a little help from the lady at the front desk…

Hubs-1, Pipes-0

Brrrr, but it’s cold!

Yes, I know it’s winter, but here’s the thing about winter in southeast Texas: WHAT WINTER? Yeah, because normally we don’t have many even slightly cold days in our version of winter, let alone 3 different snows, ice and all that. Case in point: I realized last week that I don’t even know how to work the heater in my car because it hasn’t gotten cold enough to use the heater during the time that I’ve owned my car. Thank God for heated seats.

Anyway, school was called off late last night, so I went to bed looking forward to a day of relaxing, catching up, trying to stay warm and trying NOT to eat all day. But, my day didn’t start off quite they way I planned.

I woke up to the sound of my husband rummaging through something. Nothing unusual about that. R is a morning person, well, actually a night owl, um, let’s just say he doesn’t sleep much. All of his minutes are filled with something constructive. And, me? You can pretty much categorically think the exact opposite of all of that and you’d be correct.

Back to this morning…finally, my alarm went off and R came in and announced that “he had not done a good enough job of winterizing the house, an outside pipe had frozen and we had no water.” Poor guy, his face was filled with shame, as if he’d just committed the unforgivable sin. So, I mumbled something about no big deal, the pipe would melt, etc. etc. etc. But, those words fell on deaf ears because 5 minutes later he was headed off to Wal-Mart to buy something. To redeem himself, I think.

“Here we go,” I thought, unwrapping myself from my cozy flannel sheets and quilt. By the time he got home, I was busy trying to fade into the living room walls, working on my Bible study, when he came in and announced that he was going to try and melt the pipe himself instead of waiting for the temperatures to rise. Uh-huh, OK. The truth is this: R loves this stuff! I mean, obviously he doesn’t want our pipes to burst, but he loves the challenge of trying to repair something, you know, that feeling of victory when that something is repaired. *Sigh…

“Is there something I can do to help you?” I ask, hoping with my whole heart he would say no.

“No, I’m OK, I’m just going to______________________________ (fill in this blank with all sorts of plumbing, construction, electrical engineering, man-speak.)

So, we did this little dance a few more times until finally, R says,

“Hey, I need your help with something.”

Oh. No. This is bad and let me tell you why: because when it comes to doing “projects” together…oh Lord…just think of the 2 most opposite people in the world trying to work together, I mean, isn’t this how wars start? The main trouble is that R is so smart and knows a whole lot about lots of different things. And, he assumes everyone else does too and we should all just know what he’s thinking without him actually saying anything.  Sound familiar, all you wives out there? HE knows what he means, HE knows what he’s trying to say, HE knows what he needs me to do, but me? Normally? Not a clue. Usually, he really just wants me to be about 2-3 steps in front of his instructions and um, I haven’t even put my shoes on yet, get it?

So, here I go, out into the shop off the garage in my fleece PJ pants with owls all over them, big puffy jacket, tennis shoes, mittens and stocking hat. I looked a dream, I tell you. And, what was my job? Well, first it was to listen and look for water when he tried to turn the outside faucet back on. I was supposed to report ANY evidence of ANY water to him immediately, which was why I was on the phone with him during this whole “Hubs vs. the frozen pipe” phase. But, alas, still no water.

Phase 2 of “hubs vs. the pipe,” can only be described as something that would make MacGyver proud. We heated water in the kettle, duck taped a straw to a funnel (no, I am NOT making this up) and now my job was to pour the hot water into the funnel, which was stuck down into the worthless-you-did-nothing-to-protect-the-pipe insulation around the pipe. This phase also moved us outside, so now the entire neighborhood could enjoy my outfit. But, guess what? It worked! The hubs had conquered the frozen pipe! He had beaten winter! He had laughed right in it’s frozen face! Hahahahahahah!

And, after the all important instruction and admonishing phase, showing me the place where the water can be turned completely off and where the tool (that I will NEVER be able to use) is kept to turn said water off, “in case I’m not around,” he took a shower and went to work.

And, I went right back to the couch. And, people say there are no modern-day miracles, ha!

 

The Fudge is Gone

Well. The fudge is gone.

Yep. I ate the last piece yesterday, washed the Christmas tin, put it in the drain board…with a long sigh.

OK, some of you are thinking, so big deal. Well, it is kind of a big deal. And it’s not just about the fudge.

See, I make fudge every year about half way through December and eat 1 piece every day all throughout the holidays. OK. I cut it into small pieces and actually eat more than 1 piece a day, so sue me. Anyway, I make it last as long as I possibly can. Just like I do with the holidays.

See, I totally love Christmas! I mean, I love everything about it: the lights, the decorations, the tree, the beautifully colored wrapping paper and bows, the music, the fresh, clean smell of pine. And, I love the people – people everywhere, the shopping, looking for the perfect gift, gathering together, feasting together, enjoying family from out of town, neighbors from across the street, the smiles, the laughter, the sharing. And, obviously, I love celebrating the birth of Jesus: the absolute reason for my freedom, my forgiveness, my forbearance in this fraught-filled life.

But, there is a down-side to Christmas: it comes. And it goes. Just like that, after weeks of preparation, I go to bed late on Christmas Eve and, despite my excitement, one little defiant part of my heart can’t help but think, “It’s almost over.” And, then it is over and the hardest month of my life begins: the it’s-January-and-the-holidays-are-over grind. Oh, it’s a grind, my friends.

The out-of-town family leaves, the gorgeous wrapping paper is in shreds, the ready-made bows don’t stick anymore, the Christmas radio stations go back to playing regular music, I eat that last piece of fudge, the tree begins to wither and so does my spirit. But, why?

Songs have even been written about it, like “Why can’t we have Christmas all through the year,” etc. Why do we want Christmas all year? I mean, who can afford Christmas all year, right? But, I think it’s much deeper than that. We love the spirit of Christmas, don’t we? You know what I mean, that spirit of generosity to those in need, selflessness toward friends and family, kindness to strangers. We value time with family more, the sweetness of just being together.

But then Christmas comes and goes, reality sneaks back in, the house is put back in order and people like me are practically in tears by the time the tree is thrown to the curb.  And, unfortunately, joy is often replaced with sadness, time with family is exchanged for the busyness of life, kindness snuffed out by self-absorption. Yep. If December is “the most wonderful time of the year,” January must be “the most depressing time of the year.”

Maybe I’m all alone in my funk, but I doubt it. So, what do we do? How can we de-bunk the January funk? Here’s what I say: we need to remember that the spirit of Christmas is really the spirit of Christ, who actually lives INSIDE of us! Absolutely, yes! Right there with us, in the middle of this sadness, is Jesus, and guess what? He’s actually available after the Christmas tree dies and the black plastic bags filled with the wrapping paper are put out in the trash can! And, newsflash: He wants us to continue to be filled with joy, with wonder, with the simple kindness and compassion that our world desperately needs to see. He wants us to be filled with HIM.

Look, we’re only a few days into 2018 and it’s already very rudely pulled a few punches on me. Oh, yeah, I’m already licking some wounds, thinking, “Oh no! Easy, 2018, please be gentle, please play nice.” I suspect some of you feel the same. There are real needs, true trouble, the kinds that can make us lose our breath at times, let alone our footing. If we look around at our circumstances long enough, it’s easy to just settle into the blahs and blues of this after-Christmas-season. But I want more from 2018, don’t you! 2018 may try to play hard ball with me, but I’m going to keep my eyes, my ears, my heart and my mind on the One that has already conquered 2018 and its best shots. Why?

Because God loves me! He adores me! He has an amazing plan for me and as long as I stay with Him, He and all of His goodness will come out on top. Is it going to be all hot chocolate, snow and “chestnuts roasting on an open fire?” Heck, no! But, we are promised victory where it counts.

I don’t know if you saw the children’s movie, The Star, that came out around Thanksgiving? If not, try to see it, it was wonderful (good for you, Sony Pictures,) but Casting Crowns did a beautiful rendition of His Eye is on the Sparrow. Check out these words:

Why should I feel discouraged? Why should the shadows come? Why should my heart be lonely, and long for heaven and home? When Jesus is my portion, a constant friend is He. For I know His eye is on the sparrow and I know He watches me. HIs eye is on the sparrow and I know He watches me.

‘Let not your heart be troubled,’ His tender words I hear. And resting on His goodness, I lose my doubt and fear. When Jesus is my portion, my constant friend is He. For His eye is on the sparrow, and I know He watches me. His eye is on the sparrow and I know He watches me.

And listen to this:

I sing because I’m happy! I sing because I’m free! His eye is on the sparrow and I know He watches me! His eye is on the sparrow and I know He watches me!

So, I’m going to dig into God’s Word, stay connected with friends and family, and believe for those dreams that God has given me to happen this year. I’m gonna go ahead and put that fudge tin away, for now, and believe that 2018 is going to go down in the books as a life-changing and fantastic year for me, no matter what happens! Who’s with me!

The Parking Garage

I have a confession: I have no sense of direction. None. Nada. I got nothin’. And, you may be thinking, OK, big deal? So, you say…keep reading…

Last week I had an appointment with a doctor whose office is in the Houston Medical Center. Now, if you’ve read my above confession and the previous sentence and ARE NOT gasping for air, you’re clearly new around here. To me, the Medical Center is like Gotham City on the Batman movies, except with people walking around in white jackets and scrubs. It’s terrifying. I’ve been seeing this particular doctor for about 3 years now, but started at another location. I’ve been to this new location 3 times…and, 3 times I’ve had to call the office and say something like,

“So, I’m standing on the sidewalk on Fannin in front of the Methodist Outpatient Center. Where are you? I’m completely lost…”

Having to make that call once is bad enough, but 3 times? Well, I’ve thought of wearing a mask. So, I have to build an extra 30 minutes into my trip to account for the getting lost part of the trip, along with remembering to wear comfortable walking shoes, cool clothing, etc.

Anyway, this latest appointment went exactly the same as the others, except this time I was convinced I had at least found the right parking garage. Uh-huh…

I left my doctor feeling good about the appointment and fairly calm about finding my car. The red flag that I refused to see was that the sign closest to my parking space read

“Level 7, Stairwell 3”

Which was OK, except for the part where I walked down the 7 flights of stairs (trying to get all my steps in, you know), only to have to go down a different flight of stairs about the same amount of flights to get to the ground level. That definitely should’ve been a sign.

So, I walk into the parking garage, up the SEVEN flight of stairs and start to look for “Stairwell 3.” Which I couldn’t find. For a long time. A VERY long time. About 45 minutes. It was like someone took the entire stairwell out of the garage.

I tried to remain calm. I really did. But, after the 45 minutes, I started to panic. And, crying. And, praying loudly. Just about the time I was about to just sit down in the middle of the parking lot, next to an oil stain and give up, I remembered,

Hey! I have an alarm on my key!

So, I started walking up and down repeatedly pressing the alarm key. Numerous times, I’m really surprised the police didn’t come.Now, here’s the best part: I finally could HEAR the alarm on my car and SEE my car, but I couldn’t figure out how to get to it! Seriously. I couldn’t get to the car. I walked up to the next aisle and down to the next aisle, but couldn’t get to my car. So, I did what any hysterical, sweaty, weepy, Texas woman would do: I decided to climb over the brick wall.

Let me just stop right here and tell you two important things: first, the brick wall was almost as tall as I am, and two, I was wearing a skirt. Yep, wearing a skirt. But, hey, I was desperate, OK? So, I backed way up from the wall, ran as fast as I could, (in a skirt and flip-flops) and jumped as high as I could, and…couldn’t get my chubby little body over the wall.

Well. I’m no quitter! For the second try, I backed even farther away from the wall, closed my eyes, said a little prayer and ran as fast as I could and THREW my body at the top of that wall! And, it worked. Of course, both quad muscles started to spasm and I got dirt all over me, but I made it, by golly! And, that’s why I’m here today and not lost in a parking garage in the Houston Medical Center.

I hope you’ve all enjoyed your little laugh for the day and the visual I’ve given you of a 48-year-old chubby girl flying over a brick wall in a parking garage. You’re welcome.

The After

There is something about vacations that no one ever really talks about. It’s a difficult subject, but, because I care about you, the reader, I’m going to talk about it. And, honestly, someone needs to.

It’s THE AFTER.

AFTER the vacation is over, AFTER you get home with mounds of laundry, AFTER every minute is no longer consumed with fun, AFTER you have to tackle, or at least put on a list, all of the things you put off BEFORE the vacation, because you were busy getting ready for said vacation.

It’s the AFTER.

Now, this can be a very trying time, complete with exhaustion, disorientation, disillusionment. CRYING, even crying. It’s also a time when you feel that you need to make certain statements, to the NO ONE at your house who is listening, like,

“Why on earth were we gone so long? It’s not normal to be gone that long. We must be crazy…”

and…

“Was that vacation worth all this work? Ha! I think not…”

and, finally…

“I’m NEVER taking another vacation as long as I live!”

And as the words are leaving your lips, you know in your heart, “Yes! I really will take another vacation, I want to take another vacation, I could be ready in 30 minutes…” It’s a real low.

Yep. AFTER a vacation can be a grueling time, and my AFTER has been just that. My AFTER has looked something like this:

  1. sick for a week
  2. contractors at my house daily working on our bathrooms
  3. unpacking all of said bathroom things and finding a new home for them
  4. deciding on/purchasing new items for said new bathrooms
  5. July 4th
  6. doctors appointments
  7. NORMAL LIFE, (which can be difficult enough)

Now, I don’t know about you, but I suffer from this condition called PERFECTIONISM, maybe you’ve heard of it? Perfectionism in my life strikes when I pound myself mentally because I only got 22 of the 23 things done on my “To Do” list. It pushes me to do more than I know I can do. It haunts my sleep, it causes me to go all day without resting or eating when I need to. It’s exhausting.

So, here I am, tired, stressed, irritated, which all lead to me being DISTRACTED. Distracted to the point to where I’m in the shower, thinking about the KA-ZILLION things on my “To Do” list, and I have this conversation with myself,

“Did I shave under my arms? I don’t know. I thought I did, but maybe I didn’t. Oh well, who cares? But, what if I wear a sleeveless shirt later? AM I wearing a sleeveless shirt later? If I am, I really need to shave under my arms. What’s happening later? What day is it? Oh, I’ve got so much to do, I need to shave under my arms and get going.”

So, I shave under my arms, only to realize about 30 seconds later, yes, I DID already shave under my arms. So, basically, I start my day with razor-burned under arms, and a razor that’s getting dull quicker, all because I’m so distracted.

Ever been there? Maybe so.

I finally get to the place where I have to ask, “Why am I pushing myself so hard? Is there a cash award waiting for me if I complete my “To Do” list? What’s going to happen if I DON’T complete my “To Do” list? Will my husband pin a badge on me that says, ‘World’s Worst Wife?’ Will the world come to an end, for crying out loud?”

No. None of these things will happen. Then why is it that I, and I suspect some of you, strive for perfection? The answers are hard to find sometimes. What I do know is that it’s not good for us and God never intended for us to strive at all. Look at His words in Psalm 46:10a,

“Cease striving and know that I am God” NASB

The truth is, trying to do anything in our own strength doesn’t go well. God is the one that accomplishes things through us and His word says that when we are WEAK, He is STRONG! And, us making ourselves crazy by trying to be perfect, doesn’t get us “brownie points” with Him. Why not? Because we don’t need them! He loves us just as much when we lay on the couch in our PJs all day, watching Hallmark Movie Channel, as He does when we complete our entire “To Do” list. Mind. Blown.

I don’t know about you, but I think that’s a pretty sweet gig. And, my arm pits are so relieved…

 

 

 

The Vacation

Well. We are home from our huge, long-awaited, too-good-to-be-true vacation (or, “holiday,” as the Kiwis say) to New Zealand! It was amazing…no, superb…no, fantastic…no, really, it was phenomenal. Actually, I don’t have the right adjectives to describe this trip. It was really the trip of a lifetime…

New Zealand, you say, whoooooaaaaa! Yeah, I know. And, this was actually our second trip to New Zealand.  Why New Zealand? Twice? Well, it’s really a pretty great story…

Once upon a time, we met Jeramy and Melissa Kenworthy – two native New Zealanders, living in the United States. They became the children’s pastors at our church at the time, and there was an instant connection. We began spending lots of time together – holidays, special occasions, weekend getaways, you name it. While they were in the US, they had two of their children. Then, came the year they decided it was time to move. Away. Far away. Different hemisphere, different continent, the whole enchilada. They moved about as far away as one can move: back to New Zealand.

Well, as you can imagine, there was the usual sobbing, wailing, gnashing of teeth, but in the end, we helped them to load all of their worldly belongings, including their HONDA VAN, into this ship container, and, just like that, they were gone.

End of the story, you ask? Not hardly!! It’s not easy, but we’re all determined to stay close. One of the ways, of course, is to actually visit New Zealand. Everyone with me so far? Good, moving on…

So, when I say that our trip was phenomenal, you have to imagine that with all caps – PHENOMENAL!. In case you don’t know much about New Zealand, let me be the first to tell you that it’s BEAUTIFUL! I mean, New Zealand has mountains, the ocean, lakes, forests, rivers, beaches, snow and low humidity. (And, lots of sheep everywhere, strangely enough…that’s just some free information for you…) I mean, Lord of the Rings was filmed there, for crying out loud! Get the picture? And, you know that’s awesome, it really is, but what’s even better is spending time with some of our favorite people.

From the moment we got off the plane and cried a few tears of joy, it was like we’d never been apart. We laughed, cut up, cooked together, watched movies, went to the grocery store and to dinner and constantly argued over who was to pay whatever bill we had at the moment. We also had 1 fall, 1 busted lip, 1 severely stubbed toe (all this was actually just with my mom), 6 different flights, 3 head colds, 3 luge rides, 2 buttermilk pies, 1 broken gondola, 1 snowman, 1 7-year-old falling into the lake while feeding the ducks and a partridge in a pear tree. OK, so no partridge in a pear tree, but everything else really happened. After 4 years of not seeing each other, these relationships are just the same.

Do you have people like that in your life? I hope so. I’m reminded of Paul the Apostle’s letters to the different early churches in the New Testament. In all of these letters, he routinely mentions by name people he loves and is thankful for. People who have made a difference in his life, and he in theirs. Relationships that can stand the test of time, no matter how long the test is. People who know you, the good, the bad and the ugly, and just choose to love you anyway; people who speak truth in love, cheer you on to be better and encourage you in your relationship with Christ. In my life, some of these people are my precious Kiwi friends.

In Phillipians 1:3-8, Paul says it best:

I thank my God in all my remembrance of you, always in every prayer of mine for you all making my prayer with joy, because of your partnership in the gospel from the first day until now. And I am sure of this, that he who began a good work in you will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ. It is right for me to feel this way about you all, because I hold you in my heart, for you are all partakers with me of grace, both in my imprisonment and in the defense and confirmation of the gospel. For God is my witness, how I yearn for you all with the affection of Christ Jesus. -ESV

The bottom line, as I see it, is that when hearts are knit together BY God and IN God, there are no friendships any sweeter, more fun or more beneficial. And, these friends may literally be on the other side of the earth or 2 doors down, no matter: the relationships stay strong because God has created them.

So. The gondola really did break down, WITH PEOPLE ON IT AFTER DARK (not us, or I dare say I might not be here to tell you about it) and we had to wait on top of the mountain for about an extra hour or two for it to be repaired. We went to the gift shop…with the kids…for a very long time…much longer than necessary…and, finally we were treated to free hot chocolate or mulled wine while we waited…and waited. What more can you ask for, right? Except, no, it was boring and irritating and the free hot chocolate didn’t begin to make us any happier. The only thing worse that we could think of was if we’d actually been ON the gondola when it broke. Yeah, that would be so much worse…

When we finally heard the announcement that the gondola was up and running again and we all ran through the plan of salvation together again, confessed sin and prayed, you know…just in case…we got in a cart with another American, strangely enough! She was a teacher who taught at a school in Aspen that was a “sister school” to a school in New Zealand and was a chaperone for a group of 12 students. No, really, I promise that is true and I’m currently trying to get on some list to obtain said-type job. I’ll keep you posted…anyway, we talked some, in between taking deep, calming breaths and calling out Jesus’ name, and she asked if the people we were visiting were family or friends. I thought for a minute, then answered, “You know, sometimes it’s really hard to tell the difference.”

 

 

 

 

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