November 15: in my own skin

For so many years, I’ve been uncomfortable in my own skin. I’ve been the one behind the camera, behind the scenes, hiding.

This year, more than I can ever remember, I’ve found myself handing the camera to someone else…getting in the picture…feeling confident in my clothes and in myself. I’ve even posted a few self portraits. Full body self portraits that are unposed, unplanned and unedited. It’s crazy.

I know it has a lot to do with my weight-loss, but I believe it also has a lot to do with my paleo diet. I’ve lost weight before, but never felt this comfortable with my body and my emotions. I’ve had struggles, especially with the emotional losses I’ve endured these past few months, but I’ve also been able to find tools to help and to turn it around more quickly.

This is a very good place to be, and I’m so thankful to have finally make it here.

November 14: God’s Word

I’ve found so much comfort in God’s word these past few weeks. Through the difficult loss of my grandfather (and some completely unnecessary ugliness that accompanied it), through daily stresses and struggles, through bewilderment and anger,  I’ve found verses coming to mind over and over.

If I speak in the tongues of men or of angels, but do not have love, I am only a resounding gong or a clanging cymbal. If I have the gift of prophecy and can fathom all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have a faith that can move mountains,but do not have love, I am nothing. If I give all I possess to the poor and give over my body to hardship that I may boast, but do not have love, I gain nothing.

1 Corinthians 13:1-3 in particular has been speaking to me. Without love – without the love of Christ – behind all I do and say, it means nothing. More and more the truth of that has been revealed to me, and I think it will be my focus verse for this next year.

I am so thankful today for God’s Word, and for those who have labored through the millenia to bring it to us.

November 13: our church

Last night, Tom had the last of the big church meetings for the year. It might have gotten a bit off track, but it did remind me how thankful I am to be part of this body of believers.

Ours is a multi-generational church, and becoming more so every week it seems as new friends join us. We have the wisdom of 95 year olds and the energy of 5 year olds.

This church is welcoming to all, and actively works to make newcomers feel like part of the family.

It’s a church that seeks to reach outward to make an impact on our community through prayer, our food pantry and through many servant’s hearts in many different areas.

It’s a church that makes their pastor and his family feel loved and supported.

This past year and a half has been a learning experience. It hasn’t always been easy and as we’ve grown, there have been those inevitable difficultie. And I do believe we have some spiritual battles that still must be fought in order to take us to where God is leading. We’ll get there, through obedience to His Word and His call.

I am so thankful for this community of Jesus followers and so grateful to be among their number.

November 9: shared memories

Overwhelmingly, this week I’m so thankful for shared memories. As family members came together to remember Papa, inevitably the conversation turned to “I’ll never forget the time Bud…” and “Uncle Bud always…” and “Papa was just so….”. I’ve learned so much about him this week. The sharing of words, the hugs, the kindness – it’s made a difficult time a little bit easier.

I’m not sure when I became a person who gives eulogies. It’s certainly not easy for me to stand up and speak, but there have been family members that just require it. When the gentleman from the funeral home asked if we’d like to open up a time during the funeral to share, I knew I would.

I didn’t know how I’d get through it, but I knew there were things I had to say publicly about Papa. Sunday morning, before he passed, I had a few minutes alone with him and I was able to say things I’d said so many times to him before but needed to say one more time. I’m so thankful for that. But there were things I needed others to know about my Papa, and I’m so glad for that extra strength it took to stand up and speak.

These are the memories that were most important to me to share, without the awkward times my voice broke or went oddly high. I added a few comments (ahem – I never did get that pony I was promised when I was five) and skipped a few words.

My grandfather would probably be a little annoyed at us all for this today. He really didn’t like to be made a big fuss over. It just wasn’t in his nature.

But here’s the thing, Papa.

 You’re kind of a big deal to all of us who knew and loved you.

When I was born, he decided he wasn’t old enough to be a grandpa…so Papa it was and Papa he’s been. When my daughter was little, he tried to get her to call him “Old Bud”, but it didn’t stick. Thank goodness.

He was right, though. He was never a grandpa and never did typical grandpa things. My Papa rode horses, he did flips off the diving board and would take a gaggle of grandkids on hikes up at Cathey’s Valley to look at Indian rocks. He’d pick me up from first grade to take me to the horse races at the Fresno Fair, and put down money on what ever horse I thought had the prettiest name…usually something like Rainbow Sparkles…no matter how bad the odds were. My papa made homemade fudge and popcorn balls, and always seemed to have cookies hidden somewhere in the kitchen. He’d pick up my sister Carrie and I and take us for drives, and let us sing along to Elvira by the Oak Ridge Boys over and over and over. My papa asked me every time I saw him if I had a boyfriend, even if I’d just seen him the day before, from the time I was four or five.

And when I finally did have a boyfriend and that boyfriend proposed to me, the first time that poor boy met my Papa was the night we were engaged. His knee was still wet. And Papa ran him through the ringer – he asked questions about Tom’s background, about his plans for the future and even if he’d mind having some blood tests done. Tom didn’t know it, but Grammy and I could see that glint in his eye and knew he was just having fun with him.

I think more than anything, I will miss that glint and the stories that went with it. I will miss hearing about Oklahoma and the Dust Bowl and how the wind blew so much dirt into the air, you’d see prairie dogs swimming through it. About playing music with his Dad and siblings and about his Mama’s cooking. I’ll miss hearing about his years farming and the things he did with his own kids. And I’ll miss hearing him tell the story of how I loved the Muppet Show when I was little, but would run from the room when he said Pigs in Spaaaace.

When my children were young, Papa would often ask me if I was planning to have more, and would warn me that surest way to be poor was to have a large family. I’m sure that as 1 of 10 children, he was speaking from experience but I don’t think he was right. Being a rich man has nothing to do with money or things – the richest man is one who lives his life surrounded by those who love him.

Papa, I hope you realize how truly rich you were, how much of a big deal you were and how very much you are already missed. I will carry you and your stories and the love you had for your family with me every day of my life, and I will make sure that I share it with those around me.

November 4: this guy

Today, I’m thankful for Tom.

Who is patient when I have none.

Who works so hard to provide for our family, and to understand me when I’m having hard days.

Who will stand up for what is right and try to right what is wrong.

Who shares Jesus with words every Sunday, but more importantly with actions every other day.

Who supports and loves and gives and shares all that he is and has.

Thank you, Lord, for a husband that is worthy to be head of our home and who loves You with all of his heart.

side note: that’s a sippy cup of the nephew’s in the shot. Caleb hasn’t used one since he was 3, just so we’re clear.

November 3: change

I am so grateful today for the change of seasons, now that they’re becoming more evident. The cool mornings, the turning and falling leaves, that crispness in the air that greets me when I open the house in the mornings, even the night coming earlier – I love it all.

My body craves the change in ways I’d never expected and I’m thankful for this time to take a deep breath and focus inward.

November 2: thankful for teenagers

Who would have guessed that one of the things I’m most thankful for is a group of crazy teenagers?

It’s true.

Hanna has the loudest, silliest, most supportive group of friends a mom could ask for. While Tom and Caleb generally hide from them, I say a prayer of thanksgiving and protection for these sweet girls as they maneuver through high school. When the aroma of nail polish and perfume comes creeping down the hall and the One Direction and Taylor Swift get a little loud, I thank God for these years and these girls.

November 1: thankful to be here

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First and foremost, I am so thankful simply to be where I am this fall.

For six years, we lived nearly 3000 miles away and it was torture for me to be so far during family crises. This Fall, we’ve endured two big ones – the loss of a cousin and my grandfather’s fall and his continued deterioration. I can’t imagine what either one would have been like from so far away.

To be here physically – to give hugs and be able to go where needed without worrying about plane tickets or a week’s worth of driving – it’s huge. Two years ago, when we found out Tom’s job would be cut to part time and we made the decision to come home, we had no idea where that road would lead.

I’m thankful that for this season, it lead here.

Join me this month for a daily 5 minute muse on something I’m thankful for. Want to do it to?

hello, October

October and November are the months when my soul is happiest.

There’s something so incredible about the change of seasons, especially while living in a farming community. The cotton has blossomed, turned to bolls and burst into fluffy white balls. The corn has reached to the sky, gone golden and is being harvested. Pomegranates hang, giant red ornaments, on trees. Some fields are already plowed under, ready for Spring.

It’s easy to see God’s hand and provision living in a place like this.

It’s also when we see church life explode. Holiday bazaars, family events, more crowded services, favorite hymns. I treasure this time.

Last year was our practice year, and we set up some wonderful new traditions last year. Our Great Pumpkin Party will forever be one of my favorite church memories, and one that we’re repeating this year. We’re talking about adding a barbecue potluck or family homecoming in November to coincide with the end of a sermon series. And at our second church, they celebrate a Hanging of the Greens service – one of my favorite traditions we enjoyed in Florida.

What I’m looking most forward to is Christmas Eve service. The candlelight, the sacred songs, the families together to worship. But mostly, I look forward to our children’s Nativity.

It’s not planned.

It’s not practiced.

Last year, we were furiously pulling together costumes as kids came in. This year, we’re hoping to be a bit more organized…but just as welcoming.

There is always room in our Nativity for another angel, another shepherd and, if we get desperate, a sheep or two. Not sure about ninja shepherds, though. That might be a one year only sort of thing.

Isn’t that we should be about as a church?

Welcoming all, making room for all, giving each and every person the space for Grace to act.

5 Minute Muse: trying to get back in the habit of writing for joy. Setting the timer and writing, no editing.

I’m praying that for this new season – the space for Grace in all we do and all we say.

no excuses summer – goals

Remember last week’s post about my call to a No Excuses Summer?

So far,the family hasn’t revolted.

Or maybe they just never read it.

But I’ve been thinking and praying and planning, and here are a few areas I’m really the need to focus on. We may have some big changes coming in the fall if I’m able to go back to school full time, I need to work hard this summer to change some bad habits we’ve developed and replace them with good ones.

  • Food. Yep, in our house it all begins with food. What we eat affects our moods, our energy levels, our activity levels. I’m working to figure out the best version of paleo for our family – which I think is going to be just a little bit more carb heavy than usual and contain some cultured dairy. I’m realizing it’s better to be 90% paleo all of the time than it is to be 100% paleo sporadically.
    I’ll be posting some simple meal plans and recipe links – hopefully with breakfast and lunch ideas – every Monday if you’re looking for some new ideas.
  • Activity. Caleb got an XBOX 360 for Christmas and he loves it. My feelings aren’t quite the same. We’re going to have some big limits on gaming, computer/social media time and tv this summer, and I think they’re going to be connected to activity levels and whether or not a certain picky eater is eating what’s served, but no more than an hour per day.
    We’re lucky in that my grandparents and their pool live just a few blocks away – and I plan on taking advantage of that fact as often as possible – but I’m also hoping to start up some family runs at least a few times a week.
    I’m not sure yet what our daily schedule will look like, and I’m trying to stay somewhat flexible, but I’m definitely planning to include some daily reading time in their bedrooms. We’ve done that most years in the past, and it tends to be just enough break and quiet time to make the whole day move more peacefully.
  • Housekeeping. I’ve found it to be way too easy for the house to…hmmm…shall we say…explode during the summer. The kids and I have figured out recently that if we keep the house picked up, it takes about 20 minutes to dust, sweep, mop, vaccuum, clean the bathrooms and kitchen. No joke – we just need the right music.
    My hope is  to do daily “clean sweeps” each evening – a quick pick up to battle the clutter along with daily chores like laundry, dishes and a few other things that need to be done like windowsills – and do a deeper clean twice a week.
  • Words. I’m officially banning “I know” from the vocabulary in our house. There are a whole lot of other words and attitudes I’d like to abolish, but I’m not sure where to start. Lots to pray about and gently guide on this front.

How are your summer plans coming? We’ve got just over two weeks to go.