The past few days I have been in Louisiana, at the home of my mother-in-law, doing a little early "spring" cleaning. While the process itself is not fun, and almost always leaves me covered in cat hair and battling a terrible allergy headache, I enjoy doing it. I think I enjoy it because I love to help her. But I also enjoy it because it is mindless. I don't have to really "think" to do it. I just clean, and scrub, and scrub and clean. And there are immediate results, so the whole instant gratification thing is there.

Oddly enough though, THINKING is what I seem to do the most during my mindless tasks.

The one thing I have discovered while doing my mindless tasks over the last few days is the healing balm of truth. You see, when you do mindless tasks, all those things you don't usually have time to "think" about . . . they come bubbling to the surface. And you ponder them. I have also had hours and hours and hours to pray. Something about scrubbing and praying just go together. And pondering and praying and cleaning . . . those lead to discovery and truth.

And truth leads to humility and revelation. Though I am now sick of thinking about things that get said and done in anger, mostly my own, that end up wrecking things, including relationships; I am at least glad I had so much time to devote to the thinking.

All that to say, I don't know what to say. I have words that need to be spoken, but I'm not really sure how to put them in an order that make sense. Imagine that. Me. Speechless.

Perfectly Flawed and Wonderful

Maybe I'm the only one that suffers with this. But somewhere in my dna code, there is this "perfect family" gene. And it tries to click on all the time. But my family is not perfect. In fact, if anything, we are perfectly flawed. Sometimes we are moody. Sometimes we are not nice to each other. Sometimes we don't respect one another. Sometimes we think more highly of ourselves than we do of one another.

Sometimes we fight over stupid things. Sometimes we criticize each other. Sometimes we don't love one another well. Sometimes we say senseless mean things to one another. Sometimes we are sarcastic and laugh at one another's expense. Sometimes we point out one another's shortcomings. Sometimes we are not patient with one another. Sometimes we think unkind thoughts.

But sometimes, and these are the best times, everything aligns itself in the universe and we get it right. We love one another, with a I Corinthians 13 kind of love. Actually, we get it right way more often than we get it wrong. I might be partial, but I think I may have the best family ever.

My husband adores me. He makes me feel like I am the most beautiful woman in the world (which I categorically know not to be true), but nonetheless, he makes me feel that way. He is so protective of me. He puts my needs before his own. Even when it comes to our vocations and where we live. He is jealous of my time and wants me all to himself (a quality I don't always appreciate as much as I should!)

My sons are incredible young men. They are funny and make me laugh ALL the time. They can have entire conversations that exist soley of movie quotes (which is not a marketable talent, but one that I enjoy immensely). It has been so amazing to get to be a part of watching them grow into young men that love Jesus and love others. I am so fortunate to get to be their mom, and even more fortunate that they talk to me and share their lives with me.

All that to say, I guess my family IS perfect. To me.

Too Many Blonde Highlights

I got my hair highlighted on Monday. The girl I go to put some BIG chunky blonde highlights in my hair. So I think I will blame her for this event. For lack of a better phrase, and not to discredit my brilliant friends with blonde hair, I had yesterday, perhaps the most "blonde moment" I have ever had in my life.

I was driving down the road with my dad, step-mom and my husband. We were in my dad's car and I noticed when he put on his left turn signal that it was blinking insanely fast. I also noticed the car in front of us had the same super-fast blinking left turn signal. In my brain, I started processing this. You see, I drive a truck right now, and anytime I put on the left turn signal it blinks insanely fast. The noise from it is incredibly annoying.

So, wondering if there was some universal reason for why left turn signals blink insanely fast, I said, (I wish I was kidding) "I noticed that your left turn signal and the one in front of us blinks really fast. And it makes that super-fast clicking noise. My truck does that too. Do you think that's so blind people know which way they're turning?"

Everyone in the car started laughing, loudly. And my dad said, "No sister. I'm pretty sure it isn't so blind people know which way they're turning."

All that to say, shut up. You don't know me. I'm smart. Really. It was just a question. Not a well thought out one. But it doesn't negate the brilliant questions I ask All the time. :)


More Jones family Christmas moments.

Last night was the annual Christmas at Aunt Debs. (I wonder what Aunt Deb's family calls this?) Everyone brings a gift and we do that "Dirty Santa," "Secret Santa," "Chinese Christmas" whatever you call it exchange thing where people draw numbers and then get to select a new gift or steal one that has already been opened. Surely you are familiar with the game. As a part of the game, gifts can only be "stolen" a certain number of times and then the gift is said to be "dead." If you possess the item once it becomes "dead" then you get to go home with it.

Well, for a few years in a row, our family ended up taking home some really horrible gifts. Gifts like a six pack of Jones Soda that tasted like a complete Turkey dinner. Gifts like a barking cookie jar. I can't even remember all the horrible gifts, but there were some. Trust me! After a few years of going home with awful gifts, we starting working together as a team to be sure that each one of us went home with something that we liked.

All this plotting to get the best gift has served us well over the past few years. It is fun to try to figure out how to help one another get a good gift. This year the boys both brought girls to the family event, and somehow Mike and I got LEFT OUT of the plotting. But we still went home with good presents. HA!

As family events go, it was fun. We definitely had some memorable moments. Like my great-nephew biting Zack's girlfriend, Christina. (Same nephew who spit on Jacob's girlfriend last year . . . true story.) Like Mario making fun of Jacob when posing for a photo. Moments that won't really mean anything to most of you reading this. But still, great moments.

All that to say, I love family. All of them. Even the biters. :) You don't get to choose your family. But I would choose these people anyway.

My Friend, Today

I attended a Leadership Retreat in Colorado a few months back and at this retreat, I was introduced to the concept of "Be Here Now." While it sounds like poor grammar, the practice of "Be Here Now" is really easily explained, though difficult to live out.

Basically, the premise is that wherever you are, that is where all of you should be. Not just your physical presence, but your mind, thoughts, attention, concern, etc. All of you should be present in that moment.

Here is an example. You enter a meeting. You are having a deep and meaningful conversation and your cell phone rings. Do you answer it? Do you look at the phone to see who it is? Do you choose not to answer it or even look at it? No matter what you do, you are now thinking about who was calling, whom it might have been, what they might have wanted, and you are no longer present in the moment . . . no longer fully present with the person you were with before. You are no longer practicing"Be Here Now." In order to practice "Be Here Now" in this setting, before entering a meeting, you should turn off your cell phone. It will be the only way you can truly "Be Here Now" for the entire meeting.

Not so hard, right?

In my life, where I fall short is with my husband. I can sit in a room with him, or a car, or a restaurant, and though my eyes might be looking at him, though my ears may be taking in what he is saying (at least the auditory process of it) I am not actively there. I am not fully present. And what's funny about that is that when he does that to me, it makes me CRAZY! So, sometimes I have to actively say to myself, "Be Here Now, Carol."

I listened to a message today by a guy named Rob Bell. Many of you know who he is. But the message series, "Mastering the Art of Living" starts off with a message that should have been entitled "Be Here Now." It's dang long, 48 minutes, which is a typical length for a Rob Bell message, but it is so good. So worth your 48 minutes. It was such a great reminder for me to remember that the abundant life that Jesus told me I could have comes with a caveat . . . rest. And not just that whole day of Sabbath thing, which is certainly a part of "Be Here Now." But the idea that today is today and I am not promised tomorrow.

Be Here Now. Live in this moment because it is the moment given to me. Breathe it. Inhale it. Enjoy it. This moment. With this person. This friend. This carved out piece of time alone. This good book. This time with family. This moment. Now. Be Here in this moment. And truly Live. Not thinking about tomorrow and what might happen. Or even yesterday and what went wrong. But just Be . . . just Be Here. . . just Be Here Now.

All that to say, I have not been living the abundant life because I have been living a life focused on tomorrow. And tomorrow has enough trouble of its own. Today, oh sweet Today. You and I, Today, are about to become great good friends.

If I Wanted to Eat at IHOP

I went to dinner with a friend last night. We went to Cheesecake Factory (I didn't get cheesecake. My butt will thank me later . . . actually it won't but wouldn't it be cool if you lost weight everytime you turned down fattening food!)

I enjoyed her company. I enjoyed my meal. I enjoyed the soft music playing in the background. (all the sudden I sound gay) All in all, it had the makings of a nice dinner. However (you knew there was a however coming, didn't you?) However, they do this annoying thing at Cheesecake Factory. They have these tables that sit in front of a bench seat. Then on the other side of the table (across from the bench seat) they put chairs. So, if you can picture this, there is a bench seat, a table, and a chair. This little vignette seats two. But immediately next to it, with barely enough space for a size 6 butt to fit through, there is another table (this one seats four). This "bench" is like 40 feet long, at least, and has probably 15 tables down it.

When we sat down, we were literally so close to the people next to us, that I felt like we needed to introduce ourselves. It was awkward to say the least. There was so little room in between tables, that our waiter could not serve us between the two tables!

The same thing happened when we went to Genghis Grill last weekend. Same bench seats, same closeness.

I'm sorry, but if I wanted to sit that close to complete strangers, I would have gone to IHOP. Why do they do that? Surely no one likes it? Maybe it's just me.

All that to say, maybe I'll just go to McDonald's. At least there you get a private booth.

It's Kinda Crazy

Isn't it funny how the simplest things can bring you so much pleasure? We all have our things. For some it's curling up with a good book. For others it is comfort food (well, judging from the size of my butt, comfort food works for me too!) But my most favorite thing to do, the thing that brings me such pleasure, the thing that delights me, I am sad to say, is very superficial.

For those of my friends who know me well, please don't think that this event ranks higher than me loving God, or reading my Bible, or worshipping at the feet of Jesus. It doesn't. But I am talking about a simple, earthly pleasure. And the funny thing is, I don't have to spend a lot of money to be delighted. A small amount does the same thing.

It's shoe shopping. Yes. Shoe Shopping. Saying the words "shoe shopping" brings me the same delight that holding an unopened can of cold coke used to do (trust me, that's a very good thing). Shoe shopping. Whisper it . . . shoe shopping. Same. Shoe Shopping, shoe shopping, SHOE SHOPPING!

One time I gave up shoe shopping for a year to give all the money I would have spent on shoes to my church. That was a hard year. Sad, but true. But it was hard for reasons other than the shoes. :(

But yesterday, oh sweet yesterday, I bought a KA pair of pointy toed senseless shoes that will have limited outfits that I can ever wear them with, but I LOVED them. I want Chip Gillespie to photograph them they are so cute!

All that to say, it's kinda crazy how I feel about my shoes. I should take a picture for you to see the joy that a pair of size 9's can bring!

Very Superficial

In my head, that title was funny because I was singing "Very Superstitious . . ." (I have NO idea why I was singing that, as it is totally unrelated to this blog) Anyway.

I was getting dressed this morning. Jeans (what else) an olive undershirt and a pink cable knit sweater, that I love and probably wear WAY too often. Then I had the shoe dilemma, as my jeans are just the slightest bit long for flats, but the slightest bit too short for heels, and I wasn't in the mood for boots - mostly because my feet hurt from wearing clunky heeled shoes all day at church yesterday - stupid choice.

So, I decided to go with the flats (super cute maryjanes that are plaid and have the perfect amount of pink in them). But then I thought, "It is going to be cold today, getting colder as the day goes on, so if I wear these, I am going to need socks." But that made me think about Sarah coming to have lunch with me the other day and making fun of me for wearing socks with flats. Seriously, I didn't know that wasn't allowed.

Granted, I am not particularly a fashion plate, I don't wear jewelry very often, I don't wear a tremendous amount of make up, but I'm not slovenly, nor ugly, at least in my husband's opinion! :) But, I do try to be fashion "aware." So this news about socks and flats being a fashion faux paux was a little disconcerting. I mean, I knew about pantyhose and open toed shoes being a no-no, but no one told me about socks and flats. Socks and sandals, sure, but these are close toed shoes people.

So, help me out here. Socks or no socks?

All that to say, this blog makes me sound very superficial, doesn't it?

Got a Lot of Love

Another year of "cookies" has come and gone, and as promised I am posting some pics. Of course, if you are on facebook, then you have seen the pics and know the story. This is a picture of the finalists from the judging. Zack won with the "gay candy cane" and Sarah was one vote short of winning with her "Beautiful Christmas Tree." Christina got one vote with "Goldilocks" and Jacob got one vote with "Picasso's Angel."

The other photo you see are all of Mike's creations. He was a riot! Uncharacteristically silly. He even did an Emeril impersonation! He goes more for the quantity than quality! He said he was winning the prize for "most number of cookies decorated." When we told him there wasn't an award for that he just laughed at us and said, "Bam!"

All that to say, I love my family more than I have words to speak. I think we might be a lot to take, but for the girls who end up marrying into this family, we have a lot of love to share! Cookies '09 awaits. As does another incredible year with my fam.


Tonight, we are partaking of a Jones Family Christmas Tradition. We just simply call it "Cookies," but we each know what that means. It means that I spend an entire day making and baking my secret recipe sugar cookie dough, which has been perfected through the years. It is not too sweet and not to puffy or too crispy. And, I have a secret method for rolling them out and baking them as well. All of this work insures its perfection. Then to top it all off, I make my secret frosting. All of this grand secrecy makes the perfect Christmas Cookie.

Then, each family member invites someone over and we spend hours decorating the cookies. Then, at the end of the evening, an impartial judge (this person is usually the least creative person who decides cookie decorating is beneath them) judges the cookies and announces the "winner." I wish I had pictures to post of past winners. The ones that stick out in my mind are John Ford's "Poached Egg" and the "Highlander Boot."

While cookie decorating may sound normal and typical, it is not. There are rules, people, that must be followed or fingers get chopped off. There are important rules. Rules like the, "No globbing a bunch of junk on your cookies" rule. Rules like the, "No eating for 24 hours" rule.(Seriously, it is important to the cookie frosting tasting its optimal best!)

In the past, we used to wrap up the cookies and give them away to old ladies and families on my husband's "Deacon's List." But now, we just all take a few, give them to whomever we want, and eat the rest.

All that to say, tonight is the cookie war. Let the games begin. Pictures tomorrow.

Let It Snow

I lived in Georgia for 3 years (almost), and in that three years, I saw snow twice, no three times. All three times, the snow fell for a couple of hours, just a few inches, if that, but it lasted for about a day. I never saw a SINGLE snowman, ever, in those three years or in those three snows.

Today, it is snowing in Texas. And the thing I love about Texas snow is that it doesn't happen very often (at least in the parts where I have lived . . . I know in some parts of Texas it snows BIG, just not my part of Texas!). But the fact that it doesn't snow much here in The Woodlands, makes it so special when it does snow. It makes everyone happy. People run around and take photos with their cell phones, and act crazy, and scream "It's Snowing!" like we can't all see the snow for ourselves!

But perhaps the best thing about living in Texas when it snows is that EVERYONE has to make a snowman. But because the snow doesn't last long on the ground, the only place it really accumulates is on cars, so you see ALL these cars with snowmen on them. It is hysterical. I saw several tonight as I was driving around.

All that to say, I'm dreaming of a white Christmas . . . no way. . . well, maybe? (PS - I took this pic while driving. I saw probably 10 cars parked on the side of the road take photos!)

Feelings and Faithfulness

I woke up this morning with just this overwhelming sense of gratitude and thankfulness. It was an odd sensation, truthfully. Not to say that I am never grateful or thankful, but today, I felt it. The closest thing I can relate it to (which admittedly is weird, but still) is that feeling you get when you step from a cold bathroom into a warm shower, and that warm water rushes all over your body. That's what it felt like. I could actually feel this presence of gratitude, this presence of thankfulness.

Maybe you have no idea what I am talking about, and that's okay if you don't, but it was really cool. So me, being me, I tried to think of what I was so grateful for and why I was so thankful, but it's not like things just started springing to my mind. In fact, the only thing that really came to my mind was how overwhelmingly grateful I am for God. Truth is, if I had to put that feeling into words, I would say I felt awash with being in love with God.

Nothing prompted these emotions. I wasn't listening to worship music or reading my Bible, I could just feel this presence. It was so comforting. And the second I said the word comforting (to myself) I realized that the presence I felt was the Holy Spirit, it had to be.

All that to say, God is so faithful. I have not been grateful or thankful lately. I have been lonely. I have been empty at times. I have been angry. I have been irrational. I have been sad. And though many of these emotions have been directed at God, His response to me was to comfort me.

Gettin' a Little Ticked

I saw on the news this morning that the Big 3 Auto guys are asking Congress for . . . you guessed it . . . a buy out . . . or yet another GIANT loan to keep their sorry butts from going under. (I"m sorry. I probably shouldn't say "sorry butts." They might be perfectly wonderful people who get up early and work hard every day. But "sorry butts" makes a much more dramatic statement. :) )

I have an idea to combat this "depression" that we are in (that's what they called it). What if they took all the money that they have given to these major cash cow corporations (literally, all of it) and instead gave it to the American public? That way those people who can't pay off the ridiculous mortgages that lending institutions gave them . . .well, maybe they could pay them off. And then if they could pay off their loans, then maybe the lending institutions would be going belly up. But even if Americans didn't use the money to pay off their debt, I'm pretty sure the vacations they took with the money would cost a lot less than $450 THOUSAND dollars!!!!

Imagine the activity in our economy that would take place if these billions of dollars they are giving away went into our pockets?

And now the Big 3 need a loan? Do you think if they get a loan from the government that they are going to lower the price of their cars? I don't!

Who's next? Airlines? Do they need a loan? Pottery Barn? Walmart? Hell, let's just give everybody a loan! Aarrrgh!

There is this little piece of me that thinks somehow, no matter what they do, we are going to end up paying for it through our taxes, WHICH by the way, we are SUPPOSED to be getting a break on. Hmmmmmm, don't see that happening. That money's gotta come from somewhere people, it's not like we can just print more, you know? (Well, technically we can, but you know what I mean.)

All that to say, I'm gettin' a little ticked about all this. No body is helping me out just because I can't pay my bills. (Well, actually I can pay my bills, thankfully, but if I couldn't, this would be a way better sentence!)

O Christmas Tree, O Christmas Tree

I bought a Christmas tree a few weeks ago . . . if you can call it that. It is supposedly 6 feet tall, but I am taller than the tree, so I doubt it, but THE BOX it came in said it was 6 feet tall. My tree is pre-lit. I have never owned a pre-lit tree, but I have decided that I like it, the pre-lit part, I mean.

The day after Thanksgiving, we put up our tiny little tree, in our tiny little apartment. A friend who visited our apartment came in and said, "Awww, it's like Charlie Brown's tree." That pretty much sums up the tree. At the moment, it sits in the corner with no ornaments on it. (But the lights look pretty!) There is a reason it has no ornaments on it. A good reason I think. I bought some red balls to put on it, but I cannot bring myself to hang them on the tree.

Here is my problem. Over the course of the 27 years I have been married, I have accumulated many Christmas ornaments. Many of them represent places we have lived, vacations we have taken, activities our children have been involved in, milestones in our life like births of our children, graduations, and so on. They look and feel like home.

So to hang red balls on the tree just makes my heart hurt.

That is why my poor little tree is sitting with no ornaments on it. I thought about decorating it with a theme, but that just seems crazy to go out and buy a bunch of new ornaments. I thought I might throw a "bring an ornament for my tree" party, but my apartment is too small to have a party. So, I am still looking at this poor empty tree. It needs ornaments. Back in Georgia, I have a lifetime worth of ornaments. Back in Georgia, I would have a Christmas tree filled with ornaments that just make my tree look all homey and warm.

All that to say, I wouldn't mind it much if my house sold, and I could have all my stuff. And, my tree wouldn't mind it much either.

Why It Matters What You Buy For Christmas

Normally, on the day after Thanksgiving, I arise while it is still dark outside and join the millions of other idiots out shopping on Black Friday. But this year, much to my family's dismay, I said, "No."

I am working on minimizing my Christmas shopping and Christmas giving, at least in the usual materialistic, buying a bunch of crap that people will never wear or will stick in a closet and will eventually sell in a garage sale, kind of way.

This year, my immediate family will get a gift, not 12 gifts, and then the rest of the money I normally spend on them will be given to I Am Change. I am doing this because last year I learned that Americans spend about $450 Billion dollars on Christmas, AND it would only take about $10 Billion dollars annually to solve the clean water crisis in THE WORLD. So, just imagine if we each DIDN'T buy those junky stocking stuffers and instead bought a $25 donation card to I AM Change, then EVERYONE in the WORLD would have clean drinking water for an entire year!

Another interesting statistic. Every 15 seconds, someone dies due to a lack of access to clean drinking water. That means over two million people a year die because they couldn't get what you and I pour down a drain. Imagine if we just spent $25 less this year on Christmas gifts and gave it to I AM Change. Over two million people's lives would be saved, and you would be directly responsible for that. DIRECTLY.

So, back to Black Friday. I woke up this morning at 5:30 and couldn't go back to sleep. So, I got up and got dressed and went to WalMart. I kept putting things in my basket that I didn't need, but they were SOOOOOO cheap. But then I would think, "If I gave the $10 I am about to spend on this CLUE game to I AM Change, 10 people's lives would be changed." And then I would put it back on the shelf.

All that to say, it does matter what I buy for Christmas. And it matters what you buy too. I would love to see you on December 4th at 7:00 p.m. at "Christmas With a Cause" (Woodforest Bank next to the Cynthia Woods Mitchell Pavillion). All proceeds from this event go directly to projects around the world.

You can make a difference in someone's life. Every dollar you donate saves the life of one child. Where else will you get that kind of cost to benefit ratio this season?


You, O Lord, are a mystery.

You are unchanging, and yet to become like you, I must change.

Your love knows no boundaries, and yet to become like you, I must love in a way that no human ever has.

You are totally in control, and yet to become like you, I must give up control.

You are all knowing, and yet to become like you, I must come to the realization that I know very little.

But O Lord, all that you are and all that you have, and all that you know, I have access to by the power of the Holy Spirit, which you have sent to comfort me.

All that to say, Come Lord Jesus Come.

Faith Comes by Hearing

"Faith comes by hearing and hearing by the word of God." I read this on a friend's blog the other day, and it sent me into this stream of consciousness.

"Faith comes by hearing" I thought that meant that my faith will grow as I hear others talk about their faith. I wonder what scripture says about that?" "Faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the Word of God . . . nothing earth shattering there. But what does that mean? And are the two at odds with each other or connected to each other? Must I hear in order for my faith to grow . . . that sounds right. But how does my hearing come by the Word of God? Does that mean I'm supposed to hear from God by reading His Word? That sounds right too. But it does say in this passage "what if there are none to speak and none to preach?" So it sounds like it means that I need to actually "HEAR". So I think this means that WHO I am hearing needs to be getting their material from the Word of God."

I thought for days about that passage . . . "Faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the Word of God." I decided it couldn't be bad to get into the Word of God about this, so I started looking up passages about faith.

This one hit me. Luke Chapter 22.

When Jesus was talking to His disciples at the last supper, he said to Simon, "Simon, Simon, satan has demanded permission to sift you like wheat, but I have prayed for you that you might not fall away from your faith." These kinds of statements jack me up a little bit, to know that God gives satan permission to sift us like wheat, but then I am struck by this. Jesus, the Son of God, is praying that I might not fall away from my faith. Because . . . because He knows that in my sorrow, in my sifting, in my weariness, I may indeed, fall away from my faith.

Jesus asked His disciples to pray when they were in the garden. And the Bible says, "He found them sleeping from sorrow." I thought about all that these disciples had been through in the previous weeks, and all they were about to go through. And how Jesus had just been talking to them about how his "soul was deeply grieved, to the point of death." All of this had to have taken its toll, so in their sorrow, they slept.

And when He found them He said, "Why are you sleeping? Get up and pray that you may not enter into temptation."

I might not be physically asleep (trust me, I haven't slept well in a long time). But I have been spiritually asleep. Too tired to even do the basics some days. And the result is that I have questioned my faith, beyond safe boundaries I fear. I have fallen into temptation. The temptation of abandoning that faith all together.

But alas. Jesus is praying. He is praying that I might not fall away from my faith. And I am doing my part. I am reading and I am hearing, and I am reading about what I am hearing.

All that to say, I know that I will be stronger for having gone through this season of doubt. My faith is stronger. Different. But stronger.

Smart Where It Counts

I have found myself recently talking a lot about Cash Cab. Weird, I know. But have you watched this show? It is a trivia quiz show set in a cab in New York City. Participants get in the cab, thinking they are going on a cab ride, only to discover that they are the contestants in a game show that takes place in the cab!

Now, people often tell me that I know a lot of stuff about a lot of things. And I suppose that is true. So you would think that would make me awesome at trivia games, but truth is, I suck at them. (Which is unfortunate, because one of my family's big holiday traditions is to play a crazy game of trivial pursuit.) Here is the reason I suck at these games. I am a geography dork. I don't know anything about geography. I don't know, nor do I care, where the Ural Mountains are. I have no idea who was the prime minister of India in 1974. Heck, I don't even know if India HAS a Prime Minister. I don't know this stuff. And generally speaking, I can do pretty well in life without this information. Until it comes to trivia games. They are RIFE with geography and world leader questions. Arrghh.

If they would ask the origin of the phrase "f -u" I know that (don't ask me how, but sadly, it is true. I love word origins.) If they asked how you get bacon spatters out of your favorite t-shirt, I know that too. The other day on Cash Cab, they asked, "What do the letters MO stand for when talking about a criminal's past acts?" I knew that. But then they asked some question for which the answer was "Indira Ghandi." Trust me, I didn't know that one.

I told Zack, "I really suck at trivia." And he said, "Yeah, but you're good at general knowledge stuff, and that's more important."

Well, there you go.

All that to say, I'm smart where it counts. (That is my paraphrase of "You're good at general knowledge stuff, and that's more important.)

Please Insert Faith Here

O God, You are my God; I shall seek You earnestly; My soul thirsts for You, my flesh yearns for You, In a dry and weary land where there is no water.

Thus I have seen You in the sanctuary, to see Your power and Your glory. Because Your lovingkindness is better than life, My lips will praise You. So I will bless You as long as I live; I will lift up my hands in Your name. My soul is satisfied as with marrow and fatness, and my mouth offers praises with joyful lips.

When I remember You on my bed, I meditate on You in the night watches, For You have been my help, and in the shadow of Your wings I sing for joy. My soul clings to You; Your right hand upholds me. Psalm 63

Today is the long awaited muscle biopsy for Jacob. I would be lying if I said I wasn't nervous. I'm not nervous about the procedure, but then again, it's not my arm they are pulling a muscle out of. But I'm nervous about the outcome. And so, I search for God. And I seek His comfort. I have seen the power and the glory and the majesty of the God I serve. And in those moments, it is very easy to believe that He is all that He has promised.

And I have also seen God withhold the very thing He alone could provide . . . healing. And in those moments, it requires faith to believe that He is all that He has promised.

But there is one thing that never changes in either of those equations. . . He is all that He has promised He is.

All that to say, whether today is an "easy to believe" day or a "requires faith" day, I know that his right hand upholds me.

PS - The biopsy went okay. They had some trouble with the local and so the procedure had to be done quickly . . . too quickly to let the anesthesia take effect. So Jacob could feel most everything. We will know something in 4-6 weeks. He is resting well at home.

Real People Doing Real Life Together

I have been a member of three different small groups. Really more like 10 if you count Sunday School classes (yes, I used to go to Sunday School) and Women's Bible Studies. But in all of those groups, some of which have been really good (some not so much) there has been one group that was that once in a lifetime kind of group.

I have asked myself, and been asked by people who are in charge of groups in their churches, "What made that group so special?" And as I have thought about that group I have come to this conclusion. It was realness (if that's a word). We didn't start with realness. But there was a defining moment where realness, authenticity, truth and transparency all came crashing together and created a connection that time and the test of time has not broken.

We were eating dinner one night, talking about general marriage things, when one of the couples there talked openly about a problem they were having in their marriage. I don't remember the exact words anymore, but those words opened doors for the rest of us to share things in our own lives that weren't perfect either. For the 6 of us that were there that night, we let down our guards and trusted each other. We became real. And there were many more REAL moments that happened from that day forward. Because someone in our group took the risk, and stepped out in humility, saying, "let's do life together."

Those REAL moments still happen, even though we live thousands of miles away. Sometimes my husband will get texts from one of the guys in the group asking him if he is speaking kindly to his wife (me). Accountability. I think that's what else has made this group so incredible. We don't just "get real" with each other, we hold each other accountable for the things that we should be accountable for.

I think Jesus modeled the perfect small group. We watched him do real life with his small group. He was authentic, transparent, humble, strong, and he held them accountable. They prayed together, ate together, laughed together, struggled together, suffered loss together, and celebrated together.

All that to say, "real people doing real life together" isn't just a slogan or a good idea. It's life changing.

Pretty People

We had friends in this weekend. What's funny is that when these friends come to visit, we do exactly the same thing every time. We go to Market Street. We eat at Tommy Bahamas. We shop around. Cathy buys something at Lilly Pulitzer (this time is was a giraffe print coat). We shop at J. Crew (Cathy buys or orders something there too.) We shop at Swoozies. (Yup, Cathy buys something there too!) Are you seeing a pattern here?

We eat at least one lunch at Potbelly's (the last time they were here, Cathy bought a purse right off of a woman eating in the restaurant!) We go to Starbucks. We eat at Guadalajara's (which is a cheap place to eat, but our bill is always extremely high for a mexican restaurant . . . how is that possible?) But it's fun. Only this time, Mike and I ended up stuck in those seats in the middle where you don't know which end of the table to talk to, so no one ends up talking to you at all . . not so fun.

We shop more. The guys play golf. This time Mike beat Ray so he carried around his scorecard to PROVE he had beaten Ray. At some point during the trip, Ray will usually comment about how everyone and everything in The Woodlands is "pretty."
We go to church (two times this weekend!?) They go home.
Really, it's the same trip every single time. But it's so much fun!
BUT, we told them next time they are flying into San Antonio and we will meet them there. They gotta mix it up. But Ray, no Mexican food this time. WHY HAVE YOU NEVER SAID YOU DON'T LIKE MEXICAN FOOD???

All that to say, Good Friends. Good Times.

These Two Things

I awakened this morning about 5:00 a.m. I know it was 5:00 a.m. on the nose because I rolled over and looked at the clock. "Ugh. Why am I awake?" I asked myself. I didn't have to go to the bathroom, so that wasn't it. I laid perfectly still for a few minutes, seeing if that would help me go back to sleep. But my mind was racing. Racing around all the things that were troubling me. Individually, I spoke of them to God. But there was no peace in that either. So I got up.

I made some coffee and a piece of toast and went and sat in my comfy chair. It's the place God and I meet each day (well, each day that I choose to meet Him there). But today, I think He summoned me there. That's how I felt . . . compelled to rise early, compelled to sit, compelled to listen.

So I sat. And I listened. And once again, as I have done so often in the past few weeks, nay months, I said, "Why, God? Why do you seem so far away, Lord? Why do you hide from me?" And then I opened my Bible to Psalm 10. And it says, "Why do you stand afar off, O Lord? Why do you hide Yourself in times of trouble?"

. . . compelled to sit, compelled to listen.

And here was His answer to me. "Carol, I ask two things of you. Only two. Surrender and be Holy." Surrender and Holiness.

These two things You seek Lord. Surrender and Holiness.

Surrender my will to yours. Giving up control to you. Joyfully surrendering my heart's desires for the things you desire. Surrendering my dreams to yours; my plans for your plans. And recognizing as it says in Psalm 16:2, "You are my Lord; and I have no good besides You."

And Holiness. "Oh Lord, who may abide in your tent? Who may dwell on your holy hill? He who walks with integrity, and works righteousness and speaks truth in his heart." Psalm 15:1. That doesn't sound so hard. But am I holy Lord when I judge someone walking down the street? When I tell those little lies that won't hurt anyone? When my mouth and the words that pour forth from it are hideous? Am I holy when I doubt You and lose respect for You because You will not give me what I seek? Am I holy when I cannot sit in your presence because the list of things I want or need to do is more important to me than what you might have to say?

All that to say, there are these two things that seem elusive. Surrender and Holiness. But alas, I have their names now.

I Wanted to Run a Marathon

So, last night Mike and I drove down to Houston to drop off some stuff at Jacob's house and then we met up with Sarah and all had dinner. Somewhere along the way, I said, "So, who's with me? I think we should all train for a marathon." Mostly my comment was met with silence, some snorts, and a few snickers (personally I don't know the difference between a snort and a snicker, but I needed another catchy word there).

My husband started telling me all the reasons I couldn't run a marathon, like how I didn't know how to run, my knees are bad, I'm out of shape . . . the list goes on. I stipulated to his list and said that was why I had to train, and then I said "Come on! Who's with me?" Still no takers. (Keep in mind that Jacob IS a runner, but he does have this medical thing going on with his muscles, so I sort of forgive him for not jumping on the bandwagon).

So then someone, maybe Sarah(?) suggested we run a half marathon. And I said, 'YEAH, I could totally do that, what is that, like 6.5 miles right?' To which everyone laughed and asked me how far I thought a marathon was. Seriously, I thought a marathon was about 13 miles. WHO KNEW it was 26 freakin' miles???!!! Who runs that far, besides Forest Gump??!!

Well, in the end, even with Mike the Encourager getting on board, we all decided we could train for a half marathon. Jacob thinks it will take me about 4 months. I think that sounds SOON! I figured it would like be this time next year before I could run 13 miles.

All that to say, I'm gonna need a new pair of shoes. And if something leads to shoe shopping, it HAS to be good. Oh, and if you have any thoughts on how I should train for this 13 mile run, let me know. Soon.

I Have a Dream

I am a bit perturbed at the moment. I mean really, seriously, what century is this? We have elected a black man to be the President of the United States. Can we be that forward thinking and yet not be able to resist the urge to tell stupid racial jokes about what color the white house is now, or how the rose garden is going to be changed into a watermelon patch or any of the other idiotic and stupid racial slurs I have heard in the past few days?!

I am sick of people thinking that making fun of someone because of their race is really okay. It isn't. It isn't funny. And it doesn't make you look smarter. It makes you look like an idiot. So stop it. Oh, and if you work in a church and you're doing it . . . really? REALLY?! Seriously? Seriously.

All that to say, I have a dream where someday, we really will all be able to get along. And it won't matter what color our skin is, or what our religion is, or what country we were born in. We will just love one another. Because THAT is what we are supposed to do.

I'm Not Who I Was

Cool Title. I'm Not Who I Was. Everytime I say or hear that phrase, I can't help but sing a little bit of Brandon Heath's "I'm Not Who I Was." http://www.brandonheath.net/media.php The opening line says "I wish you could see me now. I wish I could show you how, I'm not who I was."

I've been thinking a lot lately about how I have changed. And I don't even mean how I have changed because I am now a Christian and I didn't used to be one. I mean how I have changed since I became a Christian. All in me that has changed. All the things I have thought to be true because religious practice would tell me those things were true. All the things I have thought to be true because I let others tell me they were true instead of finding out for myself. I listened to answers instead of asking questions.

But I'm not who I was. I think my scabs have been pulled off (maybe are being pulled off) and I'm not who I was. And let me tell you, if you have ever had a scab pulled off, it hurts like hell. But I have experienced great change. I know this because I have reconnected with old friends and one of the first things they say to me is how much I have changed. I'm sure they are not talking about my weight gain or my hair color. At least I don't think so. I think they see that something is different. I hope they do.

I used to love Jesus and wish the world would love him too. Now, I love Jesus and I love the world, and I wish they loved him too. But I still love them, even if they decide not to love him. That is one of the biggest changes in me. Maybe the difference is not particularly distinct to you, but it is to me, and it has GREATLY shaped and changed how I respond to the world. The point is to love them. And in loving them, show them who Christ is and how I am different because of Christ's love. The point isn't in getting them to pray a prayer, though I am sure there are those who would argue differently. The point is in the loving them. At least, I think it is.

So I am different. And I am constantly changing . . . changing the way I act toward others, the way I speak, the way I live, the way I love.

All that to say, I'm not who I was.

Happy Birthday Mike

Big Mike, as he is affectionately called by Shauna Maness, is turning 52 today. 52! (Mike has tons of nicknames . . . "Jonesie," "The talking man," "Crazy Mike," etc.) The funny thing about Mike and his birthday is that he hates having a birthday. Well, not so much the turning another year older part. That doesn't bother him. He just doesn't like the "fuss" of a birthday.

Apparently, as the story goes, when Mike was a little boy (I think 8 or 10) he had a birthday party. And at the party, he "ranked" the presents in order of the ones he liked the best to least. (Why didn't his mother stop him?!) After the party, he got to thinking about how much that must have hurt the feelings of his friends who came to his party, brought presents, and then got ranked at the bottom of the heap.

To this day, he does not like birthday parties. He doesn't even really like presents for other holidays either, showing almost no emotion when he gets one, which I ALSO think stems back to the now infamous birthday party.

But he does like it when people say nice things about him. So I have declared today, "A Day of Mike." I stold (I know it is stole, but for some reason I have a hard time with that word) it from my friends in GA who have "Days of . . ." when it is someone's birthday.

All that to say, if you read my blog and you know Mike, will you email him today at mjones3730@gmail.com and say something nice to him? Tell him an anecdote that you remember with him in it (not antidote . . .). Happy Birthday, Honey. I love you.

Stop That Self-Loathing

Someone told me recently that I need to stop self-loathing. :) Truthfully, I don't know that I realized I was doing it. But, I can see where a self-examination might come across as self-loathing, given my present set of circumstances, so I thought I would do a little self-loving. (That sounds weird, but you know what I mean.)

What I love about my family: They are funny, sometimes wickedly sarcastic, but they make me laugh. They are real. They don't put on too many pretenses, so it doesn't too much matter where we are or what we are doing, you are bound to see the real Joneses. If you don't believe me, just ask anyone who knows the "Crazy Mike" story. They are caring. Each of them has their own caring style, which fortunately complements everyone else's style. They love Jesus. I married the perfect man. He balances me. And I have the greatest sons. I count them as friends, which is the best thing ever now that they are adults.

What I love about my job: It challenges me and makes me think and makes me feel valuable and valued. It gives me a sense of purpose and like I am doing what I was created to do. It is a great place to actually "go" to work. The environment is fun and real and good and sometimes a little stressful, but just enough so to make you want to do your best.

What I love about my friends: They take me as I am, and are accepting of what I have to give in terms of time, talents, weaknesses and so on. See "True Friends." If you are my friend, then you know you are my friend because I LOVE you. If you are not my friend, then I think you might know that as well, and that is something I need to work on. Being more loving of others.

What I love about my body: I have great eyes. The color of them changes based on my emotions and sometimes they are the most brilliant blue that even I exclaim at how blue they are! I love how people always think I am younger than I really am. Maybe that is my youthful spirit coming out! No matter what its size, I like my butt (and I cannot lie.)

What I love about myself: I like to write and think I have a talent for it, and someday maybe I will write a book, though I don't know what about or who would read it. I like that I cannot have superficial friendships. I truly care about people. I think I am a good listener (or so I have been told). I am not afraid of responsibility or hard work. I care what people think, but not so much so that it keeps me from having to make the right decisions sometimes. And I really do want world peace.

All that to say, today is a day of self-loving. So love yourself . . . ;0)

True Friends

I have been really blessed in my life to have had some incredibly close friendships. Some have been born of crisis. Some born of necessity. Some born of proximity. Some born of stage of life. And some seem almost ordained by God. That probably sounds corny, but it's how I feel. I am not the kind of person that can have superficial friendships. I can't just be your friend. I need to be your best friend. I have taken a lot of good natured teasing about that over the years. But perhaps that is why I have such close friendships.

I just spent the week with some people that I feel like God purposed to be my friends. I always feel like I have robbed them of a little piece of themselves when I leave, because I know that I have questioned and prodded and questioned some more until I have absorbed every piece of wisdom, every anecdote, every laugh, every tear and every second that I can while I am with them.

I often wonder how it is that they call me friend, because I don't often hold back with them, and often I fear that I may have sucked the life out of them. They often tell me that they are so glad when I come to visit because they glean so much from me. I don't know how that is true because that is what I would say of them.

Perhaps that is why we are friends. Perhaps we are friends because they don't feel like they have to cheer me up when I am down. They just love me til I am "up" again. Perhaps we are friends because when I am wrong, they tell me I'm wrong. And sometimes they don't even do it gently. Perhaps we are friends because even when I am wrong, they don't hold it against me . . . for very long anyway. Perhaps we are friends because when I question God, they don't try to give me answers, they just help me ask better questions.

All that to say, true friendship is a rare and beautiful gift. It survives time, and circumstance, and distance. Some people say that if you have one true friend in your life, then you can count yourself rich. If that is the case, I am extravagantly wealthy.

When Is It Okay to Complain . . .

I, as a general rule, try to be very polite, and excuse people's rudeness and inconsideration. I know that I, myself, am probably rude and inconsiderate at times, and that I am probably unaware of my actions.

But there comes a point when I feel compelled to speak up, to say, "Hey, cut it out!" or something else that makes the point that my patience limit has been surpassed. But I struggle, sometimes, with exactly where that line is, and exactly what to do when it has been crossed.

Case in point. Friday night Mike and I went to a movie. We went to the theater in Market Street where unaccompanied teenagers are not allowed to go. (You might think that sounds unfair to teenagers, but if you have ever been to the OTHER movie theater in The Woodlands on a Friday night, you would know how WONDERFUL it is that we have options.) Anyway, we went to see Appaloosa. Everyone in there was probably our age or older. So you would think it would have been a fairly sedate evening. Unfortunately, the woman sitting directly behind me had two problems. She had new shoes that squeaked horrifically everytime she moved her feet, and I'm pretty sure she had restless leg syndrome. So throughout the entire movie I heard, "squeak, squeak, squeak . . ." quiet. "squeak, squeak, squeak . . ." quiet. It was maddening. I tried clearing my throat (after about 30-40 minutes of squeak, squeak, squeak). I tried looking back at her. I did everything but turn around and say, "HEY LADY! QUIT MOVING YOUR FREAKING FEET. YOUR SHOES ARE FREAKING ANNOYING THE HECK OUT OF ME!"

I wanted to do that. But I didn't. And oddly, I felt trapped by the whole situation. Should I go get the manager and have him help me? Should I disrupt everyone else in the movie by saying something to the woman? So, I did nothing. I miserably watched my movie and was so glad when it was finally over.

Other Case in Point. Last night I went to bed at 10:30 and a woman in the building behind my building (not even the same building as mine) had her music up so loud that my windows rattled. I could hear her voice and that of her boyfriend and they sounded like they were standing right outside my bedroom window. So Mike got up and walked onto our back porch and asked her if she would mind turning down the music. "WHAT?" she yelled. "I CAN'T HEAR YOU" she yelled. I laughed. Mike said, "You can't hear me because your music is too loud. Would you mind turning it down?" "OH YEAH. SURE!" she yelled again. So Mike came back in and climbed back in bed and the music softened. . . for about 60 seconds. Then it started again.

He got up, put on his clothes and left the apartment to go talk to her. This is the second time this has happened. She doesn't even live in our building! What do we do? Do we just go talk to her every time it happens?

All that to say, YIKES! People, have some consideration. YKM (You're killing me).

A Little Robot, a Little Rick James

Does anyone know why they do that? I left the medical center yesterday after Jacob's doctor's appointment, and instead of going the way I know to go, I decided to go a different route. It seemed smart at the time because my "normal way" was actually in the opposite direction of the way I needed to go.

So I headed toward the interstate (or freeway for my friends in other states), navigated several one-way streets, made a few u-turns, did a few "yoo-hoo,-driver-in-the-next-lane, can I get over?" manuevers (which Jacob LOVED because he had to be the "yoo-hoo" guy) and FINALLY I could see the interstate.

Only trouble was once I got to it, I couldn't get on it!!!! There were no on ramps and no signs telling you where to go to get on it. That should not be so. At the very least, if they aren't gonna put an on ramp, they oughta put a sign up!

But, alas, we finally got on (20 minutes later), popped in a little Rick James (OWW She's a Brick House), and danced all the way home. I even did a little "robot" right before we turned on our street toward home. Which Jacob laughed at hysterically.

All that to say, the day ended well. And I slept for 9 and a half hours last night! Ahhhhhhh

What We Know

Two posts in one day. Wow. Just wanted to thank you for praying.

We don't have a lot of new information. But the doctors were at least able to say that they really don't think Jacob has ALS (Lou Gehrig's Disease). That is a HUGE load off our minds.

Still more tests to run, more waiting. But for today, the news was relieving.

All that to say, that's what we know.

Not Okay With Not Knowing

Jacob was an easy baby. Well, actually he was a super hard baby because he had colic for FIVE MONTHS, but once he got passed that, he was an easy baby. He slept all night at an early age, potty-trained easily, was extremely compliant and obedient and had the most joyful laugh. I actually have a tape recording of that laugh (yes I said tape recording) that I play from time to time. It still makes me laugh. He still makes me laugh . . . in real time . . . not just on the tape.

He was an easy teenager too. At least with me he was. Don't know that Mike would say the same thing, but I think that's the way it is with dads and sons. He wasn't perfect (Jacob, that is) Outside the stuff I know about, I'm sure there is probably stuff I don't know about that he did. I'm okay with the not knowing. At least about those years.

What I'm not okay with about "not knowing" is the present day and the future. Today is the "big day." We meet with the new doctor to try to find out what exactly is going on with Jacob's body. I haven't put a lot of details out there in e-land . . . not going to today . . . but if you follow this blog at all, you know he's sick and we don't know what's wrong. So today we are meeting with a big named specialist in the field of neuromuscular disorders.

It makes my heart beat hard. It makes my breathing shallow. It keeps me from sleeping at night. All of that sounds like worry. And I'm not supposed to worry. Because if I worry I'm not trusting God. And if I'm not trusting God, then who else can I trust? "Be anxious for nothing" the Bible says. Well, I'M ANXIOUS. Maybe more today than I have been. Not because I think this new doctor is going to tell us something terrible. It's just that I DON'T KNOW what he's going to tell us.

Welcome to my brain. I wake up and I am great and God is great and I'm not anxious or worried or troubled or any other words that are synonyms of those words. And then some days I wake up and my mouth is dry and my soul feels heavy and I can't take a deep breath and I am searching for God and saying, "GOD ARE YOU LISTENING?"

All that to say, if you are the praying type, would you pray today for Jacob, and his doctor, and us? And would you ask for complete and total healing of Jacob's body? I figure, if God can move a mountain, a few muscle twitches and cramps oughta me no big deal.

Zephaniah 3:17

"For the Lord your God is living among you. He is a mighty savior. He will take delight in you with gladness. With his love, he will calm all your fears. He will rejoice over you with joyful songs.”

I believe God speaks to me, really to all of us, as though we were preschoolers. He repeats Himself, over and over and over. We learn best through repetition. This past Sunday, I attended a Child Dedication service at our church and I heard the verse above. Then that morning I was reading something and I came across that verse again. Then, when I walked into a co-worker's office, I saw the verse on her bulletin board. Three times I saw Zephaniah 3:17. I decided to pay attention.

So this morning I slowed down and read the verse. And I made it personal. Which John Piper might hate but Rob Bell would love. :) PS - Rob Bell's new book is out Jesus Came to Save Christians!

Here goes:

"Carol, your God is living among you. You aren't invisible, nor are the circumstances of your life. He is right there. He is mighty to save you. He's strong. He can handle all of this, and don't forget, he's living among you. He will take delight in you, Carol, because He adores you and you are incredibly precious to Him. With his love, he will calm all of your fears. His love is all encompassing, and it's the safest place you can go. So go. Find peace there. And when you get there, you will hear Him rejoicing over you with songs. He's singing over you. Remember when you used to sing over your children when they were little? Remember how that calmed them? It's because they could feel your delight in them. They could feel how much you loved them. They felt safe. He's singing over you now, Carol."

All that to say, my Savior, he can move the mountains.

Don't Tell Stupid Stories About Me

Yesterday was Zack's 24th birthday. I was going to write about him yesterday, but alas, I did not. And as I was considering what to post about him today, I was having trouble because he has rules about what gets posted. His rules are pretty much the same as Mike's and Jacob's. There is really only one rule. "Don't tell stupid stories about me."

But I'm a mom. All of my stories are sweet or poignant or tell of him doing something silly that only a mother would remember and love. I have millions of those stories. Millions I would love to tell, but I won't. I have embarrassing stories, stories of love and betrayal . . . dun-dun-dun. I have stories about how he wanted to have a different, "cooler" name than Zack. Stories about how when he grew up he was going to be a brain surgeon, or a professional basketball player, or the school janitor because they got to sleep in the janitor's closet at school.

Oh which one to tell . . . I guess I will tell the first story. The beginning story.

Zack has a way of doing things in his own time, in his own way. It is pointless to rush him into anything. That only frustrates him. You have to gently approach the idea, and then gradually let him work his way into it. That has been true from the beginning. The very beginning.

You see, he was supposed to be born on September 15th, 1984. That was his original due date. But that date came and went. In fact, 5 weeks passed before Zack would make his beautiful entrance into the world. 5 weeks late. Weighing in at 9 pounds and eleven ounces. That's also like Zack. When he does decide it's time to do something, he DOES IT. :)

All that to say, Happy Birthday Zack. In the words of Shauna Maness, "You rock harder than all of the 80's hair bands, and that's hard."

Randomly Righting (That's Not a Typo)

I wish that the "start of day" took longer. I like to ease into my day, which can only happen in one of two ways. Either, I have to get up really early, or I have to have no place to go for a while after I get up. Probably neither of those is going to happen on a regular basis, so I just need the "start of day" to have more time to happen within my schedule.

My least favorite thing, well . . . that's not true . . . I have many least favorite things . . . but something I do not enjoy is happening even as I write this. I am looking at the clock on my computer, which by the way is still set on Atlanta time, and it is telling me to hurry up. It is saying, 'Hey CAROL! Your wet hair is still in a towel, you still have your robe on, there isn't a dot of make-up on your face. Get movin' Missy!' (Clocks say that kind of stuff to me all the time, and worse.)

My push back to the clock is that I haven't even read my Bible or written in my journal, or lingered over my thoughts. So SURELY there must be more time. But there isn't. WHY isn't there ever enough time in the morning? I need a solution to this. I have tried many things. I have tried washing and blowdrying my hair at night. That doesn't really work because I get TERRIBLE bed head. I've tried lots of other "solutions" but I don't have time to write about them because I gotta get going.

All that to say, this is a random post and I don't even know why I wrote it. But it made me smile the whole time I was typing. So I guess that's a good enough reason.

Don't Worry I Still Love Jesus

You never know what a "gut level" honest post will do to people's minds. Yesterday, I just threw out there that I am struggling, REALLY STRUGGLING with my prayer life. I got some emails from people that were very meaningful responses to my post. Rich salve I believe I said to one of them. I got some that were sweet, but not particularly helpful. And I got some from people I freaked out who wanted to know if I still believed in God. LOL! (It really did make me laugh out loud.)

I'd like to start with a "for the record" statement. Don't worry, I still love Jesus and I still believe in God. I told the girls at my girl's group the other night that when I have grieved all I know to grieve and mourned all I know to mourn; when I find myself at the very bottom of all I can handle, the one thing I can count on is finding my faith intact. The one thing I can count on is that God isn't going to have changed at all. My perspective of God might have changed. My understanding of who God is might have changed. But PRAISE GOD, HE hasn't changed at all.

I think I am better for the struggling, if that makes sense.

I'm going to work on not offending anyone here in the next few sentences . . .

I have a picture in my mind of this woman who gets up early every day, reads her Bible, maybe writes in a journal, smiles and neatly tucks the Bible and journal into their place in her nightstand and starts her day. She leads her life spoonfeeding Jesus platitudes to the masses, and remembers to take a healthy dose each day for herself. On the weekends, she puts on her best Sunday-go-to-meeting outfit, spit polishes her son's wayward hair, irons the wrinkles out of her daughter's dress, dutifully plants a kiss on her husband's cheek and then they all walk into church together, one big happy family. Life there in the Jesus Bubble is good and safe and perfect.

But I don't want to live in the Bubble. I lived in the Bubble. It's not real. Jesus did not have a safe and easy life. And He clearly told us our life wasn't going to be safe and easy either. But whenever I find myself in the "this freaking life is not easy" place, I wrestle with God. And I know that even though I am limping, I will get up and walk. And the place where I struggled, I will remember. Not because I left an altar of rocks there (it's in the Bible), but because that hard place where I struggled will be a memory that showed me something else about God that I didn't understand when I was in the bubble.

All that to say, the struggle is hard, but I choose the struggle over the bubble. At least for right now. Who knows? I might go screaming back to the bubble, demanding to be let back in to bubbleville. Oh, and don't worry, I still love Jesus.

Wrestling and Limping

I'm struggling with my prayer life. (How's that for a nice smooth entrance into a blog post?) I'm struggling with my prayer life. I'm not struggling to pray. If anything, I am praying more. I'm not even really sure how to put into words what my struggle is.

Perhaps my struggle is that I don't think God hears my prayers. Because He sure isn't answering them. Is He? I have prayed for over a year for my house to sell. About 6 months ago, I just said, "Okay Lord, you have a reason for all of this, so I am just going to quit pestering you about it." And my house is still for sale. And then about 6 weeks ago, I started talking with God about this. About how we can't move forward with our lives. About how a good portion of our savings is wrapped up in this house. About how real estate was supposed to be the "perfect investment" and now it looks like we could lose thousands and thousands of dollars. About how we take money out of savings each month now because we have two mortgages. Maybe I was thinking if I re-presented my argument to God, He would go, "Oh, Carol, I see what you're saying now. You really DO need your house to sell . . . request granted." But you know what, in the last 6 weeks of this praying, my house stopped SHOWING. So I stopped praying. At least about that.

The last year has been a year of trial for sure. Broken bones. Broken bones for which I prayed for MONTHS to heal. Sick family members. Seems the more I pray, the worse things get. The more time I spend with God, the worse my life seems to get. Which makes me a little leary about spending more time with God. Of course I recognize this is flawed thinking. Which is why I have asked God to be the Shepherd of my thoughts. Because even my thoughts are wrestling with my thoughts.

And in the midst of my prayer struggling, I hear a man tell me that perhaps my praying style is flawed. Now I have this formula I need to use to pray. After all, Jesus modeled it, right? But then I see plenty of places in the Bible where Jesus didn't use the formula, so then I don't know which is right. Do I have to pray the formula, or is it cool if I just wrestle with stuff and sweat blood over it?

Then that makes me think of Jacob. Not Jones, Jacob of the Bible. And I see this story. A story of him wrestling with God. Of course he doesn't know it at the time because he's dreaming. But he's wrestling with the Almighty. He's not wrestling with the world. He's not wrestling with his job. He's not wrestling with his coworkers. He's not wrestling with his family or his wife or his children. He's not wrestling with the noisy neighbors above him. He's not wrestling with any of that. He's wrestling with GOD, and it isn't until he wakes up that he realizes it. And when he realizes it, does he wake up, smile, brush himself off and go about his merry way. NO!!!!! He gets up and walks away limping. And he was never the same again. In a good way. God would I love to be at that place . . . the never-the-same-again-in-a-good-way place.

This has turned into an epic post. But I think when you struggle, you have to process the struggle. And the more you ask questions, the more questions you have to ask about the questions you're asking. I don't know if I can pray a formula. But Jesus did. So I should. Right? So why do I resist it so? Is it because I think it controls me? And if that is my question, then why don't I want to be controlled? Which raises other questions about who I am, who I think I am, who hurt me enough to make me think I didn't need anyone telling me what to do, and so the questions continue.

All that to say, I am wrestling. And I am limping. And I know that I will get to the place where all of this makes sense. I think I know that . . . I think I do. But now that I am limping, it might take me a little longer to get there.

Bump, Bump, Bump

Yesterday, I went shopping for something to wear on my date with my husband. I wear jeans almost every day of my life (which I like, and it doesn't bother me REMOTELY), but I do know that every now and then, Mike likes me to wear something else.

So, I went shopping at 10:30 in the morning. I went to the mall and shopped in every store that would carry both my size and a style that a woman of my age should wear. Nothing fit. Everything was either too big (yeah!) or too small, too loose or too tailored. It was frustrating. At about 2:00 p.m., 31/2 hours after I started, I ended up at Marshall's. I FINALLY found a pretty sweater that I thought would look nice with some black slacks that I had at home, so I got in line to pay for it.

I need to mention that the line was EXTREMELY long. Like, day after Thanksgiving long. Seriously long. Behind me were two women who did not speak a word of English. This would not have bothered me at all, except that I stood in line for almost 30 minutes and all the while, the two women chattered. Initially, I loved the sound of their language. It sounded almost like they were singing. I enjoyed their talking until they started bumping with their basket. I thought the driver of said basket just wasn't paying attention the first time she bumped me. But then she kept doing it. Literally, for 30 minutes, two steps forward, bump. Two more steps forward, bump. Two more steps forward, bump. "STOP BUMPING ME," I wanted to shout at her, but I didn't. Bump. Bump. Bump.

I wish I was kidding. But I'm not.

Finally, I was next in line to pay. I stepped up to the red line where I would await my "green light" and literally, the woman pushed her basket right up against my buttocks. I lost it. I snapped. I had had it. I reached my hand backward and ever so gently pushed the basket off of my butt!! The little lady behind me tap, tap, tapped my shoulder blade, bowed three or four times, and said something that I think was "sorry" and smiled at me. I smiled back at her, feeling bad for moving her basket. As I turned back around you will never guess what happened. Actually I am sure you can guess. She bumped me, and then she and her friend laughed!

All that to say, it's a good thing I looked hot in that sweater or that whole ordeal would have just really ticked me off.


When I first moved back to Texas, Zack and I sort of set aside Thursday nights to hang out. He would typically cook dinner, and then we watched The Office (which I had to learn to love, still learning by the way . . . mostly because it has this inexplicable way of making me spit water out of my nose at the most unexpected moments!) and then we watched Grey's Anatomy. Zack wasn't a big Grey's fan . . . had never really watched the show until last season, but that was our pattern. He always acted like he didn't really like the show, but secretly, when we would miss a Thursday night, he would tivo it for me (I almost said tape it) and watch it without me.

Last night we hung out, went to the mall for some work clothes, came home and ate pizza which is not on my food plan, watched The Office, which was funny and I almost spit water through my nose, and then we watched Grey's. He still professes not to like it, though I distinctly saw him enjoying it last night. He's not a fan of the two of the characters, so he protested a bit about them. But he still liked the show. I know he did. You know you liked it, Zack.

The best thing about last night was just the normalcy of it all. For those few short hours, life felt balanced. As the evening ended, and my eyelids grew heavy, Zack popped off the couch (he tends to come to life in the late evening) and said he had to head home to learn some songs. If I haven't mentioned it, he's a bad ass musician (I usually say he's a bass player, but after some discussion between he and I, he said bad ass musician sounds way better, at least if you are a musician).

All that to say, shirt and tie $64, pizza and a coke $17, spending a normal evening with my b-a musician son . . . priceless.

I Confess My Hope

I am not feeling clever today. I am feeling overwhelmed, but even that comes and goes. This morning I couldn't open a travel coffee mug. It was on seriously tight. I took it over to Jacob to open and he easily took the lid off of it and then replied, "Come on Mom. My nerves are dying and I could get the lid off. What's your problem?" That made me laugh. Which made me think I was losing my mind that I would laugh at that.

I am really trying not to make leaps. I'm trying not to research diseases online. I'm trying not to freak out! Last night we sang this song. For some reason, I took the greatest comfort in these words.

I confess my hope
In the light of Your salvation
Where I lose myself
I will find You're all I need

Sing my soul of the Savior's love
Sing my soul Unto God alone

I will meet You here
In the life we call surrender
Let the world I know
Be the glory of Your grace

You alone are God
You alone are God
We declare the glory of Your name

All that to say, this life we call surrender is not easy. But in the midst of that is the greatest comfort I will find. Knowing that someone bigger than me is in control of all of this . . . there is truth in that. And where truth is, the spirit of the Lord is. And where the spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom.

I . . . can't . . . breathe

I was listening to this woman the other day complain about how the guy at the drive thru had gotten her order wrong and how she was sick of the fact that it shouldn't be rocket science to put the correct food in the correct bag and hand it to the correct person in the correct car. At the time, I was ready to just jump in and say, "YES! I HATE THAT TOO!" But I stopped myself. But I did agree with her.

Yesterday, I got myself pretty riled up about something as well. Something minor and insignificant. Just my house selling. My house that has been on the market for over a year now. A year and one month to be exact.

But today, I don't care. I don't care if my stupid house never sells. I don't care if I never get the right food at the drive thru. Because today, I have enough trouble for today. I feel like an air balloon that has been floating around for a while, but all of a sudden the air in me has found a hole and is whooshing out. The room is spinning and the oxygen is gone. I would take a deep breath, but my chest is experiencing this crushing weight.

My son is sick. They can tell us what they are pretty sure he doesn't have, but they can't tell us what he does have. Did I mention I can't breathe? I keep telling myself not to borrow trouble from tomorrow. That's what the Bible says. I don't know what he has. I don't know that he has anything to worry about at all. Maybe it's something really explainable and simple. That could be it. That would certainly be a glass half freakin' full mindset. Right?

All that to say . . . crap.


I am a fairly early riser. (Though the past two days would not indicate that . . . I'm sick, get off me.) But typically I like to rise early, go potty, look at myself in the mirror and pull at the skin on my face, especially around my eyes, go to the kitchen, make coffee, scramble two egg whites, then sit down and read my Bible, then write in my prayer journal, while sipping my coffee and eating my eggs. Actually the egg eating happens fairly quickly, but the coffee sipping lasts the duration of the Bible reading and journaling. Then I blog, most days. Once all of this is accomplished, I shower, do my hair and makeup, get dressed, and go to work (sometimes this part involves searching frantically for something . . . shoes, purse, keys . . .)

Anyway, my mornings are very routinely structured. But here is the problem with my routine mornings. If one thing . . . ONE LITTLE THING gets out of order, then the morning is BUST! It is. If I don't have eggs, BUST! If someone moved my Bible and journal (like me taking it to work and leaving it), BUST! If I sleep too late to accomplish my routine, BUST!

I have OCD, so the fact that I have a routine is not all that bothersome. It is actually good. But the bad part is that my mornings (which include my time with God) are so routine that they are just that, routine. Kind of boring. And when a routine becomes rote, then it no longer requires the mind to engage in order to accomplish the tasks.

So . . . GULP. I am trying to mix-it-up a bit. Today I had peanut butter toast. And, I blogged before reading and journaling. I feel a little unsettled (maybe it's the weight of the peanut butter in my stomach, or maybe it's my fever). Maybe the Lord is about to shake me up! Who knows what today holds? It's a blank slate! Woo Hoo!

All that to say, I'm sick of routine and ready for something, well . . . less ordinary.


Have you ever been walking along and found money on the ground? Like cash money? A bill? The green stuff? It doesn't even have to be big money. A fiver, a ten a twenty . . . (the largest single bill I have ever found was a twenty, but I did once find a wad of cash that added up to 54 dollars!) The feeling of first seeing that money, and then dashing to it, scooping it up before anyone else can get their mitts on it . . . it exhilirating. And the replaying of that experience in your mind brings you smiles and warm fuzzies all day. Then everytime you tell someone else what happened, it happens all over again. You are happy all over again. But also too (that's my Sarah Palin humor) you walk with expectation, eyes scanning the ground, looking for more money!

You are probably wondering where I am going with this, and truthfully, I might not know myself. But here's what I am thinking on this morning. Yesterday I heard a man say, "What our minds linger over, inflames our passions. What our passions are inflamed by takes our thoughts captive. What takes our thoughts captive drives our actions." If I think about it too long, it's going to ignite my emotions. Once my emotions are ignited, i'm gonna be thinking about it all the time. And once I start thinking about it, I'm bound to do it. (that's my translation)

Like the money. Once you find it and you get that boost of emotions from it, you think about it all the time. The more you think about it, the more your emotions are involved, until you find yourself telling everyone about it and looking for more.

Over what is my mind lingering these days? I don't like to think about it. No pun intended. But it isn't good.

All that to say, I need to be transformed by the renewing of my mind in Christ Jesus. Thoughts?

Yes, Still

One year and one week ago, I moved to Texas. My husband stayed behind with his job and with our house. He got a job here in Texas as well. But alas, the economic real estate market crashed (or at least turned over and exposed its underbelly) and now those looking for a house is far outnumbered by those who are selling their houses.

So, we still have a house to sell, and that is definitely our first preference. But we're also considering leasing it for a year or two, until the market settles down.

If you have friends or family who are looking for a great house at a great price, either to own or lease, then check out the link below, and then have 'em give me a holla. cjones3730@yahoo.com


All that to say, HOUSE FOR SALE OR LEASE.

Not So Sure

On a scale from 1 to 10, I would say I have a pretty strong faith, like maybe a 9. I'd say a 10, but that would sound like I have it all together spiritually, which I don't. Heck, I'm actually gonna say it's a 10 because I don't think "faith" is measured by a checklist, or a spiritual accounting system. I think it's your measure of trust in whatever or whomever it is that you believe in (which in my case is God, Jehovah, the great I Am.) I KNOW that I can trust in God.

Here is my dilemma though. I'm not sure about prayer. I pray. I pray all the time. But I find myself lately hyperanalyzing my prayer life. I have prayed super hard for a long time for certain things, none of which have come to pass. And as far as I can see (which I GET is limited in the space time continuum) those things would be good for me, so I just don't understand why they haven't happened.

So, I stopped praying for them, and have just taken the "it'll happen when the Lord is ready" mindset. Which I think for a while I believed, and now I'm just mad and want God to give me some reasons. I trust Him. I trust His reasons. I trust His timing. At least my heart says I do. But seriously, I'm just getting frustrated now.

A lot has happened in a year. A lot. And for the most part, our life is the better for it. But some super hard things have happened as well, and they just continue. So I think now, "Well, I guess my prayers either don't matter, aren't heard, or don't change God's mind." I know I have some friends out there who will tell me that God's mind doesn't change and that isn't the purpose of prayer, but in the Bible it clearly states "but the Lord changed his mind about the harm he would do to his people." Exodus 32:14. He changed his mind because of a conversation he had with Moses. So doesn't that indicate that our prayer, our conversation, might change his mind?

I don't know. I don't know how to pray. I don't know what to ask for. If I ask for a bread will God give me a stone? No. But for this moment, I am looking at the table, and I see a lot of stale bread.

All that to say, Lord help in my unbelief. I guess I'm not a 10 afterall.

Help Me Please Help Me

I watched the VP debates last night. And I read some blogs this morning. And I read some newspaper articles. Personally, I like Sarah Palin. Initially I thought she was a stupid choice and really thought it proved John McCain was not a very wise decision maker. Then she did so swimmingly well at the convention that I thought maybe he was an unconventional thinker and that served him well. Then I watched the debates last night. I thought Gov. Palin looked nervous and it seriously bugged me that she didn't answer the questions directly. That always bugs me. Seriously. Just answer the question. But, she is very charming, which apparently many believe is her strong point. I don't know. I do have one burning question though. When in our nations history has the VICE PRESIDENTIAL candidate been so important? Usually they are a name on a campaign sign and not much more. Which leads me to ask what is wrong with the candidates running for President.

And now we have this "bailout bill." I am a Children's Pastor. I am not an economist. I have a degree in Education. Not a degree in economics or finance. So I look to those who do have one to help me understand what this bill would mean for me and for our country and our economy.

But here is my problem with both the presidential race and the bailout bill. I cannot find a single unbiased answer to any of my questions. I can't seem to make heads nor tails from what the media writes, because they don't appear to be unbiased. Maybe they never have been and it just wasn't as evident until now. But I would just like some answers. Some simple, unbiased, factual answers, written in a way I can freakin' understand. Is that too much to ask? I'm a pretty smart person (at least my GPA would indicate that I am). I like to think I can comprehend difficult subjects that are outside my scope of expertise.

All that to say, if anyone knows of someplace that I can go to get some facts on the candidates (the ones running for PRESIDENT) and to get some facts on this bailout bill, can you let me know? Help me, please help me.

Velvet Elvis - Remix

I'm re-reading Velvet Elvis. I haven't read The Shack yet, though almost everyone else I know has read it. But I don't always like to be "in" so I am reading Velvet Elvis. Again.

I like the way Rob Bell writes. It makes me think. And he is witty and insightful and sarcastic. All the qualities I think I possess. Except he is humble. :)

But I just love that he says things that sound heretical, but then backs them up with thoughts and questions and what ifs that make you go "ohhhhhhhhh."

Chapter One (or movement one as he calls it. Why? I have no idea. Probably just to be different because that seems to be his nature, or at least the way I perceive his nature.) In movement one he uses the idea of a trampoline to describe God. Seriously. A trampoline. And for those of you who have read the book, feel the freedom to come back tonorrow. Maybe I won't be writing about Velvet Elvis.

The springs of the trampoline, he proposes are the tenets (the doctrine) of our faith. Things like the trinity, the virgin birth, should you drink or not, or should priests get married. These are the springs. And he points out that if one of the springs should fall off or break that our entire faith is not busted. Just that spring. The springs are what hold up the mat. (I guess the mat represents our faith in whole). He uses the trinity as an example. The idea of a "trinity" didn't exist until hundreds of years after Jesus died. It is a "spring" that was added, but faith in Christ existed before that particular spring. Make sense?

But then he likens some people's faith to brick walls. That if one of the bricks falls out, the whole faith is void. It falls. It crumbles. I have seen this happen with people. What they thought they knew about God changed, (He didn't change, but their perception did) and suddenly the brick they hold in their hand, the one that got ripped out, their perception-of-God-brick, doesn't fit back into the wall anymore and the wall wobbles. I like that Rob says, "That's how it is in Brickianity." Clever. Some of my friends in brickworld, pulled out a brick and realized they didn't want a brick-based faith, so they started jumping instead. I've lived in brickworld and practiced Brickianity. I like jumping better.

All that to say, I am jumping on the mat and exploring the strength of my springs right now. Some of them are really being stretched. I'm not sure they will hold. But the mat will.

I Needed That

Last night I went to a Mexican restaurant with a friend of mine. It was kind of impromptu. I lead a young women's group on Tuesday nights, and normally grab a junky fast food dinner, so I thought since I had the time, I'd go sit down and eat something a little healthier. (Relax, I had chicken fajitas and I hardly ate any chips. Besides, today is my "weigh day" so I sure wasn't gonna scarf down a ton of mexican food the day before) . . . anyway.

So, my friend and I are sitting there. She is having a beer and I am having a margarita. To some of you that might seem weird, a Children's Pastor drinking a margarita, but we aren't legalistic about alcohol at my church, so I didn't feel at all weird about sitting in a mexican restaurant drinking a margarita. However, I do try to be sensitive to who might be in a restaurant if I choose to drink, because, well, it's too long to explain so just trust me that I try to be sensitive.

I see this big group of women come in with gift bags and babies and a few little children and literally they sit them down right next to our table. So, I keep looking over at the table to see if I know any of these people or their children and if I am likely to offend any of them. I apologized to my friend who was with me for being so distracted. She asked me if I was worried because I was having a drink, and I said, "No. Not at all. "

She said, "Good. You shouldn't be. It's not like you are getting drunk and doing a table dance." (nice) :) But as she is saying that she holds her arm up in the air and winds it around in the air (picture a cowboy on a bull, with his arm up in the air . . . that's the picture). Right as she said "table dance" and moved her arm around, the waiter walks by, sees her and says excitedly, "All right!"

I laughed hysterically. She slunk down (is that a word?), covered her face, and tried not to die from embarrassment, meanwhile laughing along with me.

All that to say, laughter is a good diversion. It's good for the soul. That's why we are supposed to eat, drink and be merry.

What's on Fire?

Have you ever felt like you really just don't know what to worry about first? I feel like I am in a burning house and everyone is running around grabbing the things that need to be saved, and I am standing there screaming, "What's on fire?"

For starters, my house STILL has not sold. It has been one year. I talked to my realtor on Sunday and she told me that the market is pretty sucky and that leasing my house for 2 years might not be a bad idea. Well, we have a crap ton of equity in that house, and it selling is the only way we can purchase a house here in the motherland. Before the mortgage crisis, we could have bought a house here and paid PMI, until we sold our house and then we could have refinanced. Now they aren't letting buyers do that. Even ones with excellent credit.

Second, my son is sick. I won't go into the details, for his privacy, but he's sick and it sucks. It especially sucks because there is ABSOLUTELY nothing I can physcially do for him. nothing.

Third, we are not that many years from retirement, and we are watching the possibility of our retirement packages going down the tubes. I'm trying not to panic about that. Mike and I talked this morning, and we agreed that if we lost our retirement, that our later years will just look different than we thought they would.

I could go on, but it would only make my stomach hurt, and I am choosing to walk in truth today. The truth is that God IS in control. And even though I can't possibly fathom one iota of what is going on I can grasp the idea that God reigns supreme. My faith is all I can lean on right now, and so I will.

All that to say, I'm choosing not to sit in a burning house and looking for fire. It won't benefit me anyway. Though the earth trembles and the mountains fall into the sea, still my God reigns.