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.