It is for Freedom

A week or so ago I was living my life like some sort of caged animal. I could see what I wanted, or what I thought I needed, but events and circumstance of my life made me feel trapped. I felt like I was reliving a familiar story again, and again, and again. I was knee-deep in a situation that I could not, nay should not, control and I felt helpless to extricate myself from it.

Then one morning as I was praying, I read this verse from Galatians 5. It says, "It is for freedom that Christ has set us free." A simple verse, yes, and one that I have read many, many times, but on THIS day, the verse seemed complex, weighty, incredibly deep and life altering. So I read it again. . . "It is for freedom that Christ HAS set us free."

Christ HAS set us . . . me . . . free. Not Christ "Will" set me free, but He has set me free. I am already free. Any bondage I choose to live in is of my own choosing. Paul, in Galatians, says we should live freely. He means "choose freedom." And he means for us to choose it every day. Each day we get to choose freedom or bondage. It's a conscious choice and it has life giving results. He says,

"My counsel is this: Live freely, animated and motivated by God's Spirit. Then you won't feed the compulsions of selfishness."

And the compulsions of selfishness he lists are horrendous. Galatians 5

All that to say, I have already been set free. Now, the challenge is to live free. It is for freedom that I have been set free.

Better Living

I have decided that life is something we either choose to live or to survive. I think what made me think this today is that I was looking back through my road trip pictures and realized that most everything we enjoyed was simple life stuff. Sure we enjoyed the museums and the beautiful scenery, but mostly we enjoyed one another.

The things we laughed at the most were just normal things. We laughed about getting caught in the rain, and riding on the subway, and discovering that our windows rolled down in the car. We laughed about getting parking tickets and cows in open fields and horse poop. We people watched and laughed at our own stupidity over people watching.

We savored our meals together and enjoyed really simple foods as much as we did rich fattening ones. We were goofy and gave up being critical and laughed 'til our sides hurt over our own shortcomings. A trip to Walmart was a chance to enjoy one another's company. Wrong turns were cause for laughter and getting lost was just another adventure.

I think we're supposed to enjoy life that way. We could have chosen to get mad over ruined shoes and rain storms. We could have gotten angry over wrong turns in the middle of the night and getting lost even with the help of a navigation system.

But instead, we chose joy. We chose laughter. We chose to enjoy one another and our time together.

All that to say, what if we lived every day like that? What if each day, I chose joy? Better living comes with better choices.

The Sisterhood of the Traveling Aunts

I just returned from a 5 day road trip with two of my sister-in-laws and my mother-in-law. We gave my mother-in-law the trip as her 75th birthday present/Christmas present. I cannot remember the last time I laughed so hard, for so long, for so many days in a row. Laughter really is good medicine.

There is no real way to blog about all 5 days and effectively tell the story, so I will try to just give you the highlights.

On our first day, we arrived in Philadelphia and headed toward Harrisburg where we would spend our first night. The only real plans we had (in concrete) for day one was to stop at Trader Joe's and the local wine shop. Right off the bat, Corri started causing trouble, either that or the locals just didn't like redheads, because as we were leaving Trader Joes, an old woman started backing out her car, COMPLETELY ignoring the fact that Deb was already backing out. Corri looked back at the woman (whom I am guessing did not like Corri's look) and the old woman flipped her off! The old woman had to be in her 70's, which made us laugh! Later in the day, when we were in Intercourse, PA, I saw someone flip someone else off, and our Carriage Tour Guide said that just meant "Welcome to Intercourse." We laughed again, and from that point forward, anytime someone was grouchy (or I couldn't get people to smile for a photo) I would just say, "Welcome to Intercourse!" and everyone would laugh.


On Day two, we had a leisurely breakfast at our hotel (where Sharon made fun of me for how much breakfast I was eating . . . a waffle, some scrambled eggs and bacon . . . not really THAT much food, but whatever!) and headed out to the Hershey factory. Any day that begins with a place called "CHOCOLATE WORLD" is going to be a good day. We had our picture put on the cover of a Hershey bar, and I shared this secret I heard that if you stand on the end of the group being photographed, and put your hand on your hip, it will make you look really thin. When the picture came out, everyone exclaimed how thin I looked and Sharon said, "You should have that blown up b/c that's the best you're gonna look!" More laughter (why does she keep picking on me"!) We had a lot of fun in Hershey, PA and then headed back to Intercourse to find some quilt shops. Corri is not a fan of quilting, so the quilt shops were not the highlight of her trip, but we managed to help her have fun anyway. And we also managed to spend a lot of money on some really beautiful fabrics (WHICH by the way caused us to have to go buy an extra suitcase to get it all home)!

On Day Three, we were scheduled to go to DC to see the Smithsonian but the weather was supposed to be horrible, very very rainy! But we decided to brave the weather, ride the metro from Frederick, MA to DC and check out the National Museum of American History. Deb kept telling us that the neighborhood where she grew up was in the Museum b/c it was the first subdivision in the United States. (This fact, along with the fact that she is related to Jared Ingersoll, Signer of the Constitution, was her claim to fame on the trip). I could not help but point out that my claim to fame was significantly greater than hers, b/c my 5th Great Uncle was also in the museum because he was one of THE PRESIDENTS OF THE UNITED STATES!

Right when we had to leave DC to catch our train, a serious downpour came, and we had to cross Pennsylvania Avenue in the pouring rain! What a sight we must have been! Deb carried one umbrella and Sharon's oxygen, Corri ran in a raincoat with all our purchases stuffed under it, and I carried three purses while holding a broken umbrella over Sharon and I, who was trying to run with a walker in the pouring rain while crossing an INCREDIBLY large street! We laughed so hard when we got across the street. And pretty much instantly it stopped raining.

To top off that day, when we got to the train it was packed, and people were literally shoved up against the walls, doors, seats, one another. It was crazy! The doors even closed on one guy's backpack! At the first stop this massively large man, who was smashed into the back of Corri yelled, "I'm coming out!" and literally shoved his way out of the train. Corri was so mad, I thought she was gonna follow him out and kick his butt. I believe she could have done it!

Day Four was fairly subdued. We went to visit Gettysburg. Deb kept telling us there was a beautiful park there with gorgeous trees and monuments. Every time she described it to someone at the visitor center, no one seemed to know what she was talking about. Finally, we stumbled upon it. Turns out it was a CEMETERY! But it was beautiful (in her defense). Beyond that, unless you count the run in with the local law, and the chair stealing incident, the GPS giving us bad directions, and the midnight run to Walmart to buy extra suitcases, it was a mellow day.


Day Five started a little rough, with Sharon waking up sick. She pulled it together though and we were able to go to Philly for one last day of sightseeing. Before we left the hotel, Corri and I made several trips to the fitness room with our luggage to weigh it all!(Phew, everything under 50 pounds!) Then we went to Historical old Philly, visited Jared Ingersoll's grave (remember, he's why Deb is famous)ate a cheesesteak, and headed to the airport. I had never eaten a cheesesteak before. It was surprisingly very good!


All that to say, we had such a great time! I am exhausted, but refreshed, if that makes any sense at all. We have decided that we have to do this every year. I can just picture us all being a bunch of old ladies taking our annual trip to somewhere. It won't matter where because we will be going together.

This One's For You Tina

I remember the first time I "recall" her. It was on the rec field at 220, and she and another super cute girl showed up with fancy "Texas" hair, all kinds of jewelry, and looking ready for a lot of things, but definitely NOT rec! What a funny memory.

Her first remembrance of me is me speaking at a girl's retreat weekend called "Dear Diary" put on by Shauna Maness. I was undressing on stage and talking about all the things I didn't like about my body (which was not at ALL the point of the lesson, but sadly the part she remembers).

So, our first recollections of one another have to do with her being all dressed up, and me getting naked. This does not make for a good start to a relationship. :)

But today is her birthday, and I wanted to honor her in my blog. So here goes.
You are a funny girl. You make me laugh out loud, lots of times. Like the time you came out of the bathroom at Pappacito's and yelled halfway across the restaurant, "Carol, what are you getting?" and then when the WHOLE table made the "talk softer" hand signal, you got all shy again and said, "Oh, was I loud?" And then there was the time we were all playing dominoes and you looked at my dad and said, "Stop beeping me Gordy." I am sure both of these encounters are not funny to anyone reading this, except for the people who were there, but trust me, it was funny.

You are a sensitive girl. You defend everyone and it is endearing. You always say things like, "I'm sure they didn't mean it like that. They have a good heart. They just were raised differently."

You want everyone to be happy. Which is a nice quality . . . just be careful not to be tooooooooo concerned with everyone else's emotional condition! It'll suck the life out of you eventually!

You have a good sense of style. And I am reasonably sure you have never had a bad hair day! And if you did have a bad hair day, you could just put a headband on and another necklace and it would be a good hair day! (I don't actually like this quality about you for the record. Please, just once, could you look bad!)

All that to say, Happy Birthday to you. Oh, and I took your birthday purse. I liked it.

Twenty Five

Something happens to moms when it comes to celebrating the birth of their children. The day for us is so much more than a party, or presents, or cake and ice cream. Birthdays are remembrance celebrations. When my kids were babies, and then toddlers and then teenagers, I always spent at least part of the birthday day, on my own, just thinking about their lives. Today is no different. Each time one of the boys has a birthday, I take some time, on my own, to sit and think about the life they have lived. I relive good times, hard times, funny things, sad things, lessons learned . . . you get the idea.

Here's my birthday memory from last year

Today is Zack's 25th birth. Twenty-five! How is that even possible?!! In honor of his special day, I have made a list of my favorite things about Zack.

1. He feels everything deeply. If he loves something, he really loves it. If he doesn't love it, he REALLY doesn't love it. If he's happy you know it, and if he's mad, you know that too.
2. He is hysterically funny. He has spent a lifetime making us laugh. You only have to look at our family photos to see this quality in him. There is always at least one where he is trying to kiss Jacob or do something else equally as silly.
3. He has his own sense of style, in a lot of things, but especially when it comes to clothing and hair. I secretly want to be like him, but don't have the confidence.
4. He has a sensitive heart when it comes to people who are physically challenged.
5. He cares about people who others would deem unloveable.
6. He's not afraid to take a stand, but he's wise enough to know when to stand and when not to.
7. He loves his family, especially his little brother.
8. He's so talented. He can't take credit for the gift, but he is responsible with the gift he has been given.
9. He loves Jesus and lives a life that Jesus would be proud of, caring for the things that Jesus cares for.
10. He is such a great son. He's been a blessing from the very first breath he breathed in.

All that to say, Happy Birthday Zack. I love you more than candy.


I was thinking today about how often we use the word hook in our English language, usually with a very negative connotation. I have NO IDEA why I was thinking this, some stream of consciousness I am sure, that led me to think about being let off the hook, which then led to me thinking about letting myself off the hook, and so on. From there, I just started thinking of all the ways we use the word hook.

If someone is addicted to drugs, we say they are "hooked." In fact, if they are addicted to anything, we say they are hooked. If someone meets a random person for an illicit sexual activity, we say they "hooked up." If someone is gullible and believes something stupid, we say they swallowed it "hook, line and sinker." If we catch someone at something and they don't know that they have been caught, we say they are "on the hook". If someone feels guilty about something, but they are clearly innocent, we say they should be "let off the hook."

I guess not all uses of the word hook are bad. A hook in musical terms is a good thing (I remember that from Masters of the Universe - the movie). I even remember when hooking up just meant that you would meet each other later, ie: "Let's hook up later and grab some coffee." BJ Thomas once sang a song called, "Hooked on a Feeling" and that was a happy song.

All that to say, my mind is obviously a mess if this is what I am blogging about!

Life Has a Rhythm

Last night we celebrated Zack's birthday early. He will be 25 very soon. Weird. I have a husband who is a half a century old (older really) and now a son who is almost a quarter of a century old. Yikes. Those words sound old and ominous. In my brain I'm not that old! Of course, my body and wrinkles would tell a different story, but they're liars, so . . .

Our lives are so busy that literally the process of trying to find a free day to go celebrate the birthday was ridiculous. Every day was the same, "What about Friday? I have to work. What about Saturday lunch? I have to work. I have to be somewhere at 2. What about Sunday after church? Okay. No. I have to work." There are four people in this family and everyone of us has a different work schedule. It was maddening.

But alas, we did finally settle upon a date and time (a mere 8 days early!) On Zack's official day, I will write about him (which I am sure he will love) but for today, I just wanted to say that families need to slow down. We are all too busy, all the time. Our lives are flying past us and we are content to watch them do it!

I listened to a Rob Bell message yesterday. It was about rest. He kept repeating this phrase over and over and over. "6 and 1, 6 and 1, 6 and 1."

All that to say, life does have a rhythm. It has a speed that it is designed to be played on. When we play it faster than the speed designed, it just sounds like noise. Slow down.

White Knuckles

One of my least favorite questions to be asked is, "What is God teaching you right now?" If I can't come up with an answer, I feel like they will think me unholy, non-pastoral-like, so I grasp at something that's near the surface and say that.

Unfortunately, the thing that God is usually teaching me isn't near the surface. It's usually pretty far down, and it takes something jarring, some crisis or near crisis event to unsettle it and make it rise to the top.

The last 5 months have been a jarring of a sort. I have ridden a rollercoaster, of my own choosing, and my body and mind have paid the admission price. I cannot sleep. I eat junk. My mind is incapable of holding on to more than just a tiny bit of information in its short term memory bank. I'm cranky. The list could go on.

But this morning, I felt something give way, not a dam of tears, no epic cryfest, it was more of this dawning realization that I am not in control. That try as I might, it is not intended for me to be in control, and the sooner I get that, the sooner I understand that, the more likely I am to finally sleep and to rest.

All that to say, my white-knuckled grip on life needs to loosen up. My fists are sore from being clenched. So for those of you who ask, my answer is this. "He is teaching me that I am not in control. That He's got it. Whatever "it" is. He has it."

Funny Things That Made Me Smile This Week

1. Monday - I wore flip flops to work. It rained. I break.
2. Monday - I got a bad haircut fixed. It was worse. My friend Kim said, "Don't worry, I'll tell you if it's really bad. I'll screech and say, 'oh my gosh, here, take my hat."
3. Tuesday - I saw a 70 year old man in a pink bathrobe picking up his paper. He looked very comfy in it. I smiled.
4. Tuesday - Went to popeyes. Got a spicy breast and a biscuit. The guy at the window said, "You come here a lot. You like our breasts, don't you?"
5. Wednesday - I saw a woman with no shoes on steal a potted plant out of a shopping center planter box. She carried a brown paper bag around with her. A large one. I wonder what else was in there?
6. Thursday - I was driving down the beltway, going around 70 in the left lane. A woman driving a little sports car got so close to me, I couldn't even see her anymore in my rearview mirror. But every now and then she would swerve right and left (I guess so I could see her). She was AAAAAAANGRY! I couldn't move over b/c traffic was heavy. I wanted to slow down. I didn't. But she was AAAAANGRY, and for some reason, that made me smile.
7. Thursday - The AC man fixed my AC. Yay for him. He said, "The wires melted. I fixed them." He said it like it was no big deal. Just the wires MELTING. I love calm people.

All that to say, each day does have something worth smiling about, if you look for it.

Just Another Manic Monday

Yesterday, I "awakened" at around 6:30 a.m. I say "awakened" in parentheses because in truth, I hardly slept at all the entire night. I kept being awakened to pray for someone. At first, I was very graciously obedient. I woke up, and I prayed. I prayed for what seemed like a very long time, and eventually drifted off to sleep. Within moments (or so it seemed) I woke up again, again feeled prompted to pray for the same person. Obediently, again, I prayed. This went on for what seemed like hours, so finally I rolled over and looked at the clock. It was only 12:49! Ugh. It was going to be a long night. And it turned out to be one. Literally all night long, I was awakened to pray for this same person.

This whole prayer process should have been a very sanctified experience, but after a while, I just got frustrated with God (it's not a secret, we've already talked about it). Not only was I NOT sleeping at all because He wanted me to pray for someone. The SOMEONE is someone I'm trying really hard not to be mad at. God is good that way, I guess. As long as I'm praying, it will be really hard to harbor unforgiveness.

Anyway, Monday morning rolled around and I knew I needed to get up for work, but I'm was dang tired that all my body wanted to do was sleep! I decided to check my calendar and see if I had any early appointments, and alas, I had an 8o'clock which meant I HAD to get up, drive to The Woodlands, and keep my 8 o'clock.

By mid-day I had gone to the doctor (he said I was stressed and to get some rest . . . I paid for that diagnosis - seriously.) But he also told me to go do something nice for myself, nice and relaxing. YIPEEEEE.

So, I went and got a haircut, bought two shirts, new jewelry, came home, put the whole new outfit together and went back to work. I felt like a million bucks! Then I realized, "I just had a totally spend-money-to-make-yourself-feel-better manic episode."

All that to say, it was indeed a manic Monday. And I liked it.

Washing Machine Woes

My washing machine makes me so mad. Seriously. I don't know what is wrong with it! First of all, it takes FOREVER to fill up! What should take about 35-45 minutes to be a full cycle, takes about an hour and fifteen minutes. Every cycle that requires the tub to be filled drags out the process. I don't even THINK about a double rinse cycle.

The latest thing is that if I don't remove the clothes immediately, I mean IMMEDIATELY, like in less than 30 minutes after the cycle is finished, then all my clothes smell mildewed. It's so gross and so maddening.

Last night, I thought I would do something nice for Zack, because he has been working 7 days a week, so I changed his sheets on his bed. When he got home late, he crawled into his lovely clean bed (at least that's how I pictured it!)

This morning he comes down the stairs into the kitchen and says, "Thanks for changing my sheets . . ." (I can feel the "but" in his voice) . . . "but the sheets were mildew smelling." UGHHHHHHH!!!!!! So frustrating.

All that to say, if you know why such a thing would happen, would you let me know what I do to get my washer fixed?

Not in Control

Sometimes, life isn't funny. Sometimes it's crazy and insane and maddening, but not funny.

Have you ever experienced something in life that was so mind bogglingly difficult that you really did feel like your head might split open from the pressure? It's not a fun feeling. It's even worse when you watch it happen to someone else. There is no real way to help them through it. You can give advice when asked. You can hold their hand. You can give them a shoulder to cry on and an ear to listen. But there isn't much more that you can do. And if you are a control freak like I am, it is HORRIBLE. But control freaks NEEEEEEEEED to fix things. And not everything can be fixed, at least not easily.

But I have a Love greater than life itself. So the feeling of helplessness, of hopelessness, of being consumed by constant torment and held tight by the tormentor, those feelings have no power of those of us who know that Love. For us, we have prayer. And prayer is something. It is better than something. It is everything. It holds us together. It gives us hope. It gives us something to do. It focuses our minds on the One who is control. It gives us peace. It calms our minds and our hearts and our spirits.

All that to say, prayer is the real work. And the One we pray to . . . He is in control. So we don't have to be.