Day 167: A Game of Did I

I planned to take the girls to see their mom today, but on the way, Baby S threw up. Nothing like projectile vomiting on the beltway to really get the adrenaline pumping. The thoughts (intermingled with actual conversation) went something like this:

Oh My Gosh! What the . . ? (madly exit beltway)

"Oh baby, hang on. Mimi's coming."

Please light, turn green, so I can pull over somewhere."

"I know Baby, Mimi's coming. I'm sorry, dolly."

"Man, where can I pull over. Oh My GOSH that stinks."

"No Baby, don't touch it. Mimi's gonna help you."

Baby S: "It's yucky Mimi. What happened Mimi?"

"You threw up baby. You're okay."

"Oh yes, a parking lot. I'll pull in there. Holy Cow that stinks!"
(Throw car into park, jump out, fling open back door, gag, gag again)
"Oh Lord, please don't let me throw up!"

Yeah. That's pretty much how it went.

So we turned around and came home.

After I put the girls in bed for their nap, I called their mom. She started telling me what all she was going to do when they came home. WHEN THEY CAME HOME???!!!!!

If I was the cussing sort, I'd cuss right here. (Well, actually, I sometimes am the cussing sort, but I'm trying to work on that, since I am a Pastor and all.)

As they slept, and I did my usual routine of picking up, I started playing a game of "Did I."

Did I do the right thing in letting them come here for so long?
Did I make our time here everything it could have been?
Did I make their Christmas as special as it should have been?
Did I cherish my time with them?
Did I give them enough love to sustain them?

My heart is aching a bit at the thought of them leaving. It's 6 weeks away, if they do end up leaving (February 6th), and who knows what will actually happen 6 weeks from now. I'm praying for an act of God.

All that to say, "I trust you in this, Lord. Did I mention we'd like to raise them, love them, give them a home for the rest of their lives? Did I?"

Day 166: Learned From the Boys, Learning From the Girls

We got bored tonight. Our toddlers were also bored. And bored toddlers have a very distinct and ummm, let's say LOUD way of communicating their boredom.

So we loaded them up in the car and after driving around for about 10 minutes, we decided to head to Incredible Pizza. I have to say I was a little worried about going there, since the last time I went there, I left in an ambulance with a severely broken arm.

When we got there the twins' eyes widened to about the size of half dollars. The sights, the sounds, the smell of Incredible Pizza is well, in a word, overwhelming. (Have I mentioned how much the girls love pizza?)

We tried putt-putt. Big NO. They didn't really understand the concept of hitting the ball with the club, so they just chased their ball all over the place. And they also chased other people's balls too. And they picked up other people's balls too. Those people weren't too understanding.

We tried skee bowling. They weren't so good at that either. People nearly lost limbs. I didn't want to lose a limb. I've come close to that at Incredible Pizza. I didn't want to do that again.

So finally, we discovered the little people village. It was perfect.

Fearless Baby N was in heaven, running from ride to ride, trying to board them often while they were still moving.

Baby S, well, she was content to watch everyone else ride, until FINALLY, I got her to agree to just SIT on the pony and watch her sister ride the nearby train. Then when she least expected it, I pushed the GO button. And she loved it.

Why is trusting so hard? She had such a hard time trusting. But when she finally relaxed, and trusted that I wasn't going to leave her side, she loved it!

I'm so like that. I find trusting so hard sometimes. But when I finally relax and just trust God, I become like Baby N, fearless and loving life.

All that to say, I have discovered in life that I learn so much from watching my kids live life. It was true of the boys. And it's true of the girls.

Day 165: You Might Be Surprised

People often write things on my wall or on this blog about how encouraging I am, or what an inspiration to others I am, and so on.

I think sometimes that those people might be surprised at this Carol that sometimes lives in my skin.

She's not so nice.

Her words are not always kind and gentle.

Her spirit is sometimes overcome with anger and bitterness.

Her heart is not always soft and compassionate.

Sometimes this Carol, the one who invades my heart and mind, is mean-spirited. Sometimes she yells at her husband and shakes her fist at the world.

Sometimes she thinks more highly of herself than she ought.

Sometimes she's just a big fat beotch.

Sometimes she doesn't want to cook or clean or do one more load of laundry or answer a single other question or make one more decision about anything, including where to go for dinner or what to wear or anything else.

Sometimes, this Carol, the one who speaks on my behalf, sometimes I like to let her out. Sometimes I like to let her talk. And sometimes I wish I could lock her in a trunk and throw it to the bottom of the deepest sea.

All that to say, you might be surprised that I am not always inspirational or encouraging or even nice. Thank God that His mercies are new every morning.

Day 164: Love Beyond Logic

I watched the Blindside tonight. I've seen it before, but it was very different watching it this time. The first time I saw it, we had not taken in the girls. Watching the way the Touhy's had to defend their actions to people felt hauntingly familiar.

We shouldn't have to field commentary about race, and lifestyle, and socio-economic status, but we do. We shouldn't have to try to explain what we're doing, or why we're doing it. People say incredibly well-meaning, and yet very hurtful things to us all the time. Sometimes those well-meaning, yet hurtful things must register in my eyes because those are the times that people tend to launch into the "Well, of course I think what you guys are doing is incredible, it's just that _____ (fill in the blank.)"

I find I get really tired of explaining myself, my husband, our family, our thoughts, our hopes, our fears. It's draining if I'm honest. I don't mind telling our story, I just mind trying to help people "understand." Seriously, I don't understand it myself. So explaining to someone else is virtually impossible. Sometimes God just calls us to do things, things that are illogical.

Here's the real deal. I'm nothing special. We're nothing special. Yes, we're empty nesters, on the road to retirement, and now we're parenting twin toddlers. Yes, some days it's trying. Some days it's hard, (like when they break my nose or scratch my cornea! tee hee) But I don't really think we're sacrificing all that much.

We're just loving two little children, and their mama who is a very young and troubled girl. In church today we heard that God is love. I think this is the love God intended for us all to show one another, regardless of race, or socio-economic status, or even logic.

Love beyond logic. That might catch on.

All that to say, Love beyond logic.

Day 163: Soaking It In

Sweet Baby N.

I love the way she closes her eyes when she takes a bite of anything. It's especially funny because she isn't really adept with her silverware yet, so closing her eyes doesn't help!

I love the way she falls prostrate on the floor and closes her eyes when we're playing chase and she's close to getting caught. It's like she's "disappeared."

I love the way she laughs the deepest belly laughs you have ever heard.

I love the way she says, "Potch" when she is calling Mike. (Pops)

I love the way she eats her favorite thing on the plate really fast and then points to the empty place and says, "more, more."

Sweet Baby S.

I love the way she sings. Anything. Everything. Last night she was singing the
Itsy, Bitsy Spider, complete with handmotions.

I love the way she says, "Yesh" when she is saying yes.

I love the way she wakes up and yells, "Mimi . . . Mimi . . . Mimi." And gets louder each time.

I love how she says, "More" even though she hasn't had "any" yet. What she really means is "May I have some." :) We're working on this.

They are so sweet when they:
Hug each other when they are saying they are sorry.
Sit together on the same riding toy.
Wake up in the mornings.
See the pizza man at the door and run wildly to their high chairs screaming, "Pizza, pizza!"

All that to say, I say all the time that if I had to do it over again, I would take the time to soak in the small stuff. Just needed a good soak.

Day 162: A Soldier's Perspective

This was sent to me by a reader, KD Page. KD sent me this about the Armor of God as told from the perspective of an Army Solider. It is so incredible I had to share it with you. I have been saving it for the end of this series. I hope you love it as much as I did.

Hi Carol,

I know we are simply friends on facebook. I presume, outside of facebook, you know little of me and my past. When we have been in each other's presence, I have often been Nick James's shadow . . . Anyway, since we have been friends on facebook, I have followed your blog. Your recent posts on Ephesians 6:10-18 have really touched a very sensitive place in my heart.

I am a soldier, an Army combat medic to be exact. Joining the military was the best worst decision of my life. My experiences have left deep scars and painful memories, ones that I struggle with on a daily basis since my return from Afghanistan. However, those experiences have made me stronger. They helped mold me into becoming the person the Lord intended His creation to be.

Being a soldier, I have found a deep personal love for The Armor of God. Many Christians today don't see that we are fighting a spiritual war. They don't aknowlege the presence of an unseen enemy that waits patiently for the right moment to attack. They don't know how quickly they can fall when ambushed. If you don't know you're in a fight, you will lose everytime. There are a few that realize that we are in the middle of the longest war known in the universe. Those are the ones that train and prepare and learn to use the tools God has given us to take part in His victory. When I read Ephesians 6:10-18 I think of the equipment I wore evertime I went out on mission.

My belt: It was issued to me during my first few days of basic training. It's the only belt I have ever worn. Whether I have been crawling through the mud or sweating in the hot desert, I have worn that belt. It has never frayed, or stretched, or even becomed discolored over the years. I have had to replace every other item I have been issued, but not that belt. It's reliable and always with me. That's the truth.

My breastplate: The body armor I wore was a vest that had four plates (one front, one back, and two on the sides) and it weighed nearly 20 pounds. When we were issused these vests I took my time choosing the proper size and fit. Most of the other soldiers just took what they were handed. I just couldn't do that. This was something that was supposed to save my life when things took a turn for the worse. It was designed to stop an AK-47 round at point-blank range. I wanted to make sure I did everything in my power to get the right vest for me. I wanted to be fully protected and be able to move in it. I am a medic. I need to be able to move to the wounded as quickly as possible. My life and the lives of others depended on this piece of equipment. The next morning we had to wear all of our gear to formation. My squad leader went down the file asking each soldier how they liked their new vest. Most of the answers were complaints. "It's heavy!" or "It's uncomfortable!" When he got to me, I answered, "I feel like Superman. Nothing can hurt me." A part of me really believed that.

My boots: I love my combat boots. I hate breaking them in, but once they are, oh buddy, they are the best! Are they pretty? No. Are they the most comfortable shoes I own? Nope. Are they EXACTLY what I need in order to get to where I am going? Yes. They are tough. They are durable. They are meant to get dirty. I can run in them, march for miles in them, I have even danced in them. No matter what I am doing as a soldier, they are perfect.

My shield: I drove an uparmored Humvee in Afghanistan. Just imagine, a Humvee with half-inch thick steel plating all over it. The windows were made of 6-inch safety glass designed to stop a sniper round. (I have witnessed this marvelous safety feature personally. There was a nice chunk of glass missing from the window on my side of the vehicle right where my head was.) The entire vehile was designed to protect those in it from bombs, bullets, and RPGs. When my team was out on mission, my guys would not let me leave the vehicle unless the area was secure. The safest place was inside my truck. The team wanted me safe, so I would be there to save their lives and the lives of others. On many of the longer missions, I would sleep in the truck. It was my second home.

My helmet: 8 pounds of Kevlar. Yep. It was heavy. It was ugly. It had one purpose: to keep my brain inside my skull. I hated wearing it most of the time. In fact, there was one day when I had observation duty that I took it off because I didn't think I needed it. I was in a tower. There wasn't a threat in the area. It was hot, and sweat poured down my forehead into my eyes. My complacency was nearly my undoing. Halfway through my shift there was an explosion in my section. I didn't really believe it had happened, so I waited and listened to the radio traffic. Ten minutes later there was another explosion. My tower trembled and shook because of the shockwaves produced by the mortar's impact. Yep, it was real. First thing I did was put on my helmet. I was fully protected and felt more secure with it on.

My sword: Medics have a choice when it comes to using weapons. If we follow the Geneva Convention we cannot use weapons if we want to have protective rights as medical personnel. I'm fairly certain terrorist don't really sit around reading the Geneva Convention or take the time to see who they are not supposed to kill in combat. Because of this, I learned how to be very proficient with every weapon I had at my disposal, but my personal favorite was my M-4 rilfe (nicknamed Mikey). Everything else I had to put on was for defense from the enemy's attacks, but my rifle was the only thing I had that could actually do some damage to the enemy. I learned to shoot expert at 300 yards without a scope. (If I have to kill someone, I want them to be dead far away from me.) Hours upon hours were spent firing round after round just to learn how to use that rifle properly. It went with me wherever I had to go. Gym, chow hall, I even took it with me to the bathroom. I always had to keep it with me because I never knew when I would need it. I slept with my rifle while I was in Afghanistan. It became an extention of me. My hands still have calluses from holding that rifle all day, everyday. When I came back to the States, it felt weird to not have a rifle with me. I had to have something in my hands to provide some sort of comfort. Walking around with a rifle would alarm a few folks, so I had to settle for keeping my cell phone or car keys in my hands at all times. (My iPhone is now permanently attached to my right hand.)

I have been told that my experiences in the Army will help me grow as a Christian. I know that it has changed the way I see the world and those in it. There are many other stories I have, but that will be for one day when I have my own blog, I guess. I felt lead to share this point of view with you. Most of the literature I have come across on the Armor of God presents everything in the Roman style of armor. That was what they had back then, and it was great for the wars they were fighting then. I just wanted to give you a little modern spin on it. The enemy has evolved in his strategy and tactics, but so have we.

Thank you for sharing your thoughts and providing encouragement to so many through your blog.

All that to say, The enemy has evolved in his strategy and tactics. Profound. KD, thank you for what you are doing for our country. God bless you.

Day 161: This Is My BIble, It Is What It Says It Is

" . . . and the Sword of the Spirit, which is the Word of God." Ephesians 6:17

Oh, I have been waiting for this one. It's the one piece of armor that didn't need explanation for me.

One night, at a camp, I met a girl. I had never been introduced to her, and yet I knew her name. (True story) And I knew her story. I sat behind her, reached my hand forward, called her by name, and asked her if she was okay. She burst into tears. What happened over the course of the next hour and a half changed my life and my faith forever.

This story will sound like an outright lie to some of you, I am sure, or at the very least a pretty good work of fiction writing. Had I not been present myself, I might not believe it myself. But this really happened, and I'm only going to be able to give you the short version.

"Lauren" agreed to let me pray for her, but as we prayed, her facial features changed and her eyes turned black (yes, turned black, as in they changed colors, right before my own eyes) and her voice changed from that of a scared teenage girl to that of a deep bass male voice. And she said to me, "Bitch" (in a very long, drawn out way.) At first I freaked out a bit, okay, a LOT.

I spoke to Lauren, not this thing that was speaking to me. And I asked her what was hurting her and she said she was thinking about suicide. And I prayed, "Spirit of Suicide leave this girl." But the voice just got deeper. Finally I told Lauren that I thought she had to pray, so she did and her face changed and her eyes changed. But the story doesn't end there (though that should be enough).

For over an hour Lauren would be overcome by a new voice, her eyes would change and she would name some other thing that was happening to her or was holding on to her. She had been raped, was taking drugs, was cutting herself, etc. It was the saddest and most frightening thing I had ever witnessed.

Prior to that, I really did believe that "spiritual warfare" was just a way of saying that life was hard. And then I did something that might have been stupid. I asked God for eyes to see the spiritual realm. And what I saw scared me half to death. So much evil. So much evil. The enemy had been there all along, not hiding, but right out in the open, IN A CHURCH SERVICE, but I just had not seen him.

As Lauren left that night, she left a different girl, literally. When I left that night, I left a different girl too, but for different reasons. And when I got alone in my room, I began to recall scripture about the enemy and his legion and how they returned when cast out, and not knowing what else to do, I got up out of my bed and got my Bible, my "sword" and I laid it on my chest, placed my hands over it, and fell peacefully asleep. Just having on my hands on it brought me comfort.

I think now how silly that was. What was I going to do? Beat off the enemy with a book? What that started in me though was a love for God's Word. A need to know it. To be able to use it as a sword as Jesus did when Satan tempted him in the desert. I think that far too often we as Christians use the Bible to fight each other. Imagine if we remembered who our enemy was and used God's Word, the Sword of the Spirit, to defeat our real enemy, who is not flesh and blood?

Hebrews 4:12
For the word of God is living and powerful, and sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing even to the division of soul and spirit, and of joints and marrow, and is a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart

A sword is a weapon for close-range battle. It's not for far away enemies. But the Sword we have is able to divide joints and marrow AND discern the thoughts and intents of the heart. That's pretty powerful.

All that to say, suited up for battle, my Sword in hand.

Day 160: Wrap Your Head Around This

"And take the helmet of salvation . . . " Ephesians 6:17

I thought for a few moments this morning about all the times that people put on a helmet. Here's my list.

1. Football players when they walk out onto the field
2. Skateboarders right before they jump on their board
3. Cyclists right before they go on a ride
4. Motorcyclists (the smart ones) before they start their engines
5. Rock climbers before they find the first footing
6. Soldiers before they leave the safety of their compound

I'm sure there are many more. That was my quick mental list. But the thing about each of these people is that they put on their helmet BEFORE they begin their activity. It's not the first piece of equipment they put on. In most of those cases that would be pretty silly, but they certainly don't wait until they are in the middle of the activity that REQUIRES a helmet to put it on. And they don't just put it on once, they do it multiple times, every time.

When I first read through this passage on the armor of God, I thought to myself, "why wouldn't you put on the helmet of salvation first?" You know, get saved, then suit up for battle? But that's not what this passage is saying to us. Yes, I do think it is talking about actual salvation, scriptural salvation, salvation from sin that leads to eternal death, THAT salvation. So why is it even included in a passage to people who are already saved, already walking in the light of salvation, already Christians?

I believe it is a reminder that we are fighting a pretty tremendous and difficult fight with an enemy that is not flesh and blood. An enemy who is cunning, and seductive and a brilliant liar. And if for one second he could get us to doubt our salvation, we are done for. So when you suit up, place that helmet of salvation firmly over your head, your mind, the place where the enemy does his work. Remind yourself of the fight you are fighting.

These scriptures tell us what we are fighting for. The hope of our salvation.

I confess that “in due season I shall reap if I do not faint.” (Galatians 6:9)

I confess that “the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared to the glory that shall be revealed to me.” (Romans 8:18)

I confess that “my light affliction, which is but for a moment, works for me a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory.” (2 Corinthians 4:17)

I confess that “Christ Jesus in me is the Hope of glory.” (Colossians 1:27)

I confess that “whom He justified, these He also glorified.” (Romans 8:30)

I confess that “now is my salvation nearer than when I first believed.” (Romans 13:11)

I confess that “I can do all things through Christ Who strengthens me.” (Philippians 4:13)

Paul says it this way in 1 Thessalonians 5:8-11, "But let us who are of the day be sober, putting on the breastplate of faith and love, and as a helmet the hope of salvation. For God did not appoint us to wrath, but to obtain salvation through our Lord Jesus Christ, who died for us, that whether we wake or sleep, we should live together with Him. Therefore comfort each other and edify one another, just as you also are doing."

. . . "and as a helmet the hope of salvation."

All that to say, Jesus Christ is our hope, the hope of our salvation. Instead of trying to wrap your head around that, try wrapping it around your head.

Day 159: All Other Ground is Sinking Sand

"In addition to all this, take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming arrows of the evil one." Ephesians 6:16

When I lived in Georgia, it was my first real experience with cold weather. I mean COLD weather. The kind of weather you have to layer your clothing to live in. So I learned to layer. I usually started with a cami, something close to my skin and snug fitting. Then I put on my long sleeve layering tee. It covered my arms and added another layer to my torso. And then I would finish it off with a warm sweater, usually a turtle neck, a very thick turtle neck. Then I donned warm pants, thick socks, winter boots, and lastly, if I was going outside, I put on a coat over all of that.

But layered up as I was, nothing could protect me from a cold and blowing rain, except a really good umbrella. Which I quickly learned the value of when my cheap umbrella turned inside out and protected me from NOTHING. Wet from head to toe is not much fun in frigid weather. And considering I worked an hour and half from my home at the time, I only had to experience it once to know I never wanted it to happen again.

I think about my shield of faith like that umbrella. It's not a very soldier-like analogy I know, but it paints a realistic picture for those of us who have never gone off to war, or who can't really relate to "battle gear."

It really didn't matter how layered up I was with my other protection if my umbrella failed me, or if worse yet I forgot to pick it up at all. "In addition to all this, pick up your umbrella or you will find yourself cold and wet and miserable."

The purpose of a shield is to be our first line of defense. It blocks the onslaught of the attack, be it icy raindrops or fiery arrows. It deflects the attack. Ever seen an umbrella that absorbs? No! If it's a good one, the raindrops bounce right off. But if it is going to work at all, we have to PICK IT UP and hold it over ourselves or it is useless.

All of the rest of God's armor up to this point is something we wear, and once we put it on, we don't have to do much else with it except move around in it. But the shield, it requires us to actually use it. How to do that . . . that one seems much harder than opening an umbrella and holding it over our heads.

Our faith, faith in God, is a constant daily trust in God's promises, His word and His character. Without it, we are done for. Without it, the enemy's fiery arrows will reach our breastplate. And over time, the constant onslaught of his attack will breach our breastplate.

I picked up my umbrella in preparation for the the rain that I assumed would come. I pick up my shield in preparation for the attack I know will come.

"Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the things not seen." Hebrews 11:1

All that to say, "my hope is built on nothing less than Jesus' blood and righteousness. I dare not trust the sweetest frame but wholly lean on Jesus' name." His promises, His Word, His character. I hold those things over me. And I trust them.

Day 158: Shoes, Glorious Shoes

If there is anything I know about, it's shoes. Flats, pumps, boots, Mary-Janes, kitten heels, stilettos, round toes, pointy toes, square toes. Oh how I love shoes.

When I buy shoes, I go through a series of thoughts. First of all, do my feet and legs look good in them? Secondly, are they for long length pants or short length pants? Thirdly, how much are they? (truthfully, this is probably question #one for me.) And lastly, how will they feel if I have to walk in them for very long?

But the shoes of the gospel of peace? I gotta wonder, do I own those shoes or did I leave them at the store, fearing they might be a bit uncomfortable if I had to walk in them for very long?

Ephesians 6:15 says, "And having shod your feet with the preparation of the gospel of peace."

Wow. That's a mouthful. If I tried to reword that I might say, "let the gospel of peace be your shoes." But I don't know if that's exactly right.

What are the shoes of the preparation of the gospel of peace? Those don't even SOUND comfortable? And considering they are in the midst of a passage about spiritual warfare and spiritual readiness, they must be a necessity (like a good pair of winter boots).

So, let me see if I understand this.

Shoes are what let us walk securely. Bare feet can step on things, tiny things, that can feel giant and cause quick and severe pain. They let us walk on unstable terrain. They allow us to move quickly. So, in short, if I were a soldier (which I am) and I put on all my battle gear and then left for war with bare feet, I'd be pretty stupid.

So the "shod your feet . . ." part, I get. But what is the gospel of peace? That one is a little harder. The Bible talks about many gospels, the gospel of the Kingdom (Matthew 4:23), the gospel of Jesus Christ (Mark 1:14), the gospel of the grace of God (Acts 20:24)and the gospel of peace (Romans 10:15). Well, then that's confusing. That's a lot of gospels, so why am I told to "shod my feet with the gospel of peace?"

Romans 10:14-15 says,
"How then shall they call on Him in whom they have not believed? And how shall they believe in Him of whom they have not heard? And how shall they hear without a preacher? And how shall they preach unless they are sent? As it is written: "How beautiful are the feet of those who preach the gospel of peace, who bring glad tidings of good things!"

I don't know what Paul intended when he penned these words, but here's what I think. My main purpose is to bring glory to God's name. To glorify him in all I do. The world is watching. They are watching how I walk. Because it is a reflection of God and who He is. The shoes I put on are the shoes I walk in. So here I am, a soldier, ready for battle, but walking first and foremost in the peace of God.

All girded up, with my belt of truth in place, my breastplate of righteousness ready to fend off any mortal blows, but my feet shod with peace.

All that to say, God's Word is so powerfully beautiful.

Day 157: Shot Through the Heart

Facing the hordes of Satan, you brace yourself and pray. The hosts of your enemy share a collective, malicious grin, waiting for the command to do their worst.

The battle cry sounds. They begin their charge; you tighten your grip on your sword and raise your shield. Weapons begin swinging with unrivaled fury; you do your best to parry the onslaught, but there are too many weapons to block. Eventually, you watch as one of your opponent's swords begins making a clean arc that continues right past your shield and toward your chest.

You brace yourself, preparing for the worst and expecting your quick demise, watching the weapon move ever closer to you as time slows to a maddening crawl—waiting, waiting, when CLANG! The reverberating noise of the sword striking your breastplate pierces the air.

Shaking your head in disbelief, you look down to find that your breastplate stopped the deadly blow in its tracks.

I love this visual picture of the purpose of the breastplate. A striking blow to our chest would very well kill us. Our heart and our lungs along with all of our vital organs (minus the brain) are housed there. If the enemy needs a place to strike, that would be the area.

The thing about a blow to the torso is that it would be easy to die a slow painful death from a wound in this area.

Don't believe me? Ever seen anyone whose heart is heavy with unforgiveness or with hidden sin? It's like a poison shot deep inside them. And the thing about arrows laden with unforgiveness and sin is that often we think we have dealt with them, but in reality we have just broken off the shaft of the arrow and left the arrowhead buried deep within us, where it festers, slowly killing us.

Ephesians 6:14 says, "Stand firm therefore, having girded your loins with truth, and having put on the breastplate of righteousness."

So what is righteousness? To be righteous is to do what is right in God's eyes. God's commandments are righteousness. In contrast, lawlessness is sin, and sin is the opposite of righteousness. So to be righteous is to obey God's laws of love.

As my Pastor preached last night, fall in love with God's Word, don't JUST read it every day, meet God there in it every day.

All that to say, my righteousness is as filthy rags according to Isaiah, thinking I can protect myself from the enemy is pointless. I cannot. But covering myself with the righteousness of God . . . if God is for me, who can be against me?

First paragraph courtesy of

Day 157: Cookies are Coming

Tomorrow we will celebrate our Jones family tradition called "Cookies." I have already mixed the secret cookie dough and it is chilling in the refrigerator, waiting to be rolled out into delicious goodness.

In the last two weeks alone I have had at least, and I do mean AT LEAST (no hyperbole here) 4 people ask me if I have baked "the cookies" yet. These aren't just any cookies, they are the most yummy sugar cookies, baked to perfection, and then dipped in frosting that is so sweet and delicious that it makes the cookie literally melt in your mouth.

This year will be extra special because we will celebrate "cookies" with the girls. I hope they love it as much as we all do!

So, tomorrow, I will go to church, then come home and bake cookies, all in anticipation of a fun family night!

All that to say, I love this holiday tradition. I hope to win this year. I learned from Jackie Key last year that if I just give my cookie a fancy and long name, I'm a shoe in to win!

Day 156: Gird Your Loins

We were talking about sin the other night at a Bible Study, and how we seem to repeat the same familiar sin, over and over and over. I offered a possible reason to the group saying, "We are weak, and the enemy knows where our weakness is, so he keeps going at that place over and over and over. Our only hope is to put on the full armor of God."

To that, one of the women in the group said, "Okay, but how do we do that practically?" I decided to look it up and try to figure it out. This is my best shot at a start. It's long, but hang in to the end.

“Stand firm then, with the belt of truth buckled around your waist.” Ephesians 6:14


Roman soldiers wore a linen undergarment next to the skin, covered by a woolen one–piece tunic that came down to the knees. It was shaped like a “T” with a hole at the top for the head. It was sewn on two sides and generally had half sleeves. At times they were dyed, but most often they were the natural color of wool. The colored tunic was usually reserved for army commanders, the wealthy or those of the government status.

Over the tunic they placed a breastplate. At the bottom of the breastplate they wore a heavy belt made of connected bronze plates and leather with a buckle very similar to what we use today. This belt had one function. It served as the foundation on which the sword, dagger and metal apron were attached.

The Point

Basically, everything depends on the belt of truth. It is foundational to the whole armor of God. If you don't get this part right, there's not much sense in the rest of it, because it will be attached to a weak foundation.

If there is a place in our life where the enemy wants to and will mess with us, it is with truth. Truth is measured/determined in our hearts and in our minds.

As William Gurnall wrote, "Truth is the sincerity of the heart. Sincerity leads us to be open to God. It keeps our motives pure, devoid of malice and wickedness towards our fellow men."

Truth in our minds convinces us of our next action.

Both our hearts and our minds are the enemies playground, the place where he works overtime to convince us to believe and feel things that are not true. His goal is to weaken our armor, to get to our weak spot.

Practical Placement

So how do we practically put on the Belt of Truth each day?

1. Pray for truth to be revealed to you every day. Ask God to help you see, feel, think what is true and recognize what is not. It's not as easy as we might imagine to immediately recognize what is true and what is false.

2. Practice truth. Simply put, tell the truth. Speak it. Get rid of exaggeration, half-truth, and protective lies. A lie is a lie. A lie is not truth.

3. The "I-Know-This-to-Be-True" exercise. I do this exercise when I am struggling with knowing what to do sometimes. When I am not sure what is true or what my next step forward should be. I say, "But I know this to be true. God created the universe. He did it in 7 days. He came to earth as a man and died for our sins." Etc. Repeat every foundational truth you know until you feel a spirit of peace come over you or until you see truth.

4. Seek truth scriptures, scriptures about the heart and the mind. Here are a few. Look for others on your own. I Corinthians 5:8, II Corinthians 1:12, I Peter 1:13-18, I Timothy 1:5, Ephesians 4:12

All that to say, that's a lot to take in. And we're only on the first piece of Armor.
(Disclaimer - I'm not a theologian or a Biblical Scholar, so if I have any of this wrong, please feel free to set me straight.)

Day 155: Soldier Ready

I mentioned yesterday that I am studying what it means to battle the enemy (meaning satan) who seems to desire nothing more than to distract me from God, His purposes, our relationship with one another, etc. In that, I am reading through, studying, and dissecting Ephesians 6:10-18. I'm writing down what I am learning. Feel free to study along.

I'm writing out the verses so you don't have to go get your Bible.

10Finally, be strong in the Lord and in the strength of His might. 11Put on the full armor of God, so that you will be able to stand firm against the schemes of the devil. 12For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the powers, against the world forces of this darkness, against the spiritual forces of wickedness in the heavenly places. 13Therefore, take up the full armor of God, so that you will be able to resist in the evil day, and having done everything, to stand firm.

My first thought is this. Know whose armor you are wearing. Armor was often custom fit for each soldier. It's how it protected them so well. We are told to put on (literally pick up or take up) the full armor of God. This is the armor of God. Custom fit for God. GOD. And we, who are in the image of God, have an armor custom fit for us. You have, at your hand, the strength and might of the Lord God. Think about that for a second. Let that sink in. Armor, Custom Fit for God, is yours for the wearing. Put it on. And don't just put on some of it, put on the FULL Armor. All of it.

Second, Know why you are putting it on . . . so that you will be able to stand firm against the schemes of the devil. (vs. 11) TO STAND FIRM AGAINST THE SCHEMES OF THE DEVIL. Put on all of it. (vs13) so that you will be able to stand firm, resisting evil. I looked up "standing firm" in the original text. It basically means taking a battle ready stance. Think of judo (sorry, it's the mental picture I got). There is a basic fighting stance that when mastered allows you to be quick and flexible, but immovable when the enemy strikes. So "stand firm" means that you are in the "ready" position, and when the enemy strikes, you will be able to withstand the blow. So, if you have on the full armor of God, you are not only ready for the strike that will come, but you will also be able to stand up to (stand firm) whatever the enemy sends your way.

And Third, Know your enemy. (vs 12). Sometimes for me, the best way for me to think about what something is, is to think about what it isn't. It lets me rule out stuff. So to think about who my enemy is, I thought about people that I have an "enemy like" relationship with. Then I thought about who others might say their enemies are. Then I wrote all of those down as "who your enemy isn't."

Who your enemy isn't:
Each Other
Your Mom, Dad, Aunt or Uncle
Your Husband or your Wife
Your Annoying Neighbor
Your Daughter or Son
Your Friend that hurt your feelings
Your Boss or Your Sister or Your Brother

It's not:
A Teacher, or a Lawyer, or that person that wanted to get you fired.

It's not:
The person who convinced your teenager to start drinking or doing drugs or,
The person your spouse had an affair with.

If you want to know who your enemy is, know who it ISN'T.

vs. 12 For your struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the powers, against the world forces of this darkness, against the spritual forces of wickedness in the heavenly places.

All that to say, I must remember that my enemy is not human. And it's not even the people I know that don't act human. And, I need to rest my mind now. That's a lot to take in, in one day.

Day 154: Father Forgive Them

I was praying the other day and while praying I saw a vision (a mental picture) of Jesus being nailed to the cross and in that critical moment saying, "Father forgive them for they know not what they do."

Father forgive them.

I thought to myself, how many times have I felt hammered by someone else and in those times cried out, "Father forgive them?" The answer is easy. Zero. Zero times.

Forgiveness comes so hard for me.

Yet Jesus forgave instantly, in the moment, while being crucified.

He didn't say, "Lord, I know I need to forgive, and I will, but I'm gonna need some time to process this. I'm gonna have to work through it. I'm need to peel back the layers slowly."

Nope, he just forgave. Instantly.

Imagine if we could just forgive. Instantly.

We know that healing comes with releasing the debts of our debtors. We know that bitterness is dissolved when we say, "I forgive you, releasing you of anything I think you owe me." So why is forgiveness so difficult?

All that to say, as in all things, Jesus is our living example. Lord, help me to be forgiving. To release all debts. To forgive as you do.

Day 153: Dance It Out

I am a Grey's fan. Grey's Anatomy for those of you who didn't immediately recognize the spelling. It's perhaps not the most wholesome show on TV, I confess. But nonetheless, I watch it faithfully, Tivo it, watch it online, whatever it takes.

It's pretty surprising how much of Grey's language has even seeped into our culture. For example, the phrase, "my people" has been around a long time. You know, "I'll have my people call your people." But the phrase, "my person," that's from Grey's. For those of you who don't watch the show, "My Person" is your person that you can go to for anything. You share your hurts, your dreams, your failures, your successes with this person. And no matter what, they speak truth into your life, and they love you unconditionally. If any of us ever have "a person" in our lives, we should count ourselves pretty lucky.

Another Greyism is the phrase "Dance it out." When life has you down, when you have a big decision to make, and even if your bored or deliriously happy, you dance it out.

I typically prefer the Motown Classics when I dance it out, but I'm open to whatever I might happen to hear on the radio or have in my CD player at the time.

Some occasions in life when I have danced it out . . .

Jacob's illness and the day of his big tests.

When I was bored and very tired of painting, I danced it out to Etta James' At Last. (and yes, I used my paintbrush like a microphone)

Yesterday in the car when we had accomplished a lot of things in Austin. (We danced it out to ACDC's "You Shook Me All Night Long.")

And this morning. With the girls. We danced it out.

We danced it out to The Temptations. And to "Little Bitty Pretty One" by Thurston Harris.

At first I think the girls thought their Mimi had lost her mind. But then suddenly they grabbed their baby dolls and they danced. They shook their heads, they snapped their fingers, they twirled around, they jumped up and down and they laughed. Oh how they laughed.

On the way out the door, I heard Baby S singing "Bitty bitty bitty bitty." So cute.

All that to say, dance it out people. Dance it out.

Day 152: Who's Your Daddy

We play this game with the girls all the time called, "Who's that?" You know, the game where you point to people in the room and say, "Who's that?" (It's a favorite in the toddler crowd)

It's been fun to watch the progression of how they have pronounced our names over the past year. Each month their speech develops a little bit more and each month our names become a lot clearer.

In the beginning our names were: "Their pronunciation"/(our name)

"Mommy" (Mimi) (they called everybody mommy or mama, so we just went with it)
"Pot" (Pops)
"ZZZZZZZZZatch" (Zack)
"Te-Da" (Jacob) (I guess they were going more for a syllable match here, since they couldn't make either a "J" or a "k" sound)

By the end of summer, we were

Mimi (most of the time)
Te-cup or sometimes Te-dup

And most recently we are:
Zaaacckk (they say this loud and really drug out . . . apparently I must have modeled this!)
Jacup or sometimes still Tedup.

The point being, they say our names pretty well, and they know who we are.

So the other night, we were playing, "Who's that?' And they successfully named Jacob, and when they weren't giggling instead of saying my name, they said "Mimi." But when we asked Baby N who Mike was she said, "My Daddy."

We were all stunned for two reasons. She doesn't talk very plainly at all. Her speech is significantly delayed. And, we have never referred to Mike as Daddy and they have never called him "Daddy." But she said it so perfectly. "My Daddy."

At the end of the day, I think we all need our Daddy. We need someone who is Daddy to us. I believe God placed that need deep down inside us, and when we let it, the need for "Daddy" draws us to Him.

All that to say, "Who's your daddy?"

Day 151: I Do What I Want

In honor of "I Do What I Want" day, I want to point out that I am aware of several grammatical errors in my previous post (Day 150) and I am not even going to change them because . . . I Do What I Want. (And I'm also not going to put a comma in the above sentence, even though grammatical convention demands I do so. Because, I Do What I Want.)

Both girls are well and at school. Day 3 of my vacation and all my undone items on my to do list are beckoning me. But I say to you Mr. To Do List, "Get off me. I do what I want!" So I will accomplish the things that interest me and the rest, well . . . the rest just won't get done. And I'm preeeettty sure the world will not stop spinning because of it.

I have already cleaned my bathroom and organized the girls hair products. Sheesh. Girls are complicated. Hair bows, hairbands, hair oil, hair lotion, detangler, picks, combs, barrettes. OMg. That is ridiculous. There are more impressive needs than organizing hair products on my to do list, but I wanted to organize hair products. So I did it. Because today, I do what I want.

I might clean the house. I might not.

I might get a pedicure. Actually, I WILL get a pedicure.

Who knows what this day will bring? It's wide open people. Go crazy.





We all know I'm gonna tackle that to-do list like it's a chocolate donut on legs.

All that to say, I will do what I want. And what I want is to FINALLY get myself organized so I'm not always sitting around thinking, "I should hang pictures, I should move that bookshelf, I should organize those drawers, I should rearrange the dining room, I should finish the girl's bedroom." Blah, blah, blah.

Day 150: Sweet Sounds

Baby N is still sick. So starts Day Two of my vacation.

She woke up early this morning crying. She doesn't usually cry out in her sleep. Her sister does. Almost every night. But not her. She's more of a "fretter" in her sleep.

I don't think she's every gotten a really peaceful night of sleep, ever. She moves all over her bed, and I mean all over it! And if she awakens, even ever so slightly, she bangs her head. I know I have mentioned this before. And by "bangs her head" I mean that she pounds her head into her mattress as though she is hammering a nail into it with her forehead.

Day Two.

I had a few errands to run and Baby N seemed to be feeling okay, though her temperature would say otherwise. (Yeah, I'm THAT mom who drags her sick kid all over creation.) So I decided to drive up to the church and drop off the food donations and clothing donations and check to see if any of my online orders had arrived yet.

Then Baby N and I set off into Houston for a little IKEA time. I traded some IKEA shopping with Zack for some free babysitting. Truth is, he probably would have done the babysitting anyway and I probably would have gone to IKEA for him, but I guess we felt better thinking we were bartering our time. (Did I mention we're type A's?)

She sang for about 10 minutes at the top of her lungs. All her favorites. Wheels on the bus. If you're happy and you know it. My red wagon. And then just as suddenly there were now sounds coming from the backseat. She was sound asleep. At 9:30 a.m. hmmmm. I guess that early morning wore her out and she needed a little nap.

When we arrived at IKEA we were 10 minutes early (the store doesn't open til 10 if you ever wondered). So Baby N proceeded to wave hello to EVERYONE who walked up (and I do mean EVERYONE). Then she would say in the sweetest little stuffy-nosed voice "marning" and blow them all kisses. Seriously, they should have paid us for that.

Long story short, we made it back home, happy and hungry. Had a yummy chicken salad for lunch and then I put her in bed for a nap. That was 30 minutes ago. She's singing. What a sweet little sound. I kinda want to be mad at her for not going to sleep. I really need that nap time to get some things accomplished. But just when I think I will go lay her down and tell her to go to sleep, she yells into her monitor in this delightfully happy little voice. "I luh u Mimi. Up peas." (translated, I love you Mimi. May I get up please?)

All that to say, I have had a morning filled with sweet little sounds. I loved it. Now maybe I will hear a little snoring coming out of her monitor. :)

Day 149: Best Plans

I'm on vacation. I have three days this week to really get a lot of things accomplished.

Being the list maker, I made a list of everything I needed to do, even wrote down what days each of those things would be accomplished.

This is my actual to do list from Day One:

Wake up at 6:00 a.m.
Drop off girls at school at 7:30
Have quiet time until 8:30ish
Go to office for prayer at 9:00 and pick up any packages there
10:30 Clean upstairs bathroom and install shower curtain, towels, etc.
11:00 Unpack all boxes that say "guest room"
12:00 Eat lunch and get pedicure. Buy storage baskets for girl's room and sheer curtains.
1:30 Organize girl's room and closet. Line drawers in their bedroom.
3:30 Make list of anything still needed in girl's room
3:40 Clean Kitchen and decide on something for dinner
4:00 Take a break. Take a walk.
4:30 Clean laundry room and my bedroom. Put away all clothes. Organize pajamas into categories (footed, long sleeve/long pants, short sleeve/long pants, short sleeve/short pants) Store accordingly
5:15 Walk to pick up girls from school

Here is what actually happened.
6:00 Wake up. Decide not to shower. Sleep until 6:30
7:00 Wake up Baby N first. She's burning hot. Take her temperature. It's 101.6
7:30 After holding Baby N for a while, wake up Baby S. Whew. She's not hot.
8:30 When Jacob arrives to watch "N", take "S" to school.
8:45 Drink Coffee and talk to Jacob.
9:00 Call Dr. and make appt for Baby N, wash my hair, (regretting that decision not to shower)
9:45 Get sick toddler ready. Load her into car.
10:15 Arrive at Doctor.
12:30 Leave Doctor
1:00 Arrive at Drug Store
1:30 Feed Baby N Lunch
1:45 Put her down for nap and eat my lunch
2:15 Clean laundry room
2:45 Clean upstairs bathroom. Install shower curtains, towels, etc.
3:15 Start cleaning my bedroom. Organize pajamas.
4:15 Take a break. Take a walk. Blog.
5:00 Get Baby N out of bed.

Yep. Pretty much nothing on my to do list happened. (except for the things in red)

All that to say, I have so many new things scheduled for day two. Those things won't happen. I have a sick baby. Poor thing. I hate it when they are sick. I hate it worse than not accomplishing my to do list. Oh well. Maybe another time.

Day 148: Praying for the Woman of Their Dreams

I wrote a blog a while back entitled, "Being the Man of Her Dreams."

It was a blog about teaching my sons how to really love a woman . . . how to be the man of her dreams.

Because they are at a stage in life where they are looking for (or may have found) the woman of their dreams, I wanted to offer some wisdom about finding Mrs. Right.

"Someday you will meet a woman that you believe is the woman of your dreams. Perhaps you will base this belief on some superficial criteria, like her body type or her facial appearance or her hair color. I hope that if I have taught you anything, it's that things like that don't really matter. Don't think you'll recognize the woman of your dreams by the way she looks. You won't.

Perhaps you will base your belief on some common interests you have, like musical artists or sports teams or favorite movies. Common interests are certainly good, but they won't be the measuring stick you should use either.

Or perhaps you will base your belief on chemistry. Physical chemistry. Maybe her hand touching yours sparks something in you that makes you want to know more about her. Chemistry is good. And dangerous. Very dangerous. It is most assuredly something that can indicate you have met the woman of your dreams. But this chemistry can also be something that gets distorted into a very dangerous thing called lust.

So many things can convince you that you have met the woman of your dreams, my sons. So how will you know you have met her? I don't think there is a checklist. There are a few non-negotiables. But no real checklist.

So if I can give you any advice, it is this. You will know that you have met the woman of your dreams when you can simply be yourself with her. You can be real and authentic and vulnerable, and so can she. Remember, she will complete you. She will bring out the good in you that perhaps lies dormant. She will soften the harsh sides of you. She will deeply respect you.

My sons, love, true love, comes slowly. And it grows and matures and blossoms with time. So give it time. In time, the real woman of your dreams will be very apparent. And when it is, then be the man of her dreams.

All that to say, a mother's prayer is answered when her sons find the woman God created for them. A mother spends her lifetime praying for that woman. I have prayed for these women since your births my sons.

Day147: I Know This to Be True

I have a disorder called Obsessive Compulsive Disorder, or OCD. It manifests itself in many ways, and has actually changed the way it manifests itself throughout my life.

When I was in my twenties, I counted things, anything, everything. I counted bald heads in church. I counted stairs. I counted lines on the ceiling. I discovered that if whatever I was counting ended in an even number, then I was fine. But if said items ended in an odd number, then I felt distress. Sometimes severe distress.

Gradually, my counting problem evolved into counting things that could be counted in fours. Anything that was a square or a rectangle, I counted. Ceiling tiles. Floor tiles. The painted lines on the road. Digital clock numbers. It was maddening. I still do this from time to time when I am stressed.

By my mid thirties, my OCD had evolved into an obsession about door handles and the germs on them. I couldn't touch door handles in public. I panicked if women's bathrooms had hand dryers instead of paper towels because that meant I would have to touch the door handle with my clean hands.

But by my forties, my OCD manifested itself in the form of seriously fixated thoughts. The more out of control I felt about something, the worse my OCD became. An incredible sense of despair would overtake me until I became sick from the panic and anxiety. This panic and anxiety consumed me and left me feeling hopeless.

Truth is, this still happens to me from time to time, but I have discovered an exercise that helps me. When I have an obsessive thought, such as "Carol, this is never going to get better. It's always going to be this way, no matter what you do." I say, out loud, "No. That is not true. I know this to be true, "God created the universe. He made the sun and the moon and the stars. He came to earth in the form of a man. He died on the cross for me."

And I keep on repeating simple truths until I no longer have my obsessive thoughts.

The truth dispels the lies. The truth gives me a sense of peace. The Truth sets me free.

All that to say, I know this to be true. I have a hope that tells my brain to chill out. And I am thankful for the God who gives me that hope.

Day 146: Clarity

I was sitting in church a few weeks ago trying to listen and look at the person who was teaching that week. It was a bit difficult to see him though because of my contact situation.

I am trying out contacts where I have one for near vision in one eye and one for distance vision in the other eye.

Supposedly, over time, your brain figures out which eye needs to "switch on" in any given circumstance.

I wear my near vision contact in my left eye and my distance vision contact in my right eye.

Hang with me now, all of this vision and contact explanation is important to my story.

You see, when I was sitting in church, there was a man in front of me. Not directly in front of me. He was sitting a little to my right, allowing me only to see the Pastor and the large screen out of my left eye. Keep in mind that the contact in my left eye only allows me to see close up and the preacher and screen were far away.

So EVERYTHING was blurry.

Even the man's head in front of me, because his head was directly in front of my right eye, which has a contact that sees distance vision.

Finally, after trying to figure out how to see, I just got up and moved.

And voila! Instantly clear vision. With nothing to block my right eye (my distance eye), I could see both the Pastor and the large screen!

Clarity is like that. It often comes from a simple change of scenery. A different perspective.

All that to say, if you're having trouble gaining clarity, why not try looking from a different perspective? You might be astounded at the results.

Day 145: Doubtless

I find that in the last 48 hours my heart and mind are filled with doubt about our girls. This resurgence of doubt happens about once every other week, and it frustrates me.

Do I not trust God enough? Did a too busy schedule that wreaked havoc in my life cause this doubt? What is my problem?

I looked at pictures on a friend's blog today and saw photos of her little boy running down a pier and I thought,"Why haven't I taken the girls to a park? Why haven't I taken them to a lake? Why haven't I taken them to feed ducks?" And my answer to those questions came to "because she is 29 and has an endless, boundless supply of energy and I am 49 and do not." (And, said 29 year old also has a thriving photography business! Talk about energy!)

Of course, that isn't the real reason. It's the one I allow to get planted into my thoughts on a regular basis though. It goes a little something like this, "Carol, you're too old for this. You don't have what it takes any more to raise two more children. They deserve more than you. They deserve a stay-at-home mom who can pour into them everything they need on an hourly basis. Their little lives have been in such turmoil for so long, they deserve to wake up at a leisurely pace and enjoy the morning without being rushed off to day care. You can't give them that. You're too old. Too settle into your career." (insert other excuses here)

And I am oh so sick of these doubts. We love these babies. We have a tremendous support network of friends. We were called to this, and we know that if God called us then He will equip us.

Lord help me in my unbelief this day.

All that to say, I don't really know what to say.

Day 144: Daddys and Daughters

I am not too much of a girly girl. I don't wear a lot of pink. I don't reapply my make-up during the day. I'm more at home in a pair of jeans and a sweatshirt then I will ever be in a dress.

I can totally relate to Taylor Swift's song (I don't know the name of the song, and I might not even have the artist's name right!) but it says something like,

"She wear short shorts, I wear sneakers. She's cheer captain and I'm on the bleachers."

That's me. I'm the girl in the sneakers on the bleachers.

But there is something that comes over me from time to time, something deep down in my soul, that makes me want to twirl. And I mean, T-W-I-R-L.

I'm talking ballerina, spin around, arms extended, twirling. It's about the most girly thing I do. And I do it well!

It's very uncharacteristic.

I attribute it to my love for dancing that was instilled in me at an early age by my parents. They danced. I would sometimes hide out on the stairs and watch them slow dance at night after we had all gone to bed (or so they thought). Sometimes, in the middle of their dance, my dad would twirl my mom around and she would laugh a laugh of deep contentment.

I longed to be the girl in my daddy's arms, twirling around and laughing.

This weekend, my daddy and I will celebrate our first ever daddy daughter dance. I'm looking forward to being twirled around. Except he's 70 now with two bad knees, so who knows how the evening will go!

All that to say, I'm looking forward to being the little girl in my daddy's arms.

Day 143: Salvation

I've started this blog three different times today, erased it, started over, erased that, logged off, logged back in, started over, erased it. . . madness.

I can't decide how to tell you this story and do it justice. I'm sure I will reduce it (with my limited writing prowess)to a trite story of insignificance, but it was such a great moment that I really want you to grasp it in it's fullness.

I met a woman at church today. She'd been many times, but suddenly fell off the face of the earth. Her life isn't easy. She's a Christ follower and her husband isn't, and that's only the tip of the iceberg that makes her life very difficult.

She told me she'd been away because she was struggling with some of our theology, namely the notion that we believe once you are saved you are always saved. Once you have received the gift of salvation through Christ, you cannot lose that gift.

She just can't believe it. And yet in not believing it, she has been tormented by this fear that she would lose her salvation.

So I just asked her, "Do you believe that a God who would sacrifice His ONLY son for you would then sow in you such a deep fear that you would lose the salvation He sacrificed so much to offer?" And she burst into tears.

I said, "The God I worship doesn't sow fear into the hearts of His followers. In fact, He tells me not to fear."

And all this took place in the FOYER before church ever started. And the message today? Salvation through grace. Amazing.

I'm sure I haven't done this justice.

All that to say, trust me. It was cool. I watched someone get delivered from a very deep fear. Way cool.

Day 142: Dinner Dinner

I don't really know how to start this blog tonight.

I thought about telling you how difficult it has been over the months to find a food that the girls love that they don't end up being allergic to.

I thought about telling you how difficult it can be to come home at 5:30, pick up two toddlers who have been in day care all day, try to cook dinner while giving them all the attention they need AND cook something that is good and good for us all.

But instead, I thought I would tell you a story that really depicts what a great mom I am. A story that depicts how much my babies love my cooking.

Tonight, we were sitting around in the living room, (Zack, the girls, and Christina)talking and playing silly games, when all of a sudden Mike walked in the front door carrying two boxes.

Baby S yelled (really more a squeal of delight) "PIZZA!" Baby N heard the squeal and went running for her high chair trying to climb over the front of it, over the tray, saying over and over and over, "pizza, pizza, pizza."

Keep in mind, these girls barely speak at all, and yet THEY BOTH can say "pizza" as clear as a bell.

All that to say, pizza. It's what's for dinner.

Day 141: Moving Out

My sons are moving out. I know many of you are saying in your heads right now, "It's about time." And it is. For them. For us. It's time to move forward with all of our lives.

I will bet that the last year+ has not been easy on them, (other than the free rent and meals thing) because the thing is, when your children live with you, they are still your children, and you still have this need to treat them like your children.

The things that annoyed you when they were children and lived at home, still annoy you when they are adults and live at home. The dirty laundry, dirty dishes, dirty bedrooms, dirty bathroom, dirty cars. Yep. Still annoying.

It's not like I don't have dirty laundry, dishes, bedroom, bathroom and car. I do. But it's somehow more annoying because THEY should be clean and tidy. But they aren't.

And I'll just bet that they are annoyed with me reminding them that I am annoyed with all of that. And asking where they are going and when they'll be back and who they'll be with and reminding them to be safe, and drive safely, and not to drink and drive, or text and drive, or speed and drive.

So it's time for them to move out. The next step is here. On to adulthood. And careers. And marriages. And children. And life. I pray their lives will be filled with the most incredible adventures and a sense of purpose planted deeply in them by God.

All that to say, we won't be empty nesters. We still have babies. But we will be emptier nesters. And I'm pretty excited about that. (And a little sad)

Day 139: There Should Be Rules

I've been kind of heavy lately in my writing, so I thought I'd lighten up a bit.

My husband is so cute when it comes to little kids. If you ever want to see the lighter side of Mike Jones (yes, he has one) then you are going to see it when little kids are around.

Seriously, he's a goofball.

He uses this high pitched and INSANELY loud voice.

And the kids eat it up.

However, when it comes to teenagers, mmmmmmmm, not so much. He's not a fan.

I mean, I think he wishes he could be, but he isn't. He has no patience for their sarcasm or their attitudes or their antics.

Now, take these two traits and combine them with Halloween, more specifically trick or treating.

When the little kids come to the door, Mike is so engaging and entertaining. Oooing and ahhhing over every costume. Praising them. Telling them how beautiful and/or scary they are. Even pretending terror when the costume warrants it.

But if the big kids come, you can sense his frustration. One year he even refused to give the big kids candy. Sent them away with a lecture instead of a snickers bar. (I believe our pumpkins got smashed. Which on a side note, my friend, Kim told me LAST NIGHT that the exact same thing happened to her once for the same reason. That's why Mike doesn't like teenagers.)

Anyway. I decided we should make some rules for trick or treaters. There is the "manners" section and the "you're too old to trick or treat" section. Feel free to add yours.

1. If the light is off, DON'T RING THE BELL
2. If I give you candy, say "thank you."
3. If I open my door and greet you, say something. Don't just stand there with your bag open.
4. Don't scare the little people inside the house. For Real. I mean it.
5. Don't make up that lame story about why you have TWO BAGS that you are filling up.

1. If your voice has gone through "the change" . . . you're too old to trick or treat.
2. If your body has "developed" . . . you're too old to trick or treat.
3. If I can't tell if you are a hooker or a trick or treater . . . you're too old to trick or treat.
4. If you drove yourself to my house to trick or treat . . . you're too old to trick or treat.
5. If you grew your own beard for your costume . . . you're too old to trick or treat.

All that to say, I'm sure you have some rules you can add to this. Feel free to jump in. Maybe we'll make a poster for next year.

Day 138: What to Pray For

I have two sayings that I say a lot.

"It's hard to know what to pray for."


"I could make a case either way."

These are phrases I use when I don't have a clue what to do, OR if I know what I would do, but it doesn't match what the person seeking my advice WANTS to do.

So, when I feel this way, as I do right now about many things, I simply pray for wisdom for myself (since I am the one being asked for the advice), and peace for the other person who has the decision to make.

Sometimes it really is hard to know what to pray for. Our heart, our desires, our emotions, our brains, our experience . . . ALL of those things can get in the way of hearing God and what He wants.

There have been times when I have wanted something so badly that I have worked hard to make sure that very thing happened. Some call this manipulation. Some call it being a control freak. I simply call it a lack of faith. A lack of faith in what God has planned.

And I have been learning this for some time, but it has been especially clear over the past few months how disastrous THAT behavior is. Getting your own way, a way that is in opposition to what God has in store. Not good, people. Not good.

So I won't control, though I want to. Though I want to scream at the top of my lungs and say "DO THIS. DON'T DO THAT!" I want to say, "There are other options. There are other choices. The consequences of THAT decision will be far reaching."

Instead, I will pray. Pray for wisdom and peace.

All that to say, breathe. I'm breathing, Lord. Perhaps I need wisdom and peace as well.

Day 137: Being a Jones

There is a thing about our family that I believe can be quite difficult to take if you aren't one of us. Well, there are probably MANY things about our family that can be quite hard to take if you aren't one of us.

For example, while playing a car game with my co-workers on a recent planning retreat I disclosed that my family (the original 4) all have genius level IQ's and we are all type-A personalities. (We can't take credit for this, we didn't make our brains) But this family trait makes for some pretty fast-paced, opinionated "discussions" in our household. That's just ONE of the MANY things that makes us hard to take. We are a bunch of opinionated know-it-alls.

But I think the thing we are "known for" (well, maybe we are known for the last sentence in the above paragraph!), but I'm talking about our love of games. We ROCK at games. I mean, seriously, we can dominate just about any game you want to play.

Ping Pong. Dominate. (We have trophies to prove it)

Trivial Pursuit. Dominate. (Remember, we are know-it-alls)

Cake Walk. Dominate.

Wait, did I just write "Cake Walk?"


I did.

Yesterday at the girl's carnival, there was a cake walk. Get in your mind's eye a cake walk for toddlers. A bunch of colored circles taped to the ground. For toddlers. Who don't have a clue why you would WANT to walk around in a circle and step on colored circles.

Enter . . . the Jones. And Baby N. Who likes to jump on things. And Baby S. Who likes to be held.

We see that the cake walk only has two kids playing and I say, "Is it okay if we jump in?" (using my very VERY innocent voice, so as not to tip our hand . . .) and she says, "Why sure!" (poor thing, she has no idea)

So we jump in the game. I'm holding Baby N's hand and Zack is holding Baby S. Baby N is jumping (literally!) from colored circle to colored circle. Baby S is squealing and smiling with delight as Zack moves to the music from circle to circle.

Suddenly the music stops. The caller reaches into her bucket, pulls out a color and says, "If you are standing on RED, you're a winner." I look down. Zack looks down. He fist pumps (only straight up in the air, above his head) and I let out a healthy "Woo hoo!) We are BOTH on RED!

Then as we retrieve our prizes,

er . . . I mean as the girls retrieve their prizes, I say, "welcome, officially, little ladies to the Jones family. We ROCK at games."

Then Baby N says (only it sounds a LOT like Jacob's voice) "we owned that cake walk."


All that to say, our girls have entered the world of games, via the cake walk. Mmmm Hmmmm. What. (did I mention we are also insanely competitive?)

Day 136: Simple Things

It's easy to forget how simple life can be when we try so hard to make it complex. Truth is we tend to make it complex under the heading of "simplifying" our lives. I do it all the time. I'm forever "organizing" something, though if you came into my home right now, I don't know that you'd sense the organization that I have put into this house.

Of course, my two grown-up sons are in the process of moving out and into their own place, so we have tons of "just put that there til the boys move out" organization going on.

And we have toddlers. So there are lots of, "put that over there until the boys move out" sections that I will deal with when I have empty closets and drawers to put the girls things in.

And I have piles of pictures all over the place because I haven't finished moving furniture around yet. That takes time. And well, organization.

So you can see how complex my life is right now, well . . . I guess messy would be a better word than complex, but complex sounds so much more like me.

But yesterday morning, my family had some fun together. All 6 of us. I never thought I'd say, "All six of us" until I had daughter-in-laws, but it's funny how God always has different plans than we have.

We walked from our home over to the little preschool that our girls go to and joined in their fall carnival. We had so much fun.

Their costumes were simple. Pajamas that we added some wings, a headbead and a tutu to. (say that really fast three times).

No need for a "candy bag." They don't eat candy.

Just us, walking, chatting, laughing.

All that to say, I love my family so much.

Day 135: Living It One at a Time

It's morning. That time of day when I sit and think and sip my coffee.

The girls aren't awake yet. Typically by this time of day I have awakened them, dressed them, fed them, and am loading them in the stroller to take them to school.

But this morning, they are sleeping in. I can picture them being awakened by the sun peeking in through their bedroom window that faces east. I can see that long stretch that happens as they peek their heads out from under their blankets, their little hands clenched as fists that gradually open to the day.

I wonder how many mornings we will have with them.

Will it be just a few more, or will it be forever?

Will they awaken in this home, in their beds here for the rest of their lives?

I know that God has a plan. I don't doubt that He has one, and I know that it's good. I just wish I knew what it was. But I am sure there is also purpose in my not knowing.

Each morning, each new day, is filled with God's plan for that day and I get to watch it unfold in real time. I should take some pretty great joy in that. I mean, seriously, I get to WITNESS the plan of the King, lived out, each day.

So this day, I am thinking with a new mind and looking through new eyes.

All that to say, living one day at a time. This could be a good idea!

Day 134: I'm Happy They Cry

I'm so happy they cry. Finally.

They care about something so deeply that it makes them cry.

That's a milestone.

They haven't cared before.

Haven't cared who came and went in their lives.

Because people came and went all the time.

They haven't cried before.

Haven't cried because their tears wouldn't have mattered much anyway. At least that's what their lives had taught them.

But they cry now. And I'm happy they cry.

Because FINALLY they have separation anxiety.

They care that we are leaving. And that is a MONUMENTAL milestone for them.

All that to say, while most parents are lamenting the woes of separation anxiety, I am happy to have two crying toddlers that freak out a little when they see me pick up my car keys. Because finally they care who comes and goes in their little lives.

Day 133: Tina Love

Oh Tina Taylor, how we love you. And by "we" I mostly mean Zack and the twins. Of course the rest of us love you, but they are over the top with loving you.

Somedays I am a little bit jealous of how much the twins love you. (Technically, I'm jealous of a lot of things. Your ability to loop, swoop and pull your hair into a work of art with a few bobby pins, a barrette and a twisty tie. Your ability to wear absolutely anything and look cute in it, even Zack's basketball shorts that have paint on them.)

Anyway, back to why I'm jealous of how much the twins love you. I mean, I know you were their nanny for 3 months, but still, I'm their Mimi. I get up in the middle of the night with them (er . . . well . . . on the nights I can't convince Mike to get up with them, I DO get up with them.)

I cook their meals. Or, at the very least, I dial the number to Pizza Hut and order their very favorite pizza.

I do their hair. And let me tell you girl, that takes some work. There aren't enough bobby pins in the world to make their hair a work of art without some SERIOUS skills.

I do their laundry and match their clothes, and make sure all the spaghetti stains got removed.

But oh how they love their "Tina." They cry when you leave. They squeal when you arrive.
(I'm talking about the twins here, not Zack, just in case you got confused.) In short, they worship you.

My only redeeming quality is that when they are sad or hurt, it's still "Mimi" they cry out for.

All that to say, Tina, you're loved. By many people. A lot of whom live in the Jones' household. Happy Birthday. (This birthday blog felt a little bit more about me than you. Flipped it. Sorry.)

Day 132: As Far As Big Brothers

It's Zack's birthday and each year I write a blog in honor of his birthday.

Here are a couple from past years (if you so desire to click on these and read THIS much information about Zack Jones) Stupid Stories 2008 Twenty Five 2009

So, I thought long and hard about what to write for Zack's 26th birthday, and the one thing that came to my mind was what a great Big Brother he is. Of course, he isn't perfect, just ask Jacob, but as far as big brother's go, he's gotta be right up there with the best.

Of course, big brotherhood wasn't always easy for Zack. He kind of grew into the role. You see, he was a mere 16 months old when Jacob was born. Not really finished being the center of our attention yet, so having a little brother wasn't all that cool. He did love the "I'm a big brother" t-shirt (he's always been all about the clothes), but other than that, he wasn't that impressed with this baby that came along and stole our attention. He asked me on Jacob's third day home if we could take him back to the hospital now because he was noisy and smelly. True Story.

But Zack grew to love his brother and to be fiercely protective of him. When Jacob was in middle school, he was bullied almost every day at school. Finally, when the bully pushed Jacob down the stairs at school, Zack had had enough. He "discovered" the bully in the boy's bathroom at school one day, picked up said bully and placed him oh-so-firmly against the wall, and might have said something along the lines of "mess with my brother again and you'll be messing with me" or something equally as menacing. The bully never messed with Jacob again. Ever.

Jacob had a girlfriend once (a long time ago) that Zack wasn't a total fan of. But he said, "I might not love her, but Jacob does, and I love Jacob. So I love her." That's what brother's say. (It might have been something a little different, but that was the gist).

I could tell you so many more Zack loves his brother stories.

But I want to tell you now, that Zack has a new opportunity to be a big brother. And he is marvelous at it. He loves his little sisters. He genuinely enjoys their company. And they enjoy him. And when I fast forward a lot of years, I can see him being equally as fiercely loving and protective of them as he has been of Jacob all these years. I almost feel bad for the men who will someday want to date and marry these girls. :)

All that to say, As far as big brothers go, I don't think you could get a better one. Happy Birthday Zack.

Day 131: If God is For Us

Calling is a word we throw around a lot in the church world. We use it to express our life's purpose (our calling). We use it to get out of stuff we don't want to do ("I'm sorry, I just don't feel called to do that). We use it to quit stuff we don't like anymore ("I just feel like God is calling me away from this.")

Of course, that's not to say that we aren't called to do a job or called away from something, and I'm not making fun of people who have told me that recently, so don't get your shorts in a knot.

But we do use the phrase a bit lightly, I think.

A calling, a true calling from God requires a few key elements, I believe.

1. A willingness to sacrifice something
2. A willingness to do something that is much bigger than you could accomplish on your own strength
3. A willingness to set aside other people's opinions of you (especially as it relates to said calling)

There are probably more, but these are key.

Mike and I have been talking (and sometimes arguing) about our "calling." We have been called to be the surrogate parents for two precious twin girls.

1. We are sacrificing many things. Our sleep. Our sex life. Our bank account. (I got my daycare bill yesterday. $1668 for one month! holy cow!) Peace. Our freedom to come and go as we please. Free time.

I could go on. But you get it.

2. This is so much bigger than us. We absolutely cannot do it on our own. As evidenced by the number of conversations we have had lately about needing a) a plan b) a division of duties c) a village to help us with this d) prayer, more prayer, more prayer e) a second job f)God's provision g) wisdom to know how to navigate what is normal two year old behavior and what is from the upbringing they have had thus far.

3. People think we are crazy. Many of those people are in our family. I get asked really often if I freak out at the thought that I have two year olds again? YESSSSS!!!!!! I FREAK OUT at the thought of that. And teacher parent conferences. And sports practices. And dating. And, and, and.

But if God has called us, then He will equip us. He will give us the money to pay for things. He will provide people to come along side us to help on sick days, and offer us date nights (thanks Martin and Kim . . . and Brooke and Jacob and Zack and Christina). He will help us be unified as husband and wife. I believe all of those things.

All that to say, if God is for us . . . :)

Day 130: I Vacillate

I have vacillated a lot lately between posts of God's goodness, stories of "the girls" and random other things.

This post comes under the heading of "random other things."

Today I got up early and went to watch Jacob run a race called Ten for Texas. I waited for him at the 9 mile aid station, snapped his picture, jumped in my car, drove to the finish line (passing him on the road. . . funny) snapped his picture at the finish line, high fived him and headed home.

It was the drive home that I am actually blogging about.

I really don't like rude traffic cops. I get that they probably encounter a TREMENDOUS number of jerks who don't pay attention, almost run over them, etc. I get that they have to stand outside in cold, rainy, hot, humid, weather. So their job isn't easy. Stipulated.

But I really don't like it when they are obnoxious and rude to the people they are trying to direct. I mean, let's face it, some traffic cops are just not good at it.

Today's case in point was not good at it. I know this because I watched several cars do the wrong thing, based on what they THOUGHT he was telling them to do. On each occasion he SCREEEEAAAAAMED at the driver, even asking one driver, "Are you stupid?"

But I watched him. His hand signals were confusing. You couldn't tell if he was saying "stop" or "go." You couldn't tell if he was saying "it's okay to turn here," or "it's not okay to turn here."

So because he was inept, he screamed at the drivers on the road. I'm pretty sure his superiors would not like that behavior.

All that to say, I couldn't help but wonder if maybe he'd had a really bad fight with his wife before he left for work. I kind of felt bad for him. Because there was just no way he was that obnoxious without a good reason.

Day 129: Sweet Jesus

Today's blog is going to be a little bit cryptic, but I want to try and share this with you since many of you are not only faithful readers, but faithful prayers as well.

As many of you know, we have twins in our home. Twins whose mom loves them very much, but whom often struggles to make the best choices for herself or her children. We love her. We really do. She's dear to our hearts. She's a broken little girl trapped in a young woman's body. It makes my own heart ache for her.

The twins have a brother too. He is not in our home, but is currently in a home where he is lavished with love, and soon to be in a home with his "Mama and Papa."

Yesterday, God moved in an incredible way. I can't tell you how. I wish I could. Because it was incredible.

I lost sleep before yesterday. I lived with stomach pain for the days preceeding yesterday. I had massive headaches before yesterday. I worried that people wouldn't think I was fighting hard enough for everyone concerned. Before Yesterday.

But I prayed. Yes, I worried. I'm not Jesus people. But I prayed. And others prayed. And God reigned supreme. Sweet Jesus.

All that to say, three sweet babies will be safe, and secure, and well-nourished, and given boundaries and loved like they were created to be loved.

Day 128: Hand Signs and Made Up Names

I am a hand talker. This fact is most evident when I am angry. Or when I am driving. Or worst yet, we I am angry AND driving. (I couldn't decide whether to say worse yet, or worst yet, so I went with "worst yet" as it felt to have the greatest amount of emotion so don't correct me if it's wrong. I took literary license.)

Anyway. I'm a hand talker. I make gestures (not those kind of gestures!) when I talk.

Also, when I don't know some one's name, I make a name for them that describes what I know about them.

For example, years ago, my kids and I would always run into the same guy on Friday's at the donut shop (don't judge me. YES, I fed my kids donuts faithfully every Friday for many years and it didn't stunt their growth) I once had a three year old tell me that he couldn't have a donut because, and I quote, "donuts make you flabby and weak." Wow.

Back to my story. I have blog ADD today.

So, we saw this guy every Friday. And the thing that was the most notable about him was that he bounced when he walked. So we called him "bouncy man."

Really, my whole family does this. We have named all the chef's at Kobe Japanese Steakhouse. They have names like "rock star guy" or "sweaty man" (sweaty man is one of the best there). When I broke my leg several years ago and the paramedic tried to PULLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLL the skate off my broken foot, we named him "Captain first day on the job."

I have many other stories about names I have given people whose real names I don't know.

The most common place I "name" people is in my car, while driving. People get names like "Mr. Oh-that's what that lever is for on my steering wheel. It's a turn signal!" (Most of the names aren't that long)

The other day I was at a four way stop and there was a dad there with two kids on bikes (with training wheels).

brave dad.

He had his hand on one set of his kids' handlebars and was waiting on the other kid to catch up (at said 4 way stop).

So, "Mr. Safety Dad Man" was waiving on the cars at the stop sign he was standing next to, FORGETTING the fact that there were 3 other stop signs at this FOUR-WAY-STOP. He almost got us killed. So I said, "Hey, Mr. Safety dad Man, how about letting the traffic signs do their job? Okay, cool with you?" (Of course I didn't say it TO him, more "at" him, in the privacy of my own car. I HAVE mentioned my road rage issues, right?)

Then, all the sudden, I realize . . . I have toddlers in my backseat. And they are listening to me. So I switch into "Mrs. See What a Good Mom I Am lady" and say, "Look at that nice daddy helping his kids on their bikes. That's so sweet."


All that to say, I am going to have to work on a few things. I am setting an example. I guess I've been setting one for a while now. To more than just the two toddlers in my backseat. I'm sorry. Hopefully a few of my qualities have shown through as well.

Day 127: Sacred Tradition

I just started a Bible Study tonight with my Monday night girls. We are doing Beth Moore's "The Patriarchs" or maybe it's just "Patriarchs" . . . I don't remember for sure, not that it really matters that much. I digress.

In the study, she was teaching about God's many names and how back in the day, God's presence dwelled with His people at the tabernacle. She mentioned that once a year the high priest would speak the "unspeakable" name of God (YHWH) and when he did, the glory of God would descend upon the priest. God's glory was so bright, the priest would have to close his eyes as would the entire group of people in and around the tabernacle. They would close their eyes and breathe in that sacred moment.

Generations later, the annual celebration still takes place. And though the tabernacle is long gone, when this "unspeakable" name of God, YHWH, is spoken, the people still close their eyes. They do it because they, too, are breathing in that sacred moment. The sacredness of hearing God's unspeakable, sacred, name.

I love traditions. They are a way to carry on what is important to remember.


Sometimes we let the tradition itself become sacred, instead of remembering that which is actually sacred. Those of us who are "churched" can be really, really good at passing on sacred tradition, but forgetting to pass on what is sacred about it.

When that happens, sacred tradition becomes ritual. And ritual religion quickly becomes meaningless.

Or worse yet, the ritual itself BECOMES the sacred.

All that to say, I feel called to look at what is sacred in my life. Really sacred.