Day 22: A Dance of Distress

I was driving down the road the other day, and off to the side of the road was the most beautiful red bird. From my distance, I could see it hopping up and down, almost in a circle, and then flying straight up about one foot, landing, and doing the circle hop again.

As I was quite a ways off when I first noticed him, I saw him repeat this little maneuver over and over and over. It was curious as I had never seen a bird do this before. I mean, other than a vulture. I've seen vultures do that. But this was different. This bird seemed distressed. I thought perhaps his wing was broken.

But as I got closer, I realized that on the ground near him was another red bird, and this one was dead. "They're cardinals," I said as I drove by. "How sad." I could picture them in mid-flight when all of a sudden one of them got struck by a car, fell dead to the ground, and the other one was left there to scream out for help and to mourn.

Cardinals mate for life you know. I know it makes me sound silly that I felt bad for a poor little mateless cardinal. A poor little mateless cardinal screaming out from the side of the road and no one was willing to stop and help. We all just drove by thinking "Oh well, that's just the nature of things. Sad yes, but that's the way it is."

I thought about this cardinal for days. Days and days.

And then yesterday, I passed a woman on the side of the road. I actually didn't notice her until I had already passed her. I was sitting under an overpass in Katy, stopped at a stoplight, and I saw her in my side mirror. She was huddled under an oversized coat, sleeping on her makeshift pillow, propped up against the moorings of the overpass that served as her concrete bed. "How sad," I thought.

Later, as I was thinking about her, I remembered the cardinal. And I couldn't help wondering to myself how many times she cried out for help and none came. I wondered the dance of distress she did. I wondered the moment at which she just resigned herself to curl up into a ball and wait to die.

Morbid thoughts perhaps, but I can't get her out of my mind. How do we, the Church, continue to drive by, to notice these people in passing, and are only moved to sorrow, but not to action.

All that to say, I don't know WHAT to do, but feel compelled that I must do SOMETHING.

Day 21: Release

I don't know if this happens to anyone else, but God has this thing about waking me up in the middle of the night to pray. I don't know if He is up and bored . . . dumb statement (I think I just humanized Him) but I certainly know I am not up and bored, so I don't understand His timing.

Maybe it is that my brain is too full during the day to hear Him. Maybe it's that I am talking too much to listen. Maybe it's that I am too reliant upon myself and my wisdom, knowledge and experience, that if He did speak during the day, I would say, "It's cool. I got this one."

But seriously, almost every morning, in the wee hours of the morning, before anyone or anything is moving in our house, God awakens me and He pours out Himself to me. He tells me His longings for me. He tells me how I could have made better choices during the day. He asks me to tell Him about my hurts, and my fears. He asks me why I am so unsettled about the smallest things, and shows me how that reveals my distrust in Him.

This morning He awakened me to pray for my husband and my sons. He said, "Carol, tell me what is on your heart. Tell me what is troubling you. Tell me all your fears. I already have a plan, so you don't need to ask me to help you help them. You just need to let me be in control. I already am in control, you know." So I talked to Him. But I listened way more. And the sound of His breath through my lungs was so comforting.

All that to say, seems to always come back to control for me. Releasing control.

Day 20: Domestic Goddess

I have been incredibly lazy today. Literally, I did about 9 loads of laundry, did dishes, and worked out for one hour. Other than that, I haven't done much. I don't feel guilty about that, but I do feel like I should cook my sweet husband some dinner.

Thing is, I don't want to. I have no idea what to cook. No hunger driving me to think of something to cook. Sounds like a pizza night. But then I look down and see that muffin top I have on top of my jeans and think, "Is pizza really the best option?"

Ugh, I don't know why such simple things like dinner can suck the life out of me.

All that to say, I don't think I'm going to be nominated for domestic goddess this year. Maybe I will suggest we go out on a date. If I look hot, maybe he'll be distracted from the fact I didn't cook dinner!

Day 19: All Plugged In

I spent most of my day today on my computer and on the phone. I actually have a little red bump on my hand from resting on my laptop all day. And my right ear hurts from having a phone up against it!

Why, you ask, was I on the phone all day? Well I will tell you. I was plugging people in. That's what I call it. I was helping them figure out how to match their gifts with opportunities to serve in the church and out in the world! Maybe to you that sounds draining, but to me, it was totally life giving, even though I am starting to feel myself come down off of the adrenaline.

Making "connection" phone calls can be challenging at times. There was this one guy I called and when I said, "Is this so-and-so?" He said, "Yes." And then when I said who I was and why I was calling "I'm calling because you filled out a card saying you wanted to find a place to serve" he said, "Oh, so-and-so's not here." Really? :) I got a good laugh at that.

Then I called this one guy and he was so nice. He was still even nice when he told me I had already called him and plugged him in! LOL. (I need to make better notes!)

The fun thing about these phone calls is that most people are so thrilled that I called them. Overjoyed to finally find a place to get plugged in, to feel connected. Mostly that's what people want. They want to belong somewhere.

All that to say, I love my job. I love helping figure out what they were created to do and to help them find the thing God has called them to do with their life. So life giving . . . life giving for both of us.

Day 18: Pushing My Buttons

It is 9:21 p.m. The fact that I am on the computer at 9:21 p.m. has the potential to spark conflict in my marriage. Mike does not feel special when I leave him alone to watch t.v. while I get on the computer. It does not matter that we are not talking while he watches t.v., he just likes me to be in the room with him. I should feel special about that. I said I "should" . . . which indicates that I don't. Something else to work on.

Truth is, we all have "buttons" that get pushed and we all know the "buttons" that our spouses have, and thus the reason for conflict in our marriages. These are the rest of the thoughts on ways to manage conflict in our marriage. I have grouped them into the "Do Nots" and the "Bes"

First, the "Do Not's."
- Do not give the silent treatment. (it's really immature and makes you look like a baby!)

- Do not walk out of the room, or the house, or go for a drive, or go for a walk. UNLESS you are really angry and think you will say or do something more stupid than what you have already done. If this is the case, verbally excuse yourself (you know, "I need to take a walk for a few minutes and cool off.") But then come back and finish the discussion. And spouses, allow your spouse the freedom to cool off.

- Do not sleep on the couch or in the guest room. (Childish)

- Do not go to bed angry. You will wake up grouchy and sore. (I think that is God's punishment for "letting the sun go down on your anger."

- Do not make a mountain out of a molehill. If it is little, let it stay little.

Now, the Be's
- Be a good listener. Don't talk when someone else is talking, or overtalk them to make your point. If everyone is talking, then no one is listening, and if no one is listening, nothing will get accomplished.

- Be a good forgiver. Say, "I forgive you."

- Be aware of the danger of anger. It will devour your marriage.

- Be the first one to roll to the middle when you go to bed at night. It leads to reconciliation (and a few other fun things!)

All that to say, marriage is not easy. Most valuable things aren't.

Day 17: Conflict

Today at our staff training we learned about conflict in marriage. Jeff started off by saying, "Marriages without conflict are not good marriages." This is the exact response this evoked in me . . . "What?!! Yesssssssss!" (Of course that response happened inside my head b/c there were people all around me, but trust me, I was excited!)

He went on to say that marriages without conflict don't have two people in them who trust one another well enough to be transparent and authentic. Next thought in my head . . . "Oh yeah, marriage of the year baby!"

And from there he went on to describe what "good" conflict looks like. (This is pretty much where my mental celebration broke down.) I thought I would share a few of his thoughts with you.

1. Resolve the conflict right away.
Now I think I do this pretty well. I'm not very good at allowing unresolved conflict (not just in my marriage) so I can work at resolution almost to a fault (yes, that is possible!)

2. Confess, don't confront. (I knew I was in trouble here when I had no idea what he meant by this!) Basically, don't enter the conflict resolution (aka argument) with your list of things the OTHER person has done wrong. This will get you nowhere in a hurry. Trust me, I have evidence to back me up on this one!

3. Negotiate, don't fight. Try to remember that you don't have to be right, and no one has to win, because you are on the same team. (That's quite the concept there now isn't it?)

4. Be loving and respectful. I laughed when he asked for some examples of this and the room was silent for a good while. :) But here were some thoughts others had: No name calling, don't use sarcasm, watch your tone of voice, don't do things to intentionally hurt the other person. (I gave myself an A at this. I wonder if that's how Mike would grade me? . . . probably not.)

All that to say, I have way more to share with you, but my hair is drying funny and my coffee is cold, which is my signal to go get dressed and go to work. More tomorrow.

Day 16: Empty Me

Sunday was an incredible day. Not incredible just because my Georgia friends were here, but incredible because God spoke to me in a way He has not spoken to me in a long time. Maybe He's been speaking and I've been deaf, or deafened to His voice by the sounds of the foolish things in my heart and mind.

We are learning from the teachings of Jesus, his sermon on the mount. This week's lessons were blessed are the meek, blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness and blessed are the merciful. However, they could have all been the same thing for they all made the same point to me.

I am full of myself.

I used to think that as long as I checked off one of the "blessed ares" then I was in good with God, but today I realized that I just don't think that's true. If I am "in good with God" it certainly has nothing to do with my behavior. I'm "in good" because He saw fit to save me from myself by sending His son for me. But if I am running hard after Him; if I am pursuing Him with everything in me; my life will reflect these teachings of Christ. All of them.

But I am not meek, because I am full of myself. And when I get close to empty, and could choose to fill myself with Him, I fear I choose to refill myself with myself. And when I am empty, and could hunger and thirst for righteousness, I choose to refill myself with myself, my selfish ambitions. And when I could choose to be merciful, to choose a way other than my own, to consider the needs of someone else rather than mine, I choose me.

All that to say, "Empty me, Lord, of the selfishness inside, every vain ambition and the poison of my pride, and any foolish thing my heart holds to, empty me of me so I can be filled with you."

Day 15: Always Connected

Today I spent my last day with Cathy and Katherine. It was wonderful and fun and bittersweet all wrapped into one. There is something very healing and healthy about a good time with sweet friends. When we went to church this morning, one of my friends there said, "I can tell you are having fun together because your face looks happy."

My favorite part of the day was not the early morning discussion over coffee. It wasn't Katherine consuming MASS quantities of salsa at Guadalajara or her saying, "I'm full, I should stop eating . . . but I'm not going to!" It wasn't the multiple times I suddenly remembered I was in charge of giving Katherine directions and then yelling, "TURN HERE!"

My favorite part of the day was not all the times those girls were on their phones (SERIOUSLY! You two need therapy!)

My favorite part of the day wasn't sitting at Sonic laughing about my amazing ability to outsmart automated phone answering services (I have a secret that works everytime!)

It wasn't when the K(C)atherines found out their flights back to Atlanta had been CANCELLED and the drama of that.

It wasn't even Cathy getting stuck on the down escalator (sorry Cathy!)and Katherine almost falling to the ground from laughter.

My favorite part of the day was worshipping the Jesus that we all love, standing next to each other with our hands in the air. It was feeling the words of God pierce our hearts. It was hearing the voice of the Holy Spirit speak to us challenging things we needed to hear. That was the favorite part of my day.

All that to say, words cannot adequately convey the emotion that comes from knowing that the friends you love, love your Savior. No matter how far the miles are between us, we are always connected by Him.

Day 14: I'm Older

In my defense, I would like to just say that I am almost 9 years older than them. Nine years is a lot of years people, especially when you are my age! Things break down at my age. Things that botox cannot fix Cathy!

Today, Cathy and Katherine and I decided to spend a good bit of our day doing what lots of people do when they visit out of town friends. We went running. (who does that?!!) I ran the farthest I have gone to date. Technically it was still a walk/run or a wog(walk/jog), but I did three miles and at a 13 minute mile pace, which isn't terrible for walking and running. Cathy and Katherine however ran 7 miles, not walk/run, run (well, sort of shuffling, sort of jogging), but nonetheless, they went 7 miles and probably could have gone farther. But again, I'm older than them.

Tonight, we all went out to dinner at Cathy's favorite restaurant, Tommy Bahamas, and I complained most of the night about how bad my legs hurt, how bad my bootie hurt, how bad my quads hurt, my knees hurt, . . . But they did not complain at all. Oh no, they said things like, "well, I can feel my legs." Well I can FEEL MY LEGS TOO AND THEY HURT!!!! Did I mention I am nine years older than them?

We took a "before" picture right before we went out running. (I'll post it when/if I get it from Katherine) and then we forgot to take an after picture. So I took these "after" pictures when we got home.

They will probably not like these pictures, but I would like to just say, I was standing when I took them. And although I may not walk tomorrow, and they might be able to, I would just like to point out that at no time did I have to lay on the ground. (I did have to biofreeze my quads and knees and shins) but I was still standing. And yes, I know they ran 7 miles and I only wogged 3, but I need to feel proud about something!

All that to say, we had fun today. Even if running seems like a crazy way to hang out.

Day 13: The K(C)atherines

Sometimes friendships can be a lot like an old pair of slippers or a favorite sweater. They are better every time you slip them on. They are more comfortable with each wearing. They always fit and nothing about them ever goes out of style in your mind.

I am blessed to have friendships like that in my life. I am especially blessed to have friendships like that in my life that have been unexpected surprises born of chance meetings (or sacred meetings if you prefer). This weekend I get to share some precious time with two such friends.

I met Katherine at church. I don't know that you could say we struck up an immediate friendship, but we certainly had good chemistry right off the bat. We started a small group that failed as I recall, along with the church we were attending. But our friendship lasted. And though it has ebbed and flowed, we have somehow managed to stay connected. Our hearts are entwined, as good friendships often are, and our souls connected by our love for one another and our love for the God we have worshiped together. Katherine has challenged me in many great ways, made me think deeply about things I don't like to think about, and loved me in spite of what I am sure are significant shortcomings.

I met Cathy through Katherine, actually through small group #2 that Katherine and her husband, Greg, started. I remember one night over dinner in our small group I was listening to Cathy talk and I thought to myself, "Oh my gosh, I have lived her life!" I think I said something out loud like, "No one at this table knows you like I do." That was the night that our friendship blossomed. Three different couples became one closely knit group because Cathy was willing to open her life and be transparent. That's what I love most about her. She's vulnerable and transparent and wants so desperately to be who God wants her to be that she's willing to lay down any pretense that her life is perfect. I have learned a lot about seeking God through her. She's also fiesty and fun and surprising and 100% the princess we have labeled her to be!

All that to say, I am looking forward to two more full days with the K(C)atherines. And I promise to post a picture tomorrow!

Day 12: Prayer is the Real Work

Prayer is the real work. My Pastor says that a lot. He says it so often that it is deeply engrained in our culture. It's part of our DNA. Sometimes I think it's funny when people say, 'WoodsEdge, y'all are that praying church.' or something along those lines. Seems like an odd thing to say about a church because shouldn't we ALL be praying churches. But that's not the point of this blog.

Wednesday nights we have a weekly prayer service. Now I don't know how you grew up, but as I was growing up, and even long after I was grown up, my Wednesday night "Prayer Services" were anything but. They were sometimes business meetings, rarely any singing, though sometimes we might have a few hymns thrown in, mostly preaching ('cause you know that message you got on Sunday was all sunk in and being practiced . . . ) Not much prayer though, other than the 10 year olds praying for it to end.

But our Wednesday night prayer service is actually a prayer service. We pray and we pray hard. We worship like Jesus is about to ride in on a cloud. And it is life giving and life changing, and often it is challenging because God speaks to you in those moments. Last night was like that. Challenging I mean. In a good way. God caused me to have to really think through some tough things. Some things I have wrestled with for a long time. He challenged some conclusions I have drawn about myself and pointed out my errors and poor judgment.

All that to say, prayer is the real work.

Day 11: Alone

It has been a long long day. I need to get alone to think my thoughts. Free from even the surveying eyes of readers tonight.

All that to say I need to be alone. See you tomorrow.

Day 10: Run Carol Run

I've been trying to run lately. I've tried running before but I wasn't successful at it. The last time I tried running, I couldn't do it because I broke my toe. This time, I strained my knee, not running, but because it was strained, I had to stop running for a week, which basically means I have to start all over again!

And by start all over, I mean run, then feel like I am dying, then walk, then finally catch my breath and start running again. Repeat. Repeat. Repeat.

I don't know why I want to be a runner so badly. But I do. Maybe it's because I can't seem to accomplish it. I tried running in college. I took a running course. I fainted on the course, then threw up. Then dropped the course and took bowling. (But I met Mike because of that, so maybe it was "ordained" that I failed running.

All that to say, today is Day One of Carol Runs. Run, Carol, Run.

Day 9: Hell Does Not Have a Driver's License

Let me begin by saying that there is no photo for today's blog. I had a dilemma, do I skip the blog because I don't have a photo to go with it, or do I blog without a photo? I voted for the blog with no photo. I promise to do better in the photography area!!!

Today I drove to work as I do every morning, well, most every morning. I know I have mentioned it enough times that most of you, my readers, know I have a bit of a road rage issue. It comes from commuting while I lived in Atlanta. Atlanta traffic is horrendous and probably the cause of many cases of road rage.

One of my particular pet peeves is slow drivers. Slow drivers make me crazy. I mean really, is it that difficult to drive the speed limit? Usually when I ask that question my husband tells me that the posted speed limit is the maximum speed limit, not the minimum. :) He's a slow driver. He would say that.

Anyway, today as I was driving down a two lane road that is typically a pleasant part of my commute, I got trapped behind an 18 wheeler going 30 in a 45. THIRTY!!!!! in a FORTY FIVE!!!!!! (I spelled it out because you can't yell in numbers!) Seriously, he was going 30 in a 45. The whole time I was behind him I was groaning and moaning and lamenting how horrible it was that I was stuck behind this guy when I so OBVIOUSLY had someplace I had to be.

Finally, when I had reached my wit's end (or some other end, because I am certain I was acting like the end of something!) I yelled out, "Oh this is hell. I am stuck in traffic hell." And then immediately I felt the voice of God say, "Really Carol, this is hell to you? Really? Really."

Oh man. I hate it when that happens. When I get so caught up in myself that I say something stupid like that. Really, is it really hell that I was going slower than I wanted to? That was hell to me? And then the picture of all those babies in Haiti without mothers came to me. All those kids left to be picked off by predators. All those families who had lost everything. And I had the audacity to think hell was driving 15 miles an hour slower than I thought I should be going.

All that to say, conviction is a marvelous and terrible thing. And I don't have any idea what hell is.

Day 8: Not Mundane

There are many things in life that we consider mundane. My life each day is filled with mundane things. Dishes, laundry, traffic, unmade beds, messy kitchens, meetings, phone calls to return. Mundane. And I could choose to go about my life as though my life was mundane, boring, insignificant, meaningless.

But I choose differently. And I choose differently because I saw a little girl pulled from the rubble of her life, after spending four days underneath that rubble without food or water.

I cannot imagine her pain or the pain of those who have lost everything in their life. I think that the idea of an unmade bed would be anything but mundane to them. A messy kitchen with dirty dishes would mean their lives had not been turned upside down.

It has become so easy for me to take life for granted. And I realized today that I am incredibly ashamed of that. I am ashamed that I consider my life trivial and mundane when it is FILLED with blessings at every turn.

All that to say, my life is not mundane. It is priceless. Filled with treasure.

Day 7: I Prefer Rich Auburn

I went to get my hair colored today. I know, I just let the cat out of the bag. Those big blond streaks through my hair are NOT natural highlights. Shocking. And that rich auburn color that runs beneath those blond streaks is also not my real hair color. I don't actually know what my real hair color is anymore. I haven't seen that in years! It's probably gray-ish. But I prefer rich Auburn and blond highlights to gray-ISH.

I like getting my hair colored. The majority of the experience is quite pleasant. First of all, there's Linda Paredon. Funny, but I only recently learned Linda's last name. That's especially odd because she has been my "color girl" for the last nine years! Even when I lived in Georgia, I tried to coordinate my hair coloring with my trips to Texas so that she could do it. She really is that good. Plus, I just like her. She's fun, and funny, and real. Today she said, "What is it that you do again?" and when I laughed and said, "I'm a Pastor" she said, "I guess I forgot that." And then she said something about me not acting like a "Pastor." I always think it's a good thing when people say that.

And I usually like what my hair looks like when it's finished. I feel it necessary to say that anytime I have EVER been unhappy, it was not Linda's fault, because anytime I have left unhappy, it was because I had to "settle" for someone other than Linda while she was out having a baby or taking a vacation or something else that TOTALLY interfered with my life. (Just kidding Linda . . . sort of). Today, I liked it. :)

But some parts of getting my hair colored I do not like.

Today, I did not like "graduating" to the gray smock. I normally wear the black smock. It's for the smaller girls. But today, the assistant put her hand on the black smock, eyed me critically and chose the gray smock instead. Seriously? I was not prepared for that.

I do not like sitting with foils in my hair, but I console myself with the thought that there are people all around me with foils in their hair, so at least if I'm going to look stupid, others are looking stupid with me!

I do not like sitting under the dryer for 25 minutes. It's boring and a little challenging physically. You can't really people watch because you can't move your head around. And the chairs are sort of an odd height, so my back hurts at the end of that 25 minutes. From there, my hurting back and I go to the shampoo chairs which are TOTALLY not comfortable.

I do not like the shampoo part at the end. I usually end up with water on my face or down my back or down my bra (happened today). I keep thinking one day they will be slow or distracted and the girl (or guy) washing my hair will become absorbed in their own thoughts and mindlessly massage my head until suddenly reality will snap them back and they will have whiled away the 5-10 minutes that I must sit there with toner on my head. And I will have gotten a nice massage. That's never happened. But I keep hoping.

And my LEAST favorite part is the part at the very end where I have to pay. Followed by having to explain to my husband why it costs soooooo much not to have gray hair.

All that to say, I said that the majority of the experience is quite pleasant. But, based on this blog it sounds like the best parts are Linda and Linda's work! So, let me just say, I like having pretty hair, and I like that Linda makes it look that way! (oh, and she's at Visible Changes in The Woodlands Mall if you were wondering!)

Day 6: What Makes a Friend a Friend

I have been thinking a lot about friendships lately. I am pretty sure it is because I am going to go on a trip soon with a friend of mine, a mentor, who will challenge me about some friendship issues that have occurred over the past year. She will ask me if I feel that hurt feelings have been resolved. She will ask me if I am "in neutral" about what has transpired. She has really drilled into me over the years that bitterness and unforgiveness will eat us alive if we let it. So as I have been examining my emotions, I have been thinking about friendship.

I have been blessed over my lifetime to have good friends. I remember my first "Best Friend." Her name was Alva Ybarra. I have not seen nor heard from her since 6th grade, but her name still sticks in my mind, and though I remember almost nothing about why we were best friends, nor anything we ever did together, I remember her name and the emotion that her name evokes. If I saw her today (and I recognized her!) I would still call her "friend."

I remember my best friend in High School, Tammy Crawford. We grew up together in so many ways; got married close to the same time, had our kids at the same time, then as we moved away our friendship was reduced to Christmas Letters. Can't say why. It just happened. And then one of us moved, and the Christmas letters ceased, and we lost touch. But she's still my friend.

I remember my first real "grown up" friendship, a deep friendship that made me feel like I understood what that David/Jonathan friendship must have been like in the Bible.

I have also been incredibly blessed to be allowed to mentor many young woman over the years, and though our ages are significantly different, I would call each of them friend.

And I will say this, some of my friendships, I have royally screwed up. I have allowed hurt feelings or pride or any number of other things to wreck incredible relationships that may be forever demolished or at the very least forever diminished. And though I might never see those friends again, it doesn't change the fact that I call them friend.

But I have learned this; friendship is not defined by age, or stage of life, or location, or daily presence. I think friendship is defined by the bonds that it forms deep in your heart. And regardless of life and circumstance, real friendship lasts. It weathers storms. It celebrates life. It grieves loss. It endures.

All that to say, what makes a friend a friend? I don't have a clue. Maybe it's the mystery of it that makes it so wonderful.

Day Five: Not for the Weak


Ummm yeah, so I have lived 48 years without one of these. I don't exactly know how that is possible, but it is true. And now, now I have one. Actually, I have multiples, and they hurt, and they are gross, and they make people look away in horror, or worse yet, they make people lick their lips unconsciously while trying to look away, yet find themselves inexplicably drawn to the horror that is before them.

What am I talking about? FEVER BLISTERS. Ugh. I do not know how I have survived 48years without a fever blister, but I hope to never ever ever have one again. I started getting one about a week ago. Of course, I didn't know that's what it was, because I have never had one, so I took absolutely NO ONE'S advice to go and buy Abreva. I just kept thinking my lips were chapped and kept rubbing Vaseline on them.

A few days later, the first "blister" appeared. It was kind of hard to tell if it was a blister though, or if it was just my chapped lips cracking. So I applied more Vaseline. The next day, more blisters. The next day, more blisters. Ugh.

(This picture does not do it justice!)

So finally I bought the stupid Abreva. As of yet, the blisters are not diminishing, but now the stupid scabs are forming on the old blisters. So it's not enough to have a swollen lip with blisters! I now have to have SCABS!!! Peeling scabs that stick up in horrific 3D off of my lip.

All that to say, my stupid lip hurts and I'm horrifically aware of it, as are others. I was thinking that fever blisters are like sin. You kinda know it's there, but left to run amok, it starts popping up all over the place until it's gross and ugly and cannot be ignored! Yes . . . I can even spiritualize fever blisters.

Day Four: My Job Smells

I am very fortunate to love my job. I know that lots of people have to get up and go to work at a place where they don't love their jobs; so I feel especially blessed to say that I wake up ALMOST every morning, looking forward to going to work. Perhaps what makes the experience so great is the team of people I get to do life with 5 or 6 days a week.

I don't work a single day that I don't laugh, that I don't feel challenged to be better, that I don't have to think about decisions I make, and that I don't get to impact someone's life. It might be easy to chalk all of that up to working in a chuch, but trust me, I've worked in some churches and the only thing I looked forward to was going home each day. Something is different about this team of people.

Before I go on, I want to issue a disclaimer to people that I have worked with in the past that I love, that I have formed cherished friendships with, that I loved working alongside, and say to you that though the circumstances under which we worked together might have been different, I love you the same.

As I was thinking yesterday about what makes this team so different, I realized that it's our leader. He runs zealously after God in a way I have never seen anyone run after God. You can tell it's true because he smells like God. He is gentle, and humble, and a warrior for God's people. He calls us to pray over our decisions, over our days, over our families, over our ministries, over opportunities lost. He calls us to confess, and to rejoice, and to beg, and to expect great things, and he asks us often to do those things publically.

Our weekly "Staff Meeting" is one hour of prayer and worship together. Once every three months, we all go off together and spend an entire day in prayer. That might sound like a long day to you, it sounded long to me too in the beginning, but it flies by. We are challenged to take our own personal prayer retreats regularly.

We are a family. We fight. We get upset with each other. We call each other names (usually to our faces). But we also defend one another. We give one another the benefit of the doubt. And we pray for one another.

All that to say, my job smells like God. And I like that.

Day Three: Married Well

I married well. I don't always remember that, but today it is very clear in my mind, so I'm saying it, "I married well." Yesterday, I was with a group of people and we were praying for our families. When I talked about Mike, I said, "One of the things I love about my husband is that he is a very dedicated and committed person.

I'm not totally sure that dedicated and committed really even describe this character trait well. If Mike says he is going to do something, he is going to do it. Sometimes this can be bothersome, like when I say, "Let's run at 9:30 in the morning" and at 9:29 he is standing in front of me fully decked out in running gear and I am still in my jammies. But most of the time it is an amazing quality to have in a husband, and one I deeply admire.

At the moment, he lives a daily difficult situation. I cannot really go into it, but just trust me that almost every day of his life he is faced with a very difficult situation that he must endure. But he does so much more than endure it. He endures it with grace; grace for the situation, grace for the people, grace for the tirades, grace. And he endures it because he is steadfast. He doesn't waver easily. In his mind, there are far worse things to endure than what he faces, so he goes about it with a kindness that inspires me.

I love knowing that my husband is dedicated and committed. It makes me love him more, trust him unequivocably, and respect him deeply. Now don't go thinking that he's perfect, ladies, he's not. But he's close. And I love him for the hundreds of things he gets right.

All that to say, I married well.

Day Two: Presence

We have a new puppy. Technically, Jacob has a new puppy. It's actually a good deal for all of us, because we get all the benefits of having a puppy, but he's Jacob's responsibility. Now THAT'S a turn of events for sure. When the kids were little "we" had a puppy, but "they" got all of the benefits and "we" did all of the work. But now Jacob scoops the poop, takes him out for his 3:00 a.m. potty needs, feeds him, takes him to the vet . . . and we, we play with him.

The thing is, Sawyer, (that's his name)is most assuredly Jacob's pet, and Jacob is most assuredly Sawyer's boy. He follows Jacob everywhere! He HAS to be in the same room with Jacob no matter where that room is. If Jacob lays down, Sawyer lays down right next to him, or as close as he can get. As long as he's with Jacob, he's content.

I watched them playing last night, and it made me think of God. (I know, I'm spiritualizing a dog!) But watching Sawyer follow Jacob around made me think of God and how I used to long for His presence. And it made me wonder when I lost that. I am with Him everyday, but I am not content to just be with Him. I need His undivided attention. I need Him to be talking to me every second that I am with Him. I need Him to make sure I know that He is listening to me. I am no longer just content to be in His presence. And I miss that.

All that to say, I miss just sitting as His feet. I miss just being content to feel the warmth of Him, the peace that emanates from Him, the comfort that comes from just being near. The comfort of presence.

Day One: Learn Something New

I took a photography class on Friday from my good friend, Shauna Maness. I used to be a "learner" meaning that I tried to learn something new all the time. Seems like work and life have gotten the best of me and all I seem to learn lately are things about myself that I either don't like, or that other's don't like, or that God doesn't like and I should change. I guess that's still learning, and good learning at that.

But I mean I used to learn new skills all the time. I learned how to knit. I learned how to crochet (I was HORRIBLE at it!). I learned how to quilt. I learned sign language. I learned some Spanish, but not really enough to be functional. I learned how to play c,d,g & e on the guitar so I could play songs to my first graders when I taught first grade. I have missed learning new things. And I have wanted to take a photography class for a long time, so I FINALLY took one!

During the class, we started talking about what we do to be creative, do we scrapbook (oh yeah, I learned that too), do we sing, paint, draw, etc. And Shauna mentioned that I catalog life by writing. I guess I never thought of it in those terms, but I suppose that is what I do. As part of the conversation, she mentioned something about a 365 day journal, a blog of life, that incorporates something from each day in pictures.

I suppose a 365 day journal would make a lot more sense starting it on January 1st, but that has come and gone, so instead, I am starting it on January 10, 2010. A 365 day journal of life and memories and photographs and lessons learned.

All that to say, I have never blogged 365 days in a row. We'll have to see how it goes. Stay tuned.

Good Morning 2010

Good Morning 2010. (In my head that sounded a lot like Robin Williams saying "Good Morning Vietnam.") I, for one, am glad that it is 2010. A new year. A new beginning. Lots of new beginnings. Who knows what will happen this year? What new circumstances life will bring? What joys? What heartaches? What comfort? What pain? It's all waiting out there, just waiting to give birth to our new lives. As is customary, I like to start out a new year with some thoughts on what I would like to change about myself. Some call these resolutions. I think the "resolve" part came last year, as a part of some hard lessons I had to learn. But I think coming to a place where I am resolved to accept certain truths about me have allowed me to be ready to change them.

In 2009, I learned that contrary to what I think, I am not in control of just about anything. I still want to be in control. The urge to control has not left me. But I have built in some behavior modifications, a gut check if you will, that helps me avoid the controlling. Being a control freak is not easy people. It's not all fun and games, so letting go of that has not been easy either. God has taught me some amazing things along the way of releasing my controlling ways though. Some of the lessons were not so fun. But they were all rewarding. In 2010, I am resolved to continue learning to let go. I am resolved to allow God to be in control (isn't that big of me?)instead of thinking that I am, and instead of thinking that I in any way have the power to control life and life's unpleasantness. I am resolved to allow people to make their own mistakes. I am resolved to give advice when asked, only. And I am resolved to seek, ask, knock. Because that's where I will find the strength to relinquish control.

In 2009, I learned that I will always be a mother to my children no matter how old they get. This, however, does not give me the supreme right to "parent" them for the rest of their lives, however badly I might want to. In 2010, I am resolved to finding the balance between helping my children make the transition into adulthood, and BACKING OFF! :) I am an adult, and God still parents me, but He also gives me a pretty wide berth to learn from my mistakes.

In 2009, I learned that I cannot eat whatever I want, though exercising like a mad woman, and expect to find good health. It just doesn't happen that way. I can't work 60 hour weeks, nor am I expected to. I can't obsess over the little things in life. In 2010, I am resolved to make healthier life choices. I will eat better, exercise well, rest, take vacations, love my husband, read good books (and probably some awful ones) and be better at releasing people from the debts I think they owe me. Even the ones who are still making me mad as of today! (Obviously have a lot of work to do here.)

In 2009, I learned that good friends are hard to come by. I learned that sometimes friends aren't who you think they are, and friendships aren't what you thought they were, but that the richness of the friendship you shared, for the time you shared it, is still good, and you can still cherish those memories. In 2010, I am resolved to enjoy my friends, for the time God has given them to me. I am resolved to make sure I have done all I personally can to practice forgiveness with fractured friendships, and then be content to allow God's timing in restoration. No more obsessing about such things!

In 2009, I learned that no matter how badly you want something for someone else, they have to make their own decisions. In 2010, I am resolved to pray for my sons, that they will make choices for their lives that they have bathed in prayer. I am resolved to let prayer be my parenting style! (Seems like this is a combination of my control and parenting resolutions!)

All that to say, I am looking forward to 2010 and all the ways I will see God work in it. Good Morning 2010.