Day 114: A Full Year

It's funny to me how melancholy I seem to get at this time of year.  Not sad or depressed.  Perhaps retrospective is a better word.  I find myself looking back over the year, remembering things with joy or sorrow, tenderness, fondness, and perhaps even a desire to turn the clock back and relive, redo, retouch some moments.

It was an incredibly full year.  It has been our first full calendar year with the girls.  They have grown from wearing a size 18 months to a 3T in one year, gaining almost 10 pounds and 5 inches.  That just seems phenomenal to me.  Of course they have grown in so many other ways as well.  Their little hearts are healing and we get to see it lived out.  Love does indeed heal.  I wish I could make a list of all the little things they do that I love, but I suppose the ones at the top of the list would be the way they greet me in the mornings, the way they pray for healing for others, and the way they prance around in their little "click-clacks" putting on chapstick.

Zack got engaged to such an incredible girl.  They will get married in just a few short days, and he will no longer be ours.  He will be hers.  They will be "them" not "us."  That's a little hard to adjust my mind to, though certainly I am happy for him, for them.

Jacob was in and out all year long.  It's kind of weird having him be away at school AGAIN.  But, he's getting on with his life, working on a career that he will enjoy (someday, when he finishes with school!)  He's been incredibly sweet to come home for really special occasions, though he's had to make a 3 hour trip every time.

Mike quit his job and started his own pest control company called Maximum Pest Control.  I'm gonna need all of you to call him and have him start treating your homes (shameless plug?  Absolutely).  He's loving it most days, though owning your own business is always such hard work and STARTING one is even harder.

We filed for permanent legal custody of the girls in August.  It feels a little like we took our seats, strapped ourselves in, pulled down the safety bar across our laps and are holding on for dear life as we ride this crazy ride.  God knows (and He's the only one!) how this thing will all end.  So we just live each day like we're going to have them forever.

I left Children's ministry this year too.  After a LOT of years doing it, I moved over to Adult Ministry.  It's been a weird time of transition for sure.  And I miss it sometimes.  Not as in, "I wish I was doing Children's Ministry" miss it, just I miss the comfort and ease of doing something that I can do in my sleep. :)

Oh yeah, and I ran a marathon!  Holy Cow!  And my body is still paying the price of that!  Well, my right foot is! (I'm fairly sure I just exceeded the use of the exclamation point as a form of punctuation.)  Hopefully my right foot will heal soon, and I will run again soon.  My brain needs it.

All that to say, it's been a full year.  And 2012 holds promises yet to be discovered.

Day 113: Simple Christmas Lived Out Report Card

I thought since I'd pronounced it a "Simple Christmas" in following with what my church was doing that I should give myself a report card.  Here goes:

Simple Worship:  More Jesus, Less Me  B-
  I wish I could say my time alone with Jesus was more rich, but it wasn't.  Somehow I still found myself incredibly busy, though much less than usual.  Probably the most significant thing I did in this area was focus on Jesus as the reason for the celebration.  There wasn't much ado about Santa (though I'm not opposed to the Big Red Man).  We talked a lot with the girls about Jesus and his birth and the celebration surrounding it.

Simple Generosity:  More Giving, Less Spending A
This was a very challenging area for me because I am all about the buying of the Christmas presents.  I spent less than $500 for my entire family, including 4 parents, a husband, 2 sons, 2 daughters, 1 soon to be daughter in law, and our siblings.  Plus ALL of my baked goods that I gave to over 30 people.  It does not cover the coffee I bought for a fireman at Starbucks or an extravagant tip I gave to the girl at Sonic.  But all in all, I spent way less (and I mean WAY less!)  I do think I could have served others better.  I don't know that I did that as well as I could have.  So maybe I would give myself an A-.

Simple Presence:  More Time, Less Hurry B
Well, for reasons beyond my control (I hear the excuses coming) I did okay in this area.  I attended 1 Christmas Party, and I gave it.  I planned to attend two others but I had childcare issues for one of them and sick kids for the other one.  So, I wasn't too caught up in the hustle and bustle.  I decided the weeks before Christmas were not the best time to catch up with everyone I knew.   I did 98% of all of my shopping online.  I didn't do some things that I would have liked to do, but 10 years from now, I won't remember what I didn't get accomplished.  I won't remember the drive to see lights that didn't happen, or the decorating that didn't get done.  But I will remember rolling out cookies with the girls (trust me, I WILL remember that!)  And I will remember other time well spent with people I love.

All that to say, I can do better.  But I'd say it was a good first start.  Merry Christmas.

Day 112: Cookies

It's funny how things become traditions.  Ever notice you do something more than once (especially at church!) and it's automatically a "tradition?!"  Some things that get passed down don't even make any sense after a few years.  But we keep on doing them anyway, even though we don't know why!

I had a friend tell me that for years when she cooked a ham, she always cut off both ends.  She didn't really know why she did it, but that's how her mom always did it, so she just assumed it made it taste better.  Once, when she asked her mom why they cut off the end of the ham, her mom said, "Because that's what my mom always did."  So then she asked her grandma why she cut off the ends of the ham and her grandma died laughing (not literally died . . .)  She said, "Honey I've always cut the ends off of my ham because my roasting pan is too small for the whole thing to fit!"

Like I said, sometimes "traditions" get passed down and we don't even know why we do them.

Our family has a very special tradition that we simply call "Cookies."  Every year our family bakes and decorates sugar cookies.  And while this holiday tradition in and of itself does not sound significantly different than what millions of other people do this time of year, this tradition is a "bit" different, because well . . .we are Joneses, and we are . . . well . . . a "bit" different.  :)  

"Cookies" started in 1995 when we moved to The Woodlands.  Mike was a deacon at Crossroads Baptist Church, and each year we would bake and decorate cookies, then we would deliver them all to the widows for whom he cared. 
And because these cookies were for sweet little old ladies, I wanted them to be extra special.  So for months I experimented with sugar cookie dough until I found just the right one.  And then I experimented and found the most delicious icing that dries to a delicious goodness that literally makes the cookie melt in your mouth.  Yum.

Eventually his list of widows became quite large, so we had to bake and decorate TONS of cookies, and we realized that our little family of four just couldn't meet the demand any longer.  So . . . we turned it into a competion.

Each year, on the night of "Cookies" we invite a family to join us for this special night of creativity.  I bake A LOT of cookies, and then all of the participants of the night decorate said cookies.  Then, at the end of the evening, there is an official judging of the cookies that have been decorated.  Each person presents their two best cookies, gives their entries a special name, and then the best cookie is awarded a trophy.

Here we are 16 years later, and we are still doing "Cookies." It's something we love.  This year, though I thought he would miss it, Jacob drove three hours just to be home for "Cookies."  It's just that special to us.

I don't know if we'll do it forever.  But for every year that we get to do it, I will treasure the time that we are together as a family.

All that to say, Cookies 2011, you are over.  And I didn't win . . . again.  But maybe next year.  (Oh, and I promise not to use a new recipe next year,  Jacob.  I mean, tradition is tradition . . . even if it is just frosting.)  And Zack, I totally thought "Candy Corn Christmas" should have won! 

Day 111: For a Good Time Call

So a little vulnerability here today . . . okay a lot.  I've been struggling a little bit lately with feeling isolated, alone, lonely . . . it's hard to put the exact word on how I'm feeling because in truth, I don't know exactly how it is that I am feeling.

I tried to explain it to my women's small group a few weeks ago, a group that I have been meeting with for almost two years.  And even with them, I struggled to say how exactly it was that I was feeling.  Again, because I didn't know that I could totally put it into words.

Yesterday, I chatted with an old friend (via facebook, not surprisingly) and as we were talking, she asked what was wrong . . . said she could hear it in my voice. (which is funny considering we were typing, not talking.)  I thought to myself, "should I just say I'm fine and try not to muddle through another explanation of my feelings or should I lay it out there with someone I haven't talked to in months?"

So of course, I started and struggled and stammered and finally she rescued me by saying this, (it's long, but she gave me permission to write it)   "You just want to have some fun, Carol.  You want to be the kind of friend that people just call on a whim and say "Hey you want to hang out? or You want to go to a movie? or You want to run away to Cancun for a week?" 

She said, "You've always been that way.  You want to be the fun friend, the funny friend, the light-hearted, good time friend.  But you aren't.  And you've always struggled with that.  And I've seen that desire catch up to you many times, my friend.  And that's what's happening now."

In closing she said, "But this is the friend that you ARE.  You are the friend that people know they can trust to be honest when they need honesty more than anything else.  You are the friend they know will listen to the chaos of their lives and won't judge them.  You are the friend that loves so deeply, that no amount of time and distance will ever cause that to end.  You are generous, and loving and selfless, often to your detriment.  I just wish that someday you could stop wanting to be a different kind of friend than you are, because you are one of the best friends I have ever had.  Sometimes you're a little intense for me, you are, because sometimes I DO just want to be crazy and have fun and you AREN'T the first person I think of, but it doesn't mean you aren't fun or funny or a blast to hang out with.  You just aren't my "go-to" girl for the fun stuff.  But you're my "go-to" girl for the things in my life that require true friendship."

And my take-away was this. The enemy wants to tell me, all the time, what I am not, what I cannot be, what I cannot have.  He knows my weakest points, and he POUNDS them as often as he can, until eventually he wears me down.  But I just need to embrace who God has created me to be and quit longing so hard to be someone different.

All that to say, real friends tell you the truth, even when it's hard to hear.  Real friends, real true friends know you well enough to speak truth into your lives.  I guess that's the kind of friends I need and that's the kind of friend I want to be.  (But "good time" Carol still wants to come out and play sometimes!)

Day 110: Open Mouth

People say funny things sometimes, and I find that I am not sure how to take them, so I either take them as a compliment (it just works out better for everyone that way); or I try to make them feel less awkward about what they just said (which usually doesn't work out well for anyone); or I just laugh about it in my head and then tell someone else about it later.

Here are a few recent ones:

  • "Well if YOU can run, I probably can." 
    • I think this means "well, you're pretty old and out of shape, so if someone in your physical condition can do it, then I probably can too."  I have actually tried to think of anything else this could mean, and I just can't come up with anything.

  • "I got dressed yesterday and I came out of my bedroom and asked my husband, 'Who do I look like from Church?  Hint, they always wear cardigans buttoned all the way up with a shirt showing at the bottom?' My husband said, 'Carol Jones.'  Carol, you have a signature style!"
    • At first I thought, "That's cool. I have a style."  I felt very complimented.  Then later, at home, I thought, "Is that true?  Do I wear cardigans all the time?  Surely not."  Then I got dressed last night and guess what I put on?  Yep.  (In fact, I'm sitting here in my pajamas with a cardigan on.  Oy.)    Great, my signature style just screams old lady.

  • "I have a friend who is about to have twins.  She already has a lot of kids, so I don't know why she feels like she needs more.  Plus, she's 43.  At some point it's just selfish to be so old and have kids.  I mean, she'll be 50 when they are 2nd graders.  50?!"
    • Seriously, I had no idea had to respond to that one.  So I just smiled.  And decided to take it as a compliment that she must think I'm way under 50!

  • "You're one of the smartest women in leadership I've ever known.  Of course, most women aren't good leaders, so I guess that's like a double compliment."
    • For real.  A double compliment?
All that to say, I'm sure I've had plenty of "open mouth, insert foot" moments.   In fact, I KNOW I have.  Just read my post entitled, "I Say Stupid Things."  Then share some of your experiences!  I need a good laugh.

Day 109: Mountains and Molehills

I have been mentoring a young woman for a few months now, and I have to say that watching her transformation has been one of the single most rewarding experiences of my life.  She is working through some really heavy things in her life, and she is doing it with such grace.

No topic is off limits to her, be it physical, spiritual, emotional, or even social.  She is tired of living under the weight of such heavy things and her struggle to be freed from it all is nothing short of amazing to watch.

Today, as we were talking about a fairly small change in her life, she said, "I wish I knew why some things are easier for me and others are not.  Maybe I am just so used to moving mountains that I trip over molehills."

I have no idea why this particular statement took my breath away, but I suppose if I analyzed it long enough, I would find that the truth of it exists in my own life. 

We are not Mountain Movers.  The ability to move mountains requires us to rely on God, a fact we seem to grasp quite readily.  Without Him we are incapable of  overcoming the giant things that find their way into our lives. 

But the small things in our lives, the molehills, we tend to think we can handle those on our own.  No sense bothering the Big Guy with such trivial nonsense.  I mean, He's got a world to rule.  Angels to direct.  Prayers to answer.   So we go it alone.  And thus, it is the molehills that trip us up.

All that to say, maybe we should make mountains out of molehills, then trust them to the One who moves mountains.  We'd probably be less likely to trip.

Day 108: A Simple Christmas Lived Out

This year at my church we have all been challenged to live a Simple Christmas.  To practice, Simple Generosity (less spending, more giving), Simple Presence (less hurry, more time), and Simple Worship (less me, more Jesus).

I'll confess to you that at the outset, I thought this was an AWESOME idea.  But lived out, it is harder than I imagined.

I think the most difficult thing for me has been to have more Jesus and less Santa.  All of the fun things I want to do with the girls for Christmas, like photos with Santa, the Elf on the Shelf, all of that, I have set aside to try to help them understand the true meaning of Christmas.  It's not that I'm opposed to the big red man.  I'm not.  I think he's awesome and a lot of fun and a great piece of childhood fantasy that proves to be a very fond childhood memory to this day . . . and I still grew up to love Jesus . . .

And I'm not opposed to the Elf on the Shelf or any of that.  So please don't feel the need to email me or message me or tell me why Santa isn't real or is real or we should or shouldn't teach our children such things.

It's just that the girls are so little, and I want their deepest, most foundational understanding of the celebration of Christmas to be about Jesus.

So we are working on the story of Jesus' birth.

This was Shortstack's retelling to me this morning.

"I'n a big girl.  I not a baby.

Jedus was a baby. And da angels sing to da sheep.

And dey see da stars.  And the big big star.

And dey find da Jedus in da barn.  And da cows and da sheep sing.

And Jedus gets married.  I love Jedus." 

(She's a little confused by Mary and married . . . her world is a little consumed with "married" right now.)

But my point is this; she launched into this entire story about Jesus all from a discussion about why she can't wear diapers anymore because she's a big girl and not a baby.  And the word BABY triggered a retelling of the Christmas story.

So she's getting it.  Little by little, she's getting it. 

All that to say, the simple message of Christmas really is the story of a baby.  A baby who changed the world.

Day 107: Stupid Family Things

We were talking about cooking the giblets of a turkey today, when Zack asked, "What parts of the turkey make up the giblets?"

I rattled off the list with great confidence.

"Well, let's see.  There's the heart, the liver, the gizzard, the neck and the tweedler."

"THE WHAT?" Zack asked with great merriment in his voice.

"The tweedler. . . you know, the tail of the turkey," I said.

To which both Mike and Zack died laughing. 

Zack:  "Mom, I'm pretty sure that word is made up."

Me:  "No it's not.  It's a real word.  Unless my mom was jacking with me and never got around to telling me it was a made up word. And now I'm 50 and still saying it."  (I'm laughing pretty hard at this point too.)

Then I had a great idea.  I called my dad, put him on speaker phone and said, "Dad, what's a tweedler?"  To which he replied, "It's the southern end of a north bound turkey.  A turkey tail.  Why?"

So apparently, my whole entire extended family believes that a tweedler is a turkey tail.  But no one else outside of my family has ever heard the word (at least not in relation to a turkey's tail!)

All that to say, I feel foolish.  I'm glad I never said that word to anyone else.  Well . . . until now . . . 

Day 106: Simply Miraculous

I started to tell Shortstack the Christmas story the other night.  I kinda wish I had one of those Little Tyke's Nativity Sets.  I think it would make the telling a little easier.

I don't think I have ever really thought about how bizarre the story of Jesus' birth sounds until I tried to relate it to a 3 year old.

She kept looking at me like, "huh?"

I started saying, "It's almost Christmas!  Do you know what Christmas is?"

No response.

"It's Jesus' birthday.  Isn't that exciting?"

"We have cake?" she asked.

"Well we could have cake, I suppose."

"You know when Jesus was born,  he was a tiny, tiny baby, and everyone came to see him."

"They came to his house?"

"Well, not exactly.  You see when he was born he was not at his house.  He was in a manger . . . ummm, a barn.   With a bunch of animals."

"They had a party wif old mcdonald?"

"Well, no, not Old Mcdonald.  It was a barn not a farm.  And his mama made him a bed in the hay when he was born.  And everyone came to see him.  Angels, and shepherds and wisemen."

"His mommy in da barn?"

"Yes, Mary was his mommy and she loved him very much.  And she named him Jesus."

"He had a birtday and they sing and they eat cake and they bow out the tandles?"

Nitro pipes in here and says, "Cake?"

I didn't even get to the part about the shepherds in the field  and the singing angels and King Herod and Joseph and the donkey and the whole "no room at the inn" thing or the virgin birth!  (Well, I'll probably skip the whole "virgin birth" part for a few more years at least.)

All that to say, I think I take for granted just how miraculous Christmas really is.  Simply miraculous.  A beautiful story.  One that I will have to learn how to tell to a couple of three year olds!

Day 105: 40 Weeks Ago, This seemed Like a Good Idea

Last year for Christmas, my son, Jacob gave a me a present.  It was a 40 week training program for a marathon, called the Marathon Makeover.  Every Saturday, for 40 weeks, I awakened at the crack of dawn to go out running with a group of people, who prior to the race were complete strangers to me.

The commitment to train for a marathon was also a commitment for Mike, because it meant for 40 weeks he would be on Daddy Duty every single Saturday morning!

And it was a commitment for Jacob because he agreed to "run" the marathon with me.  Which for him would be more torturous than for me, because he runs a mile in half the time that I run one, which meant his marathon would take twice as long as it would normally take him.

But yesterday was the day.  And we finished.  And we didn't die.

I'd love to say it was awesome, but truthfully it was grueling!  There were so many factors we were just simply not prepared for.  First of all, I trained in The Woodlands where it is virtually flat.  I also trained early in the morning, often before the sun came up.  So the sun was not a real factor on most days of my training.

But the marathon was entirely different.  At mile 7, I realized I had a wayward toenail that was poking a hole into the toe that was next to it.  I had to take off my shoe, cut my toenail, wrap a band aid around it and keep going!  At mile 11.5, I was worried that I should have taken the turn-off to the half marathon.  By mile 13, I realized the record high temps and humidity had taken its toll and I was very dehydrated.

Twice, Jacob ran ahead of me to the next watering station and brought me back water!  I was so grateful for him!

By mile 16, I was seriously doubting that I would make the full marathon.  Everything hurt.  I was walking way more than I was running, felt like crying, quitting, curling up into the fetal position and sucking my thumb.  I know Jacob was bored out of his mind, and ready to slap me and say, "Snap out of it!"

Literally for over 9 miles there was not one ounce of shade.  None.  And a few of the watering stations had run out of water or sports drink.  And the hills.  Oh my gosh.  The Hills. 

But something happened around mile 19. I got a second wind.  I was running a lot more, genuinely feeling better, and enjoying the experience.

Then I hit the wall at mile 23.  I've heard many times about "the wall."  It is as real as it has been described to me.  By mile 24, I was pretty much walking the entire time.  Jacob was in high "encouragement mode" at this point.  Encouraging me to just keep walking. To just keep putting one foot in front of the other.  He even ran into a convenience store and bought water, Gatorade, and a banana so we could make it!

When we hit mile 26, I could feel myself wanting to cry.  I was going to finish!  I was going to do it!
The last 2 tenths of a mile were straight uphill.  REALLY?  How mean is that?  But we rounded the corner, and we ran it in!

We crossed the finish line.

All that to say, I am a marathoner  (and so is Jacob!) :)  40 weeks ago this seemed like a good idea.  What was I thinking?  And Jacob, this year, can I just have a blender?

Day 104: Married to Jesus

Explaining the concept of marriage to a three year old is not easy. 

For many days, Shortstack has been asking questions about getting married.  She said she wanted to marry Zack, but when I explained that Christina was marrying Zack, she was none too happy.

So then she said she was going to marry Daddy.  When I explained that Daddy was already married to Mommy she held up her pointer finger and shook it back and forth at me and said, "no, no, no."  But Daddy corroborated my story, so she begrudgingly accepted her fate.

Finally, I encouraged her by telling her that someday she was going to get married.  And she was going to marry an incredible man that loved Jesus more than anything else.  And that he was going to love her as much as he loved Jesus, and that he was going to treat her like a princess.

So yesterday, suddenly and without warning, she announced that she was going to get married. 

"I'm gettin mah-weed," she said, matter-of-factly.

"You are?"  I exclaimed with surprise.  "Who are you marrying?"

She said, "I'na mahwee Jesus.  I be a princess."

All that to say, I guess there's some deep theology packed into that statement.  Love it.

Day 103: I'n a Power Girl

We've been talking a lot about weddings in our house lately, due to the fact that the "wedding season" is now in high gear in our household (and probably Christina's household as well!)  The shower gifts have taken over our spare bedroom.  There is much talk of dresses and alterations and hostess gifts and receptions and guest lists.

So it is no small wonder that Shortstack has clued in to the fact that "something" is going on. 

Last week, I went to Bed Bath and Beyond to purchase a gift for the engaged couple, and I took both girls with me.  Shortstack's favorite question is always, "What happened, Mama?"  So as we waited our turn to talk to the registry lady, she kept asking over and over and over, "What happened, Mama?" Which really translates to "Why are we here?"

In my most patient mother of toddlers voice I tried to explain that Zack and Christina are getting married and that we were there to buy them a present. 

"They have a party?" she asked.  "Well, yes, sort of," I said. 

So then I explained what a wedding was, and how she was going to go and that she would even get to be a flower girl and throw flowers and everything.

I could tell she didn't quite get it when she started telling all the passersby that she was getting married.  Oh well.  It was cute. :)

A few days ago we started practicing being flower girls.  It was a sight to behold.  Nitro didn't really get it at all.  I have a feeling she's going to be a hoot at the wedding.  On her first try she dropped a few flowers on the floor, then took a few steps forward.  Then at my command to "drop a few more flowers" she turned around, went back to her original pile of flowers and dropped some more flowers into that pile. . . . hmmmm.

Then on her second try, she walked backwards.

Then last night, she did a good job walking slowly and dropping flowers as she went.  But when she got to the very end of the pretend aisle, she looked down into her bucket, realized she still had rose petals, and she threw them all up in the air (confetti style) and shouted "Woohoo!"  Like I said, Nitro's going to be a hoot!

But Shortstack has got it down.  She is all about the walking and dropping flowers and being a princess.  The only thing we need to work on is her desire to eat the flowers.  She may or may not have tasted a couple during practice.

This morning, when I was dressing her she said, "Mama, I'n a power girl."  (Translated, "I'm a flower girl.")  No, "Good morning."  No sleepy yawns.  Just a pronouncement.  "I'm a power girl."

All that to say, toddlerville is hard work, but you laugh a LOT!  Wouldn't it be awesome if laughter burned calories?

Day 102: Don't Mess with Texas? Don't Mess with Mommies!

Mike and I were having a conversation the other day in the car about being adoptive parents and how we wondered if there was a moment in the life of an adoptive parent when you know beyond the shadow of a doubt that your adopted kids are REALLY yours.  What moment cements that into your heart?

I believe I had that moment yesterday.

I always say that I have pretty thick skin unless you say something bad about my kids.  And that is incredibly, incredibly true.  It's not that I am unaware of my children's shortcomings.  I know they aren't perfect.  I'm okay with being told they weren't nice to their peers today, or they aren't making good grades, or anything else along those lines.  There's just a line, and when it's crossed, it's not pretty.

Today, something happened at church related to the girls.  (I'm not going to go into the details, because that ISN'T the point of this blog today)  Someone said a few things to me, about them, that absolutely crushed me.  Though their words were well-intentioned, they shot like arrows deep into the softest places in my heart.  The place where a mother's love is.

To say I cried a little or got my feelings hurt for them would be a grand understatement.  I burst into tears.  I cried buckets in the hallway of church. I cried so hard I had to leave church, which happens to be my job, by the way. I cried all the way home.  I'm talking UGLY crying here people.  Swollen face, red eyes, snot flowing, ugly crying.  And I cried off and on all day long.  Because my mother's heart hurt for my babies.  Every time I thought about it again, I cried.

And I realized last night, that yesterday was my  moment.  The moment that I knew beyond a shadow of a doubt that those girls are mine (well, ours). It's cemented into my heart.

All that to say, people might think I'm a pretty tough cookie.  And though I might crumble at first, I'm even tougher when it comes to my kids, any of the four of them.  Don't mess with Texas?  Don't mess with Mommies!

Day 101: I Say Stupid Things

I don't know if you do this or not, but I say really stupid things when I am nervous.  I suppose most people say stupid things when they are nervous, but yesterday, I could have won an award for my stupidness.

I attended Christina's hometown wedding shower.  I was nervous about meeting all these people who have known her since birth.  I mean REALLY nervous.  Like, I bought a dress kinda nervous.  I don't do dresses.  But I bought one for this occasion.  And I even had it altered!  I mean, I REALLY wanted to make a good first impression.

I say stupid things when I'm nervous.  And I get nervous when I want to make a good impression.

Stupid #1
I am greeted at the door of a rather LARGE country home.  A home out in the middle of nowhere.  The lady who greets me says, "Did you have much trouble finding the place?"  "Well, I drove past it at first," I said.  (I should have stopped there.)  "But I drove so far that pretty soon all I saw was hicks and cows, so I turned around."  (Awesome.  I just said, 'hicks and cows' . . . what was I thinking?)

Stupid #2
One of the sweet hostesses and lifelong friend of Christina's mom says to me, "Oh, you're Zack's mom?  Is this just an answer to your prayers?"  (I'm not sure what she's talking about so after a moment of really awkward silence I realize she's talking about Christina?)  "Oh, you mean Christina?  She's okay."  (In my head that was really funny, but the look on the lady's face said otherwise.)

Stupid #3
Christina introduces me to her precious Grandmother and  tells me that it is her birthday.  So I bend down and greet her in my warmest and most welcoming voice and I say, "Well, happy birthday.  I'd sing Happy Birthday to you but it would probably make you drop dead."  (Seriously?  I actually said that.  Those words actually came out of my mouth.)

There were many more.  But this is enough to give you an idea of how painfully awkward I can be when I am nervous.

All that to say, I should have just kept stuffing cake balls in my mouth.  At least that way I wouldn't have had room for my FOOT! 

Day 100: People Fear Me

I do not make good first impressions, unless it's a job interview or speaking in public, and then for some reason, people seem to like me.

But as a general rule, in small settings, like say parties or oh, I don't know, WEDDING SHOWERS, I don't seem to make a good first impression.  People always say the exact same thing to me.  "I was so intimidated when I first met you . . . and then I got to know you."

I have worked on this trait, trust me.  I've tried to smile more, speak less precisely, keep my inane amount of superfluous knowledge to myself, avoid using words like superfluous, slouch; you name it, I've tried it.

But nothing seems to work.  People always tell me later that they were nervous and intimidated when they first met me.  So I wonder about the people who don't get a chance to know me better.  The ones who walk away with that "she's so intimidating" opinion of me and never see me again.  Those people will always think I'm intimidating.


Because today, at a wedding shower,  I am going to meet a whole SLEW of people who don't know me at all.  And the likelihood that they will think I am intimidating (which often comes across as "stuck-up" by the way) is high.  And I am a representation of the man that the bride is going to marry.  I am the (dun,dun,dun) Mother of the Groom.  Have I mentioned I'm not good in small settings?

So let's recount.
A.  I'm the mother of the groom.  No one knows me, pretty much, except the bride, and she's going to be busy.
B.  I come across as intimidating on first impressions.
C. People will measure up Zack based on my interaction with them and determine just what kind of family Zack was raised by and what kind of family Christina is marrying into.

Whew.  I need a paper bag.  To breathe in.  Maybe I'll stick it in my purse, just in case.

All that to say, the wedding is officially "on."  And I am the Mother of the Groom.  Smile.  Smile.  Smile. Smile.  People fear me.  Smile.  Smile.  Smile.

Day 99: The Many Faces of Mike

When you know someone for over 30 years, you are bound to see the multi-faceted dimensions of them.  You are bound to have seen them at their very best and their very worst; their strongest and their weakest; their happiest and their saddest.  And that is true of my husband, Mike.

Mike is one of the most tender-hearted men I have ever met.  He will cry at the drop of a hat, seriously.  Like I have seen him weep at McDonald's commercials.  And when he cries, he is so cute because he tries to smile really big, so as to distract you from the fact that he is crying, but no one is fooled, Mike Jones, no one is fooled.

And then there's Crazy Mike.  Mike was actually given the name "Crazy Mike" by a friend of Jacob's.  A random mean dog kept coming in our yard, and one day, when a lot of Jacob's friends were over, Mike saw the dog and said, "If that dog comes in my yard again, I'll snap his neck."  Keep in mind, this was a really REALLY big dog.  Jacob's friends all laughed, and from that day forward they called him Crazy Mike.

And then there is Sunday School Teacher Mike, AKA "Mr. Jones" to his class.  He had a class one year that was especially dear to him because there were a couple of boys in the class whose dads were traveling a lot, and he felt responsible to reach out to them.  He apparently was special to them too, because years later their moms told us how much those days had meant to them all.

Then there is "COP Mike."  This is the Mike that will totally bust teenagers in the parking lot of gas stations who are trying to convince someone to buy them alcohol or tobacco or something else they shouldn't have.  This Mike scares me because I'm worried he's going to get shot some day.  But he always says to me, "If all adults cared about what people's kids were into, then our kids would be a lot safer.  That's how it was in my day."

There are so many Mikes to write about that I cannot possibly write about them all.  So I will say this, my husband would give you the shirt off his back without even thinking about it. ( He might launch into a lecture about why should not be walking around without a shirt on, but if you needed a shirt, he'd give you his. ) He is smart, and generous, and deeply in love with those who are unloved.  He is strong and wise and perhaps a bit impatient.  He is faithful and always believes that God will come through in the end.  He is self-sacrificing and loves his family more than I think he has words to say.

All that to say, Happy Birthday Mike Jones, man of my dreams.

Day 98: All That to Say, And More

I am painfully aware that I have not blogged in quite some time.  It isn't because I have nothing to say.  It's because I have so much to say, and I really can't say any of it.  And when I don't have the freedom to write about what is stuffed inside my head, it tends to get a bit stuffy in there!

I would love to tell you how things are going in adoption land, but that is all top secret information.  Well, it's not really top secret, but it's fairly confidential, so I cannot share anything with you at all, except to tell you that our system is really jacked up! Or maybe it's not and my idea of how things SHOULD work would be terrible.  But I would still love to take a shot at it!  I used to have a friend that would say to me, "If only they'd let you rule the world, Carol."  HA!  So true.

But, still, there are some great things happening here at Chez Jones.  It's only a few short months until Zack and Christina's wedding.  (Christina could probably tell you how many days.)  I have officially picked out a MOG dress (figure it out) and had it altered.  When I tried it on for the seamstress to alter it, she said, "I hope this won't sound weird, but this dress makes your butt look fabulous."  A little awkward, not gonna lie.  But still, kinda awesome.

Jacob is rowing Crew (I don't technically know how to say what he is doing, so I hope that is accurate!)  He competed in his first regatta this past weekend.  And in true Jones fashion, he won.  Oh yeah.  In a post from a year ago, I wrote about how we Joneses like to play games and how we pretty much dominate when we play.  Even when it's just a cake walk at a preschool!  So, of course, no one was surprised that Jacob's team won.  Except maybe Jacob's coach, and his team, and Jacob, and the other teams!  But seriously, so stinking cool!  And since Mike and I couldn't go, Zack drove for three hours to be our "family support" for Jacob. 

Mike and I recently went to Albany, Texas, to visit our good friends Allen and Doris Tarbutton.  Doris has been my prayer mentor since Zack was in 8th grade, so about 13 years now.  On our first day there, Allen came out with a cowboy hat on and said, "Would you like a hat?"  I laughed a little bit at that and then I noticed that he had also strapped on a sidearm.  Wait, What?  I get a hat and he gets a GUN?!!!!  Turns out, life on a Dude Ranch can be a little dangerous if you're not armed!  But nonetheless, it was a great time away.

And the girls?  They are growing like little sweet dandelion weeds!  And they experienced their first night of "trunk or treating" ever.  They might still be on a bit of a sugar high.  Someone who shall remain unnamed, Zack Jones, gave them cotton candy, and a sucker, and some smarties.  But hey, isn't that what big brothers are for? 

All that to say, there is a lot to say, and so much more.  But this is enough for one post.  Probably too much, truth be told.

Day 97: Happy Birthday Zack

Has it really been 27 years since I gave birth to you?  My how the time has flown.  I sit here typing thinking, "How is it possible that you have lived that many years already?"  I barely feel 27 myself!

I'm so grateful you are my son.  You have blessed me in more ways than I know how to write. 

Though the past few birthday blogs will show that I do have much to say about you!
As Far As Big Brothers
Twenty Five
Don't Tell Stupid Stories About Me

I feel like you are on the edge of the rest of your life.  That probably sounds silly, because I guess technically every day is the edge of the rest of our life. 

But here you are.  Your last birthday as a single man.  And I cannot help but feel like it is the last birthday I will have with you where you are just mine.   After this year, you won't be just "my son" you'll be someone's husband.  It reminds me of the verse in the Bible that says, " . . . a man shall leave his father and his mother and be forever connected to his wife." 

And THAT makes this birthday very, very special.  It's technically the last birthday of your childhood. 27 years ago, they placed your warm little face next to mine, and I remember that day like it was yesterday.  It is a memory forever branded into my brain. I would relive that day a million times over.  

But it's the days to come that I am the most excited to watch unfold.   

All that to say, Happy Birthday my sweet little boy.

Day 96: Who Is He? - Infinite

This is my second post in a series called "Who is He?"  As part of learning to hear the voice of God, I have been asking, "God, will you teach me something about you today."  And though I don't hear an answer everytime I ask, I have written down what I believe He has been teaching me.

"I am infinite.  And because I know in your humaness, you will try to define that, let me hlep you.  I have no beginning or end, either in time or dimension.

I cannot be measured or contained. 

I cannot be bound or confined.

There is no end to the depth of me.

And the same can be said of my grace for you, my patience for you, my forgiveness for you and most importantly of my love for you.

They are all infinite. 

I am infinite."

All that to say, I am so glad that He is.

Day 95: Again with the Toes

I was hesitant to post this because I just had a disastrous toe story a few weeks ago, and it makes me sound pampered . . . or cursed.

But I'll take the risk because my friend, Vicki, said, "You have to post that story."  And my soon to be daughter-in-law, Christina, said, "You have the worst luck with pedicures."  And my son, Zack, said "Where did you go to get your pedicure?  WALMART?  You don't have bad luck with pedicures.  That's like saying you have bad luck with haircuts but you get your haircuts at Fantastic Sams."  (Just for the record though, I have had some very good haircuts at Fantastic Sams . . .and some very good pedicures at Walmart) :) 

So, I thought I would tell you the story.

I went to Walmart to get a pedicure.  I've gone there many times and always loved it and my pedicures have lasted a really long time, so I went back.  I went on my lunch hour because it is never crowded mid-week and that means they take their time, which is always awesome.

Things were going really well during the pedicure.  My toes looked beautiful.   Then the lady asked me if I would like a manicure.  They were having a special for only $5!  (She also asked me if I wanted my eyebrows waxed . . . I tried not to read anything into that.)  Looking down at my fingernails, I realized a manicure was probably not a bad idea, so I said yes.

I should have been alarmed right away when the girl doing my manicure was suddenly surrounded by 3 people telling her (I'm assuming here b/c I don't actually speak the language they were speaking) HOW to perform the manicure.  During the process, she stepped on my freshly polished toenails!  Arghhh!

The lady who had originally done my pedicure, and who now was instructing the manicurist, looked down at my messed up nails and fussed at the girl doing my fingernails.  Then she walked over and got a little jar of fingernail polish remover and a paintbrush and brushed it on my messed up nail.  Fingernail polish remover ran everywhere, including onto my sandal that was on my foot.  Instantly, my foot stuck to my shoe b/c the polish remover was melting the waxy coating that was on my leather sandals!  I know this is hard to picture from the description, but picture 4 Nail Salon employees all bending over me, with horror on their faces, and me sitting in a rolling black office chair, with messed up toenails, and a sandal melting to my foot!

At that point, I had to move back to the pedicure chairs so they could PEEL my sandal off my foot and try to scrub (for 10 minutes!) the brown shoe dye off the bottom of my foot.  OUCH! 

After my toes were fixed (she messed up another one in the process of trying to fix the first one and peeling off my shoe) I went up to the man running the cash register.  He told me that would be $42!  "FORTY TWO DOLLARS," I said.  "For what? The mani-pedi special was $28!"  He said,"$28 for the mani-pedi and 14 for fixing two nails!"  For real, that's what he said.

I nicely explained that I was not going to pay them anything, but especially not 14 dollars for fixing two nails that THEY messed up.  AND they ruined my brand new leather sandal!  He told me he would deduct the cost of my sandals ($12) and that I would owe him $30 (which is still more than the actual cost of the mani-pedi!)

Again, I assured him I was not going to pay for the kind of service I had received, ruined sandals, glued foot that was rubbed raw, blah, blah, blah.

In the end, I prevailed and was able to walk away without paying.  =

All that to say, seriously . . . again with the toes . . .

Day 94: Who is He ~ Creator

For the last month, I have been asking God each morning to teach me something new about himself.  I thought I would share His answers with you.

I am more than Creator, at least in the way you understand creation and creativity.  I am more than the Inventor of all good things.

Can you grasp the infinite and detailed explosions of life that came about simply because I spoke?

Can you grasp the glorious display of light and darkness and the depth of color that came from that same spoken voice?

You cannot.

But oh how I love it that you try.  Trying to understand me shows me that you care deeply for me.  So keep trying my sweet girl.  Keep trying.

All that to say, He is indeed so much more than I understand or am able to imagine.

Day 93: 30 Years

We met in the Student Union of Louisiana State University.  Mike was a grad student, and I was a young freshman.  I don't know how it is in colleges today, but in those days, you pretty much lived in the Student Union unless you were in class or in the library studying (or out drinking somewhere . . . LSU, ever the party school!)

My first impression of Mike was not all that great.  On many occasions we played SPADES together and he was the worst cheater in the world!  (Well, technically he was a great cheater b/c I never actually caught him cheating, I just knew that he had!)  He was cocky and arrogant and a tremendous know-it-all, and he had the most annoying way that he snapped his fingers when he won a hand.

But he was also brilliant.  And I was failing college algebra.  So we struck up a bargain.  I agreed to go on ONE DATE with him if he would help me with my algebra.  So he did.  And I made an A.

The night of our first date happened on the same night that I was in a bowling tournament being held in the Student Union (I know you're laughing right now, it's okay.  Enjoy the picture that is in your head.) 

When my friends found out that I was going on a date with Mike Jones, one of them handed me a quarter and said, "If he tries anything, you call me immediately and I'll come get you."  (yes, pay phones were a quarter and cell phones didn't exist yet!  It was over 30 years ago!)  Mike was a notorious womanizer.  Hard to picture, but it's true.  His reputation preceded him.

But our first date was, well, it was magical.  He tells me all the time that he knew on that night that I was "the one."  It took me until the third date (which was 2 days later).  And 18 months later we were married.

What an incredible ride these 30 years have been.  We have experienced so much joy together; the birth of our sons, and the unexpected joy of our daughters.  And we've experienced incredible loss; the loss of a parent, the loss of a child, and the loss of incredible friends. 

And as in any ride, we have had many ups and many downs.  There have been times that I have awakened and wondered why in the world I ever married that man, and times when I have awakened and wondered how I ever got so lucky.

All that to say, Happy Anniversary Mike Jones.  Here's to 30 more!  (That totally has to happen!  We have 3 year olds!)

Day 92: IN spire

If I have learned anything in life it is this; you will never shame anyone into doing anything of value. 

Don't hear me say that you can't shame people into doing things.  I am living proof that you can!  In fact, anyone who has ever had a mother has been shamed into doing something (my kids included . . . but they may not comment on this blog!)

While shame might produce short term desired results, it's not a great motivator for change.  It's not a great mobilizer of movements.  It produces guilt, a guilt that says you must do something in order to be valuable or have worth.

But I believe that the very gospel I live by says otherwise.  It's not based on shame.  It's based on love.  And the same God who loves me, inspires me to serve Him and serve others.  He doesn't guilt or shame me into it.

I've been thinking a lot lately about inspiring people, especially as it relates to serving others.   And because I'm a word nerd, I looked up the word inspire and found this:

Inspire - <latin> inspīrāre to breathe upon or into

It's most literal meaning is to breathe life into something or someone.  It doesn't mean to suck the life out of them.  That word would be expire, which also means to die.  We don't want to "expire" people; we want to "inspire" them.

Inspiring someone to do something means giving that something meaning, giving it life.  Think about your words the next time you want someone to do something.  Will those words give life or will they produce an opposite effect?  Will they be filled with life or filled with shame?

All that to say, speak life.  (and serve others, because your life will never be the same when you make a difference in someone else's life!)

Day 91: Driving for Dummies

I often think that if I just had a road map to life, I would be a better driver (it's an analogy, go with it.)

No more wandering aimlessly, no more taking wrong turns, no more dead ends, no missed exits (I could keep going with this, but I won't.  You get the point.)

But that's just the thing.  I don't really think I'm supposed to be the driver because there is already this perfect trip planned for me.  The trip of a lifetime.  Complete with adventure and drama and exhilaration.  It's a great trip.  Not a trip without peril or pitfalls or dangerous curves.  But an incredible trip nonetheless.

And though I know all of this, I cannot help but want to drive.  Repeatedly I reach over, grab the wheel, and steer wildly out of control. 

I've seen the results of this. 

They aren't pretty.

Yet still . . . I want to drive.  I need to drive.  I have an insatiable urge to take over and drive like a criminal in a getaway car.  Because I think that driving myself equals freedom.  I mean, I have the freedom to drive if I want, so why shouldn't I drive?  Why shouldn't I be at the wheel?

All that to say, I've never really been good with maps anyway.  You'd think I'd be content to ride and leave the driving to the Professional.  You'd think . . . you'd think.

Day 90: Responsibility

I don't blog about my work very often, usually because all of my blogging space is consumed by stories of my children and family or inane happenings as I go through life.  And, I think in part because blogging is like the "other" part of me, the part that doesn't get much opportunity to be set free at work.

I'm not saying I'm not the "real me" at work.  Because I am.  Complete with my many flaws, just ask my co-workers, they'll verify that for you.  Just saying I don't have much of a venue for annecdotal writing there.

I was up all night thinking (not worrying) just thinking about work.  I have the incredible responsibility of trying to help people find real, true, authentic community through small groups.  You'd think this comes naturally, and I suppose in a way, it does, but there is also a part of it that is awkward and difficult.  (Enter my team and me).

One of the ways we do try to help people find community is through an event called "Connection Point."  We didn't invent Connection Point.  It's more of a morph of several other churches' On-Ramp into small groups.  But the basic premise is people sign up to be in a small group with 8-10 other people.  We assign them to groups based on either their stage of life or geographic location, or both whenever possible.  Then we have a big event where they all get to meet each other and get to know each other.  Sort of like one giant blind date.

This past weekend we had a Connection Point, and as I looked out at the sea of people we had placed into groups, I couldn't help but wonder if they were in the right group.  I feel such responsibility for them.

What if their group is terrible and this is the first time they have ever tried being in a group, so they don't have some great memory of that "one group" that will help them ride out this bad one, so they give up on groups and never try again? (I thought the length of that sentence would give you an idea of how this feels in  my head!  It helps if you read it really fast! Go back and try it again.)

I talked to a lot of people at church yesterday who told me they loved their groups.  So you'd think that would be enough for me.  But I can't help but think (not worry, think) about all the groups I didn't hear from.  Were they okay?  Did they hit it off? 

I think I want people to love their groups because I know what an incredible gift it is to have a group of people that you can go through life with.  People who share your victories and burdens as though they were their own.  People who challenge you to be a better person.  People who love you with all your flaws and idiosyncrasies. A group like that is an incredible gift, and I want that for everyone.

All that to say, I really do want world peace. :)  And great groups for everyone!

Day 89: I Can See

I am fed up with my vision . . . meaning my ability to see things or the lack thereof.  Simply put, I cannot see. 

So I am forced to have a pair of "readers" with me at all times.  Leaving home without them has been disastrous at times and embarrassing to say the least.

I have had to ask waiters to read menus to me. 

I have squinted so hard to try to see something that I smeared my mascara (now I know why old ladies ALWAYS have smeared mascara!)

I have called strangers because I couldn't see the numbers on the phone I was dialing, and I have sent hundreds of misspelled text messages, often saying something I didn't intend to say because I couldn't see that "autocorrect" had changed my word.

I HATE my vision.

So I finally broke down and went to the eye doctor.  And I left with contacts in my eyes and the ability to see!  I was so excited about the idea that I could see more clearly.

When I got home, I started to cook dinner and I realized that my stove was dirty!  Bummer.

Then I went into my bathroom to put away a hairbrush, and I realized my bathroom sink was dirty.  What in the world?  I wanted to see more clearly, not more dirt!

And then I made the mistake of looking up from the counter into the mirror . . . when did ALL THOSE WRINKLES get on my face?

My mom told me later that the reason that God fades our eyesight when we get older is so that we don't realize just how old we look.  Pretty sure that's not true.  But, as I have said many times, everything is a trade-off in life.  Good vision . . . see the dirt and the wrinkles.  Bad vision . . . no dirt, no wrinkles, but you pretty much can't see anything else either.

All that to say, I can see clearly now . . .

Day 88: In Good Company

This past weekend some good friends came to visit us from Georgia. These are people we love dearly and count among our closest friends in our lives. Our time with them is rich; filled with laughter and good food, and catching up and lots more laughter.

There is something special about really good friendships, especially ones that stand the test of time and distance.

These are the friendships that add value to your life. They are the ones made of people that you might not even see or hear from for a long time, but let a tragedy or something incredible happen in your life and they are the people you call.

These friendships might not always be easy. In fact, if they are really good friends, you will have had some conflict along the way. Maybe even major conflict. But your ability to resolve the conflict and move forward most likely makes the friendship that much sweeter.

We were created to live in community by a communal God. I believe this at all times, but I feel it most deeply when I have been in the company of friends.

All that to say, we love you Ray and Cathy.

Day 87: Peace

Some trust in chariots and some trust in horses, but we trust in the name of the Lord, our God. Psalm 20:7

I waited outside the doors of family court this morning.  I had been briefed on what to expect as it related to our hearing today.  Pretty simple stuff, really, in the grand scheme of things.  We would ask the court for temporary orders that would give us custody of the girls until a permanent determination for their placement can be made.  The decision for permanent placement could be over by Thanksgiving, or it could take as long as 18 months. 

Short version of the story.  We were awarded custody.

The day was not without drama, none of which I can really share with you, and none of which really matters anyway, and none of which is the point of this post.

As I sat in the hallway outside the many family courts (there were like 8 courtrooms, not just one),  I was struck with this thought.  "People's lives are being devastated all day long in this hallway."  There was an overwhelming sense of despair and hoplessness there.  You could almost touch it.  You could most assuredly see it.  It was etched deep into the lines of the faces on display.

There was a young woman crying, her mother comforting her.  There were two very jaded CPS workers discussing the merits of their case.  There was a woman and her husband of 18 years who were divorcing and fighting over their house and children.  At one point I leaned over and introduced myself to her and asked her if I could pray for her in some way.  She leaned her head back against the wall, closed her eyes, letting one tear slowly fall down her cheek and whispered, "peace.  just pray for peace."

 And there was no privacy for anyone.  Attorneys and clients and plaintiffs and defendants all argued and discussed their cases right out there in the open.  I was overcome by how little diginity anyone was afforded.

I leaned my head back against the wall, closed my eyes, and prayed for peace.  Peace for Arnita who was losing her children; for Tawnya who was losing her husband and her family, for court workers and cps workers and judges who have become so jaded by all they have seen over the years. 

And I said, "Lord, I realize that each day I fight not to place my trust in man and all our many systems.  I can only trust you.  You are going to be my only sense of peace; my only sense of hope in all of this.  Make me strong enough not to be tempted to trust anything or anyone else."

All that to say, today was a win for us.  And I am celebrating that.  But for some reason, I feel like mourning, and I feel a tremendous weight for those I encountered today.  God give them peace.

Day 86: Toe Woes

After my long run yesterday, I decided to get a pedicure.  Yes, I am spoiled that way, but don't judge me.  It's one of the few things I do for myself, and I typically schedule it after a really long run because I get my toenails done AND a leg and foot massage.

So yesterday, I got one.  I was sipping my ice cold beverage (provided by them) totally relaxing when my person started talking to me.  Now everyone who is anyone who ever gets a pedicure knows you don't want to be talked to.  You want to sit with your eyes closed and soak in the silence, OR you want to read  the latest copy of PEOPLE magazine.  You most assuredly DO NOT want to converse.

So she introduced herself (okay, I guess that's not talking, technically) but then that required me to say my name, and that was bound to open up all kinds of doors.  But, being socially savvy as I am, I said my name in return, which, as expected, opened the conversation door.

She proceded to tell me about how she and her husband were having this big huge fight because she asked him to go see a movie and he told her they just saw it two weeks ago and she totally knows he's cheating on her because she would remember if she had seen a movie and what kind of a fool does he take her for.  (yes, I know that's a run on sentence.  I was making a point)

Then, back to silence.  And more foot rubbing.  Bliss.

Then her phone rings, and it is set to train whistle.  Awesomeness.

She starts telling the person on the other end of the phone the same story she told me and then she says, "Oh no.  Really?"  And then she laughs really REALLY loud and says, "Okay, thank you daddy. Don't tell him though."

When she gets off the phone, she apologizes for taking a call in the middle of my pedicure and then tells me that she was laughing because her dad told her that he had babysat a couple of weeks ago for her while she and her husband went to see a movie.  APPARENTLY she was very, very drunk and had completely blocked seeing the movie with her husband.

Story over.  More foot rubbing, onto leg massage.

The lights go out (I wish I was making this up).

As we wait for the lights to come back on (I'm thinking I'll just have a really long massage) she calls her husband to apologize.

Finally, she polished my toenails, overcharged me by $5 (I didn't complain, I just wanted to be done) and I left.

When I got outside, I realized that having your toenails polished in the dark is not a good thing.

All that to say, Oy.

Day 85: Ours

I find myself sitting and watching the girls, of late.  Studying them with an intensity that would probably make them uncomfortable if they noticed me doing it. 

When I watch them play and they mimick something I do or say, I think to myself, they really are mine.

When they climb up on their stepstool in my bathroom and pretend to put on make up or do their hair, and they go through the same motions that I do, I think to myself, they really are mine.

When they behave in some undesirable way, I usually think, they get that from Mike. :)

But today I was struck by this thought.  They really are ours.  In every way that matters, they are ours.

They are woven deep into the fabric of our family.  They are our daughters.  They are Zack and Jacob's sisters.  They speak the language of us.   They are ours.

I think, however, that I have been afraid to say that outloud, for fear that someone would come and rip them from our home, from our family, from us.  And the fear of that as been pretty overwhelming at times.

But we prayed for freedom the other night, and I realize today that I need to be freed from that fear.

So I release it.

Because my living in fear won't change it.  In fact, living in fear won't change anything.

But by releasing my fear, I will live without the burden that comes from carrying it.  And I say yes to that.

All that to say, they are ours, and I am not afraid to say it.

Day 84: Still

I was thinking today about how often I ask God to rescue me or someone I love from something.

I got this picture in my mind of someone needing to be rescued from the ocean, in the middle of a terrible storm, crashing waves, big winds, etc.

As their rescuer approached, they did what any person in this situation would do.  They started moving toward the rescuer, and then tried to help the rescuer rescue them.  And, as we have all seen in the movies, this rarely works out well for either the person needing to be rescued or the rescuer.

Logically, we know we should just be still and let the rescuer do their thing, but instinct and the need to survive takes over and we end up "helping."

We cry out to God to be rescued.  He says, "Be Still."

We cry out to God for help.  He says, "Be Still."

We cry out to God for peace.  He says, "Be Still."

All that to say, imagine if just for a moment, we were actually still. I am not good at still.  But you know what God says to me when I say, "I'm not good at still, Lord.  Tell me what I can do to help."  He says, "Be Still."

Day 83: Lest You Think It's All Funny Stories and Sweet Moments

I decided to buy groceries with the girls yesterday.  I let them take a good long nap (just to be sure they were going to be in a good mood).  Normally they enjoy the grocery store.  Normally I enjoy them enjoying the grocery store.

Not so much.

First of all, I'm an IDIOT!  What was I thinking trying to buy groceries on Sunday afternoon?!!!!  I think every person in town was at the store, and they got there 5 minutes before me and bought all the stuff I wanted/needed to buy . . . I digress.

As we entered the store, they had an HEB BUDDY station set up in the produce section and gave the girls the cutest little tiny green apples.  These cute little apples entertained them for about 1/2 the store.  And then it all turned for the worse.

Shortstack decided it would be fun to rub her half-eaten apple all over the basket, while taking bites in between.  She'd rub it on the filthy basket, then take a bite.  GROSS!!!!

When I tried to take it away from her, she hit me with it.  Multiple times, in fact, before I could grab it from her.  When I finally managed to pry it from her (remarkably strong) little toddler hands, she screeched the most blood curdling screech you have ever heard.  Needless to say, that garnered a few stares.

Having been their mom for a while now, I am used to such show downs and am equally as use to such stares from people in the store.  She screamed and cried and snotted and blew snot bubbles at me for almost 20 minutes.  I probably should have just gone home.  But at that point I had over a half a cart of groceries and I was GOING TO FINISH SHOPPING!

Finally, I succumbed to her screams and put Barney on the iphone and shopped the rest of the grocery store in peace. (Seriously how did I parent my first set of kids without an iphone?)

Once home, I discovered that Nitro (who just recently learned how to blow her own nose) had been blowing her nose in the back seat, without a tissue!!!!  I heard the noise, but thought she was sniffling from her stuffy nose.  I was wrong.  I will spare you the description of what that looked like.  But she'd been doing it for over 5 minutes, so . . .

I finally got all the groceries put away, tried to cook dinner, managed a full blown, full restraint temper tantrum that lasted well over 30 minutes, and then I cried.  (After reading this several times, I realized I should probably say the temper tantrum was not mine!)

All that to say, I write this lest you think it's all funny stories and sweet moments.  Our babies have special needs.  Often needs I cannot meet or understand.  I think that's why I have learned to treasure the good moments and focus on those.

Day 82: Jesus Has a Tummy Ache

Ever since last week when the girls heard the story of Jonah at church, Shortstack has been obsessed with the notion that Jesus has a tummy ache.  This notion came because the teacher told her that the whale must have had a bad tummy ache from swallowing up Jonah!  I guess she got all the whale, Jonah, Jesus data mixed up and it came out as "Jesus has a tummy ache."

So, despite my best efforts to assure her that Jesus is just fine and does in fact NOT have a tummy ache, she is very worried about him.

Today, on our way home from church, she was singing The Farmer in the Dell when all the sudden she said, "Jesus tummy hurt bad.  He not go to church.  He not see Martin.  He not see Kim.  He not dance."  (apparently we dance at our church, and well, if you have a tummy ache, you shouldn't dance).

I tried to convince her that Jesus was just fine.  I told her that he was perfect and that he never got sick.

She challenged me.  She said, "He have a TUMMY ACHE."  (She was quite emphatic)  I assured her that he was perfect.  That he never got in trouble or did anything wrong.  I assured he that he never missed church and that he never got sick.

She looked at me.  Still unconvinced.

She started singing again.  "HA HA" (I said in my most victorious voice . . . in my brain) "I win!  She has conceded that I am correct.   Jesus is alive and well."

As we were wrapping up our lunch, she looked over at me, smiled the most mischievous smile, and said, "Jesus has a tummy ache." 

OMgosh!  Are you kidding me?  I give up.  I suppose that Jesus, son of God and man, could have, at some point in his life here on earth, had a tummy ache.

All that to say, there is no convincing a toddler when she's made up her mind!

Day 81: A Beautiful Harvest

If you've been reading this blog for any length of time at all, then you know that we are in the process of adopting two three year old girls, whose online identities are Nitro and Shortstack.

To even get to a place where we could say that we are "in the process of adopting" has been a very long row (and yes, row is the right word here, not road, though  I suppose you could say road and it would still make sense . . . but I digress).  To get to a place where we could say that we are in the process of adopting has been a journey to say the least.

There have been many times when I felt like it was the right time to start the process, but Mike wasn't as sure.  And there have been an equal number of times when he felt it was the right time, but I didn't.  This is the first time that we BOTH have felt certain of God's hand and timing.  So here we are.

And while I am positive it is the right thing to do for the girls, it still makes my heart hurt for their birthmom because I have come to care for her and her very fragile heart.  I'm certain all of the events of the next days and weeks and months will break her heart.  But there are no other options if the girls' lives are to be rescued from the lifecycle they are certain to repeat if they remain in her care.

So the process begins.  On September 7th, we have our first hearing.  I don't really know the purpose of this hearing, but I know she will be there.  I know it provides some sort of custody to us (hopefully) while we sort out the rest of the pieces of this.

Today we are expecting to meet the girls' attorney (they have one of their own, who knew?)  It's for a homestudy  (feels like we just had one of those . . . oh wait, we did.) I'm a little nervous about that.  I cleaned like a mad woman yesterday.  I'm pretty sure she isn't going to be inspecting my baseboards, but I figured a clean and fresh smelling house can't hurt!

Yesterday we had to pay to hire an attorney for the suspected birthfather.  We don't even know for sure if he IS the birthfather, but we have to pay someone to represent his interests in his absence.  The sad thing is that just a couple of weeks ago he was in prison.  But oh, timing is everything, and now he is out and the people who need to find him can't find him, so the process says that we have to hire someone to represent his interests.  Crazy.  The process, I mean.

After this, I don't know what happens.  But I'd love you to commit to pray for our family during all of this.  For me and Mike and Zack and Jacob and Nitro and Shortstack. 

All that to say, there are things that could happen that would allow this ENTIRE process to be over before Thanksgiving.  We are praying for that.  Would you pray too?  We'd love this long row to turn into a beautiful harvest by fall.

Day 80: Bedtime

For months now we have struggled to find just the right bedtime routine for the girls.  Prior to a couple of months ago, bedtime at our house was pretty much of a breeze.  We read two stories, sang two songs, prayed, and laid the girls in their beds.  At which point they both went promptly to sleep.

But two months ago that all changed, and the last two months have been a tremendous struggle.  Shortstack has a big fit, pretty much every night, complete with throwing everything out of her bed, including pillow, blanket, stuffed animals, and sometimes even her pj's and diaper!

Nitro is sweet about the song and the prayer, but she mostly just seems to want to get into her bed.  And then once we put her in the bed, she has this nightly routine of giving us a million reasons why she can't lay down.

For Shortstack, I have learned not to engage in her fit throwing.  Instead, I just let her go, and then after she calms down, I go back into her room, pick her up, comfort her, give her all of her things back, and then she goes to sleep.

For Nitro, I mostly just laugh because her bedtime routine is a crack-up!

Tonight, I tried something new.  I set both girls down on the bottom step of our staircase, and I talked to them about thanking God.  In my grand pride, I was thinking, "Man this is going great! These girls are riveted!"  And then I asked them each what they would like to thank God for.  (I had modeled all the things I was thankful for first, so they were primed!)

Nitro said, "Thank you God for S."  (It was so sweet.  I actually teared up.)  Then she said, "Thank you for trains, and snacks, and puppy, and airplanes and school buses."  (Keep in mind she doesn't talk much and doesn't talk clearly, but these words were pretty clear.)  I still thought her prayer was pretty cute.  Then she said, "not funder." 

I laughed, hard.  She really doesn't like thunder.

So then it was Shortstack's turn.  I expected big things from her.  She's incredibly verbal.  And a pretty deep thinker.  She said, "Thank you God for Santa."  I said, "Santa?"  In my head I'm thinking, "Santa?  You want to thank God for Santa?!"  She persisted.  "Yes, Santa.  Thank you God for Santa."

I asked her if she wanted to thank God for anything else and she said yes, closed her eyes, put her hands together and said, "Thank you God for snow."  SNOW?  She's never even seen snow.  I said, "You want to thank God for Santa and snow?  Why Santa and snow?"  She said, "God hides in the snow."  (Clearly I have some work to do here!)

We closed by thanking God for our family.  As we walked up the steps, Shortstack stopped, sat back down and said, "Thank you for my brothers.  For Zack and Jacob and Tina."  (She really doesn't understand Tina's role yet.)

All that to say, I love bedtime.  With all of its messiness and temper tantrums and excuses not to fall asleep.  We'll see if I still love it when they aren't in cribs anymore!

Day 79: Surrender

I may have mentioned a few times that I am reading a book called, "Jesus Calling."  It is a journal by Sarah Young, written to herself as though God is speaking to her. 

Throughout her book, I am finding a pattern.  "Seek the presence of God, and then dwell in it."  Get that right, and everything else falls into place.  Notice I did not say, get that right and everything will be easy in your life.

And, as I have been reading my Bible, I am seeing a pattern in the portions of Scripture I am reading.  That pattern is, "Wait on the Lord."

And as I have been listening to God during my time alone with Him I am hearing these words over and over and over. "Trust Me, Carol."

Seek His presence and dwell in it, wait on Him, and Trust Him.  That's really all I'm supposed to do. 

Funny  how much longer my list is of what I think I should be doing.  In my mind I should be coming up with a plan B (for a lot of things in my life right now).  In my mind I should be busy.  My body should be busy, my mind should be busy, my heart should be busy, my soul should be busy. 

And so I fret, and I worry, and I calculate, and I seek advice from far too many people, and I talk when I should be silent, and I do everything I possibly can to keep myself busy, because THAT'S what I know how to do best.

Oh, but how opposite are the plans of the Lord.  Seek His Presence and dwell in it.  Wait on Him.  Trust Him.

"Many are the plans in a Man's heart, but it is the purpose of the Lord that prevails."  Proverbs 19:21  Imagine if I surrendered myself to that one scripture.  Imagine if I just lived in that.

All that to say, I wonder why surrender is so difficult when God's plans sound so peaceful and mine sound so . . . well . . . busy?

Day 78: Plans

Today was  "Meet the Teacher" day.  It's funny even typing that, as I can promise you that "Meet the Teacher" day is something I NEVER imagined I would experience again.

As the thought of "Meet the Teacher" day passed through my brain, it brought with it all the other things we never thought we'd experience again.  Lunch money, and spelling tests, and school dances, and allowances, and curfews, and teenage drivers, and on and on and on the list goes.

The plans I had for this stage of my life most assuredly never included diapers or tantrums or pediatricians or meet the teacher days.  Had my plans prevailed though, I would have missed bedtime stories and sweet baby kisses and playing dress up and dancing like a ballerina.  I would have missed the chance to watch two sweet baby girls grow into the beautiful godly women they will someday become.

Proverbs 19:21 says, "Many are the plans of a man's heart, but it's the Lord's purpose that prevails."

All that to say, my plans are never as beautiful as His.

Day 77: Happy Birthday

They are three.  Their birthday has come and gone, and they are officially three.  If you ask them, they'll hold up three fingers (with a great amount of effort on their part) and they will tell you, "I three."  Only it comes out sounding a lot more like "I free."  And to that, I say, "Yes, babies, you are."

All that to say, Happy Birthday my babies.

Day 76: GULP

I have been noticeably absent in blog land for quite some time.  In part, because I have had so much to say, but could say very little, and in part because I wasn't sure what I would say, if I could say anything.

Many of you have followed our journey with the girls for quite some time now.  From the very early days when we had them in our home, and then relinquished them into the care of another; to the day when they came back to live in our home again.

Throughout this journey you have been an encouragement to us.  Your words, so filled with life-giving encouragement have often come on days that seemed the darkest. 

On Friday, we officially asked the court system to allow us the opportunity to adopt the girls. (How's that for an artistic segue?)

We have no assurances of how this will turn out,.  The cost of this, both financially and emotionally will be high.  So we ask you to pray alongside us as we follow God's leading.

All that to say, gulp.

PS - As a confirmation to my heart that we are doing the very best possible thing for our girls, Shortstack spontaneously started calling me "Mama" on Friday.  smile.

Day 75: That Carol Jones

Wow.  Has it really been so long since my last post?  It's astounding that anyone still reads this blog anymore!

I have not blogged because there is something fairly significant happening in our life, and I am just not at liberty to discuss it.  And I know that is incredibly vague, and I hate it when people are vague, so I'm sure you will hate it as well.

But that's why I haven't blogged.  Because anything I would have normally blogged about has been eclisped by  . . . well, I can't say.

All that to say, I'll work on something clever and creative to say in the next few days.  Some great anecdote that will make you laugh out loud and say, "that carol jones!"

Day 74: False Gods

"I learned that God didn't want false gods or idols. I thought it was terribly selfish of God as a child but I think I get it now. . . We were made perfect and they are imperfect . . . and will never live up to what we want or need them to be." - Kelly Clarkson reflecting on the death of Amy Winehouse

I can honestly say I have never ever thought about why God didn't want us to worship false idols or other gods. I just accepted that He didn't, and I said ok.

But I can also honestly say I have struggled not to make idols out of so many things in my life, and I have struggled not to make gods out of so many people in my life.

What simple truth from her words though. "We are perfect and they are imperfect and will never live up to what we want or need them to be."
So like God to give us a commandment that isn't about Him demanding our attention and affection, but is about His protection for our hearts and our minds. He is all that will ever live up to our wants, our needs, our expectations, our hopes, our dreams. Only Him.

All that to say, I never imagined I'd be quoting Kelly Clarkson, much less appreciating her wisdom, but wow. Well said, Kelly.

Day 73: Tension

I have been quilting for a few years now, 10 to be exact, and I do use the term "quilting" very loosely. I've never made anything really difficult, and only attempt things that involve me sewing squares or rectangles together, but nonetheless, I have created some beautiful things along the way.

I hated sewing when I was in high school and swore I would never sew again, much less actually ENJOY sewing or find it to be something that calms me. But I do love it.

Mostly I love it.

I absolutely hate it on days when my sewing machine is possessed. And by possessed I mean the bobbin eats thread, the thread constantly breaks (which is ESPECIALLY annoying because I am half-blind now and can't see to thread the stupid needle!), or the fabric won't feed, or blah, blah, blah, you get the picture. Usually when that happens, I just quit sewing for a while. Sometimes for the day, sometimes for weeks or even months.

I was sewing the other day and was having a "machine day" when instead of giving up, I decided to play around with the tension of my machine. I have always been content to set my machine controls right in the middle of the suggested settings area on the machine. I always figured that those blue squares indicating where I should set the controls were there for a reason, so I've just always used them. It never occurred to me that each machine was going to be different and I might have to "play" with what normal looked like for MY machine.

Turns out, the tension on your sewing machine is incredibly important. Too much tension and the thread breaks, too little and the extra slack in the thread causes the stitches to be messy and the thread to break (why does everything end in the thread breaking?!)

In my usual, "over analyze" everything way, I started thinking about how the tension of my sewing machine was a lot like the tension of my life. Too much tension and things break. Too little tension and things just get messy. Try to live in the "what's normal for everyone else" mode too long, and things don't work either.

All that to say, next time things get out of control, instead of giving up, I'm just going to adjust my tension.

Day 72: Recipes (The Contest)

So far I have received a recipe for Migas from my good friend, Doug Jackson. And, because I said I would cook every recipe that was submitted, I cooked them, though in truth I was pretty skeptical about anyone else in my family eating them. (And, considering Doug, himself, said that he was the only person in HIS house that ate them, rightfully so!)

They were pretty good. Won't be a family favorite though because I'd have to take the cilantro, onions, tomatoes, etc. out of them for anyone else to eat them. Turns out the girls have as many "texture" issues as their brothers. Are all kids like that or do I do something to turn mine into people with texture issues?

Last night we ate a recipe submitted by a. nonymous. So, of course their recipe doesn't count because the rules say that you have to submit your recipe on the blog.

It was Rosemary Garlic Chicken with Fettucine Alfredo and Chocolate Gooey Cake for dessert. Here are the recipes.

4 Frozen Chicken Breasts (boneless, skinless, duh)
2.5 tsps Creole Seasoning (with salt)
1 tsp fresh rosemary (but all I had was dried, so I just reduced this a bit)
2 tbsp olive oil
1/2 sliced onion
1 clove garlic

Rub the olive oil on the chicken. mix seasonings together and rub on chicken. Place in baking dish.

Sautee 1 minced or pressed clove of garlic with sliced onions. Pour on top of chicken in baking dish. Bake COVERED at 375 until juices run clear from chicken (about 45 minutes) Uncover for last 10 minutes to get a nice crispness to the chicken.

Cook fettucine to al dente.

Alfredo sauce
2.5 cups cream or half/half
1.5 cups freshly grated parmesan
pinch salt
1/2 tsp black pepper
2 tbsp butter
2 cloves garlic

Sautee pressed garlic cloves in butter. Stir in 1.5 cups of cream, salt and pepper and cook, stirring constantly for 3-4 minutes over medium heat. Add cooked fettucine noodles, remaining milk and cheese. (I added the cheese first to be sure it melted really well and the sauce got really creamy (which it didn't b/c my cheese was frozen when I grated it, note to self!)

Plate and add chicken breasts to top of noodles. (I did not serve them with the onions or the garlic on the chicken . . . texture issues . . .but the flavor was there!)

As for the chocolate Gooey cake, well, emphasis is on the gooey b/c I accidentally added an ENTIRE JAR of chocolate fudge sauce instead of 1/4 cup. Bummer. But I'm going to retry that recipe b/c it sounds delicious, and the part that I got right (the crust) was scrumptious!

All that to say, my husband is probably going to be begging me for hot dogs by the time I have finished trying out new recipes! Don't forget to send your in to this link.

Day 71: Vacation Day 2 - Making Memories

Day two didn't start out exactly as planned, and I'll spare you all the details of why, but suffice it to say it was "unscripted."

So, we got up early and went to Kerby Lane in Austin for some yummy and world famous pancakes. Really though, they should tell you in advance that your "pancake" is more the size of a frisbee than a pancake! I would have adjusted my order significantly! They cook pancakes in such a way that they are the slightest bit crispy on the outside, but sweet and fluffy and delicious on the inside (I included the link to their pancake mix. GET IT!)

Shortstack saw a homeless lady outside the restaurant and asked a stream of questions about her. Mostly the questions were "what happened lady?" and "what she do." She was very confused. I thought about polishing over the whole situation, but decided that she wasn't too young to understand about such things.

Moving on . . .

After much searching online for something fun and cheap to do with the kids, we settled on a safari that was somewhere near Austin (according to Mike and his mad iphone search skills!)

Not to focus on the negative, but the safari trip was kind of a "three strikes" experience.

Strike One - Turns out the safari "somehwere near Austin" was almost 2 hours away (I seriously hate technology sometimes). Luckily, Nitro slept the whole way, and Shortstack entertained herself with songs and animal sightings and trucks.

Strike Two - the "cheap family entertainment site" must have a different measuring standard than I do for cheap. It was $34.50 for us to drive-thru it in our own vehicle. (The site said a "wild ride" and we assumed that we would be exiting our vehicle and riding on a train or a tram or something else. Boo.)

Strike Three - there were virtually NO animals. Seriously. The girls had a great time throwing food pellets out of the back window to the invisible animals(when they weren't trying to secretly eat the food pellets themselves!) But, we knew we had come upon something incredible when we noticed about 10 cars stopped on the side of the road. I have included a picture so you could see the few animals who were actually at the "safari."

This is not a close-up or zoomed in shot. It was actually this close to me.

So to recap, we drove for two hours to get there, drove around for about an hour, and then drove home (about 3.5 hours away). There was a brief 30 minute diversion in the petting zoo where we had to remind Nitro that animals do not like to be hugged or have their tails pulled. Especially goats.

I'd like to say it was a fun day. But have you ever spent the better part of a day in a car with twin three year olds? :)

Actually, it wasn't that bad. I crawled in the backseat with them at one point and watched a movie. (please get a mental picture of me wedged between two car seats in the backseat of a car. It's worth your mental effort.)

The day closed with a trip to McDonalds, a gourmet meal of chicken nuggets and french fries and lots and lots of ketchup. Toddler heaven.

I felt so bad for them being cooped up in the car all day that I even let them play on the giant playground, which I am sure was teeming with disgusting germs, and if you know me well, you know how I feel about that!

All that to say, we arrived home after 9 p.m., gave our tired toddlers a much needed (albeit FAST) bath and put them in bed where they fell promptly asleep. I must remind myself that every day we are making memories with them. Sweet, precious, memories.