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.