All That to Say: Life in the Ville

I remember when the boys were little, and I had quit my job to be a stay at home mom, that I had this insatiable need to be "productive."  I went from being a corporate executive to staying at home with toddlers.  Man, what a career shift!

Never in my wildest imagination would I have dreamed that I'd be at home again, raising toddlers.  But I'm so grateful to have this opportunity and this time to be at home with them.  I have, however, realized that my insatiable need to be "productive" is still present.  Sadly, my need to be productivie is limited to creative things and not "necessary" things like housekeeping or laundry! 

Anyway, this week, I wanted to do something fun with the girls that they could make and give to their teachers.  I searched Pinterest for hours, well, technically I got on Pinterest to find a cute project and was distracted by all the crockpot recipes I'll never cook, cupcakes recipes I shouldn't cook, cute outfits I could never wear, and workout regimens I will never attempt.  But then, SUDDENLY, I found a cute little fall trail mix recipe and decided that would be our project.

I assembled the ingredients:  (I'd like to begin with a warning that this is not a healthy snack. It's filled with things that came out of boxes and is likely to contain all sorts of deadly toxins like high fructose corn syrup and maybe even monosodium glutamate.)

1 Family Size box of Honey Nut Cheerios
2 Large bags of Mini Pretzels
1 Regular size box of Reeses Cereal
1 Large container of honey roasted peanuts
1 Large box of Cheez-Its
1 Large (party size) bag of Reeses Pieces (you could use M&M's)
1 Large box of raisins
1 Regular size bag of candy corn (mostly for color)

Then we dumped them all in a giant size boiling pot.  (Note:  You will not actually boil or cook this, it just makes A LOT and requires something very large to mix it in.)   In hindsight, I would have mixed it in a garbage bag (new, of course) because that's what I ended up doing in the end!  Again, this makes A LOT!

The girls particularly enjoyed this part as they could open the boxes and dump the ingredients in!

Then we used an ice scoop to scoop the ingredients into clear plastic party bags (available at Wal-Mart on the party aisle, 20 for $1.49) and tied them up with cute orange curling ribbon and a sweet "Happy Halloween" printable that I got here.  By the way, curling ribbon is so cheap, available at all party stores, and is great to have on hand in many colors!  I have a big box of spools of ribbon, so I'm pretty much set for most projects.

The girls discovered that if they spilled some on the floor, they could "pretend" to go throw them away and eat them on the way.  It took me a few minutes to discover their little trick!


Anyway, here is our finished project. 

You could still make these and use these printables instead. 

And of course, you could make a healthy version too.  Maybe my friend Meagan Peters will create one for you all!  If she does, I'll let you know!

All that to say, life here in the Ville, "Toddlerville" is fun some days (most days).


I love being a mom.  I am working on my need to be busy all the time, but at least other people benefit from my "productivity!"

All That to Say: Choosing Memories

Friendships, the kind that make your life better, richer, more meaningful, are one of the richest blessings that God gives us.  And sometimes they end.  They may end because someone moves away and keeping up with the friendship just gets choked out by the demands of the here and now.  Sometimes they come to an end because they developed in a certain stage of life; perhaps you worked together or your kids played on a team together, or you went to the same church, and that stage of life passes. And sometimes they explode into a mess.

No matter how a friendship ends, there is a certain amount of messiness and pain involved.  In the case of a friendship that dissolves over time and distance, there is an emptiness and a longing for what once was.  There is a guilt that comes from not being more diligent about keeping in touch.  And sometimes there can be anger because you feel like you're the only one in the friendship who is trying to keep in touch.

In the case of a season or stage of life friendship, as the friendship comes to close, there is a sense of loss.  It's almost like a slow death of a loved one.  A friendship that ends from neglect can be incredibly hurtful.

But in the case of a friendship that ends from conflict, there is an immense amount of emotional fallout.  There is anger, and bitterness, and resentment.  There can be feelings of betrayal and deep hurt.  And in the midst of these emotions, it is easy to tell yourself that your friend was never really your friend at all.

I think the enemy tortures us by convincing us we were never really loved; never really friends; that the entire relationship was a sham from the get-go.  And that is simply a lie from hell.

Friendships end.  People hurt people.  They hurt people they love.  But the end doesn't erase the sweet memories of friendship; the good times; the laughter and tears shared throughout the years; the struggles, the triumphs. 

It is sad that we humans hurt each other.  It is sad that our pain causes us to reach a place where we can no longer live in relationship with one another.  But that does not erase that we were once friends.  Real friends.

So our choice becomes to live in the darkness of hurt or move forward with great memories of a good friend.

All that to say, I think I'll choose the memories.

All That To Say: Fairies and Family and Friends

We had such a great family weekend this past weekend.  And if you know anything about me at all, you know those are the moments I live for.  Especially when we can ALL be together.  Those moments are rare anymore, and I imagine as my sons get older, those moments will become all the more rare. 

We went to Austin to watch Jacob row his boat (as the girls say).  If you don't know much about the sport, they have these big races where hundreds of people show up to row in 1, 2, 4, and 8 man boats.   Typically the rowers compete in 2 races, scheduled hours apart.  The spectators hang out, eating, napping, chasing toddlers, people watching.  The spectators have a few key moments.  Be on hand to cheer for the rowers as they put their boats in the water. (Be really encouraging, take pictures, make a big deal of the moment).
 
 
 
Then about 15-20 minutes later, when the rowers row by in a 30 second burst of excitement, everyone yells and whistles and then the moment is over.  It's a rough spectator sport.  But so worth every second of the 3 hour drive and the hours in between the races just to be able to be there and support Jacob.  And to be together as a family.

 
We had an unexpected cold snap, so I had to go shopping to get the girls some cold weather clothing, but who doesn't love a reason to go shopping? :)  This included finding a way to make their sleeveless halloween costumes "winter appropriate."  (Do you know how impossible it is to find a plain white, long-sleeved shirt? 
 
Then on Sunday evening, we went to a fall festival at our old church.  It was fun to see some old friends, and of course the girls had a ball!  On the way there we were trying to explain what a "festival" was.  I said, "Well, you can play games, and ride rides and get candy!" To which Shannay replied, "What's candy?" HA!  Of course she knows what candy is.  I'm not THAT strict!
 
 
 
 


All that to say, it was a beautiful weekend, filled with fairies and family and friends.  

All That to Say: Feed

I love this weekend's giveaway because it is such an incredible program! If you don't know about the Feed Program it was started by Laura Bush and is a program designed to feed the nations.

The program produces bags made of recycled burlap bags (super cute, visit KASA if you live in The Woodlands, or find other local areas by going to the Feed Website.)  On each product is a number, and that number represents something significant.

For example, the cute bag I am giving away has the number one on it which means it will provide 1 child a supply of micronutrient powder for 1 year! 



Here are some statistics about world hunger for you:

1 in 7 people in the world go to bed hungry every night (including here in the US).
More people die from malnutrition than malaria, Aids, and tuberculosis combined.
Hunger is No. 1 on the list of the World Health's Top 10 Health Risks.
65% of the world's hungry live in 7 countries.

Here's where it hits home for us:

When we first got our daughters, they were so severely malnourished that their skin was sloughing off, their hair was falling out, they had skin sores over much of their body, and they weren't even on the growth charts for height and weight.  All from malnutrition.

So this weekend, I'm giving away a bag from the Feed Program.  You'll have to be local to get it, as I won't be able to get it to you in time for Halloween (unless you don't care at all about it having for THIS halloween, in which case, enter away!)

As always, the rules are simple, Follow the blog, retweet this post on Twitter, @thatcaroljones, and then leave a comment ON THIS BLOG. (If you've already followed my blog, you're still eligible and if you're not on Twitter don't panic!  Just make SURE you comment on this blog!)

All that to say, we can't do everything, but we can all do something.  I love what Andy Stanley said at Catalyst, "Do for one what you wish you could do for everyone."

(And don't forget to check back on Monday and see if you've won!  I haven't heard back from last week's winner of the great Mocha Baby Designs and will have to have a redrawing on Monday for that gift as well!)

All That to Say: It's Not Not

A few weeks ago, I went into the dermatologist to have some things looked at that were more annoying that worrisome.  While I was there, she noticed a freckle on my arm and asked me how long it had been there.  I smiled and said, "Uh, all my life?"  Does anyone really notice when a "freckle" appears?

She got out her little magnifying glass and said, "I think this might be a freckle gone bad.  Mind if I remove it?"  (She's very polite, this dermatologist of mine!)

I assured her I didn't mind at all.  So she gave me a few shots in my bicep and dug a freaking HOLE in my arm  removed said wayward freckle and told me she'd have the results in a couple of weeks.

A couple of weeks later, I got a phone call from the doctor.  Technically, I missed the call from the doctor, who called me back again the next morning, very early, which totally freaked me out and made me think I was dying, and I missed THAT call.

When we finally connected she said, "We got your results back." (GULP)  "The good news is, it's not melanoma." (SIGH OF RELIEF)  "But it's not, not cancer."  (WHAT?)

Her explanation was that it was beyond "precancerous" and was dangerously turning.  Therefore they have to go back into my arm and get some clear margins.   She said I would have about 8 stitches and a scar.  Joy.

She told me to count myself lucky that I had come in for something else, and that I'd had on a tank top, allowing her to see my freckle.  (A freckle just doesn't sound like it can be so bad.  The word freckle even makes me smile.)

Anyway, that lovely procedure is happening this morning.

I'd appreciate your prayers.

All that to say, I'm  not worried.  But I'm not, not worried.

All That to Say: In Search of a Good Night's Sleep or a Point

I have a friend, Luann Dolan, who writes a delightful blog about life, and mixes in some ridiculously awesome recipes that you should try.

Recently she wrote about what it is like to try (notice I said TRY!) to fall asleep when you are married to someone who sleeps in a totally different way than you do . . . seriously though, does ANY couple sleep in the same way?

For example, Mike is a spooner (Doug Jackson, keep your jokes in your head.  Everyone knows the joke about spooning and forking).  He likes to spoon (I'm not kidding, Doug.)

I, on the other hand, cannot be touched if I am trying to sleep.  But Mike has this incredibly annoying habit of putting his arm across my torso or his leg across my legs, a move which is suffocating and makes me feel as though I am being tortured by someone wielding hairy weights.

Sometimes, when I am feeling incredibly generous, I will allow Mike to spoon for about 5 minutes, and then I start panic breathing and he gets the idea and rolls over to his side of the bed.

Not only can I not be touched while asleep, Mike cannot face me.  I can feel him breathing on me or worse yet,  SNORING on me, and I want to punch him in the neck.  A fact I am not proud of, but one that is true.

And he is like a brick oven when he sleeps.  And by that, I mean he's hot.  (I don't actually know if a brick oven is hot. I just imagine it to be, and in my mind it's a blazing furnace and what I imagine the heat from his body to be akin to.)  I can't sleep when I'm hot.  It makes me angry.

So to recap, I can't be touched.  I can't be breathed or snored on.  And I can't be hot.  Or I may or may not be slightly prone to violence that may or may not involve wanting to punch my beloved husband.

And lest you want to judge my sleeping needs too harshly, I'd like to share a little bit of something I shared with Luann on her blog, regarding Mike's freakish idiosyncrasy regarding our ceiling fan.

On occasion, (okay, almost NEVER)  I go to bed before Mike, and when I do, I turn on the fan because, well, it is delightful.  delightful.  And I fall asleep to the gentle hum and the rhythmic click, click, click.  And the ever so subtle sway of a breeze that blows my hair in such a way that super models would be envious.  And just when I'm about to go to sleep, he comes in, realizes that the fan is on, and sighs heavily, as though the earth is coming to an end, and the fan being off was our only hope of saving the world, and I ruined the world by turning on the fan. 

The man has a problem with the fan being on.  I mean, a big problem with the fan being on.  Any fan.  In any room.  At any time of the day.  They are a personal affront to his dignity and cause near cataclysmic death stares from him not to mention the sigh (I did mention the sigh, right?)

All that to say, . . . I don't actually have anything to say.  No point.  Whatsoever.  But like my friend, Luann, I'll just end with "marriage is awesome."  (that's a paraphrase, Lu.)

All That to Say: Laughter is Good

You might be disappointed to know this is not going to be a life-changing, thought-provoking blog post.  It is simply a funny moment that happened in our house, and I wanted to share it with you.

When you have little kids, around pretty much any holiday people start asking them questions like "Are you excited about Christmas, Easter, Valentines Day?" etc.  When it's close to school starting they ask, "Are you excited about school starting?"  When it's close to Christmas most people ask, "What is Santa going to bring you?"

So the question these days is, "What are you going to be for Halloween?" 

The other day, Christina asked Shannay what she was going to be for Halloween and she said, "A princess."  Christina said, "What kind of princess?" and Shannay said, "A beautiful princess." (Duh!)

So the rest of the conversation played out like this:

Christina: "What's Nikki going to be?"
Shannay:  "A princess."  (Again, duh?  We're twins Christina.)

Christina:  "What am I going to be?"
Shannay:  "A bat."  (We all laughed . . . a bat?  Really?)

Christina: "What's mama going to be?"
Shannay:  "A bat."  (Things come in twos in her world!)

Christina: "What's Pawpaw going to be?"
Shannay:  "A prince."

Christina:  "What's Jacob going to be?"
Shannay:  "A prince."  (again, things come in twos in her world!)

Christina:  "What's Daddy going to be?"
Shannay:  "A alligator." 

Christina:  "What's Zack going to be?"
At this point we can pretty much guess what she's going to say because everything comes in twos.

Christina:  "What's Zack going to be?"
Shannay:   "A boy fairy."

BAHAHAHAHAAAAA!  We all laughed hysterically!  Even Zack.

Zack: (to Shannay)  "So you and Nikki are going to be princesses.  Pawpaw and Jacob are going to be princes.  Mama and Christina are going to be bats.  Daddy is an alligator.  And I'M a BOY FAIRY?  What if I want to be something else?  What can I be?"

Shannay:  "A butterfly."

BAHAHAHAHAAAAA!

Sorry Zack.

All that to say, laughter is good for the heart.  It's a good thing Zack is a good sport.  (Though he could be heard saying under his breath as he walked down the stairs, "I think I just got the short end of that.")

All That to Say: A Strange Peace in the Midst of Surrender

Some months ago I heard a message about predestination (I'm a Christ Follower and I've provided a link if this is a new term for you), and I have to say that for the very first time it struck me in a profound way, a way that totally jacked up my prayer life.

I asked a lot of questions of my Pastor following that message; questions like, "So basically, God already knows every person who will either accept or reject His Son, Jesus.  Correct?"   His answer: Yes.  "God not only knows, but He has ORDAINED who will accept or reject His Son, Jesus.  Correct?"  His answer:  Yes.  "There's nothing I can say or do, or another person can say or do, that will cause someone to accept or reject Jesus, correct?"  Answer:  Yes.

"Then why does it matter if I tell someone about Jesus or not?" Answer: "Because God tells us to."

So the part that jacked up my prayer life was, "why should I pray if it is already figured out?!"

Prior to this message, I had a very rich prayer life, filled with lots of dialogue about pretty much everything.  And it went from that to nothing.  Because I suddenly felt like I didn't know how to pray, or worse yet that my prayers didn't matter.  And I have to confess to you that I didn't pray at all, for months. . . And then I lost my job.  Talk about a dialogue opener.

Over the course of the last few weeks since I left, I have noticed something about my prayers.  Most of my prayers were me trying to tell God how to be God.  I was constantly telling Him how I thought things should happen, how I thought they should have gone down, how I wanted things to change, what I needed, what He should do . . .  in short, I wanted to be in control.

And then I was struck with this thought; what if I just released my need to control and instead just focused on the majesty, the authority, the awesomeness of God?  What if I just surrendered to the idea that His plan was good and for my good, and quit trying to give Him a better plan?  What if I just worshiped Him, rejoicing each day in what He was doing in my life, what He was giving and what He was taking away?"

That's not to say that I don't still share my struggles, my hurts, my hopes and my fears with Him.  It's just that I'm not telling God what I think He should do.  I do still wake up most mornings asking, "Why?"  But the answer has quickly become, "Because this is what God has for my life.  This was His plan, and that's the only answer to "why?" that I need to remember."

All that to say, I'm sure that this will be a work in progress.  I'm a control freak.  But I have a strange peace in this place of surrender.  There's a lot of freedom in giving up control, which sounds like an oxymoron, but it's deep truth.

All That to Say: Happy Birthday Christina JONES


It is absolutely crazy to me that Zack married a girl whose birthday is the day after his.  For now, they still celebrate their birthdays separately, though I imagine in time those birthday celebrations will blend together, not unlike most everything else in marriage.


I was thinking today about what I could write about Christina in honor of her birthday.  I mean, I've pretty much raved and raved about what a great person she is, how great she is at hair, fashion, kindness, loving my son, baking, and pretty much everything else (except trivia games).

I've told you how funny she is, sometimes because she's trying to be, and sometimes on accident.

I think I've mentioned she's from a very small town, and how every now and then she says funny things like "skin the potatoes" instead of "peel" them.

I have certainly mentioned that the twins adore her.

It's crazy to me how Christina has gone from being "that girl from the snack shack at camp" to "that girl at camp that Zack likes" to "the girl Zack wants to marry" to "my daughter-in-law" in just a few short years. 

And yet, she is so seamlessly woven into the fabric of our family that it is difficult to remember when she wasn't around.

I love this girl like she is my own daughter.  (I am somewhat dismayed at her lack of love for trivia games, but I can overlook that glaring fault because she has so many other wonderful qualities.)

All that to say, Christina Jones, you are my daughter; whether by law or by design, I count you as family.  Happy Birthday sweet girl.  Here's to many, many more years of celebrating your birthday!  Now about those grandbabies. . .

All That to Say: Happy Birthday Zack Jones

A long time ago, when I first started blogging, I asked Zack for permission to write about him for his birthday.   He hesitantly allowed me to write about him, but only as long as I agreed not to tell stupid stories about him.  But that was years ago, and well, he's quite used to me telling stupid stories, sappy stories, sad stories, whatever kind of stories I want to tell, so I don't ask anymore. 

Truth is, I think if I didn't write a birthday post about him, he'd be upset. 

Well, as I was trying to decide what to write, I went back through and reread all the birthday posts I've written about him.


And once THAT cryfest was over, I sat deep in thought for a while and decided I'd make a list of some secret facts about Zack that the world should know.

20 AMAZING THINGS ABOUT ZACK JONES

1.  Zack can dance.  I mean, really, really well.  He tries to pretend like he can't, but he can.  Like Michael Jackson well.  I've seen it.  A few others have as well.  I'd like to say he got it from me, but he didn't.  I have rhythm, but THAT rhythm did not come from me.  (And it most ASSUREDLY did not come from his father.)

2.  Zack has pretty much always been know for his "hair flair" but it was epic when he was in 5th grade.  Other 5th grade boys' moms would call and ask me who did his hair.  This was not the case when he had a mohawk.  Other boys' moms called me then too.  Different reason.

3.  Zack once sang, "Who's in the House" by Carmen at his birthday party.  I have it on video.  I can be bought.

4.  You cannot suddenly awaken Zack Jones.  Bad things will happen.  You will most likely end up either punched or laughing hysterically at Zack's expense.  I have a million famous quotes that Zack has made upon being awakened suddenly.  Perhaps my favorite is, "Say your name!  Say your name!"  That won't be funny to you, but trust me, two people in this world are wetting their pants right now from laughing!

5. Zack can build the most incredible tents out of chairs and blankets and lamps and other pieces of furniture.  I have already used the word "epic" in this post, but seriously, they are epic.

6. You can throw up on Zack, and it pretty much won't phase him.  I saw his little sister throw up on him once.  Nothing.  He didn't even flinch.  Just cleaned her up, talking soothing words to her the whole time.  Maybe it's a super power.

7. Zack is incredibly smart.  Like genius level smart.  Technically people probably do know this about him.  When you're smart, it just oozes out of you.  He would like to use this gift on Cash Cab.

8. Zack once ribbon danced at school.  With a ribbon.  That he twirled.  I have a picture.

9. He played lacrosse.  (I felt the need to mention that after #8).  He also played baseball and soccer and ran cross country.

10.  He knows as much about the Bible as he does movie quotes.  That's probably more to do with Vicki York (his7th grade Bible Teacher) than me.  But I wanted to say something that made me sound like an awesome parent.

11.  He had a stuffed puppy named Dylan that he slept with until he was in jr. school.

12.  He played lacrosse. (I felt the need to mention that again.)

13.  Zack broke his back once jumping off a cliff.

14.  He hates it when people say "Creatives" instead of "Creative people."  I don't care.  I say "Creatives" whenever I want.

15.  He is left-handed but plays every sport right handed and evens plays the guitar right handed.

16.  He is an incredible writer. 

17. He was 5 weeks post-mature.  He likes to do things his way.  Always has.  He weighed 9.11 at birth but was sick and was placed in an incubator next to a baby that weighed 15 oz.  That was interesting.

18. He is incredibly well-read.  A true fan of classic literature.

19.  I gave him his first guitar lesson.  That's more about me than him.  But it should be mentioned.

20.  He has a birthmark. It is not easily viewed. I'll leave you guessing.

I could go on.  But I'm starting to think of things he'd absolutely KILL me for writing, so I will leave it at that.  But you feel free to add your thoughts about Zack in the comments section!

All that to say, Happy Birthday Zack Jones.  You're diverse and special and awesome.  And those aren't code words that only a mother uses.  I heart you.  You are incredible in so many ways, and I hope you always know that. 

All That to Say: Enduring Treasures

When I say the word "friend" I wonder what comes to your mind.  According to facebook, I have over 700 friends, but of course we know that's not true.  No one has 700 friends.  Some of those "friends" are people I don't actually even know.  That's true, and a little bit scary.

Many of these "friends" are acquaintances.  People I sort of know, or with whom I have some mutual interest, like church or work or a social group, etc.

I think you can have different kinds of friends.  I've blogged about that many times. 

You can have casual friends.  People you really do consider a friend, but with whom you only hang out casually.  No real depth there, but still someone you'd call "friend."

You can have mutual interest friends.  People maybe that you work with or run with or go to church with, but you have no real contact outside of these places.  It doesn't mean you don't care about these people, it's just that you don't connect beyond this mutual interest.

You can even have virtual friends.  I have actually developed some great friendships with people that started as virtual friends.

But the most life giving of all friendships are enduring ones.  Enduring friendships are the kind that go deep enough to pierce the protective barrier of trust.  They are the people that you let "in." 

These enduring friendships live out the test of time and distance and circumstance.  They outlast disagreements and hurt feelings.  They are patient.  They keep no record of wrong.  They are forgiving.  They are honest.  They speak truth into your life.  They challenge you and call you to be the very best you that you can be.

Of course, there is a risk in these friendships.  Sometimes these friends hurt you deeply, because they get close enough to your heart to be able to hurt you.  And sometimes they turn out not to be friends at all.  But you're never going to find true enduring friends without this risk.

I count myself lucky to have a few of these friends.  Friends who wade into my junk, dive deep into my heart, aren't afraid to tell me what I need to hear, and love me despite my idiosyncrasies, my scars, and flaws.

All that to say, friendships are a gift.  They are to be treasured.  I treasure each of you, my enduring friends.

Day 83: Why We Do What We Do

I heard a story once about a woman who was cutting the ends off of her Thanksgiving ham when her daughter asked why she was doing that.  The mother said it had something to do with the ham absorbing the glaze, but after she thought about her answer, she wasn't so sure, so she contacted her mom (the girl's grandmother) to ask why.

The grandmother said she wasn't sure either but she did it because her mom always had.  So the woman contacted the great-grandmother and asked her why she always cut the ends off the ham and the great grandmother laughed and said, "Because my pan was too small!"

Sometimes we do things or worse yet CONTINUE doing things for the strangest reasons!

Someone asked me the other day why I numbered my posts.  They asked if it was so I could keep up with how many posts I write each year, and that made me laugh.

A couple of years ago, I decided I was going to post a picture every day that I blogged, and I decided to number the photographs.

Well, I didn't do very well at the picture taking, but I excelled at numbering.  It's a gift really! 

So here we are, over two and half years later, and I am still numbering my posts.  I have actually thought about NOT numbering my posts many times, but I'm such a "routine" kind of girl that once I have a routine, I hate to break it!

But a friend gave me a sign that said, "At least once every day do something that scares you."

So tomorrow, I'm going to STOP numbering my posts.  I know.  This is earth shattering news.  It'll probably blow up people's news feeds. It'll be viral by nightfall.  But then we'll all forget about it and someday people will say, "Remember when Carol Jones used to number her blog posts?  I sure miss those days."

All that to say, it's crazy why we do what we do.  What should you be re-evaluating these days?

Day 82: Coffee With a Stranger

At the wedding I attended this weekend, I met a young woman that I felt like I had known for years, but then realized we had not actually ever met.   I had just seen her for years on someone else's facebook page and felt like I knew her.

It's the second time that has happened to me, and I'm quite sure it will happen again.

Social media is awesome and amazing and wonderful and creepy scary dangerous all at the same time.  I mean, come on, it's a little weird for it to take several minutes into a conversation before you realize you don't ACTUALLY know someone.  Creepy.

But there are also those occasions when you meet someone for the very first time and it really is as if you've known them a lifetime. And it's has nothing to with facebook, but more to do with God-appointed chemistry. I had that happen today too.

I talked to a woman named Alli Worthington on the phone FOR AN HOUR and it was like I'd known her my whole life.  We got connected through a mutual friend who said he thought we had a lot in common because we were both witty, sarcastic, but thoughtful and bright and caring too.  (That's a lot to live up to!)  And that we were both writers, bloggers, mothers, etc.

She's been around the blogging block a long time and really scared the crap poo out of me as it relates to what companies are doing with all of our "personal" information that we are putting out there on the net via facebook, blogs, twitter, etc.  Google "Big Data" and read a little, and you'll be scared too!

At the same time, I felt the oddest sense of comfort as we talked.  It was like having coffee with an old friend that you haven't seen in a while.  Warm, familiar, comfortable.  I think God does things like that.  Puts people together and makes an instant connection because He has some purpose in the connection.

All that to say, Alli, I don't know His purpose, but I am praying for your post-it notes and my flashing neon sign.  And it was great to meet you.

Day 81: Family Matters: Jamie and Will


My niece, Jamie, got married this weekend to the man of her dreams.  I know he must be the man of her dreams because she told me that she wasn't likely to get married unless she came across the perfect man (which I'm guessing she didn't think existed!) 




And then she met Will Page.  From the day I found out she was engaged, I lovingly referred to Will as "Mr. Perfect."

She was a beautiful bride, though in truth I have never seen an ugly bride, so perhaps I should say she was an exceptionally beautiful bride. 

Jamie was born partly at home, partly in a car on the way to the hospital, and partly on the gurney on her way into the small town hospital that did not deliver babies . . . until that day. 

The story of Jamie's birth is a funny one, though not one I'll share today.  But I do want you to imagine Jamie's mom, with a crowning baby (that's pregnancy talk for the baby was COMING OUT) in a car with a screaming husband telling her, "DON'T PUSH!  YOU WILL NOT HAVE THAT BABY IN THIS CAR!"

That's Jamie for you.  She's unconventional.  She does things her way.  In her time.  And perhaps that is the most endearing thing to me about her. 

She is loving, and kind, and generous, and believes the best about most everyone.  And even if she doesn't believe the best about them, you'd probably never know it.  I just love that red head!

Jamie asked me to perform her wedding ceremony, which was such a sweet blessing for me.   It was my 4th one, ever.  My first one was for a friend and the whole ceremony was only 3 minutes long (at the request of the bride). The second one was my brother's wedding. (His expectations weren't too high!)  The third one was when I performed the ceremony for Jamie's sister, Linda.  It was a small ceremony with just a handful of guests.  Very casual.  Very intimate.

Jamie's ceremony lasted 18 whole minutes from Processional to Recessional.  I was kind of nervous because well, I had to hold the written out ceremony and the wind was blowing.  I had to hold a handheld microphone.  I was worried my pantyhose weren't going to stay up because I had to stop and buy cheap ones at the dollar store on my way to the wedding (long story) AND I was standing right in front of a 6" wide GAP between the two sidewalks.   And at the last second, I couldn't remember how in the world that cranky wedding coordinator told me to turn on the mic! 

As it turned out,  I was so very worried about dropping things or falling in that crack in the sidewalk (I break), that I COMPLETELY forgot to tell the guests to be seated.  Finally one of the bridesmaids motioned for everyone to sit down.  I'm sure that wasn't awkward at all.  (My son, Zack, told me he was trying to motion to me to tell everyone to be seated, but I was obviously too distracted with everything else I was worrying about to notice he was trying to help me!)

Well, then Will cried.  Right in the middle of me reading why Jamie wanted to marry him, he starts squalling.  (It wasn't really squalling, that just sounded so dramatic. He cried very manly tears.) I was working REALLY hard not to cry myself, (which would have been totally inappropriate), and then wouldn't you know Jamie started in.  Goodness, they weren't making my job very easy. 

Finally, I said they could kiss and Will decided he'd DIP Jamie.  I'm sure glad he didn't drop her.

Then the rest of the night was your usual wedding reception kind of things.  Cupid Shuffle, kids break dancing, the groom wearing a ball and chain, cake and karaoke.  Yep.  Karaoke. :)  I don't sing.  I barely dance.  But we all laughed and had a great night!

All that to say, Congratulations to you Jamie and Will Page!  I love you.

Day 80: Weekend Giveaway!

I have blogged many times about learning to care for my daughter's hair.  I raised sons.  I don't do hair.  Take a look at my own hair and you could tell that!  I'm not like my daughter-in-law, Christina, who can use a twisty tie and a paper clip and loop, swoop, and pull her hair into a hair style worthy of a runway! 

I know rubber bands, headbands, hair pins, and barrettes.  And I only know the basics of those!  When someone gives me a hair compliment (about the girls) it is because I have adorned their hair with something cute.  NOT because I have styled it well.  But I'm trying people!  I'm trying!

Another thing I have learned about little girl hair is that hair products and hair accessories (yes, there are "accessories" for hair) are not cheap.  And I have twins, so I have to buy DOUBLE everything.

It's enough to make me crazy sometimes.  It really is.  Boys were easy.

Bowl cuts.  check. 

Hats for bad hair cuts.  check.

Buzz cuts for really bad hair cuts.  check.

Done.

Girls, not so much.

Anyway, in honor of girl's hair, my weekend giveaway are these super cute hair products ACCESSORIES from Mocha Baby Designs.

 
I've attached a link to her etsy shop (don't you love etsy!) so you can see all of her other sweet designs.  (She makes tons of other stuff too!)

Here's how you enter to win!
 1.  Follow my blog (yes, it's shameless. I readily admit it.  But do it.)  Sometimes that's complicated from a smartphone.  You have to scroll down to "view web version" and click that link.  Then follow me via the "Join this site" button.  It's worth the effort because you want these darling little holiday hair clips!)
2.  Comment on this post (not on facebook, well, facebook is awesome, but you have to post directly on this blog post.)  If you just "follow" and don't COMMENT, I won't know who you are!

That's it!  (well, also you can't be anonymous b/c then I won't know who the winner is, so if you comment as "anonymous" please type in your name so I know who you are!)

All that to say, I love weekend giveaways.  And you will too (if you're the winner!)

UPDATE:  AND THE WINNER IS DESIREE!  (Desiree, I need your address so you can receive your prize!  Please email it to me at cjones3730@gmail.com)

Day 79: One Can Make a Difference

I am always just so impressed by people who give away all of their worldly possessions to follow God.  I'm also impressed by people who have amassed a mountain of wealth and who use their money to benefit others.  But I am especially impressed by those who have nothing, but just don't seem to worry about where tomorrow's rent check is coming from.
 
Yesterday, I heard the story of the guy who started Living Water and how he gave it all away to make sure people had clean water to drink.  And I have good friends, Matt and Tracey Shepperd who also have spent their life being the change to the world that they can be.
 
Recently, I connected with a woman named Sammie Smimmo (I've known her for a while, but didn't really know her story) and learned of her incredible riches to rags story.  Sammie was a millionaire, self-made entrepreneur since the age of 16, when she bought a beauty salon.  After years of making her fortune and living in the midst of a torturous marriage with a husband who was both a drug addict and a philanderer, Sammie hit the bottom.  Her husband left and just a few days later she was diagnosed with breast cancer.  She lost everything; her marriage, her money, and even her breasts.
 
She was homeless for a while, and that's where she developed a love for the homeless.  While living in a tool shed (her residence for a lot of years) and undergoing chemotherapy and lots of surgeries, she ministered the gospel to the homeless of Houston, Conroe ,and surrounding areas.  She felt like God was calling her to make ministering to the homeless her full time job.  So she did.  And she's still doing it today.
 
Hundreds of people have come to a saving knowledge of Jesus Christ because of the dedicated work of Sammie and her team of volunteers.
 
Sammie is about to embark upon a one year journey that will take her to 52 homeless shelters, in 52 cities, in 52 weeks.  A journey that will begin on January 1, 2013, in Houston, TX, and will culminate in a celebration on January 1, 2014, in New York City.  This project is called the 5252 Project and is the first project of 5252 Ministries. 
 
A documentary is being filmed of this journey, which will eventually become a book.  I can't wait for the stories that will unfold.
 
I would love for you to consider partnering with Sammie and 5252 Ministries by attending a fundraiser on November 8th (LOCATION CHANGED to THE CHURCH PROJECT, but the date is set).  A table of 8 is only $250 (tax deductible) and will include your dinner and entertainment, as well as some pretty incredible people who have lived on the streets and been touched by the ministries of Sammie.  There will also be a silent auction.  If you would like to purchase a table, please contact me directly at cjones3730@gmail.com, or contact the number on the website.  
 
They only have 30 tables to sell and I'd love for that to happen for them by the end of today! (even if you can't attend but would donate to this great cause that would be awesome!)
 
Also, if you have items you could donate to the silent auction, please let me know that as well.  I will update this blog post with the list of the vendors who are donating!  And lastly, if you would like to volunteer, would you please email me as well!
 
All that to say, we aren't all called to travel the country to minister to the homeless, but we are all called to do something.  One person can make a difference.  Would you please consider buying a table or even purchasing an individual ticket for this incredible event?

Day 78: Peace is Not a Place

I was visiting my long time friend and Pastor, Larry York, yesterday and he was sharing with me about his vacation in Wyoming and Montana.  It was fun to listen to him talk about trout-filled streams and giant ranger-protected elk, and log cabins and mountain views.

I went to see him because he is my Pastor, and the last few weeks of my life have been somewhat tumultuous, (and he's a wise counselor). Over the course of our conversation, I shared with him that mornings are the hardest for me because in those first few moments of waking I feel the turmoil.  My mind is still consumed by unanswered questions, and in the still quiet moments of dawn they demand an answer.

He showed me a picture on his cell phone (which was a little amusing to me because Larry will be the first person to tell you he is not technologically savvy).

The picture was of a majestic, snow-capped mountain, set behind a gorgeous lake all on the backdrop of a beautiful purple sky.  He asked me what I felt when I looked at that picture, and I said, "Peace."

He smiled and said that most people said that.  He said, "Imagine if you could wake up to that every morning.  Would you feel at peace?"  And of course I said that I would.  When he asked, "Why?"  I said it was because I could feel the presence of God.

He said that the same God who made those mountains made the trees outside my window, and the desert, and the valley.  He said, "It's not the mountain that is peaceful, it's God."

His point to me, and a great one, was to trust God and not my circumstances.  The peace I seek is in God, not in my location, nor in the answers I want, nor in my circumstances.

All that to say, Jesus said in John 14:27 "I am leaving you with a gift--peace of mind and heart. And the peace I give is a gift the world cannot give. So don't be troubled or afraid." 

Jesus (and Larry), those are good words.  Thank you for the reminder.

Day 76: Cinnamon Sweet Latte - The Goods

I am a coffee drinker, a curse . . . er . . . fact I blame on my good friend, Melanie Holmes.  Melanie was a coffee drinker long before I was, and she convinced me (more like COERCED me) to try coffee "her way."
Her way was flavored with a lot of yummy stuff in it.  And I have to say, I was hooked, literally.  I think Melanie has matured into a real coffee drinker, but I still like it sweet, hot, and full of flavors!



Oh, and, before I forget to mention it, Melanie's husband, Brian has a coffee company called Mark's Brother's Big World Coffee that does some pretty amazing things to help the poor in 3rd World Countries.  Please click on their link and check them out.  And order some coffee.  Feed your habit and feed the world!

Okay, now back to my special coffee.

I created a special nighttime coffee a lot of years back, and it's a recipe I have shared with LOTS of people.  Funny thing though, EVERYONE tells me that when they make it, it's good, but just not the same as when I make it.  (They aren't following directions . . . I'm just sayin'.)

So, I want you to follow my recipe, exactly as it is written, and then you tell me what you think of it!  Then I want you to comment about its yumminess (here on this blog, not on facebook, of course you should tell your facebook friends how yummy this coffee is because they will be thanking you for sharing something so wonderful!)

Once I think everyone has had a chance to make my special coffee and comment, I'm going to draw names from the people who comment, and I'm going to send the winner some free coffee from Mark's Brother's Big World Coffee (courtesy of me!)

Here's the goodness:
2-4 cups of coffee
1/4 -1/2 tsp of cinnamon
1/2 cup of half and half
2 tablespoons of sugar

Make a small pot of coffee (2-4 cups is plenty.)
It has to be real coffee, not that keurig thing or anything like it.
Put cinnamon in the grounds BEFORE it brews.

While it's brewing, get out a microwave safe coffee cup and fill it halfway with half and half and 2 tablespoons (yes tablespoons!) of sugar.
(You can be dumb if you want and used low-fat milk, but it will NOT be as good!) 

Then microwave it right up to the point that it just about boils over.  You're going to have to watch it like a hawk because it will try really hard to boil over, and if it does, it's a terrible mess!  But it HAS TO BOIL.  It can't just get hot.  This is important!

Now, remove the cup from the microwave and fill it the rest of the way up with your brewed cinnamon coffee.

This coffee is so delicious.  My friends, Kelly Sherrill and Caroline Roberts and I used to drink it every Wednesday night when we had Girls' Night In.  And every single time, when they would take their first sip they would say, "mmmmm.  That's so good."

All that to say, I am going to go make myself a cup of my nighttime brew and think of my friends.  Good friends, good memories, good coffee.  It somehow all fits together.  ENJOY!

(And don't forget to come back and comment on how good it was so I can send you some coffee from Mark's Brothers!)

UPDATE:  THE WINNER IS RUTH ANN MITCHELL!

Day 75: I Eat When I'm Stressed


Have I mentioned that I eat when I am stressed?
Yes.
I have. 
Multiple Times.
Keep up. 
Geesh. 


I am a comfort eater.   It is this fact alone that causes me to keep multiple sizes of blue jeans on hands at all times.  I need options people.

Anyway, when I stress eat, it usually goes one of two ways.  Incredibly sweet or incredibly savory.  I guess it would be called savory. (I don't actually know the culinary term for hot, fattening, and either slathered in a sauce or covered with cheese . . . so I went with savory.)

Recently, I discovered, modified and perfected a sandwich that you could describe as healthy (minus the sauce, butter,  and buns of course).

The best thing about it is, you make it in your crockpot, with FROZEN chicken breasts, and then you throw it on a toasty bun; and it's so incredibly good that you actually think about it days later,  and count how many days it's been since you last made it, so you can decide how quickly you can make it again.  (It also is so good it makes you forget all grammatical convention when describing it!)

The best thing is?  It requires 3 ingredients!

BBQ PULLED CHICKEN SANDWICHES

Ingredients:
4-8 Chicken Breasts, Frozen
1 Bottle of Your Favorite BBQ Sauce (any kind)  (but save about 1/4 cup for later)
1 12oz Can of Coke (yes coke, not diet coke, not cola, not Pepsi - Bite your tongue!, COKE)

Put in Crockpot on low for 4-8 hours.
Remove chicken from sauce (the sauce will be very liquidy . . . that's another technical term)
Pull apart with two forks (figure it out or find a you tube video)
Place pulled chicken into a bowl and pour one or two ladles full of the liquidy sauce onto the chicken and stir it around)

Now leave that alone for a few minutes because you are about to make the secret to this sandwich.

Get some buns.  Any kind.  Hamburger, sour dough, french, whatever.

Butter them on the inside and place buttered side down in a hot skillet.  Toast the buns like this.



Then, take them out of the pan (most people would know to do this, but I'm trying to be precise!)

Now, take your bbq sauce (the actual sauce that you saved in the beginning) and spoon a little bit of this on your toasted buns.  Heap a lot of that bbq chicken (I think I am actually getting more country by the minute as I am typing out this recipe) onto the toasted bun, and it's done!

Serve it with a pickle or some onions or even some cheddar cheese if you like.  Bacon's good too!

All that to say, you're going to personally write me and thank me for sharing this with you.  It's that good.

UPDATED: Lots of you have asked for a clean version.  Here it is!
 Clean Version  Frozen Chicken Breasts, apple cider vinegar 1/2 cup, sugar free bbq sauce.  Serve on whole grain buns.  Use olive oil in the place of the butter if you like, but butter's okay too!

Day 74: Same and Different

 
A couple of nights ago, as I was bathing the girls and getting them ready for bed, Nikki pointed to Shannay (who was playing in the bathtub) and said, "You not the same."

They are learning same and different at school, so we have a lot of conversations about "same and different" these days. 
 
In fact, we have an exhausting number of  conversations about same and different, related to pretty much  EV-ER-Y-THING we look at, play with, talk about, or eat.

Such is the life of a toddler.  They fixate.  Easily.

So when Nikki pointed to Shannay and said, "You not the same," she really could have been talking about any number of things.  I try never to jump to conclusions where they are concerned. 

I said, "I'm not the same as Shannay?" 

To which she repeated, "You not the same."

I said, "How am I different?"

She said, "You not black."

Gulp.

"I'm not black?" I said.

"No."

"Well, what color are you," I asked?  (I'm in totally uncharted territory here folks . . .)

And she said, 'I black."

I laughed and said, "You are?  I thought you were brown."  I grabbed a black sharpie marker that was layinglying laying nearby and showed her that the marker cap was black, but her skin was brown.

I said, "See, you're brown."

She looked at me with big eyes and said, "I brown!"

I said, "I'm brown too.  We're really all a shade of brown."  (Yes, I know, a little too deep for a 4 year old!  Don't judge me.  I'm working this out as I go! )

She said, "No.  You pink."

HA!  Technically, in my case, she's right!  Toddlers.  They are so literal!

All that to say, I have officially had my first of what will be many conversations about same and different with my sweet brown babies.

Photo courtesy of Chip Gillespie Photography

Day 73: The Moments





 Several years ago, I was driving down the beltway in a blinding rain, crying so hard that my chest was literally shaking from the emotion, and the only person I wanted to talk to was my husband.  Somehow, in that moment, he was the only one who could make the world feel right.

Those are the moments that keep a marriage together for 31 years. 

I can think of a million moments in our marriage when I have wanted to strangle him, or throw his clothes out the front door, or karate chop him in the face.  (I may or may not have actually played this out in my mind).

I can think of a lot of times when I have wanted to scream my head off at him.

I can even think of moments when I have wondered if I had been knocked in the head when I decided to marry him!

But then, there are those moments . . .

moments when the world tilts ever so slightly,

just enough to make me feel unstable, unsure, insecure.

And in those moments, when I reach out, trying to balance myself, or to hang on . . .

He's

Always

There.

All that to say, I really love you, Mike Jones.  (Even though I had to watch football the ENTIRE weekend, and you hog all the covers at night, and insist upon spooning when you KNOW I can't sleep like that!)  I love you because you make the world safe for me.  You really do complete me.

Day 72: A Psalm of Assurance



One morning, as I was driving to west Texas, I felt like God wanted me to pray the 23rd Psalm; but for the life of me, I couldn't get past, "The Lord is my Shepherd" (which is a little funny considering I was a Children's Pastor for a lot of years . . . it's sort of a staple in Children's Ministry!)
 
Anyway, as I was driving and lamenting the fact that I couldn't remember the 23rd Psalm, my friend, Becky, called me and prayed this Psalm over me.  It was so deeply meaningful to me in that moment that I sobbed as she read it over me.

I love the Psalms, so much so that each morning I read one. I have done this for most of my Christian life, probably because early on some other Christ-follower told me I should do so. One morning, as I was reading, I started writing what I understood that Psalm to mean. It's not a deep theological explanation; just what I felt God was saying to me on that day.

This morning, as I sat down to read my Psalm of the day, I read the 23rd Psalm and noticed these markings.

The Lord is my Shepherd
     - It's so personal.  He's my shepherd.  Not A shepherd, but MY shepherd.

I Shall not  want
     - It's so simple.  If I stopped here, it would be enough. 

He makes me lie down in green pastures; He leads me beside quiet waters.
     - There is tranquility, not confusion

He restores my soul;
     - He puts together the broken pieces of me.  I am restored.

He guides me in the paths of righteousness for His name's sake.
     - He does all of this for the glory of His name

Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I fear no evil, for You are with me;
     - I'm going to walk in deep darkness, it is GOING to happen,
       and evil will threaten to overtake me, but I will NOT be afraid
       because the God of the Universe is walking with me!

Your rod and Your staff, they comfort me.
     - Your discipline and guidance are boundaries that keep me safe and bring me comfort

You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies
     - You are showing my enemies that You are my provision

You have anointed my head with oil; my cup overflows.
     - You lavish me with so much; protection, guidance, love

Surely goodness and lovingkindness will follow me all the days of my life,
And I will dwell in the house of the Lord forever.
     - My response of faith

All that to say, God's Word is so rich and alive and comforting. 

Day 71: The Wondering Place

I remember learning to ride a bike because I was NINE YEARS OLD before I learned, which, by the way, was the same year I learned how to tie my shoes.  I really don't know why I was so old before I learned either of these milestones of childhood, but I think my memory is so vivid BECAUSE I was so old.

I didn't start off with training wheels.  I didn't get a push down the street from my daddy.  I just got on, fell off, got on, fell off, pedaled a few feet, fell off, etc., until eventually I was rolling down the street.

I remember how incredibly uncertain I felt, and even wondered if learning was even necessary.  But somehow, I knew it was.  I knew I had to conquer my fear of that bike or I would forever be stuck in fear, of everything.  Somehow, my fear of the world was wrapped up in that bike, and I had to ride.  The universe demanded it.  So I did it.

Despite the fear.  Despite the pain.  I rode.

And that's how I feel today.

I have worked full-time in a church or church related field for the last 17 years of my life, and part time for the last 25. 

And the thought of doing anything else is crippling at times.

People tell me my skills are transferable.  Someone even said to me, "Carol, you should consider working outside the church.  You could make some company a LOT of money."

Multiple people have said I should write full time.

But each morning, I wake up with a great big giant question mark over my head.  And I wonder, "God, what do you have for me now?"

I'm not writing this to say I have an answer.  I don't. 

But I know I can't stay here long, in this wondering place.  I've got to get on the bike and ride.  The universe demands it.  (Maybe that's an overstatement.) 

All that to say,  I know the Lord will speak to me in His time.  And maybe He'll tell me to write, or to work in a church, or to do something else I've never done before.  I just have to resist the urge to jump on my bike and careen down a hill!