If It Weren't For the Blood of Jesus.

I don't really know how to start this post.  In truth, I have written and rewritten the first line so many times now, that I considered abandoning the post altogether.  And yet, I feel compelled to tell you this story, so I will muddle through its opening,

I'm a holiday girl.  I love nothing more than having a big, fat family gathering over just about any holiday you could possibly want to celebrate.  But I especially like to make a deal out of the big ones.
It's probably a fact that drives my kids crazy.

Today was Easter.

My youngest son didn't come home for Easter.

My oldest son and daughter-in-law had planned to come over after church and visit/participate in the family Easter egg hunt, but their plans changed as well.

My dad, who was visiting for the weekend, decided to leave early, not go to church with us, skip the Easter egg hunt.

So yeah, not quite the Easter Sunday I had planned.

I confess I shed a few tears in my bathroom before we left for church.  And I felt stupid for doing so.

So Mike and I and the girls loaded up in the car and headed off to our former church, the one where I used to work.  When we got ready to sign the girls in, they were no longer in the system, and for some reason that hurt my feelings deeply.  (By the way, if you ever want to know if you have truly healed from something, the Lord is happy to show you ALL the places where there is still healing to be done!)

I was embarrassed that I was near tears over something so insignificant, but I was absolutely near tears.

As we sat down in church, I felt an overwhelming sense of sadness, and humiliation, and loneliness.  Odd emotions for an Easter Sunday, in a sanctuary, filled with hundreds and hundreds of people.

And then a video started playing.

The people in the video said, " If it weren't for the blood of Jesus, I would . . ."

And they filled in the blank.

One woman in the video said, "If it weren't for the blood of Jesus, I would be unforgiving and bitter."

Another person said, "If it weren't for the blood of Jesus, I would have no hope."

And person after person after person shared who they would be if it weren't for the blood of Jesus.

And as the people in the video continued to talk, I realized I had made Easter and the celebration of it, about many things; but certainly not about Jesus.

All that to say, I am so grateful for my family.  For my husband, and my sons, and my daughters and my daughter-in-law.  And I'm thankful for the many reasons that we have to celebrate together.  But I am so much more grateful for a God who loved me enough to send His one and only son to die for me on a cross that I might have eternal life.  If it weren't for the blood of Jesus, I can't imagine who I would be.  And I am so grateful I will never have to know.

It's Give Friday - He Gave

I had an interesting conversation this morning with a woman about salvation. (I'm talking the eternal kind here).

She's really been struggling with the notion, the theology, the belief that you can lose your salvation.

After a lengthy conversation I realized that she wasn't really trying to nail down the correct theology, she was trying to nail down a very deep seeded fear that she was going to lose her salvation.

She was struggling with a belief that she could do something that would be so heinous in the sight of God that He would say, "That's it. I'm done with you."

Finally, I keyed in to the fact that she was deeply, deeply afraid of losing God's love.

I asked her, "If this God that we worship gave up His ONLY son so that we could have salvation, do you believe that He would so casually withdraw it from you?"

She sighed a very deep, long exhale and said, "No, I don't believe He would."


I don't know what you believe.  I know there are many faiths that believe you can lose your salvation.  I don't believe that, can't believe it, won't believe it.

I am so grateful for a God that loves me far beyond my ability to screw up.  I am grateful for a God who cherishes me enough to want to spend eternity with me, enough that He gave His one and only Son, that Whoever believes in Him shall not perish, but have eternal life.

All that to say, it's Give Friday here at All That to Say.  It's Good Friday for those of us who are Christ Followers.  Good Friday.  The ultimate Give Friday.  So grateful.

Unable to Bury Their Dead

Someone I know very well had a tragic loss this week.  Their mother passed away.  She was the matriarch of her family, a woman who had known much loss but who embraced every moment of her journey, the moments of grand merriment, as well as the moments of great suffering.

Her death was a tragedy on so many levels; not just because her family lost their mother and grandmother, but because her death was preventable.  She acquired an infection that went undetected and ultimately she died of renal failure caused by severe dehydration.  There are many symptoms to this type of breakdown, but sadly, these are symptoms often overlooked in the elderly.

I cannot imagine hearing a doctor say those words.  "This death was preventable."  As if a family does not have enough grief for the moment, let's add that to their plate.

Grief and guilt.

And I wish that the story stopped there, but it doesn't.  Not uncommon, this sweet mother and grandmother did not have life insurance, and had made no plans, financially, for the end of her life.  Her family was suddenly faced with the realization that they would have to pay for her burial.  A low-income family, they found themselves without many options.

After meeting with funeral homes and hospital officials they learned this is what happens if you cannot come up with the money to pay for burial costs.  You can sign a release form with your county coroner's office that says you can't afford to bury the family member.  Once the release is signed, the coroner will pay for a cremation.  If the family can afford to pay for the ashes ($600) they can have them.  If not, the county will bury the ashes in a common grave alongside other unclaimed ashes.

Grief. Guilt. And now Shame.

When I said her death was a tragedy on so many levels, I meant it.  What is a family to do in a situation like this? Honestly, I hope I never have to know. I'd love to tell you this family rallied together and raised the money for a proper burial, but they didn't.  The burden of deciding whether to try to raise the money or release the body to the county fell to the shoulders of one daughter. I cannot imagine that pressure.

Grief, guilt, shame, pressure.

All that to say, this is a reality in lots and lots of people's lives.  (811,000 people annually in the US who can't bury their dead).  I think sometimes I live in a bubble.

Update: Per the comments below, you can email me at cjones3730@gmail.com for details on how you can help.

Mommy Bloggers Can Change the World

I'm a blogger.  I've been a blogger for a lot of years and can honestly say it is something I have always enjoyed doing.  It has been incredibly humbling over those years to have people tell me that my writing, my stories, my life has made a big impact on their life.

This week, I attended a conference for small business owners, many (perhaps most) of whom were bloggers.  And I have to say that never, in my WILDEST imagination, did I imagine that bloggers are such an influential group of people.  It is quite possible they have the power to change the world.

Perhaps that sounds like a grand overstatement, but I don't think so.

And here's why I say that.  Current estimates say there are about 450 million active English language blogs right now, according to Technorati. (A number that has grown from 200 million just since 2009). Of those blogs, a staggering 41% are what are known as "mommy blogs" (or 181,000,000 if you're doing the math, with 39,000,000 coming from the US alone!)

Now before you discount these so called, "mommy blogs" you should know that BIG NAME brands are actively wooing these bloggers to be the spokespersons for their products. Turns out, these bloggers have an incredible amount of influence into their worlds, an influence that apparently is worth paying for.

Notable among the sponsors at this event were organizations that do, indeed, have the power to save the world. And that made my wheels start turning.

What if the 39,000,000 U.S. mommy bloggers united their voices and decided to speak out on behalf of a worldwide need, like say clean drinking water?  (That's a good place to start!)

I'm not saying I know how to make that happen.  But someone out there reading this does.  So you smarty pants with all the influence, get this organized! 

All that to say, Mommy Bloggers have the power to change the world!  Come on girls!  Use your powers for good!  Who's in?


The girls were playing outside in the backyard the other day when all of the sudden, Shannay came barreling through the back door of the house yelling,  "MOM!!!!!  Nikki's digging in the dirt!!!!!!"

I was in the middle of cooking dinner, so I wiped my hands, tossed down the dish towel and headed out into the backyard to see exactly what was going on.

Sitting quietly in the corner was this sweet, little girl who was gleefully digging in the dirt.

Initially, I freaked out.  But before you judge me too harshly, you should know that I have OCD and the thought of anyone digging in the dirt would freak me out.  You should also know that last summer/spring/fall, Nikki consistently dug holes in the back yard and Mike consistently had to fill them up.  It was annoying.  So I felt justified in my anger.

Anyway, as I was about to launch into my "how many times do I have to tell you" lecture, she looked up at me and said, "Mama, don't be mad."


I was mad.  About dirt.  About a child playing in the dirt.  Children should play in the dirt.  So, I said to myself,  "What in the world are you mad about?  She's 4. She wants to play in the dirt.  Calm down, Carol!"

I'm good at "Calm Down Carol" pep talks.

I smiled a smug little "Mother of the Year" smile, told her to enjoy the dirt, but not to put it in her hair, and I very calmly walked into the house.

As I walked past Shannay, she looked at me like I'd grown two heads.  She takes after me.  She likes things orderly.  And clean.  So, I stopped for a moment and got down on my knees and said, "Nikki needs to play in the dirt.  It helps her to be happy. Okay?"

She smiled at me, still somewhat confused, eyes bright with tears and lip quivering, and said, "Okay Mama."  She stood over Nikki for the next 10 minutes "supervising" the situation.

I tend to want to believe that people are doing things to make me mad (true confession) or to annoy me; but in reality, they are processing life through their set of filters.  Nikki thinks better when her hands are busy (well, really when her whole body is busy).  Shannay thinks better when things are routine and orderly.  I think better when I'm in charge.  (I may or may not have control issues.)

All that to say, recognizing that each of us are wired and created to process life differently, through different filters, is an important realization, and honestly, an important life skill.

Why Perspective Is So Important

I am a ghost writer (well, except for this blog and the other ones that will be launching very, very soon!)

What that means is that I write for other people.  They give me their thoughts, the points they want to make, and I make sentences and paragraphs for them.  That's the simple version of it.  But you get the gist.

I'm a "ghost" because I don't have a by-line on their work.  A by-line is the place on an article or a book that tells you who wrote it.  But I like being a ghost.  I don't need the by-line.  And after all, it's their work.  Their thoughts.  Their points.  I'm just helping them to be awesome at what they do. (HA!  If I do say so myself!)

I have some really, really great people that I get to work with who are doing great, great things in the world.  They are helping churches, helping people in the midst of some difficult life struggles, helping women have more organized lives, and helping people build their dreams, just to name a few! How can I NOT love this job?

There are days when I'm overwhelmed at the level of trust people have placed in me.

Yesterday was one of those days.  At the end of the day I sat down at the kitchen table, put my head in my hands, and said to my husband about a new, very large client that I have, "I don't know if I can do this.  What if I'm not good enough? They're trusting me with their dream!"  He said, "They picked you.  They know tons of writers.  Probably good ones.  They picked you.  Now go take a bubble bath."

I love that man.  Such perspective.

It is so easy to convince ourselves what we aren't.  What we can't do.  What we won't be good at.  Sometimes we just need people who have a different vantage point to give us perspective.

All that to say, I'm feeling thankful today.  Thankful for great people who trust me with their dreams.  And thankful for a new perspective.  (and for my husband who knows how to shut down my doubts!)

An Online Affair

Mike and I were sitting in our living room one evening, each doing our own thing, (a routine we comfortably fell into when the boys were little), when I realized he was on Facebook.  Unable to resist, I sent him a somewhat racy message via Facebook chat, and then I sat with delighted anticipation as I waited for him to see the message.

I knew the moment it came across his screen because he smiled a mischievous smile and quickly started typing.  For the last several weeks, we have had a very playful, and mostly G-rated interchange via Facebook and text messages.  In short, we've been flirting with each other through modern technology and social media.

I'm sure by now some of you are thinking, "Seriously? Close your computers, get off your phones, and talk to each other!"  And of course you are right, but hear me out.

I'm loving this new found way of interacting with my husband.  It's fun.  It's spicy. (Sorry Zack and Jacob) It's refreshing and new and has added life to our relationship. We've even had a couple of arguments in real time that he followed up with an apology text or sweet message later on (when he was at work).

Complacency could have killed my marriage.  I'm sure it's killed many.  I guess, in a weird way, I could say that Facebook saved my marriage. (But that would be a grand overstatement.)  Facebook surely added some fun to our evenings, but it didn't save my marriage.

That said, I can easily see how it could wreck marriages. All of this has made me keenly aware of how dangerous the Internet is for marriages where people are lonely or isolated or distant from their spouse. I can see why people end up having affairs that begin online.

All that to say, I'm grateful that the Internet provided us with a way to add a little spice to our marriage. But MAN does there need to be a lot more messaging happening about the dangers of social media and marriage.  Guard your hearts and minds, people.  Guard your hearts and minds.

Happy 27th to You, Jacob Jones

As my kids get older, it becomes increasingly more difficult to write something about them for their birthday.  It's not that I don't have a million things I could say, it's just that at some point, I'm just repeating myself, and I may as well just post the links to all the other birthday posts.  Here they all are! (In case you have some free time.)

So, I have now decided to take the opportunity each year to tell a story about them that is a sweet memory I have. I'm their mom.  It's my blog.  I can do what I want.

Jacob was an easy baby, as far as babies, go.  He weighed 7 lbs. 13oz. and entered the world at 7:31 a.m. on Friday, March 7th, 1986.  From a very young age, he had the most infectious laugh and the most tender heart.  Outside of the 5 months (YES! 5 FREAKING MONTHS) of colic that he had, most of his early years were spent making us all laugh.  He was just such a happy little baby.

I think one of the things I remember most about Jacob as a young child (and something that is still true today) is how sensitive he was to people's feelings.  I'm not saying he was always particularly "gentle" with their feelings (I mean, he was a teenager at one point, you know!) but he's always been intuitive about the feelings of others.

One of my most precious memories I have of Jacob happened the year his big brother went off to kindergarten.  We had just dropped Zack off at his classroom and were walking hand in hand through the parking lot of the school when Jacob looked up at me and said, "Mama?  Are you sad?" With tears in my eyes,  I said, "Yes, Jacob I am a little sad.  But I'll be okay."  And he said, "Mama, I'm sad too.  Is it okay if I cry with you?"

So we sat down on the curb and had ourselves a good cry.  Then we got up and drove to Taco Bell and consoled ourselves with some tacos and burritos.

And this sensitivity wasn't just to real life people.  He felt the same way about TV characters.  One time he was watching the Wizard of Oz (yes, I was a terrible Mom and let my very little kids watch it . . .what was I thinking?)  Anyway, he was watching the Wizard of Oz and it was the scene where Toto jumped out of the hot air balloon and Dorothy started floating up without Toto.  Jacob freaked out and started crying hysterically, "Mama! Mama!  You have to help them.  Dorothy can't leave without Toto!"

Like I said, sensitive. :)  I think he gets that from his dad, the man who cries at McDonald's commercials.

Seriously, if you cried, Jacob cried harder.  If you laughed, Jacob laughed more.  If you were mad, he was madder.  Just typing those words makes me laugh at some of the crazy moments of life with Jacob Jones.

Jacob, you have spent a lifetime giving us so much rich laughter, teaching us all to embrace life a little tighter, and to feel things a little deeper.  I love being your mom.

All that to say, Happy Birthday Jacob.  Twenty-seven years have flown by.  I can still smell the sweet scent of you and the warmth of your cheek against mine on the day you were born.  I can also still smell the scent of your stinky bedroom too, but that's another memory! :)

Some Days, I Suck As a Parent

Some days, I really suck as a parent.  I mean, I really suck as a parent.

I lose my temper.

I have adult-sized expectations of my toddlers.

I repeat myself because I am angry, and it fuels my anger to say the same thing over and over and over.

I don't want to  hear one more whiney voice tell me why they want apple juice instead of water.

I don't want it to be bath time or bed time or story time or time to brush your teeth or any other "times" other than "Can Mama just please have a hot bath and glass of wine time?"

I confess it.  Some days, I want parenting to be easy.

I don't want to have to hold my breath as I open the take home folder to see if my special needs child hit the teacher or scratched a friend or had a meltdown because someone accidentally got blueberries on their favorite shirt.

I don't want to have to think about atrocities like child abuse and neglect and a lifetime of mental rewiring that will be in our future.

I don't want to argue with Social Security about why our children need new identities or explain to the hospital where MY CHILDREN were born as to why I need their medical records and why I have the right to have them.

But most days aren't those days.  Most days are filled with barbies and cars and mud and flowers and chasing mosquito hawks through thick grass.

Most days are tiny little feet running into my bedroom and crawling into bed for a few stolen moments of snuggling before the day beckons.

Most days are reminders that God's healing power is at work and that our lives together are not a bleak future but a blessing.

All that to say, most days, most days are good days.

It's Give Friday!

It's my very first official "Give Friday."  What is "Give Friday?"  It's what I have decided to call Fridays here at All That to Say.  Every Friday, I will either give something away, or I will feature a person or organization that is doing something great in the world and give you a chance to give to them.

Get it?  "Give" Friday?  (You guys are the above average set.)

I've kind of been doing that already, but I've just decided to make it official by giving it a clever name.  Who knows?  Maybe it will become the next Internet sensation and Friday will be "Give Friday" all over the Internet!  Wouldn't that be cool?

So, in honor of my first official "Give Friday" I am doing two things.  I am giving away something really cool, and I am reminding you about a giving opportunity that you have!  Originally, I had posted that I was going to give away 2 things, and remind you of two things.  I like symmetry.  I have OCD. It works better for me that way.  But "apparently" (said in a sarcasm-laden voice) it was just too much and I had a little feedback from friends to give less.  So, I have heeded your advice, and am now giving away one thing and remind you about a cool opportunity.

First off, I'm going to give away this really cute tent that Mike made, courtesy of Pinterest. Mike made it a Father/Daughter project by taking the girls with him to get the hardware and tent canopy. For the record, I would have NEVER let them pick out a hot orange one (it's a twin sheet) but hey, that's what happens when dads and their 4 year olds pick out home decor! HA!

So, just in case you aren't a fan of hot orange, you can easily change out the tent canopy by getting a different twin sheet.   If you want to see a more professional shot of this, and the original instructions, here you go.  Mike said to be sure and tell you that if you want to make your own, you should read the comments section because the original pattern had a few flaws.

Oh, and one more thing, we're keeping this one.  Yours is brand new, unused (but still hot orange!)  That's the "I Give" part.

It's Give Friday!  I give, you give, we give.

In the "You Give" category,  this is a friendly reminder to check your pulse, be sure you have a heart, and go support this adorable little girl.  I'm not normally a fan of asking other people for money to support a money making venture for yourself, but then again, now that I think about it, that's dumb.  At least in this case.  Because in this case you should do it and be awesome.  As Kid President would say, "Be awesome."

Go check out Lauren's info and her Kickstarter page and help her reach her dream. She's only got a few days left to make it! And in case you don't know how Kickstarter works, if she doesn't make 100% of her goal, she gets NOTHING. Check your pulse.  Now go here and support this sweet baby's dream.

And to really sweeten this deal, for every dollar you donate to her, I will count it as 1 entry to win this cool stuff.  So, donate $1 get 1 entry. Donate $5, get 5 entries. Awesome. Kid President would be proud of you.

So, let's recap:

  • I Give -Awesome PupTent    
  • You Give - Support 11 Year Old Author, Lauren Lukaszewsi
NOW THEN, (phew, that was exhausting!)  here is how to enter to win.

1.  You MUST follow this blog.  It's a shameless ploy to build my readership.  I'm okay with it.  Consider it a "you give." :)

2.  You MUST at least visit Lauren's Kickstarter page and watch her video. But remember for every dollar you give, you get an entry.

3.  You MUST pin, post, or tweet this blog post.  For each of these you do, you get an additional entry.  (Again, you have to comment on this blog to let me know what all you accomplished)

5.  Lastly, you must comment.  Commenting is your official entry, but in your comment you must tell me that you followed the blog, Visited Lauren's Kickstarter, and pinned, posted or tweeted!

If that's confusing, well, hmmmm . . . . re-read it.  But it's not that complicated.  And you're giving.  Because it's Give Friday!  

All that to say, I give; you give; we give!  Now get busy!
(And don't worry, those of you who checked in here for Ags for Orphans, I refeature them again soon!)