Wednesday, January 9, 2013

We're Breaking Up Again

My legs are like spaghetti.  Like many great Americans, I am disgusted with myself after all of the holiday overeating and have started trekking back to the YMCA after work.  It's either that or buy a new here we are.  As always, I have created a new workout playlist on my iPod to inspire me.  Here are a few of my inspirational songs:
Fighter - Christina Aguilera
Hit Me With Your Best Shot - Pat Benetar
Baggage Claim - Miranda Lambert
Forget You - Cee Lo Green
This Ones for the Girls - Martina McBride
Bulletproof - La Roux
Raise Your Glass - Pink
Truck Yeah - Tim McGraw
So What - Pink
You Can't Stop the Beat - Hairspray
Gunpowder & Lead - Miranda Lambert
Blow Me (One Last Kiss) - Pink

And once again, it is apparent that I have a lot of angry breakup music in the lineup. I’m not sure why this music pumps me up so much. I mean there’s some fun stuff but what’s the deal with the breakup songs? And then I realized.

It’s happening again.  We're breaking and my big butt. I have broken up with my big butt several times before only to reunite with it again a few months later. It has always lured me back with sugary sweets and fatty fried foods, and I just haven’t seemed to be able to get it out of my life for good. Well, it’s done me wrong long enough. I’m mad and I’m breaking things off for the last time. I even wrote it a Dear John letter.

Dear Big Butt,
I know we’ve been together a long time. We know each other so well but there’s never really been love between us. In fact, I've never loved you and I never will. You make me unhappy. You make me feel bad about myself. You’re weighing me down. And this time I’m serious. Don’t come around anymore because I’m not taking you back. You need to just go and take all your fat pants with you. No one likes you. Your dimples haven’t been cute since I was about 3 years old. There’s no room for you here anymore so please quit following me around. You're not the butt I'm meant to be with and I'm tired of settling. I breaking things off for good.  Goodbye.

P.S. If I even sense for one minute that you're not going to leave, I will ask my friends to step in and kick you.  Hard.

So, what’s in your iPod lineup?

Monday, December 24, 2012

An Unconventional Christmas Story

On Thursday, December 13, 2012 our Christmas was almost taken from us – literally. It was about 4:15pm, and I was wrapping up some last minute work at the office when I got the call from Jeff. He was supposed to be getting ready to take the girls to his mom’s so he could join me at my office Christmas party with Mercy Ministries.

“Hey,” I said.

“We got robbed,” he said.

I was so shocked by his words that I really couldn’t figure out what he meant.

“What?” I asked, confused.

“We just got home and the TV is gone and everything’s a mess,” he explained.

“Did you call the police?” I asked.

“Not yet, I called you first,” he answered.

“Call the police and then call me back,” I said and hung up the phone.

It was about a second before I realized I hadn’t been breathing and suddenly I gasped. Dazedly, I walked out into the common area of our office and said it out loud, making it real. “We got robbed.” As my coworkers came out of their offices, I said it again. “I just got off the phone with Jeff and someone broke into our house. We were robbed.” And then I burst into tears. They immediately came around me and began to pray, and when I was finally calm enough, I headed home with my good friend Kay following in her car. I wasn’t sure what I was going to find when I got there, and I needed someone separate from the situation to keep us all clear-headed.

When I arrived at the little country house I loved so much, the police were in the driveway and the girls were across the street with friends eating chicken nuggets and watching Brave – and being brave. The back window had been broken and the thieves slipped in and opened the door from the inside. TV’s, video game consoles, and jewelry were gone, the mattress turned over, and every drawer emptied onto the floor. They must have gotten spooked because the TV in our bedroom was unplugged and moved, but was still there. Smash and grab. Probably in and out and down the road in five minutes flat.

The police left, and with Kay’s help we cleaned up broken glass and put things back in order as best we could before bringing the girls home. It was disturbing for sure - I washed every item of clothing that had been scooped out of drawers and onto the floor, unable to bear the thought of wearing something the thieves had touched. In my lowest moment that night I said, “I knew things had been going too well. I knew something bad was bound to happen.” My friend Kay very wisely and very firmly said, “That. Is. A. Lie. The thief comes to steal and kill and destroy (John 10:10). You’ve already been robbed literally, don’t let him rob you spiritually too.”

And we began to see… there were some miracles.

This is where my Christmas story really begins.

The presents under the tree were left untouched, and I had shipped all the girls’ presents to my office – where they safely remained. Only one gift, a TV for Jeff’s mom, was taken.

Our rent money was in Jeff’s wallet instead of tucked away in a drawer where we used to keep it. The thieves had opened every drawer in the house and found nothing.

We have renter’s insurance, and a couple of months ago I photographed every serial number in the house to have a record. We were able to give a detailed list to the police.

While cleaning up that night, our neighbor and friend came to help us board up the window and told us of another family that had also been robbed that day. Luis and his wife speak broken English and have two little girls. We knew Luis because he works for a friend of ours and painted the interior of our little house before we moved in. I knew this violation had a much more devastating impact on them than it would on us. When I finally texted my concerned coworkers at the Christmas party to let them know we were okay, I asked them to pray for Luis and his family especially. We knew we could replace our stuff – we weren’t sure Luis could.

The next day, while a terrible tragedy was unfolding in Newtown, Connecticut, a life-changing miracle was unfolding in Brentwood, TN. Before I left work that Friday, I was handed a check for $1000 from Mercy Ministries, made out to Luis. I would have the privilege of delivering the gift to Luis and his family, but I don’t really know him and didn’t want to make him uncomfortable, so I passed the check to my friends who employ Luis and asked them to deliver the good news.

I felt the prayers of our loved ones over the weekend and miraculously we were at peace. We slept well and weren’t afraid, and that was unbelievable to me. On Monday morning as I drove to work, my friend called to let me know she had given the check to Luis. He hadn’t understood at first and kept asking what he needed to do – he thought there must be a job attached. They explained that there were some people at a Christian ministry who cared about him and his family and wanted to help. No strings attached. It was a gift. He wanted to wait for his wife before opening so they left him grinning from ear to ear and shaking his head. On Monday, when he came to work he reported, “I just cry when I open. I cannot believe it.”

“Well,” they told him, “there are some good Christian people out there who care.”

“These people…they are Christian?” said Luis.

“Yes, definitely, they are Christian.”

“Maybe I be Christian too,” he said.

And that, my friends, is what it’s all about.

I’ve never seen a more obvious, personal example of Genesis 50:20 - You intended to harm me, but God intended it for good to accomplish what is now being done, the saving of many lives.

I would gladly give that stuff, and a little bit of my feeling of security, for Luis and his family to know the Savior we celebrate this season. I don’t know the end of Luis’ story yet. And I certainly don’t offer any of this as an explanation for what happened in Newtown. But I know that in the end, the thief doesn’t win.

Mary, the mother of Jesus, did not understand all of what God had planned. She put her trust in God based on her relationship with him. Her faith was not in what God would do, but in God…whatever He did. (Thanks Carter Crenshaw for that word)

I’m not totally there all the time. But I know the God I serve. And He is good. All the time. Don’t let the enemy rob you this Christmas. Or ever.

For there is born to you this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord. – Luke 2:11

Thursday, December 29, 2011

Maria's Homemade Salsa

One of the many great lessons my stepmom has taught me is how to make the best salsa ever.  I thought I would share her recipe with you:

Maria's Homemade Salsa

4 cans of original Rotel drained completely
1 small white onion
1 fresh jalapeno pepper
1 bunch of cilantro
salt and pepper to taste

First drain all four cans of Rotel.  Squeeze as much of the juice out as you can.  I usually press the lid down into the can and drain the liquid into the sink and then pour the contents of all four cans into a food processor.  Cut the onion and jalapeno into large chunks and add to the food processor.  If you're concerned about the heat, you can cut the jalapeno in half first and remove the seeds.  Wash the cilantro and then squeeze the water out by wringing it out like a cloth, tearing the cilantro into handfuls and add to the food processor stems and all.  Add about 1 tsp. of salt and 1/2 tsp. of black pepper.  You can also add a little garlic powder if you prefer.  Then blend the whole thing until the cilantro gets pulled down into the blade and chopped and mixed throughout and there are no large chunks of onion or jalapeno.  Enjoy!  It is definitely better after it has been refrigerated for a few hours.

*By the way, another of my new favorite things is the whole grain Tostitos scoops.  They're so good you can eat them plain.

Thanks Maria for making me an amateur foodie!  Store-bought salsa was never any good after this.

Monday, June 13, 2011

Carpool Conversations with the Brothers Sisters

For the last week, we have been using one car to try and save money on gas. It means a little bit longer ride for me, but I'm really enjoying spending that time in the car catching up with Jeff and the girls. We have been watching America's Got Talent this summer and this morning the girls provided some great entertainment. Each had a stuffed animal and they took turns "auditioning" for America's Got Talent. It went a little something like this:

Little Sister: Helloooo. And what is your name? (in her version of a British accent of course)

Big Sister: (holding up a stuffed puppy) My name is Carly.

Little Sister: Okay Carly, and what are you going to do?

Big Sister: I'm going to sing, and then I'm going to raise up, and then I'm going to do a flip.

Little Sister: Oh! Okay! Well, let's see it then.

(Big Sister sings a made up song while raising her stuffed animal in the air and then flipping it in the end)

Little Sister: Oh! I've never seen an act like that before. I can't believe you flew like that. It looked like you had a jet pack or something. I give you two yesses. Yes and yes! You're going to Vegas!

Big Sister: Yes! I'm going to Vegas!!! Okay now it's my turn to be the judges.

Little Sister: Okay.

Big Sister: Well, hellooo! What's your name? (in her version of a British accent)

Little Sister: (holding up her unicorn pillow pet) My name is Holy Spirit!

Big Sister: Gasp! (actually, literally gasps) No! You CANNOT name that unicorn Holy Spirit! There is only one true God and that unicorn is NOT Him!

Little Sister: Huh?

In the last few seconds before we pulled into Nashville Christian School to drop everyone off, Big Sister attempted to explain the Trinity. I'm not sure Little Sister got it but after hearing about the Holy Spirit in Sunday school yesterday, she is a fan. It's a start.

Little Sister with NOT Holy Spirit (now known as "Lily")

Would love to know what her talent was going to be...

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

Little Girls Goodnight Prayers

I'm always interested in what the girls have to say in their prayers. Sometimes it's sweet, sometimes funny, and with Little Sister, sometimes it's just ridiculous. Here's what the Brothers Sisters had to say a couple of nights ago.

Big Sister: Dear God, Please help all of the orphans to have families very soon. Please let that happen Lord. Please help all of the poor to have more money…but not too much. Please help all of the boys to become nice people. Thank you for making us Christians, those of us who are, and please help all of the bullies to become Christians. Please let that happen Lord. Thank you for giving us your son to die on the cross to give us life and thank you for raising him from the death after the three days to give us hope. Lord, please give us love, joy, peace, patience, goodness, kindness, gentleness, faithfulness and self-control. We need all of those Lord, but mostly we need love and kindness. And don’t ever, ever, eeeeeeever let us follow the stinky devil, because we hate him. Please help everyone in the world to have sweet dreams. Help everyone to have a fantastic day tomorrow. In Jesus’ name, Amen.

Little Sister: Um God…please let me have 5 sleepovers. Thank you for Nana’s iPad. Thank you for my mom, my dad, my stister (sister),and my world, and my town, and my road, and my phone number. Amen.

Saturday, February 26, 2011

Big Girls Don't Cry...Unless Little Girls Make Them

Let the Competition Begin

So two years ago, we signed Big Sister up for soccer. I was excited, I admit it. I played soccer and I wasn’t very good, but I did love it and I had some high hopes for my kids. Basically, Big Sister playing soccer? It was an exercise in humility…for me. She really enjoyed soccer. She enjoyed being filmed on the video camera. She enjoyed running around. She enjoyed talking to other little girls about…I don’t know…ponies? But she had no idea there was an actual game going on. I’ll never forget hollering from the sideline, “Go get the ball!” And her looking at me grinning and saying, “Where is it?”

We didn’t sign up again.

But now Big Sister has found her thing. Her school has a wonderful fine arts program and she loves trying out for and performing in the school plays. She’s done really well actually. She also discovered she loves basketball. Total shock. She is a lefty and appears to be more of an eye/hand-coordination-sport-type girl. She has a sweet little shot.

But now, Little Sister is 5 years old. And she has wanted to play soccer forever. We decided to sign her up for the local Upwards soccer program where, much to our dismay, “everybody wins”, but it was cheaper than city soccer and while we suspected she would like it much more than Big Sister, we weren’t taking any chances. They had two days last week where you could come by the church, register your child, pay your fee, and have them evaluated. Each child has to go through 4 drills to determine their skill level so the teams will be evenly formed. Whatever. Anyway, so we take Little Sister to sign up and she’s super excited. As we stood in line, someone asked Big Sister if she was playing, to which she responded, “No, I played before and I was horrible.” I immediately attempted to regain my status as competent mom by assuring her, “You weren’t horrible, you just didn’t like it very much.” Between you and me, she didn’t like it very much which translated to “she was horrible”. But you don’t say that to a seven-year-old.

When it’s finally our turn, Little Sister is ready. She does amazing in the first three drills, and then there’s the fourth, dribbling around cones. Well, you can imagine. The ball gets away from her and after getting around the first cone, it passes the next two and they holler, “Just bring it straight back!” She gives it a good hard kick which makes them think, “She’s having fun!” and makes me think, “Oh gosh, she’s pissed.” They smile big at her and say, “Good job,” and she just turns her back and runs toward me, barely holding in her tears. She cries the rest of the way home that she didn’t want to do a “good job”, she wanted to do a “great job”. She just cannot get over that she wasn’t perfect. Big Sister and I encouraged her as much as possible, but she is just as determined in her pouting as she is in her soccer performance. She is perfect when it comes to the pouting, let me tell you.

An unexpected thing happened in the midst of all this drama. Big Sister decided she wanted to give soccer another go ‘round. I had my doubts. After all, I had seen her play soccer before. I asked her to sleep on it as they had one more day of evaluations and I wasn’t ABOUT to get back at the end of the line. I also asked her to talk to Daddy about it and if, in the morning, she still wanted to play, I would bring her to the evaluation. I really did encourage her to try again; I didn’t want her settling for believing she was horrible. I wanted her to fight for it and try, try again…but I was concerned about Little Sister. She was already in full-on competitive mode.

We arrived early the next day and while we waited our turn, Little Sister whined over and over that she wanted to do it again. I braced myself for the Chrysler Town & Country counseling session I knew we’d have on the way home.

I need to add a side note here…

Big Sister has a tender heart. She weeps when we sing at church. Weeps. The girls recently went to my mother-in-law’s house while we had date night and they came home with one of Nana’s stuffed bunnies. When you squeeze the bunny, it plays Jesus Loves Me. A couple of nights ago, Big Sister came to me in tears saying, “You know how I’m kind of sensitive? And when I hear songs about Jesus it makes me so happy I cry? Little Sister keeps squeezing that bunny and it’s making me cry. Please make her stop!” My response was, “Oh honey, it’s so sweet that you love Jesus so much that the song makes you cry. Don’t worry about that. That’s a good thing.” Her answer? “But Mama! I don’t want to be crying all the time!”

Back to soccer, Little Sister had the bunny in tow when we went to Big Sister’s evaluation. Maybe you can see what’s coming, so here’s what happened. Big Sister shocked everyone, especially me, and did AMAZING! I’m not one of those parents, I swear. I’m married to a coach for Heaven’s sake and we know about those parents. But after the running drill, the guy who timed her came over and said, “Is she your daughter? She was really fast!” I about fainted. Those are words that have never been spoken about Big Sister before. I have sat in the car too many times to count, waiting for her to get her coat and shoes on, to ever think about her being “fast”. Anyway, she did great and then came that dreaded last drill, dribbling around the cones. She is a thinker and she took her time. She navigated the cones perfectly and came running off…all smiles.

“Mama!” she said, “That man said I ran really fast!” “I know!” I said, hugging her and smiling ear to ear. As we walked away, I noticed Little Sister lagged behind. She had her arms crossed and that bunny tucked firmly under her armpit. It was quite the dilemma, encouraging Big Sister quietly so that Little Sister wouldn’t get madder. Okay, I’m running out of steam so let me just say…Little Sister squeezed that bunny ALL THE WAY HOME in an effort to make Big Sister cry. And of course she herself cried at the top of her lungs. I was torn between laughing and crying. I tried my best and said, “Honey, she’s two years older than you.” To which she replied, “But I don’t want her to be older than me.” Hmmmm. Should be an interesting Spring.

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

The End of the Beginning

If you haven’t seen Jesus in the story yet, and I bet you have, today is the day. If there’s anything missing from the kid’s version of the story of Adam and Eve, it’s that the story is about Jesus. Take a look at what my daughter’s Bible says.

Then God made clothes for Adam and Eve.
Yep, that’s it. That’s all it says. Now, I realize that the purpose of a children’s Bible is to simplify but the most important part of the story is missing! God’s plan for redemption is missing! (I find this is often the case and the reason this study came to be in the first place.) So let’s get to the really juicy part. This is the part that has kept me going and I can’t wait to study it with you. Read Genesis 3:21.

The LORD God made garments of skin for Adam and his wife and clothed them.
Are you thinking, “Huh?” Maybe you already know where we’re going with this but if you don’t, be encouraged that my first thought was, “Huh?” But look closely and think about the following questions.

Who made the garments?

What were the garments made of?

Where do you think the skin came from?

What had to happen to the animal in order to use its skin for covering?

Are you starting to get a picture here? They had attempted to cover themselves in verse 7 and apparently, their covering was insufficient. We talked about that in a blog post you can read here. So this time, the LORD God made the garments himself. These garments were made of skin, the skin of animals. In order for an animal’s skin to be used, the animal had to die. Something had to DIE.

Remember, death came into the world as a result of sin. There had been NO death up to this point. Adam had named every living creature himself. I don’t know how he felt about these creatures but I do know he had never seen one of them die. He had never seen one of them killed. He had never seen one of them sacrificed. Sacrificed to cover his shame no less. It was his fault that one of God’s creatures (and He doesn’t tell us which one) was sacrificed and died.

So here at the end of our study, let me take you back to the beginning. The whole Bible is about Jesus. The whole Bible is about God and His plan of redemption. The story is revealed progressively and our very first glimpse of what Jesus would do is right there “in the beginning”. For our sin to be covered, blood had to be shed. God himself provided the covering for Adam and Eve through the shedding of blood for the first time ever. This is a picture of what God would do to cover the sin of all mankind through his son Jesus Christ. Isn’t that awesome?!

I recommend that you read all of Hebrews 9 if you really want to get a picture of God’s plan for redemption fulfilled in Christ Jesus as the perfect sacrifice. But for now I want to leave you with a verse in Hebrews that sums up so well what we have covered in this study. We have looked at what we were created to do…serve! We’ve studied the path to sin which led to the worst imaginable consequences, death and separation from God. And finally we learned that even as God dealt us the consequences, he spoke of the freedom he would provide from those consequences through his own son, Jesus Christ. Read Hebrews 9:14 and really let it sink in.

How much more, then, will the blood of Christ, who through the eternal Spirit offered himself unblemished to God, cleanse our consciences from acts that lead to death, so that we may serve the living God!

And just in case you wondered, one day we will have access to the tree of life again. Revelation 22:14 says, “Blessed are those who wash their robes, that they may have the right to the tree of life and may go through the gates into the city.”

Ahhhhhhh! I LOVE IT! The first book of the Bible speaks of the tree of life and so does the last! I hope you’ve heard from the Lord with me. I have so enjoyed digging into the history of Adam and Eve with you. And when I say “history” I mean His Story. I hope you have seen that these aren’t just children’s stories. Every bit of the Bible is for all God’s children and we will continue to discover together that every page has his son, Jesus, on it.

I welcome your suggestions on which children's Bible study to break down next. Let me know what you think!