Thursday, December 22, 2016

What is My Role? Loving It!

As a follow up to the post "Who Am I?" I wanted to share some lessons I've learned and the Lord's sweet answers to my heart's desire to be connected.

* Let's start off with, I love the local church. I love those men and women who are courageous enough to serve full-time in the local body and give so much of themselves. I grew up watching my parents pour themselves into the those they have been called to serve. It is not easy. It can be ugly at times. And it can be sweetness!

* When I was dealing with these "I want to be a part of the body" thoughts, the Lord's voice kept saying, "What are YOU doing about it?" It was hugely convicting and a reminder - be part of the solution rather than a part of the problem.

* It is so much easier to just connect with those with whom we are similar! I love sitting and talking with my peers. We are in similar life stages and oftentimes it adds validity and confirmation to those moments and thoughts of "Am I just crazy?" And yet. It is easy to become complacent and too comfortable with those I am like.

As I continue to reflect, I see the Lord's answer. The people He has and continues to provide who are "different" and a larger picture of the family He has called. Here are some ways He has answers, provided, and granted part of this desire to connect with differing facets of the body.

My small group - I love these people! i'm the youngest one in my group and I love it! We are a hodge-podge of retirees, older singles, empty-nesters, grandparents, married couples, and more. And we are from a variety of backgrounds. A plethora of ways our hearts were drawn and transformed by the Gospel. Our conversations inspire, challenge, convict, connect, and push us more to Jesus. And. I. Love. Every. Single. Minute. Of. It. This group also stood with me when I was going through #projectkneegetbetter. They brought meals. Provided rides when I couldn't drive. Sent notes and texts and emails. And prayed. And prayed more. They are a part of my Dallas family. This fall our group changed slightly in the structure and it has brought an even greater sweetness and delight to my soul. We all need people to grow with. And you know what? They are not just like me and I'm not just like them. And it is good.

Mentorship group - this story is a long one, so I won't bore you with the details. Short story - there is no reason except for Jesus that I am in this group. The way I was connected to them and more is something only the Lord could do. Crossing generations and lives and where we are as people - amazing. I learn so much from these women and so value them as friends and their wisdom.

Living with the Zieglers - This is a whole separate post. Can't. Even. Love these family people.

If Table - I love the monthly gatherings of the women the Lord puts across our paths. I love the God-ordained women who come each month. Though there is a different group each time, I believe it is not an accident. Grateful. If we can meet a need for connection, to be loved, to hear truth, to encounter the Gospel - it is worth it.

Work - Daily I talk to people on the phone who love Jesus and yet are so different from me. The stories they hold are often undiscovered treasures. And I'm reminded again how often people long to be heard, known, and a part of something. Also, I love hearing so many people's stories of life - the beautiful and the hard. And there are dear friends that have come from those conversations and from meeting some of them in person (sweet Judy below!).

This list doesn't mention my small group babies (Sunday school kids) and the incredible conversations we have; my amazing family who challenges me and encourages me in life; and the dear friends who talk me off the crazy, remind of God's faithfulness, and spur me on towards Christ likeness. 

And in these few examples, the Lord has shown me how faithfully He provides. How diverse and stunning his family is. Can't wait to see what keeps happening! 

Tuesday, December 13, 2016

Christmas Music Favorites: Taylor Swift

One of my most favorite things about Christmas is MUSIC!

Those who know me, know how much I love singing and making up songs, creating parodies to well known tunes, etc.

BUT Christmas music? Whole. 'Nother. Level.

Without further ado, here is one of my favorite Christmas albums.

Yes, I realize it may not cross the top ten of many people, but I love it. And honestly, it's probably because I have amazing memories associated with it.

I purchased this while in Minnesota for a conference in 2007. It was the only Christmas I stayed in Panama during my seven years there. A sweet family in my class allowed me to use their vehicle for the four weeks of Christmas break and this was one of the only Christmas CDs I had.
(Sidenote: the above album cover says 2008 which cannot be true as to when it was released. I know this to be true because I was for sure teaching kindergarten and I had purchased things in Minnesota for K5 and the family who lent me their car had a student in my class. I sure did just google this and I am correct. Whew! Carry on.)

Mom and Dad came to spend Christmas with me that year.

And a few days after they left, Aunt Lisa and Dana came to visit and we went to the islands.

And this CD kept me singing and loving Christmas that year.

It's a short one, but so fun and good.

Favorite song: it's a toss up between "Christamases When You Were Mine" and "Christmas Must Be Something More".

It's a must listen every season for me! And I still might blare it!

Saturday, December 3, 2016

Who am I?

This burning question hit me like a ton of bricks the night I sat to type this post.

I was gathered around a table with other Jesus lovers, battling the ever constant personaly insecurity of "I don't know these people. Do I share what I really think or hold back? They all know each other, I'm unnecessary." Those constant lies which plague our minds.

The time was designed to allow for feedback, conversation, and input regarding vision casting for the church. I had been asked because I serve on a team. (I couldn't figure out why I was invited to this and then found out this was the reason).

It came up. Those questions I cannot ignore, the ones the Lord keeps bringing up regarding purpose.

I dared and spoke up. And gosh darn, my voice got all wobbly and I nearly burst into tears (hormones I blame - for real though).

Why is it church has defined ministry by demographics?
This is my current struggle.

There are these little segments of the body sprinkled throughout and often never rubbing shoulders with one another.

I remember when I first moved back to the states and going through the church finding process.
At one particular "welcome-connect-hub-gathering" spot, the greeter asked the following questions when I asked for guidance in visiting a class.
* Are you in college? (Thank you for thinking I looked that young).
* Are you married?
* So I'm guessing you don't have children? (But what if I did?)
* Can I ask how old you are? (code for: are you too old for our "young adult" class. Answer: yes).

This was the process for discovering where I might "fit".
What about the place called - "I love Jesus and want to be part of the body." That's what I'm looking for.

So as I was sharing part of this passion about demographics tonight,
The words, "I just want to be part of the body" came out of my mouth.
I encountered the looks of pity. The murmuring accolades, "We understand."

At the very end, the lady across from me whispers, "We are single," pointing to herself and the two ladies near her.

That wasn't the point. The Lord's taking me on a sweet journey of this path of singleness. There is such beauty. The lessons God continues to teach me as ones I wouldn't trade. (Full disclosure - yes, it is still hard at times).

The point is, I'm watching others in this same life stage struggling.
This question of "where do I fit?" is unanswered and often brings about dissatisfaction and frustration.

I just want to be part of the body. This is the underlying question.
I'm one of those singles who wants to hold your newborn baby. Who would love to push your toddlers on the swing and talk about homework and school with your third grader. Who wants to be sarcastic and love on your awkward teenager. Who would process the scariness of talking about relationships and insecurity with your high schooler. To process transitioning to college with your 18-year-old. Who wants to watch your marriage and learn from you. Who wants Christian brothers to add perspective. Who wants to watch how to age in Jesus gracefully. Who wants older women to demonstrate what walking with Jesus looks like in different life stages.

And as I cried to Jesus about this, I realized this.

What I'm seeking from within the church walls, I have only ever experienced outside of it.

The sweetness and authenticity of intense Jesus relationships have occurred around dining tables, during car rides, at desks, on sofas, while playing games, on walks in the park, in homes, and a myriad of other locations.

Moment of conviction. I left the meeting very discouraged and headed to play volleyball. As I changed into my v-ball clothes, I pulled out my "identity" shirt.
It's the one Roo and I designed for Kid's Camp two years ago. And the theme was focused on the question "Who am I?"

None of the answers we discussed related to demographic. They related to who I am in Jesus.

And I was reminded.

I am more than my singleness.
I am more than a mid-thirties female.
I am more than a profession.
I am more than a demographic.
I am more than I perceive to be lacking.
I am more than the blessings the Lord has showered.

I am His.

Maybe it's time for our questions and our answers to change.

Tuesday, October 11, 2016

Asking Someone to Say Yes

Written a few weeks ago...

Contrary to what the title may infer, this has nothing to do with marriage. But I liked this title for what I am writing and since I'm the blog author, I can keep it!

So last night I did it. I asked someone a question with fear and trembling. Ok, not so much trembling, but more the fear of feeling as though I'm encroaching on their time.

I feel as though our culture feels hesitant to ask for help. I learned this especially when I was way down and out with my knee and feeling quite helpless. It is SO dang hard to ask for help! It is humbling and goes against our American "pull yourself up by the bootstraps" mentality of "I can do it all myself".

Returning to last night. I wrote the email. I've been wanting to do it for months. See, two years ago the Lord crazily put me in touch with a group of people here in Dallas that I should never have met, but because I didn't read an email correctly, I showed up late and ended up in a small group I never would have. Thus leading me to a group of other people I would never have met.

And after the study ended, weird connections were made and some really special friendships here in Dallas were birthed.

One of those ladies has become such a dear friend. So dear in fact that she and her family invited me to live with them while I was a disaster with the knee. For four months, I lived in their back apartment and was invited into their family. And my heart sighed with delight.

(View from their back apartment during #projectkneegetbetter)

Since moving back into my own apartment, I've missed the daily interaction and the chats we were able to have. I sensed the Lord pushing me to grow in some areas. And she kept coming to mind. "Just ask her. Ask for her to meet with you. To spend time. Be willing to invest and learn." These words repeated on a never-ending cycle in my mind from the Holy Spirit.

I hesitated. Composing the email dozens of times in my head, I waffled between actually typing it out and then, just maybe hitting send.

The questions and doubts assailed me:
She is so busy and won't have time.
She has a family and I'm taking her away from her roles.
I'm being too selfish in asking for her time.
There are more important things she could be doing.
Why in the world are you even considering this?
What are you going to talk about?

So I told the mental arguments to shut their mouths and last night I whipped out an email. It was not as eloquent as my brain drafts. Partly because I should have known better than to write after 9pm.

And when sent was pressed, you know what? I rested. I felt relief. I did not fear rejection, because I was really ok if she didn't have time. I was at peace knowing the request had been made regardless of the outcome.

And today? I just received a response.

She said yes.

Wednesday, June 29, 2016

Stories: Are We Listening - Conversations in the Shoe Store

I'm reminded and convicted often to notice people. Those right around me. Walking and living life in the very places I visit.

The stories around us are often ignored and undetected. To uncover these riches require time, patience, willingness, and can be uncomfortable.

Recently, I was in a shoe store, browsing among the multi-colored stickers indicating the additional savings. A diminutive woman picked up a pair of shoes I was holding in my hand. (Not the ones in my hand. That would be another story!)

"Those are VERY comfortable. I just tried them on and am purchasing them in another color."

A look of surprise crosses her face and then she responds.

"I have very strange feet. Nothing feels comfortable on them. I used to dance ballet for years." 

"Oh, I'm so sorry to hear that. Hopefully you will be able to find something that is comfortable."

"No, my dear. I wore high heels for years and years. Flats now hurt my feet, but I can no longer wear the heels. I danced and then I suffered an injury and had surgery on my leg. Ever since then, shoes are no longer comfortable. Don't get old, dear. Just stay young forever" 
  She goes on to pick up another pair I had pointed out. Onto her foot it goes.

"A long time ago I used to be a foot model. I wore a 4.5 size shoe. The older I became, the larger my foot became. Now I'm between a 6-7 and I have such a difficult time knowing what size I wear and what will fit and work. (Sigh) And my foot used to be so small." 

The conversation halted at this time. She moved on and my brain was racing with a million questions.

* Where did you live before you were in Texas? (I'm guessing Eastern Europe - beautiful accent).
* Tell me some of your favorite stories working as a shoe model.
* Did you teach dance?
* What were your favorite moments when you danced?
* How did life change for you when you were no longer able to dance?
* Did your heart ache?
* What other gifts and abilities were discovered when you could no longer dance?
* What do you look forward to right now?
* What makes you feel beautiful?
* How did you identity change or how did you struggle with identity when you could no longer dance?

Some of these might be intense. But don't we all want to be known? Perhaps not by a stranger in the shoe aisle. Yet, I wonder, why did she share these small details, if there isn't something within her that longed to be known?

Who do I need to see? Who do I need to be brave enough to ask questions of and wait to hear the stories? Who is around you?

Monday, June 27, 2016

The Littlest Tiny is 2!

Those who know me well know the deepness with which I love my nieces and nephews.
My sister has two baby darlings and my Panama sisters have babies that they kindly share with me and those babies also call me Tia Abby. (This makes me all teary. So love these sweet gifts).

Four and a half years ago, I became a Tia for the first time to CB. She has changed our family for the good. And now two years ago, along came the Littlest Tiny, EM.

Baby girl - how we love you!

From the moment I received this photo, you stole me heart. 
I anxiously sat next to my phone staring at it while working because I knew you were coming. 
Thankfully Granny and Pappy are as equally enamored, so they kept sending me photos. 

Oh baby girl, you add so much to our crazy, fun family! 
You have so much passion and personality. 

(Totally having all these nostalgic moments looking at these photos. When did you grow up so much????) That headband right there? I bought that when we found out your momma was having a girl with your big sister. I couldn't wait to find the most darling hair adornments for your bald baby heads. 

Your big sister has adored you from day 1. 
The videos of her interacting with you on the first few days of your life as some of my favorite. 
EM - you are always loved. 

And your momma just had to put you in her coming home outfit. Two generations and three tiny babies have worn that outfit. And that ridiculously darling bonnet. 

As you have grown older, you get more and more hysterical. 
Tonight your momma told me you are figuring out what having a birthday means this year. 
When someone talks about your birthday, you say, "Cake?" and then starting singing "Happy Birthday" to yourself. That is you, baby girl. 

You are a snuggle bug. You will lay your head down on someones shoulder. 
You give long hugs and I soak those up. 

You go hard. You love to play, especially with your big sister and you watch her to learn lots of things. But you hold your own and are a fighter in your own right! 

You have these insanely giant blue eyes. 
We thought they might change as you've gotten older, but they haven't. 

You are such a happy girl and bring so much joy and laughter to others! 
I love your giggle and your squeals! 
Your voice is super high-pitched and reflects your enthusiasm! 

Oh EM, how we pray big prayers for you. 
We pray you love Jesus more than anything else. 

That your passion for Him oozes out of all that you do. 
And as you continue to grow, that your zeal for life if because of the hope of the Gospel within you. 

And in that vein, EM, I pray you know Jesus as Savior soon. 
That your encounter with the Gospel transforms your life for the Kingdom. 

I pray your joy continues to overflow as a reflection of God's grace and His joy in you. 

And I pray your gifts, love, and life moments have eternal impact on all those who you meet. 
Even now. 

I love you more than I can tell you, Ellister! 
Tia Abby can't wait to see you again and hug your sweet self. 

Friday, June 24, 2016

What a Strange Way to Save Money

For those who know me, I enjoy finding a bargain. Yes, I use money saving apps. I read blogs about finding a deal. I have taken on ordering things for the office because I find it a worthy challenge to save money - be it free shipping, coupon codes, etc.

In the state of Texas, your car needs an annual inspection in order to renew your registration. The process has changed and last year was a transition year for the new procedure.

With this new process that I'm still figuring out, somehow I was able to save money on both steps.

Note: this is not a method as I have no idea how it really happened but who am I to argue with savings?

Step 1: Car inspection.
This stresses me out. Every. Year. It's like preparing for a test that I'm not I can pass. AND I'm not even the one being tested. It's the car! Sheesh!

Julia has a fabulous little place that is a little sketch, but they are quick with the inspection, affordable, and mostly on the way home from work. I've been there before and it is great.

Good news. The car must have studied this year because she passed!

When the man came in to give me the total he said, "$7.
Please note: in years past, I have paid $27ish. I repeated it back and he said, "Yes, $7 because it's diesel."

Who am I to question this savings? Done.

Step 2:
Find out from the inspection man that certain grocery stores in the area will do the registration in person (no mail required!!!).

Step 3:
Go to one of said grocery stores. (Perk: no standing in line!).
Hand over said documentation.

Cashier says, "Well that is strange. Your total is coming in less than the paperwork." 
Me: "Who am I to argue with savings." 

Sure enough, my total is less than the paperwork states. 

Wahoo! I'll take it for saving money. 

Also, I think the reason my inspection was less was due to the fact that my car is one of the VW recalled diesel vehicles. Since it can't accurately pass the emissions test, I'm assuming they didn't run it, therefore making my inspection cost less. This is my theory anywhoo. 

Tuesday, June 21, 2016

Night Noises When Living Alone

For the past year, I've lived on my own for the first time in all of my years. It has been a relatively wonderful experience. I've always had roommates/housemates since college until last year. Moving into my own place has been great, albeit lonely at times.

I've loved being able to blare the music or podcasts whenever the need arises. It's fun to keep things the way I prefer. I love the neighborhood I live in - super safe (very Mayberry feel) and close to lots of things. AND affordable (yes, it's illogical for Dallas, but the Lord and I had a lot of conversations about housing, so I know it is was a gift from Him).

Anywhoo. With all the benefits, there are some downsides.
For example: night noises. I live in an apartment above a garage. It is a detached garage behind the "big house". The owner doesn't park in the garage, but the dogs sleep in there at night.

Fortunately the dogs are not big barkers. (Side story: they must have restless night syndrome (this is my own theory/diagnosis/disorder), because one of the crates looked like this after a night of sleep. And all that fur outside of the crate was brand new shedding. It is crazy madness some nights going on down there). 

I digress. Last night, I was going to sleep. The dogs are gone. The owner is gone. It's just me. In the garage apartment. Alone. 

I've just turned out the lights and there is a crash in what sounds like downstairs in the garage. Immediately, I have the racing heart syndrome with the wide-eyes. What the dickens? And then the imagination goes wild. Is it a burglar? Do they know I'm here alone? Or do they not know I'm up here? There is not much of value in the garage downstairs. Was it just the wind slamming the door closed downstairs? What could have fallen? Do I go investigate? (The obvious answer is NO!)
Is this strange noise, which of course must be a creeper, going to wait all night until I leave early in the morning for physical therapy? I'm sure they've been staking out the joint and know that I'm injured, can't run, and can say Boo! Then I'll fall down the stairs and re-injure my knee. 

Does anyone else play out these crazy scenarios in your head? 

Anywhoo. I wake up this morning. And of course these irrational plans come rushing back to mind. I have my plan. Keep the door in my door from the inside. Open the door. Do an initial glance with what I can see. Plan to slam the door if said creeper is seen. Call 911. Screen like a banshee. Grab something to wield as a weapon. Next phase, when exiting the apartment, be prepared and be cool. (this is plan B). Make "friends" with said creeper and act as though they are there to clean the pool or pick up some random flowerpots and be chill. "Oh hi. You must be the person the owner of the big house was telling me about..."

Bottom line. Nothing happened. No contingency plans needed to be implemented. 

Living alone can be entertaining when your imagination goes crazy. 

Monday, June 20, 2016

Air Conditioning is Wonderful

Monday. Such an interesting day of the week. I don't mind Mondays, most of the time. Especially if I have slept well the night previously (thank you, Lord, for good rest last night). 

I was looking back through old pictures and the following ones appeared. I had forgotten about the energy conservation in Panama a few years ago. 

Basically, lights and air conditioning were turned off during 8am - 4pm. Which I find interesting that this is over the refrigerated items. Granted, I'm sure the intent was to inform patrons as to why you might be shopping for your butter in the darkened cases, though it could be misinterpreted that the coolers were also being turned off. However, they weren't. (At least not that I remember). 

Also, I ran across this photo and was reminded as to one of the reasons I love living in the states - fruit doesn't cost my whole monthly grocery budget! 

Yes, that is 8oz of strawberries for $6. Sheesh! Just this week, I saw strawberries 1lb for $2.50. Yes, please! 

This is why I take pictures to remember and be reminded of sweet times and interesting notes. 

Speaking of Panama, this happened yesterday. 

These women. These friendships. My heart aches with gratitude as I think back over this incredible friendships that have remained over the distance and time. (And we are missing Jess and Roo in this photo). In four weeks, we will be together for our annual reunion and to reconnect. My greatest fear when we were all scattered was that our friendships would fade into distant memories. But in the Lord's grace, they have remained and continue to be strong. I love these women. I love our shared memories. I love the journeys we have shared together - both sweet and painful. And in four weeks, more memories will be made and more stories will be shared and more hilarity will occur! 

Sunday, June 19, 2016

Thoughts Floating About

Gracious! It has been a long time since I have blogged. There are some posts that have been drafted, but remain unpublished. Maybe one day.

I was listening to a podcast yesterday about leadership and business and there was a challenge to blog every day. Even if no one reads it. I like that.  No Pressure. Just the opportunity to write and process and think. And I find writing down my thoughts helps me to remember moments, funny anecdotes, and life events.

Today is Father's Day. I don't have the same knee-jerk reaction to Father's Day as I do to Mother's Day. Though as I sat in church, I wondered if men react like some women to this day. I sit in church on Mother's day some years and struggle with the ache to be a mom. Do men have that reaction? I don't have answers, more just curiosity and questions.

Today as I was teaching Sunday school, I was reminded how much I love it.
We sat around the table chatting. I also realized how out of touch with current pop culture I am. The kiddos were talking about moves they wanted to see. The only one I knew about was "Finding Dory" (that might be because I loved Finding Nemo). Even my co-teacher who is a couple of decades older than I am knew what the kiddos were talking about. Oh well.

These words literally came out of my mouth while teaching today, "Please don't jump on the walls." There is no other explanation other than said student had literally just jumped on the wall. Oh, you don't think it can be done? Feel free to come and visit. Sure do love those munchkins. They bring no small amount of delight and joy!

Luke received a funny text today from a stranger to wish him a happy Father's day. When he posted it, I thought I was going to have to have a serious sisterly conversation if this was their way of making an announcement. Nope, it was really a mis-sent text from a stranger.

A few year's ago, this happened and it still makes me laugh.

This morning. In June. In Dallas. And it's hot. A little boy was at the bagel shop in his fleece snowman pajamas. And he was the cutest thing. His mom let him go up with money and buy something to drink. You would have thought he was going to Disney! He was so excited and so stinkin' cute!

This is a whole separate set of blog posts (and this small update is more a reminder to the me in the future). My knee is spazzing out this week. Whew. It's been a rough regression of progress. I've had to be reminded again this week of what is possible as opposed to what is not.

Things my knee can do:
* Walk without a brace or crutches
* Stand for long periods of time
* Bend a good ways
* Drive a car
* Walk up stairs (albeit quite slowly and only one at a time)

It's a humbling place to not be able to do what once took no effort. The Lord continues to remind me of how far we have come. The road to healing isn't over yet. Thankful for the medical professionals who continue to help and encourage. Seeing glimpses of purpose in all of this.