Category Archives: Happiness

Camp

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When Micah was little bitty, he and I stayed home while John took Jordan and Jake with him to camp. Not being much of the outdoorsy, adventurous type, I preferred to stay in the relatively bug-free air-conditioned comfort of home. I never quite “got” why John and the big boys seemed to be so changed – on a higher plane, if you will – when they returned home.  But I get it now.

By the time Micah was about five years old, John and the big boys were begging us to come along and make it a family experience. My choices seemed to be (1) have another baby in order to stay home from camp, or (2) go to camp. Since the first option seemed a bit extreme, I decided to bite the bullet and spend a week at Camp Hensel.

Hensel, for those of you who haven’t experienced it, is not quite a five-star resort. It isn’t the Marriott. It’s not the Holiday Inn Express. It’s not even Motel 6. It’s more along the lines of the Bates Motel. Let’s just say Hensel has been around for a long time – so long, in fact, that I think some of the bugs stuck between the windows and rusty screens of Cabin 2 have been there since before I went as a child in the 70’s. The shower house for the boys is something straight out of the House of Torment: rusty nails, scary spiders and all. The Road House has a raccoon family in residence.  So I am firmly convinced, every year that our group returns relatively unscathed from a week at Hensel, that God has kept His protective hand over us.

Yes, there is heat. Oppressive, humid, sweaty heat. And bugs. And dirt – lots of dirt.  Shower shoes are a must. People tend to smell a little musty during their week at Hensel. We may occasionally get a teensy bit irritable. And maybe it’s because we only get about four hours of sleep each night.

BUT! There are the absolute best people in the world. A week spent away from the cares of the world and focusing on what is truly important. Lessons rich from the word of God, from men who have a gift for imparting His message. Meals eaten side by side with some of our best friends in the world. God’s beautiful creation evident all around us.

There are little boys (most likely wearing the same clothes for three days straight) whose ratty bed-head is absolutely adorable . Little girls who run around hand in hand, like these two:

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There is time to bond with young men and women – away from their telephones and iPads and any other electronic device. I  find it fascinating that they often come into the cabin on Sunday afternoon with a reserved demeanor (and sometimes downright distrust,) but by the end of the week they run to you with open arms, because the powerful word of God has entered into their hearts, and because we have been given the opportunity to show them that we truly care about them. These were most of mine and Denise’s girls this week – how I love each of these young women!

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There are times to pray, alone and together. Times to catch a glimpse into the sweet relationships between mothers and daughters; fathers and sons. Time to reflect on how blessed we are to be able to minister to others and for them to minister to us.

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And the singing! Can you imagine nearly 250 (dirty, sweaty) people crowded into a medium sized (un-air-conditioned) dining hall, windows and doors closed (because the acoustics are better) and singing for an hour? Andy Baker always encourages and reminds us to concentrate on the words of the songs and remember to Whom we are singing. This must be what heaven sounds like.

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The most beautiful sight was to see the compassion and care from so many when an individual had the courage to step forward and ask for prayers. They were immediately surrounded by so many – and not just their closest friends, but people they may not have known so well. What an amazing group of tender-hearted young people we spent the week with! I saw God in their compassionate, sympathetic tears.

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If you haven’t been, it’s hard to explain, and I hope someday you’ll know. I know we aren’t alone with our experience at Hensel – other camps provide the same experiences as well. I only wish that everyone could spend a week away, digging deep into God’s truths and retreating from the world.

Some of my favorite quotes from the week:

“When God uses you as His instrument, it doesn’t matter if you’re outnumbered.” Todd Crayton

“The Bible never gives us something to subtract from our lives without giving us something to add in its place.” Andy Baker

“If you’re against God, who can be FOR you?…Going to heaven is not easy, y’all, but going to heaven is worth it.” Mike Bonner

After a young lady had responded, Wayne Jones said that “her tears are a reflection of her heart.” What a beautiful statement.

When we arrived at Hensel, a dead feral hog was discovered in a stand of trees near the creek. Each time we walked to the creek for a baptism, the odor was overpowering. But John pointed out, in yet another teachable moment, that it was the “smell of death – and we don’t bury living people. In baptism, we die to our sins, are buried, and raised to walk in newness of life.” 2013-06-12 002 2013-06-12 011

I overheard Michaela Bonner comforting a fellow camper (whose grandmother is near death,) saying “You’ll see her again someday, and you’ll be even happier than you are now!”

We laughed a lot, too. A LOT.  Gretchen said “If you tried to stop some girls from talking, their heads would explode!” There are too many funny things that our girls said this week for me to record – and anyway, they’re just between us girls. 🙂

Coming home from camp is so bittersweet. I can’t wait to sleep in my own bed. Not have to stand in the sun with 250 people before I eat. Not have to wait in a line of 100 people to eat lunch. Sit with my elbows on the table. Have the bathroom to myself.

But I’m going to miss my brothers and sisters. Back to living in the world – a world that needs Christian light. And hopefully we have all better prepared ourselves, and those with whom we spent the week, to reflect the light of Jesus to a lost and dying world. I’m praying for those young people who have to face reality again. I’m praying that they’ll remember the strength and encouragement they received at camp when they’re faced with inevitable temptation.

I’m glad my boys all encouraged me to experience camp with them. It’s been life changing. I hope you’ll someday have your life changed, as well.

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Do Nouns Make You Happier Than Verbs?

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I just got an email from eBay that said “Carla: still looking for a handbag?”

Hmmm. Is someone watching me? I’ll admit, I do have this tiny problem with handbags: I like them. And cute dishes, and Tervis tumblers and Yellow Box flip flops. And I like it when John takes me out to dinner. I don’t really like being the center of attention, but I don’t mind – on a small scale – when it’s “all about me!”

But – the world doesn’t revolve around me.

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Shocking, isn’t it? Here’s more: it doesn’t revolve around you, either.

We all want to be happy. I want to be happy. You want to be happy. Our kids want to be happy. We want to make them happy. “Happy, happy, happy!” (Thanks, Phil.)

Here’s the problem, though. Where does our happiness come from? Nouns, or verbs?

Recently, while preparing a lesson about ways to influence and teach teenage girls, I was thinking about how we tend to use NOUNS (people, places, and things) to make our girls (and GUYS, for that matter) happy. Did someone hurt your feelings? Let’s go buy you a new pair of shoes. Bad day at school? Let’s go to the movies. Your friend got a new purse? We’ll get you a more expensive one. This will make you feel better, baby.

It’s sort of like the drain in the bathtub with no stopper…we keep trying to fill it up. But something else will always come up…a new want, another bad day, and the THINGS just keep pouring down the drain.

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But what if we used VERBS to make our kids happy? What if we used verbs to make US happy? Did someone hurt your feelings? Let’s stop right here and ask God to soften their heart and also to open our eyes to our own insensitivities. Bad day at school? Let’s go by and see how we can help this hurting family in need. Your friend got a new purse? Let’s go through your closet and see what we can share with someone who REALLY needs it.

Believe me, I’m talking to Carla, too.

This isn’t anything new. God said it centuries ago.

“So if there is any encouragement in Christ, any comfort from love, any participation in the Spirit, any affection and sympathy, complete my joy by being of the same mind, having the same love, being in full accord and of one mind. Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves. Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others.” Philippians 2:1-4

“The greatest among you shall be your servant. Whoever exalts himself will be humbled, and whoever humbles himself will be exalted.” Matthew 23:11-12

“Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for RIGHTEOUSNESS, for they shall be satisfied…let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven.” Matthew 5:6, 16 (emphasis mine)

Nouns make us happy, but it’s a temporary happy. We are always going to want another new pair of shoes. But verbs – now THOSE will really make a difference. Not only in my life, but in the lives of those I am helping! Our kids might balk at first. They might drag their feet (or we might have to drag their feet for them…) 😉 but given plenty of opportunities, they (and we!) will see the lasting happiness that comes from being a servant of God.

Then, instead of a draining bathtub, we can be like those beautiful infinity pools we see in magazines…the kind of pool that spills over and shares beauty and flows out with God’s living water. Who wouldn’t want to be there?

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I Want to Look Like Her

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Earlier this week, I went along with a group of Christians in Hamilton to visit several ladies who reside in assisted living centers there. I could not take my eyes off one woman in particular. Her name is Bobbie.

photo (3)She was beautiful. Her face was wreathed in smiles. She was so happy to see each person who walked into the room. She sat smiling, with her eyes closed, listening and joining in with the songs we sang.

I don’t know any of Bobbie’s history or circumstances. From what I could see, she had few earthly possessions. She was bound to her wheelchair. Her clothes were plain and her surroundings, though comfortable, were spare.

And in the few moments that we were there, I felt my eyes sting and my heart twist.

Because some women *my age* tend to be absorbed in keeping the wrinkles at bay and washing the grey out of our hair. We examine ourselves critically in the mirror to see signs of aging and fading. We spend a lot of money on creams and sprays and potions. We rue those extra pounds. And we look at Brooke Shields and Jane Seymour and wonder how they manage to look so timeless.

But Bobbie exemplifies beauty, to me. She knows the joy of the Lord. She loves His people. His people love her. Her physical appearance may not be the world’s icon of beauty, but the Lord’s idea is different. “…The Lord sees not as man sees: man looks on the outward appearance, but the Lord looks on the heart.” (1 Samuel 16:7)

I want to look like her when I grow up.

My Silly Personal Pity Party

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I have a confession to make: today, I had a tiny bit of a personal pity party.

You see, I woke up with a headache – the kind that doesn’t go away. And John is out of town again. Then I didn’t push my coffee cup lid down hard enough, and I poured hot coffee down my chin (so it has been cherry red all day) and on my shirt (the one I wanted to wear) and it dribbled on my white pants (which I wore anyway.)  Then on the way to take Micah to school, someone a few cars ahead decided to be nice and let another car in…but it slowed us all down, and the teenybopper with the phone in her hand behind me didn’t slow down with us. By the time she did decide to slow down, I could see her uvula reflected in my rear-view mirror. THEN, Flores put beans on my taco, which (as Mike Rowe is fond of saying) was unfortunate.  And when I went to have a pedi to make myself feel better, the lady (who was very sweet, but I think we were each having a conversation that neither of us understood) rubbed some kind of lotion on my legs that I must be allergic to, and now I have these cute little red bumps.

And it was my birthday, and I had absolutely no plans. With anyone.

I felt sorry for myself for a while. I didn’t feel very special. Then I started feeling really ashamed of myself. I was humbled. And I started questioning myself.  How often have I made other people feel special on their birthdays? (Not very often, I’m afraid.) Have I been as thoughtful towards others as I should? (Not always.) Have I been self-absorbed, instead of serving others? (Yes.) How spoiled am I, to think everything must revolve around me? How silly, to feel sorry for myself when I have so much to be thankful for! How blessed am I, to have been made to feel special all of these 45 years I’ve been on this earth!

Every time I’ve looked at my phone today, I’ve seen birthday wishes from treasured friends everywhere.

The most wonderful man on the planet loves me. ME!

My family is happy and healthy.

I ate a Flores taco (which I haven’t allowed myself in two years.)

I enjoyed my pedicure (despite the bumps.)

I got a birthday call from Rig!

My dog just licked my elbow, which I take to mean “Happy Birthday” (or maybe, “may I please have the leftover chicken?”)

And Micah and I are about to sit down for another few episodes of LOST.

Life is good. I am blessed beyond measure. Thank you, God! Happy birthday to me!

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A Fire Pit Would Have Been A Whole Lot Easier!

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Several weeks ago, Jake asked me what I wanted for Christmas. I’d been wishing for a really nice fire pit like Alice has in her back yard. (Of course, her back yard also has 100-foot pine trees – with bears occasionally in them, summertime highs of 60 degrees, a salty ocean scent, and views of snow-capped mountains to go with her crushed rock fire pit surrounded by really cool log stools to sit on. And her back yard has Alice, too, but I can’t have EVERYTHING!)

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So, I told Jake I wanted a back yard fire pit surrounded by crushed rock with really cool log stools (except I don’t think our scrawny cedar tree stumps would have quite the same effect) and twinkly lights in the trees like Bonnie’s.

Off we went to Lowe’s, where John was in hog heaven dreaming of all of the projects he could accomplish with unlimited time, patience, and money. He and Jake started pulling out bricks and stacking them in a circle, calculating how many they’d need and how high the pit should be and what color would look best and all of those boring details. It started looking like some serious money was going to go into a project I thought would cost MAYBE $75.

While we were there, I got to looking at tile and thinking “if we’re gonna spend THAT much money, we might as well spend a little more and get something that I REALLY need and want.” Our house was built in 1994. Vinyl flooring was standard in most kitchens, and I also made the most unfortunate choice of carpet in the dining room.

Carpet. In the dining room. With three boys. And their friends. And Joshua. And Grant Garrett spilling an entire plate of spaghetti sauce. And who knows how many football boys who didn’t ‘fess up to dripped pizza roll sauce. And several dog accidents. Need I say more?

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So, we decided to bite the bullet and pull the trigger and take the bull by the horns. Some expressed doubt (*cough*Doug*cough*) and others said things like “man, that killed me!” (*cough*Jonas*cough*) but those same people loaned tools and advice and space in a dumpster and a “YOU CAN DO IT” pat on the back (thanks Jonas! And Tim! And Darrell! And Bill! And Doug!)

And our kids. They were amazing. I can’t even say how much work they did – and did with a smile (except for the times that John and Jake butted heads because they are too much alike…) Jordan was a whiz with the tile saw and all of the angles that had to be figured. Jake muscled through that stubborn vinyl down to the bitter end, and Alyssa did a lot of dirty work with an iron, boiling water and a scraper. Erin was a grout master and always has vision for projects like this. Micah willingly helped with everything. I can’t say that the project itself was FUN, but it was FUN to be with all of our kids and laugh and make memories with them. John is a fabulous handyman – I’ve always admired the way he tackles a project, and he does things right the first time.

Yet…the project isn’t completely finished. I still have to seal the grout. John has to put new baseboards down. The carpet seam has to be re-stretched and tacked down. Our stove is still on the deck and fridge is still in the living room. There are still about 6 tiles that need to be laid in the pantry. And if this project is like some others in our history, it might be 2016 before some of these things get done. 😉

For those of you who have read this far and are wondering – what does this have to do with weight loss? Well, for one: laying tile for 8 hours earns you 35 points plus!

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And for another: my blog is about struggle, determination, and balance and I guarantee that those were all involved in this project.

But I have to laugh when I think of what Jake said a couple of days into the endeavor: “A fire pit would have been a WHOLE lot easier.”

Here are some “before” photos. Pardon the mess and don’t judge! 😉

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If you’ve ever wondered what’s underneath your carpet…here it is:

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SICK!!!

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And in case you wonder what you might find under your stove that hasn’t been moved in 17 years…here ya go:

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We had to cut the carpet to divide the living room from dining room. I was at work during this “no-turning-back” moment, so the guys handed off the scary job to Alyssa. 🙂

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Then, the really dirty work started. John thought the vinyl would come up easily. NOT. We hacked away at it, scraped, beat it, screamed at it, and seriously thought about TORCHING it. In the end, we had to sit a hot, steamy iron directly on every square inch of vinyl until it heated enough to be pulled away from the paper backing and adhesive below it. Then we had to pour boiling water on top of THAT mess and wait for it to soak in, then scrape it away with scrapers and chisels and any other sharp-edged tool we could find. This was HARD, and SWEATY, and SLOW, and AWFUL. Just looking at these pictures makes my stomach hurt. 😉

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My glamour shot: I was tired. It was late. 🙂


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No yuppie women here! 🙂

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Hanes, anyone?

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HINT: If you have to ruin some irons, get them from Goodwill for $3.99.

Well, we finally got the floor uncovered, but found that the builders had spray painted the trim on the concrete floor so we worried that the paint would have to come up before the thinset would adhere. Thankfully – Bill said it would be fine as it was.

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Next John “popped a line” of chalk to get a straight line to start thinking about laying the tile. We had originally thought we’d lay it in straight vertical (or horizontal?) rows but John’s friend Darrell (who does a lot of tile work) said that while laying it diagonally would mean more cuts and more work, we would like the results better.

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The first bit of mortar (or whatever it’s called…) in the kitchen/dining room is laid…

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Awww.
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Lots of cutting and figuring:

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2013-01-03 001 2013-01-03 002(Kim would be proud that John knows how to use a quilting tool.) 😉

2012-12-31 002 2012-12-31 005Of course it had to be nasty, cold and rainy while this project was going on…

And THIS picture was taken after we got home from the New Year’s Eve party, about 1 a.m.:

2012-12-31 001 2012-12-31 006It started to take off!

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John didn’t want to lay the tile diagonally in the laundry room because there would’ve been too many cuts and wasted tile. So we decided to put a fun transition piece between the kitchen and laundry (and also between the game room and dining room.)

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This is my favorite part!

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No BUTTS about it…this was a tough project! 😉

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Had to crawl through a few windows…

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And make a few tricky moves:

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We made a *few* Home Depot runs…

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And the grouting started. Isn’t she pretty?

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John did a lot of “figgerin'” in his head. Which is funny to look at but is really smart, because as your momma and daddy always told you… “If you do it right the first time, you don’t have to do it again!”

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The LAST TILE! (Well, except for those few little ones in the laundry room.) Hint: save the last pieces for the ones that won’t show (under the stove, etc.) because by then you almost won’t CARE what it looks like. 😉

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Grouting the kitchen/dining:

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MESSY.

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And the (almost) finished result!

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I sure do love these people!

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Thanks for letting me share! I know it’s certainly not the biggest or most amazing or fantastic project, but we are pretty excited about it! A fire pit may have been easier, but this is A WHOLE LOT BETTER!

No Regrets

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While digging through cabinets looking for our missing Christmas DVD’s, John discovered our old video camera and some tapes. They contained footage of old Christmases, Jacob’s *stellar* performance as Daddy Warbucks in his 8th grade musical, and Jordan’s summertime 7 on 7 football games.

Plenty of laughs. There were Jordan and Jacob in 1998, with their arms around each other, standing on the hearth singing “Joy to the World, ‘cuz Barney’s dead…they barbecued his head…” (Wow, really? Where did they come up with such violence??) Micah’s statically-electrified bedhead hair flying around on Christmas morning as he pushed his new Fisher Price Toddler Trike around the living room. John and me, both at least 50 pounds heavier, which didn’t exactly make us laugh but DID give us extra incentive to head to the gym tonight. 🙂 And there was my Dad at one of Jordan’s middle school basketball games, with considerably more hair on his head.

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I found myself swallowing tears too, and wondering why. It’s just so bittersweet. At the time, you might not think much about your little boys throwing their arms around you with unrestrained happiness and unfeigned love. It’s easy to take little things like that for granted.

But I got to thinking about how much more “sweet” we have than “bitter” – and how thankful I am that God gave us a handbook to guide our steps. Thankful for a husband who led our home spiritually and emotionally – and in every way. Thankful that our memories are a blessing and not a curse. And thankful that we don’t have serious regrets about our boys.

Food log….been kinda iffy on that for the last week or so, for obvious reasons. I think I’m going to start posting a screen shot of my Weight Watchers log instead of re-typing it here. Starting tomorrow. Because I’m regretting the food choices of the last week. 🙂

The FINE Art of Sandwich Making

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While many of you are crafting creative and complicated Christmas cookies, Micah and I thought we would share this simple, yet tasty recipe called “Ham Sandwich”. Guaranteed to satisfy the 10:00 p.m. pains of even the hungriest of 14 year old boys, all of the ingredients are likely already in your cabinet and refrigerator (because unlike Martha Stewart, we don’t keep arugula or chopped pickled jalapeno chiles laying around our house.)

First, gather your ingredients:

Oroweat Oat Nut bread (or any bread); Boar’s Head Bavarian ham (or any ham), thinly sliced; cheddar cheese; spreadable butter (not recommended if you’re counting calories…); Best Maid hamburger pickle slices; Kraft Mayo (also not recommended…); French’s Spicy Brown mustard; Julio’s salsa; and baby spinach.

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Next, spread butter on the INside of your sandwich. A logical person (meaning – ME) would say that the butter goes on the OUTside of your sandwich, but apparently 14-year-olds like for the butter to melt on the inside.

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Then add your cheddar cheese. If you’re feeling adventurous, you can cut star shapes out of your cheese. Micah was just feeling hungry, so he went for the uneven slice look.

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Ham goes on the opposite side.

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Next, you drizzle some spicy brown mustard over the cheese. Micah usually writes “I love  Mommy” with the mustard. Not really. 🙂

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A delicate sprinkling of baby (not adult!) spinach adds some vitamins and nutrients.

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Then, it heads to the toaster. Pay no attention to the crumb buildup beneath the sandwich and don’t judge.

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After the toasting, add pickles. You don’t add them BEFORE toasting, Micah says, because you want your pickles to be cold.

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Add a dollop of Julio’s salsa to your plate for dipping…

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and DIG IN.
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And to make your mama happy, CLEAN UP AFTER YOURSELF!

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My food log today: 2 oz ham and a small handful of almonds for breakfast; lunch at my mother’s: chicken casserole, green beans, salad w/ 1 tsp Creamy Italian dressing, and a roll. And 2 spice cookies and some chocolate candy thing Mom made. 😦 Supper was a cup of soup and some pita chips & hummus.