Category Archives: Thankfulness

Then

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Then

This past weekend I watched my youngest son as he stepped out onto the surface of a snow-covered frozen lake, one hand clutching the hand of the woman he loves and the other hand, deep in his pocket, clutching a tiny box that contained a promise for the future. John and I watched them as they laughed and skidded their way to the center of the lake, snow giving way to dark gray ice with a matching sky above. From fifty yards away, we saw him hand his camera to a bystander, turn back to his love, and drop to his knee. We knew it was coming (who didn’t?) and when this moment came, I fully expected to see his life flash before my eyes: my cheerful, happy baby with his thumb firmly embedded in his mouth…his blonde chili-bowl haircut…his way of happily commanding attention in a room full of large teenage football players. But instead of seeing a parade of pictures of Micah, images of our own marriage played through my mind.

This continued as the evening went on – as we celebrated with them, prayed with them, and heard their joyful phone calls to family and friends back home. We sat across a table from them in a restaurant and listened to them as they made their plans for their wedding party and wedding songs and wedding places.

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I could not recall some details of our own wedding planning – though I remember invitations and flowers and cakes. Watching Micah and Courtney, I could not help but think of the words to the song “Then”:

“We’ll look back someday, at this moment that we’re in,

And I’ll look at you and say –

‘And I thought I loved you, then…’”

The fun of setting up our own little home, just the way we liked it, with a monthly mobile home payment of $202.89. Buying and paying down my parents enormous Oldsmobile Delta 88 four-door sedan. Snuggling on Sunday afternoons on the old hand-me-down family furniture, cooking all kinds of John’s favorite things. Gaining weight. Figuring out how to pay for school, juggle family time during holidays, and learning the hard way about keeping the car tires aligned. The all-encompassing, overwhelming love for babies, sleep deprivation and desperate desire to protect them. Uncertainties and insecurities. Faithfulness. Are we making the right decisions? Losing our grandmothers. Where do we want our boys to grow up, make friends, go to school? Fourth grade performances, football practices, stomach viruses, good (and not so good) friendships, making time for a date so we can remember who we are together. School board campaigns, not-so-smart decisions, secrets kept and confessed and forgiven. High school graduations, birds leaving the nest one by one, figuring out how to help pay for college, job changes, hurting together as we watched our parents’ health decline. Grieving with our grown children in their losses and struggling with them in health issues. Losing my dad. The birth of beautiful grandchildren.

Bits of 32 years in a paragraph. But woven all through every struggle, triumph, joy, argument, excitement, achievement, loss, confession, physical change, emotional strain; through the brightest of days and the darkest of storms, there has been the deepest love that has grown exponentially. God has walked with us through every event, and we have praised Him and talked with Him every day. I’ve held the same hand for more than 32 years as hands larger than ours guided our steps. Only recently has my husband begun to show signs of age – deep laugh lines around his eyes and mouth, graying hair dignifying his already handsome face. 32 years ago, I would not have thought it possible to love him more than I did then. 32 years ago, I think I might have laughed to think he would be more attractive to me at 52 than he was at 20. But it’s all true.

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I never want to detract from the love that Micah and Courtney share now.  It’s real and deep and true. But I have an idea of what’s ahead for them, and it’s even better than they imagine. Experiencing life and love together, with the guiding hand of God, with His love and blessings raining down upon them in whatever they encounter – they have so much to look forward to! Praising God for His gifts of love, marriage, family, memories and blessings that flow from one generation to the next!

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Meet An Old Lady

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An old lady in the Costco parking lot got really mad at me yesterday.

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(By “old” – I mean that she appeared to be in her late sixties. My apologies to my friends who may be advanced in years – YOU aren’t old!)

I’ll spare you the details. Suffice it to say that the entire city of Austin decided to go to Costco yesterday, and there was an automobile slugfest in the parking lot. I was on the wrong side of the aisle when I spotted her pulling out, and as she was backing up, I pulled slightly forward and to the right to get out of her way.

What followed was a lot of arm waving and rude gesturing and angry eyes and words I couldn’t hear (thankfully.) As I sat there in disbelief, she laid on her horn and then gunned her fancy BMW SUV toward the hood of my car. The look in her eyes was memorable – as was the nervous look in the eyes of her passenger – a woman that looked old enough to be her mother.

Maybe she’d had a bad day. Maybe she’d just had someone shout at her. Maybe she was sick. Maybe she hadn’t started her Christmas shopping yet. Didn’t she know it’s the most wonderful time of the year??

But I couldn’t help thinking of something that my mother passed down to me (and has given to a lot of other women) – an essay called “Meet An Old Lady”. The author is unknown. It might take you a couple of minutes to read – but it’s sobering and well worth the time.

“You are going to meet an old lady someday. Down the road ahead, ten, twenty, thirty years; she’s waiting for you. You will be catching up with her. What kind of old lady are you going to meet? That is a rather significant question.

She may be a seasoned, soft and gracious lady. A lady who has grown old gracefully, surrounded by a host of friends – friends who call her ‘blessed’ because of what her life has meant to them.

She may be a bitter, disillusioned, dried-up, cynical old buzzard, without a good word for anyone or anything – soured, friendless, alone.

The kind of old lady you will meet will depend entirely upon you. She will be exactly what you make of her – nothing more, nothing less. It is up to you. You will have no one else to credit or blame.

Every day, in every way, you are becoming more and more like that old lady. Amazing, but true. You are getting to look more like her, think more like her, and talk more like her. You are becoming her.

If you live only in terms of what you are getting out of life, the old lady gets smaller, drier, harder, crabbier, more self-centered.

Open your life to others, think in terms of what you can give, your contribution to life, and the old lady grows larger, softer, kinder, greater.

The point to remember is that these things don’t always show up immediately. But they will – sooner than you think. These little things, seemingly so unimportant now – attitudes, goals, ambitions, desires – are adding up inside, where you cannot see them, crystallizing in your heart and mind. Some day they will harden into that old lady; nothing will be able to soften or change them then.

The time to take care of that old lady is right now, today. Examine your motives, attitudes, goals. Check up on her. Work her over now while she is still pliable, still in a formative condition. Day comes swiftly soon when it is too late. The hardness sets in, worse than paralysis. Character crystallizes, sets, gels. That’s the finish.

Any wise business person takes an inventory regularly. Merchandise is not half as important as the person. You had better take a bit of personal inventory, too. Then you will be much more likely to meet a lovely, gracious old lady at the proper time.”

I am thankful for that mean old lady yesterday – she reminded me of who I don’t want to become.  I’ve known a lot of gentle, kind, and beautiful “old” ladies in my time. My mother and my mother-in-law are at the very tip top of the list. Gwen Worthy. Ruth Locke. Inaleen Varner. And so many, many, many more! I’m going to meet an old lady sooner than I think – hopefully she will be soft and gentle and kind and admirable.

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.

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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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. 🙂

Bacon Makes Me Happy

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Last Sunday, John made us miserable but today he made us happy. 🙂 One of the things that he said that stood out to me was this:

“The world promises a lot, but delivers little.”

Isn’t that the truth? We love to be given gifts and pampered and showered with adoration and praise – we think THAT is what makes us happy. But God gives a much better picture of happiness:

“Blessed is the man who walks not in the counsel of the wicked, nor stands in the way of sinners, nor sits in the seat of scoffers; but his delight is in the law of the Lord, and on his law he meditates day and night. He is like a tree planted by streams of water that yields its fruit in its season, and its leaf does not wither. In all that he does, he prospers.” (Psalm 1:1-3)

We also think that being skinny will make us happy. But today, Oreo Balls and Holiday Bacon Appetizers made ME happy – at least temporarily. Here is the link for those of you who asked:

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http://www.foodnetwork.com/recipes/ree-drummond/holiday-bacon-appetizers-recipe/index.html

They don’t look too pretty, but they were tasty!

Food log today – cottage cheese and one scrambled egg for breakfast, and about 10 almonds. Lunch – 4 oz meatloaf (made with 96% lean ground beef), 1/2 of a baked potato with a Laughing Cow swiss cheese (you can have TWO for ONE point!), green beans. A 1X2 slice of Tim’s birthday cake. Supper…finger foods at our Care Group meeting. I had 3 of the bacon appetizers, some pita chips and hummus, two boneless Wild Wings, some carrots, and a naked Oreo Ball (no chocolate coating – probably cut the calories by a little bit!) 🙂 Not a great food day. Oh, well – tomorrow is another day.

Pray.

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John prayed for me to lose weight. I guess some women might find that offensive…and I guess if I thought he was asking God to turn me into Angelina Jolie, I might have been offended. (And because he knows what’s good for him, he was careful how he told me.)

I knew he was asking God to help me be healthier. But it caught me a little by surprise, because I tend to think that God has much bigger things to pay attention to than “Carla’s struggle with fat.” The more I thought about it, though, the more comfort I felt. There is no anxiety too small or too large that can’t be given over to Him, because He cares for me and you. I read that in 1 Peter 5, and tell other people about it, and I need to remember that it applies to me, too.

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I put that picture in the middle there to distract you from my food log for the day, because my determination was low, and my struggle was high. For breakfast I had a few cocoa roasted almonds, 2 ounces of Boar’s Head ham, and 1/2 cup of cottage cheese. That’s pretty much the end of the determination. Lunch and supper consisted of two Mexican food places: Garcias and Trudy’s.  Garcia’s = chips. I had two cheese enchiladas and about 1/4 cup each of rice and beans. And chips. At Trudy’s I had two smoked chicken tacos. (Man, I wish I could re-create those smoked chicken tacos at home!) And chips.

I bet even Angelina Jolie wouldn’t be able to resist Garcia’s chips.