January 19

I Stand By, Stand By Me.

There are over 20 students right now who have been wait-listed.

Hill country children, boys and girls of various ages, have reached out, signed up and said, “I’d like to have a mentor.”

The thing that amazes me about that, besides how totally doable that number is in this kind of community, but also that these kids have the discernment and wisdom to recognize their own needs.

Something is missing.

It may be a single-parent situation where there is more to do than hours in a day. It may be a child being raised by grandparents only, but there is a growing gap that needs to be filled.

I began mentoring because my dogs got tired of hearing me whine about missing my own girls. I could tell by the way they walked to another room when I called their name. Or maybe Mr. Riley just didn’t want to wear his ivy league patterned sweater. I’m not sure.

The newly emptied nest and barren refrigerator left me looking for a place to give back and someone to spend time with. I needed a park or bookstore buddy and a person who enjoyed baking dog treats and cupcakes the way I do.

Through Elizabeth Nolen of Boerne ISD, I was connected to Kylie. We wanted to spend time together outside of school, so she recommended the incredible Stand by Me program that connects adults with children who have asked for a mentor through the Hill Country Daily Bread outreach efforts.

This fun, easy-going, volunteer activity doesn’t take as much as it gives back in many unexpected ways. On Thursdays, I spend an hour eating lunch at the school because I still crave Sloppy Joes served on plastic separated compartment trays, and I can’t get enough canned chocolate pudding with whip cream.

Also, it’s a mid-week break for us to catch up on what’s new, what’s hot and what’s not. Last week we practiced the lost art of writing thank you notes with sticky chicken barbecue fingers.

Kylie is an excellent student and has been helping out by critiquing and reading my children’s writing projects. She is unafraid to offer suggestions and I like that about her. We also both have unreasonable escalator issues and successfully rode the ones at Barnes and Noble after selecting a perfect 5th-grade girl book.

Then we went to Olive Garden because she rocked her report card, and, well, because, pasta. And endless salad. That was a big day.

Simple is just as sweet.

We get together and bake, make a craft or color and talk. Last week she showed me her show goat that raked in some pretty big dollars at the Kendall County Stock Show. I’m all about show goats and pigtails.

Last night, at the Stand By Me volunteer appreciation dinner, I almost cried.

For starters, I thought the gravy was a creamy balsamic and drenched my salad in it. Secondly, they shared an audible recording of the kids and families talking about how much the mentoring program has meant to them.

As Ben E. King sings, sometimes the moon is the only light we see. 

It just takes a few minutes a week to make a huge difference to a local kid and our community. What skills do you have? What passions can you teach? How can we show up and share our faith with people who are signing up and asking for someone to step in? People need to know we care.

One of the case managers shared a story about someone who had been on the list for a long, long time. She overheard her ask another woman, “Don’t they like us?”

I could hardly stay seated. I wanted to jump up and say, “Who? Who is this? Let me knock on her door right now and tell her we don’t like her. We love her!”

She is valued. She is important. She is special and I will stand by her. Right here, right now. I can do more.

So many times we get caught up looking in, instead of out. We are grown adults, but do we ever feel bored? Yesterday I read a children’s book called, I’m Bored.

Bored. Boring. Bored. The child talks to a potato. It’s hilarious.

Outside our comfort zones, and couches and late night t.v., life is happening and someone needs a friend they can lean on.

Somewhere in Boerne, there is a child who doesn’t want to be on the waiting list. They want to learn how to fish.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

January 15

Standing & Marching, Sitting & Praying

There are the beginning of days that are like no other.

When the culmination of all you’ve been asking, seeking and needing answers for comes together, it sets you up for comfort and joy.

There are mornings, like today, when God blows me away.

I should be marching. Somewhere in downtown San Antonio my mom and two aunts are marching, honoring, and demonstrating a desire to live united. I’m with them in spirit wearing flannel pajamas with a fully extended draw-string.

I’d intended to be there, but instead, spent more minutes than usual in my floral patterned prayer chair. It’s a place I find peace when there seems to be so much struggle.

When I woke up this morning, my own dreams from last night lingered through the first cup of coffee, and then the second. Seeking answers and solutions, I’m constantly questioning God about my life, my family, our purpose, and how we keep moving forward when life hands us sadness or setbacks.

In 1998 when the girls and I came home from church to find my husband was gone, I was devastated. I’d been a horrible person the night before, immature and unable to control my anger. I said the kind of things you live your life wishing you could take back. Not so you can bring them back, but because there are awful words that tear a person down and make a bad situation worse and they just shouldn’t be spoken.

I don’t like to remember that I have been that kind of person to people I claimed to love.

My pastor at the time, the pastor who’s last name was coincidentally brought up in church yesterday, offered me these words when I begged him to tell me what to do next. “If a non-believer chooses to leave, let him leave.” There was more compassion in the words he spoke than the way it reads, all typed out, but it still reminded me at the time of the Let her Cry lyrics from a song by Hootie and the Blowfish.

And that’s exactly what I did. For years, I think I cried. In the kitchen, in the closet, in the bathroom and in front of everyone. Any single parent will tell you it’s so stinking hard.

The strength of the Lord sincerely brought my three daughters and me through the past 19 years. The strength of the Lord, and at times, a few less-than-healthy crutches anyway. It wasn’t always holy, but often, we heard the hallelujahs in the midst of the hell. And I became convinced that God was real.

From this corner chair in my office, I try to make amends for all the mistakes and consider the confusion and chaos of things I cannot control. I beg now for help and answers and still ask questions about where we go from here, what is the purpose of it all and am I where I’m supposed to be?

1 Corinthians 7:13 was the inaudible whisper.

It’s okay to think that’s ridiculous, some days I do too, and hesitated a tad because I’ve misunderstood so many times and gotten it all wrong. So I took another giant gulp of coffee from my oversized Pioneer Woman mug and turned there in The Message. 

Chapter 15. You don’t have to hold on desperately.

Don’t we? Don’t we have to fix it and do, and keep doing and keep going and keep pushing and pulling and trying to make it all right? We don’t.

God has called us to make the best of it, as peacefully as we can. 

My ex-husband and I have an understanding now. We handle things peacefully, with mutual respect and forgiveness, valuing the friendship, the history and the child we have.

The super freaky part of this reading today is the way it validates what I wrote three days ago in the last post. Please read it. We have to take a stand, look at what we have, recognize what we really need and with the strength of the Lord, we make the best of it.

What I’ve found in moving forward and trying to make the best of it, is how God somehow takes it and makes the best of us. 

Those are the marching orders for today, and our best tomorrows.

“The ultimate measure of a man is not where he stands in moments of comfort and convenience, but where he stands at times of challenge and controversy.” 

                                                                                      -Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. 

 

 

 

January 12

Have your cake AND…

It was absolute mayhem in front of the leafy greens at HEB the first week of the New Year.

I could not find a bag of arugula through the apparent crowd of kale-loving shoppers where there were only a few smiling faces. I assumed many were a few days into a sugar and carb detox and their disgruntled attitude couldn’t be helped.

Everyone knows happy faces are found in the ice cream aisle where I’ve discovered HALO at only 280 calories a pint. That still didn’t stop me from whipping up my aunt Maureen’s Chocolate Wacky Cake last week when my emotions convinced me cocoa was better than Jesus.

It’s the super-moist recipe that doesn’t need eggs.

Kitchen enthusiasts know that before we decide on what to make, we first have to know what we have. From there, it’s pretty easy to recognize what we need, beginning the mental inventory of the baking cabinet and pantry.

Butter.

Sugar.

Flour.

Cocoa powder. (I use the Hershey’s Special Dark because it’s healthier)

Baking soda.

Salt.

Vinegar.

In taking stock of the kitchen inventory, I also begin taking stock of my personal inventory, qualities I have, ones I don’t. I race around the efficiency triangle of my life, looking frantically for any evidence of fruit as if I were trying to bake a fruitcake worth eating.

The special ingredients seen in the lives of believers who are sincerely seeking to model the behavior of Jesus are love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control.

How does my love look today?

How am I exhibiting faithfulness?

How am I walking in peace?

Let’s skip over self-control and talk more about kindness. I bought delicious Kind bars for my open house. Does that count?

I was going to take the cake but ran out of time after church last Sunday to pick it up. My mom likes to say, “She just wants to have her cake and eat it too.”

Does anyone know what the heck that means? Why wouldn’t you want to have your cake and eat it too? If I have cake, I’m going to want to eat it.

I made the carrot cake my brother wanted for Christmas but didn’t bestow it on him until after I presented a graphite colored cross I made with used car parts donated by Michael at AutoZone and a couple of the guys over at Express Lube.

Michael said the little copper piece was actually called a Jesus clamp.

“Really?” I asked.

“Yep, ’cause when the guys go to put it in, the thing flies across the room and they yell, “Jesus!” ”

My brother only yelled, “I wanted carrot cake, Yo!” when he opened my gift.

Then I gave him the old-fashioned Christmas satchel that held a package of nails that really only contained my aqua colored pinky toenail.

The same toenail I’ve been toting around in my gifted Michael Kors bag since Easter. That’s when he pushed me into metal edging as we were going for the same egg and my nail got yanked off.

When he saw the toenail he really did yell.

“OMG! That’s so $#%^&* gross!”

Then he handed to his wife Dinah and said, “Here honey, put that where I put my things to keep forever.” I hope it goes on the Gross Shelf Shrine next to the embalmed lizard. He’s wacky like that.

Anyway, for the finale, I brought him out the Southern Living Ultimate Carrot Cake with a buttermilk glaze and Supreme Cream Cheese frosting.

He wanted the cake and took it home to eat it too.

What do we have and what do we need, and what can we make with what we’ve got?

We can only make the best of it.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

January 8

The cost of not asking.

“What do you want to give me for it?” the clerk, ready to close, asked.

“$10.00”

“It’s yours.”

I think I squealed, “Yippeee!” My mentee smiled. I wanted her to realize she had just been a witness to an extraordinary negotiation. Or at least a concept I often share. You have not, because you ask not, and I believe in asking.

The oblong, walnut colored coffee table was marked $25.00. It was interesting. If it were a house I’d say it had architectural detail. Two of the legs were missing a metal embellishment that accentuated the clawfoot design.

There was a shelf underneath that ran the length of the table, and a small drawer in the middle that could be opened from either side by pulling a tiny wood knob.

A two-inch piece of the rimmed top was missing, probably broken off when it was stacked in the back of someone’s storage shed or something. Things break when they are not properly cared for I’ve noticed. I was happy to take it home and care for it with patience, love and a few coats of paint.

We carried our fabulous find to the car and shoved the bag of donation clothes over to make room. It’s still in the back because I’ve vowed I can’t take it out or start another refinishing project until I’ve completely organized the garage.

Again.

The shelf in my bedroom got moved to the garage and there are now supplies scattered everywhere. As great as I can be about getting properly prepared for kids crafting events, my organizational putting-back skills are still lacking.

I just keep piling one thing on top of another.

Thrift store madness has turned me into a junk junkie. Reclaimed wood, reclaimed furniture, reclaimed clothes. Oh my gosh! I love finding fun things for next to nothing.

I really don’t want anyone else to know because I have my eye on three items, but there is a new boutique in Boerne called Daly Finds next to Kelani Yogurt. The clothes and jewelry, handbags and shoes are almost as amazing as the prices.

It’s practically free.

Right now, I’m reading, Redeeming Love by Francine Rivers. I’m not typically a big romance reader and actually whispered my request to the librarian the way I’ve browsed the self-help section of Barnes and Noble, quietly, hiding behind the shelves in a large brimmed hat and sunglasses.

No, we don’t need help. We are fine. We are amazing.

Or maybe we’re not. Maybe we are missing important pieces, part of us knocked off, knocked around or feeling like thrift-store, throw-away furniture. Maybe, like my garage and all the projects I’ve been stacking, we are just in need of a good cleaning.

Repurposed and reclaimed.

I can’t put this borrowed from the library book down. It’s the kind of book that feels more like a balm. 2 am comes too early and I have to force myself to put it down and go to sleep. It’s not a romance as much as it is about the relentless pursuit of our hearts. And forgiveness. Lots and lots of forgiveness. 7 times 70 haunts me as I try to avoid the mending.

This morning I was reading Colossians 1: 10-14 about rescue. I thought of the joy it gives me to restore something I’ve found, but forgotten by others.

It must be like that for him.

The God who has such amazing love for us also has the power to remove us from darkened alley-ways and our personal dungeons. He picks us up, right where we are and transfers us to his kingdom.

It’s so much better than being taken back to my messy garage.

You have not because you ask not.

Those who seek me, find me.

It’s yours.

What I once thought was ridiculous, has restored me. And knowing that transformation is possible makes me all the more determined to see the beauty in the broken.

 

 

 

 

January 5

Too Good to Be Threw and Traveling the Two

42 is how many she brought.

1 crocheted throw in matches-everything beige.

1 black vest with a blinged-out zipper.

2 cowl necks I will wear until they are threadbare. One in blue, one in charcoal gray.

Umpteen cotton button downs from retail stores I don’t shop at like J. Jill, Chicos, and Soft Surroundings. Places I’d like to shop, but just don’t.

Oh! And two over-sized sweatshirts with pockets that will save me countless hours searching for my glasses, phone and mailbox key.

42 shirts. It was a little like 27 dresses for full-figured girls at my house last week with all the twirling and trying on. A new year calls for a new wardrobe.

And new thinking.

Instead of dreading the walk into my closet the last few mornings, I’ve been excited about what I might be able to choose.

I’ll think I’ll wear the charcoal cowl neck and the beige throw. I’ll pick out a Premier jewelry necklace, select a smile and choose to have an attitude of expectation and joy.

No doubt, there are days we just need an over-sized sweatshirt and the couch.

But I think about my new friend Kathy that generously gave me all of these clothes.

Another mother-of-three daughters, with a passion for life and learning. A get-up and get-over it girl who tends to others more than herself. A woman who I sense has experienced equal amounts of joy and sorrow but chooses to focus on the first.

There are people in our lives who choose to give the shirts off their back to help someone else out. The shirts with the tags still on them and the shirts that have been worn in and worn well.

Those are the people it’s a privilege to be around. They are encouraging and help you to see the things you forgot about yourself, like that shirt you love that’s been shoved and forgotten at the back of your closet, the same as the unfulfilled dream you once had.

Find those friends again. They are the friends who help you find something new when the old no longer fits.

As easy as it is to love people like that, I have been thinking a lot about the hard relationships, the friends or family that have hurt us, the people we don’t see eye to eye with, political or religious opposition, our co-workers or the guy that cut off us on the freeway.

We uninvite, unfriend, flip off and block calls. But Jesus calls us to love. It’s just much easier to love the ones who love back. If we are forced to carry someone’s gear for a mile, we are encouraged to walk two.

I’m thinking if I walked the two more often, some of my own shirts might fit.

 

 

 

 

 

January 1

New Again.

It wasn’t quite finished yet in this picture, but the roof is painted in Duck Egg.

One of the colors in the Annie Sloan Chalk Paint palette, a color that says, it is well. I’m happy and calm. Neither of those words would accurately describe the mood of the moment when Saydee Grace accidentally knocked her mom’s brand new coffee cup on my tile floor, breaking it to smithereens.

But, life happens.

It’s messy and sometimes miserably inconvenient, but more often miraculous, at least when we are looking for it I’ve noticed.

Chels doesn’t drink coffee but bought the cup because of the chic black and white stripes and colorful vintage flowers that circled the scripted words, hello lovely.

At 27, a broken coffee cup is still monumental and her reaction was less than that. She responded the same way I did after discovering someone snapped a leg off my cherished starfish. Why. Would. Anyone. Do. That?

A few months later, testing the truth of my words and gravity, Saydee dropped one of my new World Market Felicity Plates on the unforgiving, however lovely gray tile.

At 50 and overweight, my greatest grief was realizing I’d have to bend over and pick up the pieces. And get out the dustpan and broom. Oh, the labor.

By the time Christmas rolled around and my creativity was bigger than my budget, I decided to go the sentimental, homemade gift giving route.

When Chelsea was pregnant with Saydee, she had a bird themed baby shower. I always get her some kind of bird to hang on their tree every year. All five of them now.

So I grabbed a wooden birdhouse from Hobby Lobby, pre-mixed grout, and sealer at Home Depot and then Saydee, Natalie and I got busy making Chelsea’s gift.

Safety glasses would have been smart, but I’m more enthusiastic than intelligent at times and we set her up with a hammer and the remnants of the broken pieces of 2017.

She had so much fun hammering them into tinier, usable pieces for our project with the helpful assistance of Aunt Nattie who mostly supervised, protecting her cornea from flying ceramics.

It didn’t occur to me until afterward to check Pinterest or a YouTube channel for the proper way to do this, but I winged it. Ha.

Winged it. It’s a birdhouse. See what I did there?

Anyway, the more I slowed down, moving the grout around and staring at our creation, the more the sweet spirit of God moved and reminded me of this special season and what he’s done in our lives.

The bending.

The sweeping.

The picking up.

Taking those smashed and shattered pieces, re-purposing them for something useful, something beautiful. This divine up-cycling. A mosaic of the messes.

When she opened her gift and realized what the birdhouse was made of, understanding the origination of every broken piece, happy tears rolled down her cheeks. She smiled and wiped her eyes the way she used to when she was five.

Hello lovely. 

“I love it! I’m going to keep it in the house,” she said smiling.

This kind of chaotic creation demands a place of honor. The best place to find rest from the broken parts of us. Displayed above the fire, on the mantle of grace,

Happy New Year.