Tuesday, February 22, 2011


when i was a kid growing up here in the dallas/fort worth metroplex, there were a few things that we only got to do occasionally. which, of course, made them an extra special treat. the fort worth zoo. the omni theatre. and of course the ultimate treat was going to wet 'n wild and six flags. oh man, that was like the equivalent to your birthday party and Christmas morning all rolled into one.

six flags in the mid-80's wasn't quite the theme park that it is now, but it was still an amazing place for a kid to spend a day. well, most kids. i, however was a big. fat. baby. seriously. it didn't seem to affect me (or my social status quo) until i got older. then, all of a sudden your level of "coolness" was based solely on whether or not you enjoyed your body being flung in multiple directions at moch speed a mile up in the air and away from solid ground. well, friend...i no longer wanted to be cool. i wanted to live.

there was one particular ride that completely freaked me out. it was called, "the flashback" dun, dun, duuuun. if you did not read that ride name with a lower voice pictured in your head like you hear on suspense movie trailers, then please go back and re-read it. i'll wait....

this ride not only went faster than the other rides, but it had loops (yes, that is plural. God help me.) and then just when you thought you really were going to throw up all of your cinnamon pretzel all over the boy you liked and so desperately wanted to impress...the ride sloooows...down...but, in the completely vertical position. that's right....not horizontal. vertical. for those of you who are not known for your math brain, let me be clear. horizontal is left and right, east and west, like the horizon. get it? horizon and horizontal...catchy, eh? vertical however is up and down, north and south....and it is not how you want to end a roller coaster ride. so...there they are, car after dangling car just hanging up there in mid air for what seems like an eternity, but is really only like 3 seconds...and then it happens. swoooosh! you plummet at moch speed ( i know i already used that reference, but that is that fastest thing i know. oh wait, what about warp speed? is that real or just for star wars? or star trek? ugh..i digress.) anyway...get back with me here...you and your "pals" who apparently spiked your frozen lemonade and were able to convince you that this ride was going to be "totally tubular"... are now plummeting three stories going really, really stinkin' fast (there, that's better) and you do the entire ride all over again...backwards.

ugh. i get queasy just thinking about it. of course, nowadays this ride is probably for like 5 year olds or something..but, i'm telling you, in my day it was fierce. at least, for me.

i am sure we all have experienced a flashback in life a time or two. i know i have. i find an old tshirt from high school and whoosh...i am instantly brought back to my glory days on the soccer field. (yes, i was an athlete. i didn't always have an 84-year-old's body) i can almost smell the grass on the field and see the cute varsity boys sitting sidelines watching us. (yes, i was a bit boy crazy. i'm praying that our sweet girl is like her daddy...a munk until college. :)

or maybe it is a song. that always does it for me too. it doesn't matter if you play it on purpose from an old mixed tape or if you are flipping channels and you hit it mid-song. whoosh...you are immediately brought back to the time and place that song represents. dun-dun-dun-du-du-dun-dun. chhhh. dun-dun-dun-dun- du-du-dun-dun. ahhh,1990. remember when vanilla ice was kinda cool? that hair. those clothes. that song. good times. and now, 21 years later (uggh.) he's remodeling homes. that is just a little odd for me.

anyway...today was a flashback for me in more ways that one. first of all...i had a pretty major flashback physically. here i've been, the last few weeks, as my mom says "goin' and blowin'" non-stop and trying to get anything and everything done. now, granted, if i were to write out my actual schedule for you, you wouldn't think it was that bad, really, even for a mom of three. but, for me...who has spent the better part of the last year completely and utterly flat and still - it has been a bit intense. and then, the kids get sick again and there goes my good night's rest. although i can't blame it completely on my kids, because my 84-year-old body has kept me up late at night as well. i mean it. my joints are killing me. my ankles hurt, my shins hurt (yes, i know that is not a joint. but it hurts, too!) i just plain hurt. so...add it all up and what do you get?? a very bad day for a very tired me.

i started the day fairly normal with the two younger kiddos and i having a nice morning together. watching a show, playing games, doing laundry, and then making dinner. my incredibly sweet and thoughtful friend brought over "dinner in a bag" the other day with all i would need to make a great recipe she found. she knew we were near the end of the month and would be feasting on mac-n-cheese and ravioli (which by the way, we are totally fine with) but she wanted to help out...again. she is wonderful. i can't hardly keep stocked with enough thank you notes for her. so, anyway, here i am trying to get all this stuff ready to throw into the crockpot and it just took a lot longer than i had thought. which, on any other day these last few months wouldn't be such a big deal. (thank you GOD!) but, last night three out of our three kids decided to get up and various times throughout the night. multiple times. each. it wasn't pretty. so...i think today my body just flat out stopped.

it started with a weird twinge in my back as i tried to get up off the floor. ouch! what was that?? i lied back down, but the icepack back where it always resides on my lower back and stayed still for a bit. and when i tried to get up again, zing! it happened again. ugh. i'm telling you, friend, anytime i have weird stuff going on with my head and/or back, it gets me a little fearful. so, then i stood up and tried to stretch and i felt just weird in my head. almost woozy. my tongue felt like it was getting a little swelly (yes, i just invented that word, feel free to use in freely) and i just didn't feel right. and then it happened...whoosh....i had a flashback to those days and days and weeks and weeks and months and months where i would wake up every single day and never know what weird stuff my body was going to do. ever.

so, today...wasn't fun. i didn't panic. well, i did a little, but not a full fledged "me" kind of freak-out panic that i was known for in the past. (i'm telling myself that is proof God is working on me and my fear issues) i tried to walk it off...and sit it off....and i just kept feeling weirder and more tired. so, i called my hubby and he told me to lie down immediately and call my parents. i'm thinking...ugh...again. those poor people had to come over every single day for months and now i have to bother them again. ugh. but, they are amazing and came at the drop of a hat. they came. and i went....to my bed. i positioned the ice pack where it goes every single time i lie down, even still...and the heating pad where it always goes too...and i. just. crashed. for like two hours. at one point i woke up and didn't really know where i was. you know those times. when you are exhausted and you crash...and when you come to, you are a bit disoriented. what!?! it's daylight? ryan's not next to me? i don't hear children?!! what in the world?!! but, then i remembered what was going on and so i turned back over at went back to sleep. then i ate a little bit for lunch. and then... the coup de gras... i took a long, hot bubble bath. this was glorious. it felt good. it relaxed me more. it helped tremendously with the pain in the base of my head. and as i was getting out of the bath and doing the whole "girl-towel-turban-wrap" i feel that my flashback concluded. i was reminded of the many, many, many times over the last year and a half that God had gotten me through bad days and tired days and scary days and hospital visit days. He had never failed me and i knew He wouldn't again.

and that, friend...is when i had the flashback that has meant the most to me. when i closed my eyes, i saw her face. her sweet, smiling, preciously cute face. i saw my friend jenny.

and once again, for like the twentieth time in the last few days i had a flashback as to what this date was. the 22nd of february, and is. and always will be. on this date...it marks one year since my friend jenny went to be with Jesus. she was 31 years old.

now, jenny and i weren't best friends. in fact, we didn't hang out really, ever. but, she was my friend. she was one of the most devoted volunteers in the children's ministry at our church, of which i was the volunteer coordinator at the time. it was hard not to be friends with jenny. she was kind, genuine, sweet and often just silly. we got along well. occasionally we would send random texts to each other...but most of all, she was one of those people i loved seeing each and every week at church. she was, my friend. she was the real deal.

and a little more than a year ago, she got pneumonia...and then it got worse...and then it got to her bloodstream...and then she went into a coma. and then it got really scary. this was really serious now. really serious. her family set up a care page online for friends to be updated...because, like i mentioned before...everyone loved jenny...so i am sure they were bombarded with people wanting to see how she was. like thousands of others, i followed this care page diligently every day...multiple times a day. i prayed for her and her family and her healing more times that i can even count. days and days went by and it just got more serious and more scary. at least for us here. not for God...He knew exactly what was happening.

you see, jenny's family loved Him and served Him wholeheartedly. when her husband wasn't at home supporting their nine-year old daughter through all of this, he was spending hours by her hospital bed whispering into her ear and speaking Scripture over her. her parents and her brothers and their families set up "churches" all over the hospital day and night lifting her up to the Lord. they claimed the amazing praise and worship song "mighty to save" as their heart's cry. and...some days were a little better. we had hope. other days were dark. but we still had hope. we knew the enemy was trying to use this whole ordeal to break this family. to make them turn from God. you see...they all loved Him.

her father was a pastor. her mother was my very own Christian psychologist, and her two brothers were pastors as well. i am not making this up. this family loved God and served Him. i have no doubt that they did some seriously fierce things in their lives, along with their sweet jenny, to totally demolish satan's plans. in fact, i bet they obliterated them.

but on this day...one year ago...they had to say goodbye to their jenny. and i know they, along with the (literally!) thousands of supporters, were left with one haunting question...


i know that when i got online that day and read the news, that she was gone...i set down my laptop, walked to my room, barely made it to the door and i fell onto the ground sobbing. i was an ugly mess. and let me remind you...jenny and i weren't like best friends or anything. but i just loved her. and her mom. like i mentioned before, her mom was my psychologist. her mom had held my hand and walked with me through the months prior that were as dark as i'd ever known. and now this? it just didn't make sense to me. these were faithful followers of God and they had done it all "right" in my mind. why would He let her die?

come to think of it? why would He let her die and yet keep my selfish, prideful, impatient, controlling, scrawny neck here still breathing in and out?

i don't know how you are going to react to that statement. you may think i am selfish and self-centered and awful. but i don't care at this point. i am just being real. here i was facing month number four of medical drama. (really, it was month number four added onto years number one and two) i had seen every specialist and had every test run. yet, i was still in pain an still without any answers. it is hard to fight off the fear of death when you are in the midst of a chronic illness with no answers and no end in sight. it is hard. very hard. for me, it darn near beat me. and i was left questioning not only if God was with me but, if He even was.

and then this happened. my friend jenny got sick and was dead within a couple weeks. dead.

i felt so guilty for not loving God and His people like she had. i felt so sad for not ever arranging those lunch dates we always talked about.  i felt so blessed with each hug from my family,my husband, my precious babies. i felt so scared that i would be next. i felt so proud to have known and loved her. i felt so confused as to why He would allow something so bad to happen to a family that is so good. i felt so angry because this was not the ending of this story that i felt He should give. He was supposed to revive her. He was supposed to give her family and the rest of us the miracle we cried out for so desperately. we sang that He is mighty to save.

but, in my mind, He did not save.

and here we are. one year later. i have had to stop writing this post numerous times because i can't see the screen through the tears. and again, we weren't even that close of friends. i cannot imagine what her family and her best friends, and God help me, her husband and daughter are going through today. more emotions that i listed above... that is for sure.

i leave you with two other flashbacks i have had so intensely today. one...was the last time i can remember seeing jenny alive. it was at church and i was rushing around (back when i could rush around) through our children's ministry area looking for someone. and i saw her. she was kneeling down right outside the elementary ministry's doorway tying the shoes of a sweet little kid. she looked up at me and mouthed "how are you doing?" you see....she knew. she knew what few people knew at that point. she knew i was going through the darkest time of my entire life. she knew i was facing anxiety and fear so real and so deep that sometimes i could almost swear i could see it. she knew i was going to see her loving mom to help me get through, to help me seek God, to just plain help me. and so, in that briefest of moments, she, with her precious smile that not only affected her mouth, but also her eyes in such a great way...she was investing in me. again. she knew. and she was reminding me that He knew too.

the other flashback i have had so many times today was from her memorial service. it was like none i'd ever been to. there were hundreds and hundreds of people there, maybe even thousands...and they were not all friends and family. some were complete strangers who had driven from all parts of the state because they had been so touched my her life and her story. the church sanctuary was packed to the brim downstairs, in the balcony and in the hallways. her own brothers led worship. i was amazed by this. they had just spent, what i'm assuming, was the most gut-wrenching weeks of their lives alongside their family as they tried to pray their sister well. and there they were leading all of us in worship. they knew jenny would have it no other way.

and then one of her brother's asked us all, every last one of us, to get down on our knees. and he prayed something like this..."God, we love you. we don't understand this at all, and we're heartbroken, but we love you. we have asked you over and over to keep the enemy away from us these last weeks and especially today. but, God, i am asking you to grant him permission right now. allow him to see us now God. we want him to know that even now, amidst our darkest hour, we will bow down to YOU ALONE God and we will praise you. we want him to know he was not won."

it was singlehandedly, one of the most powerful things i have ever seen. ever.

that was one year ago today.

i am sure that those closest to jenny have had numerous flashbacks on numerous days. i know without a shadow of a doubt that they have seen a tshirt, or heard a song that has whoosh...taken them back to a time with jenny. i just cannot imagine. how they have made it, i do not know.

actually, i do know.

i do know that He is good.

i do know that He is faithful.

i do know that His ways are perfect.

i do know His Son, Jesus Christ, is the only way to heaven.

how do i know? because He tells me. and He shows me. over and over in my life, i have whoosh....flashed back to His Word. to His promises. to His Truth. and friend...it is the only way we can get through anything.

jenny, i miss you and i am thankful for you. i can only imagine what celebration has awaited you today in heaven. on this day, God celebrates the fact that whoosh....He got you back home. i love you friend. and thank you...for everything.

deut. 32:4 "He is the Rock, his works are perfect, and all his ways are just. A faithful God who does no wrong, upright and just is he."

jeremiah 29:11 "For I know the plans I have for you," declares the LORD, "plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future."

romans 8:28 "And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose."

psalm 33:4 "For the word of the LORD is right and true; he is faithful in all he does."

john 14:6 "Jesus answered, "I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me."

zeph 3:17 "The LORD your God is with you, he is mighty to save. He will take great delight in you, he will quiet you with his love, he will rejoice over you with singing."

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

best. day. ever.

so...as the story goes each year.....(enter my age) years ago...my poor mom was big and pregnant (in a time where motherhood maternity was not around to help you feel better about this fact) and getting done with her teaching, before maternity leave. she was an english teacher at trinity high school and, even though still a month away from her due date, was already taking her maternity leave from teaching. maybe because her first child was a month early, my mom didn't necessarily believe the doctor when he assured her just a couple days before that "this baby's not coming for weeks" (insert laugh from God who already knew! see psalm 139)

so, she waddled into the high school to turn in her graded papers so she could officially "enjoy" these last few supposed weeks before being the busy mom of two. then, she said, that is when it happened. she felt something a little weird. not sure what. but...then she knew. her water had just broken in the middle of the trinity high school teacher's lounge. lovely.

so, of course she raced to her purse to grab her cell phone and send a mass txt to all her family, her husband, her friends and her support system...and fortunately she had already gone online to pre-register with the hospital and could just go right in. her ultrasound had confirmed that she was having a boy months ago so the nursery was all painted and ready and she had received plenty of gifts at her four baby showers that had been on her baby registry. thank God she had programmed the GPS into her car for the location of the hospital so that her friends could get her there quickly.so...(deep sigh)... she was fine.

oh wait. nevermind. my bad. none of that happened. why you ask?

because the computers at the stores really had messed up her registry and she got no gifts?

because the sonographer wasn't 100% sure it was a boy and she was forced to go with a neutral nursery?

ok, maybe because her car was already four years old and didn't have the latest on-star capabilities??

no, friend....none of that happened, because this was 1979.

32 years ago today, my mom went into labor...a month early...again. and nothing has been "as planned" ever since. after all, she had me.

the nurse from her school rushed her into her own car (her brand new 1979 chevelle. or was it a buick? this part of the story gets kinda fuzzy because it all happened so fast. literally.) they raced across town to hurry and get "checked out" by the doctor at his office to "verify" that she was in labor..which was an ordeal in and of itself...and then, finally after all of that...she was able to drive all the way to arlington (that's where the doctor could deliver babies, i guess) and arrived within minutes of giving birth to me. literally minutes. she just. barely. made it. barely. her water broke around 1:45pm in or so the teacher's lounge, and i was born at 2:52pm. (yes i continually tease her about the whopping 45 minutes she spent in labor with me. she replies, jokingly that the labor was the easy part...then she got to raise me! :)

so there i was...a whopping 6 lbs. 1 oz scrawny, wrinkly, yellow skinned and black haired baby. lovely. um....not so much. those first pics of me were not pretty. and i don't mean in the whole "oh look, so-and-so just had a baby, how sweet. oh, don't worry, honey, all newborns look that way" kind of ugly. i mean u-g-l-y, you ain't got no alliby, you ugly, ya ya, you ugly. yep, it was that bad.

but, she kept me. thankfully. and after i was born, my dad walked in and decided to keep me too.

again...not so much.

another part of the family joke. my dad wasn't there.

that's right. his very first (and only) baby girl makes her grand entrance and where was he?? well, on the road to galveston, or course, that's where. if you will remember, the doctor assured my parents that i wasn't coming for "weeks". and so when i arrived the very next day, everyone was surprised. including my dad. because, he and his fellow educators had packed up and loaded our rockin' "merry miler" van and taken a road trip to galveston that very morning for a confernce. that's right. he drive all the way to galveston and had no idea my mom was in labor or anything. remember friends, this was 1979...loooong before cell phones. fortunately, as the story goes. he did finally hear about me. in fact, they arrived safely at the motel and when they checked in, the man at the counter said "oh, you are mr. sanders? i have a message waiting here for you." he did have a message waiting. the message was from my mom. it said "you have a daughter. come home."

so, my dad did come home on the next flight out. and he, too, decided to keep me. yes, after seeing me. and yes, i am thankful for that as well. and while my folks were only married for five more years, they both agree that february 15th, 1979 was a day they hadn't expected and a day they'd never forget.

and here we are now. i am quite sure that if surveyed (and let's not go there) that my parents (along with my two wonderful step-parents) would concur that the 32 years that have followed that surprising day have been...um, interesting. i was a pretty good kid. just like my sweet daughter is a pretty good kid. sweet, but awnry. cute, but mischevious. strong-willed, but...well, strong-willed. but, we all made it. and they still have kept me all this time.

here i am some 32 years later and i have just completed one of the best birthdays ever. i mean it. ever.

as you may or may not know...i have been sick for the past year or two, or three. off and on. felt like more on than off, from my perspective. i'm just sayin'. but, i haven't been able to just live a normal life. because of multiple spinal fluid leaks, i couldn't drive. i couldn't exercise. i couldn't even sit upright, for goodness sake. for months. but, lately...over these last few months, i have been getting better. (thank you, God!) God has healed my spinal fluid leak. i am all patched up now and feeling ok. (my friend calls my procedures i had "fix-a-flat" for my back. too funny!) i am super appreciative of that. and i am slowly but surely regaining my strength.

some people even see me now and say "oh, i am so happy you are back to normal!" (i feel obligated to mention that this is when my dad and many other various family members would interject with "hmm....was she ever really normal?!!?" :) the answer is no. for me...i am better. but, i am not back to the old me. yet. but i'm ok with that. in fact, i am sooooo ok with that.

because today, even not fully "me" yet...i was still able to do the unthinkable. i spent the better part of this day out and about running errands...the very same errands i would longingly dream about from my couch day after day and week after week and month after month. and today, my birthday, i was absolutely over the moon with the fact that it was not all about me.

you ever have those moments when you hear somebody say something and you think "oh...no way! not me!?!" let me give you a few examples... (purely hypothetical, of course) :)

example #1 - your older cousin comes home from her new job, fresh out of college, for Christmas. you love her. you look up to her. you, only being about 17 or so....and you hear her explaining how she is SO excited that her parents just bought her four new tires for her car for Christmas! and you think to yourself "umm, now, that's just sad. i will never want tires for Christmas. ever. c'mon stephanie, seriously!?!"  (well, i am quite sure i would kiss on the mouth anyone who bought us four new tires for our 20 year old and 11 year old cars right now. for real. on. the. mouth. unless it was like a guy or something....that would be wrong. but, man, i would be sooo excited!!!"

example #2 - you see a friend you haven't seen in a while and they are sporting the "mom" velour track suit and carting their three kids under the age of six around in a used mini-van...and you think to yourself "oh ya, not me! i am not going there! never will i own a minivan. i want a seqouia or nothing at all. and holy cow - how many kids were in there anyway...and velour track suits are for mobsters who wear gold chains. period." (well, i want a minivan right now so bad it hurts sometimes. my kids were born in august 2004, october 2006 and march 2009. you do the math. and as far as the velour track suits...i own three. black, green, and brown. yep, just call me vinny.)

so you get my point. sometimes you hear something and think..."nope, not me. no way. no how." by the way...i personally think God cracks up at that. i'm just sayin'.

well, a while back..i can't even remember how long now ago, i heard about someone who spent their whole birthday going around doing random acts of kindness. they turned 40 and did 40 acts of kindness. i was like "oh wow, how amazing! what a great idea! what a blessing!" well, that was what i said. what i thought, however, was..."um, no way! no way. no how. my birthday is my special day. i want to do my favorite things. it is, after all, all about me." in fact...i really enjoyed doing lots of my favorite things on my day. i drank my favorite QT slushy (white cherry, by the way. hands down.) i wore my favorite shirt. i listened to my favorite songs. i ate my favorite lunch. ok, you get the idea. all fine things. but, i didn't focus so much on that this year.

well, over the last year or so...God has patiently and faithfully been remolding my heart in lots of ways. i am quite sure that a lot of this has flat caused cramps in His hands for having to work...and re-work...and re-work...and re-work my heart. but, thankfully, He's into His clay. :) (2 cor. 4:7)

so, before you start thinking...and i know some of you have...cause i would have too...."gee, way to go. i am so glad you did that and are now bragging all about it on the internet so that everyone pats you on the back and wants to be just like you." dude, don't go there. i am fully admitting to you that i am not great. He is great.(ex. 14:31 and deut. 10:17 and1 samuel 12:16 and oh i don't know, about a thousand others)

i am selfish. i am prideful. i am weak. i am insecure. i am fearful. i am stupid. the list goes on and on.

but, thankfully He can still work with all that and do His thing. (1 cor. 1:27)

last year, on my 31st birthday, i couldn't sit upright for very long. at all. i was having an amazingly AWFUL birthday and two of my dear friends just showed up, they brought balloons and cake and joy and love. and along with my parents who are amazing and surprised me, and with my hubby and my kids and a few other very special friends...they took that day and flat out turned it around. but, i'm telling you....before they showed up...it had stunk big time most of the day. i remember even lying there on my couch for like the 3 billionth hour and just thinking "man, i'd even go do that random acts of kindness thing if i could just get up off this couch and live a normal life." ya, i was that desperate. i was willing to take a day that i loved making all about me and instead, make it all about others. but, i didn't. instead, i threw a massive pity party (population: me) and stayed put on my couch.

thankfully, like i mentioned before...God is all about His clay. so, he worked and worked and worked...and is still working and working and working, by the way. man, His job is exhausting, i bet. not, of course, for Him. but, just me talking about it wears me out and makes me wanna take a breather.

so, friend. when is your birthday? soon? just passed? months and months away? ya know...there really is no rule. you could do 32 acts of kindness any day you want. or more. or less.

as for me. i had a great day. like the title says...best. day. ever.

i couldn't be more thankful that i am getting better. i couldn't be more thankful for those around me who have hung on for this ride with me and not jumped ship at the first emotional outburst of mine that they faced. i couldn't be more thankful for the God of the universe...Who spoke the sun into existence....Who just, ya know, decided where the oceans would start and stop...Who knew that i would be born on the day that should have been a restful day for my mom and a boring conference day for my dad...Who knows every hair on your head and mine....that same God loves me (in spite of me) and spent my birthday with me. i'll say it again...best. day. ever.

and for the record...i hope you do whatever you want on your birthday. truly. i did treat myself a few times. i really did. (a few friends found a  way to spoil me - like they always do...i got like 150 facebook notes, and 12 real card in the mail, with stamps on them and everything. you gotta love seeing lots of colored envelopes and only one thing from blue cross blue shield. how cool!...my super step-dad happily rescheduled our lunch date for tomorrow, yeah! but i did have an amazing dinner and fun, including the first alcoholic drink i've had in almost three years. no, i'm not anti-drinking. tht's subject for another post. :) the difference, friend...it just wasn't what it was all about, that's all. so, like i said. do what you want. but, friend...i'd be lying if i said that i wouldn't be soooo happy for you if you wanted to do this. :) steal the idea. i didn't come up with it. no copyright laws here. as for me...(because so many of my friends have asked)...here was my birthday...

1. called our local radio station to thank them for their ministry. i have had ample hours and hours to lie flat on my couch and listen. so thankful for praise and worship. i love it. (oh, and they put me on the air!) :)
1a. thanked my mom for the whopping 45 minutes of labor she had to go through. i love my mom. i hope i am like her when i grow up.
2. dropped flowers off on my best friend and neighbor's door who has literally called me every single day during all of this time to see how i am. really. every day. talk about commitment. talk about love. talk about putting others before yourself. my own folks and hubby (if being honest) could go a whole day without me sometimes. but not her. she is amazing.
3. dropped flowers off on the doorstep of another dear friend who has been there for me, to watch my kids, drive me around, encourage me in ways others don't...and just plain put up with me. that says a lot. she ain't even from here.:)
4. went to QT to try and buy people some drinks. no one was there. it was awkward. until i realized what God wanted me to do. so i walked up and tried to buy a drink for a few of the only people there - the employees. they told me they got free drinks. c'mon, really? :) but, then i talked with them a lot about my day and then finally persuaded them to let me buy them two pieces of candy and some mints. :)
5. dropped off flowers to my chiropractor's office to thank her and her office manager for the last year of amazing care and free therapy :)
6. bought a taco bell gift card for my favorite manager at our local hobby lobby, who has, for years, always been so kind when my kids and i have gone in there. after being gone for so long, he thought i'd moved. he was so excited to see me and of course, i apologized for the serious revenue drop his store has suffered since my illness began. (i love me some hobby lobby)
7. drove through wendy's to get my eldest boy his surprise lunch and i bought the people's lunch behind me in the drive thru. :) so fun!
8. brought flowers to the ladies at the front office at my son's school to thank them for all they do. and i got the awesome opportunity to share with a lady there who goes to our church, is widowed, has two kids, one with special needs....and i had never really met, officially. now i will hug her every time i see her. every. single. time.
9. surprised my sweet eldest boy with lunch. (he kinda caught on this morning when his lunch bag was "more empty" than is should have been. the kid is smart.) but, i didn't tell him who was coming. at lunch he told me "mom, i'm so glad it was you!!" (insert mom tears here!) oooh i love that boy!
10. picked up a treat for my best friend who needed something in a pinch for Ekul. (inside joke there, but i know she's cracking up right now!)
11. bought a treat for everyone who made this day possible. the theme for the treats: go rangers! and go cowboys! (hey, don't hate.)
12. struck up a great conversation with an older man about something we both saw in the store that made us both giggle. it was greatness. it made my day and i'm pretty sure it made his.
13. colored a picture with crayons for my most special friend melanie...who loves to color! she is a few years older than me in body, but because God made her special, she is much younger than me really. she brings me unspeakable joy every single time i see her. (this really goes up near #2 of my day, but i don't want to renumber them all. hey, just keeping it real.)
14. dropped flowers and notes off to my pediatrician's office. how does a mom of three kids who have had so many medical scares truly thank that awesome group of people enough? plus, they always laugh at my mom jokes, so that is a bonus. :)
15. dropped flowers off on the doorstep of a friend who has been a mother, friend, sister, therapist, prayer warrior, encourager, confidant, Scripture-queen for me. poor thing, she has worn so many hats for me, her head is still spinning. angels on your roof, sweet friend.
16. dropped flowers and a sonic drink off to a friend who i love, look up to, admire, stand in awe of, need and love. she caught me though, darn her. but i got a hug. so i forgive her. always. that one...she's a lion chaser if i ever saw one!
17. bought a few sonic gift cards and went around to the people in their cars waiting to order and gave them one. that was cool. very very cool. and funny. they looked at me like a lunatic when i knocked on their windows, until they realized i had money. then, i wasn't so crazy. :)
18. then i tipped the nice boy at sonic quite a bit for all his help with placing my big order...making sure i was on "happy hour" prices and doing it all with a smile and on roller skates. i would have so wanted that job. but, i wouldn't have made it a week. not, cause i would have quit. but, cause i'd have broken my neck is why. guaranteed.
19. delivered 8 sonic drinks to my amazing church staff. they are my friends. my leaders. my buddies. my role-models. my peeps. i love them. they all work so hard for Jesus. i miss being on their team. i hope they miss me too. (not so much my disorganization and chaos, but maybe just me. :)
20. dropped flowers off on the doorstep of a friend's house who i clicked with instantaneously when we met years ago. like, weird kinda clicked. i wanted to be her friend so bad but didn't want to seem creepy. cause i'm really not. just way too friendly. anyway, life took us different roads for a while and i couldn't be more thankful that He has brought us back. we stuck now. period. she knows too much. :)
21. picked up a treat for my middle child. just because. i can't wait to give it to him. the kid gets gleeful when we serve him dinner or let him play longer in the bathtub. his joy is infectious. i just love him so much it hurts.
22. sent an email to a friend who is really like a little sister and mentor and silly pal all wrapped into one. i am pretty sure (i mean, i'll ask Jesus, for sure when i get there) but i very well could have gone to 5 years of college, gotten a teaching job and taught for a whopping 2 years and 4 weeks, just to have met her. and i am completely ok with that. completely.
23. helped a nice boy push his dead truck across the gas station parking lot. (THANK YOU GOD FOR THAT STRENGTH! i mean it, the kid kinda looked at me funny. i wanted to say, "ya i'm a stud" but i had just met him, so i didn't) then i drove him a few blocks down the road to his work at auto zone (i giggled when he told me that because i thought it was more than a little ironic that his truck was dead and he couldn't get back to work...at auto zone. hehehe. no? is it just me??) anyway - turns out his mom sings at our church. small world.
24. bought a wonderful woman a bit older than me a coke. actually it was a mixture of a few drinks she told me. i loved it. i told her that she just made my day being a fully grown woman, but like the 7-year-olds who push each nozzle just because they can. love it.
25. dropped flowers and a diet coke off to a friend who has stood by me through it all...for years. why? not sure. i'd have bailed on me by now. oooh she knows my real ugly side. and still loves me. again, not sure why. but, oh man i'm so thankful.
26. posted on my friend's fb wall all about how much she means to me. i've known her since i was nine. we played little girl soccer together. we got into trouble in middle school and high school together. she was my roomie in college (and she survived!) she was in my wedding. she is my tech and i am her texas. enough said.
27. sent an email to my friend, my moh, my sunshine. she is in mexico. she's a missionary there. (darn that whole following God's calling on your life thing!:) i love her mucho. (that means much in spanish, in case you didn't know. you are welcome) i feel her sunny-ness from here. sunny + pete = love forever
28. brought some water to some hard working men who were building a huge house not too far from me. (well, not too far, but far enough :) they were all so very happy and grateful. and so was i.
29. paid for the car behind me at mcdonalds. funny too cause i had to wait a while until someone pulled up finally. so, i got to talk to that girl at the window for a while. too cool.
30. wrote notes to each of my kids telling them how thankful i am for them and how they have helped mommy feel better even when i wasn't better. especially that little girl. almost every day i am reminded of God's lavish love for me because of her. we wanted a girl so bad. didn't know i was gonna get a mini-me. but, it's all good. i am beyond blessed.
31. came home and picked up my house so that my sweet hubby ryan (who i love a lot but am not a whole lot like! :) could have a somewhat clean house before he went to bed tonight. trust me, it was BAD! it looked like the valentine fairy threw up everywhere. ugh. i'm so glad that man loves me.
32. emailed the awesome ladies in my Bible study group to see if they wanted to take part in blessing a wonderful lady i have gotten to know. she is going through what i was too. poor thing. stuck on her couch. can't live her life or feel like mom to her kids right now. i so get that. i met her online through a support group and then we found out that she literally lives within ten miles of me. can you hardly stand it!?! can't wait to see what my girls and i get to do with that. use us God, use us up!

i am pretty sure i am forgetting some. i know i didn't get to do all i wanted to do. i was limited by my time, my finances, and mostly, my energy. but, don't worry. i am not done. if you feel left out...don't. this shall continue. and no one is safe. :) but...today is over. and it was a busy day. well, it is almost over. it is almost midnight. i cannot put into words how tired i am. but, i am thrilled that i got to tell you about my day. oh...and before i forget...while i was walking around like a happy fool today, i did get rejected....a lot. i was a little surprised at how often people would flat turn me down. they honestly couldn't believe i was trying to do a nice thing. some even seemed a bit put out by my interruption. too bad. but, for the record... i gave people a note about me and why i was doing what i was doing so they wouldn't think i was a complete lunatic. i am used to that really, but my main reasoning for this note was i didn't want them to wonder why i was doing something good. i wanted them to know why. more importantly i wanted them to know Who. so, anyway, here's the letter if there's anyone left reading. if so...what do you call it when you mix a centipede and a parrot?? write me back if you made it this far and want to know the answer. (my kids love this one!)... (now, nighty night! ) happy my birthday to you! :)

ps. the verse at the very bottom says. it. all. read that one a few times!

Happy 32nd Birthday to ME! :)

I have lived for months and months out of the last year and a half on my couch. Was I watching TV and eating bon-bons? Um, no. Due to various medical issues, I have been unable to walk, sit upright, or basically live a “normal” life. I could go into the details, but I don’t even know you so I will spare you the loooong story!

Instead I will just tell you that without the unbelievable support from my family, my friends and my amazing church (www.metchurch.com) and most importantly, my always faithful God, I would have never made it through.

So, why am I telling you, a complete stranger, this?? Well, over the last couple months as I have started to feel a bit better, I have been planning how I wanted to spend my birthday. And here we are! J Instead of making this day all about me, (which I usually do) I have been very much looking forward to doing 32 random acts of kindness instead! This is where you come in. I hope that whatever it is that I did for you…big or small…free or expensive…I hope that it made you smile. I pray that you have a very happy day! I know I will!

When you can’t drive a car, play with your small kiddos, or even walk around for months at a time, it definitely gives you a whole new perspective on life and what is really important. So, I wrote this note, because I didn’t want you to think for just one minute that I was just a nice person doing a nice thing. I am a Christian and I am nothing without my relationship with Jesus. I am not good. (in fact, I’m pretty selfish and prideful!) But, friend, He is good. And, I just wanted you to know.

If you want to hear the rest of my story, feel free to check out my somewhat random, possibly witty, but hopefully encouraging blog at www.mamaholzberger.blogspot.com

I hope you have a happy my birthday!! May God bless you…and may you bless God!
Caroline :)

Psalm 40:1-3 “I waited patiently for the LORD; HE turned to me and heard my cry. HE lifted me out of the slimy pit, out of the mud and mire; HE set my feet on a rock and gave me a firm place to stand. HE put a new song in my mouth, a hymn of praise to our God. Many will see and fear and put their trust in the LORD.”

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

ya gotta love livin' in texas...

well, friend...i must admit, i often wonder where you are? sounds weird, maybe, but i know where i am, but not you, friend. in fact, i have no clue where you are reading this from. i often sit and wonder about the people who read my blog. are you tucked away somewhere in the middle of nowhere in an igloo in alaska? or are you reading on your laptop, sitting out on your balcony with the killer view in southern california? or...are you all texans? (goodness gracious, i hope so!) he he he! i'm totally kidding (pretty much)...just a little texas humor, people. calm down. and i guess, if you don't mind (and even if you do:) go ahead and allow me a little "wiggle room" here to include any other texas-pride tidbits i may decide to grace you with. i mean no disprespect...ok, maybe i should say, i mean "not a lot"... of disrespect, really. it's just one of those "texas things", and i think my fellow texas would agree that it's just hard to explain...right y'all? :)

i have lived in the fine state of texas for my entire life. proud of it, too, i must say. the people here are friendly. the drama is less. the weather will keep you on your toes. and the scenery can flat take your breath away sometimes...whether it is staring with your jaw-dropped  at the sight of a sunset as far as your eye can see in every direction with colors i swear God creates just for us here. :) ...or the rolling hills of wildflowers so bright, you'd think they were spray painted on, when no one was lookin'...or even the grandeur of miles of piney woods, so pretty and so tall, it reminds you of how they were here first and you, friend, are just briefly visiting.

over the years, i think that texans have gotten kind of a bad "rap" for being too cocky about their heritage. but, i'm not sure if cocky is the right word or not. i do, however happen to love a t-shirt that my big brother gave me a few years ago...it has a map of the united states on it, all colored in completely black...then the state of texas is brought out to look a little bigger that it is (shocker!) and it's colored in red, white, and blue with a big star and stripes. and then there is a big red, white, and blue arrow pointing to it that says in bold, gigantic letters... "TEXAS"...and then there is a little itty-bitty black arrow pointing to the rest of the USA that says...."whatever". (insert a "he, he, he" from my fellow texans) and well...ok, maybe cocky sometimes is the right word. sometimes

there are a quite a few things that "outsiders" have to get used to when they (finally get to:) move here.

first of all, we are huggers. it is in our blood. yes, we give high fives. and yes we will shake your hand and give you our Word (which actually means somethin' down here!), but overall, chances are, we're gonna hug ya. we'll hug you when we meet you. we'll hug you when you say something funny. we'll hug you when you are excited or nervous, devastated or elated, too. and then when it's time to go, we'll hug you when you have to leave...and chances are, we're gonna get up and walk you to the door, too. it goes back to southern hospitality and the plain ol' friendliness of our fine countrymen. (now, for the record, this would be an opportune time to mention that we really are the only state that has ever been its own country. but, i ain't braggin'...i'm just sayin' is all) but, for some reason this hugging thing kinda freaks northerners out a bit. i have a sweet friend from boston who lives here now (thank God!:) who asked me once, "why do you hug me every single time you see me? you act like we haven't seen each other in weeks! i just saw you yesterday! you texans are always all up in people's personal space." yes, ma'am, that sounds 'bout right. we don't have "personal space" here. don't need it. we got enough space outside, so we're good.

somethin' else you'll discover pretty quick is that we are friendly. i know i touched on this a bit before...but it goes beyond just giving you a hug. we talk a lot to anyone and everyone, anywhere, and at any time. doesn't really matter if we know you or not. in fact, i'm not sure if i've ever ridden in an elevator with a stranger and not either found out how their day was, what they do for a living, or simply commented on the weather or complimented their wardrobe choice. again, this freaks "foreigners" out. it is called "makin' conversation", people. it ain't hard. that's right, even a yank can do it if they try. :)

but, the one thing that really gets people is...the weather here. the weather in texas is about as dependable as a toddler who's asked to hold the rings at an outdoor, black-tie, evening wedding. you just never know what's going to happen...ever. this for sure freaks out people once they (finally get to:) move here. this week, for instance has been one of "those weeks" that makes you just laugh out loud and say "ya gotta love livin' in texas!" as i type, we are nearing the end of the month of january. a month that is, typically-at least for most areas, in the middle of winter. but those areas are the ones that have this freaky thing called "four seasons". i can't be sure but i think that it goes somethin' like...cool and breezy with green everywhere...and then pretty warm...then cooler and brisk with somethin' called "fall colors" in their trees, whatever that means...and lastly, pretty darn cold. i think that's how it goes, at least. but, not here. not in texas. we have, instead...about to be hot...then much stinkin' hotter...then, just s little bit less hot...and lastly, about to be hot again. those are our "four seasons". and our trees really only have two colors...green and dead.

three days ago, my three kiddos were playing outside in the 78 degree weather, in their short-sleeved t-shirts. in fact, my baby girl found her way to the sprinkler (that's right all of you from the north, i said the sprinkler, and yes it is still january) that my husband was using to water our trees. she got flat soaking wet. and she loved it! and now...just three days later, when i look outside, do i see that beautiful sunny weather we just got to bask in the other day? nope. we have five inches of snow on the ground and the wind chill is negative 1 degrees. negative 1, people. does the thermometer even really go negative, i ask?? (insert laugh from all the folks in minnesota...i think they got five feet! i cannot even fathom snow taller than me. why do you people live there anyway?)

so why in the world have i rambled on (and on and on) about all this. (i know, i know, sometimes ya just never know with me) where is my clever little spiritual point? well, this time, it has honestly been a tough pill to swallow. (this, coming from someone who's swallowed 20-30 pills a day for months, ya know...but, not no more, thank you God!) all this weather change has really gotten me thinking though...hot then cold, cold then hot....c'mon make up your stinkin' mind or pick somewhere in the middle for cryin' out loud! and ooohh, friend...a certain Scripture sure did come to my mind right then. wanna guess which one? c'mon you know you do.....

(keep scrolling....)

(and scrolling....)

(c'mon the suspense is killing you, ain't it!?!) :)

revelation 3:15-16 "I know your deeds, that you are neither cold nor hot. I wish you were either one or the other! So, because you are lukewarm—neither hot nor cold—I am about to spit you out of my mouth."

were you right? well, good. there's no prize though. sorry.

whew. i remember the exact day i heard this for the first time. i was in high school at a young life Bible study, and one of my best friend's dad was leading the study about the book of revelation. i didn't know anything about that book, well, except that it was the last one in the Bible. that's it. but, ohhh ron bosher did. and he told us. now, just to give you a fair picture...i feel inclined to tell you that ron, my lifelong friend's dad is a big man. yes, i was only nine years old when i met him, and all grown-ups seem big then, but that's not what i mean. i don't mean he is kinda tall and sorta stout. i mean ron is a big man. he played football at the finest college in our fine state, texas tech. (go tech!) he stands about 6 foot 5, and i'm not sure how much he weighs, but i am sure it is more than me. (yes, even now, thanks to steroid weight gain!) :) ron shakes your hand like he means it and afterwards, when you glance at the sheer size of his hands, you realize why you have no feeling left in your pinky finger. ron's voice resonates. when he speaks, you listen. end of story. but, before you get the wrong idea... ron is a very kind-hearted man. he is honest and funny and the man makes me look flat out shy. but...ya see, ron has a weakness....ron is married to sally...his high school sweetheart. sweet sally stands about 5 foot 2...maybe. but, it doesn't matter her size...one look from her, one sweet little sentence in their own little cute language, and ron's cheeks blush and he becomes just a big ol' teddy bear. just about the sweetest thing you'd ever see. but, not on this particular night. on this night he was telling us the Truth. and i must confess...when ron spoke about the book of revelation...it took on a whole.new.meaning.

so, here we were at the wise age of 16, being challenged by ron. we said we were Christians. we claimed to follow Jesus. but, were we really? he told us to make up our minds. because being this superficial, inch-deep, wishy washy, can't stick up to our friends because it's too "hard" kind of "Christian" made God want to puke.


so, fast forward x-number of years :) and here i am. gotta love the weather. gotta love livin' in texas. hot then cold. cool then warm...sunny with a chance of sleet...it's all over the place. these crazy last few days have brought to mind some things i have been thinking about a lot these last few months. about this exact verse, actually. it a pretty bold one. and ya know what... i think i'm ok with that, friend! are you?

let me share how i've been faced with a few Truths lately that have hit me so hard and so square in the face, you'd think good ol' ron was smackin' them right at me full force.

a few weeks ago, one of our beloved former pastors at our church came in town to visit. well, he came to visit..and to preach. and preach he did. you gotta love pastor dustin. (check out his awesome church at www.mosaicgc.com) the man doesn't sugar coat this whole thing for you. or for me. or for himself. he came with a message to all us "Christians"...are we really all in? it is so easy to get comfy, he said, in our trendy little church bubble. "we get so cozy in our same little cushy chair at church, our butt makes a nice little imprint when we are so good to show up week after week, and we actually stop thinking Jesus is doing us a favor and we start thinking we're doing Him one."

i would say that he ain't luke warm, wouldn't you? yep...sounds pretty hot to me.

for the last few months, our home group has been reading a pretty incredible book by mark batterson, called "in a pit with a lion on a snowy day". i know the title is a bit odd, but read it and you'll understand. i mean it - go get the book. seriously. i am not a reader. i never recommend books because i rarely read books. but, friend...this one might flat change your life. i know it's changed mine. and a sweet friend of mine's. the title is based on a man of the Bible i would almost guarantee you have never heard of...ready?? it's.......Benaiah. i know you're thinkin'... Bena-what!?! yep...that one isn't on the top ten most popular boy's names of 2011, with jacob and elijah, was it? nope. but the man was so brave and bold, he actually chased a lion. you read that right, he chased a lion. (see 2 samuel 23)

a couple quotes from the book that really got me...

"you can do nothing wrong, and still do nothing right." ya, i get this one. i've thought these thoughts...haven't you?!? "but, we go to church."....."we tithe what we are supposed to. most of the time."....."we don't curse, watch porn, get drunk, or do drugs...c'mon.".....i can't help but be reminded that the Pharisees didn't do any of that stuff either. i'm just sayin'.

"lion chasers know God is bigger and more powerful than any problem they face in this world. they thrive in the toughest circumstances because they know that impossible odds set the stage for amazing miracles. That is how God reveals his glory - and how he blesses you in ways you never could have imagined." ok friend, i have lived this one these last months and months. i faced a big problem. well, to be completely transparent, i emotionally and mentally ran kicking and screaming from my huge problem for a loooong time and then, with God's help, i faced it. then, friend, i chased it. and He has already blessed me more in the last two months than i can even find words to tell you...and you know anything about me, it's that i don't lack for words.

"maybe a relationship with God doesn't simplify our lives. Maybe it complicates our lives in ways that it should be complicated...because sin surely complicates our lives in ways that they shouldn't be complicated." so true. so.very.true. but, not so very easy. but, seriously, friend, when did we get the idea in our little-bitty brains that our lives here on this earth are supposed to be easy. they aren't. get over it. not sure about you, but i would take difficult with God than easy without Him, that is for darn sure. it is easy to be selfish. it is easy to be superficial. it is easy to be materialistic. it is easy to turn a blind eye to those that are hurting. it is easy to sit on your pew each week and do nothing. it is easy to be like my "texas" shirt...bringing yourself out to be bigger than you really are...it is easy to make this time that you have on this earth...all...about...you.

"The last time I checked the parable of talents, the reward for good work was more work." that's right, good and faithful servant...the dudes who did the right thing...the ones who used what Jesus had given them in the way that most honored Him...they didn't get a free ride. they didn't win the lottery. they didn't get their mortgage paid off. shoot - they didn't even get a brand new mini-van. (yep, that one is for me.) they got more work. period.

"The only regrets we will have at the end of our lives will be that we didn't seek God more or seek God sooner. That's it." enough said, there friend. what could i possible add to that?

trust me, after reading this book, i can almost feel the heat from this Biblical giant being so on fire. and for the record, i am sure God would rather you be hot too...but, with a nice, steady flame...the kind of flame others can gain warmth from. not a blast of a huge roaring fire that burns out when morning comes and it ain't fun anymore.

as i was researching for this post, i came across a man who wrote a book that, to be honest, i'm a little scared to read. his two minute video post for the book is unbelievable. literally, it is hard to believe. but, only cause i'm not sure i want to, not because it isn't TruthFULL. (since my last technological attempt on my blog didn't work, i will just tell you to please take a minute now and go to youtube and search for "radical by david platt". then sit tight. we'll be here when you get back.)

david platt says in his book titled "radical"....

“I don’t think God will ever say, ‘I wish you would have kept more for yourself.’” sigh. and so True.

"God beckons storm clouds, and they come. He tells the wind to blow and the rain to fall, and they obey immediately. He speaks to the mountains, 'You go there," and he says to the seas, 'You stop here,' and they do it. Everything in all creation responds in obedience to the Creator...until we get to you and me. We have the audacity to look God in the face and say, 'No.'"

i'm sweating now from this heat.

(sigh) sweet friend, i'm not a fire and brimstone kind of gal. really, i'm not. maybe that is what i have sort of dreaded posting this. oh gee, i hope people still like me. i hope i don't offend anyone. but, then i'm reminded of these words i read in the lion chaser book (thanks, Holy Spirit!) when he recalls a time when he, too, didn't speak up for Christ. he realized "so, instead of offending this woman, i offended the holy Spirit." whoa. i felt that one. so, i keep typing. in love, i type. but, in Truth, i type too. like me or not. and like mark says in the book "aren't you tired of Christians being known more for what they are against than what they are for?" my answer is an emphatic....yes!! this, friend, is what i am for. what are you for? is it you, or is it Jesus? cause it ain't both. either way....be for it. be all in. or be all out. your choice. but, keep in mind...this wishy washy-inch deep-in between-luke warm junk makes God wanna puke.

and for the record, as i type now, the wind chill outside is negative 6 degrees. negative six, people. that is pretty stinkin' cold. oh how i pray that is not what you choose. last night, when tucking in my oldest kiddo...the one i wrote about in the post titled "what do you mean the weatherman's wrong?"...he's been waiting for snow for months. literally, months. he says right before he went to sleep, "mama, i'm tired of all the cold. i'm ready for the hot weather again and for swimming outside." it's been freezing cold for three days. that's it, three days. if you choose cold. i pray it is only for a short while. i'll be waiting for you by the pool...