Sunday, November 02, 2014


The last few years I've used National Blog Posting Month as a chance to get back in the posting habit and catch up on our online family scrapbook. But here we are on Nov. 2, and I've already missed day 1! In my defense, we were out of town for a band contest, and I just plum forgot. 

So maybe THIS year, NaBloPoMo means that I WILL post this month! 

See? Here 'tis!

Monday, September 22, 2014

Five years in our home sweet home.

Five years ago today, Brett and I met up with a friend at Hexter-Fair Title Company so we could buy our house. The closing process involved a lot of ink and paper, but it was a breeze compared to the months it took to get us there. After about an hour of signatures and handshakes, we had those precious keys.

Later that night, we tiptoed barefoot onto the freshly shampooed carpet just to BE in our new house.
I was still taller than Ryan and Katie back in 2009!
Our house! It was a long time coming, but it was so good to be HOME.

Finally getting into our place was especially sweet because of what we went through along the way. When we first decided to sell our Watauga home, we had a buyer relatively quickly. Contract in place, we started shopping for our own new place in September 2008. We found one we really liked and made an offer.
Tim, our dear friend and real estate agent, in new house #1.
We thought it was perfect for us: three bedrooms and an office upstairs, a spare bedroom (for my office) and formal living, dining and family rooms downstairs. It was farther away than we’d hoped, but we’d be near friends and have access to a community pool.

Then our buyer had issues. We were able to extend our contract on the house we wanted, and since we were certain(!) the delay was temporary, started moving our mounds of stuff into storage. Then our buyer’s financing fell through, and the deal was off. Sadly, we gave up our contract on the five-bedroom home we wanted so badly. We also had to stay in our old house, just without most of our stuff!

Fast forward a few months. We had a new buyer! Or not. She backed out.

The third time was the charm. Finally we had a buyer with solid financing, so we again began our house-hunting in earnest. We looked at dozens of houses in a variety of neighborhoods, but when we saw our house, we just knew it was the one. The only hitch? It was a short sale. It could be months before we would get into that house. Were we willing to ride out the wait? It took about 5 minutes to say yes, this house was worth it. It was closer to our schools, which meant the kids could stay with their friends (thanks to open enrollment), and my commute wouldn’t be as long. Plus, the office was just right for Brett, and the game room—the massive game room!—was made for his many game consoles. We thought the first house we wanted was perfect for us, but this one was even better! Even without knowing how long our wait would be, we knew we loved this house.

So on Aug. 14, 2009, we moved out of the only home our kids had ever known. For the next six weeks, we lived with Brett’s parents, in a Holiday Inn Express, at a friend’s house, and then back at Brett’s parents’ home. Because of our nomadic lifestyle (which came just as the school year was starting, naturally), we were ecstatic when Sept. 22 arrived and we finally got those precious keys.

Now that we’re five years past that date, I’m again reminded how generous our friends and family were throughout that process.
  • Brett’s mom and dad didn’t just open their home to us; they treated us like royalty! Of course, you’d expect nothing less from these generous people, but I can’t even count all the ways they helped us through that tough time. And hey, it’s hard to feel too out of sorts when Nana’s cooking for you!
  • The North Richland Hills Fire Department, Farmers Insurance, and Holiday Inn Express really came through, too. Don’t know that story? Oh, it’s a good one!
  • Our friends Jim Bob and Dana provided a nice respite between hotel and home. They were in the process of moving to a nearby community, so they let us house-sit for them. After a week of the four of us sharing a hotel room, it was wonderful to have our own rooms and an actual kitchen while we waited for our closing date.
  • By listening to me vent, my friends at school kept me sane! When our closing date fell on picture day, one of my responsibilities, they quickly stepped up to cover my duties.
  • Did you read the fire department story? No lie, it’s worth the click.
  • And then there’s Tim. As our friend and real estate agent, Tim helped us throughout the long, arduous process, giving up many nights to deal with contracts and showings and questions and phone calls. When our closing date finally came, he may have been happier than we were, just so he could finally be rid of our hassles! We’re so thankful for his wife, Amy, too, for her willingness to share Tim with us throughout our misadventures in real estate. Oh, was Tim thrilled for us! Every time I saw him after that date, he’d ask the same thing: “Y’all still likin’ your house?” We lost Tim just three months after we moved in, but he has to know: YES! We still love our house! 
In five years this house has seen its share of crises, but there have been more smiles than tears, more laughter than anger, more love than tumult. Today we celebrate the friendships and faith that helped us get here.

(For more tales of our transition time, check out these Project GOOD posts.)

Sunday, August 24, 2014

Messages from my mom.

The second anniversary of Mom’s passing arrived Friday amid the craziness that is back-to-school time. It was Katie’s last day of August band and Ryan’s second day of college, and I was still scrambling to get ready for my new EOC prep class that starts Monday. I thought it a blessing to be so busy on that day, the one that marks the birth of our grief. Running from school to the band dinner, I thought I wouldn’t have time to be exceptionally sad.

Throughout the day, though, the sadness managed to sneak in. A couple of times at work, I had to write “Aug. 22” on a form, and there it was. Or maybe it was a fleeting thought of how I missed these particular inservice days two years ago. Memories of hospice and phone calls and funeral arrangements surfaced, so I would just dive right back into my work.

But two times during the day, Mom showed up at my desk.

The first incident came while I was sorting spirals for my new students. I bought a bunch on sale at Walmart over the last few weeks, but when my classes were larger than I anticipated, I scrambled to cover the gap. In an old filing cabinet I found the last of my mom’s old stash of notebooks. When she retired from teaching kindergarten, we inherited her stockpile, spirals she had purchased for her students way back when. I thought we’d gone through them all, but there they were with her handwritten name labels on them.

What a comfort to see that neat manuscript! I paused, took a pic (naturally), and set those two spirals aside. It was so precious to get this reminder of her teaching career, her legacy, in the midst of my gotta-be-ready-for-Monday frenzy.

The second “Mom moment” happened a little later as I was rearranging a bookcase. When I taught creative writing, I would always write with my students. There with some old notebooks were the journals I had used in those CW classes. Many of the journal entries were quick rough draft responses to prompts the students presented. As I flipped through these little time capsules, one of the first entries to catch my eye was this one from April 24, 2002:

Best compliment you ever got
“You are such a good mother.” My mom said this to me a few weeks ago. We had taken Katie to Burger King for supper. Brett and Ryan were at yet another Chuck E. Cheese birthday party, so we were trying to give Katie her own special time. I was really tired that day. I felt like I was too harried to be a good anything. It was one of those “let’s just get by” kind of days. I didn’t feel particularly motherly: I hadn’t done any of the well-planned activities that would foster learning or social interaction. But Katie was happy, and my mom gave me credit for it.

Not my best prose, but can you believe I “just happened” to run across that on August 22nd of all days? In the few moments it took to read that paragraph, I just melted. I could hear her voice and see that approving smile. She was always good at affirmations, but I did not expect her to affirm me from beyond the grave!

Mom was never one to wallow (“There’s within my heart a melody,” you know?), so of course she would want joy to overrule my sadness that day. With the spirals and the journal entry, she turned my focus to gratitude. I still cried. Oh, it was a big ol’ ugly cry. But yet again, my overriding thought was how grateful I am that she was my mother.


One of the newer songs we sing in our instrumental service is especially resonating with me today. “This Is Amazing Grace” talks about that unearned grace our Father has shown us, about his constant and steadfast love. The electric guitar echoes that with its steady heartbeat of a line. The lyrics are powerful, talking about bring order out of chaos, light out of darkness. So many good words, so much truth. But lately, it’s the line at the end of the bridge that really gets to me:

“Worthy, worthy, worthy.”

“Worthy” I am not. As summer ends and the busy-ness of school begins, all my shortcomings seem to surface. I’m prone to angry outbursts. My pride wins out over selflessness. I doubt. I’m petty. I feel the weight of everything I think I’m supposed to control, and in my arrogance, assume I am in charge of my life. I try to rely on my own resources instead of turning to the source of all I am or ever will be.

But HE is worthy. He, the faultless One, suffered so I could receive a life I do not deserve, both now and in the afterlife. 

Worthy is the lamb who was slain,
And worthy is the king who conquers the grave.
Worthy is the lamb who was slain,
Worthy, worthy, worthy!

Even when I feel worthless, the worthy One gives me hope. He nourishes me, he fills me, he makes me worthy. Because I am his, I can live day to day knowing that he values me. Even when I fall, he is there to help me see the better way of life he has in mind for me. He has set me free from my failings, free from my many limitations.

Lord, help me to find my worth in you. Thank you for your amazing grace, your unfailing love. You are worthy, worthy, worthy.

Friday, July 11, 2014

Nashville mission trip, part 4: Homeward bound.

With our week of work behind us, we were ready to get back to Texas. On the road again...

Memphis Pyramid

The mighty Mississipp

Road trip delirium

Sleepy time

Texas, our Texas!

Almost home

Big D skyline looked mighty fine
I'm thankful for safe travels and for the opportunity to serve some of Nashville's youngest, to worship and study with other Christ-followers, and to get to know some of our own youth group better. What a great week it was!

Thursday, July 10, 2014

Nashville mission trip, part 3: Night out on the town.

Built into the Week of Hope itinerary is a night out. On Tuesday, July 8, our group headed to downtown Nashville to check out the Broadway scene. Some sights we saw:

Nice view of LP Field from the parking lot

Street detail

Hunka hunka selfie

Gotta stop and take a selfie
And another selfie for my fave KISS fan

Our dinner destination

Ace Frehley's guitar (again, for Brett)

Elvis' suit and Dolly's

Cyndi Lauper outfit

Dinner crew

Checking out the Broadway scene

Family band of street performers

I remember coming here with my parents in the '70s.

Seeing all the Grand Ole Opry stars' photos on the wall
brought a tear to my eye. So many family memories!

Browsing the country and bluegrass selection
(Katie bought Dolly Parton and George Jones CDs!)

The AT&T Building (a.k.a. Batman)

Fun stop after strolling up and down the street

Riverside devotional to wrap up the night out

Nashville mission trip, part 2: Ready, set, SERVE.

After all the travel and sightseeing, we were ready to settle in on Sunday afternoon, July 6.

We checked in at the Donelson Fellowship and made ourselves at home in the classrooms-turned-dorm rooms. Cots were unfolded, air mattresses inflated, sleeping bags unfurled.

We also got acquainted with the restroom facilities. There were two toilets on our floor. Two toilets for 40+ girls? We also had two showers for all the females to share, and those showers happened to be camp showers outside! The living conditions weren't luxurious, but everyone in our group took in all in stride. And hey, we had A/C!

Before the first evening program, our kids continued their tradition of playing marathon four-square games.

It wasn't long before the other groups from Virginia, Illinois and Alabama were joining in.

Ready to get this party started

At the opening evening session
That night we had a time of worship, a brief devotional talk and some silly games. Then we finally got our work assignments for the rest of the week. We were divided into crews and assigned roles. Some crews were assigned to a "Feed the Children" program. Others would be working in a nursing home. A few were doing yard work and light maintenance. Our assignment? We would be working together at YES, a childcare facility for lower income families. 

Monday morning we were up early for breakfast duty, but after that, we were on our way to work. We were already tired from all the traveling and activity, but we were ready to "be Jesus" to those children.

On our way to YES

Getting our instructions from Mr. Dave
Working with our reading buddies
Taking on the big kids in dodgeball

At the end of that first day, Katie confided that our day full of board games, crafts, tutoring and playing didn't feel like work at all! What a great group of children!

Some more photos from our week at YES and in the Week of Hope programs:

Tennessee critter

"Front Row Joes" at the nightly devotional

Evening program

Lovely scenery on our drive to YES

Cumberland River

Arriving for our last day

With my buddies E and D
On our second day at YES, E, one of the youngest kids there, became my best buddy. All I did was kick a soccer ball to him, but he followed me around the rest of the day. By week's end we had shared reading time, crafts, and our own version of mini-kickball. So sweet! Then D buddied up to me during our outing to a local YMCA for swimming. By our last day there, D and I had our own special handshake (borrowed from one that Katie and I have shared for years).

Sharing the secret handshake

Katie helps with chapel time

We went on this mission trip to work, but in our four days at YES, we saw all the ways God is already at work there. The leadership of that program is top-notch, and the children who attend, especially the older teenagers, are key to its success. Even though they range in age from kindergarten to 12th grade, those kids cooperate and get along with each other. What a blessing it was to get to love, help and encourage them!