If I may quote George Strait on this one.... I saw God today.

Sometimes I write because I have an actual story to tell.  Sometimes I write because there are so many thoughts racing through my head that I can't slow them down till I type it out.  And sometimes writing to me is rest.  A quiet place that is all mine, but I invite y'all in to share. 

And sometimes I write because my heart has felt, or my eyes have seen, or my face has smiled. 

And I see and hear God in so many ways and days and places and people.  In work and rest and searching and stumbling upon.  And I know it's him.  Because I recognize it as the caring work of a friend who leaves me gifts all around -  like friends to bump into unexpectedly, and the beauty of these last fall days whose colors were enough to make me slow down and stare.

Like one of my favorite George Strait songs says, I saw God today

Have you?  I'd love to hear about it. 

My prayer today.....

God you are our place of safety and rest.  Our place of peace in a busy world.  Help us today to see the good news of your daily gifts.  Give us peace in our sleep and waking, and friends to keep along the way.  Help us to carry our thanks with us daily while giving credit to you who made it all. Help us to see the world through your eyes, and know the peace of your presence on this day.  Amen.

Happiest Thanksgiving to you.  I am thankful for you. 

All of Heaven will join in... with a big ol' chocolate malt.

I just made THE. BEST. CHOCOLATE. MALT. IN. THE. HISTORY. OF. MANKIND. And if I ever fall out of the fitness business, I just may have a future in frozen fountain drinks. 

It's a comfort food for me - whose place is definitely on a weekend like this -  where the temperature fell from mid 80's to an ice warning on my car dashboard.  Or following a lengthy stomach virus.   And I totally deserve a reward for surviving. 

For chocolate malts and their place in this world, I am most thankful.  

So the boys and I decided that on this miserably cold and rainy day, and we couldn't muster up the strength or will to go out for Mexican food , which is the champion of cold and rainy day food in Texas, .... we chose the next best thing.  Grilled cheese on country white bread, parmesan chicken noodle soup (which is also THE. BEST.... but I didn't make it.  Just opened it up and heated it, but I can tell you where to find it if you want some.  Or just come over here next time you're cold and I'll fix it for you.   You're welcome.)  And the chocolate malt.  Which my boys proclaimed as award winning and told their daddy that I am the all time best malt maker in the entire world.  Which he always thought he was.... but apparently not anymore.  I feel a malt making showdown coming on.

Gosh, and my youngest son has now been "invited" by the school counselor to join the friendship group.....which if you've ever watched that TV show, The Middle, where the youngest kid, Brick, has to attend social skills class with all the other not quite adjusted kids  - that's what I'm imagining.  Apparently Sam has some other buddies that have been invited as well.  Looks like there's gonna be some lessons about conflict resolution going on.  Could be a direct result of the whole water bottle incident on the playground not long ago. 

And having nothing whatsoever to do with malts, TV shows, or Mexican food..... my middle son has always had a wish to fly.  Not like a pilot  - but like a bird.  So he could go wherever and whenever and see the world.  Or just fly away from places or things he doesn't like - like cleaning his room or maybe math class at school.  And after my little guy got his invitation to the friendship group at school last week, I totally had the same wish.  At the very moment of opening the invitation.  Clicking my ruby red heels together and wishing I could fly away.... from all the eyes at the teacher appreciation potluck that I'm about to host.  You know the one... the one where all the teachers will now know me as the mom of the kid invited to the friendship group. 

(By the way.... this was my weekly attempt at the 5 Minute Friday writing challenge that bloggers all over the world link up to and share their imperfect lives, thoughts, and words, in only 5 minutes.  Today's prompt was the word: FLY.  And when I first heard the prompt, my immediate thought was the hymn, "I'll Fly Away" and it's country counterpart as sung by the lovely Miranda Lambert.  And friends, it goes something like this...  
I'll fly away from it all one day..
  These are the days that I will remember
When my name's called on the roll
He'll meet me with two long-stemmed glasses
And make a toast to me coming home 

Which all of Heaven will join in... with a big ol' chocolate malt. 

They need the mom I am now.

I watch as he makes his way across my crowded classroom.  A little boy, about 3 years old.  His mom has just finished her morning spin class and I'm now working with one of my older adult groups.  We're at our local YMCA, the place to be in the  morning as far as fitness is concerned around here.  And as much of a community within a community as you'll find in this part of town.  A place for fitness, friends, visiting and caring for ourselves and others.

There are about 40 people in the room, but the little guy peeks in.... looking for just the right person.  And he finds her waiting for him every time.  Miss Lilian, who works part time in the child care room at the Y.  And she's this fella's teacher on occasion, for an hour here or there. And he loves her because she loves him.  And each day he wants to give and get his hug - the one just for and from her.  So he wanders through the crowded group of tall people as if nothing is in his way, he finds her in the back corner, they hug, and he's good.  He runs out and can go on about little boy business.

And part of childhood business is loving unconditionally.  They are mirrors of the love that they are shown.  What's put in, comes right back out ten times greater and without reason or hesitation or second thought of who or where or when.  Just love.  Without thinking twice.  

And I love watching this little boy right now in this particular stage.  Because I remember my boys.  Their beautiful sweetness and giving hearts.  But what I see as time passes is how time changes them.  And me.  And how time takes away pieces of the people we were and turns us into someone completely different. 

Our nephew and his wife have four little ones under the age of four and we forget every time they come to visit what that's like  ... till their little toddler storm comes blowing in here again.  My husband said after they left last time, I don't know how they do it....  And I told him, ... just like we did. We were at that same place in time about 10 years ago. 

But parents come with amazing powers of selective memory.  I remember the days of my guys being little.  And I have pictures to prove it.... but I struggle to remember the exact days.   The length and flow of the toddler times.  And the activity level and the running and jumping and climbing and exploring their brave new worlds.  Not that long ago, my house was our babies' new world.  Toys to play and furniture to climb on and a big dog and brothers to wrestle .... and I can see why God lets us keep only some of the memories.  For me, its like the memory of childbirth.  I absolutely remember each time.  And I remember that I was in pain.  But I can't re-live that pain.  The exact memory has faded to only a name.  The memory that I did it... and the memory that I left the hospital each time with a beautiful gift.  

As my kids grow, I remember that I loved them at every age.  I loved their little personalities and the funny things they said and the Spider Man costume that Christopher wore his entire 4th year.  But I remember them as events, and time periods... a place in my history.  I can't bring back the actual moment to moment of those times. As it's meant to be.  My kids need me to be their mom now - at ages 10, 12 and 13.  They need my interests to match their interests and needs at this age.  They need the mom I am now.  For the kids they are now.

And I crazy love the young men they are now... completely new people, though I know they're still mine.  But without pictures to remind me of the messes and stresses, their little selves fade into time periods of my life.  Big lumps of time called infancy and toddler-hood and school days.  I talked to my niece about that recently.  About getting to know the little people she has today.  Because when you look back, it's like our eyes and minds play a trick.  Our kids become the memories of people we used to know.  But I look forward to each day of being mom. In each age and stage.

I have some particular worries today.  Mostly about raising teens and what's normal or not , and right and possibly crazy.  So I'm rolling that around in my head a bit.  

But for these days - past, present and future, I know that what I have is a gift and a blessing. And this Thanksgiving season, I can't say thank you enough.  

For when you won't take the bet because maybe you really are crazy

Here's how it went....
My husband and I ate at the cafeteria again today.  That's our excitement.  And it's our favorite neighborhood place.   He ordered liver and onions, I ordered a vegetable plate.   And we listened to the best of Frank Sinatra as we ate and discussed the giant fence that went up in our backyard. You can read about it here.   The great wall of China.....  the wall out of  some Bible story I think that divided lands and people and made them speak different languages.  Or maybe those are several stories all mixed together.  But it turns out that the great wall is apparently hiding more than our family, but also all the treasures that my husband has thrown in the alley - that I discovered when I saw the neighbors point in our direction in surprise and slight disgust.  David calls it a compost bin.  I called it - honey, it's big trash week and the neighbors already hate us so get rid of it.  So he's doing that right now.  Drive by our house and you can see some pieces of a re-purposed swing set wrapped in chicken wire that has for the last 3 years set up shop in our alley.  Who knew.

Then we leave and drive by a cute little blue convertible parked in front of a hair salon in the parking lot.  Where I exclaim, Turn around there's a dog driving that car!  And I saw it, grey curly poodle like hair blowing in the wind, sitting in the drivers seat,..... so David turns us around but the dog must've relocated to the back seat.  Because he's no longer driving.  So he bets me $5 that there never really was a dog, and dares me to get out and look - all over and inside said blue convertible.

And I refuse to take the bet.... because what if he's right?  What if I am on occasion delirious and confused even if I did turn off the poisonous gas to the fireplace in time?  Or maybe I'm just dehydrated from 4 classes and still exhausted from the last class of little old ladies in the pool and their hair worries.

But end of story.... I didn't take the bet.  Was there a dog driving that car?  Yes I think so, but it's not worth losing a husband bet over it.  Or $5.   

I just sucked up half a roll of toilet paper into the vacuum cleaner.

No joke.  I just sucked up half a roll of toilet paper into the vacuum cleaner before I could stop it.  Once it started rolling, it was a fast ride.  It's usually socks that get sucked up because our boys don't know how to take both socks off at the same time or in the same place.  They also don't know how to flush, or rinse toothpaste out of the sink.  And they never put a napkin in their laps if they actually think to use one instead of their shirts.  And I have one kid that can't shampoo to save his life.  Look at our pictures - you'll know which one. 

Today the boys lost a frisbee on the roof, a ball in the gutter and got a football stuck in the tree.  But the nice house painter next door came over with a super long pole and saved the day.  

And earlier this morning I texted fireman husband at work and asked him if nausea, headache and random confusion might be signs of gas poisoning.  Because for days I've told him I smell too much gas from the fireplace.  He responded with a very professional, firemanly,  turn it off.  One morning years ago he was sweet enough to light the fireplace for us before he went to work - when it was still wood burning -  but now we're high tech and had it converted to gas -  but he forgot to open the chimney.  And fireman Dave went to work and left me and 3 babies asleep in the house to wake to smoke alarms and a house filled with a cloud. 

And our dishwasher almost caught on fire.  Fire is our constant theme.  We also started a driveway fire one New Years Eve with firework sparklers, but THAT, my friends, is another story.  We've already purchased a new dishwasher but have to wait 2 weeks for it to be delivered.  Because we are apparently the only people left in America that don't want stainless steel appliances.  Our color is bisque -  the off white, creamy color of kitchens past.  And I can't afford to remodel the entire kitchen now just because of one dangerous overheating dishwasher - as my husband reminded me as we walked into the appliance store this week.  And I can't just stick one mismatched dishwasher into a sea of off white.  Long story short, a 2 week wait where we will try to milk a little more life out of the old one, but we can't leave the house with it running.  Because, again, fire is our theme.  

Little known fact.... if indeed this current dishwasher really caught on fire - that would make our second full fledged dishwasher fire in our marriage.  True. 

And this giant fence - or WALL - that the neighbors just built behind us?

It's really big.  And granted, they just finished fancying up their patio and probably want to enjoy it without my 3 boys shooting BB guns their way - but with a fence that big?  I kinda took it as a personal statement - like they don't want the boys shooting at them anymore, or pitching baseballs toward their windows.  Or maybe they don't like to look at the back of our not so fancy garage, ..... or maybe they just don't want to be neighborly.  I  felt like that when I watched the wall go up.  And if that's the case, it's kinda sad to me.  And one day I should really tell them that I can still see them from out my back door.  Just in case they think they're fully hidden and try to sunbathe naked or something.   

But the point of all this?  That sometimes I think we hesitate to really tell the truth about our homes and families.  And about ourselves.  I started this line of thought this morning when I read a particular Facebook post about an evening of  "Thai food and lots of vino, a beautiful night out on the patio, a sea of precious kids playing inside, and engaging adult conversation ."  

It sounded lovely.  And I am totally a lover of all things lovely.  But lovely comes in all shapes and sizes - of people, places, circumstances, and attitudes.  

I think it completely lovely that my dishwasher didn't fully engulf in flames.  And I happen to like our bisque colored kitchen circa 1956.  It's lovely to me because it's mine.  It's ours.  It's where I love to bake, and have a pretty red rug on the floor, and glass front cabinets that my husband made at the fire station in his free time.  

And I think it lovely that I have boys playing outside in the wind and the leaves and as of this moment, they are not shooting anyone with anything.  

And I think anyone who read  this far in this crazy long post is lovely for sticking around to the end. 

What would you say to your younger self?

I saw a young man at his school bus stop this morning.  Wearing skinny red pants.  The traveling red pants.  And I kinda' didn't really care for red pants on a high school boy... but that's strictly my opinion.  You, my friends, may indeed care a lot for skinny red pants on high school boys. 

But in the seconds that I had driving past him, I first thought that I'm not sure about the current state of style affairs for the younger set.  Then I quickly reminded myself of my own skinny colored jeans in high school - mine were hot pink, with zippers at the ankles.  And these particular pants were so absolutely wonderful and so over the top popular that I loaned them out to similar sized friends and almost never got them back.  

But my thoughts went past the jeans and on to the age and stage of life where I wore hot pink jeans with ankle zippers.  And how I don't know where that time went and how it went away so fast.  A minute ago I was 17 with hot pink pants and now I'm ?? and a mother of 3, wife, homemaker and all around good gal. 

So what would I say to my younger self?  What would you say to yours?

I would tell myself to wait.  Wait as long as it takes.  I would tell myself that there is love to be had and love to be found, but that the right love requires patience and time and will happen only in the right time.  I would tell myself that school is good, and college is great and even though I don't grow up to use the degrees exactly as intended, the time, effort and experiences will make me the person I am now.  And I would mention that it all turns out okay...so don't give a second thought to that math grade situation in college.

I would tell myself to look around for the good and stock up on it when there's plenty to be had.  Because there will be times when I'll need to pull from that supply of good and take it all in.  I would tell myself that there is bad and sad and grief and scares on the way.  That there will be loss of loved ones to extremely unfair circumstances.  But then I would tell myself what I tell my kids.... God never promised us fair.  He promised us other things - like walking with us through the unfair. 

I would tell myself to take more pictures of my sister.  And record her voice.  I would tell myself to do the same with my dad.  And to just keep taking pictures of those future children no matter what they say... because they will say plenty, and even try to hide.

I would tell myself to quit tanning.  That there is a price for that suntan and WE will be the one that pays for it.  

I would tell myself to quickly remove the negative from life even when it's gonna be hard to do.  I would tell myself that I end up strong of body, of will, of determination, and spirit - and all of that has been earned.  

And I would tell my younger self that she will be given the opportunity of a lifetime - 3 times over - and name them Ethan, Christopher and Sam. 

And the list goes on....

What would you tell your younger self? 

And yes, I'm scared. Again.

I'm not even sure I have the words here.  On my mind today has been the news of a 16 year old boy at our local high school, struck and killed by a car minutes after being dropped off this morning.  And just weeks ago a little girl at our elementary darted out in front of a car and was hit, taken to the hospital, but she was fine. 

And I don't know why some people end up fine and others don't.  I don't know why some people have to be hit by cars and some people have awful illnesses.  And some people are fine. 

I've always been a worrier about my kids and have touched on my fear of loss a bit on here in previous posts.  And it's not a little bitty fear, either.  It's kinda always there.  In a big way. Because now that I have the best and greatest gifts I have ever been given,  I'm always in the back of my mind thinking that it could all go away in an instant.  We're all just a phone call from our knees, I heard a particular song say.

So what should I tell my kids when bad things happen?  And what will be the answer when they one day ask the age old question about why God allows bad things to happen?  Because we pray for safety and protection all the time.  Is that giving the boys the sense that God is a superhero that stops all the pain and suffering and the bad surprises?  Because I actually think God is kind of a super hero.  But he's not in the business of preventing all our troubles.  I also don't think he's in the business of creating or even allowing our troubles.  But I do think he is in the business of being there when trouble strikes.  And it will.  The Bible says we will experience suffering.  So if you haven't yet, just hang on. 

And yes, I'm scared.  Again.  Because I get into a false sense of security and roll along with our normal.  And I catch myself expecting the normal of today to continue tomorrow. 

So what to do?  Pray without ceasing, #1.  Pray for healthy minds and hearts and bodies.  Pray for protection to be poured out all over those kids and ourselves each day and then hope for the best. 

And when tragedy strikes..... I will hope that I did all I could as a parent to prevent and protect and teach and love and take advantage of every opportunity for togetherness that I was given. 

And I've said this before... I hope that I'm teaching the boys as if I won't be here tomorrow.  And loving the boys as if they won't be here tomorrow.  Because today is proof that our realities can change in the blink of an eye. 

When we all get to heaven.

They played football in the yard until the name calling started.  Then Chris threw Sam's shoes over the fence.  Into the alley.  And then Sam laid in the kitchen floor moaning that he's so tired because I never feed them.  Which I really do.  Feed them.  Only not at their beck and call and not always something they want to eat.  And the casserole came out not quite done which made everyone hungrier and angrier and a little hostile while we waited.  Like a riot scene you might see on the news.

But that's kind of our day to day circle of relationships around here.  We lose patience and then find it again.  We starve for food and attention till we get our fill.  And we usually end up on the couch at the end of the evening all blanketed up together and willing to try for another day. 

We went to church today. Did you?  Did your kids wear decent shoes?  Our  topic today was relationships in  heaven.  Our relationships with each other and with God.  Turns out, contrary to popular belief, dear old grandma and grandpa weren't really reunited in heaven... but they probably still know each other there.  But differently.  In heaven there will be no marriages, no individual families, no former spouses, no parents. The bible says we will be like angels... it doesn't say when we die we will BE angels.  Because it's not gonna happen.  There are angels that will always be angels and when we get to heaven, we will do things more like the angels - meaning we will worship more fully, we will love more completely... things like that.  But we will not earn wings or grow them or any other way become angel like.  The Bible says. 

But the most interesting part of the lesson to me was how our relationships today are preparing us for our future relationships with each other in heaven.  Nope, I won't be married to David in heaven.  Because I'll just be a free spirited single soul along with everyone else.  And really, my full title will be Child of God.  And my kids will also be children of God which really, in the God view of things, heavenly perspective of it all, will make them my brothers in Christ. 

And told to us today, which is really nice and gives us kind of a reason to try harder to work on our relationships.... is that we are here today in training to perfect those relationship skills.  So when we all get to Heaven, like the song,.... what a day of rejoicing it will be.    


I occasionally link up to another blog for their weekly Five Minute Friday post - a quick 5 minutes to write on a given prompt, for the beauty of the written word.  Today's prompt is TRUTH.  And I'm sure lots of other bloggers have already written flowing articles about the truth of God's love, the truth of Biblical somethings.... and my all time favorite, their sweet truths.  And I have those too.  And I'm camera crazy for those moments.   

But here's my truth today.....

I woke up to ants in my kitchen and even inside the dishwasher.  And one lone ant friend scouting out my bathroom.  A 12 year old threw a football at his brother's face, missed and knocked over a bowl of cereal.  And the dog helped herself to the spill.  I have a 13 year old that stepped over 3 giant bags of trash on the back porch rather than offer to move them to the garbage can out back.  The truth is that my kids are not perfect - and neither is their mom.  My little apples didn't fall far from their mother tree. 

But my 5 minutes of writing are ticking.... ticking.... and I know the real truth is this.  There is beauty to be found in the every day.  The fact that there is a God that is enjoying  his sitcom comedy family this morning, watching how we deal with ants and a dog that ate cinnamon toast crunch for breakfast.  The truth is that for whatever reason, God saw me fit for duty for this job - even on these mornings of rush and chaos and disagreement.  The truth is that  he sees in me the potential of doing something right with this family.  And the truth is, that no matter what else gets in the way - the little distractions - that this is the day that the lord has made.  And I am thankful for it.

For I know the plans I have for you.

For I know the plans I have for you.... plans for a future. 

Both the 6th grader and the 4th grader these days don't see the need for school.  I hear it all the time.... why do they have to go?   Because apparently they learn the same things every day - every year for that matter.  And of course none of it useful. Who needs to learn about writing and double digit multiplication and that thing about Bolivia?  So Christopher, hanging outside my bathroom door last night - fretting over the essay that he partly plagiarized for Social Studies, asks me.... "So what's it gonna be?  Fail my project or go to jail?"  He's 12.  And failing grades and jail kinda weigh in close on the scale at that age.  And I had to tell him that he has a tough decision... but a choice he has to make.  I would hate to see him deal with either, but a mama's heart cries at the thought of her 12 year old in copyright jail.  Tough love parenting.  

And we wait on pins and needles for the oldest to find out if he made the middle school basketball team. He's nervous and afraid he didn't.  Because it seems all the other kids trying out were giants.  And really good at what they do.  But we keep trying to tell him that the team, this moment, is a blip on the screen of his life either way it turns out.  Just a blink in the days of his life... and as big as the team seems now, one day it won't.  And as big as a school essay, partly felony offense borrowed or not, seems to be today.... one day it won't be.  Now the multiplication thing... that's kinda big.  

And I don't know if I'm that great an example... with my own flair for drama.  Today I had a hair crisis of catastrophic proportion.  One that would make a lesser woman cry.  I kinda like to abide by the mantra of the beautiful Coco Chanel.... who says a girl must be two things.... classy and fabulous.  And today I messed with my classy and jeopardized my fabulous.  So yes, stuff like that, to me, too - a blink in the days of my life - are huge.  I totally get it.  And that's how I hear my kids.  I hear their own doubts and insecurities by listening with my own.    I haven't forgotten the gigantic feelings that come along with being a teen - or an adult for that matter - in a world that fills us too much with doubt and insecurity. 

So I pray this for my kids daily...  With them, for them, over them, hands all rubbing it in like lotion on their sweet faces.  Because I tell them time and again that God has a plan.  And he's had it all along.  A specific, name tagged plan for each of them - and they were hand picked and hand made to do just that.    There is no other Sam in the world like you, my love.  There is not another Ethan or Christopher able to accomplish the task set forth for you even before you were born. 
Because God knew you and called you by name before you were a thought in my mind.  And at that moment, he laid it all out.  On a big ol' God sized map. 

So with these words as an example... (because sometimes I change my mind, or forget what I was saying)  but in one way or another,  I pray for God's tremendous guidance for each of them....
"Amazing God, giver of all good and perfect gifts, please help these boys to hear your voice, to feel your love , and recognize you today.  Help them to see you when the world tells them that they can't.  Help them to know in their hearts that you created them beautifully and wonderfully, and that they were uniquely made to do something special in this world.  Please guide their steps, words, choices and actions today as they are choosing the paths to take." Amen.

What does a mom home alone on a Friday night do?

So what does a mom at home alone on a Friday night do?  She writes on her blog.... about being home alone on a Friday night.  Dateless, childless, ...just me and the dog. Hanging out all too close to the leftover Halloween candy.

Husband and kid 3 on a scout camp out, and the other 2 boys with friends for the evening.  
There was once a time, not too long ago, that even one of the boys being gone felt like our whole family was missing a piece.  But time has, for tonight anyway, given me a peace that I didn't expect.  Kind of a little surprise gift of grace.  The absolute best kind of gift. 

I remember the first time I saw my oldest, Ethan, ride away in a car with someone other than myself or his daddy.  And I felt like my heart was in that car being pulled down the street along with him - being ripped out and strapped into a baby car seat beside him.

But I've seen that baby grow into a young man taller than his mama.  But even bigger in adventure and interest and this week, courage.  

Today I drove, as he stripped down to his boxers in the front seat.  A quick change after school for the second round of basketball tryouts.  And I told him how proud I am of him for even trying.  Nervous stomach and all.  And how I'm seeing a lot of courage and commitment to something he could've just as easily backed out of.  As much courage as that one 8th grade boy that dressed as a girl in a pink sparkly dress at school for Halloween?   We don't know that boy.... but man, that took guts. 

And where I haven't seen growth, I've tried to encourage it.  Tonight I had to  encourage Christopher to go to the football game.  He didn't want to.  Wanted to stick close to home and to me.  I'll be fine.  And you'll be fine, I tell him.  He's had quite a middle school transition this year and when he gets home, that's where he wants to stay.  Safe in the arms of his couch, his bed, his TV, and his family.  He tells me that I just don't know what he's been through at school today.... and I guess I don't.  But I also know that the longer I hang on to him, the longer he'll hang on to me.  And that's only part of his place in this world.  He has bigger places and plans that we can't even imagine.  And part of the road to getting him and his brothers on their paths.... is to allow them to travel.  To allow them the opportunities of friendships and camp outs and football games....but to be here waiting for them when they get home.  There's the beauty and the security.  That you can always come home. 

Someone once told me that it's possible to be alone without being lonely.  I guess when the people you love the most are where they're supposed to be.... in your heart, they're always kinda close.  
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