God isn't a wall between us and the goings on of the world - in other words, Man that was a giant scary tornado

I'm a little stumped for words this second day after Christmas.  I was planning to write a catchy little 12 Days of Christmas for y'all detailing all the fun around here - till a giant tornado ripped through our part of the world, killing 11, injuring countless others, and tearing my cousin's house to pieces.  

And I would like to say something lovely about God's grace sparing their lives and leaving their bathroom, where they huddled together, standing around them safely while the rest of their house blew away.  (By the way, it was also my cousin's birthday.  Happy Birthday to you.) 

But I have no idea if it was indeed God's grace.  Or luck.  Or just the way the wind blew.  Maybe it was all in the timing and their choice to take shelter in the bathroom instead of another room in the house.  Maybe we just don't know enough to be proclaiming Facebook praise for our own good fortune when there are others, neighbors even, who weren't so lucky.  

I don't typically post comments on other people's thoughts or commentaries about events, especially religious or political.  But last night in the midst of the storm, one in particular caught my attention - as a questioning friend so descriptively posted her frustration over the countless many who touted their safety to the will and protection of God.  So she asked, Were the ones who weren't so fortunate not praying hard enough?  

And I think if you've ever given any time or energy to figuring out the hows and whys of the Christian faith, that question, THAT right there, is the one that we'll all be standing in the Heavenly question line to ask as soon as we arrive.  I'm imagining so many of us confused that they'll have to set up small group counseling sessions to de-brief us from our earthly experiences.  

So here's what I shared in response to her question.  Not so eloquent, maybe, as it is to the point.  (And as always, I would love your comments, but please.... this ain't Facebook, folks.  Keep it respectful, or keep it off my blog.  Imagine me saying that sweetly, of course.  With my Dallas southern drawl and a big ol' smile.) 

Dear Jennifer, 

Rarely do I comment on things such as this but your question intrigued me. 
First I would say that being a Christian does not shelter us from the hardships of life. In fact, there are those that would say that Christians are tested even further because of our beliefs. I'm not sure I agree with that, however. But understanding that a belief in Christ is not insulation or protection from what life brings is the first step in understanding the bad things that happen. 
Then I would want you to know that prayer is neither protection nor immediate wish granting in any form, as much as we try to make it so. Prayer is direct communication with God, meant as an ongoing conversation of praise for the good, and guidance through the bad.  So not much makes me crazier that seeing all the Facebook prayer requests and little praying hands emoticons. I don't think God is checking his news feed all that much. 
Living a life as a follower of Christ puts us in a unique position of answering questions such as yours. And this is what is most important to know in those situations. God isn't a wall between us and the goings on of the world. Neither is he the giver of the bad things. The only answer to prayer that God ever promises to any of us is his faithfulness in being with us no matter what happens. And when we view our prayers as asking for his support, not his miracles, we can, with his grace, be stronger in all things.
post script... To me, being a Christian not only means a new heart for following God, but new eyes.  New eyes to see all our day to day goings on with a new lens of hope, despite the circumstance.  Now that being said, each of you know me well enough by now to know that I talk a big talk.  Daily application may or may not be one of my strengths.

But I do know that it's not for me to worry about or to figure out. That's the joy and the promise of Christmas.

Hi. I'm Kristi and I am a slip-covered furniture thief.

I never considered it thievery to take old furniture finds from someone else's trash pile ... but today I spied a beat up old chair with a possibly useful slipcover on it.  But it was in the Marshall's parking lot out by one of those catch all donation boxes - the ones that ask for clothes and toys, but people throw whatever the heck they want out of their houses out there kind of places.

So I parked up next to it, got out, incognito in my dark shades, and poked all around the trash pile flowing out into the parking lot, trying to decide if it was wrong to take it or not. 

But gosh there was so much traffic and people everywhere and one lady in her car may or may not have been videoing me to send it to the local news about bad people at Christmas time stealing from the poor.  So I didn't take the entire chair.  I removed the slipcover only.... and shoved it in the front seat of my car.  Then for good measure I took the seat cushion.  Which I consider to be a reservation placed on my interest in making that chair something wonderful. I actually tried to look as if I may have been the one dropping off said donated chair, but with a puzzled look on my face and a slight head tilt of consideration,...as if I may have changed my mind about donating it.  I have obviously all these years been hiding a sneaky streak deep within.   But my plan is that if the slipcover doesn't fit what I need it to fit, I can take it back and no longer be a thief.  That makes me feel better about the whole thing.

Poor decisions are often made on far too little sleep.  Such wise words to describe my entire existence for the last few weeks.  I definitely put on a good face at work because I'm busy and I forget how tired I really am, but y'all.... all I want for Christmas is a good night's sleep, a good night's sleep, oh a good night's sleep.    

Husband gets super irritated with me because on the nights when he's home from work, he snores so ridiculously loud that he ends up on the couch and then he's grumpy the next morning, too.  It's just a vicious, sleepless cycle of grumpiness around here.

And the dog threw up this morning.  Which I didn't witness, but Kid 1 did and those were the only words he could muster this morning in the car on the way to school... describing the awfulness of what awaited me when I got back home and walked into the kitchen.  Before that?  All I got from him was a scowl and a murmured grunt/frustrated hand motion as I accidentally blocked his view of himself in the full length mirror.  Lord.  We need a vacation.

And... speaking of Kid 1...

Here we are ready to go to his first ever high school athletic banquet. In real life we weren't blurry. 

And here I am after I got to the athletic banquet and he ditched me for his friends and made  me cry.  Just a shell of the woman I was an hour before.  But still wearing a cute dress because happy or sad, fashion still speaks volumes. 

Husband was meeting me at the school, running a little late and by the time he got there, I had been sitting by the water fountain all alone in the high school cafeteria for long enough to realize that my boy may no longer need his mom at his special events.  So I exited unannounced, and broke down somewhere between the cafeteria and the freshman biology room.  Granted, it had already been an iffy sort of day.  And had this particular instance not made me cry, something else was surely gonna.  I know myself well enough to declare a meltdown warning several hours in advance. 

But husband found me sad and alone, whimpering in the hallway,  and took me out to eat so I could cry outside the view of teenagers.  Kid 1 did call to see where I went;  I'll give him that.  And he was sorry for turning me into Lonely Mom.  And he, in all honesty, admitted that he didn't know what to do.  Friends or mom... friends or mom? 

This is a school where I would dare to say that 95% of all kids attend every function without parents. And most of them have probably never known anything different.  Even the teachers act surprised to see parental involvement.  So I either have to see this as the time to step back our interests... or as a time to step it up and be there to support not only my own kids but those whose parents can't be there.

It's common knowledge around these parts that the Walters' run a makeshift before and after school child care center for the tween and teen set.  Kid 2 is the first one to get up and get to the bus by 7:15 each day.  Then the 6th grade crew starts to arrive at the house for playtime with Kid 3 and a safe place to wait till they leave for school at 8.  And at that same time, screams can be heard for Kid 1 to get his act together and get to his bus stop in the next 7 minutes or it's gonna be an unexcused absence for you young man and Mama isn't writing you a note.  Then after school the kiddos come rolling through again for snacks and video games and for several of them, a safe place to wait a while for parents that are still at work.  Now... that being said, I did just dis-arm one of our little guests with a loaded air soft gun headed to the elementary school to play.  Mom eyes wide open around here ALL.THE.TIME. 

We really struggled with the choice of what school to let Kid 3 attend this year for his first year in middle school.  We ended up choosing our local middle school and lucky for us all, he loves it.  But a lot of people don't/won't use that school - it's our first year to step out on faith and courage and give it a try.  My friend Debi said recently that our school choice may turn out to be our own little neighborhood ministry, showing several kids what a traditional family looks like on an unrehearsed daily basis.  It looks like me trying to feed everyone and get dressed for work.  It looks like three boys trying to find pants.  It looks like kids who can't find their shoes or backpacks and forgot to do their homework.  It looks like Fireman Dave rolling in from the station in time to help me get some control over the battle of chaos.  It looks like lots of people in a smallish sort of space, trying to be nice to each other and still get out the door on time.  It looks like craziness wrapped in a bow.   Maybe a Christmas bow. 

Three years ago this Christmas we took a short trip to Galveston, just for a couple of days.  We stayed at the Tremont Hotel, a lovely place housed in a beautifully restored historic building.  And there, on our second morning, I sat alone, eating in the lobby restaurant ready to enjoy a day to myself, and experienced my very first panic attack.  

I tried to breathe and the harder I tried, the less air I could get.  And I was both hot and cold all at once -  and at the same time, had this incredibly energetic need to run away from something,  overwhelmed with genuine fear- just that I didn't know what I was afraid of.

And I tried to have Fireman Dave paged at the indoor water park where he and the boys were spending the day, but never could find them.  So I tried to ignore what my mind was tricking me into believing might actually kill me .... and I went shopping.  I made it about two blocks and into one beautiful shop that I would've otherwise enjoyed, and there I doubted that I would be able to make it back to the hotel at all.  

And y'all, I sat outside that store on a bench, and cried what should've been an embarrassing public display of near hysterical tears, but I didn't have enough focus or strength to know anything else around me existed.  I ended up back at the hotel - on the treadmill in the gym, and I ran for what seemed like hours.   When I could settle down a bit, I slowed down my pace to a walk.  But when the fear came back, the only thing that made me feel like I was going to walk out of that place alive, was to keep running.  I don't know how long I was running, but at one point I finally turned around and saw Fireman Dave walking into the gym and for the first time in hours, I felt like I was going to be okay.  I still cry every time I remember that day.  

This was me the day after that ugly business started.  I'm either hanging onto Fireman Dave's arm because I was freezing to death or afraid to let go.  I think both. 

Panic is a disease.  Panic attacks, panic disorder, anxiety attacks, ... call it what you will.  It is a mental health condition that has no one size fits all explanation.  But it's fear of the unknown, fear that all  you've trusted to be normal - the simple act of breathing, the normalcy of a regular heart beat, may never be normal again. 

It went on that way the rest of the day, and it began to happen regularly at home, and eventually it happened at work.  Which was the big STOP sign for me.  I knew at that point that I wasn't in control of the attacks.  I couldn't predict or stop them, but I also knew I didn't want to rely on other people or tranquilizing medications either.

So I learned how to  recognize the signs of approaching panic.  I've better learned to remove myself from situations, places and people who may cause my symptoms to show up again.  Because they will.  And they do.  But smaller and up until this writing, anyway, a lot less scary.   

A lot has changed in three years.  The thing is that I don't know what comes next.  I have no idea if I'll battle this particular monster my entire life, or if new and more interesting monsters may come my way.  

I don't know what my relationship with my estranged family will ever be again.  I don't know how much longer my kids will invite me to be their date to anything.  I don't know if this blog will grow into all my heart has dreamed.  I also don't know why things have to change right when they're going along so nicely.  

But I do know that it's not for me to worry about or to figure out.   That's the joy and the promise of Christmas.  

post script.... here is how the nativity scene turned out on my mantle.  

Which is all well and cute... but not for me.  Turns out I am completely anti-glitter.  In fact I may be the kind of gal that calls the glitter police if I ever see anyone trying to bring glitter crafts into my home.  I had forgotten that since the boys are big now and have outgrown the age of shiny preschool crafts.  But for what it's worth, the scene turned out pretty and Fireman Dave is once again, AMAZING.  He is full of hidden talents still yet to be discovered, I think.  You can read that post here if you missed it.

But this is what I ended up using.  

It's more me.  It's simple, colorful and I did it all myself.  A round of applause please.

Strange Things are Happening

You know how some days when you get home after teaching 4 classes and you're totally gross in a dried sweat, but still wet pants sort of way?  ... And you had to go to the bathroom when you ran into  Target on the way home and only one stall had toilet paper and all the other ones were as gross as you were after you taught 4 classes?  And none of that makes you happy?

But sweet words to the rescue as I received a beautiful compliment from a friend about the blog.  She's one of those crazy creative, talented people whom I would love to be like but I can't cut and glue things very well so I just end up buying whatever cute things I want.

I think I am going to title this post.... Strange things are happening.  Because they are.  Here's a list.

1.  One day last week I taught a class with the 6ft tall Chick-fil-A cow mascot as my co teacher.  Only for about 2 minutes because the cow was on a tight schedule, but still.  And it was half funny plus half weird and fully maddening because the cow wandered in there unannounced and without warning and just proceeded to join me in some Zumba hip rolling.  And then the gym management took pictures and I was about 25 miles south of Presentable at that time.  I also wore a shirt that happens to add a few bonus pounds to my look.  And had I known I would be photographed for Chick-fil-A  promotional purposes, I would've chosen my wardrobe more wisely.

2.  I found a tooth in my bed one morning.  And it was a big tooth.  A molar.  And out of reflexive reaction, I immediately started feeling around in my own mouth to make sure all my own teeth were accounted for.  And indeed they were.  So I asked the boys if anyone happened to put a tooth in Mama's bed, and for what particular reason ... but they all said they didn't do it.  So I am baffled, as this has never happened to me before.  I have no idea whose tooth it was but it went in the trash can and onto my list of mysteries that may never be solved.

3.  I came home twice this week to find the back door unlocked as an invitation for crime to make itself welcome in our home.  Husband says he locked it.   But he also stood considering the Bluebell ice cream at the grocery store one day and told me we need to get some of that chicken.   So I worry about him from time to time.  But each time I found the door unlocked, I peeked my head in, asked the sleeping dog if everything was okay.  And she said yes both times.  So I took my life in my hands and went in and got in the shower.  Refer back to #1 on the list where I was over the top gross from work.  And it could've totally been a re-enactment of the shower scene from Psycho and Fireman Dave would've felt awful that he left the door unlocked.  But it turned out okay. 

One time I called husband from the Walmart and told him I was feeling a little light headed and having some anxiety causing chest palpitations.  And he pretty much told me I was just stressed because I was in Walmart,  and that I was over reacting.  And I told him that if I died right there in the toothpaste aisle that he would live to regret those last words he spoke to me.   That time turned out okay, too.

4.  Strange thing number 4.... I caught two pot holders on fire in less than one week.   Maybe that's not strange. 

Husband was at the fire station for about the last 10,000 hours and I've been home with naughty kids.  I went to a church function with a friend Saturday morning and came home to find Kid 3 with a light switch mark imprinted on his face.  I'm sure you can guess how that happened.  There were additional claims of cuts, bruises, and abrasions, and not sharing the store brand cheese puffs.

Then later that same day Kid 3 got mad at I forget what, and tore through the house tossing chair cushions, turning over an ottoman... and then ran away from home in his socks.  So I drove around to find him and took him to husband at the fire station and said,... Take him.  He's yours.   Of course Kid 3 protested the whole way, certain that I wouldn't really take him anywhere since he had no shoes - but I told him that's what happens when you run away from home in your socks.  

And I had the greatest plan to make this adorable handmade nativity that I saw on Pinterest.  Refer back to paragraph #2 where I admit I am not crafty.  So it took me about 5 days of shopping at the craft store and organizing my thoughts to print and cut out baby Jesus and his family... but I gave up after I cut about one figure.  Because I also have an extremely short attention span unless it involves shopping.   

But y'all,  I came home from work today and found that Fireman Dave had cut, glued AND glittered my nativity characters, hung them in the sun to dry, and decked all our halls with Christmas lights.  And now he's outside crafting the stable out of sticks and hand tools like an Amish man.  Later today he has plans to supervise Kid 3's science fair project, rescue some kittens from a tree, and then cook a multi course meal.  Because he can do all things.  And it seems I am only good at setting things on fire and running off my children.  Yes I get jealous.  It's a real thing for me.

My friend is having a major medical procedure done this week and she's a little nervous about it all.  And I was thinking about a particular scripture that she's been focusing on.  

She is clothed in strength and dignity and she laughs without fear of the future.
Proverbs 31:25 

And she's questioning how to walk into her future without fear... and I believe she is also wondering how to walk with dignity in a hospital gown.  

But I see this in her - I see courage.  I see faith.  Of course I see doubt.  But I also see honesty that doesn't hide the fact that she wants to live as the woman in this verse.  Me too.  Hope springs eternal.  

But alongside my jealous streak is also a giant neon colored swatch of resentfulness, a big dark stained splotch of Please love me and make me feel secure about myself....And a bigger than life, tear stained stripe of scars from a lifetime of trying to make my own way; Trying to find my own security and self worth  - And a bucket full of failed attempts at looking for love in all the wrong places.   

I think I have days of strength.  Or at least pretend strength.  But then I sit at a church thing with my friend on a Saturday morning, surrounded by ladies sharing and caring and finding support in all kinds of this and that, and I get up and leave early because I don't want anyone to see that I'm really kinda weak.    

And the dignity part?  Gosh.  I think there have been so many times that I have fallen miles upon miles short in this.  Because I forget that I've already been promised a million little gifts by a God that has never given up on me.  One day I'm gonna meet him and shake his hand.  

Nope.  I take that back.  I'll probably hug him and cry a lot.   And then I'll ask to be assigned to a group of other Heavenly people who don't want to do crafts. 
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