Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Brownie Points

Look who found a few minutes to spend at the computer on New Year's Eve!

Brownie Points
(from Monday, February 13, 2012)
I ate a brownie last night.

Some might look at that and say "Okaaaaay...and?". But those of us who struggle mightily with this will immediately recognize a sister who, through the act of eating a simple brownie (and one I made, no less!) will begin the long process of self-loathing. The process of mentally tabulating all the calories eaten that day vs. how many burned to see if it was really "okay" to eat that brownie. The process of feeling like the exact same pants I had on before I ate said brownie now suddenly feel different, tighter.

This doesn't just affect me on the inside, it affects how I act toward other people, namely my family members, too. As I'm becoming more aware of myself in general, I'm seeing how my own penurious reaction to eating a single brownie makes me short-tempered with my husband and irritable with my kids. And it washes the way I see everything in a negative light. Now, as I'm looking around, the house isn't just in slight disarray, it's a sty and I'm a horrible housekeeper who is not able to keep up. My husband isn't just tired, he's frustrating in general. My kids aren't just excited, they are annoying.

As I think on these things, I'm reminded of a quote I heard in a bible study called "For Women Only" by Shaunti Feldhan. She said, and I will never forget this, "SO YOU THINK THEREFORE YOU ACT". I was nearly blinded by the flashing neon sign God had above my head saying, " This is for YOU, Heather!". I've tried to remember that, and generally have done a pretty fair job at turning my thinking around. The power of positive thinking is undeniable. And so is the power of our mighty God! He can take these thoughts, as long as I'm willing to give them to Him, and help me think positively about myself. Of course, there is a huge difference between thinking positively and pride, but since God is now guiding my thoughts, He won't take me down that dangerous path.

Should I have eaten that brownie? Obviously, I must take care of my body and eat healthy foods. But that's not really the point. The point is to take my messed-up mindset, give it to God, and allow Him to give me a healthy mindset.

My daughter read this out of her devotional tonight:

Whenever something is too heavy for us to carry alone, we look around for help. People have long depended on beasts of burden, but unfortunately they can't even carry some of the heaviest burdens we encounter-like illness, anger, sorrow or fear. God does not expect us to shoulder these weights by ourselves. The bible tells us "Give your burdens to the Lord. He will carry them" (Psalm 55:22 TLB). One of the blessings of asking God into your life is the assurance that you will never have to face anything alone ever again. God will be with you whenever you cross a "desert" in your heart, lightening your load with His comfort.*

Brownie points indeed!

Devotion from " The One Year Did You Know Devotions" by Nancy S. Hill on February 9

Monday, December 30, 2013

Calling All Soldiers

I, despite my greatest efforts,** have been incredibly inconsistent in my blogging this week. As in, I haven't done it at all. I guess you, faithful reader, have noticed this, so many apologies to you if you came to this blog looking for words of wisdom. Or a funny story. Or anything at all.

**That's a lie. There has been very little effort. What about it? I've been distracted. It's a busy time of year.

I hope you had a merry christmas, full of happiness and joy and I hope you got what you wished for--whatever that may be. And I offer you wishes for a happy and safe New Year, full of love, laughter, and merriment. So for now, I offer you another blast from the past. Enjoy, and many thanks for making 2013 a successful year of blogging.

Until next year!!


(from Thursday, March 15, 2012)

Calling All Soldiers

I'm officially declaring war.

I discovered an article from The Roanoke Times (March 4, 2012) with this disturbing headline:

Young girls asking YouTube audience: Am I Pretty?

It definitely caught my eye, because isn't that part of what I've been talking about (perhaps ad nauseum) on this blog? The question that seems to burn in every woman and girl's soul...Am I Pretty?

Apparently, young girls are posting videos of themselves on YouTube and asking the world what seems to be the question of the hour, and they aren't stopping there. They are inviting the world to respond. And the world did. The article says, of a specific video--"The video, posted December 17, 2011, has more than 4 million views and more than 107,000 anonymous, often hateful responses in a troubling phenomenon that has girls as young as 10--and some boys--asking the same question on YouTube with similar results." (emphasis added) These girls think they are ugly, hate their bodies, and they take the feedback and "value as well as incorporate [it] into their own sense of worth, [which] can be devestating". Sounds familiar.

Does this alarm you like it does me? And I have been sitting here, for 35 years, as part of the problem and not the solution.

It's time to be part of the solution.

If I choose to continue looking to appearance as my main source of security, then I am leading the next generation into the same pitfall. The scary thing is, I don't even have to say a word. I will silently lead our daughters into a deadly trap that some will never see their way out of...unless I stand up and take action. I don't know exactly what taking action looks like, but it does mean I'm not sitting and waiting for something to happen, for someone else to change the world. Change can start with one person. I'm also calling my sisters to join me. I want to see the next generation, and the ones following, begin to see themselves as worthy in Christ. I want our generation to see the next as worthy enough to show them how and where to find their security. As women, we can't turn on each other, we have to stop seeing each other as competition and look at each other for who we really are: children of God, women with face and a story, somebody's little girl for goodness sake.

I'm praying that I stop the nonsense of beating myself over how I look (or don't look, as it were) now. Not tomorrow, or next week while I try to figure out whether I actually want God to change me, but right now. Beth Moore says in her study "The Inheritence" that God's priority is on our spirit, which means that no stronghold, oppression or bondage can sustain what God can do. Essentially, insecurity doesn't have to be insecurity anymore. I just have to ask Him.

It's time to declare war on this ugly insanity. God can do anything, He just needs willing participants. Will you join me?

Tuesday, December 24, 2013

Be Thankful

"Let His peace rule in your heart,
and be thankful."
{Colossians 3:15}

google images

Monday, December 23, 2013

Oldies but Goodies: Alluring Beauty

This week, I'll be posting previous blog posts, recipes and simple quotes so that I can spend some much needed time with my family.

Happy Holidays!

Alluring Beauty
(from November 5, 2012)

The little girl across the waiting room from me today was cute as can be. She was around 7, waiting with her mom and her older sister for a doctor to see them. Her little round face was framed by dark brown hair, and her brown eyes looked shyly at me from time to time as I studied their family from behind my magazine. She was doing some studying of her own. She had picked up a magazine and had begun leafing through the pages, ooohing and aahhing over the pretty pictures, occasionally lifting one up to her mother. "Look at that dress, mama, it's pretty, ain't it?" Her mother looked at the picture, wrinkled her nose, and shook her head, probably willing herself to remember what I try to when I see those pictures: They aren't real. They are airbrushed. It's makeup and lights. Baby girl tried a few more times to show her mama some pretty pictures, and her face showed the delight of a little girl discovering something beautiful: "OOOoooo, look at her lipstick, mama" and "Ooooooh, shiney!" were just a few of the words she was exclaiming as she looked at the pretty magazine, full of pretty people in pretty clothes with pretty makeup in pretty poses.

While I watched her, I could see myself in those brown eyes, first discovering what the world called "pretty". It made me sad, as delighted as she was, because I knew that the wheels in that sweet little brain were turning as she absorbed what allure magazine called "pretty". And as she also absorbed the very message that many of us do from an early age: that she will never measure up.

While we were sitting there, an older woman came in to see the doctor. She had to have been in her late seventies or early eighties, but she was poised and pulled together, her white hair in a smart bun and her lipstick a carefully applied coral. Her skin was a smooth porcelain, and although she bore the obvious signs of aging, she showed wisdom and grace in her blue eyes and wrinkles. I was astounded by her beauty and grace. She was living proof that beauty is ageless. I wondered if she had ever felt beautiful, because if she had not, it would only be because she didn't believe it herself.

That woman would never be in allure, because that magazine, like most, has a very narrow and exclusive definition of what beauty is. But I saw today what beauty really is: a sweet young girl's expressive eyes and careless brown hair, her mouth formed in a perfect O as she delighted in pictures; a mother's wrinkled nose as she rebuffed, if only for a second, the world's pronouncement of beauty; a woman's white hair and thin, wrinkled mouth with carefully applied coral lipstick; and blue eyes that revealed a grace and a wisdom that only time can give.

Truth, and goodness, and beauty are but different faces of the same all.
--Ralph Waldo Emerson

Saturday, December 21, 2013

Parent Fail

Parents have too much to remember this time of year.

'Tis the season.

For forgetfulness, last-minutes "oops-I-forgot-that-person" gifts, too much sugar, and late-night elf where-can-I-cleverly-and-quickly-hide-this-guy procedures.

Heather Duncan Richardson's photo.

I mean, first there's the actual Christmas gifts you have to buy. And if your kids are anything like mine, they've asked for some impossible gifts. Like a remote-control helicopter/boat with a camera and a machine gun, plus other really rad and destructive weaponry. Awesome.

Important Note: I do not condone machine gun usage in our home. This is someone else's fault.

OR, a "desk I designed myself, plus the bed to match."

Okay. How exactly is one supposed to come into possession of a bed and matching desk when one was not privy to the design of said bed and desk?

Oh, that's right.

Santa knows.

Heather Duncan Richardson's photo.So, then there's the elf. We all know the elf moves, and there has been plenty of conversation about how difficult it is to A) remember to move the elf every single night (it's only about 24-30 days, give or take, so you'd think we would not have such trouble, but this is a difficult time of year to add one more thing to every parent's already overflowing plate) and B) come up with a clever hiding spot for the elf. This year we have outdone ourselves. We get an A++ on clever hiding spots. That little elf had a freaking zip line.**

**This might be the last year for our elf. We will never be able to top 2013. It's over.

And then, of course, there's the advent house. We were new parents. It looked so cute in the catalogue. (And I had a coupon.) What a super-cute, good parent idea! we exclaimed. We never knew exactly how difficult or stressful or expensive it would be to come up with tiny, cute, different trinkets, toys and mementos that would fit into a 1-inch by 1-inch by 1-inch square.

Someone should have told us. I hold all older adults with semi-grown children responsible for this.

A few years ago we came up with the idea of putting coupons in the advent house, with the intention of doing a certain activity or going to a certain restaurant for dessert, preferable within a reasonable amount of time. It's a great theory.

This year, we intentionally left a few doors empty with the hope of finding special little coupons to fill them. Also a great theory. Until you forget. And that particular day rolls around. And you have to shift all your stuff around.

Heather Duncan Richardson's photo.

But I found a coupon for a local yogurt shop (you know the kind where you go in and fill that mammoth-sized cup up with yogurt but it looks really tiny because the cup is so big and they only have one size so you get just a little more which turns out to be way too much and then you go ahead and top it with every topping known to man, and then some not known, like those little juice-filled ball things that look like pastel fish eggs, but it's supposed to be 'healthier' than ice cream because they post the calories and fat grams so you totally go for it and in your mind you've eaten a grand total of 187 calories when in reality you've eaten well over 700 calores and 1,000 grams of sugar?). And I shouted hooray and hallelujah because I knew the kids would be excited. And we opened it last night. Hooray! and Hallelujah! They were excited!

And then.

"Oh," says my youngest.

"What's up?" we ask, not wanted to put a damper on the elation.

"It's. Expired."**

**Parent. Fail.

Thursday, December 19, 2013

The One

I look around at all that is supposed to make me overjoyed, especially during this particular season of forced merriment and bliss.

Stuff I've crammed my life full of.

Material things, like clothes and rugs and couches and wall paint and knick-knacks and Christmas decorations. Other, less subtle things like secret candy stashes, Vanilla Chai tea and designer makeup. And then there are the things that I do that I feel like should satify me, but I can't actually hold them in my hand. Like exercise, perfection, organization, counting calories.

I guess it was the phone call from my husband saying that the kids had an offer to spend the night with my in-laws on Sunday evening. Which means Monday morning would roll around. He would go to work. Like normal. They would be gone. Like normal.

When it's all said and done--the decorations are perfect, the closets are organized, I've had a great workout, my outfit matches and my makeup and hair are satisfactory, the husband is at work and the kids are spending the night somewhere else--when it's just me, sitting here, looking around, I realize that all those things I bought into were just placeholders. They hold very little value, no matter how much they cost.

Like Lysa TerKuerst said in her devotion today: Even a good husband — good children — a good friend make a very poor God.  No education or job or house can save you.

And I'll add to that: Even perfection can't save you.

But I know the One who can.

Wednesday, December 18, 2013

New, Healthy Habits Can Be Detrimental to Your Sleep

I've started measuring how much water I drink during the day. Because I'm always thirsty, like parched thirsty. I even wake up thirsty. So I figured I wasn't drinking enough water during the day.

So what's the problem? you say. What's wrong with making sure you drink enough water during the day? Isn't that a healthy habit? (I am all about healthy habits, actually.)

Heather Duncan Richardson's photo.
The Nefarious H2O

The problem(s) is (are) as follows (there is always a problem because not even healthy habits get a free pass in life, which is totally unfair)--OK, I'm just going to narrow it down to one major, life-altering problem for you:


And that's really what it all boils down to. Lost sleep because I was up all night looking woefully out the window at all the other sleeping citizens whilst I sit. Again. I can handle having to pee every 5 minutes at home. It a pain, but it's minor. It becomes more of a problem when I have to ask every store employee in every store "Would you kindly point me in the direction of your restroom?" (some stores--I'M LOOKING AT YOU JACLYN'S HALLMARK--are stingy and won't let you use their restroom--even when you have a 2-year-old WHO IS POTTY TRAINING and is doing the pee-pee dance on their floor. OK, so this happened about six or seven years ago, and I may be harboring resentment and ill-will toward Hallmark for sending me packing down the road to the nearest Kroger-- dancing 2-year-old and 4-year-old in tow.)

I think this is, like, a problem. I've seen those ads for old people seniors patriarchs with bladder control problems (Get Continuous Overactive Bladder Relief with OTC Oxytrol® For Women!!--promises, promises). I've seen the overactive bladder supplements at Kroger (Depends aren't a joke, people). I myself have even had surgery on my bladder already. (This was due to having babies. And they still give me attitude.) And now, as I near my 37th year of existence on this planet, I may be the next consumer getting in line for Overactive Bladder Control products.

Hang on just a sec...I'll be right back...

In other news, the issue of me wanting a new tattoo has resurfaced in our household. Why is this an issue? you ask. Because. It's simple. My sweet, non-tattoo bearing husband does not care for his wife to tattoo herself.  (I actually suggested we get matching tattoos on our fingers so that when we hold hands, they become a heart. The look on his face was pretty funny;)). I, on the other hand, go from loving them to hating them (which in and of itself might be a reason to not go right out and get one, so I drew on myself with a Sharpie to see if I liked the look. PS: Sharpies bleed when you draw on your skin with them) and right now, I'm in love. So I want one. Here's what it should look like:

Heather Duncan Richardson's photo.
Pinterest.com. And just as an aside, be careful when searching 'tattoos' while on Pinterest. You get some rather interesting results.

And here's what I drew.

Heather Duncan Richardson's photo.
See? It could hide right under a watch or bracelet!

It, unlike the purple rose on my back, has significant meaning for me. I AM FREE. Christ has freed my wrists from the chains of insecurity, self-doubt, depression, anxiety, and impatience, got me off all my antidepressants and medications, and it's been the biggest change in my life EVER. So I thought 'freedom' on my wrist where those chains used to be, with the top of the 'm' like a little bird flying away would be an excellent reminder everyday.


 So Christ has truly set us free...
{galatians 5:1}

But a blurry Sharpie rendering of said tattoo may have to suffice for now.

Tuesday, December 17, 2013


I've started saying No.

I'm a people pleaser. Definition (according to the Urban Dictionary): People pleasers are doormats who let high expectations, resentment, and saying yes when they mean no run their lives. They are set on being perfect and nice. (In other words, a people pleaser is a person who spends a lot of energy pleasing others.) Yes. That's me. In elementary school, my main focus was pleasing my mama, who had a knack for scaring the nether world out of me with her emotional outbursts. Who doesn't want to avoid that?

In my teen years, it was agreeing with boyfriends and friends, and in my adult years, it has been a bright and enthusiastic YES exclamation point!! to watching neighbor's kids, being present at all parties at school, and selling hot dogs at the concession stand during baseball season (Worst. Volunteer. Job. EVER. Why? First of all, some concession stands don't have calculators. That's right. In 2013. No, I don't want to do that math in my head. Even though I so totally can, but whatever. Also? When the concession stand closes, you have to stay after and clean up the icky crock pot full of unidentifiable meat/chili/nasty hot dog sauce and the hot dog turning thingy and wash dishes and...OK, see, I like my kitchen. I like working in my kitchen. I know where everything is, I know how I clean, I know the last time a new sponge was introduced to the dishes. Important note: I will never, ever eat an non-prepackaged food item from the concession stand. Ever. But moving on.)

I have, up until December of the year 2013, said yes to many things that I didn't want to do but thought that I should. Because it would make me a better person, more likable, it was a good use of my time, it would tell my kids how much I loved them, I'm paying it forward--whatever the reasons I've had, I always said yes. Then I roll my eyes and shake my head and dread the job. And if it's a job I can do at home, I put it off until the last minute. (Confession: I'm a terrible volunteer. You probably shouldn't ask me.)

We are all gifted in different ways. Some are administrative, paying attention to details and they have this thing for multi-tasking. Some are good at hospitality, throwing great dinner parties and making Meals-On-Wheels (ahead, probably). Some are effective leaders, commandeering troops and becoming Commander-In-Chief of any committee you throw at them. Some are wonderful teachers, bringing lessons to life.

I might be missing my gifts. Like I never got any. Which is awesome.

But now, I'm finally learning that it's okay to say no. To set boundaries. It doesn't make me less of a person, or unlikeable, or tell my kids that I do not love them. It doesn't make me less of a Christian, or unwilling to serve God or the church. It makes me smart for not stretching myself so thin that I burn out and yell at my kids and burn the pasta and go to bed exhausted. It gives me time for other opportunities. And I'm looking out for those opportunities that might stretch me and make me grow, that will challenge me and force me to hone in on the skills that I do have.

Maybe even discover what my gifts really are.

Which would be totally awesome.

Monday, December 16, 2013

Me=Mariah. But Not Really.

In my head, I sound just like Mariah Carey. In fact, I am Mariah Carey. Complete with dramatic hand motions when singing high notes. **

**Important note: I sound nothing like Mariah when I "sing".

The other day as we were coming home from a women's event at church, Rihanna's song Stay came on the radio, so of course I belted out all the lyrics (even Mikky Ekko's part). Then I felt a soft, somewhat consoling pat on my thigh. "Mom. You don't sound like Rihanna."

Was she telling me I needed to stop singing? It was going so well.

"Yes I do," I insisted.**

**I sound nothing like Rihanna, either.

"No...no, you don't."**

**In other words, I can't sing. And make it pretty, anyways.

Insert pouty face.

I really wish I could sing well. I've wanted to sing like Mariah ever since her debut in 1990 with the song "Vision of Love", followed by "Love Takes Time" (I own this CD and still love it, and would gladly sing both songs a capella for you.)**

**This would most likely not be an enjoyable experience for you.

I remember thinking that Mariah Carey was just the best. She was beautiful and rich and could sing. I wanted to be just like her. I even wanted my name to be Mariah. (And I determined that my daughter would be named Mariah one day. I grew up. Didn't happen.)  In one of her videos, she wears this awesome leather biker jacket, so of course I asked my dad if I could use his old black leather biker jacket.**

**So not the same effect.

When I figured out that I would never a) sing like Mariah, b) look like Mariah or c) be as popular as Mariah, I was truly sad.  I remember thinking how totally unfair it was that she got to be Mariah Carey,** and all I was (still am) is plain old Heather. White as a ghost, un-beautiful, average size and weight, no boyfriend, unpopular, can't-hold-a-tune or look good in a black leather biker jacket Heather. I mean, it was like God was playing a cruel joke. Haha, your heart wishes you were this and I made you like this! And they're nowhere even close to being the same! Funny!

**I took particular exception to the fact that my parents were both white, making me white white, while her parents were an interracial couple, making her stunning.

For a while, I wished away the life I had.** I wished my parents were different. I wished my house was different. I wished my clothes, our cars, my school were all different. But most of all, I wished myself away. I didn't want to be me anymore. I was nothing, a nobody. People at school hardly even noticed I was around.+

**My sister is the lone survivor in the quest for wishing away my entire middle school existence. I loved her.
+This is in part due to the fact that I hardly said 23 words from grades 6 to 8.

It wasn't just that I couldn't be like Mariah. I was that everything I saw, everything I compared myself to made me seem insignificant and irrelevant. Seventeen, Cosmo, Allure, Sassy **--they all made me feel sad. And bad. And very insecure.

**My mom got me a subscription to a Christian magazine for teen girls called Brio, but it just never caught on in the mainstream crowd. However, this could be a sign that you were raised in a Christian home.

I wish that instead of that cool, neon teen Bible and a subscription to Brio magazine, my mom had told me that the thing I wanted most in the world (to be beautiful, followed by being a good singer) I already possessed (the first, not the second)--if I dared to be so brave as to access that part of me. I was so focused on the outside that I barely paid any attention to the inside--the part of us that beauty really and truly shines out of.  I tried 80 different shades of red lipstick just trying to match the one I saw in the magazine, and the whole time I was getting in the way of my own self. I was trying so hard to impress somebody that I couldn't allow my true self to shine forth. The sad thing is, that after all these years of potential maturity and growth, I still see a Cosmo on the shelf at CVS and immediately wish I could look like that.

I strive so hard to not be me. To be what I think I want, what I think the world wants: a beautiful object. Pretty to look at, but ultimately empty on the inside. Void of emotion, personality, creativity, or charisma. I had one goal: to be pretty. But just being pretty makes for a miserable existence.

The Pinnacle of Prettiness can never be reached. And we'll beat ourselves down in the dirt trying to get there.

You should clothe yourselves instead with the beauty
that comes from within,
the unfading beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit,
which is so precious to God.
{1 Peter 3:4}

I know, I know. A gentle and quiet spirit. Ugh. Some of us just weren't made with a gentle or quiet spirit.** But knowing that God made us all to be unique and individual, with creativity and passions and relationships--that's a beautiful thing. And He made us with a craving for Him, for His light to radiate--true beauty.

**Me? Quiet? Yes. Gentle? Not really.

Friday, December 13, 2013

Pure Coincidence

First, let me say this: I am not a believer of coincidence. Unless it's considered Divine Coincidence, of course. But then again, is there such a thing as Divine Coincidence? Or, as Sarah Young puts it, is every detail under His control? And moreover, does everything fit into a pattern for good, to those who love Him and are called according to His design and purpose? (Sarah Young, Jesus Calling)

So when I read the part about Jesus being my one and only or one of many in the book not a fan by Kyle Idleman (I talked more about this book here), I took it with a grain of salt. I know that Jesus isn't my one and only; I have lots of things that are admittedly more important than He is. And it's not that I can easily say that, it's that I know I show that through my actions on a daily basis. I'll drop everything for my kids, even if it means skipping quiet time. I'll rush through my daily passage reading so that I can accomplish all the cleaning I want to for the day. And when you look at where I spend my time and money, it's most certainly not on Him. And even when I do spend my time doing things like leading a bible study, He most certainly knows what I'm really thinking.

How do I know that? Just look at this:

When the Pharisee who had invited him saw this, he said to himself, “If this man were a prophet, he would know what kind of woman is touching him. She’s a sinner!”  Then Jesus answered his thoughts. “Simon,” he said to the Pharisee, “I have something to say to you.” (Luke 7:39-40)

So because He knows my heart, and He knows what I'm really thinking even when I play the part well, I know that He knows that I'm not truly giving Him my heart. Just part of it, almost like a safety net. Just in case it all goes awry, I know He'll be there to catch me.

I hope.

Here's the thing, and I know this to be true because I've seen people die, and no matter how much they have amassed over their lifetime, they do not take a single, solitary material thing with them. It's all still here, even when their spirit has left this earth. (I should know. When my mom died, we found that she had been saving the tiny bottles from the Clinique Bonus. All of them. Like a hundred tiny--empty--little bottles in a bag. What? What were you planning to do with this?? I'd like to ask, but for obvious reasons I cannot. If we could take anything with us when we die, I really wish she would have taken those. And her holey sweatpants, too.) 

I love to decorate. I love to think of ideas for my house. I love to look through catalogues and websites, scanning every detail of rooms, committing to memory paint colors and fabrics, copying bookshelf layouts and dining room tablescapes. I wouldn't say that I'm all that great at it, but it's one of my passions, nonetheless. My house frustrates me to no end when it's messy. It disappoints me when I look around and it doesn't match the picture I had in mind. I think it about it all the time. I spend my time cleaning, straightening, rearranging, organizing. I spend my money on unique pieces of furniture, vases, horse heads (!) and the like. I am 100% committed to making this place exactly what I dream it should be, and I'm willing to make sacrifices to get there. Like not taking a summer vacation so that I can buy a new couch.

If I ever did have a god in my life, it just may be my house. I'm committed to God because I feel obligated. I'm committed to my house because I love it.

Oh dear.

I'm afraid I've put my faith into what I can see as opposed to having faith. Faith. The confidence that what we hope for will actually happen. Assurance about things we cannot see. (Hebrews 11:1)

So when not a fan included references to things like being disappointed over a messy house and being obsessed with decorating, I took note. And when the message at the women's event last night at church included Pricilla Schier talking about how we might act differently if He were here, standing next to us, my ears perked up a little. And when the women's ministry coordinator gave me a devotional book by Beth Moore, which I happened to be flipping through and landed on a devotion talking about releasing your grip on the things on this earth, I looked up at Him. And when I put it all together: all the different messages, the Scripture readings on false gods, the book I'm reading, the new devotional--even my Jesus Calling devotion from December 10 talked about making Him the focal point of my security--I knew it wasn't pure coincidence. Call it divine intervention, if you will, but I know a strong message when I hear one.

It's all about putting Him first, not my house.

I'd love to talk shop with Him one day. I think He's got a pretty good handle on dramatic and unique decor, what with all the talk of gold streets, rainbows, and seas of glass. And I think that would be okay with Him, really. He made me. He knows me. He knows what is going to trip me up, what's going to distract me from following hard after Him, what's going to divert my attention, what's going to ask for my complete and utter devotion. I think loving home decor is okay. But when it starts becoming my all, my one and only, my inamorato, well, then, I guess I have a few things to straighten out.

Wednesday, December 11, 2013

Enough's Enough

It'll have to be short today, because look who's hogging the computer, looking up images of Barbie. 

I think I know who might be on Santas naughty list this year. 

I have been hungry all day long. I don't know why. After snacking on pretzels, crackers, bread, and any other carb I could find, I decided it would be prudent to have something that would be nutritionally sound, so I made myself a salad. But, halfway through my salad, I found out that it wasn't my tummy that was telling me I needed to eat. It was my brain telling me I needed to eat more food, regardless of what my actual stomach thought. And all this after I found out I gained a pound by eating air, drinking water and exercising 8 hours a day. There has got to be an easier way. 

In other news, my son came home from school with this announcement: "I'm going to stop talking, but if you give me $20, I'll speak."


I think you might have it backwards, kiddo.

My daughter, who knows all (and has known it all since she was born, she probably knew it all in the womb) has decided that studying isn't for her. When you already know all, well, I guess she has a point. Why waste your time studying? However, she has a quiz coming up tomorrow and a test soon, so I told her that if she got less than an A on either one, I was taking her iPod for the entire weekend. Period. It was supposed to motivate her, or scare her, one of the two. But apparently playing with the neighbor holds much more appeal, and she looked at me with a look that only a tween can give, and said "You mean that if I get a B on my test THAT YOU'RE TAKING MY IPOD??" Incredulous, she was. I am such a mean mother. "Yep," I replied. "I'll help you study." But, no, she turned on her heel with promises to "study later", whatever that means (because we all know that "study later" is code for "whatever, mom") and went downstairs. 

And now I'm alone. Alone with a child who refuses to study, another child who refuses to speak, and a brain that refuses to recognize when enough is actually ENOUGH. 

Better luck tomorrow. 

Happy Wednesday!

Monday, December 9, 2013

not a fan

I have to admit that I wasn't particularly excited when the pastors at my church presented a large group of us with a book and the challenge to read it over the month of December.

In fact, there is a chance I may have inwardly groaned just a little.

I mean, first of all, just so you know, I was right in the middle of another book (Inferno by Dan Brown) that I couldn't just stop reading. And, secondly, I just don't really love non-fiction. I need gripping, I need drama, I need adventure. Can I just be candid with you for a moment? Don't judge. The book looked a little boring. And I can't do boring books. Do not tell my pastors or anyone at my church that I just said that.

Heather Duncan Richardson's photo.

I finally finished Inferno over Thanksgiving, and there was nothing left on my list of Books To Read Before Picking Up The One I Don't Want To Read (besides the endless supply of home decor/toy/gift catalogues that come to my address daily), so the other night I grabbed not a fan by Kyle Idleman off my bedside table. I figured if it was as boring as I predicted it to be, it'd help me fall asleep.

I cannot put that book down.

No, it's not as adventurous as Inferno or as spellbinding as Harry Potter (get it...spellbinding...hahaha, I'm laughing at my own joke), but that guy Kyle Idleman is actually pretty funny. But his humor isn't what keeps my attention, and it's not the extra-small print that keeps me from putting it down at night. It's the concept behind the entire book: are you a fan or a follower of Jesus?

Of course I said follower. Obviously.

But then this guy Kyle (he's a pastor in KY, by the way) talks about how fans are typically a little flaky and easily dissuaded. And how even the hardcore fans don't commit when personal sacrifice is involved. How fans of Jesus know all about Him, but don't really know him.

Well, that got my attention. I know about Jesus. I even have a few Scripture verses (tastefully) posted around the house. I have my Bible on my tablet and my phone, and I go to church (most) Sundays to cheer for Him. I am what dictionary.com defines as a fan: a person enthusiastic about an interest. An admirer. A supporter. But when it comes right down to it, I was challenged by the thought that maybe Jesus doesn't just want an enthusiastic person. He wants part of me that I'm not keen on giving. He wants a committed follower, someone who isn't in it for just the miracles and the guarantee they'll go to Heaven. (not a fan, chap. 1) He wants someone who's willing to make a personal sacrifice, someone who knows that there will be a price for following Him, someone who's all in. Not just the big toe. The full monty.


Is that me?

See, I'm comfortable in this life I live. I like the conveniences I'm used to.  In theory, I could live with out them. In practice, I'm not sure I could. I like having God "on-call" when I need Him. I like bible studies that talk about 'being stronger' and 'not believing in the lies we tell ourselves' and 'being a beautiful woman in God's eyes'.  And those bible studies are great, don't get me wrong. I've done plenty of them and I've learned a lot. In fact, my life has changed dramatically by doing bible studies. But I don't like being reminded that this life doesn't come without pain or that our planet is in a world of hurt. I don't like being challenged on my faith when it means I might have to change. Sure, it would be a change for the better...probably. But still. It would require me to sacrifice, whether big or small, a part of me that is comfortable in the here and now. It would require me to trust Him far more than I'm willing to.

It would require me to go out on a limb when I'm terrified of heights.

I'm anxious to finish this book (extra points for me if I can finish it before January 1!!) so I can reread it. It's not the kind of book you can read one time and be done, but rather one that you read and reference continuously, each time finding a new gem to apply to your life.

Right now, I'm on Chapter 3: one of many or your one and only? And I know without a doubt that I'll be challenged even further, because honestly, Jesus isn't my One and Only. I know this. He's One of Many. And the Many sure are hard to give up.

It's not about being scared off from being a follower, but being challenged just enough to grow and mature. That's a hard balance to strike, especially if you come from a Southern Baptist background that likely put the fear of God into your very soul, making you scared He'd strike you down with lightening if you as much as looked at somebody in an "un-christian-like manner" (anybody?).

So thank you, Q and T, for challenging me. And for helping me grow and mature.

And for not scaring the Hades out of me.

Saturday, December 7, 2013

My Casablanca Moment

I didn't get to post yesterday because my husband and I had the distinct pleasure of being one of Santa's many helpers as we trekked out to Target and Toys R Us for some last minute shopping. Important note: the love of my life has yet to embrace shopping as an enjoyable activity, but rather views it as an unpleasant task** to be checked off his list.

**Unpleasant= A Toys R Us shopping experience any given day January through December, so I understand his angst over shopping in this particular venue. However, Pier 1 is right across the street and cancels out the agony of walking around a toy store that assaults your eyes and ears.

sensory overload
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While wandering aimlessly walking around Target's Christmas candy section (I am a complete Scrooge about Christmas candy, which should be no surprise--see why here), it suddenly sounded like the roof was going to give way to the pounding rain (I think it always sounds louder in those big box stores, it echos or something), and we both looked at each other like 'uh-oh' because neither of us brought an umbrella, and we had quite the stash growing in our basket. Even though we checked out a full 30 minutes after we first heard the rain, it was still pummeling the pavement, making puddles in the parking lot and sending water splashing with each drop that hit. Great, I thought. We decided to make a run for our cars (we drove separately so he could go to work). He took off, sloshing through puddles and rain, but I did this sort of walk/run thing because I had on boots (it's hard to run in boots that come all the way up to your knees!), so by the time I got to my car, he was already loading the stuff into his. But I yelled through the rain that we needed to put the bags in my car so that I could hide it when I got home. It could have been a beautiful moment. The two of us. The rain. It was like something out of an old black-and-white romance right before the beautiful embrace and romantic kiss. Paul Walker would play my husband and...well, I would play me (since Paul Walker can no longer play the lead role, Shemar Moore would take his place).

My husband looked at me. He began unloading the bags back into the basket. He rolled the basket to me, standing in the pouring rain, my freshly flat-ironed hair getting ruined, and then.

That guy jumped right into his dry car.**

And left me to huddle under the shelter of my rear gate and load all those bags into my car.

My poor hair. Plus my glasses were all fogged up and rainy and I couldn't see a thing.

I, being grievously offended, shoved all the bags into the back of my car and then ruined my hair even more by stomping through the puddles and the rain to take the basket to it's proper return repository. 


**In his defense, he had on his work clothes and I don't blame him for not wanting to sit in wet clothes and shoes and socks all day, which I found out later, his shoes took all day to dry. Poor guy.

Just when I thought chivalry was a concept that could only be found in Casablanca, he got out of his car at Toys R Us, umbrella in hand, and walked over to mine so that we could stay semi-dry on our walk to the front door. It helps that I refused to actually get out of said car until the man with the umbrella appeared. Important note: when preparing to leave Toys R Us, do not put your golf umbrella up before you exit the door, as your umbrella may not fit. And if your umbrella does not fit, please think through things and just put it down. Don't try to figure out how to angle it to get it through the doors while it is still up, as this clogs up the entrance, holding formerly good-willed shoppers hostage on the inside and standing in the rain on the outside. I'm not saying I did this. Just a word to the wise.)

As I spend today recovering from yesterday's excursion, I hope the ones that have to spend their Saturday or Sunday (or both! Lord help you) shopping will remember these minor mishaps and enjoy their time out.

And if you get to do it together, even better.

Thursday, December 5, 2013


Lord help us all if I go as crazy as I feel today.

My mind wants clean. Uncluttered. Well-groomed and organized.

Instead, my eyes see toys everywhere. Granola bar wrappers and doll shoes in a bag with baby blankets. Paper, markers and scissors make a trail from one end of the house to the other. While I'm diligently working on one room, the next is being utterly destroyed. I feel disrespected and irritated.

oh, no, no, no, no, no...this is unacceptable

And then the anxiety creeps in.

I mentally compare my rooms with those I see online and in the catalogues. Have I lost my touch? I'll NEVER get there.

My husband says it's because people don't actually live in catalogues or in those rooms online. It's a pretty picture, reflecting a second-long snapshot of what really goes on between the time a flock of designers decend and when they pack up their things and depart, leaving a blank, vacant space.


Most of the time his good judgement falls on deaf ears, because I've already decided in my head how my house should look--and by the way, this ain't it.

Sometimes I dream of what my house would look like if I didn't have people always messing it up (because I am never the one to blame in that regard ;)). It would be beautiful. Sophisticated. It'd probably be all white with vintage charm and personal touches. I'd be able to paint it all the colors I love, and then repaint it when I change my mind. In my dream world, everything would be absolutely perfect.

And lonely. Maybe even a little bit sad.

Because as annoyed as I feel over the fact that certain members of my family would be more comfortable in a pig sty,  I love the sound of their feet running down the stairs in the morning. Their laughter makes a cold night warmer and their hugs and kisses melt my heart. When they are sad, it breaks my heart and when they are happy, I'm elated.

Sticky, syrupy kisses, one more hug goodnight, watching him run like the wind through the field behind our house, peeking in at her taking special care of her babies...these are moments I treasure in my heart. And when I am old and gray and I no longer care so much about whether the living room rug matches the couch, I'll be able to pull these memories off the shelf of my mind and remember fondly how her pink her cheeks would get when she played outside in the snow.

As I go back upstairs to finish cleaning up yet another mess, I'll mentally remember all the good times we had playing here--together.

(And on Sunday, my kids have a big project to do revolving around ideas like clean and organize and responsibility and Goodwill.)

Wednesday, December 4, 2013

I Do Not Drink Coffee

I should have known better.

If you saw me out today and you thought "Poor thing, she looks tired", but decided against telling me as much, God bless you. Just as an aside, many times people actually do say things such as "You look tired", but is that really what you mean? Or do you mean "Honey, you look like crap. Bless your heart."? Because even though I can acknowledge that yes, indeed, I do look tired, it does not help my psyche to be told.

Anyways, yesterday, I was also feeling tired. Lately, this is a feeling that will not go away. I'm blaming it on the season of attempting to go to bed, only to realize that you've forgotten one of three things: a) to move the elf, b) to fill the advent calendar with some sort of tasty treat (or anything at all), or c) to grab your phone off the kitchen counter because let's be honest. The thing's like a security blanket, and we must have it within reaching distance at all times. Even while we're sleeping. And besides, my alarm clock is on my phone. I have to have it near me.

So when I got up yesterday morning, I decided it was a coffee kind of morning. Important note: I do not drink coffee. Rather, I save the caffeine-induced hyper-activity for days where I'm feeling like a sloth. Like yesterday. By the way, unless it is filled with all sorts of creamer and sugar and flavor (those mini moos are quite delectable), that stuff is horrid. Like swallowing hot liquid mud mixed with bitter root of something else I don't like. But since all I had was some Truvia and unsweetened almond milk, I had to go with it. And after 7 packs of Truvia and enough almond milk to turn it a lighter shade of pale, it wasn't half bad.

After downing half the mug, I was singing coffee's praises yesterday, just like the Newsboys song, aptly named Just Need CoffeeI love this stuff!! They should bottle it up and sell it! I had energy galore, I could think without drifting off into space...yes! I should drink coffee more often! But I don't, because I know. I know the secret of coffee. The more you drink, the more you need. And I'm not drinking any more than I have to. That stuff is potent. So I save it for when I really need it.

Is it merely perception or reality when you feel you have so much energy that you can do not one but two full-on cardio workouts? And run, not walk up every set of steps you encounter. And clean and organize and tidy and wash and...is this some sort of miracle drink? Because I got more done yesterday than I typically do in an entire week.

I'm totally drinking coffee every single day!

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But then I wasn't tired last night. AT ALL. And I stayed up looking at Elf on the Shelf ideas on Pinterest (you can never have too many of those)--ours is swinging on a homemade swing today--and when I finally laid my head down on my pillow, I couldn't turn my mind off. It kept running and running and running, thinking of all things random and arbitrary.

Heather Duncan Richardson's photo.

I think I should paint the keeping room...white! Yes, white. But, I'd need a white couch. And Jon Dear doesn't want an entirely white house. Why doesn't he like white?...Did the elf fall? Should I check on him?...I should sell my oval mirror and put the square one up in the bathroom...I wonder if my sister is up...No, I should paint the keeping room gray!! Because I'm so into gray right now...I love gray...Did I make my playlist for class? I'll have to do that in the morning...Wouldn't it be so cool to meet Beth Moore? Or Kim Kardashian, but not Kanye, I don't like him so much...I cannot believe I'm not asleep yet...

And on and on and on.

I should have known that the coffee I drank at 9 AM would still be affecting my brain at 11 PM.

Is that even possible?

I also should have know that I would feel like a total zombie this morning when I woke up. Darn coffee. This is how it draws you into it's web. Drink it one time and you're HOOKED.

Tuesday, December 3, 2013

Black or White

And now, dear brothers and sisters, one final thing.
Fix your thoughts on what is true, and
 honorable, and right, and pure, and lovely,
and admirable.
Think about things that are
excellent and worthy of praise.
{philippians 4:8}
It's a pretty simple formula: if you wouldn't want The Lord to return and find you there (wherever there may be), then leave.

At least it's pretty simple according the the author of the current bible study I'm taking. 

I was thinking about this concept a couple of Sundays ago as I was driving to church. Flipping the radio stations, I landed on Madonnas Like A Virgin, (I mean, this is a song from my days growing up in the 80s! Who remembers her rolling around onstage in a wedding dress??) and as I was singing along, I thought about how I'd feel if he was sitting right next to me in the car. Would He be singing along, too? Would I be embarrassed of the lyrics? Would I be in trouble with Him?

google images

I have a thing for music, especially hip-hop and R&B: I love the beat. I don't always love the lyrics, but typically I can overlook them or justify them so that I can enjoy the song. And I'm mostly okay with that, except there is one little part of me that feels a little bit uncomfortable when the lyrics are kind of raunchy.

As I was listening to the video teaching from Angela Thomas's bible study Stronger, she shared a verse from Hebrews 12, which goes something like this: get rid of the stuff that so quickly entangles and hinders a passionate relationship with Christ. And while I don't really like to admit that my penchant for hip-hop music might hinder, I also can say that I'd be embarrassed if Christ was sitting next to me while I listened to The Weeknds song Wicked Games--even the clean version.

google images

But is my conscious pricked enough to actually turn the station when a song I like comes on (I found out the hard way what XL actually means on XM radio)? Or to delete a song from my iPod that I paid good money for? That's where the black and white simplicity of walking away turns to gray for me. I can justify. I can rationalize. I can say that when the song makes references to drug use, I will ignore it because that doesn't mean that I am going to go out and do drugs. That when a song talks about rubbing big butts, one-night stands, stripper poles and adultery, it doesn't mean I am in agreement or I endorse those things. I just like the song...right?

I tell my kids that if they don't know what a certain saying or song is referencing or they don't agree with the message, then they shouldn't repeat or listen. But by listening to this music even though I don't agree, I'm being a hypocrite in front of my own children, indicating that what I say isn't as important as the 3-minute song in the radio. 

All kinds of animals, birds, reptiles and sea creatures are being tamed and have been tamed by mankind, but no human being can tame the tongue. It is a restless evil, full of deadly poison. With the tongue we praise our Lord and Father, and with it we curse human beings, who have been made in God’s likeness. Out of the same mouth come praise and cursing. My brothers and sisters, this should not be. Can both fresh water and salt water flow from the same spring? My brothers and sisters, can a fig tree bear olives, or a grapevine bear figs? Neither can a salt spring produce fresh water.
{James 3: 7-12}
These verses give me reason to pause. Is it possible to have it both ways? To listen to the music I want, to watch TV and movies I like, to treat people the way I'm feeling in the moment, and then go to church on Sunday and sing praises to God seems hypocritical, yet this is the way I conduct myself many days.

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I'm not saying it's wrong to listen to the radio, to watch TV or movies or to voice your opinion at all. In fact, I'm the last person on the planet who should be judging what other people watch or listen to. This is more of a way for me to be introspective, to really investigate if what I say I believe matches up with my actions.

There are many different ways I am wrong, but here is what I know to be right:

So whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do,
do it all for the glory of God.
{1 corinthians 10:31}

Monday, December 2, 2013

Bah-Humbug and Merry Christmas

Have mercy.

I'm back from the Frozen North (how people live above the Mason-Dixon line is beyond me) and while it's not anywhere near warm where I live, at least it's not snowing.

Today, my mind feels like play-doh. Was it the long hours riding in the car, the long Thanksgiving dinner, or all the sugar I ate?

There's no way to tell for sure.

But I do know that after I went out today to run a few errands, I am positive of one thing: it's that time of year for everything and everybody to be busy. And people are crazy.

It's probably because I had a really awesome workout this morning combined with my poor planning (I didn't bring a snack to eat for afterwards) that I was a touch grumpy. A curmudgeon, one might say. But I really didn't expect for the parking lot at ACMoore AND TJMaxx to be so crowded, or the lines so long, and I really didn't expect to only find 7 shopping baskets left at Kroger.

It's that time of year again! people say brightly. Time for the hustle and bustle of the holidays! we exclaim. But with every store sending their catalogue to my address, their email to my inbox, their ads for doorbuster savings, Cyber Monday events, and the greatest sales events of the season to my newspaper box, my holiday cheer is all covered up with a big pile of the blahs. I think I may have even told someone today that I hate Christmas (don't judge, I didn't have a snack today--see above).

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What's the real reason I'm celebrating this glizty, commercialized holiday, anyway? I always end up feeling sorry for myself because my Christmas decorations don't look like the ridiculous, over-priced ones in the catalogue, I feel rushed by the onslaught of advertisements, flyers, and billboards proclaiming theirs to be the best gift EVER (but you'd better get yours today or this offer will RUN OUT!!!), and the Santa and fake snow displays combined with a 24-hour barrage of It's the MOST WONDERFUL tiiiiiiiiime of the YEAR leave me craving peace and solitude. There is a certain desperation in the way Christmas is presented that makes me want to turn and run in the other direction. I am tired of searching for the perfect gift that will make my children jump for joy. Sick of Christmas music, overly-cheerful deejays and holiday TV specials. Irritated by sales and specials, annoyed by catalogues. Exasperated by blinking lights and cheesy decorations. And the colors of red and green? They are wasted on me.

I mean really? It's just too much.
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And it's only December 2.

Call me a Scrooge. Bah-humbug.

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The fact of the matter is, nothing in this world is going to change. Christmas will continue to be tacky and commercialized. Thanksgiving will be passed over, Halloween decorations will come out in the summertime, and I won't be able to find a coat when February rolls around.

google images

My internal compass is spinning out of control. And the needle is desperately searching for Due North.

They don't know where to find peace.
{romans 3:17}
I don't know about you, but that is certainly true for me. I don't know where to find peace sometimes. It's a confusing message. The world promises peace with every purchase you make, with every decoration you put up, with every ornament you hang. Peace. But peace doesn't come from an outside source. I can't buy it. I can't even see it. It doesn't even come from a blithe saying at the end of church. But I know without a doubt that I want it.
I am leaving you with a giftpeace of mind and heart.
And the peace I give is a gift the world cannot give.
So don’t be troubled or afraid.
{john 14:27}
My Due North.
My God.