Monday, April 25, 2011


I love my family. I really do. And one of the things that I love about it the most is my cousins. Until my only child world was rocked at the age of 14, my cousins were the closest things to siblings that I had. I thought that Kyle, Wendi, and Kasey absolutely hung the moon. They were older and cooler and oh, so much fun. I mean, does it get any more fun than getting body slammed by two boys that are 9 and 6 years one's senior in a game of "run really fast and see if you can break through our arms"? Or, dressing up in matching green corduroy overalls and cream colored turtleneck shirts for studio portraits with your one and only girl cousin? I highly doubt it even though a thirteen year-old Wendi would probably beg to differ. And then the fun only continued once Justin was born and I got to be the big cousin. Well, once I got over the fact that I was no longer the baby in the family, I decided that he was pretty fun because he was my very own real live baby doll that didn't wake me up in the middle of the night crying because he did that at his own house. And with any luck there was the fact that maybe he would think that I was as cool as I thought the older cousins were. Except I was way cooler because I didn't body slam him. And now all of these years later, we're all grown up and do our own things on a daily basis. We may not necessarily talk to each other all of the time and know exactly what's going on in each others lives at any given moment, but it's a given that we are there for each other. We celebrate each other's victories or just stand alongside each other silently during the not-so-victorious times. And unless the moon is in the seventh house and Jupiter aligns with Mars, there's the certainty that we'll see each other on holidays. In my family, that makes holidays something to look forward to instead of dread. Really. I don't tell them enough how much I love them and respect them and look up to them, but I sure am glad that I have them. Each and every one of them. And even though we are all quite fluent in sarcasm, I'm being serious when I write this. Really. Because we are such a good looking [and humble] group and because I have zero patience with uploading pictures to Blogger, there are more pictures from Sunday's impromptu photo shoot here.

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Soundtrack: Holy Week Edition.

For some, this week is a reminder that there is a finite number of days left in which Cadbury eggs are available for purchase. For others, this week is a mad rush of stuffing plastic eggs and searching high and low for coordinating outfits for the entire family so the spring picture will be just perfect. Speaking of, have I ever written about that Easter that my mama bought me a dress with a hat? That went over like a lead balloon. Finally, for some, this week is perhaps a bit somber as they reflect upon God's sacrifice of his own son so that one day we could live forever and forever with him without even worrying about whether or not we will still be able to fit into our Easter frocks after polishing off that last Cadbury egg. I suspect that for most of us, this week is some combination of all three of the aforementioned scenarios. In honor of this most important week, I'm featuring music fit for a king.

Desert Song by Hillsong. "My God is the God who provides." This entire song is oh so good, but this particular line has been my mantra these days as I've been wandering through the desert.

Forever Reign by Hillsong. Ok, while I think that Hillsong was put on this earth to provide us with a small sneak preview of what music in Heaven is going to be like [actually I have no idea what the music in Heaven is going to be like...but I would be ok if it was like their music], I am continuously confused by the fact that sometimes they are referred to as Hillsong while other times they are Hillsong United [is that when they are playing soccer in the UK?] and sometimes it's Hillsong Live. I like this song because that it reminds me that even on my crankiest of days when there isn't a lot of good in me, God is still good.

Grace Flows Down by Christy Nockels. I hope that she sings this song on Friday at the Good Friday service. Bonus if she sings it with Chris Tomlin. Did I mention that I will be there in person to hear the performance with some of my very favorite people in all the world? Good Friday becomes even greater.

Waiting Here for You by Christy Nockels. Actually Chris Tomlin wrote this one and she sings it so my hopes are high that we'll hear this one too. Verse 3 [which incidentally it seems is always the verse omitted in hymns in the Baptist church] is my favorite: "You are everything you promised / Your faithfulness is true / And we're desperate for your presence / All we need is you."

How He Loves by John Mark McMillan. I like this version because the original lyrics of heaven meeting earth like a sloppy wet kiss haven't been watered down to be more churchy. I mean, is it really appropriate to talk about sloppy wet kisses in church? I think so. But I'm no music minister. If this song doesn't make you feel like you have been fought for as the greatest most cherished prize ever then well, please listen to it again. And again. Until the tears streaming down your face make you wonder if you've been given a sloppy wet kiss.

Something Beautiful by needtobreathe. We've all heard it. A lot. We all love it. A lot.

No More, No Less by MercyMe. Have y'all heard this song yet? I think it's pretty new. Must be because the powerpoint gurus haven't had time to upload a slideshow set to the song with the lyrics over lovely pictures of puppy dogs, rainbows, sugarplum fairies to YouTube yet. No more, no less...if only I could be content with that.

Beauty of the Cross by Jonny Diaz. You know, I will never be able to say with certainty because well, I wasn't there, but whenever I think about the Cross, I think it would have been a sight far too painful to witness. It would have been ugly and full of hurt and suffering. But God made something beautiful out of something horrible. And that wasn't the last time it happened. It happens every single day in our own messy lives.

You by Hillsong. I've said it before and I'll say it again: those Pentecostals from Australia make some good music. However, every single time this song is played at church at the very beginning I think the band is about to break out in some sort of RiverDance routine or something. But they never do. Probably because Pentecostals from Australia don't RiverDance. Neither do non-denominationals [read: basically Baptists if you live in the South] from the United States.

Alive Again by Matt Maher. Ok, I'll be honest, I don't really know this song very well. I heard it on the radio the other day and saw the title on the screen and thought to myself "well, Easter is about the resurrection and living and Jesus died but then rose on the 3rd day so it'll work to round out the list." Please don't criticize my lack of Bible story telling savvy...I never went to Sunday School as a kid. [Why in the world Lady Gaga's "Bad Romance" comes up as the next song after this one is beyond me.]

I am so very thankful for the gift of the Cross. There's nothing I could have ever done to have earned it. Or deserved it. As with all gifts though, the best ones are never earned or deserved...they are given freely and the giver does so out of love without regard to his cost. The Cross represents the gift of eternal life. It's ours for the receiving.

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

That time I ate 3 Klondike bars right before going to bed.

I feel like I should preface today's post. Primarily as a stall tactic to get to the inevitable explanation that yes, I really did eat 3 Klondike bars right before bed a couple of weeks ago. However, the preface should also include the explanation that I am using this entire post as a stall tactic for another post that I am going to write eventually. By talking about my skill of consuming copious amounts of calories in a short period of time, the next post that I write - the one that has the potential to make me appear vulnerable and less together than I typically like to appear to the outside world - won't seem quite as intimidating. So all of that to say, this is kind of like stepping into the shallow end of the pool as opposed to the cannonball method of entry right into the deep end. Warning: If you make it to the end of this post, you should treat yourself to a Klondike bar. It just so happens that I really do believe that there is something good in all bad situations. For example: last summer when my little world fell apart, I dropped weight like I was a high school wrestler the week before the state meet. Except I didn't wear trash bags and go running in poorly ventilated rooms. Suddenly in July I was two sizes smaller than I was in May. So now, nearly a year later while he who shall rename nameless has managed to maintain a double chin, I have managed to maintain my new and improved body that looks much better at 32 than it did at 22. [Yes, even the small, shallow wins should be celebrated on the road to total victory.] But. And this is where the but has potential to get really big...I've got to be careful if I plan to stay in those size 2's for a couple of seasons. The trauma and drama has passed. My appetite has long since returned. I'm finished with grad school which was another stressor and instant calorie burner. This means that I can't eat whatever I want to whenever I want to without zero regard to what it's going to do to my body. Pause: I realize that there's so much more to being healthy than pant size and the way one looks. Back in the summer though I literally had to force myself to eat so any calories were good calories. Now though that I am back to three meals a day and snacks in between, there's not really room for THREE KLONDIKE BARS right before bed. What in the world ever possessed me to eat 3 right in a row in the first place anyway? Because they were so good, that's why. And they were a treat. Darn Publix and those BOGO specials. Look at me making excuses..."I don't typically have those in my house."..."I'm just celebrating the fact that I have an appetite."..."If Publix didn't have those specials, I would have never bought them in the first place." Sure, in the overall grand scheme of things, eating that much ice cream in one sitting isn't that big of a deal. But what would you think if I told you that the night before, I ate TWO Klondike bars right before bedtime? Because I did. Anybody see a pattern forming? Am I the only person out there that takes on the mentality of "well, I've already eaten one which means my eating is shot for the day, so I might as well eat another."? Or what about, "I know that I said that I was going to put up those dishes after this episode of The Closer goes off, but there's a marathon on TV and this next episode is really good too."? Or the classic battle that I fight each morning of "I can snooze for 9 more minutes and still make it in time." [I never make it in time.] Those examples are all pretty trivial but what about when a drink leads to another drink which leads to another drink? Or when one swipe of the credit card at this store leads to another swipe of the credit card at that store because you can't have a new dress without the new shoes to go with it? Or when you were just going to smoke those last two packs in your last carton of cigarettes and be done with them forever...three cartons ago? Or when an innocent lunch with a coworker leads to an intentional dinner date. We are creatures of habit. And why is it that the good habits are so easy to let go of and the bad habits are so hard to break? Oh? That's just me? Well, then you all go on about your business of enjoying a Klondike bar. You've earned it. Oh...because sometimes we do earn the right to loosen up a bit don't we? Or least that's what we tell ourselves. Or at least we are much quicker to hear and act on that when maybe others tell us so. Anyone else have dolphin hearing when the opportunity to loosen up and reward ourselves presents itself, but it's like the batteries are dead in Grandpa's Whisper 2000 when someone calls us out on a behavior? Again, my apologies if I'm just talking to myself here. While I'm on the subject of habits, I'm much better at planning to break them than actually breaking them. The time to decide not to hit the snooze button again is not at 6:22 a.m. The time to decide to stop eating Klondike bars like they are rice cakes is when you walk past the ice cream aisle at the grocery store...not when they are in your freezer beckoning you like a lighthouse beckons a ship lost at sea in the storm when you reach into the freezer to get the broccoli that's in there. If I've learned anything in my 30's, it's that I cannot do this life alone. No matter how hard I try or how much I love to give the impression that I've got it all together, the reason why I'm together as I am, is because of the people in my life. It's much simpler, I've learned. This doesn't mean I've given up my independence. It just means that I don't have to be Wonder Woman all the time. Sure, no one knows our own individual struggles better than we do. On the other hand, no one is better at justifying them than we are. Of course we don't want to share our struggles with the people who love and respect us, because well, they might not love and respect us anymore if they find out. But here's the deal: those are the people that are going to love us through those things. So we've got to let them. Why? Not because I said so. But because there's a book that says it: "See to it, brothers, that none of you has a sinful, unbelieving heart that turns away from the living God. But encourage one another daily, as long as it is called 'Today,' so that none of you may be hardened by sin's deceitfulness." -Hebrews 3:12-13. When I read this passage for my Bible Study and specifically the phrase "sinful unbelieving heart" the other day, I was taken aback. The reason why was because that was pretty much the phrase used in an explanation of one's actions and behaviors towards me one time. I think it's easy for us all to get a little hard-hearted at times. I know I have. But I'm grateful that God's grace is stronger and will break even the hardest of hearts. He's not going to use his grace with force though. Don't worry.