a funny thing happened on the way to my life….

Don’t Know About You, But I’m Feeling 22

Fav Baby Photo

Everyone is the age of their heart.  ~Guatemalan Proverb

I didn’t do anything as gaudy as send myself a birthday bouquet but I am about to break a few social mores.  That’s right, I’m saying it, “Happy birthday, to ME!” and I’m going to post photos of ME, and I’m writing a blog about ME :)  But I hope you’ll give me a pass…mostly because I AM the birthday girl.

Okay, to be clear, I’m not trying to solicit birthday wishes and/or gifts…but I just had to share a few thoughts about turning “the year before THE year.”  What????  Doesn’t make any sense?  Well, check this out:  Most of us know that turning 40 it’s a pretty big deal…as in it’s a pivotal moment (and not necessarily in a good way.)  And while I won’t be 40 until next year (2015), I did have a friend tell me that (NEWSFLASH)  turning “the year before THE year” is actually a pretty big deal, too!  I had no clue.  39 is a BIG thing…really?  Since when?  I guess…since now.

39 has been called the “creepy-creeper” birthday.  This connotation suggests that 39 is both undesirable and sneaky? Maybe even a little scary?  Sort of like you’re walking along…minding your own business…when this dreadful number jumps out from behind the bushes and boldly states, “Warning.  You’re about to cross over into old age!”  Or something like that.  Supposedly, at 39 this is the last year that I can be considered somewhat “young.”  I’ve been told that I’ve now entered the final months where it’s even somewhat socially acceptable to wear my hair long, paint my fingernails any color other than matronly mauve, or wear jet black mascara (among a great big list of other taboo items.)  If there is a distinction in adulthood, apparently 40 is the line for women and so I’m left with this one little year in which to kick up my heels and behave accordingly.  365 measly days left to be young!  I can hardly believe it…it all went so fast!  Actually, I find all this to be pretty funny.  Funny for two reasons:  1) because I think when I was in my 20s that I actually believed these rules and 2) especially funny because in my heart of hearts the first number that pops into my mind whenever someone asks me how old I am has ALWAYS been 22!

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Birthday gathering with friends :)

Yes, I know.  It’s been a long, LONG time since I was 22, but you have to hear me out about this.  So when you’re a kid, you can’t wait to be in double digits.  10 is a BIG deal.  The next milestone age is 13, right?  Because now you’re a teenager.  Followed by 16…the year you can get your driver’s license.  The next biggie is 18…no curfew, you can vote, live on your own, etc.  And finally 21.  The BIG ONE.  That’s right…all the sudden you’re able to do all the things you’ve been told REAL grown-ups do. (?)  I know, we all know…most of them are very OVERRATED.  So when 22 rolls around you figure, okay…that’s it.  Nothing to see here people and I guess I just stopped counting after that.  Ridiculous, right?  I know…but that’s the house that I’ve been living in.  Sure it’s a crazy house, but it’s still MY house.

At this point, I’m sure you’re laughing at me and I’m actually laughing at myself, too.  It’s been ages since I’ve been carded, had a night life, or gone on any adventures that don’t involve having my two kids in tow.  I’m not up on the newest trends, nor do I drive a hot car, or keep up with the latest movies or music.  I don’t really do any of the things that would lump myself in a category with anyone who is actually 22, yet that’s still the number that sticks in my head.  I always imagined that someday I’d graduate to a new birthday number, but it just never happened.  So now that I’m turning “the year before THE year,” I thought I’d better do a little research and see what the hubbub surrounding the number 40 is really all about…I mean, since I don’t want to be caught off guard (again) and I’m headed in that direction anyway.

It appears that there really are a lot of resources out there concerning the Big 4-0.  Countless books, websites, blogs and articles about embracing the “new and improved” you.  As I enter “the year before THE year,” it might behoove me to start reading up on some of these expectations and societal norms.  Here’s what I’ve gathered from the headlines so far:  40 is magical.  40 has attitude…it’s called “fortytude.”  There’s also a rumor that 40 can be fabulous (but I caution you, there are a lot of caveats to this one.)  40 is the first year a woman can qualify as a “cougar.”  40 is something that needs to be figured out and faced…it also makes you fierce and a force to be reckoned with (don’t you love all the alliteration that comes with 40!)  You can also be fit and forty at the same time (who knew?)  For those who truly believe in stressing themselves out about the number 40, there are a few websites that offer up 40 things you should accomplish by the time you reach 40.  And, by the way… in case you haven’t heard, forty is the new “F” word.

That’s a lot for one girl to take in.

All of this aside, here’s where I’m at.  It’s MY birthday and all I really want to do is thank God for another day, another year, and another reason to celebrate life (while eating Dairy Queen cake, of course.)  I don’t really get wrapped up in all this aging stuff.  I’m sure the day will come when the wrinkles and the gray hairs will win out, when my body doesn’t cooperate like it used to, when people stop asking me just how old I really am (and just start assuming I’m OLD!)  Until then, I’m just going to keep chugging along…making up nonsensical songs with my daughter, teasing my son by repeating hip phrases that sound anything but hip when I say them, wearing my hair as long as I want to, and sporting nice, bright nail polish as the mood strikes.  I’m not going to worry about figuring out or facing 40 or even reading up on the 40 things to do before you reach this supposed milestone.  While society might find my lack of alarm annoying or unheard of,  I think the psychological term is called “self differentiated.”  That’s right…who says you can’t teach an “old dog” new words.  And by the way, I’m going to stick with the age 22 for the time being (especially since Taylor Swift makes it sound so fun!)  Sure I’m a long way from it (and you really couldn’t pay me to go back,) but mostly just because it’s a nice number and like I said before… I still have a house there.  (Sure it’s a crazy house, but it’s MY house.)

Here’s to 365 days of “the year before THE year!”

I’m not 40, I’m eighteen with 22 years experience.   Author unknown

 

 


Gonna Make My Black Thumb Green (aka A Lesson in Faith Planting)

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Plants do not grow merely to satisfy ambitions or to fulfill good intentions. They thrive because someone expended effort on them.  Liberty Hyde Bailey

I didn’t just believe that I had a black thumb, I had confirmed it…time and TIME again.  You probably think that I’m exaggerating, but it’s a well documented  fact.  Have you ever had someone take a plant AWAY from you?  Yes, that has happened to me (and not just once.)  I was a cold-blooded plant killer and I’m not proud of it.  I wanted to be able to grow things, I really did.  I potted, watered, and adjusted for sunlight and shade.  I wasn’t above asking for help, checking out library books and looking up tips on the internet.  It just wasn’t my knack and, honestly…hey, I was cool with that.  But for some unknown reason, people kept giving me plants (I think that happens when you move as often as we have…let’s face it, a plant is a pretty safe “welcoming” gift.)  In defense of these plant-bearing gift givers, I realize that you all had no idea what these little green treasures were in store for once they were under my care :)

Fast forward several years and while I’m certainly no green thumb, I’m not quite the plant killing queen that I used to be.   So, I still can’t grow ANYTHING from a seed, but I have managed to keep three plants alive (and mostly thriving.)  One plant has actually been around for nearly five years and I’m proud to report that it has somehow managed to survive three repotting stints as well.  (Yes, it’s the little things.)  In fact, I actually purchased a plant (my first time) just last month and so far…well, so good.  I think my mother-in-law would be so surprised and my mom, well I’m sure she can just hardly believe it’s true!  (The black thumb thing runs in the family.)

Thinking about this shift in my gardening abilities reminds me of another change in my life.  This one pertaining to my faith in God.  While I’ve been a believer just about as long as I can remember, I was never really comfortable sharing that faith.  To be honest, I didn’t know how.  As  a kid I can remember occasionally going to church, however, I really didn’t have any formal faith upbringing.  Despite all this, I considered myself a hard-core, pint-size prayer warrior (and I’m not even sure that was a term at the time.)  I prayed about anything and everything.  My overactive imagination, news junkie status (even as a kid) and an overwhelming realization that we lived in a broken and scary world would occupy my thoughts from the time my head hit the pillow until dawn.  So often I found peace and comfort in prayer and somehow knew that there was a great, big God out there who loved and cared about me.

In time, those little prayers eventually turned into a desire to read the Bible…which gets easier once you learn how to read and possess a  vocabulary.  By the time I was in high school I was working on reading the Bible all the way through.  I would read one chapter a night before bed–and I don’t think anyone ever knew.  I really didn’t talk about it.  I just did it.  Looking back, I’m pretty sure that I didn’t understand much of what I read.  I just felt called to do it.  And when I finished, I started over.  Look, I’m no theological scholar and I certainly didn’t consider myself holier than my teenage counterparts.  All I know is that the more I learned about God, the more my love for Him continued to grow.

I wish I could say that my Bible reading led me into church as a young adult.  It didn’t.  Of course, I did do a lot of praying in college…it WAS college after all!!!  I had tests to pray for, temptations to avoid, friends who needed help, and then of course there was safety and an entire crazy world out there to worry about.  I think in some ways my desire to get into journalism was a love for writing tied into an off shoot of a faith that I was trying to figure out.  My end goal in my pursuit to become a reporter was always to make the world a better place.  I wholeheartedly believe that knowledge is power.  I thought if we could just gain an awareness for the people in our neighborhoods, community and world that we would all have our hearts transformed–we could BE BETTER and DO BETTER.  Little did I know that this warm stirring that I so desperately wanted to impart on the hearts of others was in line with a desire to share with the planet the God that I was coming to know.

My faith journey goes on from there, but those early years–the faith planting years–came to mind today as I watered and tended to my plants.  Now, I look forward to attending church every Sunday (actually I’m something of a church nerd as I love visiting new churches whenever I can.)  I also love being a ministry volunteer and a pastor’s wife.  I continue to read and pray and discover more ways to draw closer to God.  I often thank God for putting people in my life to inspire and encourage me to pursue this faith.  What I once kept guarded and close to my heart, I now openly talk about.  I’m not afraid to share what I know about God.  In fact, I feel called to talk about Him often…especially with young people.  I remind them (and myself) that it takes time to develop and foster any kind of worthwhile relationship.  The same if true with faith.  The world won’t know about our awesome Creator, if someone (you?  me?) doesn’t share it with them.  I still wholeheartedly believe knowledge is power.  And if faith and following Jesus is the most powerful choice we can make in our lifetime, I want every person to have that option.

I can’t tell you what a blessing it is to have my children grow up in the church.  Faith planted…I see their early development (and that of their peers) tended to by good men and women whose lives serve as living testimonies to faith in a mighty God and who desire nothing more than the same for my kiddos and others.  In this season of my life, this is where I focus my attention.  What a blessing it is to witness a child’s heart discovering God for the first time.  Connecting with a young person and letting them know that there is a Creator who loves them.  Sharing scripture and Bible lessons with new believers and fostering the kind of environment that says there is so much more out there for each of us.  Seeing Christ’s love influence the thoughts and actions in so many young ones…well, it takes my breath away.

Never in my wildest dreams did I think I would have an opportunity or even the ability to share and witness faith  like this.  I didn’t think I was capable or qualified.  I didn’t think I could GROW into that person.  God had a better idea and I really can’t wait to see what blooms as a result.

This most generous God who gives seed to the farmer that becomes bread for your meals is more than extravagant with you. He gives you something you can then give away, which grows into full-formed lives, robust in God, wealthy in every way, so that you can be generous in every way, producing with us great praise to God.

2 Corinthians 9:10-11 The Message

 


What I Learned During the First Weekend of March Madness

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My first trip to the NCAA men’s basketball tournament in 2013. Kansas vs. North Carolina.

They call it March Madness for a reason. Unpredictable and erratic…causing ordinary and sane individuals to suddenly scribble out brackets, clear their schedules and spend hours plugged in to an event that spans several weekends. Crazy, right? In the interest of full disclosure, I should state that I am a Kansas Jayhawk fan–born and raised in Kansas. A KU alum, I have bought, paid for and wear the t-shirt. The 2014 NCAA tournament marks the 25th consecutive season that the Jayhawks have been a part of the madness. So…my madness has been going on a long, long time.

Every year I go into the tournament looking forward to the fun, the excitement, and often times the anguish of college basketball. I’m consistently impressed by the athletic abilities of these amazing young men. Time after time I find myself discovering new teams to root for and more reasons to vilify teams that aren’t on my top ten list. Each year I anticipate the ups and downs and without fail the tournament delivers. You’d think at some point the whole thing would become tiresome and pointless, but I haven’t crossed that line yet. I guess what I’m trying to say is that after all these years I’m still uncovering the lessons deep within the madness. For example, just the other day I learned something new about myself–I yell louder at the TV when watching basketball alone compared to when I watch with others.  Who knew?  And with that spirit of self-awareness, I offer these “noticings” after this first weekend of tourney play:

1. Life is not fair. Okay, we all know that, but sometimes it really hits you over the head.  Like with Harvard and Stanford.  Really? Not only do you have to be a “brainiac” to go there, chances are you’re well on your way to a successful and high paying career (and not necessarily in the NBA.) That’s a score. To top it off the guys on these basketball teams were both good-looking AND athletically gifted. What line were those dudes standing in and how can the rest of us get an invite. Yes, some people have it ALL and then some!

2. “Lebroning” has totally reached the college crowd. It occurs to me that in addition to team practice and free throw repetition, some coaches must be offering some type of drama course. Some of these players produce very convincing facial expressions and practically injure themselves throwing their bodies around while trying to win over a referee. I love how they act like an innocent bystander…even pointing out elbows and hands in order to avoid getting a foul call. Kudos, fellas. The Academy will be calling.

3. Yelling during free throws. Good gravy…I pray that those are college aged fans or maybe members of a team’s respective pep band. Otherwise, let’s grow up a little. Grown men and women (yes, ladies, I HEAR you) have no business screaming or booing a kid at the free throw line.

4. Speaking of pep bands…what is up with the face paint? For heaven’s sake. This year’s face painting has been especially noticeable. Now, I’m not a face painter myself, but I do recognize that there is good face painting and BAD face painting. Showing your pride through team colors—thumbs up. Looking like you’re trying out for some sort of zombie trumpet player role—thumbs down.

5. If you cry at the game…the camera will find you! When the camera zeroes in on some dejected player, my heart just withers. But you don’t have to be a team member to have your “boo hoo” moment broadcast all over the country. Coach’s wives and kids have become fair game as well. At least when we’re watching the game at home, no one can exploit our sadness :(

6. Never before have I found myself rooting so hard against my own bracket. I play the odds when it comes to my picks and then find myself cheering for the upset. Every time.  Yes, I have money on the line and yet I still can’t help myself. I get tired of the same teams winning it all year after year.

Sean with tickets to the madness.  Yes, it makes you crazy :)

Sean with tickets to the madness. Yes, it makes you crazy :)

7. This year, for the first time ever (in my case) the madness has caused lines to be drawn within my inner circle. I found myself second guessing beloved kin and friends (at one point I publicly announced that I was considering disowning my own son for going against my alma mater.) This stuff is for real!

So, bring on the Sweet Sixteen! I love it. It’s the lion and the lamb, the greatest highs and the deepest lows. We see teams rising to the occasion and others falling flat on their faces. Players and coaches getting caught up in the moment and commentators that make us want to pull our hair out or unplug the TV. (Have you noticed what flip-floppers these announcers are? Good thing this is basketball and not politics. Talk about playing to which ever team is ahead.) Yes, indeed this is March Madness! What else could grab die-hard fans and fun-loving onlookers and unify them into one massive sporting experience? My bracket is basically shot at this point, but I don’t care. Wait… I think that’s another symptom of the madness.


February…How Do I LOVE Thee? (Song 14 in the Countdown)

Love Songs to Melt Your Heart and Move Your Soul: Song 14

Love is…having a Valentine by your side every day of the year. –me

Well…it’s finally here—Valentine’s Day! A holiday absolutely loathed by some and totally adored by others (all subject to one’s current relationship status, of course.) It’s also the final day of my love song countdown. While the list includes some romantic music staples, I’ve tried to include a few unlikely additions as well (no Barry White, Celine Dion or Mariah Carey here.) So in conclusion, I offer up this little goody by The Proclaimers :)   An absolute brain worm and feel good ditty, this tune is about one of the greatest love qualities that I can think of…song 14WILLINGNESS. It’s not a ballad that promises the world. It’s not a steamy song with lots of suggestive innuendo. And nothing about this song would break your heart or move you to tears. Rather, it’s one person saying to another…”if you’ll let me, I’ll be there in the morning, all throughout the day, I’ll be the one talking your head off, working hard to provide for you, growing old with you, dreaming about you, always coming home to you, and thinking about you whenever we have to be apart. I’m not perfect, but I am WILLING to be all that I can for you.” While this chart topper doesn’t necessarily fit the typical love song mold, I think it’s the perfect “dark horse” candidate to complete my list—unlikely, improbable and least expected…yeah, that sounds a lot like love to me. Happy Valentine’s Day :)

***This post is part of an ongoing series. As part of my cup half full approach to loving the month of February, I vow to jump in with both feet and embrace the whole Valentine thing with my own custom list of Love Songs to Melt Your Heart and Move Your Soul. Ambitious? Yes! Bold? Absolutely! Crazy? You betcha! Pointless? On just about every level. Regardless, let’s give it a go—I mean it’s February and how else am I going to get through the coldest, bleakest, cloudiest, shortest (and longest at the same time) month on the calendar. Let the countdown to Valentine’s Day begin! I (gritting teeth) LOVE February, how about YOU?


February…How Do I LOVE Thee? (Song 13 in the Countdown)

Love Songs to Melt Your Heart and Move Your Soul: Song 13

Love is…the best (and the worst) kind of mystery. –me

You may have noticed that I haven’t included much contemporary music in my love songs list. Not a diss really, I guess I’m just more old school. However, this song is currently on Billboard’s Top 10 and I find it especially moving. The lyrics could be interpreted a number of ways…pertaining to an unfulfilled or one-sided romantic relationship, a broken friendship, troubled family systems, a loved one dealing with illness, aging and maybe even loss. It could also be read spiritually. Like any good love song this one speaks directly to the soul, but it takes things one step further as song 13it addresses the difficult and unpleasant part of putting your heart on the line. Will you let go, are you willing to grow up and make tough decisions, how much are you able to give before it all becomes too overwhelming?

In this crazy world we never expect (or plan for) the rejection, hurt and pain that can accompany love.  The reality is that sometimes love sucks. Love isn’t fair. And often, as hard as it is to hear, it’s just not enough.  I’ve always believed that actions speak louder than words and when we finally get to the point of asking a loved one to “say something,” I presume that on a lot of levels we already know the answer.  And as difficult as that answer may be, it ultimately leads to this question…is it REALLY better to have loved and lost than never to have loved at all?  Yes..a hundred times, yes.

Coming Up: Love Songs to Melt Your Heart and Move Your Soul: Song 14

***This post is part of an ongoing series. As part of my cup half full approach to loving the month of February, I vow to jump in with both feet and embrace the whole Valentine thing with my own custom list of Love Songs to Melt Your Heart and Move Your Soul. Ambitious? Yes! Bold? Absolutely! Crazy? You betcha! Pointless? On just about every level. Regardless, let’s give it a go—I mean it’s February and how else am I going to get through the coldest, bleakest, cloudiest, shortest (and longest at the same time) month on the calendar. Let the countdown to Valentine’s Day begin! I (gritting teeth) LOVE February, how about YOU?


February…How Do I LOVE Thee? (Song 12 in the Countdown)

Love Songs to Melt Your Heart and Move Your Soul: Song 12

Love is…talking about everything and nothing while sharing piles of French fries. –me

In the country music world, George Strait is king. And when it comes to heartfelt love songs, he easily keeps the crown. The song “I Cross My Heart” reads like wedding vows with sweet promises and pledges of fidelity. It’s the song 12kind of song that gives hope to the unattached, optimism to relationship newbies and profound joy to those who know and experience this kind of committed love. Easily one of my top three love songs of all time, not only does it ooze all the gushy goodness of love but between the lines it connotes dedication, respect and accountability. While this song may have been a number one hit in the early ‘90s, its timeless message will make it a favorite for decades to come.

Coming Up: Love Songs to Melt Your Heart and Move Your Soul: Song 13

***This post is part of an ongoing series. As part of my cup half full approach to loving the month of February, I vow to jump in with both feet and embrace the whole Valentine thing with my own custom list of Love Songs to Melt Your Heart and Move Your Soul. Ambitious? Yes! Bold? Absolutely! Crazy? You betcha! Pointless? On just about every level. Regardless, let’s give it a go—I mean it’s February and how else am I going to get through the coldest, bleakest, cloudiest, shortest (and longest at the same time) month on the calendar. Let the countdown to Valentine’s Day begin! I (gritting teeth) LOVE February, how about YOU?


February…How Do I LOVE Thee? (Song 11 in the Countdown)

Love Songs to Melt Your Heart and Move Your Soul: Song 11

Love is….knowing that I’m with you every step of the way (whether you like it or not.) –me

Love, laughter and loyalty. No, I’m not trying to impress you with some fancy alliteration; I’m simply listing the makings of a solid relationship. If we’re honest, we all know that love really isn’t enough. Sure, they say love can move mountains, it knows no boundaries, and it can conquer all, but there are too many instances out there where love alone is nothing more than a starting place.

song 11Ben E. King’s “Stand By Me” addresses a cornerstone of any long lasting relationship—loyalty. Most of us can recall a time when someone’s unfaithfulness has brought us to our knees. Only time can heal those type of wounds. And in order for a relationship to truly have a solid foundation it has to be built on a mutual trust. Music historians say that King’s song was inspired by an old spiritual as well as the words of Psalm 46:2-3. This scripture expresses God’s willingness and His commitment to stand by His people through all things—both the highs and the lows. Loyalty and fidelity…having a confidence in the one who promises to love you everyday and in every way.  This is the best kind of love.

Coming Up: Love Songs to Melt Your Heart and Move Your Soul: Song 12

***This post is part of an ongoing series. As part of my cup half full approach to loving the month of February, I vow to jump in with both feet and embrace the whole Valentine thing with my own custom list of Love Songs to Melt Your Heart and Move Your Soul. Ambitious? Yes! Bold? Absolutely! Crazy? You betcha! Pointless? On just about every level. Regardless, let’s give it a go—I mean it’s February and how else am I going to get through the coldest, bleakest, cloudiest, shortest (and longest at the same time) month on the calendar. Let the countdown to Valentine’s Day begin! I (gritting teeth) LOVE February, how about YOU?


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