Where the Heart Lives

Some farewells are harder than others. This weekend I bid farewell to Foard County.  It’s not the first time, but this time was different. For the first time in my almost sixty years, I accepted that Foard County isn’t “home”.   It’s where I grew up. There are many treasured memories.  

I moved to Nacogdoches for college in 1978. But, Crowell was still home. In 1982, I went to work in Houston and I’ve lived in that area ever since.  I married, had 2 kids, became a widow and married again. And I looked forward to going home to Crowell as often as possible. 

This weekend, I realized:  this is no longer home.  I am just a visitor passing through. 

Some say that home is where the heart is. Well, pieces of my heart are buried in the Crowell Cemetery.  I will always be a Foard county girl. Crowell will always be my hometown.  But, for now, my home is with my husband, my kids (birthed and bonus) and my grandson in the West Houston area. Brookshire calls to my heart. 

Farewell Foard County. Thanks for the memories. 

The Importance of Flowers

My husband knows I love fresh flowers.  Nearly every week, he fills my crystal vase with flowers. Often he selects roses, but we’ve had many different types.  I truly enjoy the various blooms.  Last week, I heard our girls discussing the dozen red roses in the vase that sat on top of the kitchen counter.  One said “Don’t waste money on flowers, save it for jewelry.”  They all seemed to agree on the concept.    It’s a sentiment I’ve heard through the years. 

If you know Tim, you know he is “thrifty”.  He doesn’t buy extravagant bouquets.  My weekly flowers come from the selection at the grocery store.  They are not expensive, but that doesn’t change their beauty or their meaning to me. 

I appreciate good jewelry.  My wedding ring is a symbol of the endless, eternal love we share.  Tim designed it to represent two broken people coming together to become one.  It is precious to me.  But, as much as I love the meaning behind this ring, there is so much more to building a lasting, successful marriage.  Marriage is all about daily sacrifice.  Every day, I commit myself to making my marriage better.  Sometimes that means I don’t get what I want.  Sometimes that means I step back and put my husband’s needs ahead of my own.  Sometimes, we both make sacrifices in the best interest of our family.  There are days that aren’t spectacular and in fact there are more ordinary days than extraordinary in this day to day life.

A vase filled with flowers remind me how fragile relationships can be.   Flowers are beautiful. If I keep them watered and protected, I will get days and maybe weeks of beauty.  Still, they fade.  New flowers must be added to the vase to continue to enjoy them.  If they are neglected, the water turns green and fungus begins to grow.  Before too long, the vase is stained and marred forever from neglect and disuse.  Marriages are just as fragile.  I have to pay attention and care about the details.  I cannot assume that the first days of romance will effortlessly continue.  I need to renew my commitment to my marriage, to my romance every day.  Just as fresh flowers can refill the vase, fresh attention replenishes a marriage.  Are there days when I don’t really want to invest in my relationship? Of course there are.  Sometimes, I have the RIGHT to be upset, depressed or angry.  But, I cannot allow those moments to turn into days or weeks of selfish indignation.  At some point, I have to pull up my big-girl panties and decide what is most important.   The world will tell me that I deserve to be happy.  The flowers remind me that happiness can be fleeting. But, the joy I find in my marriage, much like the crystal vase that holds and provides for the flowers, will stand strong and ready. 

I hope my husband never tires of giving me flowers.  For every flower reminds me of our love: past, present and future.

Romance will never die as long as we keep trying!

CONFESSIONS OF AN OLDEST CHILD

“I know what I’m doing. I have it all planned out – plans to take care of you, not abandon you, plans to give you the future you hope for.” 

Jeremiah 29:11 MSG

I am the oldest of three children.  I am also the first grandchild on both sides of my family.  I am the definition of “the oldest child”. 

There are lots of perks that come with being the oldest.  Hand-me downs don’t exist when you are the first-born.  As the oldest, you get to do things first.  You get the undivided attention of your parents and grandparents when you are the only one.  But, there are some downers to being the oldest.  You are the first one that has to learn to share – everything.  You are the “learner” child:   your siblings get to do things you were never allowed to do. And even though it’s nice to be the first, it also means you will be the first to fail.

The first born has only adults with which to compare himself/herself.  Think about what an oldest/only child sees:  Everyone around can walk without holding on or falling down.  The only crawling seems to be to encourage the baby to get up.  You are being watched at every moment, so you try to please.   Communication is crucial and the praise received is worth the effort.  A first born learns early that you don’t want to disappoint the big people. 

The first born gets more attention.  This is partly because the baby stuff is so new, but also because the time is spent with just this one child.   Just look at photo albums or baby books.  The first child will have tons of pictures and a complete baby book.  Child #2 will have a few pictures and a good start on the baby book.  Any other siblings will just have to make do with a few snapshots and will be grateful if a baby book was even purchased.  The first born will benefit from more time being read to and being taught at home.  Even when siblings are added, the oldest child will continue to benefit from the time spent learning as a group. 

As soon as another sibling is added, the oldest child becomes a leader.  We know how it should be done and will not hesitate to point it out to our younger siblings.  We will be put in charge of our siblings and reminded that we are “older” and therefore “more responsible”.  Some will call this being a natural leader.  Others call it being bossy. 

First born children tend to be perfectionists, leaders, good students, and teachers.  We are often people pleasers that fear failing.  I never tried anything that I wasn’t pretty sure I would excel at.  If there was a chance that I might look silly, I did not attempt it.  I was never good at roller skating, mainly because I did not want to fall.  It hurt and people would laugh.  My younger brother was a good skater.  Granted, he was black and blue from throwing himself into the “experience.”  But, he had fun and enjoyed it.  I would rather spend my time with a good book or a logic puzzle. 

I was always at the top of my class in school.  Learning came easy to me.  I wouldn’t classify myself as an overachiever, I just did what came easily. My classmates that thought I had it made.  While others would be praised for getting a “B” on report cards, I had to get all “A’s and A+”.  Even an “A-“wasn’t good enough.  It wasn’t until I was taking college classes that I was really challenged.  I had to learn to study.  It was hard to accept that I might not be “the best” after all.  But, it was also in college classes that I found I could enjoy learning without being the best.  As a junior accounting major, I had a class under Dean of the School of Business, Dr. Lauderdale.  He promised to weed out the bookkeepers from the accountants in his class.  He was strict and had high expectations.  Our class size dropped by 50% as the semester commenced.  Before our last final, Dr. Lauderdale looked at me and said “You have a B in this class.  If you ace the final or not, you have a solid B.  Don’t come to the final.”  I have never been so excited to be told I was a B student!

I still struggle with perfectionistic tendencies.  This causes lots of anxiety in my life.   I play scenes over and over in my head of how I disappoint my friends and family.  There are days when I feel like I’m balancing on a pin cushion.  When I am out of control or over-whelmed, I protect myself with a veil of detachment.  I separate myself from those areas.  If they don’t exist, they cannot hurt me, right?  My husband helps me to see past the veil and to accept that I can only be the best that I can be.  If someone is disappointed at my best efforts, then that’s not my problem.  Hurt and disappointments are part of life.  I cannot avoid them.

I still don’t like to do anything without a road map.  I want to know EXACTLY what is coming before I step out.  But, I’ve learned that is not always possible.  But these things I know:

  • I CAN make phone calls when I must. (Many of you know how much a hate to do that!)
  • I CAN meet new people and get to know them without hyperventilating.  (I still do better in small groups.)
  • I CAN make decisions and live my life the way God leads me. (Even when others don’t agree/understand.)
  • I CAN trust that others will love me.  (Love isn’t earned, it’s given.)

I am the oldest of three children.  I am the first grandchild on both sides of my family.  And, I am a beloved child of God.

 “You made all the delicate, inner parts of my body
    and knit me together in my mother’s womb.
 Thank you for making me so wonderfully complex!
    Your workmanship is marvelous—how well I know it.” 

Psalm 139:13-14 NLT

 “If God gives such attention to the appearance of wildflowers—most of which are never even seen—don’t you think he’ll attend to you, take pride in you, do his best for you? What I’m trying to do here is to get you to relax, to not be so preoccupied with getting, so you can respond to God’s giving. People who don’t know God and the way he works fuss over these things, but you know both God and how he works. Steep your life in God-reality, God-initiative, God-provisions. Don’t worry about missing out. You’ll find all your everyday human concerns will be met.” 

Matthew 6:30-33 msg

Church, Why Bother?


In today’s world, there is a lot of discussion about the church, both universal and local congregations.  The universal church is comprised of all Christians of all times and places.  As Christians or Believers, we gather in local congregations for worship, etc.   For purposes of this discussion, the term “church” references the local congregation. 

I grew up in church.   I was on the cradle roll.  I remember my first Sunday School class as a 3 year old with Mrs. Carter.  Church on Sunday was normal and expected.  I never really questioned why we went to church.  It’s what we did. I was an adult before I realized that attending church wasn’t really a requirement and that people around me actually survived without attending church.

I grew up in the Southern Baptist denomination.  We had  Sunday School and a worship service on Sunday morning.  Sunday evenings, we had Training Union and another worship service.  Wednesday night was for another service called Prayer Meeting, but it seemed to me that it was just a smaller Bible study service.  I was part of the youth choir so that meant attending rehearsals.  I grew up as a Sunbeam, a GA and an Acteen, more meetings during the week.  There were special book studies for the various mission emphasis times: Lottie Moon at Christmas, Annie Armstrong at Easter, and Mary Hill Davis in September.  We have revival meetings twice a year that lasted a week and included a noon meeting and and evening service and maybe a special emphasis night for youth.  I attended Vacation Bible School every summer for a week.  (I remember having 2 weeks of VBS, too.)  And, then there was GA camp, Youth camp and other youth events/trips to conferences and music festivals.  I spent a lot of time in church related activities.  I was well versed in what was expected of me and the respect that I needed to give through my attitudes and presentation.

As a college student, I learned the difference in attending church and being a part of worship.  There is a big difference.  I spent most of my life attending church.  Realizing what it meant to truly worship revolutionized my life.  People worship in lots of ways.  Some are very quiet and private with their worship.  Some people raise their hands and lose themselves in the worship experience.  Some believe that speaking in tongues is a requirement to worship.  Some believe you have to worship on your knees.   However you worship is between you and God.  I cannot stress how important it is to just be in the moment and worship openly from the heart.  It is not my right or my responsibility to judge how you worship.  Some of the sweetest worship times for me occurred during music rehearsals for the services and not during the actual worship services.   I served as a worship leader and as such couldn’t really get completely caught up in my own worship experience during the services.  But, rehearsals were different.  I could allow my heart to truly worship my audience of One. 

As a young, newly married adult, I served with my husband in several churches across the area.   One in particular comes to mind.  It was a small church in a changing area of the city.  No longer a middle class neighborhood, they struggled to survive.  It was a traditional Southern Baptist Church.  We sang hymns, had a choir and used both a piano and organ for the music.  I sat through service after service and starved spiritually.  This was a church that refused to adjust to the changes around them.  Reaching the local people was not really on the agenda.  The church was there to provide a food bank but we didn’t really want “those” people inside the church.  We were eventually asked to resign because my husband was getting too involved with the local troubled kids.  I have never been as wounded by a group of people in my life.  It took a long time for me to trust the local church, again.

As an adult, I am very involved with my church.  Things have changed.  I have realized that in order to have church you do not have to have a church building.  My church meets in a movie theater.  There are numerous churches in this area that rent space in the local schools.  Portable churches are an accepted and even exciting way to do church in today’s world.  People that are hesitant about the formal church are more open about attending in a non-typical arena.  We see it every Sunday at the Bridge.  It’s a sad truth that many churches thrive and grow until they finance and build a building.  Then, the excitement is cooled as the need to support the building and it’s upkeep comes front and center. 

I have come to understand and support Life Groups as the core of the church.  While Sunday School had it’s place in my life, I have grown more through Life Groups.  They provide a casual and far more personal way to engage in spiritual growth.  Life Groups provide a more relatable group in  which to learn  and to grow.  It’s much easier to be open in a group of ten to twelve than in a huge group.  Life groups create a feeling of family and acceptance.  They get down to the day to day needs in our lives and enable us to fully worship when the time is offered. 

Music has definitely morphed through the years.  We have the old hymns, we have the older contemporary music and we have the new worship music.  I learned to play the piano using the Baptist Hymnal.  It was blue.  When that hymnal was updated, it caused a lot of excitement.  There were “contemporary” songs included like “He’s Everything to Me”, “Pass It On”, and “Because He Lived”.  People that never really cared about music suddenly preferred the “old hymnal”.  (I was pianist at one church in the 80’s that still used the old Broadman Hymnal because “it was just better.”)  I still have copies of all three hymnals and enjoy the music contained in them.  But, I also love the “new” stuff. Of all the things people use as an excuse to avoid church involvement, music and the use of other creative arts seem to top the list.  No matter what is provided, someone is not happy. 

Recently, I’ve seen a few posts on social media that were critical of using the church services for “entertainment”.  I suspect that the church I attend would fall in that category to the outside observer.   This generation is known for being global, social, visual and technological.  In the last decade, the cell phone has revolutionized the way we collect and perceive information.  Instead of carrying a Bible in book form, the Bible App has become a mainstay for many.   Hymnals have been replaced with projection systems.  Church Bulletins are more reminders to go to the church website for information than actual information. 

While we tend to focus on the musical influences in church services, there are a multitude of creative arts that can and are used to promote worship. No longer is the primary instrument in a church the organ and/or piano.  A full band is now expected.  In the past, we all took piano lessons and would be expected to play at church.  Now, its guitar or drum lessons.  Praise Dancers are not a new concept, but they are more widely accepted across denominations now.  My late husband was a creative soul and loved to write and perform skits for the worship services.  He was also a proponent of building backgrounds to enable all of the senses to be engaged in worship.  Lighting, sound and (for lack of a better word) theatrics have taken their place in the worship services.  We want our services to be on point, on time and worth remembering. 

With all of the opinions on the type of service, where the services are held, the target audience, what to wear and what music to use, we often lose sight of the reason we are there: TO WORSHIP.  It hurts this believer’s heart when factions within the local church start bickering and criticizing each other and/or other churches/denominations.  How can we expect to present ourselves as the Body of Christ when we continue to pick at each other?  How do you know that the brilliantly staged service doesn’t open the hearts of the congregation to worship?  Just because it doesn’t fit into “MY” model, does that make it wrong?  Maybe we need to take heed of the message in the book of Ephesians: 

“But that doesn’t mean you should all look and speak and act the same. Out of the generosity of Christ, each of us is given his own gift. The text for this is,

He climbed the high mountain,
He captured the enemy and seized the booty,
He handed it all out in gifts to the people.

Is it not true that the One who climbed up also climbed down, down to the valley of earth? And the One who climbed down is the One who climbed back up, up to highest heaven. He handed out gifts above and below, filled heaven with his gifts, filled earth with his gifts. He handed out gifts of apostle, prophet, evangelist, and pastor-teacher to train Christ’s followers in skilled servant work, working within Christ’s body, the church, until we’re all moving rhythmically and easily with each other, efficient and graceful in response to God’s Son, fully mature adults, fully developed within and without, fully alive like Christ.”  Ephesians 4:7-13 MSG


Where Is the Joy?

I admit it, I struggle during the holiday season.  There was at time when I loved getting ready for Thanksgiving.   Planning the perfect meal.  Visiting with family and friends. We even went to the big parade in downtown Houston.   I think I was more excited than my kids about Christmas.   I loved the excitement and the fun of the holidays.  It was a wonderful time.  There are many wonderful memories.

But grief changed all of that.  The idea of planning and cooking became a chore.  So, we started eating out.  It took a few years before I could face putting up a Christmas Tree and even then it was totally different from what had been our “norm”.  Instead of red & green, it was pink, purple and lime green.  We used feather boas instead of tinsel.  It was as far away as I could get from the memories of Christmas’ Past.  I couldn’t seem to entirely enjoy the holidays because I was haunted by what “might have been”.

Three years ago, our holidays changed once again.  We now have a blended family.  We now must consider all five of our kids and their spouses/significant others and their schedules.  They have other interests and families to consider.  It’s easy to get caught up in the frenzy of fighting for time.  And the holiday events become competitions instead of joyful celebrations.  Quality family time is lost in the quest to get to every house and every meal.

Honestly, my response can be much like the toys on the Island of Misfit Toys from “Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer”:  feeling sorry for myself and expecting to miss the fun and excitement again this year.  It’s too easy to  feel that no one cares.  It’s very convenient to focus on “ME” instead of looking at the larger picture.

I’m really trying this year.  I want to be excited about the holidays.  I don’t want family quarrels to overshadow what should be a joyful time.  I don’t need to feel like I’m placing 2nd (or 3rd or 4th) in a competition that doesn’t even exist.  I’m trying to accept that perfection should not be my goal this year.  And, I’m focusing on building special memories wherever  and whenever I am able.  It may be a quiet meal with just my husband on Thanksgiving Day or a bigger, busier meal with most of the crew over the weekend.  Both, are times to create memories.

I know there will still be tender places.  Putting up the holiday village that belonged to my late husband or unwrapping his Santa collection will be bitter-sweet.  I’ve already got a new Santa Ornament to add.   Pulling out the old ornaments from the early days of our children will unlock some emotions, both good and bad.   I’m on the lookout for a 2018 snow globe to add to the collection I began in 2015 on our first Christmas as Mr. & Mrs.  Douglas. And, I’m prepared to accept the critique of “too much purple” on the tress.

This year, the big tree will go up early (at least for me!)  I’m working on handmade angel ornaments for a smaller tree.  I’ve already planned a Holiday dinner for my co-workers and I look forward to sharing our home and hospitality.  Christmas gifts won’t be flashy, but I hope that they meet a need for the recipients.  We will be baking goodies and sharing with the neighbors (and trying not to over indulge in the sweets.)  There will be carols and hot chocolate and I  will try to be present in the moments as they occur.

This year, I will strive to give thanks for the numerous blessing in my life: my family, my job, my home, my church and so many more that I tend to take for granted.  I will try to remember that the excitement of Christmas is not about the gifts we give, but about the love that was gifted to us through the birth of Christ.  I will remember that time spent with our friends and family is precious and not waste it wishing for something different.   This year, I will accept the emotions as they arrive, deal with them and move forward.

This year, I will find the Joy in MY holiday season.

 

Do I Really Matter?

When I read newspaper articles or posts made on social media, I become overwhelmed.  There is so much going on in the world around us.  I do not understand the ugliness that seems to have become the norm.  We’ve just finished the mid-term elections.  I’ve seen this meme posted several times:

adult

Today was the first time I saw someone take issue with it, however. I have to admit, I kind of understand from where the person’s angst arises.  Within relationships, we find things in common.  On the flip side, if I’m supporting something that is harmful to you or your family, we are probably not going to remain friends.  I understand that.  I can even accept that.  But, does that mean we have to agree on EVERYTHING!  If so, I’m in trouble.  And that’s when I begin to feel overwhelmed.  How can I make it in a world when I’m going to find differences with everyone?  Am I doomed?  I can feel the panic rising as I type.

I have mixed feelings about a lot of issues.  And, I feel strongly about some issues as well.  As I have progressed in this life, I have become more conservative in my views.  Well, I don’t know that I’ve become more conservative, I’ve just been more willing to voice my opinions on some matters.

  • I’m not a feminist, but I do support women in the workplace.
  • I think all people deserve to be protected regardless of their race, personal partner choices or beliefs.  But, I don’t think any of these categories should make one group more important or relevant over any other group.
  • I am right to life.  I do not support abortion as a form of birth control.   I believe we need to step up and understand the responsibilities and consequences that come  as a result of the “free love” agenda our society teaches.  We have to find a better way to support the mothers in finding homes with loving families.
  • I believe ALL lives matter.  There are bad people of every color, race and sex.  As the Jackson 5 song said “One bad apple don’t spoil the whole bunch”.  We have to stop teaching hate to  people.
  • I don’t support socialized government.  Nothing is free.  Ever.

As I consider all of the angst and hatefulness that has occur in the just the past year both locally and nationally, I am prone to think “Do I really matter?  Is there anything that I can do to make a difference in the world? Do I have the right to make decisions based on my own values without being judged?”

I can’t change what happens anywhere but where I choose to plant myself.  In the Houston area, we saw amazing things happen after Hurricane Harvey.  People worked together and made a huge difference in the lives of others.  We saw all kinds of people unite, not because their ideals or beliefs matched.  They united because there was a need and that was what needed to be accomplished.

I can make a difference in my country and my city.  I can vote my conscience.  I can be part of the community by caring about the needs of my neighbors.  I can make myself aware of what should to be changed and support the good that is being done in and around me without throwing stones (or arrows.)  I need to be an accomplice of change, not any ally.  An accomplice is one who acknowledges there is a problem and then commits to stand in the gap without hope or expectation of reward. An ally is passive; an accomplice is active.

I can make a difference in my home.   I can teach my children and my grandchildren. my belief system as well as my own views.   And, then decide love and support them as they develop their own path.  My adult children haven’t made the same choices that I did or that I would have preferred in some cases.  However, I am only responsible for teaching, guiding and loving them. The consequences of their choices, good and bad, are totally on them.  I will not “disown” family members for taking a different stand than my own.  (I’ve seen it done.  It doesn’t work!)

I can make a difference in myself.  I can expand my horizons by reading and considering the views and opinions of others.  I can stay centered and calm in the midst of the chaos of life, taking only “small bites” as I can along the way.  I can choose to be happy and content where I am instead of chasing the “next good thing.”  I can accept the consequences of my choices and refuse the guilt of not being “good enough” for others.  I can trust in my God (and this is most important for me) to show me where and when and how to live this life that I have been given.

I don’t know where you stand on any of the issues, political or moral.  I don’t expect to change anyone’s mind on the issues.  I do, however, request you to respect my right to have my own view and opinions.  I will never agree with everyone on everything.  I have an inborn need to disagree on some level.  Our disagreements  and differences in viewpoints are what make us who we are.  It’s what makes us interesting instead of boring.  What do you think?  Can you make a difference?

Do I really matter to you?

If you reason with an arrogant cynic, you’ll get slapped in the face;
    confront bad behavior and get a kick in the shins.
So don’t waste your time on a scoffer;
    all you’ll get for your pains is abuse.
But if you correct those who care about life,
    that’s different—they’ll love you for it!
Save your breath for the wise—they’ll be wiser for it;
    tell good people what you know—they’ll profit from it.
Skilled living gets its start in the Fear-of-God,
    insight into life from knowing a Holy God.
It’s through me, Lady Wisdom, that your life deepens,
    and the years of your life ripen.
Live wisely and wisdom will permeate your life;
    mock life and life will mock you.

Proverbs 9:10-12 MSG

 

 

 

 

Marriage: Jackpot or Pothole

I recently saw an article titled “If Your Husband Does These 13 Things, You Hit the Marriage Jackpot”. As I read through the 13 items, I was quite pleased.   I DEFINITELY hit the jackpot with my husband!

  1. He encourages and inspires you.
  2. He can comfort and calm you.
  3. He still flirts with you.
  4. He works hard.
  5. He loves spending time with you.
  6. He loves and respects his mother.
  7. He complements you often.
  8. He is selfless.
  9. He says “I love you” often.
  10. You are his #1 priority (after his relationship with God.)
  11. He surprises you.
  12. You are a team.
  13. He admits when he is wrong.

As I looked at the list, I began to wonder: Does my husband believe that he also hit the jackpot, or do I tend to be more of a pothole?   A Jackpot is something we all want.  We avoid potholes.  They cause damage and expand with every contact.   I want my husband to see how deeply I treasure him.  At times, I may require more than I offer, but  I will strive to be the “jackpot” wife he deserves.

What about you? Are you a jackpot or a pothole?

jackpot