Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Witchy Woman

Today is Wednesday. Soapbox Wednesday. I haven’t had a good rant in a while, so I figured with it being “hump day” I would hump out some things that are bugging me.

And yes, these issues are minor, mind you, but I need to vent about them nonetheless.

First, there comes a time in each adult’s life where they need to stop dressing up for Halloween merely for the sake of going door-to-door to get candy. I could be, I'm not...but that seems a little pathetic. What’s even worse is when they venture out sans costume, carrying a plastic bag.



If it weren’t for the innocent kids trekking through the neighborhoods (sometimes with them), I would pelt ‘em with candy corn, and then soak ‘em with a blast from the water hose. Yeah, you know who you are. If you’re that desperate for candy, my advice is to hop on over to Wally World and buy a few packages of those orange circus peanuts and gummy worms for 50 cents each.

On that note, if you are going to dress up, for Pete’s sake be creative. I know there are plenty of parties where dressing up to look like a Catholic schoolgirl or a seductive kitten is sexy, but leave some things to the imagination. Or at least, cover it up while you’re in public as you make your way from one rave to the next. Better yet, save those costumes specifically for your man. I guarantee you he will be more than happy to help you test out the strength of the material’s seams.

But, alas, sex sells.

Several years ago, I attended a Halloween party with a friend, in which several of us (including me) entered a costume contest. I wasn’t really dressed to compete, but since the grand prize was a $200 Visa gift card, I figured, “what the heck”. Know who won? A girl wearing a towel. That’s it. (Well, maybe a thong to cover up her “goodies”, but I wasn’t straining to see anything.) She was dressed up like she was “fresh out of the shower”. The panel of judges consisted entirely of men.

I swear I am not a sore loser by any means, but…yeah…will refrain from elaborating any more on that subject.

Maybe I’m old school, but I think the idea of dressing up (speaking of adults here) should be to emulate some sort of disguise. In years past, when I haven’t been too lazy to come up with a costume (or rather, had a reason to wear one), I’ve always dressed up to the point where someone will have to stop and look at me for a second, thinking who is that? I love getting into character – clothing, face paint, hair, and attitude – the whole nine yards. It’s fun. I do it to break out of my shell for an evening. Not for the candy.

Maybe this makes me sound like a “witch”, but it feels refreshing to fuss for a few moments. **echoing cackle**

Second, I am torn between being upset with my church at the moment, and resolving to just accept the decisions being made and keep my mouth shut. Sometimes I feel like it would serve me well to carry around a tiny saltshaker to add some flavor to my shoe.

But, since I’m on a roll and can’t very well squish all of the worms back into the can, here goes…

My church is hosting an annual Halloween Carnival this coming Saturday. Although, it’s simply called a “Fall Carnival” so as not to include any negative connotations that may be associated with the word “Halloween”. There will be food, fun, games, a cakewalk and face painting (by yours truly), etc. Sounds fun, right?


Except for one, really big factor.

Supposedly, the kids are being discouraged from dressing up. Why? These are mostly country kids, folks. They don’t get the opportunity to go door-to-door very often during this season. (The majority of the neighbors in that area are more than walking distance apart.) Let them dress up! What are the ‘squelchers-of-fun’ afraid of? That some kid might wear a “blood and guts” costume? Or dress up as a creature of the night? Just because a kid is wearing a vampire costume does not mean he’s going to hijack mom’s minivan and go on a biting rampage after everyone else has gone to bed. I mean, come on! Those kids aren’t interpreting the “Carnival” as a means to let their lunatic streak out of the bag. They see it as a chance to dress up, play with other kids, and get sweet treats.

Next thing you know, they’ll be eliminating the annual Easter egg hunt (the Easter Bunny is a thief who steals eggs from chickens), and Valentine’s (those angelic little cherubs have a mean streak, I tell you). Oh, and let’s not forget the turkey at Thanksgiving, or Santa Claus at Christmas. I could go on.

Let’s all live in a glass box, where we’re sheltered from any influential factors that might potentially cause us to have to make decisions for ourselves. Let’s make sure everything is politically correct so we don’t run the risk of damaging anyone’s psyche. Let’s never turn on the stove so we can find out the hard way that the surface might burn us on occasion. Let’s all tread carefully and tiptoe around each other so we can point fingers and be hypocrites when others trip and fall.

Now, I am in no way attacking the decisions of my church. But, I can darn sure express my disagreement with them! If the line is not drawn somewhere, then we will never have the opportunity to learn from life, or know when it’s appropriate to cross it or not. Knowing and doing are two very different things. We need the elements of distinction between them both, which enables us to grow from our experiences and apply that gained wisdom and knowledge to our lives.

Disguises or not, it’s what’s on the inside that counts.

And that, my friends, is my rant for today. Stepping down off the soapbox now.

Happy haunting! **echoing cackle**

Sunday, October 24, 2010

I Am Still Running

“The outside of a horse is good for the inside of a man.”
- Winston Churchill

There are few moments more spectacular than watching a horse run freely. God designed their bodies to move…legs and muscles reaching to propel them faster…hooves resounding like thunder against the earth…stretching out into a streaming fluidity of sheer grace and beauty in motion. A sight that is so powerful, it can bring even the most hardened man to his knees in awe.

This afternoon, my sister and I took my niece to the theatre to see “Secretariat”. What a wonderful movie! Everything about it just warmed my insides; the magnificence of the horses, the message of determination, the musical score. All of these things combined made for a beautiful, dramatic story of fortitude and perseverance.

As I sat in the theatre surrounded by the other moviegoers, it occurred to me how alike we all were in the dark. There were folks of all ages sharing the atmosphere – grandparents, baby boomers, thirty-somethings (my crowd), college students, teenagers, children and toddlers. Without the glaring lights overhead to illuminate every imperfection, every scar, every wrinkle, every handicap, we were similar creatures. For two hours we all shared in our willingness to shed our inhibitions, sit on the edges of our seats, clasp our hands together in nervous anticipation, and cheer on the characters with our desire to win the race.

I marvel in the moments where life imitates art. Watching the movie, surrounded by the variety of people, I realized that all of us are running.

In every aspect of the race, we struggle to persist. We run because we have places to be, bills to pay, tasks to complete, and a life to lead. We rely on each other to get the job done. At times, we sometimes fall and scrape our knees. But, each of us is filled with the willpower to dust off our boots and forge ahead. Along the way, God graces us with the opportunity to ride instead of run. And most importantly, to help our brothers get back in the saddle, or on their feet, when they have fallen. We need each other to complete the circle of life that runs endlessly.

God designed every one of us for a purpose. Some of us are meant to be leaders, charging several strides ahead to provide a solid path for others to follow. Some of us are teachers, encouraging direction, knowledge and patience as we face difficulty and the occasional bump in the road. Some are helpers, standing on the sidelines, supporting and urging us forth, stepping in to take our place when we have to stop and catch our breaths. No matter what talents and abilities we’ve been given, we are all able to run. We each have a pace, guided by a higher hand, pushing us gently onward to the finish line.

What lies before me in the race? I don’t know. The fear of the unknown causes my adrenaline to surge, compelling me to keep going. Stronger. Faster. Farther. Trusting in the places my feet land. Embracing the notion that ‘winners forget they’re in a race; they just love to run’.

I am still running.

I will continue to let the wind rush by my ears as I put one foot in front of the other. My goal is just around the corner, in the distance. Sometimes uphill. When I reach my destination I realize that I’ve completed only a small milestone in my journey. I must keep moving along my path into the horizon. Before long, I forget that I am running. I look down and the ground is far beneath my feet. And I admonish in the fact that my roots have grown wings.

When my legs are tired, I envision myself riding that horse. Borrowing freedom for a while. Until I am strong enough to run freely on my own again. And so fast that I have but to leap into the air to soar among the clouds. Reaching for my purpose.

There are few moments more spectacular than running freely. God designed our bodies to move…legs and muscles reaching to propel us faster…feet resounding like thunder against the earth…stretching out into a streaming fluidity of sheer grace and beauty in motion. A feeling that is so powerful, it brings us to our knees.

God has carried me this far. And I am in awe.

Friday, October 22, 2010


Part of the benefit of having a blog is that I get to freely write about things that make me happy, things that irritate me, things that touch my soul and my opinions on life in general. It’s my little way of getting it out of my head and into the mainstream where I can reflect on my words and console my own mind.

Today is no exception, for I am in the process of removing thorns from my side. I am referring to the trifecta of guilt: regret, remorse and recovery. I greatly struggle this issue because I have allowed myself to be a doormat to the point that I’m ashamed. However, we welcome the conditions we perpetuate, don’t we?

There are many things in life I find myself regretting. But would I change them? No. What’s the point? I can’t cry over spilled milk. I just have to milk the cow again and be more mindful of where I set the bucket. I’ve found that a certain amount of drama in life breeds a certain amount of regret. Mostly mine. If I allow myself to get caught up in it, then I have no one to blame but myself. This especially applies to specific people in my life. Some people, no matter where they go or what they get involved in, seem to have a string quartet serenading their every move. Every waking moment affects them, concerns them, and is about them. Most people I know like this are generally unhappy people. And grumpy. Rightly so, because it must be exhausting carrying around that load of self-pity.

So, what do I regret? That I didn’t listen to my instincts sooner and set down the proverbial sack of bricks. That I allowed myself to be taken advantage of time and time again because I knew nothing more than to keep giving until I found myself at the end of the rope. That I allowed someone else’s constant misery to keep rubbing off on me, causing me to doubt my own decisions.

There’s a little scenario I like to do with my Sunday school kids (I teach 10-11 year olds). I put a chair in the middle of the room, and have one of them stand on it. The others get to stand in a circle around the chair, and one at a time, the person in the chair tries to pull the others from their position on the floor up into the chair with them. Not so easy. Then, each person surrounding the chair gets to take a shot at pulling the person down from the chair and onto the floor. It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to estimate how many times the person on the ground is successful at emptying the chair. It makes a good point. It is always easier to bring someone down than to try and pull him up.

I am tired of pulling at dead weight.

Remorse. Heavy word. Remorse is what I feel after I’ve decided that I no longer regret my decision. I begin to second-guess myself, wondering if I’ve done the right thing, or if I’m acting out of selfishness. Inadvertently, I find myself apologizing for things that aren’t my fault. And, alas, the sack of bricks is resting securely on my back once more. The idea of trimming down my life so that it doesn’t include negativity is a romantic one. Realistically though, we all need a dose of negativity on occasion; it helps us aim for the positive, which we appreciate so much more when we attain it.

It is in my nature to reach out to those in need. But, I came to the realization yesterday that I can’t very well help others if I’m not helping myself. In this case, it is acceptable to be selfish. If I don’t preserve my own integrity, strength, and I venture to say, optimism, then I have nothing to offer someone else when life is raining down on them. Remorse unfailingly leaves me with the glass half empty.

I have a great friend, who is every bit the voice of reason when I begin to get down on myself. He reminded me that no one could make me feel bad unless I allow it. Words I’ve preached to others time and time again. Yet, why is it when I’m caught up in the moment of hurt and despair, my own creed is forgotten? When the shoe is on the other foot, being objective and supportive comes easily, but I admit that I need to toughen up and apply that philosophy to my own life. I’ve been climbing out of my hole for a long time now, and giving someone else the power to dissuade my efforts only defeats the purpose of each step I’ve taken. It goes without saying that when we are at our highest, our fall is much greater. And it’s not the fall that hurts us - it is the sudden stop of realization at the end.

When I begin to hear the violins in the distance behind me, it’s a sure indication that it’s time for me to take charge and recover.

Certain aspects of life are hard to bounce back from. That is a fact. And sometimes, regardless of how many times the same situation has arisen, I find myself trusting that things will improve. In this case, the old adage of ‘first time mistake; second time coincidence; third time shame on me’ is busy mocking me with echoing laughter. That laughter haunts me a little because it is my own. No one is responsible for allowing the doormat mentality other than me. Progressing from that mindset, I am forced to close a door on a piece of my past. It hurts. I would be inhuman if it didn’t affect me in some way. But, I comfort myself with the notion that a little bit of present hurt will produce a tenfold of relief and peace of mind as the end result. Have I made the right decision? The conditional circumstances that led me to that resolution have assured me so. Time will tell. And somewhere up the road I’ll realize that I’ve recovered.

My “voice of reason” also reminded me of all of the opportunities that lay before me. Despite the ‘dark and gloomy’ from whence I’ve emerged, there is plenty ‘bright and shiny’ up ahead. The road before me is paved in positivity, and the potholes are slowly but surely waning. The possibilities before me are things for which I’ve poured my heart and soul into, and the determination behind achieving them is invaluable.

Fresh start. Clean slate. It’s time for me to stop regretting, and appreciate standing in my chair.

Thursday, October 14, 2010


A shattered reflection stares through me
With eyes that refuse to see
There is unseen grace in the mirror
Replaced by the mask that is me

A glimpse of light behind confusion
Strains through the tears I’ve shed
Adversity has cleared a path of doubt
From the thorn-laden roads I’ve bled

A fire that burned from deep within
Has settled to glowing dust
I draw my face in the shallow surface
To renew my worth, and trust

A promise of hope still pulls me onward
From this dark and crowded tomb
Joy parallels my wayward trials
And drift in and out of the plume

‘Trust me’ says the voice of faith
‘And take each moment in stride’
‘Hold your head high’ it reminds me
‘For your best is still inside’

These fears and doubts are fading;
Let go, and set my soul free
There is beauty in these ashes
And the breathtaking image is me

I wrote this one for me. I needed to remind myself to look for the strength and beauty that I know is there.

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

A Few of My Favorite Things

The cooler weather is upon us. You know what that means…

Time to break out the bulk. Clothes, I mean. And not just for the colder climate. I’m talking about baggy sweaters and jackets that are great for hiding the expanding bodies that fall and winter reliably produce each season. I love food. I especially love cold-weather food…the kind of food that just doesn’t taste as good during the warmer months.

My favorites are:

1. Homemade chili
2. Homemade beef stew and cornbread
3. Sausage
4. The smell of chicken and dumplings (Though I hate the taste. And yes, I’ve been made aware of how un-American this makes me. I like the chicken and I like the dumplings - I don't like them together.)
5. Chicken potpie
6. Deer chili
7. Chicken spaghetti (My absolute, all-time favorite!)
8. Fried turkey
9. Potato soup
10. Santa Fe white chicken chili
11. Fried chicken (Good anytime, but I had to throw it in there.)
12. Chicken-fried deer steak (Hey, don’t knock it ‘til you’ve tried it!)
13. Pot roast
14. Chips and salsa (Common, I know…but they taste better during football season.)
15. Tamales (My “German” family traditionally makes/eats them every Christmas.)
16. Cheese soup
17. Kolaches and my Nana’s homemade cinnamon rolls
18. Chili-cheese dogs

…Just to name a few. Hmmm. I’m seeing a pattern with the chili. Not surprising.

Next Monday (October 18th) is my birthday. Or, rather, my “non-birthday”, as I’ve refused to age any further. Note the list numbering 18. But, on Sunday my mom is making my traditional favorite meal of chicken spaghetti, ranch bread, salad and chocolate pie to celebrate my – ahem – “non-birthday”. And yes, I’m counting the days until that meal, thankyouverymuch! Besides, who wants to celebrate their birthday on a Monday? Mondays are the armpit of the week. Bah!

Along with the cooler climate and edible delights, emerge my favorite seasonal smells. Now, don’t get me wrong, I have a deep appreciation for things pleasing to my nose that are not necessarily exclusive to cold weather. However, the decrease in temperature brings with it an enormous collective of new scents. I wish I could bottle them up in a jar and open it up to take whiff of nostalgia whenever I want. Oh, wait…those are called candles, aren’t they?

My favorites are:

1. Fire
2. Fresh, crisp, cold air
3. Warm-baked cookies
4. A lit fireplace
5. Roasting hotdogs and s’mores
6. The Thanksgiving food spread crammed onto the table
7. The cinnamon-evergreen smell of Christmas decorations
8. The smoke of a burning fireplace drifting from a chimney
9. Leather (smells better in the winter)
10. The earthy smell of the cows and range cubes (I'm a country girl, what can I say?)
11. Sweet feed and hay for the horses
12. A cup of hot chocolate
13. Clothes fresh out of the dryer
14. Eggs and French toast on a Saturday morning
15. The smoky sulfuric smell from a burned out match
16. Vanilla
17. Mom’s coffee cake and peanut brittle
18. A campfire

Yes, I’m aware that fire-related smells appear often in the above list. I’m not harboring any closet-arsonist tendencies. Promise.

I’m not quite sure what it is about the cold weather that makes us breathe a little deeper. It livens the spirit and adds a spring to the step. And while I love to be out and about in the cold weather, can you honestly tell me there’s no better feeling than waking up to an ice-cold room and burrowing back under the snuggly covers to sleep a little longer? Especially when you have the warm, wonderful smell of your significant other’s skin next to you. I don’t know of many other feelings or smells that compare.

How blessed are we to enjoy the anticipation of dressing up, breaking out of our shells just a bit, and going door to door with our little Monsters and Tinkerbells to get buckets full of goodies.

How blessed are we to walk away from the Thanksgiving table miserable and stuffed. Then we take a nap, watch the football game, and do it all over again for the next several meals.

How blessed are we to celebrate the birth of our Savior. To be surrounded by the sparkling eyes and smiles of our children, just waiting to open the treasures under the tree.

Perhaps the onset of the cold is indicative of the promise of things to come. New life. New hope. The world seems to slumber to prepare for its spring awakening. Everything is soon to be rejuvenated, with a renewed sense of life. The year behind us is winding down as we embark on Father Time’s promise of the future ahead.

Waking up alive, healthy, and loved. Life…my most favorite thing.

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Holding it All Together

This past weekend, I attended the Women of Joy Conference in San Antonio. Three days, two nights, music, stories, sermons, fellowship and faith, in a convention center full of 4,000 female personalities ranging from birth to menopause and up. Wow. Wow. Wow.

The weekend began on Friday, when my mom, sister (Jennifer), Amanda (my other “sister”), Amanda’s mom, Glenda, and I all piled in my mom’s suburban to set off for San Antonio. We stopped outside of Bastrop to eat at Chili’s, then took the longest, roughest, guaranteed-to-frustrate-you-because-you’re-sure-to-get-stuck-behind-Farmer-Joe-out-for-his-afternoon-drive road. (Note to self: avoid 304 in the future.) Of course, being the control-freak that I am, I insisted on driving. I think I was secretly trying to test my own patience. We arrived in San Antonio around 4pm and checked into the historic Menger Hotel. I’m told it’s haunted, which fascinates me, but alas, I saw no ghosts (…and I was really hoping to see Babe Ruth). I remained in the room to snooze a bit before the night’s festivities began while my roommates went to trek around the River Center Mall.

Around 6:30pm, our church group (22 of us) headed over to the Gonzales Convention Center. The two-block hike wasn’t bad, but my feet don’t like the new blisters as a result of wearing heels. And as long as I’m being honest, I may as well tell you that my heart wasn’t quite in the spirit of the weekend yet. I was expecting to see a bunch of hugging, crying, praying and witnessing. Well, I did see some of that. And what my heart and soul witnessed gave me so much more.

Charles Billingsley was our worship leader/entertainer/host for the weekend. He has one of the most beautiful, powerful voices I have ever had the pleasure of hearing. And being a singer, I am veeeerrry critical about what pleases my ear. (One of the first things I did when I got home on Sunday was find him on iTunes and download his latest album.) At first, it was a little awkward standing amongst a bunch of strangers and learning to sing songs I wasn’t familiar with. Admittedly, I’m not really comfortable waving my hands in the air to embrace the Holy Spirit. That has always seemed a bit ostentatious to me. No offense to those of you who do it, I just don’t get into it. My worship style is a bit more reserved and private. But, the spirit in the room was electric. Absolutely buzzing with emotion. Following the music, our guest speaker of the evening, Sarah Palin, delivered a very compelling, inspirational speech about how we need God back in the hearts of the American people. Funny, witty and sharp as a whip, Mrs. Palin captivated the crowd with her message. I don’t care what your political views are, but I whole-heartedly agree with the concept of re-establishing a strong foundation of belief in God to help lead and heal this nation. Mrs. Palin hit the nail head on. I sincerely wish everyone could’ve had the privilege to get a glimpse into her heart like I did. It was riveting, and highly motivating. One of my favorite quotes in her speech was, “Over-comers are visionaries, not victims.” I choose to be a visionary.

Saturday morning began with more music and great ministry messages from Liz Curtis Higgs and Becky Tirabassi. Both of them were fantastic speakers, each with her own dynamic style of reining in the crowd's attention. We had a seven-hour stretch of free time from 12-7pm, so we broke off to eat lunch and have some much-needed girl time. After a fabulous meal at The Original Mexican Restaurant on the River Walk, Mom, Jen and I went to see “Life As We Know It” at the movie theatre in the mall. What a heartwarming movie! And the fact that Josh Duhamel and Josh Lucas co-starred in the movie didn’t hurt either. I’m such a sucker for blue eyes. Following the movie, we did some shopping at the mall. The highlight of my day was the fun we had at the Disney Store and stopping for an Orange Julius. Yummy! I sooo wish we still had one of those around here. I feel so deprived.

Back in the hotel room following our shopping excursion, I caught some of the televised Texas A&M vs. Arkansas game. Mistake. Although it was fitting that I was at a Christian conference; I think it was appropriate to pray for my Aggies. At this point, a little divine intervention couldn’t hurt. After a short nap, our group got ready for the evening. Carol Kent gave a very influential message about overcoming difficult challenges. Her story struck such a chord with me. I bought three of her books, and I can’t wait to read “Between a Rock and a Grace Place”. Steven Curtis Chapman took the stage about 9:30pm. Oh. My. Goodness. Wow. The next time I see him in concert (and I will), I need to wear waterproof mascara. I had a hard time keeping my composure. My soul was so moved. I’m still awestruck.

After the concert, we all made our way back to the hotel. Mom, my cousin Karen, and I all sat in the Menger courtyard eating a late dinner and talking. I just love those deep conversations about life. It’s so nice to know that regardless of where you’ve been, or where you might be headed, someone supports you unconditionally. Sitting outside in the evening air, I could reach up and feel the breeze on my hand. Know what I felt? The face of God. He’s been there all along. He has my back. Last night, during a phone conversation with a good friend, I was reminded that the devil works his hardest to bring us down when we are so lifted in the spirit of God. I must be doing something right, for I can feel the devil tempting me to stray. Faced with those decisions, a new strength has emerged in me, allowing me to hold steady to my course instead of faltering. I am reminded of how far I have progressed to overcome my own adversities. Despite my struggles over the last year, I am eternally saved and blessed. I just can’t wait to see how God wants to use me.

Sunday morning we arose, packed our stuff to get ready to leave before we ventured to the final morning of the conference. (At this point, I still hadn’t seen any ghosts.) Charles Billingsley once again stole the show with his southern gospel/southern rock/groove and traditional montage of “I’ll Fly Away”. He had us rolling with laughter, swaying and clapping our hands. Priceless! Priscilla Shirer (father is Dr. Tony Evans) gave us a brilliant sermon. I reflected on how each speaker had her own exceptional style - each one equally effective, their message happily infecting every cell of my being.

On the way home, we stopped at the Chili’s outside of Seguin. I think I’ve had my fill of that place for a while. I chilled out in the backseat of the suburban while Mom drove us home. Listening to my iPod and watching the landscapes roll by, I thought about the events and the emotions the past weekend had embodied. Leaving behind a convention center full of thousands of strangers, I realized that we were not strangers after all. We were united sisters in Christ, bound by His love. I am comforted to know that the spirit is rejuvenated by at least 4,000 more souls with a passion for God, me being one of them. I’ve often heard the phrase, ‘Hell hath no fury like a woman scorned’. Well, my version is ‘Hell hath no fear like a woman fired up for God!’

Last week, I had an interview at Baylor University. As I waited in the reception area, I perused the Baylor viewbook. Next to one of the campus photos was a specific Bible verse that caught my eye. I made a quick note of it and it has been with me ever since… “For by Him all things were created: things in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or powers or rulers or authorities; all things were created by Him and for Him. He is before all things, and in Him all things hold together." (Colossians 1:16-17) Beautiful words.

God created each of us for a specific purpose. While I have no reservations in admitting that I’d like to know from time to time which direction my life is heading, I’m glad that God is steering me down the right road. It’s nice to relinquish that control and know that someone else is holding it all together.