Monday, October 16, 2017

Thankful October Thoughts

I'm in year 3 of seminary. In seminary, we learn big words and how to use them. We read big books, which sometimes I understand and sometimes just barely grasp. We write big papers, which always seem miraculous to me when I finish them. We think big thoughts, which affect everything about how we understand our world and our place in it.  For quite a while now, I've been busy thinking my big  seminary thoughts and just writing my thankful lists in my journal. My simple thankful lists didn't seem to stand up to the big seminary thinking. However, in one of my classes we were taught that a key to a fulfilling life is practicing gratitude. I've been thinking big thoughts about that for a while. So maybe, just maybe, my simple thank yous to everyone and everything in my world, can stand up against big seminary thinking. Maybe my gratitude is a big thought.

So today, I am thankful.

Here's a partial list of what I am thankful for:

1. My daughter
Claire is 11 right now and in middle school. I keep scaring myself with big books about adolescence and puberty and changes ahead.  I keep talking to her and bracing her for changes in her mind and body and letting her know that she will always fit in at home. (She kind of is to the point of rolling her eyes I've mentioned it so much.) I know that the road ahead is rocky, but right now she is an absolutely delightful companion. Yesterday when we went grocery shopping, we were laughing so hard that some people stared and one lady told us twice we needed to calm down because we were having too much fun.

2. My son
Paul is his own person as well. He has many friends of both genders at school and doesn't get stressed out about much at all. He adores his hamster, reads as much as me, and has a great imagination. Paul loves thinking up funny scenarios, and like Claire, keeps us laughing. He is very proud right now because I bought him a new jacket at Costco.

3. My husband
Adam is mostly the same person he's been since I met him in 1996. He's fiercely loyal and just as stable. So while I am thinking big seminary thoughts that change my understanding of the world, I am so thankful to have his steady presence in my life. I am also constantly thankful that he is an engineer and great mathematician. Claire is enrolled in a challenging math class this year, and he has been there every day to help with her homework. I am especially thankful for that because she has already surpassed my comfort zone in math.

4. Our pets
We have quite a menagerie over here, and every animal is loved. Claire has a two year old betta, and Claire and Paul each have a hamster. We have two corn snakes; Medusa and Panic. Cpt. Midnight Sugar Dot Express is still the chihuahua that's king of the castle. Sugar Dot snores louder than any person in the house, but he's also a good snuggler.

5. Cooler weather
I always feel more energized at these temperatures. I've been able to go on long walks in the mornings and that is helpful for my body and for me to untangle some of those big thoughts that are weighing me down.

6. My job
I changed jobs in August and am currently the office manager at Saginaw United Methodist Church. I am grateful to be working with friends, and thankful that when I get in the car every morning, I know where I am headed. I finally have my head above water and am excited about possibilities. It's fun being back at a church office with all the characters and rhythms. It's also always fascinating to me to see how skills I have acquired from a varied life of occupations all help me in ministry.

7. Kids accepting more responsibility
Last school year, I taught the kids how to use the washer and dryer and take care of their own laundry. This year I've taught them how to do dishes and Claire created a schedule for us. Though the process isn't perfect, and I'm the fall back every time; many weeks I only do dishes on Fridays and Sundays. This has been a huge load off of me and also a huge encouragement to me that the kids are going to move out one day with the skills needed to survive in the world.

8. Muddling through and being okay
This semester has been hard. Both of my classes are very reading and writing intensive. I don't feel as if I can slack off in either one. We're mid-semester right now and I've had more than one week that I just didn't feel like I was up to measure. Starting a new job right before the semester started was hard and I'm just now feeling like I've got my feet up under me at work. Class knocks me off my feet almost weekly. I am happy to say, though, that even though it's a constant struggle, I'm okay. Just when I hit my limit, grace arrives. Last week was incredibly hard but this weekend Adam took both kids camping and I was free to practice some much needed self-care. I'm going to continue putting one foot in front of the other, trying my best, and getting back up when I fall down.

9. Brief moments of breath and peace
My life is often non-stop. I am not proud of this, but am trying desperately to figure out how to fix it. Every once in a while I have a brief moment or two of peace. Maybe the phone hasn't rung at the office. Maybe traffic is backed up and I'm stuck. Maybe I'm meeting a friend but the friend is late. Maybe I've finished one task and have a minute before I go head first into the next. Whatever the case may be, I am thankful for the space of breath and peace whenever I find myself in it.

10. Friends that stick around
Whenever I feel lost and overwhelmed, I am so thankful for the anchors in my life. My husband loves me, even when I look like a tornado. Last weekend I was thankful to be able to go to my best friend's house and just be. Her husband cooked us dinner, and I just sat in a chair and enjoyed all the normalcy and chatter and familiarity of it all. I am so thankful for the people in my life who stay there and prop me up and put  me back together when I feel as if I am falling apart.

I am thankful and hopeful that by exercising my gratitude with more intention, that I might appreciate life more, and
share some of my appreciation with friends.

Paul's hamster, Professor Gunther, tries to conquer the world.

Thursday, January 5, 2017

Reflections and Gratitude from 2016

Although the children are still on holiday, we've put up the Christmas decorations and are focusing on the New Year. Every year Adam's office shuts down entirely for the week between Christmas and New Year's. Every year I am extremely grateful for this time of retreat and family bonding. We stay home and do whatever suits our fancy. We play games, read books, stay up late and sleep in. This year we also went on a hike at Dinosaur Valley State Park. Paul, Adam, and Claire have worked on mastering our original Nintendo Mario Brothers and I've read almost a book a day. Because our schedule is so busy and inundated during the rest of the year, I treasure this time every year.

I've compiled a list of 2016 gratitude and reflections. Here it is, in no particular order:

1. Emotionally and physically healthy children
The kids are growing rapidly. Claire has inherited my large feet and is now firmly in the women's shoe section. Paul is still long and lean and in constant motion. They are both healthy and active and I am so grateful. I'm also grateful for their emotional health and ability to navigate the world. Regularly we are in situations with unknown people and instead of retreating, the children engage. They make friends everywhere we go and learn about others' stories. Every time I see situations like that, I know that we have done well and that no matter what the future holds, our children will march forward with flying colors.

2. My husband
Adam and I have been together since college, and I am constantly grateful for our shared history and partnership. I love having jokes that are almost 20 years old and that no one else in the world would understand. I love how he both understands me but also sees the world from a different angle. My right-brained leanings balance out his left-brain strengths and vice-versa.

3. Pokemon Go
We have had so much fun with Pokemon Go this year. The kids don't have their own phones yet, so we all use my phone. Claire, Paul, and I pass the phone back and forth. I have enjoyed learning a bit of the intricacies of the Pokemon world. More than that, I am grateful for the sharing and teamwork that playing this encourages.

4. Books
For Christmas, Paul received the Platypus Penguin Detective series. This in itself just makes me smile. Over the holidays I reorganized several of my bookshelves and read so many books that have been sitting around collecting dust. I have always been a reader and I'm so thankful for the wide-variety of books that we have around the house. I had my nose in a book almost the entire break.

5. Interactions with the homeless
Several years ago, our church had a ministry for homeless women. Once a week during the coldest and hottest months of the year, we would host 12 women for an overnight stay. Our family loved this program because we were able to interact and build relationships with homeless people in a comfortable setting. We had a few favorites that the kids looked forward to seeing. One of these favorites was Terry. Just before Christmas, I began to see Terry around our neighborhood. I spoke with her every time. I don't know if she remembered us or not, but when I saw her a couple days before Christmas, I handed her some money and called her by name. She accepted with gratitude and wonder.

This week we took Adam to lunch one day. As we were waiting at a red light, we watched a man pick up a half-eaten tortilla off the ground. He began to eat it. He then found another tortilla and then an empty to-go box also on the ground. He began wiping the tortilla on the box, trying to mop up any sauce that was there. We all had compassion for that man. After lunch the kids boxed up their leftovers, made sure to get a fork, and we went back to find the man. We were unable to find him. However, we did find another homeless man and offered our leftovers to him. He accepted with thanks.

I'm not sure if some policy changes have sent more homeless people to the streets or if I am just noticing who has always been there. However, every interaction I have with a homeless person reminds me of how small my problems are. I'm also always filled with a desire to do more.

6. Family exercise
The kids are in running club at school. I join them every Wednesday and we are training for the Cowtown 5k. I had planned on doing some running, but it hasn't worked out that way. Instead, I'm part of the walkers group. I love watching my own children race ahead of me and run with confidence. I also love walking and occasionally jogging with other children who like to share whatever's on their minds. I feel honored that they trust me enough to share and grateful for the opportunity to listen.

We went on a family hike on New Year's Eve. That was fun as well. I'm always grateful for our family adventures, especially when they take me places I wouldn't have chosen myself.

7. Seminary
I am in the middle of my Master of Divinity program at Brite Divinity School. Several times this fall semester I felt overwhelmed and defeated. It's such a long process. However, I kept working hard and even though I threw my hands in the air at my finals and settled on "good enough," I earned an A in both my classes. I also received encouragement over the holidays and am now ready to tackle the spring semester. I am grateful for my particular seminary in all the ways I am challenged to rethink and listen to other viewpoints. The metaphor I can best describe it is that seminary is like a new pair of glasses. You don't even think about how you see things normally until you receive these special seminary glasses. Now all the sudden you see the world with new eyes. This changes and challenges much of what was taken for granted before, even my own self-knowledge.

8. Implementing life skills in the children
This fall, I taught my kids how to do their own laundry. That doesn't mean they will do it all the time, but it does mean that if they are asking if some particular item is clean, I can tell them to go start a load. More than not, they are washing and drying their own clothes now. I'm taking care of the bleach and whatever lands in my hamper.

Because my job at the Wesley includes some nights away from the family dinner table, Claire has stepped up her cooking skills and began providing dinner. She enjoys cooking and is increasing in skills and confidence. Not to be left behind, Paul is working on his culinary skills as well. Last night he made chicken tacos for the family.

I am so grateful for kids that are smart, confident, and capable. By the time they are off to college, they will be ready.

9. Our pets
Capt. Midnight Sugar Dot Express is currently snoring on the couch. He's been a good dog. This past year we also added two  hamsters and a fish to our pet list. The kids bought the hamsters and fish with their own money and the best part is, they take care of them as well! I haven't had to clean one fish bowl or hamster cage. I can just pet them when I like and leave the rest to the kids.

10. Holiday reconnections
Over Christmas break, we have seen so many people we love and don't get to see normally. More than once on Christmas Eve I looked around at the family gatherings and was filled with gratitude. Christmas is so nice because no matter how much we are rushing around like chickens with our heads cut off, at some point we all stop, and join together to celebrate and share love. I am grateful.

As we put both feet in 2017, I've looked back on the past year with gratitude, but now I am looking forward with that same gratitude. I'm anxious to see all the ways we will grow and change in the new year.
Our family hike at Dinosaur Valley State Park.

Friday, November 11, 2016

A Cornucopia of Thanks

Today I have a cornucopia of thankfulness.  (Honestly, I love the word cornucopia and want to use it as often as possible.) The last two weeks have been grueling, and it's times like this when I treasure each and every piece of happiness.

Here's what I'm thankful for today:
picture from

1. Friends when you are in need.
I am so thankful for the people that put me right side up when I'm so stressed out that I'm upside down and feeling like Chicken Little. The sky hasn't fallen yet and I'm still standing, thankfully.

2. Weddings
We went to a sweet wedding last week and I was able to hug so many people.

3. Coffee for Jesus
On Wednesday morning, I was feeling down, so I brewed several pots of coffee, stood on the curb and passed out free coffee to TCU students. It was good for my soul to share a smile with strangers and to offer words of encouragement for frazzled college students on their way to take tests. Several people asked me what I was promoting and I reminded them that I was promoting Jesus.

4. Completed homework
I've been struggling with writing and re-writing and re-thinking and re-writing some theological papers, but I finished them, am satisfied I did my best effort, and turned them in. I love that feeling of relief that comes when the paper is sent off via email to your professor and you don't have to worry about it any more.

5. Kumbaya
In one of my classes yesterday, a woman confessed she was trying to feel better by singing. I convinced her to sing to the whole class. Later, when class was halfway over, our entire class, including our professor, sang Kumbaya. It was hilarious and holy and it reminded me that sometimes it doesn't matter that I can't sing on key.

6. Date Night
Last Saturday we left the kids to the capable hands of our fearless babysitter and escaped. I am so thankful that in the midst of our crazy busy lives that occasionally we can stop time and focus on each other. Also, we ended up at the bookstore (predictably) and I'm thankful for my new book.

7. Bedtime rituals
Claire and Paul each have their own special bedtime routine. Claire asks me to growl in her ear every night because it tickles. We have a few quiet moments of talking right before bed. For Paul, we have an elaborate routine. First, I hide under his covers and pretend to be him. He hides behind his door. Then Paul calls Adam and says he's ready to be tucked in. Adam strolls in, pretends not to see me, jumps on the bed, followed by Paul jumping out from behind the closet to scare us all. It is so funny every night.

8. New car battery when I had time to get one
Sunday morning, Adam left to help his parents and the kids and I realized my battery in my car was dead. Luckily it was a weekend day. A kind neighbor jumped the car for us. I went to Auto Zone, and a kind employee replaced my battery for me while we waited. I was so thankful that it was the weekend and that we had time to do that.

9. Sick days
Monday afternoon, Paul came home from school not feeling well. He came home and asked to take a nap. That never happens to this energetic boy. Tuesday morning he woke up with a fever. All plans were cancelled and I stayed home from work and he stayed home from school. He was completely recovered in a few hours. I was so thankful for his quick recovery and for my ability to cancel everything for the day and spend a low-key day at home with him.

10. My communities
I am a part of several communities and I am thankful for them all. I am thankful for my theological friends who can talk Augustine's intersection with real life. I am thankful for several churches where I feel at home. I am thankful for my family both under one roof and extended. I am thankful for my friends that email me back when I send them long essays. I am thankful for my FB messenger friends who send me links, check-ins, and laments. I am thankful for the parents at school that I get to converse with every day from 2:50-3:00. I am thankful for both my jobs and coworkers and friends. I am thankful for my professors who have patience with my ignorance and make me laugh. I am so thankful to be surrounded by good people.

Friday, October 7, 2016

Whew! Gratitude to finish a Grueling Week

This week was one of the hardest of the semester. I'm so thankful that I was able to meet the challenges, mostly.

Here's what I'm grateful for today:

1. A new journal
I wanted to put this journal on my Christmas list, but it runs $55 and I wasn't sure I could justify that much money for a book that wasn't a textbook. I am excited to say that it went on sale and I got a copy for $20! Woot! It's called Sacred Ordinary Days, and it's a liturgical journal. Click here to get the same deal I did. This particular version runs with the academic calendar, which is good for me.

2. Hamster rescues
Last week Paul's hamster escaped his cage and met me for coffee. Luckily the dog wasn't up and I was able to safely return him. This week when I was up at 4:15 writing, I heard a loud crash. Claire's hamster had somehow toppled his hamster wheel and was on her bedroom floor, in his wheel. I am so grateful the hamster stayed in the wheel, because Sugar Dot went with me to investigate that noise.

The reason our hamsters live in cages. Sugar Dot was looking for a snack this week in the hamster ball. Don't worry. No hamsters or dogs were harmed.

3. Dinner out
I try to make dinner most nights, but twice this week we've had to outsource. I am so grateful that our family budget allows wiggle room on nights when I just can't make it all come together.

4. Homework completed
Last week I rejoiced at the reading and summarizing conclusion of the most boring/challenging book I've had to read. This week I read the companion to that book. 321 pages summarized in a 25-page paper. Don't ask me what it was about, because when you are asked to read that much in such a little time, the only method of survival is short-term processing and regurgitation. I'm not even positive I kept the name in my brain.

5. Unexpected three-day weekends
Because I have been totally consumed with my homework this week, I didn't have time until yesterday to confirm that the kids don't have school on Monday. Woot! I love that extra space. I'm going to fill it with...... more homework.

6. Life skills
Yesterday I had Paul sort his laundry and wash a load. He's 8 and had never done it before. He was so excited at this new skill he asked if he could do it every week. The answer is "Absolutely." We'll see how long his enthusiasm holds.

7. Eating with interesting people
More than once this week I've found myself eating next to a fascinating person. I loving hearing different people's perspectives. It always makes me think long after the conversation is over.

8. The freedom of a no.
Because I was writing a giant paper this week, I was unable to also summarize my normal 100-pages or so from a textbook in class. I just didn't have time. I asked for a 24 hour extension and was denied. The good part of that is that now I don't have to worry about trying to fit that summary into my schedule. It's over and I can move on.

9. Rain
I am so grateful that I was able to wake up and snooze for a bit to the sound of rain on our window.

10. Early mornings
Lots of students stay up late to finish their homework. My brain doesn't allow that. About 8:00, my ability to think theologically goes out the window. The good part of this is that I know that and don't even try to push it. It gives me some intentional family time. The best part of this is that I have the ability to wake up super early to get my homework done when everyone else is asleep (3:45 yesterday). It's not a pattern that works for everyone, but it allows me to focus and still have time for family.

Friday, September 30, 2016

Thank you, September!

Today's the last day of the month, meaning we've gone through just over a month of school. We've rotated between survival mode and awesomeness every day. I am so grateful.

Here's my thankful list for today:

1. I finished this behemoth! Yesterday I finished reading this entire, monstrous textbook. While it is full of good ideas, the writing was mostly over my head and frustrating. However, I read it all and am done! Woohoo! (You can all line up to borrow it now.)

2. Cooler weather
Fall and spring are my favorite seasons because they are so full of promise and hope. In fall, we hope for a respite from the heat. In spring, we hope for shorts. I love this in between time when the weather could go either way.

3. Kids and school independence
Every day it seems my kids are getting smarter and more independent. I am so grateful for that. They have great teachers at a great school  and I'm so proud of them every day.

4. Failure of embarrassment
I haven't been able to embarrass my kids yet. I've tried. Wearing birds, butterflies, and bonnets on my head hasn't worked yet. Paul just laughs and tells his friends I'm a lunatic. Claire just nods and says, "Nope. You have once again failed to embarrass me. Everyone knows my family is crazy." I've got to try harder and I'm grateful for the challenge.

5. Leftovers

6. Hilarious professors
One of my professors has been teaching at Brite Divinity School since the 1970s. That makes it all the funnier when he says things like "Will the real Jesus Christ please stand up?" He's always dropping little pop culture quotes and it always makes me laugh.

My other professor yesterdays confessed that we all love creative tension. He said, "Creative tension sounds so sexy." We all almost fell out of our chairs laughing.

7. Coffee with a hamster and not a dog
One day this week I was drinking my first cup of coffee, trying to read my behemoth of a book and I saw something out of the corner of my eye. I got scared, thinking we had a rat. No, it was Paul's hamster, escaped in a jailbreak and coming to the kitchen. I am so grateful he came to me. I am so grateful the dog hadn't woken up yet. I am so grateful we were able to return him safely to his cage and latch it so that doesn't happen again.

8. Friends
For my email pen pals, for my friends at all my school situations, for my church friends, for my ministry friends, for my friends from all different corners of my life, who remind me who I am and who I have been, I am grateful.

9. Waking up skills
My brain is much sharper in the a.m. The ability to wake up early and start functioning immediately has suited me well in grad school. My writing is much better at 5 a.m. when everyone is asleep, rather than at 5 p.m. when everyone is awake and wanting to chat.

10. Kids and pets
We're up to one dog, two hamsters, and one fish around here. The kids bought the hamsters and fish with their own money, and they take care of them all by themselves! They are so proud of their pets and parenting skills, and I am, too. Also, I'm grateful that their allowance money spent on a pet didn't mean more work for me.

Friday, August 26, 2016

Hallelujah! Thankful thoughts

One week ago today, I was lamenting yet another conversation about Diary of a Wimpy Kid. I try to be fully present with my children and engage in conversation about what's important in their lives, but during summer, it's tough. Conversation is often limited to the antics of a fictional character. Every summer, there's a point where I start to question my intelligence and sanity.

And then, hallelujah. Just as I was starting to believe I would never have an adult conversation again with anyone other than my husband; that I would never be challenged or seen as intelligent; school started. Thank you, Lord.

Here's what I'm thankful for today:
1. Teachers
A photo taken for no other reason than cuteness.
Thank you, thank you,  thank you, for challenging my children, for guiding them with love, and for offering me a respite. I literally cannot do all I do without you.

2. Babysitter
To our dear babysitter Gabby, thank you for being so trustworthy. I have no worries about you getting the children when I am in class. I am grateful for your loving care and lack of fear in the face of our mountain of laundry and dirty dishes.

3. Church family
Thank you, dear church, for providing another loving place for my children. Thank you for being home to many of my favorite people. Thank you for challenging me to think beyond children's literature. Thank you for being a place I can go to share a hug any day of the week.

4. My job
I am thankful for a job that the kids were able to accompany me to all summer long, without complaint. Instead of whining that they had to come to work with mom, they were excited about the next time they got to go with me. The Wesley is a cool place to hang out, no matter how old you are.

5. My other job
I have a very small role at a big school in a poor part of town. I love showing up with open arms, ready to help. My title is tutor, but general help is what I do (including tutoring). I also am grateful for the reality check I receive every time I'm on campus. This week we had a mother come to school who literally checked herself out of the hospital to come register students at school. Working at the school reminds me that my little bubble isn't the whole world.

6. Seminary
I  am so grateful that I'm back in class. I am immediately challenged to read as fast as I can, to think as hard as I can, and to make connections that I haven't before. It is a cure-all for a woman who was doubting her intelligence just a week ago.

7. Friends
During summer, our schedule was wonky, so we didn't often get to visit friends. But now we are back in our school rhythms, I am able to share hugs in each of my settings. I am so grateful for friends at the kids' school, at work, and at seminary.

8. Podcasts
During the school year, I am informed and challenged by podcasts. I'm not able to listen much in the summer because I'm busy being present, but already this week I've listened to several that challenged, informed, and inspired me.

9. Pets
Since vacation, the kids were saving their allowance. Claire just bought her own fish and accessories, and Paul bought a hamster. Each kid is so proud of the pets that they purchased with their own money, and they both are taking good care of them. I'm proud of their responsibility and independence.

10. Home
This summer we didn't go on quite as many adventures outside of the home. That was new for us. Every summer, the kids get excited about "stay home days", so this summer I relaxed my scheduling and provided more of those. I asked the kids last week if they missed all our little field trips around town; how they felt about a summer spent mostly at home, and they both agreed that was their favorite part.

I am grateful.

Friday, July 22, 2016

Summer 2016 Status Updates

Time always goes quickly around here, so I thought I'd bring everyone up to speed on what's happening in our neck of the woods.

The kids at AHUMC VBS. They had so much fun!

Paul finished second grade and is headed to third. He also wrapped up a great baseball season. He excelled at first base and at batting. His hand-eye coordination is remarkable and one of his coaches was surprised to learn that he just turned 8 during the season.  Paul's favorite activities this summer include building with Legos and reading books. The series he's passionate about right now is How to Train Your Dragon.

Claire has finished fourth grade and headed to fifth grade, her last year in elementary school. This fall we will be applying to various middle schools across FWISD. Claire currently plays volleyball at the YMCA. She is amazing at writing and crafts a new story nearly every day. She likes making family newsletters as well. She also loves reading and is currently rifling through the collection of books I accumulated when I was her age. (Tip: Don't get your daughter hooked on Sweet Valley Twins because they are incredibly hard to find now.)

Adam still enjoys his work as a structural engineer. He has been enjoying the kids' love for roller coasters and all three of them ride together while Sarah waves from the ground. He's great at origami, fixing and building "stuff" with the kids. He loves reading Mark Twain and science books. He also teaches the kids how to rock at video games.

Sarah is still in seminary at Brite Divinity School. I can only go part-time due to family and work, but I love it. At this rate, I have four years left to get my Master of Divinity degree. This last semester I changed jobs and currently work as the ministry assistant at the TCU Wesley Foundation. I'm still also a Fort Worth ISD tutor. I'm also in the ordination process to become a UMC deacon. After graduation/ordination, I'd like to work in pastoral care/counseling and write curriculum for churches.

Cpt. Midnight Sugar Dot Express has enjoyed being the lone dog on the range. He enjoys snuggling and lying in the sun. He does not enjoy Claire holding him like a baby. He's iffy on enjoying Paul wrestling him. Postal employees are threatened with their lives when they deliver mail to the house, but cats are only scared away if he has space in his agenda for chasing them.

Overall, we're all doing well, working hard and having fun.