Thursday, November 29, 2018


My Daddy's momma, my Granny Gheen was a special lady.  She lived 'in town' and had a job in an office when I was little.  My PawPaw Gheen died when I was just a few months old. So Granny Gheen's house, and life, were different than my other grandparents. My Granny and PawPaw Crow lived on a farm, raised chickens and cows. 

Before my Granny Gheen remarried, there are 10 cousins on my Daddy's side and my Granny always got us something each Christmas. One year she got all the boys Stretch Armstrongs.  I can't remember what the girls got.  But we all went outside to stretch Stretch as far as we could and eventually poke a hole in poor Stretch to see what was inside him.  After she remarried our family grew but Granny & JR always gave us each something.  Most years it was something one of them made us, they were both pretty talented.  Granny crocheted, sewed and quilted.  When I was in college she got a computer and taught herself how to make iron on transfers.  JR learned to crochet as well.  He always had a stash of blankets and scarves if you brought a friend or new boyfriend to Christmas. Ryan got himself a JR scarf the first year he went to Christmas at Granny Gheen's.

As she got older, it was harder for Granny to get everyone a gift.  She started making a list and my Aunt Christine would do Granny's shopping. I don't know how Granny landed on socks. I wish I'd asked her.  After she passed away, my aunts found her socks list.  My Aunt Dianne took the list to a store near her house and had a platter made for each of her siblings and then a stocking ornament for each grandchild and great-grandchild.  So, I have an entire set of stocking ornaments with our names on it in my Granny Gheen's handwriting (the store added the holly image). 

They are special to me since all 5 of us have one and have Granny's handwriting.  But there's another reason.  Granny struggled with the spelling of my name from time to time, she switched the i and m often.  I was so glad to see my name is spelled correctly. 

Our world is increasingly digital.  We don't write much. I love the act of handwriting. It helps me think and helps me remember what I've written.  I'm so thankful that my Granny hand wrote her sock list so we have this special ornament.

Wednesday, November 28, 2018

Sam - 18

I can not believe today is here.  Today my oldest is 18.  I grew a man.  I can not believe it.  Part of my disbelief stems from the disbelief that I am over 18 myself.  I can not believe that God has allowed me to be a mom and guided me (and Ryan) in this for 18 years. 

Wasn't it just yesterday that I was being handed a 7 pound 14 ounce brown haired baby? I was so taken aback, I thought he'd have red hair.  My Daddy passed away the February before Sam was born, my Daddy had red hair.  Every night of my last trimester I had the same dream: my Daddy standing on our front porch holding a red headed baby.  He hands me the baby, says "It's about time" and disappears.  So you understand my shock that Samuel Paul did not have red hair.  Once I recovered from my shock, I realized how absolutely perfect he was.

It's hard to express how proud I am of Sam.  He's really come into his own this year.  Sam has dyslexia and we diagnosed it pretty late - 6th grade.  He had to realize that needing help wasn't a weakness but a necessity.  Once he got his mind wrapped around that, about the 2nd semester of 9th grade, he started advocating for himself.  He asks teachers about his accommodations at the beginning of the year and makes sure he gets them.  This year he's taken a dual credit History class.  And he is rocking it!  It's like he's figured out how he learns and is taking the steps to be successful. 

He gets himself up every morning, gets his little brother up, and gets them both to school super early for athletics.  Do you know how nice it is to not have to mess with that in the morning? It's such a gift.  I don't have to hassle anyone in the morning, I get to do my own thing.  I'm so thankful. 

At one game this past football season, it was raining and Sam was struggling to snap the football well.  It was so painful.  I don't really relax until the first snap of the game. This game had my stomach in knots.  I don't know what he did or what anyone said to him at halftime but he pulled it together during the second half.  I was so proud of how he was able to pull out the nosedive. 

The best thing about Sambo is how gentle he is.  He still gives me the best hugs.  When he started playing football as a little boy, he didn't want to hurt anyone.  Ryan and his uncle Ronnie had to work hard to get him tough for games. Ronnie would have to make him mad, almost make him cry.  I knew that if Sam growled in those younger years, the other team better watch out.  He was coming for you.

In general, it's been such a joy to see Sam mature and come into his own this past year.  I love him so much. I am so glad we had him start school late.  I'm not ready for him to go off to college. I'm so glad I have another year with him in our house full time.  But mostly, I'm excited to see what God has in store for him and I am proud to be his momma!

Tuesday, November 27, 2018


A couple of weeks ago I was speaking to our school psychologist about B-man, she'd been evaluating him for his autism/special education reevaluation.  She mentioned that he didn't seem very interested in conversations.  I've noticed this before.  He's very interested in telling you what he wants you to know.  He's not very interested in what you have to say, even if it's on the topic that he's interested in.  

Here's a typical "conversation":

B: Momma, what is XYZ? (it doesn't actually come out this easily - he has 4 or 5 starts and stops to make sure he says it the way he wants)

Me: I'm not sure, buddy. I can look it up at home. 

B: But what do you know about it?

Me: Nothing but I have a feeling that you do.Why don't you just tell me. 

B: OK! (Launches into speech on XYZ)

The point wasn't really to find out what I knew, the point was to tell me what he wants me to know.  The question was just the conversation starter that he picked up some where. 

The school psychologist suggested giving him a formula for conversations.  Thanksgiving morning I decided to broach the subject with him since we'd be with family in the afternoon.  Here's what we came up with...

I added the "Excuse me" to try to avoid him says "What!?" when people talk to him. He was on board until the last step of asking the other person a question. "Why do I have to do that?!?"

I reminded him how going to his friends black belt ceremony showed his friend that he cared about him.  I said the question at the end was the same way. It shows the other person you care about them. 

"What do I even ask them!?!" I told him he could just ask the question they asked him. 

He practiced with my mom and asked her what kind of dog she wanted to get.  This was great but also about him because he's super interested and invested in her dog.

Everyone is our family loves and does well with B but I have one nephew who really does a great job with him.  That afternoon at Thanksgiving, I told Max that B was practicing conversations.  Max tried it out and B did really well.  It didn't last long, Max asked how B's day was, B replied good and asked Max how his day was, end of conversation. Not too long but he followed the formula. 

Later in the afternoon Max & B had a boxing match. B won once and Max won once.  This, of course, did not sit well with B.  He's very competitive.  I loved it because he needs to learn to lose when it's safe.  Anyway, he's hacked off and I thought I could get his mind off it.  I called him over to the table and asked another family member to practice conversation with him.  That did not go well.  He was still too mad.

When I dropped him at church Sunday, I reminded him of his new skill.  After church I asked him if he had a conversation with anyone.  He looked at me like I was nuts, "No!" Oh well, we'll keep practicing and sooner or later it'll take hold. 

Wednesday, November 21, 2018


Saturday morning B & I went to a black belt ceremony for one of his friends.  There was a lot of talking. I thought it was fascinating to hear about everyone's journey to their black belt.  B struggled.  He tried to pay attention but it was hard.  He only knew one of the people who had earned their black belt.

Bman played on my phone most of the time.  I did have to remind him to keep the volume off.  I also had to ask him to put it down when it was his friends turn.  But I do know that he was paying attention because he did try to add to what one of the speakers said.  That's hard for people to understand, that he can pay attention and be on the phone at the same time.

When we left, B and I talked about why it was important that we had gone. I told him one of the ways that we show people we care about them is to care about what they care about.  We've talk about this often with the Bigs.  How going to their games is a way to show them we care about them.  But something different happened this time. 

"Did I do a good job at that?"

I told him he did, mostly. Then we talked about the phone.  I told him that I could tell he was listening when he added to what the instructor said but that most people don't know that about him.  We talked about the importance of looking at people when they're talking. 

Autism is a weird thing.  I forget that there are things like this that B does not actually know. I think I assume that he knows but just doesn't care.  But, nope, he has no idea.  But he's learning.  Next up, conversations...

Tuesday, November 20, 2018

Football 2018

Well friends, high school football season is over.  Nobody's happy about it, everyone's pretty bummed. But it was a good season.

I love it when I can watch my boys do what they love.  And, they love to play football.  That makes it a good season.

They both overcame obstacles, became better players and better people.  Zac stepped in a new position a few weeks into the season.  It was painful to watch at first.  He was learning a position while much larger and older boys were coming at him.  But it was awesome to see his progression.  It was a good season.

Sam had a particularly bad half.  His snaps were off.  That makes it hard for the quarterback.  When the play starts off on a bad note, it's hard to get back on track.  Sam came back after halftime and was back to his reliable self.  It was a good season.

We had one game when all four boys (my 2 bigs and my 2 nephews) played in the same game.  It was a good season.

I only made a fool of myself a few times, that's always good.  It was a good season.

Both boys had other adults love on them. Their coaches, moms who took pictures and brought food, prayer moms loved on them.  Sam had a mentor he met with each week.  It was a good season.

Each summer, we do a spaghetti dinner for the boys before football starts.  I give them a quote or something to focus on for the year.

In the days right after a season ending loss, it's hard to hear the voice of truth. Everything is bad and wrong. But the Voice of Truth helps us gain perspective.  God is our voice of truth.  When we look to Him for our worth, we can handle things with grace.

God tells us that we can begin again.  The boys have more time to play football and to become better men in the process.  And to give God the glory for those changes.  

Thursday, November 15, 2018


What makes someone a good leader? 

That's a loaded question, right?  It depends on the situation.  The type of leader needed in a combat situation seems different that the type of leader needed in a kindergarten classroom. 

I read and think a lot about leadership.  The topic fascinates me. I want to be a good leader. I want my boys to be leaders.  I also want to honor my personality in the process. I never what to try to be someone I'm not in order to be seen as a leader.  Which is different from learning and growing. 

See? It's complicated.  It's loaded. 

I think there are 4 things that are essential to all leaders, no matter the situation.  And they're all connected.  I think of them like a big circle.

1. Be Real - Be yourself while learning and growing.  Be honest.  Own your faults. Embrace your quirks.  Be genuine. 

2. Build Relationships - If you can't connect with people, you can't lead them.  Take the time to get to know people. What are their hopes and dreams? What scares them? What's important to them outside work or the context you know them in? This is easier if you're real because they'll get to know you too. 

3. Communicate Clearly & Effectively - Mean what you say and say what you mean.  Hard conversations are hard.  But when you're the leader you have to have them from time to time.  But guess what, if you've been real and built relationships, it's easier to have those hard conversations because people know they can trust you. 

4. Be Self Reflective - Take time each day to think about your interactions with people and the work you did that day. Did things go the way you thought they would?  Are you proud of how you handled things? What areas do you need to improve on?  Reflecting will help you become more self aware and that will help with the other 3.

What do you think?  What are the essentials for leaders?

Wednesday, November 14, 2018


Society talks a lot about heart. 

"Follow Your Heart"

"That Shows Heart"

"Play with Heart"

Often times Christians talk about the heart of God. 

What does all that even mean?  Heart is another squishy subject.  It means the different things to different people.  Here's one of the things that the Bible says about the heart...
So, what should we do?  Should we follow a deceitful heart?  How do we know the heart of God? 

If 'heart' is squishy we need to look at some facts.  Where do we find the facts of God?  The Bible!

Alrighty, there's a bunch of stuff in the Bible.  In the Old Testament especially, there are a bunch of rules to follow.  A bunch of rules that God told His people to follow.  I'm a rules follower but I can't even keep up with all that.  But we know that some people worked hard to bring those rules into the New Testament.  They're called the pharisees.  I think I might have been a good pharisee since I'm so fond of rules. 

In Matthew 22 Jesus is talking to the Sadducees about the resurrection and shuts them down.  Then the Pharisees come around and try to trip Jesus up by asking Him about the greatest command of the Law.  Jesus' answer is my foundation.  It's my theology.  To me, it's the heart of God.  If I can do these two things, I'm good. 

Tuesday, November 13, 2018


How many times a day do you say or think "that's not acceptable"?  I feel like I say and think it a million times a day. I do, after all, work in a middle school.  And I have 3 boys.  And I work with special needs kids who need help to understand boundaries.  I also check facebook and twitter each day. There's a lot of thinking "that is not acceptable" when I scroll through those feeds.

It appears that I have a different idea of what acceptable than those around me.  With the kids, I'm ok with it because they are learning.  With grownups, it's a little more frustrating because I think they should know better. I try to remember that everyone is (or should be) learning and growing everyday. 

If I'm being really real, I have to admit that I do unacceptable things all the time.  I buy things I shouldn't.  I get my nails done when I could probably spend that money more effectively.  Just today I ate a Kit Kat for lunch.  I'm a grown woman, that is not an acceptable healthy lunch.  Of course, that's just the tip of the iceberg.  I'll spare you the rest.

B struggles with what's acceptable and what's not.  An ongoing issue are his manners. Specifically to do with burping and saying excuse me.  He does not understand the need to try to suppress a burp, cover his mouth or say excuse me when he burps.  We've tried to explain to him that it's rude.  Again, rude is a squishy vague concept that escapes him.  We've tried to tell him that no one wants to hear him burp.  He really doesn't get that.  He's still the center of his universe so the idea that someone is not interested in him is so foreign. We're still working...

I'm studying Genesis right now and the story of Cain and Abel. The problem between the brothers started because Cain's offering was not acceptable to God.  Our offerings to God should be our 'first fruits', the first part of what we have and not the left overs.  The Bible doesn't explicitly say that Cain didn't bring his first fruits but it does say "fruit of the ground". I always assumed that meant that the fruit had fallen off the tree, Cain picked it up off the ground and brought it to God. 

Then in Hebrews 11, verse 4, the Bible says that by faith Abel offered God a more acceptable sacrifice than Cain's. So, faith plays a part of what is an acceptable sacrifice to God.  The complete trust that something is acceptable to God makes it acceptable to Him.

I love the Old Testament and it makes me so thankful.  All through the Old Testament we see people trying to uphold the law and be acceptable to God.  It seems so exhausting.  Sometimes I get tired just reading it.  I am so thankful for Jesus. Through His life and death, my faith in Him makes me acceptable to God.  No matter what I've done. No matter what I do.  My faith makes me acceptable to God.  

Even if I eat a Kit Kat for lunch. Even if I loudly burp in public.  

Thursday, November 8, 2018

Clean Up

Listen, we're all weird. Every single person. It's like a continuum - some of us are a lot weird, some of us are just a little weird.  And lets face it, you're here because I'm weird.  You like to read about my weirdness.  It's ok, I love that about you. I also love my weirdness.  So, I'm fully aware of how weird this post is...

One of my many weirdnesses is that I don't buy cereal for the boys during the school year.  You have to have protein in their bellies when they get to school.  Cereal is for the summer.  I don't even buy it for a 'snack' during the school year because my protein plan will go out the door. I know these people, I raised these sneaky little peeps. 

I also try to go to the grocery store alone, it costs less money.  Last week, Ryan, B & I went to the grocery store.  B wanted cereal and I said no. We spent the entire rest of the trip discussing why I don't buy cereal during the school year.  It was exhausting, actually.  The dude just does not like taking no for an answer. 

Tuesday afternoon I had to take B with me to the grocery store again.  No one was happy about this. B wanted me to take him home then go.  But I wanted to go and get home and get in my pajamas.  So, I told him he could pick something at the store.  Zac had dental work done that day and wanted spaghetti-os. I was hoping I could convince B to get a can too.   You know where this is going, right?

I had to buy Trix cereal.

Whatever, I bought the dang cereal.  Let's just go home.  We did.  I was changing clothes and hear a large thud.  B comes into my bathroom "I need you in the kitchen right away".  Not a whole lot of urgency. 

I came into the kitchen to find a gallon of milk on it's side, a big mess of milk on the floor and B watching a YouTube video.  "I was trying to get milk for my cereal and then dropped it trying to get it back into the fridge." 

Alright dude, let's clean it up.  Job one: pick up the milk. 

B started freaking out.  Here's where I would normally stepped in and cleaned it up.  But I resisted.  I explained to B how to clean the mess.  At first I stood back and coached him on how to clean up the mess.  He was not happy.  The paper towels were yucky.  But he persisted. 

I did end up helping but he did most of the work. I mopped up afterwards.  He even cleaned off the trashcan. 

So, that's another weird thing for me.  I was so happy to listen to him complain about cleaning up his own mess.  Another random milestone that he's meeting better late than never!

Wednesday, November 7, 2018


GOD is blowing my mind this week.  Sunday night it was through Bob Goff's book Everybody Always.  Monday night it was through His Word. I've been doing Jen Wilkin's God of Creation Bible Study with our church's women's ministry.

Like most good Southern Baptist little girls, I can tell you all about Genesis.  GOD created the world.  He makes Adam.  He makes Eve. They eat the fruit.  "The fall". They leave the Garden. Cain and Able - the first murder.  And that's just the first 4 chapters.  It's jam packed with interesting stories.

We are 4 weeks into the study and each week I've learned something that I've just glanced over in the text.  It happened again this week but it really blew my mind! THREE TIMES!!
1. Here in Chapter 3 GOD knows that Adam and Eve have sinned.  He's asked them about it and now He's giving the consequences.  First of all, the serpent does not get to talk to GOD about his version of events and he gets the first consequence.  Read verse 15 again.  You know what that is? It's the first prophesy of Jesus.  Through Eve will come a son who will crush the serpent.  SHABAM!

2. Still in Chapter 3, everyone's received their consequences for sin from GOD (verses 14-19).  The first thing after those consequences Adam gives Eve her name - mother of all living.  I assume they are still standing in the presence of GOD. They have not been driven from the Garden.  Yet Adam takes this moment to give Eve her name.  A name that reflects life.  Adam is full of hope in this minute.  When was the last time you received a negative consequence and responded in a hopeful way? I can not think of one single time I did.  BOOM!

3. Also immediately GOD clothes Adam and Eve.  I had not ever really thought about it. But Jen Wilkin points out that the skins had to come from some where.  There had to be a sacrifice.  Without fanfare, GOD provides the sacrifice.  WOOT!

It seems like these things happened in rapid succession. But they are a part of GOD's larger story, His plan.  From the very beginning, He had a plan to draw us to Himself.  He always has our best interest at heart.  All His actions show his deep love for us.  His plan never ceases to amaze me.  He's always providing a way for us.  His provision covers us always. I am so thankful for the opportunity to study GOD's Word and learn from Jen's insights.  I love how an age old, ageless text can draw me closer to GOD and teach me about my current reality and His unending love and provision for me.

I highly recommend this study!

Tuesday, November 6, 2018

30 Seconds At A Time

Sometimes you read something so simple and beautiful that it blows your mind.  I had such an experience Sunday night.  I was reading Bob Goff's book Everyone Always.

What I've been doing with my faith is this: instead of saying I'm going to believe in Jesus for my whole life, I've been trying to actually obey Jesus for thirty seconds at a time. 

It's easy to agree with what Jesus said. What's hard is actually doing what Jesus did.  For me, agreeing is cheap and obeying costly.  Obeying is costly because it's uncomfortable. It makes me grow one decision and one discussion at a time.  It makes me put away my pride.  These are the kinds of decisions that aren't made once for a lifetime; they're made thirty seconds at a time. 

I could not agree more.  Obedience is hard.  It takes faith. You have to really trust that God has the best in store for you.  Obedience walks you straight into the fire.  It can be overwhelming.

But the idea of obeying 30 seconds at a time is awesome!

We've all done this... I can hold this plank for 30 seconds.  Maybe I can do it for 30 more seconds.  Maybe another.  OK, no more.  I can run until the end of the song.  Then I'll walk.  No, run for this song too then walk.

Do you see the pattern building here? We've built up some history here. I CAN do things for 30 seconds.  I just need to apply it in a new way - to loving people, to obey Jesus.  Remember that He tells us in Mark to love the LORD your GOD and to love your neighbor as yourself?  When I love GOD, I have to love His people. 

Oh man, people are messy.  I'm messy. One day I want this, they next I want that. But what I want every day is love.  And the best way to get what I want is to give it away. So, I need to love the messy people GOD gives me to love.  People who don't look like me or don't believe what I believe or who are just flat annoying.

It's like that old do you eat an elephant? One bite at a time.  How do you love someone, especially a difficult person? 30 seconds at a time

Thursday, November 1, 2018

Homecoming - part three - Game & Dance

Of course, the point of homecoming is the football game! I was so excited for the game because it was going to be the first time that The Bigs would be in the same tackle football game (they played 7 on 7 football together this summer).  The team we played didn't have a junior varsity team so Zac didn't have a game to play Thursday night.  The coaches decided to move several sophomores and a few freshman up to Varsity for the homecoming game.

The night started off great! Sam's girlfriend was crowned Homecoming Queen during the pre-game events.  I was so excited that all my boys would be on the same field (my boys = my 2 Bigs plus my 2 nephews).  My boys are stair steps - Sam and Tripp are 6 weeks apart. Zac and Max are 3 weeks apart.  Max has been on varsity (and killing it) for 3 weeks now.  So, all 4 of my boys would be in the same uniform and on the same field.  We knew it was a long shot for Zac to play.  Thankfully, Sam, Tripp, Max and the other players were doing a great job and got us a big lead.  So, late in in the 4th quarter, Zac got in for 2 plays.  He did ok, not great but it was a great experience for him.  When he went in, I jumped in my seat, dropped my phone and spilled B's drink.

Sam #58 
Zac #44

Saturday night was the dance. The Bigs and I had shopped for new clothes the Saturday before so they looked sharp.  My uncle was here and he took some great pictures of them.  There's another very cute picture of them giving me a kiss but I've been asked to not post it.  ;)

I took Zac to the photo shoot location to meet his date and other friends. Since Sam can drive, I got to meet him at his location.  I didn't stay long with Sam but I was glad I went to snap a few pictures.

The boys had a great time at the dance and they were worn out afterwards.  Zac wanted to go home and crash but ultimately decided to hang with his friends as planned.  One of the moms took them to Denny's after midnight.  Sam, his girlfriend and lots of their friends hung out at my sister and brother in laws.  Ryan and I helped chaperone.  Which is to say, we greeted everyone, put out food and hung out.  They are great kids. They played volleyball, ate then settled in to watch a movie.  Sam and his girlfriend went to hang out with some of her friends.  Very low key. Great decisions being made.