Thursday, January 31, 2019


I'd say grief is a funny thing except that I haven't found anything funny about grief.  I've looked.  Grief is hard. Grief is tricky.  Grief is sneaky.

I've experienced several losses.  The largest one of course being the death of my Daddy in 2000.  The death of Ryan's dad was also very difficult. 

I've grieved the loss of some relationships as well.  Those did not impact me like deaths but they are a loss.  Grief does not have to be related to a death. You can grieve the loss of a relationship or dream.  But today, I'm referring to my specific grief related to the death of my Daddy and Ryan's dad.

Over the last few months I've heard people talk about how hard the second year is.  A speaker at You Are summed it up perfectly "I can do anything once. The second time you realize 'oh crap, I have to keep doing this with him'".  The first year you're in a fog.  By the second year you're supposed to have it figured out and things blindside you.

Here's the crappy news: it keeps happening.  I'm 19 years into my largest loss.  Last Sunday, I looked over at a teenage girl wrapped up in her daddy's arms during worship.  I lost it.  I physically ached.  We hug at our house but there's nothing like my Daddy's hugs. 

Once you experience a life altering loss, grief lives with you.  It's kinda like a flame.  For a while it burns intensely, white hot, it hurts.  Over time, it dulls.  It's like an ember.  And like an ember, it can be stoked back into a full out flame. It can be intense, white hot and painful again. 

The good news is that I get to choose my response to grief now.  In the early days, I couldn't control the flame.  It overtook me.  As time as gone on, I've learned to control it in a way.  I can't control when it will come but I have the strength to control my response.  It's not often now that grief sends me to bed.  I have the strength to respond to my loss by remembering the good times.  Remember those times are a comfort now.  At first they led to more grief and that never ending cycle would send me to bed, sleep was my only escape.

If you're in the intense, white hot, painful season of grief take heart. Turn to God and you'll get stronger.  He'll love you and strengthen you.  He'll put people in your life who will help you feel stronger.  He'll help you remember that Christians don't grieve the same as the world. We grieve with hope of the future.  (But we do not want you to be uninformed, brothers, about those who are asleep, that you not grieve as others who do have no hope.  For since we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so, through Jesus, God will bring with him those who have fallen asleep.  1 Thessalonians 4:13-14 ESV) And don't worry if you think that's a load of crap right now.  Stay in the Word. Keep praying.  Let others believe for you.  Hold on tight until you can believe it for yourself again. 

Wednesday, January 30, 2019

You Are 2019

Last weekend I was able to attend You Are 2019 and it was fabulous, again.  Last year was my first experience with You Are and I was anxious to return. 

First, let me say that it is abundantly clear that the women who run this conference are all in for Jesus.  The Holy Spirit is moving in their organization.  It is absolutely crazy and exciting that there are so many over the top outstanding women of Christ in Bryan/College Station. 

The group of cLife women at You Are grew this year. It's my prayer that our group will continue to grow and more women can experience You Are each year.  I think everyone but me, left the Dallas area early in the day and rode together.  I left right after school and enjoyed the time alone in the car. 

Friday night's session was my absolutely favorite.  The speaker's name is Damaris Carbaugh.  Oh my gracious, she is precious.  She started by singing us two beautiful songs.  She cried while she sang.  After singing she told us that she didn't have a cold, she cries every time she sings about Jesus.  "He melts me".  I loved that! I cry almost every time I worship so I was related with Damaris from the jump. 

Damaris is from New York City and she is a straight shooter.  I loved it when she paraphrased the Bible via New York.  I also loved her message - READ YOUR BIBLE.  Damaris used to sing jingles and told us her new jingle is "READ YOUR BIBLE". 

Damaris has inspired me to not only read my Bible in the morning but at mid-day.  It's a new habit I'm trying to develop.  I'm two day in, I'll keep you updated ;)

Worship at You Are is awesome! The songs are great and at time there's a dance troupe that performs.  As I wrote last week, I like to keep my eyes closed during worship but I can't keep my eyes off the girls.  Such a beautiful expression of their love for Jesus!

I really enjoyed our group of cLife ladies.  I wish we had more time to reflect and encourage each other during the conference.  The ladies I stayed with went out to eat after Friday night's events.  I was going to go but I was so tired.  What I loved was that my friend Laci said "it's totally cool if you want to go to the house instead of out to eat." They get me and love me anyway.  And we laugh.  Almost constantly!

I'm already looking forward to next year.  But I can't really think about it.  I can't really think about anything 2020 related because I can't believe that Sam will be graduating in 2020.

Tuesday, January 29, 2019


Legacy. What is a legacy?
It's planting seeds in a garden you never get to see.
   - Lin-Manuel Miranda - Hamilton: An American Musical  

This picture.  This is a picture of a legacy.  It's the spiritual legacy of Hazel Splawn Gheen Stevenson.

This is my cousin Angala and I at the You Are Conference last weekend.  Friday night my mom texted me to say that Angala was there too. We hooked up and had a nice, too quick, visit.  Then Saturday as the last session started, I knew we needed to get a picture.  I started thinking about Granny Gheen's legacy.  Then the last speaker started talking about legacies.  Man, I love it when God does stuff like that!

My Granny Gheen loved Jesus and her church.  And, when she passed, it was apparent that her church loved her too.   I have one of Granny Gheen's Bibles.  I love that it has her handwriting in it. (I wrote about Granny, socks and handwriting in November) She wrote the dates and teachers by verses.  Seeing her Bible inspired me to starting making notes in my Bible.  I write the dates I read chapters or verses.  I note sermons and teachers.  I underline. I star.  I write short notes.  Granny's love bled through to Angala and I.  So there we were in College Station at a fabulous conference learning about and praising Jesus.  I imagine Granny Gheen was smiling down on us.

Besides being thankful about Granny Gheen's legacy, I started thinking about my own.  Parenting is hard, you don't know what's going to stick and what's going to get pushed aside.  I pray my love for Jesus and His people is evident to my boys.  I see them loving others well.  I pray it continues.  I pray in many many many many many (how many more manys should I type) my grandkids will know how much I loved Jesus and His people from their daddies and from my Bible.

Thursday, January 24, 2019


I've listened to Louie Giglio's audiobook, The Air I Breathe. It's all about worship.  Worship as our response to God, not just worship music.  Right off the bat, Louie knocked me back.  He reminds us that God made us to worship.  It's an engrained part of who we are.  We are going to worship something if we don't worship God.  Ever since I listened to that, I've tried to be very aware of who and what I'm worshipping if I'm not worshipping God.

My favorite way to worship/kind of worship is singing.  I am not great or even good singer.  But I'm counting on Psalm 100 - make a joyful noise unto the LORD.  Did you get that, it didn't say "sing a good song" "be on key for the LORD".   So, sorry if you sit near me at church, I'm gonna be busy making my joyful noice unto the LORD.

I usually close my eyes while I sing, if I know the words.  I do this so I can focus.  If I don't close my eyes I'm looking at everyone else.  Who's coming in late? Who's holding up their hands? What's the band doing?

I find that God really stirs my heart when I'm tuned in and singing worship songs.  I'm a bawl bag so I generally end up crying during worship.  Closing my eyes helps me control that a bit.

If I'm honest, I sometimes have a hard time getting in the zone during Sunday morning worship. There are two scenarios during worship. One is that my special needs ministry class is meeting.  Two is that B is with us in service.  During #1 I might be thinking about the kids and volunteers in the room right now.  I totally trust my team but sometimes they need me.  During #2 I feel like I need to keep one eye open so I can make sure B stays with us or doesn't interrupt someone else's worship experience.

This weekend I'm going to the You Are Conference in College Station.  It's a women's conference that I first went to last year.  I'm so excited to worship at You Are, to get in the zone. 

What's your favorite way to worship?  How do you get in the zone?

Wednesday, January 23, 2019


I'm a doer.  I love to have a project. Every morning I make a to do list and it gives me endless satisfaction to mark things off my to do list. And yes, I do write things down that I've already done so I can mark them off.

The dark side of this project mentality is that I'm not so great at long term changes.  I want to work really hard, achieve something and be done.  As I said to Ryan the other day, "I ate right all day and I worked out. I'm done now, right?"

One of my love languages is words of encouragement. I like it when people know I'm working on something hard so they can encourage me.

Ryan and the boys are also working on some long term goals.  Honestly, I get so wrapped up in what I'm trying to accomplish that I forget to check in on them.  Without anyone to check on us or help hold us accountable we may drop our goals when things get too tough.

What to do? What to do? I really want to stay on track with my goals and the boys are very serious about theirs. I pulled into my teacher brain and remembered the tracking chart!

I got this one at Mardel's for $1.99 and it's good for 2 weeks.  I put it on our laundry room door which is right by the door out of the house.  So everybody sees it and everybody knows what's going on.  What I've learned so far is that some of us are gold star getters and some are not. It's just our first two weeks so we'll keep going and see if it helps.

Tuesday, January 22, 2019

Loving it!

Happy Tuesday friends! If you have a short week this week, I hope it goes well. Short weeks always tend to be crazy because you're trying to cramp 5 days worth of stuff into 4 days.  This year I'm working on being more positive so today I want to share 5 things with you that I am loving. 

1. Our morning routine - it's football offseason so the boys are back to their early morning workouts.  I am super proud of them for getting moving that early and being so dedicated to it.  I really love that I don't have to get up and badger them to get out of bed.  Sam gets up and gets moving then he gets Zac moving.  I still get up, make coffee, do my Bible study, clean the kitchen then go take a little 20 minute nap.  It's awesome!

2. Speaking of Bible study, I'm reading Exodus again.  Oh my gosh, it is just my most favorite book of the Bible.  So many lessons to learn.  And such reassurance that no matter how much I mess up, God is going to come after me again and again.

3.  Our Special Needs Ministry, Valuable - I am so thankful that I get to lead this ministry at our church.  Leading a ministry is not always sunshine and roses.  Leading anything involving other flawed humans is not always sunshine and roses.  But right now, things are clicking and running smoothly.  We had a family fellowship luncheon on Sunday. It was such a blessing to see how much the ministry has grown and to see the families visit. 

4. Bath and Body Works Aromatherapy Stress Relief lotion - actually the lotion, the body wash and hand soap.  It smells so awesome.  I don't know if it actually relieves my stress but it smells so great.  I was so excited when one of my students brought me the foaming hand soap for Christmas.  {heart eyes emoji}

5. Coloring - I've written about how relaxing coloring is for me.  Lately, I've been coloring more and more.  I love my Color Happy subscription and my coloring books from Rad and Happy.  I'm also loving my new Crayola SuperTip markers. I had the 20 marker set but a couple of weeks ago, I splurged and bought the 100 marker set. I was not super excited when I first opened them because the markers didn't match up with the dots on the top.  The dots on the top are supposed to tell you where to put the marker.  I tweeted Crayola and they did not seem to care.  I put them in color family order yesterday on my day off and I was instantly relieved. 

So, there they are - the 5 things that I am loving right now.  What are you loving right now?

Thursday, January 17, 2019

Dealing with Upset

Yesterday I was angry.  Actually, I wasn't exactly angry, I was upset.  Or maybe it was righteous indignation.  I don't know how to label it exactly. 

Someone I really like caused a problem through a clerical error. It definitely wasn't intentional.  The consequences of the problem just kept rippling, causing more and more problems.  I was responsible for fixing the problem.  The more ripples, the more upset I became.  I didn't like it but I wasn't sure what to do about it.

First, I made sure that the people who needed to know, knew about the problem.  By which I mean the people who could help me fix it, not the entire population and everyone I came into contact with.  I wanted to go around being screaming mad but I tried to control that.  You know that wasn't easy for me.   

Next, I set about fixing the problem.  This is my strong suit. I can make a plan and follow through like nobody's business. 

I also asked for help when I needed it and made sure to express my appreciation for those who were helping me. 

And yet, the upset persisted.  My head and my stomach ached.  I began praying.  I prayed for forgiveness for my anger or upset or righteous indignation or whatever.  I forgave the person who'd caused the problem.  I reached out and asked a friend to pray for me as well.  I needed to fight this emotion. 

Finally, my upset subsided but I felt down.  I scrolled through Twitter and came on this tweet. 

Isn't GOD awesome? He can use a total stranger to minister to us. 

I was able to finish solving the problem and ended the day not feeling angry or upset or righteously indignant.  Mostly I just felt relieved and tired and thankful.

Wednesday, January 16, 2019


When I'm between set Bible studies, I default back to reading Exodus.  Ya know, because of the whole "I wanna write a book about Exodus thing".  Plus I just really love the lessons.  I learn something new every time I read it.

In Exodus 3 and 4 GOD and Moses go back and forth.  GOD is telling Moses what He wants him to do.  Moses is telling GOD why he can't do what GOD wants him to do. Who among us can't relate to Moses?  We might not argue with GOD, or we might not admit to arguing with GOD, but we've had a lot of "yes, but" and "oh no way" conversations in our lives. 

Can you lead this ministry? 
"Yes but Suzy would do a better job"

You are so talented! You should sell those!
"Oh no way, I could never do that"

GOD uses other people to prod us along to the things He wants us to do.  He did with Moses, too. He gave Moses Aaron to help him.  Pay attention to those people, they are leading you.

The part that really, honestly, irks me is that GOD even told Moses what the hard part would be: "But I know that the king of Egypt will not let you go unless compelled by a mighty hand" Exodus 3:19 ESV.  GOD told Moses Pharaoh would hassle him! 

So, Moses asked Pharaoh to let the Israelites go, Pharaoh said no then punished the Israelites.  And Moses freaks out.

Exodus 5

It irks me because we don't know what our roadblocks will be before we even start! That has been the cry of my heart for years "LORD, please just tell me what's going to happen and I'll be so happy." What a lie! I will not. I'll hurry GOD's plan along.  I'll skip over the lessons He has planned for me along the way. 

I end up getting upset with Moses.  It goes like this:

"Dude, Moses! You had it so easy! GOD told you Pharaoh was going to give you trouble and you still freaked out.  Why couldn't you just do what He told you to do?"

Oh wait!  As usual, I'm preaching to myself.  "Why can't I just do what GOD told you to do?" 

Because I want easy. But GOD never promised easy, did He?  Ummm, no he explicitly promised the opposite. 

Take heart.  Be relieved.  Maybe I can't know what my roadblocks will be but I can know that there will be roadblocks.  And that GOD will be there every step of the way.

Tuesday, January 15, 2019

Rude Default

Over the holidays I had, as I'm sure you did, many opportunities to interact with people in customer service positions.  I'm sure they were stressed about all the things they needed to do before Christmas.  Many of these interactions lead me to think about other customer service interactions and interaction with strangers in general.  All these interactions led to one question time and time again: Why has our default reaction become 'rude'?  Rude instead of helpful.  Rude instead of pleasant. Rude instead of even disinterest. 

3 of my 4 interactions with personnel at DPS in December started rudely.  The shocking part was that when they knew all the information, a switch flipped and they became VERY nice and helpful.  It's so confusing.  If you're rude, just be rude.  If you're nice, just be nice.  Why flip flop?

Because your default is rude but you know better.  Maybe their work default is rude but they really are nice people? Who knows?

I think, I've realized that I can't change anyone but myself.  Most of the time, I remember this.  So, when I encounter these default rude people, all I can do is remind myself not to be rude.  To lead with a smile. Seek first to understand.  Ask questions before drawing a conclusion.  Show God's love.

Ohhhh, that last one's the rub for Christians.  Everywhere you go, you're representing Christ.  So, our default should not be rude.  Our default should be love.  Mercy, that's hard.  It's so hard to give love when you're getting rudeness.  But, that's how they'll know our love.

Thursday, January 10, 2019

Christmas Break Catch Up

Since I took a little writing break to match up with our Christmas Break, I thought I'd share a bunch of pictures and do some quick hits of our break. 

Each year we load up the car and go look at Christmas lights.  The past few years we've gone to drive through places.  It's so much fun.  Sam's girlfriend got to go with us this year so it was hilarious for Sambo to be scrunched in the backseat because he was trying to be sweet. 

After an EXTREMELY frustrating visit to DPS, Zac got his learner's permit!

We had a delicious, fancy dinner at Nick & Sam's in Dallas with my uncle, my mom, Ryan, the Bigs and Sam's girlfriend.  We had B skip this one because the food is fancy (no chicken nuggets), the restaurant is loud and crowded and dinner took 2 hours.  He stayed with GG (Ryan's mom), ate pizza and was thrilled to death!

We attended Christmas Eve service at our church and got an awesome picture of all of us! B wanted to take his own picture afterwards.

Christmas morning! The boys loved what Santa brought. This year I wrapped each person's gift in a certain paper but didn't put any labels on them.  The boys had to find the tiny piece of paper at the bottom of their stocking to figure out which presents were their's.  Only one hiccup - Ryan wrapped a gift for me in Zac's paper and we ignored the label.  Zac was surprised to open a Harry Potter blanket.

After Christmas we took a road trip to Colorado to meet up with family and ski (the Bigs and Ryan that is).  We stopped in New Mexico the first day and B had his own little area in the hotel room.  He also created reverse s'mores because the marshmallow was so large!

Family pictures in one of our favorite spots in Keystone.  We were able to take some of Ryan's dad's ashes to this spot and it was so special.  Sam would like everyone to know that he's in snow up to his knee and that's why he looks like he's our same height.  As evidenced by the last picture.

I am so thankful our district gave us a nice long break. I felt like we had plenty of time before and after Christmas.  We were able to get back from Colorado and still have 4 days before I went back to work.  The boys got 6 days!

We had a great break being with the people we love, doing things we enjoy and relaxing.  How as your holiday?

Wednesday, January 9, 2019

2018 in Books

Last January I decided to keep up with what books I finished through out the year. I didn't get a goal of how many to read, I just want to see how many I'd finish.  Sometimes, life just works out.  Turns out that I read 50 books last year.  I finished the last one on New Year's Eve.  I purposely didn't count along the way so I was thrilled when I counted up 50 at the end of the year.  I love nice round numbers.

Last year I gave 'our family' (mainly just me) an Audible subscription so many of the books I listened to.   I love listening to audiobooks while I'm driving or working. Audiobooks is how I read most of the fiction that I read.  For nonfiction I like to annotate and flag and underline and that's much harder with an audiobook (or digital book).  This year I purchased all the Harry Potter books on audio and re-read them all. They are my favorite audiobook, hands down.  Jim Dale does a masterful and entertaining job reading the books.  

I also joined a book club last year called Next Big Idea Book Club.  All the books are nonfiction and are curated by some of my favorite non-fiction authors: Malcolm Gladwell, Susan Cain, Adam Grant and Daniel Pink.  Each quarter I get 2 non-fiction books plus a lot of extra resources like discussion guides, author interviews, facebook groups, and summaries.  

I will be honest, there are at least 3 books that spring to mind that I started this year and didn't finish.  All 3 are non-fiction.  They just didn't interest me so I put them down, simple as that. And honestly, there are some that I should have stopped reading but I kept going anyway.  Give yourself permission to stop reading stuff that's not interesting.  Life's too short.  

Here are my top 4 books from last year - 2 fiction and 2 non-fiction...

Fiction - Long Way Down by Jason Reynolds.  I read a few books by Jason Reynolds this year. Looking back on my list I think I left a few off. His track series is amazing.  But Long Way Down haunted me. It's written in verse about a young man who gets on an elevator intending to seek violent revenge when he gets off.  On the way down, he's "meets" people he loves who experienced violence.  

Fiction - Ghost Boys by Jewell Parker Rhodes. I had the pleasure to meet Mrs. Rhodes at the Texas Library Association Conference and she is definitely a jewel! Ghost Boys tells the story of a young African American boy killed by a white police officer and that police officer's daughter as well as Emmitt Till who was lynched in 1955 for offending a white woman.  

Nonfiction - The Culture Code by Daniel Coyle.  Wow! This book is insightful. My copy is highlighted and flagged within an inch of it's life.  It's all about how leaders create and maintain a positive culture around them.  

Nonfiction - Training Camp by Jon Gordon. I wrote about Jon yesterday.  Training Camp is a fable about a football player struggling to make a professional team, the adversity he faces and how he overcomes.  The subtitle is how the best get better. We read this one with the boys and it's teachings have really stuck with me! 

Here's my complete list of books I finished last year. What's the best book you read last year?


Tuesday, January 8, 2019

#OneWord 2019

I'm a big fan of Jon Gordon.  He writes great books that are easy reads with great messages.  Last summer we read Training Camp with the boys.  Jon co-wrote a book called One Word That Will Change Your Life.  He chooses one word each year that will guide him for the year.  Here's what he has to say about it from a recent blog post.

9 out of 10 people will fail with their resolutions.50% of resolution makers will fail by the end of January.
But one word sticks!
That's why 8 years I ago I stopped making New Year's resolutions and started picking one word for the upcoming year. No resolutions, no goals... just one word that gives meaning, mission, passion and purpose. One word that will help me be my best.

My word for 2019 is

I want to be better at looking like Jesus. 

I want to be better at the things that matter. I want to be better at saying no to the things that don't matter. 

I want to eat better and treat my body better.  Which, oddly enough, means making it hurt for a short while until I get used to exercising again.

I want to be a better wife, mother, daughter, sister, aunt and friend. 

I just want to be better. 

You can find lots of One Word resources at

I highly recommend following Jon on Twitter (just click his name) and listening to his Positive University Podcast.  I've learned so much from him since I discovered his work and I know you will too!