Saturday, June 30, 2007

Back to the real world

I called down to the desk this morning and asked them for a late check out which they gladly obliged. We slept as long as we wanted – I had my tea in bed one last time and we watched a movie together, shared a few more spectacular moments, then got ready to come home.

Reality struck a short time later and I realized it in a big way that we were coming back into the routine. We stopped for a sandwich on the way home and Larry’s cell phone rang at least six or seven times just during lunch, dealing with work related stuff. I got sick of it and didn't even bother to try and hold a conversation anymore since every time I started to talk the phone rang. I stayed quiet most of the way home as the phone rang again...

Then as soon as we got home, the phones were ringing here and Larry had to leave and take care of something. I felt like afternoon came today and everyone was just sitting by their phones doing a countdown saying, "this is it...five, four, three,, it's bombardment time, guys!" Welcome home!!!

Pastoring can be the most exhiliarating thing at times. What could be better than helping people cross the line of faith, and grow? But one of the downsides is lack of privacy and needs and crisis' constantly chipping away at you. I realize the facts - ministry is a tough road. It's a given, just the way it is. But sometimes I just need to let off steam, or get away. We needed the last three days in the worst way and I'm so glad we had from noon on Wednesday to noon today. To say it means the world? Understatement.

I used to go ballistic on Larry for answering the phone every single time and ask him to cut himself a break now and again. (I do screen my calls – if I didn’t I don’t know how I’d cope. If I need a little time to breathe, I answer emergencies only for a few hours.) At this point I don’t get upset anymore that he takes every call, emergency or not (that’s just him and how he’s wired so I give him freedom to handle it like he wants) but I let him know that because he answers it doesn’t mean I’ll do anything about it. (Meaning – he answers it, he handles it.) I think we’ve come to a meeting of the minds on that.

Larry chose to answer phones all day so he had to take care of things and go out. As for me, I had a lot to catch up on at home to be ready for tomorrow. I walked into a messy kitchen (boys will be dealt with that later on that), clothes to iron for tomorrow, a load of laundry to do, lunch to make for tomorrow, table to set, special music to go over, unpacking bags, etc. Brit is spending the night tonight with Savanna and it's really helped to have a friend here to have some fun with her. I missed her sorely and it was so nice to give her hugs and talk to her and have supper together. But I came home having to finish all this and couldn't spend every moment with her. I'm looking forward to spending some time together this coming week. I have something special planned - am hoping it works out.

Larry has always told me he wants to retire from pastoring some day but not leave ministry, just change our role in ministry. (We plan to work the rest of our lives and never retire.) I was always against leaving pastoring. I couldn’t see myself doing anything else for the rest of my life. But the more that time goes on, I really can’t see myself doing this longer than another 20 or at max 25 years, at least not without mentally cracking up and being of no use to anyone in the world. At this point my prayer is that we live that long, and beyond – able to spend the years after that in a less stressful role and able to cherish our final years together without all our phones ringing or a crisis around every corner all the time. It truly is a serious prayer of mine to have those years to enjoy together because so many pastors don't get to do that because they develop stress related life threatening illnesses. One of my biggest priorities at this time in my life is trying to take care of myself well to make it to that point. I’m starting to think of that phase now and sort of dream about what I want to do. I know it’s a long ways off, but you gotta have goals, you know. If I could do anything it would be to write full time and live part of the year in FL and part of the year in Boone, NC. And I want to savor my time with this person I love so much and not see him so laden down with things to solve all the time. That's just my dream for 20-25 years from now, but we’ll see. I realize it has to be God’s dream, not just mine.

And who knows, something might happen in the next two decades to completely change the life of the pastorate… God CAN do miracles, right?

Friday, June 29, 2007

Coconut Point ~ Day 3

Well here we are on our final day/night in Naples and then tomorrow we will come home after as late a check-out as we can get. I plan to savor every last moment before getting on the road.

One little detail I forgot about last Chops (the restaurant), the manager wanted to give us something for our anniversary so she gave us a box of Norman Love Chocolates. I thought that was so sweet. They had them on the menu - you could order them for dessert. I'm saving them for another day.

This morning we slept in again and then I had my tea in bed... after a while we got up and went to Iguana Mia for lunch. We don't have that in Tampa, but we've been there before with the Coopers in Cape Coral. It's a yummy Mexican place that's real casual and, inexpensive. Then we went to the outlets here in Naples. Fila was having a huge sale - 90% off of everything in the store. We got sneakers for everyone in our family - these were normally expensive shoes, and we got all of them for 90% off. When we were done, the receipt said, "You just saved $698.00." Is that amazing or what? We walked around for a few hours but just got a lot of good exercise, didn't buy anything else. We came back to the hotel and Larry went to read again and catch up on sports and I headed out to the pool. Once again, it was extremely tranquil. I spent several hours out there. I've been doing my devotions out there during the day - my Bible, Secrets of the Secret Place and Come Away My Beloved and taking time to quietly pray since it's so quiet out by the adult pool. After that I either got in the pool or read some magazines. I spent hours out there and savored every moment of it until it was time to go in a shower and get ready for our evening. Tonight we went to Duval's Street Seafood Company and it was great. The waitress took a few pics of us as you can see, and something funny was all the fish in the case had pink sunglasses on them. It was really cute. We ate some wonderful seafood - and then Larry wanted to go over to the movies to see Live Free Die Hard - tonight was the opening night and it was really awesome. I loved it. Lots of scenes to hold Larry's hand real tight and hope for the best. I really enjoyed it.

One more night...just one more...and it has just flown by. Tomorrow it's back to the real world. Thankfully my real world is good. But I love spending time with Larry by myself, also quiet time with just me and the Lord. I have loved every moment of it. It has been a wonderful time away with my beloved. Speaking of enjoying every moment - Larry is ready for bed now, so...........g'night. :-) Till tomorrow...

Thursday, June 28, 2007

Coconut Point - Day 2

Ahhh...what a day.

We slept in until 11:30. Priceless. :-) Then Larry got up and got me some hot tea and brought me breakfast in bed. After watching a movie in bed for a few hours we went to lunch. We found a place called Montana Grill. It was really good. A outdoor shopping mall was right there. Spent some time looking around but there was nothing we wanted, we were just checking stuff out for fun. Came back to Hyatt and I headed out to the adult pool - operative word here - adult. It was glorious. No splashing. No squealing. No kids, period. Nobody bumping into me in an inner tube. Nobody spilling drinks or dripping popsicles. It was completely quiet...everyone sitting on lounge chairs, reading books and others quietly swimming in the pool. Larry doesn't go out much due to his former skin cancer, but I go for a while when we go anywhere, while he reads or watches sports. We love being together but are content to be by ourselves for a little while too. So I had fun in the sun and he watched movies and checked out his sports pages on the internet and read the paper here.

After being out for a while I came in to shower and get ready for us to go out to dinner. I had made us reservations here at Hyatt but Larry went downstairs to check the place out just to make sure it was what we were looking for. He said although the food looked good, the place was so casual in the way people were dressed. People were in shorts and stuff. He just didn't think it was appropriate enough for something as momentous as a 20th anniversary. So, he canceled the reservation and asked the concierge to recommend something dressy...a little more upscale. She recommended a place called Chops which she said would be the best in the area for what we were desiring. Sure enough when we got there there were people walking in who were clearly on dates, and women were in "little black dresses" and the like. Yes, this was the right place. WOW. It was so good! Probably the best dinner I have had in years and great ambiance. We loved it. First, they had iced tea from The Republic of Tea. I love their tea. Someday I want to order a case online and just keep it for extra special occasions. I don't drink bottled teas as a rule except for theirs, which is just not available everywhere. It's so good. So I had one of those. Then we saw so much that we wanted...couldn't decide so we ended decided to actually share a meal but get some add ons to bring more variety. We started with a crabcake appetizer. They were some of the best I ever had - also had a special sauce over them which I normally wouldn't want but this...was incredible. They had bread they made there with "butter infused with olive oil". Yum. We then had a steak and added on an order of scallops. EXCELLENT. Baked potatoes, and then...the dessert. Larry had carrot cake and I had a piece of chocolate lava cake. To say we were an understatement. It was so awesome. Then we came back to sit on the balcony, and spend some time together. Today was a great day. The best part's not over yet. The best is yet to come. :-)

Wednesday, June 27, 2007

Coconut Point ~ Day 1

Here are some photos of this absolutely beautiful place where we are the next three days. I am so blessed to be here. I love everything about Hyatt…the décor, the beds (most comfortable sleep you will ever have in your life), the pool, the restaurants, etc. All just amazing. I thought I would put a chronicle of my days here...minus some of the details of course. :-)

I got up this morning earlier than I wanted to – I was up late getting so many last minute things done, but I needed to get to my nail place first thing. I was shocked when I walked in to see Mai there. (She always does my pedi’s) I thought she was on her 1-month vacation in Vietnam, which was one reason I was kinda “ugh” about this time but there she was! I got her just in the nick of time. She is all packed and ready to leave for Vietnam but is working today. She was really so happy for me about my anniversary. Lisa did my fill as usual. She loved my ring. Couldn’t believe I’ve been married for 20 years – her and Mai were amazed. Lisa was all excited to give me a nail design that matches my ring. (I always get free designs because I am such a good and regular customer.) The funniest thing did happen while I was there. I was sitting back in the massage chair (they just got new ones that do your entire body, not just your back - and they are wonderful.) I've got my eyes closed as I'm sitting there feeling the massage with Mai working on my feet and all of a sudden I hear an elderly lady yell, "OH MY GOSH, THIS CHAIR IS HORRIBLE! IT'S GRABBING MY BEHIND! GET ME OUT OF THIS THING!!!" My eyes fly open and I see her trying to wrangle out of this chair and she's all in a tizzy. So Linda (Lisa's daughter) says , "Mam, it's just the massager..." and puts it on another setting. The woman yells louder, "don't you understand? This chair is all lumpy! Turn that thing off! I want out of here!' I'm trying hard not to bust out laughing. She had no idea what these chairs were all about but she wasn't about to find out. (What a blessing she missed...) so they had to take other chair pads they had in the store...cover up the seat and the back with them so she couldn't feel anything, and turn the massager off. Once they did she says, "OH THANK GOD!" and falls back into the seat to get her feet done. It was so funny. Mai and were trying not to laugh ourselves to pieces over the whole thing. Anyway -

With going back to being a one car family we were juggling stuff this morning so Larry dropped me off to get my nails done and took Dustin to open an account at the bank. They picked me up afterwards and we had lunch together. Dustin got a new haircut and hates it but I love it because I can see his face. Last night I said, “Now I can see your beautifully chiseled features.” Why that made him laugh, I don’t know.

So Larry and I took off for Naples right after that. And guess what – I don’t have my briefcase with me. Wow. This is the first trip I’ve ever taken without it. I have my computer, but not to work. Only to read. I quickly run out of books. I have several books and magazines with me but I go through all of them in just a few short hours time. Of course I have my Bible and stuff but I read a lot in addition to my devotions. One things I have always loved about the computer is that as long as I always have it with me I always have something to read (with wireless internet). I do a ton of my reading on there as there is no shortage of everything from news all around the world to articles about ministry, Writer’s Market on line, women’s ministry websites, and… (dare I say it?) SHOPPING!

Larry and I got here and decided to go casual tonight for dinner because we were not in the mood to dress up after the three hour car ride. I called the nicest restaurant here at Hyatt and got a reservation for us for tomorrow night. We are really excited about going there. Meanwhile we stayed in casual clothes and headed over to a local place called "Rodes" which is known for having what many describe as the best seafood in town. We had crab cakes and lobster ravioli. It was a nice quiet dinner and then we went down the street to a recommended ice cream place called "Scoops" - where they have incredible homemade ice cream. We decided to sit outside on the porch and enjoy it together. Then we came back to Hyatt and walked around the whole property just to make our plans for tomorrow. This is a huge resort. There are three pools here, jacuzzi, water slides, a rock climbing wall, a pier (we saw an alligator tonight and a large turtle), a board walk out in the wetlands, tons of areas to sit in - some even relatively secluded, a hammock (we got in it for a while tonight and just laid there talking. There is a deserted island here that they have a boat that takes you to and from it every 1/2 hour. We're probably doing that tomorrow. They also have a trolley that takes you to various places all throughout the day. Suffice it to say there is a ton of stuff to do here not to mention sleeping in late, ordering room service, etc.

Most of all I am just wanting to spend quiet uninterrupted time together. Hours at a time where I know I am not going to have a phone ring, or hear, "Mom, can you take me to the store?" or something like that.

We have a balcony off of our room with some chairs and a table. I'm loving sitting here right now (we are on the 9th floor...) looking out over this beautiful area. So glad to be here, and logging off tonight...

Just think, twenty years ago all this fun started and today it's more fun than ever.

It's been 20 years!

( To all my "cup of coffee" e-zine readers ~ this might look exactly like what you got in your e-mail box today, however is different from the devo I sent out today! This is the "expanded" edition, so enjoy!)

Twenty years ago today at 1:30 pm in the afternoon, Larry and I took that momentous walk down the aisle and became Mr. and Mrs. In that moment, everything changed. We had no idea what the next twenty years would hold. The next few days we are in Naples at the Grand Hyatt in Coconut Point where we will celebrate together this incredible journey. Our eldest son is taking care of things while we are gone. My, how far we have come! To think we are married for 20 years, and have a son who has graduated from high school. Just realize folks, we are not THAT old, we did get married young! LOL

Some of the past 20 years have been absolutely awesome, others more difficult but every one of them adventurous. Remember, we take our vows, “for better for worse, in good times and in bad, in sickness and in health…” but we never believe the worse, the bad, or the sick will come. (“Surely that will befall someone else, not us…” we think.)

I thought about writing today about the absolute joy I feel right now in being married to Larry Shrodes – my deep love for him, and about the wonderful romantically hot relationship we now share. All that is true and I could have done that. But instead of writing something flowery, and leaving it at that I wanted to share more of the whole picture.

As my wedding reception was winding down to the last moments, there were just a few family members and friends left. I realized this would be the last day to wear my wedding dress, so I savored each minute, twirled around in it and said to a friend, “Can you believe it’s almost over?” Without missing a beat, she said, “Over? Are you kidding? It’s just beginning!” I was so young and naïve. (You can probably tell that by this wedding photo. Can you believe my husband had a 29- inch waist? He was only 19 years old. He was just a little skinny boy when I married him. He always says that he is now "twice the man he once was"! Actually I don't want the little skinny husband again. I think he's much more handsome now.)

Years later after our wedding I found a book entitled, After every wedding comes a marriage! and I thought to myself, “you can say that again!” Many people are in love with the idea of a wedding but don’t realize that marriage is going to be the hardest thing they will ever accomplish. The wedding plans are NOTHING in comparison. I personally think being a wife is harder than being a mother. When your kids do something that is driving you insane you can justify it by saying, “well, they’re just kids…their reasoning skills aren’t developed yet…they are immature…they are still growing…kids don’t realize, yada yada yada. But when your husband does something that is threatening your mental state of mind, you can’t say, “well, he’s just 42. His reasoning skills aren’t developed yet…he is still growing…” No – at some point you realize to make it work is going to take an incredible amount of patience, forgiveness and unselfishness.

A few months after we were married, we were so poor we couldn’t pay attention. We robbed Peter, and THEN robbed Paul. You get the picture. Well, we only had a few dollars for groceries for that week, but to my absolute shock, Larry went out and used our grocery money to buy a Nintendo. I thought, “okay, what does he want me to do? Crush this up and fry it?” I was so mad I thought I would spit nails. (And if I ate that Nintendo I guess I literally would have.) I thought…”Oh my…we have our work cut out for us here…” I quickly learned, getting married, having sex or even turning 21, 22, 23, 24, 25 doesn’t make you a man…or a woman!!! It takes quite a number of years to fully become a mature man or woman of God.

The problem is, most people these days don’t hold on for that, they just experience the shock of the first years of marriage and so many don’t even make it to the five year mark. When Larry and I were just in our mid-thirties we were at a family wedding and they invited all the couples out onto the dance floor. Every few minutes they would say things like…”if you’ve been married a year or more, leave the floor…” Then, “If you’ve been married five years or more, take a seat…” so on and so on. This was a very large wedding reception with lots of couples dancing but within moments, everyone was cleared out with the exception of my husband’s mother and father, and…us. We were shocked. A very sad statistic I came across is that 70% of all divorces are for “non-severe” reasons. Most divorces are not because of abuse or adultery. Most divorces are because people just can’t handle the challenges of everyday life together.

A long lasting marriage means putting up with little things like your spouse always running the gas in the car down to nothing and parking it in the driveway again for you to take it early the next morning, and you letting it go and not making a big deal of it. At some point you come to realize that the love you share is much more important than a low gas tank. Especially as the years go on, you realize that you only have so much more time on earth to love your partner and you better make the most of every moment. Most of the arguments Larry and I have ever had have really been over stupid things. I can only think of two, maybe three that have ever really been something major that we have to sit down and work out and not just let go. Most of them were silly tiffs. More and more I realize what is important and each time he runs the gas tank down and leaves it, or I continue to save things to the hard drive of the computer despite him telling me a zillion times not to...we don't really mention those things to each other anymore. We just "fix them" for each other and realize, it's not worth fighting about when we can snuggle and watch a movie instead or take a walk together at sunset in our neighborhood.

Many people ask me about the keys to a lasting marriage. Through twenty years of many ups and downs, here are the first three that come to my mind:

1) Unselfishness – Philippians 2:3

I always say, “Marriage is an every day exercise in getting beyond your selfishness.” You might as well get over yourself, because 90% of all second and third marriages fail so if you think you’ll fare any better getting another partner, think again. Get over having to have your own way all the time and things will get much better.

The other day my husband was surfing on a ministry site on line and found a t-shirt that people were selling that said, "I wanna be a pastor's wife!" I had to absolutely crack up at that. WHO is buying these shirts? I'm sure perhaps plenty of young girls are, or even older single women who are hormonally challenged (lol) but the fact is, you don't know what you are getting into getting married, let alone to a pastor! Believe me, I was 100% called to ministry and to be not only a pastor's wife but a pastor myself and let me tell you...I still had a wake up call. By the time you are married a few years as a minister's wife believe me you should have a degree in unselfishness. I think for any pastor's wife who is married and in the ministry for 5o years they need to crown them the absolute queen and give them a medal. This is one reason I admire people like Sis. Coker so much. I know all she has been through and she's still so powerful in God...and an excellent wife with a happy husband.

A co-worker at her secular job recently asked Misty, our children's pastor's wife, "so, what's it like to be a pastor's wife? Do you just sit around together and praise and worship all the time?" Um, believe me, Misty found that just as funny as I did!

Are you kidding? Being a wife, and being a pastor's wife on top of that is an incredible life of sacrifice and dying to oneself. It is a role in which you put your own concerns aside most of the time for the sake of others. I could talk about this aspect for a few hundred hours, but I'll move on...the next thing I've learned that's really crucial is...

2) Sex – I Corinthians 7:3-5

Know your priorities. If you are too busy for sex, you're too busy. If you are going to go from the honeymoon lingerie to wearing a t-shirt, just make sure it's see-through. :-) Keep doing things to fuel the fire. Men have two basic needs: food and sex. Keep them full of both and many if not most of your problems will be solved. As I mentioned yesterday, Larry's favorite three words are, "lock the door..." and believe me, if I'm the one that says them, he is doubly excited about them, and more so as time goes on. I’ve found you have to PLAY and PRAY, throughout every season in your marriage. It’s an unbeatable combination…and speaking of that…

3) Prayer – I Corinthians 7:3-5

While we have all heard the statistic that half of all marriages end in divorce, a little known statistic is that only one out of every 1,150 couples who pray together on a regular basis will get divorced! Prayer is powerful.

The Bible speaks about the prayer/sex combination in I Corinthians 7:3-5

"The husband should fulfill his marital duty to his wife, and likewise the wife to her husband. The wife's body does not belong to her alone but also to her husband. In the same way, the husband's body does not belong to him alone but also to his wife. Do not deprive each other except by mutual consent and for a time, so that you may devote yourselves to prayer. Then come together again so that Satan will not tempt you because of your lack of self-control.” NIV

So with all that said, I wanted to take time today to encourage those of you who might be struggling in your marriage, thinking you would be better off giving up. Please consider all this and think again! For those of you preparing for marriage – think about these things carefully. Be much more concerned about your marriage than your wedding, and you’ll be in good stead. Twenty years from now you will be much happier that you prepared more for daily married life than selecting what kind of favors you intend to have at the reception.

I'm in one of the most beautiful places on earth for three days with Larry all to myself. Could things be any better right now? Ta ta for now…it’s time to play and pray!

Tuesday, June 26, 2007

My Anniversary Gift

This is what Larry presented me with for our 20th anniversary, which is tomorrow. (Stay tuned for a special blog tomorrow about it!) His gift to me is a platinum diamond anniversary band. (This is a photo of the same one I got, at right). He wanted to wait until tomorrow to give it to me...but he couldn't. It's the same way with our engagement, or any other special thing Larry gets for me. Back in 1986 he wanted to propose to me on the 27th of June, but he got so beside himself with anticipation to propose and give me the ring...he did it two days before. I am so blessed with a man who loves to give...who loves to make me happy. Who loves to make me so happy I just can't stop smiling. Who loves to light my world. I'm sitting here crying as I write this so I'll stop with that train of thought.

I would have posted a pic of it actually on my hand but I'm in serious need of a fill. I got a french manicure last time and it's kind of spotty by now, as I call it. I get a fill every 2 weeks or so but I ran out of time with trying to get all my work done and get packed. I'm going to try and go in the morning right when they open, before we leave. I don't want anyone but Lisa doing my fill, so it's worth it. Maybe then I'll post another pic. :-)

The anniversary gift for 20 years is supposed to be china or platinum. I was packing my suitcase tonight and washing two more loads of clothes, and re-loading the dishwasher and answering the phone and when I came back in the bedroom I could tell something was going on with him. He was kind of acting strange. Then he said, "lock the door." Now usually for Larry those words only mean one thing. So I said, "Um, babe, I'd love to but our suitcases are all over the bed and I'm trying to pack and stuff... so he says, "no, no...not that...just shut the door for a second. So I did and he proceeds to present me with a CD. It was a music CD of chinese music that went "platinum" in China. He says, "honey this is our 20th anniversary and the gifts are supposed to be china and platinum. I know you already have four sets of china. So, this is what I got you...a CD of chinese music that went platinum." I thought, "okay, he can't be serious..." It was so funny. So I said, "um, thanks honey, that's so creative" and then he pulled out the ring. I really love it!!! I think I kissed him three times right after he gave it to me...probably more but I was just feeling all mushy so it's kind of a blur now. I wasn't expecting it, honestly. Especially tonight. I was thinking he would get me something special but was not sure what.

As far as what I'm getting him - he's not too into jewelry - he doesn't want a new wedding band (I've tried to get him one and he doesn't like the idea although I love the idea! Maybe he'll change his mind one day) and the only other piece of jewelry he wants I gave him for Christmas two years ago. So... he wants golf plenty more of what I give him all the time. :-) Except for tonight when our suitcases were on the bed.

I do love this ring...I guess it means he still absolutely adores me after 20 years...

Monday, June 25, 2007

This is going to be SO worth it!

Well, I'm really zonked - but cramming a week's worth of work into two days plus my 8 hour marathon book writing yesterday is going to be so worth it. Usually when we go away even on vacation, I always have my work with me. I usually commit not to do it during "family time" (when they are awake, or I try to keep it to just car rides when they are watching a movie or something anyway.) But my point is - my work is really never done. I've always got a briefcase and a laptop with me. It's just life. But for once, just once, I want to go away to celebrate our 20th anniversary on Wednesday and I don't want to take any work with me. I want to finish my very last initiative on the list, and forget about anything else but focusing on the one I love...and relaxing.

What this basically means is that I'm not only cramming my church work but my "home" work into a little space of time, plus packing and all that jazz, to be able to be free for the next few days. I am so excited - when we pull out of our driveway Wednesday I am going to just be beside myself with glee.

The set up has been really good for me to get work done. Sunday, Savanna wanted Chelsea to spend the night. I said okay as long as they would play well and let me work in peace. They said no problem and they kept their word. They were good as gold. The boys were with friends and Larry took off and went golfing. Except for two little girls playing Barbie's just beautifully together and singing Hannah Montana songs with the door shut, I had no one here and was able to work til' 2 am last night. Then today I went to work, got started late because of a Dr.'s appointment but after that I got a lot done and aside from supper went straight through til' midnight working on stuff. I was alone again because Jordan was at the Currie's, Dustin was at Stephen's and Savanna was at Chelsea's and Larry and Pastor T took off to a viewing at a funeral home. When they left I said, "have fun!" (They thought it was bizarre, but you know - our staff enjoys being together - even at funeral homes we're happy, so I thought, why not tell them to have fun?) They went out to Fred's Market to eat afterwards and although I LOVE IT there, I am trying my hardest to stay OP (on program) so therefore it was a good idea I was not there. Tomorrow I'll have my last full day of work to wrap everything up.

I'm so excited about this coming Sunday's service as well. It's really coming together. My part - except continued prayer - is all done! I feel confident the Lord is going to do something great.

I can't wait...did I mention that? Naples, here I come!

As Ross Perot would say, "Sheeer Genius!"

Don't laugh - I actually do this! It drives my husband crazy. I put my laptop up on the edge of my garden tub as I am taking a bath and check mail as I'm in there or write. I know, it's crazy. But when I say I love writing and reading, I mean it. Anyway, when I saw this pic I instantly thought of me. So anyway, guess what I just did? It's 1:21 am and I just finished a book! Not reading one...writing one - in one night. Don't believe me? It's true and it's not just a bunch of whooey or sloppy's pretty decent if I do say so myself.

Can't say exactly what it is yet...too many Northsiders read my blog. :-)

But I will say this - it's something extra special...coming up at the best kept secret in Tampa Bay............Northside Assembly of God!

I had to finish this before we went on our 20th anniversary getaway this week. I simply don't want to take my work with me. This is way too special of a time for us and I don't want to spend it doing anything else than sitting by the pool, picking out a fruity drink, and...staying in bed a lot, of course. :-)

Soooooooooooooooo....I spend about eight hours tonight getting this monster project done. Straight, without a break - not even a potty break. I just realized...I really have to go. So TTFN!

Sunday, June 24, 2007

What is a blog?

Why blog?

I'm a little confused.

I recently looked up the Webster's definition of blog, and here's what it said:

The term was coined in 1999, and today Webster’s dictionary defines a blog as a “diary; a personal chronological log of thoughts published on a Web page.” More importantly, it says that blogs are “typically updated daily” and that “blogs often reflect the personality of the author.”

This was what I've always thought blogs were for, exactly as Webster's defines it. Most blogs I read fit this description. They are a diary - sometimes the daily happenings of a person, a pastor chronicling the "story" of their church, and most if not all reflect the unique personality of the writer. Even when a person is giving a devotional, sharing spiritual insight or knowledge from their secular job, they do so with the flair of their personality and give personal illustrations that hook the reader to keep coming back for more. Blogs give you insight about someone and allow you to get to know them better.

There are a few blogs that I read everyday of which I have never met the blogger and probably never will. I have never even commented most of them and am a silent reader. However I feel like I "know" them based on reading what they write each day. I could probably call them on the phone and have an entire conversation about their week or month and totally fit in without skipping a beat because I have been keeping up on their day to day life. I know some people view mine that way too because they email me about what I write, and act as if we are long lost friends! My point is - blogging is something that gives you a sort of "insider track" with where people are at in their life, what they are thinking, where they are headed.

Today I read the blog of someone who has always been described as a very closed person. Not personal at all, not relational, very standoffish, quite frankly. Although not relational, they like to appear trendy and with the latest greatest thing that's going on. Well, we all know, cool people have blogs. :-)

So, they now have a blog. Whippy doo da. They can now also join the ranks of those who have an IPOD, a MySpace, a Facebook, and do yoga. (You know, there's Christian yoga now, although I'm not into it...guess I'm not that cool.) When I read their blog, I had to laugh at the fact that it was completely devoid of anything personal. It is nothing but "information" or rather "bible knowledge" accumulated in study. There was not a smack of anything warm and personal about it other than their photo. The blog gave no insight into their feelings, opinion, what makes them mad, sad, glad or anything else. You sense no personality coming out of this thing, rather simply their subject of study. I thought to myself - if I wanted that, I'd read the encyclopedia, Bible commentaries, a Bible concordance, Sermon Central or Google.

I just found it humorous that while they want to be relevant enough to blog, they continue to live a life with a heart unopened. Theirs has to be a very lonely heart.

I am a "pneuma blogger" which means I'm part of a wonderful group of charasmatic bloggers, brought together online by the honorable Rich Tatum. :-) I think Rich is really cool by the way. Every day I go through a read most of what's written by the pneuma bloggers. I find the majority of it to be really fascinating. They are addicting blogs, or "viral blogs" as they are known. When someone does share great spiritual insight, I am often drawn back to it not because of the depth of bible knowledge they have but rather the illustrations they gave in how the Word has affected them personally, their family, their church. I enjoy getting to know the writer's personality and their loves, their losses, their dreams, hopes, among many other things. I even enjoy hearing about their kid's birthday party or their trip to the beach.

I enjoy reading blogs of tons of people I've never met because the way they communicate is to REAL and INTIMATE. Sometimes those things they share draw me back to hear what God just spoke to them about the book of Isaiah as they were studying it this week. I have caught the 'virus' and find myself going back once more to read about someone's highs or lows, and relate to what they are saying so many times because - it's real life and what I go through too. It's the same reason most people are drawn to the Psalms - because of David's realness, and his godliness at the same time.

I don't know why I'm sharing this other than to say - there are some ministers that are very closed, not just to church people (which to a degree I understand their fear with that) but they seem to be closed to anyone and everyone else, even in giving the slightest tidbit of personal feeling behind what they teach.

All I can think of sad. Not only are others missing out on getting to know more of the 'real' person behind the teaching, but they are missing out on truly sharing the real them, and their journey with others.

Saturday, June 23, 2007

Confessions of a weight watcher

It's really no shock to anybody who is a real friend to me that my weakness is food. Some people can claim that they are big boned. But when is the last time you saw a fat boned skeleton? Some people can claim they have a thyroid problem. Some people can say they have ballooned up because of anti-depressants or other drugs. Some people say it's in their genes. What do I have to say for myself? I'm an abuser at times, plain and simple. It is a result of stress, however it's MY response to stress, and not the stress's fault, it's mine. Because I have a choice as to how to handle it.

Anyone who is in relationship with me knows, I've been doing Weight Watchers for almost three years now. I am a WW member and will always be. Even if I stayed right at goal, I will never stop going because I know my weakness and this is just something I need to stay on track. Since joining WW, I have lost 30 or 40 pounds, depending on what day of the week or month it is.

This has been a difficult month as far as eating. I am 9 pounds away from final goal weight right now, and that might not seem like much, but to me it's everything because those 9 pounds scream "FAILURE" at me quite a bit. The last month I have played a foolish game of losing four pounds, gaining four pounds.

I can be right on program and stay there for quite a while and then if difficult times hit, I regress. This is because at times I am blinded to think that besides my relationship with God, it's my only recourse. I now know this to be untrue, but sometimes I still fall. As much as I want to be perfect, that status ever eludes me.

Many people wonder why there are so many people in the ministry who are overweight. People talk about these big fat pastors who have "pulpit bumpers". Well, I'll tell you why. I'll tell you the facts many others wouldn't dare to tell you. There are a zillion things on their minds that they can't talk to anybody about or it would most likely cost them their jobs. Their life. Their livelihood. Their calling. First there are the "confidential" things people tell them in the course of their daily work. They deal with people in the church (not just people out in the world) who are in terrible circumstances - not just illnesses, but sins -- some with horrible consequences. At any given time you find out that two of your members are having an affair, one just had an abortion, another has left their spouse, someone else has turned gay, another is having a baby by someone who isn't their spouse, yet still another is abusing their kid, and that's just the tip of the iceberg. You have preached the Word of God. You have called the people to holiness and a closer walk with God. Still, they have become entangled with these sins that have beset them. Just as your natural children have a free will, much to your chagrin, so do your spiritual ones. As a minister you are not only carrying the weight of your problems, but because you care so much for others, you feel the weight of theirs. (No matter how much I remind myself to "cast my cares"'s hard not to feel broken for our people who are in such pain. As a spiritual mother or father, you feel that pain just like you would for one of your own natural children.)

So you know all this stuff and have it all secretly on your mind and that doesn't even include church politics! Oh, if it were only that easy that we only had to deal with people's private sins. But no, you have all this political stuff to deal with that you would just looooooooooooooove to expose to everybody in the church and lay all the cards on the table and thereby exonerate yourself from many completely unfair situations, but...ethics dictate that you can't. So when you deal with staff issues, leadership issues, "controller in the church" issues, antagonists, etc., you just have to discuss it with your spouse and keep trudging on. But that's the least of your worries. Because at any given time on top of that, if your life isn't going just peachy, you feel you can't share that, at least not without criticism or developing lack of respect. If you have a fight in your marriage, your kids are having a rebellious week, your finances hit the wall due to a bill you didn't expect, etc. etc. you lump all that on top of the other things you keep under wraps, so as to keep your house of cards standing tall. Sometimes you make time to call a pastor-friend and meet for coffee and talk but most weeks the truth is, you work at least 50-60 hours (more at holidays) and so do they. Time is in short supply and you are also on the merry go round of dealing with the above.

You can't drink alcohol.

You can't do drugs.

You can't spill your guts about all this stuff.

Or you'd lose your ministry.

So what is the "safest" course of action? You stop by Publix on the way home from church. Not only are all the things above bothering you but when you were at church service you were so angry because some of the people who had responsibilities let the ball drop. So much went wrong. But you had to act like everything was alright. You can't go ballistic and say what you want to...because - YOU GUESSED IT...your job...ministry...calling...livelihood...not to mention the respect factor - is once again at stake. So - here you are at Publix in the frozen food aisle.

You pick up a half gallon of Rocky Road, a bag of Ruffles potato chips, brownies at the bakery, add a dozen donuts in the cart, and then to pacify your guilty side you throw in a bag of fresh broccoli for dinner the next night. You then go home, proceed to open the bag of Ruffles and the carton of Rocky Road and you eat it until you feel better while you watch a movie on Lifetime about somebody else with huge problems. This takes you out of the world you are currently in to somebody else's world that is worse than yours. All this would seem perfectly fine except the next day you get on the scale and discover you are now two pounds more than you were the previous day and when you get your clothes out for work the next day you discover you can't button the pants that you wore just last week.

My first weight watcher leader, Ginger, used to say to us, "Just remember, you can eat all you want in private, but be assurred - it will show up in public!"

The above has been the ongoing saga of my life for years. There have been times I have ventured out and instead of eating, decided to be honest and share the pressures of my life with a friend. Doing that in the church almost got me annihalated by somebody who really betrayed me years ago in the church. I quickly saw that was no solution. Therefore the reason I became very careful. Sharing with other pastors is a good thing - if I only make the time. (Which I do more often now - I see it as something on my schedule that is as important as message preparation or planning an outreach because I can then do ministry sanely. Well, at least mostly sane.) But many times I haven't stopped to pray more when the pressure hits, or call a pastor friend, or an incredibly loyal person in the church. (I've discovered later that there are possibilities in the church when you are careful and wait a long time to watch someone over time and test their loyalty).

In the times I haven't made the right choice, I have found myself just stuffing. I would get mad at someone and because I couldn't unload on them like I wanted to, or even simply just tell them I was upset. I would instead secretly say, "I'll fix you!" and go home and munch down an entire bag of potato chips. One time when dealing with a difficult church politic situation, I stayed home for three days in a row and did nothing but cry and eat. Finally I figured out, the potato chips were not hurting the people I was upset with at all - they were just making me bigger and more miserable than before about the situation. I was only hurting myself.

These past few weeks have been disappointing for me with my car and some other stuff. And I have to admit, I have more often decided to eat potato chips (thought not a whole bag, just an extra serving), and turned to comforting things like fried chicken and regular cokes, and all that. For the moment (and I stress "the moment"), it felt good.

My current weight watcher leader, Clara, often says, "Every behavior has a positive intention." That really affected me when she said that. Her point is - when you abuse food or anything else, you aren't looking to hurt yourself, you simply want relief. You want to get rid of the loneliness, so you eat a hot fudge sundae. For a moment it soothed you but about 30 minutes later you feel horrible. If you picked up the phone and called a friend, you would have accomplished the same soothing, only it would have been real and lasted longer. You were craving companionship but a bowl of ice cream doesn't have that power.

Others eat because the food doesn't talk back or disappoint us at the time. We see it as our friend, especially when someone has betrayed us. We know the ice cream is going to feel good going down and it's not going to say hurtful words, or lie. But again, half an hour later there we are feeling completely empty again.

I realize the answer is a stronger prayer life and time with God - which is the only thing that fills any of us up. My problem is, even though I am a pastor, I can't pray 24/7, nor read God's Word 24/7. I have a devotional life, however I still have to live in the real world and handle all of the above "real life issues". I wish it were as easy as having prayer and the Word as my life to the exclusion of all else. I'd love nothing more. But as soon as I start to do that, one of my kids scream that the dog has gotten loose or somebody from the church is one the phone. What it boils down to is acting on the principles in the Word and what God has spoken to me in times of prayer rather than the old, familiar, ineffective methods I used for so long - and still sometimes use when I lapse. One good thing - the lapses get further and further apart. As Clara says, "PROGRESS, NOT PERFECTION." This journey is harder for those of us who also struggle with being perfectionists because we see it as all or nothing. When we have a lapse, sometimes we quit because we feel, "what's the use - I'm not perfect in my striving to do this now...I've failed."

For all those reading this who also struggle with this, I want to share with you some of the most powerful sayings and things I've learned from my leaders in Weight Watchers:

"Never failure, only feedback."


"If you bite it, write it."

"You can eat all you want in private, but rest assurred it will show up in public!"

"Nothing tastes as good as thin feels."

"Just ten pounds of weight loss takes 30 pounds of pressure off your knees."

"Every behavior has a positive intention."

"Don't use food to stay awake!"

"Move more, eat wisely."

"One of the most common positive intentions behind emotional eating is trying to avoid or put off dealing with uncomfortable feelings."

"FEEL the feeling, don't FEED it."

"Eat more raw than cooked...more plants than animals."

"Stand in line with thin people at a buffet/reception. Take what they take."

Ask yourself, "Is food used to do something I don't want to do?"

FAMOUS LAST WORDS: "I'll do it on my own."

Get rid of all your "in case of" clothes.

Lethal Logic: "I don't want to hurt people's feelings..." and "It's not right to waste food..." and "I deserve it..." and......"Just one's not going to hurt..."

To deal with a craving:

1) Acknowlege it.

2) Avoid self judgments.

3) Remain calm.

4) Consider the consequences.

5) Step into action - and follow WW guidelines.

6) Ask what the craving implies.

"Stop breaking self-promises." Example: "I'll put myself on the list and exercise today..." "I'll start taking care of myself..." "I'm worth investing in myself, so I'm going to start..."

"There is always a better choice available. Take it."

HALT - when you want to overeat! You HALT when you are Hurting, Angry, Lonely or Tired.

And my favorite - told to me by my first leader............

"I am a treasure, waiting to be found."

I hope these words of truth help anyone reading this who also struggles. As you can see, Weight Watchers is not all about how many calories we eat, or choosing dry bland chicken breast to eat every day. It's more about WHY we do what we do, and how to break the cycle.

Do we face serious issues in our lives? Without a doubt. But there is a better way to handle those issues than many of us have chosen. I used to think that because my problems in life were real, and not imagined (mainly the stresses of pastoring) that it somehow justified my soothing myself with food. I finally realized that no matter how "real" the pressures in my life, they didn't justify abuse to my body. In my case, I am choosing as a lifelong journey to take the principles in God's Word and fuse them with positive lessons learned in Weight Watchers and walk this path for life no matter how many times I fall. The past few weeks have been hard. I confess to you - I've done way too many potato chips and tried in vain to feel better. I haven't experienced a breakthrough. All that has happened is that I can't wear my favorite pair of Levi's. What a waste. I fall. But I will always, always get back up again. And so can you my friend.

You are a treasure waiting to be found. Make the right choice!

Friday, June 22, 2007

Friday's Feast

To do Friday's Feast, (a buffet for your brain) each week go to


Name a funny habit you have. Oh gosh, there are probably so many it's hard to pick just one. But... probably my habit of straightening all the stuff on a table at a restaurant - the salt and pepper shakers, sugar, menus, EVERYTHING has to be perfectly lined up. I know, it's OCD, and I don't care.


If you could instantly know how to play a musical instrument, which one would you pick? Guitar


How long is your hair? Right now it's a little shorter in back than usual and longer in front. I like it that way.

Main Course

When was the last time you forgave someone, and , and who was it? I have to forgive someone every single day. I believe this is just life for everybody at least those who want to live like Jesus. I'm either forgiving someone, just completing forgiving someone, or starting the process.


What is your favorite kitchen appliance? So many of them but probably my food processor.

It's still quiet...can you say, "halleluiah"??!

Here is a chronicle of my day. Get yourself a snickers bar and a cup of tea if you care to listen to all the details. Larry and I wanted to sleep in on this, our day off, and the final moments before our children arrived home from youth camp. So we did.

After completely savoring this whole morning in bed, I woke up to read the article on our women's ministries in the St. Pete Times, which ran today. It's good except in the actual print edition (not the online version) there is a huge picture of my face and I truly wish instead of that, they would have gotten a wide angle shot of the princess luncheon. They did add a photo of the guys serving, and that was good. Not that I'm saying they couldn't have included a pic of me, I'm just saying...I'm so much prouder of what the ladies have accomplished and all it takes to put that outreach on and would have loved to have seen a shot of a bunch of them or the room so everyone could see the work they did. The photographer was there for at least two hours and took so many...I was hoping for more than a humongo pic of my face. There were also a few little things that weren't an exact quote from me - where I'm not sure the reporter truly got the gist of what I said or such but nothing earth shattering. All in all it was a great piece, so I'm pleased. A few weeks ago the Tribune featured us (click here to read article) , and then yesterday the A/G Women's Ministries Unlimited did a feature on us as well. (Click here to see it. ) So all in all it's been an extremely media friendly month! With three publications calling in one month and saying, "we've heard good things are going on at your place and want to do a feature on you..." I'm thankful for God's favor.

Back to the quiet... we savored it. Spent the morning in bed. Then the only area of the house that still needed to have a weekly cleaning was our room/bathroom so we did that (I wanted it out of the way before tomorrow - I would like to have one Saturday devoid of cleaning since that hasn't happened for so long.) I can't remember the last time... so we got that out of the way and then Larry went to pick the boys up from the church. They were so exhausted. They walked in the door, gave me a hug, told me camp was wonderful, and went straight to bed. Where they remained the entire day/night. It's almost midnight and they are still asleep. I don't expect them to wake up. You know how sleep deprived kids get at camp. I am grateful they went right to bed because in years past they haven't always or we have had a family event or something when they got home and they were so cranky.

So when they got home they hit the sack. I filled my big tub...and sunk in for a bubble bath. Yep, I was savoring this all the way. Then I still had time to relax (it was a completely quiet house, remember?) so Larry watched sports and I went in and laid on my bed again and proceeded to read the ENTIRE (yes, I said entire) book, "If I did's how..." by O.J. Simpson. How did I get this? Well as most of the world knows by now, it was illegally leaked on the internet by TMZ and by the time a judge ordered TMZ to turn it over and take it off the internet, some people had already copied it and circulated it on the internet. So I researched it until I tracked a copy down, and read it on my computer in it's entirety. Probably took me about an hour and a half, if that. I read very fast, usually several books a week in addition to the Bible, my devotional books, and the Tampa Tribune each day. So...

Some of you might think, "why in the world would you read that? Isn't it supporting OJ and his sick, twisted actions?" No, not anymore. When he was the recipient of royalties from the book, yes. However now the Goldman's get everything from it and have renamed it. I watched the OJ trial every single day. I watched his low speed chase live. Then followed the trial each day. I taped it. Then when the final day with the verdict, I was at a district meeting when the verdict was read, but stopped and watched it mid meeting. I was very interested in the case, just as I was also interested in the Scott Peterson trial. I don't do this with every trial out there, but in these type of cases I am very interested for one reason - as a women's pastor, my heart breaks for abused women. I hate it, hate it, hate it. (this is one reason we have a support group at our church for heart is very broken for this). I can't stand the fact that a majority of men get away with this, at least here on earth. I literally pray about these cases. In OJ's case I was devastated. I was only consoled by the fact that he has not had his eternal reward yet. My only consolation was that hell is still real. Upon hearing the verdict, I was crushed.

A friend of mine lives in Miami (where he lives) and has seen him at restaurants. He evidently has the nerve to go up to some patrons and ask if they want his autograph. (Don't celebs usually wait until someone asks them? Just an example of the cockiness...) Anyway, he approached a table of women she was sitting at and said, "Would you like my autograph?" And she said, "Absolutely not, I think you're a jerk." I think personally I would have picked up my knife I was eating with and said, "here, why don't you autograph this - it's appropriate for the circumstances..."

Poor Nicole and Ron. Many people are upset that the book is being downloaded by people and now they won't buy it since it's free on the internet, and it will affect sales and Ron's parents getting the money from it that they have been awarded in their civil suit. I will still buy the book just to support them because I feel for them. And I read on the internet today that many other people have pledged to read it after buying it too. But I honestly didn't want to wait til' it comes out, as I have read every book written about the case (took them all out of the library over time) and I didn't want to wait to read this one. I believe OJ wrote it as an outlet because of the guilt he carries though I feel not one bit sorry for him. Basically it's a full confession of how he committed the crime. He says, "keep in mind this is hypothetical" but that is his only disclaimer. He says nothing else about not doing it, in fact to the contrary. It's really a play by play confession. Instead of "if I did it here's how" the Goldman's won the rights to the book and will now release it and call it, "Confessions of a Double Murderer." I think that is great - they deserve every bit of whatever they can get out of that man.

As a side note, when the Peterson verdict was read I was in a women's ministries meeting at the district office. I interrupted the meeting and asked our director if we could stop a second while it was read so that Larry could tell me on the cell phone what the verdict was an I could tell all the women there. Everyone else wanted to hear it too so nobody minded the interruption. When I said, "guilty!" we were all totally psyched. Finally one of these wife abusers got what was coming to him not only in the afterlife but here on earth. Can you tell I'm a little sensitive about this? I really can't stand wife abusers...

After reading the OJ book and taking a nice long bubble bath, I got dressed and ready and headed out to get gifts for a couple in our church that just had a baby, and also for a briday shower I had to go to tonight for Liane. I shopped for a while then came home to wrap things and spent some time talking with Larry, did a load of laundry and left for the shower. It was really lovely. Judy and Sharon did a wonderful job. Just beautiful. Liane got so many nice things and probably about 10 beautiful lingerie outfits. (I got her three of them myself and put on the card, "Remember what's most important! This gift will help you do that...") She chuckled at that. But seriously, here's the way I feel. You go to these showers and people give the bride blenders, toasters, coffee pots, and whatever. But having been married myself for 20 years I'll tell you - just wear the sexy clothes and keep it going on in the bedroom and your husband will buy you ten bazillion blenders or whatever else you want! Just keep the sex going strong and the man will worship the ground you walk on. There's not much I want that if it is within Larry's power to do so, he won't do for me right away. The only time he ever hasn't is when it was or is, literally impossible for him to do so. I really believe, as long as a man has food to eat and plenty of sex, if they are normal and not some kind of psychopath like OJ or Scott Peterson, they will do whatever is in their power to make you happy.

I might have stayed a little longer at the shower and talked a bit more but we only have one car now and I needed to get home to Larry so he could go to the store. He had to buy everything for men's breakfast and some other stuff, so I had to get home to him. And guess what - I still have my quiet house. It's thunderstorming here right now outside, but I sat in my rocker in my room and had devotions.

I finished I & II Timothy and then read a chapter from Secrets of the Secret Place that was on "tears". Appropo for this week. I really hardly ever cry. I'm an emotional person, as in a wide range of emotions. But I don't cry for nothing. Something really has to be wrong - I don't just tear up all the time. It's interesting that I would read this chapter this week because I cried every day and sometimes for a long time. I have just had some things I've been genuinely sad about. Bob Sorge says that weeping and tears have always gained the Lord's attention. David said in Psalm 56 that the Lord puts all our tears in a bottle. After this week, I've probably overflowed the bottle and now there's a lake in heaven with my name on it! :-) When I was growing up there was a song by the Gaithers called, "Tears are a Language God Understands." I am so glad for that. Sometimes there's no one that understands what is in your heart but the Lord and at times you can't even verbally express it yourself, but by your tears He knows your heart.

My housework is done for the weekend - all I have to do tomorrow are three or so things to put the finishing touches on Sunday and get our clothes laid out, pressed and ready. (Yes, I dress Larry - it's been my job for 20 years.) :-) Other than that I am looking forward to what might possibly be another quiet day of writing depending on whether Savanna comes home (she's still at her "other family's house" - the Harts) and whether the boys still need more sleep.

It has been SO good to have a week where we didn't go out of town, and where we had QUIET. It has been eons since my week was not broken up by a trip somewhere or 20 initiatives in a day. When Larry comes home from the store tonight it's kind of like we still have the house to ourselves, and the night is not over. God is good. I enjoyed documenting everything about my day...if anyone actually read this whole thing, God bless you.

Thursday, June 21, 2007

Savoring the silence

Our quiet week is about ready to come to a close. The boys come home tomorrow. And then we are going to hear everything from drums, guitar, earsplitting music on CD's to "I told you...just leave her alone! Stop antagonizing her... for the hundreth time..." Add to that,when the kids come home they are like aliens from another planet because they haven't had enough sleep all week and they are incredibly grumpy. I always say, "if God touched you so mightily at camp then why are you snapping at your parents like that?" I know they are always incredibly sleep deprived so I cut them some slack until they have slept for a night and caught up. Still it's always amazing to me how kids can cry their hearts out at an altar for a week straight and then come home acting like that. We'll see...maybe the Holy Ghost got ahold of them in a different kind of way this year - I can only hope!

Larry finished all of the house stuff we were doing - in addition to the carpet, he replaced the blinds on the sliders. It was so overdue. The kids caused them to crack in some places through God knows what over the past 3 years and we have needed to do it but just haven't. We went and picked them out and he got them cut to fit our windows. At the same time I got a lemon tree for the back patio. I have really been wanting one. Now I have a tangerine tree and a lemon tree. :-) Little things like that make me happy. It's not just the big things in life that make me happy but many times the smallest things like that bring me joy.

Tonight Keith and Joy came over and we met at Rattlefish Reef. Ate some seafood - except Larry who ate veggies only. (Still on his fast til' Saturday) Then we came home and I had made dessert for us - and made Larry a fruit plate. We drank tea and sat around for a few hours and talked until Keith was too tired to talk anymore and wanted to drive back before he got too sleepy. It was a good night.

Now I'm going to savor this last little bit of peace and quiet while I can... time to go snuggle and eek every last wonderful moment out of this............g'night.

Wednesday, June 20, 2007

I love him...I mean, I REALLY love him

I always know that I love my husband. It's just a fact. But there are sometimes that something happens that just brings me so close to him, I would be content to just run away from the world with him, and live either in the mountains by ourselves somewhere, or on a tropical island. The problem with that is, Larry is such a people person he would never go for it. He can't deal with as much solitude as I can. I can deal with boatloads of it. But anyway, since we are not running away to the mountains nor a tropical island, it's a moot point. However, what I'm saying is that there are times...moments when only Jesus and Larry are in my world as if nothing else exists. Next week for three days it will just be us and all we are going to have to focus on is what fruity drink we want next, and I for one can't wait!

Larry brought me such comfort and peace today with how he talked to me at my most upset moment. I was sitting in my chair crying and he literally got down on his knees, took my head in his hands and said, "Sassy...listen to me...please listen to me..." and started pouring his heart out to me - telling me he understood my feelings and how much he deeply loves me," and a bunch of other things. I gushed out with my frustrated words telling him how I've been feeling and stuff. I mean I just let it out, my perspective about what I feel spiritually right now, what I think God's point of view is, yada yada. yada. He comforted me and I felt 100% better. He told me some things he felt were God's heart in the matter.

Well wouldn't you know it...Susan, one of my greatest encouragers meets me at the door of the church tonight with a vase of pink roses. :-) My favorite. Accompanying it is a card. Usually what matters to me is what people personally write in cards, not the verses on them. But this one just stuck out to me as a huge zinger. The words of this card were exactly what Larry tried to tell me today, and what I longed to hear as "God's perspective". It was DEFINITELY a message from God, to me. I read it to Larry on the way home in the car and he agreed. I also got an e-mail from Maria today about stuff and it really meant a lot to me, as it always does. She has a lot of wisdom on stuff like this and I always take it to heart.

This is one of those times Larry is especially attentive. He told me tonight once we left church he wanted to go to Lowe's, get some stuff for the some stuff we've been wanting to do. Then he picked up the stuff to shampoo the carpets. This might not sound very romantic but the thing is, we are having our friends Keith and Joy over tomorrow night after we go to dinner (we usually come back to the house for dessert and to talk late). He knows it would mean a lot to me to have the carpet done, although I did not ask him to do it. When we moved in here this carpet was stained and needed to be replaced but we just decided it was something we'd do later. Since we've moved in it's had a zillion cokes spilled on it, and all kinds of stuff. And did I mention it's white? So needless to say we have shampooed it a lot. We need to do the floor in there, (permanently) we just haven't had time. Only a woman who has been married for a while understands what you mean when you say that your husband has suddenly become even more sexy to you because he has taken out the trash or shampooed the carpets (without you asking, of course). You just fall in love all over again. (At least I do, because that's my main love language...)

So on the way home we the shampoo stuff and then we went to Publix. The other day for Father's Day we took Larry to Olive Garden. I looked up the points on line for Weight Watchers to be prepared. As I did, I came upon a website that had Olive Garden Pasta Fagioli (soup), which is my absolute favorite. I usually just get that when I go there, with a salad. I flipped out when I found the WW version of it, and it's only 2 pts. So Larry swung by Publix for me to get the ingredients. I wanted to make a bunch of it and freeze it so I could have it from time to time when I get the urge. I came home tonight and made it in between cleaning and Larry shampooing. I am totally amazed that the recipe really IS a replica! It's wonderful. I am so happy to have this recipe!

Today I read a bunch of chapters of I Timothy but no other reading today. I was just a bit overwhelmed with all the stuff that went on financially and then preparing my message for tonight. (Yes, I was the one preaching - of all days!) I brought a message on indications of revival - what to prepare for when God's glory comes. I must say it was a message that probably required much more time to teach than just one night, but it really seemed to resonate with everybody there. Sometimes I probably over-prepare and thus the reason for more time needed. Although I had no time to read anything but the Bible today, I've been enjoying a book lately that Rosemay just gave me. It's a huge book, and it contains all the teachings of John G. Lake - his messages and reports from his revivals. I am loving it, absolutely loving it.

Tom wrecked his brand new truck tonight. Only a week and a half old. I can't believe it. To say I am sad for him is a mass understatement. I mean, my heart went out to him. I was grieving for him and I mean that in all sincerety. When I heard about it, I just exclaimed, "I HATE THE DEVIL!!!" I hate how he tries to steal from God's people and hurt them, and yes I do believe it's a spiritual attack. I told him I'd pray for him about this issue until he tells me it's all better with him. I guess one positive thing is, I have a great amount of compassion for this...

Well, it's like this. I sat down to get a respite from cooking and cleaning, but it's real late and I still have a lot more to do to get the house ready for friends to come, plus spend some time in prayer before sleep. So off I go. Larry is still shampooing...did I mention I love him?

Gloria Gaither was right

It really won't rain always. The sun is peeking through on what was my bleak, dark horizon.

Larry was so upset by the phone call from the bank about our mortage going up, that he got in the car and drove over to the bank and demanded to see the manager. The person on the phone had told him it was going up $379 a month. He argued with him for an hour about all the details. When they hung up Larry wasn't just going to take it lying down (that's my husband, and anybody who knows him knows what I"m talking about!). So he went over and talked to the manager and sure enough, Larry was right.

It is not going up anymore than it is now. The guy on the phone was new and completely clueless. At the end of his phone conversation after all this arguing the guy gives him a little "exit interview" as to the quality of the phone call and went down this checklist and said, "Would you say I was clear and gave you excellent service?" Larry say, "uh, DUH...NO!!!"

So what this amounts to was, an employee at the bank made a huge mistake and sent our tax/insurance payment from our escrow account to the wrong place! Amazing. It did go up a little bit last year, but they had adjusted it already and had set that money aside.

Good news - our mortgage is not going up. And I bet the dude who called Larry on the phone is in BIG TROUBLE with the manager this afternoon!

In other good news, my dear friend Maria hooked Larry and I up with an incredible getaway for our 20th anniversary next week. I'm so excited I could scream, but I'm too tired right now because I cried myself to pieces this morning over signing Joy over to Allstate and being told by a dork from the bank that our mortgage went up. I am so excited over this anniversary trip I can't even express it adequately. Not only do we need to celebrate the miraculous 20 years we have had together, but right now - Larry and I just need a break. We are frazzled over many things. And we are about to get the break we need. Thank you Jesus, and thank you Maria.

This morning I was so angry when I went to Master's Collision. I sat in the car one more time but then it was too emotional so I got out and left as fast as I could. I was mad at myself for not just remembering the car the way it was before all this. When I came back to the office from signing the car over this morning, I sat at my desk just numb. And then I glanced at my calendar for today and the quote on it is: "Our road will be smooth and untroubled no matter what care life may send; If we travel the pathway together, and walk side by side with a friend." - Henry Van Dyke

I am blessed with the most wonderful husband in the world, and great friends. And I'm still being made into a diamond.


No pressure, no diamonds.

The car is totaled...and paid off. But there's nothing left. (So much for the people who said, "Don't worry! God wants to bless you with a surplus after it's paid off...)

Just got notice today that our homeowners insurance and taxes went up $369 a month. I realize everybody in FL is dealing with the same thing and with some it's worse but when it happens to you...

Today while driving back from signing Joy Gratefulness over to Allstate for good, we saw a bumper sticker that said, "It can't rain always." Gloria Gaither wrote a song that said the same thing. I'm just doubting it right now.

The only positive thing is...I'm on track to become a diamond.

Tuesday, June 19, 2007

In Memory


Joy Gratefulness Shrodes

2003 - 2007

Joy Gratefulness Shrodes was born in 2003 at the Ford Mustang Factory. She is survived by her owner, Deanna Doss Shrodes, and her co-owner, Larry E. Shrodes, both of Tampa, as well as their children, Dustin Michael, Jordan Andrew and Savanna Rose Shrodes.

Joy Gratefulness became disabled on June 3, 2007 after a tragic accident on Lake Magdalene Blvd. in Tampa, at the Avila Entrance. She hung in the balance between life and death until June 19 when Master's Collision did all they could to help her, but the Allstate Corporation took her off of vehicular support, totaled her, and allowed her to pass on.

She has donated her organs to a local junk yard, where other owners will be able to enjoy parts of Joy Gratefulness that will bring new life to their vehicles.

Joy Gratefulness was named such because she gave her owner such joy after having waited for a car for 38 years after much financial sacrifice in the ministry. When her owner received her, she realized what a blessing she was and was so grateful, thus her middle name. She was never taken for granted one day of her life. Her owner remains grateful for the years she had with her and only has fond memories to look back on.

In leiu of flowers or donations, the family requests only your prayers as they seek God's guidance for their vehicular future.

Private interrment will take place in Lutz, FL on June 20, with the immediate family.

Monday, June 18, 2007

The sound of silence

Well, the kids have gone to youth camp. Yippee! And what are Larry and I doing? WHATEVER WE WANT! Great fun. Our anniversary is next week, but I guess you could call this week the sneak preview? (Only no sneaking involved, ha ha) Savanna is at the Harts. You know, she's our little Savanna Hart Shrodes. :-)

Larry and I came home tonight for a quiet evening and never went out to walk or anything because we had a storm here. It was kind of nice just hearing the rain outside and peace and quiet in the house. I love that sound.

Reading in I Timothy 2: 1-7 MSG tonight (I love reading I and II Timothy and Titus a few times a year because there are so many zingers in there for me as a leader and I receive so much out of it every time. So tonight's passage is this:

"The first thing I want you to do is pray. Pray every way you know how, for everyone you know. Pray especially for rulers and their governments to rule well so we can be quietly about our business of living simply, in humble contemplation. This is the way our Savior God wants us to live. He wants not only us but everyone saved, you know, everyone to get to know the truth we've learned: that there's one God and only one, and one Priest-Mediator between God and us—Jesus, who offered himself in exchange for everyone held captive by sin, to set them all free. Eventually the news is going to get out. This and this only has been my appointed work: getting this news to those who have never heard of God, and explaining how it works by simple faith and plain truth.

As a church (not just my church but every church) we have so often gotten away from the simple truths of prayer and the fact that... "He wants not only us but everyone saved..."

More than ever I realize that getting Jesus out of the Bible and into someone's head and heart so they are walking in it is like.............really hard. And it's one thing to get people saved, but to really get them flourishing in their journey? Maybe that's why I've always had such empathy for my weight watcher leader. People at WW have discovered the truth: they need to be healthy, get in shape, lose weight. However even after coming to that discovery and signing up for WW and going to the building...they now have to put the principles learned there in practice in order to flourish. Many flourish but just as many if not more don't and the WW leader gets exasperated sometimes at the people who stop and start, keep gaining and losing the same 10 lbs (me sometimes!), and stuff like that. Although I've just used WW as an illustration it's really not comparable to SALVATION but just gives a mere glimpse of the challenge of discipleship.

I've had an idea to do for our church for the month of July and Larry liked it and I think we're going to go with it. I'll blog about it here after we've announced it. :-) I don't want you Northsiders who read my blog to run out and spoil the announcement! You know, all a pastor really wants is to lead people into the fullness of bring them into a true intimacy with Jesus. If we could only get people to fall more in love with Jesus, all our problems would be solved. It sounds simple but only after doing it for a while do you realize how challenging spiritual formation is.

Just think, if everybody fell totally head over heels in love with Jesus and stayed there, we'd have a church who treats everyone right all the time, gobs of money to go around (no lack of tithers), kids who were on a solid track spiritually because their parents would be so in love with Jesus they wouldn't let them stay home from youth or church...and the list goes on. I like the sound of all that.

Well, excuse me but gotta husband wants us to take advantage of the quiet together, and perhaps...not be so quiet. :-)

Sunday, June 17, 2007


It was a good day in the house today ~ Father's Day. Worship was really good and the presence of the Lord there in a powerful way. What could be better?

After service our family went to Olive Garden (Larry gets veggies there like eggplant and stuff which fits perfectly with his Daniel fast - only one more week!) and we gave him his gifts. We got him a pair of Nike golf shoes, and a Steeler cover for one of his clubs. He really liked them.

I thank God that Larry is a caring Father for our children and he has always been a Dad who loves on them and does things with them. My Dad is an hour behind me on time zone and I'm calling him when church gets out there tonight because I want to get the low down on how church services were at his place today. :-) I do love and appreciate my Dad too, BTW.

Speaking of doing things with the kids, let me recommend a movie to any of you reading: "The Last Sin Eater", just produced by Fox Faith. Michael Landon Jr. is the producer. We watched it the other night but Savanna was at Missionette camp so we are going to sit down and watch it with her sometime this week. We will have her all to ourself since the boys are at camp this coming week. Although I think she'll spend quite a bit of time at her second home - the Harts!

After lunch today we came home and took a two hour nap - much needed. I decided to get up after that and go biking for about 45 min. Lately I have been walking because of them re-doing the sidewalks in my neighborhood but I decided today was the day to get back on the bike. Wow, I forgot how beautiful my neighborhood is especially at sunset. My mp3 battery died mid ride but that was okay because I think the Lord just wanted me to hear the sounds around me and most of all listen to His voice. I stayed totally on program today and really have to commit myself to that. I have a new goal as far as my weight is concerned...10% off of my current body weight. I did 10% off already of my starting body weight when I joined WW, and I am not far away from my goal right now, but if I had my druthers it would be another 10% and then I'd be done. It seems a little easier for me in the summer. Most people say it's because of "bathing suit season" but for me it's not, it's a simple fact of wanting cold food like salad, fruits, etc. whereas in the winter I don't crave those as much. Tonight before I went to sleep Larry decided he'd go for a walk around the block with me - which also made me happy.

I came back home and sat on the patio and read and prayed. Tonight for some reason I left II Corinthians where I have been for a while and went to Isaiah 54. That was right what I needed to hear today.

I read some great stuff in Secrets of the Secret Place too. Bob Sorge points out that Psalm 18 says that the Lord has made darkness His secret place. It's amazing how He gets ahold of us when we are feeling down about something or are going through a rough patch in our life. Sorge says, "in the pain of loneliness and aimlessness, the Lord designs to ignite a depth of love relationship like you've never known. Before you were too busy to find or care about it. Now you're so determined to understand the nature of His hand in your life that you're pressing into Him with abandonment and desperation."

Hmm. That's good. It's really my prayer that it won't take that for me to live that way, day to day with the Lord. Why does it so often take desperation? I know God loves desperate prayers and He is faithful to answer them. But I want to get to the point in my life where I never need revival again. Revival was never God's will because He wants us to live in a perpetual state of closeness with Him. Oh that I would live in a place so close to the Father's heart that it won't ever take a desperate prayer for me to get ahold of Him or see His hand move. I want to be in entrainment with Him. Perfect sync. As close as I can get. I'm still I'm not at that place yet. Remember Enoch?